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. 1-9, inclusive, answered orally.

Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes

Timmy Dooley

Question:

10 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the progress made to date in advancing investment under the targeted agricultural modernisation schemes under the various schemes launched in 2010 and early 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14613/12]

EU Commission approval for the introduction of a number of targeted on-farm investment schemes focused on supporting productive investment in the agricultural sector was received in March 2010. Priority was given to the introduction of the Bioenergy, Poultry Welfare and Sow Welfare Schemes which were launched by my Department during the first half of 2010. The Sheep Fencing/Handling Scheme opened for applications on 1 November 2010 whilst the Dairy Equipment and Rainwater Harvesting Schemes were introduced in March 2011. The available grant-rate was 40%, with the exception of the Bioenergy Scheme where the grant-rate was fixed at 50% of crop establishment costs up to a maximum of €1,300 per hectare.

The schemes were suspended for new applications on 8 June 2011 in the context of the comprehensive review of my Department's expenditure which was underway at that time and the particular issue of consideration of funding for the Department's capital expenditure programme in 2013. 1,915 applications were received by my Department under the TAMS prior to their suspension on 8 June 2011, of which 89 were received under the Bioenergy Scheme. With the exception of a small number of cases where the applications are either still under query with the farmers concerned or were deemed to be ineligible, all these applicants have been approved to proceed with the investment works concerned.

With the exception of the Poultry Welfare Scheme which had reached its deadline for the submission of applications, the schemes were reopened for applications in December 2011. My Department's Estimates for 2012 provides an allocation of €20m for TAMS for this year. In the case of the Poultry Welfare Scheme, I extended the closing date for completion of work under the Scheme to 28 September 2012 although this, of course, did not prejudice in any way the entry into force of the new EU animal welfare rules for the sector which came into effect at the beginning of this year.

To date, almost 1,370 applications have been received under the TAMS since their re-opening in December 2011 and these grant applications are currently being processed by my Department. In general, farmers have a period of two years from the date of approval to complete the investment works concerned. Total expenditure under TAMS, to date, has amounted to €1.235 million and I expect that this will increase very significantly during the course of this year.

Single Payment Scheme

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

11 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has considered capping the single farm payment at €100,000; if he considered bringing single farm payment in line with the average industrial wage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14645/12]

The EU Commission has proposed to cap single farm payments at €300,000, net of the greening component and salary costs and this is the proposal that I am giving consideration to currently in the CAP reform negotiations.

Of the 123,159 farmers in receipt of Single Farm Payment in 2010, some 238 or 0.2% received payments in excess of €100,000. In those circumstances, I do not believe that a cap of this nature would be particularly relevant for Irish farmers.

As to bringing the payment into line with the average industrial wage, I am not convinced that this would be appropriate. The centralised recording and measurement of income that would be required in respect of all farmers and their employees to do this would add substantial complications to the operation of the scheme both for farmers and administrators and would run counter to my stated objective to simplify the Single Farm Payment as much as possible.

Discussion Groups

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

12 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the progress made on discussion groups in the beef and dairy sectors, money spent and budgeted for such groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14630/12]

Dairy Efficiency Programme

When it was agreed in 2008, under the CAP Health Check, that unspent Single Payment Scheme (SPS) funds could be made available to support economically vulnerable types of farming, my Department, after discussions with stakeholders, identified the dairy sector as an economically vulnerable sector, given the extreme price volatility it had experienced in the preceding two years, and a suitable sector to avail of the funding. The Department, in consultation with Teagasc, considered that a targeted efficiency programme would best enhance competence, effectiveness and confidence within the industry. It was hoped that such a programme would bring about a change in attitudes and an improvement in knowledge at farm level.

Participation in discussion groups was identified as being the most effective way in which the Programme could facilitate dairy farmers in gaining the knowledge to help them adopt best practice in the running of their enterprises. Dairy discussion groups had been in existence since the 1990s, with the support primarily of Teagasc advisers, and by 2009 the number of dairy farmers involved in about 250 groups around the country had reached about 2,800. The benefits for those involved included the acquisition of up-to-date technical information and knowledge, support with new ideas and problem solving, and a more positive and confident attitude in the running of their businesses. Learning from the experiences of other like-minded individuals was an attractive component for discussion group participants, and increased profitability was also a strong motivating factor. The Department, in considering how to achieve objectives such as better grassland management, improved breeding and a greater focus on financial management, felt that the discussion group structure was therefore the most appropriate vehicle. It was felt that, if dairy farmers could be persuaded to become involved in discussion groups in larger numbers, the very act of participating in a shared learning experience would have positive knock-on effects for themselves and for the dairy sector as a whole.

In December 2009 my Department announced a three-year Dairy Efficiency Programme in which the €18 million of the unused SPS funds were to be spent on encouraging significant efficiency gains on Irish dairy farms, The Programme, now in its final year, has paid out almost €12m to just over 6,000 dairy farmers in respect of Year 1 and Year 2. These discussion groups, in which the dairy farmers have participated in, are facilitated by Teagasc and private facilitators trained to FETAC level. The Groups place particular emphasis on the adoption of best practice in relation to grassland management, breeding, health and safety and financial management. The participants have their progress monitored by their facilitator and they are required to meet certain standards in relation to attendance and project completion in order to qualify for end of year payments

Beef Technology Adoption Programme

Based on the ambitious development targets set out under the Food Harvest 2020 strategy for the beef sector, I recently launched the Beef Technology Adoption Programme (BTAP) with a budget of €5m for 2012. The precise payment rate to each individual applicant will be determined by the overall number participating in the Programme. However, the maximum payment per participant will be €1,000 and the deadline for receipt of applications by the Department was 16 March 2012.

This Programme, is also based on the discussion group format and is intended to incentivise farmers to develop a range of additional skills to increase the productivity and profitability of their beef enterprises. This initiative is aimed at upskilling participants to enable them apply best practice in all the vital areas of a successful beef production business: i.e. financial management, grassland management, animal breeding, herd health and production to meet market specifications.

The gulf that exists between the best beef farmers and less successful performers is primarily attributable to lower output. They both have similar costs but under-performing farms are producing fewer kilos of beef per hectare (ha) compared to the top performers. Both the Teagasc Derrypatrick herd and the BETTER Farm Programme show what can be achieved through increasing the number of animals per hectare. Higher stocking rates achieved through improved grass utilisation is the most important driver in growing output and attaining gross margin returns of around €1,000 per ha.

I think that there will be tremendous opportunities for the development of the beef industry in the coming years but we must address the fundamental issue of inefficiency and poor margins at farm level if the industry is to take full advantage of these opportunities. The payback on the BTAP investment will deliver real gains at individual farm level and upgrade the overall beef production system at national level. I believe that the concept of discussion groups will gain traction as it did among dairy farmers and that the demonstration effect of the Programme will help to change behaviour and mindsets among those engaged in primary production.

I would urge all those who have applied and are eligible to participate in beef discussion groups to fully utilise the benefits of group membership. Similar programmes have demonstrated the value of the shared learning experience fostered by discussion groups in achieving greater on-farm efficiency. Farmers are motivated to re-examine the way they run their businesses and learn from expert advisors and the experience of other progressive farmers. The adoption of best practice in the management of their enterprises will also help beef and dairy producers to better deal with commodity price fluctuations.

Against the background of ambitious targets for the development of the beef and dairy sectors in Food Harvest 2020, and bearing in mind the generally positive medium-term price forecasts in both sectors, the Government's ongoing investment in discussion groups sends the right signals to primary producers and reinforces the strong sense of ambition and optimism currently evident in both sectors.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme

Brendan Smith

Question:

13 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the details of the 2012 disadvantaged area scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14633/12]

The budgeted expenditure under the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme is being reduced to from €220 million to €190 million. In order to make the necessary savings it is proposed to make technical adjustments to the Scheme criteria to ensure that the aid payment is focused on farmers whose farming enterprises are situated exclusively in DAS areas and who are making a significant contribution to achieving the objectives of the Scheme, which are defined in the governing EU legislation as follows:

To ensure continued agricultural land use and thereby contribute to the maintenance of a viable rural community;

To maintain the countryside;

To maintain and promote sustainable farming systems which, in particular, take account of environmental protection measures.

As the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme is co-funded by the EU under the Rural Development Programme 2007/2013, it is necessary to obtain the agreement of the EU Commission to any proposed changes; my officials have been involved in ongoing discussions with Commission officials in this regard and a decision is awaited. It should be noted that the proposed criteria may be subject to some changes following the conclusion of the discussions with the EU Commission.

The proposals as submitted to the Commission include:

Changes to minimum stocking density:

(1) applicants in 2012 would have to have met a minimum stocking density of 0.3 livestock units per forage hectare in 2011. Where applicants do not meet this requirement, provision will be made for exceptional circumstances, including recognised Force Majeure. Provision will also be made for (a) those restricted by Environmental Plans and (b) new entrants.

(2) In 2012, the minimum retention period will be extended to six months, where the stocking density on the holding will have to be equal to or greater than 0.15 livestock units per forage hectare. In addition, the stocking density will be calculated over the twelve months of the year.

Differential Rate of Aid: 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.

Exclusion of non-breeding equines: While it is proposed that equines will no longer be eligible for the stocking density calculation, it is intended that provision will be made for those involved in equine breeding enterprises. My officials are in ongoing consultation with the relevant representative bodies with a view to agreeing a suitable definition of an equine breeding enterprise.

Distance from main holding: It is proposed to exclude land situated more than 80 kilometres from a farmer's holding — this will apply only to those whose main holding is situated in a non-Disadvantaged Area and who declares DAS land more than 80 kilometres away.

Rural Development Programme

Denis Naughten

Question:

14 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he is taking to support agricultural development in less favoured areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14597/12]

The Rural Development Programme for Ireland has an allocation of close on €4.9 billion for the period 2007-2013 to fund various support schemes in the agricultural sector under the principles of competitiveness, improvement of the environment, land management and the development of the wider rural economy. Support for agricultural development in less favoured areas (LFAs) forms an important part of the Programme and these areas are supported both directly through LFA payments themselves and indirectly through schemes such as on farm investment and the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPs), Agri-environment Options Scheme (AEOS) and Natura agri-environment schemes. Under the LFA scheme itself a total of €1.1Bn has been spent to date, with €1.67Bn spent on the agri-environmental measures and €56.4m on the Natura Scheme. This is a considerable investment in the LFA areas. In addition, under the on farm investment schemes farmers farming in LFA areas are prioritised by the use of selection criteria for determination of entry to these schemes.

Despite ongoing budgetary constraints, which necessitated a reduction in the funding for the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, I remain determined that the Scheme should continue to contribute in a meaningful way to the support of those farming in designated less favoured areas. The most effective way of achieving this is by introducing technical changes to the qualifying criteria, which are designed to ensure that the aid is focused on those whose farming enterprises are located solely in LFA areas and who are making a significant contribution to achieving the objectives of the Scheme, which are defined as follows: (1) To ensure the continued agricultural land use and thereby contribute to the maintenance of a viable rural community, (2) to maintain the countryside and (3) to maintain and promote sustainable farming systems which, in particular, take account of environmental protection requirements. The alternative to this approach would simply be to apply an across-the-board cut, which would affect all participants, regardless of their farming activity. As the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme forms part of the partially funded EU Rural Development Programme (2007 to 2013), the proposed changes must be approved by the EU Commission and there are ongoing discussions on this matter involving my Department officials and officials of the EU Commission.

Farmers with ewe breeding flocks situated in Disadvantaged Areas continue to benefit from the payment of aid under the Grassland Sheep Scheme. My Department has paid €16.2 million to 27,829 farmers to date in 2012 under the 2011 Grassland Sheep Scheme. The vast majority of the beneficiaries of aid under this Scheme farm in Disadvantaged Areas. The Grassland Sheep Scheme will continue to support these farmers in 2012 and 2013.

Beef continues to be the principal farming enterprise in Disadvantaged Areas. In that regard, I have also maintained the Suckler Welfare Scheme in which approximately 35,000 suckler farmers continue to participate. Aid payments under this Scheme amount to almost €30million per annum and it is fully funded by the National Exchequer. This Scheme was recently the subject of a Value for Money Review and it was found to be successful in achieving its objectives of improving animal welfare standards and data collection. This has contributed to the increased prices now being achieved for weanlings and the improvement in the reputation of Irish beef in our key export markets.

Trade Missions

Derek Keating

Question:

15 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to lead a delegation to China in the new year to increase exports of Irish food products and the opening of new markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14592/12]

I will lead a trade delegation to China from 15-22 April which will comprise representatives from the meat, dairy, seafood, horse and agri-tech sectors. This Trade Mission follows from the successful visit of the Chinese Vice Minister for Agriculture, Mr Niu Dun in May last year, when we signed an Action Plan on mutual cooperation in the agrifood and fisheries sectors and the recent visit of Vice President Xi Jinping to Ireland from 18-20 February 2012 which identified agriculture as a key area for cooperation between both countries. The forthcoming visit of An Taoiseach to China will also help to further deepen Irish Sino relations.

China is a key strategic market for Irish exports of food, seafood and beverages, and presents significant opportunities for other exports. Exports of Irish food and beverages to China are estimated in 2011 at €215m, including exports of hides and skins. Exports of food and beverages alone have risen from €135m in 2010 to an estimated €180m in 2011. It is anticipated that further growth in exports to China will continue in 2012. This increase in exports reflects not only on the Irish companies and Bord Bia that are proactively promoting sales of Irish food and beverages in China but also on the work of my Department in facilitating market access for individual companies into China. Since taking office as Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, I have sought to foster close relationships with my Ministerial counterparts in China and between officials from our respective administrations to further areas of mutual cooperation and to advance and facilitate market access opportunities in China. In addition to a number of political meetings with my Ministerial counterparts in both the Ministry of Agriculture and the General Administration of Quality, Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), the Trade Mission will involve a series of networking events and sectoral specific itineraries for participating companies.

I hope that this Trade Mission will further enhance the already close relationships with China in the agrifood and fisheries areas and help further the growth of Irish exports of food, beverages seafood, horses and agri tech products into China.

Common Agricultural Policy

Denis Naughten

Question:

16 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps he is taking to construct an alliance at member State level to support Ireland’s case for reform of the common agricultural policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14596/12]

It is at all times a key priority of mine to build alliances with my counterparts in like-minded Member States in order to maximise support for my position on the proposed reform of the CAP. Indeed I have been doing so since taking up office in March last year.

During 2011, I had formal bilateral meetings with the EU Agriculture Commissioner and with my German, French, UK, Spanish, Estonian, Finnish and Danish Ministerial colleagues. I also took the opportunity to meet with my Ministerial colleagues from the other Member States and the EU Commission at the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers meetings held each month in Brussels or Luxembourg, and at the Informal Ministerial Councils held in Hungary and Poland. In November of last year I addressed a meeting of the Agricultural Committee of the European Parliament, and I have followed this up in recent weeks by meeting with influential MEPs in the European Parliament and with key interlocutors in the Commission and in the Council Secretariat.

In January of this year I had the pleasure of hosting a second visit to Ireland of the EU Agriculture Commissioner, Dacian Ciolos, during which I took the opportunity to outline Ireland's key priorities in the CAP reform negotiations, and in recent weeks I have met with my Finnish and Lithuanian counterparts.

I plan to continue these contacts over the coming months. As negotiations develop, and, particularly in the run-up to the Irish Presidency of the EU in the first half of 2013, I will continue to engage actively with Ministerial colleagues from other Member States, the Commissioner and Members of the European Parliament. My intention is to maintain and develop alliances with like-minded Member States to secure the best possible outcome for Ireland in the CAP reform negotiations.

I should add that my contacts at Ministerial level are supplemented by a parallel process of detailed engagement at official level by my Department with counterparts from the Commission, European Parliament and other Member States.

Single Payment Scheme

Martin Ferris

Question:

17 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of farmers that have applied for the single farm payment online so far this year; if he will provide a breakdown by county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14639/12]

An analysis of the numbers of applications lodged via iNet, my Department's on-line application facility for the Single Payment Scheme, shows continued, year-on-year growth, across all counties, with a seven-fold increase having occurred between the system being launched in 2007 and 2011, when over 54,000 applications were submitted. Initially, farmers and their approved agents were attracted to iNet by the fact that it guaranteed immediate, verifiable receipt by my Department of their applications and, through the system of in-built validations, significantly reduced the numbers of errors that could be made, thereby ultimately leading to speedier payment. In keeping with the practice of constantly improving the service and options provided by iNet, I am very pleased to see that it has been technically possible to introduce an on-line mapping element into the 2012 release. This new facility allows farmers, or their agents, who need to submit maps to my Department, to do so through iNet, thereby dispensing with the need to submit paper maps. But the benefits go beyond this, because, by virtue of the maps coming in online will result in greater efficiencies for all concerned. The 2012 version of iNet was released some weeks ago and already some 4,051 applications have been lodged (see county breakdown below). Now with iNet, farmers and their agents also have the facility to partially prepare and save draft versions of their applications, available to them to submit when they so wish.

County

No. of Applications

Carlow

35

Cavan

78

Clare

131

Cork

382

Donegal

817

Dublin

52

Galway

273

Kerry

174

Kildare

105

Kilkenny

83

Laois

101

Leitrim

132

Limerick

134

Longford

25

Louth

59

Mayo

246

Meath

75

Monaghan

249

Offaly

47

Roscommon

46

Sligo

50

Tipperary

260

Waterford

224

Westmeath

128

Wexford

105

Wicklow

40

Total

4,051

I would again advise anyone considering availing of the on-line facility to make enquiries via the website,www.agfood.ie or, alternatively, the dedicated Helpdesk at Lo-call 1890 252 118.

Livestock Inspections

Pearse Doherty

Question:

18 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will reconsider new livestock inspection in order that they will be more farmer friendly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14640/12]

My Department, in the context of delivering the Direct Payments Schemes is required to carry out annual inspections covering land eligibility and cross compliance to ensure compliance with EU regulatory requirements.

Eligibility checks must be carried out on 5% of applicants. These checks are carried out to verify that the actual area claimed in the application form corresponds to the area farmed by the farmer and to ensure that any ineligible land/features are deducted. Up to two-thirds of these inspections are carried out without a farm visit as the information is verified using the technique of remote sensing via satellite.

The rate of inspections for cross-compliance is 1% of applicants to whom the Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs) and Good Agricultural Condition (GAEC) apply. However, 3% of farmers must be inspected under the bovine identification and registration requirements while 3% of sheep/goat farmers must be inspected covering 5% of the flock.

EU regulations specify the types of checks that must be carried out in checking compliance with the cattle and sheep identification and registration requirements. For example, my Department must ensure that all animals are properly tagged, that correct passports are held for bovine animals and that all movements of animals are correctly recorded on the Department's database.

Since 2007 EU Regulation permitted the checking of a representative sample of sheep subject to certain criteria and this option was extended to cattle from 2011. My Department's officials will carry out the required checks on this basis, where the criteria have been met.

My Department has, where possible, minimised the inconvenience to farmers by using technology and reduced sample sizes for identification. It should also be remembered the value of these schemes to Irish farmers is €1.8bn annually. It is therefore incumbent on my Department to ensure that the regulatory control environment is comprehensively implemented to avoid EU disallowances.

Milk Quota

Sandra McLellan

Question:

19 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to milk quota superlevy fines due to a supply surge so far this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14647/12]

With Ireland narrowly avoiding a super levy liability in the 2010/2011 quota year, and with high supply figures in the early months of this quota year, my attention has been firmly focused on the milk super levy situation over the course of the current quota year. In a Press Release as early as the 13 April, 2011, I sought to remind dairy farmers of the need to carefully plan their production activities and to pay close attention to the limitations imposed by the quota regime if they were to avoid potentially damaging super levy fines.

Since that time, I have issued a number of other Press Releases through my Department to dairy farmers to highlight the critical importance of ensuring that their production remains within quota this year.

Both I, and officials of my Department, have also been very active throughout the current quota year in attempting to achieve an adjustment to the quota regime at EU level. Unfortunately, there is not enough support among other Member States to bring about such a change at this juncture.

As we approach the end of the current quota year, I would again urge dairy farmers to continue to take the necessary steps to avoid super levy fines and remind them to put an appropriate production management strategy in place for next year.

Artisan Food Sector

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

20 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of jobs that are sustained within the artisan food sector; the trajectory of this sector; the level of specific targeted support that this sector receives; and his plans, if any, to simplify the structures and supports available for the artisan food producers to export goods to the international market. [11334/12]

Neither the CSO nor my Department hold the figures requested by the Deputy as there is not a consensus definition of "artisan" food businesses. Artisan food is categorised by an uncompromised commitment to food making skill which results in superior flavour or taste. It may also be identified in terms of the skills, passion and beliefs of the individuals behind the foods. Typically such individuals seek out the best available ingredients and make their food using non-industrial and artisan techniques, which are usually labour intensive. Ireland's small business base in the food sector is estimated to comprise some 350 firms employing around 3,000 people and 25% of these businesses might be considered artisan.

The Food Harvest 2020 Report recognises the emergence of Ireland's artisan food sector and its potential for growth, innovation and enrichment of Ireland's tourism and the image of Ireland internationally. The Report encourages an entrepreneurial approach to small start-up food businesses and artisan producers and action to promote sustainable and locally embedded food procurement policies and systems; to promote and broaden opportunities, including local markets, for consumers and visiting tourists to purchase local food; to conserve and promote distinctive local food traditions at EU level and to work with bodies such as the TASTE Council and Slow Food. Artisan food businesses may avail of a range of services and supports from national and local development agencies. Some supports specifically targets at artisan and speciality food businesses are the Bord Bia Vantage suite of services for small businesswww.bordbiavantage.ie, specialist advice and courses from Teagasc and product development support from Bord Iascaigh Mhara. My own Department is funding the 2011/2012 UCC Diploma in Specialty Food and together with Bord Bia is running a series of Regional Food Showcases in conjunction with national and local development agencies which give artisan and specialty food producers an opportunity to display their food products and meet potential buyers.

Food Exports to Iran

Derek Keating

Question:

21 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the total amount of exports in food products — meat, beef, lamb and fowl — to Iran in 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012; the person who represents Ireland in Iran now that the Iranian Embassy services have been transferred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14591/12]

Ireland does not have access for beef or sheepmeat to Iran at present and therefore does not export any meats to Iran. My Department has been in contact with the Iranian authorities, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in furtherance of our continuing efforts to gain access to the Iranian market for Irish beef and sheepmeat. In particular we have been engaged with official veterinarians from Iran to demonstrate the quality and safety of our control systems. We would hope to reach an agreement with the Iranian authorities on a bilateral basis in due course.

The Government plans to maintain diplomatic relations with Iran through the appointment of a non-resident Ambassador. It is proposed to accredit an Ambassador in the region as Ambassador to Iran and the Government is in the process of seeking the agreement of the Iranian authorities to this arrangement.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme

Micheál Martin

Question:

22 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will outline the details of the agri environment options scheme 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14622/12]

I would like, at the outset, to emphasise my commitment to the agri-environment schemes which put environmentally-friendly farming to the forefront and which recognise the vital role farmers play in delivering public goods for the benefit of all society. Both my own and the Government's commitment in this regard are highlighted by the fact that despite the financial pressures facing my Department, I have made provision in 2012 for €243 million under agri-environment schemes. It is also the reason why, despite serious budgetary pressures, I reopened the Agri-Environment Options Scheme last year.

I am now considering the possibility of re-opening the Agri-Environment Options Scheme in 2012, possibly on an amended basis or on a limited scale and will make an announcement on the matter shortly. I am actively considering the various options for such a scheme but I am particularly concerned about the budgetary implications which will play an important part in any decision I take. The full year cost of funding a new scheme will fall to be met in 2013. Accordingly any decision to re-open for applications in 2012 will be taken in the context of my Department's expenditure ceiling for 2013 as agreed by Government and, in particular, on how a new scheme might be funded within the reduced funding and the resulting pressures on the 2013 Vote.

Draught Horse Passports

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

23 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of Irish draught horse passports processed by Horse Sport Ireland in the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14649/12]

Horse Sport Ireland is approved by my Department, in accordance with the relevant EU and National Zootechnical legislation to manage the Irish Draught Horse studbook, including the issuing of passports for horses of the breed. As the issuing of passports is considered a day-to-day studbook management matter the Deputy should contact Horse Sport Ireland directly for such information.

Animal Welfare

Brian Stanley

Question:

24 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if minks, cats and racing horses will be included in the upcoming Animal Welfare Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14642/12]

The new Animal Health and Welfare Bill proposes to amend, consolidate and update legislation in the area of animal health and welfare, particularly to reflect the changed disease status of our animals and to ensure that the welfare of all animals is properly protected. In the Bill the term animal "means a member of the kingdom animalae other than a human being", mink, cats and horses will therefore all be covered by its general provisions.

Under the Bill, persons possessing animals are required to safeguard their welfare and provide them with adequate food, water and shelter. There will also be provisions for powers of intervention where an animal is deemed to be at risk of being welfare compromised and issues such as the prevention of unnecessary suffering and abandonment of animals will also be addressed. In addition the new Bill proposes to increase both the powers of authorised officers and the level of penalties to be imposed with fines being proportionate to the offence. The Bill will be published shortly.

Environmental Schemes

Robert Troy

Question:

25 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the level of funding provided for REP scheme and agri-environment options scheme for 2011; the expenditure incurred under those schemes in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14635/12]

I am committed to agri-environment schemes, which put environmentally-friendly farming to the forefront and which recognise the vital role farmers play in delivering public goods for the benefit of all society. The funding provided for agri-environment schemes, covering the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) and the Agri-environment Options Scheme (AEOS) 2011 was €337 million. The actual expenditure incurred for REPS and AEOS in 2011 was €262.9 and €14.1 million respectively. Despite the financial pressures facing my Department, I have made provision in 2012 for the schemes of €243 million.

Disadvantaged Areas Scheme

Brian Stanley

Question:

26 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of farmers who were eligible for disadvantaged area payments in 2011, but will not qualify in 2012 due to changes in the stocking density; if he will provide a breakdown nationally and by county or region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14643/12]

The budgeted expenditure under the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme is being reduced from €220 million to €190 million and in order to make the necessary savings it is proposed to make technical adjustments to the Scheme criteria to ensure that the aid payment is focused on farmers whose farming enterprises are situated exclusively in DAS areas and who are making a significant contribution to achieving the objectives of the Scheme, which are defined in the governing EU legislation as follows:

To ensure continued agricultural land use and thereby contribute to the maintenance of a viable rural community;

To maintain the countryside;

To maintain and promote sustainable farming systems, which, in particular, take, account of environmental protection measures.

As the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme is co-funded by the EU under the Rural Development Programme 2007/2013, it is necessary to obtain the agreement of the EU Commission to any proposed changes; my officials are involved in ongoing discussions with Commission officials in this regard and a decision is awaited. It should be noted that the proposed criteria may be subject to some changes following the conclusion of the discussions with the EU Commission.

As the conditions of the scheme have not been finalised is not possible to give a breakdown by county or region. However, it is intended that, should agreement be forthcoming, those farmers who do not qualify for the 2012 Scheme on the basis of not having achieved a minimum stocking rate of 0.3 livestock units per forage hectare in 2011 will be allowed appeal, with provision will be made for exceptional circumstances, including recognised Force Majeure. Provision will also be made for (a) those restricted by Environmental Plans and (b) new entrants.

Appointment of Inspector

Michael Colreavy

Question:

27 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to appoint a regional inspector at his Department’s office in Drumshanbo, County Leitrim, following the retirement of the previous regional inspector last November; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14637/12]

The post to which the Deputy refers has recently become vacant and, as the Deputy will be aware, a moratorium on recruitment and promotion is in place in the public service. Alternative arrangements are being put in place to address this vacancy.

Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes

Billy Kelleher

Question:

28 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the level of funding provided for the targeted agricultural modernisation schemes for 2011; the amount of expenditure incurred under those schemes in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14617/12]

The original allocation for the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS) for 2011 was €21.3 million. As the deputy will be aware, the schemes were suspended for new applications on 8 June 2011 and were re-opened in December 2011 following the comprehensive review of my Department's expenditure which was underway at that time and the particular issue of consideration of funding for the Department's capital expenditure programme in 2013.

Grant payments under the TAMS may only be made when documented claims in respect of completed projects have been submitted by applicants and verified by my Department. The expenditure for the calendar year 2011 under the Schemes concerned is set out in the following table:

Scheme

Amount (€m)

Bioenergy

0.363

Dairy Equipment

Poultry Welfare

0.462

Rainwater Harvesting

Sheep Fencing/Handling

Sow Welfare

Total

0.825

Under the TAMS, farmers generally have a period of two years from the date of issue of approval to complete the investment works concerned.

Food Industry

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

29 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he and his EU colleagues have reached consensus on the future development of the food industry throughout Europe and as a consequence in this country with a view to maximisation of the potential of the industry in the current economic climate to play a major part in economic recovery; the extent to which he can expect to have this position recognised and protected in the context of any World Trade Organisation discussions in view of the urgency to achieve the highest possible benefit for the sector in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14576/12]

I believe there is a good commitment within the EU to a strong agrifood sector and an increased recognition of the importance of the sector's contribution to the achievement of economic, social and environmental objectives. In developing the EU2020 strategy for recovery and growth in Europe, Heads of State and Government in the European Council recognised this contribution concluding that "a sustainable, productive and competitive agricultural sector will make an important contribution to the new strategy, considering the growth and employment potential of rural areas while ensuring fair competition".

Moving forward to the CAP Reform Package, the three key principles underpinning the EU Commission's proposals for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy are to preserve food production potential in the EU, to ensure sustainable management of natural resources and to maintain viable rural areas. In those circumstances, I am satisfied that there is good support to ensure the future viability of the food industry in Europe while achieving security of food supply and maintaining farm families on the land.

Over recent years an alliance of some 14 Member States, including Ireland, has pressed on a continuous basis for a strong CAP and to defend EU agricultural interests in the WTO. Indeed this alliance has been augmented from time to time by support from additional Member States. It is worth noting that the conclusions drawn up last year by the Hungarian EU Presidency seeking a strong CAP with resources commensurate with its objectives gained the support of twenty Member States. These Member States also agreed that one of the three main objectives for the future CAP should be to ensure viable food production. They also endorsed the other objectives of sustainable management of natural resources and climate action as well as balanced territorial development.

As to the WTO Doha Development Round, talks are stalled at present and the prospects for conclusion of an agreement are uncertain at this point in time. Nevertheless, I will continue to maintain pressure to secure an acceptable outcome from these negotiations that does not undermine the development of European and Irish agriculture.

National College of Amenity Horticulture

Clare Daly

Question:

30 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the fact that in September of this year all students of the college of amenity horticulture in the Botanic Gardens will be moved to Teagasc in Kinsealy, County Dublin, to facilitate a €2.5 million upgrade in the Botanic Gardens increasing the Teagasc rental footprint, although all the facilities exist in Kinsealy to support this educational programme at no extra cost. [14471/12]

This is an operational matter for the Teagasc, a non commercial semi state body operating under the aegis of the Department. Ministerial responsibility is confined to matters of policy in accordance with the Act and the Minister does not interfere in the day to day operations of Teagasc.

I understand that Teagasc has had a long standing relationship with the National Botanic Gardens through the location of the National College of Amenity Horticulture at the Gardens. This has been a strategically important arrangement both for Teagasc and for horticultural education in this country. The branding that is associated with the Botanic Gardens and the opportunities to work with the extensive plant collections at the Gardens has greatly enhanced horticultural education.

As part of Teagasc's ongoing upgrading of education facilities, the Teagasc Authority approved a €2.5 million capital improvement programme at the College of Amenity Horticulture in the Botanic Gardens. This decision was taken in advance of the decision to relocate the Kinsealy facility to Ashtown.

Construction of the new facilities in the Botanic Gardens is ready to proceed. Because the development is linked to the existing education facility, it will give rise to significant health and safety risks at that facility. Accordingly, Teagasc has decided to temporarily relocate staff and education programmes at the Botanic Gardens to the Kinsealy facility during the construction phase which is expected to be completed by June 2013. In the meantime, students will still need to attend at the Botanic Gardens for outdoor practical training sessions. On completion of the project, staff and education programmes will relocate back to the Botanic Gardens.

Ownership of Coillte Lands

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

31 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will explain the sense in which the State will retain ownership over Coillte lands if the company is sold and a private commercial entity has control of the enterprise and if, for example, under such an agreement it might be open to a private company to restrict public access to forest amenity areas or charge for same or de-forest environmentally precious areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12846/12]

As recently announced by the Government, consideration will be given to the possible sale of some assets of Coillte excluding the sale of land. A valuation of Coillte assets is currently being undertaken by the NTMA (NewERA unit) in conjunction with my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. No decision on the possible sale of Coillte assets will be taken until the valuation process is completed.

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.

In relation to deforestation, it is illegal, under the Forestry Act, 1946, with certain limited exceptions, to cut down any tree of any age without a felling licence. In deciding whether to issue a felling licence my Department may consult with the National Parks and Wildlife Service on applications in environmentally sensitive areas. Any person uprooting or cutting down a tree without a felling licence may be prosecuted.

Pigmeat Sector

Michael McGrath

Question:

32 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the proposals he has to assist the pig production sector in view of the particular difficulties affecting that sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14625/12]

I am aware of the concerns currently being expressed by the pig production sector, particularly in relation to feed costs and the availability of credit. The pig sector remains the third largest individual component of the agrifood sector, with production, prices and exports all growing significantly during 2011.

Notwithstanding this, high feed costs, most notably cereals and compound feed remain an issue. Pig producers are especially affected by the increase in cereal prices since June 2009, given that cereals account for 70% of feed.

Prices of pigmeat and of course feed are ultimately determined by demand and supply considerations. For my part, I will ask my officials to continue to explore with the European Commission all available market supports when circumstances require them, to ameliorate the worst effects of price volatility. Indeed last year's Aid to Private Storage Scheme for pigmeat played a significant role in putting a floor under pigmeat prices at that time. This, together with release of cereal stocks from intervention, improved the situation somewhat at that time.

I have held a number of meetings with representatives from the Irish Banking Federation to discuss the issues of credit and financing difficulties and have asked my officials to arrange a further meeting as soon as possible.

To assist the pig sector with the new loose sow housing welfare requirements, my Department introduced as part of the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) a measure for Sow Welfare in June 2010. Grant-aid is available at a rate of 40% to eligible producers with a maximum investment ceiling of €300,000, i.e. a maximum grant of €120,000. A total of €13 million has been set aside under this scheme. It follows two earlier schemes in 2005 and 2007 which made payments of €6.2 million to 63 applicants.

In addition my Department supports the work of a number of agencies who also have a role in developing the pigmeat sector; Bord Bia through its Pig Quality Assurance Scheme (PQAS) and Teagasc which has an advisory and research role and assisted with the "Development Strategy for the Irish Pig Industry", prepared in 2008.

I can assure the Deputy that my Department and its agencies will continue to work closely with the industry to ensure that it can continue to develop and grow in accordance with the targets in the Food Harvest 2020 Report.

Common Agricultural Policy

Patrick Nulty

Question:

33 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he is willing to discuss proposals for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy which raise concerns with the flat payment per hectare model; if he is willing to consider proposals on a cut off payment at a certain amount of hectares; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14601/12]

The European Commission's proposals for the Common Agricultural Policy for the period 2014 to 2020 include a gradual move away from payments based on historical production towards a system of uniform national or regional payment rates by 2019.

The mechanism proposed by the Commission raises serious concerns for Ireland. It would result in very significant transfers from more productive farms to more marginal and less productive land. Analysis carried out by my Department indicates that, under a national flat-rate model, the most productive farmers would lose, on average, about one-third of their current payments, while the least productive farmers would see their payments rise by an average of 86%. Alternative redistributions based on a two-region model, or even an eight-region model, would have similar outcomes. I do not believe that these are compatible with my commitment to sustainable intensification of production, the maintenance of a vibrant rural economy and the achievement of the objectives of the Food Harvest 2020 strategy.

I have been relaying these concerns very strongly at every opportunity in recent months, including in the course of discussions with the European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dacian Ciolos, during his visit to Dublin in January and in bilateral contacts with Ministerial counterparts. I am pressing for the maximum possible flexibility to be given to Member States to design payment models that suit their own farming conditions, and to include the possibility of lengthy transition periods. The ‘approximation' approach, by which all payments could gradually move towards the average, and which the Commission itself has adopted in the distribution of funds between Member States, is one alternative that is currently being examined.

I will continue to work intensively with the Commissioner and with my counterparts at the Council of Ministers to achieve the required flexibility and to come up with an acceptable solution that does not have the dramatic redistributive effects inherent in the current proposals.

Teagasc Rationalisation Programme

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

34 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has been briefed by Teagasc on the proposed closure of the Kinsealy research centre, Dublin, and relocation of staff and the Kinsealy function to the Teagasc Ashtown facility, Dublin; if he is satisfied that the Ashtown facility has the requisite land and services necessary for the critical horticulture research that has been undertaken at the Kinsealy research centre; if the Ashtown centre will have to buy or lease any land to facilitate the Kinsealy horticulture functions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14595/12]

This is an operational matter for Teagasc, a non commercial semi state body operating under the aegis of my Department. Ministerial responsibility is confined to matters of policy in accordance with the Act and the Minister does not interfere in the day to day operations of Teagasc.

I have been advised by Teagasc that the proposed closure of the Kinsealy Research Centre is part of a rationalisation programme to improve efficiencies, streamline services and promote greater integration across the organisation.

The decision reflects the considered view of Teagasc that the Centre is no longer a strategic site for the organisation. In the vicinity of Dublin, Teagasc currently operates at two owned locations at Kinsealy and Ashtown as well as using the unique leased facilities of the Botanic Gardens. The facilities at Kinsealy and Ashtown represent "Campus" type operations. Teagasc advise that the position of these two major facilities in close proximity is exceptional when compared to the siting of all other Teagasc current locations of campus operations. Accordingly, in order to develop a coherent national rationalisation plan, Teagasc decided that it was necessary to maintain only a single facility in Dublin and a decision was made to close the Kinsealy facility and concentrate activities at Ashtown. The move to Ashtown will allow Teagasc optimize the usage of this valuable Centre where excellent facilities have been developed in recent years.

Teagasc has advised that the re-location of services from Kinsealy will not impact negatively on their support for the horticulture sector. The role of horticultural research at Kinsealy has diminished significantly and most of the 37 permanent staff currently based there are not involved in Horticulture Research and could operate from other sites. In fact, only 1.5 permanent horticulture researchers now work in Kinsealy.

Teagasc has published a new Horticultural Plan designed to provide improved support to the sector. The Plan sets out how Teagasc will support the horticultural industry from Ashtown and other facilities and in particular through closer co-operation with producer clients to undertake specific research at their facilities. I understand that Teagasc has recently been made aware that some lands immediately adjacent to their Ashtown Centre have become available and they may consider leasing some of these lands at a future date if a business case can be made.

Fuel Costs

Mick Wallace

Question:

35 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he agrees that generally speaking agriculture is doing well at the moment but not all farmers are finding it so easy, and high fuel costs are certainly a major factor in the difficulties they are facing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14590/12]

The agrifood sector has performed very well in the last two years. Agrifood exports have increased by 25% in that time and now stand at almost €9bn. World food prices, including dairy and meat prices, have been high in recent years, and Irish farmers have benefitted from this.

But of course there are also challenges. At farm level, volatility is always a risk factor. Farm incomes are currently very good, but in 2009 they were very poor. Farmers are also much more exposed now to global food prices that, while currently very high, could easily drop substantially and damage the sector. Input costs have increased substantially in recent years, often more than output prices, so farmer margins have been squeezed. This should be obvious if you consider the huge increases in commodity prices and fuel costs, but other inputs have also increased, most especially fertiliser costs. The pig sector has had particular problems in this regard.

The high cost of fuel is a problem for several sectors. I am pleased that the Minister for Finance provided for an additional relief for farmers in budget 2012 in relation to their use of marked gas oil.

Potato Industry

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

36 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to provide support for potato growers who are currently experiencing low prices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14650/12]

Whilst the area of potatoes planted has declined over the last 10 years, high yields in the past two seasons have seen production levels of over 400,000 tonnes, which has led to excess supplies and downward pressure on prices. This is coupled with the fact that per capita consumption has being declining on an annual basis.

A key objective for this sector is to increase consumption of potatoes and in this regard a number of new initiatives are taking place to raise awareness and in turn increase consumption of potatoes.

A Potato Promotions Group under the auspices of Bord Bia was established in February 2012 which aims at stabilising potato consumption in the short term and rebuilding consumption in the medium to longer term. The group includes representatives of Bord Bia, the Irish Potato Federation, the Irish Farmers Association and my Department. New research carried out by Bord Bia has identified clearly the reasons for the drop in potato consumption in recent years. In light of this, the Potato Promotions Group will develop a promotional strategy around the outcome of this research which will attempt to address consumers' concerns on the regular consumption of potatoes.

Furthermore, a new website for consumers, an initiative of the Irish Potato Federation and supported by Bord Bia, calledPotato.ie was launched to promote potatoes. Current promotional activity is focused on driving consumers to the website.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme

Sandra McLellan

Question:

37 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has made any decisions regarding funding for the agri-environment options scheme 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14648/12]

I would like, at the outset, to emphasise my commitment to the agri-environment schemes which put environmentally-friendly farming to the forefront and which recognise the vital role farmers play in delivering public goods for the benefit of all society. Both my own and the Government's commitment in this regard are highlighted by the fact that despite the financial pressures facing my Department, I have made provision in 2012 for €243 million under agri-environment schemes. It is also the reason why, despite serious budgetary pressures, I reopened the Agri-Environment Options Scheme last year.

I am now considering the possibility of re-opening the Agri-Environment Options Scheme in 2012, possibly on an amended basis or on a limited scale and will make an announcement on the matter shortly. I am actively considering the various options for such a scheme but I am particularly concerned about the budgetary implications which will play an important part in any decision I take. The full year cost of funding a new scheme will fall to be met in 2013. Accordingly any decision will be taken in the context of my Department's expenditure ceiling for 2013 as agreed by Government and, in particular, on how a new scheme might be funded within the reduced funding and the resulting pressures on the 2013 Vote for my Department.

Departmental Agencies

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

38 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will report on the operation of Teagasc; the numbers employed by Teagasc each year form 2007 to date in 2012; the number of centres or sites and the key activities carried out at each of these centres under the operation of Teagasc each year from 2007 to date in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14598/12]

Teagasc operates as a separate non-commercial semi state body under the aegis of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with their own management structure and governing Authority. They develop their programmes, services and activities in accordance with Government policy and in conjunction with clients and partners overseen by an Authority that is representative of the main stakeholder groups in the agrifood sector.

The Act establishing Teagasc confers on it principal functions in relation to the provision of education, advisory and research services to the agriculture sector. It is a matter for Teagasc to prioritise activities in the delivery of these services and to allocate its resources in accordance with these priorities. Ministerial responsibility is confined to matters of policy in accordance with the Act and the Minister does not interfere in the day-to-day operations of Teagasc. The total staff working in Teagasc on 1 January for each respective year is as follows:

Year

Number (fulltime equivalents)

2007

1,549

2008

1,512

2009

1,574

2010

1,385

2011

1,296

2012

1,189

In 2009, Teagasc commenced implementation of a major Change Programme to achieve greater efficiencies in all aspects of their business and to address the need for significant resource rationalisation. The Programme provides for rationalisation measures across the organisation including consolidating the numbers of offices in a smaller number of locations. Prior to this, Teagasc operated at 91 locations made up of 10 major Campus Centres (providing Research, Advisory and Educational Services) and 81 Advisory Centres. I have been advised by Teagasc that the number of locations is being streamlined to 51 by end 2012. The decision to close offices and concentrate the delivery of services at fewer locations is an operational matter for Teagasc.

Teagasc publishes an Annual Report on its activities but the Deputy may wish to contact Teagasc directly for a more detailed reply on the activities carried out at individual sites.

Milk Quota

Pearse Doherty

Question:

39 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the provisions he will put in place for new entrants to the dairy sector after the ending of milk quotas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14641/12]

The decision to abolish milk quotas with effect from 1 April 2015 was made in the context of the CAP Health Check in 2008. Ireland strongly supported their abolition, on the basis that quotas were widely regarded by both the Irish dairy sector and market analysts as a brake on the potential of the Irish dairy sector to respond positively to market opportunities.

As a result the supply management arrangements that currently exist will no longer apply after 2015, and it will be a matter for the processing industry to work with the milk producers, including new entrants, to ensure a coherent and thriving dairy industry post quotas.

In the meantime, I will, of course work to ensure that the dairy industry can continue to develop in the manner envisaged in Food Harvest 2020 Report, supported by a strong and effective Common Agricultural Policy after 2013, and in the meantime by schemes such as the Dairy Investment Scheme, the Dairy Efficiency Programme, and the taxation measures introduced to support the farm sector in Budget 2011, included the increased stock relief to encourage participation by young farmers in dairy farm partnerships.

Common Fisheries Policy

Clare Daly

Question:

40 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views that sustainable fisheries under Common Fisheries Policy reform cannot be implemented without a comprehensive, unrestricted observer regime. [14599/12]

The sustainable exploitation of any renewable natural resource, means that the resource can be used indefinitely. Fisheries can be defined as sustainable, when they are conducted over the long term at an acceptable level of biological and economic productivity, without leading to ecological changes that exclude options for future generations.

Under the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, the European Commission have proposed a fisheries management regime in the context of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). This means taking each year a proportion of fish in the sea that is the right size to let fish grow and reproduce at their most productive level. From a broader perspective as I have previously stated, Ireland is committed to having Total Allowable Catches set at levels that can produce Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) by 2015, where possible. The philosophy behind this approach is to obtain the maximum long-term catch, while simultaneously ensuring the stock size is kept large enough to maintain productivity. However, I would stress that the transition from the current management framework to a framework based on MSY will need to be on a phased basis. Where we have the necessary scientific advice from ICES, I was supportive of TACs for 2012 that ensure that we are delivering MSY for these stocks by 2015. In this way, the transition to MSY will take account of the socio-economic impacts through reduced catches in the short term. The benefit of an MSY approach is that in the longer term, it will deliver more stable and sustainable fisheries for our industry. There is a huge volume of fishing trips undertaken by Irish vessels and indeed the whole European fleet on an annual basis. In these circumstances, the resource and cost implications of a comprehensive observer programme can not justified. The delivery of sustainable fisheries is not, in my view, dependant on a full observer coverage programme. It is dependant on, inter alia, the support and buy- in of fishermen to conservation measures and compliance with quotas set together with an effective control regime.

An observer programme is in place in order to collect data to inform scientific advice on the state of fish stocks. Under the EU Data Collection Regulation (EC No 199/2008) Ireland is required to collect data on fish stocks and fisheries. The Marine Institute (MI) is charged by my Department to carry out the Irish work programmes in relation to our obligations under the Data Collection Framework (DCF). The DCF supports the scientific advice needed to conduct the Common Fisheries Policy.

The MI carries out a work programme which includes a comprehensive research vessel survey programme, port sampling of landings, sea sampling of discards, age profile of the fisheries resource, analyses of EU Logbook and Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) data. These data are the raw material used to assess the resource and develop scientific advice. Furthermore, a three-year National DCF Programme was developed by the Fisheries Science Services unit (FSS) for the years 2011 to 2013 and was submitted to the EU Commission in May 2010. The programme was evaluated in June 2010 and EU funding of €9 million was secured by Ireland to conduct the Irish data collection programme. This programme, including the observer element, is a vital requirement to inform decision making on sustainable fisheries.

Agricultural College Places

Mick Wallace

Question:

41 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he intends to look at the issue of agricultural college placements when demand far exceeds supply in view of the strong emphasis being placed on agriculture at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14589/12]

This is an operational matter for the Teagasc Authority.

Under the Agriculture, (Research, Training and Advice) Act, 1988, Teagasc has statutory responsibility for the provision of education, research and advisory services to the Agriculture sector. It is a matter for Teagasc to prioritise activities in the delivery of these services and to allocate its resources in accordance with these priorities.

Teagasc provide a wide range of full and part-time agricultural and horticultural courses through their network of agricultural colleges, regional education centres and in collaboration with Institutes of Technologies and Universities. It is acknowledged that the demand for courses has reached unprecedented levels in recent years. In order to respond positively to the current demand for places, Teagasc were granted exceptional sanction in August 2011 to recruit six contract teaching staff in the agricultural colleges. This measure was complemented by other Teagasc initiatives including increased student- teacher ratios, redeployment of six advisory staff to the colleges and subcontracting the delivery of specific education modules across a number of colleges and local centres. As a result of these initiatives, all the Agricultural Colleges were able to take in additional students in 2011.

The question of additional resources into the future must have regard to the need to reduce public service numbers. This requires all public bodies to comply with annual ceilings on staff numbers and to reallocate or reorganise work or staff accordingly.

Diplomatic Representations

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

42 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will liaise with the United Arab Emirates justice department to find out what is happening with an Irish person (details supplied); the steps the UAE justice department intend to take with this person; the charges that are going to be pressed against the person, if any; the steps he can take to help this person leave the UAE and return to Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15782/12]

Joe Higgins

Question:

55 Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has made representations for the release of a female Irish citizen detained in Dubai on or around 1 March 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15632/12]

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

59 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will ascertain the position regarding an Irish citizen (details supplied) in County Wicklow who is currently being detained in the United Arab Emirates; the steps the diplomatic service can take to help the person out of the situation they are in; if he will help along with the diplomatic staff in finding a resolution for the person so that they can leave the UAE and return to Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15781/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 42, 55 and 59 together.

The person referred to by the Deputy was arrested and detained by the United ArabEmirates authorities on 28 February 2012.

Consular assistance has been provided by my Department, through our Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Consular Assistance Section in Dublin. Our Embassy is in direct contact with the Irish citizen and a Consular Officer visited her in prison on 3 March 2012 and again on 12 March 2012. I am pleased to let the Deputy know the Embassy is also assisting with arrangements for a pastoral visit to the Irish citizen by a Bishop from her church. Our Consular Assistance Section is in direct contact with the Irish citizen's daughter in Ireland and met with her on 6 March 2012.

I am informed that Embassy has made a formal request to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates seeking information on the reason for her arrest and detention. As I am sure the Deputy will appreciate, there are limits to what the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and its consular and diplomatic missions can do in circumstances where an Irish citizen has been arrested and detained abroad. However, our Embassy and the Consular Assistance Section remain available to offer consular assistance and has provided the family with a list of English speaking lawyers.

Illegal Israeli Imports

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

43 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the percentage of imports that purport to be from Israel but are in fact from illegal Israeli settlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14896/12]

Products from Israeli settlements are not in themselves illegal. However, they are not covered by the preferential tariff rates which apply to the import into the EU of products from Israel. As with any arrangement providing for free trade or preferential access to the EU, the possibility exists that the origin of products may be misrepresented with a view to benefitting from these measures. I am aware of allegations in this regard concerning settlement products, but not of any statistics giving percentages. In general it is for the importer to claim exceptions or preferential rates where these apply; if he does so incorrectly he makes himself financially liable.

I should point out that competence in matters of this kind lies with the revenue and law enforcement authorities.

Foreign Conflicts

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

44 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade If he has given further consideration to the views of a person (details supplied) regarding the possibility of further conflict in Bosnia; his views on whether the lack of enforcement of the Dayton rules by the Office of the United Nations High Representative and EUFOR is leading towards greater instability and the possibility of State collapse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14897/12]

Since addressing this issue in response to a parliamentary question on 25 January there have been encouraging developments in Bosnia-Herzegovina moving it closer to a demonstrable realisation of its European perspective. Firstly, following the formation of the State-level government on 10 February, Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Vjekoslav Bevanda, has publically stated his intention to implement the necessary reforms to enable the EU-Bosnia-Herzegovina Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) to come into force and, thereafter, to bring forward an application for EU candidate status before the end of this year. While this is an ambitious timeframe, the intention nevertheless demonstrates a political will at the State-level to achieve tangible goals that will move Bosnia-Herzegovina closer to the European Union and is an undeniable affirmation of the European aspirations of Sarajevo.

Work is progressing in Bosnia-Herzegovina on fulfilling the conditions required to allow for the entry into force of the SAA. This in itself is indicative of an atmosphere of stability and a motivated attitude towards implementing the necessary reforms for European integration.

This is not to say that vigilance, and indeed active engagement by the international community, in Bosnia-Herzegovina is not warranted. Problems of dysfunctionality, criminality and corruption exist and are the greatest challenge to reform facing Bosnia-Herzegovina. They are also the greatest challenges facing the international community, in particular the European Union, in assisting the country in paving its way towards European integration.

I agree with the assessment that a return to organised violence and a collapse of the State is unlikely. The continued presence of EUFOR Althea with its peace and stabilisation role, which was authorised for a further 12 months by the UN Security Council last November, is, I believe, a sufficient deterrent to any unlikely organised mass-mobilisation of violence. I would also agree with the proposition that as Bosnia-Herzegovina moves forward, it should do so with the European Union rather than under aegis of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) and the Bonn Powers. With the assumption of the role of European Union Special Representative by Peter Sorensen in September 2011, the EU has reinforced its presence in Bosnia-Herzegovina with the express aim of accelerating the country's progress towards EU membership and reaffirming the inalienable European identity of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Also, with the conferring of candidate status on Serbia at the March European Council and the signing of the Croatian Accession Treaty in December, both of which Ireland was, and continues to be, strongly supportive, I look forward to the constructive role that both countries will play in assisting Bosnia in following the path towards the EU that they are so successfully treading.

Nuclear Disarmament Initiative

Finian McGrath

Question:

45 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if it is correct that Israel has 400 nuclear warheads; and if he will clarify his position on this matter. [14992/12]

Israel has never officially declared itself to possess nuclear weapons. It is one of just three states not party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is acknowledged as a cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime and the essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament. Ireland has a long and very close association with the NPT and, in national and EU statements, and also through our participation in the New Agenda Coalition, we have repeatedly called on all three states not party to the NPT to accede to the Treaty as non-nuclear weapons states and to conclude a full scope safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). We will continue to do this. The Deputy can be assured that universal adherence to, and full implementation of, the NPT remain key foreign policy objectives for the Government as we enter the 2015 NPT review cycle, which will begin next month in Vienna.

Human Rights Issues

Finian McGrath

Question:

46 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on a matter (details supplied). [15409/12]

Michael Creed

Question:

56 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps taken by him to assist the international endeavour to bring a person (details supplied) before the International Criminal Court; if he will raise the matter with the US authorities regarding their continued military support for this endeavour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15692/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 46 and 56 together.

I am greatly concerned that Joseph Kony remains at large in Central Africa and has not been held to account for the atrocities which he and his so-called "Lord's Resistance Army" (LRA) are reported to have committed over two decades in Northern Uganda and the wider region. Recent publicity has raised international public awareness of the appalling violence carried out by this group over many years. In 2005, the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Joseph Kony and other leaders of the LRA on 33 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes. These are charges of the utmost gravity, and it is essential that Mr. Kony appear before the Court to answer them. We strongly support the work of the International Criminal Court in seeking to bring Mr. Kony and his collaborators to justice. Ireland, both directly and as a member of the European Union, provides ongoing support, including funding, for the Court and for its work. This year, our contribution towards the running costs of the Court will amount to some €800,000. Ireland has also made voluntary contributions to Trust Funds that support the work of the Court. Since 1995, €40 million has been provided from the EU budget to support the Court and related international criminal justice initiatives.

This month, the United Nations will convene a meeting in Uganda to finalise a comprehensive regional peacebuilding strategy which combats the activities of the LRA. The African Union has also announced a regional cooperation initiative and the US government is currently providing a number of military personnel to advise and assist national armies in the region to end the scourge of LRA violence, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan. We are monitoring these initiatives closely, in cooperation with our EU partners and through our Embassy in Kampala.

Northern Uganda suffered more than any other area from the activities of the LRA in the years up to 2006, when the LRA left the area and moved into neighbouring countries. Ireland has been providing support to the people of the area for well over a decade. We have played an important role in coordinating the international donor response to the effects of war on the local population, particularly children, and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. We have supported and facilitated peace talks and have ensured that the humanitarian situation in the region remains firmly on the international agenda. Between 2007 and 2010, Ireland provided over €4.4 million in humanitarian assistance for Uganda, most of which focused on the crisis in Northern Uganda. Uganda is one of the priority countries for Ireland's aid programme, where we have a commitment to the provision of long term strategic assistance. In 2007, the Ugandan Government initiated a Peace, Recovery and Development Programme to coordinate all assistance for Northern Uganda, which now requires huge investment to ensure recovery from the disastrous effects of two decades of war. The Programme aims to provide additional resources for capital projects such as schools, clinics, water and sanitation facilities and roads. Through Irish Aid, we are strongly supporting the Programme and we have committed to providing some €22.5 million in funding for it over the years 2010 to 2014.

Proposed Legislation

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

47 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if it his intention to bring the ESM Bill and the European Communities Act (Amendment) Bill before the Oireachtas before or after the referendum on the treaty on stability, co-ordination and governance. [15420/12]

The Government is giving consideration to all of the elements necessary to advance preparations for the referendum on the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union. The process of preparing an Amendment of the Constitution Bill has already begun. We will aim to publish it as soon as possible, once we have given careful consideration to its contents, consistent with good legal practice. It is the Government's intention to establish a Referendum Commission, in order to ensure that adequate public information is made available ahead of the referendum. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government will make the necessary arrangements for the establishment of a Commission in due course.

The Minister for Finance intends to publish draft legislation, in advance of the referendum, to provide for the implementation of the Stability Treaty's provisions.

The Government has not yet decided upon a date for the forthcoming referendum on the Stability Treaty, thus it is not possible at this stage to confirm the sequencing of the consideration by the Houses of the Oireachtas of various Bills, including those related to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and to the European Communities Act.

Departmental Funding

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

48 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in view of the proposed budget of the Development Cooperation Instrument for the period 2014 to 2020 amounting to €23,294.7 million in current prices, the organisations that will be funded for the promotion of building democratic societies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15425/12]

(Minister of State Mr. Joe Costello T.D.) The European Union — Commission and Member States collectively — is the most significant international aid donor, providing over 55% of all Official Development Assistance to poor countries. The Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) is one of three major funding instruments for EU development cooperation programmes, along with the European Development Fund, which covers African, Caribbean and Pacific countries and the European Neighbourhood Partnership Instrument, focusing on the Union's neighbouring countries to the East and the South.

Under the current EU Multiannual Financial Framework, a budget of €16.9 billion has been allocated to the Development Cooperation Instrument for the six years 2008 to 2013. The European Commission has brought forward proposals for negotiation for the Framework for the seven years 2014 to 2020, which include proposed allocations of €34.276 billion for the European Development Fund, €23.295 billion for the Development Cooperation Instrument and €18.182 billion for the European Neighbourhood Partnership Instrument. There are three distinct elements to the Development Cooperation Instrument: geographic programmes supporting cooperation with 47 developing countries in Latin America, Asia and Central Asia, the Gulf region and South Africa; thematic programmes benefiting all developing countries; and a programme of measures for the 18 African, Caribbean and Pacific Sugar Protocol countries, to help them adjust following the reform of the EU sugar regime.

The final amount of funding available for the Development Cooperation Instrument will of course depend on the outcome of the overall negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework. However, it is clear that the promotion of democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law will remain key principles underpinning the implementation of all programmes under the Instrument. Programmes are developed and financed on the basis of annual or multiannual action plans which are discussed and agreed by the DCI Committee, which includes representatives of all the member States, and on which Ireland plays an active role. Decisions on the funding of specific programmes and organisations under the new Multiannual Financial Framework will be taken on a regular basis once the Framework is in place.

Diplomatic Representation

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

49 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has made representations on behalf of Ashraf residents concerning Iraqi forces taking over the Ashraf hospital whose building and equipment are owned by the residents and where the residents are denied access to free medical services in Iraq as a result of which 12 residents have died; if he will address the concerns of the Ashraf residents and those who have moved to Camp Liberty who also suffer from the same issues concerning health care; if he will support the residents in their endeavour to take all their medical equipment with them to Camp Liberty and gain free access to medical care; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15430/12]

I have made clear in answer to previous questions my deep concern about the residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq, in light of the serious violence which took place in the camp in April 2011 and the Iraqi Government's clear insistence that it wishes the camp to be closed. Ireland and its EU partners fully support the process now underway and led by the UN to manage the closure of the camp. I understand that around 800 people from Camp Ashraf were transferred to the temporary location of Camp Hurriya (the former US military Camp Liberty), which is located north-east of Baghdad, in February. The UNHCR had determined before this transfer took place that the infrastructure and facilities at Camp Hurriya were in accordance with international humanitarian standards for refugees, as is required under the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the UN and the Iraqi Government on 25 December last. The UNHCR is currently exploring resettlement options in third countries for camp residents that do not wish to return to Iran and do not have another nationality. A further 2,400 remain in Camp Ashraf and it is hoped that they, too, will soon be relocated. It remains imperative that there should be no attempt at forced repatriation of any of those camp residents who do not wish to return to Iran.

I welcome the decision of the Iraqi government to extend the closure of Camp Ashraf to the end of April to allow the relocation process to proceed, in full compliance with international humanitarian standards. Ireland fully recognises Iraqi sovereignty over the whole of its territory, including Camp Ashraf, but this sovereignty also carries with it responsibilities. The Iraqi Government has primary responsibility for the security and protection of all persons resident on its territory, including Camp Ashraf and Camp Hurriya residents.

Ireland, along with our EU partners, continue to urge the Iraqi government to refrain from any use of violence and to show full respect for the human rights of Camp Ashraf's and Camp Hurriya's residents in the period ahead while the UNHCR explores resettlement options.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

50 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will make representations to the relevant authorities regarding a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15431/12]

I am extremely concerned about the case of Pastor Nadarkhani, a thirty-four year old father of two who faces the death penalty for the charge of apostasy if he does not renounce his Christian faith. This comes amid repressive actions against followers of diverse faiths in Iran, including Sufis and Baha'is. I am particularly disturbed by reports that an execution order has been issued for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani. There have been many other troubling aspects to this case, including the fact that the proceedings do not seem to be solely in the hands of the judiciary, that Mr. Nadarkhani has come under repeated pressure to renounce his faith in exchange for his freedom and that there has been a lack of transparency which means that Mr. Nadarkhani has not been afforded due process.

Threatening the death penalty and imprisoning innocent people because of their faith is an issue of the utmost gravity and represents a serious attack on the universal right to religious freedom. I fully support the call by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran Ahmed Shaheed, in his report to the Human Rights Council on 12 March, to the Iranian Government to "seriously consider a moratorium on the death penalty for all crimes until such time as effective enforcement of due process rights may be meaningfully demonstrated." The Special Rapporteur also professes "to be alarmed by communications that demonstrate the systemic and systematic persecution of members of unrecognized religious communities, particularly the Baha'i community, in violation of international conventions."

Furthermore, the case involving Pastor Nadarkhani illustrates the chronic violations of due process in the Iranian justice system, including in terms of the application of the death penalty and actions against religious freedom, which are systematically established in the Special Rapporteur's report. Mr. Shaheed specifically highlights an overall lack of adherence to the rule of law and the failure of Iran's justice system to uphold its obligations under both domestic law and international legal instruments that Iran has itself signed. I urge the Iranian state to tackle this endemic problem as a matter of urgency.

Ireland has been actively involved in raising this case with the Iranian authorities and calling for Mr. Nadarkhani's immediate and unconditional release, including with the Iranian Ambassador here in Dublin. At EU level, Ireland strongly supports the statement on 6 January by High Representative Ashton on this case and calling for an immediate moratorium on the death penalty in Iran.

Ireland and its EU partners will continue to put pressure on Iran to release Mr Nadarkhani and to urge Iran to respect its international human rights commitments, including on the death penalty and on freedom of religion or belief.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

51 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will make representations with the American in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15432/12]

I am aware of the case of Mr. René González Sehwerert, who was one of five Cuban nationals known as the "Miami Five", who were convicted on charges ranging from espionage to first degree murder in 2001 in the United States. I am also aware that Mr. González, who was accused of conspiracy to commit espionage, was released on probation on 7 October 2011. The government of Ireland has no standing in this matter.

Irish Communities Abroad

Tom Hayes

Question:

52 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will assist in the case of an Irish national (details supplied) in County Tipperary who was imprisoned in France in March 2010, who has been released and is back home, but theircar, cash and other contents were never returned to them by the French authorities. [15455/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department offered all possible assistance in this case, through our Embassy in Paris and the Consular Assistance section in Dublin, during this person's detention in France. I am informed that our Embassy in Paris contacted the investigating Magistrate's Office in January 2012. The Magistrate's Office confirmed that the file of the person referred to remains open and advised that the Irish citizen should make inquiries with the relevant authorities there to determine the current status of his case, including the return of his property. Therefore, he may need to engage the services of a lawyer to assist him with his case. Our Embassy in Paris remains available to provide a list of English-speaking lawyers if this would be of assistance to him.

Departmental Bodies

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

53 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide in tabular form a list of all agencies and bodies and internal organisations under his aegis. [15503/12]

There are no State agencies or bodies operating under the aegis of my Department. Three advisory committees — the Development Education Advisory Committee, the Irish Aid Expert Advisory Group and the Emigrant Services Advisory Committee (previously known as the Díon Committee) — operate under the auspices of my Department, as do the board of the Ireland-United States Commission for Educational Exchange (The Fulbright Commission) and the Export Trade Council.

Ministerial Travel

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

54 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will set out the mileage claimed by any Minister of State in his Department for each year from 2005 to 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15518/12]

The table that follows this reply provides details of the mileage claimed by each Minister of State at my Department between 2005 and 2010. Official cars are not provided to Ministers of State. The figures reflect the motor travel allowances claimed for official travel undertaken, subject to the guidelines set out by the Department of Finance.

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

Mileage claimed by former Minister of State, Conor Lenihan

€16,097

€16,846

€8,177

Mileage claimed by former Minister of State, Deputy Michael P. Kitt

€13,322

€17,697

Mileage claimed by former Minister of State, Peter Power

€15,175

€27,919

€9,144

Mileage claimed by former Minister of State, Noel Treacy

€21,277

€43,173

€36,462

Mileage claimed by former Minister of State, Dick Roche

€13,311

€28,467

€21,564

€17,242

Question No. 55 answered with Question No. 42.
Question No. 56 answered with Question No. 46.

Overseas Development Aid

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

57 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will report on his recent visit to Ethiopia; if he will provide his assessment of the impact of Ireland’s development aid programme in Ethiopia; if he will report on any examination of the recent allegations by international human rights NGOs regarding the impact of the villagisation programme on Ethiopian citizens in certain regions of the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15703/12]

Ethiopia is one of nine Programme Countries for Ireland's aid programme, where we have a commitment to long-term strategic assistance. I visited Ethiopia in January to assess the impact of the programme on the lives of some of the poorest communities, and also to meet African leaders attending the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa. I had the opportunity during my visit to see in operation a wide range of programmes and projects supported by Irish Aid, especially in the Tigray region, which was devastated by famine in the 1980s. I believe we can be satisfied that Ireland's assistance is making a strong contribution to the attainment of positive development results across a range of sectors. Tackling hunger, for example, is a priority area for the aid programme. Our support for the Productive Safety Net Programme, which provides cash or food in return for public works, is directly helping to protect up to 7.5 million people from hunger every year. Last year, this programme helped large numbers of vulnerable communities cope with the devastating impact of the drought that gripped the Horn of Africa. Crucially, as the public works carried out under the programme are focused on soil and water conservation, the effect is not only to save lives today, but to improve the productivity of land for the future. I was particularly impressed by the farmers I met, who told me that their yields have improved in quantity and value, making them more resilient to drought and other climatic shocks.

During my visit I also had the opportunity to meet Irish non-governmental organisations and a range of our Ethiopian partner organisations. I held discussions with representatives of Government and the opposition, and with civil society representatives. Among the issues which I raised in my conversation with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Berhane Gebre-Christos, was the Ethiopian Government's "villagisation" programme. This programme is seen by the Ethiopian Government as an important element in the development of some of the poorest regions of the country, enabling the effective delivery of basic services through the voluntary resettlement of vulnerable communities. However, the programme has recently been the subject of criticism by an international non-governmental organisation which alleges that human rights violations are taking place, including the forced movements of communities. I raised these allegations with the Minister and urged that they be investigated fully. He told me his Government would view as a very serious matter any evidence that local officials are implementing the programme in a manner that departs from its intended voluntary nature. Indeed, he stated that the previous regime under the Derg had operated forced "villagisation" schemes, that the Ethiopian people had suffered as a result and that his Government would never implement the policies of the Derg.

We take very seriously any allegations of human rights violations. We are continuing to monitor the implementation of the "villagisation" programme, through our Embassy in Addis Ababa and in consultation with other international donors. Officials from our Embassy, and from Embassies of other development partners, have visited some of the areas involved to assess the allegations. These visits have not substantiated the claims of forced movements of communities or of human rights violations. However, we have consistently expressed our concern to the Ethiopian Government at the scale and speed of the programme and will continue to follow the situation closely with the Government, local communities and civil society organisations. In Addis Ababa, I also attended the African Union Summit meeting where I had a series of bilateral meetings with a number of African Ministers. I lobbied Ministers on Ireland's candidature for membership of the United Nations Human Rights Council, for the 2013-15 period. I also briefed them on the Africa Strategy of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and our intention to strengthen political, economic and development links with Africa and individual African countries.

Visa Agreements

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

58 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the action he is taking regarding a visa agreement between Ireland and the USA. [15760/12]

Enabling Irish people to apply for E-3 temporary US work visas has been a particular focus of the Government's efforts in the context of our overall ongoing exchanges with the US Administration and Congress on immigration-related issues. The Deputy can be assured that my Department, including the Embassy in Washington, is extremely proactive in pursuit of this goal. The Taoiseach and I discussed immigration issues with President Obama when we met him on 23 May last year in Dublin. I also did so in separate exchanges I had during the course of 2011 with Secretary of State Clinton and Senator Patrick Leahy, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. During my recent visits to Washington and New York, I reviewed progress on E-3 issues during further separate contacts with Deputy Secretary Bill Burns of the US State Department and with Senator Leahy, Senator Scott Brown and Senator Charles Schumer and members of the Friends of Ireland group at House of Representatives level. Additional contacts with the Senators in question were also taking place this week in the context of the Taoiseach's visit to Washington DC for St. Patrick's Day-related events. Senators Schumer, Leahy and Durbin and Senators Brown and Kirk previously tabled draft Bills which would enable the provision of E-3 visas to Irish applicants. Both Bills have since been referred for examination by the US Senate's Judiciary Committee. In all our exchanges with them, the Government has thanked the Senators for their ongoing efforts in this regard and encouraged them to persist towards reaching a positive outcome. They have been assured of the Government's continuing close interest and support in this connection, which we are exercising through our Embassy in Washington. I discussed the issue in detail with the Congressional delegation, led by leader Nancy Pelosi, during its visit to Dublin on 12 March.

The Embassy is working in tandem with key stakeholder groups from throughout the Irish-American community. The Taoiseach met representatives of several of these groups, including the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform and the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centres, in New York recently. He acknowledged and thanked all these groups and others from within Irish-America for their vital help and support in rallying momentum behind our collective efforts. I am heartened by the advances that have been made so far towards enabling Irish people to apply for E-3 visas. However, together with our friends and allies on Capitol Hill and among the Irish-American community, I am conscious that the current US domestic political climate around immigration issues and the Presidential elections taking place there later this year mean nothing can be taken for granted. While developments in relation to E-3 visas are positive in relation to future flows of emigration to the United States, I am very much aware of the difficulties confronting undocumented Irish citizens and the distress which they and their families in the US and Ireland experience arising from their situation. I urge anybody who might be tempted to follow in the footsteps of the undocumented to take account of their plight and to refrain from seeking entry to the US for work purposes without having first acquired relevant visa clearance.

Question No. 59 answered with Question No. 42.

Tax Code

Dessie Ellis

Question:

60 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Finance his plans to address the charging of VAT on taxi base fees in view of the fact they were not collected until this year and those who are being asked to pay for VAT from previous years have received tax clearance. [14956/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that these services (taxi booking service, hire of radios and the provision of administration) are liable to VAT at the standard rate of 23%. However, the transport of passengers and their accompanying baggage is exempt from VAT under Paragraph 14(3) of Schedule 1 to the Value-Added Tax Consolidation Act 2010. Accordingly, the provision of a taxi service is exempt from VAT. While the provider of a service that is exempt from VAT does not charge VAT on the service they supply, they are also not entitled to deduct, or claim a refund of, any VAT incurred on goods and services used for the purposes of their exempt business. Thus, a person who provides a taxi service does not register for VAT and cannot recover VAT incurred on costs associated with running their business, such as taxi booking services, the hire of radios and the provision of administration. A tax clearance certificate will normally be issued to a person if he/she has made all of the required tax returns to Revenue and has paid all tax known to be due or agreed a payment schedule in respect of such tax debts. If and when a further tax liability is identified or arises, collection proceeds in the normal way.

Disabled Drivers

Brian Walsh

Question:

61 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Finance if a decision to refuse a primary medical certificate to a person (details supplied) in County Galway could be overturned in view of the fact that the person is not medically fit to attend for assessment at the National Rehabilitation Hospital. [15225/12]

There is no provision by which the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal can issue a primary medical certificate without reviewing the appellant although s/he can reapply locally after six months from the date of the first review with medical evidence of a deterioration in his/ her condition. I understand from the Chairperson of the Medical Board of Appeal, (which is independent in the exercise of its functions), that clinics are normally held in Dublin and 30 people are generally invited to attend for assessment at a clinic. From time to time, people appealing a decision not to grant them a Primary Medical Certificate decline an assessment in Dublin. When sufficient numbers warrant it, a clinic is held outside Dublin.

Financial Services Regulation

Barry Cowen

Question:

62 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to any instances of banks refusing to provide student loans; his views that this is a problem at present; if he has any plans to address the issue or monitor the situation in the coming months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14957/12]

I am advised by the Central Bank that they do not have specific information in relation to the provision or refusal of student loans. The decision on whether or not to grant a loan to a student must remain a commercial decision for individual lending institutions. It is important that each lending institution is allowed to assess properly and independently the individual risks that it is considering accepting. Loans must be undertaken on a sustainable and prudential basis by financial institutions and conform fully with regulatory requirements both in relation to the financial institution itself and also the safeguarding of the consumer's interests. I have no plans to ask the Central Bank to take any particular action to address the question of student loans. The Central Bank has in place a Consumer Protection Code. This code applies to all financial entities regulated by the Central Bank. If a regulated entity is selling a financial product, including a student loan, to a person who is a "personal consumer" for the purposes of the code, then the regulated entity may only sell a loan product that is suitable for the consumer based on the information that has been supplied by the consumer. Provision 5.9 of the code requires that prior to offering, recommending, arranging, or providing a credit product to a personal consumer, a lender must carry out an assessment of affordability to ascertain the consumer's likely ability to repay the debt, over the duration of the agreement. A copy of the Central Bank's Consumer Protection Code is available on the Central Bank's website,www.centralbank.ie.

Budget 2012

Pearse Doherty

Question:

63 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance his views on the analysis of Callan, Keane, Savage and Walshe as detailed in Figure 1 page 49 and the Conclusion on page 55 of the ESRI special articles, distributional impact of tax, welfare and public sector pay policies 2009-2012 (24.2.12), where the authors conclude that Budget 2012 involved greater proportionate losses for those on low incomes, reductions of about 2% to 2.5% for those with the lowest incomes, as against losses of about 0.75% for those on the highest incomes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15076/12]

I am aware of the publication "Distributional Impact of Tax, Welfare and Public Sector Pay Policies: 2009-2012" by the ESRI which assesses the distributional impact of budgetary measures undertaken in response to the economic crisis. I believe it is misleading to measure the impact of a single Budget in isolation without any regard to preceding Budgets or Budgets yet to come.

The ESRI publication takes account of the impact of all Budgets in the period 2009 to 2012 and, in the same paragraph on page 55 that the Deputy is quoting, concludes that "Losses imposed by policy changes in tax and welfare have been greatest for those on the highest incomes, and smaller for those on low incomes". The ESRI also acknowledges that the overall distributional pattern of Irish austerity measures is among the most progressive in 6 EU countries examined in a recent study by the European Commission.

The Deputy should look at Budget 2012 in the medium-term with regard to what it is intended to achieve. Budget 2012 is this Government's first step on a road to fiscal balance, renewed growth and prosperity through which job creation is at the core. That is the context in which Budget 2012 should be assessed.

Disabled Drivers

Finian McGrath

Question:

64 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding wheelchair accessible vehicles. [15093/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that a person who purchases a second-hand wheelchair accessible vehicle from an authorised dealer and who qualifies to avail of the Disabled Drivers and Passengers Scheme is entitled to claim relief in respect of Value Added Tax (VAT), Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) or residual VRT borne, subject to a maximum limit of €9,525 in respect of a disabled driver and €15,875 in respect of a disabled passenger. This applies equally to vehicles registered previously in the State and imported used vehicles and any claim to the contrary is erroneous. It has come to the attention of the Commissioners that occasions have arisen where relief of the residual VRT was allowed to qualifying individuals on the purchase of used vehicles in the State where no VRT was paid in the first instance, e.g. on the purchase of a used vehicle by a qualifying individual where the relief was granted to an earlier owner of the vehicle who had previously qualified for the relief. Consequently procedures were put in place to ensure that relief for the payment of VRT and VAT will only be allowed to qualifying persons or organisations in situations where the person or organisation has borne or paid value-added tax, vehicle registration tax or residual vehicle registration tax in respect of a vehicle or in respect of the adaptation of a vehicle . If the VRT on a vehicle has been fully refunded at an earlier date under the scheme, there is no residual VRT available to be refunded on a subsequent sale to a second qualifying person and this should be reflected in the price of vehicle at the time of resale.

Motor Vehicle Registration

Nicky McFadden

Question:

65 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) is liable to pay VRT on a vehicle or if they are exempt in view of the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15212/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that VRT is due and payable at the time of registration of a vehicle. Prior to 2011, VRT was charged on the registration of a motor caravan (of not more than 3,000 kilograms unladen weight) at a flat rate of €50. With effect from 1st January 2011, VRT is charged on the registration of a motor caravan at the rate of 13.3% of the tax and duty inclusive retail value in the State. Accordingly, if the person concerned imports and registers a motor caravan in 2012, VRT of 13.3% will apply.

I am also advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have been in direct contact with the person concerned and have explained the VRT position as it relates to this case and the proposed resolution of his dispute with the UK based supplier.

Pension Provisions

Peter Mathews

Question:

66 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Finance his plans regarding the transfer of pension funds (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15229/12]

I understand that the question relates to the transfer of Irish pension funds abroad. The transfer of an occupational pension scheme member's pension fund benefits or a PRSA contributor's PRSA assets to an overseas arrangement is permitted subject to the transfer complying with the Department of Social Protection's "Occupational Pension Schemes and Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (Overseas Transfer Payments) Regulations 2003" and Revenue rules. Under the Regulations, in the case of occupational pension schemes, the facility to transfer only applies to a scheme member who is entitled under the Pensions Act 1990 to "preserved benefits" under the scheme — in other words to a scheme member whose service in the relevant employment has terminated.

It is the responsibility of all trustees to ensure full compliance with the requirements of the Regulations. In essence, the Regulations require that, prior to making any overseas transfer payments, the trustees must be satisfied that:

(a) The member has requested a transfer.

(b) The overseas arrangement provides relevant benefits as defined by section 770, Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997.

(c) The overseas arrangement has been approved by the appropriate regulatory authority in the country concerned.

In practice, trustees and PRSA providers are required to obtain written confirmation to that effect from the trustees, custodians, managers or administrators of the overseas arrangement to which the transfer is to be made.

If the transfer is to another EU Member State, Revenue rules require the overseas scheme to be operated or managed by an Institution for Occupational Retirement Provision (IORPS), within the meaning of the EU Pensions Directive, and to be established in a Member State of the European Communities which has implemented the Directive in its national law. The scheme administrator must be resident in an EU Member State. If the transfer is to a country outside the EU, a transfer may not be made to a country other than the one in which the member is currently employed.

Transfers that comply with the above requirements may be made without the prior approval of the Revenue Commissioners.

There are no plans at this time to change tax legislation or Revenue rules regarding the tax treatment of transfer payments. While tax issues may or may not be relevant in relation to transfers of Irish pension funds abroad, policy and legislation governing transfer payments from pension arrangements generally are, as outlined above, matters for my colleague, the Minister for Social Protection.

Motor Fuels

Clare Daly

Question:

67 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Finance his views on a submission regarding a fuel rebate scheme (details supplied). [15257/12]

A fuel rebate system could not under EU law be restricted to Irish licenced hauliers but would have to be extended to all vehcles intended exclusively for the carriage of goods by road with a maximum permissable gross laden weight of not less than 7.5 tonnes. In addition, the rebate would have to include the carriage of passengers by a motor vehicle of category M2 or category m3 as defined in Council Directive 70/156/EEC. However, the Deputy may wish to note that a working group between my officials and representatives of the Irish Road Haulage Association was set up to examine the issues currently affecting the sector.

Tax Code

Peter Mathews

Question:

68 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Finance his views on a proposal to amend the taxation system (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15358/12]

The position is that a review of the Universal Social Charge (USC) was conducted by officals from my Department, with the assistance of Revenue officials, in advance of Budget 2012. This review fulfilled the commitment contained in the Programme for Government. Following the review, I decided to increase the exemption threshold for the USC from €4,004 to €10,036 per annum for 2012. This measure will cost in the region of €47 million in a full year and will remove an estimated 330,000 people from the charge. While this is a significant cost, I do not expect it to result in a reduced yield for the Exchequer because of the move to a cumulative basis of deduction and payment by the Revenue Commissioners from 1 January 2012 that will save a similar amount by avoiding the occurrence of underpayments of the USC. The Review of the Universal Social Charge was published on my Department's website in January of this year and can be obtained atwww.finance.gov.ie.

I do not intend to allow for a situation whereby unused income tax credits can be offset against an individual's liability to the USC or to increase the exemption threshold further as it would not only be very costly but would be counter to the rationale of the USC which is designed to widen the tax base, raise revenue and simplify the taxation system.

Credit Unions

Patrick Nulty

Question:

69 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Finance if he will supply the numbers of the various staff and their titles and positions with a company (details supplied) and their weekly billable hours, who are engaged as part of the special manager process at Newbridge Credit Union, as appointed by the High Court on foot of an application from the Central Bank; if he will confirm that a person (details supplied) of this company heads up a team from this accountancy practice acting as special manager; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that last week the High Court revised downwards the hourly rates as follows for the special manager and his team: namely: €375 for the Special Manager; €375 for partners; €300 for directors; €247 for senior managers; €191 for managers; €133 for senior assistants; if he will supply the daily and the weekly cost of the appointment of this company as special manager to Newbridge Credit Union; if he will indicate the length of time he thinks the special manager will be in place at the credit union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15365/12]

I can confirm that Mr. Luke Charleton of Ernst and Young was appointed as Special Manager of Newbridge Credit Union by the High Court on 13 January 2012. The High Court reduced the hourly rate of fees payable to the Special Manager to €375 on 10th February 2012. The fees payable to his team were reduced on a pro-rata basis. The number of people working with the Special Manager will vary according to the work being undertaken.

The total fees to be paid to the Special Manager and his team will be subject to approval by the Court upon request by the Special Manager. The request would typically include sufficient information for the Court to determine if the fees are reasonable, and might include a work schedule, indicating tasks performed, hours worked, and staff levels. As this request has not been made to the Court at this point, the information requested by the Deputy is not finalised.

The Special Management Order provides for an appointment of 6 months duration. Any change to the Special Management Order and matters outlined above require a further application to the Court.

Official Engagements

Gerry Adams

Question:

70 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance if he is engaged in negotiations with the ECB regarding the promissory note; if he has been in direct contact with Mr. Mario Draghi on this issue; the number of times they have met or spoken on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15374/12]

As the Deputy is aware, I have indicated that I am committed to reviewing the approach to the Promissory notes with a view to reducing the overall cost to the State of correcting the banking system. The troika have agreed to engage in a process with Irish Officials to produce a common paper which will consider options for re-engineering the notes in terms of the maturity of the notes, the interest rate, the cash flows etc. Work is on-going on this. In tandem with this technical review the Government uses appropriate opportunities to garner support for an approach which is more beneficial to the Irish State. President Draghi regularly attends Eurogroup and Ecofin meetings in Brussels and these meetings provide an opportunity to speak with President Draghi on the margins. The Deputy will also be aware that I travelled to Frankfurt on the 24th of January 2012 to meet President Draghi.

Motor Vehicle Registration

Noel Harrington

Question:

71 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Finance the factors that are considered in calculating VRT for second hand vehicles imported into the State other than the original value, the age of the vehicle, the mileage of the vehicle; if he will consider publishing these calculations as part of the receipt for VRT payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15378/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that VRT is calculated on the basis of the Open Market Selling Price (OMSP) of a vehicle, which is defined as the price the vehicle might reasonably be expected to fetch on a first arm's length sale thereof in the State. The OMSP is determined by reference to the vehicle model, level of CO2 emissions, age, mileage, condition and any special features or characteristics, e.g. left hand drive. As such, a breakdown of the VRT charge does not arise. In the case of late registration an additional VRT charge may arise and this is shown separately on the NCTS receipt. I am also advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they publish extensive material on their website, www.revenue.ie, on all aspects of VRT, including the methodology used by Revenue to value vehicles for VRT purposes, which can be accessed online at Tax & Duty Manuals — Section 16 — Vehicle Registration Tax under Section 8 of the VRT Manual. The website also offers a VRT calculator, that enables users to estimate the VRT applying to an extensive range and age of vehicles. This calculator can be accessed online at: Vehicle Registration on-line Enquiry System.

Banking Sector Regulation

Finian McGrath

Question:

72 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will review a matter (details supplied) regarding variable interest rates. [15408/12]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

89 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance his views regarding the high interest charges on variable rate mortgages being charged by Permanent TSB to customers struggling to make their mortgage repayments every month and who cannot move their mortgage to another banking institution because they are in negative equity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15702/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 72 and 89 together.

The lending institutions in Ireland, including those in which the State has a significant shareholding, are independent commercial entities.

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

The Government is very conscious of the difficulties facing mortgage customers in the current economic climate However, neither the Central Bank nor I have any responsibility for any variation in the variable mortgage interest rates charged by Permanent TSB. The Deputy Governor of the Central Bank has stated to the Government that, within its existing powers and through the use of suasion, the Central Bank will engage with specific lenders which appear to have standard variable rates set disproportionate to their cost of funds.

Permanent TSB has stated publically that it is currently engaged in detailed discussions on its future strategy which it hopes will enable it to take action, amongst other things, to reduce variable rates for mortgage customers over time. The Government will continue to work with Permanent TSB on the development of its future strategy by the end of April 2012 as agreed with our external partners in the latest Memorandum of Understanding dated 10 February 2012.

Departmental Bodies

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

73 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide in a tabular form a breakdown of the position, salary, allowance and expenses paid in 2011 to each of the employees of the Fiscal Advisory Council. [15490/12]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

74 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide in a tabular form a breakdown of the number of board members and their respective annual remuneration for 2011 of the Fiscal Advisory Council. [15491/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 73 and 74 together.

The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council (Council) was established on a non-statutory basis in July 2011. Under the EU/IMF Programme, legislation to establish the Council on a statutory basis must be published by the end of June 2012.

As a non-statutory body, the Council is not yet in a position to employ staff directly. The current secretariat consists of a Senior Economist seconded from the Central Bank of Ireland and one Executive Officer and one Administrative Officer seconded from the ESRI. The current staff were seconded to the Council between June and September 2011. The total paid in 2011 to the ESRI and the Central Bank for staff seconded to the secretariat was €80,226. This figure includes employer's PRSI and pension contributions in all cases.

The pay scales for executive officer and administrative officer in ESRI are equivalent to the civil service pay scales, which run from €29,000 to €47,000 for executive officer and from €31,000 to €55,000 for administrative officer. The Senior Economist is paid according the scale applicable to that grade in the Central Bank of Ireland.

None of the secretariat staff is in receipt of allowances. The total of expenses paid to secretariat staff in 2011 was €474.

The Council consists of five members. These are:

Mr. Sebastian Barnes, OECD,

Professor Alan Barrett, TCD (on secondment from the ESRI),

Dr. Donal Donovan, University of Limerick (formerly IMF staff),

Professor John McHale, Head of Economics, NUI Galway and Chair of the Council, — Chairman, and

Dr. Róisín O'Sullivan, Associate Professor, Smith College, Massachusetts.

These are not executive positions. The Council members may receive an annual stipend of €5,000 provided they are not employed by the Irish public service. Half stipends were of €2,500 were paid, where applicable, in 2011.

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

75 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide in tabular form a list of all agencies and bodies and internal organisations under his aegis. [15502/12]

The details requested by the Deputy are contained in the following table:

Name of Body

Financial Services Ombudsman Council

Irish Financial Services Appeals Tribunal

National Development Finance Agency (NDFA)

National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission

National Treasury Management Agency Advisory Committee

National Asset Management Agency

NewERA and the Strategic Investment Fund

Sealúchais Árachais Teoranta

State Claims Agency Policy Committee

Credit Union Advisory Committee

Commission on Credit Unions

Irish Bank Resolution Company Limited

Central Bank Commission

The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council

Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal

Educational Building Society

Irish Nationwide Building Society

Ministerial Travel

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

76 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance if he will set out the mileage claimed by any Minister of State in his Department for each year from 2005 to 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15517/12]

In the period in question the Minister of State in the Office of Public Works (OPW) came under the aegis of my Department. The OPW have provided me with the following details in respect of the Minister of State for the period in question.

Motor Mileage paid by the Office of Public Works to Ministers of State from 2005 to 2010

Minister of State

Year

Kms Claimed

Total paid €

Tom Parlon

2005

91,738

39,391

Tom Parlon

2006

94,807

42,810

Tom Parlon

2007

37,633

19,769

Noel Ahern

2008

35,770

18,474

Martin Mansergh

2008

18,285

9,537

Martin Mansergh

2009

31,665

12,075

Martin Mansergh

2010

32,510

11,223

Universal Social Charge

Jack Wall

Question:

77 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who is in receipt of a pension from their spouses former employer should be deducted the universal social charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15547/12]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners, that the person concerned is exempt from the Universal Social Charge (USC) for 2012. A revised tax credit and USC certificate will issue to the person concerned and to the former employer of their spouse in the next few days. Following receipt of the certificate, the amount of the charge deducted since 1 January 2012 should be refunded on the next pay date.

VAT Rates

Simon Harris

Question:

78 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Finance the reason VAT is charged at different rates on the gas, electricity and telephone bills; the reason telephone bills are charged at a higher rate of VAT — 23% — compared to gas or electricity — 13%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15568/12]

VAT is charged on the supply of goods and services at different VAT rates, which are subject to the requirements of EU VAT law. The supply of gas and electricity is specified in paragraph 17 of Schedule 3 of the Value-Added Tax Consolidation Act 2010. Goods and services specified in paragraph 17 of Schedule 3 are liable at 13.5%. It is possible for Ireland to apply the 13.5% reduced rate to gas and electricity under Title VIII of the EU VAT Directive. The supply of telephone services, however, is not specified in one of the Schedules to the Value-Added Tax Consolidation Act 2010 and as such is liable to VAT at the standard rate, currently 23%. It is not possible for Ireland to apply a reduced rate to telecommunication services as the VAT Directive provides that the standard VAT rate must be applied to these services.

Financial Services Regulation

Joan Collins

Question:

79 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Finance the protection he and the Central Bank are going to provide to persons who use bill payment companies that enter receivership (details supplied); the strategies in place for persons who are not au fait with using bank accounts or online services to pay for bills or who simply do not have a bank account; if it is possible to promote credit unions and post office service for these persons; his views on the viability of bill payment companies here at the moment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15633/12]

Currently there is no regime in place targeting specifically, the authorization and supervision of businesses labeled "bill payment", "debt management" or "debt advice". Depending on the exact business model undertaken by a firm, it may or may not be subject to regulation by the Central Bank. The Central Bank has advised me that, following the failure of a firm in mid-2011, the Bank inspected the bill payment and debt management industry to assess whether firms providing these services are carrying out an activity that falls to be regulated by the Central Bank and whether consumer funds may be at risk. Following identification of a dozen companies providing these services, the first phase of the Central Bank's review has concluded. The Central Bank has written to a number of companies notifying them that their activities are subject to regulation by the Bank and requiring that immediate steps be taken to provide additional protection to client funds.

The Central Bank has publicly advised consumers (in a press release issued on 24 January 2012) to be aware that the bill payment and debt management companies they are using may not be regulated by the Central Bank. The Bank has advised me that, where consumers provide funds to a company that is not regulated by them for onward payment to a creditor, the handling of this money would not be subject to segregation and safeguarding rules and as such, consumers' funds would not be protected. The firms referred to by the Deputy in her question were not authorised by the Central Bank.

The report on the strategy for financial inclusion which was published on my Department's website identified that the credit unions have potential to play a key role in the provision of a basic payment account and in the promotion of financial inclusion in the future. A pilot basic payment account aimed at the financially excluded will commence in three locations in the State in June 2012. Arising from the evaluation of this pilot stage, it is intended that the basic payment account will be provided nationally to certain persons in 2013.

The Deputy will also be aware that the Money Advice and Budgeting Service provide a debt help and money management service. MABS have offices located throughout the country and their service is free of charge.

National Asset Management Agency

Simon Harris

Question:

80 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons employed by the National Asset Management Agency; the number of these individuals paid a salary and the number of individuals paid a fee; the total amount spent on salaries; the total amount spent on fees since the establishment of NAMA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15655/12]

NAMA has no employees. All personnel are employed by the NTMA and the salary cost of staff who are engaged in the NAMA business is recharged to NAMA by the NTMA. The number of employees of the NTMA directly engaged as NAMA officers at the end of 2010 was 104 and, as set out in the National Asset Management Annual Report and Financial Statements 2010, which is posted on the NAMA website,www.nama.ie, the total salary cost including pension costs was €9.2 million.

The number of employees of the NTMA directly engaged as NAMA Officers at the end of 2011 was 193. Information on the total salary cost including pension costs is currently being prepared and will be included in the National Asset Management Annual report and Financial Statements 2011, which will be published in mid-2012.

In addition to salary costs during 2010 NAMA incurred fees and related administration expenses of €37m. These expenses include fees paid to service providers including the master and primary servicers, costs re-imbursed to the NTMA, legal fees, financial advisor and consultancy fees, portfolio management fees, board fees, audit fees and other overheads. Further details of these are included in the 2010 Annual Report and Financial Statements. NAMA will provide details of fees paid in 2011 in its 2011 Annual report and Financial Statements, which will be published in mid-2012.

The number of employees of the NTMA directly engaged as NAMA Officers as of 16 March 2012 is 202.

Employees of the NTMA directly engaged as NAMA Officers are remunerated in the form of salaries so the issue of fees does not arise.

Simon Harris

Question:

81 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Finance the number of judgments the National Asset Management Agency has obtained through the courts since its establishment; the number of these judgments that have subsequently been enforced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15656/12]

I am advised by NAMA that through National Asset Loan Management Limited it has obtained judgment in 10 cases to date that it has initiated as plaintiff since it was established. All are High Court judgments. Judgments have also been obtained by participating institutions in cases which they are managing on NAMA's behalf and in proceedings that issued in the name of the participating institution prior to acquisition of the loans in question by NAMA. Judgments obtained in such cases are enforceable by NAMA as successor to the participating institution in each case. Data on these instances are not readily available to NAMA but they have undertaken to forward the details to me very shortly, at which point I will pass them to you. Enforcement in various forms is being undertaken in all of the above mentioned cases.

Simon Harris

Question:

82 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Finance the number of vacancies that currently exist on the board of the National Asset Management Agency; when he intends to fill these vacancies; the criteria which will be applied to filling such a vacancy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15657/12]

I appointed Mr John Mulcahy to the Board of NAMA on 7th March, 2012. There is currently one vacancy on the NAMA Board. My Department recently sought expressions of interest for appointment to the NAMA Board and that process closed on 6th March, 2012. A number of expressions of interest were received. Following consideration of these and of other suitable candidates, I intend to appoint an individual to fill that position shortly.

The criteria for appointment to the Board of NAMA are set out in section 19 NAMA Act 2009 and include experience and expertise in a range of professional and academic studies and disciplines.

Simon Harris

Question:

83 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Finance if the National Asset Management Agency has undertaken a study of the number of public infrastructure projects such as schools, harbours, roads, council land banks and so on currently impacted on by NAMA administering land which is preventing access to the necessary public sites; if he will provide details of such sites; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15658/12]

I am advised by NAMA that the scenario put forward by the Deputy i.e. restrictions on access to publicly funded projects through land administered by NAMA, has not been a significant issue for NAMA. I am further advised by NAMA that it has not carried out any specific study on restrictions. However, I am informed that NAMA works constructively with all public bodies in relation to any matter that may relate to or overlap with the public infrastructure development planning processes. Where issues have emerged in a very small number of cases, I understand from NAMA that it has expeditiously resolved those matters.

Should the Deputy have a specific instance in mind, NAMA has assured me that he should raise the matter directly with the agency who will immediately address his concerns in this regard.

Simon Harris

Question:

84 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Finance the current status of the National Asset Management Agency’s deferred consideration initiative, a scheme which was first announced by NAMA in May 2011 to effectively provide mortgages which attempt to safeguard buyers from negative equity; if permission for this initiative has been received from the European Commission; his views on this scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15659/12]

My Department has had discussions with the European Commission on the deferred mortgage consideration initiative and arising from those discussions NAMA has had discussions with the Competition Authority. I expect the discussions with the European Commission to conclude shortly. I am informed by NAMA that it has completed the preparatory work including identifying pilot properties and it is working towards an early April launch date for the initiative.

State Banking Sector

Simon Harris

Question:

85 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Finance if he will clarify if invoice discounting is included in the lending targets to small and medium businesses which banks have agreed with the Government; if he shares the view that this money is essentially simply recycled loans and does not constitute new lending; if he has received any information from State owned banks or part State owned banks on this procedure; the way they account for it in terms of their lending figures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15661/12]

As the Deputy is aware, the Government has imposed lending targets on the two domestic pillar banks for the three calendar years, 2011 to 2013. Both banks were required to sanction lending of at least €3 billion in 2011, €3.5 billion this year and €4 billion in 2013 for new or increased credit facilities to SMEs. I can confirm to the Deputy that both banks have achieved their 2011 targets. Invoice discounting is an important form of finance used by SMEs to improve cashflow by releasing funds tied up in outstanding invoices. It is a valuable tool in the financing mix for many SMEs and is a long accepted component in how banks make working capital available to businesses. As such, invoice discounting is part of the lending targets set for the two pillar banks.

The recent Mazars Survey of SME Lending, conducted on behalf of my Department, found that approximately one third of enterprises surveyed reported that it was taking them longer to secure payment for goods and services from their customers. Of those SMEs who requested finance, approximately 4% requested invoice discounting.

I do not share the Deputy's view that this money is essentially simply recycled loans and does not constitute new lending. Invoice discounting is similar to a working capital overdraft facility, but is secured on the actual trade debtors of the business as a means by which SMEs can finance their existing trade, and importantly to assist in the growth of their business. This is especially useful for many businesses which are achieving growth, but are undercapitalised, to prevent them from over-trading i.e. running short of working capital to support their increasing sales.

John McGuinness

Question:

86 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance if any of the banks guaranteed by the State have paid the 90% tax levied on bonuses paid to staff; the oversights or controls in place to ensure that the banks do not compensate staff in some other way for the 90% foregone in tax on such bonuses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15662/12]

Unfortunately, it has not been possible to get the information from the covered institutions in the timeframe allowed by the Question. I will write to the Deputy in the near future with information provided by the institution.

National Asset Management Agency

Gerry Adams

Question:

87 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance the terms of reference of the National Asset Management Agency advisory group; the regularity with which the advisory group meets; and the regularity with which it reports to him. [15673/12]

As the Deputy is aware, I announced the establishment of a group to advise me on NAMA in my 2012 Budget speech. I subsequently appointed Mr Michael Geoghegan to chair the group. Further to the announcement in my Budget speech regarding the establishment of a group to advise me on NAMA, and the appointment of Mr. Michael Geoghegan as Chairman of this group, I appointed Mr. Denis Rooney and Mr. Frank Daly as members of the group on the 7th of March. The group's advice to me will primarily relate to the strategy of NAMA as proposed by the board of NAMA; the appointment of directors to NAMA; the remuneration of the senior executives of NAMA and any further advice that I may seek on any matter relating to NAMA. I am pleased that all these individuals have agreed to provide this advice to me on apro bono basis.

I have agreed that the group will meet and report to me at least four times a year. The group or members of the group are of course free to discuss issues with me at any time on anad hoc basis.

Pension Provisions

Noel Harrington

Question:

88 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to amend the pensions acts regarding those who may seek relief to withdraw part of their pension contributions to assist them when they are in financial difficulties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15700/12]

There are a number of reasons why, under existing policies, early withdrawals of pension savings are not permitted, the principal one being that pension schemes and plans (and the associated tax reliefs) are designed as long term savings vehicles based on the principle that the savings will be "locked away" until retirement. Otherwise, there would be little reason to treat pension savings more favourably from a tax point of view than other general savings. A number of proposals have been made that individuals should be allowed access to their pension savings prior to retirement. Various rationales have been advanced to justify these proposals including that such access would allow those individuals to pay down mortgage and other debt and would otherwise provide a boost to economic activity.

This is not a simple matter. During 2011, at the request of the Government's Economic Management Council (EMC), an Ad hoc group was established under the chairmanship of the Department of Social Protection to consider the idea of allowing people to access their pension savings before pension age in order to assist them in paying down debt. The ad hoc group presented a detailed report to the EMC in September. The conclusions of the Ad hoc Group report were that:

There is no evidence that the group likely to be most affected by mortgage debt (or other debt) has access to sufficient pensions savings to make a difference to their situation.

The legislative and administrative implications for such a scheme would be extremely complex and would appear excessive given the overall impact.

Longer term difficulties whereby people are not making adequate provision for their retirement would be exacerbated, with potential for increased demands on the State.

Individuals cashing in their pension savings now would get poor value in current circumstances which they would struggle to replace in the future.

The "Keane Group" on mortgage arrears did not dispute these findings and early access to pension savings did not feature among the recommendations of that Group.

A more general scheme of early access to pension savings would present significant problems in terms of the proper targeting of the use of accessed funds and controls over potential abuse.

The tax treatment of pension savings is only one aspect of the broad policy of encouraging people to provide for an adequate income in retirement beyond the basic State pension. This policy area is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Social Protection, who I know is also aware of the proposals being made for early access to pension savings. I understand that the Minister for Social Protection intends to have a short and focused independent review carried out of broad pension policy in her Department. I have written to her asking that the issue of early access to pension savings be considered as part of that review.

Question No. 89 answered with Question No. 72.

Disabled Drivers

Willie O'Dea

Question:

90 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the changes being implemented in the disabled drivers scheme which will come into effect on the 1 May 2012; if he will undertake to review and retain this scheme in its present format as it would be complete disregard not to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15704/12]

I am not aware of any changes to the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme, to come into effect on 1 May 2012. Any changes would be considered in the context of the annual Budget.

Tax Code

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

91 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance the tax treatment of income from the rental of a taxi licence; the tax liabilities that arise from the sale or transfer of such a licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15713/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that income derived by an individual from the letting of a taxi licence is chargeable to income tax. The rate of income tax is dependent on the individual's total income from all sources. I am also informed by the Revenue Commissioners that a gain on the disposal of a taxi licence is liable to Capital Gains Tax (CGT) at a rate of 30%.

If it is the case that the individual disposing of the taxi licence is over 55 years of age and has owned and used that licence in the course of a business carried on by him for a period of at least ten years ending with the disposal, then the individual might be entitled to a relief known as "retirement relief" which has the effect of reducing CGT due on the disposal of the taxi licence. Details of CGT retirement relief is contained in Chapter 5 of Revenue's”Guide to Capital Gains Tax” which is available from Revenue’s website (www.revenue.ie).

As to the "transfer" of a taxi licence, I am further informed by the Revenue Commissioners that where a taxi licence is transferred for an amount less than it could realistically be sold for on the open market, then, for the purposes of computing CGT, the disposal is deemed to have been for the "market value" of the licence instead of the amount actually paid for the transfer (if any).

Separately, the transfer of a taxi licence by way of a gift or by way of a partial gift to a person may give rise to a charge to Capital Acquisitions Tax (CAT). CAT includes both gift and inheritance tax. The beneficiary who receives the gift of the taxi licence is the person who is liable for any gift tax due on such a gift.

For CAT purposes the beneficiary is allocated a tax-free threshold depending on their relationship with the person making the gift. There are three CAT tax-free threshold Groups as follows:

Group A: €250,000 — applies where the beneficiary is a child (including adopted child, step-children and certain foster children) or minor child of a deceased child of the disponer.

Group B: €33,500 — applies where the beneficiary is a brother, sister, a nephew, a niece or lineal ancestor or lineal descendant of the disponer.

Group C: €16,750 — applies in all other cases.

These are the tax free thresholds which will apply to gifts and inheritances taken after 7 December 2011 if Finance Bill 2012 is passed by the Oireachtas.

If the value of the gift received by a beneficiary exceeds his or her tax-free Group threshold, then a rate of CAT of 30% will apply on the excess value over the tax-free Group threshold figure.

When calculating whether a beneficiary has received benefits in excess of his or her Group tax-free threshold, any other gifts and inheritances received by that beneficiary since 5 December 1991 from within the same Group are also taken into account.

Any gift or inheritance received from a spouse or civil partner is exempt from CAT.

Finally, if the transfer of a taxi licence gives rise both to a charge to CGT on the person making the gift and to CAT on the person receiving the gift, then a credit is allowed for the CGT paid against the CAT payable in order to avoid the transfer of the licence from being doubly taxed to both CGT and CAT on the same event.

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

92 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance the number of taxi licence holders that have been audited for tax compliance since 2006 on an annual basis; the settlements if any have been reached in that period; if he will provide a breakdown of the amounts involved; if the Revenue Commissioners have access to the information compiled and maintained by the Office of the Taxi Regulator in the National Transport Authority for tax compliance purposes in the small public service vehicle sector, and if not, if he will provide for such a data transfer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15714/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that under the provisions of Section 152 of the Finance Act 2010, the Office of the Taxi Regulator in the National Transport Authority supplies information to Revenue. The data that Revenue currently receives annually includes:

Information relating to drivers, vehicles and combined licences (details of licence holders who hold a driver and vehicle licence);

Information relating to dispatch operators;

A list of successful prosecutions taken by the Taxi Regulator between 2007 and 2010.

This data and information provides Revenue with increased scope to determine the tax compliance and risks offered by individual drivers, dispatch operators and taxi companies.

I am further advised that the Revenue Commissioners and the Office of the Taxi Regulator in the National Transport Authority are currently engaged in discussions with a view to broadening the scope of the information exchanged. This is part of the process in the development of a strategy by the National Transport Authority for the implementation of the recommendations of the Taxi Regulation Review Report.

The sector identifier used on the tax records is based on the 4 digit "NACE code" which is an internationally recognised economic activity code system. NACE code classifications on tax records are compiled by reference to the primary area of economic activity reported by an individual. While the accuracy of the NACE codes on tax records is sufficient to underpin broad sector-based analyses there will undoubtedly be some inaccuracies at individual level.

As advised to me by the Revenue Commissioners, the number of audits carried out are as follows: [NACE Code 6022 to the Year 2010 incl. and NACE Code 4932 for the Year 2011]:

2006 figures are not available.

2007 — 68 Audits — Yield €1.58m.

2008 — 89 Audits — Yield €1.78m.

2009 — 108 Audits — Yield €1.99m.

2010 — 103 Audits — Yield €0.86m.

2011 — 113 Audits — Yield €1.17m.

Personal Public Service Numbers

Sean Fleming

Question:

93 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Finance the number of PPS numbers that are in existence that have not been registered with the Revenue Commissioners and are in full operation by the Department of Social Protection; if he will explain the background to this situation and the contact that has been made between both organisations to ensure that persons with a PPS number are registered with both organisations; the protocols involved to ensure this happens and the full details of the background of the way in which this matter is processed; if he will ensure that all PPS numbers are registered with both organisations in future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15738/12]

I am advisedby the Revenue Commissioners that Personal Public Service Numbers (PPS Numbers) are issued automatically by the Department of Social Protection (DSP) to children born in Ireland and otherwise on application to the DSP. The PPS Number is required by the Commissioners to register an individual for tax purposes and is sought on all tax registration forms. It does not automatically follow that a person who receives a PPS Number from the DSP also needs it for tax registration purposes and consequently Revenue does not require an update of all PPS Numbers issued by the DSP. The Revenue Commissioners further advise that creating a record within Revenue’s systems for every PPS Number issued would not be the most efficient use of limited processing resources, would give rise to a significant maintenance overhead and would bring a cohort of people into their systems who have no tax risks at all, and are not likely to have any such risks for a number of years. The Commissioners are also satisfied that the fact they have access to the Department of Social Protection’s PPS Number information meets their requirements in that regard. On the basis of the explanations provided, I am satisfied that the data exchange and access arrangements currently in place for PPS Numbers are working well and I do not see that there are any advantages to be gained by changing these.

Tax Collection

David Stanton

Question:

94 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Finance the number of businesses which are currently in arrears with their tax affairs; his estimate of the amounts involved in same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15814/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that due to the varying nature of the different taxes and the timing of payment and statutory return obligations, it is their practice to publish data in relation to tax debts on an annual basis, facilitating a meaningful comparative analysis. The latest published figures for outstanding taxes were published on 31 March 2011. Of the total debt of €2,078m, €690m was under appeal and therefore not available for collection. For the first time since 2005 the debt decreased in 2011, by some €34m compared to 2010.

Revenue is currently finalising an upgrade of its analytical and management information systems to be able to report on the number of distinct business entities that are encompassed by the foregoing debt figures, on a cross tax head basis. This data will, when available be reported by Revenue as part of its annual report.

Revenue has a strong focus on making sure that everyone complies with their tax and duty responsibilities by paying the right amount of tax on time. Revenue expects businesses to continue, notwithstanding the challenging economic circumstances in which they are operating, to maintain a clear focus on being timely compliant and to ensure that tax debts are paid as they fall due. Revenue is fully determined to take the necessary collection enforcement action to pursue tax debts from taxpayers that fail to meet their liabilities on time and which do not engage fully and honestly with them in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement to return their business to full tax compliance as quickly as possible. I support Revenue's approach on this matter.

State Banking Sector

Martin Heydon

Question:

95 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who wishes to transfer their mortgage from Permanent TSB to AIB due to a substantially lower interest rate, but has been advised that he cannot do this; the reason there is such difference in the interest rates in two State-owned banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15825/12]

It is not appropriate for me, as Minister for Finance, to comment on or become involved in the detailed mortgage position of an individual mortgage holder. However, I can confirm to the Deputy that the lending institutions in Ireland, including those in which the State has a significant shareholding, are independent commercial entities. Ultimately, the pricing of financial products, including standard variable mortgage interest rates, is a commercial decision for the management team and board of each lending institution, having due regard to their customers and the impact on profitability, particularly where the cost of funding to each lending institution, including deposit pricing, is under pressure.

It is a commercial decision for each lender to decide what loans they will agree to grant or to have switched to them.

State Debt

Pearse Doherty

Question:

96 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a table of the State’s Exchequer deficit, general Government deficit and structural deficit, real and projected, from 2000 to 2020 expressed as a percentage of GDP and in monetary terms. [15863/12]

The Exchequer and General Government information requested by the Deputy is set out in table 2. My Department's current forecast horizon extends to 2015 meaning that projections for the years beyond this are not available at this time. The 2000-2009 Exchequer balance figures are taken from the September 2011Budgetary and Economic Statistics publication. The 2010 figure is from the 2010 Finance Accounts. The 2011 figure is taken from the end-December 2011 Exchequer Statement. The projections for each of the years 2012 to 2015 are taken from Budget 2012.

The General Government balances for each of the years 2000-2006 in table 2 are taken from the website of the Central Statistics Office. For the years 2007-2010, the figures are taken from the November 2011 Maastricht Statistical Returns to Eurostat. The General Government balances provided for the years 2011 to 2015 are theBudget 2012 projections. An updated estimate of the 2011 General Government balance outturn will be submitted to Eurostat as part of the Maastricht Returns at the end of March and subsequently published in April.

For the years 2000 to 2010, the nominal GDP figures published by the CSO in the 2010 National Income and Expenditure Accounts are used to express the Exchequer and General Government balances as a percentage of GDP. For the years 2011 to 2015, the nominal GDP forecasts contained inBudget 2012 are used. Regarding the structural balance, Budget 2012 provided estimates of the structural deficit for the period 2011 to 2015. For ease of reference, these are given below in table 1. Like all estimates, they will be updated periodically as we go forward. The Deputy will recall that there are inherent difficulties in estimating the structural balance, especially for a small open economy such as Ireland’s, and that, consequently, there is considerable uncertainty surrounding all such estimates. In my response to a previous Parliamentary Question from the Deputy (number 9455/12), I outlined the methodology used to derive the Budget 2012 estimates of the structural deficit. Using this same methodology, my Department has estimated the structural deficit for the years 2008 to 2010. These estimates, which were given in response to PQ no. 4660/12, are also set out in Table 1:

Table 1

Year

Structural deficit (% of GDP)

2008

6.7

2009

9.9

2010

9.9

2011

8.6

2012

8.0

2013

7.1

2014

5.3

2015

3.7

Pearse Doherty

Question:

97 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a table of the State’s financing needs for 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, respectively, including dates on which sovereign bonds are due to mature. [15864/12]

The most recent Exchequer deficit estimates for the years 2013-2015 were presented inBudget 2012 last December. They are also set out in the table below. There are presently no official Exchequer deficit estimates for the period post 2015. The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) advises me that a list of outstanding Irish Government bonds can be accessed on its website. Outstanding Irish Government bonds due to mature over the period 2013-2018, as well as the dates on which those bonds are due to mature are set out in the table below. There are presently no outstanding Irish Government bonds due to mature in 2017. This data reflects the position as at 29th February 2012.

€ billion

Exchequer Deficit

Irish Government Bond Maturities (maturity date)

IMF/EU and Bilateral Facilities

2013

14.1

6.0 (18/04/2013)

2014

10.2

8.3 (15/01/2014)

2015

7.0

3.5 (18/02/2015) and (18/08/2015)

6.9

2016

10.3 (18/04/2016)

6.0

2017

2.6

2018

9.3 (18/10/2018)

6.5

It should be noted that it is assumed that short-term borrowings from the EFSF which are due to mature in 2012 will be rolled over. These are not included in the table.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

98 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a table detailing the total debt currently held by the State; the dates on which this debt matures; to whom the debt is owed; and if he will distinguish the portion of this debt that is related to the banking crisis and debt accrued for the purposes of running the State. [15865/12]

The Deputy should be aware that the data contained in this response, which has been supplied by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), relates to the outstanding level of National debt. At end-February 2012, it stood at €121.2 billion, as shown in the table below. National debt is essentially the debt of the Exchequer and is a subset of General Government debt which is the measure of the total debt of the State used for comparative purposes across the European Union. In addition to the National debt, General Government debt also includes the debt of central and local government bodies and other entities classified within Government as well as the Promissory Notes issued to a number of financial institutions as a means of providing State support to these institutions. General Government debt is reported on a gross basis and does not allow for the netting off of outstanding cash balances whereas the National debt is a net measure which does. Figures in relation to the outstanding level of General Government debt at end-2011 are presently being compiled by my Department in the context of the submission of the Maastricht Statistical Returns to Eurostat at the end of March. These Returns will then be published on my Department's website in mid-April.

Maturity Profile of National Debt at 29 February 2012 (€ million)

Year

Irish Government Bonds

Other Medium and Long Term Debt

IMF/EU and Bilateral Facilities

Short Term Debt

Cash and Other Assets

State Savings

Total

2012

5,563

5

1,466

4,833

(23,070)

1,180

(10,023)

2013

6,028

0

0

3

0

1,180

7,211

2014

8,327

0

24

0

0

1,180

9,532

2015

3,537

66

6,901

0

0

1,180

11,684

2016

10,308

0

6,035

0

0

1,180

17,524

2017

0

0

2,624

0

0

5,902

8,526

2018

9,256

0

6,524

0

0

0

15,780

2019

14,467

0

3,580

0

0

0

18,047

2020

19,567

0

2,624

0

0

0

22,191

2021

0

0

5,024

0

0

0

5,024

2022

0

0

3,269

0

0

0

3,269

2023

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2024

0

217

0

0

0

0

217

2025

8,284

0

0

0

0

0

8,284

2026

0

0

2,000

0

0

0

2,000

2027

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2028

0

230

0

0

0

0

230

2029

0

50

0

0

0

0

50

2030

0

105

0

0

0

0

105

2042

0

0

1,500

0

0

0

1,500

85,337

673

41,573

4,836

(23,070)

11,803

121,151

Source: NTMA.

Rounding may affect the totals.

*Notes to the Table:

1. It should be noted that the figures in the table are unaudited figures and include the effect of currency hedging transactions.

2. It is assumed for the State Savings products included in the National debt (Savings Bonds, Savings Certificates, National Instalment Savings, National Solidarity Bonds and Prize Bonds) that 10 per cent of the total outstanding at the beginning of the period matures each year for the next five years with the final 50 per cent maturing in the sixth year.

3. State Savings also include moneys invested by depositors in the Post Office Savings Bank (POSB). These funds are mainly lent to the Exchequer as short term advances. Taking into account the POSB, total State Savings outstanding are €14.3 billion.

4. Short-term funding of €1.5 billion under the EU/IMF Programme maturing in 2012 is due to be replaced by longer term funding.

The figures in the table above relate to the National debt as of 29 February 2012, broken down by year of maturity. Of the €121.2 billion outstanding, €11.8 billion was borrowed from domestic retail investors in Ireland under the State Savings schemes operated by the NTMA, €41.6 billion was borrowed under the EU/IMF Programme and the balance is mainly Irish Government bonds sold on the international capital markets. Because of the mechanisms by which Government bonds are issued and traded, it is not possible to identify the holders of this portion of the debt.

In relation to banking recapitalisation related debt, the Deputy should be aware that there was no specific tranche of borrowing that was undertaken solely for the purpose of funding payments to banks. Rather, the funds which the State has access to as a result of borrowing undertaken by the Exchequer, are available, along with the funds sourced from revenues such as tax revenue, non-tax revenue and capital receipts, to fund overall expenditure, including the recapitalisation of the banks. It is the case however that in the absence of the requirement to provide capital support to the banks, the Exchequer deficits and therefore the State's borrowing requirement and debt levels would have been lower.

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

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

During 2010 also, capital injections totalling €30.85 billion were committed to Anglo Irish Bank, INBS and EBS. The respective amounts were €25.3 billion for Anglo Irish Bank, €5.3 billion for INBS and €250 million for EBS. The consideration for the capital injections were Promissory Notes issued by the Exchequer to the institutions in lieu of cash. These notes will be redeemed over a period of several years with the Exchequer committed to making annual repayments of 10% of the initial capital value of the notes. This means the Exchequer did not require upfront cash funding for the capital injection. While the €30.85 billion in Promissory Notes were added in full to the stock of General Government debt from the date they were issued in 2010, they only impact the National debt as the annual instalments are paid. In other words, the National debt was only affected by the Promissory Note payments for the first time in 2011, when the Exchequer provided a combined €3,060 million to Anglo Irish Bank and INBS — now known as Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) — and €25 million to EBS.

Finally in relation to 2010, a further €3.7 billion was injected into AIB in return for ordinary shares. This capital was provided from the NPRF and did not therefore impact the National debt.

In July 2011, the Exchequer funded €7,568 million of the payments for the recapitalisation of the banking sector, which followed from the March 2011 PCAR process. €2,700 million was provided to Irish Life & Permanent (ILP) in return for ordinary shares and contingent capital notes,

€985 million to BOI in return for contingent capital notes and €3,883 million to AIB by way of a capital contribution and contingent capital notes. Offsetting this cost somewhat were the €1,018 million in capital receipts transferred to the Exchequer from the NPRF from the sale of part of the State's shareholding in BOI and €46 million in fees related to the recapitalisations. This resulted in a net Exchequer contribution of some €6.5 billion towards the recapitalisation of the banking sector in 2011, thus adding to the National debt. TheBudget 2012 Exchequer deficit estimate for 2012 made provision for €1.3 billion in Exchequer funding to complete the recapitalisation of ILP through the acquisition of its life assurance subsidiary, Irish Life, by the State in June 2012.

Pension Provisions

Seamus Kirk

Question:

99 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is contemplating a gratuity payment for part-time school bus drivers who retired before 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15207/12]

My Department has no direct role in the industrial relations affairs of Bus Éireann. Accordingly, the issue raised by the Deputy is a matter for the management of Bus Éireann.

Special Educational Needs

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

100 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills when it is proposed to open a special education unit at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14871/12]

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through the local special educational needs organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports, including the establishment of special classes in various geographical areas as required. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available onwww.ncse.ie.

I have arranged for the matters raised by the Deputy to be forwarded to the NCSE for their direct reply.

Youthreach Programme

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

101 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of approved Youthreach places in each operating centre in County Kildare in 2012; if he intends providing for additional Youthreach places; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14872/12]

In 2012, there are 85 Youthreach places approved for County Kildare VEC. There are 3 Youthreach centres: Athy (30 places), Leixlip (30 places) and Naas (25 places).

The overall number of approved Youthreach places is set at its current level because there is a continuing requirement to plan and control numbers and to manage expenditure within the overall educational policy and provision. Any consideration of providing additional Youthreach places would have to take account of the present and prospective economic and budgetary context and related financial constraints.

Special Educational Needs

Billy Kelleher

Question:

102 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills the options available for a person (details supplied) in County Cork who requires a school placement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14875/12]

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through the local special educational needs organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports, including the establishment of special classes in various geographical areas as required. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

The NCSE also has a role to assist parents in identifying suitable school placements for children with special educational needs.

All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

I have arranged for the matters raised by the Deputy to be forwarded to the NCSE for their direct reply.

School Accommodation

Michael Creed

Question:

103 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) in County Cork is in breach of the minimum guidelines for classroom size; and if in view of the enrolment of a child with special needs in September of 2012 and projected increasing enrolment of sufficient numbers to secure the appointment of a third teacher shortly if he will provide a devolved grant to the school to address both the access, minimum size of classroom space per pupil requirement and projected increasing enrolment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14878/12]

The school referred to by the Deputy has recently submitted a request for additional accommodation. This application is currently under consideration and a decision will be communicated to the school authorities when this process has been completed.

Weight of Schoolbags

Thomas Pringle

Question:

104 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills the supports and funding opportunities in place for post-primary schools that wish to introduce e-books or e-learning initiatives to reduce the volume and weight of books that children need to carry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14879/12]

Encouraging the deployment of high-quality curriculum-relevant digital resources is a clear priority for the ICT in Schools programme. This programme currently delivers a wide range of digital content through the Scoilnet.ie portal, promotes the development of teacher skills in content development and sharing through the national ICT CPD programme, and supports school leaders in developing "elearning plans" for the integration of ICT in teaching and learning in local practice.

In this context, I am fully aware of developments in the digital textbook publishing industry and I believe that the digital format has the potential to add significant value to teaching and learning for the future. In the case of textbooks specifically however, it must be recognised that it is publishers rather than my Department which decide how their intellectual property is to be disseminated. I appreciate that this market is in a particularly rapid phase of evolution at the moment, with a range of digital file formats, content licensing models and portable device platforms in active competition.

In these circumstances I do not think it would be in the best interest of schools for my Department to prescribe a single ebook model at this time. I believe it is important for schools, in conjunction with parents, to retain local autonomy in deciding whether to recommend their pupils purchase ebooks and how best to manage their integration into classroom practice over the medium and long terms.

My Department is not in a position to make new grant funding available for purchase of ebooks and associated services and devices. However, I would like to clarify that schools may choose to allocate the existing book grant provided by my Department towards purchase of electronic books if they wish.

School Staffing

Thomas Pringle

Question:

105 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way the cutbacks on rural DEIS and the other budget cuts will impact on a school (details supplied) in County Donegal in terms of teaching levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14880/12]

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 details of the reform of the allocation process which is designed to bring a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools.

The overall objective with the reforms is to enable the teacher allocation and redeployment process to operate more smoothly and efficiently within the new climate of fixed ceilings on teaching posts. The changes are designed to give a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools, give earlier certainty to schools about their staffing allocations and, where possible, simplify and streamline existing processes and give greater autonomy to schools.

The new arrangements incorporate a long overdue updating of the General Allocation Model (GAM) combining learning support for high incidence special needs and language support for all schools. It also includes changes to NCSE approved (low incidence) resource hours in the base schools or in neighbouring schools. This approach builds on the interim arrangements that operated in 2011 but in a more structured and transparent manner.

Arising from the decisions taken following Budget 2012, 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.

The allocation processes also include an appeals mechanism under which schools can appeal against the allocation due to them under the staffing schedules. The appeal procedures are set out in the circular referred to above.

For the coming school year the existing staffing appeals criteria have been extended to enable some 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. The closing date for submission of appeal is 23 March, 2012.

The Appeal Boards operate independently of the Department and their decisions are final.

The final staffing position for all schools at primary level will ultimately not be known until the Autumn. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed and any appeals to the Staffing Appeal Boards will have been considered.

Redundancy Payments

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

106 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding redundancy payments in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; if he will expedite the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14889/12]

An application for redundancy in respect of the person referred to by the Deputy was received by my Department on 30th September 2011.

The Department received a large number of redundancy applications during August and September 2011. Applications received during those months are currently being processed in date order of receipt. Every effort is being made, within the resources available, to process these applications as quickly as possible.

Extra resources were assigned to the Redundancy Unit at the end of October 2011 to ensure that Special Needs Assistants that have been made redundant would have their claims processed as quickly as possible. The Deputy will appreciate, in the context of the employment control framework it is only possible to reassign limited additional staffing resources from within the existing staff cohort of the Department to deal with redundancy payments whilst at the same time ensuring that other priority functions such as the payment of teachers and Special Needs Assistants on a fortnightly basis.

It is expected that the application referred to by the Deputy will be reached for processing by the end of March and any payment due will issue as soon as possible thereafter.

European Globalisation Fund

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

107 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason all the staff of a company (details supplied) were not included in the European Globalisation Fund application. [14904/12]

Willie O'Dea

Question:

124 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the difficulty of staff previously employed by a company (details supplied) in County Limerick who have been informed that they do not qualify for funding through European Globalisation Fund and therefore cannot access third level education as a result; and if he has put any alternatives in place to permit those individuals to access further training and education. [15082/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 107 and 124 together.

In accordance with Article 5(1) of EGF Regulation (EC) No. 1927/2006, a maximum period of 10 weeks applies from the end of the relevant EGF reference period within which an EGF application must be submitted. On 9 June 2010, the Department submitted an application for co-funded assistance from the EGF in respect of 9,089 former workers made redundant in the construction industry during the nine months EGF reference period between 1 July 2009 and 31 March 2010. For this EGF application the subsequent 10 weeks application submission period ended on 9 June 2010.

All EGF programmes are subject to audit by both national and EU authorities. Of the utmost importance is the requirement for the Irish authorities to be able to verify the cohort who are deemed eligible for EGF supports and to ensure that all relevant criteria of the Fund are met in respect of that cohort. In order to meet the EGF requirements of verifiably meeting the initial 500 redundancy threshold within the reference period and to identify the entire relevant cohort over the implementation period of an approved EGF programme, the Department used data from the statutory redundancy payments system. This is a demonstrably verifiable source of data such as is deemed sufficient to satisfy both national and EU audits and national management control checks. With the very large numbers of redundant workers included in the Irish EGF construction sector application and the number of employers involved, which data is also required by the European Commission, the Department's reliance on this system was reinforced.

Those redundant workers who were ultimately included in the EGF application were identified on the basis of the most recent recorded date of registration for a statutory redundancy payment as at 28 April 2010. As appropriate for those redundant apprentices included in the NACE 41 and 43 sub-sectors, their identification was based, in addition, on data from the apprenticeship database held by FÁS.

Statutory redundancy payment data on which the cohort of eligible redundant workers was based, was received from the Redundancy Payments Division of the then Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment on 28 April 2010, some four weeks into the 10 week period allowed after the reference period for submission of the application to the European Commission.

There are limited staffing and infrastructural resources available both in the statutory redundancy payment and EGF Managing Authority areas with which to process, collate, disaggregate and verify very significant amounts of data across some 9,000 individuals and some 3,349 employers. This exercise was also conducted at a time of considerable pressure on the activation agenda at national level with very challenging levels of unemployment both in the construction industry and in many other areas and sectors. In this context, the Irish EGF application sought to maximise the numbers of eligible redundant workers for co-financed assistance as far as practically possible. I understand that the aggregated application submitted contains collectively the largest number of redundant workers to be encompassed in an EGF application to date. When disaggregated, the NACE 41 sub-sector element, of the application alone, encompasses over 3,200 individuals, the third largest number of redundant workers for whom co-financing assistance has been sought across the EU to date.

The EGF application was duly submitted on 9 June 2010 and was made on the basis of particular information available to the Department at a given point in time. As such, some 37 former employees of the company in question were identified as having been made redundant during the relevant reference period based on the available data.

It should be noted that it is not the enterprise making the workers redundant but the individual workers who have been identified as having been made redundant, which is the key element in terms of EGF eligibility.

Moreover, the redundant payments system, on which the data in the EGF application was significantly based, does not automatically follow up each of the 3,349 employers encompassed by the application on a rolling basis and seek updated details of all workers who may have been let go at different times. Thus, the relevant information from this source was the best available to my Department when compiling the EGF application and at the time of the making of the application.

There is a wide range of non-EGF co-financed active labour market interventions which are available to all qualifying redundant workers, including in the architectural profession, provided by FÁS, the VECs, the CEBs and the higher education system subject to the meeting of the relevant criteria of existing schemes in individual cases. For example, FÁS runs the Professional Networking and Support Programme and it is open to all professionals, including those encompassed in the NACE 71 sector, to apply for access to the programme through their local Employment Services Office.

In relation to access to third level education for persons not eligible for the particular supports co-financed through an EGF programme, it is open to any individual to apply for a place on an undergraduate or post graduate higher education programme in the publicly funded higher education sector and, depending on their previous level of educational attainment and personal circumstances, they may be eligible for support under the Free Fees Scheme or the Student Grant Scheme. Further information is available on the websitewww.studentfinance.ie.

Under the Springboard initiative, launched in May 2011, free part time higher education places are available to unemployed persons to reskill in areas of identified skills needs. Last month more than 500 additional places were made available on courses that had exceptionally high demand when first run in 2011. 10m Euros has also been made available for the roll-out of Springboard 2012 and details of the courses being funded and the number of places being supported, will be available in May 2012, following a competitive tendering process.

In addition, more than 750 free places have been provided on 17 new graduate skills conversion programmes nationally. The programmes allow those with the appropriate qualifications to convert their skills during an intensive course of study in a higher education institute and a corresponding work placement in a collaborative company.

The details of Springboard and ICT Skills Conversion programmes are available onwww.bluebrick.ie and participants can apply online at this website.

Schools Building Projects

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

108 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Skills if, in view of his response to Parliamentary Question No. 65 of 8 February 2012 if he will explain the reason a school building project (details supplied) has not been included in his recently announced five year school building programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14951/12]

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year programme announced recently is focused on meeting those demographic needs. In that context, it was not possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently.

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning. The Design Team are currently working on Stage 2(b) of Architectural Planning which includes Planning Permission, Fire Certificate and Disability Access Certificate (DAC). However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget, it is not possible to progress this project to tender and construction at this time.

Derek Nolan

Question:

109 Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the proposed opening date for a new second level school in Claregalway, County Galway, has changed to 2014 in view of the projected building date for the project in the recently announced five year school building plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14954/12]

In June 2011, I announced the establishment of 40 new schools nationally within the next six years, comprising of twenty new primary schools and twenty new post-primary schools including a new post primary school for Claregalway which will be established from September 2013. All of these schools are earmarked to proceed to construction over the duration of the 5 Year Plan.

The Department will be in communication with all those schools on the programme at the appropriate time in relation to the next steps to be taken in the architectural planning process including the provision of interim accommodation solutions, as appropriate.

The process of identifying a site for the new school building in Claregalway is under way. The timeline for when work will proceed on the permanent school building is indicated in my announcement on 12 March last i.e. each project is listed in the year which it is expected to proceed to construction which in the case of Claregalway Post Primary School is 2014.

Special Educational Needs

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

110 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the special class is being discontinued at a school (details supplied) in County Galway from September 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14955/12]

My Department provides for the education of children with special educational needs through a number of support mechanisms depending on the child's assessed disability. In general, educational provision for children with special needs is made; in special schools; in special classes attached to ordinary schools; or in integrated settings in mainstream classes.

The nature and level of the educational response is based on the professionally-assessed needs of each individual child. My Departments policy is to ensure the maximum possible integration of children with special needs into ordinary mainstream schools. Many students with special educational needs will therefore not require or seek a special class placement, but will be educated along with their peers in mainstream provision, with additional supports.

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports. This includes the allocation of resource teaching hours to schools as well as the establishment of special classes in various geographical areas, including the area referred to by the Deputy, as required and the discontinuation of such classes where the need no longer exists.

I have therefore arranged for the Deputys question to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

Student Loan Facilities

Barry Cowen

Question:

111 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will discuss with the Department Finance the issue of the provision of student loan by banks; and if there are any situations in which banks are refusing to hand out student loans at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14958/12]

A range of student loan facilities is currently offered by banks on an independent commercial basis. My Department is not informed of specific arrangements or changes in the application of loan criteria by the banks in relation to student loans.

Capitation Grants

Joan Collins

Question:

112 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a report (details supplied) regarding a school (details supplied) in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14959/12]

As the Deputy is aware Budget 2012 provided for a cut in capitation to schools of 2% in both 2012 and 2013 and a further 1% in both 2014 and 2015.

Due to my decision of 21 February, to retain posts from previous disadvantage schemes in 140 DEIS Band 1 and Band 2 primary schools, it was necessary to generate alternative savings within the primary education budget. This has been achieved by bringing forward to 2012 from 2013, 1.5% of the 2% cut in primary school capitation agreed by Government as part of Budget 2012 in addition to the 2% cut already notified to primary schools for 2012.

In addition I announced in November 2011 that in order to focus on meeting the need for additional school places nationwide, it is unlikely that there will be funding available for summer works or minor works in the coming years.

While a key priority for me is to continue to prioritise and target resources at schools with the most concentrated levels of educational disadvantage, the current economic climate and the challenge to meet significant targets on reducing public expenditure, particularly given the upward pressures on teacher numbers and in the context of operating under a fixed ceiling on teacher numbers affords no capacity to exclude any school from the cuts to mainstream capitation.

However, this school continues to receive the DEIS grant which has no been affected by the Budget measures. In addition, the following resources continue to be provided:- additional Book Grant over and above that paid to other schools- additional staffing to implement more favourable class sizes- allocation of administrative principals on lower enrolment than apply in primary schools generally- access to School Completion and Home School Community Liaison- access to School Meals provision- access to literacy/numeracy supports such as reading recovery, maths recovery, first steps- access to a range of professional development supports- access to homework clubs and transfer programmes- access to planning supports

Schools Building Projects

Catherine Murphy

Question:

113 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he intends to establish an all Irish Secondary School in North Kildare; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there are three all Irish Primary Schools, Leixlip, Maynooth and Kilcock; if not, the estimated capacity in the all Irish secondary school in Lucan, Dublin; the portion of that capacity that is designated for North Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14976/12]

As the Deputy is aware, in June 2011 I announced that 20 new post-primary schools are to be established up to 2017 across a number of locations to cater for increasing demographics. In addition the announcement outlined that an initial decision would be made by my Department, before seeking applications for patronage, on whether the school would operate through the medium of Irish or English and that applications would be sought from patrons when this decision was made.

An analysis was carried out on all of the areas in which new schools are to be delivered to establish if these schools should be an all Irish schools. Consideration was given having regard to existing and planned provision of both English medium and Irish medium schools within and adjacent to the areas concerned. In the case of the new school to be established in Maynooth in 2014 it was decided that the medium of instruction should be English. However, one of the requirements that must be satisfied by prospective school patrons is the confirmation of willingness to establish an Aonad where there is demand for it (for a school where the primary medium of instruction is to be English).

The closing date for receipt of applications for patronage of the post-primary schools to be established in 2013 and 2014 was Friday 24 February 2012. The Forward Planning Section of my Department is assessing all applications in line with the announced criteria and will prepare a report for submission to the New Schools Establishment Group, who will in turn submit their report to me for final consideration and decision.

In regard to the all Irish secondary school in Lucan, this school was built to cater for a long-term projected enrolment of 600 pupils. The school had an enrolment of 378 pupils in the 2010/2011 school year. This school was built to cater for the needs of West Dublin/ North Kildare area.

My Department will continue to monitor enrolments in the North Kildare area to ensure that there is sufficient school accommodation to meet any projected future demands.

Scoileanna Oileáin

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

114 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna an bhfuil sé i gceist aige a chinntiú go mbeidh dhá oide ag múineadh i ngach bunscoil sna hoileáin nach bhfuil ceangailte leis an mórthír le droichead don scoilbhliain 2012/2013 ach nach bhfuil ach bunscoil amháin orthu; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [14983/12]

Tá na socruithe foirne do na bunscoileanna uile don scoilbhliain 2012/13, na scoileanna oileáin ina measc, leagtha amach i gCiorclán Bunscoile 0007/2012 atá le fáil ar shuíomh gréasáin mo Roinne. Cuimsíonn na socruithe foráil don dara nó don tríú phost príomhshrutha múinteoireachta i scoil oileáin a choimeád, faoi réir ag tairseacha dalta áirithe, 8 agus 45 faoi seach, agus ar an gcoinníoll gurb í an scoil sin an t-aon bhunscoil atá fágtha ar an oileán.

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

115 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna cé mhéad bunscoil atá lonnaithe ar oileáin gan ceangal droichid leis an mórthír; cad iad ainmneacha na scoileanna sin agus na n-oileán ar a bhfuil siad suite; cén líon daltaí agus cén líon múinteoirí ranga atá i ngach scoil acu; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [14984/12]

Tá an t-eolas atá á lorg ar fáil ar na táblaí ceangailte.

UR

Ainm

Daltaí

Múinteoirí ranga

05164I

Scoil Naomh Cholmcille, Oileán Thoraí, Co Donegal

6

1

15955W

Scoil Naisiúnta Arainn Mhór 1, Arainn Mhor, Co Donegal

47

3

16384K

Scoil Naisiúnta Arainn Mhór 2, Arainn Mhor, Co Donegal

12

2

12339I

Scoil Naisiúnta Inis Meadhoin, Arainn, Co. na Gaillimhe

9

2

13174H

St Columba’s NS, Inisturk, Co Galway

6

1

13927H

Inisbhoffin NS, Inishbofin, Co Galway

21

2

17289V

Scoil Naisiúnta Caomháin, Inis Oirthir, Arainn, Co na Gaillimhe

22

2

17456O

Scoil Naisiúnta Rónáin, Aran, Co Galway

46

3

20210W

S N Eoin Pol II, Inis Mor, Arainn, Co. na Gaillimhe

17

2

14065H

Sherkin Island NS, Baltimore, Co Cork

8

2

19525R

Scoil Mhicil Noafa, Ballinakilla, Bere Island, Co Cork

21

2

14303U

Scoil Naisiúnta Cléire, Oileán Chléire, an Sciobairin, Co Cork

13

2

Dara Leibhéal

Uimhir Rolla

Ainm

Seoladh

2010-11

71244F

Gairmscoil Mhic Diarmada

An Leadhbgarbh, Árainn Mhór, Co. Dhún na nGall

55

71300M

Gairmscoil Éinne Oileain Arann

Cill Rónain, Inis Mór, Árainn, Co. na Gaillimhe

70

71370K

Coláiste Ghobnait

Inis Oírr, Oileáin Arann, Cuan na Gaillimhe

23

76079S

Coláiste Phobail Cholmcille

Baile Úr, Oileán Thoraí,Doirí Beaga, Co. Dhún Na nGall

9

Foirne Scoile

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

116 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna an gcreideann sé go mba cheart go mbeadh dhá oide ar a laghad i ngach bunscoil mar gheall ar chúinsí sláinte agus sábháilteachta; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [14985/12]

Tá na tairseacha daltaí do leithdháileadh múinteoirí rangsheomra i mbunscoileanna, na tairseacha don dara múinteoir i scoil dhá-oide san áireamh, leagtha amach i gCiorclán mo Roinne 0007/2012 atá le fáil ar shuíomh gréasáin na Roinne. Aithníonn an Roinn seo gur cuid thábhachtach de chreatlach shóisialta pobal tuaithe iad scoileanna beaga. Beidh siad ina ngné den tírdhreach oideachasúil againn i gcónaí. Ní hionann sin is a rá, áfach, gur féidir leibhéil fheabhsaithe foirne a chur ar bun i scoileanna beaga, de réir mar a mholann an Teachta. Ní féidir leis na leibhéil foirne i scoileanna beaga fanacht ina seasamh ná fanacht gan athrú go dtí leibhéal atá níos inacmhainne agus níos inmharthana in aimsir seo na géarchéime geilleagrach. Níor cheart go mbeadh na múinteoirí sna scoileanna beaga díolmhaithe ón éileamh, atáthar á dhéanamh ar na fostaithe uile sa tseirbhís phoiblí, na seirbhísí poiblí againn a sheachadadh le leibhéal laghdaithe acmhainní.

Tá mo Roinnse tar éis an próiseas achomharc mar atá sé faoi láthair a leathnú sa chaoi go mbeidh sé inrochtana do na scoileanna beaga atá ag cailleadh phost rangsheomra mar thoradh ar an mbeart buiséid. Scoileanna ar bith díobh a bheidh ag réamh-mheas rolluithe méadaithe i Meán Fómhair 2012 a ba leor iad le ceadú dóibh a gcuid post rangsheomra a choimeád thar an fadtéarma, ní chaillfidh siad an post rangsheomra. Tá na socruithe mionsonraithe leagtha amach i gCiorclán Foirne mo Roinne atá foilsithe anois ar shuíomh gréasáin mo Roinne. Is é 23 Márta 2012 an spriocdháta d'achomhairc a chur faoi bhráid lena mbreithniú ag Cruinniú an Bhord Achomhairc um Sholáthar Foirne i mí Aibreáin. Luíonn an fhreagracht as scoileanna a bhainistiú ó lá go lá, bainistiú cúrsaí sláinte agus sábháilteachta san áireamh, leis an scoil féin ag an leibhéal áitiúil. Éilítear ar na scoileanna uile gach réamhchúram réasúnta a ghlacadh chun sábháilteacht na ndaltaí a chinntiú, agus bheith rannpháirteach i maoirsiú daltaí nuair atá na daltaí ar áitreabh na scoile, i rith am scoile, agus/nó i rith gníomhaíochtaí scoile. Ina leith seo, is ceart a nótáil go n-íoctar, de réir na socruithe atá ann faoi láthair, deontas maoirsithe le scoileanna aon-oide le haghaidh soláthar seirbhísí maoirsithe gur féidir éascú leo trí mhaoirseoir seachtrach a cheapadh.

Departmental Reports

Pearse Doherty

Question:

117 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will publish the second implementation report on EGF construction programmes due to be submitted to him on 12 March 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14997/12]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the report is now finalised and is available on the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund website (www.egf.ie) for public information.

Higher Education Grants

Simon Harris

Question:

118 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the expenses payable to members of the Garda Reserve are taken into account by local authorities and vocational education committee when deciding if a person applying for third level support grants meets the relevant income criteria or if Garda Reserve expenses are exempted from consideration in view of the fact that they cover only expenses incurred by reserve members and do not constitute additional income; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14999/12]

The Deputy will appreciate that the decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter for the relevant grant awarding authority.

However, I am informed that payments made in respect of the Garda Reserve Allowance are taxable and are therefore included in the assessment of income for student grant purposes. The assessment of means under my Department's Student Grants Scheme is based on gross income from all sources.

Schools Building Projects

Joan Collins

Question:

119 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will release a detailed timeline of when work will proceed on each of the schools on the new school build programme and provide this information to the boards of management of each of the schools. [15007/12]

As the Deputy is aware, on 12 March last, I announced details of 219 new major school building projects where construction is expected to commence over the next five years as part of a €1.5 billion major project capital investment programme. These new projects are in addition to 56 major school building projects that I already announced for 2012. The timeline for when work is expected to proceed is outlined in the announcement. Each project is listed in the year when the commencement of construction works is anticipated. The Department will be in communication with all those schools on the programme in relation to the next steps to be taken, at the appropriate time, as the projects progress through the various stages of the architectural planning process. Details of all projects on the Five Year Plan are published on my Department's website and this will be updated regularly.

Special Educational Needs

Michael McGrath

Question:

120 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the withdrawal of special needs assistants posts from a special needs school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15042/12]

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

153 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will confirm that four special needs assistant positions have been cut from a special needs school (details supplied) in County Cork; the reason for this reduction; and the alternatives that are available to the students; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15370/12]

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

177 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number and job titles of staff he plans to make redundant in a school (details supplied); and if he plans to replace these staff members. [15558/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120, 153 and 177 together.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support which now includes a requirement for them to have regard to the overall cap on numbers.

The NCSE has advised all schools, including the school referred to by the Deputy, of their SNA allocation for the current school year, taking into account the care needs of qualifying pupils attending the school. Schools have been advised to make applications to the NCSE for SNA support for the 2012/13 school year by 16 March, 2012 and will be advised by late May/early June 2012 of their allocation for the 2012/13 school year, based on the number of valid applications received by 16th March of this year.

The school referred to by the Deputy currently has 24 pupils enrolled. It has 1 Principal, 5 teachers and 16 SNAs, which by any standard is a very high level of resource allocation.

I understand that the NCSE has identified a potential surplus of 4 SNA posts in the school for next year, based on current pupil numbers, but that the final SNA allocation for the school will not be known until all applications, including applications for any new entrants are submitted for the coming school year.

I also understand that the NCSE is due to meet with the school shortly in order to discuss staffing requirements for the coming school year. The NCSE will advise the school by late May/early June of their SNA allocation for the 2012/13 school year.

Schools Building Projects

Denis Naughten

Question:

121 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a school (details supplied) County Roscommon was excluded from his Department’s multiannual capital programme; if he will review its exclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15048/12]

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year programme announced recently is focused on meeting those demographic needs. In that context, it was not possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently. The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an early stage of architectural planning. The Stage 2a Submission (Developed Sketch Design) has recently been received in the Department. When the submission has been reviewed and assuming no issues arise, the project will then proceed to stage 2(b) which includes an application for planning permission and the preparation of tender documents. However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget, it is not possible to progress this project to tender and construction at this time.

School Staffing

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

122 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding legacy posts in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Meath. [15079/12]

Budget 2012 provided for the phased withdrawal of approximately 428 posts allocated to some schools under disadvantage programmes prior to the introduction of the DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) Initiative in 2005. As already announced the withdrawal of 192 posts from primary schools outside DEIS Band 1 and 2 and from DEIS second level schools will proceed, including the 38 posts from 15 Non DEIS schools. The school referred to by the Deputy is one of the 15 non DEIS schools.

Where a school is losing 3 or more posts as a result of the combination of budget and reform measures an application can be made 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 on the basis that it is impacting in a particularly adverse manner on the school's overall allocation.

A letter issued to this school providing details of their staffing for 2012/13, including posts being withdrawn and details of the Appeals mechanism open to this school.

Schools Building Projects

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

123 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a new school (details supplied). [15080/12]

As I recently advised the Deputy, the development of an educational campus for Navan is already in train. This will provide for a primary, post primary and special school to cater for the projected pupil growth in the Navan area over the coming years.

My Department has no plans to provide a new school building for the school to which he also refers. However, I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the school concerned was recently invited to participate in the Department's Prefab Replacement Programme which is an initiative to replace rented prefabs with permanent accommodation. A response from the school to this invitation is awaited.

Question No. 124 answered with Question No. 107.

School Enrolments

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

125 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Education and Skills with regard to the ongoing review of school enrolment, when he anticipates publishing the conclusions of this review and bringing forward legislation or regulations on same. [15094/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, last June, I launched a discussion paper on school enrolment. The document, "Discussion Paper on a Regulatory Framework for School Enrolment" contains suggestions on how to make the process of enrolling in schools more open, equitable and consistent.

I have made it clear that the paper was not meant to be prescriptive, nor have any decisions been made as to what elements will be contained in any final regulations or legislation. The purpose of the paper was to lead and provoke debate on enrolment policies and practices.

I invited education partners and interested parties to submit their views to my Department by 28 October last. My officials are currently co-ordinating the submissions received and the feedback from this consultation will help inform the nature and scope of a new regulatory framework for school enrolment.

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

126 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 161 of 11 January 2012, the measures that were taken on foot of this advice to communicate it to parties to section 29 appeals; the measures that have been taken to standardise the process by which schools inform parents of their right to take a section 29 appeal and of the process and procedures for these appeals; the number of such appeals that took place in 2011 and the success rate of same; the number of these appeals that were subjected to judicial review by the school concerned; the number of these that subsequently led to the original appeal being overturned; and if he will provide an estimate of the cost of these appeals and legal proceedings to the schools and or that State. [15095/12]

Further to my answer to Parliamentary Question No. 161 of 11 January 2012, since 14 February my Department advises all parties to an appeal on the jurisdiction of Section 29 appeal committees in relation to Section 19(3) of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000. This advice is consistent with the Department's legal advice.

I have asked my officials to forward a copy of these procedures and advices for the Deputy's attention.

There were 367 appeals taken in 2011, of these:

149 were withdrawn by the appellant prior to hearing, and

218 went to hearing and 95 of these were upheld in favour of the appellant.

In 2011 two school authorities lodged a judicial review, each to have a Section 29 determination, that was upheld in favour of the appellant, quashed by the High Court. These two determinations were quashed. A second hearing by another appeal committee was convened in one case. The appellants withdrew the appeal before it went to hearing, in the other case.

In 2011 my Department incurred expenditure of €275,759.67 in relation to the administration of Section 29 appeals, which relates to the costs incurred by Section 29 appeal members except for €1,073 which relates to room hire for appeal hearings.

Separately, in relation to costs of Judicial reviews my Department incurred costs of €59,502 in 2011 against one of these Judicial Reviews. My Department has not yet received the costs in relation to the other case.

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

Departmental Schemes

Derek Nolan

Question:

127 Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there is an emergency work scheme for schools with an emergency need for funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15204/12]

Funding is available to school authorities to carry out emergency works under my Department's Emergency Works Scheme and full details of the terms and conditions of the scheme are available on my Department's websitewww.education.ie.

The main purpose of the Emergency Works Scheme is to ensure the availability of funding for urgent works to those schools that are most in need of resources as a result of an emergency situation or on receipt of an enrolment application from a special needs pupil.

An emergency is a situation which poses an immediate risk to health, life, property or the environment, which is sudden, unforeseen and requires immediate action and in the case of a school, if not corrected would prevent the school or part thereof from opening.

School Accommodation

Derek Nolan

Question:

128 Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to announce another prefab replacement scheme later this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15205/12]

As the Deputy is aware I recently allocated €35 million to allow almost 200 schools with rented prefab accommodation an opportunity to replace their rented prefabs with permanent accommodation. In light of the competing demands on the available budget, it is not possible to say at this stage if the scheme will be extended.

Schools Building Projects

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

129 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding building projects for school in County Donegal (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15211/12]

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year programme announced recently is focused on meeting those demographic needs. In that context, it was not possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently. The building project for the post primary school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of architectural planning and the planning permission recently granted by the local authority is currently under appeal to An Bord Pleanála. The second primary school referred to by the Deputy is currently tendering for a design team. The remaining schools referred to by the Deputy are awaiting commencement of the tender process for the appointment of a design team.

The school building projects currently in or commencing architectural planning, including the projects referred to by the Deputy, will continue to be advanced incrementally over time within the context of the funding available. However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget, it is not possible at this time to indicate when these projects will be progressed to tender and construction.

Billy Kelleher

Question:

130 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a school (details supplied) in County Cork that did not appear on any of the building programme lists released yesterday; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15222/12]

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year programme announced recently is focused on meeting those demographic needs. In that context, it was not possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently.

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an early stage of architectural planning. The Design Team are currently working on the Stage 2a Submission (Developed Sketch Design). School building projects currently in architectural planning, including the project referred to by the Deputy, will continue to be advanced incrementally over time within the context of the funding available.

However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget, it is not possible at this time to indicate when this project will be progressed to tender and construction stage.

School Staffing

Pearse Doherty

Question:

131 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a list of primary and secondary schools in County Donegal that have been notified that they will lose a teaching position or part of a teaching position from September 2012; the schools involved and the positions to be lost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15226/12]

Pearse Doherty

Question:

132 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a list of primary and secondary schools in Dublin City and County who have been notified that they will lose a teaching position or part of a teaching position from September 2012; the schools involved and the positions to be lost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15227/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 131 and 132 together.

Teacher allocations are approved annually in accordance with established rules based on recognised pupil enrolment. My Department has published the staffing arrangements at primary and post primary level for the coming school year, 2012-13. The relevant circulars, Primary 0007/2012 and Post Primary 0009/2012 are available on my Department's website.

At post primary level and in accordance with existing arrangements, where a school management authority is unable to meet its curricular commitments within its approved allocation, my Department considers applications for additional short term support i.e., curricular concessions.

The allocation processes at both primary and post primary level also include an appeals mechanism under which schools can appeal against the allocation due to them under the staffing schedules. The appeal procedures are set out in the circulars referred to above. For the coming school year the existing staffing appeals criteria have been extended to enable some 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.

The Appeal Boards operate independently of the Department and their decisions are final.

The final staffing position for all schools at primary and post primary level will ultimately not be known until the Autumn. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed and any appeals to the Staffing Appeal Boards will have been considered.

Educational Disadvantage

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

133 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a school (details supplied) is not a DEIS school despite being located in a disadvantaged area and a parish where every other school is DEIS; the way the school can become a DEIS school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15262/12]

The process of identifying primary and second-level schools for participation in DEIS was managed by the Educational Research Centre (ERC) on behalf of my Department and supported by quality assurance work co-ordinated through the Department's regional offices and the Inspectorate in 2005. The school to which the Deputy refers was among the schools that were judged not to have a sufficient level of disadvantage among their pupils to warrant their inclusion in DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunities in Schools), the Action Plan for educational inclusion. A review mechanism was put in place to address the concerns of those schools that did not qualify for inclusion in the School Support Programme under DEIS but regarded themselves as having a level of disadvantage which is of a scale sufficient to warrant their inclusion in the programme. No application for review was received from the school to which the Deputy refers. While a key priority for me is to continue to prioritise and target resources at schools with the most concentrated levels of educational disadvantage, the current economic climate and the challenge to meet significant targets on reducing public expenditure, particularly given the upward pressures on teacher numbers and in the context of operating under a fixed ceiling on teacher numbers, affords no capacity to provide for additionality to the DEIS programme.

A national composite report on the effectiveness of DEIS planning in primary and post-primary schools was published by the Inspectorate of my Department in January 2012. In addition, a Report on the First Phase of the Evaluation of DEIS was also published by the Education Research Centre, on behalf of my Department, in January 2012.

My Department will fully consider these evaluation reports before any decisions can be made regarding the future of DEIS.

Schools Building Projects

Robert Troy

Question:

134 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a school (details supplied) in County Westmeath has not been included on the recent major school building projects considering that all classes are currently being taught in rented prefabs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15283/12]

The school to which the Deputy refers currently operates with temporary recognition and has applied to my Department for permanent recognition. My Department's Inspectorate has been requested to visit the school in this regard and to provide a report on the matter. The question of permanent recognition will be considered following receipt and consideration of the Inspector's Report and a decision will be conveyed to the school authority in due course.

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet future demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year programme announced on 12 March last is focused on meeting those demographic needs. In that context, it was not possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently and the project for the school referred to by the Deputy was not included in the five year plan.

My Department is aware that the school referred to by the Deputy is currently located in rented accommodation and that a new school is required to meet its long term needs. However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget, it is not possible at this time to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of a project at this time.

Robert Troy

Question:

135 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a school (details supplied) in County Westmeath has not been included on the recent major schools building projects list considering that this school was on a previous list announced by the previous Minister for Education. [15284/12]

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year programme announced recently is focused on meeting those demographic needs. In that context, it was not possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently.

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning. A stage 2(b) submission was recently reviewed by my Department and the design team were requested to revise and resubmit the submission.

School building projects currently in architectural planning, including the project referred to by the Deputy, will continue to be advanced incrementally over time within the context of the funding available.

However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget, it is not possible to progress this project to tender and construction stage at this time.

Pension Provisions

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

136 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills the current pension provisions for vocational education committee chief executive officers. [15307/12]

The Chief Executive Officers of the Vocational Education Committees are members of the Education Sector Superannuation Scheme.

Schools Building Projects

Seán Crowe

Question:

137 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide exact locations for the schools numbered 12, 13, 14 and 19 in the five-year programme of projects to go to construction in 2015/2016; the number of classrooms that will be in each of the schools; the number of pupils it is intended each school will cater for; who will run each of the schools and if they will be mixed or gender-based schools. [15308/12]

My Department has sought the assistance of, and is working closely with, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council in relation to identifying and acquiring suitable sites for the provision of permanent accommodation for the schools to be provided in the area referred to by the Deputy. It is intended that the schools concerned will subject to demographic and parental demand cater for one or two junior infant class intake.

As I announced on the 6th March last regarding my decisions on the patronage for new primary schools to be established in 2012 and 2013, the two schools in Stepaside will be under the Patronage of Educate Together and An Foras Pátrúnachta respectively and the primary school in Ballinteer will be under the Patronage of Educate Together. All schools will be established on a mixed gender basis. The reference to the second new Primary school in the Ballinteer Dublin South area should refer instead to a new Post Primary school, the provision of which is subject to further demographic review in that general area.

School Staffing

Gerry Adams

Question:

138 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there will be a reduction in the number of teaching posts allocated to a school (details supplied) in County Donegal; the reason for the loss of teaching posts given his decision not to press ahead with cuts to DEIS legacy posts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15311/12]

Brendan Smith

Question:

209 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review as a matter of urgency the serious loss of teachers at a school (details supplied) in County Waterford; if this decision will be reviewed in view of the serious challenge facing this school with the proposed loss of staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15810/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 138 and 209 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. 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 allocation and redeployment process in the new climate of a fixed ceiling of teacher numbers.

The Deputies will be aware that Budget 2012 provided for the phased withdrawal of approximately 428 posts allocated to some schools under disadvantage programmes prior to the introduction of the DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) Initiative in 2005.

As already announced the withdrawal of 192 posts from primary schools outside DEIS Band 1 and 2 and from DEIS second level schools will proceed, including the 38 posts from 15 Non DEIS schools, which includes the schools referred to by the Deputies.

The staffing circular 0007/2012 also includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeal Board. The existing staffing appeals criteria have been extended to 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. It is intended that the Appeal Board meeting will take place on Wednesday 18 April, 2012 which will be prior to the release of the main redeployment panel and allow 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.

The final staffing position for all schools will ultimately not be known until later in 2012. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed and any appeals to the Staffing Appeal Board will have been considered.

Teachers’ Remuneration

Brendan Smith

Question:

139 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline the full breakdown of cuts to the pay of new entrants to the teaching professions in recent years including cuts to qualification allowances in budget 2012; the amount by which their new entrants’ pay has fallen sine 2009; his views regarding the impact on educational standards as a result of these continuing cuts; his views on whether high-calibre persons will no longer choose to enter the profession; if he will consider carrying out a review into the impact of these cuts on the pay of new entrants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15312/12]

Brendan Smith

Question:

140 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide up-to-date details of the way the pay of new entrants to the teaching profession compares to that in other EU countries following a number of cuts in recent years including cuts in budget 2012 to qualification allowances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15313/12]

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

A 10% reduction in salary applies to new entrants to the public service , including teachers, who commenced employment for the first time on or after 1 January 2011. This is in accordance with the Budget 2011 decision taken by the previous administration. Teachers appointed for the first time on or after the 1st January 2011 also commence employment at the first point of the salary scale. Incremental credit for the length of time in college training as a teacher is no longer reckonable. The salary scales applicable to teachers who commenced employment for the first time after the 1st January 2011 in posts funded by my Department are outlined in Circular 0040/2011.

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

These changes are outlined in Circular 70/2011. Teachers who had been engaged in a public sector teaching post on or before 4 December 2011 are eligible to retain the qualification allowances they were entitled to be in receipt of on that date. Such teachers will not be paid any additional allowance where they acquire any further qualification on or after 5 December 2011. The position of teachers who, on 5 December 2011, were undertaking courses will be considered in the context of the review.

Teachers who were appointed to teaching posts for the first time on or after 5 December 2011 but before 1 February 2012 are eligible for allowances on the basis of their qualifications at entry to the profession up to a maximum of the allowance which had been applicable to an honours primary degree.

Pending the outcome of the review by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, allowances are not payable to new beneficiaries, i.e. those who become eligible for receipt of the allowance in question on or after 1 February 2012. The terms of this arrangement are outlined in Circular 3/2012. Examples of such allowances include any form of qualification allowance or the supervision and substitution payment paid to teachers, and the secretary to the Board of Management allowance paid to school principals. The only exceptions to this prohibition are principal and deputy principal allowances.

These decisions were taken pending the outcome of the public service-wide review of allowances generally due to the upward pressure on the cost of teacher allowances generally.

The most recent available comparison to other EU countries is the 2011 edition of OECD publication "Education at a Glance" which has a reference year of 2008/2009. This showed that salaries for Irish teachers with 15 years experience are significantly higher than both the EU and OECD average.

Copies of Circulars 40/2011, 70/2011 and 03/2012 are attached.

Circular 0003/2012

To: The Managerial Authorities of Recognised Primary, Secondary,

Community and Comprehensive Schools

and

The Chief Executive Officers of Vocational Education Commitees

Budget 2012 — Public Service-Wide Review of Allowances and Premium Payments

Introduction

1. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, in his address to Dáil Éireann on the Expenditure Estimates on 5 December last, announced that public service bodies will have to achieve a reduction of 5% in the cost of allowances and premium payments in 2012.

2. In order to facilitate the required 5% reduction in 2012, it is necessary to complete a review of allowances and premium payments early this year. To this end, this Department is providing the requisite information on allowances to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and it is understood that it is intended to complete the review by the end of February 2012.

Allowances payable to Teachers, Principals and Deputy Principals

3. Pending the outcome of the review by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, allowances are not payable to new beneficiaries;ie those who become eligible for receipt of the allowance in question on or after 1 February 2012. No additions to the common basic pay scale may be paid to new beneficiaries. Examples of such additions include any form of qualification allowance or the supervision and substitution payment paid to teachers, and the secretary to Board of Management allowance paid to Principals.

4. The only exceptions to the prohibition in paragraph 3 are Principal and Deputy Principal allowances.

5. This Circular supersedes previous circulars, notices, letters, etc on these matters, including most recently Circular 70/2011 Payment of Qualification Allowances to Registered Teachers in Recognised Primary and Post Primary Schools.

Allowances payable to non-teaching staff

6. Pending the outcome of the review by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, allowances or premium payments are not payable to new beneficiaries;ie those who become eligible for receipt of the allowance in question on or after 1 February 2012.

Circulation

7. Please ensure that copies of this Circular are provided to the Board of Management/Vocational Education Committee and its contents are brought to the attention of all teachers in your employment including those on leave of absence.

8. This Circular can be accessed on the Department's website underhttp://www.education.ie.

Philip Crosby

Principal Officer

External Staff Relations

31 January 2012.

Circular 0040/2011

To: The Managerial Aughorities of Recognised Primary, Secondary,

Community and Comprehensive Schools

and

The Chief Executive Officers of Vocational Education Committees

New Pay Scales for New Appointees to Teaching in 2011

Introduction

1. The Minister for Education and Skills wishes to inform vocational education committees, management bodies and teachers of the application of revised rates of salary and allowances for new appointees to teaching from 1 January 2011 onwards.

2. As part of Budget 2011 the Government has applied a 10% reduction in the pay of new entrants to the public service (referred to in this Circular as "new appointees") and all new appointees to the entry grades of the public service must start at the first point of the relevant pay scale with effect from 1 January 2011.

Application of new pay rates

3. The 10% reduction in pay applies to basic pay, allowances and the supervision and substitution payment.

(a) Basic Pay:

The 10% reduction applies to basic pay on all points of the incremental salary scale. Daily and hourly rates for casual and non-casual teachers in the primary sector and hourly rates for casual and non-casual part-time teachers in the post-primary sector have also been reduced. The revised rates are set out in an Appendix to this Circular and can be accessed by clicking here.

(b) Allowances:

The 10% reduction also applies to all allowances with the exception of promotional allowances;ie special duties, assistant principal, deputy principal and principal allowances.

New Appointee to teaching

4. The new pay rates apply to all teachers who are new appointees appointed on or after 1 January 2011.

5. Where a person gave service in an analogous teaching position before 1 January 2011 (including those currently on an approved leave of absence), s/he will not be regarded as a new appointee to teaching. In addition, a person with a written offer of employment before 1 January 2011 will not be regarded as a new appointee. In these cases, the person will be assigned to the appropriate pre-1 January 2011 scale and allowances, and incremental credit for approved teaching service and non-teaching experience which is deemed relevant will be awardable.

6. Where a teacher who is retired and is in receipt of a pension returns to teaching on or after 1 January 2011, s/he will start on the first point of the post 1 January 2011 incremental salary scale.

Incremental credit

7. All new appointees to teaching will start on the first point of the post 1 January 2011 incremental salary scale. The Government has decided that all new appointees to entry grades (subject to the criteria set out above) will start at the minimum point of the new reduced scale.

8. However, incremental credit may continue to apply for relevant recognised service (e.g. recognised teaching service in another EU Member State). Similarly, those who leave the system will be able to reckon such previous relevant service on re-entry.

Circulation

9. Please ensure that copies of this Circular are provided to the Board of Management/Vocational Education Committee and its contents are brought to the attention of all teachers in your employment including those on leave of absence.

10. This Circular can be accessed on the Department's website underhttp://www.education.ie.

11. All enquiries regarding this Circular should be e-mailed toteachersna@education.gov.ie OR payroll@education.gov.ie

Dalton TattanPadraig Maloney

Principal OfficerPrincipal Officer

Teachers/SNAsTerms and Conditions Payroll

June 2011.June 2011.

Appendix I

Pay Scales for new appointees appointed on or after 1 January 2011

TEACHERS' COMMON BASIC SCALE

Amount

1

€ 27,814

2

€ 28,775

3

€ 29,737

4

€ 30,702

5

€ 32,198

6

€ 33,168

7

€ 34,136

8

€ 36,576

9

€ 37,795

10

€ 39,251

11

€ 40,700

12

€ 42,160

13

€ 43,380

14

€ 44,996

15

€ 44,996

16

€ 44,996

17

€ 47,225

18

€ 47,225

19

€ 47,225

20

€ 47,225

21

€ 50,170

22

€ 50,170

23

€ 50,170

24

€ 50,170

25

€ 53,423

ACADEMIC QUALIFICATIONS

1. (a) (i) H. Dip. in Ed. (Pass)

€ 532

(ii) Higher Froebel Cert.

€ 532

(b) (i) H. Dip. in Ed.

€ 1,112

(1st or 2nd Hons)

(ii) Ard Teastas Gaeilge

€ 1,112

(c) Primary Degree (Pass)

€ 1,658

(d) Masters Degree by thesis or exam (Pass)

€ 4,426

(e) Primary Degree (1st or 2nd Hons)

€ 4,426

(f) Masters Degree (1st or 2nd Hons)

€ 4,946

(g) Doctors Degree

€ 5,526

Only one of the allowances at (a) or (b) may be held together with one of (c) to (g)

2. (i) *An Teastas i dTeagasc na Gaeilge le honoracha

€ 3,850

(ii) *Higher Diploma in Education (1st or 2nd Hons)

€ 3,850

(iii) *Primary Degree (Pass) together with at least 3 years approved experience in commercial, industrial or other approved occupation

€ 3,850

*Payable only to teachers who were in receipt of an allowance of £110 (pre July 1968) and who did not qualify for a higher allowance at 1. above

(iv) Diploma for Teachers of Deaf

€ 2,193

Diploma for Teachers of Blind

Diploma for Teachers of Mentally and Physically Handicapped Children

OTHER ALLOWANCES

1. Rural Science Teachers (for organisation and development of education activities outside formal class instruction)

€ 1,658

2. Itinerant Domestic Science Teachers

€ 1,658

3. Teaching through Irish

€ 1,424

4. Gaeltacht Grant payable to teachers in the Gaeltacht other than those in receipt of an allowance equal to 10% of scale salary

€ 2,757

5. Island Allowance

€ 1,658

6. Special allowance payable to teachers in Comprehensive Schools

€ 2,224

Untrained Teachers’ Rate

Z01

€ 24,619

Allowance for Teachers with 35 years’ service

€ 2,091

Allowance Payable to Teachers in the Prison Service Honorarium

€ 4,296

SECONDMENT ALLOWANCES

CATEGORY 2

€ 15,143

CATEGORY 3

€ 11,831

CATEGORY 4

€ 9,117

Allowance payable to teachers of apprentices in Dun Laoghaire and Co. Cork VECs

€ 8,766

Secure Unit Allowance/Disturbed Adolescent Allowance 100%

€ 1,976

Hourly and daily rates of pay for part-time and substitute teachers

Primary daily rate casual (qualified teacher)

€164.26

Primary daily rate (unqualified)

€115.12

Primary hourly rate (qualified) on payroll

€32.21

Primary hourly rate (qualified) paid by grant

€36.60

Primary hourly rate (unqualified)

€26.07

Post-primary hourly rate casual (qualified)

€40.10

Post primary hourly rate (unqualified)

€36.76

Supervision and Substitution

Hourly rate

€43.04

Circular 70/2011

To: The Managerial Authorities of Recognised Primary, Secondary,

Community and Comprehensive Schools

and

The Chief Executive Officers of Vocational Education Committees

PAYMENT OF QUALIFICATION ALLOWANCES TO REGISTERED TEACHERS IN RECOGNISED PRIMARY AND POST PRIMARY SCHOOLS

Introduction

1. The Minister for Education and Skills wishes to inform vocational education committees (VECs), management authorities and teachers of certain changes to the payment of qualification allowances to teachers. This includes primary degrees, H.Dip, Masters, Doctorate and the Postgraduate/Higher Diploma in Special Educational Needs allowance.

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

Existing teachers

3. Where a person on or before 4 December 2011—

(a) has given service in a teaching position,

(b) has been paid on a payroll operated by the Department of Education and Skills or a VEC, and

(c) has been in receipt of allowances in respect of their qualifications, he or she will retain those allowances regardless of the level at which they were awarded (but see paragraph 8 below in relation to retirees returning to teach). Teachers who were, on 4 December 2011, in receipt of the allowance for holders of specified qualifications in special education (certain Graduate/Higher Diplomas in Special Educational Needs) may retain that allowance provided that they continue to meet the terms of Circulars 135/2006 (post-primary) or 21/2005 (primary).

4. Existing teachers will not be paid any additional allowance where they acquire any further qualification on or after 5 December 2011.

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

New appointees

6. Teachers who are new entrants to teaching on or after 5 December 2011 will be eligible, at time of first appointment, for combined allowances for undergraduate, postgraduate and teacher training qualificationsto a maximum of the allowance applicable to an honours primary degree level. This means that allowances for other qualifications (eg H.Dip., Masters, Doctorate, etc.) will not be paid if this were to cause this maximum limit to be exceeded.

7. Where a teacher on first appointment is eligible for payment of an allowance below that equivalent to honours primary degree level he or she will, in common with existing teachers, not be paid any additional allowance should he or she acquire a further qualification.

8. A teacher who is retired and is in receipt of a pension who returns to teaching on or after 5 December 2011 will be treated as a new appointee for the purposes of this circular. This means that the allowance payable to him or her will be subject to the maximum set under paragraph 6 above.

Circulation

9. Please ensure that copies of this Circular are provided to the Board of Management/VEC and its contents are brought to the attention of all teachers in your employment including those on leave of absence.

10. The Circular can be accessed on the Department's website underwww.education.ie.

11. All enquiries regarding this Circular should be e-mailed toteachersna@education.gov.ie orpayroll@education.gov.ie.

Dalton TattanPadraig Maloney

Principal OfficerPrincipal Officer

Teachers/SNAsTerms and Conditions Payroll

16 December 2011.16 December 2011.

Appendix II

Frequently Asked Questions

I am a newly qualified teacher who has never worked as a substitute teacher — Which pay scale will I start on?

Only service given in a teaching position pre-1 January 2011 will count as prior service for eligibility for pre-2011 pay scales. If you have not served in a teaching position (including as a substitute) before 1 January 2011 you will be offered a contract at the new pay rates and conditions. You cannot receive incremental credit for any training prior to entry to teaching.

I am a teacher who worked in Ireland as a substitute teacher in 2001 but I have been in the UK for the past number of years — Which pay scale will I start on?

You worked in a teaching position prior to 1 January 2011. You will therefore be offered a contract at pre-2011 pay rates and conditions. Your service as a qualified and registered teacher in the UK will be reckonable for incremental credit purposes.

I am a teacher who worked in the EU for the past number of years. I have never worked in a teaching position in the public service in Ireland but am due to start in May 2011 — Which pay scale will I start on?

You are a new appointee to teaching. You will begin on the first point of the January 2011 payscale. Recognised teaching service in another country prior to your first entry to teaching in Ireland is reckonable subject to certain conditions.

I am a qualified and registered teacher who has prior public sector experience as a Lecturer. I will begin teaching in May 2011 — Which pay scale will I start on?

You are a new appointee to teaching. You will therefore be offered a contract at January 2011 pay rates and conditions. This applies also to teachers who are moving to take up a post in other positions (e.g. Special Needs Assistants, administrators, etc.). You may be entitled to certain incremental credit in respect of your lecturing service.

I have been employed as a teacher in the private sector for 5 years. I will begin teaching in the public sector in May 2011 — What will my starting salary be?

You are a new appointee under the recent Government Decision. You will therefore be offered a contract at the first point of the January 2011 pay rates and conditions. You may be entitled to incremental credit subject to certain conditions.

I am a teacher who was employed with a Vocational Education Committee since September 2005. I resigned from my post with the VEC in November 2010. I expect to take up a teaching post in a Voluntary Secondary school in September 2011. Which pay scale will I be paid on?

You worked in a teaching position prior to 1 January 2011. You will therefore be offered a contract at pre-2011 pay rates and conditions if you resume teaching in a voluntary secondary school in September 2011. Your service as a qualified and registered teacher with the VEC will be reckonable for incremental credit purposes.

Departmental Expenditure

Brendan Smith

Question:

141 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a breakdown of the estimated expenditure in each year for the next years of the new schools building programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15314/12]

The capital allocations for expenditure in schools in the period 2012 to 2016 are as follows: 2012, €357m; 2013, €335.5m; 2014, €451m; 2015, €454.5m; 2016, €394.5m; Total, €1,992.5m.

Brendan Smith

Question:

142 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he spent his entire capital budget in 2011; if any of this capital budget was carried over into the new capital budget for 2012 to 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15315/12]

Total capital expenditure by my Department in 2011 amounted to €556m compared to the 2011 Revised Estimates Volume allocation of €501m — an increase of €55m. With the 2011 capital allocation more than fully expended there was no facility to carry over monies into the 2012 allocation.

Schools Building Projects

Brendan Smith

Question:

143 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a full list of new schools building projects announced in the school building programme 2012-16 but not including schools that have been announced in previous school building programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15316/12]

Brendan Smith

Question:

144 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if, in regard to schools that have not been included in the schools building list 2012-16, they will have to wait another five years to submit an application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15317/12]

Brendan Smith

Question:

145 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount of money being allocated in each year over the next five years for repair and maintenance works in schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15318/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 143 to 145, inclusive, together.

The Deputy will be aware of the demographic challenges that we are facing. Total enrolment in both primary and post-primary schools is expected to grow by almost 70,000 between now and 2018 — over 45,000 at primary level and 25,000 at post primary — and will continue to grow up to at least 2024 at post-primary level. The Deputy will therefore appreciate that the primary aim at the core of the 5 Year Plan, that I announced on 12 March last, is to ensure that every child will have access to a physical school place and that our school system is in a position to cope with increasing pupil numbers.

The Five Year Plan prioritises new school building projects, including the new primary and post primary schools that I announced in June last, as well as major extensions in areas where a demographic need has been established. The progression of school projects to construction, as set out in the 5 Year Plan, to meet future demographic demand is the main focus of the Plan. In view of the funding constraints, it is not possible to progress all projects within my Department's building programme concurrently. Accordingly, it was necessary to prioritise school building projects already progressing within architectural planning in the context of the Plan, taking into account factors such as the funding available and the progression of other major projects required to meet demographic needs.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the announcement of the 5 Year Plan represents a major change in how the school building programme is publicised. The Plan gives details of the schools that will progress to construction over the duration of the Plan. Those schools included in the five year plan, many of which were included in previous announcements, now know when their project is likely to commence construction and they can now make plans based on these timelines.

In relation to school projects that are currently within the Department's architectural planning process but have not been included in the 5 Year Plan, such projects will continue to be progressed through the various architectural planning stages up to tender stage. However I am not in position to provide an indicative timeline for the progression of those projects to construction stage at this time. In addition to the standard capitation grant, the Deputy will be aware that a Minor Works Grant issued to primary schools last November for the school year 2011/2012 at a cost of €28m. It is open to schools to prioritise the use of these funds to address issues such as those to which the Deputy refers. In the context of the financial constraints imposed by the need to prioritise available funding for the provision of essential school accommodation, it is unlikely that there will be funding available for minor works grants in the coming years.

For works that are of a very urgent nature, it is open to the school authorities to consider if the works in question, or part thereof, qualify for funding under my Department's Emergency Works Scheme. An emergency is deemed to be a situation which poses an immediate risk to health, life, property or the environment which is sudden, unforeseen and requires immediate action and, in the case of a school, if not corrected would prevent the school or part thereof from opening. Details of the Scheme, together with an application form for grant assistance, can be accessed on my Department's website atwww.education.ie.

School Staffing

Brendan Smith

Question:

146 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views that sufficient numbers of teachers will be provided over the next five years to meet the increase on the number of school places provided for in the new school building programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15319/12]

Teaching resources are allocated to schools on a school year basis. Unlike most other areas of the public service teaching vacancies are being filled in accordance with published Department criteria.

Unlike in other countries, our school-going population is rising rapidly. Places have to be provided for the extra 70,000 pupils arriving in our schools in the next six years and teachers must be appointed to teach them. As Minister for Education and Skills, I will ensure every child has a physical place in which to go to school. The Deputy may be interested to note that, despite the need to reduce teacher numbers and the other spending reductions that have been made, and nothwithstanding the various budgetary measures at both primary and post primary level in recent years by the last Government and the current Government last December, the overall number of teachers employed in our schools at the end of 2011 are just marginally different to the numbers for 2008. This point is too easily forgotten by commentators when discussing the resources available for education.

The detailed staffing arrangements for the 2012/13 school year are set out in Department Circular 0007/12 at primary level and in Department Circular 0009/2012 at post-primary level. 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. This is all the more challenging to achieve at a time of rapidly increasing enrolments in our schools.

The number of teaching posts that we can afford to fund in schools in the coming years is a matter that I will have to consider with my colleagues in Cabinet in the context of budgetary requirements and meeting our obligations under the EU/IMF Programme.

Departmental Programmes

Brendan Smith

Question:

147 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline the ways in which he has brought greater transparency to the new schools building programme for 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15320/12]

Since becoming Minister I have sought to bring greater transparency to the school building programme. As the Deputy will be aware, I announced last December details of 56 major school building projects to commence construction in 2012 representing the first phase of the five-year plan for major school building projects. The plan also detailed a further 60 projects that were already at construction stage in December which would also form part of the 2012 plan.

My announcement on 12th March last sets out details of further school building projects to be constructed within the lifetime of the 5 Year Plan. This is the first time that the Department of Education and Skills has published such a detailed five year plan for school buildings. It is also my intention that each December, a detailed plan in relation to planned expenditure on individual major school projects beginning construction in the following year will also be published. These changes will facilitate schools in planning to meet the educational needs of children in their area, and will provide for enhanced transparency in the operation of the school building programme.

These announcements represent major advances in how the school building programme is publicised, and will provide certainty to patrons and school communities concerning the major school building projects that we are in a position to progress. Those schools included in the five year plan now know when their project is likely to commence construction and they can now make plans based on these timelines. Details relating to all projects on the 5 Year Plan will be published on my Department's website and this information will be regularly updated. This will provide immediate access to schools and the school community to information concerning the progress of their school project on an ongoing basis.

Higher Education Grants

John O'Mahony

Question:

148 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo was turned down for a higher education grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15326/12]

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

The Deputy will appreciate that in the absence of all of the relevant details that would be contained in an individual's application form and supporting documentation, it would not be possible for me to say whether or not a student should qualify for a grant.

I understand from the awarding authority in this case that the applicant has not appealed the decision of the awarding authority to its appeals officer.

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

No appeal has been received in my Department to date.

School Staffing

Terence Flanagan

Question:

149 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review a matter (details supplied) regarding legacy posts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15339/12]

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 details of the reform of the allocation process which is designed to bring a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools.

The overall objective with the reforms is to enable the teacher allocation and redeployment process to operate more smoothly and efficiently within the new climate of fixed ceilings on teaching posts. The changes are designed to give a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools, give earlier certainty to schools about their staffing allocations and, where possible, simplify and streamline existing processes and give greater autonomy to schools.

The new arrangements incorporate a long overdue updating of the General Allocation Model (GAM) combining learning support for high incidence special needs and language support for all schools. It also includes changes to NCSE approved (low incidence) resource hours in the base schools or in neighbouring schools. This approach builds on the interim arrangements that operated in 2011 but in a more structured and transparent manner.

The school to which the Deputy refers was among the 140 DEIS Band 1 and Band 2 schools included in the recent report on the impact, in terms of posts, that certain Budget measures would have on these schools.

The main focus of this report concerned additional posts allocated under disadvantage schemes pre-dating DEIS. The outcome of this report was published last month and schools were notified of the Government's decision to retain these posts in DEIS Band 1 and Band 2 Schools.

As I have already indicated, I requested my Department to examine these schools due to conflicting number of posts being reported as potentially lost to these 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.

Applying the new staffing schedule for Band 1 schools and the Government's decision in relation to schools retaining posts from previous disadvantage schemes ensures that these schools can continue to implement the appropriate favourable pupil teacher ratios from previous disadvantage schemes while not exceeding this entitlement for 2012/13 school year.

There will be no change to number of teaching staff allocated to this school for 2012/13 over their current staffing compliment as the school has had no significant change in its enrolment and it has not been affected by the change to the new staffing schedule.

The school, however, is due to lose some teaching hours as a result of the changes under the revised General Allocation Model. The old GAM model was out of date as it was based on 2003 enrolments. Inevitably, some schools will gain and some schools will lose as a result.

Circular 007/12 details the criteria and procedures for schools that wish to appeal their staffing allocation to the Primary Appeals Board which operates independently of the Department.

Schools Building Projects

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

150 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will clarify when a school (details supplied) in Dublin 16 will go to construction as it was understood that this school was sanctioned to complete tender documents and go to construction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15351/12]

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year programme announced recently is focused on meeting those demographic needs. In that context, it was not possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently.

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning. The Design Team are currently working on Stage 2(b) of Architectural Planning which includes Planning Permission, Fire Certificate and Disability Access Certificate (DAC). Although Planning Permission has been granted by the Local Authority, this is now subject to a number of third party appeals to An Bord Pleanála.

School building projects currently in architectural planning, including the project referred to by the Deputy, will continue to be advanced incrementally over time within the context of the funding available. However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget, it is not possible to progress this project to tender and construction at this time.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

151 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will clarify when the special schools (details supplied) in County Dublin will go to construction in view of the fact that the principals were under the impression that they would go to construction at the end of this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15352/12]

The building project for the schools referred to by the Deputy is currently at an early stage of architectural planning. The Stage 2(a) submission (developed sketch scheme) was recently submitted to my Department and is being examined. Assuming no issues arise with the stage 2(a) submission, the next step for the project will be progression to stage 2(b) which includes the applications for planning permission, fire cert and disability access cert and then the completion of tender documents. Thereafter a tender process for the selection of a building contractor will be necessary.

This project was included in the five year programme announced recently and is listed to proceed to construction in 2014/2015.

School Staffing

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

152 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills in regard to a school (details supplied) in County Kerry, the next step to keep its teacher and resource teacher; the steps that have been taken and the steps that need to be taken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15355/12]

The school referred to by the Deputy is a 4 classroom teacher school with 82 pupils. It will continue to be a 4 classroom teacher school in September 2012 with 83 pupils. It may lose a classroom teacher in September 2013. However, it can avoid this if its overall enrolment increases next September to 85 pupils. Under the new arrangements for GAM (learning support) the school has notified my Department that it will be the base school for a shared GAM/EAL post.

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 in 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.

Question No. 153 answered with Question No. 120.

Special Educational Needs

Alan Farrell

Question:

154 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills the counselling services available in respect of special schools for students aged between four and eight years with mild general learning difficulties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15386/12]

Special schools and classes for students with mild general learning difficulties are supported by enhanced pupil teacher ratios of 11 to 1. Pupils attending such classes who have care needs are also supported by Special Needs Assistants.

Pupils who require health service supports, including counselling services, are provided with such services by the Health Service Executive (HSE) or through HSE funded agencies.

Where special schools do not have access to psychological services provided by the HSE or HSE-funded agencies those schools are supported by the National Educational Psychological Services (NEPS) and have NEPS psychologists assigned to those schools. Although NEPS psychologists do not provide direct counselling services for students, they do provide advice and support to the teaching personnel catering for students, including students who may have emotional or behavioural difficulties.

Schools Refurbishment

Alan Farrell

Question:

155 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for a primary school (details supplied) in County Wexford for emergency electrical works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15387/12]

The school referred to by the Deputy submitted an application for funding under my Department's Emergency Works Scheme for electrical upgrade works. 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.

Schools Building Projects

Alan Farrell

Question:

156 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for a primary school (details supplied) in County Wexford for a school extension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15388/12]

As the Deputy is aware I recently announced an initiative to replace rented prefabs in schools. Almost 200 schools have been offered an opportunity to replace rented prefabs with permanent accommodation.

The school referred to by the Deputy is one of the schools being offered grant aid to replace their rented prefabs.

School Staffing

Alan Farrell

Question:

157 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an appeal for the loss of an EAL teaching post for a school (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15389/12]

Regina Doherty

Question:

186 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the criteria the appeals board will apply when dealing with appeals for staffing in primary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15605/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 157 and 186 together.

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

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

The staffing schedule, Circular 0007/2012 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 circular which is available on the Department website.

The closing date for submission of appeals for the April meeting of the Staffing Appeal Board is 23 March, 2012. It is intended that the Appeal Board meeting will take place on Wednesday 18 April, 2012 which will be prior to the release of the main redeployment panel and allow for any impact of the Board's decision on redeployment panels to be effected. The Appeal Board operates independently of the Department and it's decision is final.

State Examinations

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

158 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Skills the grounds on which reasonable accommodation was refused to a pupil (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15407/12]

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations including organising the holding of examinations and determining procedures in places where examinations are conducted including the supervision of examinations.

In view of the above I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

I wish to inform the Deputy that in all cases where a school/parent or student is dissatisfied with any aspect of the SEC's decision in relation to an application for reasonable accommodations, they have access to an Independent Appeals Committee. All members of the Appeals Committee are drawn from outside the SEC. The remit of the Appeals Committee covers appeals against all elements of a decision taken by the SEC. All appeals are considered in light of the published principles.

Special Educational Needs

Jack Wall

Question:

159 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider a matter (details supplied) regarding autistic children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15410/12]

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through the local special educational needs organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports, including the establishment of special classes in various geographical areas as required. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available onwww.ncse.ie. The Health Service Executive is responsible for the provision of health supports, including therapies, to children with special educational needs. I have arranged for the matters raised by the Deputy to be forwarded to the NCSE for their direct reply.

Clare Daly

Question:

160 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a case (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15415/12]

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) was set up as an independent statutory body to improve the delivery of education services to persons with special educational needs arising from disabilities with particular emphasis on children. Correspondence between the NCSE and parents of children is a matter for the Council and will be dealt with by the NCSE directly.

Schools Building Projects

Simon Harris

Question:

161 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills the tender process for the construction of new school buildings; the criteria upon which decisions are based; if he intends to introduce any initiatives to support local businesses or unemployed tradespeople in engaging with the process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15452/12]

School building projects are tendered in line with public procurement procedures. There are two methods of tendering (the Restricted procedure and the Open procedure). In both procedures there are minimum standards for participation (including previous experience, turnover, insurance, capacity to obtain a bond etc). The minimum standards for participation are stated in the Contract notice/ eTenders advertisement.

For less complex projects of a small to medium scale, the open procedure is generally used and all contractors meeting the minimum standards are entitled to submit a tender (thus facilitating the inclusion of small to medium enterprises and those with no experience in educational projects).

For larger or more complex projects, where it is considered that pre-qualification of contractors is warranted, the Restricted procedure is normally used. In the Restricted procedure, there is an intermediary qualification stage during which the numbers of applicants is reduced (or restricted) to a specified amount (normally 10). The criteria for suitability assessment, which are taken from the Department of Finance Capital Management Works Framework, include company turnover, insurance, capacity to obtain a bond, personnel for the project, previous experience, and Health and Safety competence. Guidance on this process and standard questionnaires used by the Department are available on my Department's website.

School Staffing

Gerry Adams

Question:

162 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of vacancies in teaching posts at second level that will become available from September 2012 in respect of the exodus of staff from the public sector under pension arrangements due to end at the end of February 2012. [15462/12]

While 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 1166. Information received from the Vocational Education Sector indicates that 220 teachers have applied to retire in that sector during that period.

Vacancies created in the teaching profession by teachers who retired up to 29 February 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.

Departmental Agencies

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

163 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide in tabular form a breakdown of the position, salary, allowance and expenses paid to each of the employees in 2011 of agencies (details supplied). [15470/12]

The information requested by the Deputy is an administrative matter for each agency. This information is not collated centrally within my Department and it would require an inordinate amount of administrative time to provide the full range of details sought.

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

164 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide in tabular form a breakdown of the number of board members and their respective annual remuneration for 2011 of agencies (details supplied). [15471/12]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following table: Foras Áiseanna Saothair, Solas, Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC), Grangegorman Development Agency, Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC), Higher Education Authority, Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology, Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Science, National Centre for Technology and Education, National Qualifications Authority of Ireland, The Teaching Council

Agency Name (and Website Address)

No. Board Members (as of 31st Dec 2011)

Remuneration/Fees Applicable in 2011

Chairperson

Ordinary Member

Foras Áiseanna Saothair (Solas to be established)

11

€20,520

€11,790

Further Education and Training Awards Council

11(6 Vacancies)

Grangegorman Development Agency

15

€8,978

Higher Education and Training Awards Council

11 (3 Vacancies)

Higher Education Authority

19

€11,970

€7,695

Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology

15

Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences

11

National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE)

No Board existed for the NCTE in 2011. Since September 2011, the NCTE is within the remit of Dublin West Education Centre alongside the Department’s largest support service, the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST).

National Qualifications Authority of Ireland

12(2 Vacancies)

The Teaching Council

37

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

165 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide in tabular form a list of all agencies and bodies and internal organisations under his aegis. [15500/12]

A list of bodies currently under the aegis of my Department and an internal organisation chart for my Department are contained in the following tables for the Deputy's information:

Bodies under aegis of Department of Education and Skills (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 (IRC) — see Note

Léargas Ltd — The Exchange Bureau

National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE)

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

Note: The IRC established through the merger of the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET) and the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS) in March 2012.

Ministerial Travel

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

166 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will set out the mileage claimed by any Minister of State in his Department for each year from 2005 to 2010, inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15515/12]

The following table provides the breakdown of the mileage claimed for each Minister of State in my Department for each year from 2005 to 2010 as requested by the Deputy.

Mileage claimed by any Minister of State in the Department for each year from 2005 to 2010

Minister of State

Period

Kilometres claimed

Miles equivalent

Sile DeValera

Jan 2005 — Dec 2005

49,255

30,607

Sile DeValera

Jan 2006 — 8 Dec 2006

52,768

32,790

Sean Haughey

12 Dec 2006 — 31 Dec 2006

2,057

1,278

Sean Haughey

Jan 2007 — Dec 2007

37,229

23,134

Sean Haughey

Jan 2008 — Dec 2008

37,730

23,445

Sean Haughey

Jan 2009 — Dec 2009

33,613

20,887

Sean Haughey

Jan 2010 — Dec 2010

35,630

22,140

Third Level Charges

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

167 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Skills if, in cases of clear inability to pay, payment of the third level registration fee can be postponed pending receipt of the grant which does not come for some months after the registration payment deadline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15532/12]

A new student contribution charge of €2,000 was introduced in higher education by the previous Government with effect from the 2011/2012 academic year. This charge replaced the previous Student Services Charge and applies to all students who currently benefit under the ‘free fees' scheme. The contribution is paid by the Exchequer in respect of students who qualify under the third level grant schemes.

In August 2011 the Higher Education Authority (HEA) wrote to higher education institutions requesting that they show flexibility and consideration to students awaiting a decision on their grant application and/or payment of grants. At my Department's request the HEA sent a reminder to institutions in September 2011 again requesting that flexibility be shown to students who are awaiting a grant application decision. While I understand from the HEA that a small number of institutions were not in a position to offer this facility due to technical systems limitations, all institutions were requested to accommodate students who presented with financial difficulties on a case by case basis and, from the academic year 2012/13 onwards, to have systems in place that allow for the payment of the student contribution in instalments.

Schools Building Projects

Michael Creed

Question:

168 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Skills in view of the recent publication of the five year school building programme if he will clarify the situation regarding a proposed new school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15533/12]

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year programme announced recently is focused on meeting those demographic needs. In that context, it was not possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently.

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an early stage of architectural planning. The Stage 1 Submission was recently submitted to the Department and is currently being reviewed. The school building projects currently in architectural planning, including the project referred to by the Deputy, will continue to be advanced incrementally over time within the context of the funding available.

However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget, it is not possible, at this time, to indicate when this project will progress to tender and construction.

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

169 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna cén uair a bhfuil sé i gceist aige síneadh a cheadú do scoil i nGaillimh (sonraí tugtha); cén fáth nach raibh an scoil seo sa phlean cúig bliana do scoileanna a d’fhógair an tAire le gairid; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [15534/12]

I bhfianaise an riachtanais atá ann lena chinntiú go mbíonn rochtain ag gach aon pháiste ar ionad scoile, beidh sé ina phríomhfhócas ag an infheistíocht chapitil i scoileanna sna blianta amach romhainn, tionscadail mhóra scoile a sheachadadh chun freastal ar na héilimh dhéimeagrafacha ar fud an náisiúin. Tá an plean cúig bliana a fógraíodh le déanaí dírithe ar fhreastal ar na riachtanais dhéimeagrafacha sin. Sa chomhthéacs sin, níorbh fhéidir na hiarratais uile ar mhaoiniú capitil a cur chun cinn go comhthráthach.

Tá an tionscadal mór tógála don scoil dá dtagraíonn an Teachta ag ardchéim phleanáil ailtireachta faoi láthair agus thug Aonad Pleanála agus Tógála mo Roinne faomhadh d'aighneacht Chéim 2(b) (Dearadh Mionsonraithe) ar 10ú Eanáir 2012. I bhfianaise na n-éileamh iomaíocha faoi láthair ar bhuiséad caipitil mo Roinne, ní féidir ag an tráth seo an tionscadal a chur ar aghaidh chun tairisceana agus tógála.

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

170 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna cén uair a bhfuil sé i gceist aige síneadh a cheadú do scoil i gContae na Gaillimhe (sonraí tugtha); cén fáth nach raibh an scoil seo sa phlean cúig bliana do scoileanna a d’fhógair an tAire le gairid; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [15535/12]

Mar is eol don Teachta, seans, táthar ag súil go dtiocfaidh ardú beagnach seachtó míle (70,000) ar an rollú iomlán i mbunscoileanna agus in iarbhunscoileanna idir anois agus an bhliain dhá mhíle is a hocht déag (2018) (breis agus ceathracha cúig míle (45,000) ag an leibhéal bunscoile agus fiche cúig míle (25,000) ag an leibhéal iarbhunscoile) agus leanfar leis an ardú ag an leibhéal iarbhunscoile go dtí an bhliain dhá mhíle is a fiche ceathair (2024) ar a laghad.

Maidir leis sin, d'fhógair mé mionsonraí faoi dhá chéad is a naoi déag (219) mórthionscadal tógála scoile nua, a gcuirfear tús leo sna cúig bliana amach romhainn, mar chuid de chlár infheistíochta caipitil €2 bhilliún. Beidh na tionscadail nua sin sa bhreis ar chaoga sé (56) mórthionscadal tógála scoile atá fógartha agam cheana agus a bhfuil tús le cur leo sa bhliain dhá mhíle is a dó dhéag (2012).

Is é an tosaíocht atá ann anois díriú ar mhórthionscadail thógála scoile agus ar thionscadail níos lú a aistreofar chuig scoileanna chun freastal ar na héilimh déimeagrafacha. Is é an phríomhaidhm ná cinntiú go mbeidh teacht ar áit scoile ag gach aon leanbh.

I gcomhthéacs na srianta airgeadais a eascraíonn as an ngá le tús áite a thabhairt do chóiríocht scoile riachtanach a sholáthar, ní féidir liom an scoil a dtagraíonn an Teachta di a chur san áireamh ag an tráth seo.

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

171 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills the current stage of progress in the provision of a new school (details supplied); the reason it was not on the five year list of schools to be built; if it is intended to progress this project in the meantime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15536/12]

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year programme announced earlier this week is focused on meeting those demographic needs. In that context, it was not possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently.

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently awaiting the appointment of a design team, following which it will commence architectural planning.

The school building projects currently in or commencing architectural planning, including the project referred to by the Deputy, will continue to be advanced incrementally over time within the context of the funding available.

However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget, it is not possible at this time to indicate when this project will be progressed to tender and construction stage.

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

172 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he intends giving approved to the provision of a replacement building for a school (details supplied) in County Galway; the reason this school was not included on the five year plan for schools recently announced by him; if it is intended to go ahead with the architectural planning of the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15537/12]

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year programme announced recently is focused on meeting those demographic needs. In that context, it was not possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently.

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning. The Design Team are currently working on completing Stage 2(b) of Architectural Planning.

School building projects currently in architectural planning, including the project referred to by the Deputy, will continue to be advanced incrementally over time within the context of the funding available.

However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget, it is not possible to progress this project to tender and construction stage at this time.

Third Level Fees

Seán Crowe

Question:

173 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason when a student enters a course in an Irish university or institute of technology their eligibility for State support such as the free fees scheme is assessed and remains unchanged even if their status changes during their course; and the reason students who have been granted Irish passports and citizenship are still treated as if they are international non-EU students and charged fees accordingly. [15551/12]

Currently under the terms of my Department's Free Fee Scheme the Exchequer meets the cost of tuition fees in respect of eligible students who are pursuing full-time undergraduate courses of study which are a minimum of two years duration in an approved higher education institution. The main conditions of the scheme are that students must be first-time undergraduates, hold inter alia EU/EEA/Swiss nationality in their own right, and have been ordinarily resident in an EU/EEA/Swiss state for at least three of the five years preceding their entry to an approved third level course. Eligibility under the scheme is determined at date of entry to the course of study.

Where undergraduate students do not meet the eligibility criteria of the free fees schemes, it is the higher education institution concerned that determines, in accordance with its criteria, the appropriate tuition fee payable by such students.

Teaching Qualifications

Patrick Deering

Question:

174 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills the annual cost to his Department over the past ten years to probate newly qualified teachers at primary level; if he will provide a breakdown of the figures involved and the number of probations involved per year. [15552/12]

The number of primary teachers recorded as having completed probation each year over the past ten years is as follows:

2011 — 2,088

2010 — 1,633

2009 — 1,893

2008 — 2,311

2007 — 2,221

2006 — 2,087

2005 — 1,454

2004 — 1,499

2003 — 1,380

2002 — 1,196

Since the Inspectorate is part of the Department of Education and Skills, all costs associated with its work are paid from the administrative budget of the Department and costs exclusively associated with probation evaluations are not recorded separately from the other inspection or policy development work of the Inspectorate. Accordingly it is not possible to provide a detailed breakdown of the costs of the probation evaluations conducted in respect of the teachers probated in the ten-year period between 2002 and 2011.

Patrick Deering

Question:

175 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills the year inspectors from his Department first started doing inspections as part of the probation of newly qualified teachers at primary level. [15553/12]

The very close engagement of inspectors with the quality of teaching in primary schools is practically as old as the national school system itself. Inspectors have had a role in the evaluation of teachers appointed in primary schools since the first inspectors were appointed in 1832.

Inspection models have evolved very significantly since 1832 as has the legal basis for the probation of newly qualified teachers. Access to the profession of teaching in recognised schools in Ireland is now regulated by the Teaching Council. At present, the Inspectorate of my Department evaluates the professional competence of primary teachers for the purposes of informing the Teaching Council's decisions regarding registration. Further development in this area is ongoing, with the Council currently working on the development of a Career Entry Professional Programme (CEPP) for newly qualified teachers wishing to be fully registered with the Council, in compliance with sections 7(2)(f) and (g) of the Teaching Council Act, 2001.

Redundancy Payments

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

176 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason for the delay in processing redundancy payments for three former special needs assistants in a school (details supplied); the date on which these payments will be issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15557/12]

Four applications for redundancy from former Special Needs Assistants in the school referred to by the Deputy were received by my Department on 2 September 2011. A large number of applications were received during the period July-September 2011.

Applications received during those months are currently being processed. Applications are processed in date order of receipt with some priority given to those SNAs who have not obtained alternative employment in a non-teaching capacity in primary, secondary or community / comprehensive schools in the current school year. Every effort is being made, within the resources available, to process these applications as quickly as possible.

It is expected that the applications referred to by the Deputy will be reached for processing in approximately 3 weeks and payment will issue as soon as possible thereafter.

Question No. 177 answered with Question No. 120.

Site Acquisitions

Arthur Spring

Question:

178 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Education and Skills the owner of the property on which a school (details supplied) is situated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15581/12]

Arthur Spring

Question:

179 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way and when the property, upon which a school (details supplied) is situated, was acquired by its current owners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15584/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 178 and 179 together.

The Sisters of Mercy, as part of their response to the request from the Government and this House to the Congregations for further contributions by way of reparations following the publication of the Ryan Report, proposed to transfer the property to which the Deputy refers to Cáirde Coláiste Íde, a voluntary body.

My Department has not been made aware of whether this transfer has been effected and as the ownership of the property is a matter for those two private bodies and not for my department, I am not in a position to provide the information sought by the Deputy.

Telecommunications Services

Regina Doherty

Question:

180 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he anticipates that a school (details supplied) in County Meath will benefit from the roll-out of broadband. [15595/12]

Culmullen National School is currently connected to the Schools Broadband Network by means of a satellite connection. Attempts were made to provide this school with a fixed line (DSL) connection however this was not possible due to the distance of the school from the Eircom exchange.

All contracts under the Schools Broadband Access Programme are currently being retendered, 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. Early indications are that there should be a significant reduction in those schools reliant on slower connections.

School Staffing

Thomas Pringle

Question:

181 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way the cutbacks on rural DEIS, changes to resources hours and the other budget cuts impact on a school (details supplied) in terms of teaching staff levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15599/12]

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 details of the reform of the allocation process which is designed to bring a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools.

The overall objective with the reforms is to enable the teacher allocation and redeployment process to operate more smoothly and efficiently within the new climate of fixed ceilings on teaching posts. The changes are designed to give a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools, give earlier certainty to schools about their staffing allocations and, where possible, simplify and streamline existing processes and give greater autonomy to schools.

The new arrangements incorporate a long overdue updating of the General Allocation Model (GAM) combining learning support for high incidence special needs and language support for all schools. It also includes changes to NCSE approved (low incidence) resource hours in the base schools or in neighbouring schools. This approach builds on the interim arrangements that operated in 2011 but in a more structured and transparent manner.

Arising from the decisions taken following Budget 2012, 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.

The allocation processes also include an appeals mechanism under which schools can appeal against the allocation due to them under the staffing schedules. The appeal procedures are set out in the circular referred to above.

For the coming school year the existing staffing appeals criteria have been extended to enable some 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. The closing date for submission of appeal is 23 March, 2012.

The Appeal Boards operate independently of the Department and their decisions are final.

The final staffing position for all schools at primary level will ultimately not be known until the Autumn. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed and any appeals to the Staffing Appeal Boards will have been considered.

Thomas Pringle

Question:

182 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way the cutbacks on rural DEIS, changes to resource hours and the other budget cuts impact on a school (details supplied) in County Donegal, in terms of teaching staff levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15600/12]

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 details of the reform of the allocation process which is designed to bring a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools.

The overall objective with the reforms is to enable the teacher allocation and redeployment process to operate more smoothly and efficiently within the new climate of fixed ceilings on teaching posts. The changes are designed to give a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools, give earlier certainty to schools about their staffing allocations and, where possible, simplify and streamline existing processes and give greater autonomy to schools.

The new arrangements incorporate a long overdue updating of the General Allocation Model (GAM) combining learning support for high incidence special needs and language support for all schools. It also includes changes to NCSE approved (low incidence) resource hours in the base schools or in neighbouring schools. This approach builds on the interim arrangements that operated in 2011 but in a more structured and transparent manner.

Arising from the decisions taken following Budget 2012, 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.

The allocation processes also include an appeals mechanism under which schools can appeal against the allocation due to them under the staffing schedules. The appeal procedures are set out in the circular referred to above.

For the coming school year the existing staffing appeals criteria have been extended to enable some 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. The closing date for submission of appeal is 23 March, 2012.

The Appeal Boards operate independently of the Department and their decisions are final.

The final staffing position for all schools at primary level will ultimately not be known until the Autumn. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed and any appeals to the Staffing Appeal Boards will have been considered.

Schools Building Projects

Thomas Pringle

Question:

183 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a school (details supplied) was left out of the school building programme announced last Monday; the options available to the school to improve the accommodation now; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15601/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

193 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the progression of a new school building for a school (details supplied) in County Donegal was not included on the five year school building programme in view of the fact that the project was at an advanced stage. [15726/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 183 and 193 together.

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year programme announced recently is focused on meeting those demographic needs. In that context, it was not possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently.

School building projects currently in or commencing architectural planning, including the project at the school to which the Deputies refer, will continue to be advanced incrementally over time within the context of the funding available. The Department is in the process of acquiring the site for the school. Acquisition of the site is dependent on a grant of planning permission, an application for which has been submitted to the local authority. The Department is currently preparing a response to a Request for Further Information (RFI) from the local authority and has also, concurrently, commenced the tender process for the appointment of a design team.

However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget, it is not possible at this time to progress the project to tender and construction.

Regina Doherty

Question:

184 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a building grant application will be approved and financed in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15603/12]

I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy has an application with the Department for a major school project involving school refurbishment and ancillary accommodation. Information in respect of the current school building programme along with all assessed applications for major capital works, including this project, is available on the Department's website atwww.education.ie.

In view of the need to prioritise available funding for the provision of additional school accommodation, the delivery of major school projects required to meet demographic demand will be the main focus for capital investment in the coming years. It is not possible therefore to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of this school project at this time. However, I wish to advise the Deputy that this school was recently invited to participate in the Department's Prefab Replacement Programme which is an initiative to replace rented prefabs with permanent accommodation. A response from the school is awaited.

School Accommodation

John Paul Phelan

Question:

185 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the money that has been set aside for the extension of a college (details supplied); and when the work programme is due to commence. [15604/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that officials from my Department will be in further contact with the VEC regarding the College referred to by the Deputy with the aim of finalising arrangements regarding the additional accommodation required to meet the demographic demand that has been identified in the area in question.

Question No. 186 answered with Question No. 157.

Special Educational Needs

Martin Heydon

Question:

187 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for a new class at an ASD unit at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; if he has considered the application and its need; when a decision is expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15608/12]

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through the local special educational needs organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports, including the establishment of special classes in various geographical areas as required. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available onwww.ncse.ie.

I have arranged for the matters raised by the Deputy to be forwarded to the NCSE for their direct reply.

Job Creation

Michael Creed

Question:

188 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the budget provision for labour market activation measures as provided for in the December 2011 budget; when tenders are being invited for the disbursement of this fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15624/12]

Following on the successful outcomes of the Labour Market Activation Fund which commenced in 2010 and concluded last year, funding of €20 million has been allocated from the National Training Fund in 2012 for a new Labour Market Education and Training Fund, which will be managed by FÁS.

€10m has also been made available for the roll-out of Springboard 2012. A call for proposals issued to higher education institutions in February 2012. Details of the courses being funded and the number of places being supported will be available in May, following this competitive tender process.

FÁS is currently developing proposals to maximise the benefits from the funding for jobseekers, in line with activation priorities and with recommendations made in the independent review of the previous Fund: Evaluation of the Labour Market Activation Fund, 2010 — Final Report. That report is available on my Department's website:

http://www.education.ie/servlet/blobservlet/des_publication_listing.htm.

As soon as the proposals have been sanctioned, a tender process will be established.

Education Schemes

Michael Creed

Question:

189 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has conducted any research into the adequacy of the current arrangements for children with a high IQ; the resources available to such children in the current educational framework; the plans he has for this sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15691/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the 1998 Education Act requires Boards of Management of each school to publish the policy of the school relating to participation by students with special educational needs, including students who are exceptionally able. The measures schools take in this regard are required to be stated in the school plan. It is the duty of the Board of Management to ensure that appropriate education services are made available to such students.

Schools at both primary and second level use strategies such as curriculum differentiation, curriculum enrichment and acceleration to facilitate the development of pupils who are exceptionally able.

Syllabi and curricula for second-level schools have been designed in such a way to enable teachers cater for the wide range of pupil ability. The revised primary curriculum, which has been supplied to every primary teacher, recognises the importance of developing the full potential of the child and caters for pupil diversity, including meeting the needs of exceptionally able pupils.

Content is outlined in the curricula at both levels and process is also heavily emphasised. Enabling children to learn how to learn is stressed and facilitated. The development of language skills, investigatory and problem-solving skills, higher-order thinking skills and working individually, and as a member of a group, are all encouraged at both levels. While the use of information and communication technologies and the use of class and school libraries are of benefit in project work with all pupils, they have a special importance for pupils who are exceptionally able.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), in collaboration with its counterparts in Northern Ireland, the Council for Curriculum Examination and Assessment (CCEA), has produced draft guidelines for teachers of exceptionally able students. These guidelines issued to all Primary and Post Primary schools in November 2007 along with a questionnaire for feedback.

The NCCA/CCEA guidelines are designed to raise awareness of the social, emotional and academic needs of exceptionally able students and to assist teachers in planning their teaching and learning. The guidelines provide advice to schools on identification of gifted children, set out profiles of students, and whole school and classroom strategies and case studies which demonstrate how schools can best meet the needs of such students. The general strategies include differentiated teaching, acceleration and enrichment approaches in the context of participation in mainstream schools.

The Special Education Support Service (SESS) is a service under the management of my Department which provides support for teachers to assist them in meeting the needs of all pupils with special educational needs, including those pupils who are exceptionally able. The service is available to schools who may be seeking advice or support relating to a specific special education issue in the school. More information on the range of programmes offered by the SESS is available onwww.sess.ie.

In addition, the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST), also under the management of my Department, provides training in differentiation, in terms of differentiating for all pupils, whether less able/more able. Issues around exceptional ability and giftedness are addressed as part of the school planning process which is facilitated by the PDST.

Finally, I wish to advise the Deputy that this Government is committed, as set out in the Programme for Government, to examining supports in place for gifted students and specifically to the creation of improved links with third level institutions on a regional basis, to provide gifted students with access to new programmes or educational resources.

Home-School Liaison Scheme

Gerald Nash

Question:

190 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Education and Skills if we will give his full consideration to the appointment of separate home-school community liaison positions to a school (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15711/12]

As the Deputy is aware, Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) is a mainstream preventative programme and a major component of DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunities in Schools), the action plan for educational inclusion, which targets pupils at risk of not reaching their potential in the educational system because of background characteristics which tend to adversely affect pupil attainment and school retention. It focuses directly on the salient adults in children's educational lives while seeking direct benefits for the children themselves.

Due to the current economic position, there is no scope to consider any change to the current provision of Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) Services in the 200 post primary and 345 urban primary schools participating in DEIS for 2012/13 school year.

School Transport

Peter Mathews

Question:

191 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Education and Skills if assistance will be provided to a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15716/12]

The pupil referred to by the Deputy may apply for school transport on a concessionary basis subject to terms of the scheme. The parents of the pupil in question should liaise with their local Bus Éireann office in this regard.

Schools Building Projects

Dara Calleary

Question:

192 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the progression of a new school building for a school (details supplied) in County Donegal was not included on the five-year school building programme, in view of the fact that the project was at an advanced stage. [15725/12]

Planning permission for a new school building for the school, referred to by the Deputy, has been refused in respect of the proposed site. My Department has been in contact with the school in this regard. In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects required to meet demographic demand will be the main focus for capital investment in the coming years. It is not possible therefore to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Question No. 193 answered with Question No. 183.

School Staffing

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

194 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the action he will take to ensure that a school (details supplied) in Dublin 17 does not lose one of its legacy posts in the staffing schedule for September 2012 in view of the fact that the school’s enrolment has increased but apparently it may lose this critical legacy post because of the changes to the pupil teacher ratio; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15729/12]

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 details of the reform of the allocation process which is designed to bring a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools.

The overall objective with the reforms is to enable the teacher allocation and redeployment process to operate more smoothly and efficiently within the new climate of fixed ceilings on teaching posts. The changes are designed to give a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools, give earlier certainty to schools about their staffing allocations and, where possible, simplify and streamline existing processes and give greater autonomy to schools.

The new arrangements incorporate a long overdue updating of the General Allocation Model (GAM) combining learning support for high incidence special needs and language support for all schools. It also includes changes to NCSE approved (low incidence) resource hours in the base schools or in neighbouring schools. This approach builds on the interim arrangements that operated in 2011 but in a more structured and transparent manner.

The school to which the Deputy refers was among the 140 DEIS Band 1 and Band 2 schools included in the recent report on the impact, in terms of posts, that certain Budget measures would have on these schools.

The main focus of this report concerned additional posts allocated under disadvantage schemes pre-dating DEIS. The outcome of this report was published last month and schools were notified of the Government's decision to retain these posts in DEIS Band 1 and Band 2 Schools.

As I have already indicated, I requested my Department to examine these schools due to conflicting number of posts being reported as potentially lost to these 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.

Applying the new staffing schedule for Band 1 schools and the Government's decision in relation to schools retaining posts from previous disadvantage schemes ensures that these schools can continue to implement the appropriate favourable pupil teacher ratios from previous disadvantage schemes while not exceeding this entitlement for 2012/13 school year.

There will be no change to number of teaching staff allocated to this school for 2012/13 over their current staffing compliment as the school has had no significant change in its enrolment and it has not been affected by the change to the new staffing schedule.

The allocation processes also include an appeals mechanism under which schools can appeal against the allocation due to them under the staffing schedules. The appeal procedures are set out in the circular referred to above.

For the coming school year the existing staffing appeals criteria have been extended to enable some 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. The closing date for submission of appeal is 23 March, 2012. The Appeal Boards operate independently of the Department and their decisions are final.

The final staffing position for all schools at primary level will ultimately not be known until the Autumn. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed and any appeals to the Staffing Appeal Boards will have been considered.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

195 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the action he will take to ensure that a school (details supplied) in Dublin 17 does not lose one of its legacy posts in the staffing schedule for September 2012 in view of the fact that the school’s enrolment has increased but apparently it may lose this critical legacy post because of the changes to the pupil teacher ratio; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15730/12]

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 details of the reform of the allocation process which is designed to bring a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools. The overall objective with the reforms is to enable the teacher allocation and redeployment process to operate more smoothly and efficiently within the new climate of fixed ceilings on teaching posts. The changes are designed to give a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools, give earlier certainty to schools about their staffing allocations and, where possible, simplify and streamline existing processes and give greater autonomy to schools. The new arrangements incorporate a long overdue updating of the General Allocation Model (GAM) combining learning support for high incidence special needs and language support for all schools. It also includes changes to NCSE approved (low incidence) resource hours in the base schools or in neighbouring schools. This approach builds on the interim arrangements that operated in 2011 but in a more structured and transparent manner. The school to which the Deputy refers is a DEIS Band 1 School but was not among the 140 DEIS Band 1 and Band 2 schools included in the recent report on the impact, in terms of posts, that certain Budget measures would have on these schools, the main focus of which concerned additional posts allocated under disadvantage schemes pre-dating DEIS. Applying the new staffing schedule for Band 1 schools to this school, it is due to lose one mainstream class teacher due to falling enrolment for the 2012/13 school year. The allocation processes also include an appeals mechanism under which schools can appeal against the allocation due to them under the staffing schedules. The appeal procedures are set out in the circular referred to above. For the coming school year the existing staffing appeals criteria have been extended to enable some 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. The closing date for submission of appeal is 23 March, 2012. The Appeal Boards operate independently of the Department and their decisions are final. The final staffing position for all schools at primary level will ultimately not be known until the Autumn. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed and any appeals to the Staffing Appeal Boards will have been considered.

Schools Building Projects

Gerald Nash

Question:

196 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Education and Skills the location of the site on which the proposed new building project for a school (details supplied) in County Meath will proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15731/12]

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the school to which he refers is one of 106 schools which I announced last week to proceed to construction as part of my Department's five year capital investment programme. The existing school site has been identified as a suitable location for this project.

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

197 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on the school building plans in respect of schools (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15732/12]

My Department is currently finalising the accommodation brief in relation to the school projects, referred to by the Deputy. When finalised my Department will liaise with the school authorities in the context of progressing the project concerned to the next stage of the architectural planning process. Information in respect of the current school building programme along with all assessed applications for major capital works, including these projects, is available on the Department's website atwww.education.ie. In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects required to meet demographic demand will be the main focus for capital investment in the coming years. It is not possible, therefore, to give an indicative timeframe as to when the school projects, referred to by the Deputy, will proceed to construction.

Youthreach Programme

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

198 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a full-time youthreach programme is considered as full-time education for the purposes of family law maintenance payments in respect of young adults aged between 18 and 23 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15737/12]

Youthreach is administered as a full-time integrated programme of education, training and work experience, generally of two years duration. Young people between 15 and 20 years of age who have left school early without any qualification or vocational training are eligible to participate and are paid an age-related training allowance. They are eligible for a range of additional allowances (meal, travel, long-term unemployment bonus) and, where applicable, childcare support under the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) scheme. In relation to family law maintenance payments, the relevant legislation is the Family Law (Maintenance of Spouses and Children) Act, 1976, as amended. I understand that in proceedings under this legislation, maintenance can be awarded for the benefit of a child who is under the age of 18, or if the child is in full time education, under the age of 23. Any queries on this legislation should be directed to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law reform.

School Accommodation

Emmet Stagg

Question:

199 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the file in relation to sanctioning the rent allowance to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare to move onto the old Scoil Dhrioe site at Kill, County Kildare. [15797/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department is currently liaising with the Patron's office in the context of the matter to which he refers. The school authority in question is aware of this contact and my Department will continue to keep the school informed of developments.

Schools Building Projects

Brendan Smith

Question:

200 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the stage of a proposed building project for a school in Dublin (details supplied); when the project will proceed to the next stage; the likely timescale for this project to progress to construction stage in view of the fact that it is not included in the Department’s recently published five year programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15801/12]

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year programme announced recently is focused on meeting those demographic needs. In that context, it was not possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently. The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning. The Stage 2(a) Submission (Detailed Design) was approved 24th February 2012 and the project was authorised to proceed to complete stage 2(b) which includes securing the necessary statutory approvals and the preparation of tender documents. School building projects currently in architectural planning, including the project referred to by the Deputy, will continue to be advanced incrementally over time within the context of the funding available. However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget, it is not possible to progress this project to tender and construction at this time.

Higher Education Grants

Brendan Smith

Question:

201 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will give detailed consideration to the concerns outlined by an organisation (details supplied) in relation to the criteria for higher education grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15802/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, I announced last December that the means test for student grants will be amended to take account of the value of certain capital assets as well as income for the 2013/14 academic year. A dedicated Capital Asset Test implementation group has been established. The group has been charged with bringing forward detailed implementation proposals on new means testing arrangements for student grants, to include the value of assets, for new applicants from the 2013/14 academic year. In the circumstances, it is not possible to say at this time what assets may be included. Contrary to the assertions made by the organisation referred to by the Deputy, no decision has been taken on the treatment of farm or other business assets. However, any proposals in this regard will require further Government agreement and necessitate legislative amendment.

Schools Building Projects

Brendan Smith

Question:

202 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on the proposal to provide a new school building (details supplied) in County Dublin; when this project is likely to proceed to the next stage; the likely timescale for the project to reach construction stage in view of the fact that it is not included in his recently published five year programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15803/12]

I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy has an application with the Department for a major school project involving school refurbishment and the replacement of temporary accommodation. Information in respect of the current school building programme along with all assessed applications for major capital works, including this project, is available on the Department's website atwww.education.ie. Recent birth rate data, published by the CSO shows there were nearly 20,000 births registered in the first quarter of 2011. This is the highest number of births registered in a quarter since the series began in 1960. It is vital that the schooling system is prepared to cope with these increasing numbers. Therefore, the Government’s priority is now to focus on major school projects to meet these demographic demands. In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects required to meet demographic demand will be the main focus for capital investment in the coming years. In the context of the need to prioritise available funding for the provision of additional school accommodation, it is not possible therefore to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of this school project at this time.

Brendan Smith

Question:

203 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on the proposal to provide a new school building (details supplied) in County Dublin; the stage of this particular project; the likely timescale for the project to reach construction stage in view of the fact that it is not included in his recently published five year programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15804/12]

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year programme announced recently is focused on meeting those demographic needs. In that context, it was not possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently. The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an early stage of architectural planning. The Stage 1 Submission (Site report/initial sketch scheme) has been received in my Department and is being examined. School building projects currently in architectural planning, including the project referred to by the Deputy, will continue to be advanced incrementally over time within the context of the funding available. However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget it is not possible, at this time, to indicate when this project will progress to tender and construction stage.

Brendan Smith

Question:

204 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the stage of the proposed school building project for a school (details supplied) in County Cavan; when this project will proceed to the next stage; the likely timescale for the project to go to construction stage, as it is not included in his recently published five year programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15805/12]

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year programme announced recently is focused on meeting those demographic needs. In that context, it was not possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently. The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an early stage of architectural planning. The Design Team are currently working on the Stage 2a Submission (Developed Sketch Design). School building projects currently in architectural planning, including the project referred to by the Deputy, will continue to be advanced incrementally over time within the context of the funding available. However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget it is not possible, at this time, to indicate when this project will progress to tender and construction stage.

Brendan Smith

Question:

205 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the stage of the proposed school building project for a school (details supplied) in County Cavan; when this project will proceed to the next stage; the likely timescale for the project to go to construction stage, as it is not included in his recently published five year programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15806/12]

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year programme announced recently is focused on meeting those demographic needs. In that context, it was not possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently. The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an early stage of architectural planning. The Design Team are currently working on the Stage 2a Submission (Developed Sketch Design). School building projects currently in architectural planning, including the project referred to by the Deputy, will continue to be advanced incrementally over time within the context of the funding available. However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget it is not possible, at this time, to indicate when this project will progress to tender and construction stage.

Brendan Smith

Question:

206 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the stage of the proposed extension refurbishment project for a school (details supplied) in County Cavan; when the project will proceed to the next stage; the likely timescale for this project to go to construction stage, as it has not been included in his recently published five year programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15807/12]

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year programme announced recently is focused on meeting those demographic needs. In that context, it was not possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently. The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an early stage of architectural planning. The Design Team has recently been appointed and the Board of Management were authorised to commence Stage 1 (Premliminary Sketch Design). School building projects currently in architectural planning, including the project referred to by the Deputy, will continue to be advanced incrementally over time within the context of the funding available. However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget it is not possible, at this time, to indicate when this project will progress to tender and construction stage.

Brendan Smith

Question:

207 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the stage of the proposed extension refurbishment of a school (details supplied) in County Cavan; when the project is likely to proceed to the next stage; the likely timescale for the project to go to construction stage as it has not been included in his recently published five year programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15808/12]

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year programme announced recently is focused on meeting those demographic needs. In that context, it was not possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently.

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an early stage of architectural planning. The Design Team are currently working on the Stage 2a Submission (Developed Sketch Design).

School building projects currently in architectural planning, including the project referred to by the Deputy, will continue to be advanced incrementally over time within the context of the funding available.

However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget it is not possible, at this time, to indicate when this project will progress to tender and construction stage.

Brendan Smith

Question:

208 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a school building project (details supplied) in County Monaghan will proceed to construction stage; the total investment by him in this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15809/12]

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year programme announced recently is focused on meeting those demographic needs. In that context, it was not possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently.

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

School building projects currently in architectural planning, including the project referred to by the Deputy, will continue to be advanced incrementally over time within the context of the funding available.

However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget, it is not possible to progress this project to tender and construction at this time.

Question No. 209 answered with Question No. 138.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

210 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding funding for a school (details supplied) in County Donegal; and when the school can expect a start date for construction. [15862/12]

I can confirm that the school to which the Deputy refers has applied to my Department for large scale capital funding to provide a new school building.

In accordance with the published criteria for large scale building projects, the project has been assigned a Band 2 rating. Information in respect of the current school building programme along with all assessed applications for major capital works, including this project, is available on the Department's website atwww.education.ie.

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects required to meet demographic demand will be the main focus for capital investment in the coming years. It is not possible, therefore, to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of the project at this time.

Departmental Expenditure

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

211 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if, following the request of the Secretary General of his Department asking him to publish online quarterly purchase orders for goods and services of more than €20,000 procured by his Department, it is his intention to do so and if he will confirm the date on which this information will be published on his Department’s website. [15248/12]

In the Public Service Reform Plan, published in November 2011, there was a commitment that all public bodies would publish purchase orders online by the end of 2012. As a first step, my Department began publishing its purchase orders online in March 2012, and these are available on the Department's website atwww.per.gov.ie.

The Secretary General of my Department will in the near future be writing to all other Secretaries General to ask them to adopt a similar approach in their own Departments and in bodies under their aegis.

Flood Relief

Michael Colreavy

Question:

212 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the steps he will take to protect farmland in Cromane, County Kerry, that is endangered by flooding by seawater; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14646/12]

The Office of Public Works recently allocated €100,000 to Kerry County Council under the the Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme to undertake embankment strengthening works at Cromane in order to mitigate the flood risk in this area.

Departmental Expenditure

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

213 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide in a tabular form a breakdown of the position, salary, allowance and expenses paid to each of the employees of agencies (details supplied) in 2011. [15488/12]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

215 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide in tabular form a breakdown of all costs relating to each of the following internal organisations (details supplied) of his Department. [15492/12]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

216 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide in tabular form a breakdown of all costs relating to each of the following bodies (details supplied) under his Department. [15493/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 213, 215 and 216 together.

The information requested by the Deputy could not be collated in the time available. My Department will respond directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Departmental Agencies

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

214 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide in a tabular form a breakdown of the number of board members and their respective annual remuneration for 2011 of agencies (details supplied). [15489/12]

In response to the Deputy's question the members of the Institute for Public Administration (IPA) Board do not receive fees. While Board members do not travel on official business as members of the Institute, they are entitled to claim travel and subsistence for their attendance at Board and subcommittee meetings. Details in relation to travel and subsistence claims are published in the annual report of the body. The latest annual report available on the IPA website is 2010. A list of the Current Board Members can also be found on the website using the following link:http://www.ipa.ie/en/about/. There are no board members associated with the Special EU Programmes Body.

Questions Nos. 215 and 216 answered with Question No. 213.

Ministerial Travel

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

217 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will set out the mileage claimed by any Minister of State in his Department for each year from 2005 to 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15522/12]

In the period in question the Office of Public Works was under the aegis of the Department of Finance and they will be providing the information requested by the Deputy.

Infrastructure and Capital Investment Programme

Sean Fleming

Question:

218 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the amount of the €3.9 billion allocated to the infrastructure and capital investment programme for 2012 will go towards actual construction activity. [15824/12]

On foot of last year's review of Exchequer capital expenditure led by my Department, I published Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2012-2016 in November last year. This document identifies the Government's key capital strategic priorities for the next five years, emphasising investment which will provide the greatest economic return or which meets urgent social requirements. While most of this investment will lead to construction activity, the capital budget encompasses enterprise supports, research and development capital, agriculture and forestry grants, information technology investment and replacement public transport vehicles, for example.

Of the almost €4 billion allocated for 2012, €514 million is allocated for enterprise supports and research and development capital investment. Investment in enterprise supports has the highest direct employment impact. Accordingly, the review made a point of protecting supports to the enterprise sector primarily through agencies such as Enterprise Ireland and the IDA. The unprecedented level of investment over the past few years and in 2012 delivered through the Enterprise Development Agencies can foster sustainable and valuable employment in the exporting sectors of the economy which will be critical to recovery.

€85 million will be invested in forestry and bio-energy and over €45 million on various agriculture and food development grants. Almost €110 million will be invested in communications and information technology by the Department of Communications Energy and Natural Resources, other Government Departments and Offices, the Gardaí, the health services and the education sector. Other capital moneys may be invested in vehicles or capital equipment grants for example. Ultimately it is a matter for each Minister how they disburse their capital allocations, within the context of relevant Government decisions and the parameters laid out in Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2012-2016.

Health and Safety Regulations

Jim Daly

Question:

219 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he is currently reviewing health and safety regulations for industries involved in the water sports sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15433/12]

As part of my responsibility for workplace health and safety I have responsibility for the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 which sets out, among other things, the roles and obligations of both employers and employees in the workplace and this includes those working in water-sports activities.

The Health and Safety Authority, which comes under the remit of my Department, is the statutory body with responsibility for enforcing occupational safety and health law, promoting the prevention of occupational injury and illness, and providing information and advice to all companies, organisations and individuals on workplace health, safety and welfare. The Authority's remit includes keeping all relevant and associated statutory provisions on occupational safety and health under review and, when necessary, developing new or revised legislative proposals on health and welfare at work for my consideration.

Insofar as the water-sports sector is concerned, the Health and Safety Authority carried out a review of the Safety in Industry (Diving Operations) Regulations, 1981 (S.I. No. 422 of 1981) and subsequently prepared updated "draft" Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Diving) Regulations. These "draft" Regulations are currently being prepared for formal legal settlement. There are no other Regulations specific to the water-sports under review at this time.

Industrial Development

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

220 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the support offered by State agencies to support the development of commercial premises at Dromore West, County Sligo. [15366/12]

Enterprise Ireland supports communities to develop locally owned Community Enterprise Centres, (CECs) which have enabled entrepreneurs to establish, provide employment and to grow their businesses in their own locality, by providing a physical and human support network for emerging entrepreneurs and micro industry.

The CEC scheme was designed as a community led initiative in the form of a partnership between the local community and the State. Its objective has been to enhance the development of an enterprise climate through the provision of infrastructural facilities to support the establishment and expansion of micro enterprises through local community participation in both urban and rural locations.

The following centres in Sligo have received support from Enterprise Ireland under this Scheme:

Ballymote Enterprise Centre,

Sligo Enterprise and Technology Centre (Sligo Airport Business Park Strandhill),

Easkey Enterprise Centre,

North West Life Sciences, Collooney.

The establishment of business incubation centres on higher education campuses across Ireland is also supported through Enterprise Ireland. Such facilities are internationally recognised as an important element of public assistance for technology-intensive start-ups. IT Sligo Business Incubation and Research Centre has been funded by Enterprise Ireland. In addition, St Angela's Food Centre at St Angela's College has received funding from Enterprise Ireland under its RTI Collaboration Networking Scheme.

IDA Ireland provides property solutions to its client companies and those of Enterprise Ireland. IDA's property portfolio in Sligo consists of the following:

Finisklin Business Park — 32.5 hectares,

Business and Technology Park, Finisklin — 10.4 hectares,

Oakfield, Sligo — 32.5 hectares,

Tubbercurry (planned purchase by Sligo County Council) — 1.5 hectares.

IDA does not own any property in Dromore West.

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

221 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the amount of funds, committed to date and their percentage of the overall budget in respect of each of the county enterprise boards, for projects to promote economic growth and jobs for this financial year. [15373/12]

The maintenance of information in relation to the Deputy's question is a day to day operational matter for the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) operating under my Department's remit.

I have therefore asked that the relevant Business Unit based within Enterprise Ireland who perform an administrative coordination function in respect of the CEBs, to compile the information required, which will then be supplied direct to the Deputy.

Departmental Staff

Willie O'Dea

Question:

222 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation precisely when he became aware that the Director of Corporate Enforcement intended to tender his resignation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15399/12]

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

223 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the date on which he or representatives of his Department became aware of the proposed retirement of a person (details supplied). [15426/12]

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

224 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps he took to ensure that the proposed retirement of a person (details supplied) will not be allowed to impact on the ongoing investigation of Anglo Irish Bank. [15428/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 222 to 224, inclusive, together.

On the evening of 16 January 2012, on the margins of a meeting about another matter, I was made aware on an informal basis by an official in my Department of a conversation in which the Director of Corporate Enforcement had discussed his plans to retire. At that stage I was satisfied that discussions were on-going between my officials and the Director. My priority at this and at all stages was to preserve the integrity of the investigation into Anglo Irish Bank. On the afternoon of Friday 27 January, I received formal notification of the Director's intention to retire. On Monday 30 January 2012, I met with the Director and we discussed his retirement, and also the need to preserve the momentum behind the Anglo Irish investigation.

On 28 February 2012, I appointed the outgoing Director as Acting Director of Corporate Enforcement, with effect from 29 February 2012, under the provisions of the Company Law Enforcement Act 2001 as a transitional measure to ensure continuity. The Public Appointments Service is undertaking a competition to recruit a new Director.

Labour Court Recommendations

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

225 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will take action to help ensure that Rehab Group implements outstanding Labour Court recommendations given its failure to do so is depriving workers of payments due to them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15447/12]

The Labour Court conducts hearings on trade disputes and issues recommendations setting out its opinion on the dispute and the terms on which it should be settled. The Labour Court is a court of last resort in the industrial relations process, and it is expected that the parties come to the process in good faith and consequently are prepared to give serious consideration to the Court's recommendation.

However, the system of industrial relations in Ireland is essentially voluntary in nature and recommendations of the Labour Court are not legally binding. Neither the Labour Court, nor I, can compel a company to comply with such recommendations. Ultimately, responsibility for the settlement of a trade dispute rests with the parties to the dispute.

Departmental Agencies

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

226 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide in a tabular format a breakdown of the position, salary, allowance and expenses paid to each of the employees of agencies (details supplied) in 2011. [15478/12]

The information sought by the Deputy is a day to day matter for the agencies. In this regard, I have referred the question to the agencies for direct response to the Deputy.

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

227 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide in a tabular form a breakdown of the number of board members and their respective annual remuneration for 2011 of the agencies (details supplied). [15479/12]

The information sought by the Deputy is as follows:

Remuneration 2011*

Agency

Board Members

Chairperson

Member

Enterprise Ireland

12

€20,520

€11,970

Forfás

13

€20,520

€11,970

IDA Ireland

12

€20,520

€11,970

Science Foundation Ireland

12

€20,520

€11,970

National Consumer Agency

13

€20,520

€11,970

Personal Injuries Assessment Board

11

€20,520

€11,970

Shannon Free Airport Development Co. Ltd.

12

€20,520

€11,970

Health and Safety Authority

12

€11,970

€7,695

National Standards Authority of Ireland

13

€11,970

€7,695

Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority

15

€11,970

€7,695

*These are the annual board fees payable to Chairpersons and Members of the different categories of State Bodies as set down by the nister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Competition Authority

The Authority does not have a typical board. Pursuant to the Competition Act 2002, an executive board of Members of the Competition Authority are employed as salaried Members. The Act provides that there shall be at least 3 and no more than 5 Members of the Authority appointed by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation following a competition held by the Civil Service Commissioners under the Civil Service Commissioners Act 1956.

County and City Enterprise Boards

There are 35 County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs), each of which is an individual company limited by guarantee and appointment to their Boards is effected by ordinary resolution of the Boards of Directors, as set out in the Articles of Association of each Board. Neither the Minister nor the Department has a role in the nomination or appointment of CEB Board members. The average number of Board members on each Board is 14 and all members serve in a voluntary and unpaid capacity.

Intertrade Ireland

InterTradeIreland (ITI) is a North/South Implementation body, set up under the Good Friday Agreement. ITI is jointly funded by this Department and its Northern Ireland counterpart, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, on a 2:1 ratio respectively. ITI's Chairman and Board Members are nominated by the two sponsoring Ministers, 6 from the North and 6 from the South, and appointed by the North South Ministerial Council Joint Secretariat.

The fees are as follows:

Chairperson — €10,882 per annum;

Vice Chair — €13,142 per annum;

Member — €6,996 — €10,285.

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

228 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide in tabular form a list of all agencies and bodies and internal organisations under his aegis. [15505/12]

Details of the Offices and Agencies under the aegis of my Department are set out in Tables 1 and 2 below. In providing this information, I have taken it that the Deputy's reference to internal organisations refers to the Offices of the Department.

Table 1: Offices under the aegis of the Department

Companies Registration Office

Employment Appeals Tribunal

Labour Court

Labour Relations Commission

National Employment Rights Authority

Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement

Office of the Registrar of Friendly Societies

Patents Office

Table 2: Bodies/Agencies under the aegis of the Department

City and County Enterprise Boards (35)

Competition Authority

Enterprise Ireland

Forfás

Health and Safety Authority

IDA Ireland

InterTrade Ireland (the North / South Trade and Business Development Body)

Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority

National Consumer Agency

National Standards Authority of Ireland

Personal Injuries Assessment Board

Science Foundation Ireland

Shannon Development

Ministerial Travel

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

229 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will set out the mileage claimed by any Minister of State in his Department for each year from 2005 to 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15520/12]

In accordance with the Government Decision of 16th September 1983, as amended by the Government Decision of 7th February 1984, Ministers of State attached to my Department use their private cars for official duties. Under this arrangement mileage expenses are claimed in accordance with rates and regulations set down by the Department of Finance. The mileage rates payable include capital costs as well as depreciation, comprehensive insurance (Class 1), maintenance and petrol.

I wish to advise the Deputy that mileage expenses are paid and claimed in arrears. Please find in the table below the annual totals paid in respect of mileage expenses to Ministers of State in my Department during the period January 2005 to December 2010.

Total Mileage Paid to Ministers of State 2005 to 2010

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

Total

Tony Killeen

40,965.6

31,711.94

21,315.6(up to June 07)

93,993.14

Michael Ahern

31,430.34

26,132.18

32,613.82

16,029.11(up to May 08)

106,205.45

John McGuinness

12,421.75(from June 07)

46,254.43

20,253.85(up to April 09)

78,930.03

Jimmy Devins

16,573.07(from May 08)

14,729.91(up to April 09)

31,302.98

Billy Kelleher

16,537.79(from June 07)

38,502.47

33,255.29

26,032.88

114,328.43

Dara Calleary

12,486.93(from April 09)

18,999.64

31,486.57

Conor Lenihan

7,536.39(from April 09)

11,150.06

18,686.45

Frank Fahey

12,923.40(Jan. to Sep. 04)

12,923.40

85,319.34

57,844.12

82,888.96

117,359.08

88,262.37

56,182.58

487,856.45

EU Directives

Catherine Murphy

Question:

230 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide a list of all the written representations made to him or the Minister of State with responsibility for research and innovation regarding S.I. No. 59 of 2012, the European Union (Copyright and Related Rights) Regulations 2012, the organisation those representations came from, if any applicable, and the date of their receipt, all presented in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15561/12]

I will provide the Deputy with a list of all the written representations made to me and to Minister Bruton regarding S.I. No. 59 of 2012, the European Union (Copyright and Related Rights) Regulations 2012. It should be noted that this information has recently been released by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation following a request under the Freedom of Information Act 1997.

Science and Technology Groups

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

231 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the budget of Science Foundation Ireland each year; the way this is spent; the number of individual businesses that have benefitted; if he will detail examples of this help and the businesses that have benefitted; the key performance indicators with regards sales, exports, jobs and research and development; the way this compares and contrasts internationally; the plans to develop SFI in the next three years; and what all Ireland work is carried out by SFI. [15652/12]

Science Foundation Ireland's capital grant budget for 2012 is €156m. The SFI awards, which are awarded on a competitive basis, are made directly to research performing institutions in the state and are typically multi-annual in nature spanning a three to five year term. Such awards are subject to regular rigorous scientific and strategic review by SFI.

The Foundation's pay budget for 2012 is €4.433m in respect of 52.5 staffing positions. The administrative programme costs associated with running its various programmes amounts to €4.236m. These amounts include provision in respect of the Discover Science and Engineering programme, for which responsibility has recently been transferred from Forfás to SFI. In addition a further €5m of current expenditure is provided through SFI to allow the Irish research community access to key international scientific journals and databases which are an important element underpinning the national research effort. SFI is specifically mandated to focus excellence in research investments through the higher educational sector in the areas of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT), Biotechnology and Sustainable Energy and Energy Efficient Technologies .

The 2012 funding provision to SFI will allow it to maintain its support to 28 top-class research centres and approximately 3,000 researcher positions across Ireland's third level sector. SFI researchers are collaborating with over 530 distinct companies which employ in excess of 82,000 people in Ireland. The numerous examples of the businesses connected to SFI researchers/teams and how SFI funded research is delivering for Irish enterprise are highlighted onwww.sfi.ie. From a global perspective, and in a relatively short timeframe, the Foundation has been exceptionally successful in fulfilling its remit by building Ireland’s human capital in areas of research linked to the future development and competitiveness of industry and enterprise in the State. From a low ranking in the mid-1980s, to a ranking of 36th in 2003, Ireland’s global ranking for scientific quality then broke into the global Top 20 in 2009. That ranking has since been maintained. In a number of specific areas, largely underpinned by SFI investments, Ireland has also achieved even higher rankings such as:

3rd in the world for the quality of its research in Immunology (an area which is of major importance to Life Sciences companies),

8th in the world for the quality of its research in Materials Science (an area of major importance to Semiconductor companies).

A major impact attributable to SFI has been, and continues to be, its underpinning role for the enterprise and job creation activities of IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. SFI's activities are helping to create magnets of attraction for foreign direct investment in Ireland.

For example, in 2004 10% of the foreign direct investment approvals achieved by IDA Ireland that were research, development and innovation (RD&I) based, were valued at €120m. In 2009 and 2010 the new client R&DI based approvals achieved by the IDA for both years were valued at €500m. In 2011 the value of new RD&I based approvals grew further to approximately €700m. Therefore there has been an almost sixfold gain on the 2004 capacity in little over 7 years. SFI has been an important contributory factor in this achievement as Ireland is now recognised internationally as a global research player in a number of scientific disciplines.

In addition Forfás data has shown that, over the last decade, exports, employment and value-added in R&D-performing firms in Ireland has far outstripped firms that do not performR&D. As regards all-Island activities, SFI administers the Charles Parsons Energy Research awards which were established in late 2006. Seven research groups/centres are funded through these awards, including the Electrical Power and Energy Systems Research Cluster at Queens University Belfast, and the Centre for Sustainable Technologies (CST) at the University of Ulster.

Also in the context of North-South science, technology and innovation initiatives, SFI encourages research collaboration and offers supplementary awards to its funded community to assist collaboration efforts with researchers based in higher education institutions in Northern Ireland.

In addition SFI funded researchers are also directly involved with researchers from Northern Ireland as part of the US-Ireland R&D programme, a tripartite international agreement covering a number of common research themes, primarily in the Life Sciences.

In relation to the future development of SFI, legislative amendments are in preparation to allow the extension of SFI's remit into the area of applied research in order to support the development of research findings into commercial opportunities. This is in line with the provisions in the Programme for Government regarding accelerating the exploitation of research and turning inventions into products.

The proposed Bill will also ensure that the strategic focus of SFI is aligned with areas that have the greatest potential to deliver sustainable economic return through enterprise development, employment creation and quality of life, in accordance with the findings of the recently-published National Research Prioritisation Exercise.

The Bill will also provide Science Foundation Ireland with the legal power to fund research projects related to its strategic areas of focus in Northern Ireland and, subject to the consent of the Minister, participate in collaborative funding schemes, related to its strategic areas of focus, with countries of the European Economic Area or other countries.

Work Permits

Dan Neville

Question:

232 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if an application for a work permit will be processed without further delay in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12. [15677/12]

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. I wish to advise the Deputy that a work permit application in respect of the above named was received in my Department on 13 March 2012. Work permit applications are processed in date of receipt order by permit type and this application will be processed in sequence.

Departmental Functions

Simon Harris

Question:

233 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if there is a section within his Department’s set up to promote opportunities for Irish businesses to export to China and for investment into this country from China; the number of persons in his Department who work on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15678/12]

My Department's strategies for promoting exports and winning inward investment have been remarkably successful. A tailored approach has been developed in each of our priority markets to ensure the most effective return in terms of export growth and inward investment, from the resources at my disposal.

This involves the enterprise development agencies taking the lead on the practical arrangements needed to help exporters and to promote Ireland as a prime location for inward investment. Some of this activity involves both Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland having offices in key locations in priority markets so they can help exporters on the ground and be a single point of local contact to promote foreign direct investment.

This direct involvement in our key markets has worked well. It is a well proven and a more preferable approach to growing our trade and investment agenda than providing dedicated units in my Department for each priority market. By their very nature, country specific promotion units located in Dublin would be far too removed from the essential local market connections necessary to grow trade and investment opportunities.

However, new arrangements have been put in place so that market plans for all our priority markets are regularly considered by the Export Trade Council on which I and a number of Ministers participate. This provides the opportunity for considerable joined up evaluation and planning across Government to promote every facet of trade, tourism and investment in each of our global priority markets. Furthermore there are a range of actions set out in the Government's Action Plan for Jobs to encourage and support firmer economic ties with China. This also includes help for businesses that might not be existing clients of the agencies but that might have a compelling export proposal.

My staff and those in the agencies provide a range of generic business focussed or policy supports to enterprise. Many of these would be important to exporters and support stronger connections with China, but are equally relevant to other markets as well. Consequently, it is not possible to provide details, across both my Department and its agencies, of the numbers involved in promoting trade and investment with China.

However I can say that Enterprise Ireland has 3 offices in China with a staff complement of 10 and IDA Ireland has 2 offices located there employing 4. In addition each agency has a number of staff with considerable experience of China in addition to some that are Chinese speakers.

Following my forthcoming trade mission to China this week with An Taoiseach I propose, in conjunction with my Cabinet colleagues, to review the arrangements for coordinating our focus on trade and investment with China.

Official Engagements

Simon Harris

Question:

234 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when he intends to travel to China to meet Chinese leaders; the specific priorities of this trip; the proposed composition of the delegation to accompany him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15679/12]

Later today I will travel to China for an intensive, seven day, four city programme to pursue trade and investment opportunities with that country. In addition to my own programme, early next week I will accompany the Taoiseach at meetings with senior Chinese leaders in Beijing. These meetings will build on the political and economic momentum achieved during the recent very successful visit to Ireland of the Chinese Vice President, Xi Jinping.

About 130 executives from 90 Irish companies will participate on this Mission. My engagements are designed to directly help their immediate export intentions and to support their longer term strategies to develop the huge potential of the Chinese market. My plans cover a range of events that include meetings and introductions to Chinese partners so that our exporters can build the necessary relationships from which substantial long term trade and investment opportunities will flow.

I will also be promoting the attraction of Ireland as a prime location for investment from Chinese companies. An extensive programme of events to pursue such investment has been arranged.

In addition to the participating company representatives, I will be accompanied by senior officials from the key State Agencies especially Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland and relevant officials from my Department.

This Mission represents a cohesive and integrated initiative by the relevant State Departments and bodies to pursue attractive opportunities in the dynamic Chinese economy.

Departmental Agencies

Simon Harris

Question:

235 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of staff that Enterprise Ireland has based in China; the budget they have for their work on behalf of this country in China; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15680/12]

China is a key priority market for Enterprise Ireland with growth in Irish company exports to this market of 10% in 2010 and in excess of 10% in 2011. There are now over 130 Irish companies with permanent offices in China.

Enterprise Ireland has three offices in China, in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Enterprise Ireland's staff complement in China totals ten, comprised of two expatriate staff from Ireland, six locally recruited staff and two graduate interns. Staff have extensive experience of working with Enterprise Ireland's client base in Ireland and in-depth specific in-market expertise and knowledge of China. Enterprise Ireland also has two Dublin based executives dedicated to China working in its High Growth Markets Team.

In addition, Enterprise Ireland is also in the process of expanding its "Pathfinder" network in China. "Pathfinders" are external sector or trade consultants with specialist expertise who allow Enterprise Ireland to augment its geographic reach and sector expertise.

Enterprise Ireland has a budget of €1.79m for 2012 devoted to this market to cover all operational and client support costs.

National Minimum Wage

John McGuinness

Question:

236 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the action he will take to clarify or add to SI 99 National Minimum Wage Act 2000, relative to the need to include hairdressing apprentices; if the existing course or apprenticeship period which has grown by custom and practice will be recognised by NERA until amending legislation is put in place; if pending cases against employers will be suspended until the matter is sorted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15750/12]

The National Minimum Wage Act, 2000 (Prescribed Courses of Study or Training) Regulations, 2000 (S.I. No. 99 of 2000) set out the criteria to which a course of study/training must comply in order for an employer to apply the sub-minimum rates as required under Section 16 of the National Minimum Wage Act, 2000.

The Statutory Instrument provides that structured training must be split into three equal parts of not less than one month and not more than twelve months each. The employee's participation on such a course must be directed or approved by the employer and any fees concerned must be paid by the employer. A prescribed course must also contain the following essential elements:

the acquisition of skills and or knowledge to enhance the work performance of the employee on the completion of the course;

involve directed study or training;

involve workplace training;

involve supervision during workplace training;

include a system of recording progress;

involve an assessment or certification procedure of the employee's completion of the course which shall include the level of attainment of the employee against the objectives of the course.

The provision for trainee rates under Section 16 of the National Minimum Wage Act, 2000, recognises that an employee undergoing training should not be paid the same minimum wage as an experienced employee. It is also a requirement of the Act that for an employer to apply the sub-minimum rates, the training or study should lead to certification. The Regulations made under the Act have been designed to ensure that employers can only benefit from the training rate where a genuine and structured training course has been put in place. This serves to exclude mere short-term induction type training or spurious training which does not have the characteristics prescribed in the Regulations.

With regard to the recognition of training practices in the hairdressing industry, I understand that the Irish Hairdressers Federation is currently undergoing Provider Registration with the FETAC/QQAAI system. One of the objectives of this process is that the Federation will be able to deliver relevant hairdressing qualifications to apprentices as part of the National Framework of Qualifications. The Federation aims to be in a position to define the depth, breadth and type of learning required for apprenticeships on a national basis if so required, and to ensure that the overall process is defined by learning outcomes and credits as opposed to the current "time served" protocols. I understand that the proposed training accreditation process will extend to all stakeholders within the hairdressing industry.

Finally, in circumstances where NERA inspectors find that the criteria specified in the National Minimum Wage Act, 2000 (Prescribed Courses of Study or Training) Regulations, 2000 (S.I. No. 99 of 2000) are not being met, NERA has no option but to ensure that the full adult rate is paid to experienced adult workers (workers with two years experience over the age of 18).

Enterprise Support Services

John O'Mahony

Question:

237 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the reason he has not accessed the European microfinance programme which makes available €25,000 for small enterprises of fewer than ten employees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15791/12]

The European Progress Microfinance Facility is a European Investment Fund (EIF) initiative to support entrepreneurship and employment through microfinance activities. It was established by the EU Commission in 2010.

It does not directly provide microfinance to either Member States' Governments or small businesses. Instead, following a rigorous due diligence process, selected microfinance providers across the EU who fulfil the requirements are accredited by the EIF and can avail of supports designed to increase lending into the Microenterprise sector.

Specifically, capped guarantees may be provided to eligible intermediaries partially covering their portfolios of micro-loans, or loan facilities may be availed of to increase lending to micro-enterprises. The guarantees provided are intended to mitigate bad debts incurred in the lending operations. Microfinance providers may apply for the guarantee, or for the loan facility, but may not avail of both. Eligible intermediaries are institutions that provide microfinance loans and/or guarantees to individuals or micro-enterprises established in the EU Member States. To apply to become an intermediary, interested institutions must submit a formal application for Progress Microfinance micro-credit guarantee directly to the EIF. Any EU microfinance institution may apply to the EIF under this Facility and State involvement is not a prerequisite.

I am currently finalising the delivery structures for a State-backed 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. Following establishment of the Microfinance Fund, application will be made for the EIF guarantee facility under the European Progress Microfinance Facility.

Work Permits

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

238 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will examine an application for a work permit in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15793/12]

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. I wish to advise the Deputy that a work permit application in respect of the above named was received in my Department on 15 March 2012. Work permit applications are processed in date of receipt order and by permit type and this application will be processed in sequence.

Redundancy Payments

John O'Mahony

Question:

239 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their rebate payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14882/12]

Five redundancy rebate claims in respect of the company concerned were received on 28 July 2011. Redundancy rebate claims received in late May 2011 are currently being processed.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

240 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps she is taking to ensure that rent allowance is not paid to households that are engaged in anti-social behaviour; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14885/12]

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The overall aim is to provide short term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer. There are currently some 95,200 rent supplement recipients, with a forecast outturn of €503m in 2011.

In the case of private rented accommodation, tenancy arrangements involve a contract between the landlord and tenant and tenant behaviour is a matter for the landlord in the first instance. There are a number of avenues open to landlords in such cases, including the mediation service for landlords and tenants operated by the Private Residential Tenancies Board and/or recourse to the Garda Síochána and/or the Courts in relation to the enforcement of the law in dealing with anti-social or criminal behaviour. If necessary, the landlord may seek termination of the tenancy which, if effected, would result in the termination of rent supplement.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to review the operation of the rent supplement scheme with a view to introducing a code of conduct for rent supplement eligibility similar to that which operates for local authority tenants.

The purpose of this review is to ensure that tenants who are receiving long term support from the State under the rent supplement scheme are subject to the same type of anti-social behaviour regime as local authority tenants. The most appropriate way for this to happen is for local authorities to take over responsibility for meeting the accommodation needs of these individuals. The Department are currently working with the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government with a view to achieving this goal. Indeed this transfer of tenants from rent supplement to the local authorities will help achieve another key Government commitment of removing barriers to employment and returning rent supplement to its original intention of a short-term income support payment.

In addition I would point out that social welfare legislation already provides the Department with the authority to refuse, suspend or terminate payment of a rent supplement in the case of a person who has been required to deliver up possession of a dwelling provided by a housing authority or an approved body where the reasons for that requirement include anti-social behaviour or the interests of good estate management.

Departmental Staff

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

241 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Social Protection the plans that are in place to fill the two executive officer positions vacant in her Department’s offices in Ballina, County Mayo; the priority being afforded to this considering the pressures on this front-line office; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14898/12]

The HR Division of my Department is currently working on sourcing 2 Executive Officers, by way of redeployment or transfer, to fill vacancies in the local office in Ballina. The staffing needs of the Department are continuously reviewed, having regard to workloads and the competing demands arising.

National Internship Scheme

Jack Wall

Question:

242 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the JobBridge scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14900/12]

In order to qualify for an Internship, an individual must be in receipt of a live jobseeker's claim and have been in receipt of jobseekers allowance or jobseekers benefit, or signing for credits, for a minimum of 78 days in the previous six months. Time spent on certain Government sponsored training may also be taken into account when calculating eligibility.

Providing the individual fulfils all the JobBridge eligibility criteria regarding jobseekers allowance/benefit, persons in part-time employment can participate in JobBridge, the National Internship Scheme provided that their employer is not the provider of the internship. The intern must advise their Social Welfare Office of their continued part-time employment while undertaking an internship.

A standard Internship week will range from 30-40 hours per week. Therefore an intern will be required to participate on the Scheme for a minimum of 30 hours and a maximum of 40 hours per week. Hence, an additional requirement is that the part-time employment does not interfere with the minimum weekly hours (thirty) of the internship.

My Department continues to monitor and review the eligibility criteria for the JobBridge programme on an on-going basis.

Individuals who are not in receipt of social welfare payments and who are working part-time may also access the Work Placement Programme wherein there is a minimum requirement to work 25 hours per week with a Host Organisation.

Social Welfare Appeals

Michael Creed

Question:

243 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an invalidity pension appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14901/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 14 November 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 24 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.

Pat Breen

Question:

244 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for domiciliary allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14902/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an oral hearing of the appeal of the person concerned took place on 6 March 2012 and the Appeals Officer is now considering the appeal in the light of all the evidence submitted, including that adduced at the hearing. The person concerned will be notified of the Appeals Officer decision when the appeal has been determined. 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.

Dara Calleary

Question:

245 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [14950/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 14 March 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred in due course to an Appeals Officer for consideration. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

General Register Office

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

246 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 129 of 19 January 2012, when a response will issue from the Health Service Executive. [14961/12]

As the subject matter of the previous Parliamentary Question referred to by the Deputy is the responsibility of the HSE, the question was referred to the HSE for direct reply to the Deputy. As no reply has been received by the Deputy, the matter will be referred to the HSE again with a request that the matter be dealt with urgently

Question No. 247 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Appeals

Pat Breen

Question:

248 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision for review of disability allowance will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14990/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 5 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 2 February 2012 and the appeal was assigned to an Appeals Officer for consideration on 14 February 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.

Simon Harris

Question:

249 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will account for a delay of six weeks in sending a file (details supplied) within her Department in order that it may be assessed for appeal; her view on the delay in view of the financial pressure being experienced by the family concerned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14998/12]

As part of the appeal process in this case, the domiciliary care allowance (DCA) file for the person in question was reviewed by a Departmental medical assessor on 2 March 2012. The child was found to be eligible for DCA and the customer was notified of this revised decision on 8 March 2012. As her claim has been awarded, the appeal in this case has been cancelled.

Dara Calleary

Question:

250 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an illness benefit application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [15008/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 11 July 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 10 February 2012 and the appeal was assigned to an Appeals Officer for consideration on 16 February 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.

Redundancy Payments

Sandra McLellan

Question:

251 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Social Protection when the Government insolvency fund will be paid out in respect of workers (details supplied) in County Cork.; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15009/12]

Insolvency payment claims for 27 former employees of the company were received on 16 August 2011. The Department is currently processing claims received at the beginning of July 2011, and these claims will be processed in due course. These payments will be made from the Social Insurance Fund

Social Welfare Appeals

Brendan Griffin

Question:

252 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15230/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 23 September 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 13 February 2012 and the appeal was assigned to an Appeals Officer for consideration on 15 March 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.

Jim Daly

Question:

253 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a widows pension in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15251/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned has been referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case.

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 and 2011 when the intake rose to 32,432 and 31,241 respectively. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but s/he will be informed when arrangements have been made. 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.

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

254 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal against refusal of a disability allowance claim in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; if this will be personally examined by a medical assessor on behalf of her Department; and that the process of the appeal be expedited. [15263/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 14 February 2012. 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 14 March 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.

Social Welfare Benefits

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

255 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Social Protection the childcare supports available to a person (details supplied) in County Dublin. [15276/12]

The person concerned is currently in receipt of the one-parent family payment at a weekly rate of €237.80 (personal rate €188 plus one child dependent €29.80 and fuel allowance €20). The person is also in receipt of child benefit.

The Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) is a weekly allowance paid at a standard rate and is not means-tested. In addition to the weekly BTEA payment, a person will get an annual Cost of Education Allowance of €300, paid at the start of each academic year. If the person qualifies for the Back to Education Allowance, they will retain their social welfare payment including the child dependent rate. They would also retain the child benefit.

There is no current application for the person concerned for the Back to Education Allowance. It is open to the person to apply for this allowance at their local social welfare office

The provision of childcare is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

Social Welfare Appeals

John McGuinness

Question:

256 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if full rate of jobseeker’s allowance will be paid to a person (details supplied). [15296/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case.

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 and 2011 when the intake rose to 32,432 and 31,241 respectively. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but s/he will be informed when arrangements have been made.

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.

Questions Nos. 257 to 259, inclusive, withdrawn.

Community Care

Pearse Doherty

Question:

260 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the effects that budget cuts to community employment schemes are having on centres for independent living who provide a personal assistance service for persons with disability to enable them to achieve independent living; if her further attention has been drawn to the fact that centres for independent living have had to implement wage, administration and overhead cuts to offset previous reductions in funding and these present cuts will see centres having to reduce personal assistants hours, who provide a sustainable living environment for people with disabilities. [15330/12]

I acknowledge the valuable contribution made by Community Employment Projects such as the Centres for Independent Living (CIL) in providing a service to both participants and the community. However due to the current economic circumstances, this Department has had to find significant savings in the Budget for 2012. The reduction only applies to the grant for materials and training and represents a reduction of 7.5% of the overall expenditure on Community Employment in 2011. The allowance grants for Supervisors are unchanged, as are the working hours for staff employed under Community Employment. There will be no decrease in the number of Community Employment places allocated to CIL in 2012.

Department officials have met with representatives of CIL on a number of occasions and are very mindful of the challenges facing these centres and are very supportive within the parameters set down for Community Employment.

Social Welfare Appeals

Billy Timmins

Question:

261 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a jobseeker’s payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15337/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 20 December 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 5 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.

Tom Hayes

Question:

262 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal on a decision to disallow a claim for an invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15357/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 10 September 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 29 February 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.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Patrick Nulty

Question:

263 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Social Protection the instances in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012 where rent supplement was paid in excess of the rent caps; the average amount in excess that was paid; the reason given for the payment in particular the instances where homelessness was a factor; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15359/12]

Rent supplement is subject to a limit on the amount of rent that an applicant may incur. The general practice is that rent supplement is not paid where the rent is above the relevant limit. However rent supplement may be paid in cases where the rent is above the relevant limit in the following circumstances:

Where there are special housing needs related to exceptional circumstances (in particular, for example, a person with a disability in specially-adapted accommodation or homeless persons whose housing needs cannot be met within the standard terms of the rent supplement scheme, etc.)

Where the person concerned is entitled to an income disregard AND has sufficient income to meet his or her basic needs after paying rent, taking into account the appropriate rate of rent supplement that is otherwise payable in the case. "Sufficient income" in this context means the relevant basic supplementary welfare allowance rate less the prescribed minimum contribution to rent.

Where the tenant will be in a position to re-assume responsibility for his/her rent within a short period. For this purpose, a guideline period of no longer than 6 to 8 weeks is suggested but where there are exceptional circumstances, an extension up to a total of 12 weeks may be allowed.

Statistics are not available on the exact number of cases where rent supplement was paid in excess of the maximum rent limit. New maximum rent limits came into force on 1 January 2012. These new limits are in line with the most up to date market data available. The emphasis of the rent supplement limit review was to ensure that maximum value for money for tenants and the taxpayer was achieved whilst at the same time ensuring that people on rent supplement are not priced out of the market for private rented accommodation. Department officials dealing with rent supplement tenants will continue to ensure that their accommodation needs are met; there will no incidence of homelessness due to these changes.

Question No. 264 withdrawn.

Pension Provisions

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

265 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will urgently clarify a situation (details supplied) in respect of a person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15376/12]

The matter in question has been referred to the Pension Service of the Department of Work and Pensions, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England. The Pension Services of the Department of Work and Pensions will contact the person concerned directly in relation to this matter.

National Internship Scheme

Simon Harris

Question:

266 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection the timeframe for the extension of JobBridge to persons with disabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15416/12]

My Department continues to monitor and review the operation of the JobBridge scheme including its eligibility criteria on an ongoing basis. The extension of JobBridge to those in receipt of Disability Allowances forms part of this broader review process. This review process is at an advanced stage and it is anticipated that I may be in a position to present formal proposals in the coming weeks.

Family Income Supplement

Clare Daly

Question:

267 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection if it is the case that those completing the An Bord Altranais requirement at the end of a nursing degree to complete a six month paid internship are ineligible for family income supplement while doing so; and if this is the case, to ask that this could be changed so that the FIS scheme could incorporate persons, especially lone parents in this situation. [15437/12]

The family income supplement (FIS) payment provides income support for employees on low earnings with children. The payment preserves the incentive to remain in employment in circumstances where the employee might only be marginally better off than if he or she were unemployed and claiming other social welfare payments.

To qualify for payment of FIS, a person must be engaged in full-time insurable employment which is expected to last for at least 3 months and be working for a minimum of 38 hours per fortnight or 19 hours per week. The applicant must also have at least one qualified child who normally resides with him/her or is supported by him/her. Furthermore, the average family income must be below a specified amount which varies according to the number of qualified children in the family. In order to determine eligibility for payment in any individual case, an application form should be submitted in conjunction with supporting documentation to the Department's FIS section. Further information, including application forms, on all schemes administered by the Department is available on the Department's website:www.welfare.ie

Invalidity Pension

Brendan Griffin

Question:

268 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on an appeal for invalidity pension will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15440/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 14 March 2012. 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. When received, the appeal in question will be referred in due course to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

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

Departmental Agencies

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

269 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide in a tabular form a breakdown of the position, salary, allowance and expenses paid to each of the employees of agencies (details supplied) in 2011. [15484/12]

There are two agencies under the remit of the Department, the Pensions Board and the Citizen's Information Board. A breakdown of the salary, allowance and expenses paid to each of the employees is set out the following tabular format:

Pensions Board

Grade

Annual Salary Rate

Expenses(paid directly to employees or on their behalf)

Chief Executive Officer

€153,885

€16,586

Principal Officer

€105,429

Principal Officer

€105,429

€1,916

Principal Officer

€105,429

Principal Officer

€97,417

€1,354

Principal Officer

€100,446

Principal Officer

€104,327

€10,186

Principal Officer

€97,417

€628

Principal Officer

€87,595

Assistant Principal

€37,257

€202

Assistant Principal

€78,302

€2,342

Assistant Principal

€40,339

Assistant Principal

€75,934

Assistant Principal

€61,966

€1,266

Assistant Principal

€72,235

€2,456

Assistant Principal

€74,581

Assistant Principal

€65,185

€465

Assistant Principal

€65,185

€1,588

Assistant Principal

€65,185

Higher Executive Officer

€56,314

Higher Executive Officer

€46,081

€360

Higher Executive Officer

€46,081

€10

Higher Executive Officer

€57,251

€292

Higher Executive Officer

€46,081

€1,061

Higher Executive Officer

€51,581

Higher Executive Officer

€48,831

Higher Executive Officer

€46,081

Executive Officer

€47,379

€411

Executive Officer

€30,516

€41

Executive Officer

€37,588

Executive Officer

€43,909

€10

Executive Officer

€47,591

Executive Officer

€44,967

Executive Officer

€30,516

€293

Executive Officer

€30,516

€383

Executive Officer

€32,379

Clerical Officer

€28,583

€364

Clerical Officer

€36,753

Clerical Officer

€35,471

Clerical Officer

€32,795

Clerical Officer

€35,471

Clerical Officer

€31,192

Clerical Officer

€26,420

Clerical Officer

€26,420

Clerical Officer

€34,954

€486

Clerical Officer

€20,859

Clerical Officer

€20,859

€24

Clerical Officer

€20,859

Citizen's Information Board

Grade

Salary 2011

Expenses 2011

Chief Executive Officer

€117,570

€ 0

Principal Officer

€100,446

€850

Principal Officer Modified

€86,507

€544

Assistant Principal Officer

€80,678

€296

Assistant Principal Officer

€80,678

€115

Assistant Principal Officer

€78,302

Assistant Principal Officer

€80,678

€719

Assistant Principal Officer

€ 80,678

€8,961

Assistant Principal Officer

€80,678

€9,794

Assistant Principal Officer

€75,934

€9,795

Assistant Principal Officer

€80,678

€852

Assistant Principal Officer

€62,775

Assistant Principal Officer

€72,879

€1,759

Assistant Principal Officer

€73,212

€121

Higher Executive Officer (Higher)

€60,224

€6,143

Higher Executive Officer (Higher)

€65,230

€2,917

Higher Executive Officer

€29,894

€96

Higher Executive Officer

€29,957

€4,777

Higher Executive Officer

€29,957

€87

Higher Executive Officer

€29,957

Higher Executive Officer

€55,113

€703

Higher Executive Officer

€64,057

€528

Higher Executive Officer

€59,574

€5,795

Higher Executive Officer

€29,957

€4,412

Higher Executive Officer

€60,224

€7,841

Higher Executive Officer

€59,158

€9,643

Higher Executive Officer

€59,913

€3,647

Higher Executive Officer

€59,913

Higher Executive Officer

€59,913

€1,563

Higher Executive Officer

€29,957

€1,126

Higher Executive Officer

€59,913

€1,801

Higher Executive Officer

€59,404

€2,564

Higher Executive Officer

€57,876

€812

Higher Executive Officer

€27,001

€1,988

Higher Executive Officer

€58,074

€357

Higher Executive Officer

€59,913

€6,617

Higher Executive Officer

€57,876

€3,252

Higher Executive Officer

€34,726

Higher Executive Officer

€28,682

Higher Executive Officer

€25,916

€683

Higher Executive Officer

€57,876

€4,762

Higher Executive Officer

€29,420

€3,361

Higher Executive Officer

€16,516

Higher Executive Officer

€28,938

€1,939

Higher Executive Officer

€41,242

€22

Higher Executive Officer

€12,041

€744

Higher Executive Officer

€43,847

Higher Executive Officer

€25,217

€181

Higher Executive Officer

€46,301

€116

Higher Executive Officer

€52,927

€38

Higher Executive Officer

€32,959

€1,441

Higher Executive Officer

€61,788

€1,301

Higher Executive Officer

€57,617

Higher Executive Officer

€51,629

€7,334

Higher Executive Officer

€44,122

€2,109

Higher Executive Officer

€57,876

€44

Higher Executive Officer

€4,359

€1,338

Higher Executive Officer

€27,308

€2,596

Higher Executive Officer

€34,996

Higher Executive Officer

€27,634

€99

Executive Officer

€36,627

Clerical Officer

€52,532

Grade III

€37,341

€1,631

Grade III

€18,671

€1,468

Grade III

€37,341

€1,421

Grade III

€37,341

€3,578

Grade III

€37,341

€8,623

Grade III

€29,234

€65

Grade III

€37,341

€318

Grade III

€16,534

€1,442

Grade III

€35,919

€2,636

Grade III

€30,059

Grade III

€30,927

Grade III

€35,761

€4,216

Grade III

€26,746

Grade III

€26,553

€96

Grade IV

€6,250

Grade IV

€41,771

€975

Grade IV

€21,446

€727

Grade IV

€47,561

Grade IV

€40,209

€99

Grade IV

€42,891

€298

Grade IV

€6,250

Grade IV

€39,230

€892

Grade IV

€40,209

€148

Grade IV

€19,886

€2,297

Grade IV

€34,372

Grade IV

€37,799

€31

Grade IV

€42,262

Grade IV

€40,209

€506

Grade IV

€21,446

€895

Grade V

€45,770

Grade V

€48,496

€2,031

Grade V

€46,460

€ 0

Grade V

€13,636

Grade VII

€64,696

€1,124

Services Officer

€14,124

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

270 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide in a tabular form a breakdown of the number of board members and their respective annual remuneration for 2011 of agencies (details supplied). [15485/12]

Details of the fees paid to members of the Citizens Information Board and the Pensions Board in 2011 are set out in the following tables:

Agency/Board

Member

Fees €

Citizens Information Board (CIB)

Sylda Langford — ChairpersonMichael ButlerLaurie CarrPat Fitzpatrick*Michael Healy-RaeJosephine Henry*Eugene McErleanMichael McGauneMartin NaughtonSandra RonayneJohn SheehySean SweeneyPatricia WalshMargaret ZhengDaragh O’ConnorFiona WardNoelene Blackwell

8,9785,9855,9855,9852,9515,9851,9025,9855,9855,9855,9855,9855,9854,985NilNilNil

Pensions Board

Jane Williams — ChairpersonDon O’HigginsEmer O’FlanaganJohn McHaleNoreen DeeganBrendan JohnstonRosalind BriggsTerence NooneMary WalsheRachel RyanNiall WalshRobin WebsterPhelim O’ReillyDavid OwensKevin FinucanePatricia Murphy

11,9707,6957,695*7,0547,6957,6957,6957,6957,6957,6957,6957,6957,695NilNilNil

*Part Year payment.

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

271 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide in tabular form a list of all agencies and bodies and internal organisations under her aegis. [15507/12]

A list of the statutory bodies and internal organisations under the aegis of my Department is set out in the following table:

Statutory Bodies

Social Welfare Tribunal

The Social Welfare Tribunal is a statutory body set up in 1982 to deal with cases where entitlement to Jobseeker’s Benefit or Jobseeker’s Allowance is refused due to an involvement in a trade dispute. Where a person feels unreasonably deprived of employment because an employer refused or failed to engage in the mediation process for settling disputes, application may be made to the Tribunal for adjudication on the matter.

The Citizens Information Board

The Citizens Information Board is the national agency responsible for supporting the provision of information, advice and advocacy on social services and for the provision of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS).

The Pensions Board

The Pensions Board is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Pensions Act 1990 (as amended), which provides for the regulation of occupational pensions and Personal Retirement Savings Accounts. The Board also advises the Minister in relation to pension policy.

The Office of the Pensions Ombudsman

The Office of the Pensions Ombudsman investigates complaints of financial losses due to maladministration and disputes of fact or law, in relation to occupational pension schemes and Personal Retirement Savings Accounts. The Pensions Ombudsman is a statutory officer and exercises his functions independently.

Internal Organisations

The Civil Registration Service

The Civil Registration Service provides for the registrations of births, deaths and marriages in the State. It is managed by the General Register Office in Roscommon, while registration services are provided by registrars appointed by the Health Service Executive (HSE) at various locations across the State. The GRO also operates a genealogical research facility in Dublin.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office

The Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO), which was established in January 1991, is an office of the Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements and insurability of employment.

Ministerial Travel

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

272 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will set out the mileage claimed by any Minister of State in her Department for each year from 2005 to 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15523/12]

There has been no Minister of State formally assigned to this Department since 2005.

Social Welfare Benefits

Simon Harris

Question:

273 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will outline all the supports, grants and payments payable by her Department to persons who are self-employed and have seen significant reductions in their remuneration; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15539/12]

Self-employed persons are liable for PRSI at the Class S rate of 4% which entitles them to access long-term benefits such as State pension (contributory) and widow's, widower's or surviving civil partner's pension (contributory).

Self-employed workers may establish eligibility to assistance-based payments such as jobseeker's allowance. They can apply for the means-tested jobseeker's allowance if their business ceases or if they are on low income as a result of a downturn in demand for their services. In general, their means will take account of the level of earnings in the last twelve months in determining their expected income for the following year and, in the current climate, account is taken of the downward trend in the economy. As in the case of a non-self-employed unemployed claimant of jobseeker's allowance, the means of husband/wife, civil partner or co-habitant will be taken into account in deciding on entitlement to a payment. Recipients of jobseeker's allowance can, subject to satisfying the requisite qualifying conditions, access a range of employment support measures designed to encourage and support social welfare recipients to reduce their dependency on welfare payments. Supports available include the back to education programmes and back to work schemes. In addition, a fully integrated nationwide range of services and supports is available to employers and jobseekers through FÁS Employment Services, responsibility for which has been transferred to this Department.

Simon Harris

Question:

274 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of carer’s allowance applications currently waiting to be processed by her Department; the average length of time that it takes to process new carer’s allowance applications; her views that this length of time is fair and equitable; the steps she will take to significantly reduce both the backlog of applications and the inordinate length of time that applicants are being forced to wait; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15545/12]

The Department is committed to delivering the best possible service to its customers. In the interests of fairness and equity, applications are processed as far as possible in order of the date on which they were received.

Approximately 7,800 applications are registered and awaiting a decision at present.

A major service delivery modernisation project is underway to improve the efficiency of administration of the carer's allowance scheme. This involves the development of information technology functions and associated business process re-organisation. It is anticipated that the new system will introduce significant processing efficiencies and a quicker and more responsive service to the customer. Accordingly, the project is being given high priority and involves a significant level of time and commitment from the relevant staff in the Department. This has had a short-term negative impact on claim processing times. This essential focus of certain staff resources will continue until the completion of the modernisation project in June of this year when all existing carer's allowance claims will be transferred onto the new processing system.

Accurate processing time figures are not yet available as applications are still being processed on both the old and the new computer systems. The average time to award an application on both systems at present is estimated at around 28 weeks. I acknowledge that this is unsatisfactory but I am satisfied that the department is taking all steps available to it to resolve the issue.

In addition to dealing with approximately 330 new carer's allowance applications that are received each week, overtime working is being applied to help reduce backlogs that have built up. In addition, consideration is being given to the assignment of temporary staff to expedite the reduction of the backlog. However, it is expected to be a significant number of months before the backlog is reduced to an acceptable level.

In the meantime, if a person's means are insufficient to meet their needs while awaiting a decision on an application, they may apply for a means-tested supplementary welfare allowance payment from their local community welfare officer.

Supplementary Welfare Allowance

Simon Harris

Question:

275 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection if diabetes sufferers are entitled to apply for the special dietary supplement payable by her Department on account of the modifications that individuals must make to their diets; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15549/12]

Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, a diet supplement may be paid to a person who is receiving a social welfare or health service executive payment where a special diet is prescribed as a result of a specified medical condition and they satisfy a means test. A person's medical condition, such as diabetes, does not qualify them for a diet supplement, rather it is the requirement for a special diet that allows them to be considered for a diet supplement.

The Department commissioned a study by an expert from the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute which was called ‘The Examination of the Cost of Healthy Eating and Specialised Diets'. This study which was published in January 2006 recommended a new framework for classifying the various diets that would qualify for a supplement as follows:

(i) Gluten Free Diet,

(ii) Low Lactose Milk Free Diet,

(iii) High Protein High Calorie Diet,

(iv) Liquidised Altered Consistency Diet.

Free Travel Schemes

Simon Harris

Question:

276 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a private bus operator (details supplied) is no longer operating under the free travel scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15564/12]

The free travel scheme permits free travel on most CIE public transport services, Luas and a range of services offered by over 90 private operators in various parts of the country at an annual cost to the exchequer of some €75.6 million in 2011. The free travel scheme aims to use spare capacity on public and private transport services. Under the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014, funding for the scheme is capped at 2010 levels of expenditure for the duration of the plan.

The bus operator in question sought an increase in the funding for this route from January 2011. Regrettably, my Department cannot sanction an increase to this or any other operator at this time. The operator referred to by the Deputy notified my Department of his intention to withdraw his Southern Cross Road to Bray Dart Station route (Licence no. 97052) from the free travel scheme on Friday, 9 March 2012 last.

There are, however, alternative public transport facilities available to free travel pass holders in this area.

Invalidity Pension

Áine Collins

Question:

277 Deputy Áine Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an invalidity pension claim in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [15566/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 31 May 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 20 February 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. 278 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Appeals

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

279 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue to an appeal for invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [15571/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 24 January 2012. 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 29 February 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.

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

280 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal for jobseeker’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15572/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 21 January 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and the comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred in due course to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

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

Community Employment Schemes

Simon Harris

Question:

281 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance is eligible to participate in a FÁS or community employment scheme; if a meeting will be arranged for the person with the relevant agency to allocate a place on a scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15582/12]

According to the Department's records, he is in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance for more than 52 weeks. He is eligible for 52 weeks on a Community Employment project. He should make contact with DSP Employment Services at Castlepark, Arklow, (0402) 39509, to enquire on available Community Employment Programme vacancies.

Social Welfare Benefits

Regina Doherty

Question:

282 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of recipients of domiciliary care allowance for children on the autism spectrum who have had their allowance withdrawn or refused in the past six months in County Meath. [15607/12]

I regret to inform the Deputy that the information requested by her is not captured by the Department in the format specified.

Sandra McLellan

Question:

283 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite a carer’s allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15610/12]

The person concerned is in receipt of carer's allowance in respect of one care recipient. She has recently applied for a second care recipient. While the medical aspect has been approved, her file has been referred to an investigative officer of the department who has been asked to report and confirm whether all conditions for receipt of carer's allowance are satisfied in respect of the application and the care recipients.

On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of her claims a decision will be made and she will be notified directly of the outcome.

Question No. 284 withdrawn.

Community Employment Schemes

Brendan Griffin

Question:

285 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on a matter (details supplied) regarding community employment cuts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15639/12]

I have directed that a review of the financial resources of individual projects supported by Community Employment be completed by the end of March. The purpose of the review is to examine the income and funding of sponsoring organisations in terms of their ability to continue to deliver the programme. As part of the review alternative sources of support will be examined, particularly the level of funding from other State agencies. The review will also seek to establish if income is generated by scheme activity and the potential for utilisation of these funds to cover project costs. The outcome of each review will provide a clear picture of the core funding required for each CE scheme. This will assist my Department in ensuring a fair distribution of the funding available for these schemes.

This review of financial resources is being carried out initially by local DSP staff responsible for the administration of the scheme, and is being co-ordinated centrally by the relevant Assistant Secretary of the Department.

I have given assurances to community and voluntary organisations that no CE scheme will be forced to close as a result of the reductions in training and material grants, pending the completion of this review at the end of March. This guarantee will be funded by my Department from its 2012 allocation.

In parallel, my Department is also undertaking a policy review of all employment support programmes under its aegis. CE is being considered as part of this review and stakeholders will be consulted as part of this review process. I expect to have this review in the first quarter of this year. These reports at both the individual CE scheme level and at the macro level will provide good evidence on which to base future policy. The outcome of the review will form part of the report to the troika.

In conclusion, I would like to assure the House of my full appreciation of the value of CE schemes locally. The focus now is on achieving improved outcomes both in terms of service provided at local level and job progression for CE participants themselves.

Redundancy Payments

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

286 Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a redundancy rebate was paid to an employer (details enclosed) in County Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15641/12]

There is no record of redundancy claims in respect of the persons concerned.

Social Welfare Benefits

Jack Wall

Question:

287 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for rent allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15643/12]

The person concerned has been awarded rent supplement from the date of her housing needs assessment, i.e. 6 March 2012. All arrears will be paid to her landlord, as requested, on 29 March. The person concerned is in receipt of her full entitlement to rent supplement based on her household circumstances.

Social Welfare Appeals

Patrick Deering

Question:

288 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on an appeal for jobseeker’s will issue in respect of a person (details supplied). [15660/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 11 November 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 10 December 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.

National Internship Scheme

Brendan Griffin

Question:

289 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection the information available regarding the participants in JobBridge age, gender, nationality and socioeconomic background; if similar information is available in regard to employers sector, level and so on; the way effectiveness of the programme is measured; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15676/12]

The National Internship Scheme was launched on 1 July 2011. The Scheme has made very significant progress to-date with over 5,000 internship placements having commenced. In addition, there are over 2,100 internship positions across a broad range of occupational sectors currently advertised on the JobBridge websitewww.jobbridge.ie. There are currently over 4,000 interns on live placements.

In response to the specific matters raised, please see relevant participant and company data as at 5 March 2012.

Age Profile of Participants

Age Band

Starts To-Date

%

18-19

48

1%

20-25

1,707

33%

26-35

2,277

44%

36-45

751

14%

46-55

314

6%

56-65

74

2%

Grand Total

5,171

100%

Gender

Current Interns

%

Male

2,219

54%

Female

1,868

46%

Grand Total

4,087

100%

Educational Qualifications

Qualifications

Starts To-Date

%

Third Level

2,469

48%

Non Third Level

2,702

52%

Grand Total

5,171

100%

Placements by Company Size

No. Employees

Starts To-Date

%

0-49

2,967

57%

50-249

836

16%

250-

1220

24%

Undefined

148

3%

Grand Total

5,171

100%

Placements by Sector

Sector

Starts To-Date

%

Private

3,454

67%

Public

1,354

26%

Community/Voluntary

363

7%

Grand Total

5,171

100%

A variety of measures have been introduced to protect the intern and to ensure the integrity of the JobBridge scheme. In order for all applications from host organisations to be approved they must meet a number of criteria so as to ensure that the potential internships are of sufficient quality. These include the following:

that the internship does not allow the intern to work unsupervised;

that the internship is not displacing an employee; and

that the intern accrues significant experience throughout the entire internship.

These checks are undertaken by staff in the National Contact Centre as part of their broader range of duties.

In order for an internship to commence a Standard Internship Agreement must be signed by both the intern and the host organisation. This Agreement clearly stipulates the terms of the internship and states the specific learning outcomes the intern will receive over the course of their internship.

To ensure compliance with the scheme, the Department of Social Protection are monitoring internships to ensure that they are of sufficient quality and that both host organisations and interns are abiding by the spirit and the rules of the scheme.

This involves the monitoring of monthly compliance reports that are required to be submitted by the host organisation verifying that the internship is proceeding as set out in the Standard Internship Agreement. In addition, contact with the host organisations and interns including random site visits have begun as part of this process. These visits are undertaken by staff in the Regions in conjunction with their other Employment Service duties.

A ‘whistle blowing' feature has been introduced, where any individual who suspects that an internship may be in breach of the scheme's criteria, including in cases of suspected displacement or poor quality, may contact the JobBridge team. All such claims are fully investigated. This is administered by the JobBridge Team.

It is worth noting that participation in the Scheme is voluntary and an intern may contact the JobBridge team at any stage of their internship.

I believe that these measures are currently sufficient in relation to the operation of the JobBridge scheme. However, my Department continuously monitors the scheme and will introduce additional measures if the need arises.

Unemployment Benefits

Noel Harrington

Question:

290 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of secondary level teachers who made claims for unemployment benefit or assistance during the summer of 2011; the numbers that were employed by the Department of Education and Skills and by vocational education committees prior to their application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15695/12]

The distinction between different levels of teaching professionals in receipt of jobseekers benefit or assistance (primary, secondary, third level, etc.) is not collated by my Department. Furthermore my Department does not record details of a claimant's employer prior to their submitting an application for payment.

I am informed however during the months of June to August there is a substantial increase in the number of teaching professionals claiming jobseekers benefit or assistance. The attached table details the number of teaching professionals on the Live Register from May to September 2011, and that number as a percentage of the May figure.

Teaching Professionals

Jobseekers Allowance

Jobseekers Benefit

Credits

Total

Percentage of May figure

May 11

3,482

2,750

1,990

8,222

100%

June 11

4,121

3,978

2,046

10,145

123%

July 11

4,981

6,030

2,161

13,172

160%

August 11

5,270

6,047

2,173

13,490

164%

September 11

4,185

3,364

2,165

9,714

118%

Carer’s Allowance

Denis Naughten

Question:

291 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied); the reason for the delay in same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15696/12]

I confirm that an application for carer's allowance was received from the above named. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of his claim, a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Social Welfare Code

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

292 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to amend the habitual residence condition as it applies to the carer’s allowance, and instead introduce a system of examining each application on a case by case basis, to reflect the need of some carers to move to Ireland to take care of a relative who would otherwise not have access to a carer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15701/12]

Carer's allowance is a means tested social assistance payment made to persons who are unable to work because they providing full time care and attention to elderly people or people with disabilities. Expenditure on carers has increased by 550% over the last ten years. In 2000, expenditure on carers by my Department was around €100 million. In 2008, the first full year in which the half-rate payment was available, expenditure was just over €580 million. The provisional outturn for carers in 2011, including carer's allowance, carer's benefit and respite care grant was approximately €658 million. This does not include the cost of the household benefits package or free travel which carers also receive. In 2011, there were almost 52,000 people in receipt of carers allowance from my Department; 22,000 of these were getting half-rate carers allowance in addition to another social welfare payment, an increase of almost 40% since 2008.

The habitual residence condition, as provided for in section 246 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act, 2005 (as amended), applies to claims for jobseeker's allowance, non-contributory State pension, blind pension, non-contributory widow's and widower's pensions, guardian's payment, one-parent family payment, carer's allowance, disability allowance, supplementary welfare allowance including rent supplement, and child benefit. The effect of the condition is that a person whose habitual residence is elsewhere is not qualified for these payments in Ireland. The purpose of this condition is to safeguard the social welfare system from abuse by restricting access for people who are not economically active and who have little or no established connection with Ireland.

The legislation directs the deciding officer to take into consideration all the circumstances of the case, including, in particular, the following factors specified by the European Court of Justice:

1. The length and continuity of residence in the State or in any other particular country;

2. The length and purpose of any absence from the State;

3. The nature and pattern of the person's employment;

4. The person's main centre of interest; and

5. The future intentions of the person concerned as they appear from all the circumstances.

There are a number of issues which contribute to rejection on HRC grounds. These include:

The applicant's main centre of interest clearly being outside Ireland, including Irish nationals returning home who clearly indicate that their homes, lives and future intentions are out of this State and that their stay in Ireland is of a short duration;

Failure to provide relevant documentation (such as proof that they have terminated their employment, residency, closed bank accounts abroad, etc.) or no documentation at all;

Clear evidence that an applicant is continuing to receive welfare from another jurisdiction based on their residency there, for example a person receiving disability living allowance based on their residency in Northern Ireland;

Persons who make multiple applications in a very short time for different allowances such as jobseekers, disability and carers.

In 2011, 13,888 applications for carer's allowance were processed. Of these, 223 (approx.1.6%) were refused on the basis of habitual residency, of which 42 were Irish nationals.

I have no plans to change this requirement for carer's allowance. The operation of the scheme is kept under review to ensure it operates fairly and that applicants are not being refused without full and appropriate consideration.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

Noel Coonan

Question:

293 Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Social Protection when an application for domiciliary care allowance will be finalised in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15718/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 3 January 2012. 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 8 March 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.

Maternity Benefit

Gerald Nash

Question:

294 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Social Protection if any existing circumstances exist for the return of PRSI contributions in respect of claims made regarding maternity benefit which fall outside the formal four year limitation period introduced in January 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15733/12]