Written Answers

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 19, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 20 to 69, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 70 to 80, inclusive, answered orally.

Garda Representative Associations

Derek Keating

Question:

81 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the grants of moneys, in tabular form, that have been made to the Garda Representative Association and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors; the support other than funding that has been made by the State to these two organisations by way of secondment of staff and benefit in kind; the salaries that are paid to the individual officials and the person who determines these salaries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22608/12]

I have been informed by the Garda Authorities that the total amount provided from the Garda Vote in 2011 to the Garda Representative Association and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors was as set out in the table which I am circulating with this answer.

As the Deputy will see, the total funding provided in 2011 to the GRA was just under €228,000, and to the AGSI was just over €179,000, making a grand total of around €407,000. The funding covered the salaries of members seconded to work for the Associations, as well as subventions for the accommodation and communication costs of the Associations. The salary component of this funding, at around €103,000 for the GRA and around €117,000 for the AGSI, is in respect of 2 members at Garda rank seconded to the GRA and 2 members at Sergeant rank seconded to the AGSI, and is calculated by reference to each member's position on the relevant pay scale:

Organisation

Postage and Telephone Subvention

Accommodation Subvention

Grants

Salaries

Total

G.R.A.

€31,484.42

€92,958.16

0

€103,527

€227,969.58

A.G.S.I.

€15,099.72

€46,613.18

0

€117,305

€179,017.90

Prison Service

Dessie Ellis

Question:

82 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has ever examined the proposal to establish a position of Prisoners Ombudsman; the details of their costing analysis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22674/12]

Dessie Ellis

Question:

106 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to introduce legislation to create a position of Prisoners Ombudsman. [22673/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 82 and 106 together.

I have no plans to introduce legislation to create a position of Prisoner Ombudsman, although as the Deputy will be aware from the situation in Northern Ireland that a statutory basis is not a prerequisite for the operation of such an office.

The primary purpose of an ombudsman is to investigate complaints and make non-binding recommendations. In the current circumstances it is difficult to see how one could justify diverting resources to establish a new office of Prisoner Ombudsman. While no detailed cost analysis has been carried out, I note that the budget of the Northern Ireland Prisoner Ombudsman for the year 2011-2012 was £646,000 (approximately €800,000) dealing with complaints from a prison population which is less than half of ours.

My interest is not so much in the form but in the substance of how we ensure prisoners are properly and fairly treated.

In addition to the oversight provided by the courts, the Inspector of Prisons and regular visits by the Council of Europe Committee on the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, we have internal procedures for addressing prisoner complaints. An independent element is provided for by the Prisons (Visiting Committees) Act 1925 which requires a visiting committee to be constituted for every prison in the State and one of the statutory duties of such committees is to hear any complaints which may be made to them by a prisoner. Under new legislation to be prepared, I intend to make Visiting Committees more effective while they continue their role. The arrangements for membership of the Committees will be changed and a link will be established between the Visiting Committees and the Inspector of Prisons who also makes announced and unannounced visits to prisons during the year.

Notwithstanding the above, I am not satisfied that the existing Prison Service procedures are sufficiently robust and independent of the local staff to meet best practice. The Office of the Inspector of Prisons is a statutory independent office and I have asked the Inspector of Prisons to give consideration to this matter and to advise me as to the most appropriate approach to be taken in an Irish context so as to ensure compliance with best international practice. The Inspector recently provided me with his report which is currently being considered.

Garda Deployment

Micheál Martin

Question:

83 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the proposed operational impact and proposed annualised cost savings of the new Garda roster introduced on 1 May 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22626/12]

The new Garda rosters — the first in 40 years- were introduced nationwide on a pilot basis last Monday, 30th April. It is a very significant organisational change in the Garda Síochána, one that will not only enhance the policing service throughout the country, but also have a positive impact on the working lives of members of the Garda Síochána and their families.

I would like to place on the record of the House my appreciation for the work done by Garda management, and indeed the Garda Associations, in developing this new roster. This is a hugely important milestone in the Croke Park process of reform. The new rosters will make more efficient use of resources right across the organisation. They are designed to provide a better match between the availability of Garda members on duty and fluctuating demand for policing services. The new rosters will also respect the EU Working Time Directive and safeguard the health and welfare of members, giving a better work-life balance to members of the Garda Síochána.

It is expected that the rosters will be cost-neutral. Their objective is to maximise the efficient and effective deployment of Garda members at a time of reduced numbers in the Force, and it is that reduction in numbers which will deliver significant savings.

Courts Service

Michael Moynihan

Question:

84 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will outline on a county basis, the number of court cases in each court district that are currently being heard and have not been adjourned; the number that have been adjourned and the main reason for their adjournment; the number that have a hearing date set; the number that are awaiting a hearing date; and the way the Court Service intends to tackle backlogs in specific areas. [22635/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, under the Courts Service Act 1998, the management and administration of the courts is a matter for the Courts Service while the allocation of the business of the courts, scheduling of cases and management of lists are matters for the Judiciary and in particular the Presidents of the courts. The Deputy will also be aware that judges are, subject to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of their judicial functions.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had inquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that, while currently statistics are not maintained on the number of adjournments, the Service works closely with the Judiciary to ensure that all cases are dealt with as quickly as possible. I am circulating with this reply a tabular statement detailing the District Court backlogs around the country for December 2009, 2010 and 2011 and the Deputy will note that, generally, backlogs have not deteriorated. The usual practice is that Court Presidents assign additional judges to assist where backlogs have arisen. However, as the Deputy will be aware, until recently there were up to eight vacancies on the District Court and seven on the Circuit Court which prevented some additional sittings. The Government has moved quickly to fill those key judicial posts and in the meantime I understand that priority was given to criminal sittings. Moreover, the Courts Service has lost over 120 posts through retirements over the past two years yet I am informed that no Circuit or District Court sittings have been cancelled due to lack of staffing resources. The Service continues, to the extent possible, to fill key front line posts by lateral transfers, increased flexibility in the use of staff resources, restructuring and redeployment where permissible. Detailed contingency plans are in place for Dublin, where there are high volume courts, to try to ensure that court sitting levels are maintained at 2011 levels notwithstanding decreased resources. A general contingency plan is also in place for provincial locations which can be tailored to circumstances in individual offices.

As the Deputy has observed adjournments can give rise to delay. The conduct of a case is a matter for the presiding judge but it is, however, important to understand that a judge may grant an adjournment for a wide variety of reasons, for example, where a case or a previous case takes longer than anticipated; unavailability of key participants — whether that is the judge who has seisin of the case, the legal practitioners or witness; or the case is not able to proceed due to the parties not being ready or due to issues around availability of evidence or disclosure.

One reason for adjournments has been the requirement in some cases to seek a probation report which traditionally resulted in cases being adjourned to allow an assessment to be carried out. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that this is being addressed through new work practices. Since 2011, the Probation Service provides ‘same day' assessment reports as an option available to judges where Community Service orders are under consideration. I understand this arrangement is working well in the majority of cases and by the end of 2011, almost a third of all Community Service assessments carried out by the Probation Service were completed on the same day. A similar pilot arrangement in respect of pre-sanction reports has recently commenced in the District Courts in the Criminal Courts of Justice.

I should add that an Expert Group has been considering, in the context of the European Convention on Human Rights, how delays might be remedied and I look forward to considering their report in the coming weeks.

District Court

Crime — Waiting Times at December 2009; 2010; 2011 [All Waiting Times shown in WEEKS]

Office

Criminal Summonses (1) Dec-09

Criminal Summonses (1) Dec 10

Criminal Summonses (1) Dec-11

Charge Sheets (2) Dec-09

Charge Sheets (2) Dec-10

Charge Sheets (2) Dec-11

Athlone

12-14

12-14

12-14

NS

NS

NS

Ballina

10-12

10-12

10-12

NS

NS

NS

Ballinasloe

12-15

12-15

12-15

NS

NS

NS

Bray

20

14

16

NS

NS

NS

Carlow

12

12

12

NS

NS

NS

Carrick-on-Shannon

12

8-12

12-15

NS

NS

NS

Castlebar

12

12-

12

NS

NS

NS

Cavan

16

16

16

NS

NS

NS

Clonakilty

12

12

12

NS

NS

NS

Clonmel

10

12

12

NS

NS

NS

Cork

14

14

14

NS

NS

NS

Derrynea

12-16

14-16

14-16

NS

NS

NS

Donegal

12

10-14

11-18

NS

NS

NS

Drogheda

13

13

13

NS

NS

NS

Dublin

Section 49* 12

13

9

NS

NS

NS

Other 36

14

21

Dundalk

14

14

14

NS

NS

NS

Ennis

12-15

12-15

12-15

NS

NS

NS

Galway

10-12

10-12

10-12

NS

NS

NS

Kilkenny

16

20-26

20-26

NS

NS

NS

Letterkenny

16-20

16-20

20-24

NS

NS

NS

Limerick

12

12

12

NS

NS

NS

Longford

12

12

12

NS

NS

NS

Loughrea

12

12

12

NS

NS

NS

Mallow

15

12

12

NS

NS

NS

Monaghan

12-15

12-15

12-15

NS

NS

NS

Mullingar

15-16

15-16

15-16

NS

NS

NS

Naas

14-18

14-18

12-16

NS

NS

NS

Nenagh

12

16-20

16-20

NS

NS

NS

Portlaoise

16-20

14-18

14-18

NS

NS

NS

Roscommon

12-15

12-15

12-15

NS

NS

Sligo

12

12

13-15

NS

NS

NS

Tralee

12

12

12

NS

NS

NS

Trim

14

14

14

NS

NS

NS

Tullamore

12-15

12

12

NS

NS

NS

Waterford

16

16

16

NS

NS

NS

Wexford

12

12

16

NS

NS

NS

Youghal

16-20

14

14

NS

NS

NS

NS=Next sitting

(1) Time from receipt of summons application to scheduled date for hearing

(2) Time from receipt of charge sheet to first court date

Section 49 refers to drink driving prosecutions

District Court Civil — Waiting Times at December 2009; 2010; 2011 [All Waiting Times shown in WEEKS]

Office

Civil Applications (3) Dec-09

Civil Applications (3) Dec-10

Civil Applications (3) Dec-11

Athlone

8

8

4-8

Ballina

6-8

6-8

6-8

Ballinasloe

8

8

4

Bray

12

8

8

Carlow

8-12

8-12

8

Carrick-on-Shannon

12

8-12

8-12

Castlebar

8

16

8-12

Cavan

8

8

12

Clonakilty

5

NS

8

Clonmel

5

4-8

NS

Cork

6

6

6

Derrynea

4-6

4-6

4-6

Donegal

8

8

8

Drogheda

8

8

8

Dublin

8

35

30

Dundalk

4

4

4

Ennis

8-12

8-12

8-12

Galway

4

4

16

Kilkenny

8-10

4

4

Letterkenny

8

8

16-20

Limerick

8-10

8-10

8-10

Longford

4

4

4

Loughrea

8

8

4

Mallow

3-4

3-4

3-4

Monaghan

8-10

8-10

8-10

Mullingar

8-12

8-12

4-8

Naas

6

8

8

Nenagh

4

12

1

Portlaoise

16

12

12-16

Roscommon

4

4

4

Sligo

8

8

8

Tralee

8

8

8

Trim

8-12

8-12

8-12

Tullamore

4

4

4

Waterford

12

10

12

Wexford

30

40

24

Youghal

12-16

12

12

*Urgent interim applications are dealt with immediately i.e. on next sitting day in every District.

(3) Time from receipt of application to date of listing for hearing.

District Court Family Law — Waiting Times at December 2009; 2010; 2011

[All Waiting Times in WEEKS]

Office

Family Law Domestic Violence Applications* (4) Dec-09

Family Law Domestic Violence Applications* (4) Dec-10

Family Law Domestic Violence Applications* (4) Dec-11

Family Law Maintenance Guardianship Applications (5) Dec-09

Family Law Maintenance Guardianship Applications (5) Dec-10

Family Law Maintenance Guardianship Applications (5) Dec-11

Athlone

2

2

2

4

4

4

Ballina

NS

NS

NS

4

NS

NS

Ballinasloe

1

1

1

4

4

4

Bray

8

1-3

1-3

12

3-6

3-6

Carlow

4

4

8

4

4-8

8

Carrick-on-Shannon

NS

NS

NS

NS

NS

NS

Castlebar

1

NS

NS

6

6

6

Cavan

4

NS

NS

4

8

8

Clonakilty

NS

NS

NS

NS

NS

NS

Clonmel

1-2

4-8

4-8

4

8-12

8-12

Cork

10

10-12

10

10

10-12

10-12

Derrynea

NS

NS

NS

4

3

3

Donegal

4

4

2-5

6

4-6

4-6

Drogheda

NS

NS

NS

4

4

4

Dublin

12

7

8

12

7

8

Dundalk

1

1

1

3

3

3

Ennis

2

2

2

4

4

4

Galway

1

1

1

3

3

3

Kilkenny

8-10

2-4

2-4

12

4-8

4-6

Letterkenny

4

4

4

8

8

8

Limerick

3-5

3-5

3-5

6-8

6-8

6-8

Longford

1

1

1

4

4

4

Loughrea

NS

NS

NS

NS

8

8

Mallow

NS

NS

NS

NS

NS

NS

Monaghan

NS

NS

NS

NS

NS

NS

Mullingar

1-3

1

2

4

4

4

Naas

2

2

2

8

8

8

Nenagh

NS

NS

NS

NS

NS

NS

Portlaoise

NS

NS

NS

NS

4-8

8-12

Roscommon

NS

NS

NS

NS

NS

NS

Sligo

2

2

2

4

4

4

Tralee

4

4

4

4

4

4

Trim

4-6

4-8

5-8

4-8

4

4

Tullamore

NS

NS

NS

NS

4

4

Waterford

8

8

12

8

8

12

Wexford

NS

NS

NS

4

4

4

Youghal

2-3

8

8

4-8

8

8

*Urgent interim applications are dealt with immediately i.e. on next sitting day in every District.

(4) Time from receipt of application to listing for hearing in domestic violence matters.

(5) As (4) but for other family law applications.

Immigration Status

Michael Colreavy

Question:

85 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of migrant women with dependant immigration status who are experiencing domestic violence who have requested independent status during each of the past four years; the number of these requests which have been granted by the Irish Naturalisation Immigration Service during each of those years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22685/12]

It is not possible to provide the information requested by the Deputy as records on applications and decisions in relation to a change to a person's immigration status in the State are not broken down in this manner. It would require that every such application (some thousands in the period concerned) be examined to determine if domestic violence was a ground or was disclosed as a ground for the application and a factor in any decision to grant the application; the Deputy will appreciate that this would require an excessive amount of time and resources.

However, I have been advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the experience in recent years has been that a relatively small number of non-EEA nationals apply to change their status on this basis. My officials have indicated that in total the number is likely to be no more than a dozen a year.

INIS operates a flexible, pragmatic and humane approach to the status of non-EEA nationals (both men and women) who are in situations of domestic violence. Any person in such a situation can approach INIS either directly or through an Garda Síochána or a non-governmental organisation and their case will be examined with sensitivity. All cases are addressed on a individual basis and independent status is granted where the known circumstances of the case warrant it. In considering the circumstances of each such application every effort is made to ensure that the most appropriate permission to remain in the State is granted consistent to overall public policy, the requirement to ensure that the integrity of the immigration system is upheld and, of course, to address the particular issues of the applicant.

I would point out that not every victim of domestic violence will require a new residence permission. It is possible that a victim might be resident with their own independent status. However, to date where applications were made and the persons concerned were able to substantiate their claim with appropriate reports, an immigration status was granted which allowed them access to the labour force and to apply for State aid where required.

This system works and I understand that organisations working with victims of domestic violence have publically acknowledged that cases are dealt with sensitively and compassionately. I have also asked INIS to keep the matter under review so to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of victims in the context of overall immigration public policy as well as policy on tackling domestic violence.

I would add that the primary concern for victims of domestic violence, whether they are Irish citizens or foreign nationals is their physical safety. The concern is a primary focus of Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence.

Sentencing Policy

Niall Collins

Question:

86 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the additional resources he is giving the Prison Services and Probation Services to deal with the early release programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22643/12]

As I said earlier, the Irish Prison Service Strategic Plan contains a number of key objectives for the next three years one of which includes the expansion of a pilot community return project which commenced last October in line with the recommendations of the Thornton Hall Project Review Group.

This Community Return programme is an incentivised scheme run in conjunction with the Probation Service which provides for earned temporary release under which offenders who pose no threat to the community are offered early temporary release in return for supervised community service. I am satisfied that both Services have sufficient resources to support the scheme at present.

The Probation Service has been able to manage and resource the scheme since its commencement last October and I am fully committed to ensuring this will continue. As it is, the Probation Service has responsibility for the supervision and management of Community Service Orders in accordance with the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Act 1983 as amended by the Criminal Justice (Community Service) (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 2011. This work,inter alia, involves providing assessment reports to the Courts and managing the completion of the Orders by offenders.

I am also pleased to say that sanction was recently obtained to fill the vacant Probation Service Director post which will be advertised in the coming weeks. In addition, a new Interagency Unit involving staff from the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service is being established to develop and co-ordinate arrangements for the national roll out of this project. Dedicated resources from within both agencies will be assigned to the Unit with a view to creating an enhanced dynamic of interagency co-operation and maximising efficiency and effectiveness.

The Irish Prison Service and Probation Service will also develop joint funding arrangements in order to maximize the availability of structured programmes in the community, providing reparation to society and assisting prisoners in their rehabilitation.

Escape of Prisoners

Dara Calleary

Question:

87 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has consulted with the Irish Prison Service in relation to prison escapes at Loughan House Prison, County Cavan; if all recommendations of the report commissioned by him into the escape of a prisoner (details supplied) have been implemented; his views on the further breach at the prison on 24 April 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22614/12]

I published the Report into the escape by the prisoner referred to on the 28th March 2012. As I stated then, the decision to send this prisoner to Loughan House was wrong. At the time, I instructed the Director General of the Irish Prison Service to take all necessary steps to ensure that a mistake of this nature does not reoccur.

I have since been assured by the Director General that measures have been taken to provide additional oversight in the decision making processes in order to ensure that such a decision cannot be made again in the future. Where consideration is being given to the transfer of a prisoner serving a sentence for a homicide related offence to an open centre, the decision must now be made by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service.

All decision making staff and prison governors have been reminded of the need to take appropriate account of all the criteria to be applied to such decision making, in a balanced and considered manner.

Regarding the incident to which the Deputy refers which occurred on 24 April 2012, 3 prisoners absconded from Loughan House and were pursued by prison staff. The 3 prisoners were subsequently apprehended by the Garda and were returned to custody within a number of hours.

The prisoners in question had been transferred to Loughan House as part of their sentence management and all of them met the criteria for transfer to an open centre. As the prisoners absconded from custody, they have now been returned to closed prisons for the duration of their sentences and will not be considered for any concessions for the remainder of their sentences including transfer to open centres or temporary release.

Legislative Programme

Gerry Adams

Question:

88 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which he will publish a new immigration bill. [22686/12]

Work on the details of the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010, which has been restored by the Government to the Dáil Order Paper, has been ongoing at my Department. This has been necessary to take account of current Government policy which is committed, under the Programme for National Recovery, to "introduce comprehensive reforms of the immigration, residency and asylum systems, which will include a statutory appeals system and set out rights and obligations in a transparent way". In the course of that work it has become clear that as well as a number of amendments to address some outstanding policy matters a large number of technical amendments to the Bill will be necessary. As I outlined to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence on 7th March during our discussion of migration-related EU funding programmes, it is already anticipated that there would be several hundred such amendments to be dealt with and we have been considering how best to progress them including in co-operation with the Offices of Parliamentary Counsel and of the Attorney General.

At the Joint Committee I also expressed the considered view that instead of engaging in an extremely cumbersome process of tabling hundreds of amendments to the 2010 Bill it would be much more efficient to publish a new and enhanced one. This would incorporate the anticipated amendments and address key outstanding issues several of which have been of previous concern to Members. This proposition was broadly welcomed by the Joint Committee and I very much appreciate the constructive and business-like stance they have thus taken notwithstanding the protracted history of this piece of legislation. It remains my objective under this new approach and mindful of the competing legislative demands of our EU/IMF/ECB Programme commitments, to be in a position to bring the new Bill to Government for approval and publication later this year.

Prison Accommodation

Clare Daly

Question:

89 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans for reducing the overcrowding in the prison system. [22610/12]

The average number of prisoners in custody in Ireland has risen in the last 5 years, from 3,321 during 2007 to 4,389 during 2011, an increase of over 32%. Likewise the total number of committals to prison has also risen sharply during the same period, from 11,934 in 2007 to 17,318 in 2011 — an increase of over 45%. During the same period the number of prisoners on temporary release also rose from 210 on 30 November, 2007 to 811 on 30 November, 2011. Rising prisoner numbers have placed enormous strain on the prison system across the board from accommodation to the provision of services including work training/education, health care and drug treatment services. During this period, as a result of the increase in the prison population, a number of prisons are operating well in excess of their stated bed capacities. There does appear, however, to be a stabilising or levelling off in the increase in prisoner numbers being committed annually with 2011 recording only a 0.8% increase on the previous year. This compares to increases of 13.6%, 13.8% and 11.4% respectively year on year for 2008, 2009 and 2010.

As outlined in the recently published Irish Prison Service Three Year Strategic Plan it is intended to align the capacity of our prisons in line with the guidelines laid down by the Inspector of Prisons by 2014 in so far as this is compatible with public safety and the integrity of the criminal justice system. In 2012 and the first quarter of 2013 priority will be given to reducing the chronic overcrowding in Mountjoy, Cork, Limerick Prisons and the Dóchas Centre. Significant investment has taken place in our prison estate in recent years with in excess of 900 new prison spaces having been constructed and brought into use since 2007. A new accommodation block at the Midlands prison which will provide a potential 300 additional spaces as well as additional work training and education facilities is due to become operational in late 2012. Furthermore, in conjunction with the Probation Service, the Irish Prison Service has commenced the roll out of the Community Return Programme, an incentivised scheme for earned temporary release under which offenders who pose no threat to the community are offered early temporary release in return for supervised community service. In addition, the Fines Act 2010 includes a number of provisions designed to minimise the level of fine default and where it does occur, to ensure, as far as possible, that fine defaulters are not committed to prison.

International Agreements

Brian Stanley

Question:

90 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to ratify without delay the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture; and to establish effective national preventative mechanisms under the Protocol. [22672/12]

Ratification of the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OP-CAT) requires legislation. OP-CAT provides for a system of inspections of places of detention at UN level, and at national level by what the optional protocol refers to as National Preventative Mechanisms. The Deputy will be aware that a number of bodies in this jurisdiction already have responsibility for inspecting places of detention. The Government has approved the drafting of a General Scheme of an Inspection of Places of Detention Bill, which will include provisions to enable ratification of OP-CAT. The Bill will make provision for the designation of National Preventative Mechanisms. Subject to competing legislative priorities, it is expected that the General Scheme will be published in mid 2012. When work on preparation of the General Scheme has been completed, I will be seeking Government approval for its publication to facilitate a consultation process in advance of drafting and publication of the Bill. Arrangements will be made to ratify the optional protocol as soon as possible after the necessary legislation has been enacted.

Garda Transport

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

91 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of complaints made by gardaí in relation to a lack of or substandard patrol cars and the steps taken to address these complaints during each year of 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22676/12]

The provision and allocation of Garda resources, including transport, are matters for the Garda Commissioner in the context of his identified operational requirements and the availability of financial resources. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the safe operation of the Garda vehicle fleet is a priority for the Force. Within that framework specific measures are in place to ensure that all of the vehicles concerned are maintained to a high standard so that they can function under safe conditions for both Garda personnel and the general public. In addition I am advised by the Garda authorities that information regarding the number of occasions where a fault has been reported in respect of a Garda vehicle is not readily available and that it could only be compiled through the use of significant resources which are required for other purposes. However, I can assure the Deputy that where such faults are reported they are acted upon promptly.

Prisoner Allowances

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

92 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to reduce daily payments to prisoners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22678/12]

I have been informed by the Irish Prison Service that a review of the prisoner gratuity payments and allowances system has been completed. The review covered all aspects of the current scheme including the daily allowance and approved work allowance. On foot of this review it is proposed that three different levels of daily gratuity be introduced, with the rates being paid dependent on behaviour and level of engagement in structured activities and sentence plans. Under the proposal prisoners who are well behaved and engage actively with services should not see any substantive reduction in their gratuity payments. It is also proposed to regularise the payment of working gratuities across the prison estate and only activities where prisoners provide services which would otherwise result in a cost to the prison service, such as catering and laundry, would qualify for the payment. It is envisaged that the new scheme will result in an overall cost saving to the State. I expect that the new scheme will be finalised shortly.

Garda Authority

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

93 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he is considering establishing an independent Garda Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22606/12]

Deputy Broughan asked a similar question in May 2011 about the establishment of a Garda Authority and my views have not changed on this matter. I have no plans to introduce a Garda Authority and there is no such commitment in the Programme for Government. The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes clear that the Garda Commissioner is accountable to my Department and to me as Minister for the performance of his functions and those of the Force, and of course I am politically answerable in the House in respect of these matters. The 2005 Act also made the Commissioner the Accounting Officer for the Garda Síochána, and liable to appear before the Committee of Public Accounts in that capacity. In addition, the 2005 Act established the Garda Ombudsman Commission, which is empowered to carry out independent investigations into Garda conduct, as well as the Garda Inspectorate, which provides expert advice on achieving the highest levels of efficiency and effectiveness in the operation and administration of the Force. The accountability of the Garda Síochána has, through these measures, been significantly strengthened. I might also make the point that any comparison with accountability arrangements in other jurisdictions, should take into account the fact that the Garda Síochána is rare among police forces in combining security and intelligence functions with policing duties, and should look at the totality of arrangements in those jurisdictions.

Garda Operations

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

94 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the policy of the Gardaí on the use of strip searching; if any garda has ever been disciplined for misuse of strip searches; and the penalty they received as a result. [22677/12]

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

95 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of strip searches that have taken place in Bellmullet Garda Station, County Mayo during each of the past 24 months; the average number of strip searches per Garda station during each of the past 24 months broken down by gender in tabular form. [22668/12]

I propose to take Question Nos. 94 and 95 together.

The searching of persons in Garda custody is governed by the Criminal Justice Act 1984 (Treatment of Persons in Custody in Garda Síochána Stations) Regulations 1987 and 2006, Statutory Instrument 119/1987 which states as follows:

Regulation 17(1) A member conducting a search of a person in custody shall ensure, so far as practicable, that the person understands the reason for the search and that it is conducted with due respect for the person being searched.

(2) A person in custody shall not be searched by a person (other than a doctor) of the opposite sex.

(3) Where a search of a person involves removal of clothing, other than headgear or a coat, jacket, glove or similar article of clothing, no person of the opposite sex shall be present unless either that person is a doctor or the member in charge considers that the presence of that person is necessary by reason of the violent conduct of the person to be searched.

(4) A search of a person in custody involving removal of underclothing shall, where practicable, be carried out by a doctor.

(5) Where clothing or footwear of a person is retained, replacements of a reasonable standard shall be provided.

(6) A record shall be made of a search of a person in custody including the name of the person conducting the search and the names of those present.

(7) Particulars of any property taken from or handed over by a person in custody shall be recorded. The person shall be asked to sign the record of such property as being correct. If he refused to do so, the refusal shall be recorded at the time of refusal.

Under section 7(4) of the Criminal Justice Act 1984 members of the Garda Síochána are liable to disciplinary proceedings for failing to observe any provision of the Regulations. Information regarding the number of searches involving the removal of clothing that have taken place in Bellmullet Garda Station during each of the past 24 months and the average number of such searches per garda station conducted during each of the past 24 months, broken down by gender, is not readily available and would require a disproportionate amount of Garda time and resources to attempt to extrapolate this information.

Following an examination of records maintained in Discipline Section of An Garda Síochána, no member has being found in breach of discipline in respect of the misuse of searches involving the removal of clothing.

Garda Stations

John McGuinness

Question:

96 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the savings made to date from the restricted closing hours of stations in the Dublin metropolitan region; if he will outline these savings on a station by station basis; his views on the challenges of the restricted opening hours at Donnybrook Garda Station which is adjacent to the location of a busy disco event every weekend; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22632/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, on 30 April, 2012, the opening hours of 10 Garda Stations in the Dublin Metropolitan Region (D.M.R.) were reduced from being open on a 24 hour basis to being open to the public between the hours of 7.00 a.m. and 9.00 p.m. only. It is important to remember that while the Garda stations in question will have reduced opening hours to the public, they will remain as functioning Garda stations on a 24 hour basis. It must be stressed that the key objective of the station closures is to promote the more efficient and effective deployment of resources rather than secure modest cash savings.

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. The reduction in the opening hours of Donnybrook and other Garda stations means that Gardaí who heretofore were required to operate at public counters are now available for operational policing. The 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. The priority is, and will remain, that an effective and professional policing service is provided to every part of the community, both rural and urban.

There are 171 Gardaí assigned to the Donnybrook District itself. There are also 57 Garda Reserves and 33 Civilians attached to the D.M.R. South Central in which Donnybrook Garda is located. These resources are augmented, when appropriate, by Gardaí from national units such as the Garda National Drug Unit and the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Proposed Legislation

Terence Flanagan

Question:

97 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on whether it is necessary to amend the Charities Act to have all charities publish detailed accounts when they are in receipt of money from his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16279/12]

Derek Keating

Question:

304 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views that it is necessary to amend the Charities Act to have all charities publish detailed accounts when they are in receipt of money from his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16207/12]

I propose to take Question Nos. 97 and 304 together.

The Charities Act 2009 provides for an integrated system of mandatory registration and proportionate regulation and supervision of the charities sector in Ireland. The various sections of the Charities Act are subject to implementation through commencement orders. A number of sections have already been commenced. Those sections that require charities to provide financial information to a new Charities Regulatory Authority, which will in turn make such information available to the public, have not yet been commenced.

The Deputy will appreciate that the full implementation of the Charities Act 2009 had to be examined in the context of the comprehensive review of expenditure, which took place last year. Arising from this review, I took the view that it was not possible to proceed with the full implementation of the Act at this time given the likely scale of the financial and staffing resources implied, and that this should be deferred.

In light of this decision, my Department is currently examining how the transparency and accountability of the charities sector may be further enhanced and supported, pending full implementation of the Charities Act 2009. One initiative which my Department has supported has been development by the charities sector itself of a set of voluntary Codes of Practice for fundraising, of which openness is a core principle. I encourage all charities to sign up to and adhere to these Codes. With regard to relevant existing statutory requirements for financial reporting by charities, I would remind the Deputy that those charities that are companies limited by guarantee are subject to the provisions of company law and are therefore generally required to provide information to the Companies Registration Office under the Companies Acts, which can be accessed by the public.

Asylum Support Services

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

98 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has met with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to discuss the matter of expanding the remit of the Ombudsman for Children to investigate direct provision hostels. [22667/12]

The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers in accordance with the Government policy of direct provision and dispersal. Section 11(1)(e) of the Ombudsman for Children's Act 2002 provides that the Ombudsman shall not investigate any action taken by a public body where the action was taken in the administration of the law relating to,inter alia, asylum. I should say that, while the Office currently does not have the power to investigate asylum related matters, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS), including RIA, has administrative arrangements in place with the Office to assist and provide information and help resolve any matters brought to its attention.

The question of extending the remit of the Ombudsman for Children is a matter for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in the first instance. I am not aware of any proposal by it to expand the remit of the Ombudsman along the lines suggested by the Deputy. This response should note that RIA takes its child protection role seriously. Responsibility for Child and Family Services is assigned to a specific unit in RIA called the Child and Family Services Unit, whose role is to manage, deliver, co-ordinate, monitor and plan all matters relating to child and family services for all asylum seekers residing in the direct provision system and to act as a conduit between RIA and the HSE. In the discharge of its role, that unit is in regular contact with the HSE which of course has statutory functions in this area.

Garda Deployment

Catherine Murphy

Question:

99 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will outline the principles and the reasons underlying Garda staffing deployment across the country; the process by which gardaí are deployed; the reason Garda numbers per head of population vary so much between different Garda divisions; if the current deployment of gardaí accurately reflects any specific, centrally coordinated deployment plan; if he will outline the process by which the annual police plan is developed between his Department and An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22732/12]

I should first of all say that the Commissioner is responsible for the detailed allocation of Garda resources, including personnel, throughout the organisation, and I have no function in the matter.

I am advised by the Commissioner that, in regard to the deployment of Garda personnel, a distribution model is used which takes into account all relevant factors. These of course include population, but also other factors such as workload, response times, crime trends and the overall policing needs of each Division.Garda Management keeps the allocation of all resources, including distribution of personnel, under review to ensure that the most effective policing service possible is provided to the public. The development of the annual policing plan is governed by section 22(1) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005. This requires the Commissioner, before November each year, to submit to the Minister a policing plan for the following year. On approval, the Minister must cause a copy of the plan to be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas. The policing plan for 2012 was laid before both Houses on 5 December 2011.

Equality Issues

Michael Colreavy

Question:

100 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which he will publish the review of the National Women’s Strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22687/12]

Although drafted by the previous Government, the focus of the National Women's Strategy 2007-2016 is closely linked to the goals of this Government and to EU gender equality policy. It is intended that the first draft of the Internal Review of the Strategy will be presented to the Strategy's Monitoring Committee at a meeting in June 2012. The report may be edited following discussion in that forum. If necessary, the final Report will be submitted to Government and, subject to the Government's approval, it will be published at the earliest opportunity thereafter.

International Agreements

Seán Crowe

Question:

101 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which he will sign the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence and the progress he has made in this area to date. [22684/12]

As I have previously stated in my responses to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 485 and 521 of Tuesday, 14 February 2012, 543 of Tuesday 28 February 2012, and 74 of Tuesday, 13 March, the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence is a detailed Convention with a very broad scope across a number of policy areas.

Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, an executive office within my Department, actively contributed to all stages of the drafting process in relation to the Convention. That process took place over a period of almost two years. I am informed that 19 Council of Europe member states have signed the Convention and one has ratified it. It has not yet entered into force as this requires at least ten member states to ratify it.

In view of the complexity and scope of the Convention, and before embarking on the process of formal circulation of a Memo for Government for approval to sign the Convention, Cosc circulated all relevant Departments and State Bodies seeking observations on the final text of the Convention and Explanatory Memorandum. Cosc is finalising its consideration of the issues raised in their responses which need to be addressed by Ireland prior to signature. The matter will then be submitted for decision as to the Government position on the issue of signature.

Asylum Support Services

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

102 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the conditions at Eyre Powell, direct provision centre in Newbridge, County Kildare; if he has met with residents regarding their concerns and his plans to make improvements and refurbishments. [22666/12]

The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers while their application for protection is being processed. The Eyre Powell asylum seeker accommodation centre in Newbridge, Co. Kildare, which has a capacity to accommodate 90 residents, is one of 38 centres throughout the State which are managed by private companies under contract to RIA. These contracts set out in detail the services to be provided to residents.

On 10 April, 2012, a detailed written complaint listing 12 areas of concern, signed by a number of residents, was sent to the manager of the Eyre Powell centre through the local Newbridge Asylum Seekers Support Group. The concerns revolved around food, hygiene and attitude of management towards residents. The complaint was simultaneously copied to,inter alia, the media, local TDs, various official bodies and other NGOs.

I am advised by the RIA that two visits to the centre by senior RIA officials took place on Thursday 19 April and Friday 27 April. During these visits, discussions took place with residents about the complaints raised. A meeting also took place between the residents and centre management on Saturday, 21 April, 2012. Both residents and the local support group have acknowledged the efforts already made by RIA and centre management to address the points of complaint.

Generally, it must be acknowledged that problems can and do arise in any accommodation system, noting that in the direct provision system there are over 5,200 persons residing in RIA centres throughout the State. It is therefore incumbent on all concerned to ensure that the various processes in place to head off such problems, or deal with them when they arise, are fully utilised. From the perspective of the residents themselves, the principal protection is the house rules and procedures for asylum seekers living in direct provision asylum accommodation centres. These rules set out the entitlements and obligations placed on centre management and residents and, in the event that these aren't being met, a complaints procedures to be invoked by either party. The thrust of the complaints procedure contained therein is that issues which arise are best resolved quickly, locally and informally without the need to proceed formally. In the main, this is how issues should be and are resolved.

Over and above the House Rules themselves, the interests of asylum seekers are protected through regular "clinics" in centres where residents can speak directly to RIA Headquarters staff without local centre management being present. Further, unannounced inspections take place in centres, by RIA staff and by a contracted independent company, to ensure that centres are adhering to their contractual obligations. Also, issues of concern are also brought to the attention of RIA by representatives of statutory or voluntary agencies working with asylum seekers. In the case of Eyre Powell, I am informed that the centre had been inspected three times in 2011 (twice by RIA and once by the independent inspection body) and there had been three "RIA clinics" held in 2011 as well. The centre has also been inspected once this year by the independent inspection body. Many of the issues raised in the written complaint of 10 April, 2012 had not featured in these inspections or clinics.

RIA is working through the list of complaints made by residents in this case, and will also take into account issues raised at the meeting between residents and management on 21 April. Further, the RIA examination will address how the interaction of the complaints, inspections and clinic systems worked in this instance. This is a work in progress involving residents, centre management and RIA and RIA has committed itself to responding in writing to the residents in relation to all the issues raised as soon as possible.

Registration of Title

Mick Wallace

Question:

103 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of form 5A applications that have been received by the Property Registration Authority since 2 November 2011 for the registration of rights of way; the number of these applications that have been dealt with; the number that have been refused; the number granted; the average processing time for each application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22613/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, under the provisions of the Registration of Deeds and Title Act 2006, the Property Registration Authority replaces the Registrar of Deeds and Titles as the registering authority in relation to property registration in Ireland. Subject to the above Act, the Authority is independent in the performance of its functions. The matters raised by the Deputy in the question are operational matters for the Authority and I do not have direct responsibility in this regard. However, I am forwarding the details of the question to the Authority and I will ask them to respond directly to the Deputy.

Irish Prison Service

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

104 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to adequately fund the new strategy of the Irish Prison Service. [22669/12]

The new three year strategic plan includes concrete and practical, if ambitious, targets. Its key objectives include delivering reform and implementing change in accordance with the Croke Park Public Service Agreement and the Integrated Reform Plan for the Justice Sector.

The 2012 current operational budget for the Prison Service is €293.7m. Approximately 80% of this budget is required for payroll costs. The balance is used to fund services for prisoners, maintenance of infrastructure (estate and IT systems), compensation and administrative costs. Since 2009, the Prison Service budget has faced increasing pressure. Recognising this economic environment, decisive action was taken by Prison Service management to reduce, as far as possible, discretionary spend, implement cost cutting measures and deliver efficiencies. Elements of the new strategy together with the Transformation Process under the Public Service Agreement are specifically designed to continue this process of change. The Transformation Process involves a detailed review of all tasks and an assessment of the appropriate management structures and staffing levels. Transformation also provides the Prison Service with the opportunity to refocus on prisoner progression and prisoner programmes. Through engagement with other statutory agencies and the community and voluntary sector, the Prison Service will lead the way in ensuring a more efficient use of scarce resources and develop synergies which will provide more comprehensive and effective sentence management programmes for prisoners.

The Deputy may also wish to note that I have allocated €132.5m from the Justice Capital Envelope 2012 to 2016 to the Prison Service Building Programme. As I announced last November, the Prison Service has been allocated a capital envelope of €24.1m for 2012. This will be spent on the completion of the new prison wing in the Midlands Prison and the provision of in cell sanitation in the B and C wings in Mountjoy. Work has recently commenced on the B wing and it is anticipated that it will be completed by the end of the year.

Prisoner Releases

Brendan Smith

Question:

105 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the criteria that will be used for the early release programme of 1,200 prisoners before 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22639/12]

The Community Return Programme is an incentivised scheme introduced in line with the recommendations of the Thornton Hall Project Review Group which provides for earned temporary release under which offenders who pose no threat to the community are offered early temporary release in return for supervised community service. The scheme, which was introduced on a pilot basis last October, is applicable to suitably assessed prisoners who are serving sentences of more than one and less than eight years. Those participating are granted renewable temporary release having served at, or after, the 50% stage of their sentence with a condition of their release to undertake supervised community service. The following factors are taken into account in considering the suitability of a prisoner for temporary release to participate in the scheme:

the nature and gravity of the offence to which the sentence being served by theperson relates;

the sentence concerned and any recommendation made by the Court in relation to the sentence imposed;

the potential threat to the safety and security of the public should the person be released;

the person's previous criminal record;

the risk that the person might commit an offence during any period of temporary release;

the risk of the person failing to comply with any of the conditions of temporary release;

the extent of the prisoner's engagement with therapeutic services while in custody and the likelihood of period of temporary release enhancing his/her reintegration prospects; and

conduct while in custody.

As announced at the launch of its new three year strategic plan, the Prison Service, in conjunction with the Probation Service, intends to increase the number of prisoners benefitting from this structured form of release over the course of the next three years. The Prison Service will work towards the placement of 400 prisoners per annum serving sentences of 1 to 8 years. It is envisaged that there would be no more than 150 prisoners participating in this scheme at any one time and all prisoners will be carefully assessed before being approved for the scheme.

I can assure the Deputy that public safety is paramount when considering any application for temporary release. Given the factors that will be taken into account as outlined, prisoners who have been convicted of serious offences involving violence or those convicted of serious sexual offences would not meet the criteria to be granted early release under the terms of the scheme. This is but one element of the strategy which provides for a structured form of release leading to improved resettlement and reintegration opportunities for prisoners along with providing for work to the benefit of communities.

Question No. 106 answered with Question No. 82.

Garda Representative Bodies

Derek Keating

Question:

107 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the terms and conditions that allow members of An Garda Síochána to formulate an association; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22609/12]

Section 18 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 provides for the Minister for Justice and Equality to regulate the establishment of associations for the purposes of representing members of An Garda Síochána, in the ranks below that of Assistant Garda Commissioner, in all matters affecting their welfare and efficiency. An association established under this section must be independent of and not associated with any body or person outside the Garda Síochána, but it may employ persons who are not members of the Garda Síochána. Under section 18, a member of the Garda Síochána may not be or become a member of any trade union or association, other than an association established under the section, any object of which is to control or influence the pay, pensions or conditions of service of the Garda Síochána.

Legislative Programme

Michael McGrath

Question:

108 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when he will publish his proposed amendments to the Legal Services Bill 2011; if a regulatory impact statement will be published with the amendments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22630/12]

The position in relation to proposed amendments to the Legal Services Regulation Bill remains as indicated in my closing statement for Second Stage of the Bill on 23 February 2012. In that statement I responded to a series of key issues that had arisen in the discussion of the Bill. At the same time I outlined my intentions in relation to those issues and the potential for constructive amendments to the Bill on Committee Stage. I also indicated that I would make my proposed amendments to the Bill available to Deputies sufficiently in advance of Committee Stage to facilitate their due consideration and this will be done in due course. On the 14th of April I delivered a statement on the Bill and its programme of reform at the annual conference of the Law Society of Ireland which again outlined the scope of the amendments to the Bill that are under consideration — the full text is available on the Department website,www.justice.ie, for ease of reference.

The situation in relation to a Regulatory Impact Analysis for the Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011 also remains as stated at the closing of Second Stage. Although a preliminary Regulatory Impact Analysis had been in preparation for the Bill, because of the prescribed time-frame under the EU-IMF-ECB Programme, it did not prove possible to complete it for issue when the Bill was published. The development of that Regulatory Impact Analysis is further advanced and will continue against the backdrop of the amendments to the Bill that are being prepared for Committee Stage and the analysis will be made available to Members for timely consideration. Deputies will be aware that the relevant Guidelines specifically allow for a Regulatory Impact Analysis to follow a Bill in such exceptional circumstances as applied in this instance.

Work on the details of the proposed amendments to the Bill and on the Regulatory Impact Analysis is ongoing at my Department including in conjunction with the Offices of the Attorney General and of Parliamentary Counsel and they will, as I have explained, be made available in advance of Committee Stage. It remains my objective, notwithstanding the competing legislative demands of our EU/IMF/ECB Programme commitments, that Committee Stage of the Legal Services Regulation Bill commence before the summer recess.

Debt Resolution

Denis Naughten

Question:

109 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on the establishment of an independent debt resolution agency as proposed by the free legal advice centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22703/12]

I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 93 of 7 February, 2012, tabled by him, which indicated the following:

The Deputy will be aware that, having obtained Government approval for urgent drafting by the Office of the Attorney General and Parliamentary Counsel, I published the text of the General Scheme of the Personal Insolvency Bill on 25 January last. There is a requirement under the EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland to publish the Bill in Quarter 1 of 2012 — since extended to end of April. The Bill will also fulfil the relevant commitment in the Programme for Government. The Bill will provide for a new framework for settlement of debt and for personal insolvency. The proposed reform will consist of following main elements:

a revised judicial process (bankruptcy) to provide for a 3 year period for automatic discharge from bankruptcy from the current 12 years.

the introduction of a new non-judicial debt settlement process for unsecured debt only amounting to over €20,000 (Debt Settlement Arrangement).

the introduction of a new non-judicial debt settlement process for both secured and unsecured debt amounting to over €20,000, (Personal Insolvency Arrangement) (secured debt will primarily relate to property debt, be it residential, commercial and investment).

the introduction of a new debt forgiveness process (Debt Relief Certificates) for low level indebtedness where the debtor has effectively no income and no assets and has unsecured debts amounting to up to €20,000.

Critical to the operation of the new debt settlement processes will be the establishment of an Insolvency Service. It is intended that this will be an independent statutory agency. I have nothing further to add to that reply other than to mention that publication of the Bill will be end-June 2012.

Human Trafficking

David Stanton

Question:

110 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 94 of 13 March 2012, if he has completed his consideration of his Department’s analysis of the Garda Commissioner report relating to the adequacy of the provisions of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 regarding forced labour; the action, if any, he will take as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22664/12]

I have received a draft report prepared by my Department on whether or not the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 is sufficient to criminalise forced labour as defined in the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Forced Labour Convention 1930 (No. 29) as "all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily”.

This draft Report contains a detailed analysis of:

cases encountered by An Garda Síochána in relation to allegations of forced labour,

the requirements in the ILO convention, and

the relevant Irish legislation, and that of other jurisdictions, within the context of the ILO Convention 29 and the European Convention on Human Rights, in order to clarify if the Criminal Law ( Human Trafficking) Act 2008 sufficiently criminalises forced labour.

Having considered the draft Report, I have raised a number of queries which I have asked officials in my Department to address prior to its circulation; these queries are being addressed as a matter of priority.

Employment Rights

Seán Crowe

Question:

111 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has met with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to discuss proposals for amalgamating responsibility for employment rights into one body leading to cases under the Equal Status Act 2000-2008 going to the District Courts by default; his views on this proposal. [22683/12]

As already announced in the Public Service Reform Plan published by the Government on 17 November 2011, the Government has decided to rationalise the industrial relations/employee rights institutions into a single agency. Under this plan the Equality Tribunal will form part of a new Workplace Relations body. Detailed consideration of the practical arrangements to give effect to this decision is being progressed by my colleague, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. Further information in this regard will be communicated as soon as he is in a position to announce details.

I am not aware of any proposal that complaints taken under the Equal Status Acts would fall to the District Courts by default.

Prison Accommodation

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

112 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will commit to ensuring the principle of one prisoner per cell in future prison reform or renovation. [22681/12]

As the Deputy is aware there has been a consistent increase in the total prisoner population in Ireland over recent years. The problem of prison overcrowding therefore remains a challenging issue which unfortunately cannot be resolved overnight.

Given the current number of prisoners in the system — 4,401 on 3rd May 2012 — the Irish Prison Service is not in a position to provide single cell accommodation to all prisoners. Single cell occupancy across the system would result in a bed capacity of less than 3,000 and would not be possible to achieve without releasing sizeable numbers of prisoners considered to represent a threat to public safety.

As the Deputy is aware, on the 30th April I launched the Irish Prison Service 3-Year Strategic Plan for the period 2012-2015. In accordance with this Strategy, it is the intention of the Irish Prison Service, over the coming three years, to seek to align the capacity of our prisons with the guidelines laid down by the Inspector of Prisons, in so far as this is compatible with public safety and the integrity of the criminal justice system.

The Inspector of Prisons recommended capacity for individual prisons is based on single cell occupancy in cells of 7 m2 with in cell sanitation and an additional 4 m2 for each additional prisoner — for example double cell occupancy in an 11 m2 cell, triple cell occupancy in a 15 m2 cell.

It is also the intention of the Irish Prison Service, during the lifetime of the Strategy, to provide in cell sanitation in all remaining areas of the prison estate.

Criminal Gangs

Brian Stanley

Question:

113 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will facilitate an independent review of prison gangs that are now operating throughout Irish prisons. [22671/12]

The emergence in recent years of criminal gangs has had significant implications for the management of Irish prisons. Prison management must ensure that the various factions are kept apart and as far as possible, that gang members do not have influence over other inmates or criminal activities outside the prisons. Gang members are being managed on a daily basis through segregation and separation throughout the prison system. Membership /allegiance to these criminal gangs fluctuates on a continuous basis with some persons breaking links and others becoming affiliated.

I am aware of the difficulties for everyone involved and appreciate the efforts made by prison management and staff to deal with this issue on a daily basis within our prisons. The Irish Prison Service is taking whatever steps are necessary to deal with this and has built up considerable experience in this regard.

A number of initiatives have been introduced with a view to preventing identified gang leaders from conducting criminal activities while in custody and also to prevent them exerting inappropriate influence over other persons. For example, the security initiatives undertaken by the Operational Security Group (OSG) have made it more difficult for prisoners to engage in illegal activities while in prison. These initiatives include the introduction of passive and active drug detection dogs and the installation of airport style security including scanners and x-ray machines.

In addition, there is regular contact between the Prison Service and An Garda Síochána to discuss security issues including the operation of criminal gangs. Gardaí are also provided with reports detailing the release dates of this category of prisoner.

Furthermore, the Risk Management of Offenders Group within the Irish Prison Service meet on a regular basis to share intelligence and decide in a strategic and collaborative fashion on the placement of leading gang members across the prison estate, having regard to the associated protection issues involved.

Legal Aid Service

Willie O'Dea

Question:

114 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will outline the current delays in accessing civil legal aid on a county basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22637/12]

I wish to inform the Deputy that details of waiting times for non-prioritised matters at each of the Legal Aid Board's law centres as at 1 April 2012 are set out as follows. Figures for 1 May 2012 are not available yet. I acknowledge that waiting times have increased since the downturn in the economy and that there has been a very significant increase in demand for the Board's services. The Board's grant-in-aid for 2012 in respect of general civil matters, which accounts for the vast majority of its funding, has effectively been maintained at its 2011 level. I have also now incorporated the grant for asylum services into the grant-in-aid which should give the Board greater flexibility in using its resources. A number of other measures have also either already been put in place or are in the process of being put in place and I believe that these will have a positive impact for persons seeking services from the Board. Specific details are as follows:

The Board has outsourced to private solicitors significantly more work in recent years than it did a number of years ago. There is of course a budgetary constraint on what can be referred and it is not possible to accommodate all of the additional demand through private referral;

As of 1 November 2011 the Board assumed responsibility for the Family Mediation Service (following the enactment of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011). The Board is currently reviewing the operation of the State funded mediation service with a view to achieving synergies with its legal services and better options in terms of resolving family disputes;

The arrangements on foot of which barristers are retained have been in place since 1998 and are currently under review. There will be a level of restructuring of the current arrangements;

The Board is working with individual law centres with a view to trying to deliver greater efficiencies in a number of its centres. It is assisted in this regard by the preparation of a Value for Money Review Report prepared by my Department and the Department of Finance (now the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform); and

The Board has commenced a pilot "triage" service. The objective of the pilot service is to ensure that every applicant for services sees a solicitor within a period of one month for the purpose of obtaining early legal advice. While it is acknowledged that those seeking further services will experience a waiting period, it is anticipated that an early consultation will benefit the client in terms of signposting actions clients can take themselves as well as signposting other support services. The pilot service has commenced in five of the Board's law centres — Sligo, Nenagh, Cavan, Wicklow and Athlone. It is anticipated that the pilot service will commence in the remaining centres shortly.

Law Centre Maximum current waiting time 31/03/12 (months)

Dublin

Blanchardstown

7

Brunswick Street

8

Clondalkin

12

Finglas

6

Gardiner Street

9

Tallaght

9

Cork

Popes Quay

6

South Mall

7

Athlone

6

Castlebar

5

Cavan

6

Dundalk

0

Ennis

6

Galway

5

Kilkenny

8

Letterkenny

4

Limerick

4

Longford

6

Monaghan

2

Navan

6

Nenagh

8

Newbridge

9

Portlaoise

9

Sligo

7

Tralee

4

Tullamore

2

Waterford

6

Wexford

4

Wicklow

8

Garda Strength

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

115 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider the request by the Association of Garda Superintendents that more than 20 vacancies at Superintendent rank be filled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22607/12]

I am conscious of the importance of maintaining a sufficient strength in the senior ranks to support the investigative, management and supervisory capacity of the Force.

As I made clear in my recent address to the Annual Conference of the Association of Garda Superintendents, I am in ongoing discussion with my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on this matter and I hope to be able to build on recent progress in filling key senior vacancies.

Criminal Gangs

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

116 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which the necessary personnel, general resources, communications, mobile equipment, intelligence and forensic facilities are available to the Gardaí to tackle the on-going activities of criminal gangs; the extent to which the activity of such gangs can be monitored at present with a view to taking steps to de-commission them; if he has considered any further initiatives that he may take to deal with this issue over the coming months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22730/12]

In the course of previous contributions in this House I have made it clear that combating the activities of criminal gangs is a major Garda priority. In that context the Deputy will recall that significant resources are being deployed against gangs by An Garda Síochána and this will continue to be the case.

The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Commissioner has recently announced the introduction of a wide range of measures aimed at tackling gangs involved in burglaries. This operation, Operation Fiacla, is particularly focused on identifying and targeting mobile gangs involved in burglaries around the country so as to disrupt their activities and bring them before the Courts. Operation Fiacla is intelligence driven and specific burglary initiatives have been implemented in each Garda Region to target suspect offenders. These initiatives will optimise the use of existing structures and local Garda management will ensure that all personnel are fully briefed on the initiative, with Divisional Crime Management Teams playing a key coordination and implementation role.

An Garda Síochána also undertakes a range of activities designed to disrupt and dismantle the operations of criminal organisations. This involves targeting serious criminals and organised criminal groups on a number of fronts, including through the use of focused intelligence led operations by specialist units such as the Organised Crime Unit, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

In addition, An Garda Síochána continues to develop and implement strategies targeting criminal networks, utilising advanced analytical and intelligence methods to facilitate targeted operations to enable early intervention and prevention of organised crime.

The Criminal Assets Bureau is being actively utilised in respect of assets accumulated by criminal gangs. In recent years the Bureau has targeted the proceeds of crime of more middle and lower ranking criminals. I am particularly focused on supporting the work of the Criminal Assets Bureau in targeting the proceeds of crime. The Deputy will be aware that the Programme for Government includes a commitment to strengthen the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau in relation to the forfeiture of the proceeds of crime.

In this regard an Expert Group has been established under the auspices of my Department to review the operation of the Proceeds of Crime legislation with a view to identifying possible improvements which would serve to enhance the powers of the Bureau. When that work concludes I will bring forward my proposals.

Immigration Policy

Denis Naughten

Question:

117 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to reform the immigration system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22702/12]

The Government's plans for the immigration system are outlined in the Programme for Government which commits to the introduction of comprehensive reforms to the immigration, residence and asylum systems including a statutory immigration appeals mechanism, which will articulate rights and obligations in a transparent manner.

The Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010 was restored to the Dáil Order paper and appropriate amendments to the Bill, including an appeals mechanism in respect of immigration related cases have been prepared by the Department. It was my intention to bring forward amendments to the Bill on Committee Stage. However, as recently announced, I have decided to republish the Bill later this year. The republished legislation will take account of the Government's initiatives announced in the Programme for Government.

The Programme for Government also details commitments in key sectors which will be supported by specific immigration initiatives. A great deal of progress has been made in relation to these objectives—

The Irish Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme commenced on 1 July 2011 and was scheduled to run on a pilot basis until the end of October 2012 taking in the period of the London Olympics. I was happy to announce in March of this year that I had secured Government agreement for the extension of this Programme for a further period of four years. This initiative is a very positive step in encouraging visitors to Ireland and is an integral part of the Government's Jobs Initiative and is intended to promote tourism, particularly from emerging markets.

On 24 January 2012, the Government approved two new schemes, proposed by myself, which are designed to stimulate investment and enterprise in Ireland by suitably qualified foreign nationals. The Immigrant Investor Programme and the Start up Entrepreneur Programme were formally launched on 30 March and the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service has been open to accept applications since 16 April. The Programmes capitalise on the opportunities that exist for or immigration system to tap into the entrepreneurial capacity of current and future migrants and also to bring investment into Ireland.

I am continuing to work with my officials on further reforms to policy and administration in the immigration area. For example, a civilian Immigration Officer pilot project is underway at Dublin Airport, involving Department of Justice and Equality staff assigned to immigration control duties at the airport. These staff members will work in association with Gardaí in performing this vital screening function. This project is set against a backdrop of reducing Garda numbers, continued commitment to the civilianisation of appropriate tasks, and the need to look afresh at how public services are delivered.

Other initiatives and reforms that are in train include the development of a comprehensive policy approach to family reunification or settlement and the completion of work on the development of an English language/civics test for naturalisation applicants. The Deputy will also be aware of the commitment in the Programme for Government in relation to the potential transfer of responsibility for the Passport Office to my Department.

Debt Resolution

Mick Wallace

Question:

118 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the way he intends to ensure that the main banks are compelled to engage meaningfully in the proposed Personal Insolvency Arrangement in the Personal Insolvency Bill as they currently have an effective veto over any proposals and there is no independent appeals system proposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22612/12]

The Personal Insolvency Bill, the Heads of which I published on 25 January, 2012, introduces a number of new non-judicial debt settlement systems. One of those systems — the Personal Insolvency Arrangement — provides for the agreed settlement of both secured and unsecured debt of €20,001 to €3 million with one or more creditors.

The detail of the proposed personal insolvency reform measures, including those applying to the voting thresholds in the Debt Settlement Arrangement and Personal Insolvency Arrangement systems, are still under consideration, and the final text of the Bill remains to be considered by Government. This consideration will also have regard to the submissions received during the public consultation process and the report of the hearings of the Oireachtas sub-committee in relation to the General Scheme of the Bill.

The reforms contained in the Personal Insolvency Bill will be applicable to the generality of mortgage and personal debt situations and not just to situations where credit was extended by covered banks.

Regarding the governance framework of the covered banks, while the Minister for Finance is a significant shareholder, those banks remain independent commercial entities and decisions on the handling of individual loans remain a matter for the Boards and management of the particular institutions. When the proposed new personal insolvency framework is in place it will remain a matter for the individual banks to make decisions on proposals to address unsustainable debt in individual non-judicial and judicial debt resolution cases.

I understand, however, that the Central Bank is engaging with each regulated mortgage lender to require them to put in place mortgage arrears resolution strategies and implementation plans to ensure that they will provide appropriate, fair and sustainable solutions, such as those suggested in the "Keane Report" and/or other options for their mortgage customers experiencing mortgage difficulty. These initiatives will be available to all mortgage holders and not just to those with mortgages from banks where the Minister for Finance is a significant shareholder.

I can assure the Deputy that the Bill remains a legislative priority for the Government and the revised time frame for publication of the Bill is now the end of June next with the strong intention to commence Second stage in the Dáil prior to the Summer recess to facilitate early passage of the legislation through the Oireachtas in the Autumn session.

Prison Rehabilitative Programmes

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

119 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the total number of prisoners currently incarcerated at all locations throughout the country; the extent to which rehabilitative or training programmes are available throughout; the number currently receiving training or education; the number of any applicants for such programmes; the extent to which an examination has been carried out as to the importance of such programmes when prisoners are eventually released into the community; his plans to develop such rehabilitative programmes in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22731/12]

I can advise the Deputy that there were 4,380 prisoners in custody on 2 May, 2012.

As the Deputy will be aware from my replies to previous parliamentary questions, the Irish Prison Service provides a wide range of rehabilitative programmes that include education, vocational training, health care, psychiatric, psychological, counselling, welfare and spiritual services. These programmes are available in all prisons and all prisoners are eligible to use the services. On committal, all prisoners are interviewed by the Governor and are informed of the services available in the prison. At this point prisoners may be referred to services or they can self refer at a later date. Where Governors consider, on the information available, that a prisoner needs a particular intervention they will initiate a referral.

The Irish Prison Service has also introduced an Integrated Sentence Management (ISM) system which involves a new orientation in the delivery of services to prisoners and an emphasis on prisoners taking greater personal responsibility for their own development through active engagement with both specialist and non-specialist services in the prisons. The end result is a prisoner-centred multidisciplinary approach to working with prisoners with provision for initial assessment, goal setting and periodic review to measure progress.

As regards the numbers involved, I can confirm that an average of 38% of the prison population attended educational classes in 2011. The development of vocational training programmes in recent years means that there are now over 100 workshops capable of catering for in excess of 800 prisoners each day. There was also a significant increase in the number of prisoners who participated in accredited vocational training course in 2011, when 1219 prisoners attended such courses.

The Inspector of Prisons recommended in his 2010 Annual Report that an independent audit be commissioned by the Irish Prison Service examining the type of education being provided in prisons, the relevance of such education, the numbers being educated and the value for money being provided. The reports for each of the 14 Prison Education Centres are being finalised and will be sent to the Department of Education and Skills and the Inspector of Prisons with a view to the early implementation of recommendations.

The development of prisoner programmes also forms a central part of the new Irish Prison Service Three Year Strategic Plan 2012-2015 which I launched last week. There is a clear commitment in the Strategy to enhance sentence planning including Integrated Sentence Management and the delivery of prison based rehabilitative programmes such as education, work training and resettlement programmes.

Garda Stations

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

120 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí that are to be relocated due to his station rationalising plans; the date on which this was agreed with the Garda Commissioner; and the timeframe in which gardaí affected by this were told of these plans. [22682/12]

As the Deputy is aware, the Commissioner's Policing Plan for 2012, which I laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas on 5 December 2011, proposed the closure of 39 Garda Stations throughout the country, along with reduced public opening hours in 10 Garda Stations in the Dublin Metropolitan Region.

Of the 39 stations, 8 were already non-operational, some for many years. Others, while operational, were open for only limited periods during the week and did not have Gardaí stationed in them. The details of the Garda members attached to the stations which are closing, as well as the timelines for closure, are set out in the following table.

The internal notification of these changes within the Force is a matter for the Garda Commissioner, and I have no function in this:

Station

Strength at 29/2/12

Date of Closure

Garda

Sergeant

Inspector

Carrigaholt

0

0

0

30/03/12

Bellacorick

1

0

0

30/03/12

Glenisland

0

0

0

30/03/12

Tourmakeady

1

0

0

30/03/12

Mulranny

1

0

0

30/03/12

Cootehall

0

0

0

30/03/12

Loughglynn

0

0

0

29/04/12

Tarmonbarry

2

0

0

29/04/12

Shanagolden

1

0

0

30/03/12

Doon

1

0

0

30/03/12

Glenville

1

0

0

30/03/12

Castletownsend

0

0

0

30/03/12

Ballygurteen

0

0

0

30/03/12

Knocknagree

1

0

0

30/03/12

Ballyfeard

1

0

0

30/03/12

Goleen

1

0

0

30/03/12

Inchigeela

1

0

0

30/03/12

Ballylongford

0

0

0

30/03/12

Moyvane

0

0

0

30/03/12

Clochan

0

0

0

30/03/12

Ballinure

0

0

0

30/03/12

Ballinderry

0

0

0

30/03/12

Ballywilliam

0

0

0

30/03/12

Baldwinstown

1

0

0

30/03/12

Clontibret

0

0

0

30/03/12

Smithborough

0

0

0

30/03/12

Tullyvin

0

0

0

30/03/12

Doochary

0

0

0

30/03/12

Dunkinealy

0

0

0

29/04/12

Culdaff

0

0

0

29/04/12

Bunnanadden

0

0

0

30/03/12

Kiltyclogher

2

0

0

30/03/12

Drumkeeran

2

1

0

29/04/12

Geashill

0

0

0

30/03/12

Corrandulla

1

0

0

29/04/12

Whitehall

33

5

2

29/04/12

Rush

4

0

0

29/04/12

Harcourt Tce

66

10

0

31/05/12

Dalkey

28

1

0

30/06/12

EU Directives

Sandra McLellan

Question:

121 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to transpose Council Directive 2010/18/EU; and if he has brought proposals to Cabinet, Council Directive 2010/18/EU as part of his responsibility under the National Women’s Strategy. [22688/12]

My Department has completed work on draft Heads of a Bill to transpose Council Directive 2010/18/EU and to consolidate all the various family leave legislation (maternity, paternal, adoptive and carer's leave) in one Bill. The draft Heads are currently under discussion with relevant Departments in relation to technical issues (e.g. updating references to other legislation) and I expect that I will be in a position to bring my proposals formally to Government shortly.

Garda Strength

Martin Ferris

Question:

122 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí in training on 1 April 2012; his plans to increase the number of Garda recruits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22679/12]

As the Deputy is aware, the moratorium on Public Service recruitment continues to apply to An Garda Síochána. A s a result, no date has been fixed for future intakes into the Garda College or for the commencement of a recruitment competition. A decision on when recruitment will re-commence will take into account the rate of retirement in the Garda Síochána and Government targets for reductions in public service numbers.

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

At present, there are a small number of probationer gardaí together with over 400 Garda reserve members completing their training in the Garda College. The Garda College continues to organise and provide in-service training to a significant number of gardaí each year in a broad range of skills and expertise.

Drugs in Prisons

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

123 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans for construction of a custodial drug treatment centre. [22670/12]

I do not have any plans for the construction of a custodial drug treatment centre. However, as outlined in the Irish Prison Service Three Year Strategic Plan 2012 — 2015, Drug Free Units will be introduced in all closed prisons. It is intended that each of those prisons will have a Drug Free Unit by the end of 2012.

Drug Free Units will accommodate and cater for the needs of both drug free prisoners and illicit drug free prisoners — including prisoners stable on methadone in an integrated setting. Prisoners will be required to sign a contract outlining behavioural responsibilities prior to entry to these Units; they will be subject to voluntary toxicology screening on a random basis. Criteria for admission and discharge to Drug Free Units have been agreed and will be applied across the prison estate. Prisoners will have access to the new incentivised regime programme and will be expected to partake in training and educational programmes.

Prisoners will have the continued support of health care staff and in-reach services as required. Merchants Quay Ireland who currently have a contract with the Irish Prison Service for the provision of addiction counselling services will continue to provide support for those in the Units. It is my belief that Drug Free Units will contribute to a safer environment for both staff and prisoners.

Crime Prevention

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

124 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his plans to introduce measures to reduce the number of burglaries in rural areas in view of the closure of some rural Garda stations. [22675/12]

I am, of course, concerned at the increase in number of burglaries in 2011, while noting that for most crime groups, including robbery, the most recent statistics indicate a decline in recorded crime.

All crime trends are monitored closely by Garda management, with intelligence-led initiatives put in place to target burglary and other criminality. The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Commissioner has recently announced the introduction of a wide range of measures as part of a new operation aimed at tackling gangs involved in burglaries.

These measures are encompassed inOperation Fiacla, which is particularly focused on identifying and targeting mobile gangs involved in burglaries around the country so as to disrupt their activities and bring them before the Courts. Specific burglary related initiatives are being implemented in each Garda Region in support of Operation Fiacla.

In terms of prevention, the National Crime Prevention Unit (NCPU) and Crime Prevention Officers at divisional level provide advice, information and support to organisations, businesses and individuals aimed at reducing burglary crime and the opportunity to commit burglary. These specially trained officers are skilled at identifying environmental design risks and advise on ways to reduce opportunities to commit burglary and other property crime. The NCPU has designed a number of crime prevention advice leaflets including advice on home security and burglary prevention through a step by step checklist. These leaflets and the checklist are available on the Garda websitewww.garda.ie.

During 2012, the national ‘Garda Supporting Safer Communities Campaign' will continue to highlight key issues, in particular burglary prevention. The primary objective of this Garda Community Safety Campaign is to engage with, and raise awareness within communities of initiatives aimed at preventing crime, reducing the fear of crime and promoting community safety. The first campaign was launched last week by the Garda Commissioner and the second will take place in September.

In so far as the closure of Garda stations is concerned, when preparing the Policing Plan for 2011 the Garda Commissioner reviewed all aspects of An Garda Síochána's policing model, including the deployment of personnel, the utilisation of modern technologies and the operation of Garda stations, both in terms of opening hours and possible closures. In addition, all Divisional Officers were asked to assess the level of activity in each Garda station in their area. It must be stressed that the key objective of the station closures is to promote the more efficient and effective deployment of resources rather than secure modest cash savings. In this context the Commissioner has concluded that Garda resources could be better deployed and more effectively used on the front line if a particular station no longer had to be staffed and maintained.

I am conscious of the deep distress which burglary can cause to householders, and to the broader impact it can have in terms of fear of crime in our communities and therefore welcome the fact that the Garda Commissioner is deploying the substantial resources available to him in a targeted and strategic approach to confronting those who are engaging in this form of criminality.

Prison Staff

Martin Ferris

Question:

125 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of complaints of assault made by prisoners against prison staff in each prison during each of the past five years; the number of these complaints which were investigated; and the number of these complaints that resulted in disciplinary action. [22680/12]

I am informed by the Irish Prison Service that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily available and requires a manual examination of records. The Information is being collated by the Irish Prison Service and I will forward a reply to the Deputy as soon possible.

International Agreements

Patrick Nulty

Question:

126 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the Irish Government will ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities thereby recognising disability as a human rights issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22699/12]

It is the Government's intention to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as quickly as possible, taking into account the need to ensure that all necessary legislative and administrative requirements under the Convention are being met. As the Deputy may be aware, Ireland does not become party to treaties until it is first in a position to comply with the obligations imposed by the treaty in question, including by amending domestic law as necessary.

The ongoing implementation of our National Disability Strategy in many respects comprehends many of the provisions of the Convention. In addition, the Inter-Departmental Committee on the UNCRPD monitors the remaining legislative and administrative actions required to enable ratification. At the Committee's request, the National Disability Authority, the lead statutory agency for the sector, are in the process of assisting the Committee to assess the remaining requirements for ratification so as to ensure conclusively that all such issues will be addressed.

One of the key requirements in this regard is the enactment of mental capacity legislation. The Government's Legislation Programme as announced on 11 January 2012, indicates that the Mental Capacity Bill is expected to be published in the current Dáil session. The Bill will replace the Wards of Court system with a modern statutory framework governing decision-making on behalf of adults who lack capacity. The passage of this Bill will add substantially to the overall progress on implementation of the requirements towards ratification of the Convention.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

127 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Taoiseach the total amount spent since February 2011 on external public relations, marketing or communications consultants, including payments from Ministerial or Leader’s allowances; the details of the consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22820/12]

Niall Collins

Question:

128 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Taoiseach the total amount spent since February 2011 on external marketing consultants, including payments from Ministerial allowances, including payments by all Ministers in his Department; the details of the consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22835/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 and 128 together.

No costs have been incurred by my Department on external public relations, marketing or communications consultants since February 2011.

Departmental Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

129 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Taoiseach the names, grade and cost of staff who have been rehired following retirement in his Department and State agencies under his remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22896/12]

No staff have been rehired following retirement in my Department or in the National Economic and Social Development Office (NESDO), which is the only agency under the aegis of my Department.

State Banking Sector

Pearse Doherty

Question:

130 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Taoiseach if he will set out, in respect of Government Departments, State controlled banks and State agencies, any contracts for the provision of services by a company (details supplied); if he will quantify the value of such contracts and set out the safeguards in place to avoid conflicts should that company set out to buy the assets of State controlled banks. [23635/12]

My Department has not engaged the aforementioned company.

International Agreements

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

131 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will confirm that the Article 136 Amendment to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union which is due to be ratified by the Government later this session via the European Communities (Amendment) Act requires the unanimous support of all 27 member states of the European Union to come into effect and to confirm that the purpose of this amendment is to provide a legal basis for the Treaty Establishing the European Stability Mechanism and the European Stability Mechanism itself. [22577/12]

On 25 March 2011, the European Council agreed to amend Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to insert the following text: "3. The Member States whose currency is the euro may establish a stability mechanism to be activated if indispensable to safeguard the stability of the euro area as a whole. The granting of any required financial assistance under the mechanism will be made subject to strict conditionality."

Separately, a Treaty to establish the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) has been agreed among euro area countries. This is an intergovernmental treaty that stands outside the EU Treaty framework.

Both instruments are separate and contain their own requirements for entry into force.

The amendment to Article 136 will enter into force when approved by all member states of the EU, including Ireland, according to their national requirements. The target date for this to be done is 1 January 2013.

The European Communities (Amendment) Bill 2012 will amend the European Communities Act 1972, in order to provide,inter alia, that the European Council Decision amending Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union shall form part of the domestic law of the State.

The ESM Treaty, which is the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Finance, will enter into force when ratified by signatories whose subscriptions represent 90% of the total initial subscriptions. The target date for this is 1 July 2012.

The Government considers that it is strongly in Ireland's best interests for both instruments to enter into force as soon as possible.

Not approving the amendment of Article 136 will not prevent the ESM Treaty from entering into force once the necessary conditions are met.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

132 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the total amount spent since February 2011 on external reports commissioned by his Department including payments from Ministerial allowances; the details of any consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22811/12]

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is responsible for two Votes — Vote 28 (Foreign Affairs) and Vote 27 (International Cooperation). The following tables set out the details of external reports commissioned by the Department from February 2011 and the costs in each case. The tables have been prepared by reference to directly contracted engagements in respect of which professional fees were paid and Professional Services Withholding Tax (PSWT) was deducted, where appropriate. The Department is very conscious of the need the achieve value for money and is in full compliance with national and EU procurement regulations concerning tendering requirements.

The Department through Irish Aid (Ireland's official development assistance programme), occasionally commissions outside expertise where the effective management, evaluation and review of the programme necessitates the use of such skills.

Decisions on the need to commission outside expertise are subject to the establishment of appropriate business cases and an approvals process carried out by the Irish Aid Senior Management Group. National and international regulations are fully complied with in subsequent tendering processes.

During the course of their engagements these consultants/experts may prepare reports and other documentation.

The Department commissions external expertise where highly specialised skills are not available within the Department and, particularly in the case of Irish Aid, where ongoing independent evaluation of programmes and projects is required.

In-depth analysis of issues by external experts has informed — and continues to inform — my Department's policies, allowing for more targeted use of resources and greater accountability in the allocation of budgets. I consider that these reports have been necessary, strategically beneficial and cost-effective.

External Reports commissioned under Vote 27 (International Cooperation)

Year

Experts/Consultants

Matter Reported On

Cost (€)

2011

Kevin Moore

Support to the Governments of Zambia and South Africa to develop Special Economic Zones for the promotion of inward investment and employment

€13,581

2011

Paul Sheane

Support to the Governments of Zambia and South Africa to develop Special Economic Zones for the promotion of inward investment and employment

€9,965

2011

Stefanie Meredith

Review of Irish Aid Support for Product Development Partnerships in developing countries.

€10,100

2011

Samia Saad

Review of Irish Aid Support for Product Development Partnerships in developing countries.

€9,198

2011

Paud Murphy

Development Education Reviews — to examine the current funding support and engagement in each of the priority areas identified in the Development Education strategy (primary, post primary, third level, adult, community and youth work).

€9,064

2011

80:20

Development Education Reviews — to examine the current funding support and engagement in each of the priority areas identified in the Development Education strategy (primary, post primary, third level, adult, community and youth work).

€9,870

2011

Eilis Murray

Development Education Reviews — to examine the current funding support and engagement in each of the priority areas identified in the Development Education strategy (primary, post primary, third level, adult, community and youth work).

€6,068

2011

ISOS

Development Education Reviews — to examine the current funding support and engagement in each of the priority areas identified in the Development Education strategy (primary, post primary, third level, adult, community and youth work).

€37,522

2011

Bernard McLoughlin

Review of the Irish Aid Centre, Dublin

€6,143

2011

Cathal Higgins

Preparation of a report on the programme of education sector budget support towards school infrastructural development in Karamoja region and skills development in the oil sector (Uganda)

€5,000

2011

Nata Duvvury, NUI Galway

First draft of Ireland’s National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325

€16,106

2011

Rodney Rice

Scoping Irish Aid existing and potential for support for media development to improve governance and transparency in key African countries.

€12,492

2012

Humanitarian Policy Ltd

Review of Security Policy and Practice among Irish Aid Humanitarian Partners

€33,930

2012

Channel Research

Review of the Irish Aid Rapid Response Initiative

€2,033

2012

Mike Williams

Review of Humanitarian Programme Plan for Irish Aid

€18,742

Niall Collins

Question:

133 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the total amount spent since February 2011 on external marketing consultants, including payments from Ministerial allowances, including payments by all Ministers in his Department; the details of the consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22829/12]

My Department does not engage external consultants or professional service providers for marketing purposes.

Departmental Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

134 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the names, grade and cost of staff who have been rehired following retirement in his Department and State agencies under his remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22890/12]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following table:

Name and Grade

Position Held/Reason

Duration

Estimated Cost of Contractin 2012 €

Mr. Frank Cogan, Assistant Secretary

Head of Task Force in connection with Ireland’s Chairmanship of the OSCE, 2012

Contract from 7 January 2011 to 31 December 2012

70,835

Mr. Padraig Murphy, Deputy Secretary

Tánaiste’s Special Representative in connection with Ireland’s Chairmanship of the OSCE, 2012

Contract for a maximum of 30 weeks spread over the twelve months of 2012

62,450

Mr. Hugh Swift, Assistant Secretary

Passport Appeals Officer

Second 3-year contract commenced from 20 January 2012

Dependent on the number of appeals processed (no costs incurred in 2011 or to date in 2012)

Mr. Art Agnew, Assistant Secretary

Preparation of Departmental files for the National Archives

Contract for a maximum of 10 weeks spread over the twelve months of 2012

16,246

Mr. Charles Lathrop, Development Specialist

Review of certain development cooperation projects

Contract for a maximum of 38 days from April 2010 to June 2012

2,100

Mr. Martin Greene, Assistant Secretary

Chair of the Point 7 Constituency of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria

3-year contract for a maximum of 175 days from 31 December 2010

21,000

Mr. Joseph Brennan, Counsellor

To assist in preparations for the Irish Presidency of the European Union in January-June 2013

From 1 May 2012 until 30 June 2013

8,866

There are no State agencies under the aegis of my Department.

State Banking Sector

Pearse Doherty

Question:

135 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will set out, in respect of Government Departments, State controlled banks and State agencies, any contracts for the provision of services by a company (details supplied); if he will quantify the value of such contracts and set out the safeguards in place to avoid conflicts should that company set out to buy the assets of State controlled banks. [23630/12]

My Department has no record of any contract or business arrangement with the company in question.

Vehicle Registration

Peter Mathews

Question:

136 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Finance if he has any plans to introduce legislation on a matter (details supplied) regarding vehicle registration plates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22584/12]

I have no plans to amend the Statutory Instrument governing vehicle registration (S.I. 432/1999) to provide for personalised registration numbers.

Motor Fuels

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

137 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Finance the justification for and operational details of the so called green diesel system; and if he will provide any analysis done by his Department on the viability of moving from this system to one offering rebates for agricultural fuel.; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22595/12]

EU Directive 2003/96, which lays down requirements for the taxation of energy products and electricity, permits diesel used for certain industrial and commercial purposes to be subjected to a lower rate of energy tax than that applied to auto-diesel. Those purposes include agricultural, horticultural and piscicultural works and in forestry, in stationary motors and in plant and machinery used in construction, civil engineering and public works. The Directive stipulates also that diesel used for certain other purposes, such as sea fisheries and commercial navigation, must be exempted from energy tax. Where diesel is released for consumption subject to a lower rate of energy tax, or is exempted from that tax, the fuel concerned may not be used as auto-diesel and must be marked, in accordance with EU Directive 95/60 and its associated Decisions, to distinguish it from auto-diesel. The corresponding provisions of Irish law are contained in the Mineral Oil Tax Regulations 2001: a specified substance and a blue dye must be added to the fuel, and result in a green colouring.

The laundering of marked fuel to remove the marker from it, and the subsequent sale of the laundered fuel as auto-diesel, is the principal form of criminality in the fuel market, and combating it is a key priority for the Revenue Commissioners. Extensive enforcement action has been taken against both fuel launderers and those selling laundered fuel, resulting in detection and seizure of laundries and closure of fuel stations. This important work will continue, and Revenue will be assisted in it by the legislative action which I took in the recent Finance Act to enhance the control and supervision of the supply chain for fuels. In addition, I am informed that the Revenue Commissioners are currently working in close cooperation with HMRC in the UK on obtaining a fuel marker that would be more resistant to laundering.

The suggestion has been made that the present system of marking diesel for non-auto use should be replaced by one in which all diesel would be subject to the same rate of Mineral Oil Tax, with repayment arrangements for certain users. A system of that kind would, however, give rise to additional administrative work for the fuel users concerned, and for the Revenue Commissioners, who would have to deal with large numbers of claims from farmers, agricultural contractors, households which use marked fuel for heating and all other users of such fuel. It would also impose cash flow costs on users and could be open to fraud and abuse. The focus, therefore, is on strengthening the existing system for taxing diesel at differential rates, through enhanced supply chain controls, the acquisition of a more effective fuel marker, and continued robust enforcement action.

Private Debt

Robert Dowds

Question:

138 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide statistics on the level of private debt in the economy in nominal terms and as a percentage of GDP; the projections which his Department has for the level of private debt in each of the next five years in nominal terms and as a percentage of GDP and the rate at which this debt will be paid down; if his Department will supply estimates about the drag effect this level of private debt will have on GDP growth and job creation in each of the next five years; and if he will outline his plans for ensuring that excessive private debt is not weighing down on the prospects for growth and job creation. [22598/12]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

145 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the statistical analysis available to him to quantify the levels of debt held in the private commercial sector here; the up to date figures in respect of same; if he examined the McKinsey report published in January 2012 which stated that total debt in non-financial Irish corporations was some 194% of Irish GDP and outstanding debt in Irish financial institutions was some 259% of Irish GDP; if he will confirm his view on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22878/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 138 and 145 together.

Private sector debt, in accordance with international standards, is defined as debt held by households and non-financial corporations (NFCs). According to statistics provided by the Central Statistics Office, in the case of Ireland these figures stood at €194,219 million for households and €347,002 million for NFCs at end 2010. Collectively these figures equate to a private sector debt to GDP ratio of 346%. This figure is similar to that provided by EUROSTAT (341%) and the McKinsey Global Institute publication from January 2012 (318%). The differences are explained by the difference in sources and accounting methods, as well as the date of compilation.

The Deputy is correct in pointing out that the McKinsey report also includes a figure of 259% of GDP for debt held in the financial sector, however, for the purpose of identifying the level of private sector debt it is not appropriate to include this figure.

Firstly, the significant presence of foreign banks in the Irish Financial Services Centre inflates the overall size of the balance sheet of the financial sector. Secondly, the purpose of any banking system is to provide credit to firms and households for consumption and investment purposes. As such, the liabilities of the banking industry fund their assets — the primary component of which is loans — and these should closely mirror the liabilities of the private and, to an extent, the public sector.

Similarly, it is also necessary to be aware of Ireland's position as a centre for international business when interpreting the figures for NFC debt. I would draw the Deputies' attention to a recent presentation to the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform by the Central Bank of Ireland and the Central Statistics on the 7th of March 2012:http://debates.oireachtas.ie/FIJ/2012/03/07/00003.asp and http://www.corkeconomics.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Non-Financial_debt_Finance-Committee_1.pdf

In the presentation NFC debt is broken down according to funding sources. Notably, a large portion of the debt examined is accessed through capital markets and international treasuries. This indicates that a significant portion of NFC debt is composed of funding to large multinational corporations, while borrowing by indigenous Irish firms would be more commonly accessed through the domestic banking system.

It is important to note that there is currently no published series that would enable closer examination of this trend, and that the contents of the above presentation can be used purely for indicative purposes, and are not intended to be official statistics. I can inform the Deputies the Central Bank of Ireland and Central Statistics Office are currently in discussions with the Department of Finance to increase the level of surveillance in this regard, with a view to providing a more detailed breakdown of the influence of multinationals on the levels of Irish private sector debt. For these reasons I am not currently able to provide an accurate projection of private sector debt over the next five years.

I can inform the Deputies that Irish households are currently in a process of private deleveraging, with debt repayments outstripping the draw-down of new loans over the last two years as private household debt contracts to more sustainable levels. While a necessary precursor for more sustainable growth in the future, it is clear that deleveraging on the part of firms and households is weighing on business investment and consumer spending. As discussed in the 2012 Stability Programme Update, it is expected to remain a feature of the Irish economy for the immediate future. In recognition of this, since coming into office, the Government has brought forward a number of measures to support the domestic economy and job creation, including the Jobs Initiative, lending targets for banks and the Action Plan on Jobs. I am confident that these measures will help underpin a stabilisation in the medium term, followed by a gradual pick-up over the coming years.

Government Debt

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

139 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance if consultants (details supplied) have completed their external review of the €3.6bn general government debt error; if so, when he will supply the report to the Committee of Public Accounts and when will he publish the report. [22749/12]

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

140 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance if the internal report in the €3.6bn general government debt error has been completed; and if so, when he will supply the report to the Committee of Public Accounts and when will he publish the report. [22750/12]

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

The external review is being finalised and the internal review is complete. It is my intention to submit both of these reviews to the Committee of Public Accounts and also to make them available on my Department's website as soon as is practicable after the Government have considered them.

Tax Reliefs

Terence Flanagan

Question:

141 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he will deal with the following matter regarding mortgage interest relief in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22756/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, under the Relationship Frameworks, the Board of the Bank referred to in the question is responsible for the day-to-day management and operation of the bank and I have no role in this matter. The Bank referred to in the question has informed me that it has worked in conjunction with Revenue Commissioners in relation to the application of the mortgage interest relief increase and confirmed that the increase has now been implemented, effective from customers' next mortgage repayment date. The total 2012 mortgage interest relief increase will be applied on a pro-rata basis for the remaining months of the year.

European Stability Mechanism

Pearse Doherty

Question:

142 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the total contribution of the State to the European Stability Mechanism; the dates on which payments will be made; the amounts to be paid on each of these dates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22782/12]

The capital structure of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) is set out in the ESM Treaty which was signed by Euro Area Member States on 2 February 2012. To obtain the highest possible credit rating, the capital structure of the ESM will have a total subscribed capital of €700bn. Of this amount, €80bn will be in the form of paid-in capital by the Euro Area Member States, paid in five equal instalments from July 2012. The balance of €620bn will be callable capital. The contribution key for each Member State is set out in Annexe 1 to the draft Treaty and is based on the ECB capital contribution key. For Ireland the key is 1.592% of the total paid and committed capital. Ireland's share of the €80bn in paid-in capital, based on our contribution key, will be just above €1.27bn paid in five equal instalments of €254m. Unlike the EFSF, there is no "stepping out facility" in the ESM when members enter a programme of support. Therefore, Ireland will have to pay its share of the paid-in capital. The ESM is being established as an International Financial Institution and on that basis Ireland's contribution will be treated as a financial transaction. This means that while it will impact on Ireland's Exchequer Borrowing Requirement, it will not impact on its General Government Deficit. Ireland's share of the €620bn callable capital is based on the same key, i.e. 1.592% of €620bn making the callable capital €9.87bn.

Following decision of the Eurogroup on 30 March 2012, the paid-in capital will be made available more quickly than initially foreseen in the original ESM Treaty. Two tranches of capital will be paid in 2012, a first one in July, a second one by October. Another two tranches will be paid in 2013 and a final tranche in the first half of 2014.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

143 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance the total amount spent since February 2011 on external reports commissioned by his Department including payments from Ministerial allowances; the details of any consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22810/12]

The following amounts have been incurred in respect of reports commissioned by my Department from external consultants in the period since February 2011:

€52,454 — Mazars,

€50,000 — Charles River Associates,

€65,000 plus 10% capped expenses — Deloitte and Touche.

With regard to Ministerial allowances, the Deputy will be aware that these are block payments which can, within certain guidelines laid down by the Standards in Public Office Commission, be used at the discretion of the Minister and my Department has no involvement in the disbursement of such allowances. However, I can confirm that no such expenditure was made from my allowances.

Niall Collins

Question:

144 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance the total amount spent since February 2011 on external marketing consultants, including payments from Ministerial allowances, including payments by all Ministers in his Department; the details of the consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22828/12]

As I indicated to the Deputy in my reply to his recent parliamentary question number 20782, no such payments were made by my Department in the period from February 2011 to date. With regard to Ministerial or Leader's allowances, the Deputy will be aware that these are block payments which can, within certain guidelines laid down by the Standards in Public Office Commission, be used at the discretion of the Minister/Party Leader and my Department has no involvement in the disbursement of such allowances. However, I can confirm that no such expenditure was made from my allowances.

Question No. 145 answered with Question No. 138.

Departmental Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

146 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Finance the names, grade and cost of staff who have been rehired following retirement in his Department and State agencies under his remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22889/12]

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to my Department is detailed in the Appropriation Accounts for the relevant years. The Appropriation Accounts are available online atwww.audgen.gov.ie. The 2011 Appropriation Accounts have not yet been finalised by the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

In relation to bodies under the aegis of my Department I have received the following information from the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC). Since nationalisation no staff member has been rehired following their retirement from the Bank.

In addition, if a staff member leaves the Bank under a Voluntary Scheme, the exiting employee cannot be employed as an employee or engaged as a contractor or consultant or through a company or agency in any part of IBRC for at least 12 months after their termination date, save in exceptional circumstances and with the prior written approval of the CEO. IBRC can confirm that since nationalisation no staff member has been rehired after having exited the Bank under a Voluntary Redundancy scheme.

I have been informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they have one recently retired official who is working for them in an advisory capacity on a pro bono basis.

State Banking Sector

Pearse Doherty

Question:

147 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will set out, in respect of Government Departments, State controlled banks and State agencies, any contracts for the provision of services by a company (details supplied); if he will quantify the value of such contracts and set out the safeguards in place to avoid conflicts should that company set out to buy the assets of State controlled banks. [22906/12]

This information is not held centrally for all Government Departments. Accordingly I have copied the question to all other Departments who will respond directly to the Deputy (the Department of Defence and the Department of Justice and Equality have indicated that they have not made any such payments).

In respect of my own Department and the Offices, Agencies* and State-controlled banks under the aegis of my Department, the detail of a contract in place between the company in question and the National Treasury Management Agency is set out below.

The National Pensions Reserve Fund retains a contract with BlackRock Advisors (UK) Limited for the provision of passive equity investment management services. The contract was initially awarded to Barclays Global Investors in 2006 following the completion of a tender competition conducted under EU public procurement rules.

In December 2009 BlackRock announced that it had completed its merger with Barclays Global Investors. The merger did not result in any changes to the contract signed by the NTMA and Barclays Global Investors in 2006. Investment manager fees are based on volume of assets under management and are commercially sensitive. *For reasons of commercial confidentiality, the Central Bank is not in a position to provide this information.

With regard to the matter of conflict of interest, and safeguards — as the Deputy will be aware, under the Relationship Frameworks, the Boards of the Banks are run on a commercial basis and are responsible for the day-to-day management and operation of the respective institutions including the awarding of contracts and I have no role in this matter.

Vehicle Registration Tax

Seán Kenny

Question:

148 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the penalties that apply to drivers who fail to pay vehicle registration tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22924/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that Section 139, Finance Act 1992 as amended covers a range of offences and penalties in relation to Vehicle Registration Tax.

In general, VRT offences are in four categories: offences connected to registration/payment of VRT; offences committed by persons authorised by the Revenue Commissioners; offences associated with certificates and declarations; and offences associated with fraudulent repayment claims.

One of the penalties provided for in Section 139 could apply, on conviction, to a driver who fails to pay Vehicle Registration Tax.

The penalties involved range from a fine of €5,000 on summary conviction and forfeiture of the vehicle to a fine of €12,695 or three times the VRT concerned, whichever is the greater, and/or up to 5 years imprisonment on indictment for cases of serious evasion of the tax.

Departmental Expenditure

Seán Kenny

Question:

149 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the amount spent by the Revenue Commissioners on interpreters for each of the past five years to date in 2012; the top four languages in each of these years for which interpreters were used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22925/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the amount spent on interpreters for each of the past five years to date in 2012 is shown in table A; the top four languages in each of these years for which interpreters were used is shown in table B:

Table A

Year

Total

2007

4,598

2008

5,890

2009

3,016

2010

6,569

2011

7,035

2012

4,834

Table B

Year

Languages

2007

Japanese, Russian, Latvian, Polish

2008

Russian, Chinese, Polish, French

2009

Polish, Russian, Lithuanian, Romanian

2010

Polish, Lithuanian, Chinese, Russian

2011

Chinese, Lithuanian, Polish, Russian

2012

Slovakian, Czech, Lithuanian, Romanian

The use of interpreters is occasionally required by front-line Revenue staff at airports and ports, for example in tackling smuggling, especially drugs and tobacco. It is essential that passengers with insufficient Irish or English, who are interviewed in relation to potential tax, duty or other offences that could lead to prosecution, understand the questions and their answers are correctly interpreted.

State Banking Sector

Pearse Doherty

Question:

150 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the repayment schedule by IBRC for the exceptional liquidity assistance it has from the Central Bank of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22929/12]

The Deputy will be aware that while there is an implicit link between the current repayment schedule on the Promissory Note and ELA there is no specific repayment schedule, as such, in relation to ELA.

As I have indicated, I am committed to reviewing the approach to the Promissory notes with a view to reducing the overall cost to the State of correcting the banking system. The Troika have agreed to engage in a process with Irish Officials to produce a common paper which will consider all options for restructuring the notes in terms of the source of funding, the duration of the notes, the interest rate etc.

Given the nature of advocacy and the decision making process in the EU, I would not expect this matter to be concluded in the short term.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

151 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the impact of the promissory note interest on the general government deficit and debt for 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015; the impact of the promissory note interest on the general government deficit and debt for 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015; if IBRC was included in the definition of general government for the purposes of calculating the debt and deficits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22930/12]

In 2010 the State made out promissory notes to Anglo Irish Bank, INBS and EBS. These notes effectively promise to pay €30.85 billion to these institutions over a number of years. Under Eurostat rules, Ireland was required to count the original note as deficit and debt impacting in 2010. Ireland's deficit and debt therefore increased by €30.85 billion in 2010 as a direct result of the promissory note agreement. As a consequence of this ruling the annual payments of principal, whether paid in cash or any other means, do not increase the debt and deficit as this amount has already been taken into account.

The interest due on the promissory note however does increase both deficit and debt. For this reason, the previous Government requested an ‘interest holiday' in 2011 and 2012. For these two years a zero rate of interest applies on the Anglo and INBS promissory notes. This means that for 2011 and 2012 there was no additional impact from the interest on the Promissory Notes on the General Government deficit. The impact on 2013 is almost €1.9 billion, or 1.1% of GDP, with a declining impact in later years as shown in Table 1 below.

The impact on the debt is different from the impact on the deficit. This is because interest falls due on 31st March each year and debt is measured at face value, whereas deficit is accrued to the calendar year. This difference is further complicated by the interest holiday. Table 1 shows the impact on the general government deficit and general government debt of the promissory note interest for 2010 to 2015.

Table 1 Impact on general government deficit and debt of interest on the promissory note

Year

Impact on deficit

Impact on debt

€m

€m

2010

561

2011

13

568

2012

13

13

2013

1,888

506

2014

1,780

1,847

2015

1,683

1,758

The IBRC is classified as part of the Financial Corporations sector and therefore is not directly included in the calculation of the general government deficit or debt. It was because IBRC is outside of the General Government sector that the promissory notes given to Anglo Irish Bank and the Irish Nationwide Building Society, the former entities that now comprise IBRC, were accounted for in the 2010 General Government deficit and debt returns.

Fiscal Policy

Pearse Doherty

Question:

152 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a breakdown of the interest costs incurred by the State arising from all borrowing recently issued as part of the 2012 deal on the promissory note payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22931/12]

It was decided to use a Government bond to meet the Promissory Note payment due at the end of March instead of borrowing under the EU/IMF Programme. The total cost of financing the repayment this way has two elements. The first element consisted of the estimated interest arising from the coupon of 5.4%. Based on the nominal amount of the bond of €3.46 billion, this equates to €187 million in a full year and around €140 million in 2012 because the bond was issued at the start of April and interest is only being accrued for the remainder of 2012. The second, technical adjustment, relates to the difference between the nominal issuance of €3.46 billion and its market value at the date of issue of €3.06 billion. The rationale for the technical adjustment is that the difference between the nominal and market value has to be accounted for over the remaining term of the bond in the general government deficit. Under ESA95 accounting rules, this difference is classified as interest and accrued over the lifetime of the bond.

Based on the remaining bond term of just under 13 years, the annual accrual in a full year is €30.8 million (€400 million divided by 13). In respect of the calendar year 2012, as the bond was issued at the start of April 2012, the accrual amount for three quarters of 2012 is estimated to be around €23m.

Exchequer Revenue

Pearse Doherty

Question:

153 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a breakdown of non-tax current revenue including Central Bank surpluses, National Lottery surpluses, income from credit institutions guarantee fees, other surplus income/royalties, interest on loans, dividends and other receipts for 2011, 2012 and 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22932/12]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table:

Exchequer Non-Tax Revenue (€ billions)

2011

2012

2013

Central Bank Surplus Income

0.67

0.96

0.92

National Lottery Surplus

0.23

0.22

0.22

Bank Guarantee Fees

1.24

0.98

0.36

Other Surplus Income/Royalties

0.00

0.00

0.00

Interest on Loans (including on Contingent Capital injected into Irish banking system

0.02

0.32

0.31

Dividends

0.14

0.11

0.12

Other

0.47

0.15

0.09

Total

2.77

2.73

2.03

Rounding may affect totals.

The Deputy should be aware that in relation to 2011, the information he has requested is set out in the end-December 2011 Exchequer Statement, which is available on my Department's website. The figures for 2012 and 2013 are the estimates from the time of the Stability Programme Update (SPU) in late April and are likely to be subject to change as more up-to-date information becomes available later this year and into next.

Tax Code

Patrick Deering

Question:

154 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider including agricultural contractors in the carbon tax rebate system as announced in Budget 2012, as this cost will ultimately be changed to the farmer. [22945/12]

I assume that the Deputy's question relates to the double deduction for carbon tax on farm diesel which I introduced in Finance Act 2012. Under this provision, farmers will be allowed a deduction in computing their farming profits or losses for the amount of additional carbon tax they incur on purchases of farm diesel following the proposed increase in the rate of carbon tax on certain fuels from 1 May 2012. The new deduction will be in addition to the existing deduction for carbon tax included in the cost of farm diesel used in the course of the farming trade. I do not intend extending this relief to agricultural contractors.

Social and Affordable Housing

Pearse Doherty

Question:

155 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if an audit has been conducted of the National Assets Management Agency properties to see if any would be suitable for social housing; if such an audit has been conducted, the quantity of these properties; the number that would need to be renovated to make them suitable and the number ready for inhabiting; and the cost of the renovations to make these properties suitable. [22951/12]

I am advised by NAMA that during 2011, in co-operation with the Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency, it carried out a detailed assessment of residential properties under the control of its debtors or receivers to ascertain their potential suitability for social housing provision. In December 2011, on completing this assessment, the Agency identified the availability of over 2,000 such properties. The distribution, by local authority area, of the units identified under this initiative, is provided on NAMA's website,www.nama.ie. All of the residential units identified by NAMA are completed but some units will require final internal works, including fit-out. The number of units requiring such final works and their cost will become evident once local authorities and other prescribed housing bodies have completed their assessment of the suitability of units identified by NAMA within their functional area.

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.

Tax Reliefs

Paul Connaughton

Question:

156 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Finance if value-added-tax can now be reclaimed on a wind turbine purchased in late 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22958/12]

I assume the Deputy is referring to farmers who are not registered for VAT, known as flat-rate farmers. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the Value-Added Tax (Refund of Tax) (No. 25) Order 1993 provides for refunds to such flat-rate farmers for tax borne on the "construction, extension, alteration or reconstruction of any building or structure which is designed for use solely or mainly for the purposes of a farming business". However, while the installation of a wind turbine may be the construction of a structure, such a structure is not "designed for use solely or mainly for the purposes of a farming business". It is designed rather to generate electricity for wherever required. Consequently, no VAT incurred on the purchase of a wind turbine in 2010 can be refunded under the Order. As I outlined in Budget 2012, I will be amending the VAT Refund Order to provide that flat-rate farmers may claim a refund on wind turbines purchased from 1 January 2012.

School Services Staff

Martin Ferris

Question:

157 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a cleaner working for a vocational education committee school may continue to work after the legal retirement age. [22837/12]

The general compulsory retirement age in the public service is 65. For new entrants to the public service, as defined in the 2004 Public Service Superannuation Act, there is no compulsory retirement age. An employee's retirement age should be included in their contract of employment. I presume that the Deputy is referring to a specific case of which he is aware. If so, and if he wishes to pursue this matter, he should bring it in the first instance to the attention of the VEC, which is the employer in this case.

School Transport

Joe McHugh

Question:

158 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider facilitating families that are affected by changes in the closed school rule in Budget 2011, which may be faced with the prospect of sending some family members to different schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22585/12]

Changes to the School Transport Schemes, including the "Closed School Rule (CSR)", were announced in Budget 2011 and derive from recommendations in the Value for Money Review of the Scheme. The Deputy will be aware that from September 2011, the distance criterion of 3.2 kilometres was applied nationally to all pupils travelling under the primary school transport scheme, including those travelling under the CSR. The second element of the change is scheduled to take effect in September 2012 and will apply only in the case of pupils commencing their primary education from that date. This second element will restrict school transport eligibility for those pupils entering in September 2012, to pupils who meet the distance eligibility criterion and are travelling to their nearest school. Existing eligible pupils, who are availing of school transport services, will retain their eligibility for the duration of their primary education cycle provided there is no change in their current circumstances. Pupils who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport on a concessionary basis subject to a number of terms and conditions. It is worth noting that the charge for primary school pupils availing of transport on a concessionary basis will be reduced to €100 per annum from September 2012; this is the same charge that applies to eligible pupils.

Higher Education Grants

Michael McCarthy

Question:

159 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will confirm if a person (details supplied) meets the qualifying conditions for the special rate of post graduate grant; if he previously qualified under standard grant thresholds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22596/12]

The Deputy will appreciate that in the absence of all of the relevant details that would be contained in an individual's application form and supporting documentation, it would not be possible for me to say whether or not a student should qualify for a grant. The Deputy will be aware that, in the context of the necessary but difficult expenditure reduction measures announced in Budget 2012, new students entering postgraduate courses from the 2012/13 academic year onwards will not be entitled to maintenance payments under the Student Grant Scheme. However, those students who meet the qualifying conditions for the special rate of grant will be eligible to have their post-graduate tuition fees paid up to the maximum fee limit under the Student Grant Scheme.

In addition, a further limited number of students who would previously have qualified under the standard grant thresholds will qualify to have a €2,000 contribution made towards the costs of their fees. My Department estimates that this will help an additional 4,000 postgraduate students. There will be a new income threshold for this payment which will be lower than the standard grant threshold. The income threshold for this level of grant is currently being determined in the context of the formulation of the student grant scheme for the 2012/13 academic year.

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

School Enrolments

Ciara Conway

Question:

160 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps that are being taken to ensure that schools here are providing equality of access and admission for students; the measures he is taking to ensure access and supports for young parents in particular; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22603/12]

Brendan Smith

Question:

163 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the recent story that a 15 year old girl was refused admission to a school in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22714/12]

Brendan Smith

Question:

164 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he expects to bring forward strict new guidelines around new admission policies for schools; and if these guidelines will be legislated for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22715/12]

Brendan Smith

Question:

166 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a time frame for bringing forward legislation to amend section 37 of the Employment Equality Acts in view of the recent case in of a young mother in County Tipperary being denied admission to a school on the grounds of maintaining the ethos of the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22717/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 160, 163, 164 and 166 together.

As the Deputies will be aware, last June, I launched a discussion paper on school enrolment. The document, "Discussion Paper on a Regulatory Framework for School Enrolment" contains suggestions on how to make the process of enrolling in schools more open, equitable and consistent. Education partners and interested parties were invited to submit their views and the Department is currently co-ordinating their submissions. The feedback from this consultation will help inform the nature and scope of a new regulatory framework for school enrolment.

I intend to bring legislative proposals to Government this year, the primary aim of which will be to ensure that every child is treated fairly and that every child has a place at school.

Teachers’ Remuneration

Patrick Nulty

Question:

161 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the payment of allowances to teachers for Masters or Doctorate level qualifications, in particular with relation to teachers who borrowed funds to take up further education, and who would have had a legitimate expectation to receive their increases when they began their studies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22708/12]

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 review of allowances, they are not payable to new beneficiaries from 1 February 2012. The only exceptions to this prohibition are principal and deputy principal allowances and, for a limited period of time, the assistant principal allowance. These decisions were taken due to the upward pressure on the cost of teacher allowances. These provisions are outlined in Circular 70/2011 and Circular 3/2012. These measures are concerned with the sustainability of the public service pay bill and in particular the need to find payroll savings in the education vote. 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. I am not in a position to comment further until the outcome of the review is known.

Education Qualifications

John O'Mahony

Question:

162 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Education and Skills when new applications for FETAC provider registration will be accepted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22709/12]

In the light of the necessary preparations for the amalgamation of FETAC with HETAC and the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI) into the Qualifications and Quality Assurance Authority of Ireland (QQAAI), new applications for registration will not be accepted until the establishment of the new agency. The Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Bill 2011, which provides for the amalgamation, was introduced in Seanad Éireann. The Bill passed Seanad Committee Stage on 29 March 2012. I intend that the Bill will be enacted in the current Oireachtas term and Qualifications and Quality Assurance Ireland (QQAAI) will be established as soon as possible thereafter. QQAAI will begin accepting applications for provider registration shortly after establishment.

Questions Nos. 163 and 164 answered with Question No. 160.

School Enrolments

Brendan Smith

Question:

165 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the girl who was refused admission to a school in County Tipperary recently has found a place in another school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22716/12]

My officials understand from the National Educational Welfare Board that the student in question secured an alternative school placement.

Question No. 166 answered with Question No. 160.

Schools Building Projects

Brendan Smith

Question:

167 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on an application by a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary for improvement works. [22755/12]

The management authority of the school referred to by the Deputy submitted an application for funding under my Department's Emergency Works Scheme for the complete replacement of the existing electrical services installation in their school.

As the scope of works for which funding is sought is outside the terms of the scheme it cannot be considered for funding. The school authority has been informed of this decision.

School Complaints Processes

Dara Calleary

Question:

168 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a parent makes a complaint to his Department in relation to the treatment of their child in a school, the processes the Department must follow and if these processes include an acknowledgement of the complaint to the parent and an ongoing communication with the parent involved in relation to the progress of the Departments enquiries; and if his Department is obliged to investigate the complaint and the length of time it takes for same. [22771/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

169 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his Department or any agencies under its aegis investigates an allegation against a student in a school and finds that the school’s stated finding was without evidential basis, the authority that his Department has to act against the school for making a wrong finding; and if the school can be directed to amend the records of the student to reflect his Department’s findings. [22772/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 168 and 169 together.

The Deputy will be aware that under the Education Act 1998, legally, all schools are managed by school Boards of Management, on behalf of the school patrons or trustees, and it is the Board of Management that employs the teachers at the school. Accordingly, whereas I provide funding and policy direction for schools, neither I nor the Department have legal powers to instruct schools to follow a particular course of direction with regards to individual complaint cases, or to investigate individual complaints except where the complaint involves a refused enrolment, expulsion or suspension, in accordance with Section 29 of the 1998 Education Act.

In dealing with parental complaints, my Department's role is to clarify for parents how their grievances and complaints against schools can be progressed. If a parent wishes to make a complaint against a teacher or school they should contact the relevant school authorities. The complaint procedures adopted by most schools are those that have been agreed between the teacher unions and school management bodies. Where a parent feels that the school's board of management has failed to investigate or adequately investigate their complaint, they should contact the Ombudsman for Children.

The Office of the Ombudsman for Children may independently investigate complaints about schools recognised with the Department of Education and Skills, provided the parent has firstly and fully followed the school's complaints procedures. The key criterion for any intervention by the Ombudsman for Children is that the action of the school has had a negative effect on a child. The office can be contacted at Ombudsman for Children's Office, Millennium House, 52-56 Great Strand Street, Dublin1, (Ph) 1800 20 20 40 or (01) 8656800, E-mailoco@oco.ie.

My Department funds a number of bodies that support our education system across all sectors. Their degree of autonomy is dependent on the legislative framework underpinning their establishment.

If the Deputy is interested in a particular agency my officials will arrange for the provision of further information.

School Staffing

Dara Calleary

Question:

170 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 48 of 15 March 2012, if he has any plans to review the decision to abolish the 16 legacy posts in DEIS rural schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22774/12]

Further to my reply to your question of 15th March and as already announced, the 136 posts in 163 post primary schools, 16 posts in 16 rural schools and 38 posts in 17 non DEIS schools will be withdrawn from September 2012 and I have no plans to review this decision. These schools were not included in the report on the impact of the withdrawal of legacy posts as they were not adversely affected by this particular budget decision.

DEIS Rural Primary schools are not included for preferential pupil teacher ratios under DEIS, as generally, their rural location tends to ensure they have lower class sizes. Of the 328 DEIS Rural primary schools, only 16 of these schools will lose one legacy post each.

The Appeals Process which operates independent of my Department, gave schools the opportunity to appeal their 2012/13 staffing allocation. The Appeals Board met on the 18th April and schools have been notified directly by the Board of their decisions at this stage.

Seán Crowe

Question:

171 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will clarify the criteria which was used to appraise the appeal made by a school (details supplied) in County Galway in relation to the pupil teacher ratio for the forthcoming school year; and if language considerations, as well as health and safety conditions were taken in to account. [22801/12]

The school referred to by the Deputy is a small school in the Gaeltacht. As part of the new staffing arrangements my Department has expanded the existing appeals process so that it is accessible to the small primary schools that are losing a classroom post as a result of the budget measure. Such schools will not lose their classroom post if they are projecting increased enrolments in September 2012 that would be sufficient to allow them to retain their existing classroom posts over the longer term.

The school submitted an appeal to the Staffing Appeals Board. All appeals submitted to the Primary Staffing Appeal Board were considered in accordance with the published appeals criteria that is set out in my Department's Staffing Circular 0007/2012. This was done at its meeting on 18th and 19th April. The appeal by the school was unsuccessful on the basis that the school did not meet the published appeal criteria. The Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final. However, the Appeal Board will review this decision in September if the school's actual enrolment in September 2012 increases to the required level.

A total of 367 schools submitted appeals to the April meeting of the Appeals Board. 205 schools had their appeals upheld by the Staffing Appeals Board. A summary outcome of the appeals is now published on my Department's website. Individual schools have been notified of the outcome of their appeals.

The next meeting of Staffing Appeals Board is due to be held on 14 June 2012. The latest date for other schools to submit appeals is 1 June 2012.

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

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

172 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the total amount spent since February 2011 on external reports commissioned by his Department including payments from Ministerial allowances; the details of any consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22808/12]

I am providing a list outlining the information sought in relation to external consultancy reports commissioned by my Department. My Department does not pay a Ministerial allowance to either myself or the Minister of State.

Department of Education and Skills Consultancy Reports 2011 (PQ 22808/12)

Consultant Name

Purpose of Consultancy

Total amt paid 2011 incl vat

Centre for Cross Border Studies

2011 annual review of Post grad courses in Northern Ireland

€2,420.00

Sr. Eileen Randles

External Reviewer in an appeal against an inspection under section 13(9) of the Education Act 1998

€920.00

Dr. Simon Marginson

Development and submission to DOES of draft criteria for the proposed re-designation of amalgamated institutes of Technology Universities arising from the recommendations of the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030

€9,075.00

Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector-Professor John Coolahan, Dr Caroline Hussey, Fionnuala Kilfeather

Advisory Group to convene the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector, to receive and distil the various views and perspectives of participants and to report and advise the Minister

€20,000.00

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PWC) Belfast

Evaluation of the Special Education Support Service established by the Department in 2003 to address the then rather fragmented provision of continuing professional development in the area of special education.

€97,866.01

Goodbody Economic Consultants

Evaluation of the Initial Implementation of Síolta, the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education

€31,280.92

The PA Consulting Group

Evaluation of the training and education programmes for the unemployed delivered under LMAF 2010

€52,003.38

Fitzpatrick and Associates

Mid term Evaluation of the Human Capital Investment 2007-2013

€61,589.00

Deloitte

To carry out audits of the national agencies for the Lifelong Learning Programme in Ireland, these will serve as the basis for the submission of Declarations of Assurance from International Section to the European Commission

€16,299.00

Public Authority Pension Services Ltd

Pensions advisory work relating to the establishment of a pension scheme for staff of the NCTE

€4,791.60

Total:

€296,244.91

Niall Collins

Question:

173 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the total amount spent since February 2011 on external marketing consultants, including payments from Ministerial allowances, including payments by all Ministers in his Department; the details of the consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22826/12]

My Department has not incurred any expenditure in relation to such consultancies since my appointment as Minister. My Department does not pay a Ministerial allowance to either myself or the Minister of State.

School Staffing

Patrick Nulty

Question:

174 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a learning support teacher in a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; if he will give a commitment that a permanent learning support teacher will be retained in the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22853/12]

Finian McGrath

Question:

183 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will support a school (details supplied) in Dublin 17 which is losing a teacher. [22977/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 174 and 183 together.

The criteria used for the allocation of teachers to schools are published annually on my Department's website. The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30 September.

The staffing arrangements in schools for the 2012/2013 school year can also be affected by changes in their enrolment, the impact of budget measures and the reforms to the teacher allocation process. A key part of the reforms of the allocation process was to facilitate a long overdue updating of the GAM (learning support) allocation for all schools.

The staffing arrangements include provision for 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 Department's Staffing Circular 0007/2012.

The Primary Staffing Appeals Board met on 18th and 19th April. A total of 367 schools submitted appeals to the Appeals Board. These appeals were considered in accordance with the appeals criteria set out in Department Staffing Circular 0007/2012.

205 schools had their appeals upheld by the Staffing Appeals Board. A summary outcome of the appeals is now published on my Department's website. Individual schools have been notified of the outcome of their appeals.

The next meeting of Staffing Appeals Board is due to be held on 14 June 2012. The latest date for other schools to submit appeals is 1 June 2012.

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

Departmental Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

175 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills the names, grade and cost of staff who have been rehired following retirement in his Department and State agencies under his remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22887/12]

The information sought is being compiled at present and will be forwarded to the Deputy shortly.

With regard to bodies under the aegis of my Department, the information requested by the Deputy is an administrative matter for each agency. The day to day management of agencies, including the payment of salaries fees and expenses in accordance with Department of Public Expenditure and Reform guidelines, is a matter for the management of each agency. Accordingly, my Department does not maintain the level of information requested.

School Accommodation

Tom Fleming

Question:

176 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a list of primary and post primary schools in County Kerry with prefabricated units that are waiting to be replaced by permanent buildings; the criteria that was applied by his Department and the building programme unit in deciding on the qualification of the recent extensive replacement programme of prefabricated units in schools in many other counties; if he will carry out a review and investigation of the situation in the schools in County Kerry, most of whom are deficient and inferior in structure with a view to including the most substandard of these units that need replacement on an urgent building programme in the short term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22940/12]

Tom Fleming

Question:

181 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills the initial building cost and siting cost of existing prefabricated buildings in primary and secondary schools in County Kerry; the total maintenance cost per year of these prefabricated units; the number of these units that are in a deteriorated state and in need of substantial upgrading to meet the requirement of health and safety standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22966/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 176 and 181 together.

My Department does not hold information centrally on purchased prefabs previous to 2008. Since 2008 14 mainstream prefabs classrooms have been purchased by schools in Co Kerry. For the Deputy's information, I am supplying two tables relating to rented prefabs in schools in Co. Kerry. Table 1 provides details of schools currently renting prefabs. Table 2 provides details of schools that have been selected for consideration under the Department's rented prefab replacement imitative.

The criteria used by my Department to select schools for consideration were:

Prefabs must be rented for a minimum period and be required for the long term i.e. any major project for the school is unlikely to be completed in the short to medium term or if it is, construction of the new classrooms will not hinder the extension and will reduce the scope of works required.

School site must be sufficiently large to accommodate construction of permanent build while continuing to use rented prefabs and that site must not be rented.

Permanent accommodation should be stand alone.

The average rental cost for one mainstream classroom unit currently stands at c. €14k per annum with site works costing an average €22,000. The cost of site works will vary from school to school, depending on site conditions at each school. Responsibility for maintenance of rented prefab and ensuring that rented accommodation meets the requirements of health and safety standards lies with the prefab provider and the Board of Management in the case of purchased prefabs.

In relation to the provision of additional accommodation generally a change in policy implemented by my Department is to provide devolved grant aid for the purchase (rather than rental) of additional accommodation where the need for such accommodation is likely to exist for more than 3 years. Furthermore, since July 2008, it is also policy to offer schools being approved for devolved grant aid for additional accommodation the option to use their capital grant aid to build a permanent classroom(s) rather than purchase a prefab. An amount of €100,000.00 (inclusive of VAT and Fees) per mainstream classroom is provided under this Scheme.

Table 1

Schools Currently Renting Prefab Units in Co. Kerry

Roll No.

School Name

Town/Townland

No. of prefab units

02849C

Kenmare BNS

Kenmare

1

03132I

Sliabh A’Mhadra NS

Ballyduff

1

04062S

Listowel Convent PS

Listowel

1

07841L

Kilgobnet N S

Killarney

1

08320L

St. Clare’s GNS

Kenmare

1

09708T

Scoil Mhuire

Knocknagoshel

1

13615L

Scoil Eoin

Tralee

1

15592M

Scoil Cheann Trá

Tralee

1

16217O

Scoil Bhreac Chluain

Annascaul

1

16898S

SN Breandan Naofa

Tralee

1

17915U

Freastogail Mhuire Mixed NS

Abbeydorney

1

18247K

CBS Tralee

Tralee

8

18702I

Spa NS

Tralee

1

19448C

Scoil Realt na Mara

Tuosist

1

19487M

Holy Cross Mercy NS

Killarney

1

19512I

St. Oliver’s NS

Killarney

7

19547E

St. Francis Spec School

Beaufort

1

20013U

GS Lios Tuathail

Listowel

1

61410N

Presentation Secondary School

Milltown

1

Table 2

Schools in Co. Kerry being considered for rented prefab initiative

Roll No.

School

Address

03132I

Sliabh A’Mhadra NS

Slievadara, Ballyduff, Co. Kerry

13615L

Scoil Eoin

Ballonagh, Tralee, Co. Kerry

19547E

St. Francis Special School

Beaufort, Co. Kerry

Tom Fleming

Question:

177 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will replace the substandard and hazardous prefabricated building at a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22942/12]

I can confirm that correspondence has been received from the school referred to by the Deputy regarding the need for improved accommodation. Officials from my Department will be in further contact with the school authorities regarding the matter.

Schools Building Projects

Derek Nolan

Question:

178 Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of school building projects that have completed stage 2b Detailed Design; the number of schools that have been included in the school building work programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22943/12]

The Deputy will be aware that I recently announced 219 major school building projects to proceed to construction over the years 2013 to 2016. This was in addition to the 2012 programme in which 56 school building projects were announced to go to construction in 2012. Of these 8 are being delivered under Public Private Partnership and hence do not progress through stage 2(b) of architectural planning. Of the other 48 projects, 40 have progressed past stage 2(b) of architectural planning. Seven of the remaining 8 projects have secured planning permission and are progressing towards completion of stage 2(b). One project is completing stage 2(a) and will shortly commence stage 2(b).

There are currently 5 other projects which have completed stage 2(b). One of these projects was included in the 5 year construction programme and is scheduled to commence construction in 2015/16. Due to financial constraints and the need to prioritise projects which will meet the increasing demographic needs over the coming years, it was not possible to include the remaining 4 projects in the 5 year programme recently announced. Information in respect of all projects on the school building programme is available on my Departments web-site and is updated on a regular basis.

Schools Refurbishment

Derek Nolan

Question:

179 Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason funding has been refused under the emergency works scheme for roof replacement at a school (details supplied) in County Galway, which consultants have said is literally falling apart; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22944/12]

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

School Staffing

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

180 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an appeal in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22953/12]

The NCSE will be notifying schools in due course of their allocation for the 2012/13 school year of resource hours for low incidence special needs. The arrangements for how schools access these resource hours in teaching posts are set out in the Department Staffing Circular 0007/2012. Under these arrangements a network of over 2,500 full-time resource posts has been put in place in close to 1,700 base schools throughout the country. The list of these schools and the criteria used to select them is set out in the published Circular. These resource posts are allocated on a permanent basis and the teachers in them will undertake NCSE approved (low incidence) resource hours in the base schools or in neighbouring schools. Schools that are unable to access these hours will be allocated mainly temporary part-time posts. This approach builds on the interim arrangements that operated in 2011 but in a more structured and transparent manner. The school referred to by the Deputy did not meet the criteria for a base school but it will be able to access its allocation of NCSE approved resource hours in accordance with the arrangements outlined above and set out in more detail in the Department Circular.

Question No. 181 answered with Question No. 176.

School Closures

Tom Hayes

Question:

182 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that some former students of a school (details supplied) in County Limerick have not received certification of their qualifications following completion of their course prior to the liquidation of the school; the avenues that are open to such students to receive such certification from the said school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22967/12]

I have received details in relation to one such student and officials in my Department are making inquiries into the matter. I will respond in writing to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Question No. 183 answered with Question No. 174.

School Provision

Willie Penrose

Question:

184 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Skills the context of the Department’s corridor study N4/M4 in 2004, which advised that a note be reserved for a second level school in this area (details supplied) in County Westmeath and in the further context in which this area had shown a 421% growth in the past 15 years and when all the primary schools within a five mile radius have maximum numbers which they can facilitate, if he will enter discussions with the local authority and the church authorities with a view to securing a suitable site which is now readily available in view of the fact that these bodies have been seeking to meet officials to progress matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23044/12]

Among the recommendations of the study referred to by the Deputy, which was published in May 2005, it was recommended that a site be reserved in the area to cater for a second level school. As the Deputy will 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 meet significantly increasing demographics in those areas. This announcement did not include a proposal to establish a new post-primary school in the area referred to, as the demographics of the area did not support the need for a new second level school. The Forward Planning Section of my Department will continue to analyse demographic trends to determine the level of additional school provision which will be required into the future. Overall school requirements in the area referred to by the Deputy will be fully considered in this context. As the Deputy may be aware Westmeath County Council has a site reserved for educational purposes in this area should the need arise in the future for the requirement of a post-primary school.

Schools Refurbishment

Brendan Smith

Question:

185 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a list of schools in County Waterford that received funding for minor works grants towards improvement works for 2012. [23081/12]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that all eligible primary and special needs schools in the country received the Minor Works Grant for 2011/2012 in November 2011. The total costs of the grant exceeded €28m. A list of the schools in County Waterford that received the grant is as follows:

PRIMARY SCHOOLS IN COUNTY WATERFORD WHICH RECEIVED MINOR WORKS GRANT FOR 2011/2012

Roll Number

Name

01395H

AGLISH NATIONAL SCHOOL WATERFORD

01711O

SN CILL ROSANTA

01767S

SN NA CROISE NAOFA

02889O

S N AN CHLAIS MHÓR

05548D

SN BAILE MHIC AIRT

06621P

RINGVILLE MIXED NS

07441S

BALLYCURRANE NS

07737Q

VILLIERSTOWN NS

12007G

FERRYBANK CONVENT

12476S

SLIEVERUE MXD NS

12535I

SN URSULA NAOFA

13020D

OUR LADY OF MERCY N S STRADBALLY

13635R

BALLYDUFF NS

14164J

SCOIL NÁISIÚNTA LIOS MOR MOCHUDA

14568K

KILLEA BOYS NS

14679T

SN BAILE BUITLÉAR

14989L

PASSAGE EAST NS

15046I

ST STEPHENS NATIONAL SCHOOL

15318P

GLENBEG NS

15540Q

BALLYDUFF B2 NS

15632V

ST JOSEPHS GIRLS NS

15963V

RATHGORMACK NS

16732H

SCOIL NAOMH SEOSAMH

16748W

SN NA CILLE

16818R

SCOIL NA LEANAÍ

16887N

SCOIL NÁISIÚNTA MHUIRE LOURDES BUAC 16887N

16950R

CARRIGALEA NS

16976M

S N DEAGLAN

17133N

NEWTOWN NS

17159I

S N AN GARRAIN BHAIN

17295Q

SCOIL NÁISIÚNTA NA RINNE

17351A

BALLYGUNNER NS

17522B

KNOCKANORE NS

17525H

LIGHT OF CHRIST NS

17535K

FENOR NS

17536M

S N DUN AILL

17570M

S N NA BHFÍODH

17643N

KILBRIEN NATIONAL SCHOOL

17997C

ST MARYS NATIONAL SCHOOL

18048E

ST DECLANS NS

18077L

S N CNOC MACHAN

18094L

SCOIL MHUIRE DUNGARVAN

18108T

WHITECHURCH NS CEAPACH

18167M

S N ÁINE NAOFA SEAFIELD

18235D

S N AN PORT MÓR

18257N

BALLYFACEY NS

18321T

SN MUIRE MAGH DEILGE

18380M

FAITHLEG NS

18381O

SCOIL NA MBRÁITHRE

18462O

SCOIL LORCÁIN BNS

18484B

MHUIRE NS

18488J

SCOIL NAOMH GOBNAIT

18509O

AN TEAGHLAIGH NAOFA

18533L

SCOIL MHUIRE

18681D

CHRIST CHURCH N S

18689T

SCOIL MUIRE NA TRÓCAIRE

18779U

ST MARYS TOURANEENA NATIONAL SCHOOL

18793O

SC NAOMH EOIN LE DIA

19108B

ST MARTINS SCHOOL

19282R

ST JOHNS SPECIAL SCHOOL

19345P

BALLYMACARBERRY NATIONAL SCHOOL

19350I

SCOIL CHRUIMIN NAOFA

19443P

CLONEA NATIONAL SCHOOL

19511G

ST SAVIOURS NS

19616U

SCOIL MHUIRE

19629G

HOLY CROSS NS

19693P

QUEEN OF IRELAND NATIONAL SCHOOL

19726E

STRADBALLY CHURCH OF IRELAND NS

19814B

SCOIL GHARBHÁIN

19853L

GAELSCOIL PHORT LÁIRGE

19885B

GAEL SCOIL PHILIP BARÚN

19947U

MOUNT SION PRIMARY SCHOOL

19953P

ST MARYS NS

19955T

PRESENTATION PRIMARY SCHOOL

19970P

PORTLAW NS

20050D

GAELSCOIL NA NDÉISE

20076V

BUNSCOIL BHOTHAR NA NAOMH

20116H

GLÓR NA MARA NS

20143K

WATERPARK NS

20157V

CAPPOQUIN NS

20160K

WATERFORD EDUCATE TOG.

20170N

KILMACTHOMAS NS

20219R

ST PAULS BNS

20261Q

NEWTOWN JUNIOR SCHOOL

State Banking Sector

Pearse Doherty

Question:

186 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will set out, in respect of Government Departments, State controlled banks and State agencies, any contracts for the provision of services by a company (details supplied); if he will quantify the value of such contracts and set out the safeguards in place to avoid conflicts should that company set out to buy the assets of State controlled banks. [23628/12]

My Department does not have any contracts with the companies referred to by the Deputy. With regard to contracts entered into by the bodies under the aegis of my Department, this is an administrative matter for each agency. This information is not collated centrally by my Department. The Deputy should be aware, however, that the procurement of goods, works and services by bodies under the aegis of my Department is carried out in conformity with the EU Treaty principles of non-discrimination, equal treatment, transparency, mutual recognition, proportionality, freedom to provide service and freedom of establishment. All bodies under the aegis of my Department are aware of the need to achieve value for money while conducting procurement in a fair, open and transparent manner that is fully compliant with the EU Procurement Directives and national procurement policies and guidelines. The Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies outlines the responsibilities of state bodies in this regard and my Department regularly updates the aegis bodies on developments in relation to public procurement policy and practices.

Flood Relief

Noel Grealish

Question:

187 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will outline the cost of laying a pipe (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22768/12]

Flood alleviation measures for the Carnmore/Cashla area are part of the proposed Clare River (Claregalway) Flood Relief Scheme, which is currently at design stage. Following a flood event on the Clare River in November 2011, it became apparent that ground water levels were rising at the Eastern end of the Carnmore/Cashla area, at a rate greater than had been considered in the preliminary design study of 2010. Based on this additional information, the Office of Public Works asked the Consulting Engineers who are carrying out the detailed design of the Claregalway Scheme, to review the earlier proposals recommended for the Carnmore/Cashla area. The review recommended that the proposed flood alleviation drain at Carnmore East be extended further eastwards, by 400 metres along the R339 road. An inlet structure would also be installed at this point to relieve the ground water levels as observed in the November 2011 flood event. The revised proposal brings the cost estimate for the Carnmore East flood alleviation drain, to €530,000 from the earlier estimate of €440,000, an increase of €90,000. These additional measures are considered necessary as they will ensure that the same level of protection is afforded to all the properties previously flooded, or at risk of flooding, in the Carnmore/Cashla area, including the R339.

As a result of the November 2009 flood event in the Carnmore/Cashla area, three houses were flooded, a further seven were at risk of flooding, two businesses were at risk of flooding and a further fourteen houses were cut-off by flood waters. The R339 flooded to a level greater than one metre in places with three other local roads flooding for a period up to fourteen days. The revised flood alleviation proposals, which include the extended flood alleviation drain at Carnmore East, form an intricate part of the proposed Clare River (Claregalway) Flood Relief Scheme and will ensure that the Carnmore/Cashla area, will have 1:100 year protection against all such future flood events.

Office of the Ombudsman

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

188 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding a complaint (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22795/12]

The Ombudsman Act 1980 established the Office of the Ombudsman and provides that the Ombudsman can delegate authority to her officials to carry out functions on her behalf, that she may act entirely independently in the performance of her statutory functions, and that she may only be removed from Office by the President following resolutions passed by Dáil Éireann and by Seanad Éireann calling for her removal.

I understand from the Office of the Ombudsman that this matter concerns a complaint considered by the Ombudsman against a Planning Authority in relation to its handling of pre-planning consultation meetings with the Complainant. The Complainant was not satisfied with the response received from the Planning Authority and contacted the Ombudsman stating that he had suffered significant losses arising from maladministration on the part of the Planning Authority and asking to be compensated for these losses. Following a lengthy and detailed examination of the complaint involving considerable engagement with the Complainant and his representatives, the Ombudsman concluded that the Planning Authority was not responsible through maladministration for the adverse effect as alleged.

The Complainant did not accept the findings of the Ombudsman's examination of his case and asked that she review her decision. The Office of the Ombudsman informed the Complainant of its appeals process. The Complainant was advised that the case would be re-examined by an officer not previously associated with the complaint and who was at a more senior level than the officer who had carried out the initial examination. Following a second detailed review of the case, which involved intensive engagement with the Complainant and his representatives, the Office of the Ombudsman concluded that there was no basis to overturn the original decision.

The Complainant subsequently complained about the conduct of a number of named individuals in the Office of the Ombudsman as well as the Ombudsman herself and asked that the individuals be investigated. The Office of the Ombudsman outlined to the Complainant its process for dealing with complaints against individual members of staff and also advised him that this process does not provide for a complaint about the Ombudsman herself. The Complainant's allegations against named members of staff are currently under consideration.

In view of the facts of the case and the statutory independence correctly bestowed upon the Ombudsman, it would be inappropriate for me to initiate an investigation into the conduct of the Ombudsman in this instance.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

189 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the total amount spent since February 2011 on external reports commissioned by his Department including payments from Ministerial allowances; the details of any consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22815/12]

In the period since February 2011, the following amounts were paid to external consultants in respect of reports commissioned by my Department:

€615 — paid to Davy Corporate Finance in respect of a study carried out for the Department in late February/early March 2012 on options for the next National Lottery licence.

€1,210 — paid to Mercer in respect of data used for input to the Organisational Review Programme.

€41,043.20 — paid to RedC in respect of a research project undertaken for the Department and presented to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Investigations, Oversight and Petitions.

With regard to Ministerial allowances, the Deputy will be aware that these are block payments which can, within certain guidelines laid down by the Standards in Public Office Commission, be used at the discretion of the Minister and my Department has no involvement in the disbursement of such allowances. However, I can confirm that no such expenditure was made from my allowances.

Niall Collins

Question:

190 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the total amount spent since February 2011 on external marketing consultants, including payments from Ministerial or Leader’s allowances, including payments by all Ministers in his Department; the details of the consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22833/12]

No such payments were made by my Department in the period from February 2011 to date.

With regard to Ministerial or Leader's allowances, the Deputy will be aware that these are block payments which can, within certain guidelines laid down by the Standards in Public Office Commission, be used at the discretion of the Minister/Party Leader and my Department has no involvement in the disbursement of such allowances. However, I can confirm that no such expenditure was made from my allowances.

Departmental Expenditure

Niall Collins

Question:

191 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the total amount spent on hair and make-up, including payments by all Ministers in his Department and including payments from Ministerial or Leader’s allowances since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22850/12]

No money has been spent on hair and make-up by my Department.

Departmental Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

192 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the names, grade and cost of staff who have been rehired following retirement in his Department and State agencies under his remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22894/12]

In the timeframe allowed, it is not possible to provide the information required by the Deputy. No civil servants who have retired from my Department are back on the payroll in my Department. I will write to the Deputy with the relevant information as soon as possible

Pearse Doherty

Question:

193 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the numbers of public sector employees, by Department grouping, that elected to participate in the early retirement scheme in February 2012; if he will confirm the quantum of cash lump sum payments made to retirees and confirm if any retirees have subsequently been re-hired to their former or new roles in the public sector. [22907/12]

When public service pay rates were cut in 2010, a transitional "retirement grace period" was introduced, so that any persons retiring within the grace period had their pension payments calculated on the basis of the pay rates prevailing prior to the pay cuts. The transitional grace period expired on 29 February 2012. This was not an "early retirement" scheme.

As the Deputy will be aware, at the end of February, reports from across the Public Service indicated that retirements in the first two months of this year were of the order of 7,500 — these were preliminary figures only.

The normal end-quarter staffing numbers reports for the period January-March 2012 have now been received from Departments and these provide firmer data. These quarterly returns, which will, in due course, be published on my Department's website, show the changes in public service numbers reported from across each of the public service sectors. The end-March returns show that a total of 7,897 people retired during the first quarter of 2012; practically all of these would have retired in the first two months. The breakdown of the retirements during the quarter is:

Sector

Number retired

Education

2,245

Health

2,196

Civil Service

1,424

Local Authority

998

Defence

386

Gardaí

282

Non Commercial State Agencies (NCSAs)

366

Total

7,897

Information provided to date indicates that around 126m euro was paid in respect of lump sums during the first quarter of the year. When all returns have been made my Department will forward the details to the Deputy.

Information regarding the rehiring of retirees is not held centrally and should be sought from the relevant Departments. With regard to my own Department I refer the Deputy to the reply that I gave to Question No. 310 on Tuesday 24 April 2012.

Departmental Expenditure

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

194 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 223 and 230 of 13 March 2012, if he will issue a response with regards to the annual amount spent on security measures at private homes and constituency offices of Taoisigh, Ministers and Minsters of State since January 2000 to December 2011. [22969/12]

Details of expenditure on installation of security at private homes and constituency offices of Taoisigh, Ministers and Ministers of State between 2007 and 2011 were provided in reply to PQ 18224 on 18th April. The following is a tabular statement of similar expenditure for the years 2000 to 2006:

Year

Total (incl VAT)

2000

10,120.00

2001

0

2002

0

2003

220,474.57

2004

54,786.23

2005

245,845.65

2006

185,689.81

Overall total

716,916.26

Public Sector Remuneration

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

195 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide, in tabular form. the total public sector pay bill for 2011; the projected public sector pay bill for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015; the total public sector pension bill for 2011; and the projected public sector pension bill for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. [22971/12]

The figures sought by the Deputy are set out below:

Year

Gross Exchequer Pay €bn

Pension Related Deduction (PRD)

Gross Exchequer Pensions €bn

Total Exchequer Pay net of PRD and Pensions €bn

2011

15.6

1.0

2.8

17.5

2012

15.4

0.9

3.0

17.4

2013

15.0

0.9

3.0

17.1

2014

14.7

0.9

3.1

16.9

2015

14.6

0.9

3.1

16.8

2011 figure is the provisional outturn.

2012-2015 figures are estimates.

The pay bill peaked at €17.5bn in 2009 and will fall by €3.8bn by 2015, inclusive of the PRD. In the same period, the pensions bill will increase by €0.5bn from €2.6bn to €3.1bn, resulting in a pay and pensions bill saving of €3.3bn by 2015.

State Banking Sector

Pearse Doherty

Question:

196 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will set out, in respect of Government Departments, State controlled banks and State agencies, any contracts for the provision of services by a company (details supplied); if he will quantify the value of such contracts and set out the safeguards in place to avoid conflicts should that company set out to buy the assets of State controlled banks. [23633/12]

My Department has not entered into any contracts with the company in question.

The issue of safeguards is a matter for the Minister for Finance.

Job Protection

Joan Collins

Question:

197 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding a company (details supplied) moving more than 300 jobs from Dundalk and Dublin to Northern Ireland, following on from the moving of 140 jobs last year to India and Egypt; and the contact he has had with the company in relation to said job losses. [22964/12]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

202 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will make public the results of the consultation process conducted by a company (details supplied) in relation to the customer care jobs in its Republic of Ireland operations; if he will seek assurances from the company that these jobs will not be exported to Northern Ireland; if the company will guarantee the security of their remaining workforce in the Republic of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22903/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 197 and 202 together.

Vodafone Ireland announced on 22 March that it had completed a review of the company's contracted mobile call-centre operations. As a result of this review, the company adopted a new model for its mobile customer care, resulting in a move to a new provider, Teleperformance.

Vodafone Ireland and Rigney Dolphin have entered a six-week consultation process with employee representatives. With effect from 8 May, 27 Vodafone roles and 290 Rigney Dolphin contract roles will transfer to Teleperformance. The consultation process is a matter for the parties involved. Rigney Dolphin will remain a provider to Vodafone for other purposes.

I have been assured by Vodafone Ireland that the transfer of service will observe the Transfer of Undertakings — Protection of Employees (European Communities (Protection of Employees on Transfer of Undertakings) Regulations 2003) Regulations.

I recently met with Vodafone Ireland and the company has confirmed that it is likely that work will move to the Teleperformance site in Newry. I also met representatives of the workers, their Union and local public representatives. I understand this transfer process will be a matter for Teleperformance, although Vodafone will continue to participate in the consultation period. I understand that Vodafone has agreed with Teleperformance that in the event of a move to Newry, all affected Vodafone and Rigney Dolphin employees will have the option to transfer to Newry when their role relocates. Teleperformance have guaranteed that terms and conditions will carry forward to Newry for those who choose to move, and alternatives for those who choose not to transfer will be discussed through the consultation process. While the situation that has arisen on this occasion is regrettable, it is nevertheless reflective of the competitive forces that affect the sector concerned.

In my meeting with Vodafone, the company made it clear that this decision has been taken for commercial reasons and they are not in a position to reverse it. The company have indicated that the work which they have on fixed line customer service is not under review and is performing well.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

198 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the total amount spent since February 2011 on external reports commissioned by his Department including payments from Ministerial allowances; the details of any consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22813/12]

Details of the expenditure associated with the external reports commissioned by my Department since January 2011, and of the consultants engaged, are set out in the table below:

2011

Name of Company/Payee

Purpose

Cost (€)

John Travers

Facilitation of Code of Practice for Grocery Goods Undertakings (continuation of services provided in 2010)

€36,905

Capital for Enterprise Ltd.

Design of Temporary Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme

€59,565

Fitzpatrick Associates Economic Consultants

Assessment of the Productive Sector Operational Programme, 2000-2006

€15,730

UCD (Dr Frank Walsh)

Review of ERO and REA Wage Setting Mechanisms

€15,000

Greater Heights Ltd

Learning needs Analysis (NERA)

€15,645

Rits

IT Security assessment of new hosting site established in the Revenue Hosting Centre, John’s Road

€7,093

Maxima Ireland

Virtualisation Strategy Review — a short high-level assessment of the future opportunities available to the Department to virtualise some of its servers with a view to making cost savings.

€8,276

Jan-end April 2012

Name of Company/Payee

Purpose

Cost (€)

Deloitte and Touche

Feasibility Study for Making Ireland a World Centre for Managing and Trading in Intellectual Property

€36,900

Ward Solutions

IT Security reviews of online application

€16,590

Niall Collins

Question:

199 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the total amount spent since February 2011 on external marketing consultants, including payments from Ministerial allowances, including payments by all Ministers in his Department; the details of the consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22831/12]

I can advise the Deputy that no expenditure has been incurred under my Department's vote since February 2011 on external marketing consultants.

As regards expenditure incurred in this context under Ministerial allowances paid by the Oireachtas, no expenditure has been incurred by Minister Sherlock or myself during this period. I understand that an amount of €48k was paid by Minister Perry from his Oireachtas allowance covering the period August 2011 to end March 2012 in respect of public relations services provided by Ms. Sinéad Fennell of Fennell Communications.

Work Permits

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

200 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if the refusal of an application for an employment permit by a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be reviewed; if the eligibility of the post will be reconsidered whether on a full-time or a temporary basis; if an exception will be allowed regarding the €30,000 salary threshold; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22866/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that this Work Permit application was refused on the 10th 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 otherwise.

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. With regard to this application it was found that the position of non-ferrous buyer fell within the ineligible categories list of occupations that is publicly available on my Department's website. The applicant was notified of this decision in writing and of their right to appeal this decision within 21 days. Appeals are processed in date of receipt order and this application will be processed in sequence.

Departmental Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

201 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the names, grade and cost of staff who have been rehired following retirement in his Department and State agencies under his remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22892/12]

I appointed two former public servants to act as Civilian Drivers at my Department. Both drivers are paid €631.75 per week in line with Ministerial Guidelines. Four other former Civil Servants are re-engaged by my Department on the following basis:

Mr. John Walsh — A former Assistant Secretary in this Department is serving on the NERA Advisory Board. The only payments made for participation on the Advisory Board are Travel and Subsistence payments in accordance with the Department of Finance rates for civil servants. The cost to the Exchequer for 2011 was €514.58.

Ms Julie O'Neill — A former Secretary General at the Department of Transport, is currently Chair of the Department's Audit Committee. In line with centrally agreed procedures for external audit committee members in the Civil Service, this individual is paid a fee of €450 per meeting, subject to a maximum of €1,800 per annum.

Mr. Martin Lynch — A former Principal Officer is the Irish Government representative and Deputy Chair of the Board of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) based in Helsinki, Finland. This individual is engaged as an expert and is paid on a fee per day basis in respect of each Board meeting that he attends and also for attending meetings of the Board Sub-Committee which he chairs. The cost for 2011 was €7,474.00 in fees and €4,407.30 in Travel and Subsistence. Following refunds from the European Chemicals Agency, the net cost to the Exchequer was €8,030.30.

Ms Eveta Brezina — A former Assistant Principal, is a Member of the Employment Appeals Tribunal. She is paid the appropriate "sitting fee" of €193.24 per diem in addition to any travel and subsistence costs. She was paid a total of €6,243.04 gross in respect of fees in 2011 and €375.75 in respect of travel and subsistence. Fees are subject to Schedule E tax, Universal Social Charge, PRSI and pension-related deduction where appropriate.

I have referred this question to all State Agencies under the aegis of my Department for direct reply to the Deputy.

Question No. 202 answered with Question No. 197.

Industrial Disputes

Colm Keaveney

Question:

203 Deputy Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in view of the fact that the State has involved itself in a dispute (details supplied) since 1 March 2010 when can workers affected expect the employment appeals tribunal to listen to this case. [23045/12]

I am taking it that this question refers to both the Labour Court case (details supplied) and also to the cases involving this company currently before the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT)

Cases, such as this, that have been referred to the Labour Court do not have an appeal route to the EAT. The Labour Court conducts hearings on trade disputes, as in this case, and issues recommendations setting out its opinion on the dispute and the terms on which it should be settled. The Labour Court is a court of last resort in the industrial relations process, and it is expected that the parties come to the process in good faith and consequently are prepared to give serious consideration to the Court's recommendation. The system of industrial relations in Ireland is essentially voluntary in nature and recommendations of the Labour Court are not legally binding. Neither the Labour Court, nor I, can compel a company to comply with such recommendations. Ultimately, responsibility for the settlement of a trade dispute rests with the parties to the dispute. The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) is an independent body under the aegis of my Department. As an independent body, I have no role in the day-to-day operation of the EAT.

I am advised however that, in respect of this company that the Tribunal will make arrangements to keep those cases of a similar date of lodgement and type for hearing together at the same Division of the EAT in Co. Offaly. It is anticipated that the unfair dismissal cases will be listed in the next available slot when the Tribunal is sitting in Co. Offaly. Having regard to the existing advance case list for the Tribunal, this Division is likely to be held in early September. I understand that there are also a number of appeals by the employer against the recommendation of the Rights Commissioner under the Payment of Wages and Terms of Employment (Information) Acts. These were submitted in February 2012 and they will be listed together for hearing. All appeals are listed for hearing in accordance with their date of lodgement with the Tribunal. The current waiting time for a hearing outside Dublin is approx. 80 weeks.

State Banking Sector

Pearse Doherty

Question:

204 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will set out, in respect of Government Departments, State controlled banks and State agencies, any contracts for the provision of services by a company (details supplied); if he will quantify the value of such contracts and set out the safeguards in place to avoid conflicts should that company set out to buy the assets of State controlled banks. [23632/12]

I can advise the Deputy that my Department does not have any contracts with the named company. In terms of the placing of contracts for services by the thirteen agencies that come within my Department's remit, this an operational matter for those agencies. As agencies that are governed by the code of practice for State Sponsored bodies, they are fully accountable in terms of observing all relevant fiscal and governance rules.

Social Welfare Code

Simon Harris

Question:

205 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection the rent allowance limits payable in an area (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22573/12]

New maximum rent limits came into force on 1 January 2012 and are in place until June 2013. The maximum monthly rent limits for the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council area are set out in the tabular statement below.

Rent Supplement Rent limits for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council area

County

Single person in shared accommodation

Couple in shared accommodation

Single person

Couple with no children

Couple or one-parent family with 1 child

Couple / one-parent family with 2 children

Couple / one-parent family with 3 children

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council Area

€300

€370

€475

€700

€875

€925

€950

Social Welfare Benefits

John Lyons

Question:

206 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Social Protection when an application will be processed under the insolvency payments scheme in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22574/12]

A claim under the Insolvency payment scheme was submitted manually on behalf of the person concerned on 11 August 2011 in respect of arrears of wages, holiday pay and minimum notice. The Department is currently processing manually submitted claims received in July 2011. A claim for a redundancy payment in respect of the person concerned was paid on 1 November 2011.

Social Welfare Appeals

Peter Mathews

Question:

207 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on a review for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22582/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 22nd December 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers have been received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Nicky McFadden

Question:

208 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on the oral hearing in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath in relation to their non-contributory pension can be expected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22590/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that following an oral hearing of the appeal in question, the Appeals Officer, as agreed at the hearing, referred the case back to the Social Welfare Inspector for further investigations and clarification of the means of the person concerned. The case has been returned to the Appeals Officer who is now considering the appeal in the light of all the evidence submitted, including that adduced at the hearing. The person concerned will be notified of the Appeals Officer's decision when the appeal has been determined. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Code

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

209 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will explain the rationale behind limiting the amount of time a person in receipt of carer’s allowance can spend in employment, self-employment, education or training to 15 hours a week; if she will consider raising the hours to 17.5 hours; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22597/12]

Carer's allowance is a means tested income support payment for people who are providing full time care and attention to a person in need of such care. A person in receipt of carer's allowance can engage in employment, self-employment, training or education outside the home for up to 15 hours per week and still qualify for the payment. However, one of the main qualifying conditions for the payment of carer's allowance is that the person receiving care is medically assessed as needing care on a full-time basis. While carers may work or engage in training or education for up to fifteen hours per week, I have no plans for a further increase in the hours beyond this allowance. Any further expansion would necessarily dilute the very notion of ‘full time care and attention' and could directly impact on the person who needs that care.

Social Welfare Benefits

Simon Harris

Question:

210 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason she is refusing to honour its commitment to pay rent supplement to an individual in respect of a four year lease signed between landlord and tenant in January 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22710/12]

Simon Harris

Question:

243 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding rent allowance in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22995/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 210 and 243 together.

The person concerned applied for rent supplement on 14th February 2012 but the rent sought was in excess of the new maximum rent limits appropriate to his family composition introduced on 1st January 2012. The person concerned was disallowed rent supplement and notified of his right to appeal against this decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Social Welfare Appeals

Pat Breen

Question:

211 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22724/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 18th 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 have been received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office and the case has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Question No. 212 withdrawn.

Pat Breen

Question:

213 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22729/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an oral hearing of the appeal of the person concerned took place on 23rd April 2012 and the Appeals Officer is now considering the appeal in the light of all the evidence submitted, including that adduced at the hearing. The person concerned will be notified of the Appeals Officer decision when the appeal has been determined.

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

Questions Nos. 214 to 217, inclusive, withdrawn.

Social Welfare Code

Joan Collins

Question:

218 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 5 of 25 April 2012, if she will stop referring to people who have entitlements to the safety net of social welfare provision as customers as used in her reply to the question regarding childcare provision, as the relationship between state services and citizens is not one of customers and owners; and of she change her practice of calling people who are entitled to services and payments as customers. [22757/12]

Since the launch of the Strategic Management Initiative in February 1994, the provision of high quality customer service has been an essential element of the modern Public Service.Delivering Better Government published in May 1996, recommended the introduction of a Quality Service Initiative for the customers of the Civil Service and in 1997 the Quality Customer Service (QCS) Initiative was launched.

Since 1997, public service organisations have been producing Customer Action Plans to assist them in improving the way in which services are delivered to their customers. In 2003, as part of a continuing drive to further promote Quality Customer Service, public service organisations began to adopt Customer Charters. Customer Action Plans and Customer Charters are produced as part of the same overall process and have separate but complimentary roles.

My Department is committed to ensuring that a customer service ethos is embedded in everything it does and is embraced by everyone in the organisation. The overall aim is to provide people with the information, financial support and other services that they require in a timely and customer-friendly way. My Department is determined to perform to best international standards; be responsive and innovative; provide value for money; and maintain the public service values of openness, responsiveness, professionalism and good governance.

The Customer Charter sets out the standards of service that people can expect in their dealings with the Department. This charter is displayed in all Department offices and on the website,www.welfare.ie. The Customer Action Plan builds on the charter commitments and sets out a range of aims and actions to achieve them during the lifetime of the plan. A new plan is being finalised at present.

I believe that it is important that the concept of the provision of high quality customer service to members of the public who access my Department's services continues to be a priority and I have no plans to issue an instruction along the lines outlined by the Deputy.

John Deasy

Question:

219 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Social Protection if the report has been completed on the retained fire-fighters and their social welfare entitlements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22759/12]

Taking account of the unusual circumstances of retained fire brigade personnel and general efforts to develop and standardise our jobseeker schemes, a departmental group was established in late 2011 to examine the position of these workersvis-à-vis jobseeker’s benefit and jobseeker’s allowance.

While this examination has been largely completed, a number of issues arising from it are being considered further. My officials will be in touch with relevant deputies in this regard as soon as possible.

Community Employment Schemes

Gerry Adams

Question:

220 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Social Protection if any of the cuts she has introduced in relation to community employment schemes will lead to any job losses in CE schemes in County Louth; if she will provide a breakdown in the numbers employed in each CE scheme in County Louth in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012; and if she expects this to change as a result of expenditure cuts. [22792/12]

The number of places allocated to each of the Community Employment Schemes currently running in County Louth is set out in the table attached. It should be noted that the decrease in places in 2012 is as a result of the closure of one element of two different projects and is not related to budgetary restrictions. It is intended to use these places to initiate a new scheme in Drogheda which will provide places for recovering drug misusers. This scheme is scheduled to commence during the summer of 2012. There has been no reduction in the number of CE places available in 2012.

Table 1

Number of places allocated to each project

LOCATION

SPONSOR NAME

2009

2010

2011

2012

ARDEE

ARDEE COMMUNITY EMPLOYMENT PRO

28

28

28

28

BLACKROCK / HAGGARDSTOWN

THE FANE COMMUNITY GROUP

19

20

26

26

CASTLEBELLINGHAM

ANNAGASSAN / CASTELBELLINGHAM CE

16

16

16

16

DROGHEDA

NORTH DROGHEDA C.E.SPONSOR GP.

32

32

32

32

COMMUNITY SERVICES CENTRE

20

20

20

20

DROGHEDA YOUTH DEVELOPMENT

29

28

29

29

DROGHEDA YOUTH DEVELOPMENT

25

22

22

25

DROGHEDA RESOURCE CENTRE

37

43

43

43

SOCIETY OF ST VINCENT DE PAUL

17

17

17

17

DROGHEDA AREA WOMENS NETWORK

19

18

18

18

DROGHEDA FOOTBALL SCHEME LTD.

20

20

20

21

MILLMOUNT COMMUNITY SERVICES LTD

42

42

42

42

LIFESTYLE DEVELOPMENT GROUP

25

24

24

24

DROGHEDA HOMELESS AID GROUP

16

16

16

16

DROICHEAD ARTS CENTRE

19

18

18

18

DROGHEDA WOMENS REFUGE

18

18

21

18

DUNDALK

HOLY FAMILY COM.DEV.GROUP

25

24

25

20

ST. JOSEPHS DEV GROUP

36

36

37

36

DUNDALK ICTU CENTRE LTD.

43

52

53

53

CENTRAL CE SCHEME

23

28

28

28

SWAP

29

48

48

48

AVE. RD. AREA COMM.DEV. GROUP

36

38

34

36

MOUNT OLIVER AND DISTRICT CE LTD

25

32

34

34

REDEEMER DEVELOPMENT GROUP

57

57

57

46

DUNDALK RURAL

INNISKEEN/WEST LOUTH DEV.GROUP

23

26

26

26

MID LOUTH COMMUNITY EMPLOYMENT

61

67

61

61

DUNLEER

DUNLEER COMMUNITY EMP.COMMITTE

21

21

23

23

COOLEY

COOLEY COMMUNITY PROJECTS LTD

16

16

34

34

TOGHER

TOGHER COMM.PROJECT GROUP

20

20

20

20

Totals

2,806

2,857

2,883

2,870

Social Welfare Offices

Robert Troy

Question:

221 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 125 of 26 April last regarding local Social Welfare offices (details supplied) in County Westmeath if he will identify the positions that remain unfilled; the duration that they have been vacant; if he will give a definite time frame as to when these will be filled. [22794/12]

The table below details the vacancies in the locations mentioned:

Location

Grade

Duration of vacancy

Mullingar Local Office

1 Higher Executive Officer

1st March 2012 to date

1 Executive Officer (Inspector)

1st March 2012 to date

Athlone Local Office

1 Staff Officer

September 2011 to date

Longford Local Office

1 Higher Executive Officer (Inspector)

10th February 2012

1 Higher Executive Officer

1st March 2012 to date

1 Staff Officer

1st March 2012 to date

1 Clerical Officer

September 2011 to date

1 Clerical Officer

1st March 2012 to date

As I recently advised the Deputy, the staffing needs of all offices in my Department are continuously reviewed, having regard to workloads and the competing demands arising. In this regard, it is not possible to give a definitive timeframe of when these specific vacancies will be filled. I can however assure the Deputy that the Department will continue to source available staff to fill critical vacancies by way of redeployment in line with the Public Service Agreement 2010-2014, or transfer from within the Department and other Government Departments, taking account of the employment control framework (ECF) target, as determined by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

222 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection the total amount spent since February 2011 on external reports commissioned by her Department including payments from Ministerial allowances; the details of any consultants employed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22816/12]

The Department has a major programme of business, organisational and technological change underway to enable it to modernise the services which it provides to customers.

The Department engages consultants for work which comes within the definition of "consultancy" set out in Department of Finance guidelines — where a person or organisation provides intellectual or knowledge based services (e.g. expert analysis and advice) through delivering reports, studies, assessments, recommendations, proposals, etc. that contribute to decision making or policy making.

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the attached table for 2011. There has been no expenditure to date in 2012 in relation to such consultancy work.

I am satisfied that the procurement of consultancy services, including commissioning of reports, is essential to support the Department in providing high quality service to the public in a cost effective and that this is undertaken is an efficient manner governed by a comprehensive regulatory, legal and procedural framework.

I do not draw down any Ministerial Allowances:

Year: 2011

Contractor

Purpose

ESRI

SWITCH Model — Support for analysis of Budget proposals

150,000

IRCHSS

Social Inclusion Research Innovation Awards

50,000

ESRI

Poverty Research

48,001

PricewaterhouseCoopers

Review of Pensions Charges

36,300

Trinity College

Poverty Research Initiative Awards

9,788

Mel Cousins and Associates

Social Welfare Appeals Office — Legal Research on Insurability Issues and Access to Legal Resources

7,744

Patrick Oliver Ryan

Gender Recognition Advisor Group Report

7,000

UCD

Poverty Research Initiative Awards

6,650

NUI Maynooth

Poverty Research Initiative Awards

6,500

NUI Galway

Poverty Research Initiative Awards

5,000

Crowleys DFK

Audit of Financial Statement for EU Year 2010

4,816

John Grenham

Report on GRO (General Register Office) Records

3,557

Mel Cousins and Associates

Social Welfare Appeals Office -Preparation and Delivery of Paper on Habitual Residence Clause

2,420

Jane Pillinger

Consultation and Development of a Code of Practice Guide

2,000

Maureen Bassett

Evaluation and Reporting of EU Year 2010

1,032

Kathy Walsh

Evaluation and Reporting of EU Year 2010

726

Niall Collins

Question:

223 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection the total amount spent since February 2011 on external marketing consultants, including payments from Ministerial allowances, including payments by all Ministers in his Department; the details of the consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22834/12]

The Department spent a total of €23,407 including VAT on graphic design and marketing services since February 2011. All of these costs were incurred under one contract with a Dublin-based company, Creative Inc.

I do not draw down any Ministerial Allowances.

Questions Nos. 224 and 225 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Benefits

Dan Neville

Question:

226 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons who applied for invalidity pension that had their claims decided on last year; the number of persons that were granted invalidity; the number of persons refused invalidity pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22864/12]

The information sought by the Deputy is as follows:

Claims Received

Claims Cleared

Claims Awarded(1 June to 31 Dec)

Claims Disallowed(1 June to 31 Dec)

2011 (total)

14,621

10,508

Not available

Not available

1 Jan — 31 May

6,155

3,704

Not available

Not available

1 June — 31 Dec

8,466

6,804

2,107

4,697

A breakdown of claims awarded and disallowed in 2011 is available only for those claims dealt with from June to December 2011. A breakdown of claims awarded and disallowed in the period from January to the end of May 2011 is unavailable as claims were being processed on two separate computer systems prior to migration of all invalidity pension claims to the new computer platform.

Joe O'Reilly

Question:

227 Deputy Joe O’Reilly asked the Minister for Social Protection the action she will take to deal with the current backlog of carer’s allowance and disability allowance applications, that are currently taking almost a year to process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22871/12]

The Department is committed to delivering the best possible service to its customers. In the interests of fairness and equity applications are processed, as far as possible, in order of the date on which they were received in the Department. A major service delivery modernisation project is underway to address the large increase in the claim-load and to improve the efficiency of administration of the carer's allowance and disability allowance schemes. This involves the development of information technology functions and associated business process re-organisation. It is anticipated that the new system will introduce significant processing efficiencies and a quicker and more responsive service to the customer. Accordingly, the project is being given high priority and involves a significant level of time and commitment from the relevant staff in the Department. This has had a short-term negative impact on claim processing times. This essential focus of certain staff resources will continue until the completion of the modernisation projects in June of this year when all existing carer's allowance claims and by the end of this year when all existing disability allowance claims will be transferred onto the new processing system.

Accurate processing time figures are not available at present as applications are still being processed on both the old and the new computer systems. The average time taken to award an application for disability allowance in 2011 was 17 weeks. There are approximately 6,300 new disability allowance applications registered and awaiting a decision. The average time to award a carer's allowance application at present is estimated at approximately 28 weeks. There are approximately 7,800 new carer's allowance applications registered and awaiting a decision. I acknowledge that this is unsatisfactory but I am satisfied that the Department is taking all steps available to it to resolve the issue. In addition to the deployment of new systems which should address service levels in the medium term, the Department is allocating additional resources in the form of overtime working to help reduce backlogs that have built up. In addition, temporary staff have been assigned to the disability allowance scheme and approval has recently been given for the assignment of temporary staff for the carer's allowance scheme to expedite the reduction of the backlogs. However, it is expected to be a significant number of months before the backlogs are reduced to an acceptable level. In the meantime, if a person's means are insufficient to meet their needs while awaiting a decision on an application, they may apply for a means-tested supplementary welfare allowance payment from their local community welfare officer.

Departmental Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

228 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Social Protection the names, grade and cost of staff who have been rehired following retirement in her Department and State agencies under her remit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22895/12]

Since 29 February 2012, one member of staff — the Chief Medical Adviser in my Department — has been retained on a temporary contract beyond retirement on a salary scale of €83,887.30-€102,152 per annum. His salary is abated to take account of his pension rate of payment. The decision to re-employ the Chief Medical Adviser was taken due to his specific skills and experience, the difficulty and long lead-in time for replacing such skills and the critical importance of ensuring continuity and a high level of service to customers of the Department. The Pensions Board, which is under the aegis of my Department, has employed on temporary contracts two people who were previously employed by An Garda Síochána and who are in receipt of Garda pensions. The salary scales for the two staff are €46,081-€58,294 and €65,185-€80,678.

Question No. 229 withdrawn.

Community Employment Schemes

Tom Fleming

Question:

230 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will be allowed to continue on a community employment scheme. [22905/12]

The person concerned was on a community employment (CE) scheme in Co. Kerry from 20th July 2009 to 16th July 2010 with eligibility for one year. As she is currently not in receipt of any payment from the Department, she is not eligible for further CE participation at this time.

Robert Dowds

Question:

231 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the review of each of the community employment schemes operating in north Clondalkin, County Dublin, and when these schemes may expect to hear the outcome of these reviews. [22908/12]

A financial review of Community Employment (CE) Schemes is underway. This review process allows 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. All sponsors and projects have been met with and discussions have taken place with regard to the requirements of the schemes, including the above named projects.

However due to the current economic circumstances, this Department has had to find significant savings in the Budget for 2012. The reduction to the grant for materials and training 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.

No final allocations of materials and training grants have been made pending completion of the review. The existing commitment in relation to the financial support of schemes will continue to apply.

Question No. 232 withdrawn.

Departmental Schemes

Seamus Kirk

Question:

233 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Social Protection if agriculture contractors are eligible applicants for the JobBridge scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22916/12]

The National Internship Scheme was launched on 1st July 2011. It provides internship opportunities of either 6 or 9 months for unemployed individuals on the Live Register, at all skills levels. The aim of JobBridge is to assist individuals in breaking the cycle where they are unable to get a job without experience. It provides them with an opportunity to gain valuable experience, relevant knowledge and skills within a working environment. The Scheme is open to organisations in the private, public and community or voluntary sectors.

The Scheme has made significant progress to-date. 6,842 jobseekers have commenced their internship since 1st July 2011. There are currently 4,670 jobseekers undertaking internship opportunities. In addition, there are 1,876 internship opportunities available across a wide number of occupational sectors and geographic areas being hosted on the JobBridge websitewww.jobbridge.ie.

In response to your specific query, it is must be stated that the Scheme is open to companies in all sectors including private, public, voluntary and community. The eligibility criteria are as follows:

Interns

In order to be eligible to participate in JobBridge — the National Internship Scheme an individual must be:

Currently in receipt of a live claim (Jobseekers Allowance/Jobseekers Benefit/Signing for Credits) on the Live Register

And have been in receipt of Jobseekers Benefit, Jobseekers Allowance or signing for Social Insurance Contribution Credits for a total of 3 months (78 days) or more in the last 6 months.

Periods spent on Back to Education Allowance, VTOS, FÁS/Fáilte Ireland Training courses, Youthreach, FIT, Community Employment Schemes, TUS, the Rural Social Scheme, Back to Work Scheme, Back to Work Enterprise Allowance, FÁS Job Initiative or Job Assist will count towards meeting the eligibility of JobBridge, provided:

The individual has completed these programmes.

Has signed back on to the Live Register.

Is in receipt of Jobseekers Benefit/Allowance or Jobseeker credits immediately before commencing on JobBridge.

Host Organisations

A host organisation participating in JobBridge must be in a position to provide a substantial commitment to their intern so as to ensure the provision of a quality internship. To this end, a clear set of rules have been developed to protect the intern and safeguard JobBridge from potential abuse.

In order for organisation to participate it must comply with the following criteria:

An organisation, or a local branch, must have a minimum of 1 full time employee who is employed for 30 hours or more per week (i.e. on payroll and subject to tax and PRSI).

Be a legal entity and/or a charity recognised by the Revenue Commissioners (with a CHY number).

Have NO vacancies in the area of activity in which the internship is offered.

The placement is not displacing an employee.

The Scheme Administrator reserves the right to review cases where it is reported that this is the case.

Have Public/Employers Liability insurance and Motor Insurance, if applicable, that will cover any interns on the JobBridge Scheme.

Be fully compliant with current workplace health and safety and all other legal requirements.

If Garda Vetting applies to the placement, ensure that the vetting process is applied.

The host organisation may not provide an internship opportunity under the Scheme to an individual they have an existing employment relationship with.

The total number of internship places an organisation can offer at any one time is:

Number of Full Time Employees*

Number of Internships

1-10 employees

1 internship place

11-20 employees

2 internship places

21-30 employees

3 internship places

30 + employees

20% of the workforce to a maximum of 200 internships whichever is the smaller

*Who is employed for 30 hours or more per week (i.e. on payroll and subject to tax and PRSI)

Local branch offices of national organisations e.g. large retail outlets will not be regarded as an individual host organisation for the purpose of JobBridge (effective from 10th October 2011).

The maximum number of interns a Host Organisation can have, on the Scheme, at any point in time is 200 irrespective of the number of local branches they have.

Potential host organisations can avail of the JobBridge guidelines which are available on the JobBridge websitewww.jobbridge.ie.

On the 15th August 2011, these criteria were amended to include the participation of Sole Traders within the JobBridge scheme provided they have a minimum of 1 full time employee (employed for 30 hours or more per week and subject to tax and PRSI).

My Department continues to monitor and review the operation of the JobBridge scheme including its eligibility criteria both for Host Organisations and Interns on an ongoing basis.

Social Welfare Appeals

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

234 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social Protection when an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be decided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22917/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 18th 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 have been received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office and the case has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

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

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

235 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if a long-term entitlement to jobseeker’s assistance exists in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22918/12]

As the person concerned has been in receipt of jobseeker's allowance for more than fifteen months she is considered to be long term unemployed. Payment will continue as long as the person concerned meets the conditions for entitlement to the allowance.

Social Welfare Appeals

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

236 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if supplementary payments are being selectively suspended in applications for social welfare payments still on appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22919/12]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme (SWA) is designed to provide immediate and flexible assistance to those in need who do not qualify for payment under other State schemes. There are currently approximately 33,700 customers in receipt of a basic weekly payment under the SWA scheme for which the Government has provided €160 million for 2012.

Apart from the excluded categories, anyone in the State who satisfies a habitual residence condition and a means test, has registered for employment, unless they have a physical or mental disability, and can prove unemployment may qualify for a weekly payment of SWA. Customers awaiting the outcome of a claim or an appeal for a primary social welfare payment may qualify for the scheme.

Applications for SWA are determined on an individual basis having regard to the specific circumstances of each case. However, customers who no longer satisfy the criteria for the SWA scheme may have their payments suspended, even though they may have an appeal pending.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

237 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22920/12]

Eligibility to invalidity pension is determined by the severity and expected duration of a medical condition. The Medical Assessors involved did not dispute the diagnosis of the treating physician, rather they expressed a medical opinion in accordance with the Department's evidence based medical protocols and guidelines.

Question No. 238 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Appeals

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

239 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; when the appeal will be heard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22941/12]

Following an appeal by the person concerned against a decision to disallow her application for one-parent family payment a review of her claim has been carried out and the case has now been referred to the Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO). The SWAO will be in touch with the person concerned in due course.

Social Welfare Benefits

Finian McGrath

Question:

240 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will support a matter (details supplied) regarding domiciliary care allowance [22949/12]

The person concerned is in receipt of the domiciliary care allowance and has raised a number of general questions in relation to the role and operation of the scheme. The following general information in relation to the scheme addresses the issues raised.

Domiciliary care allowance (DCA) can be paid in respect of children under 16 years of age who have a disability so severe that it requires the child needing care and attention and/or supervision substantially in excess of another child of the same age. This care and attention must be given by another person, effectively full-time, so that the child can deal with the activities of daily living. The child must be likely to require this level of care and attention for at least 12 months.

Eligibility for the DCA is not based primarily on the medical or psychological condition, but on the resulting lack of function of body or mind necessitating the degree of extra care and attention required. Each application is assessed on an individual basis taking account of the evidence submitted. No specific condition or disability rules a child in — or out — of qualifying for the allowance. There are no undue delays in the processing of DCA claims at present. The Department aims to process DCA claims in 7 weeks, while currently it can take up to 8 weeks to process a claim due to the volume of work in the medical assessment area.

An Expert Medical Group was established in advance of the transfer to this Department in 2009, and recommended that the most appropriate way for the Department to conduct assessments for medical eligibility was by way of desk assessment of the evidence submitted by the claimant, as provided by themselves and the medical staff who regularly see the child. It was considered that is was not necessary for the child to be physically examined by the Department's Medical Assessors as the diagnosis of the child's condition by their GP is accepted. What is being assessed is the level of additional care and attention that the child requires as a result of that condition/disability and if this is substantially in excess of that required by a child of the same age without the condition.

A review policy in an integral part of all social welfare schemes and is necessary to ensure that payments continue to be made only to those customers who meet the qualifying conditions. DCA cases are routinely reviewed to ensure that all the conditions for receipt of the payment continue to be met. Cases are reviewed based on either a scheduled review on the recommendation of the medical assessor when the claim is initially processed or on information received about a change of circumstances which potentially affects the continued entitlement of a case already in payment.

Scheduled reviews, on the recommendation of the medical assessor, are based on the prognosis of the child's disability and how their care needs may change over time. In circumstances where a child has a lifelong disability that is unlikely to improve by any significant degree, a "do not review again" status may be used by the Medical Assessor.

Customers who are reviewed are asked to provide relevant up-to-date medical evidence and details of the additional care needs of their child and are now afforded 60 days in which to return this information to the Department. This information is assessed by a medical advisor and a decision is made based on their medical opinion. Where payment is stopped as a result of a review, the customer is invited to submit any further information they may wish to have considered and that information is further examined and/or they may appeal the decision directly to the Social Welfare Appeals office.

The effective and efficient operation of the scheme is monitored regularly and any improvements to the delivery of service that are identified are implemented.

Questions Nos. 241 and 242 withdrawn.
Question No. 243 answered with Question No. 210.

Social Welfare Appeals

John McGuinness

Question:

244 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if an appeal for disability allowance will be expedited in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23015/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 20th 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 have been received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office and the case has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

245 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when payment will issue on an application for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23128/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 14 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 have been received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office and the case has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

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

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

246 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection when an appeal will be heard on an application for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23144/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal, by the person concerned, was registered in that office on 3 April 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

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

State Banking Sector

Pearse Doherty

Question:

247 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will set out, in respect of Government Departments, State controlled banks and State agencies, any contracts for the provision of services by a company (details supplied); if she will quantify the value of such contracts and set out the safeguards in place to avoid conflicts should that company set out to buy the assets of State controlled banks. [23634/12]

There are no contracts in place with the company concerned for the provision of services in my Department or in any State agency under the aegis of my Department.

Wildlife Protection

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

248 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if the law on protection of bird nesting applies to all birds or only protected species; if bird nesting of all bird species is protected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22869/12]

Under the Wildlife Acts, all wild birds and their nests and eggs are designated as being protected. In addition, the Acts make it an offence for a person to wilfully take or remove the eggs or nest of a wild bird (otherwise than in accordance with a licence issued by my Department), or to wilfully destroy, injure or mutilate the eggs or nest of a wild bird, or to wilfully disturb a wild bird on or near a nest containing eggs or unflown young. In addition, the Wildlife Acts also afford extra protection to wild birds as they prohibit the cutting, grubbing, burning or destruction of vegetation growing on uncultivated land or in hedges or ditches during the nesting and breeding season for birds and wildlife, from 1 March to 31 August. Hedgerows and scrub are important as wildlife habitats, particularly for nesting birds, and they need to be managed in the interests of both farming and biodiversity.

Turbary Rights

John O'Mahony

Question:

249 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht further to Parliamentary Question No. 292 of 7 February 2012, if he will advise me of the progress made on this case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22707/12]

The individual referred to in the Deputy's question applied to sell his interest in land under the voluntary bog purchase scheme, administered by my Department. The relevant land has been inspected and found to be partially within a site designated as a special area of conservation. A letter of offer issued to the applicant. Contracts for sale have been received and are under review in my Department. The contracts for sale will be forwarded to the Chief State Solicitor's Office to progress the sale as soon as possible.

In the light of the issues which have arisen in relation to the voluntary bog purchase scheme, I decided that applicants could, if they wished, transfer instead to the compensation scheme established by my Department for those affected by the cessation of turf cutting on raised bog special areas of conservation. This will allow applicants to retain ownership of their land holding or rights while availing of compensation.

This cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme now comprises a payment of €1,500 per year, index linked, for 15 years or, where feasible, relocation of turf cutters to non-designated bogs where they can continue to cut turf. Those wishing to relocate can avail of the financial payment or the delivery of 15 tonnes of cut turf per annum while relocation sites are identified and prepared. The costs of acquiring and preparing relocation sites will be met by the State. An additional once-off payment of €500 will be provided where legal agreements are signed with me, as Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

My Department has recently written to applicants under the voluntary bog purchase scheme to outline their options under the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme as an alternative to proceeding with their applications under the purchase scheme. This relates to applicants under the voluntary bog purchase scheme who have not received a letter of offer or have received a letter of offer but where contracts have not been signed.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

250 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the total amount spent since February 2011 on external reports commissioned by his Department including payments from Ministerial allowances; the details of any consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22804/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht was established on 2 June 2011, following substantial Departmental reconfigurations. I am advised that expenditure by my Department on external reports during the period from 2 June 2011 to date was as set out in the table below. There was no relevant expenditure from Ministerial allowances:

Company

Service

Amount paid from 2 June 2011 to date

Dr. Evelyn Moorkens, Environmental Consultant

Advice on conservation of Margaritifera (freshwater pearl mussel)

€1,929

University of Birmingham

Research services for a Bord na Móna Peatlands Survey

€28,378

Avia Solutions

Review of financial submissions relating to Aran Island PSO contract

€6,300

Niall Collins

Question:

251 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the total amount spent since February 2011 on external marketing consultants, including payments from Ministerial allowances, including payments by all Ministers in his Department; the details of the consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22822/12]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 134 of 25 April 2012. There has been no change in the intervening period to the information set out in that reply. All of the expenditure in question was met from the Vote of my Department and there was no relevant expenditure from Ministerial allowances.

Turbary Rights

Question:

252 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht when payment in respect of sale of bogland will be received by a person (details supplied) in County Galway [22865/12]

The individual referred to in the Deputy's question has applied to sell her interest in land in a raised bog special area of conservation under the voluntary bog purchase scheme, administered by my Department. A letter of offer for the purchase of the land had issued from my Department. However, no contracts for sale have been signed. I am advised that processing of applications on hand under this scheme has been slower than anticipated, due to capacity constraints in undertaking the work involved.

In the light of the issues which have arisen in relation to the voluntary bog purchase scheme, I decided that applicants could, if they wished, transfer instead to the compensation scheme established by my Department for those affected by the cessation of turf cutting on raised bog special areas of conservation. This will allow applicants to retain ownership of their land holding or rights while availing of compensation.

This cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme now comprises a payment of €1,500 per year, index linked, for 15 years or, where feasible, relocation of turf cutters to non-designated bogs where they can continue to cut turf. Those wishing to relocate can avail of the financial payment or the delivery of 15 tonnes of cut turf per annum while relocation sites are identified and prepared. The costs of acquiring and preparing relocation sites will be met by the State. An additional once-off payment of €500 will be provided where legal agreements are signed with me, as Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

My Department has recently written to applicants under the voluntary bog purchase scheme to outline their options under the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme as an alternative to proceeding with their applications under the purchase scheme. This relates to applicants under the voluntary bog purchase scheme who have not received a letter of offer or have received a letter of offer but where contracts have not been signed.

Departmental Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

253 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the names, grade and cost of staff who have been rehired following retirement in his Department and State agencies under his remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22883/12]

As I have previously advised the House, a retired schoolteacher works as a Special Adviser in my Department, whose salary, following abatement, is €38,216 per annum. I am also advised that two retired officers were engaged by Údarás na Gaeltachta on short-term contracts:

one as interim CEO on a 4-month contract that expired on 30th April 2012 at a cost of €20,916; and

one as a solicitor on a six-month contract expiring on 31st August 2012 at a cost of €23,663.

The abatement principle has been applied in both cases.

State Banking Sector

Pearse Doherty

Question:

254 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will set out, in respect of Government Departments, State-controlled banks and State agencies, any contracts for the provision of services by a company (details supplied); if he will quantify the value of such contracts and set out the safeguards in place to avoid conflicts should that company set out to buy the assets of State-controlled banks. [23625/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht was established on 2 June 2011, following substantial Departmental reconfigurations. I am advised that there is no record of any payment made by my Department since that date to the company referred to by the Deputy. The information requested in respect of agencies under the remit of my Department is being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Electricity Generation

Robert Troy

Question:

255 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he plans to introduce some grant initiatives for domestic dwellers who wish to erect wind turbines to generate electricity for their homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22657/12]

The Programme for Government states that a feed-in tariff will be provided for micro-generators wishing to produce electricity for their own homes, farms and businesses and that they will be facilitated to sell surplus electricity to the grid while the tariff should not be significantly above single energy market price for electricity. My Department and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland are finalising analysis, which will be submitted to me shortly, on the most cost effective options which could be considered for supporting the micro-generation sector, having regard to the costs and benefits for all energy consumers.

Telecommunications Services

Pearse Doherty

Question:

256 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of applications for the rural broadband scheme that he has received from Meenacuing, Gweedore, County Donegal; the number of the applications received that have reached completion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22735/12]

One application from Meenacuing, Gweedore, County Donegal has been received under the Rural Broadband Scheme. The Verification Phase of the Scheme is now underway. The details of applicants have been passed to participating companies and the companies have responded to my Department indicating where they may be able to offer services. Letters were sent to all applicants to let them know the position in relation to their application during February and March and a total of 2011 applicants responded giving their consent to receive written offers of service from the participating companies.

Data files with the details of applicants who have given their consent to be contacted by participating companies have been passed to the companies involved and letters with offers of service have been issued by most of the companies to applicants and any remaining offers will be issued shortly. The application referred to in this reply is amongst these applications and will receive offers from a number of companies who are interested in providing a broadband service to the applicant. The companies involved will be seeking to provide services to applicants over the period from the end of April until the end of July 2012. Once this phase of the Scheme is completed, the companies will be returning data to my Department to inform us of the outcome.

Inland Fisheries

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

257 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources further to the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 130 of 19 April 2012 (details supplied) regarding the fish counter which was placed on the River Maine if he will explain the figures given; if he will further explain the numbers in relation to May and June 2011; and if he will have the matter investigated. [22779/12]

The figures given in reply to Parliamentary Question No. 130 are the actual figures recorded by the counter and are not adjusted for periods when the counter was not operational due to flood and storm damage — hence very low or zero number of fish recorded by the counter in July, August and November, 2011. There are four channels in the fish counter in the river through which fish can pass and be counted. Two of these have already been completely refurbished in 2012 and the other two will be completed before the end of the month of May weather permitting — this will enable a full count to be achieved in the river for the majority of the salmon run in 2012.

River salmon tend to move upstream and later drop back only to again move upstream to spawn — hence in some months as many fish can go up as well as down relative to water conditions at the time — this was evident in May and June.

In calculating the runs of salmon in a river where certain months are missing — average figures from the same month from prior years are used, together with the expert knowledge of fisheries officers and scientists. In the case of the River Maine, it was noted by experienced fishery officers that in the winter of 2011/2012 the number of spawning fish observed in the river was extremely disappointing. This reflected the view that the run of salmon in the river in 2011 was down on previous years. This was especially evident on the Brown Flesk, which has seen a drastic fall in redds (salmon spawning beds) from hundreds in previous years to 46 in the 09/10 winter season. Due to high water levels in the winter of 2011/2012 the counting of redds was extremely difficult. If the Deputy wishes, I can arrange for Inland Fisheries Ireland to meet him to discuss this matter further.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

258 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the total amount spent since February 2011 on external reports commissioned by his Department including payments from Ministerial allowances; the details of any consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22806/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the total expenditure from February 2011 to date on external reports commissioned by my Department is €683,883 and details of the consultants responsible for these external reports are set out in tabular form. Payments from Ministerial allowances are not a charge on my Department's Vote and are not a matter for my Department:

Consultancy Name

Purpose of Consultancy

Dr. Michael Johnson

Silvermines Remediation project: Vegetation Management

Camp Dresser McKee CDM

Silvermines Remediation project: Vegetation Management

Purvin and Gertz

Study of the Strategic Case for Oil Refining on the Island of Ireland

PA Consulting Group

Review of National Digital Research Centre

Independent Commission on Meath Tyrone Power Line

Report on case for undergrounding Meath Tyrone Power Line

Indecon Economic Consultants

Review of Griffith Geosciences Research Grant Agreement

SLR Consulting

Core Library Holding Review

Jenny Deakin

Preparation for the Graigue Group Water Scheme Report

Xodus Group Ltd

Scientific environmental assessment of the Irish and Celtic Seas (SEA)

Irish Whale and Dolphin Group

Acoustic Monitoring Study to evaluate two acoustic systems for detecting and monitoring beaked whales.

Niall Collins

Question:

259 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the total amount spent since February 2011 on external marketing consultants, including payments from Ministerial allowances, including payments by all Ministers in his Department; the details of the consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22824/12]

The information which the Deputy requested is outlined in tabular format below for the years 2011 and 2012. Payments from Ministerial allowances are not a matter for my Department.

Year

Amount Spent on Public Relations

Company

2011

€40,513.83

Morrow Communications Ltd

€8,349.00

Murray Consultants

€32,670.00

McConnells Advertising Agency

2012 (to mid April)

€10,625

Morrow Communications Ltd

€86,932.71

McConnells Advertising Agency

The major expenditure incurred above is in respect of the campaign concerning digital switchover and the geophysical survey over six border counties.

Postal Services

John Deasy

Question:

260 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has received the Grant Thornton Report commissioned by the Irish Postmasters Union in relation to the evaluation of services provided by An Post; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22874/12]

I met with the Irish Postmasters' Union (IPU) late last week and was given a copy of the Grant Thornton report.

As Minister for Communications I welcome the IPU's ambition to identify opportunities for more business to be delivered through the Post Office network.

An Post has many strengths and has the largest retail presence in the country. My Department has always impressed on the company the need to further exploit its unique position in Ireland and has been supportive of its attempts to diversify its income streams and to win a wider range of commercial contracts offering higher margins. The acknowledgment by the IPU that it has an appetite for delivering new services is clearly positive. My Department will consider the Report in consultation with relevant stakeholders.

Departmental Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

261 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the names, grade and cost of staff who have been rehired following retirement in his Department and State agencies under his remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22885/12]

Since its formation in 2007, my Department has re-employed two former members of staff. One was a Principal Geologist who was re-employed during 2008, 2009 and 2010 at a total cost of €104,467. The other was a Petroleum Exploration Specialist who was re-employed for a short period in 2012. The cost of this service is not yet available but it will not be significant.

Telecommunications Services

Mattie McGrath

Question:

262 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when broadband will be available in Derrygrath, Cahir, County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22963/12]

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 atwww.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 Derrygrath, Cahir, County Tipperary, 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 Derrygrath.

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 1.6 Mbps download and 1.2 Mbps 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, with significant financial consequences in the event that minimum specification service levels are not met.

Any residents in NBS areas, who wish to subscribe to the service, can contact 3 at 1800 944794, or can sign up online atwww.three.ie.

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, has had an important role to play in this regard. It comprises the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies operating in the Irish market, as well as CEOs of some other companies that provide broadband services. The purpose of the Taskforce, among other things, was to assist in developing a roadmap for the development of next generation networks across Ireland. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the Taskforce report was published last week. The report notes that by 2015 over 50% of the population will have access to high speed broadband services with speeds in excess of 70 Mbps. The report also highlights areas where Government and industry can work together to facilitate the roll out of high speed services across Ireland, and particularly in areas where the case for commercial investment is marginal.

Following on the publication of the Taskforce report, I have also launched a 4 weekconsultation process, which can be accessed at the following link:http://www.dcenr.gov.ie/Communications/Communications+Policy/Report+of+the+Next+ Generation+Broadband+Taskforce+and+Consultation.htm.

Any submissions or observations can be made electronically tonextgenerationbroadband@dcenr.gov.ie or tweet to @BroadbandPlan12 by close of business on Thursday 31 May 2012. The purpose of this consultation is to provide further input to this important policy area. Thereafter, it is my intention to bring proposals to Government for a National Broadband Plan for Ireland. This plan will build on the recent excellent progress made and be informed by the findings of the Taskforce and subsequent consultations.

Inland Fisheries

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

263 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to replace staff including three inspectors who have retired within the last 12 months from Inland Fisheries Ireland, Ballyshannon, Western River Basin District of Inland Fisheries Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23016/12]

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) is part of the broader public service and like all such organisations, its future lies within the overall programme of reform being advanced by Government, requiring a refocus on business processes and adjustments to the way all public bodies use available resources. While a number of IFI staff have retired recently, decisions on staff and resource deployment, replacement of staff, etc., will be taken by IFI having regard to the business needs of the organisation and will take account of the employment control framework (ECF) target, as determined by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

264 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans for the development and protection of inland fisheries in the Western River Basin District of Inland Fisheries Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23017/12]

Inland Fisheries Ireland operates in accordance with its 5 year corporate plan approved by its Board and published on its website. Each year an annual business plan flowing from the corporate plan is prepared covering all the activities of the organisation. Each annual business plan is an incremental step towards delivering on the key objectives set out in the corporate plan. In accordance with its statutory remit, the priorities within the organisation are to conserve, protect and develop the fishery resource. Staff and other resources are utilised in as strategic a manner as possible in order to achieve the best return on investment for the fisheries service. This policy is followed in all River Basin Districts including the Western River Basin District.

I have arranged that should the Deputy have a specific query in relation to the Western River Basin District, the Director of the Western River Basin District can be contacted directly to deal with the matter. The contact number for his office in Ballyshannon, County Donegal, is 071 9851435.

State Banking Sector

Pearse Doherty

Question:

265 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will set out, in respect of Government Departments, State controlled banks and State agencies, any contracts for the provision of services by a company (details supplied); if he will quantify the value of such contracts and set out the safeguards in place to avoid conflicts should that company set out to buy the assets of State controlled banks. [23627/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department has no contracts for the provision of services with this company. In relation to contracts for the provision of services to State companies under the aegis of my Department this is an operational matter for the individual companies in the first instance and I have no function in this regard.

Dormant Accounts Fund

Robert Troy

Question:

266 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he will approve the funding from the dormant accounts for Mullingar Youth Café, County Westmeath. [22649/12]

In December 2009, the Government approved disbursements from the Dormant Accounts Fund for a once-off measure to the value of €1.25m for five additional towns incorporated under RAPID, including Mullingar. To date, it has not been possible to alleviate funds to meet the cost of the proposed projects in any of the new RAPID towns.

The Dormant Accounts Capital budget for my Department for 2012 is fully committed to existing projects and the priority in the light of that allocation must be to ensure that there is sufficient funding available to meet existing legal contractual commitments. In the meantime, my Department has kept under review the scope to secure funds within its Vote to meet the cost of some of the projects in the additional towns.

Building Regulations

Robert Troy

Question:

267 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will give an update on steps he is taking to assist the residents of Priory Hall, Dublin 13; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22650/12]

The recent adjournment of the legal proceedings at Priory Hall for a period of three months to allow for a conciliation process chaired by Justice Finnegan provides an appropriate context for the parties concerned to work together towards identifying a way forward in relation to this complex problem. Out of respect for the process approved by the Supreme Court, and for Justice Finnegan, I do not intend to make any comment at this point other than to ask all stakeholders to engage fully with it. It is important that all concerned now afford Mr. Justice Finnegan the opportunity to complete the task which he has been given.

Local Authority Charges

Robert Troy

Question:

268 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will confirm that all new intervention work regarding water metering should be done to a standard which would not increase the risk of pipes freezing during cold spells. [22651/12]

I refer to the reply to Question Nos. 441, 445, 446, 447, 448, 463 and 468 of 1 May 2012, which sets out the position on the water metering programme. Water meters will be installed in accordance with best practice and the contract documents will specify the appropriate requirements for the installation and reinstatement works.

Electoral Divisions

Robert Troy

Question:

269 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he anticipates the Boundary Commission to publish its report. [22653/12]

Section 9(1) of the Electoral Act 1997, as amended, requires a Constituency Commission to present its report to the Chairman of the Dáil no later than three months after the publication by the Central Statistics Office of the final results of the Census in respect of the total population of the State. The final results of the 2011 Census were published on 29 March 2012. Therefore the Constituency Commission, which I established in July 2011, must present its report on Dáil and European Parliament constituencies to the Chairman of the Dáil no later than 29 June 2012.

Local Authority Charges

Robert Troy

Question:

270 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of people who have paid the €100 household charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22655/12]

The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 provides the legislative basis for the household charge. Under the Act, an owner of a residential property on the liability date of 1 January 2012 is liable to pay the household charge, 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.

The Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) is administering the household charge system on a shared service/agency basis for all county and city councils. I understand, from data provided by the LGMA, that as of 3 May, 2012, a total of 755,924 property declarations have been processed for payment by the household charge bureau. 15,336 residential properties have been registered for a waiver from payment of the charge.

In addition, an estimated 153,500 postal declarations have been received in the household charge bureau, which have yet to be processed. A further 9,500 declarations have been received by local authorities. This gives a total number of 934,260 declarations.

Local Government Reform

Robert Troy

Question:

271 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he will publish his review of the local government system; and if members of the public or local authority will have an opportunity to make submissions and observations. [22656/12]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 216 of 3 May 2012 which sets out the position in relation to work underway and planned for the reform of the local government system.

Work on the development of policy proposals for Government consideration in this area is informed, inter alia, by the extensive analysis, consultation, deliberation and debate that has already taken place in relation to local government reform. The Government's broad policy approach in this area as set out in the Programme for Government and subsequently, submissions were received from a range of sources including the local government representative associations. I have held discussions on the matter with those associations, with individual local authorities and with other interested groups and individuals. A detailed debate on local government reform was also held in the Seanad in February, during which many interesting views and suggestions were put forward.

The main focus now must be on implementation rather than further discussion, reviews or reports. However, I envisage that, following decision by Government, a policy statement on local government will be published, which will provide a further opportunity for public comment and input ahead of the development of legislation to provide for reform measures. The relevant legislative proposals will, in turn, be the subject of Oireachtas scrutiny and debate in the normal way.

Local Authority Charges

Denis Naughten

Question:

272 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to direct local authorities to revise their development contribution schemes in view of the introduction of the household tax and imminent introduction of septic tank charge, water charge and property tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22736/12]

As Minister, my role is to provide the necessary statutory and policy framework within which individual development contribution schemes are adopted by each local authority. The adoption of individual development contribution schemes is a reserved function of the locally elected members of each planning authority. It is a matter for the members to determine the level of contribution and the types of development to which they will apply.

A key aim of development contribution schemes must be to promote sustainable development patterns, secure investment in capital infrastructure and encourage economic activities. My Department is currently preparing revised guidelines on development contributions which I expect will be available for public consultation shortly.

Local Authority Expenditure

Joan Collins

Question:

273 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has examined Sligo County Council’s 2012 budget; his views on whether it is an acceptable and balanced budget and sufficient to meet the proposed income and expenditure of the council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22739/12]

I refer to the replies to Questions Nos. 131 and 134 of 29 September 2011, 466 of 24 January 2012, 196 of 22 February 2012, 352 of 6 March 2012, 348 of 21 March 2012, 186 of 29 March 2012 and 864 of 18 April 2012, in which I stated that it is a matter for each local authority, including Sligo County Council, to manage its own day-to-day finances in a prudent and sustainable manner.

At the request of Sligo County Council, I met a delegation from the Council on 31 January 2012 to discuss its financial position, including its adopted 2012 budget. At that meeting, I asked that realistic and costed proposals to reduce the Council's expenditure and increase its income in 2012, be submitted to my Department. I can confirm that a number of proposals were developed and submitted and I understand that these are being implemented by the Council.

Sligo County Council has also engaged an independent financial consultant to prepare a report on the authority's financial position and to provide further options for actions to be taken to address the Council's financial position. This report is due to be submitted to the Council next month and I have asked to be provided with a copy of the report.

Animal Breeding Regulations

Patrick Nulty

Question:

274 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he intends to sign legislation outlawing puppy farming; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22745/12]

On 21 December 2011, I signed the commencement order which brought the provisions of the Dog Breeding Establishment Act 2010 into force from the 1 January 2012.

The Act, together with the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 which came into force on the same date, has introduced new procedures for the registration and control of all dog breeding establishments in the State.

Unfinished Housing Developments

Niall Collins

Question:

275 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will outline the process by which estates are graded as unfinished by his Department; the number of estates that have applied and are waiting for unfinished estate status in total and broken down by local authority area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22767/12]

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

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

Category two, where a receiver has been appointed;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Details of all estates assessed as part of the National Housing Development Survey 2011 can be found on my Department's website,www.environ.ie. Over the coming months, the process of preparing the National Housing Development Survey 2012 will be launched; local authorities will liaise my Department in this regard.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Noel Grealish

Question:

276 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when the contracts will be issued for a sewage treatment plant (details supplied) in County Galway; when work will commence on the new sewage treatment plant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22769/12]

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.

Galway County Council's Contract Documents for the networks for the Claregalway and Milltown Sewerage Scheme, with an estimated cost of €2.9 million, were approved in May 2011. I understand that Galway County Council is currently engaged in the process of selecting the preferred tenderer.

The revised Design Build Operate Contract Documents for the wastewater treatment plant for the Claregalway and Milltown Sewerage Scheme, which were received in my Department in November 2011, are currently being examined. Once approved by my Department, the Council can then proceed to invite tenders for this contract.

Local Authority Housing

Finian McGrath

Question:

277 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will support a regeneration plan (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [22777/12]

There are no proposals with my Department at present regarding the flat complex at Cromcastle Court, Coolock. However, I understand that Dublin City Council is currently considering its options in relation to improvement works to vacant units at the site, as well broader remedial works considerations. The City Council has already submitted its 2012 improvement works programme, without reference to this project. It is a matter for the Council to prioritise and progress individual projects within its annual programme.

Social and Affordable Housing

Pearse Doherty

Question:

278 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will indicate as of the end of April 2012 the number of the more than 2,000 National Asset Management Agency properties due to be used for social housing that have been inspected by their respective local authorities; the number ready for tenanting and the location of these properties; the number tenanted and the location of these properties; if he will give a breakdown of the leasing arrangements including costs to the local authorities, being used in those properties that have been tenanted or are due to be tenanted; the expected timescale for all of the properties to be tenanted; and whether there are any plans to increase the number of units currently under the control of NAMA for the purposes of social housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22798/12]

Since the announcement in December 2011 that NAMA would commit to providing up to 2,000 units for social housing by the end of 2012, my Department, the Housing Agency and NAMA have been working together with housing authorities and approved housing bodies towards achieving this target.

To date over 2,000 units have been examined with a view to determining their sustainability for social housing having regard to local demand, the nature of the accommodation and sustainable community principles.

Of the original number, 697 have been deemed unsuitable by housing authorities; however in some of these cases, a smaller number of units from the development concerned may be considered for leasing purposes.

A further 344 have been withdrawn, usually by property owners, as circumstances have changed. In some cases the properties concerned have been let on the open market or sold and are no longer available as vacant units.

At present demand has been confirmed for over 1,000 available units and these are currently being processed. Discussion and negotiation has commenced in respect of nearly 700 properties involving approved housing bodies, local authorities, the property owners, financial institutions, receivers and other relevant parties. Inspection of properties, which takes place in all cases, is part of this process.

The units being advanced through NAMA will in general be provided through the Social Housing Leasing Initiative under the standard terms and conditions that apply. It is not possible at this stage to estimate the cost of leasing these properties. Lease costs are determined by negotiation using a standard discounted market price which may vary to reflect the circumstances of a particular case and the terms of the contractual agreement. I can say that the current average annual cost of units leased from the private or voluntary sector under the leasing scheme generally is approximately €7,400.

There are no units operational at this stage and it is not expected that units will be tenanted until the second half of the year. NAMA continues to identify units for inclusion in the programme.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

279 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total amount spent since February 2011 on external reports commissioned by his Department including payments from Ministerial allowances; the details of any consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22809/12]

Information on external reports commissioned and funded by my Department is set out in the following table:

Description of Report

Consultants

Amount spent since February 2011

2011 Report of the Dormant Accounts Board.

Mr. David Lovegrove

€1,182.00

Review of the management by the Department of an application by Wicklow County Council for loan approval in respect of the compulsory purchase of land at Charlesland, Co. Wicklow.

Mr. Seamus Woulfe SC

€19,680.00

Archaeological report on Met Éireann site at Valentia.

Barrow Archaeological Services

€1,210.00

Environmental and engineering advice, EIS Screening Report and planning submission for site at Valentia.

Malachy Walsh and Partners

€6,336.00

Review of Homelessness Services in Dublin Region.

Murtagh and Partners

€27,800.00

Operation of National Litter Pollution Monitoring System.

Tobin Consulting Engineers

€11,193.00

Provision of expertise concerning Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment techniques for the evaluation and revision of Regional Waste Management Plans.

RPS

€2,987.19

Ambient Air Monitoring in the vicinity of the former steelworks site, Haulbowline, Cork

White Young Green

€8,972.63

Consultancy services on establishment of National Water Utility.

PricewaterhouseCoopers

€59,290.00

Feasibility study to inform the design of a main stage National Evaluation of the Local and Community Development Programme

SQW Limited

€43,999.00

Retrofitting Code of Practice.

Building Research Establishment Ltd.

€17,513.00

Sound Insulation Research to inform the drafting of Part E (Sound) of the Building Regulations.

Napier University Ventures Ltd.

€1,000.00

Study in respect of provision of fire detection and alarm systems in dwellings.

ARUP Consulting Engineers

€24,400.00

Recovered Paper Market in Ireland and Recovered Paper Quality Best Practice Studies (Poyry Forest Industry Consulting)

RPS (Consultants for the implementation of the Market Development Programme for Waste Resources)

€85,006.10

Irish Recycled Plastic Waste Arisings Study (SKM Enviros)

RPS (Consultants for the implementation of the Market Development Programme for Waste Resources)

€37,565.64

Compost Quality Standard IS441 (NSAI)

RPS (Consultants for the implementation of the Market Development Programme for Waste Resources)

€10,000.00

Niall Collins

Question:

280 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total amount spent since February 2011 on external marketing consultants, including payments from Ministerial allowances, including payments by all Ministers in his Department; the details of the consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22827/12]

As indicated in the reply to Question No. 153 of 25 April 2012, no such payments have been made by my Department in the period from February 2011 to date.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Mattie McGrath

Question:

281 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason for the delay in proceeding with the sewage treatment system upgrade (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22862/12]

The Grangemockler Sewerage Scheme is included in the Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2013 among the list of contracts in South Tipperary to start in the lifetime of the Programme.

I understand that South Tipperary County Council is in the process of procuring Consulting Engineers to prepare a Preliminary Report for the Scheme.

Local Authority Charges

Gerry Adams

Question:

282 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if and when a person is liable to pay the household charge if they are due to inherit a house following the death of a deceased family member, a property that went into probate on 13 December 2011; it is expected the probate will be complete in the next few weeks and the property will be transferred to the person’s name. [22870/12]

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, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver.

The Act places the household charge under the care and management of the local authorities, and application in particular circumstances is a matter for the relevant local authority. Interpretation of the legislation is a matter for legal advice in individual cases and ultimately a matter for the Courts.

Section 4(3) of the Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 provides that where a person who is the sole owner of a residential property dies, the personal representative of the deceased person is not, in respect of that residential property, liable to pay the household charge relating to a year in which the liability date falls after the date of death of the deceased person and before the date of issue of a grant of representation to the estate of the deceased person.

EU Directives

Catherine Murphy

Question:

283 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the date on which he intends to adopt and publish the requirements of the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive, Directive 2002/91/EC, with regard to the inclusion of the building energy rating score in the advertising for sale of a building; if he intends applying such a requirement to all advertising in commercial media for property sales, including on estate agent signage and window displays, in print and online listings and adverts; the measures he will introduce to ensure the prominence of the BER rating in all such advertising; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22879/12]

Directive 2002/91/EC on the Energy Performance of Buildings has been recast and replaced by the Directive 2010/31/EU. The latest Directive includes a new requirement in relation to the mandatory referencing of energy performance ratings on advertising and promotional material when a building is offered for sale or letting. My Department is currently finalising proposed regulations which will transpose the new Directive, including the new advertising requirements, into Irish Law. The new advertising requirements will apply to commercial media, signage and promotional material generally. It is intended that the proposed regulations will be released for public consultation later this month.

Departmental Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

284 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the names, grade and cost of staff who have been rehired following retirement in his Department and State agencies under his remit [22888/12]

Retired staff are engaged from time to time by my Department in areas where specific expertise is required for a short fixed period, and relevant former staff provide a level of knowledge, experience and background compatible with such requirements.

The abatement principle, which ensures that the fee paid plus pension does not exceed the rate of pay the pensioner would receive if he/she had continued service in their former post, applies to all such payments made. The tasks carried out include time bound tasks or projects such as membership of expert groups, occasional service on interview boards, value for money reviews and process audits.

No former staff, who have retired from my Department, have been rehired by it since my appointment in March 2011. The Department is not aware of any re-employment of staff, who retired before the end of the grace period this year, in respect of State agencies under its aegis.

Local Authority Staff

Dara Calleary

Question:

285 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the provisions for added years that have been made for the retirement of city and county mangers in local authorities; and if he will outline in tabular form the specific number of years and amounts for added years given to each county and city manager on retirement between January 2000 and March 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22922/12]

Article 78 of the Local Government (Superannuation) (Consolidation) Scheme 1998 deals with the pension entitlements of city and county managers. A manager may be entitled to added years of up to a maximum of 10 years based on length of service. Pension entitlements for managers are based on their final salary and length of service, including added years where appropriate, capped at 40 years.

My Department has examined, in consultation with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the new pension terms for Secretaries General to assess how they will be applied to City and County Managers. The required legislative changes will be made in the coming weeks.

Details of added years for managers who retired between January 2000 and March 2012 are set out in the table:

Local Authority Manager for:

Retirement Date

Added Years

Leitrim

02/01/2000

Nil

Wicklow

02/02/2000

Nil

Cork Corporation

01/05/2000

Nil

Monaghan

17/10/2000

Nil

Limerick County

11/05/2001

1.5260 Years

South Dublin

01/01/2002

Nil

Clare

05/02/2002

0.1479 Years

Kilkenny

30/04/2002

Nil

Louth

18/05/2003

Nil

Cavan

03/05/2003

5.663 Years

Wexford

31/08/2003

Nil

Galway

04/04/2004

Nil

Kerry

13/04/2004

8.0082 Years

Waterford County

17/07/2004

Nil

Fingal

12/09/2004

Nil

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown

27/09/2005

5.8822 Years

Longford

04/10/2005

Nil

Westmeath

03/01/2006

10 Years

Dublin City

17/06/2006

8.7672 Years

Cork County

18/12/2006

Nil

Kildare

25/12/2006

Nil

Offaly

13/01/2007

5.3507 Years

Roscommon

14/01/2009

3.7698 Years

Clare

01/04/2009

9.8862 Years

Mayo

30/11/2009

Nil

North Tipperary

30/04/2010

Nil

Donegal

07/07/2010

Nil

Cork City

31/08/2010

Nil

Monaghan

30/11/2010

1.6658 Years

South Tipperary

28/04/2011

Nil

Waterford County

19/09/2011

8.3754 Years

Limerick City

28/02/2012

8.9945 Years

Local Authority Charges

Dara Calleary

Question:

286 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if fire services charges are covered under the household charge fee (details supplied). [22947/12]

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.

Revenues from the household charge are supporting the provision of essential local services. Internationally, local services are administered by local authorities and financed by local service charges. In Ireland, local authorities are responsible for, among other services, planning and development; fire and emergency services; roads; public parks; libraries; open spaces and leisure amenities; maintenance and cleaning of streets and street lighting. These services facilitate everyone.

Local authorities are permitted, under statute, to charge fees in relation to the services they provide. In the case of the Mayo County Fire Service, it is understood that the call out charge in place reflects only a proportion of the overall cost of attendance at incidents. The other costs of the Service, including fire prevention, inspections and emergency management are being met through a range of income sources, including commercial rates, Government grants and subsidies, the household charge and the charge on non-principal private residences. Communities benefit from the entirety of these fire and emergency services.

In many cases the householder/premises owner may recoup charges for attendance of the fire brigade at incidents such as house fires, road traffic accidents, and hay barn fires from relevant insurance policies, including motor, home and farm policies.

Most fire authorities operate waiver schemes in respect of call out charges. If there are cases of genuine hardship and inability to pay applicable charges, each case will be considered on its merits and a partial waiver or easy payment option may be considered.

Local Authority Staff

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

287 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide, in a tabular form, the total local authorities' pay bill for 2011; the projected pay bill for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015; the total local authority pension bill for 2011; and the projected pension bill for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. [22972/12]

My Department gathers quarterly local authority Payroll and Superannuation information for IMF/EU reporting purposes. The Gross Cash Remuneration Cost for 2011 was €1,414,510,890. The Superannuation payments for 2011 amounted to €266,247,527. Information relating to the projected pay and pensions bill for 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 is not available in my Department.

Community Development

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

288 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when LEADER funding will be approved to Roscahill/Killannin Community Pavement Committee, County Galway, for pavement improvements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22981/12]

Funding of €314m is available under the Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2007-2013 for allocation to qualifying projects up to the end of 2013. There are 35 Local Action Groups contracted, on my Department's behalf, to deliver the RDP throughout the country and these groups are the principal decision-makers in relation to the allocation of project funding. Such decisions are made in the context of the local development strategy of the individual groups and in line with Departmental operating rules and EU regulations.

Projects that request funding of €150,000 or more are required to seek final approval from my Department. The project by Roscahill/Killannin Community Pavement Committee is one such project and approval was sought for a grant of €197,041.55. The assessment of higher value projects (projects with a grant approval of €150,000 or more) usually involves detailed consultations between my Department and the relevant local development company. It frequently necessitates the provision of further documentation or clarifications, as was the case for this project. It may also, in some instances, result in modifications to the project proposed to ensure best value for money and compliance with all the necessary regulations, both national and European, governing the activities funded under the programme. These assessments also consider whether the project as proposed addresses the needs of the local community in the best possible way. A full and detailed assessment of all projects is vital. LEADER activities are co-financed by the European Union at a rate of 85% and, accordingly, come within the remit of a strict regulatory regime which requires that each project must be compliant before any funding is awarded by the LEADER companies.

My Department will continue to work with the relevant Local Development Company to make a full assessment of the eligibility of this project for grant aid of €197,041.55 and will inform the Local Action Group once all queries have been addressed satisfactorily.

Forbairt Pobail

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

289 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil cén uair a cheadófar deontas Leader do Choiste Páirc Chill Chiaráin; cén chúis atá leis an mhoill ar an deontas seo a cheadú; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [22982/12]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

291 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil cén uair a íocfar le tograí Leader an deontas a bhí ceadaithe sular leachtaíodh Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [22984/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 289 and 291 together.

Chuaigh Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta (MFG), an grúpa atá conraithe ag mo Roinn chun seachadadh a dhéanamh ar Axes 3 and 4 (LEADER) den Chlár Forbartha Tuaithe (CFT) sa Ghaeltacht, faoi leachtú ar 7 Meán Fómhair, 2011. Tá dul chun cinn á dhéanamh ó thaobh dlí de maidir le ‘'imeachtaí foirceanta'' agus tá na comhaid ábhartha tionscadail CFT (LEADER) ar fad curtha ar aghaidh ag an leachtaitheoir.

Tá an próiseas ag dul ar aghaidh maidir leis na tionscnóirí a bhfuil a dtionscadail go mór chun cinn ó thaobh forbartha de agus gur dócha a bheadh réidh chun éileamh ar íocaíocht a dhéanamh a aithint, agus tá córas eatramhach curtha ar bun, i gcomhar leis na Comhlachtaí Forbartha Áitiúla atá ag feidhmiú in aice leis na ceantair Ghaeltachta, chun na híocaíochtaí a dhéanamh leis na tionscadail seo sa ghearrthéarma. Tá go leor de na comhaid seo curtha go dtí na Comhlachtaí Forbartha Áitiúla ábhartha anois agus beidh siad i dteagmháil iad féin leis an tionscnóir chun go gcuirfí faoina mbráid na héilimh riachtanacha agus na cáipéisí cuí.

Maidir le seachadadh Axes 3 and 4 (LEADER) de chuid Chlár Forbartha Tuaithe sa Ghaeltacht san fhadthéarma, tá feidhmeannaigh i mo Roinn faoi láthair ag scrúdú na n-aighneachtaí a cuireadh faoina mbráid ó Chomhlachtaí Forbartha Áitiúla eile maidir le gnéithe LEADER de chuid CFT sna ceantair a raibh MFG ag feidhmiú iontu a sheachadadh sa tréimhse atá fágtha den Chlár. Tá breis oibre fós le déanamh chun an próiseas seo a chríochnú ach tá súil agam go mbeidh sé críochnaithe i gceann cúpla seachtain.

Ag tagairt go sonrach don tionscadal atá luaite i gceist an Teachta, Coiste Páirc Chill Chiaráin, ní raibh an tionscadal seo ach i dtús a fhorbartha nuair a leachtaíodh MFG. Tá mé in ann a rá don Teachta, chomh luath agus atá an córas seachadta sonrach curtha ar bun do cheantar na Gaillimhe, go ndéanfaidh an Comhlacht Forbartha Áitiúil ábhartha teagmháil leis an tionscnóir chun an próiseas a éascú maidir leis an iarratas de chuid CFT a chur ar aghaidh.

Ba cheart a thabhairt faoi deara gurb iad na Grúpaí GníomhaíochtaíÁitiúla atá conraithe ar son mo Roinne chun seachadadh a dhéanamh ar an CFT ar fud na tíre na príomhchinnteoirímaidir le dáileadh maoinithe do na tionscadail. Tá na cinntí seo déanta i gcomhthéacs stráitéis fhorbartha áitiúil na ngrúpaí féin agus de réir rialacha na Roinne agus rialacháin an AE.

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

290 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil cén uair a bheidh deontas suas le €500,000 ar fáil arís faoin Scéim Leader; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [22983/12]

Is féidir liom a dheimhniú go bhfuil an próiséas fógartha leis an imréiteach riachtanach cúnamh Stáit chun cúnamh deontais de os cionn €200,000 a chur ar fáil faoi na bearta Seirbhísí Bunúsacha agus Athnúchan Sráidbhaile den Chlár Forbartha Tuaithe 2007-2013 críochnaithe. Tá imréiteach tugtha ag an gCoimisiún Eorpach and tá na hathruithe riachtanacha teicniúla ar an gClár Forbartha Tuaithe curtha faoina mbráid. Sa chomhthéacs seo tá an uasdeontas de €500000 do thionscnaimh phobail athbhunaithe agus is féidir le Comhlachtaí Forbartha Pobail tosú ar athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar mhaoiniú tionscnaimh den chineál seo faoin gClár Forbartha Tuaithe.

Question No. 291 answered with Question 289.

State Banking Sector

Pearse Doherty

Question:

292 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will set out, in respect of Government Departments, State controlled banks and State agencies, any contracts for the provision of services by a company (details supplied); if he will quantify the value of such contracts and set out the safeguards in place to avoid conflicts should that company set out to buy the assets of State controlled banks. [23629/12]

My Department has no contracts with the company referred to in the Question. Contracts entered into by agencies under the aegis of my Department are a matter for the agencies themselves. Contracts for goods and services are awarded by my Department either on the basis of the lowest priced tender or the most economic advantageous tender (specifying, in addition to price, various other criteria including running costs, servicing costs, level of after sales service, technical assistance, technical merit, environmental characteristics).

Prison Staff

Seán Kenny

Question:

293 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prison officers that were injured in the years 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012; the number of prison officers that retired in each of these years; the number of prison officers that were recruited in each of these years; if additional prison officers are likely to be recruited later in 2012; if so, the details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22926/12]

It is not possible, in the time available, to collate the information requested by the Deputy. I will furnish the information to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Health Service Investigations

John Halligan

Question:

294 Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on whether powers of investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse against fathers should be removed from the remit of the Health Service Executive and placed with the Garda Síochána and dealt with as a criminal matter; if he will report on the statistics of these allegations which are subsequently found to be false; his plans to legislate for the removal of free legal aid assistance from the accuser where these allegations have been proven to be false and also provide for primary custody to be awarded to the party falsely accused of these heinous acts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22784/12]

The Deputy has raised a number of matters not all of which fall within my responsibility.

Under the Child Care Act 1991, responsibility for promoting the welfare of children lies with the Health Service Executive. Responsibility for the investigation of any alleged criminal offence is a matter for the Garda Síochána. In the context of the making of false allegations, it is an offence for a person to knowingly make a false report to the Gardaí concerning the commission of an offence (section 12, Criminal Law Act 1976). The offence of perjury addresses the giving of false evidence on oath. The perjured evidence must be material and the statement must have been made with knowledge or belief that it is not true.

It should be noted that under forthcoming legislation, it will be an offence for a person to delay reporting to the Gardaí a serious offence committed against a child. The recently published Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2012, requires a person who has information concerning the commission of an offence against a child to disclose, as soon as it is practicable, that information to a member of the Garda Síochána. Failure to do so will be an offence.

Under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service. The Act provides that the Service is independent in the performance of its functions, which includes the provision of statistics. I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that it does not compile statistics on allegations as such that are made in the course of any court proceedings. The Courts Service has advised that where an allegation arises in the course of a custody or access case, a court may direct the health authorities to undertake an investigation of the matter.

I wish to inform the Deputy that insofar as the Legal Aid Board and the issue of legal aid certificates are concerned, Regulation 9(3) of the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996 provides,inter alia, as follows:

Subject to the provisions of paragraph (5), the Board or a certifying committee may at any time terminate a certificate from such date as it considers appropriate when satisfied that it is justified and in particular may do so— (c) on being satisfied by the report of the legally aided person’s solicitor that the certificate should be terminated, or (e) where it considers that the legally aided person is behaving unreasonably in connection with the conduct of the proceedings or that it is unreasonable in the particular circumstances of the case (including the cost of the proceedings) that the person should continue to receive legal aid.

While the Board can use these provisions to terminate legal services if it is clear that allegations have been made maliciously, it has no data in relation to the number of cases in which legal aid was terminated on the basis of false allegations being made. I have no plans at this time to amend civil legal aid legislation in the specific way outlined by the Deputy.

Visa Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

295 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will indicate if Stamp 4 update will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22575/12]

The person concerned has had his temporary permission to remain in the State renewed for a further two year period, until 11 April, 2014. This decision was conveyed to the person concerned by letter dated 24 April, 2012.

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

Proposed Legislation

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

296 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he intends to bring forward legislation to remove the legal obstacles to the abolition of ground rents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22578/12]

The position is that section 2 of the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Act 1978 introduced a prohibition on the creation of new leases reserving ground rents on dwellings.

As regards existing ground rents, Part III of the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) (No. 2) Act 1978 contains a statutory scheme whereby any person may, at reasonable cost, acquire the fee simple in his or her dwelling house. This scheme is operated by the Property Registration Authority. Since it was introduced in 1978, over 80,000 applicants have availed of the scheme to acquire the freehold title to their property. In the case of property other than dwelling houses, the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Act 1967 contains provisions which facilitate acquisition of the fee simple subject to agreed terms or on terms set out in an arbitration carried out by the County Registrar.

Sexual Offences

Denis Naughten

Question:

297 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current period of time within which a person released from prison following a sexual conviction has to register at a Garda station, when they are required to do so; the corresponding period for those entering the State; the plans, if any, he has to review the registration procedure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22648/12]

Under the Sex Offenders Act 2001, a convicted sex offender is required to notify his name and home address to the Garda Síochána within 7 days of becoming subject to the notification requirement. This notification period applies whether the person is resident in the State or was convicted of a relevant offence in another jurisdiction and subsequently enters this State.

Sexual offences for the purposes of the legislation are specified in the schedule to the 2001 Act and following conviction the court certifies that the offender is subject to the Act's requirements.

My Department has been conducting a wide-ranging examination of the law on sexual offences. A review of the Sex Offenders Act 2001 formed an integral part of that examination. Arising from the review, I expect to bring forward legislative proposals to amend the 2001 Act later in the year. These will include a number of measures to strengthen the current notification requirements.

Proposed Legislation

Patrick Nulty

Question:

298 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will give an update on plans to regulate cash for gold outlets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22652/12]

My Department is examining all relevant criminal justice aspects of the cash for gold trade in consultation with An Garda Síochána and a report of this examination which is at an advanced stage will allow for the necessary comprehensive assessment of the position and the development of any necessary and effective measures to address any gap that currently exists in the law in respect of the matter. I might add that the assessment to which I have referred will have regard to the views of relevant stakeholders.

Sexual Offences

Denis Naughten

Question:

299 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons convicted of a sexual offence who received specific rehabilitative training prior to their release in 2011; the number who were offered such training prior to their release and refused; the number who were released without being offered such training; the corresponding figures for 2010; if he will consider abolishing remission for such prisoners who refuse to avail of such training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22721/12]

It is not possible, in the time available, to collate the information requested by the Deputy. I will furnish the information to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Crime Levels

Catherine Murphy

Question:

300 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if, in view of the Garda Recorded Crime Statistics report published by the Central Statistics Office recently, he will explain the reasons up to three-quarters of burglaries have gone undetected by gardaí in the period in question; if he can provide statistics to show the level of burglary detection broken down by each Garda division nationwide in the same period or part thereof; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22727/12]

I share the Deputy's concern at the incidence of burglaries and other property crimes.

Insofar as detection rates are concerned, the most recent CSO analysis shows a detection rate for burglary in the region of 25% for 2010. It is important to note that detection rates do vary according to the nature of the crime and that this is in line with international experience. Detection rates are often found to be lower for certain offences, such as burglaries and some other property crimes, as these generally only come to light after the event and after the offender has left the scene. These offences are inherently more difficult to investigate than some others. While our statistical system is not directly comparable with that of other countries, in the UK, for example, the difficulties presented in detecting burglaries are reflected in the fact that the sanction detection rate for burglaries in England and Wales in 2010/2011 was recorded as 13%.

Notwithstanding the investigative challenges faced, however, the Garda is responding effectively and the Deputy will be aware that the Garda Commissioner has recently announced the introduction of a wide range of measures aimed at tackling gangs involved in burglaries.

These measures are encompassed inOperation Fiacla, which is particularly focused on identifying and targeting mobile gangs involved in burglaries around the country so as to disrupt their activities and bring them before the Courts. Specific burglary related initiatives are being implemented in each Garda Region in support of Operation Fiacla.

I am conscious of the deep distress which burglary can cause to householders, and to the broader impact it can have in terms of fear of crime in our communities and therefore welcome the fact that the Garda Commissioner is deploying the substantial resources available to him in a targeted and strategic approach to confronting those who are engaging in this form of criminality.

In relation to the particular statistics requested by the Deputy, the Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. I have requested the CSO to provide relevant statistics directly to the Deputy.

Garda Deployment

Micheál Martin

Question:

301 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if there is a review of security for members of the Government following recent events; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16202/12]

I refer the Deputy to my reply below to Parliamentary Question No. 951 of 18 April 2012. The position is unchanged since then.

The Deputy will appreciate that for good reason it is not the policy, nor would it be in the public interest, to comment on matters relating to the personal security of specific individuals. However, as a matter of course, An Garda Síochána continually keep such matters under review.

Northern Ireland Issues

Micheál Martin

Question:

302 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has met the chief investigator with the Independent Commission on the Location of Victims’ Remains, Geoff Knupfer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21419/12]

Micheál Martin

Question:

303 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the recent developments in relation to the disappeared; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21418/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 302 and 303 together.

Over the course of the conflict in Northern Ireland a number of people were abducted and murdered by paramilitary groups, and then buried in secret locations. They have become known as "the Disappeared".

The Irish and British Governments established the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains in 1999 as one of the actions taken in the context of the Peace Process to acknowledge and address the suffering of the victims of violence as a necessary element of reconciliation. The Commission's sole purpose is to facilitate the location of the remains of the Disappeared in order that they may be returned to their families to afford them some measure of closure to the tragedy they have had to endure.

To date the remains of seven of the persons on the Commission's list have been recovered with the Commission's involvement and this has brought some comfort to the families of those victims. There are seven others whose remains have not yet been recovered and the Commission is continuing its work in respect of these cases. The House will be aware that the Commission's investigation team is currently carrying out further excavation works with regard to one of these cases. It is to be hoped that their searches will be successful on this occasion.

In November last year, together with Northern Ireland Office Minister of State, Hugo Swire MP, I met with the two Commissioners, Mr. Frank Murray and Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, and with the Commission's investigators. They updated us on their work and we assured them of the continuing, full support of both Governments for that work. Officials in my Department and in the Northern Ireland Office maintain close and regular contact with the Commissioners and their investigation team.

The Commissioners have emphasised that their work is driven by information. All information provided to the Commission is treated as strictly confidential and everyone can be assured that such information can only be used to locate and identify the remains. It cannot be given to other agencies or used for prosecutions.

I know the House will join me in calling on anybody who has any information that could help to locate those still missing to give that information to the Commission without delay. The Commission has in place a confidential freephone number and PO box address through which information can be passed to it. Information about the Commission and how to contact it are available on the Commission's websitewww.iclvr.ie.

I would emphasise to the House that the Commission's sole purpose is humanitarian. The families of the Disappeared want to have their loved ones' remains returned to them for a decent burial, to have a place to grieve and, in some measure at least, to have closure. The Government remains committed to that aim and I call on all others to help bring it about.

Question No. 304 answered with Question No. 97.

Criminal Prosecutions

John Deasy

Question:

305 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding the number of persons convicted of theft in Waterford city and county in each of the past five years. [22758/12]

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose.

I have requested the CSO to provide statistics directly to the Deputy.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

306 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the total amount spent since February 2011 on external reports commissioned by his Department including payments from ministerial allowances; the details of any consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22814/12]

I wish to inform the Deputy that the information he has requested is as follows:

Health and Safety

My Department recently commissioned Safecon Training and Consultancy to carry out the preparation of a Safety Statement and Risk Assessment Investigation. To date no payment has been made for this service.

Finally, the Deputy might wish to note that questions concerning Ministerial allowances are solely a matter for the Oireachtas.

Niall Collins

Question:

307 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the total amount spent since February 2011 on external marketing consultants, including payments from ministerial allowances, including payments by all Ministers in his Department; the details of the consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22832/12]

There are no records to indicate that there were any payments made to External Public Relations, Marketing or Communication Consultants by my Department during the period February 2011 to date.

I wish to advise the Deputy that queries concerning my Ministerial Allowance are solely a matter for the Houses of the Oireachtas and all future queries should be directed to that forum.

Citizenship Applications

Martin Ferris

Question:

308 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding an application for citizenship in respect of persons (details supplied). [22876/12]

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that valid applications for a certificate of naturalisation were received from the persons referred to by the Deputy in May, 2011 and March, 2011 respectively.

The applications are at an advanced stage of processing and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible. The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

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

Departmental Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

309 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the names, grade and cost of staff who have been rehired following retirement in his Department and State agencies under his remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22893/12]

It is assumed the Deputy is interested in establishing whether any staff of my Department or agencies under my remit who retired and benefited from the transitional arrangements that operated up to 29 February 2012 under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009, have subsequently been re-employed.

The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 provided for the superannuation benefits of public servants, who retired within a "grace period" which ended on 29 February 2012, to be unaffected by the pay reductions introduced for all public servants with effect from 1 January 2010 under that Act.

In the period 1 January 2012 to 29 February 2012, a total of 181 staff retired from my Department and the agencies under my remit, excluding An Garda Síochána.

Of these 181, only one staff member who was a Governor in the Prison Service has been re-engaged on a fixed term contract to meet pressing operational and transformation requirements in the Prison Service. The total cost of this contract to date is €22,580.

Liquor Licensing Laws

Mattie McGrath

Question:

310 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason for the costs associated with applying for renewing a pub licence (details supplied) in County Tipperary; if there is any way of reducing these costs in order to assist those who are hoping to open a new business and provide employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22915/12]

The Deputy will appreciate that I am not in a position to comment on a particular case in response to a Parliamentary Question. However, I can indicate the following by way of general information.

Under section 4 of the Courts (No. 2) Act 1986, as amended, renewal of a licence for the sale of intoxicating liquor for premises which have been licensed in the immediately preceding year is generally automatic, subject to compliance with tax clearance requirements and payment of the relevant renewal fee (excise duty) to the Revenue Commissioners. The renewal fee varies according to the annual turnover arising from the sale of intoxicating liquor of the licensed premises concerned and ranges from €250 where turnover is less than €190,500 to €3,805 where turnover exceeds €1.27 million.

Renewal of a licence is not, however, automatic where an objection to renewal has been lodged with the District Court on permitted grounds, e.g. the premises concerned have not been operated in a peaceable and orderly manner in the year ending on the expiry of the licence. In such cases, a District Court certificate must be presented to the Revenue Commissioners prior to renewal of the licence.

Under section 2 of the Licensing (Ireland) Act 1902, as amended, where premises were not licensed during the preceding year but had been licensed at any time during the previous five years, a new licence may be issued by the Revenue Commissioners on foot of a certificate granted by the Circuit Court in respect of such premises without the need to extinguish another licence. This section does not apply where the licence lapsed due to a breach of licensing law or was extinguished.

Departmental Complaints Procedures

Gerry Adams

Question:

311 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the way he dealt with a complaint made by a person (details supplied) against the probation and welfare service in 2009; if he is satisfied that the complaint was properly investigated and that enough was done to help rectify the situation. [22934/12]

I wish to assure the Deputy that my Department treats all complaints of bullying seriously and manages them in accordance with the Civil Service Policy on harassment, sexual harassment and bullying —A Positive Working Environment. In the instance referred to by the Deputy the Human Resources Division of my Department made every effort to have the complaint involving the person in question investigated in accordance with that policy. However, I understand that the complainant, in this instance, failed to cooperate with the investigative process as required under the policy and,therefore, the investigator was ultimately obliged to make a finding of “no case to answer”.

Visa Applications

Sean Fleming

Question:

312 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when an application for a visitor’s visa will be granted to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22935/12]

The visa application referred to by the Deputy was received in the visa office, Dublin on the 3 May 2012. Following consideration it was the decision of the visa officer to refuse the granting of the visa.

It is open to the person concerned to appeal the decision not to grant the visa sought, within two months of the date of refusal, in this instance before the 3 July 2012.

Guidelines as to the visa appeals procedure is available on the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (www.inis.gov.ie).

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

Departmental Bodies

Patrick Nulty

Question:

313 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will ensure that there will be no job losses suffered by staff currently employed in the Law Society as a result of the enacting of the forthcoming Legal Services Regulation Bill; if he will ensure that staff will be transferred to the new Legal Services Regulatory Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22968/12]

The position in relation to this matter remains as indicated in my reply to Questions Nos. 941 and 977 of 18th April 2012. I have also addressed this matter in the course of my speech about the modernisation and reform of the legal sector delivered at the Annual Conference of the Law Society on 14th April — the full text has been made available on my Department's website,www.justice.ie, for ease of reference.

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

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

Under the Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011 the complaints systems currently operated by the legal professional bodies are to be replaced by new procedures the independence of which will have to be reflected in the relevant recruitment and appointment processes. In closing the Second Stage debate on the Bill I confirmed that I am considering possible Committee Stage amendments to create appropriately independent procedures for the appointment of members of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority, its Complaints Committee and of the Legal Practitioners' Disciplinary Tribunal. Similarly, I expressed the view that staff appointments to the new Authority would be better made by the Authority itself under a public competition carried out by the Public Appointments Service. While the transition to a new and independent complaints procedure under the Bill will have an impact on staff currently involved in that area it will be open to such staff — who would obviously possess the relevant skills and experience — to offer to apply for positions advertised by the new and independent Legal Services Regulatory Authority.

Crime Prevention

Finian McGrath

Question:

314 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will support a matter (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [22978/12]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the area referred to is within Raheny Garda sub-District. I am further informed that members of the Community Policing Unit recently called to the residence of the person referred to by the Deputy to discuss her concerns and provide advice on security measures.

The area referred to has a large number of elderly residents who receive dedicated attention and assistance from local gardaí. As part of An Garda Síochána's Older Person Strategy, members of the Community Policing Unit regularly visit the homes of elderly persons in the community, providing company and offering personal protection and crime prevention advice. A Community Garda is allocated specifically to the area and meets with local residents on a regular basis.

I am further informed that policing measures are in place to address difficulties experienced by local residents, including elderly residents. Regular patrols are conducted by uniform and plain clothes personnel, including the Community Policing and Garda Mountain Bike Units and local Detective and Drug Unit personnel, supplemented as required by the Divisional Crime Task Force and Traffic Corps personnel.

Local Garda management closely monitors and keeps under review patrols and other operational strategies in place, in conjunction with crime trends and policing needs of the communities in the area, to ensure optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public. Garda management is satisfied that a comprehensive policing service is being delivered and that current structures in place meet the requirements of the delivery of an effective and efficient policing service to the residents concerned. I am further informed that the situation is being kept under review.

Prisoner Releases

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

315 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will indicate, having regard to previous parliamentary questions in respect of the selection of prisoners for day, casual, supervised or other forms of early release, the methodology used for the selection of such prisoners, whether done by internal or external authorities; the extent to which requests for such release are processed; the number of successful requests in each of the past two years to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23020/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

316 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will indicate the number of requests for early, casual, day or other forms of release received by the prison authorities in each of the prisons throughout the country in each of the past two years to date; the number of such applications approved and or refused in each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23021/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

319 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will indicate the number of applications received for casual, day or other forms of release in each of the prisons throughout the country in each of the past two years to date; the numbers refused in each case and those granted in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23024/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 315, 316 and 319 together.

The legislative basis for making decisions on temporary release are fully set out in the Criminal Justice Act 1960, as amended by the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003.

Candidates for temporary release are identified by a number of different means but primarily on the recommendation of the Prison Governor or the therapeutic services in the prisons. The prisoner, their family or their legal representative can also apply for consideration of such a concession. Recommendations are also made to me in relation to long term sentence prisoners by the Parole Board. It is very important to note that it does not necessarily follow that a prisoner will receive temporary release even if the recommendation is to that effect. Each application is considered on its individual merits and evaluated using the following criteria as outlined in the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003.: the nature and gravity of the offence to which the sentence being served by the person relates; the sentence concerned and any recommendation made by the Court in relation to the sentence imposed; the period of the sentence served by the person; the potential threat to the safety and security of the public should the person be released; the person's previous criminal record; the risk of the person failing to return to prison at the expiration of the period of temporary release; the conduct of the person while in custody or while previously on temporary release; any report or recommendation made by the Governor, the Garda Síochána, a Probation and Welfare Officer, or any other person whom the Minister considers may be of assistance in coming to a decision as to whether to grant temporary release; the risk that the person might commit an offence during any period of temporary release; the risk of the person failing to comply with any of the conditions of temporary release; and the likelihood that a period of temporary release might accelerate the person's reintegration into society or improve his prospects of obtaining employment. Decisions are made at a senior level within the Irish Prison Service and by myself in respect of cases referred directly to me.

It is not possible to provide the Deputy with the breakdown of information requested as this would require the manual examination of records. Such an examination would require a disproportionate and inordinate amount of staff time and effort and can not be justified in current circumstances where there are other significant demands on resources. However, it is anticipated that through the new Prison Information Management System (PIMS), which was introduced in March this year in the Prison Service, that I will be able to provide such data in the future.

Prison Education Service

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

317 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will indicate the methodology used to determine eligibility for rehabilitative, educational or training courses within the Irish Prison Service; the procedures and structures used to determine eligibility; the number refused in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23022/12]

I refer the Deputy to my response to Parliamentary Question No. 119 which outlines the position in this regard.

As the Deputy will be aware from my replies to previous Parliamentary Questions, the Irish Prison Service provides a wide range of rehabilitative programmes that include education, vocational training, health care, psychiatric, psychological, counselling, welfare and spiritual services. These programmes are available in all prisons and all prisoners are eligible to use the services. On committal, all prisoners are interviewed by the Governor and are informed of the services available in the prison. At this point prisoners may be referred to services or they can self refer at a later date. Where Governors consider, on the information available, that a prisoner needs a particular intervention they will initiate a referral.

Prisoner Transfers

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

318 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of applications by prisoners seeking transfer to alternative prison facilities on health, humanitarian or other grounds or criterion in each of the past three years to date; the methodology used to determine such eligibility; the number of cases approved or refused in this period; the most commonly used basis for approval or refusal; the number, if any, exceptions to the application of such criteria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23023/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

320 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will indicate the total number of prisoners known to have applied for transfer to alternative or open prisons on health grounds in each of the past two years to date; the number approved or refused for whatever reason in this period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23025/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 318 and 320 together.

Applications for transfer to an alternate facility within the prison estate on health, humanitarian or other grounds are received primarily on the recommendation of the Prison Governor or the therapeutic services in the prisons. The prisoner, their family or their legal representative can also apply for consideration of such a request.

As a guiding principle the Irish Prison Service attempts to place prisoners in the location nearest to their family home. This principle is of course subject to appropriate security considerations, operational and legislative requirements. Factors taken into account include length of sentence, nature of offence, medical needs, drug dependency, conflict with other prisoners, behaviour while in custody, the age of the prisoner, previous criminal record, engagement with the various services and of course available spaces.

Applications for transfer on health grounds are not recorded individually as there may be a multiplicity of reasons for such transfers, therefore it is not possible to provide the Deputy with the breakdown of information requested, as this would require the manual examination of records. Such an examination would require a disproportionate and inordinate amount of staff time and effort and cannot be justified in current circumstances where there are other significant demands on resources

Question No. 319 answered with Question No. 315.
Question No. 320 answered with Question No. 318.

Crime Levels

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

321 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will indicate the extent to which he has studied the level to which serious crime continues to be committed by persons accused of serious offences while on bail; if he is conscious of the public concern about such matters; if he has in mind any proposals to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23026/12]

I have studied the statistics on recorded crimes where the suspected offenders are on bail and I am conscious of public concern about the extent to which offences continue to be committed by persons on bail. I share that concern.

A decision to grant bail in a particular case is a matter for the court, which is, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of its judicial functions. There is a constitutional presumption in favour of bail, since, in the eyes of the law, a person is innocent until proven guilty. The provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights also restrict the extent to which the right to bail can be limited.

Prior to the Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution, bail could be refused essentially only on the grounds that a person would be likely to abscond or interfere with witnesses. The Bail Act 1997, which gave effect to the terms of the Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution, provides for the refusal of bail to a person charged with a serious offence where it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent the commission of a serious offence by that person.

I believe that bail law must be continually reviewed to ensure that all possible avenues are taken to protect the public against the commission of crime, particularly serious crime, by persons on bail.

Accordingly, my Department has been engaged in work to consolidate and update bail law with a view to presenting a clear, accessible and modern statement of the law. In the context of that modernisation of the law, I will be seeking to restructure the law so that it has a focus on the protection of the individual and of the public. My intention is that the new proposals will provide better guidance to the courts on how such protection might be provided. I am also taking the opportunity to introduce some general improvements to bail law to improve the overall working of the bail system.

I will bring proposals to Government on the matter in the near future.

Organised Crime

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

322 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which the number of persons deemed to be members of criminal gangs has fluctuated in each of the past two years to date; the extent to which serious crime is deemed to be the result of the activities of criminal gang members on an ongoing basis; the extent, if any, to which he proposes to amend existing legislation or invoke new powers in new legislation to deal with such issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23027/12]

The Deputy will appreciate that organised crime, by its very nature, is constantly evolving and diversifying in both its structures and activities so as to exploit opportunities for criminal gain.

Given this, membership of organised crime gangs tends to be fluid and offences committed by members of criminal gangs may or may not be connected with an individual's membership of such gangs. It is therefore not feasible to provide the Deputy with all of the information sought.

However, I can assure the Deputy that addressing such criminality remains a key ongoing priority for both the Government and for An Garda Síochána and these priorities are clearly reflected in the Garda Policing Plan for 2012 and in theProgramme for Government.

An Garda Síochána will continue to vigorously monitor and tackle organised crime through undertaking a range of targeted activities designed to disrupt and dismantle the operations of criminal organisations.

This involves targeting serious criminals and organised criminal groups on a number of fronts, including through the use of focused intelligence led operations by specialist units such as the Organised Crime Unit, the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the work of the Criminal Assets Bureau. These units are also supported, as required, by the Security and Intelligence Section which assists with the provision of intelligence briefings and timely information.

Law enforcement efforts in this regard are underpinned by a comprehensive framework of criminal law measures. This framework includes the more recently enacted provisions of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 in targeting organised crime, measures contained in the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009 relating to evidence obtained by means of covert surveillance and the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 relating to the use of weapons.

Whilst this current framework is being actively used to tackle organised crime the overall legislative response is being kept under review. In this regard my Department is currently undertaking a specific review of the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 to see if its provisions can be strengthened and the views of the Garda Commissioner have been sought in this regard.

Furthermore, an Expert Group also established under the auspices of my Department, is currently engaged in a comprehensive review of the Proceeds of Crime legislation with a view to identifying possible improvements which would serve to strengthen the operation of the Criminal Assets Bureau.

Prison Escapes

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

323 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will indicate, if known, the number of prisoners known to have escaped or absconded leave, supervised or unsupervised in each of the past four years to date; the number recaptured; the number, if any, still at large; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23028/12]

I can inform the Deputy that the information requested relating to the years 2008 to 4 May 2012 is outlined in the following table:

Year

Number of Absconders

2008

122

2009

133

2010

112

2011

86

2012 (up to 4 May)

33

The term "abscond" refers to a person leaving the confines of an open centre without permission or a person who absconds from the custody of a prison officer while outside the confines of the prison for example, attending court or a hospital appointment. The term "escape" refers to a person who flees from prison custody.

Irish Prison Service records indicate that on 7 March 2012 there were 64 prisoners listed as unlawfully at large having escaped/absconded during this time period. There were no escapes from within the confines of a closed prison during the years mentioned.

The Gardaí are informed when prisoners abscond and have the power to detain, arrest, and return such persons to prison. Experience has shown that the vast majority of offenders who abscond return or are returned to custody to complete their sentences within a short timeframe.

Garda Strength

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

324 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will indicate whether he is satisfied regarding the adequacy of resources to meet the policing requirements throughout the country, having particular regard to the constraint imposed by the memorandum of understanding entered into by his predecessor; whether he expects to be in a position to enable the Garda to provide the required levels and standards of service throughout the country in both urban and rural areas with the objective of maintaining the highest possible protection and security for the general public notwithstanding the economic situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23029/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

325 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will ensure that any operational reviews throughout the Garda Síochána in the context of budgetary constraints are not allowed to negatively impact on the force’s ability to deal with crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23030/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 324 and 325 together.

The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Commissioner, in consultation with his senior management team, is responsible for the allocation of resources throughout the organisation. This is a function which is carried out in the context of operational strategies in place at a District, Divisional and Regional level.

In particular, the allocation of resources is constantly monitored with reference to crime trends and other policing needs. Accordingly, the Deputy will appreciate that extensive measures are in place to ensure that the optimum use is made of all Garda resources.

While there is no escaping the reality that public expenditure has had to be reduced in line with the agreement with the EU and the IMF, the Government is committed to maintaining front-line services at the highest level possible. In that regard the Garda Commissioner has indicated that a full and comprehensive policing service is being delivered throughout the country. In addition he has confirmed that the relevant policing arrangements are being kept under on-going review.

Organised Crime

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

326 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will indicate the number of known criminal gang members currently in prison; the number likely to be released over the next 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23031/12]

The emergence in recent years of criminal gangs has had significant implications for the management of Irish prisons. Rivalries and feuds which develop on the outside continue inside of prison. Prison management have to ensure that the various factions are kept apart and, as far as possible, that gang members do not have influence over other inmates or criminal activities outside the prisons. Gang members are being managed on a daily basis through segregation and separation throughout the prison system. Membership/allegiance to these criminal gangs fluctuates on a continuous basis with some persons breaking links and others becoming affiliated. Intelligence on the ground would suggest that at any given time between 30% and 40% of the prison population has links to a criminal gang.

A number of initiatives have been introduced with a view to preventing identified gang leaders from conducting criminal activities while in custody and also to prevent them exerting inappropriate influence over other persons. For example, a number of serious criminal gang members awaiting trial or sentence are now segregated in a specific area of Cloverhill Prison.

The security initiatives undertaken by the Operational Security Group have made it more difficult for prisoners to engage in illegal activities while in prison. These initiatives include the introduction of passive and active drug detection dogs and the installation of airport style security including scanners and x-ray machines. Core functions of this group include gathering and collating intelligence information on criminal gang members in Irish prisons, carrying out intelligence led searches and preventing the flow of contraband (including mobile phones) into the prisons.

I have been informed by the Irish Prison Service that it is not possible to provide the number of prisoners in this category who are due to be released in the next 12 months without the manual examination of prisoner files. Such an examination would require a disproportionate and inordinate amount of staff time and effort and could not be justified in current circumstances where there are other significant demands on resources.

However, there is regular contact between the Prison Service and An Garda Síochána to discuss security issues including the operation of criminal gangs. Gardaí are also provided with reports detailing the release dates of this category of prisoner.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

327 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Defence the total amount spent since February 2011 on external reports commissioned by his Department, including payments from ministerial allowances; the details of any consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22807/12]

Neither I nor my Department have commissioned any external reports since February 2011.

Niall Collins

Question:

328 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Defence the total amount spent since February 2011 on external marketing consultants, including payments from ministerial allowances, including payments by all Ministers in his Department; the details of the consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22825/12]

Since February 2011, there has been no expenditure on external marketing consultants by the Minister of State at my Department, Mr. Paul Kehoe T.D., by my Department or by myself.

Departmental Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

329 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Defence the names, grade and cost of staff who have been rehired following retirement in his Department and State agencies under his remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22886/12]

No public servants who retired from my Department or the agencies under its aegis since the 27 February 2012 have been taken back onto my Department's payroll.

Grant Payments

Colm Keaveney

Question:

330 Deputy Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will forward details in relation to an appeal for agri-environment options scheme-Natura 2000 scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and when payment will issue. [22576/12]

The person named was approved for participation in the Agri-Environment Options Scheme with effect from the 1st November 2010 having completed the Form N option, indicating that he had designated lands.

Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. During this administrative checking process it was discovered that the parcels listed on Form N were not designated areas. My Department subsequently rejected the application as the scheme Terms and Conditions had not been complied with. A letter issued to the person named on 18th April 2012 setting out this decision and providing the option to submit an appeal. An appeal was received in writing on 26th April and officials in my Department are currently reviewing the file. The person named will shortly be notified in writing of the result.

Milk Quota

Brendan Griffin

Question:

331 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22589/12]

The regulations governing the milk quota regime provide that a milk quota allocation attaches to the lands used for production of the milk. Consequently a farmer may permanently dispose of his or her milk quota allocation though sale of the land and quota to another milk producer or, under certain circumstances, through the leasing of the land and quota. A farmer may also dispose of quota by submitting it for sale through the Milk Quota Trading Scheme, in which cases the land is not attached to the quota.

There are also a number of temporary measures, including temporary leasing and flexi-milk which can operate under certain specific circumstances and these can be explained in detail by the Milk Quota Section of my Department.

Beef Industry

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

332 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps a farmer has to take to use farm software offered by private agricultural companies being in the beef technology adoption programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22712/12]

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

333 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 166 of 19 April 2012, if he will confirm the industry stakeholders that were consulted; is using herd plus a requirement under the terms and conditions of the beef technology adoption programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22713/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 332 and 333 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 industry stakeholders. During its development phase, the Department discussed the draft Programme with representatives of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA), Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association (ICSA), Teagasc, Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF), the Irish Veterinary Union (IVU), the Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) and Meat Industry Ireland (MII).

The purpose of the Programme is to address the significant challenges to farm-level profitability by providing a financial stimulus that will encourage participants, through the vehicle of discussion groups, 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).

As part of the Programme, participants must be members of HerdPlus, a service provided by the ICBF which generates genetic evaluation and breeding performance data. As the Deputy is 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 national beef herd. Information on HerdPlus may be obtained from ICBF.

I am convinced that this ongoing work will be of major importance in leading to the development of high-quality animals which are required for the future success of the Irish beef industry.

Grant Payments

John O'Mahony

Question:

334 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question No. 448 on 6 March 2012 if he will advise when payment will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22719/12]

An application under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 17 May 2010. There were issues that arose in relation to the transfer of entitlements. All of these matters are resolved thereby allowing payment to issue under the next 2010 Scheme payment run very shortly.

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

335 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry who is appealing a penalty for REPS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22793/12]

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 administrative checks on all applications to be completed before any payments can issue. During the course of an on farm inspection on 28 July 2011, areas which were in non-compliance with the terms and conditions of the scheme were noted and a penalty was applied in relation to non-compliance associated with the Conservation/Management practices pertaining to archaeological monuments in the agri-environmental plan of the person named.

An appeal against the decision to impose a penalty has been submitted by the person named and is currently being reviewed. The 75% payment in respect of 2011 amounting to €3453.58 less the penalty deduction issued to the person named on 4 May 2012. The remaining 25% balancing payment for 2011 will issue when the appeal process is finalised and will take account of any adjustment arising out of the appeal outcome.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

336 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the total amount spent since February 2011 on external reports commissioned by his Department including payments from ministerial allowances; the details of any consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22803/12]

The information request by the Deputy is listed in the following table:

Consultant

Nature of Work

Payments from February 2011 to April 2012 €

Brendan Riordan

Professional fee for training services on net-flow of funds calculation

6,000

Milliards Solicitors

Legal advice, consultations, correspondence and court attendance

2,723

Total

8,723

Niall Collins

Question:

337 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the total amount spent since February 2011 on external marketing consultants, including payments from ministerial allowances, including payments by all Ministers in his Department; the details of the consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22821/12]

My Department does not employ external public relations companies. Public relations advice, where required is provided by my Department's Press Office.

Wildlife Protection

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

338 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the licence issued to Coillte to fell sections of the Lismullen Woods in the Tara Skryne Valley, County Meath, on 11 April 2011 can be made accessible to the public; the reason felling occurred in the Lismullen Woods and a licence granted to Coillte during bird nesting season; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22869/12]

The felling licence granted to Coillte for the site in question is accessible to the public.

My Department issued this felling licence to Coillte, following a referral to the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Inland Fisheries Ireland and Meath County Council, and having duly considered the matter. The licence was issued with appropriate conditions to which Coillte adhered. Coillte was aware of its obligations under current legislation and that it must harvest its trees in accordance with current legislation and good forestry practice.

Departmental Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

339 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the names, grade and cost of staff who have been rehired following retirement in his Department and State agencies under his remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22882/12]

An Assistant Secretary General was re-engaged by my Department on a part-time contract basis since retiring under the Incentivised Scheme for Early Retirement in October 2010. Sanction for this contract was received from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. The cost to my Department to date is €120,860.63. This contract is due to expire in October 2012.

A Laboratory Analyst was re-engaged by my Department on a contract basis since retiring under the Incentivised Scheme for Early Retirement in June 2010 to provide 70 days training to Department staff on inspections at fish farms. Sanction for this contract was received from the Minister for Finance and it is expected that the contract will be completed at the end of May 2012. To date the cost of this contract to my Department is €10,803.42.

One Superintending Senior Research Officer and five Senior Research Officers have been re-engaged on a contract for services basis for a limited period. The cost to my Department to date is €70,704.47. The contracts of three of the Senior Research Officers have now expired. The contract of the remaining Superintending Senior Research Officer will expire on 10 August 2012 and the contracts of the two Senior Research Officers will expire on 12 June 2012 and 31 December 2012 respectively.

It has been standard practice over many years for my Department to engage retired veterinary staff as Temporary Veterinary Inspectors on a contract for services basis for meat inspection duties. Currently, some 59 retired veterinary staff are listed as Temporary Veterinary Inspectors on a contract for services basis and are available to be rostered for meat inspection duties as and when required at a cost to my Department of €688,736.35 in 2011 and €173,963.38 this year up to 27 April 2012. None of these Temporary Veterinary Inspectors were re-engaged since 11 February 2012, nor is it intended to extend this list.

Normal pension abatement rules were applied in all these cases.

Grant Payments

Finian McGrath

Question:

340 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will provide a breakdown of agri-environment options scheme and REP scheme payments on a county basis for the three most recent years available. [22948/12]

The accompanying tables set out the amount of money paid out on a county by county basis in 2011 for AEOS when scheme payments commenced and in 2009, 2010 and 2011 scheme years in respect of REPS.

AEOS

County

Amount Paid in 2011 €

Carlow

€180,373.93

Cavan

€472,775.15

Clare

€835,385.77

Cork

€776,913.96

Donegal

€1,308,769.52

Dublin

€13,573.91

Galway

€1,497,937.31

Kerry

€639,900.56

Kildare

€126,717.79

Kilkenny

€428,501.56

Laois

€257,866.67

Leitrim

€912,987.31

Limerick

€343,005.67

Longford

€188,358.05

Louth

€88,736.69

Mayo

€1,567,162.56

Meath

€345,988.40

Monaghan

€504,078.40

Offaly

€272,031.57

Roscommon

€940,993.04

Sligo

€663,591.77

Tipperary

€735,214.96

Waterford

€184,604.31

Westmeath

€542,449.40

Wexford

€272,525.31

Wicklow

€141,288.41

Total

€14,241,731.97

REPS

County

Amount Paid in 2009 €

Amount Paid in 2010 €

Amount Paid in 2011 €

Carlow

€4,171,550.92

€3,692,826.71

€2,196,986.79

Cavan

€10,246,283.18

€10,526,155.67

€8,738,064.70

Clare

€19,755,653.15

€14,667,649.27

€12,519,056.97

Cork

€29,375,735.40

€31,955,047.25

€33,039,739.65

Donegal

€29,292,063.61

€25,011,808.19

€13,614,706.90

Dublin

€527,904.48

€620,675.51

€458,288.79

Galway

€34,426,980.84

€34,459,440.90

€22,044,080.61

Kerry

€23,698,890.21

€27,617,016.37

€15,859,779.60

Kildare

€4,283,569.21

€3,443,433.89

€3,701,828.98

Kilkenny

€10,320,907.50

€9,185,951.96

€8,397,054.13

Laois

€6,697,969.85

€7,019,907.23

€6,925,607.57

Leitrim

€11,607,809.68

€8,692,219.22

€6,002,672.23

Limerick

€12,136,748.66

€13,112,009.53

€11,533,819.77

Longford

€5,830,442.34

€5,848,549.90

€5,312,438.79

Louth

€2,002,582.74

€1,819,830.07

€2,202,311.73

Mayo

€31,962,275.69

€30,010,595.27

€20,819,983.71

Meath

€6,384,230.35

€5,853,260.67

€6,147,897.77

Monaghan

€8,259,900.40

€6,429,060.77

€7,319,451.57

Offaly

€8,788,311.60

€8,474,384.79

€7,404,811.43

Roscommon

€16,910,430.22

€15,285,802.46

€10,443,176.37

Sligo

€11,603,309.65

€9,210,852.26

€7,106,482.90

Tipperary (N)

€9,739,112.28

€9,399,190.65

€8,736,680.15

Tipperary (S)

€9,618,190.93

€9,846,225.97

€10,949,898.93

Waterford

€6,504,452.73

€7,659,567.65

€6,861,441.77

Westmeath

€7,876,626.28

€7,125,847.61

€6,340,684.60

Wexford

€10,031,997.80

€8,321,999.03

€8,178,977.75

Wicklow

€4,665,624.81

€5,282,681.62

€4,293,847.41

Totals

€336,719,554.51

€320,571,990.42

€257,149,771.57

Departmental Bodies

Mattie McGrath

Question:

341 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if there has been a change in policy to allow students of a college (details supplied) in County Kilkenny to use college machinery to carry out various contracting works at cost price, to cover the cost of diesel only; if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties that this is causing to local contractors who are put at a disadvantage as a result of their inability to compete with the low prices being charged by such students; if he will examine this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22954/12]

Operational matters such as this are properly the responsibility of the Teagasc Authority and not the Minister. I am advised by Teagasc that this matter is being dealt with locally by the Principal of the College in question and that he has met with the parties involved and agreed that future student skills practical training will be done following prior consultation with local contractors.

Grant Payments

Paul Connaughton

Question:

342 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a person (details supplied) in County Galway will receive his payment of agri-environment options scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22959/12]

The person named has been informed in writing that he was approved for participation in the 2011 Agri-Environment Options Scheme with effect from 1 September 2011.

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

Departmental Schemes

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

343 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if there is a split holding rule in disadvantaged area schemes similar to the split holding rule in rural environment protection scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22976/12]

I can confirm that the same provisions govern my Department's assessment of whether applicants under the Single Payment Scheme, the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, and Agri-Environment Schemes such as REPS and AEOS are operating separate holdings.

The factors that are taken into account when examining whether an applicant under one or more of the above-mentioned Schemes is operating a separate holding and, therefore, entitled to aid if all of the other scheme criteria are met include the following:

separate herd numbers;

herds maintained separately;

herds handled separately in separate handling facilities;

separate Area Aid declarations;

separate Agri-Environment Scheme applications, where applicable;

stock-proofed boundaries;

independent access to holdings;

separate farm accounts/financial records/other documentary evidence;

ration and silage stored and fed in separate farm yard facilities;

any other relevant issue.

In addition, specific changes have been made to the Terms and Conditions of the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, including the introduction of a Differential Rate of Aid, to apply where an applicant's main holding/residence is situated in a non-DAS area and where some of that applicant's declared land is non-disadvantaged land, a digressive rate of aid will be payable, on the ratio of non-disadvantaged/disadvantaged lands farmed. In addition, a restriction is being introduced in relation to the distance from the main holding, where the applicant's main holding/residence is situated in a non-DAS area, land situated mare than 80 kilometres from an applicant's main holding is not eligible under the 2012 Scheme.

State Banking Sector

Pearse Doherty

Question:

344 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will set out, in respect of Government Departments, State controlled banks and State agencies, any contracts for the provision of services by a company (details supplied); if he will quantify the value of such contracts and set out the safeguards in place to avoid conflicts should that company set out to buy the assets of State controlled banks. [23624/12]

My Department has not had any contracts with the named companies.

Contracts between the State Bodies under my Department's aegis and these particular companies would be an operational matter for the bodies themselves.

Health Services

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

345 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs with regard to the new assessment, consultation and therapy service proposed by the Health Service Executive to address the mental health needs of children in detention and children in special care, the number of the promised 29.5 WTE staff for this service that are now in place; whether a national director for the new service has been appointed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22800/12]

The Implementation plan, published in 2009 in response to the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (Ryan Implementation Plan), included a commitment to the establishment by the HSE in consultation with the Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS) of a national therapeutic and multidisciplinary care team for children in detention and special care. The specialist multidisciplinary team could also provide an in-reach service to boys aged 16 and 17 years who are detained in St Patrick's Institution. It also states that the HSE will review need and establish resourced multidisciplinary assessment teams for children and young people at risk.

The HSE has been fully funded for this service, as part of the funding provided in respect of the Ryan Implementation Plan. The HSE has committed in its National Service Plan for 2012 to completing the establishment of this team. The recruitment of a national manager for this service is currently underway. Interviews for the post were held last week and it is expected that this post will be filled very soon. Once the national manager is in place, the other posts for this service will be filled by appointing successful applicants who have been placed on panels for these positions.

Children who are detained in secure units need a specialist multidisciplinary team to provide assessment and intervention. Many of these children and young people require therapeutic work to enable them to begin to deal with the impact of abuse and other traumatic events, including multiple placement breakdown and significant loss through separation or bereavement. This key national service will ensure all children placed in secure care, whether on welfare or offending grounds, will have access to specialist clinical interventions in line with their assessed individual needs. The national service is an essential support towards meeting the needs of these most vulnerable children.

Asylum Applications

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

346 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will ask the Health Service Executive team for separated children seeking asylum to review the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 in respect of relocating to hostel accommodation despite his ongoing health problems; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22938/12]

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.

Departmental Strategies

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

347 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if there will be a public consultation process as part of the development of the national early years strategy; and the format any public consultation will take. [22604/12]

My Department is developing a new strategy for children and young people. It will build on Our Children — Their Lives, Ireland's first children's strategy which was published in 2000 and it will cover the period from 2012 to 2017.

The new Children and Young People's Policy Framework is being developed in a holistic way to comprehend the continuum of the lifecourse from infancy, through early and middle childhood, to adolescence through to early adulthood, in keeping with my Department's responsibilities for children and young people. I intend that it will be the overarching framework under which policy and services for children and young people will be developed and implemented in the State.

The policy framework will allow an opportunity to address emerging issues affecting children and young people such as the impact of new technologies, media and consumerism. It also provides an important opportunity for cross departmental collaboration to promote the well being of children and young people and it will provide a fresh impetus to a whole-of-government approach on issues such as child poverty and healthy lifestyles.

The high-level policy framework will also facilitate the preparation of a number of more detailed strategies including the first-ever National Early Years Strategy which will follow later this year.

I am keen to ensure that the new policy framework will be informed by the views of children themselves as well the experience and expertise of a wide range of stakeholders in matters of interest to children and young people. The new policy framework will be informed by the results of a consultation, which I launched in 2011, in which almost 67,000 children and young people throughout the country participated, as well as the advice of the National Children's Advisory Council which comprises representatives of a range of organisations, both statutory and non statutory that work with children and young people.

Plans are being finalised in my Department for a further strand of public consultation to capture the views of a wide range of other stakeholders. It is envisaged that the consultation arrangement will be in place shortly Easter.

The Early Years Strategy will be developed during 2012 and will cover a range of issues affecting children in their first years of life. In addition to the public consultation referred to above, there will be a focused consultation with key stakeholders later this year in relation to Early Years.

Inter-Country Adoptions

Dara Calleary

Question:

348 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will explain the delay in the signing of the bilateral agreement between the Irish and Russian authorities in respect of the adoption of Russian children to Irish families. [22766/12]

The Hague Convention is a co-operative agreement drawn up to allow countries to mutually support one another in protecting the best interests of children in the inter-country adoption process. It sets out minimum standards regarding inter-country adoption and covers issues such as subsidiarity, consent and financial considerations. It is designed in such a way as to allow for mirrored mechanisms and structures to mutually assure countries of the safety and standard of inter-country adoptions in those countries. The Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) performs the function of a Central Authority under the Adoption Act, 2010, in accordance with the Convention. In choosing to deal primarily with Hague countries, the AAI has the mechanism to work collaboratively with equivalent structures in that country. Each Central Authority has the responsibility to oversee standards in respect of those parts of the process taking place within their respective jurisdictions. This mutual arrangement is designed to give the AAI, the Government and, most importantly, those involved in the adoption process assurance as to the standards being set and the oversight of the system.

A limited number of adoptions from Russia are currently being processed under transitional arrangements as provided for in the Adoption Act, 2010. Under the provisions of the legislation, such adoptions may take place up to the end of October 2012, with the possibility of the Adoption Authority granting approval for an extension of up to one year. Russia has not ratified the Hague Convention and there appears to be no immediate prospect that this will happen. In the circumstances, adoptions from Russia, beyond those provided for under the transitional arrangements, may only be possible under a bilateral agreement developed to the standards of the Hague Convention.

An official delegation from Ireland recently visited Russia and held preliminary discussions regarding the potential for a bilateral agreement. I have received an initial assessment from the Adoption Authority which will inform the next steps to be taken in relation to this matter. My Department is in discussions with the Adoption Authority on this assessment and other issues which will influence any policy decisions to be taken in this regard. I am aware of the need to bring clarity to the situation in respect of Russia and I hope to be in a position to do so shortly.

The immediate priority of the Adoption Authority is the development of administrative arrangements with other countries which have ratified the Hague Convention. Any future bilateral arrangements which might be entered into would also be required by law to meet the minimum standards set out in the Convention.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

349 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the total amount spent since February 2011 on external reports commissioned by her Department, including payments from ministerial allowances; the details of any consultants employed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22805/12]

The information requested by the Deputy is being collated in my Department and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Niall Collins

Question:

350 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the total amount spent since February 2011 on external marketing consultants, including payments from ministerial allowances, including payments by all Ministers in her Department; the details of the consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22823/12]

My Department was established on 2 June 2011. To date the Department of Children and Youth Affairs has not spent any money on external marketing consultants.

Departmental Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

351 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the names, grade and cost of staff who have been rehired following retirement in her Department and State agencies under her remit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22884/12]

I would like to advise the Deputy that no retired staff have been rehired by either my Department or agencies under its remit.

State Banking Sector

Pearse Doherty

Question:

352 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will set out, in respect of Government Departments, State controlled banks and State agencies, any contracts for the provision of services by a company (details supplied); if she will quantify the value of such contracts and set out the safeguards in place to avoid conflicts should that company set out to buy the assets of State controlled banks. [23626/12]

No services were provided by the company concerned to my Department and the agencies under its remit.

Health Services

Dara Calleary

Question:

353 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Health his views on the options available to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [22588/12]

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

Regina Doherty

Question:

354 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Health the reason a person (details supplied) suffering from cerebral palsy has not been accepted for the independent living scheme or for any other kind of full time residential care; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22937/12]

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.

Health Service Reform

Dara Calleary

Question:

355 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Health if he will confirm that the Mayo General Hospital has been incorporated in to the Galway group of hospitals; if he will outline what this will mean in terms of medical and non-medical resources; if he will further outline the reason this decision has been taken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22580/12]

A process has begun towards the establishment of hospital groups with a single consolidated management team with responsibility for performance and outcomes within a defined budget and employment ceiling for each hospital group. This will bring level 2, 3 and 4 hospitals together both administratively and clinically.

Preliminary work has been undertaken on the development of criteria to determine the most appropriate groups of hospitals, bearing in mind the linkages required to deal with, for example, access to complex care, academic centres, geographic and demographic considerations. Also relevant to the development of these criteria are existing clinical links, consultant contracts and ICT systems.

No decision has been taken yet in relation to what hospital group Mayo General Hospital Castlebar will belong. The final decision on potential Groups will be a matter for the Government to decide.

Health Services

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

356 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health if the Health Service Executive will provide support to an organisation (details supplied) in County Kildare along the lines requested in the submission from that organisation to the HSE on 18 April 2012. [22602/12]

This matter is normally referred to the HSE for a direct reply, however we have made enquiries with the HSE in relation to this service. Due to the extraordinary pressure on services the HSE must manage service levels within existing resources. Within these constraints, the HSE has worked in partnership with Teach Tearmainn for many years and funds their information and support service for women and children who experience domestic violence. They are currently in discussions with Teach Tearmainn to determine what level of funding can be provided, for the women and children's refuge.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

357 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the position regarding medical treatment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22704/12]

The HSE operates a Treatment Abroad Scheme (TAS) for persons entitled to treatment in another EU/EEA member state or Switzerland under EU Regulation 1408/71, as per the procedures set out in EU Regulation 574/72, and in accordance with Department of Health Guidelines.

Under TAS, a person ordinarily resident in Ireland may be referred abroad by an Irish-based consultant for a treatment that is:

among the benefits provided by Irish legislation;

not available in Ireland;

not available within the time normally necessary for obtaining it in Ireland, taking account of the individual's current state of health and the probable course of the disease.

The following criteria must be met:

(a) The application to refer a patient abroad has been assessed and a determination given before that patient goes abroad.

(b) Following clinical assessment, the referring consultant certifies the following:

They recommend the patient be treated in another EU/EEA country or Switzerland;

The treatment is medically necessary and will meet the patient’s needs;

The treatment is a proven form of medical treatment and is not experimental or test treatment;

The treatment is in a recognised hospital or other institution and is under the control of a registered medical practitioner;

The hospital outside the state will accept EU/EEA form E112 (IE).

Any person wishing to avail of treatment abroad should approach their treating consultant in the first instance.

Medical Cards

Patrick Nulty

Question:

358 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Health if he will expedite an application for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22711/12]

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

Departmental Schemes

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

359 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health if he will consider that lupus disease, which is a chronic auto immune condition greatly affecting the quality of life for sufferers, be put on the long-term illness scheme list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22720/12]

There are no plans to extend the list of conditions covered by the Long Term Illness Scheme.

Under the Drug Payment Scheme, no individual or family pays more than €132 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The scheme significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines. In addition, people who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. In the assessment process, the Health Service Executive can take into account medical costs incurred by an individual or a family. Those who are not eligible for a medical card may still be able to avail of a GP visit card, which covers the cost of general practice consultation.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

360 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 673 of 21 March 2012, when the person involved (details supplied) will receive an appointment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22728/12]

I understand that this patient has been given an appointment in the Bon Secours Hospital Cork later this month.

Medical Aids and Appliances

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

361 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Health the number of persons on the waiting list for prosthetic and orthotic services; the average waiting period for same; the number of amputees waiting for sanction for their prostheses, socks, ortheses and so on; the average waiting period for same; the number of persons on the waiting list for prosthetic and orthotic services in the southern region; the number waiting for sanction for their prostheses, socks, ortheses and so on in the southern region; the average waiting period for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22734/12]

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.

Medical Cards

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

362 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health the position regarding an appeal for a medical card in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22761/12]

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

Mental Health Services

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

363 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Health with regard to the child and adolescent community mental health teams allocated under the Health Service Executive service plan for 2012 and committed to as part of the €35 million provided for mental health in budget 2012, the number of the promised 150 posts that are now filled; the number of child and adolescent community mental health teams which now have at least one of each mental health professional discipline in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22764/12]

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

General Medical Services Scheme

Willie O'Dea

Question:

364 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Health if he will consider including the drug pradaxa as one of the items on the general medical supplement. [22765/12]

Pradaxa is available under the GMS Scheme, the Drug Payment Scheme and other community drugs schemes for the prevention of blood clots in adult patients who have undergone elective hip replacement surgery or elective knee replacement surgery.

The HSE is assessing the availability of resources to provide for the long term treatment with Pradaxa for the prevention of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation. This is a complicated process with long term implications. The HSE wrote to all GMS doctors and community pharmacy contractors in November 2011 to clarify the position in relation to Pradaxa. The HSE will continue to update health care professionals in relation to the matter.

The HSE does not intend to disturb established therapeutic regimens for patients whose treatment with Pradaxa for the prevention of stroke was initiated prior to the clarification.

Hospital Services

Robert Troy

Question:

365 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Health when will the Health Information and Quality Authority inspection be carried out at a hospital (details supplied) in County Westmeath; if he will confirm if this is the delay in opening this unit; and when he anticipates the unit to be open to the public [22780/12]

The Cluain Lir Unit is a new 90 bedded facility which will replace both Psychiatry of Old Age services provided from the St Brigids block on the St Loman's campus in Mullingar and Older Person Services currently provided from St Mary's Community Nursing Unit, Mullingar. It should be noted that it had been intended to open the Unit at the end March 2012 but due to circumstances beyond the HSE's control, this had to be postponed slightly.

Discussions and applications have been made to both the Mental Health Commission and the Health Information and Quality Authority to provide the necessary registrations and visits have taken place or are scheduled.

There will be a phased opening of the building with the Psychiatry of Old Age component of the service scheduled to open by end May 2012.

Robert Troy

Question:

366 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Health if he can confirm the complement of beds to be used in a hospital (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will further confirm that the current rehab facility will remain in operation until such time as it will be facilitated in the new building. [22781/12]

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

Services for People with Disabilities

Finian McGrath

Question:

367 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health if he will support a matter (details supplied) regarding assessments and disabled children. [22797/12]

The matter referred to by the Deputy relates to guidance issued by the HSE in respect of assessments under Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which was commenced on 1 June 2007 in respect of children aged under 5 years. The guidance restates that while assessment reports prepared by health service staff may identify a child's educational needs the reports should not specify how the education sector should meet those needs.

The guidance is in line with the Disability Act and reflects guidance previously issued to health service staff in 2008 and 2009 outlining the respective responsibilities of health and education sector professionals in assessing the needs of children with a disability.

Arrangements governing the identification of the educational needs of children, who apply for assessment under the Disability Act, were agreed in 2009 between the HSE, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) as part of the overall cross sectoral approach adopted by the Departments of Health and Education and Skills.

Colm Keaveney

Question:

368 Deputy Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Health if he will forward details in relation to the provision of services and resources in respect of a person (details supplied) in the estimates of the Ability West’s budget to provide for an adequate level of independent living for this young adult who has moved from childhood services in the Brothers of Charity, Roscommon to the Ability West Services, County Galway. [22799/12]

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.

Consultancy Contracts

Niall Collins

Question:

369 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health the total amount spent since February 2011 on external reports commissioned by his Department, including payments from ministerial allowances; the details of any consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22812/12]

The information requested by the Deputy is currently being collated by my Department and will be forwarded to him as soon as it is available.

Niall Collins

Question:

370 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Health the total amount spent since February 2011 on external marketing consultants, including payments from ministerial allowances, including payments by all Ministers in his Department; the details of the consultants employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22830/12]

As you will be aware, Ministers qualify for Secretarial Allowances from the Oireachtas. The Vouched Allowance Option allows a Minister to claim fully vouched expenses of up to €41,092 (2012 level) for a range of services including PR. In 2011, I obtained communications advice related to the health reform agenda from the Communications Clinic. My Department does not pay for this service and the cost (€15k in 2011) was met out of the allowance I refer to above.

Information in respect of 2012 is currently being collated and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

371 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health when a patient (details supplied) will receive a date for surgery at Tallaght Hospital, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22854/12]

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

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

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

Medical Cards

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

372 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health if the refusal of a medical card application can be reviewed in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22855/12]

If a person has been refused a medical card they can lodge an appeal within 21 days. Details of the appeals process are forward to the applicant with their refusal letter. As this refusal of a medical card renewal is a service matter I have referred it to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Health Services

Colm Keaveney

Question:

373 Deputy Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Health the position regarding services and resources in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22877/12]

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.

Hospital Services

Barry Cowen

Question:

374 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Health if he will arrange for an outpatients appointment to be brought forward in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly. [22881/12]

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

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

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

Departmental Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

375 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the names, grade and cost of staff who have been rehired following retirement in his Department and State agencies under his remit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22891/12]

In this regard, may I refer the Deputy to my answers to Questions Nos. 734 and 759 of 24th April 2012.

With regard to the Health Service Executive, they have been asked to collate the data sought as soon as possible and it will be provided directly to the Deputy by them when available.

The information in relation to the Non-Commercial State Agencies is currently being collated and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Hospital Staff

Willie O'Dea

Question:

376 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Health if he will outline the current schedule regarding to nursing and dietetic posts at Limerick Regional Hospital; when advertisements for these posts will be placed; when he is expecting to announce the appointments; and if he will advise as to whether in the event of the posts not being filled by the end of this year the budget set aside to improve paediatric diabetes services in the mid-west will be lost. [22901/12]

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

Health Services

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

377 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Health if he will examine an issue (details supplied) regarding the national clinical programme on diabetes. [22911/12]

The HSE Clinical Programmes Directorate are currently developing appropriate models of care to ensure the delivery of safe and effective services across diabetes outpatient services. This programme of work is ongoing and will inform the most appropriate structure, staffing and organisation of services.

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

Billy Kelleher

Question: