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 and 2 answered orally.
Question No. 3 lapsed.
Questions Nos. 4 to 14, inclusive, answered orally.

School Staffing

Mick Wallace

Question:

15 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that due to changes in learning support and resource teaching hours, some teachers are receiving travel expenses to travel to schools many miles from their own to make up their hours; his views on whether these changes are costly and unnecessary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19495/12]

Shared full-time posts and travel between schools is a long standing feature of the primary system. There were a plethora of long-standing clustering arrangements in place which were not the most practical, efficient or cost effective way to allocate resources. The new arrangements I announced last December are designed to address the limitations of the current arrangements and will operate from September 2012.

Schools are being empowered to cluster and arrange their General Allocation Model resources in a manner that best suits their local needs, including in a manner that reduces travel between schools. This school led process has resulted in over 96% of the overall GAM allocation being in full-time stand-alone or shared posts.

Aside from the reforms to the GAM, the allocation of resource hours for individual pupils vary from year to year. This is because of the ongoing individual assessment of pupils through the NCSE must operate on a later timescale. The new arrangements involve the allocation of a network of permanent posts in base schools and again are designed to make the system work more smoothly at school level.

All indications to date are that the new clustering arrangements being made by schools will have the desired effect on the ground. My Department will continue to work 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.

School Patronage

Brendan Smith

Question:

16 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he supports the recommendation in the report of the Advisory Group on Patronage and Pluralism that stand alone schools be left alone unless they are in areas in which there is a stable population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19380/12]

The Deputy will be aware that I recently published the Report of the Advisory Group to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector. The overarching aim of the Forum's work was to ensure that schools cater for diversity and ensure an inclusive and respectful environment for all their pupils.

The Advisory Group have presented a comprehensive report and I am aware that some of the issues dealt with in the report are sensitive and need to be carefully examined.

I have asked the education partners and interested parties to examine the report and take time to reflect on and digest the recommendations and I have invited them to submit their views on the report to me.

I am considering the report's findings and recommendations and intend to outline my official response next month. As per the commitment in the Programme for Government, a White Paper on pluralism and patronage in the primary sector will follow.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Pearse Doherty

Question:

17 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will respond to the view that his policy on small rural schools is fundamentally flawed, misguided and devoid of planning and what is needed is a coherent, long-term and well-resourced strategy for sustainable schools into the future. [19509/12]

Budget 2012 introduced a phased increase in the pupil threshold for the allocation of classroom teachers in small primary schools. This increase is necessary given our budgetary constraints and rapidly rising school population. It is being phased in over three years to allow communities consider options for re-organisation. We have to ensure that the very valuable but limited resources we have available in the system are used in the best and fairest way across the whole system.

I consider that evidence-based policy making is vital. A value for money review of the provision of small primary schools is currently underway in my Department and should be finalised soon. This review is aiming to be as comprehensive and informative as possible in order to provide an evidence base for formulating future policy. I will publish the review and I look forward to hearing views and contributions from the House to further debate on this issue.

Croke Park Agreement

John Browne

Question:

18 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will be seeking to ensure that all teachers’ allowances are protected under the review of allowances for public servants; his views on whether all such allowance are considered part of teachers pay under the Croke Park agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19381/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, the review of allowances in the public service which is ongoing at the moment is being conducted by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and I understand that the Minister intends to bring proposals to Government shortly.

The Government has reaffirmed the key commitments under the Public Service Agreement, including that there will be no further reductions in pay rates for serving public servants. These commitments are contingent on delivery of the required flexibilities and reforms to public service delivery.

Allowances paid to teachers form only a part of the overall remit of the review. It would not be appropriate for me at this stage to comment on any specific subset of allowances, pending the outcome of the review and its consideration by Government. I have and will, of course, make my views on these issues known in the appropriate fora.

Third Level Participation

Willie O'Dea

Question:

19 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Education and Skills the proposals he has to support growth in participation at third level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19410/12]

Ireland currently performs very strongly in terms of participation in higher education and has the highest tertiary attainment rate among 25-34 year olds in the European Union. Projections published by my Department in June 2011 show that the demand for higher education in Ireland is set to grow by 62% in the next twenty years.

While welcome, the scale of projected growth will present major challenges for Ireland's higher education system in ensuring that student numbers can be accommodated in a sustainable way that does not compromise high quality outcomes.

The National Strategy for Higher Education makes a number of recommendations for system development, flexibility, efficiency and change aimed at supporting sustainable growth while protecting quality. Implementation of strategy recommendations is underway and a progress report is available on www.education.ie.

Apprenticeship Programmes

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

20 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to change the statutory remit for remodelling apprenticeships that will allow future apprentices to have direct entry from their leaving certificate to the institutes of technology to begin their courses. [19514/12]

The recently announced Government "Action Plan for Jobs" confirmed a commitment to review our apprenticeship model this year. The intention is to provide an updated model of training that will deliver the necessary skilled workforce to service the needs of a rapidly changing economy. My Department has begun work on a paper setting out the various issues, including those referred to in the Deputy's question, which will form the basis of a consultation process, as part of this overall review.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

21 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which he and or his Department have examined the impact of constraints imposed and arising from the memorandum of understanding with particular reference to the implications for smaller schools including those with a denominational ethos; if he can assist local school management authorities in this regard; if efforts have been made or are in train on such issues; if in conjunction with school authorities it has been found possible to identify the means to minimise any anticipated negative effect on rural or urban communities; the extent to which each are likely to be affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19455/12]

The Government recognises that small schools are an important part of the social fabric of rural communities. They will continue to be a feature of our education landscape. However, this does not mean that small schools can stand still or never have their staffing levels changed to something that is more affordable and sustainable for these difficult and challenging times.

A Value for Money examination of small schools has been carried out and my Department expects to publish the analysis and findings in the near future. I hope that this report will foster constructive engagement both in the Oireachtas and among all interested parties in looking at the challenges ahead and how best to make provision for primary education in rural and dispersed communities. How best to sustain provision for widely dispersed and small Protestant communities will present as a particular challenge particularly in any locality where enrolment in their schools is declining to single figures and amalgamation is not an option because there is no other school nearby. The Government is intent in fostering pluralism in school provision. Supporting minority churches in maintaining their schools is part of that policy and will inform how the Government approaches the outcome of the Value for Money Study.

Adult Education

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

22 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to make it statutory for all education institutions in the State to have an adult literacy policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19423/12]

Under the Programme for Government, this Government will make literacy and basic workplace skills a national priority and drive the integration of literacy into a wider variety of further education and training programmes as part of the establishment of SOLAS. My Department recently published new operational guidelines for adult literacy and community education provision which highlighted the importance of integrating literacy into further education and training programmes. My Department also funds the National Adult Literacy Agency which promotes a Plain English Campaign to encourage the use of plain English by public and private sector organisations in the dissemination of information to the public.

In the primary and post primary school sector, the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy recognises that parental engagement is vital to support children's literacy and numeracy development. The Strategy encourages schools to assist parents in developing their confidence and capacity in this area.

Third Level Admissions

Gerry Adams

Question:

23 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason certain achievements, qualifications and certification gained by young persons in out-of-school activities or in-school extra curricular activities are not given recognition by the CAO system for college entry. [19502/12]

Gerry Adams

Question:

42 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will make a statement on the UCAS system that operates in the North of Ireland which provides a tariff system for the recognition of non-school based certification in, for example, speech and drama, music, computer studies and a broad range of other activities and pursuits and his views on the reason there are two materially different systems in both jurisdictions that result in many young persons opting to undertake their speech and drama and music examinations with Northern based examinations boards. [19503/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 23 and 42 together.

Higher education institutions have delegated to the CAO the task of processing applications to their undergraduate courses and as autonomous institutions are responsible for setting their own eligibility and other entry criteria. Higher Education institutions are currently considering and progressing implementation of the recommendations of the report arising from the joint HEA-NCCA conference on the transition between second and third level.

While the entry systems to third level in Ireland and in the UK are inevitably different, the opportunity for Irish students to study in the UK, and the reciprocal arrangements for UK students, are greatly valued as contributing to and adding value to the close ties between Ireland and the UK.

Departmental Reports

Niall Collins

Question:

24 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on the progress of the Capital Asset Implementation Group; the assets the group are considering; when the group is expected to report; what the next steps will be once the group have made their recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19385/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, as part of the overall Budget measures announced last December, it was signalled that it is proposed to amend the means test for student grants to take account of the value of certain capital assets as well as income for new applicants from the 2013/14 academic year.

A Capital Asset Test implementation group has been convened to develop and bring forward detailed proposals on new means testing arrangements to include the value of assets. This group has met on three occasions and its deliberations are ongoing. I anticipate that the group will report to me by the Summer and will make recommendations on the inclusion or exclusion of various classes of assets.

Any proposals arising from these recommendations will require Government agreement and will also necessitate legislative amendment.

School Staffing

Mick Wallace

Question:

25 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review his decision to separate learning support and resource teaching hours in primary schools in view of the fact that some teachers are now receiving travel expenses for travelling to schools to make up learning support and resource teaching hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19494/12]

Shared full-time posts and travel between schools is a long standing feature of the primary system. There were a plethora of long-standing clustering arrangements in place which were not the most practical, efficient or cost effective way to allocate resources. The new arrangements I announced last December are designed to address the limitations of the current arrangements and will operate from September 2012.

Schools are being empowered to cluster and arrange their General Allocation Model resources in a manner that best suits their local needs, including in a manner that reduces travel between schools. This school led process has resulted in over 96% of the overall GAM allocation being in full-time stand-alone or shared posts.

Aside from the reforms to the GAM, the allocation of resource hours for individual pupils vary from year to year. This is because of the ongoing individual assessment of pupils through the NCSE must operate on a later timescale. The new arrangements involve the allocation of a network of permanent posts in base schools and again are designed to make the system work more smoothly at school level.

The indications to date are that the new clustering arrangements being made by schools will have the desired effect on the ground. My Department will continue to work 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.

Higher Education Institutions

Robert Troy

Question:

26 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the recent Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings which failed to feature an Irish university is a cause for concern; the way he intends to address this continuing fall in rankings among Irish universities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19411/12]

There is significant debate around the relative importance attached to rankings criteria and on their capacity to fully capture the quality of what is on offer in higher education institutions. The Times Higher Education World Reputation rankings are a new set of rankings in its second year and are based on reputational surveys only.

As the Deputy will be aware, the catastrophic reputational damage caused to Ireland by the inept economic management of the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party government is perhaps the most influential factor affecting Ireland's international reputation. The current Government has embarked on a conscious strategy to improve our reputation abroad since taking office.

Despite some decline, Irish universities continue to figure prominently in world rankings. Irish institutions are featuring in the top 1% in the world. In 2011, two Irish institutions were in the top 200 and another three in the top 400 Times Higher Education World University ranked institutions out of some 15,000 universities worldwide. Moreover, the overall performance of the Irish system was highly ranked; 17th place overall and 6th place globally relative to our GDP.

Delivering high quality higher education for a growing proportion of our population within our current resources will mean that we need to maintain a clear focus on system performance overall rather than a narrower focus on individual institutional performance.

School Staffing

Billy Kelleher

Question:

27 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the details of the appeals mechanism for staffing in respect of primary schools for 2012/2013 will be finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19393/12]

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. The staffing schedule also includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeals Board. Details of the criteria for appeal are contained in the staffing schedule, Circular 0007/2012.

The closing date for submission of appeals for the April meeting of the Staffing Appeals Board was 23 March, 2012. The first meeting of the Appeals Board takes place this week and the Boards of Management of the applicant schools will be notified as soon as possible of the outcome of their appeal. The Appeals Board operates independently of the Department and it's decision is final.

Schools Building Projects

Robert Troy

Question:

28 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills following the recent publication of the five year school building plan, the implications for schools which want to apply for a new school building; if they will have to wait another five years before they can apply and be accepted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19412/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that in view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet significant demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year school building programme is focused on meeting those demographic needs. This announcement represents 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 my Department is in a position to progress.

School building projects currently in architectural planning, including those projects not included in the five year programme, will continue to be advanced incrementally over time within the context of the funding available. These projects will, in general, complete the design stages of architectural planning and secure planning permission and other necessary statutory approvals. However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget, it is not possible at this time to indicate when those projects will be progressed to tender and construction stage.

Any applications for new school buildings can only be considered in the context of the challenges that I have outlined above.

Value for Money Reviews

Dara Calleary

Question:

29 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will commit to publishing the Value for Money Review of Small Schools by the end of this month; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19383/12]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

33 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will explain his rationale for the proposed closure of small schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19492/12]

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

There is no policy to close down small schools. Rather, we have to ensure that the very valuable but limited resources we have available to us are used in the best and fairest way across all of our schools. For this reason, the government took the difficult decision in the budget to increase the number of pupils required to gain and retain a teaching post between now and Sept 2014. Any initiative for re-organisation at school level may come from a variety of sources, such as parents, staff, Board of Management and in particular, the Patron. I have made it clear on several occasions that such decisions will be taken at a local level.

Work is still underway on the report of the value for money review of the provision of small primary schools. After I have received and considered the report, I will arrange publication. At this stage, I am not in a position to provide a publication date. I am committed to publication of the review and I look forward to hearing views and contributions from the House to further debate on this issue.

Bullying in Schools

Michael Colreavy

Question:

30 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Education and Skills in view of his decision to establish a forum to help address bullying in Irish schools if he will outline a timetable for when this initiative will be implemented; if he will report on any progress that his Department officials have made with their counterparts in the North to progress this initiative; his views on developing an all-Ireland anti-bullying strategy that incorporates and builds upon the best practises currently operating in both jurisdictions and on an international basis. [19504/12]

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

56 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Education and Skills the plans or strategies he intends to bring forward to combat bullying in our schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19417/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 30 and 56 together.

I recently announced details of a forum to explore ways to tackle the problem of bullying in schools. This Anti-Bullying Forum is due to take place on the 17th of May 2012 and will bring together a range of experts, support groups and representatives of the schools sector including parents and students.

It is envisaged that there will be a range of speakers on the day of the Forum which will include contributions from my Department, the National Anti-Bullying Coalition (NABC), an acknowledged academic or other expert in the field of anti-bullying and contributors from the school sector from the various perspectives of school principal, parent and pupils. The Forum will also give other stakeholders an opportunity to give their views.

The objective of the Forum will be to explore with all the relevant stakeholders how best to tackle bullying in schools and to consider what changes or updating of existing practices and procedures are required to achieve this having regard to what is feasible to implement in the current financial climate. As part of this process my Department's officials can engage with their counterparts in the North in order to share experience and perspectives on how to improve how schools can respond to bullying.

Bullying is a problem I take very seriously and I hope that the Forum will provide an opportunity to set out a roadmap on how best to tackle all forms of bullying in our schools.

I am also establishing a working group on tackling bullying. The outcomes and recommendations from the Forum will assist the working group in its deliberations. This working group will include representatives of the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, and will draw upon the expertise of a range of organisations throughout their work. In accordance with the commitment in the Programme for Government, the first phase to be addressed by the Working Group will be homophobic bullying.

Special Educational Needs

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

31 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review his decision to cut nine DEIS teaching posts from a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; his views on concerns that the loss of such high percentage of teaching staff will impact on the quality of children’s education attending the school. [19520/12]

As a result of Budget 2012, the school to which the Deputy refers is one of 15 non-DEIS schools losing teaching posts retained under previous disadvantage programmes prior to the introduction of the DEIS Initiative in 2005. Under the Appeals process, where a school is losing 3 or more posts as a result of the combination of budget and reform measures, provision was made for schools to apply 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.

The school to which the Deputy refers has submitted an appeal. The Staffing Appeal Board which operates independent of my Department will notify schools directly of its decisions. The final staffing position for all schools at primary level will ultimately not be known until the Autumn of this year. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed and any appeals to the Staffing Appeal Boards will have been considered.

Schools Building Programme

Martin Ferris

Question:

32 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will list, on a yearly basis, the schools that were included on the construction programme during the past five years; the schools that have been withdrawn, removed and deprioritised from the current construction programme; if he will provide a breakdown on a school by school basis of the criteria and reasoning behind the decision to remove individual schools form the construction programme. [19501/12]

Martin Ferris

Question:

41 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills the criteria used to include, withdraw or exclude a school from the school construction programme. [19500/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32 and 41 together.

I wish to advise the Deputy that the Five Year Plan prioritises new school building projects, including the new primary and post primary schools that I announced in June 2011, as well as major extensions in areas where a demographic need has been established. 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 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 Five 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 progression of school projects to construction, as set out in the Five 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. School building projects have not been withdrawn from the school building programme. In relation to school projects that are currently within the Department's architectural planning process but have not been included in the Five 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.

The Deputy will appreciate that the announcement of the Five Year Plan represents a major change in how the school building programme is publicised. The Plan, for the first time, gives details of the schools that will progress to construction over the duration of the Plan. Those schools included in the Plan, many of which were included in previous announcements, now know when their project is likely to commence construction and they can make plans based on these timelines. Details of previous capital project announcements together with details of projects listed in the Five Year Plan may be viewed on my Department's website at www.education.ie and this is updated regularly.

Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 29.

Departmental Expenditure

Timmy Dooley

Question:

34 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made to date in reducing the total spend on temporary accommodation for primary and post-primary schools since 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19389/12]

The amount spent on renting temporary accommodation at primary and post-primary level, including — but not limited to — prefabricated accommodation since 2008 is outlined below: 2012: €29.3m (allocation); 2011: €28.9m; 2010: €29.3m; 2009: €39m. 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. This new initiative will provide additional savings on the rental of prefabs in these schools in the coming years.

Special Educational Needs

Seán Crowe

Question:

35 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will respond to criticism relating to a new requirement for students applying under the disability access route to education to produce extensive reports based on formal psychological tests that are expensive and difficult to obtain because private educational psychologists were booked out for such assessments up to the CAO cut off date of 1 April. [19497/12]

The Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) is a third-level admissions scheme for students with a disability. The scheme is operated by a number of higher education institutions and not by my Department. Admissions to the institutions are regulated by the institutions themselves. I understand that the requirement that some of the reports requested under the scheme should be less than three years old reflects national and international good practice and has been in operation for some years. The Deputy may wish to contact the Irish Universities Association for further information in this instance.

Departmental Agencies

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

36 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of times the SOLAS implementation group has met since it was established; if he will commit to publishing legislation for the establishment of SOLAS by mid 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19400/12]

Following the Government Decision to create SOLAS, an Implementation Group was set up to establish SOLAS. I am chairing this Group and its membership includes representatives from the Department of Education and Skills, FÁS, the Irish Vocational Education Association and the Department of Social Protection. The Group has met nine times to date and the focus of the Group has been on identifying the high level issues that will arise in the context of the development of this complex programme of change and putting in place the structures to resolve these issues. Drafting of the required legislation is part of this process and the Heads of a Bill which have been approved by Government will shortly be referred to the Office of the Attorney General for drafting purposes. The Bill will be published as soon as the drafting process is complete.

Croke Park Agreement

Liam Twomey

Question:

37 Deputy Liam Twomey asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the 33 hours additional work agreed for non-teaching time can be used during school hours under the Croke Park Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11207/12]

One of the elements of the Croke Park Agreement is that teachers will provide an additional hour per week to facilitate a range of essential whole school activities, at the discretion of school management. The central purpose of the additional time requirement is to provide for activities such as parent-teacher meetings and school planning meetings to take place without reducing class contact/tuition time and to eliminate the current incidence of school closure arising from these activities. Following discussions involving the Department, school management bodies and unions, a document clarifying how the additional time is to be used was forwarded to all schools for implementation. It is specifically stated in the implementation document that the additional time should be scheduled outside normal school hours.

Physical Education

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

38 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills the funding that he provides for the active school flag initiative; the efforts being made to promote participation in this initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19454/12]

The funding provided to Active Flag was €116,000 per year for the past three years. We have allocated €80,000 to this Initiative in 2012. Recognising the contribution of physical activity to the health and wellbeing of children and to increase the physical activity levels of school children, in 2009 the Department of Education and Skills launched the Active School Flag (ASF) to motivate and reward schools which strive to achieve a physically active and physically educated school community. The ASF aims to complement the existing PE curriculum in schools.

A part-time co-ordinator was appointed to the programme in 2011. A significant element of the co-ordinator's brief is to promote the ASF in schools. Specific measures to promote the programme include:

a mailshot to all schools aimed at promoting the programme;

the attendance of the co-ordinator at conferences;

the expansion of the programme to the Youthreach sector;

a revision of the ASF website and application documents to facilitate easier application for the flag;

making presentations about the ASF to teachers at education centres around the country;

meeting National Parents Council representatives;

promoting the ASF via the HSE-funded Get Ireland Active website;

presenting to final year student teachers regarding the programme.

Since September 2009, 875 primary schools, 125 post-primary schools and 4 Youthreach Centres have registered for participation in the programme. Some 110 schools have been awarded their flags in 2010 and 2011. It is expected that another 200 schools will have been awarded an ASF by the end of this current year. The high level of participation by schools in the programme in its first three years is indicative of the desire of teachers and schools to ensure that children are as active as possible. Active, enjoyable engagement in physical activity at a young age plays an important part in the development of habits that will contribute to good health and wellbeing in the long-term.

Vocational Education Committees

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

39 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made to date in relation to the merger of the vocational education committees and the establishment of local education and training boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19407/12]

In October 2011, following Government approval, the General Scheme of an Education and Training Boards Bill was referred to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education. The General Scheme was also published at that time. Following the committee's report to which I responded on 25 January 2012, the General Scheme was referred to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government for formal drafting. It is intended that the Bill will be published in advance of the summer recess. Also in October 2011, my Department concluded an agreement with SIPTU, the trade union representing the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of VECs, on a redeployment scheme for CEOs in the context of the Croke Park agreement. This scheme will be used, in the first instance, for determining the appointment of CEOs to the new Education and Training Boards, following the enactment of the relevant legislation.

Special Educational Needs

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

40 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has had any reports on the impact of the cuts to special needs assistants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19491/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that there has been no reduction in the overall number of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) posts available for allocation to schools this year. 10,575 Whole Time Equivalent (WTE) SNA posts have been made available for allocation to schools by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) throughout the school year, subject to qualifying applications being received. This figure represents a modest increase in the number of SNA posts allocated in recent years from 9,824 in 2007 to 10,442 in 2008, 10,342 in 2009 and 10,543 in 2010. It is considered that with equitable management and distribution of these resources that there will be sufficient posts to provide access to SNA support for all children who require care support to attend school, in accordance with my Departments criteria.

It should also be noted that no reduction has made to the overall number of SNA or Resource Teaching posts which will be available for allocation to schools for the 2012/13 school year. This is representative of the Government's commitment to protecting services for children with special educational needs, at a time when there has been a requirement to make savings across a range of expenditure areas. Schools have been advised to make applications to the NCSE for resource teaching and SNA support for the 2012/13 school year by 16th March, 2012. Schools will subsequently be advised by the NCSE of their allocation for the 2012/13 school year, based on the number of valid applications received and in the case of SNA support, the extent of the care needs of qualifying children.

Question No. 41 answered with Question No. 32.
Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 23.

School Staffing

Seamus Kirk

Question:

43 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of primary schools which will lose teaching posts due to changes to the staffing schedule in Budget 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19396/12]

The criteria used for the allocation of teachers to schools is published annually on my Department's website. The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30 September. The relevant appointment and retention figures for mainstream staffing for the coming school year have been published on the Department's website. However, the staffing arrangements in schools for the 2012/2013 school year can also be affected by changes in their enrolment, the impact of other budget measures and the reforms to the teacher allocation process. The reform of the allocation process is designed to bring a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools so there will inevitably be some schools that will lose posts and some schools that will gain posts.

The staffing schedule also includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeals Board. Details of the criteria for appeal are contained in the staffing schedule, Circular 0007/2012. The closing date for submission of appeals for the April meeting of the Staffing Appeals Board was 23 March, 2012. The first meeting of the Appeals Board takes place this week and the Boards of Management of the applicant schools will be notified as soon as possible of the outcome of their appeal. The Appeals Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final. The final staffing position for all primary schools will ultimately not be known until the Autumn. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed for mainstream classroom teachers and any appeals to the Staffing Appeal Board will have been considered.

Access to Higher Education

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

44 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Education and Skills the supports in place to support access to third level education for students from disadvantaged areas; his plans to introduce bursaries for disadvantaged students to enhance equality of access; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19418/12]

A wide range of actions to improve access to third level education are being progressed through the implementation of the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education (2008-2013). Key achievements to date include the development of access and lifelong learning plans for all higher education institutions funded by the HEA. These include plans for the continuation and development of programmes of work with young people and adults in schools and communities, particularly those in areas with high levels of socio-economic disadvantage and unemployment.

In 2011, the core funding model for higher education institutions was developed to include a targeted access element, the allocation of which is now linked to the number of students from target access groups participating in each higher education institution. A range of initiatives, including additional academic supports and targeted teaching and learning strategies are being developed by institutions with the aid of this funding as part of their access and lifelong learning plans. Work has also advanced significantly on the development of broader routes of access, such as the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) for students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

The principal financial support made available to students from disadvantaged areas to facilitate access to third level education continues to be the means-tested student grant. Other financial measures to support broader access and participation include the provision of the special rate of maintenance grant for students from welfare-dependent families and the availability of the Student Assistance Fund at college level to assist students in particular financial difficulties.

From the academic year 2012/13 onwards, a number of existing scholarship schemes for higher education will be replaced with a new single scheme of bursaries based on merit but targeted specifically towards students from disadvantaged areas. The bursary, at €2,000 per year, will be an extra support and incentive to recognise high achievement for students who are from disadvantaged families and attending DEIS schools. Those students to whom bursaries are awarded will also be entitled to apply for student grants.

Anti-Poverty Strategy

Sandra McLellan

Question:

45 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will respond to claims by the Irish National Teacher’s Organisation that on average, five children in a primary classroom are at risk of poverty; that in terms of poverty, children are the most exposed age group in modern Ireland with a consistent poverty rate of 8.1% meaning more than two primary school pupils in every Irish classroom are living in constant poverty; and the measures he plans to implement in order to address this issue. [19513/12]

The Programme for Government contains a specific commitment to achieving the targets as set out in the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007-2016 to reduce the number of people experiencing poverty.

Plans to tackle child poverty are outlined in the national Action Plan and the Government is committed to achieving these targets. These targets are currently being reviewed to ensure that they continue to be appropriate and achievable.

My colleague the Minister for Social Protection is responsible for developing, co-ordinating and monitoring the National Action Plan which has a specific remit to monitor poverty trends, including progress on national poverty targets, and to analyse the impact policies on poverty and social exclusion. My Department will continue to work with the Department of Social Protection and other Departments to meet the educational objectives under the Plan.

The education system operates in a context of broader social and economic circumstances. Poverty is one of wide range of issues which impacts on the learning capacity of pupils and which requires interventions from a number of Government Departments and agencies. My Department has adopted a leading role in influencing interventions to help pupils obtain the maximum benefit from education provision. The targeting of resources in schools with the most concentrated levels of educational disadvantage remains a key priority for my Department. DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), the Action Plan for Educational Disadvantage, was launched in May 2005 and remains the Department of Education and Skills policy instrument to address educational disadvantage. DEIS focuses on addressing and prioritising the educational needs of children and young people from disadvantaged communities, from pre-school through second-level education (3 to 18 years).

School Curriculum

Michael Colreavy

Question:

46 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on claims by the Teachers Union of Ireland that schools are facing an estimated loss of 800,000 class periods from September 2012 onwards; his view on whether the loss of so many study hours will have a detrimental impact on the quality of education in schools here and that it will have the greatest effect on marginalised students. [19505/12]

Seán Crowe

Question:

87 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the recent ASTI survey that shows an estimated 67% of schools will be forced to drop at least one subject at leaving certificate level because of the changes announced Budget 2012; and if he intends to make any adjustments in policy in view of the potential impact these findings will have on the educational outcomes of many of these students. [19687/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 46 and 87 together.

I fully acknowledge that the reduction in resources to second level schools will be challenging for schools. However, the change must be seen in the context of the major challenges we have as a Government in trying to shelter public services to the greatest extent that we can in these exceptional times. The net impact on overall teacher numbers in our schools has been minimised to the greatest extent possible.

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

My Department provides some limited short-term support to schools through curricular concessions in order to help them manage within their approved teaching allocation. The allocation process at post primary level also include an appeals mechanism which is set out in the circular 0009/2012 and is available on my Department's website. 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.

A key priority for me is to continue to prioritise and target available funding at schools with the most concentrated levels of educational disadvantage. All 195 second-level school in DEIS have been given targeted support by a more favourable staffing schedule of 18.25:1. This is a 0.75 point reduction compared to the existing PTR of 19:1 that applies in non fee-paying second-level schools.

School Patronage

Clare Daly

Question:

47 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the language for the new second level school in Balbriggan, County Dublin, was decided in advance of any consultation with the community or parental bodies; if he will consider as a matter of urgency that in view of the ethnic diversity and youth profile of the town that a second school would be sanctioned under the patronage of Educate Together on a campus sharing arrangement as at primary level. [19416/12]

As the Deputy may be 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. I also stated at that time 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 determine the language of instruction of the schools. Consideration was given to the levels of 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 Balbriggan in 2014 it was decided that the medium of instruction should be Irish.

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

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

School Staffing

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

48 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will ensure that legacy posts at DEIS schools are protected for the upcoming school year 2012/2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19377/12]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

64 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has reviewed the allocation of staff posts to three DEIS schools (details supplied) in the Dublin 17 area; if he will ensure that all three schools retain their current teaching component for the new school year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19378/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 48 and 64 together.

A new dedicated staffing schedule will apply to DEIS Band 1 schools from September 2012, ensuring that these schools operate their entitlement to more favourable pupil teacher ratios of 20:1 in junior schools, 22:1 in vertical schools and 24:1 in senior schools under DEIS.

In addition, 140 Band 1 and Band 2 schools will retain the more favourable pupil teacher ratios under previous disadvantage schemes for the 2012/13 school year. In March, letters issued to all DEIS Band 1 and 2 schools informing them of their staffing allocation for the 2012/13 school year.

A range of factors contribute to determining the staffing requirement for schools for 2012/13 including changes to enrolment and the reforms to the teacher allocation process. As the teaching allocation to schools is enrolment based, increasing or decreasing enrolment will determine whether schools gain or lose teaching posts from year to year.

I wish to clarify that changes in enrolment also contribute to the number of legacy posts allocated to DEIS schools from year to year. Some DEIS schools concerned seem to be under the impression that my decision of 21st February 2012 implied that they would retain their current number of legacy posts which is based on 30th September 2010 enrolment, whereas, the staffing allocation for 2012/13 school year, including the allocation of legacy posts is based on enrolment of 30th September 2011.

The allocation process 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 primary circular 0007/12.

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 in a particularly adverse manner on a school's overall allocation. The closing date for submission of appeal was 23 March, 2012. The Staffing Appeal Board which operates independent of my Department met on 18th April and will notify schools directly. 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.

Employment Support Services

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

49 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Skills aside from Springboard, the number and nature of any new education and training places associated with Pathways to Work that were not already announced or allocated in advance of it. [11883/12]

In the Programme for Government we undertook to introduce a better approach to how the State engages with and supports the unemployed to get back into the workforce. The approach set out in Pathways to Work is to build on existing Government policies to ensure that as many new job opportunities as possible are filled by those on the Live Register. Pathways to Work points out that at a time of reducing resources the Government is committed to maintaining the resourcing of a significant number of Training and Education places in 2012. Provision is being made for some 457,400 places. Pathways to Work also contains details of job placement, work experience and back to education supports for over 85,000 beneficiaries through the Department of Social Protection.

Pathways to Work sets out the mechanism through which supports will be made available to those that are unemployed. People will be referred to education, training or Department of Social Protection supports as appropriate. Accordingly the issue of the announcement of a specific number of "Pathways to Work" places in particular programmes does not arise.

Schools Building Projects

Seán Crowe

Question:

50 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24 has been withdrawn from the current school construction programme. [19496/12]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to an application for improved accommodation submitted by Scoil Caitlín Maude. I can confirm that in the context of considering the application my Department carried out a site visit to the school this week. The outcome of this visit will now be considered and my Department will be in further contact with the school authorities as soon as this process has been completed.

Institutes of Technology

Dessie Ellis

Question:

51 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will respond to recent concerns expressed by the TUI that the Dublin Institute of Technology is to phase out construction trades as a result of the Higher Education Authority funding model which will penalise the provision of certain courses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19510/12]

My Department allocates recurrent funding to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) for direct disbursement to the Institutes of Technology. The core grant for the University and Institute of Technology Sectors is allocated according to the Recurrent Grant Allocation Model (RGAM), which distributes the grant according to student numbers by area of study. The RGAM aims to equitably fund similar types of students irrespective of the institution they attend, and to recognise the extra costs which arise in the case of students from certain backgrounds.

Apprenticeship student numbers have reduced substantially in recent years and as a principle HEA seeks to have the funding follow the student, therefore the allocation has been substantially reduced in apprenticeships to meet other areas of growing student demand. The HEA has advised that, while it is likely that there will be some change in the trades being offered by Dublin Institute of Technology as a result of the decline in student numbers, there is no intention to phase out all construction trades. It is a matter for each institution to determine how the block grant received from the HEA is allocated internally.

Third Level Fees

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

52 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason students participating in the part-time Bachelor of Arts, arts and design course at Galway and Castlebar GMIT will, from September 2012 onwards, be expected to pay college fees that will have increased by 70%; if his attention has been drawn to the plight of many students who may be forced to abandon this course because of the increase in course fees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19499/12]

Pat Breen

Question:

90 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to a matter regarding an increase in student fees (details supplied) and if he or his Department have any role in resolving same. [19558/12]

Finian McGrath

Question:

95 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a 73% increase in fees for part-time students at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, an increase which could lead to 90% of part-time students having to abandon their studies despite having invested four or more years and previous fee payments in pursuit of their degree; if he will clarify the situation regarding same. [19620/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 52, 90 and 95 together.

Under the terms of my Department's Free Fee Initiative 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 institution.

With effect from the 2011/2012 academic year, a new student contribution charge was introduced in higher education. This charge replaced the Student Services Charge and applies to all full-time students who currently benefit under the ‘free fees' scheme. Where students are not eligible for free tuition fees, including students attending part-time course, they are liable to pay the appropriate tuition fee as determined by the third level institution. Such institutions are autonomous bodies and, as such, the level of fees to be charged in such cases is a matter for the institution concerned.

As the Deputy may also be aware, tax relief is available at the standard rate of taxation in respect of expenditure on fees associated with part-time higher education.

Schools Guidance Counsellors

Barry Cowen

Question:

53 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the recent ASTI survey which found that the majority of schools are considering cutting guidance provision along with dropping critical subjects from the leaving certificate programme in September this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19388/12]

Dessie Ellis

Question:

67 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will respond to claims from the ASTI that the curtailment of guidance provision in second level schools will lead to an increase in early school dropout; his views on a survey carried out by a company (details supplied) which shows that seven out of ten second-level schools are considering cutting back on guidance counselling by an average of almost eight hours as a result of his decision to abolish the ex-quota guidance provision for second-level schools from September onwards. [19511/12]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

97 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills his view on a matter regarding guidance counsellors (details supplied); if he will review proposals regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19636/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 53, 67 and 97 together.

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

My Department has published Circular 0009/2012 to inform all post primary school management and staff of the staffing arrangements for post-primary schools for the 2012/13 school year, including in particular, the requirements to manage guidance from within the standard allocation. The circular is available on the Department website.

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

School Staffing

Brian Stanley

Question:

54 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of unregistered teachers currently employed at primary and post primary school level. [19498/12]

The information as requested by the Deputy for teachers in primary, secondary and community/comprehensive schools is not available.

As the Deputy will be aware, it is my intention to commence Section 30 of the Teaching Council Act following the enactment of the Education (Amendment) Bill 2012. This will prohibit the employment of unregistered teachers except in very limited circumstances. The numbers of unregistered persons who have acquired employment rights in schools will be determined following the completion of the transfer of data from the Teaching Council. This can only happen following enactment of the Bill.

Access to Higher Education

Clare Daly

Question:

55 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills noting the Higher Education Authority document Towards a Future Higher Education Landscape and the success of the institutes of technology, RTCs over forty years in enabling hundreds of thousands of students to be the first in their family to access higher education and to graduate from IOTs, RTCs if he will outline his plans to ensure that this access is maintained and the resources which will be provided to ensure that high quality third level education will continue to be provided in the regional clusters proposed. [19493/12]

The landscape documentation describes a future higher education system which can meet a diversity of needs. This includes Institutes of Technology developing and strengthening their role within their current designation. The building of regional collaborative clusters of all our higher education institutions is key to the delivery of many of the most important objectives of the National Strategy including achieving a more coherent, higher quality education system that is more responsive to the needs of students and enterprise. Regional clusters will allow programmes of teaching and learning to be better planned and coordinated, resources to be used more efficiently and more flexible student pathways and better progression opportunities to be put in place. These improved regional educational pathways will mean better access opportunities for our students.

Question No. 56 answered with Question No. 30.

Special Educational Needs

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

57 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on applied behaviour analysis; if he still subscribes to the view that official recognition should be conferred on ABACAS schools using the applied behaviour analysis method of one-to-one teaching with pupils as a means of ensuring an honest and open evaluation of the effectiveness of the ABA method. [19517/12]

My Department's policy on educating children with autism is centred on an inclusive, child centred approach promoting the use of a range of autism specific interventions including Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA), TEACCH and PECs.

Under this approach, each child can benefit from a number of different interventions to ensure the optimum individualised educational programme for him/her. Educational intervention for children with autism needs to be child-centred and tailored to meet the needs of each child, rather than matching the needs of a child to one particular or exclusive intervention.

This view is informed by advice received from international experts on autism, the National Educational Psychological Service and the Inspectorate. An analysis of research — including the report of the Irish Task Force on Autism — supports this approach too, while Autism societies in other countries also caution against relying on just one intervention.

My Department's policy is to provide for children with special educational needs, including autism, to be included in mainstream schools unless such a placement would not be in their best interests or the interests of the children with whom they are to be educated. Some children may be supported in a special class attached to a mainstream school. These students have the option, where appropriate, of full/partial integration and interaction with other pupils. Other children may have such complex needs that they are best placed in a special school. Students with special educational needs have access to a range of support services including additional teaching and/or care supports. In special schools and special classes, students are supported through lower pupil teacher ratios. Special needs assistants may also be recruited specifically where pupils with disabilities and significant care needs are enrolled.

Children in special classes have the benefit of fully-qualified teachers who are trained in educating and developing children generally and who have access to additional training in autism-specific approaches, including ABA. The level of such training available to teachers has improved dramatically in recent years and is a major priority for the Government. However, the Department does not accept — based on research, advice and best practice — that ABA should be the only intervention used. It is important that children have access to a range of approaches so that their broader needs can be met. By enabling children in special classes to have access to a range of methods, including ABA, the Government is doing what we are advised is in the best interests of such children. The Deputy will be aware of the ABA pilot scheme which was funded by my Department for the past decade. The pilot scheme was established in the absence of a network of school-based special classes for children with autism which is now available. The establishment of this network of autism-specific special classes in schools across the country to cater for children with autism has been a key educational priority in recent years. In excess of 450 classes have now been approved around the country at primary and post primary level, including many in special schools. All of the centres which participated in this scheme, including the schools referred to by the Deputy, have been granted recognition as special schools for children with autism. These schools operate in line with my Department's policy. Following their recognition the new schools are currently progressing well in the transitional phase. It is my intention to continue to support this transitional process.

School Staffing

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

58 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review his decision to cut three DEIS teaching posts from a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24 from September 2012 onward and which are being imposed on the school post the review into the loss of 235 pre-DEIS legacy posts that were announced in Budget 2012. [19519/12]

As a result of Budget 2012, the school to which the Deputy refers, is one of 15 non DEIS schools losing teaching posts retained under previous disadvantage programmes prior to the introduction of the DEIS Initiative in 2005. Under the Appeals process, where a school is losing 3 or more posts as a result of the combination of budget and reform measures, provision was made for schools to apply 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. The school to which the Deputy refers has submitted an appeal. The Staffing Appeal Board which operates independent of my Department will notify schools directly of its decisions.

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

Teachers’ Remuneration

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

59 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland assertion that cuts to teachers’ allowances may breach the Croke Park agreement. [19515/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, the review of allowances in the public service which is ongoing at the moment is being conducted by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and I understand that the Minister intends to bring proposals to Government shortly. The Government has reaffirmed the key commitments under the Public Service Agreement, including that there will be no further reductions in pay rates for serving public servants. These commitments are contingent on delivery of the required flexibilities and reforms to public service delivery. Allowances paid to teachers form only a part of the overall remit of the review. It would not be appropriate for me at this stage to comment on any specific subset of allowances, pending the outcome of the review and its consideration by Government. I have and will, of course, make my views on these issues known in the appropriate fora.

Institutes of Technology

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

60 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on figures released recently by the Teachers’ Union of Ireland that show an 18% increase in student numbers between 2008 and 2011 in institutes of technology at a time when lecturing staff numbers have decreased by 6.7% over the same period with a further cut of 2% demanded for 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19506/12]

The HEA has advised that between 2008 and 2011 full-time student numbers increased by 12.5% while core staffing numbers have decreased by 9.5% in the Institute of Technology sector. However the economic circumstances of the country are such that the staffing moratorium introduced across the public sector by the previous Government in 2009 has to be maintained. In contrast to other parts of the public service the higher education sector has been given significant latitude within this moratorium relative to other areas of public expenditure. An Employment Control Framework is in place for the higher education sector which provides institutions with considerable flexibility to fill vacancies, through recruitment or promotions on the basis of meeting an overall ceiling of posts.

Capitation Grants

Patrick Nulty

Question:

61 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if provision will be made to assist schools in difficulty as a consequence of the cut in capitation grants to schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19422/12]

As the Deputy is aware Budget 2012 provided for a 2% reduction in the funding for capitation and related grants to primary and second level schools in both 2012 and 2013 and a further 1% in 2014 and 2015. Due to my decision of 21st February last, to retain posts from previous disadvantage schemes in 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 this year 1.5% of the 2% reduction in overall capitation funding originally scheduled for 2013. Given the scale of our economic crisis, these necessary but difficult expenditure reduction measures cannot be revisited. I have no scope to introduce new or additional funding measures to assist schools.

Literacy Levels

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

62 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the results for Irish schools in the OECD’s 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment tests, in which the country’s ranking fell significantly from previous comparisons and that students in vocational schools had an average reading score of 466 points, compared with 487 in community and comprehensive schools, 504 in non-fee-paying secondary schools, and 539 in fee-paying secondary schools; and if he will make provision in the literacy and numeracy strategy to address this matter. [19518/12]

I welcome the publication of the Educational Research Centre (ERC) report on PISA 2009 which summarises all of the valuable research that the ERC and experts from Statistics Canada have completed on the achievement of Irish students in PISA 2009 and I note that the report confirms the analysis of the PISA 2009 data that was carried out by the ERC and Statistics Canada on behalf of the Department in 2010. The report confirms the possible reasons that were given by the ERC to explain a portion of the decline in achievement recorded in 2009, including higher numbers of immigrants, higher numbers of students with special educational needs in mainstream classes, a drop in early school leavers, greater numbers of the students tested in Transition Year and the exceptionally low performance of students in eight schools.

The additional data in this report, which suggests that student engagement with the test, as distinct from student ability, may have been an important factor in the decline, is a further piece of valuable information that helps us to understand the PISA 2009 outcomes. The report also confirms that in Ireland, as in other countries throughout the OECD, socio-economic status is strongly correlated with educational achievement. This is reflected in the differences recorded between student achievement in different types of second-level schools and is one of the key reasons why my Department targets additional resources on schools within the DEIS programme. I am glad to note also that the ERC report endorses many of the actions that I included in the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy issued last July. The detailed recommendations in the ERC report will be of great assistance to me and my Department in implementing the actions in the Strategy.

School Enrolments

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

63 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a timeframe for the consultation with families living along the Border corridor and which seeks to establish the levels of interest in sending children to schools across the Border; and if he will further provide a projected date when the survey will conclude. [19516/12]

My Department, in conjunction with the Department of Education in Northern Ireland, is planning a joint attitudinal survey exercise to inform cross-Border pupil movement and school planning in the Border region. An interim report of work on the survey will be presented to the next North-South Ministerial Council education meeting which will take place in May 2012. It is envisaged that the survey will be conducted in the autumn, with the results from the survey and proposals on the way forward to be considered at the first North-South Ministerial Council education meeting of 2013.

Question No. 64 answered with Question No. 48.

Teachers’ Remuneration

Sandra McLellan

Question:

65 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide statistical data on the number of newly qualified teachers who have emigrated since the decision to cut their allowances by 14%; his views on the numbers of recently graduated teachers who are being forced to pursue a career abroad that has enhanced career prospects and which is better paid. [19512/12]

As a result of Budget 2012, Circular 70/2011 provides that 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 public service-wide review of allowances being led by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Teachers who were appointed to teaching 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 public service-wide review, and subject to very limited exceptions, allowances are not payable to new beneficiaries appointed on or after 1 February 2012. These decisions were taken due to the upward pressure on the cost of teacher allowances. Without immediate action, this upward pressure would have cancelled out the savings made elsewhere in the education system and would bring about even harsher adjustments to schools and services. The information sought in respect of statistical data on the number of newly qualified teachers who have emigrated following changes in the payment of allowances is not available in the Department.

Special Educational Needs

Willie O'Dea

Question:

66 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Education and Skills the proposals, if any, he has to improve the participation for persons with disabilities in third level education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19409/12]

Actions to improve access to third level education are being progressed through the implementation of the six-year National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education (2008-2013). Key achievements to date include the development of access and lifelong learning plans in all higher education institutions funded by the Higher Education Authority. These include plans for the continuation and development of programmes of work with young people and adults in schools and communities, including those with disabilities. Recently published data from the HEA, based on information collected by 27 higher education institutions, show that 6.4% of new entrants to higher education in 2010-11 indicated they had one or more disabilities. This figure is a measure of the progress made in recent years, as previous estimates by Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD) in 1993-94 indicated a participation rate of 0.65% of all undergraduates. A target specific to the participation of students with disabilities included in the National Access Plan was to double the number of students with sensory, physical and multiple disabilities in higher education by 2013. This target is related directly to the number of approvals for these categories of disabilities through the Fund for Students with Disabilities and 96% of the mid-term target (for 2010) was achieved. The Fund for Students with Disabilities allocates funding to further and higher education institutions to provide personal and academic supports to ensure the participation and retention in education of students with disabilities. The number of students supported by the fund has increased very substantially over recent years, rising by 200% between 2005 and 2010 (from 2,032 to 6,097 students supported).

Question No. 67 answered with Question No. 53.

Diplomatic Representation

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

68 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of staff by grade and the cost of and operation of the Irish embassies in Portugal, Turkey, Switzerland, Lithuania, India and Finland for the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19671/12]

A table providing the information on staffing and operating costs for the overseas Missions in question is set out. The staffing figures take account of diplomatic staff, local staff engaged by the Mission and, in the case of New Delhi, visa office staff whose salaries and other costs are borne by the Department of Justice and Equality. Also included is a small number of staff indirectly engaged through local employment agencies, some on a temporary basis.

The annual costs included in the table are the administrative costs of operating the Mission. The figures do not include the salaries of the Irish based staff as these are a charge on the overall salaries budget of the Department rather than on a specific Mission. In the case of Lisbon, Ankara and Berne, the official residence is state-owned whereas in Vilnius, New Delhi and Helsinki the rental costs for premises are a charge on the Mission budget.

Also, from time to time Missions may incur significant expenditure in relation to their premises or for upgrading of essential infrastructure. These costs are not included in the annual administrative costs as detailed in the table as they are a charge on the overall budget of the Department.

Embassy

Number

Staff

Notes

Outturn 2007 €

Outturn 2008 €

Outturn 2009 €

Outturn 2010 €

Outturn 2011 €

Portugal

1

Ambassador

407,681

421,384

376,881

347,406

427,883

1

First Secretary

1

Personal Assistant

Locally employed

1

Clerk Secretary

Locally employed

1

Driver/Messenger

Locally employed

Turkey

1

Ambassador

477,648

412,782

389,863

394,114

379,651

1

First Secretary

1

Third Secretary

1

Personal Assistant

Locally employed

2

Clerk Secretaries

Locally employed

1

Driver/Messenger

Locally employed

Switzerland

1

Ambassador

473,573

437,412

427,988

429,447

499,593

1

Third Secretary

2

Clerk Secretaries

Locally employed

1

Driver/Messenger

Locally employed

Lithuania

1

Ambassador

478,672

471,881

452,427

426,413

414,957

1

Third Secretary

1

Personal Assistant

Locally employed**

1

Clerk Secretary

Locally employed**

1

Driver/Messenger

Locally employed**

India

1

Ambassador

727,969

746,064

474,056

743,338

668,436

1

First Secretary/AP

1

Third Secretary

1

Higher Executive Officer

Visa Office*

3

Executive Officer

Visa Office*

1

Office Manager

Locally employed

1

Executive Assistant

Locally employed

1

Visa Manager

Locally employed*

2

Clerk Secretaries

Locally employed

4

Visa Clerks

Locally employed*

2

Driver/Messenger

Locally employed

2

Watchmen

Locally Employed

2

Chancery Cleaner

Locally Employed

Finland

1

Ambassador

567,319

440,335

560,166

526,400

508,919

1

Third Secretary

2

Clerk Secretaries

Locally employed

1

Driver/Messenger

Locally employed

*Visa Office staff.

**Staff contracted through agencies.

Tax Collection

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

69 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance if it is confirmed that no return whatsoever was brought in by the windfall tax on rezoned National Asset Management Agency land in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19643/12]

The purpose of the windfall gains provisions in sections 644AB and 649B Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, introduced by section 240 National Asset Management Agency Act 2009 and amended by section 25 Finance Act 2010, is to apply a higher 80% rate of tax to the profits or gains from land disposals where those profits or gains are attributable to a relevant planning decision by a planning authority rather than to any value attributable to the work of the landowner. "Relevant planning decision" is defined in the provisions as meaning (i) a change in the zoning of land in a development plan or local area plan from non-development land-use, that is from agricultural, open space, recreational or amenity use or a mixture of such uses, to development land-use, that is to residential, commercial or industrial uses or a mixture of such uses, or from one development land-use to another, including a mixture of such uses, and (ii) a material contravention decision by a planning authority in relation to a development plan.

In the case of rezonings, the 80% rate applies where there is a disposal of land following its rezoning where that rezoning takes place on or after 30 October 2009 (the date of publication of the relevant Report Stage amendment to the National Asset Management Agency Bill 2009, which as indicated earlier introduced the windfall gains provision) and in the case of material contravention decisions, the 80% rate applies where there is a disposal of land following a material contravention decision where that decision is made on or after 4 February 2010 (the publication date of the 2010 Finance Bill).

The 80% tax rate applies in respect of disposals by individuals or companies as part of their land dealing/developing trade or as the disposal of a capital item. It only applies to the part of the profits or gains that is attributable to the relevant planning decision. Any part of the profits or gains that is attributable to other factors, such as construction operations on the land or the expectation that the land would be rezoned, or benefit from a material contravention decision, in the future (‘hope value') continues to be taxed at the normal income tax, corporation tax or capital gains tax rates, as appropriate.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that on the basis of the available details from corporation tax and income tax returns for 2009 and 2010, the latest year for which the necessary details are available, there is no record of any such profits or gains having been returned. However, the Commissioners have indicated that the existing database does not include details of capital gains returned via the CG1 tax return because these are not captured in electronic format and, consequently, that if windfall profits have been returned using this medium it is not possible to centrally identify the relevant details.

Banks Recapitalisation

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

70 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Finance if he has had any discussions with the banks in relation to the provision of credit in the construction industry; the results of these discussions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19594/12]

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. In addition to the lending targets imposed on the banks, the pillar banks are required to submit their lending plans to the Department and the Credit Review Office (CRO) at the beginning of each year, outlining how they intend to achieve their lending targets. My Department, in conjunction with the CRO, subsequently analyses the plan and meets the banks to discuss any issues of note. The banks also meet with my Department and the CRO on a quarterly basis to discuss progress. The monthly management meetings with the pillar banks also provide a forum for the issue of SME lending to be raised by my Department.

The overall target for lending to SMEs includes lending to the construction sector. The Government is conscious that the construction sector, in common with other sectors, needs access to credit. The remit of the Credit Review Office which was established to review decisions of the banks to refuse credit includes the construction sector. All loans to the construction sector are included in the construction sector lending returns. In his most recent quarterly report, the Credit Reviewer notes that whilst each banks' balance sheets have contracted during 2011, the monitoring of these figures show that no sector or geographic region has been adversely disadvantaged by each of the banks.

It is vital that the banks continue to make credit available to support economic recovery. However, it is not in the interest of the banks, businesses or the economy for finance to be provided unless the business is viable and has the capacity to meet the interest payments and repay the sum borrowed.

Bank Guarantee Scheme

Michael McGrath

Question:

71 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will show separately for each covered institution the amount of senior bonds, presenting figures separately for secured and unsecured, repaid since the original bank guarantee of September, 2008 to date and the amount that remain unpaid at the present time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19595/12]

The covered institutions have supplied the relevant information as follows:

Secured Senior Bonds Outstanding at 13 April 2012

Secured Senior Bonds Repaid 30 Sept 2008 to 13 April 2012

Unsecured Senior Bonds Outstanding at 13 April 2012

Unsecured Senior Bonds Repaid 30 Sept 2008 to 13 April 2012

Total Amount Outstanding; Secured and Unsecured at 13 April 2012

€bn

€bn

€bn

€bn

€bn

AIB/EBS

4.6

4.8

7.4

27.7

12.0

BOI

9.8(b)

6.1(a)

6.7

29.6

16.5(b)

ILP

2.7

5.3

10.0

8.0

IBRC(c)

2.7

22.2

1.4

3.3

4.1

(a) This includes securitisation payment of €2.9bn.

(b) This includes securitisation outstanding of €3.7bn.

(c) This includes former INBS.

Michael McGrath

Question:

72 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the amount of losses that have been imposed to date on subordinated bondholders at the covered institutions since the introduction of the original bank guarantee in September, 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19596/12]

In aggregate, the covered Irish banks have generated €15.5bn of capital from Liability Management Exercises (LMEs) over the last four years. The breakdown per year is as follows:

€bn

2008

2009

2010

2011

Total

PTSB

1.0

1.0

BoI

1.0

1.3

1.5

3.8

AIB

1.1

0.4

3.6

5.1

EBS

0.0

0.1

0.2

0.3

INBS

0.0

0.1

0.1

0.3

Anglo

1.8

1.6

3.3

Total cash gains from Sub-debt burden sharing

0.0

4.0

3.4

6.5

13.9

*BoI — Debt for Equity transactions

0.3

0.4

0.7

BoI — Residential Mortgage Backed Securitization LMEs

0.3

0.3

Anglo — Unrealised Tier 1 gain

0.3

0.3

Other

0.2

0.1

0.1

0.35

Total gains from LMEs

0.2

4.4

3.8

7.2

15.5

*In the case of Bank of Ireland (BoI) subordinated bondholders received €0.7bn of ordinary equity shares in consideration for their bond holdings (debt for equity transactions), as part of its recapitalisation in 2010 and 2011. In addition, BoI generated €0.3bn of capital in December 2011 from the re-purchase of c. €1.2bn residential mortgage backed securitizations.

Michael McGrath

Question:

73 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the estimated amount of shareholders’ equity that has been wiped out at the covered institutions since the emergence of the financial crisis in Ireland in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19597/12]

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 institutions.

Job Losses

Clare Daly

Question:

74 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Finance if he will intervene with AIB in view of speculation regarding thousands of job losses and ensure that management engage fully with the Irish Bank Officials Association. [19637/12]

Clare Daly

Question:

75 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Finance the way service levels in the State owned AIB will be protected in view of the fact that thousands of bank officials are being threatened with redundancy, while already temporary workers have had to be employed to deal with the running of the bank, and the way these redundancies can possibly benefit the economy. [19638/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 74 and 75 together.

The Deputy will be aware that AIB, as part of its announcement of 8 March 2012 of a voluntary severance programme, stated "as required under the bank's partnership principles with IBOA, a consultation process will begin immediately with trade union representatives." It went on to state that "AIB will not be making any further public comment until the consultation process with staff representatives is concluded." As these discussions are continuing, with the assistance of the Labour Relations Commissions, the Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to comment directly on some of the issues raised in these questions which form part of these negotiations.

In any of my public pronouncements on the issue, I have been at pains to point out that all parties involved in this most sensitive of issues for individuals need to be treated with utmost consideration and respect and this most certainly includes the State which has contributed in excess of €20bn to the bank.

It is deeply regrettable, for all concerned, that the proposed action of shedding some 2,500 jobs has had to be taken but it is an inevitable consequence of the necessary restructuring of the banking system to render it fit to better serve personal and business customers throughout the economy. The Deputy will be aware that operational matters such as service levels being provided by the bank do not form part of my remit and, accordingly, are a matter for the bank in the first instance.

Tax Code

Heather Humphreys

Question:

76 Deputy Heather Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the cash flow problems caused to businesses by payment of value added tax he will consider putting in place a mechanism whereby payment of VAT to Revenue for debtors accounts not yet settled could be delayed for a reasonable period of time or until payment is received. [19648/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the legislative provisions for the payment of VAT as set out in the Value-Added Tax Consolidation Act 2010 is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. The general position is that the VAT Directive defines a supply for VAT purposes, the time of supply and when the tax authority becomes entitled under law to claim the tax. Section 76 of the VAT Consolidation Act requires a trader to furnish a return with the appropriate remittance to the Collector-General within 19 days of the month immediately following a taxable period but section 78 of the Act extends this period to 23 days in the case of electronic remittances and returns.

Section 80 of the VAT Consolidation Act allows a VAT-registered person to opt to account for VAT by reference to the amount of money which the person receives where:

the person's supplies of goods or services are almost exclusively (at least 90%) made to unregistered persons. This would apply in practice mainly to retail outlets, public houses, restaurants, hairdressers and any similar type of business, or

the person's annual turnover (exclusive of VAT) does not exceed or is not likely to exceed €1,000,000 a year.

Two thirds of registered VAT traders avail of this option and therefore account for and pay VAT to Revenue only on their cash receipts.

In the event that exceptional or once off factors giving rise to tax payment difficulties arise for otherwise viable businesses, they are encouraged to be proactive in approaching Revenue on how those factors will be overcome and timely compliance quickly restored. Revenue has published extensive information on its website on the matter of handling tax payment difficulties.

Jack Wall

Question:

77 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is in receipt of all their entitlements and if they are being deducted the proper taxes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19660/12]

I have been informed by the Revenue Commissioners that based on the information available the person is exempt from both Income Tax and Universal Social Charge. The person was notified of this in writing on 14 February 2012. An Amended Tax Credit Certificate — 2012 giving the same information was issued to the pension provider on 4 February 2012.

Departmental Staff

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

78 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the number of promotions that have been approved in the Revenue Commissioners for the years 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012 by grade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19678/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners they fill posts in accordance with Government policy on the civil service in place from time to time. The filling of such posts can be made internally by promotion, or externally, either by open recruitment, interdepartmental competition or redeployment from other public service bodies. The number of staff promoted following internal selection procedures in Revenue by grade for the years 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012 are noted in Table 1.

Table 1: Internal Promotions

Grade Level

2008

2009

2010

2011

To 16/4/12

Principal

2

0

11

2

8

Assistant Principal

22

0

22

1

14

Higher Executive Officer

72

17

18

25

12

Executive Officer

63

37

1

25

0

Staff Officer

19

0

0

13

0

Clerical Officer

0

0

6

0

0

Staff appointed following external open competition, interdepartmental competition or redeployment for the years 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012 are noted in Table 2. Some of those appointed were already serving Revenue staff.

Table 2: External Competition /Redeployment

Grade Level

2008

2009

2010

2011

To 16/4/12

Secretary General Level (Commissioners)*

1

0

0

0

1

Assistant Secretary*

3

0

0

3

0

Principal

9

0

4

2

0

Assistant Principal

21

0

22

0

2

Solicitors and Economists

1

0

2

1

2

Higher Executive Officer

31

2

2

3

0

Administrative Officer

15

4

25

0

6

Executive Officer

88

17

7

6

1

Staff Officer

8

1

0

1

0

Clerical Officer

176

1

19

4

0

Service Officer

5

0

4

1

2

*Following Top Level Appointment Committee open competitions.

These appointments were made to replace the loss of key skills and experience in Revenue at a time of significant staffing reductions. Since January 2008, Revenue staffing numbers have reduced by a net amount of 852 full time equivalent staff (-13%). Despite the appointments set out in Tables 1 and 2, since January 2008 the numbers serving have reduced at Principal level by 39 (-26%), Assistant Principal level by 110 (-22%), at HEO/AO level by 123 (-11%) and EO/SO level by 245 (-12%).

The Revenue Commissioners are subject to the Employment Control Framework staffing reductions, in line with Government policy to reduce public service numbers. However, I recognise the need to replace the loss of key skills and experience in Revenue while meeting the existing Employment Control Framework allocations. I have asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to consider reducing Revenue's target staff numbers over a longer period of time, whilst at the same time allowing Revenue some scope to replace critical skills and experience. This request is under consideration. In the meantime, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has sanctioned the replacement of some critical posts in Revenue.

Bonds Markets

Michael McGrath

Question:

79 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his views on the current prospects for Ireland to return to the bond markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19708/12]

It has been stated repeatedly that the intention of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) is to return to sovereign debt markets as soon as market conditions permit. In late January the Agency re-engaged with the bond market and extended the maturity of some €3.5 billion of debt which was due for repayment just after the end of the EU/IMF Programme. This is a significant first step in terms of managing Ireland's post-Programme funding requirements. The steps necessary to position the NTMA for such a return include continued progress in the reduction of the budget deficit in line with the targets agreed in the EU/IMF Programme, together with the implementation of policies that will see Ireland return to sustainable economic growth. Of course, resolution of the wider euro area sovereign debt and banking crisis is also a critical factor. The NTMA remains in regular contact with a broad range of market participants, and conditions permitting, is seeking to gradually extend its presence in the short-term debt market before seeking to raise longer-term debt. The NTMA will advise me when it feels that the time is right to re-enter the markets.

The Deputy should also be aware that the NTMA has reached agreement with the pensions industry on the structure of a new type of bond which will facilitate the creation of long term annuities based on the Irish Government bond yield curve. The NTMA stands ready to provide these bonds to the pensions industry as soon as the industry is in a position to invest in them.

Social and Affordable Housing

Michael McGrath

Question:

80 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he expects the National Assets Management Agency to engage with all councils in whose area NAMA holds housing stock in regard to the provision of social housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19709/12]

I am informed by NAMA that it engages with Local Authorities, through the Housing Agency, in relation to social housing. In December 2011, NAMA identified over 2,000 properties under the control of its debtors or receivers as being potentially suitable for social housing. I am advised by NAMA that interested housing authorities should contact the Housing Agency about potential social housing units in their area. In cases where suitability is established, NAMA will facilitate contact and negotiations between its debtor/receiver and the housing authority.

National Asset Management Agency

Michael McGrath

Question:

81 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his views on the operation to date of the National Assets Management Agency advisory board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19710/12]

The advisory group on NAMA was set up to advise me on specific issues related to NAMA. The group's advice to me primarily relates 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 have met with the group on one occasion since it was formally established. It is also open to the Chair to contact me as issues arise. I expect the advisory group to play a valuable role and I can confirm that I am satisfied with the operation and progress of the group to date.

FÁS Training Programmes

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

82 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the operation of the FÁS local training initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19569/12]

Pearse Doherty

Question:

83 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for the future of the local training initiative programme including funding to be allocated in 2012; if there are any plans under consideration for the discontinuation of the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19611/12]

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

The Local Training Initiative (LTI) programme is a training intervention designed to offer significant additional supports to enable socially excluded persons to avail of FÁS training. The FÁS budget contains a sum of €33.406m for LTIs in 2012.

A national review of LTI programmes is being undertaken in 2012 to ensure the continuing effectiveness and efficiency of each programme in meeting the needs of the target profile; that the training is relevant to the labour market; that outcomes/targets for qualifications, placement and progression are being achieved and that resources are being effectively utilised.

Ministerial Staff

Niall Collins

Question:

84 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide, in tabular form, details of all salary increases for special advisors requested by him or any Ministers of State in his Department; the names of the advisors and the amount requested and a list of salary increases granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18653/12]

There have been no salary increases requested by me or granted in respect of my two special advisors since their appointment. The Ministers of State at my Department do not have special advisors.

Niall Collins

Question:

85 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide, in tabular form, the names and salaries of all his special advisors including special advisors of Ministers of State and any salary increases they have received since they took office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18636/12]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table. The Ministers of State at my Department do not have Special Advisers.

Special Advisers in the Department of Education and Skills

Name

Gross salary (per annum)

Salary increases received since taking up office

Mr. John Walshe

€92,672

Nil

Ms. Deirdre Grant

€86,604

Nil

Higher Education Grants

Brendan Smith

Question:

86 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress of the capital asset implementation group; the assets the group are considering; when the group is expected to report; the next steps once the group have made their recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19685/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, as part of the overall Budget measures announced last December, it was signalled that it is proposed to amend the means test for student grants to take account of the value of certain capital assets as well as income for new applicants from the 2013/14 academic year.

A Capital Asset Test implementation group has been convened to develop and bring forward detailed proposals on new means testing arrangements to include the value of assets. This group has met on three occasions and its deliberations are ongoing. I anticipate that the group will report to me by the Summer and will make recommendations on the inclusion or exclusion of various classes of assets.

Any proposals arising from these recommendations will require Government agreement and will also necessitate legislative amendment.

Question No. 87 answered with Question No. 46.

School Management

Clare Daly

Question:

88 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a list of national schools currently with no board of management and in each case the reason for same. [19551/12]

In accordance with the provisions of the Education Act 1998, the appointment of a Board of Management of a school is a matter for the relevant school patron. Under the provisions of the Act, where a patron determines that the appointment of a board is not practicable, or where the patron, with the consent of the Minister, has dissolved a board of management, the patron may appoint a manager or managers to perform the functions of the board. As the Deputy will be aware, the term of office of outgoing Boards of the circa 3300 primary schools expired on 30 November 2011 with new Boards being appointed from 1 December 2011. The agreed procedures for the appointment of Boards of primary schools are set out in my Department's publication "Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedures 2011".

Under these agreed procedures, when the Board is appointed, the Patron is required to submit a declaration to my Department confirming same. The process of updating the Department's records from the declarations received from patrons is ongoing within my Department at present. However, at any given time, there are normally of the order of 20 to 30 primary schools in which the patron has, in accordance with the Act, appointed a manager or manager to perform the functions of the Board.

Educational Tours

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

89 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will address concerns regarding the Irish Greyhound Board offering free school tour outings of the greyhound stadia around the country for students and teachers; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this may encourage the culture of gambling and betting to children as well as the culture of blood sports through the introduction of the hare system as part of the tour package; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19557/12]

Decisions in relation to educational tours by schools are a matter for each individual school. In accordance with my Department's circulars, the objective of an educational tour should be to provide a significant benefit in the educational, intellectual, cultural and social development of pupils taking part. It is a matter for each individual school to decide on the suitability of any proposed tour having regard to these requirements.

I would share the Deputy's concern that schools might expose children to gambling and betting as these kind of activities are not appropriate for young children.

Question No. 90 answered with Question No. 52.

Third Level Fees

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

91 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the most up-to-date figures for payment and collection of the second instalment of third level fees for this academic year, for the country and per relevant institution. [19560/12]

The information sought by the Deputy is not readily available in my Department. The Higher Education Authority has been requested to contact each institution seeking such details. It is expected that the information will be available in the coming weeks and I will arrange to have it forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Fire Safety

Terence Flanagan

Question:

92 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide details of the fire safety checks that take place on new school buildings by engineers from his Department who are independent from the contractors employed who carry out the work; the person who signs off on the fire stopping; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19581/12]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

98 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide details of the fire safety checks that take place regularly on existing school buildings by engineers from his Department; and if he will provide details of the person who signs off on when new fire stopping is needed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19653/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 92 and 98 together.

Officials in my Department have no role or statutory authority to undertake "fire safety checks" or sign off on "fire stopping" in new school buildings. Works in connection with the design and construction of a new school building or which involve the material alteration of existing school buildings are likely to require a Fire Safety Certificate. Responsibility for issuing this statutory approval rests with the Building Control Authority (i.e. Fire Officer) in the relevant Local Authority. Generally a Fire Safety Certificate application is made by a Fire Safety Consultant, Architect or Engineer who is employed by the school and who is familiar with the Building Regulations and the procedure for applying for the Fire Safety Certificate. The applicant is required to demonstrate that the development complies with the Building Regulations. A Fire Safety Certificate is granted based on the design and information submitted. When the building project is finished the relevant consultant is required to issue a Certificate of Compliance certifying that the building(s) has been constructed in accordance with the Fire Safety Certificate and the Building Regulations.

Issues of health and safety are a matter for the school Board of Management (BOM). If the BOM is aware of potential health and safety risk associated with "fire stopping", then they should contact the consultant who issued the certificate of compliance. If they are still not satisfied then they should contact the Building Control Authority in their Local Authority.

Fee-Charging Schools

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

93 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will confirm whether he has no intention of withdrawing public funding to fee paying secondary schools. [19586/12]

The funding to which the Deputy refers is the arrangement whereby the salaries of teachers employed within the approved annual staffing allocation for fee charging schools by my Department are paid by the State, an arrangement that pre-dates the introduction of the Free Education scheme and which exists since the foundation of the State. The estimated cost of these posts is in the order of €100m.

The Deputy will be aware that I announced a review last December, in the context of the Budget 2012, where I made a further one point change to the staffing allocation of fee charging schools. I indicated at the time that the purpose of the review would be to inform future policy in relation to exchequer support for these schools. The review will be completed in the coming months and in time to inform Government deliberations on the next budget.

School Accommodation

Simon Harris

Question:

94 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a school (details supplied) will be provided with new school accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19605/12]

I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy has an application with my Department for capital funding for a major school project. Information in respect of the current status of all assessed applications for major capital works, including this project, is available on the Department's website at www.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. 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.

Question No. 95 answered with Question No. 52.

School Staffing

John McGuinness

Question:

96 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills the action he is taking to ensure there are no teaching posts lost at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24 from next September; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19629/12]

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 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.

The staffing circular 0007/2012 also includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeals 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 first meeting of the Appeals Board takes place this week and the Boards of Management of the applicant schools will be notified of the outcome of appeals as soon as possible thereafter. The Appeals 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 Appeals Board will have been considered.

Question No. 97 answered with Question No. 53.
Question No. 98 answered with Question No. 92.

Teachers’ Remuneration

John Deasy

Question:

99 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the cost to the Exchequer in each of the past five years of increments paid to primary teachers and post primary teachers [19690/12]

The information available in my Department in regard to the request by the Deputy is being compiled and will be forwarded directly to him. The information will relate to teachers in Primary, Secondary, Community and Comprehensive Schools.

My Department does not hold information on the payment of increments to teachers employed by vocational education committees (VECs). Each VEC is a separate employer operating its own payroll system and, accordingly, the information sought would require an inordinate amount of administrative time to compile.

Higher Education Grants

Catherine Murphy

Question:

100 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline the new and proposed State supports for access to third and fourth level education in view of the recent reduction in tax relief for qualifying programmes and the proposed reduction in direct financial supports in the next academic year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19723/12]

My priority as Minister for Education and Skills is to preserve access to undergraduate higher education courses despite the difficult circumstances in our public finances. As a result, no changes were made to the eligibility criteria for undergraduate students in Budget 2012. It is also worth emphasising that 41% of all undergraduate students currently receive a grant and pay no student contributions. Nevertheless, in the context of the necessary but difficult expenditure reduction measures announced in Budget 2012, new students entering postgraduate courses from the 2012/13 academic year onwards will not be entitled to any maintenance payment under the Student Grant Scheme. Existing postgraduate students will not be affected.

However, those students who meet the qualifying conditions for the special rate of grant will be eligible to have their post-graduate tuition fees paid up to the maximum fee limit under the Student Grant Scheme. In access terms, the requirement to pay a fee is considered to be a greater obstacle to entry than lack of maintenance support at postgraduate level. This is why I opted to maintain the fee-payment ahead of maintenance payments for postgraduate students.

In addition, a further limited number of students who would previously have qualified under the standard grant thresholds will qualify to have a €2,000 contribution made towards the costs of their fees. However, there will be a new income threshold for this payment which will be lower than the standard grant threshold. The income threshold for this level of grant is currently being determined in the context of the formulation of the student grant scheme for the 2012/13 academic year. Tax relief is also available on postgraduate tuition fees. Details in relation to this relief are available from the Revenue Commissioners.

In addition to this, the Student Assistance Fund will continue to be made available through the access offices of third-level institutions to assist students in exceptional financial need. Also the Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD) provides funding to both further and higher education institutions for the provision of services and supports for full-time students with disabilities. While it is regrettable that any changes need to be made to student support, I believe this approach will continue to provide resources for a relatively wide number of post-graduate students and allow us to maintain the high level of supports provided to undergraduate students.

As you are aware a new student contribution charge of €2,000 was introduced in higher education with effect from the 2011/2012 academic year. This charge replaced the previous Student Services Charge (€1,500) and applies to all students who benefit under the ‘free fees' scheme. The contribution will increase to €2,250 with effect from the 2012/13 academic year. Conscious of financial pressures on families tax relief provisions were put in place so that second and subsequent siblings will not have to bear the full cost increase.

Ministerial Staff

Niall Collins

Question:

101 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide, in tabular form, details of all salary increases for special advisors requested by him or any Ministers of State in his Department; the names of the advisors and the amount requested and a list of salary increases granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18660/12]

Niall Collins

Question:

102 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide, in tabular form, the names and salaries of all his special advisors including special advisors of Ministers of State and any salary increases they have received since they took office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18643/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 101 and 102 together. I have appointed Anne Byrne and Ronan O'Brien as special advisors. The salary for both special advisors has been €83,337 and €114,000 respectively per annum since their appointment. No salary increases have been requested in respect of either appointment.

Ministerial Transport

John McGuinness

Question:

103 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 282 of 28 February 2012, if he will confirm the actual savings that were achieved in the first 12 months of operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19736/12]

While my Department does not maintain a formal record of the travel costs for each Minister it is however estimated that the average cost of providing transport to individual Officeholders has been reduced from €280,000 in 2010 to a current annual estimate of €100,000 per annum. This represents a 65% saving on the previous transport system in place.

Ministerial Staff

Niall Collins

Question:

104 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide, in tabular form, details of all salary increases for special advisors requested by him or any Ministers of State in his Department; the names of the advisors and the amount requested and a list of salary increases granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18658/12]

Niall Collins

Question:

105 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide, in tabular form, the names and salaries of all his special advisers including special advisors of Ministers of State and any salary increases they have received since they took office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18641/12]

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

The following table identifies the names and salary details of the two Special Advisers appointed by me as Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

Name

Appointment Date

Salary Scale

Mr. Ciaran Conlon

29th March 2011

€127,000

Mr. Conor Quinn

30th March 2011

€80,051, €83,337, €86,604, €89,898, €92,672, €95,55 (After 3 years satisfactory service at the maximum), €98,424 (After 6 years satisfactory service at the maximum)

In line with the Guidelines for Ministerial Appointments, Mr. Conor Quinn has progressed to the 2nd point of the Principal Officer Standard scale, i.e. €83,337 with effect from 30th March 2012. Mr. Ciaran Conlon has not received a salary increase since he was appointed on 29th March 2011. There are no Special Advisers appointed to the Ministers of State at my Department.

Work Permits

Michael McGrath

Question:

106 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding an application for an employment permit in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [19571/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that this Work Permit application was refused on 10 April 2012 on the grounds that it is current Government policy to issue new employment permits only in respect of:

highly skilled, highly paid positions or;

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

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

Furthermore permits are issued in respect of employment where it is established that a minimum salary of €30,000 per annum is on offer, based on a 39 hour week. In this instance the salary advertised for the post was €30,000 but this did not correspond with the salary proposed for this application.

The applicant was notified of this decision in writing and of their right to appeal this decision within 21 days. To-date no such appeal has been received in the Employment Permits Section.

Employment Rights

Brendan Griffin

Question:

107 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on issues (details supplied) raised by the Restaurants Association of Ireland concerning the way in which small and medium enterprises must operate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19572/12]

The sectors covered by the JLCs are characterised by a large number of small employments in which collective bargaining is not well established and wages tend to be low.

In many of the sectors covered by JLCs there is no effective alternative mechanism by which employees and employers can engage in collective bargaining at local level on equal terms.

The Duffy/Walsh Report concluded that the main justification for the JLC system lies in the absence of any other fair system of determining pay and conditions of employment, beyond statutory minima, within the sectors concerned.

The Industrial Relations (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 2011 was published on 22 December 2011. The Bill has completed Second Stage in the Dáil and is currently awaiting Committee Stage.

The main purpose of the Bill is to implement the commitment in the Programme for Government to reform the Joint Labour Committee system. The reform of the legal framework for underpinning this system is aimed at increasing employers’ ability to retain and employ workers, particularly in sectors hard hit by the prevailing economic circumstances, including the Hotel and Catering sectors, and to facilitate necessary cross-sector adjustment.

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

The fact that the process of making EROs was found by the High Court to be unconstitutional, together with the identified lack of adequate Oireachtas scrutiny of this process, only underscores some of the main features of the recommendations for reform that were put forward by the Duffy/Walsh report.

The commissioning of the independent review of the ERO and REA systems was one of the undertakings given by the last Government in the context of the EU and IMF-supported financial assistance programme for Ireland.

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

The principal measures in the legislation include:—

JLCs will have the power to set a basic adult rate and two additional higher rates, based on length of service in the sector or enterprise concerned;

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

As regard overtime, a new statutory Code of Practice on Sunday Working will be prepared by the Labour Relations Commission to provide guidance to employers, employees and their representatives in sectors covered by Employment Regulation Orders, on arrangements that may be put in place to comply with the options specified at section 14 of the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997;

Companies will be able to derogate from EROs in cases of financial difficulty. For this to occur, the Labour Court must satisfy itself that specified criteria have been met. Such derogation will be granted, for up to 24 months, in cases of proven economic difficulty, following consultation with the employees;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enterprise Support Services

Brendan Smith

Question:

108 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the efforts made to date by the State agencies and his Department to protect employment at a plant (details supplied); if he will ensure that all assistance is given to ensure the retention of this employment in this jurisdiction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19663/12]

As Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, I fully appreciate the concern felt in regard to the situation at the company in question. I know that last year, some 70 full time jobs were lost at the company due to the loss of a longstanding overseas contract. I understand that due to the company's reduced level of activity, their current business model is not viable and a decision was made late last year to close the Irish operation.

Since the company's arrival in Ireland in 2002, Enterprise Ireland has made several contacts with the company in an attempt to establish a relationship and assist in the development of the business. However, the company has not, at any point, made an application for assistance to Enterprise Ireland.

Specifically in 2011, Enterprise Ireland met with the company on five occasions. Three meetings held early in 2011 were initiated by Enterprise Ireland with a view to encouraging the company to draw up a development plan involving new product research, introduction of Lean practices, building management capability, etc. Enterprise Ireland also arranged for An Bord Bia to attend one of those meetings to explore any potential for the company through that agency. However, the company did not progress any of the possibilities discussed at the meeting and a development plan did not materialise.

It goes without saying that Enterprise Ireland is anxious to preserve the maximum number of jobs in Castleblayney. Enterprise Ireland has been provided with a profile of the Castleblayney facilities. It is a high care facility capable of being used in the manufacture of meals, all meat products, fish, sandwiches or salads. The profile of the facility has been circulated to a number of Enterprise Ireland clients who may be interested in expanding their cooking facilities and who have the resources to do so.

Enterprise Ireland's Food Division is actively following up with these clients and the agency's Consumer Foods team has also offered to meet with prospective buyers in the UK identified by the company to outline the supports available to the Food Sector in Ireland. A meeting has been scheduled for 25 April between Enterprise Ireland and Castleblayney Enterprise Centre to discuss future possibilities for the site.

Industrial Disputes

Brendan Smith

Question:

109 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the progress that has been made in relation to the resolution of a long running dispute at a company (details supplied); if the State’s industrial relations agencies have been involved in trying to reach a resolution in view of the urgent need to deal without further delay with the concerns of the employees of the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19664/12]

Workers at the Lagan Brick factory in Kingscourt, Co Cavan have been involved in a protest outside the company's premises in a dispute over the decision by the company to close its operation on 15 December last with the loss of 29 jobs. The union wanted to retain maximum employment at the plant and secure satisfactory redundancy terms for any workers that would lose their jobs. Subsequently, representatives of the company and the trade union SIPTU attended conciliation talks at the Labour Relations Commission on 10th and 16th January. These talks were reconvened on 6 February following consideration by both sides of an examination of the trading position of the company undertaken by an independent expert.

Following the 6th of February hearing, SIPTU stated that it would be seeking the intervention of the Labour Court in the dispute, following the failure to reach agreement in the LRC talks.

However, I understand that Lagan Brick subsequently issued a statement to the effect that the company did not intend to pursue further negotiation with worker representatives in this matter. I understand that, in a ballot conducted on Thursday 1st March, SIPTU members in Lagan Brick voted almost unanimously to take strike action in response to the company's decision not to attend the Labour Court, and that seven days' notice of strike action was served on Lagan Brick by SIPTU on 2nd March. Official strike action began at Kingscourt on 10 March and SIPTU has signalled its intention to continue the action until a satisfactory conclusion is reached.

I regret that the company has decided against pursuing a negotiated settlement and has declined to attend a Labour Court hearing, contrary to good industrial relations practice in that regard.

In my view, the experience and expertise of the Labour Court offers the most appropriate and effective avenue for resolving such issues.

I would urge the parties involved in this dispute to work together to break the current impasse by utilising the established machinery for dispute resolution, who are available to assist at short notice.

Social Welfare Benefits

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

110 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19553/12]

I confirm that an application for carer's allowance was received from the above named. In the interests of equity and fairness, applications for carer's allowance are normally processed in order of date of receipt in the Department. On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of her claim, a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Employment Support Services

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

111 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will extend the duration of the Tus scheme beyond one year as in many cases it takes up to nine months to adequately train the person participating in the Tus role to a level where significant experience can be gained thereafter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19561/12]

The purpose of Tús is the provision of quality work placements for those who are unemployed in order to break the cycle of unemployment and to improve a person's opportunities in returning to the labour market. The allocation of €84m in 2012 should provide for costs of ensuring 5,000 people are offered placements with community, voluntary and not-for-profit organisations. The 12-month duration on Tús is designed to ensure that the benefits of these work placements are offered to the greatest number of those eligible. While I have no proposals to alter this arrangement, the operation of Tús is being considered in the wider review of activation schemes in support of those who are unemployed.

Social Welfare Benefits

Denis Naughten

Question:

112 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19562/12]

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.

Denis Naughten

Question:

113 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection the current processing time for family income supplement renewals; the steps she is taking to address this problem;; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19565/12]

The Department is committed to providing a quality service to all its customers. This includes ensuring that applications are processed and that decisions on entitlement are made as quickly as possible.

The waiting time for renewal FIS claims is currently between 9-10 weeks.

The volume of FIS claims on hands and the delays in processing are a consequence of continued strong claim intake.

The Department has introduced a number of measures to address the efficiency of claim processing for FIS in light of the current waiting times:

Existing processes and procedures are reviewed on an ongoing basis with the explicit objective of reducing delays in claim processing;

Priority is being given to renewal claims to preserve continuity of payment;

The ongoing staffing requirement is being kept under review in light of the continued strong claim intake;

Additional temporary staff have been recruited to help reduce the backlog;

Overtime working is being applied where feasible.

These measures are aimed at reducing the number of claims on hand and the average waiting time for a decision. The position is being closely monitored and kept under review by the Department.

Áine Collins

Question:

114 Deputy Áine Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will be made regarding an application for child benefit (details supplied). [19570/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 24th 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 20th March 2012 and the case was assigned 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.

Social Welfare Appeals

Tom Hayes

Question:

115 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on a child benefit appeal will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19576/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that following an oral hearing of the case in question, the Appeals Officer referred the case back to Child Benefit Section for further investigation and clarification on certain issues. A response to this request is awaited.

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

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

116 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection if the financial review of all community employment projects has been completed; if the results of this review will be published; what is the next step and when will community employment schemes be informed of their funding situation for the remainder of 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19588/12]

A financial review of Community Employment (CE) Schemes is underway. This review of CE Schemes has proved to be a valuable exercise for both the schemes themselves and for my Department.

Given the volume and breath of the data being returned, the financial review of CE schemes will take longer than originally envisaged to complete. This will allow more time for schemes to engage with local officials in the finalisation of their respective budgets and for my Department to bring forward improvements to the overall operation of Community Employment which will improve the budgetary situation for schemes. No final allocations of materials and training grants have been made pending completion of the review.

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 in 2012.

The existing commitment in relation to the financial support of schemes will continue to apply.

Social Welfare Appeals

John McGuinness

Question:

117 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on a disability allowance application now under appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow. [19600/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the person concerned was assessed by a Medical Assessor of the Social Welfare Services who was of the opinion that he was medically unsuitable for disability allowance. He appealed this decision and in that context he was assessed by another Medical Assessor who also expressed the opinion that he was medically unsuitable for disability allowance.

The Department has now been requested to submit the relevant documents to the Social Welfare Appeals Office in this case. On receipt of their response, the appeal will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

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

Departmental Agencies

Pearse Doherty

Question:

118 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection if it is appropriate for TÚS funding, including the administrative portion of the funding, to be used to supplement the salaries of partnership board management such as CEOs or deputy CEOs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19610/12]

Tús — the community work placement initiative is progressing to have 5,000 people who have been unemployed for more than one year in work placements provided by community, voluntary and not-for-profit organisations in the coming months. Tús is delivered at local level by the 52 local development companies and by Údarás na Gaeltachta in Gaeltacht areas. As part of the arrangements with local development companies, a service fee is paid by the Department to meet the additional costs of delivering Tús in each of their operational areas. This service fee is based on the number of placements the company has accepted to manage and is designed to ensure that direct and indirect costs involved in the delivery of Tús are not borne by other programmes operated by the companies. To this end, each company is required to apportion indirect elements of its corporate cost base to Tús in line with arrangements for other programmes the company delivers. These costs will include board, legal, accounting, audit, management, including a proportion of the CEO/manager salary, stationary, insurance, communication, rents, and other office costs. In limited cases, some element of the service fee may be used to offset the salary costs of employees assigned to work on Tús or engaged specifically for duties relating to the management of the initiative.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

119 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to allow independent community sector organisations operating as implementing bodies for the TÚS programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19612/12]

The implementation of Tús is managed at a local level by local development companies and Údarás na Gaeltachta (implementing bodies), a total of 53 companies. Given their experience to date, dealing with social inclusion and the management of public funds and delivery of community services, this is viewed as the most cost effective way of implementing Tús.

The implementing bodies are responsible for all matters relating to employment and are recognised as the employer in all cases. They are responsible for indemnifications, supervision, discipline and ensuring that all relevant health and safety requirements are implemented and appropriate protective clothing and training is provided. Implementing bodies work with independent community sector organisations to identify work opportunities and develop work plans.

I have no plans to alter the existing arrangements for the local delivery of Tús.

Social Welfare Appeals

Brendan Griffin

Question:

120 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection when an oral hearing on an application for disability allowance will take place in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19614/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the appeal from the person concerned has been referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing on 1st May 2012. The person concerned has been notified of the arrangements.

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

Brendan Griffin

Question:

121 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection when an oral hearing on an application for disability allowance will take place in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19615/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the appeal from the person concerned has been referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing on 27th April 2012. The person concerned has been notified of the arrangements.

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. 122 withdrawn.

Proposed Legislation

Denis Naughten

Question:

123 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection when she plans to introduce legislation in line with the paragraph 4.12 of the Report on Family Relationships by the Law Reform Commission regarding statutory declarations by mothers regarding the father of their child; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19619/12]

Under current legislation, section 46 of the Status of Children Act 1987 provides for a legal presumption that a man in a subsisting marriage (or in a marriage that subsisted up to ten months before the birth of a child) is the father of all children of that marriage.

Under the provisions of section 22(3) of the Civil Registration Act 2004, a woman who is in a subsisting marriage can rebut the presumption of paternity by providing to the registrar of births either:

a statutory declaration of the person or each person to whom the mother was married at some time during the period of 10 months prior to the birth that he is not the father of the child, or

a statutory declaration of the mother that she has been living apart from the person who is or any person who formerly was her husband during the period of 10 months ending immediately before the birth of the child by virtue of a decree of divorce, a decree of divorce a mensa et thor o, a decree of nullity or a deed of separation, or

a court order (such as a Guardianship Order or a Declaration of Parentage) which names another man as the father of the child.

Paragraph 4.12 of the Report on Family Relationships by the Law Reform Commission contains a recommendation that a statutory declaration, made by the mother of a child and accompanied by evidence, to the effect that she has had no contact with her husband within 10 months of the birth of her child, and that he is not the child's father, should be sufficient to rebut the legal presumption that he is the father of all children of the marriage.

This and other proposals contained in the report that are relevant to the Civil Registration Service are currently under active consideration and it is expected that I will be in a position to introduce legislation on this, and other aspects of civil registration, in 2012.

Pension Provisions

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

124 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection if there are any small amount of income that an old age pensioner getting €226 per week in pension, could earn legitimately to help pass their days and yet not interfere with their pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19644/12]

I consider it important that those who wish to continue in employment after reaching State pension age should, as far as is possible, be facilitated and supported. Longer working will play an important role in ensuring that our pensions system is sustainable in the future. It can be also beneficial to the individual and I am working to create the conditions where people who wish to continue working past State pension age can continue in employment.

Under current legislation, there are three different categories of State pensions available to older people from my Department. The State pension (transition) is payable to people aged 65 years who have retired from work and who satisfy the necessary retirement and social insurance contributions conditions. For those who satisfy the qualifying conditions, it is payable for 12 months until they reach age 66 years. The State pension (transition) is being abolished with effect from 1st January 2014 with State pension age being standardised to age 66 for all. The State pension (contributory) is payable to people aged 66 years or over who satisfy the social insurance contribution conditions required for this payment. A person in receipt of the State pension (contributory) pension can work and earn an income (no limit) without it affecting their pension. Equally, a person who had been getting the State pension (transition) from age 65 years up to age 66 years can, from age 66 years when they transfer to the State pension (contributory), work and earn an income (no limit) and continue to get the State pension (contributory).

The State pension (non-contributory) is payable to people aged 66 years or over who satisfy a means test. In this instance, a person can earn up to €200 gross (less PRSI, superannuation and trade union subscriptions) per week in insurable employment without it affecting their pension. Cash income from employment is assessed as part of the pensioner's means. This earnings disregard of €200 each applies to pensioners and their spouse/partner in employment. Any income earned in the instances outlined, may be liable for income tax and all social welfare pensions are taxable.

Social Welfare Appeals

Patrick Deering

Question:

125 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Carlow will receive a decision on an appeal for carer’s allowance [19661/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 22nd 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 19th December 2011 and the appeal was assigned to an Appeals Officer for consideration on 26th 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.

Claims Processing

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

126 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has given any consideration to a proposal for reform of the manner in which the UPII-1-10 forms are treated by her Department (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19662/12]

My Department is committed to an on-going programme of service modernisation. A key element of this programme is to eliminate, as far as possible, all paper from the administrative process and to store, retrieve, and process records in an electronic format. Significant progress has been made across the Department in the use of scanning technology and automated business processes which use large-scale scanning facilities are in place in the Department's headquarter buildings. The necessary machinery and system functionality to accept and process scanned images is being extended to the Department's local office network on a phased basis. These facilities will be used initially to assist the claim registration and client identification process.

As regards the signing on process for jobseeker clients, the initial focus will be on the introduction of scanning facilities to automate the weekly declaration process for clients involved in casual/part-time work. A scanning solution, aimed at delivering administrative efficiencies in this area, is in development at present, and the possibilities for extending scanning facilities to other areas of work , including the area mentioned by the Deputy, is kept under constant review. In relation to the UP11 form, which is issued to people signing on by post, I would like to assure the Deputy that the processing of these forms is dealt with as a priority. The Department is not aware of any issues in relation to staff failing to key in client details on time. Occasionally, in individual circumstances a form may arrive late due to postal delays and in these circumstances the Department seeks to rectify the problem without delay.

Social Welfare Appeals

John McGuinness

Question:

127 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if disability allowance will be approved in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will expedite the matter. [19700/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 14th October 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 2nd February 2012 and the appeal was assigned to an Appeals Officer for consideration on 24th 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.

Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

128 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta, céard iad na pleananna atá aige le pleananna áitiúla teanga a chur i bhfeidhm sa Ghaeltacht faoin Stráitéis Fiche Bliain; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [19630/12]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

129 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta, an bhfuil sé i gceist aige iarraidh ar na heagraíocthaí pobail bhunaithe agus ar na Comharchumainn Ghaeltachta pleananna áitiúla teanga a chur i bhfeidhm sa Ghaeltacht faoin Stráitéis Fiche Bliain le comhairle ó shaineolaithe, an mbeidh airgead á chur ar fáil dóibh don obair seo; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [19631/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 128 and 129 together.

Mar is eol don Teachta, tá ráite sa Straitéis Fiche Bliain don Ghaeilge 2010-2030 go mbeidh forbairt córas cuimsitheach pleanála teanga ag leibhéal an phobail sa Ghaeltacht ag croílár na Straitéise agus go mbeidh sé riachtanach plean teanga a ullmhú ag leibhéal an phobail do gach ceantar Gaeltachta. Cuimseoidh na pleananna seo gach gné de shaol an phobail lena mbaineann siad agus beidh siad bunaithe ar riachtanais teanga aitheanta na gceantar faoi leith. Tabharfar foráil reachtúil don phróiseas pleanála teanga faoin mBille Gaeltachta 2012 atá á dhréachtú faoi láthair.

Tá plé ar bun le tamall anuas ag oifigigh mo Roinne le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta chun an cur chuige is fearr a aimsiú don phróiseas pleanála teanga sa Ghaeltacht. Mar thoradh ar an bplé sin, tá sé i gceist ag mo Roinn, i gcomhar le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta, tús a chur leis an bpróiseas pleanála teanga trí chruinniú a reáchtáil go luath le roinnt eagraíochtaí pobalbhunaithe agus comharchumainn Ghaeltachta. Glacaim leis go bpléifear na ceisteanna ábhartha uile sa chomhthéacs sin, ar a n-áiritear oiliúint chuí ar fáil in am trátha dóibh siúd a bheidh ag plé le hullmhú agus le feidhmiú pleananna teanga i measc an phobail.

Fisheries Protection

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

130 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide data on a fish counter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19645/12]

I can advise the Deputy that the fish counter in the River Maine, which had a total cost of €93,000 including equipment purchase, installation and rehabilitation of landscape, has provided considerable data on the movement of salmonids since it was commissioned in late 2009. The data provided has assisted Inland Fisheries Ireland in its management of this valuable wild fishery in the last few years.

The data requested by the Deputy is set out in the following tables.

Maine Fish Counter Statistics

2011

Salmon up

Salmon Down

Sea Trout up

Sea Trout down

Jan-11

514

153

133

95

Feb-11

205

259

175

175

Mar-11

19

58

13

11

Apr-11

60

42

79

41

May-11

91

95

224

123

Jun-11

67

68

115

29

Jul-11

9

6

34

2

Aug-11

6

3

1

2

Sep-11

160

37

28

56

Oct-11

97

49

52

30

Nov-11

0

0

0

0

Dec-11

253

179

732

385

Total

1,481

949

1,586

949

2010

Jan-10

203

96

884

697

Feb-10

37

36

236

200

Mar-10

68

33

170

161

Apr-10

58

10

701

593

May-10

0

0

0

0

Jun-10

189

164

745

812

Jul-10

322

92

830

70

Aug-10

145

60

275

105

Sep-10

1,526

144

268

102

Oct-10

769

72

193

63

Nov-10

223

22

534

450

Dec-10

692

59

199

42

Total

4,232

788

5,035

3,295

2009

Oct-09

710

106

324

97

Nov-09

415

184

1,712

1,346

Dec-09

169

49

2,325

1,802

Total

1,294

339

4,361

3,245

Inland Fisheries

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

131 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will extend the fishing season for salmon fishing on the River Maine, County Kerry, which closes on 30 September (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19646/12]

I can inform the Deputy that Ireland's salmon rivers are managed by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) on an individual basis, with the available surpluses (if any) of salmon calculated annually. The annual surplus of salmon available on the River Maine is divided between the commercial and recreational anglers. The following table is for the Deputy's information, outlining the surpluses since 2010 when the river re-opened to angling and commercial fishing.

I am advised by IFI that any extension to the recreational angling season would need to be based on scientific analysis of available surplus, catch returns, counter information, run timing, exploitation rates etc. However, as I have already stated the River Maine has only reopened since 2010 and a longer time series of data may be required to support such an analysis.

Surplus for River Maine — Kerry

Year

Commercial

Rod

Total

2009

0

Catch and Release

0

2010

143

77

220

2011

143

254

397

2012

to be determined

To be determined

799

Telecommunications Services

Brendan Griffin

Question:

132 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on a matter regarding broadband (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19575/12]

Ireland's telecommunications market has been liberalised since 1999 and since then has developed into a well-regulated market, supporting a multiplicity of commercial operators, providing services over a diverse range of technology platforms. Details of broadband services available on a county-by-county basis can be found on the Commission for Communications Regulation's (ComReg) website at www.callcosts.ie.

The State is not a provider of services, except in instances of clear market failure such as in the cases of both the National and Rural Broadband Schemes. Such interventions are always subject to EU State Aid clearance to ensure no unacceptable level of market distortion takes place. The general area of Rathmore, County Kerry is covered under the National Broadband Scheme (NBS). Broadband services under this Scheme are available since October 2010, from the NBS service provider, 3, to persons with a fixed residence or fixed business in all NBS designated areas, including Rathmore.

In keeping with State aid clearance for the Scheme, the broadband service contracted under the NBS is an affordable, scaleable product, which currently offers minimum speeds of 1.6Mbps download and 1.2Mbps upload subject to a maximum contention ratio. As regards service quality, my Department has well-established monitoring arrangements in place to ensure that the NBS delivers the minimum specified service or better to all users. The NBS contract guarantees service levels and imposes a service credit regime on 3, the NBS service provider, with significant financial consequences in the event that minimum specification service levels are not met. Should any NBS customer experience problems with the NBS service, they are advised to contact 3's customer care centre, 24 hours a day 7 days a week, by phone at 1913 (free of charge), via email to nbssupport@three.ie or by post to 3 Customer Services, Hutchison 3G Ireland Limited, PO Box 333, Dublin 2.

I should add that my Department also has a role where customers have fully utilised the established complaints process and feel that their complaint has not been resolved. My officials operate a dedicated NBS mailbox, which NBS customers can contact by email at nationalbroadbandscheme@dcenr.gov.ie, with any comments or complaints they may have about their NBS service. Where a customer has unresolved problems with their NBS service, they can contact my Department, which will then liaise with 3 personnel at its Head Office in Dublin to remedy their service performance issues. The combination of private investment and State interventions in broadband provision means that Ireland will meet the EU Commission’s “Digital Agenda for Europe” target of having a basic broadband service available to all areas by 2013.

The Government accepts that the widespread availability of high speed broadband is a key requirement in delivering future economic and social development. With basic broadband services now widely available across Ireland, the challenge is to accelerate the roll out of high speed services. The Next Generation Broadband Taskforce (NGBT), which I convened last summer, is currently finalising its deliberations which are expected to identify how best to deliver wider customer access to high speed broadband generally. The next steps, following completion of the NGBT report, will be to bring the report to Government before consulting with the wider public for their views. Building on the work of the Taskforce, it is my intention to publish a National Broadband Plan for Ireland later this year, which will set out a range of policy commitments and actions aimed at accelerating the rollout of high speed broadband across Ireland.

Post Office Network

Joe McHugh

Question:

133 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number and locations of post offices that have closed since 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19658/12]

Matters relating to the post office network, including post office closures, are an operational matter for the management and Board of An Post and one in which I have no statutory function.

Broadcasting Services

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

134 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will investigate a matter regarding Saorsat (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19682/12]

Issues relating to television coverage in specific areas of the country are an operational matter for RTÉ. The Broadcasting Act 2009 provides for RTÉ to rollout a digital TV network to the same extent as the analogue TV network. RTÉ has informed my Department that the current analogue TV network covers 98% of the population and that its new digital TV network called Saorview will also cover 98% of the population. In addition, RTÉ is launching a new ‘free-to-air' satellite service, SAORSAT to cover the remaining 2% of the population. RTÉ is not obliged to provide a satellite service and is doing so on its own initiative. It is my understanding from RTÉ Networks Limited that SAORSAT is now available, which means that Ireland has a national TV network covering 100% of the population, for the first time. Further information on SAORSAT is available on www.saorview.ie and also www.rtenl.ie.

Local Development Companies

Pearse Doherty

Question:

135 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the salaries, pensions and expenses paid to chief executives and deputy chief executives to Area Partnership Boards in the County of Dublin. [19549/12]

The Local Development Companies referred to in the Question are independent companies with their own board of management and memorandum and articles of association. My Department has no role in the internal operations of Local Development Companies and, therefore, does not have a role in relation to staff or employment matters, which are for the Board of the company as the employer, to manage. There are 11 Local Development Companies in the catchment area referred to. The salaries for the Chief Executive Officers of these companies ranged from just under €75,000 to some €95,000 at the end of 2011. The average salary was some €86,000. There have been no individual salary increases in 2012. The employer pension contribution amounted to an additional 10% of the salary. The data in relation to expenses are not readily available; however, I will arrange to have information relating to the programmes funded by my Department forwarded to the Deputy. There is no Deputy Chief Executive post within the companies.

Departmental Funding

Question:

136 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total amount of capital investment funding provided by him to Galway County Council for programmes in water services and sewerage schemes for the following calendar years 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19566/12]

The Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2013 provides for the development of a comprehensive range of new water services infrastructure in County Galway. The Programme includes contracts under construction and to commence to the value of some €130 million in the county during the period of the Programme. Responsibility for the administration of the Rural Water Programme has been devolved to local authorities since 1997. The selection and approval of individual schemes for advancement and funding under the programme, within the overall priorities set by my Department and subject to the block grant allocations provided, is therefore a matter for the local authorities, Galway County Council in this case.

The following table outlines the total amount of capital investment funding provided to Galway County Council for funding of water services and wastewater schemes for each of the years 2006 to 2011 inclusive.

Water Services Investment Programme (WSIP)

Rural Water Programme (RWP)

Wastewater

Water supply

Water Conservation

Total WSIP

Wastewater

Water Supply

Total RWP

2006

€8,809,000

€19,565,000

€5,000

€28,379,000

€1,543,000

€13,886,000

€15,429,000

2007

€5,163,000

€10,329,000

€294,000

€15,786,000

€1,814,000

€16,329,000

€18,143,000

2008

€5,526,000

€4,118,000

€884,000

€10,528,000

€1,919,000

€17,319,000

€19,238,000

2009

€2,173,000

€654,000

€1,729,000

€4,556,000

€1,540,000

€13,859,000

€15,399,000

2010

€7,913,000

€11,475,000

€1,888,000

€21,276,000

€1,353,000

€12,178,000

€13,531,000

2011

€2,354,000

€15,383,000

€1,799,000

€19,536,000

€1,907,000

€17,159,000

€19,066,000

Clare Daly

Question:

137 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in view of his Department's funding of remedial works for Clancarthy Court owned by Dublin City Council, damaged by pyrite, that similar moneys would be made available to all homeowners affected by pyrite. [19567/12]

In 2010, my Department received and approved an application from Dublin City Council, under the Remedial Works Programme, for the funding of pyrite-related remedial works at Clancarthy Court Senior Citizens Complex. Funding under this Programme may be made available to local authorities to fund major refurbishment works to dwellings with serious structural defects, for older units, and also to remediate run-down urban estates. However, there is no provision under the Programme to make exchequer funding available for the remediation or refurbishment of private housing stock. The independent Pyrite Panel, which I set up in September 2011, is due to report to me shortly and I will give early and careful consideration to the report and any recommendations it may contain. I understand that Dublin City Council continues to pursue legal action to recover all losses suffered as a result of pyrite damage to its housing stock.

Planning Issues

Niall Collins

Question:

138 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will confirm the amount of land dezoned since September 2011 in each of the electoral areas of County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19582/12]

The responsibility for zoning lands for specific purposes is a matter for planning authorities through their development plans and local area plans. Under the Planning Acts, the making, reviewing and varying of a development plan or local area plan is a reserved function of the elected members of the relevant planning authority.

While my Department does not hold the data from planning authorities, as requested, the Regional Planning Guidelines Implementation Annual Report 2011 prepared jointly by the 8 Regional Authorities in respect of their activities, provides information on the alignment of plans at national, regional and local levels including for County Roscommon. The Report is available on the respective regional authority websites including that of the West Regional Authority at www.wra.ie.

Local Authority Charges

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

139 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide details of charities and the types of accommodation owned by charities that are exempt from the household charge; the estimate of what this is worth in lost revenue; and if they will also be exempt from the property tax. [19584/12]

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

Under the legislation, an owner of a residential property on the liability date of 1 January 2012 is liable to pay the household charge by 31 March 2012, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver. The household charge is on a self-assessment basis and it is a matter for an owner of a residential property on the liability date to determine if he/she has a liability and, if so, to declare that liability and pay the household charge, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver.

Section 4 of the Act sets out the exemptions and waivers from the household charge. In particular, section 4(1)(b) provides an exemption from the household charge where the owner is—

(i) a body corporate beneficially entitled in possession, and

(ii) an approved body within the meaning of section 848A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997.

I have established an Inter-Departmental Group on Property Tax to consider the structures and modalities for an equitable valuation based property tax. The Group will complete its work and make recommendations to me shortly. Following consideration of the Group's recommendations, I will bring proposals to Government on the full property tax as soon as possible. It will then be a matter for the Government to decide on the structure and modalities of the full property tax.

Leader Programmes

Brendan Griffin

Question:

140 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19591/12]

Under the rules of the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 (RDP) the donation of buildings, formal leases, equipment , materials or services free of charge or at a nominal cost as part of a project may be used as private matching funds for community-based projects; this includes any such donations from Local Authorities. In the context of land/property all lease agreements must stipulate the term (duration) and must be for a period of at least five years from the date of the final payment to the promoter or for a term not less than the term of the contract, whichever is the greater. If the value of the donation has been used in a previous project then it cannot be used again. If part of the value of the donated lease term has been used for a previous project, the value of the term that has been used must have expired before the remaining term of the lease can be used.

The documentary requirements and details of this system are outlined in the operating rules of the RDP which are available on my Department's website at www.environ.ie.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Dan Neville

Question:

141 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide an update on Pallasgreen sewerage scheme, County Limerick. [19616/12]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 164 of 23 February 2012. The position is unchanged.

Environmental Regulations

Clare Daly

Question:

142 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the certificates required by local authorities for dry cleaning businesses are only available from one company (details supplied) who have increased their prices from €300 to €475 within one year; the reason for such an increase, which is putting struggling small businesses under increased pressure; if he will consider making this a service provided through the local authorities, without a cost incurred by the business. [19621/12]

Dry cleaners are regulated by the Emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds from Organic Solvents Regulations 2002, and are required to demonstrate compliance with the Regulations and hold a certificate of compliance from their local authority to this effect. The certificate of compliance must be renewed annually.

In order to obtain a certificate of compliance, a dry cleaning operator must first arrange for their premises to be inspected by an accredited inspection contractor (AIC) who will then prepare a report on the compliance or otherwise of the premises with the Regulations. The AIC must be accredited by the Irish National Accreditation Board to ISO 17020, an internationally recognised standard for the competence of inspection bodies. The fee charged for carrying out an inspection is not specified by the Regulations and is a matter for the AIC.

When the Regulations were first given effect in 2002, there were three companies operating in the State that were accredited to ISO 17020. My Department is aware that two of these companies have since withdrawn from the market and that there is now only one AIC remaining. As this is not considered to be a sustainable situation, my Department is preparing new draft Regulations, in consultation with the relevant agencies and local authorities, that will support increased competition in the inspection market with the aim of reducing costs. It is envisaged that changes arising to the current inspection requirements would apply from 1 January 2013.

Local Authority Charges

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

143 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has publicly stated that he will ensure that 700,000 persons receive letters from the local authorities of the country seeking to collect the €100 household charge (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19634/12]

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 and the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012 provide the legislative basis for the household charge. Under the legislation, an owner of a residential property on the liability date of 1 January 2012 is liable to pay the household charge by 31 March 2012, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver. The household charge is on a self-assessment basis and it is a matter for an owner of a residential property on the liability date to determine if he/she has a liability and, if so, to declare that liability and pay the household charge, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver.

Under Section 12 of the Act, it is a function of a local authority to collect household charges and late payment penalties due to it and all household charges and late payment penalties imposed and payable to a local authority are under the care and management of the local authority concerned.

As such, it would be a matter for each county and city council to identify and to decide to make contact with those households who may have an outstanding liability to the household charge reminding them to discharge their liability and avoid the application of further late penalties.

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

144 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will explain proposals regarding the property tax of making an exemption for persons in larger homes on low incomes who may be typically pensioners; if he will give details of the proposals for a deferral option; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19639/12]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

145 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will explain the way a possible exemption for homeowners who paid high levels of stamp duty would be made exempt from any future property tax being levied upon them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19640/12]

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

146 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will reverse his stated intention of introducing a large property tax next year and to assure the public that they will not be asked for anymore than the present charge of €100 during 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19641/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 144 to 146, inclusive, together.

I have established an Inter-Departmental Group on Property Tax to consider the structures and modalities for an equitable valuation based property tax. The Group will complete its work and make recommendations to me shortly. Following consideration of the Group's recommendations, I will bring proposals to Government on the full property tax as soon as possible. It will then be a matter for the Government to decide on the structure and modalities of the full property tax.

Water Services

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

147 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on whether his decision to endorse Bord Gáis Energy as the entity to run the new water utility will result in a loss of up to 3,000 public sector jobs in the water service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19642/12]

The overarching objective of the water reform programme is to put in place structures and funding arrangements that will ensure we have a world class water and wastewater infrastructure that meets all environmental and public health standards, can attract foreign direct investment and support job creation and maintenance in key sectors such as pharma-chem, IT and food and drink. It is estimated that the programme for the installation of metering infrastructure, commencing later this year, will provide some 2,000 new jobs.

The Government decided in December 2011, based on the recommendations of an independent assessment, to establish a public water utility company, Irish Water, to take over the operational and capital delivery functions of local authorities in the water services area. Further consideration has been given since then as to whether Irish Water should be established as a new entity or whether existing bodies in the Semi State sector could undertake the functions. The outcome of this analysis is that Irish Water should be established as an independent state owned company within the Bord Gáis Group.

It will be a matter for Irish Water to determine the staffing and skills required for the new organisation. The analysis underpinning the decision to establish Irish Water as an independent State owned subsidiary within the Bord Gáis Group was based solely on their capabilities to undertake the task.

Bord Gáis Éireann (BGE) has key capabilities that can be brought to bear in the establishment of Irish Water, including experience in operating as a utility in a regulated environment and a track record in raising finance, and has specific skills from its own experience of transformation, customer relations, network management, metering and utility operation that can be quickly deployed to assist in the successful establishment and operation of Irish Water.

The skills within the Bord Gáis Group will be paired with the experience and commitment to service in local authorities and the specific water and wastewater capabilities and expertise that exist in local government to build the new organisation. In the initial phase, Irish Water will work largely through service level agreements with local authorities. It is envisaged that these arrangements would end in 2017 at the earliest. This will ensure a smooth transition to the new model and guard against the loss of local expertise. It will also mean that the majority of staff will remain in the direct employment of local authorities for a considerable period.

The proposed public utility model represents a major change with significant implications for local government, the water industry in Ireland and its many stakeholders. These are key issues to be addressed in developing the implementation plan for Irish Water, and will involve close co-operation with local authorities, staff and the Unions to ensure that the change is managed well.

Community Development

Brendan Smith

Question:

148 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he proposes to increase the upper limit for grant aid for community projects to be funded under the Leader programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19665/12]

Axes 3 & 4 (LEADER) of the Rural Development Programme (RDP), for which my Department has responsibility, continues to facilitate access to significant financial resources for rural communities. In general, the rates of grant aid available under the measures of the RDP are 50% for private promoters and 75% for Community promoters with some higher rates available for specific activities such as Training (100%) and Analysis and Development (90%). In the current economic climate, it has been difficult for private individuals and community groups to obtain the matched funding required to avail of this support level, particularly for larger projects.

As part of a suite of measures to address these and other issues relating to the delivery of the RDP my Department has recently submitted a number of proposals to the European Commission which if agreed will allow a number of changes to the operation of the programme. These proposals include increases to the maximum rates of aid available to private and community promoters. The decision of the European Commission is awaited.

Planning Issues

Finian McGrath

Question:

149 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government as there seems to be a gap in legislation where there is no independent body overseeing the consistent application of planning policy by local authorities throughout the country, An Bord Pleanála has stated that consideration by the board as to whether planning authorities are applying their policies consistently across all applications is outside their remit, if this matter can be investigated by him or is there any legal route other than court action that can be taken by citizens. [19670/12]

As Minister for Housing and Planning I am responsible for ensuring that a strong policy and legislative framework exists to support the consistent operation of the planning system. A very extensive suite of statutory planning guidelines is already in place to promote best practice in planning authorities. My Department is currently developing further guidance for planning authorities in relation, inter alia, to retail planning, development contributions, and local area plans. In terms of forward planning a clear hierarchy of plans from the National Spatial Strategy to Regional Planning Guidelines, Development Plans and Local Area Plans is in place to ensure a clear framework for decision making across the various spatial levels. It is a matter for planning authorities to ensure that development management decisions taken are in accordance with the policies set out in their respective development plans and local area plans.

The report of the Mahon Tribunal contains a number of recommended reforms of the planning system, including a recommendation for the establishment of an independent planning regulator. The recommendations are being actively considered by my Department in conjunction with other relevant Departments.

Garda Investigations

Terence Flanagan

Question:

150 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide an update regarding an investigation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19556/12]

The Deputy will appreciate that it is not the practice to comment on investigations of the kind referred to by him but I have been assured that all steps open to the agency involved continue to be pursued.

Liquor Licensing Laws

Anthony Lawlor

Question:

151 Deputy Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when he will be in a position to comment on the public consultation process on the third compliance report on the implementation of the code of practice on the display and sale of alcohol in mixed trading premises; when will a decision be made on whether to commence the statutory provision on structural separation in section 9 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19623/12]

The position is that the public consultation process to which the Deputy refers elicited a broad range of views on future arrangements for the display and sale of alcohol products in mixed trading outlets. Following examination of the responses received I expect to be in a position to seek Government approval for proposals relating to future arrangements for such display and sale in the coming weeks.

Garda Equipment

Tom Fleming

Question:

152 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the average age of the Garda fleet of vehicles and bikes; and the number of new and pre-owned, that is, used vehicles and bikes purchased over the past three years by An Garda Síochána. [19627/12]

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

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the average age of Garda vehicles, excluding motorcycles, is approximately 5 years. The average age of Garda motorcycles is 6.5 years.

Details of the numbers of vehicles/motorcycles purchased, both new and pre-owned, in the period 2010 to 2011 are set out in the table. No vehicles were purchased in 2009.

Vehicle

Motorcycle

Year

New

Pre-owned

New

Pre-owned

Total

2010

151

8

6

0

165

2011

52

15

0

0

67

Ministerial Correspondence

Finian McGrath

Question:

153 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on a matter (details supplied). [19669/12]

I will write to the Deputy shortly concerning the matter he has raised.

State Pathologists

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

154 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the State pathologist and assistant State pathologist are allocated State vehicles when attending crime scenes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19672/12]

I can inform the Deputy that the State Pathologist, Deputy Pathologists and Assistant State Pathologist do not use State vehicles when attending crime scenes.

In June 2010 my Department undertook a tender process to provide a driver and vehicle service to assist the Office of the State Pathologist in providing an on-call service outside of the Dublin area. The contract is for a period of 24 months from 26 October 2010. The Deputy may wish to note that the staff sometimes use their own cars.

Garda Strength

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

155 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of vacancies currently at the rank of sergeants, inspectors, superintendents, chief superintendents and assistant commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19673/12]

On the 7 February 2012, I secured approval for the appointment of 2 Assistant Garda Commissioners, 8 Chief Superintendents and 23 Superintendents, a total of 33 appointments to senior Garda ranks. All of the consequential vacancies at Sergeant and Inspector ranks will also be filled.

I was very glad to secure the agreement of my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, and the Cabinet as a whole for such a significant number of appointments. In seeking these promotions, I was conscious of the need to enable the Garda Commissioner to fill key positions in the senior ranks, and to maintain both the investigative and also the management and supervisory capacity of the Force.

Furthermore, I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the strength of An Garda Síochána in all ranks on the 29 February 2012, the latest date for which figures are available, were as set out in the table below.

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

Rank

29/02/2012

Commissioner

1

D/Commissioner

2

A/Commissioner

8

Chief Supt.

38

Superintendent

148

Inspector

284

Sergeant

1,955

Garda

11,199

Total

13,635

Courts Service

John McGuinness

Question:

156 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the delays in the administration of civil proceedings in the Kilkenny District Court office; if he has been advised by the Courts Service of the reason for such delays; if he will consult with those concerned and provide staff or resources as needed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19702/12]

Under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service. The Deputy will appreciate that the Courts Service, in common with all other public sector organisations, is obliged to ensure that resources are deployed to best effect in the current challenging economic climate and reductions in staff numbers. In that context the Courts Service has to prioritise the delivery of front line court services, in particular supporting court sittings, while at the same time providing the best possible services to court users.

In order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that the existing vacancy, coupled with other staff absences, has resulted in some delays in dealing with civil proceedings in the District Court office. The Service has indicated that measures are now being put in place to seek to address the delays and it is anticipated that all of the arrears in civil proceedings in that office will be cleared in the coming weeks.

Ministerial Transport

John McGuinness

Question:

157 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 282 of 28 February 2012, the way the estimated saving of €4 million on the use of State cars for senior Ministers was calculated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19735/12]

In March 2011 the Government decided to significantly reduce the number of Office Holders for whom official transport would be provided by An Garda Síochána. One of the consequences of that decision was that the transport arrangements in place for Ministers of State became applicable to Government Ministers, subject to very limited exceptions on security grounds. In addition, it was decided that former Presidents and Taoisigh would only be supplied with official transport for important State occasions.

In the context of the proposals considered by the Government prior to the taking of its decision, a comparison was made between the average cost of providing Garda transport to an Office Holder under the arrangements in place at that time and the average costs associated with the provision of transport for Ministers of State in 2010. This was the main basis on which it was estimated that potential savings of in the region of €4 million could be realised in a full year under the proposed procedures. Moreover, account was also taken in this process of the fact that official transport requirements would only arise in the case of former Office Holders in very limited circumstances.

The revised transport arrangements came into operation for Government Ministers on 1st May 2011 and for former Office Holders on 16th June 2011. I am aware that they have led to significant savings within the Garda Vote and I also understand that overall they have considerably reduced the level of expenditure on Ministerial transport.

Departmental Expenditure

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

158 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Defence the amount of money that has been spent by the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces in preparing, publishing and printing its annual report in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 including design, consultancy and any associated costs; and the amount of this that was spent on producing the same report in the Irish language. [19587/12]

The following table provides a breakdown of the Annual Report printing and publishing costs in the years 2007 to 2010 by the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces.

Cost Items

2007

2008

2009

2010

Number of Reports

2,000

1,500

1,600

1,800

Design

€4,900.00

€5,850.00

€3,250.72

€4,000.00

Printing and Production

€14,550.00

€18,035.00

€12,809.00

€13,160.00

Translation

€2,060.00

€3,030.00

€3,855.07

€2,607.00

Project Management

€3,920.40

€1,400.00

€0.00

€1,000.00

Editing, Compilation and Proof Reading

€4,791.60

€8,784.00

€6,415.00

€9,425.90 *

Sundry Costs (including couriers, photography etc.)

€850.35

€1,140.40

€449.55

€1,095.50

Total Cost

€31,072.35

€38,239.40

€26,779.34

€31,288.40

*Including Four Year Review of ODF.

The amount of outlay attributable to producing the ODF Annual Reports in the Irish language is as follows:

Cost Items

2007

2008

2009

2010

Cost of producing the Irish Version of the ODF Annual Report

€11,785.00

€14,972.50

€11,884.93

€11,187.00

This cost is calculated based on half of the cost of ‘Design' and ‘Printing and Production' together with the full ‘Translation' cost.

Defence Forces Recruitment

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

159 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Defence if he will consider extending upwards the maximum age for recruits joining the Army; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19677/12]

The 2000 White Paper on Defence and the earlier Defence Forces Review Implementation Plan both identified the requirement to address the age profile in the Defence Forces. The key element in military life is the need for personnel to maintain a level of fitness for combat readiness. This requirement must be balanced with the need to retain experience and expertise, particularly at managerial level in the Defence Forces.

The upper age limit for enlistment in the Army is under 25 years of age on the date of enlistment and for the Naval Service it is under 27 years of age on the date of enlistment. These limits are determined on the basis that the essential functions of the Permanent Defence Force requires that its members be composed of able-bodied personnel of an age which is commensurate with the functional requirements of the organisation.

I am satisfied that the existing age requirements for recruitment to the Permanent Defence Force are appropriate and I do not propose to make any changes in this area at this time.

Grant Payments

Denis Naughten

Question:

160 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if approval will be given in respect of payment under the 2011 single farm payment scheme to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; the steps being taken to address the difficulties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19568/12]

An application under the Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on the 13th May 2011.

This application was selected for a cross compliance inspection. In preparation for this inspection officials from this Department unsuccessfully attempted to contact the first person named by telephone on the 27th of May 2011 to arrange the inspection. On the 30th of May 2011 an official called to the holding and informed him that an inspection had been scheduled for the 1st of June 2011. The first person named indicated that he was unsure if he wanted the inspection to proceed and the following day the second person named contacted the official involved and stated that the inspection would not be allowed to proceed. This was deemed a failure to co-operate with an inspection and as per the Terms and Conditions of the scheme resulted in a 100% penalty being recorded against the direct payments in 2011.

The first person named was informed of this decision on the 21st of June 2011 and of his right to seek a review. A review was requested on the 5th of October 2011 and a letter, upholding the original decision, was issued on the 9th of February 2012. The letter also informed the person named of his right to appeal the decision to the independent Agriculture Appeals Office. To date, no such appeal has been made.

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

161 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding a REPS 4 payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19647/12]

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

REPS 4 is a measure under the current 2007-13 Rural development Programme and is subject to EU Regulations which require detailed administrative checks on all applications to be completed before any payments can issue. Administrative checks in respect of 2011 payments have been completed and the 75% year 4 payment amounting to €8885.18 issued on 16th April 2012. The 25% balancing payment will issue shortly.

Agri-Environmental Options Scheme

Brendan Smith

Question:

162 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when it is proposed to re-open the agricultural environment options scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19666/12]

I am currently considering the possibility of re-opening the Agri-environmental Options Scheme on an amended basis or limited scale in 2012. The full year cost of any new scheme will arise on the 2013 Estimate for my Department and accordingly, the decision will be taken in the context of my Department's expenditure ceiling for 2013 as agreed by the Government, and in particular, on how a new scheme might be funded within the reduced funding and resulting pressures on the Vote. I will make an announcement on this matter in due course.

Harbours and Piers

Tom Fleming

Question:

163 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will view Dingle harbour, County Kerry as a special case before signing the fishery harbour centres rates and charges order 2012 by maintaining the existing rates and charges which are deemed to be fair and manageable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19668/12]

Charges at each of the six Fishery Harbour Centres are levied by virtue of the Fishery Harbour Centres (Rates and Charges) Order 2003. My Department has however recently conducted a review of the 2003 Order and I can confirm that a draft Rates and Charges Order has been published on foot of that review. That draft Order is currently the subject of a public consultation process.

My Department has received a number of submissions in relation to the proposed charges at Dingle and other Fishery Harbour Centres. On completion of the public consultation process these will be given full consideration and at that stage I will, if necessary make any appropriate amendments to the Rates and Charges Order.

Agri-Environmental Options Scheme

Tom Fleming

Question:

164 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will immediately reopen a new agri environment options scheme to allow farmers whose REP scheme contracts have already expired to continue to improve their farms in an environmentally friendly manner; if he will recognise the importance of the scheme to many farmers on low incomes who have already been hit with cuts to other farm income supports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19679/12]

I am fully committed to agri-environment schemes which both put environmentally-friendly farming to the forefront and which recognise the vital role farmers play in delivering public goods for the benefit of society which have a role in supporting the farm incomes of participating farmers.

I am currently considering the possibility of re-opening the Agri-environmental Options Scheme on an amended basis or limited scale in 2012. The full year cost of any new scheme will arise on the 2013 Estimate for my Department and accordingly, the decision will be taken in the context of my Department's expenditure ceiling for 2013 as agreed by the Government, and in particular, on how a new scheme might be funded within the reduced funding and resulting pressures on the Vote. I will make an announcement on this matter in due course.

Beef Industry

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

165 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 556 of 21 March 2012, if the beef technology adoption programme was tendered for competition in order that companies outside of State agencies can compete to run this scheme; the length of time for which the tender was open; the number of companies that competed for the tender; where the tender was advertised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19716/12]

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

166 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 556 of 21 March 2012, under what tender the software was chosen to be used for the beef technology adoption programme; the number of users that currently use the system; the way his Department maintains a quality control system over software if his Department has no contract with the facilitators of the software; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19717/12]

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

167 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 556 of 21 March 2012, the name of the private consultants who provided facilitation services along with Teagasc to his Department; the cost of these services; the way the consultants were appointed; the length of time the consultants were involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19718/12]

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

168 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 556 of 21 March 2012, if any private companies were approached to provide the software for use with the beef technology adoption programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19719/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 165 to 168, inclusive, together.

The establishment of an effective discussion group model similar to that successfully employed in the dairy sector was a key recommendation of the report of the industry-led Beef 2020 Activation Group which was set up to advise on the implementation of the Food Harvest 2020 strategy. The Beef Technology Adoption Programme (BTAP) giving effect to this recommendation was devised following extensive consultation and in collaboration with all industry stakeholders. The purpose of the Programme is to address the significant challenges to farm-level profitability by providing a financial stimulus that will encourage participants to improve the technical efficiency of their beef enterprises by focusing on the key profit drivers (such as breeding, animal health, financial and grassland management) thereby growing the overall output value of the beef sector.

In common with other measures supporting primary agricultural production, the BTAP will be administered and managed by my Department. The Programme will be delivered directly by my Department utilising facilitation services provided by Teagasc and private consultants. The Programme is open to all applicants meeting the eligibility criteria and independent operators are free to act as facilitators provided that they hold a B.Agr.Sc. degree (Level 8), or equivalent, and have engaged in the relevant FETAC-accredited training in facilitation. My Department does not have a contract either with the applicants or with the facilitators, who are paid directly by the applicants. Applicants are free to choose a facilitator who best suits their farming situation either from Teagasc or a private consultant. A list of all approved facilitators is available on my Department's website. I understand that some 55 non-Teagasc consultants have submitted applications on approximately 2,200 farmers whose eligibility is currently been examined in my Department. No tenders were required for the operation of the Programme as outlined above.

It is not accurate to suggest that any particular software is used to run the programme. Participants in the Beef Technology Adoption Programme (BTAP), must be members of HerdPlus, a service provided by the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation which generates genetic evaluation and breeding performance data. As the Deputy will be aware ICBF is an industry led co-operative which receives some support from my Department to assist it to maintain a national database of cattle breeding information which is of vital importance for the future development of the nation beef herd. I am convinced that this on-going work will be of major importance in leading to the development of high quality animals which is required for the future success of the Irish beef industry, but it does not preclude the use of proprietary farm software for a range of purposes.

My intention is that this Programme will run over 3 years subject to funding and that it will be subject to ongoing review over that period to ensure that it is meeting its objectives.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

169 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding REPS 4 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19720/12]

I remain fully committed to continuing to implement the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS 4) under the current Rural Development Programme 2007-2013. The scheme, together with the Agri-environment options Scheme (AEOS), is designed to encourage farmers to go beyond basic good farming practice and to farm in a way that benefits the landscape, biodiversity and water quality. Both schemes have proven to be very popular with Irish farmers and confirms their commitment to farming to the highest environmental standards, a commitment that fits very comfortably with the vision of smart, green, growth as set out in my Department's Food Harvest 2020 strategy statement. There are over 45,000 participating farmers in both schemes.

However, despite my commitment to the agri-environment schemes, my Department was faced with a serious challenge in terms of managing a substantial reduction in budgetary resources in 2012. While €1,312m has been provided in the Department's Vote for 2012, this represents a 19% decrease in funding compared to 2011. Under the circumstances, I had no option but to take some very difficult decisions and to announce a reduction to REPS payments to achieve an aggregate saving of 10% on expenditure. I decided that the most equitable means to achieve this saving, and in a manner consistent with the regulations governing the scheme, was to reduce the transaction costs of participating farmers. These costs, which represent the cost of engaging with the scheme and which have been paid up to this point, are optional for Member States. It is not proposed to reduce the rates for the various measures under the scheme which are calculated on the basis of actual costs incurred and income foregone by the farmer. The proposed cut is subject to the Commission approval.

I want to highlight the fact that despite the budgetary constraints and pressures that I have outlined, I have made provision of €243 million for agri-environment schemes in 2012.

Grant Payments

John McGuinness

Question:

170 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 623, if a section 39 grant for 2011 will be granted to a group (details supplied) and if she will expedite payment. [19573/12]

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

Health Services

Finian McGrath

Question:

171 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health if he will increase the home support in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [19550/12]

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

Medical Cards

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

172 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health if he will expedite an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19555/12]

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

Health Services

Sandra McLellan

Question:

173 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Health when an application for a pair of orthotics will be processed in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19559/12]

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

Ambulance Service

Denis Naughten

Question:

174 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health the acute hospitals that have landing facilities on site to cater for the new air ambulance service; if not on site, the distance to the designated landing site; the plans, if any, there are to improve such facilities at each acute hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19563/12]

Individual acute hospitals are responsible for the development of and management of landing pads at hospitals. The following information is provided by the National Ambulance Service (NAS) and is based on a once off audit of the availability of such landing pads to inform the planning of the proposed Emergency Aeromedical Service.

NAS was informed that there are 13 hospitals nationally that are equipped with a helicopter landing pad, of which seven of these have night time operational capability. Each of the 13 landing pads are capable of facilitating the proposed Emergency Aeromedical Service.

In the event of a landing pad being unavailable or where a particular hospital may not have a landing pad, alternative sites have been identified as suitable and safe and are currently in use in respect of tertiary level inter hospital transfers. These sites will available to the proposed Emergency Aeromedical Service.

The majority of the classed, Temporary Helicopter Landing Pads, are located in close proximity to the receiving hospitals. No specific distances are available. As per Standard Operating Procedure, NAS will meet arriving aircraft at these sites and provide expedient transport onwards to the receiving hospital.

In respect of the development of landing pads within hospitals, this is a matter for each individual hospital.

Hospital Procedures

Denis Naughten

Question:

175 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health the admission protocol for each medical assessment unit at each hospital; the plans, if any, to review these protocols; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19564/12]

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

Medical Cards

Finian McGrath

Question:

176 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health the position regarding an application for a medical card renewal in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [19577/12]

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

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

177 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health if he will expedite an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19579/12]

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

Hospital Staff

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

178 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health if it is the case that a FETAC level 5 qualification is now required for multi-task assistants and or carers on night duty in community hospitals or otherwise; the qualifications required for such staff; if such standards are applied consistently across the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19589/12]

Under the Health Act 2007, statutory responsibility is given to the Chief Inspector of Social Services, part of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), for the independent inspection and registration of certain categories of designated centres. This includes residential care settings for older people. This responsibility is underpinned by a comprehensive quality framework comprising the Health Act 2007, the Health Act 2007 (Care and Welfare of Residents in Designated Centres for Older People) Regulations 2009, as amended, and the National Quality Standards for Residential Care Settings for Older People in Ireland. Standard 24 requires that “Staff receive induction and continued professional development and appropriate supervision”. The underlying criteria require that “All newly recruited care staff and those in post less than one year commence training to FETAC Level 5 or equivalent within two years of taking up employment. Long standing care staff have their competency and skills assessed to determine their need for further training and suitable arrangements are put in place to meet their identified needs”.

HIQA commenced this registration and inspection regime for all nursing homes, public, private and voluntary in 2009.

National Lottery Funding

Robert Troy

Question:

179 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Health when an organisation (details supplied) who made an application to his Department for national lottery funds for a community mini bus for Longford, will receive a decision on the application. [19625/12]

My Department has received an application for funding from the 2012 National Lottery allocation from the organisation in question. This is one of a large number currently being assessed by my Department, and the Deputy will be informed of the outcome of the application as soon as a decision has been made.

Medical Cards

Colm Keaveney

Question:

180 Deputy Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Health when the review of a medical card entitlement will be carried out in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway. [19628/12]

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

Fire Safety Regulations

Terence Flanagan

Question:

181 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health if he will provide details of the fire safety checks that take place on new buildings of his Department and Health Service Executive buildings including hospitals, health centres and nursing homes by engineers from his Department who are independent from the contractors employed who carry out the work and if he will provide details of the person who signs off on the fire stopping; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19635/12]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

182 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health if he will provide details of the regular fire safety checks that take place on existing Department of Health buildings and Health Service Executive buildings including hospitals, health centres and nursing homes by engineers from his Department; if he will provide details of the person who signs off on new fire stopping when needed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19652/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 181 and 182 together.

The sourcing of property on behalf of Government Departments and any fire safety checks that would be required for new buildings is a matter for the Office of Public Works. I can confirm that my Department has not acquired any new buildings. My Department's headquarters located in Hawkins House is an Office of Public Works owned building. As landlords they have responsibility for fire safety checks.

My Department does not employ engineers. However, my Department has responsibility for the day to day health and safety procedures in Hawkins House which includes fire evacuation drills and regular maintenance checks on fire equipment.

Management and delivery of the health care infrastructure is a service matter. Therefore your questions in relation to new and existing HSE buildings have been referred to the Executive for direct reply.

Hospital Staff

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

183 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the number of consultant paediatrician urologists in each hospital here; the change since 1 May 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19674/12]

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

Primary Care Centres

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

184 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health if he will publish an update in respect of primary care centres proposals for the Dublin north east area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19675/12]

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

Hospitals Building Programme

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

185 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health if he will allocate additional funding to provide additional theatres at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19676/12]

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

Medical Cards

Tom Fleming

Question:

186 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health when a decision will issue on a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19680/12]

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

John McGuinness

Question:

187 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health if he will review an application for a medical card now under appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [19691/12]

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

John McGuinness

Question:

188 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health if a medical card will be issued as a matter of urgency in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19692/12]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Róisín Shortall): As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

John McGuinness

Question:

189 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health if a medical card will be issued in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if he will expedite the matter. [19693/12]

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

John McGuinness

Question:

190 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health if in view of new information a medical card will be issued in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if he will expedite the matter [19696/12]

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

Pension Provisions

John McGuinness

Question:

191 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health the arrangements that have been put in place to pay lump sums and pensions to staff that retired from the Health Service Executive in February 2012; if payments due to those that retired have been paid; the reason some nursing staff that retired have been told by the HSE that each will be paid €5,000 from their lump sum in spite of the fact that some staff have indicated they want their lump sum untouched and paid in full; if the HSE has the funds to pay the commitments in this regard in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19703/12]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists

Willie Penrose

Question:

192 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health the steps he will take to have a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath admitted for an operation which is urgently required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19711/12]

I am determined to address the issues which cause unacceptable delays in patients receiving treatment in our hospitals. In this regard I have established the Special Delivery Unit (SDU), which will work to unblock access to acute services by dramatically improving the flow of patients through the system, and by streamlining waiting lists, including referrals from GPs. The SDU is working closely with its partner agencies — mainly the HSE and the NTPF.

As a priority, public hospitals were instructed to ensure that, by the end of 2011, they had no patients waiting more than 12 months for treatment. I can confirm that the vast majority of hospitals achieved this objective. During 2012 the SDU will support hospitals in the delivery of a 9 month maximum wait time for inpatient or daycase surgery.

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

Willie Penrose

Question:

193 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health the steps he will take to have a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath admitted for an operation which is urgently required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19712/12]

I am determined to address the issues which cause unacceptable delays in patients receiving treatment in our hospitals. In this regard I have established the Special Delivery Unit (SDU), which will work to unblock access to acute services by dramatically improving the flow of patients through the system, and by streamlining waiting lists, including referrals from GPs. The SDU is working closely with its partner agencies — mainly the HSE and the NTPF.

As a priority, public hospitals were instructed to ensure that, by the end of 2011, they had no patients waiting more than 12 months for treatment. I can confirm that the vast majority of hospitals achieved this objective. During 2012 the SDU will support hospitals in the delivery of a 9 month maximum wait time for inpatient or daycase surgery.

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

Willie Penrose

Question:

194 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health the steps he will take to have a person (details supplied) in County Longford admitted for an orthopaedic operation, which is urgently required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19713/12]

I am determined to address the issues which cause unacceptable delays in patients receiving treatment in our hospitals. In this regard I have established the Special Delivery Unit (SDU), which will work to unblock access to acute services by dramatically improving the flow of patients through the system, and by streamlining waiting lists, including referrals from GPs. The SDU is working closely with its partner agencies — mainly the HSE and the NTPF.

As a priority, public hospitals were instructed to ensure that, by the end of 2011, they had no patients waiting more than 12 months for treatment. I can confirm that the vast majority of hospitals achieved this objective. During 2012 the SDU will support hospitals in the delivery of a 9 month maximum wait time for inpatient or daycase surgery.

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

Willie Penrose

Question:

195 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath will have an operation carried out; if same can now be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19714/12]

I am determined to address the issues which cause unacceptable delays in patients receiving treatment in our hospitals. In this regard I have established the Special Delivery Unit (SDU), which will work to unblock access to acute services by dramatically improving the flow of patients through the system, and by streamlining waiting lists, including referrals from GPs. The SDU is working closely with its partner agencies — mainly the HSE and the NTPF.

As a priority, public hospitals were instructed to ensure that, by the end of 2011, they had no patients waiting more than 12 months for treatment. I can confirm that the vast majority of hospitals achieved this objective. During 2012 the SDU will support hospitals in the delivery of a 9 month maximum wait time for inpatient or daycase surgery.

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

Willie Penrose

Question:

196 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath will be given an orthopaedic appointment; if same will now be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19715/12]

I am determined to address the issues which cause unacceptable delays in patients receiving treatment in our hospitals. In this regard I have established the Special Delivery Unit (SDU), which will work to unblock access to acute services by dramatically improving the flow of patients through the system, and by streamlining waiting lists, including referrals from GPs. The SDU is working closely with its partner agencies — mainly the HSE and the NTPF.

As a priority, public hospitals were instructed to ensure that, by the end of 2011, they had no patients waiting more than 12 months for treatment. I can confirm that the vast majority of hospitals achieved this objective. During 2012 the SDU will support hospitals in the delivery of a 9 month maximum wait time for inpatient or daycase surgery.

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

Health and Safety Regulations

Terence Flanagan

Question:

197 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide details of the regular fire safety checks that take place on existing sports buildings by engineers from his Department; if he will provide details of the person who signs off on the new fire stopping when needed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19649/12]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

198 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide details of the fire safety checks that take place on new sports buildings by engineers from his Department who are independent from the contractors employed who carry out the work; if he will provide details of the person who signs off on the fire stopping; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19650/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 197 and 198 together.

I have no responsibility in relation to fire safety checks on new or existing buildings used for sports. The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport is not involved in the management of sports facilities nor is it the owner of such facilities. Responsibility in this area lies with those who own and operate the sports facilities as well as the relevant local authorities. While the Department does provide support to sports capital projects by local authorities and sporting bodies, it is the responsibility of the individual local authorities and sporting bodies to ensure that the legal requirements relating to fire safety are met.

Driving Tests

David Stanton

Question:

199 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the regulations and guidelines in place and required qualifications in order to qualify as a driver tester; the amount of training supervision given to driver testers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19651/12]

Historically there has been no statutory regime of professional qualification or certification for driver testers in Ireland. The Road Safety Authority (RSA), as the agency responsible for driver testing, has therefore set its own criteria for assessing the driver testers it hires. However, last year, in line with EU requirements, I signed Regulations which will for the first time provide a statutory regime setting standards which must be met by driver testers.

The Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2011 transpose into Irish law certain requirements under Directive 2006/126/EC. These include the creation, from January 2013, of a statutory regime under which the RSA will have responsibility for ensuring that all driver testers will have to satisfy standards of professional expertise in a range of areas. Driver testers will have to demonstrate personal driving skills and knowledge, as well as communications and teaching skills. In addition, there will be procedures to monitor professional standards and ensure periodic training for those already qualified as driver testers. This represents a significant change, and puts the professional qualifications and standards of driver testers on a statutory basis for the first time.

David Stanton

Question:

200 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of persons who have completed the driving test in 2011 and to date in 2012 each month respectively; the number in each of these months that have passed their respective tests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19654/12]

Driver testing is a function of the Road Safety Authority (RSA), and I have therefore referred the Deputy's query to that agency for direct reply. I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a reply has not been received within ten days.