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 8, inclusive, answered orally.
Question No. 9 resubmitted.
Question No. 10 answered with Question No. 1.
Questions Nos. 11 to 87, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 88 to 96, inclusive, answered orally.

Preschool Curriculum

Willie O'Dea

Question:

97 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the steps she is taking to ensure the Aistear curriculum is being followed by pre school providers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24010/12]

Brendan Smith

Question:

110 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the steps she is taking to ensure that the Síolta Framework for Early Learning is implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24014/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 110 together.

Implementation of Aistear, the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework is being led by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).

The NCCA have set in place a range of activities to disseminate the materials and resources of Aistear to all those working with children in the 0-6 age range. For example, the online Aistear Toolkit provides a wealth of information and resources such as audio and visual podcasts. Additionally, a network of Aistear Tutors are delivering professional development activities for infant class teachers through the education centre network nationally. My Department is in discussion with the NCCA on the model of support that should be used for other practitioners in the early years sector. This is more challenging because, while the primary school sector is relatively homogenous with a workforce holding the same qualifications and teaching the same primary school curriculum, the early years sector is more diverse and operates across a wide range of curricula and philosophies.

As a preparatory step, the NCCA has been developing resources on Aistear for use in the early years sector and are working with Early Childhood Ireland on developing exemplars of good practice which will be added to the Aistear Toolkit resource.

Implementation of Síolta, the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood is being overseen by the Early Years Education Policy Unit of the Department of Education and Skills, which is co-located with my Department.

Early years settings can engage with Síolta on either a formal or an informal basis.

Informal use of Síolta usually involves early years settings using the resource materials developed as part of the framework, such as the Síolta Setting Manuals and Research Digests, as tools for internal review of practice. In addition, organisations such as the City and County Childcare Committees, education and training institutions, Voluntary Childcare Organisations and other community, voluntary and private organisations have also availed of these materials and have provided information sessions to early years service providers. This has been a valuable support to the introduction of the Free Preschool Year, as services contracted to deliver this scheme are obliged to ‘...adhere to the Principles of Síolta...' in delivery of their programmes. It is welcome that so many support agencies have used the Síolta materials as the foundation for a range of quality improvement activities. Such activity clearly demonstrates the commitment of the sector to quality improvement.

Formal engagement with Síolta means participation in the Síolta Quality Assurance Programme (QAP), with the support of a Síolta Coordinator/Mentor. The Síolta QAP is designed to allow early years settings to be externally evaluated and validated for their achievements in delivering high quality provision.

A field test of the Síolta QAP is currently underway. A number of organisations including the Voluntary Childcare Organisations and Prevention and Early Intervention Programmes are participating in this process. Suitably qualified staff, within these organisations, have been trained by the Early Years Education Policy Unit to provide support for pre-school services to participate in the Síolta QAP. The 134 services that are participating in the field test represent the broad spectrum of pre-school services in Ireland including sessional pre-school services, full daycare, infant classes in primary schools and childminders.

An evaluation of the field test was commissioned by the Department of Education and Skills and completed in 2011. The evaluation was conducted in parallel with the ongoing development of the programme in the field and its recommendations are contributing to the continuing review and refinement of the Síolta QAP materials, processes and supports.

Validation is the final stage of the Síolta QAP. Since the beginning of 2012, an increasing number of early years settings have reached the final stage of the QAP and have submitted their quality portfolios for validation. It is anticipated that the remaining participants in the field test of the Síolta QAP will proceed to submit quality portfolios in the coming months and a review and evaluation of the validation tools and processes will be conducted. Once complete, the research and development phase for the Síolta QAP will be concluded.

Inter-Country Adoptions

Billy Kelleher

Question:

98 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of inter-country adoptions approved in 2011 by Irish residents adopting from Hague-ratified countries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24021/12]

In accordance with the Adoption Act, 2010, which came into effect on 1 November 2010, inter-country adoptions can be effected with other countries which have ratified the Hague Convention or with which Ireland has a bilateral agreement. Ireland currently has no bilateral agreements in respect of inter-country adoption. The Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) has responsibility for making entries into the Register of Inter-country Adoptions. The AAI has provided the following information based on Irish residents adopting from Hague ratified countries:

Country

No. of Adoptions

China

4

India

2

Kazakhstan

6

Mexico

7

Philippines

1

South Africa

1

Thailand

1

USA

17

Total

39

Since the establishment of the AAI in November 2012 the AAI have visited Vietnam, Florida and Bulgaria with a view to developing administrative agreements with these Hague ratified countries. The AAI have initiated desk top examinations of the legislation with other Hague countries such as Kazakhstan, Panama, South Africa, Lithuania, Thailand, and Philippines with a view to assessing the compatibility of Irish adoption legislation.

Furthermore I took the opportunity to visit Vietnam in recent months and met with the Vietnamese authorities, my visit coinciding with a visit of a delegation from the Adoption Authority of Ireland to Vietnam to discuss administrative matters in relation to inter-country adoptions on foot of Vietnam's recent ratification of the Hague Convention. The Authority has prepared and submitted to the Vietnamese authorities a suggested scheme of administrative arrangements to be established between Ireland and Vietnam for the resumption of inter-country adoption between the two States. The Authority is awaiting the response of the Vietnamese authorities to this proposal.

Foster Care Services

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

99 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to ensure that the 14.4% of unapproved foster carers who are not relatives of the foster child will be approved by the foster care panel under Part III of the Child Care (Placement of Children in Foster Care) Regulations, 1995; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23969/12]

Under the Child Care Act, 1991(as amended) the Health Service Executive (HSE) has a statutory duty to promote the welfare of children who are not receiving adequate care and protection. If a child is in need of care and protection and is unlikely to receive it at home, the HSE has a duty to ensure they receive appropriate care. The majority of children in care are in foster care.

Prospective foster carers or applicants undergo an assessment and training process to establish their suitability and competence as future foster carers. The assessment procedure is carried out by a social worker from the local fostering team and includes Garda vetting, a medical assessment, personal interviews in the applicant's home and if the applicant(s) have children, the social worker will also talk to them about being part of a foster family. Garda vetting includes adult children and extended family members residing in the home. The applicant(s) will also be asked to provide referees who will be interviewed by the social worker as part of the assessment process. The social worker then prepares a report, which is shared with the applicant(s) and their views are represented. This report is then presented to the Foster Care panel for approval, including a recommendation as to the age of the child and type of foster care suitable to the applicant(s).

At the end of December 2011, the HSE reported that 3,138 of the 3,769 foster carers in the country were approved by the foster care panel. 85.6% (i.e. 540) of the unapproved foster carers were relatives of the child in care. The HSE has advised me that assessments of all foster carers are being completed for presentation to foster care panels. In particular, this includes the 91 unapproved foster carers (or 14.4% of the total) who are not related to the children being fostered. This process is being monitored across the country and reported to the Office of the National Director for Children and Families.

Youth Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

100 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which she has access to the necessary resources to develop a comprehensive range of youth support services in line with any deliberations she has had with existing service providers in this area; if any particular issues have arisen; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23987/12]

My Department provides a range of funding schemes, programmes and supports to the youth sector. These include the Youth Service Grant Scheme, the Special Projects for Youth Scheme, the Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund (Rounds 1 and 2) and certain other provisions including the Local Youth Club Grant Scheme, Youth Information Centres, European Youth in Action Programme (administered by Léargas — The Exchange Bureau) and Gaisce — the President's Award.

The main objectives of my Department are to develop and implement coherent, coordinated and relevant youth policies and strategies to support the youth sector in providing effective non-formal education and developmental opportunities for young people through which they can enhance and develop their personal and social skills and competencies. Funding of some €56.806m for current expenditure and €1.5m for capital expenditure is available from my Department in 2012 to support the provision of youth services and programmes. In determining financial allocations to initiatives and schemes in 2012 officials from my Department have met with representatives of the youth sector on an ongoing basis with a view to determining how best to minimise the impact of the reduction in the 2012 budget on youth services. It is intended to hold further meetings with these representatives during 2012 in order to assist the Department in formulating its thinking for the allocation of funding in 2013 in a cohesive and effective manner having regard to the difficult fiscal situation in which we find ourselves. As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, I am committed to the development of a new youth policy framework which my Department is currently progressing. Through this work a clear policy framework will emerge that will aim to enhance the development, participation and support of young people. I intend that the policy framework will also facilitate and promote co-ordination and coherence across departments and front line youth services and will set out the priorities, rationale and criteria for future funding programmes. This will ensure that the funding available in future years will be used as effectively as possible.

Child Care Services

Pearse Doherty

Question:

101 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of children who were identified by the Health Service Executive as having parents or guardians who were financially unable to cope during each of the past five years; the type of supports that will be provided by the Child and Family Support Agency for families in this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23971/12]

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

120 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will confirm that no child has been taken into care due to a parent's financial inability to cope during each of the past ten years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23972/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 101 and 120 together.

Under the Child Care Act 1991 children should, in the first instance, be supported to remain with their families. Children should only be taken into care where the HSE has identified abuse or the risk of abuse, including neglect that cannot be prevented or resolved without the child being received into care.

The various factors which can result in parental inability to cope include: physical or mental health problems, disability, drug or alcohol problems, and in some cases financial difficulties. However, a parental inability to cope financially is on its own not a reason for a child to come into care and the HSE has confirmed that no child has been taken into State care in the past ten years solely on the basis of lack of finance. Family support services work with parents where there are difficulties with budget management to support them to provide a stable family situation for their children.

My officials regularly meet with officials from the Department of Social Protection. At a meeting held in September of last year, this specific matter was discussed as part of a broader agenda. There was agreement on the need to avoid any situation occurring where a child is admitted into care solely due to financial reasons. Should such a situation arise, my officials will work with the Department of Social Protection and the HSE to ensure that children are only received into care on the basis of risk to their safety and welfare that cannot be alleviated by financial support alone.

Children’s Rights Referendum

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

102 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will confirm that the referendum on children’s rights will be a stand alone referendum; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23973/12]

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

130 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the date on which she will hold the referendum on children’s rights; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23960/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 and 130 together.

The Referendum on Children's Rights is a Programme for Government priority. The Government is satisfied that the nature of this referendum is such that it will be conducted on a stand alone basis to support fullest debate and engagement by the public on the issue in the bests interests of children.

A draft wording of the proposed Constitutional amendment is being prepared by the Office of the Attorney General in co-operation with my Department and is focused on ensuring that this reflects the deliberations and conclusions of the Joint Committee on Children and the Constitution and the commitment given in the Programme for Government.

The precise timing of the Referendum on children's rights during 2012 will be determined in light of progress on the ongoing preparatory work and, as I have previously stated, it is the intention that the referendum will be held this year.

Youth Services

David Stanton

Question:

103 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 32 of 3 November 2011, the progress that has been made in her Department’s review of the operation of the Youth Work Act 2001 and the National Youth Work Development Plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23990/12]

As the Deputy is aware two policy developments the Youth Work Act, 2001 and the National Youth Work Development Plan 2003-2007 have provided the impetus for much of the development in the youth work sector in recent years. The Youth Work Act was introduced in 2001 and outlines a number of structural arrangements for the organisation and administration of youth work policy and provision.

While the Youth Work Act established a structure for youth work, the National Youth Work Development Plan outlined an action plan for the development of the youth work sector for the period of 2003-2007.

My Department is currently developing an overarching Children and Young People's Policy Framework for 2012-2017. The new Policy Framework will provide the basis for more detailed strategies including an Early Years Strategy and a new Youth Policy Framework. It is intended that the Youth Work Act, 2001 will be reviewed in the context of the development of the Youth Policy Framework.

Children’s Residential Centres Inspections

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

104 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the inspection regime and standards to which non-statutory private or voluntarily-run residential centres for children are subject; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23961/12]

All children's residential centres are inspected to ensure that the children living in the centre are receiving the care and protection that they require. The HSE registers and inspects non-statutory voluntary and private children's residential centres. Inspections are undertaken against the National Standards for Children’s Residential Centres, which are available on my Department’s website at www.dcya.ie.

The process of assessing standards of care in the centres is undertaken by a HSE monitoring officer visiting the centre and gathering information through interviews and meetings with the centre management, staff members and young people, analysis of case files and centre records and and contact with guardians, social workers and other professionals as appropriate. Any issues of concern are brought to the attention of the centre manager as appropriate.

Child and Family Support Agency

Micheál Martin

Question:

105 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will provide a progress update on the establishment of the new Child and Family Services Agency; if she will confirm if the agency is on track to be established on 1 January 2013; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24025/12]

The commitment to establish a new Child and Family Support Agency is at the heart of the Government's reform of child and family services. The establishment of a single agency, underpinned by legislation and incorporating key children and family services, will provide a focus for the major reforms already underway. This reform programme contains a number of critical elements:

The continued and urgent implementation of a comprehensive change programme to improve the quality and consistency of child welfare and protection services;

The introduction of legislation to place Children First on a statutory basis;

The establishment for the first time of a dedicated budget for children and family services, providing transparency and accountability for the use of resources to meet national priorities;

The transition of existing HSE child protection and welfare and services into the new Agency;

The merger of the existing Family Support Agency with a budget of over €26 million into the Child and Family Support Agency;

Consideration of the potential for further rationalisation of services for children under the new Agency.

A comprehensive change programme is currently being implemented under the leadership of Gordon Jeyes, as National Director of Child and Family Services. The change programme is designed to significantly enhance the level and consistency of child welfare and protection services. This change process will continue into the new Child and Family Support Agency where Gordon Jeyes will be the first Chief Executive. In addition, an open recruitment process is underway with a view to putting in place the other key senior personnel to lead the Agency.

I established a Task Force to advise my Department in regard to the necessary transition programme to establish a Child and Family Support Agency. The Task Force has undertaken a considerable body of work in preparation for the new Agency. I met with the Task Force at their twelfth meeting held last month for an update on this work, which is also being advanced through two sub-groups. In the coming weeks I expect to receive the advice of the Task Force on a number of key issues which are critical to my decisions on legislative proposals regarding the new Agency and in particular, a vision for the Agency, governance arrangements and appropriate services for inclusion in the Agency.

As I have outlined, extensive work is underway in my Department, in the HSE, and through the Task Force I set up last September to prepare for the establishment of the Child and Family Support Agency. I am satisfied that we are making excellent progress in terms of the necessary preparatory work required to meet the Government's ambitious timetable which will see the Agency assuming full statutory responsibility for services for children and families early in 2013.

Children and Young People’s Policy Framework

Michael Colreavy

Question:

106 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she plans to publish a new national youth justice strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23966/12]

The Deputy will be aware that my Department is developing a new Children and Young Peoples Policy Framework. It will build on Our Children — Their Lives, Ireland’s first children’s strategy which was published in 2000 and will cover the period from 2012 to 2017. The new 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. It is intended 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 bring together key policies of relevance to children and young people that are instanced in the Programme for Government including those relating to prevention and early intervention initiatives, early childhood education, breaking the cycle of disadvantage through area based approaches to address child poverty, addressing youth homelessness and aftercare provision, and addressing issues around anti-social behaviour.

I can inform the Deputy that, within the context of this new Policy Framework, it is my intention, in collaboration with the Minister for Justice and Equality, arising from our respective responsibilities under the Children Act 2001, to develop and publish a follow-up National Youth Justice Strategy. Meanwhile, of course, we continue to pursue the youth justice commitments in our programme for government and, as the Deputy will be aware, I have recently made significant announcements with regard to ending the practice of detaining children in St Patrick's Institution.

Adoption Legislation

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

107 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the date on which she will publish legislation regarding adoption; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23964/12]

I, and officials of my Department, are continuing a substantial engagement with the Attorney General and her officials to progress the Government's commitment to a referendum to amend the Constitution to ensure that children's rights are strenghtened along the lines recommended by the Joint Committee on Children and the Constitution (JCCAC). The immediate focus of this engagement is the preparation of a draft wording to be put to the people for consideration during the current year. The process is strongly focused on ensuring that the proposed wording of the Constitutional amendment reflects the deliberations and conclusions of the Joint Committee and the commitment in the Programme for Government.

In parallel with bringing forward the proposed constitutional change in favour of children's right, there is a need to provide clarity around related proposals for legislative change regarding adoption. Work is ongoing in this regard and the matter has been the subject of comprehensive legal and administrative analysis including by officials of my Department. Consideration of the policy issues which will arise from the proposed amendment to the Constitution in relation adoption is at an advanced stage. Draft Heads of Bill and the General Scheme will reflect the policy in this area. One of the policy objectives of the proposed legislation is to provide for the situation of children of marriage who remain in long term foster care without the option of adoption. Some of these children are in need of a permanent alternative family and adoption would be in their best interests. It is intended to publish the draft legislation on adoption policy at the same time as the draft wording for the proposed amendment to the Constitution.

The Referendum on Children's Rights is a Programme for Government priority. The Government is satisfied that the nature of this referendum is such that it will be a stand-alone matter, to allow for fullest attention and engagement by the public in the interests of children. As already indicated, I intend to be in a position to seek approval from Government for the proposed wording with a view to holding the referendum this year.

Review Group on Child Deaths

Robert Troy

Question:

108 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when she received the independent report into the deaths of children in the care of the State; the reason she has not moved to publish same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24018/12]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

123 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when the report of the independent review group into the deaths of children in State care will be published; if any proposals are currently being drawn up by her to respond to this report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23790/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 and 123 together.

The final report of the Independent Review Group on Child Deaths was sent to my Department in March, 2012. In line with my long-stated intention to publish the report, it was referred to the Office of the Attorney General for advice with regard to publication, bearing in mind the very sensitive matters being addressed in the report, and the importance of preserving the anonymity of the deceased.

On the basis of the Attorney General's advices I would hope to publish the report shortly, and to outline my response to the report and its recommendations.

Missing Children’s Hotline

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

109 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she plans to allocate funding to the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children for the operation of the 116000 number if the ISPCA fails to secure funding from the European Commission; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23958/12]

Under EU telecoms rules agreed in 2009, the 116000 number is reserved in all EU member states for a missing children hotline. My Department established and is leading a cross-sectoral Project Team, including representatives of my own Department, the Department of Justice and Equality, ComReg and An Garda Síochána to advance this matter.

The position is that Comreg, who have responsibility for allocation of this number in Ireland, received an application to operate the Hotline from the ISPCC. Following cross departmental consultation and an examination of the issues involved by the Project team, Comreg has now allocated the number to the ISPCC. The operation of Hotline is now a matter for the ISPCC who have made an application for funding to the European Commission and a decision on this application is pending. Any decision regarding alternate funding for the service should this application not succeed will be a matter for consideration by the project team should such an eventuality arise.

In the coming months the Project Team will be working to ensure that the Hotline becomes operational in a timely manner and operates in a way that supports and augments existing arrangements to secure child protection.

Question No. 110 answered with Question No. 97.

Child Protection

John McGuinness

Question:

111 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when she received the fifth report of the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection and the reason she has not published same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24029/12]

The Report of the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection was received by my Department on the 7th of February this year. The report has been distributed to relevant Ministerial colleagues for observations on the range of issues highlighted by the report. Once this consultation process has been completed my Department will make the necessary arrangements to have the report laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Child Abuse Prevention Training

Pearse Doherty

Question:

112 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the European Economic and Social Committee made a recommendation in 2006, SOC/412, that child sexual abuse prevention training should be mandatory for all professionals and volunteers working with children, especially in law enforcement, health and education; her plans to introduce this regime here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23970/12]

I am aware of the Committee recommendation referred to by the Deputy.

The revised Children First National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children, published in 2011, provides greater clarity and guidance for individuals and organisations in identifying and responding appropriately to child abuse and neglect. It also sets out what organisations which care for or work with children should do to ensure they are safe whilst in the organisation.

With the publication of the revised Guidance, staff within the HSE have been required to attend briefing sessions to ensure that they know their responsibilities. The HSE's one day Children First Basic Level training programme has also been standardised. HSE Children First Information and Advice Officers have also provided standardised briefing sessions to staff working in the voluntary and community sector.

In addition, the HSE and An Garda Siochana work collaboratively to ensure that the statutory authorities provide a clear standard understanding of their roles and functions. The HSE and An Garda Siochana provide joint standardised training in Children First for social workers and gardai. An Garda Síochana lead out joint specialist interviewing training for social workers and gardai.

The Government has committed, as a priority, to the introduction of legislation to underpin Children First and the Heads of the Bill have been prepared and submitted to the Committee for Health and Children for their consideration. The implementation of this legislation will require that all staff working directly with children, including volunteers, receive child protection training and that named Designated Officers are trained and understand their roles and responsibilities for reporting.

Youth Services

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

113 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she has any contingency plans to deal with the fall-out of the cuts affecting disadvantaged young persons, cuts to drugs services, Travellers' education services, the Canal regional youth services and other youth projects; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23996/12]

John Halligan

Question:

126 Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she has any contingency plans to deal with the fall-out of the cuts affecting disadvantaged young people, cuts to drugs services, Travellers' education services, the Canal regional youth services and other youth projects; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23997/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 113 and 126 together.

The Youth Affairs Unit of my Department provides a range of funding schemes, programmes and supports to the youth sector. These include the Youth Service Grant Scheme, the Special Projects for Youth Scheme, the Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund (Rounds 1 and 2) and certain other provisions including the Local Youth Club Grant Scheme, Youth Information Centres, European Youth in Action Programme (administered by Léargas — The Exchange Bureau) and Gaisce — the President's Award. These programmes support the delivery of youth services to some 500,000 young people by approximately 1,100 youth work personnel and a volunteer base which is estimated to be of the order of 60,000.

The main objectives of my Department are to develop and implement coherent, coordinated and relevant youth policies and strategies to support the youth sector in providing effective non-formal education and developmental opportunities for young people through which they can enhance and develop their personal and social skills and competencies. Funding of some €56.806m for current expenditure and €1.5m for capital expenditure is available from my Department in 2012 to support the provision of youth services and programmes to young people throughout the country including those from disadvantaged communities.

In light of the significant reduction in the overall current budget for the youth sector the emphasis has been on preserving front line youth services. In determining financial allocations to initiatives and schemes in 2012 officials from my Department have met with representatives of the youth sector on an ongoing basis with a view to determining how best to minimise the impact of the reduction in the 2012 budget on youth services.

With the support of the Centre for Effective Services (CES), the Youth Affairs Unit is currently developing an overarching Youth Policy Framework (YPF). The Framework will clarify and enhance coherence, connectivity, coordination and delivery in youth services and related out-of-school time services for young people in the 10-21 year age range. In that context, it is my intention that this framework will facilitate and promote co-ordination and cohesion across Departments and services which will enable the most effective use of the resources available.

Question No. 114 answered with Question No. 93.

Services for Children with Disabilities

Catherine Murphy

Question:

115 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in view of the difficulties facing parents in obtaining State supports for children with intellectual and or physical disabilities, if she is satisfied that the right to participation in all aspects of life for these children is not affected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23992/12]

While my Department has a role in working to harmonise a range of policies that impact on the lives of children, it does not have a function in relation to the provision of services or supports for children with intellectual or physical disabilities. At Government level, responsibility for such supports lies with my colleague the Minister for Health, and, in relation to education supports, the Minister for Education and Skills.

Garda Vetting of Personnel

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

116 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of persons employed to work directly with children by the Health Service Executive who are still waiting for Garda vetting; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23968/12]

The Garda Vetting Liaison Office was established in the HSE in late 2007. Since that time, all employees recruited through the HSE National Recruitment Service are Garda vetted.

The issue of retrospective vetting of employees will be addressed in the context of the forthcoming National Vetting Bureau legislation, currently being prepared by the colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality.

Social Work Staff

Dara Calleary

Question:

117 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number of social workers that have retired since 1 January 2012; the number of these posts which have been replaced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24004/12]

The latest information available from the HSE indicates that 45 HSE employees that are classified within the social work grades across all care groups have retired since the 1st January 2012. It should be noted that these figures cover HSE statutory employees only and do not include staff who may have retired from voluntary or nominated organisations. The HSE has informed me that it has approved the recruitment of 57 replacement social work staff across all care group areas since January 2012. These posts are at various stages of recruitment.

Child Poverty

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

118 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she has met with, or plans to meet, the Department of Finance to urge it to ensure that children’s rights are protected in the forthcoming budget and to place ending child poverty as a goal in the budget; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23959/12]

Tackling child poverty is a priority for Government and a goal of the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007- 2016, coordinated by the Department of Social Protection. Children are more likely to be poor if they are living in lone parent households with low labour market participation and dependant on income support. The departments of Social Protection, Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and Education and Skills, are working to deliver a range of measures aimed at getting people back to work.

My Department works closely with the Department of Social Protection in a ‘whole of Government approach' to tackling poverty in the population. The Department is represented on the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare established by the Minister for Social Protection to examine issues to do with the interactions of the tax and welfare systems so that they provide good incentives for parents to take up and remain in work and thereby contribute to the reduction of poverty and child poverty, in particular. As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, improving children's outcomes is my primary objective. The development of the Children and Young People's Policy Framework, 2012 -2017, as the overarching framework under which policy and services for children and young people will be developed and implemented in the State, is an important initiative for cross departmental collaboration to secure this objective. Early childhood care and education programmes, in particular those that are aimed at low income families, are priorities to enhance children's opportunities for social and educational development and to support parents undertaking training and participating in employment. The network of 107 family resource centres that are funded by the Family Support Agency, under the remit of my Department have an important role in this regard. These programmes and the results of pilot projects to enhance children's development in Tallaght, Northside and Ballymun, which are jointly funded by my Department with a philanthropic organisation, will inform the Government's plans to develop a new area based approach to child poverty.

My priority, as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, is to enhance the role of early intervention and support programmes for the most vulnerable children and their families in the context of the new Child and Family Support Agency.

Under the new performance accounting arrangements, work is already under way at official level on the Estimates process for 2013. I have also met with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin T.D., to discuss issues such as improving the Children's Detention Centre facilities in Oberstown, Co. Dublin and, as a result, I was delighted to announce recently that additional funding has been approved for this project in 2013-2015. I would expect that other issues will arise in the coming months as the budgetary process advances and that further bi-lateral meetings will take place.

Inter-Country Adoptions

Sean Fleming

Question:

119 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the steps she has taken to facilitate the inter-country adoption process between Ireland and Hague-compliant countries since taking office; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24019/12]

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

125 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will provide details of her policy position on inter-country adoptions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23792/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 and 125 together.

The Adoption Act, 2010, which was commenced on 1st November 2010, coincided with Ireland's formal ratification of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption. The purpose of the Adoption Act, 2010, is to improve standards in both domestic and intercountry adoption.

The Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) is an independent statutory body charged with implementing the Adoption Act, 2010. The Authority has responsibility for the direct operational implementation of legislation and Government policy. It has a quasi-judicial role and is independent in its decision-making functions.

The Authority has responsibility for the management of the various stages of the inter-country adoption process including the forwarding of applicant adoption packs under Article 15 of the Hague Convention, the receipt of the proposed match under Article 16 and the approval of the match under Article 17 (which provides that a child may be placed with the prospective adoptive parents). The issuing of an Article 23 certificate by the country of origin is the confirmation process between contracting States that the adoption has been made in accordance with the Hague convention. The AAI has no role in this process but relies on the certificate as part of the recognition process under Hague.

In considering matters relating to inter-country adoption the Authority must satisfy itself that the adoption complies with the terms and conditions of the 1993 Hague Convention, which 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 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 AAI has been extremely proactive in developing relationships with their counterparts around the world and this will continue. The building of such relationships will help to bring greater clarity to the inter-country adoption process generally, including the timescales involved for adopting from different countries.

Since the establishment of the AAI in November 2012 the AAI have visited Vietnam, Florida and Bulgaria with a view to developing administrative agreements with these Hague ratified countries. The AAI have initiated desk top examinations of the legislation with other Hague countries such as Kazakhstan, Panama, South Africa, Lithuania, Thailand, and Philippines with a view to assessing the compatibility of Irish adoption legislation.

Adoptions from non-Hague ratified countries, such as Russia and Ethiopia, effected under the transitional arrangements provided for in the Adoption Act 2010, are ongoing and are currently being examined, and recognised, by the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI). These transitional arrangements may lead to adoptions from Ethiopia taking place up to the end of October 2012. The Adoption Act 2010 also contains provision for a one year extension to declarations of eligibility and suitability to adopt which may lead to a one year extension to this date. Russia and Ethiopia are not signatories of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption. In these circumstances, adoptions from such countries which are not covered by the transitional arrangements referred to above would require a bilateral agreement. The negotiation of bilateral agreements on intercountry adoption with states who have not ratified the Hague Convention is governed by Section 73 of the Adoption Act 2010 which states that "the Authority, with the prior consent of the Minister, may enter into discussions with any non-contracting state concerning the possibility of the Government entering into a bilateral agreement with that State”. Any bilateral arrangements which might be entered into would be required by law to meet the minimum standards set out in the Hague Convention. The AAI has visited both Russia and Ethiopia in the last 6 months in relation to bilateral agreements.

The Adoption Act, 2010, which provides the legislative framework for adoption in Ireland, is designed to provide a framework to ensure that all adoptions are effected in the best interests of the child and to the highest possible standard. The phrase ‘in the best interests of the child' is absolutely key in this regard. It must not be forgotten that inter-country adoption is a service for those children who cannot be raised by their birth parents or cared for in their own country. The interests of the child must always be paramount throughout the adoption process. This is best achieved through the full implementation of the highest national and international standards governing adoption practice. This is the primary concern for the Adoption Authority of Ireland in conducting its business as it relates to inter-country adoption.

It should be noted that the AAI has been allocated €3.3m in State funding this year in recognition of the new responsibilities set out in the Adoption Act, 2010. This is an increase of some 35% of the level of funding provided in 2011.

Question No. 120 answered with Question No. 101.

Child Care Services

Michael Moynihan

Question:

121 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she intends to introduce a Scandinavian system of childcare here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24032/12]

The Government currently supports the provision of early childhood care and education through three support programmes — the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme and the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) programme. These programmes are administered by my Department.

The Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, introduced in January 2010, provides a free pre-school year to all eligible children in the year before commencing primary school. Almost every pre-school service in the State is participating in the programme, ensuring it is available to children in all areas. About 65,000 children, that is approximately 95% of children in the year before school, are availing of the free pre-school provision at this time. In line with the Programme for Government, my Department has made a significant commitment to maintaining the universal free pre-school year and to developing early childhood care and education as resources allow. In this context the funding for the pre-school year has been increased from €166 million in 2011 to €175.8 million in 2012 to cater for changing demographics, and provide for the increased number of children in the relevant age cohort.

It is my objective to incrementally develop the ECCE programme over the term of this Government as resources permit. A key element of this is the implementation of the Workforce Development Plan by the Early Education Policy Unit of the Department of Education and Skills, which is co-located in my Department.

Officials from my Department worked closely with the Department of Education and Skills in the development of the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy, and I welcome the recognition of the role of early childhood care and education. The Strategy was formally launched by my colleague,the Minister for Education and Skills, last year. My Department is committed to incentivising the early years sector to acquire additional skills in oral language competency development for young children once this minimum qualification requirements of the ECCE programme have been met.

In developing the ECCE programme the focus will be on improving the quality of childcare services.

The Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme supports community-based childcare services by enabling them to provide childcare at reduced rates to disadvantaged and low income families. These not-for-profit facilities provide childcare at cost price with reductions to qualifying parents based on the level of subvention they are entitled to under the programme.

Under the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) programme, which was introduced in September 2010, funding is provided by my Department to participating childcare services in return for the provision of free childcare places to qualifying students and trainees.

The eligibility criteria under which students and trainees qualify under the programme is determined by FÁS and the VECs. Approximately 2,800 full time equivalent childcare places are currently funded under the programme.

I am pleased that all three support programmes are being retained despite the ongoing need to reduce Government expenditure. While there has been some revision to payment rates and subvention levels I am satisfied that the programmes are being implemented in a way which generates efficiencies and improvements in outcomes, within available resources.

In December 2011, the Government announced a new National Childcare Investment Programme (NCIP) Capital Funding 2012 grant. This grant will provide capital funding of €6m this year to both community and private childcare providers currently participating in one or more of the above funding programmes: CCS programme; CETS programme and ECCE programme. The capital grant, which provides funding up to €50,000, is available for small maintenance/renovation work or equipment, will ensure that childcare services are in a position to continue in the future to deliver quality care and education as required under the programmes.

Future developments relating to early years care and education will be considered during preparation of the new National Early Years Strategy 2012. This Strategy will be developed during 2012 and will cover a range of issues affecting children in their first years of life.

Child and Family Support Agency

Gerry Adams

Question:

122 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she has met with her ministerial counterparts in the North of Ireland to discuss the matter of joint co-operation in the work of the Child and Family Support Agency. [23952/12]

Co-operation in the area of child welfare and protection services has been a feature of North/South engagement over the past number of years, and is reported on by respective Ministers to the regular North/South Ministerial Council Plenary and Sectoral meetings. To date work in this area has been concentrated on five areas:

(i) the establishment of the North South Child Protection Hub, a dedicated on-line child protection resource;

(ii) the development of an "Inter-Jurisdictional Protocol for the Transfer of Child Care cases between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland";

(iii) a review of vetting and barring arrangements in both jurisdictions;

(iv) the development of a joint communication strategy to promote awareness of child welfare and protection; and

(v) promoting internet safety in the area of child welfare and protection.

My most recent meeting with my counterpart Minister Edwin Poots took place on 2 February 2012 where we launched new protocols on cross border cooperation on child protection.

The next North/South Ministerial meeting is currently scheduled to be held later this month, at which myself and Minister Edwin Poots will discuss proposals for co-operation across a number of additional areas. The aim will be to build on the good work which has already been undertaken to date. The new Child and Family Support Agency, and in the interim the HSE, will have a very important role to play in advancing practical co-operation with our colleagues in Northern Ireland in this important area.

The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety has been kept informed by my Department of the planned establishment of the Child and Family Support Agency.

Question No. 123 answered with Question No. 108.

Juvenile Offenders

Seán Crowe

Question:

124 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the arrangements in place for the transfer of children still in St. Patrick’s Institution, Dublin, to another more suitable location; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23976/12]

Clare Daly

Question:

136 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will provide an update on developments regarding juvenile detention policy and facilities. [23993/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 124 and 136 together.

The Programme for Government includes a commitment to end the practice of sending children to St Patrick's Institution. This is the central principle of current policy in the area of juvenile detention and facilities. By agreement with the Minister for Justice and Equality, I assumed legal responsibility for the children detention schools on the Oberstown campus in Lusk, Co Dublin in January 2012 and considerable progress has been made toward meeting the commitment of the Government in this area. I am pleased to report that on 2 April 2012, following agreement with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform I announced an investment package of approximately €50 million in capital funding for the project to expand the detention places and facilities on the Oberstown campus. This will involve the delivery within two years of sufficient new facilities at Oberstown to accommodate all children that are subject to detention by the courts, ending the requirement for anyone under 18 years to be sent to St. Patrick's Institution.

On the same date, I also announced a number of interim measures to be carried out in advance of the Oberstown project. These measures included the following:

From 1 May 2012 newly remanded or sentenced 16 year old boys may be sent to the Children Detention Schools in Oberstown. Since that date, it has no longer been necessary for 16 year olds to be sent to St. Patrick's Institution by the courts.

Enhanced provision of specialist therapeutic services for children in residential institutions, in both the children detention schools and special care units operated by the Health Service Executive. A specialist multi disciplinary service is being established for this purpose with the recruitment of a director for this service already underway.

The introduction of amendments to the Children Act to provide for the management of all facilities on the Oberstown campus (i.e. Oberstown Boy's School, Trinity House School and Oberstown Girl's School) on an integrated basis.

With these measures, good progress is being made on Government policy in the area of juvenile detention and facilities.

Question No. 125 answered with Question No. 119.
Question No. 126 answered with Question No. 113.

Social Work Staff

Martin Ferris

Question:

127 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she has replaced the 31 social worker staff that retired in February 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23963/12]

The latest information from the HSE indicates that 31 social work staff in the children and families care group availed of the early retirement scheme. The HSE is actively reviewing the impact of recent retirements at national and regional level. The National Director of Children and Families Services, Gordon Jeyes, will apply his discretion over the course of the year to the filling of vacancies, having regard to identified need and subject to services being delivered within available resources.

The HSE has informed me that it has approved the recruitment of 48 replacement social work staff across all care groups since February 2012. These posts are at various stages of recruitment.

Children and Young People’s Policy Framework

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

128 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the date on which she will publish her national children and young people policy framework; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23951/12]

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. 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 views of a wide range of interests including children themselves will shape the development of the children and young people's policy framework over the next six months. It will be informed by the results of a consultation, in 2011, in which almost 67,000 children and young people throughout the country participated; 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, and the views of the National Children's Strategy Implementation Group which includes nominees of Government departments and state agencies that develop policies and deliver services for children and young people.

A further public consultation will take place so that the new policy framework will be informed by the experience and expertise of other stakeholders in matters of interest to children and young people. The arrangements for this consultation are at an advanced stage, and details will be available shortly. The framework will be finalised and published later this year, following an analysis of the consultations.

Inter-Country Adoptions

John Browne

Question:

129 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs when she intends to sign a bilateral agreement with the Russian authorities to allow families to legitimately adopt children from Russia. [23793/12]

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 intercountry adoption process. It sets out minimum standards regarding intercountry 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 intercountry 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 bi-lateral 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.

Question No. 130 answered with Question No. 102.

Adoption Legislation

Clare Daly

Question:

131 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the progress made regarding legislation dealing with adoption. [23994/12]

Considerable progress has been made in drafting the Heads of Bill for the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2012. The proposed legislation has been included in the legislative programme for my Department for 2012 and it is one of a number of Bills which I intend to introduce in the Oireachtas during the course of this year. It is not possible to give a publication date at this stage.

Child Care Services

Gerry Adams

Question:

132 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to provide supports for transgender children; if she has met with the Department of Health on this matter. [23953/12]

Brian Stanley

Question:

133 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to provide supports for lesbian, gay and bisexual children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23954/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 132 and 133 together.

It is not clear from the questions what supports are being referred to and responsibility for dealing with supports for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people is likely to fall to a number of Departments. Within my Department, the Youth Affairs Unit of my Department funds BeLonGTo, a voluntary organisation working with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people. In 2012 the funding allocated to BeLonGTo is €98,437.

Child and Family Support Agency

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

134 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the number and type of additional posts that will be created for the establishment of the new Child and Family Support Agency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23965/12]

Approval was granted by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for the recruitment of a number of key posts to make up the management team for the new Agency. A recruitment process is underway for the following posts; Chief Operations Officer, Head of Corporate and Human Resources, Head of Finance, Head of Policy and Planning, Head of Quality Assurance.

Legislative Programme

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

135 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she has met with the Department of Social Protection to discuss the impact that the Social Welfare Bill will have on children and young persons. [23950/12]

I meet my Government colleagues regularly, both collectively and also bilaterally on specific shared issues. I met with Minister Burton only last week to discuss a number of issues relating to the impact on children and families of the changes made in the Budget. In addition in view of the strong links between the work of our two Departments there is ongoing liaison at official level, including a high level group that meets on a quarterly basis.

Question No. 136 answered with Question No. 124.

Ombudsman for Children

Dessie Ellis

Question:

137 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will consider expanding the role of the Ombudsman for Children to allow for the ombudsman to take complaints from those up to age 21 years as her Northern counterpart does; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23956/12]

The Ombudsman for Children Act 2002 defines a "child" as a person under the age of 18 years. The remit of the Ombudsman for Children is defined accordingly. I am aware that the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People also defines a child or young person as a person under the age of 18 but extends that definition to include a person under the age of 21 with a disability within the meaning of their Disability Discrimination Act. The Ombudsman for Children produced a report in March of this year on the operation of the Ombudsman for Children Act 2002. She made a number of recommendations for legislative change. One such recommendation is that the definition of "child" in section 2 of the 2002 Act should be amended to include young people under the age of 21 who have a disability within the meaning of section 2 of the Equal Status Act 2002 and young people who have left the care of the Health Service.

My Department is current reviewing the Ombudsman for Children's Report with a view to identifying appropriate future changes.

Social Work Staff

Seán Crowe

Question:

138 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to adequately resource social workers and ensure that they have manageable case loads in the context of forthcoming changes to the child protection regime. [23977/12]

The Government has made additional budgeting provision of €19m for child welfare and protection services compared to the funding made available last year. This compares to a reduction of €14m which was made in the HSE's 2011 National Service Plan which was approved in December 2010. The additional funding made available for 2012 provides further impetus to the comprehensive reform of service delivery which is underway and which is aimed at generating the best possible outcomes for vulnerable children and families.

My Department will continue to work closely with the HSE throughout the year to ensure that the priorities set out in the HSE National Service Plan are implemented where they relate to children and family services. We have set an ambitious programme of work, one which is designed to significantly strengthen the policy, legislative and practice framework. Our shared goal is the delivery of appropriate, effective and consistent services, notwithstanding the very challenging and demanding circumstances in which these services are delivered.

As regards caseloads, the HSE through a document titled "The Induction of Social Workers: A Policy and Guidelines for Children and Families Social Services" provided guidance on the management of caseloads by recommending limited caseloads, supervision and support for the newly qualified social worker. The induction policy was signed off for implementation in December 2010 and is due to be reviewed and evaluated before the middle of 2012.

As part of the ongoing reform process, a methodology for workload management for all social work staff is also being developed.

Child Care Services

Dessie Ellis

Question:

139 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the date on which the Health Service Executive will publish its external review of alternative care services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23957/12]

The HSE commissioned an independent consultant to undertake a review of the demand and existing capacity of alternative care placement services, including Special Care, High Support, Foster Care, Residential Care, Emergency Care, Out of Hours, Aftercare and Separated Children Seeking Asylum. The purpose of the review was to audit the current need and current capacity for alternative care services and to establish the projected need for care placements in the HSE for the period 2011 to end 2013. It also made recommendations regarding the development of services to meet the projected needs for the period 2011-end 2013. I am advised by the HSE that the review was conducted for management information purposes to inform future policy direction. The HSE have advised that the report can be made available on request.

Departmental Staff

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

140 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the extent to which she has secured adequate resources, including legislative and administrative provision, in regard to the achievement of her priorities for her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24045/12]

My Department is currently engaged in a Workforce Planning exercise to compare our current workforce with future workforce requirement relative to the delivery of commitments under the Programme for Government and other strategic objectives of the Department. This exercise is examining how best to have the right people with the right knowledge, skills and competencies deployed appropriately. It is taking account of all managed movement into, around, and out of the Department including retirement, recruitment, promotion, secondment, transfers and redeployment opportunities.

As part of this process, specific skills in the area of legal, financial, research, economic, change management and human resources have already been identified as requiring development. Officials of my Department are in discussion with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in this regard with a view to addressing this requirement from within approved numbers and within the overall existing Vote provision for my Department.

Census of Population

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

141 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Taoiseach his plans to carry out the next national census on schedule in 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23670/12]

Census 2011 took place on 10th April 2011 and the first definitive results of that census were published on 29th March 2012, less than one year after Census Day. This publication, entitled "This is Ireland — Highlights from Census 2011 Part 1", is the first of two volumes of highlights from the 2011 census data and presents results on overall population change. It includes high-level analysis across a range of themes including geographic distribution, age, marital status, households and families, migration, nationality, foreign languages, ethnicity, Irish language, religion and housing. A second volume of highlights, due for release in June, will present an overview of socioeconomic results.

On foot of the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes, the CSO recommended that the need for a census in 2016 be subject to review, an approach which was endorsed by the Steering Committee for the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure. A review was undertaken during the latter part of 2011 when the CSO consulted with a range of users to establish how census data is being used and to seek views on the need for a census in 2016. The CSO also reviewed various implementation options for conducting a census. The outcome of the consultation with users and review of implementation options for Census 2016 will be considered by Government shortly.

The Government is committed to the publication of accurate and timely statistics and is aware of the value of statistics to informed decision making in Ireland. The availability of good quality statistics has an important role to play in advancing policy priorities.

Public Sector Staff

John Deasy

Question:

142 Deputy John Deasy asked the Taoiseach the number of public servants that retired in Waterford city and county since the beginning of the year; and the number of those that have been retired by the State. [23772/12]

My Department is located in Dublin only and the questions raised are not relevant to it.

Ministerial Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

143 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Taoiseach the staffing levels of the private offices and constituency offices of Ministers and Ministers of State in his Department; the salary of each; the same figures for this time in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23773/12]

The details requested are set out in the tables beneath.

Private Office (Taoiseach)

Number

Grade

Pay (May 2012)

Pay (May 2011)

1

Higher Executive Officer Higher Scale Non-PPC (Private Secretary)

€46,426-€57,251

€46,426-€57,251

1

Higher Executive Officer Standard Scale Non-PPC (Assistant Private Secretary)

€43,816-€55,415

€43,816-€55,415

1

Executive Officer Standard Scale Non-PPC (Assistant Private Secretary)

€29,024-€45,616

€29,024-€45,616

1

Clerical Officer Standard Scale Non-PPC

€22,015-€35,515

€22,015-€35,515

4

Clerical Officer Standard Scale PPC

€23,177-€37,341

€23,177-€37,341

1

Chief of Staff

€168,000

€168,000

1

Special Adviser

€168,000

€168,000

1

Special Adviser

€83,337

€80,051

1

Special Adviser

€83,337

€80,051

1

Personal Assistant

€77,884

€75,390

1

Personal Assistant

€64,750

€64,750

1

Personal Secretary

€41,749

€40,233

Constituency Office (Taoiseach)

Number

Grade

Pay (May 2012)

Pay (May 2011)

1

Executive Officer Standard Scale Non-PPC

€29,024-€45,616

€29,024-€45,616

1

Personal Assistant

€66,519

€64,257

1

Personal Assistant

€66,519

€64,257

1

Personal Assistant

€68,748

€66,519

1

Personal Secretary

€41,749

€40,233

Private Office (Government Chief Whip)

Number

Grade

Pay (May 2012)

Pay (May 2011)

1

Higher Executive Officer Higher Scale Non-PPC (Private Secretary)

€46,426-€57,251

€46,426-€57,251

1

Executive Officer Higher Scale Non-PPC

€29,024-€47,379

€29,024-€47,379

1

Staff Officer Standard Scale PPC

€34,771-€46,171

€34,771-€46,171

1

Clerical Officer Standard Scale PPC

€23,177-€37,341

€23,177-€37,341

1

Special Adviser

€83,337

€80,051

Constituency Office (Government Chief Whip)

Number

Grade

Pay (May 2012)

Pay (May 2011)

1

Staff Officer Standard Scale Non-PPC

€33,070-€43,906

€33,070-€43,906

1

Personal Assistant

€43,715

The officer commenced duty on 27 June 2011

1

Personal Secretary

€46,935

€46,935

Private Office (Minister of State for European Affairs)

Number

Grade

Pay (May 2012)

Pay (May 2011)

1

Higher Executive Officer Higher Scale Non-PPC (Private Secretary)

€46,426-€57,251

€46,426-€57,251

1

Clerical Officer Standard Scale PPC

€23,177-€37,341

€23,177-€37,341

Notes:

1. Some of the established civil servants working in the Private Offices receive allowances in addition to their basic salaries in accordance with normal civil service rules, e.g. Private Secretary Allowance.

2. Where pay increases occurred for Personal Secretaries, Personal Assistants and Special Advisers, it was due to incremental progression in line with Department of Public Expenditure and Reform guidelines on remuneration for these grades.

3. The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Minister of State for European Affairs also have a number of staff who work in my Department but who are employed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

4. The Chief Whip's Private Secretary at the Department of Defence works in my Department but is employed by that Department.

Regulatory Impact Assessments

Terence Flanagan

Question:

144 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Taoiseach the number and description of any regulatory impact assessments that have been undertaken by his Department on legislation or proposed legislation since 9 March 2011; the stage in the legislative or policy development process at which the RIAs have been carried out; the number of RIAs that have been published by his Department over the same period, the manner of publication involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23783/12]

The Taoiseach: No regulatory impact assessments have been undertaken by my Department on legislation or proposed legislation since 9 March 2011.

Emigration Statistics

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

145 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Taoiseach if there are any plans to instruct the Central Statistics Office to gather and publish more detailed information on emigration figures, including to list by age, sex and county those who have emigrated from Ireland. [23789/12]

Statistics on emigration are included in the CSO's annual Population and Migration Estimates release, published in September each year. The principal source of information for these statistics, incorporating both emigration and immigration, is the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS). The published estimates are classified by sex, broad age group, origin and destination, and nationality. The provision of emigration data at a more detailed level, such as by county, is not currently possible due to measurement issues associated with sub-populations (in this particular case emigrants) in sample surveys of this nature.

The emigration estimates are analysed along with data available from other migration indicators such as the number of work visas issued to Irish citizens for the main countries of destination via the relevant embassies and agencies; however this data is only available at a State level and so is also unsuitable for the provision of county based estimates.

The next issue of the Population and Migration Estimates in September 2012 will cover the period April 2007 to April 2012.

Constitutional Convention

Patrick Nulty

Question:

146 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Taoiseach if he will ensure that the issue of same sex civil marriage is considered in the forthcoming constitutional convention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23838/12]

The Taoiseach: The Programme for Government contains a commitment to establish a Constitutional Convention and lists items for it to consider, including same sex marriage.
The Government has approved the establishment of the Convention and has published onwww.merrionstreet.ie its proposals for the Convention’s structure, the items it is to consider, etc. These include same sex marriage.
The Government proposes that the Convention be set up by Resolutions of the Houses of the Oireachtas. These Resolutions will be introduced in the present Oireachtas session.

Appointments to State Boards

Timmy Dooley

Question:

147 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Taoiseach the appointments made by him to State boards under the remit of his Department since March 2011 that were advertised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24252/12]

The Taoiseach: The National Economic and Social Council (NESC) is an advisory Council which provides guidance to Government on strategic issues for Ireland’s economic and social development. Appointments to the Council are made in accordance with the provisions of the National Economic and Social Development Office Act 2006 as amended by the National Economic and Social Council (Alteration of Composition) Order 2010. I appoint members specifically on the basis of nominations from business and employer interests, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, farming and agricultural interests, the community and voluntary sector and the environmental sector. It would not be appropriate to advertise these positions as they are nominated in a representative capacity. I may also appoint up to six public servants of whom at least one shall represent the Taoiseach and one shall represent the Minister for Finance. Historically, the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson posts are filled from my Department at Secretary General and Assistant Secretary level.
These appointments represent relevant Departments to ensure the Council's work is integrated with Government policy-making and would not be suitable for public advertisement.
Finally, a number of independents were appointed in June and July last year. The independent nominations to NESC were not advertised last year, as I was satisfied with the quality of nominees which had already been identified, mainly from the academic sector. However it may be appropriate to advertise the positions in the future. I am satisfied that these appointments were appropriate, bearing in mind the key strategic role of the NESC.

Constitutional Amendments

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

148 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the funds that were used to publish the stability treaty pamphlet that has been delivered to homes around the country; the amount the pamphlet cost; and the company that was used to deliver it. [23724/12]

Willie Penrose

Question:

150 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in respect of the booklet which has been furnished to each household in the country in relation to the European Fiscal Stability Compact, the location at which this document was printed; if it was printed by an Irish company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23784/12]

Willie Penrose

Question:

151 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in respect of the booklet which has been furnished to each household in the country in relation to the European Fiscal Stability Compact, where this particular document was printed; if it was printed by an Irish company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24116/12]

Willie Penrose

Question:

152 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in respect of the booklet which has been furnished to each household in the country in relation to the European Fiscal Stability Compact, where this particular document was printed; if it was printed by an Irish company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23602/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 148 and 150 to 152, inclusive, together.

The Government negotiated the Stability Treaty acting on behalf of and in the interests of the Irish people. For that reason, the Government has a duty to inform the public and has organised the most comprehensive information campaign ever held in relation to a European referendum in order to explain this Treaty to the public.

The largest element of the Government's information campaign involves the delivery of a copy of the Treaty to every household in the country. The Stability Treaty Guide was printed by an Irish company based in Dublin. An Post were responsible for the delivery of the Treaty Guide to every household and that process is almost complete. These contracts were awarded in accordance with all relevant rules relating to public procurement.

Exact costs are not yet finalised, however the total cost of the Treaty Guide in terms of design, printing and distribution is in the region of €600,000. The necessary budget has been allocated to the Department of the Taoiseach.

UN Commission on Population and Development

Anne Ferris

Question:

149 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the UN Commission on Population and Development resolution on the theme of adolescents and youth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23742/12]

The 2012 session of the UN Commission on Population and Development was held last month in New York. The theme of this year's session was "Adolescents and Youth". Ireland was represented by officials from my Department. As is customary, there was close coordination between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Health in relation to Ireland's input into the Commission both in advance of, and during, the session.

The theme of the 2012 session was particularly timely, given that the number of adolescents and youth globally has reached an all time high of 1.2 billion. It was very encouraging to see so many youth representatives attending the Commission and contributing to its deliberations.

The Commission focused in particular on the global challenge in meeting the sexual and reproductive health needs of young people and adolescents, in line with the commitments made by the international community at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). Maternal mortality, HIV prevalence and the unmet need for contraception are all particularly high amongst the 15 — 19 year age group, most notably in sub-Saharan Africa. Providing reproductive health care services and information to young people is therefore vital for progress towards key international development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.

I was pleased that the Commission was able to adopt unanimously a comprehensive and forward-looking Resolution on the theme of Adolescents and Youth. The Resolution emphasises the key importance of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, urges governments to ensure access by young people to sexual and reproductive health care services, focuses on the need for comprehensive evidence-based education on human sexuality and sexual and reproductive health for young people and reiterates the importance of strengthening HIV prevention, treatment and care for young people. These priorities are very much in line with Ireland's own approach to meeting the needs of adolescents and young people, both domestically and as part of the Government's Official Development Assistance programme.

Questions Nos. 150 to 152, inclusive, answered with Question No. 148.

Human Rights Issues

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

153 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will make a statement regarding his position on the humanitarian situation in the South Kordofan region of Sudan [23727/12]

Anne Ferris

Question:

154 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in view of the serious and humanitarian needs of the affected population in South Kordofan and the Nuba Mountains, if he will call for full humanitarian access to be facilitated by the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23894/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 153 and 154 together.

The Government shares the grave concerns expressed by both Deputies for the welfare of the people in South Kordofan and the Nuba Mountains in Sudan. Prolonged fighting since the beginning of June 2011 between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N rebel group), in Sudan's South Kordofan State has claimed an untold number of lives and has severely affected over 300,000 people.This year some 33,000 people have fled South Kordofan and have sought refuge in neighbouring South Sudan, putting pressure on already limited humanitarian response capacity in that young nation. Ireland, together with our EU partners is responding to the situation and is supporting efforts to bring an end to the continuing conflict in the region. Ireland remains particularly concerned about the issue of humanitarian access for NGOs and international relief agencies to the areas affected by conflict. We have raised the issue of access at a number of EU and international fora. In January last, and with Ireland's encouragement, the European Union urged the Government of Sudan to allow safe and unhindered access for international humanitarian workers to all civilians and reiterated its readiness to provide humanitarian assistance to all those in need. The EU also emphasised that the ongoing conflicts in Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur remain obstacles to moving forward with the full range of support that the EU would like to provide to Sudan. Last month, the EU called on the Government of Sudan and the SPLM North to engage in an inclusive political process to resolve the conflict in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. On 2 May, the United Nations Security Council adopted a Resolution condemning the recent cross-border conflict between Sudan and South Sudan including support to proxy forces and aerial bombardment. The Resolution called on both parties to immediately cease all hostilities within 48 hours of the adoption of the resolution, to withdraw their forces to their side, to activate previously agreed on security mechanisms and to resume negotiations under the auspices of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), under threat of sanctions. Despite challenges, humanitarian agencies are managing to gain limited access to some vulnerable communities in South Kordofan. Both the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) have provided assistance to displaced people and affected host communities. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, through the Irish Aid programme, has recently allocated €2 million in funding for the UN-managed Common Humanitarian Funds for both the Republic of Sudan and South Sudan. These funds are being used to help UN agencies target the most critical humanitarian needs across both countries, including in areas beset by conflict and affected by displacement from Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

A further €1.22 million has been made available to Irish NGOs for programmes in Sudan and South Sudan under the annual Humanitarian Programme Planning (HPP) funding scheme. We stand ready to provide further support as access conditions improve and the needs on the ground become clearer. I can assure Deputies that Ireland will continue to closely monitor the situation in South Kordofan and the Nuba Mountains, and along with our EU partners we will continue to call for unrestricted humanitarian access to affected civilians.

Regulatory Impact Assessments

Terence Flanagan

Question:

155 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number and description of any regulatory impact assessments that have been undertaken by his Department on legislation or proposed legislation since 9 March 2011; the stage in the legislative/policy development process at which the RIAs have been carried out; the number of RIAs that have been published by his Department over the same period; the manner of publication involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23498/12]

Legislation brought forward by my Department does not normally impact significantly on the regulatory environment and no regulatory impact assessments have been undertaken by my Department on legislation or proposed legislation since 9 March 2011.

Appointments to State Boards

Timmy Dooley

Question:

156 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the appointments made by him to State boards under the remit of his Department since March 2011 that were advertised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24246/12]

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

Middle East Peace Process

Finian McGrath

Question:

157 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will support the Palestinian hunger strikers before the political situation in Israel gets out of control. [24322/12]

I have followed closely the hunger strikes undertaken by a large number of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody. I have stated publicly my view that the widespread use by Israel of administrative detention should cease, and that the punitive conditions imposed on prisoners while Gilad Shalit was in captivity should be ended. EU Missions in the Palestinian territories — including our Mission in Ramallah — made a public statement expressing concern at the hunger strikes and the use of administrative detention last week. Our Embassy in Tel Aviv also conveyed my views directly to the Foreign Ministry. In addition, officials in my Department conveyed to the Israeli Ambassador my view that a solution must be found which will enable the strikes to come to an end without a tragic outcome.

I am very pleased, therefore, by the announcements from both Israeli and Palestinian officials that agreements have been reached on the issues under contention, and that all prisoners have accordingly agreed to end their hunger strikes. Details will emerge in due course, but it is understood that Israel has extensively reviewed the issues raised by the prisoners, and is to reduce its recourse to administrative detention, as well as to make changes in prison conditions, including ending solitary confinement for many prisoners, and permitting family visits from Gaza. The prisoners have for their part made various undertakings. It will be possible at a later stage to assess what long-term changes have been made.

I very much welcome the outcome to this episode. I welcome Israel's response to the representations made to it and its agreement to what are apparently substantive changes in practice. It is also important to acknowledge the very helpful role played by the Egyptian Government in mediating between the two sides.

EU Directives

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

158 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Finance the consideration he is giving to implementing EU directive 2003/96/EC; if he has had any contact with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport regarding implementing the directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23663/12]

Directive 2003/96/EC of 27 October 2003 restructuring the Community Framework for the taxation of energy products and electricity (usually called the "Energy Tax Directive") came into force on 1 January 2004. When the Directive came into force, our national law was substantially in conformance with its immediately applicable requirements. Legislative action has been taken since then on a number of further requirements arising under the Directive, including the taxation of coal, electricity and natural gas. As this Directive is a taxation Directive contact with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport regarding its implementation is not necessary.

Illicit Trade in Tobacco

Michael Creed

Question:

159 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance his proposals, if any, to increase the judicial penalties on conviction for illicit trade in tobacco as recommended by the advisory group for small business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23709/12]

The penalties for the smuggling of tobacco products are laid down in section 119 of the Finance Act 2001, and those for the illegal sale of unstamped tobacco products are contained in section 78 of the Finance Act 2005. Where a conviction under section 119 of the 2001 Act occurs following a summary prosecution, the fine that may be imposed is €5,000. A Court may also impose a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months, either instead of, or in addition to, the fine. For convictions following prosecution on indictment, the fine is an amount not exceeding €126,970 or, where the value of the tobacco products involved in the offence is greater than €250,000, not exceeding three times the value of the products. The Court may also impose a term of imprisonment not exceeding 5 years, as an alternative, or in addition, to the fine.

In the case of a conviction under section 78 of the 2005 Act following a summary prosecution, a Court may impose a fine of €5,000 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months, or both. The penalty following conviction on indictment is a fine not exceeding €126,970 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years, or both a fine and a prison term.

The specific penalty to be imposed in any particular case is a matter for the Courts. Section 130(2) of the 2001 Act permits a trial judge, in his or her discretion, to mitigate a fine incurred for an offence under excise law, provided that the amount mitigated is not greater than 50 per cent of the amount of the fine.

The fines for excise offences have been increased in recent years: those that apply in the event of a conviction on indictment were increased substantially by the Finance Act 2010, with the amount of €126,970 replacing the previous amount of €12, 695. There are no proposals for further increases in the penalties at present, but the position will be kept under review taking account, among other considerations, of practical experience of the operation of the increased fines provided for in the 2010 Act.

Tax Collection

Finian McGrath

Question:

160 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding tax in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [23715/12]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, following the receipt of information from the Department of Social Protection, the person concerned was issued with a letter regarding his DSP income on December 30 last. Based on the information now available to Revenue, his tax is correct for 2012. On the question of arrears, Revenue have advised me that they are examining those cases with the largest non-DSP income and those cases who apply for a review first, having regard to resource and other constraints. Their approach is to make contact with those taxpayers who are of interest to them, and to invite them to submit a tax return. Their advice to taxpayers who are not contacted, is that there is no need to do anything at the moment and Revenue may be in touch with you. In the meantime, neither interest nor penalties are accruing on any undercharge that might apply.

Motor Taxation

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

161 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding car registration (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23796/12]

The Deputy may be aware that this proposal was contained in SIMI's submission to the Public Consultation on adjusting the current CO2 bands and rates in line with technological advances in motor vehicles. The Consultation process is still on-going.

Value Added Tax Rates

Jim Daly

Question:

162 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Finance his views in relation to the VAT reduction given to the service industry in 2011; if he is satisfied that the reduction has been of benefit to the industry; if he intends to extend this programme at the upcoming review date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23809/12]

The Finance (No. 2) Act 2011 provided for a second reduced VAT rate, of 9%, on a temporary basis in respect of certain tourism-related services and goods for the period 1 July 2011 to 31 December 2013. This measure is aimed at contributing towards boosting tourism and the creation of additional jobs in that sector. Initial analysis of the effectiveness of 9% VAT rate indicates that employment numbers in the tourism and restaurant sector have increased, prices have reduced and Tourism Ireland is targeting growth in overseas visitor numbers in 2012. In this context I have decided not to make any amendment to the rate and have provided assurance to the tourist industry that the 9% rate will continue throughout 2013 as currently legislated for.

National Asset Management Agency

Question:

163 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the National Asset Management Agency scheme to effectively guarantee home buyers against future price falls; if the scheme will be extended to other properties outside Dublin, Cork and Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23980/12]

NAMA launched its 80:20 Deferred Payment Initiative on 8 May 2012. This initiative is being made available initially on a pilot basis in respect of 115 houses located in residential developments in counties Dublin, Meath and Cork. Further details on the Initiative including eligible properties are available on NAMA's website, www.nama.ie. I am informed by NAMA that the pilot scheme will be subject to an evaluation as to its outcome and that it may in future extend the Initiative to additional residential units and, if so, it is envisaged that these would be located across the range of regions in which its debtors control units which may be suitable.

Tax Collection

Brian Walsh

Question:

164 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Finance his views on the proliferation of the practice of so-called phoenix businesses, whereby a company enters liquidation and quickly resumes business under the auspices of a new company in order to avoid debts; if he can quantify the amount of revenue lost as a result of this practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23683/12]

It is important at the outset to recognise that businesses do fail, and that it is a normal part of business and entrepreneurship. That said, tax compliance is vital in delivering to the Exchequer the tax revenues properly due to the State in a cost effective and efficient fashion and in ensuring a level playing field for businesses generally. Maximising the levels of timely voluntary compliance and providing an appropriate response to late or non-compliance is the responsibility of the Revenue Commissioners. Revenue draws a clear distinction between genuine inability to pay and deliberate and calculated non-payment and non-compliance. With regard to phoenix type activity, i.e. contrived non-compliance, the apparent cessation of a business and its re-emergence in another guise where there has been significant tax default, I am advised by Revenue that they have a targeted, risk-focussed approach to the early identification of phoenix entities and to the intensive deployment of enforcement measures quickly and effectively where non-compliance arises. There are close to 700 businesses currently actively monitored as part of Revenue's phoenix programme.

In Section 126 of the Finance Act 2012, I provided further protection for the Exchequer in high-risk situations, such as in phoenix cases, where the payment of fiduciary taxes is at risk. The section provides for security to be given to the Collector-General in specific high-risk cases and is a significant deterrent to the potential for the abuse of limited liability and non-payment of tax.

I am satisfied that the priority given by Revenue to limiting the capacity of phoenix entities to accumulate tax debts is effective and that the additional powers provided in Finance Act 2012 are a significant development in the task of dealing with the phoenix syndrome.

In relation to companies that go into liquidation, the Deputy will be aware that there is a legal requirement on a liquidator under section 56 of the Company Law Enforcement Act 2001 to report on the conduct of company directors to the Director of Corporate Enforcement within six months of his appointment. Unless relieved by the Director of the obligation to make the application, the liquidator will subsequently apply to the High Court for a section150 order under the Companies Act 1990 to restrict the activities of such directors. There are also further remedies available to liquidators under company law in cases where directors are found to have behaved dishonestly or fraudulently. These include possible actions to have directors disqualified or made personally liable for some or all of the debts of the company. I am advised by Revenue that they may, in appropriate cases, provide financial support to liquidators to pursue such actions.

Illicit Trade in Tobacco

Michael Creed

Question:

165 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance the progress that has been made to address the issue of the illicit tobacco trade; if he will be sanctioning the introduction of scanners at Irish ports to detect this illegal trade as suggested by the advisory group for small business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23685/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners, who are responsible for the collection of tobacco products tax, and for tackling the illicit trade in tobacco products, that they attach a high priority to combating tobacco smuggling and have adopted a comprehensive strategy, underpinned by annual action plans, for this important work. This 3-year (2011-2013) strategy, which is published on Revenue's website www.revenue.ie, includes a number of programmes, which are designed to complement each other in targeting the supply and demand sides of the market for contraband tobacco in Ireland. Key elements in this strategy include developing and sharing intelligence on a national, EU and international basis, development of analytics and detection technologies, and ensuring optimum deployment of resources at point of importation and within the country, in order to intercept the contraband product and to prosecute those involved. Interception at the point of importation is achieved through a combination of risk analysis, profiling, intelligence, and the screening of cargo, vehicles, baggage and postal packages. Revenue enforcement officers also target this illicit trade at the post-importation level by carrying out intelligence-based operations and random checks at retail outlets, markets and private and commercial premises.

In 2011, Revenue's campaign against the illicit tobacco trade resulted in the seizure of 109 million cigarettes, valued at €46 million, and over 11,000 kilograms of tobacco, valued at €4 million. In addition, 101 convictions relating to tobacco smuggling, and 57 convictions concerning the sale of unstamped tax products, were obtained. To date in 2012, Revenue officers have seized 49 million cigarettes valued at €21 million and 1,436 kilograms of tobacco valued at €531,320. In addition 27 convictions relating to tobacco smuggling, and 29 convictions concerning the sale of unstamped tobacco products were obtained.

Revenue consistently monitors ongoing developments in available x-ray and other technologies, and the selection and deployment of detection equipment is constantly reviewed. The actual technology selected and the operational deployment of that technology is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners.

Revenue currently has two mobile X-ray container scanning systems. One scanner is based in Dublin Port and the other at Rosslare Ferry Port. Revenue deploys the scanners on a risk assessment basis at various locations throughout the country. Revenue is satisfied that the container ports in the State are adequately serviced by these scanners and has no plans to acquire additional container scanning systems. In addition to the container scanners, Revenue also uses smaller static baggage/ parcel scanners, which are deployed at all major ports, airports and postal depots.

Revenue are at an advanced stage in a tendering process for the supply of a mobile X-ray van, which will enhance its scanning capability at airports, ports and warehouses, and they expect to enter contract negotiations for the purchase of the van shortly. The cost of the purchase of the van will be part funded under an EU grant programme.

Income Taxation

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

166 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the rate at which a flat tax on income would have to be if all existing tax credits, allowances and reliefs were abolished, with the first €15,000 of earnings exempt of tax for every income earner, in order to achieve a target yield equal to the amount currently raised from income tax, the universal social charge and employee’s PRSI. [23692/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that if the combined Budget estimate of €16.84 billion expected in 2012 from income tax, USC and employee's PRSI was to be raised by applying a single flat rate of tax on the basis outlined by the Deputy, the rate of tax required, based on projected 2012 incomes, would be 27%. This tentative estimate is based on the assumption that a full flat tax system is introduced and that the existing income tax, USC and employee PRSI structures would be replaced in their entirety by the system outlined by the Deputy. In such an event, the personal tax credits and allowances and tax reliefs in general would no longer apply. This is normally a feature of flat tax systems. For example, contributions to approved superannuation schemes would no longer attract tax relief and mortgage interest relief and medical insurance relief which are provided at source would cease to apply. Other schemes and reliefs which it is assumed would be abolished for the purpose of this costing include capital allowances, property reliefs generally, the various savings related tax reliefs, tax relief on redundancy payments, the business expansion scheme and film relief. To the extent that any of these reliefs were continued, the costs would be higher.

The flat rate figure is an estimate from the Revenue tax-forecasting model using actual data for the year 2009 adjusted as necessary for income and employment trends for the year 2012. It is, therefore, provisional and likely to be revised.

Banking Sector Regulation

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

167 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 225 of 24 April 2012, if he will provide a list of all entities holding authorisations and all credit institutions. [23693/12]

I would like to inform the deputy that the information he is seeking is available on the Central Bank of Ireland website in the form of a publicly-available register. The relevant links are attached below for your convenience. http://registers.financialregulator.ie/FirmSearchPage.aspx http://registers.financialregulator.ie/DownloadsPage.aspx.

Mortgage Arrears

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

168 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons who currently have a distressed mortgage; the level of distress; and the way that this is determined. [23694/12]

The Central Bank publishes statistics on principal private residential mortgage arrears, restructures and repossessions. The latest available data is for the period ended December 2011 and it indicates that 70,911 mortgage accounts are in arrears of over 90 days. This amounts to 9.2% of total residential mortgage accounts extended by regulated mortgage lenders. The data also indicated that 74,379 accounts were restructured at the end of December 2011. Of this total, 36,797 are not in arrears and are performing as per the restructured arrangement. The balance of restructured accounts (37,582) has arrears of varying categories (arrears of both less than and greater than 90 days). Overall, therefore, 107,708 residential accounts are either in arrears of over 90 days or have been restructured and are performing as at the end of December 2011.

Irish Bank Deposits

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

169 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the amount of money currently on deposit in Irish banks household deposits and others, excluding foreign-owned deposits. [23695/12]

The Central Bank of Ireland (CBI) publish a comprehsensive data set on a monthly basis in relation to deposits at Irish banks, both Covered and non Covered institutions. These data from part of the bank's Monthly Banking Statistics which are unconsolidated and reflect data on the assets and liabilities of within-the-State offices of credit institutions. There are three tiers of balance sheet published by the CBI each month. They are a) Credit institutions — Aggregate balance sheet (which is labled table A4); b) Credit institutions — Domestic Group (table A4.1) and c) Credit institutions — Covered Group (table A4.2). Table A4 has the widest coverage of institutions and is effectively the banking "system" in Ireland. The other two are sub-sets of table A4, with the Domestic Group representing those banks and credit unions which have significant business with Irish resident households and non-financial corporations in terms of credit and deposits. The Covered Group (table A4.2) which has the narrowest scope, represents only AIB, Bank of Ireland, EBS, IBRC (formerly Anglo Irish and Irish Nationwide) and permanent tsb. At each balance sheet tier, there are three different measures of deposits that can be tracked or quoted and this can sometimes cause confusion. The “Private Sector Deposits” category is the narrowest measure and the one that tends to get the most focus however. To this one can add General Government deposits and deposits from Monetary Financial Institutions (MFI’s) to get “Deposits from Irish Residents” and when non resident deposits are added one reaches a figure that is best described as “Total Deposits”.

Private sector deposits across the entire Irish banking system amounted to €163.1bn at the end of March 2012. The CBI provides a further breakdown of these deposits into various catergories. Within this figure, Household deposits amounted to €92.1bn, deposits held by Non Financial Corporations (NFC's) amounted to €29.7bn, Other Financial Intermediaries were €30.1bn and finally Insurance Corporations/Pension Funds accounted for a further €11.1bn. Unsurprisingly the Irish Covered Banks account for a large share of these Private Sector Deposits — around 64% or €103.9bn.

To aid analysis and interpretation of deposit trends at the Irish Covered Banks, the Department of Finance recently began publishing a consolidated dataset on deposits. This dataset is sourced from the Central Bank of Ireland but unlike the data referred to above, it excludes intra-company exposures and also includes deposits held in foreign subsidiaries. The most recent data set for end March 2012 showed that deposits at the Covered Banks on this basis were circa. €149bn. This figure has increased from around €147bn at year end and has been on a slow rising trend since the Autumn of last year. Further details on this dataset or indeed on the CBI statitics can be found at http://banking.finance.gov.ie/wp-content/uploads/Deposit_Note_Mardataset.pdf and www.centralbank.ie.

Flood Relief

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

170 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding insurance (details supplied) [23701/12]

I am advised by the Irish Insurance Federation that flood insurance cover is currently available to approximately 98% of householders in Ireland. Neither the Central Bank nor I, as Minister for Finance, can compel insurance companies to quote for business. The decision to provide any specific form of insurance cover, and the price at which it is offered, is a commercial matter based on the assessment of the risks involved. There are no provisions in the Central Bank's Consumer Protection Code to compel an insurance company to accept a particular insurance risk. However, I wish to inform you that the Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW) and his officials are engaged in discussions with the Irish Insurance Federation (IIF) in relation to the difficulties experienced by certain householders in obtaining insurance cover for flood risk.

These discussions have allowed a sharing of information and understanding about the scope and scale of the work undertaken by the OPW on flood risk management and, in particular, on the mapping of areas subject to flood risk nationally which will emerge from the OPW's Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management programme (CFRAM). This programme is a national initiative to systematically identify, assess, document and report on the most significant flood risks throughout the country. This work is being undertaken on OPW's behalf by specialist consultants and is organised into six separate regional or catchment areas. These comprehensive studies will recommend an integrated management plan and prioritised measures to address flood problems in areas where there is significant risk in each major catchment in the country.

The discussions between the OPW and the IIF have also focused on how the insurance industry can best address the issue of the provision of flood insurance where incidences of difficulties in obtaining flood insurance are being raised. The insurance industry considers that this incidence is marginal and has indicated that where it arises the causes are complex with each case being assessed in light of the particular circumstances applying. The OPW and the IIF are keen to establish a sustainable means of sharing information on areas vulnerable to flooding and on identifying flood defence works carried out or funded by the OPW and the impact of those works in reducing the risk of flooding in areas where flooding previously occurred. A number of issues are being clarified with a view to agreement being reached on a viable basis on which information can be provided.

In tandem with these developments, the Irish National Flood Forum, which is a voluntary body representing communities affected by flooding, plans to undertake a survey to gather as much information as possible from their member organizations. Details of what will be involved should be available shortly on the Forum's website www.irishnationalfloodforum.com. The information gathered by the Forum will be a useful input into the deliberative process on this subject.

Tax Collection

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

171 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance if he will supply a table for the tax year 2011 showing, by range of gross income, the sources of incomes of single pensioners, pensioner couples and all pensioners’ incomes distinguishing between the following categories as shown in table 4.1 of the Green Paper on Pensions: income from work and self-employment, other direct income investments, income and so on, occupational or personal pensions, social welfare pensions, other benefits, total gross income, tax and social contributions, net disposable income; the table to show the number of cases in each range of gross income; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23711/12]

The position is that the figures in the table referred to by the Deputy were derived from EU-SILC data based on a survey carried out by Central Statistics Office (CSO). To obtain an update of the figures in the manner requested in the question, the Deputy should direct her question directly to the CSO. While the Revenue Commissioners do not maintain statistics on aged income earners in the same manner or detail as are contained in the EU-SILC report, the following is a table provided by the Revenue Commissioners showing the projected distribution of the incomes of income earners aged 65 or over for 2011:

Income Earners Aged 65 or over — Distribution of 2011 gross incomes

Range of Gross Income

Gross Income €

Number

Income Tax €

0-10,000

85,658,906

20,583

0

10,001-20,000

654,280,837

43,101

753,037

20,001-30,000

1,109,449,002

44,886

20,335,869

30,001-40,000

1,057,974,956

30,496

40,732,685

40,001-50,000

903,500,418

20,265

62,352,373

50,001-60,000

673,200,109

12,332

73,761,798

60,001-70,000

490,125,631

7,578

68,533,899

70,001-80,000

377,500,895

5,063

61,595,676

80,001-90,000

277,429,654

3,275

51,663,151

90,001-100,000

205,907,495

2,175

41,926,615

100,001-150,000

560,429,216

4,691

129,087,181

over 150,000

1,143,530,946

3,494

307,633,222

Overall Total

7,538,988,065

197,938

858,375,507

The tax amounts mentioned in the table relate to income tax but do not include the Universal Social Charge.

The figures are estimates from the Revenue tax-forecasting model using actual data for the year 2009 adjusted as necessary for income and employment trends in the interim. These are, therefore, provisional and likely to be revised.

It should be noted that the income ranges shown in the above tables relate to Gross Income as defined in Revenue Statistical Report 2010.

It should also be noted that a married couple who has elected or has been deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

Social and Affordable Housing

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

172 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Finance if he will ensure that a HPL1 Form is completed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23722/12]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that form HPL1 was processed on 2 May 2012. The completed form has been returned to the person concerned.

Tax Reliefs

Noel Grealish

Question:

173 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Finance when will the commencement order for tax relief for energy efficient works in the main home, Section 477A of the Tax Consolidation Act 1997, be signed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23739/12]

Section 477A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 was introduced in Finance Act 2011 and provided for income tax relief at the standard rate for expenditure incurred by individuals on a range of works carried out to improve the energy efficiency of residential premises situated in the State. The underpinning legislation for the scheme was subject to Commencement Order. However, that legislation, on review, was found to have flaws and would have required amendment before it could be implemented.

As part of the announcement in the Jobs Initiative in May 2011, the Government undertook to provide further funding for the grants available under the Better Energy Homes scheme operated by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). Because of these circumstances, I decided to review the requirement for a co-existing tax incentive for similar works and, following this review, I decided not to proceed with the introduction of the tax relief scheme.

Fuel Rebate Scheme

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

174 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding calls by representatives and members of the Irish haulage industry for fuel rebates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23781/12]

The Deputy may be aware that a working group was set up between officials of my Department, the IRHA and some members of the Oireachtas. This working group is discussing a number of issues of concern to the haulage industry. I am sure the Deputy will understand that I cannot pre-empt the outcome of those discussions which are ongoing.

I should point out that a fuel rebate system, as sought by the IRHA, could not under EU law be restricted to Irish licensed hauliers but would have to be extended to all vehicles intended exclusively for the carriage of goods by road with a maximum permissible gross laden weight of not less than 7.5 tonnes. In addition, the rebate would have to include the carriage of passengers by a motor vehicle of category M2 or category M3 as defined in Council Directive 70/156/EEC.

European Stability Mechanism

Thomas Pringle

Question:

175 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Finance his views on the following matter (details supplied) regarding the European Stability Mechanism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23843/12]

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 €700 bn. Of this amount, €80 bn 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 Annex 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 €80 bn in paid-in capital, based on our contribution key, will be just above €1.27 bn paid in five equal instalments of €254 m. 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 €620 bn callable capital is based on the same key, i.e. 1.592% of €620 bn making our share of the callable capital €9.87 bn.

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.

The following additional information was provided under Standing Order 40A

As noted in the reply already provided, the paid in capital contribution to the ESM is treated as a financial transaction for general government accounting purposes. This means that while the paid in capital contributions envisaged for 2012, 2013 and 2014 will impact on the Exchequer balance in those three years, it will not impact on the general government deficit figure.

Our current EU/IMF programme of financial support runs until the end of 2013. It provides funding to support all Exchequer requirements arising in that time, including the ESM paid in capital contributions.

These contributions were not explicitly envisaged at the time the programme was agreed in 2010 as discussions on the ESM had not progressed at that stage.

In relation to the callable capital, Ireland's share is based on the Irish ECB capital contribution key of 1.592% and amounts to €9.87 billion. This amount is not included in any budget provision or projection of our deficit targets and accordingly is not taken into account in our financing requirements under the programme. This is because the callable capital will only be required in the event that the ESM incurs losses of a magnitude which would necessitate a call of the unpaid or callable capital. The ESM treaty sets out the limited circumstances under which this could occur. In this context I would like to re-iterate that the ESM will fund any programme which it agrees to provide through borrowing on the financial markets to fund lending to programme countries. The capital base, both paid in and callable, provides the backing for the borrowing, but it will not be used to directly fund any programme.

Investment Banks

John Paul Phelan

Question:

176 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the development of an Irish investment bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23851/12]

I assume that the Deputy is referring to the Strategic Investment Fund (SIF), the establishment of which was announced by the Government in September 2011. The SIF will channel commercial investment from the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) towards productive investment in the Irish economy. As well as money from the NPRF, the SIF will seek matching commercial investment from private investors and target investment in areas of strategic significance to the future of the Irish economy.

I am informed by the National Treasury Management Agency, as Manager of the National Pensions Reserve Fund, that the NPRF announced in November 2011 a commitment of €250 million to a new Irish infrastructure investment fund which is seeking up to €1 billion from institutional investors in Ireland and overseas and which will invest in infrastructure assets in Ireland, including assets designated for disposal by the Government and commercial State enterprises and also new infrastructure projects. Marketing of this fund in Ireland by Irish Life Investment Managers and abroad by AMP Capital commenced in the first quarter of 2012. Normally the period from commencement of marketing of an investment fund targeting illiquid assets to closure of financial commitments by investors in such a fund can extend up to one year. In parallel, AMP Capital, the infrastructure manager of the fund, has commenced a process of building a pipeline of appropriate investment opportunities.

The NPRF has also committed €450 million to finance the national roll out of domestic water meters. In addition, the NPRF is actively supporting the development of the market for venture capital in Ireland through its continued participation in Innovation Fund Ireland in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland. On 15 March 2012, the Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation announced the commencement of the second call for expressions of interest from appropriately qualified international venture capital managers.

Further involvement of the NPRF in the SIF is expected to require the amendment of the investment policy of the NPRF, which is set out in the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000. Officials of my Department are liaising with the National Treasury Management Agency, which is the Manager of the NPRF, in identifying and drafting the necessary amendments to the legislation and I expect to bring forward proposals for amending legislation as soon as possible once that work is completed.

Public Liability Insurance

Terence Flanagan

Question:

177 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he will deal with the following matter (details supplied) regarding public liability insurance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23856/12]

As the Deputy is aware public liability insurance is not a compulsory requirement in Ireland at present. However, it is deemed an essential insurance cover by many bodies that authorise others to conduct work on their behalf, e.g. many primary contractors will refuse to allow sub contractors onto a site without proof that they hold adequate public liability cover, even though it is not a legal requirement.

There are currently no proposals to make public liability insurance compulsory. It should be noted that any decision of this nature would have implications for the small business sector and therefore would first require consultation with the relevant stakeholders.

Tax Reliefs

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

178 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether persons (details supplied) should receive a refund of capital gains tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23857/12]

I am informed by my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, that the responsibility for zoning lands for specific purposes is a matter for planning authorities through their development plans and local area plans. Under the Planning Acts, the making, reviewing and varying of a development plan, and the making, amending or revoking of a local area plan is a reserved function of the elected members of the planning authority for the area. The legislative framework also provides for appropriate public consultation procedures.

Under section 10(8) Planning and Development Act 2000 there is no presumption in law that any land zoned in a particular development plan (including a development plan that has been varied) will remain so zoned in any subsequent development plan. Furthermore, under Section 19(6) Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, there is no presumption in law that any land zoned in a particular local area plan must remain so zoned in any subsequent local area plan.

Where property is transferred from one generation to another by way of a gift, the person making the transfer could have a Capital Gains Tax (CGT) liability — s/he is deemed to have disposed of the property at market value. Under the self-assessment tax system, the individual's liability would have been calculated on figures provided by the person disposing of the land and/or his tax agents. The individual may also have been able to claim various reliefs and exemptions from CGT on the disposal, depending on the circumstances. There is no CGT liability if a property transfers on a person's death.

The CGT paid by the person disposing of the property can be used as a credit against any Capital Acquisitions Tax (CAT) liability on that same event of the person receiving the property as a gift. The person receiving the gift can also claim the relevant group tax-free threshold (currently €250,000 for gifts/inheritances from parents to children, and up to €542,544 in previous years) and possibly other CAT reliefs.

The determination of tax charges by reference to the value at the time a taxable event takes place is central to the taxation system. Values may increase or decrease over time subsequent to taxable events. Departing from this basis of determination could lead to unacceptable levels of uncertainty within the taxation system.

Banking Sector Restructuring

Gerry Adams

Question:

179 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to proceed with plans to move tracker mortgages from State-owned banks such as Permanent TSB and Allied Irish Bank to Irish Bank Resolution Corporation. [23915/12]

Gerry Adams

Question:

181 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance his plans for further restructuring of the State-owned banking sector. [23917/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 179 and 181 together.

As the Deputy can appreciate, officials from the Irish Authorities are in constant on-going dialogue, with all of the covered institutions with a view to considering and implementing structures and solutions which would seek to advance the overall financial system. As and when further measures are agreed/solutions emerge I will inform the Houses as appropriate.

As part of this process the Government has specifically committed to a number of issues including:

A review of the arrangements that were put in place to capitalise IBRC — formerly Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide.

Submission of a Restructuring plan for Irish Life and Permanent to the European Commission by end June 2012.

The purpose of the review of the Promissory Notes is to determine if there was a way to reduce the overall cost to the State. Part of the capitalisation of IBRC was provided using promissory notes as consideration.

While the development in relation to the end March Promissory Note payment is positive, we must continue to work towards the greater benefits which would derive from the re-engineering of the promissory note. There are potential improvements for the banking sector which could also stem from the ongoing technical discussions.

It is for these reasons that we must look at the recent developments as an initial step in a process. This is a medium term project. The Government is focused on developing an alternative solution to the promissory note arrangement in IBRC. It is too early at this stage of the process and indeed it would be inappropriate to predetermine what a successful outcome will look like or to indicate how the various stakeholders have or may react to various proposals. The Government's aim is to arrive at a successful conclusion that is in the interests of Ireland and the EU.

Gerry Adams

Question:

180 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance if his Department, Allied Irish Bank or Permanent TSB has had any contacts with a company (details supplied) in relation to his plans for further restructuring of the State owned banking sector. [23916/12]

I can confirm that neither I nor any officials from the Banking Division of my Department have had any contacts with that company in relation to Government plans for further restructuring of the State owned banking sector.

I am also informed by AIB and PTSB that they also have not had any contact with that company in relation to further restructuring of the State owned banking sector. While the banks have provided confirmation in this case it should be noted that disclosures in relation to commercial matters such as these are commercially sensitive for the banks and are not generally disclosed.

Question No. 181 answered with Question No. 179.

National Car Testing Service

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

182 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide, in soft copy and hard copy format, full details of the arrangements between the Revenue Commissioners and the National Car Testing Service for the carrying out of a range of vehicle registration functions by the NCTS on behalf of the Revenue Commissioners and in particular details in relation to the tendering process by which the contract was awarded, further details of the contract between the Revenue Commissioners and the NCTS and full details of all management and or operational guidelines issued by the commissioners to the NCTS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23938/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that section 131 of the Finance Act 1992 (as amended by section 104 of the Finance Act 2010) provided for the appointment of a "competent person” to carry out certain functions relating to the registration of vehicles in the State on behalf of the Revenue Commissioners, while section 109 of the Finance Act 2010 provided for the authorisation of such competent person in respect of the collection and payment of the tax to the Revenue Commissioners. Statutory Instrument 400/2010 outlines the timeframe and the conditions under which used vehicles brought into the State must be registered.

The Deputy may wish to note that following a procurement process carried out during 2008 by the Road Safety Authority and which the Revenue Commissioners were party to, in accordance with the public sector procurement rules, Applus Car Testing Limited were awarded the tender. Subsequently Revenue appointed Applus Car Testing Limit as the "competent person" and authorised them to carry out specified registration functions in relation to the operation of VRT. They have been performing those functions in the State since 1 September 2010. All management and operational guidelines issued to Applus are governed by both the primary and secondary legislation outlined above. The VRT manuals, which are available on the Revenue website, (http://www.revenue.ie/en/tax/vrt/index.html) outline in detail the requirements for registering vehicles in the State.

Mortgage Interest Rates

Peter Mathews

Question:

183 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Finance his plans regarding an increase to interest rates on standard variable mortgages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23988/12]

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

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

Neither the Central Bank nor I have any responsibility for any variation in the variable mortgage interest rates charged by Financial Institutions. However, as I have indicated in replies to previous Parliamentary questions on this subject, the Central Bank has advised me that it will continue to engage with specific lenders which appear to have standard variable rates set disproportionate to their cost of funds.

Peter Mathews

Question:

184 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Finance his plans to advise Irish Life and Permanent to decrease its interest rate on standard variable mortgages in view of the fact that AIB was directed not to increase its interest rate on standard variable mortgages. [23989/12]

As has been stated previously, I have no role in the day-to-day commercial and operational decisions, which include these matters. Ultimately, the pricing of financial products, including standard variable mortgage interest rates, is a commercial decision for the management team and board of IL&P, having due regard to their customers and the impact on profitability.

Notwithstanding the fact that the State is a significant shareholder in IL&P, I must ensure that the bank is run on a commercial, cost effective and independent basis to ensure the value of the bank as an asset to the State, as per the Memorandum on Economic and Financial Policies agreed with the EU Commission, the ECB and the IMF. Relationship Frameworks have now been agreed that clearly define the nature of the relationship between me and each of the covered institutions. Those Frameworks were published on 30 March 2012 and can be found at: http://banking.finance.gov.ie/presentations-and-latest-documents/.

It should be noted however that PTSB recently announced a 0.5pc reduction in its standard variable rate effective from yesterday and it now stands at 4.69% bringing the rate more in line with those charged by other institutions in the Irish mortgage market.

European Finanical Stability Fund

Finian McGrath

Question:

185 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if Ireland can avail of European Financial Stability Facility funding up to July 2013; and if €248 billion is still left in that fund. [24047/12]

Access to funds under the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) can be granted following an application to the EFSF for financial assistance. This assistance will be granted on the basis of a Financial Assistance Facility Agreement. Such an agreement, will be conditional upon the relevant euro-area Member States entering into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the European Commission, acting on behalf of the euro-area Member States. Any MoU entered into will be subject to conditionality, such as budgetary discipline, economic policy guidelines and their compliance with the terms of such an MoU.

The EFSF has been created as a temporary institution. The EFSF Framework agreement as amended provides that "Euro-area Member States which are potential borrowers may only request and enter into Loan Facility Agreements up to 30 June 2013 (provided that loans may be disbursed after this date under Loan Facility Agreements entered into prior to this date)."

It also provides that EFSF guarantors shall only be required to issue a guarantee to facilitate the financing under Loan Facility Agreements entered into on or prior to 30 June 2013.

In accordance with its Articles of Association, the EFSF will be liquidated on the earliest date after 30 June 2013 on which there are no longer loans outstanding to a euro-area Member State and all Funding Instruments issued by EFSF and any reimbursement amounts due to Guarantors have been repaid in full.

This means that after June 2013, EFSF would not enter into any new programmes but will continue the management and repayment of any outstanding debt and will close down once all outstanding debt has been repaid.

The Eurogroup's statement of 30 March 2012, provides that the ESM will be the main instrument to finance new programmes as from July 2012. Its lending capacity will be €500 billion. The EFSF will, as a rule, only remain active in financing programmes that have started before that date. For a transitional period until mid-2013, it may engage in new programmes in order to ensure a full fresh lending capacity of EUR 500 billion for the ESM during the initial set up period.

These arrangements form part of a number of initiatives. All these initiatives were made to improve the governance of the euro area through enhancements of the Stability and Growth Pact, the new macro-economic imbalances procedure, the Euro Plus Pact and the Fiscal Compact enshrined in the new Treaty on Stability, Cooperation and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union. Finally, robust firewalls have been established. This comprehensive strategy has paid off and led to a significant improvement of market conditions.

Ireland's EU-IMF programme of financial support runs until end 2013. Funding will continue to be granted to Ireland under this programme provided that Ireland continues to comply with the relevant Memorandum of Understanding agreed with the troika.

The ESM will fund any programme through borrowing on the financial markets and lending the funding to programme countries. The capital base, both paid in and callable, provides the back up for the borrowing.

Banking Sector Regulation

Gerry Adams

Question:

186 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance if the Central Bank of Ireland will confirm whether the outsourcing of servicing of residential mortgages for Permanent TSB or any other covered financial institution is considered a controlled function or pre-approval controlled function under the meaning of the Central Bank Reform Act 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24080/12]

Gerry Adams

Question:

187 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance if the Central Bank of Ireland will confirm whether the outsource services which IBRC is seeking after their published pre-qualification questionnaire are services which the Central Bank of Ireland deems as a controlled function or pre-approval controlled function under the meaning of the Central Bank Reform Act 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24081/12]

Gerry Adams

Question:

188 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance if the Central Bank of Ireland will confirm whether the current agreement between a company (details supplied) and Allied Irish Banks is defined as a controlled function or pre-approval controlled function under the meaning of the Central Bank Reform Act 2010; if he will confirm, if it is considered a pre-approval controlled function, whether Allied Irish Banks obtained the prior written approval from Central Bank of Ireland to appoint the company for the outsourcing services as required under the Central Bank's guidance on fitness and probity standards for outsourcing to an unregulated entity; if he will confirm whether as per the Central Bank of Ireland guidance on fitness and probity standards 2011 the Central Bank assured itself that persons in the company performing the pre-approval controlled functions were compliant with the fitness and probity standards; if he will confirm whether those persons included any of the shareholders of the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24082/12]

Gerry Adams

Question:

189 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm whether the Central Bank of Ireland, in their consideration of compliance with section 3.3.2(c) of the fitness and probity standards code, a person’s performance of a function in a regulated financial service provider that received State financial support, only concerns financial service providers which received State financial support and not non-Irish State financial support; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24083/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 186 to 189, inclusive, together.

I have been informed by the Central Bank of Ireland that they are precluded under section 33AK of the Central Bank Act 1942, from disclosing information on individual financial service providers.

The Fitness and Probity Regime applies to regulated financial service providers. Under section 21(1) of the Central Bank Reform Act 2010 a regulated financial service provider shall not permit a person to perform a Controlled Function unless:

a) The regulated financial service provider is satisfied on reasonable grounds that the person complies with the Fitness and Probity Standards 2011 ("Standards"), and

b) The person has agreed to abide by the Standards.

A person to whom the Standards apply shall comply with them at all times. Specifically a person is required to be:

a) competent and capable;

b) honest, ethical and to act with integrity; and

c) financially sound.

The standards do not apply to persons performing functions with respect to a regulated financial service provider where that function is carried on by another person (e.g. outsourced) and all of the following conditions are satisfied:

a) there is in place a written agreement between the regulated financial service provider and the entity to which the function is outsourced, for the carrying on of that function; and

b) the entity to which the function is outsourced is a financial service provider who is regulated either the Central Bank of Ireland or another financial regulator in another jurisdiction.

Otherwise, the standards apply.

The meaning of Controlled Functions and Pre-approval Controlled Functions are set out in the Central Bank Reform Act 2010 (sections 20 and 22) Regulations 2011, S.I. No. 437 of 2011 as amended by Central Bank Reform Act 2010 (sections 20 and 22) (Amendment) Regulations 2011, S.I. No. 615 of 2011.

In determining whether an individual is performing a Controlled Function or a Pre-approval Controlled Function, regulated financial service providers should assess the role and functions of each individual in line with the definitions prescribed in the Regulations. The regulated financial service provider should consider the responsibilities of the specific function and determine the specific competencies expected of a person performing that specific Controlled Function. Pre-approval Controlled Functions are by definition also Controlled Functions.

The Central Bank have informed me that if a person performed a function in a regulated financial service provider, which if performed at present would be subject to fitness and probity standards, and that regulated financial service provider received State financial support, consideration shall be given to the competence and skills demonstrated by that person in that function and to the extent, if any, to which the performance of his or her function may have contributed to the necessity for such State financial support.

The Central Bank takes into account all relevant matters in its assessment of a person's competence and capability and this would include their performance, where appropriate, in a financial service provider which received non-Irish State financial support.

State Banking Sector

Gerry Adams

Question:

190 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether it was appropriate for the current chief executive of State owned IBRC to send a supportive text message to a person (details supplied) on 27 January 2012 revealing IBRC board minutes at a time when the person was challenging another State owned institution the National Assets Management Agency thus preventing the sale of €800 million of NAMA debt; if he will confirm the reason NAMA and IBRC are adopting competing positions when both institutions are in wind down and the sole objective of both institutions is to sell assets and minimise losses for the taxpayer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24084/12]

As the Deputy is aware the Board of the bank is responsible for the day to day operation of the bank including communications with the bank's customers. Nonetheless when the matter of the text communication was raised in the context of the UK Court hearings I wrote to the Chairman of the bank seeking assurances in relation to the matter.

I have been informed by the bank that IBRC uses multiple forms of communication when communicating with clients and text messaging is a normal means of communicating with people quickly and efficiently in certain circumstances, in particular with clients who travel regularly and who do not have immediate access to email.

The CEO communicated with this performing client of the Bank in this manner following a Board decision that impacted on his relationship with the Bank. This was, in the opinion of the bank, an appropriate and necessary communication to confirm to the client the outcome of the Board's deliberation with regard to the future of his loans. The CEO has the full support of the Board in relation to this matter.

Furthermore, IBRC is a separately regulated State entity with a specific mandate to ensure the maximum return to the Irish taxpayer in the management of its business. The bank's decisions are based on its total client exposure and the optimum re-structuring of its loans to secure maximum recovery for the State. IBRC therefore does not and should not, in normal course business, make decisions based on independent courses of action chosen by NAMA.

Ministerial Transport

Gerry Adams

Question:

191 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance the annual cost of the new scheme introduced for the provision of drivers for Ministers in 2011 and to date in 2012; if he will provide a comparison of the annual cost of the provision of civilian drivers and the Ministers using their own cars with the previous scheme of Garda drivers and State cars. [24085/12]

In response to the Deputy's question the annual costs for the new scheme introduced for the provision of drivers for Ministers are a matter for each Department. In relation to the use of my car for Ministerial travel under this scheme, the total cost for the period May 2011-May 2012 has been €129,867.81. This cost includes mileage (which is to cover car related expenses), the salaries paid to civilian drivers, travel and subsistence paid to the drivers and Employer PRSI contributions in respect of the two drivers. This amount is significantly below the €280,000 average annual cost under the previous domestic Ministerial transport regime for each Minister.

Departmental Correspondence

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

192 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance his views on correspondence regarding volunteering and community groups (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24107/12]

The Deputy's question raises a number of issues which are quite complex and which appear to fall under the responsibility of a number of Departments. From an initial analysis, it appears these Departments include the following: Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Justice and Equality; and Environment, Community and Local Government. As a result, it is not possible to provide the definitive position on this matter within the available time for your question. However, I will ensure the matter will be investigated by my officials in conjunction with officials in the other Departments so that the required material can be provided to the Deputy in due course.

National Asset Management Agency

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

193 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance his plans to take persons, who paid an inflated price for property three, four and five years ago and who now see the same properties being sold for a fraction of that cost, out of the situation in which they find themselves in view of the new proposal by the National Asset Management Agency regarding a deferred payments on new properties being sold; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24126/12]

NAMA launched its 80:20 Deferred Payment Initiative on 8 May 2012. This initiative is being made available initially on a pilot basis in respect of 115 houses located in residential developments in counties Dublin, Meath and Cork. Further details on the Initiative including eligible properties are available on NAMA's website, www.nama.ie. I am informed by NAMA that the pilot scheme will be subject to an evaluation as to its outcome and that it may in future extend the Initiative to additional residential units and, if so, it is envisaged that these would be located across the range of regions in which its debtors control units which may be suitable.

Regarding the issue of mortgage difficulty, last summer the Government's Economic Management Council established an inter-departmental group to consider further actions that could be deployed to address the increasing problem of mortgage over-indebtedness. This group, which was chaired by Mr. Declan Keane, produced its report at the end of September and it was subsequently published by Government last October. The report concluded that blanket debt forgiveness schemes would not be an effective use of scare resources and that interventions should best be utilized to assist people address temporary repayment difficulties or, if necessary in more difficult cases, for banks and the State authorities to develop and provide more sustainable options on a case by case basis. The Government has accepted the "Keane Report" recommendations as the most appropriate general way to address the problem of significant mortgage arrears. A high level steering group of senior officials, chaired by the Secretary General of my Department, is now overseeing the implementation of these measures.

On the wider issue of mortgage affordability, and in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government, I announced in Budget 2012 that I was increasing mortgage interest relief to 30 per cent for first-time buyers who took out their first mortgage in the period 2004 to 2008. This was the period during which house prices were at their peak.

I have sought to be as flexible as possible within the constraints pertaining. Under the current tax legislation Mortgage Interest Relief is granted from the date the first mortgage interest payment is made. The legislation has been amended for this particular measure to also include mortgage draw-down as a qualifying event for the rate increase. This means that a mortgage holder will qualify for the increased rate if they made their first mortgage interest payment in the period 2004 to 2008 or if they drew down their mortgage in that period.

Michael McGrath

Question:

194 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the percentage and nominal value of loans in the National Asset Management Agency that are income generating at present; the percentage of the income being generated that comes from rental income paid on commercial property leased by Government Departments, State agencies and other public bodies. [24224/12]

I have been informed by NAMA that it estimates it received income in respect of 33% of its loan portfolio, representing a nominal value of €23.55 billion of the total nominal value of the portfolio of €71.19 billion. It is estimated that for 21% of the loan portfolio (a nominal value of €15.05 billion), loans are fully performing in accordance with their contractual obligations; for an additional 12% of the loan portfolio (a nominal value of €8.5 billion), loans generate some income but not sufficient to meet fully their contractual obligations as per loan agreements.

NAMA advise me that it has been working to capture as much of the underlying rental income generated by assets as possible.

In relation to the percentage of income that originates as rental income from commercial property leased by Government Departments, State agencies and other public bodies, NAMA advises that it cannot readily identify the type of client paying rental income to debtors. However, the amount of rental income being paid to NAMA debtors by State agencies is not thought to be substantial.

Liquor Licensing Laws

Michael McGrath

Question:

195 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 135 of 13 March 2012, in considering whether or not to facilitate the issuing of a publican’s licence to a new person or entity, the Revenue Commissioners take account of outstanding tax liabilities owed by the previous holder of the licence or if the Revenue Commissioners is willing to facilitate the issuing of the licence to a new person or entity provided the normal conditions are in place irrespective of whether the previous licence holder still has significant tax liabilities arising from the holding of the licence. [24227/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that all persons or entities who wish to obtain a publican's licence must hold a valid tax clearance certificate. Tax compliance issues, including the matter of outstanding liabilities, are dealt with through the tax clearance process. If an old licensee, who owes tax, and a proposed new licensee, are connected persons within the meaning of Section 1094(3) of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 then a tax clearance certificate cannot be obtained by such a new proposed licensee. Accordingly, in these circumstances a proposed new licensee will not be in a position to obtain a Publican's Licence.

If there is not a connection between the parties, as provided for in Section 1094(3) Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, then the tax liabilities of the original licensee have no implications for the granting of a new licence to a different unconnected party or entity.

Appointments to State Boards

Timmy Dooley

Question:

196 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Finance the appointments made by him to State boards under the remit of his Department since March 2011 that were advertised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24245/12]

In the period in question the following appointments were made by me as Minister for Finance to bodies under the remit of my Department:

NTMA Advisory Committee

Mr. John Moran, Secretary General, Department of Finance, was appointed to the National Treasury Management Advisory Committee on the 6th March 2012. The post was not advertised because it has been the norm to appoint the Secretary General of the Department of Finance to the Advisory Committee since the establishment of the National Treasury Management Agency.

National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission

Mr. Maurice Keane was reappointed to the NPRF Commission with effect from 5th February 2012. The post was not advertised as it was a reappointment.

Irish Fiscal Advisory Council

The Fiscal Council was established in June 2011. The five members of the Council (Messrs. Sebastian Barnes, Alan Barrett, Donal Donovan, John McHale and Ms. Roisin O'Sullivan) were appointed with effect from 7th July 2011. The posts were not advertised.

National Asset Management Agency

Mr. John Mulcahy was appointed to the Board of the National Asset Management Agency. He was not appointed under the new procedures for board appointments as he was an internal appointment from within the National Asset Management Agency. Mr. Mulcahy is head of Asset Management within the National Asset Management Agency.

Public Procurement Contracts

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

197 Deputy Luke “Ming” Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a construction company must have a turnover of €700,000 or greater in order to tender for the construction of primary schools; in view of the overall reduction in construction costs of recent years, if he will consider reducing this threshold and thus open up opportunities to smaller builders who have been hardest hit by the construction downturn; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23682/12]

Public procurement guidelines direct that the principles of fairness and openness apply when Public Bodies acquire goods or services. The following information must be made available as part of a tendering process:

(i) qualitative selection criteria (i.e. minimum mandatory requirements) to include evidence of financial standing and technical capability;

(ii) award criteria to include the lowest price or most economically advantageous tender using various criteria such as price, period for completion, running costs, technical merit, etc.

(iii) detailed reasons to unsuccessful candidates as to why their application was rejected.

The Department's guidelines provide proportionate minimum standards for qualification and advocate the use of open procedures for projects valued less than €2.5m. This ensures that indigenous parties have equal access to the market.

An Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge

Pearse Doherty

Question:

198 D’fhiafraigh Pearse Doherty den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna cén uair a fhoilseofar beartas a Roinne don Ghaeltacht ag eascairt as obair an Ghrúpa Oibre Ardleibhéil idir an Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta agus a Roinn chun díriú ar chur i bhfeidhm na Strait-éise 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge i réimse gnímh an oideachais, ar Ghrúpa é a bunaíodh in Earrach na bliana 2011 faoi mhír 5.5 de Phlean forfheidhmithe na Roinne Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta don bhliain 2011 maidir leis an Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge, 2010-2030. [24219/12]

Ag eascairt as an obair a rinne an Grúpa Ardleibhéil, tá oifigigh as an Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna ag comhoibriú go dlúth le hoifigigh as an Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta faoi chur i bhfeidhm na Strait-éise 20 Bliain. Tá roinnt bearta bainteach le hoideachas atá sa Straitéis ar siúl cheana féin agus tacóidh siad seo leis an oideachas i gceantair Ghaeltachta. Níl sé i gceist faoi láthair polasaí sainiúil a fhoilsiú a eascraíonn as obair an ghrúpa.

Back to Education Initiative

Tom Fleming

Question:

199 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on the back to education initiative; the number of the available 3,000 places that were taken up; the number in each county; and the progress and potential for the participants to access work. [24232/12]

The aim of the Back to Education Initiative (BTEI) is to target adults with less than upper second level education in a range of part-time learning opportunities which lead to certification at Levels 1-6 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ).

In 2011 there were just over 32,000 BTEI participants, of whom just over 4,100 availed of the 3,000 additional BTEI places provided under the Jobs Initiative. The vast majority (over 3,000) are continuing in BTEI courses. The rest have progressed to other further education provision or into employment.

A county-by-county breakdown of participants in the BTEI under the Jobs Initiative is set out below:

VEC

No. Jobs Initiative participants

Carlow

32

Cavan

193

Clare

239

Cork City

20

Cork County

212

Donegal

118

Dublin City

534

Dublin County

312

Dun Laoghaire

39

Galway City

56

Galway County

252

Kerry

315

Kildare

36

Kilkenny

133

Laois

87

Leitrim

72

Limerick City

23

Limerick County

108

Longford

41

Louth

29

Mayo

82

Meath

211

Monaghan

58

Offaly

208

Roscommon

33

Sligo

84

Tipperary North

32

Tipperary South

126

Waterford City

108

Waterford County

77

Westmeath

59

Wexford

117

Wicklow

75

Total

4,121

Schools Building Projects

Peter Mathews

Question:

200 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason for a delay in construction of a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23641/12]

Peter Mathews

Question:

210 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a school (details supplied) in County Dublin is not responsible for the delays in the building project, that as the only non-fee paying Protestant school in south County Dublin, the demographics of the area justify a new building; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23747/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 200 and 210 together.

The major building project for the school referred to by the Deputy was included in the five year construction programme and is listed to proceed to construction in 2015/2016.

For the purposes of the 5 Year construction programme new school building projects as well as major extensions have been prioritised on the basis of meeting demographic needs in areas where such needs have been identified.

Due to the financial constraints imposed by the need to prioritise the funding available each year for the provision of new school accommodation to meet the increasing demographic requirements it has not been possible to advance all projects to construction concurrently. The project is therefore scheduled for construction in 2015/16.

Higher Education Grants

Peter Mathews

Question:

201 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Education and Skills the options available for furthering their education in respect of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23642/12]

Under my Department's Free Fees Scheme, students who have previously pursued but have not completed a course of third level study and subsequently resume third level studies are not eligible for free fees for the equivalent period of time spent on the first course of study where the third level course concerned attracted exchequer funding. In such cases exchequer funding includes fees, maintenance, tax relief, subsidy towards course cost etc. Where undergraduate students do not meet the eligibility criteria of the Scheme such students must pay the appropriate tuition fee as determined by the relevant third level institution.

To satisfy the terms and conditions of the student grant scheme in relation to progression, a student must be moving from year to year within a course having successfully completed the previous year or be transferring from one course to another where the award for the subsequent course is of a higher level than the previous course.

The objective of this policy is to help as many students as possible to obtain one qualification at each level of study. Given the level of demand on the student grant budget from first time students and students that are progressing with their studies to a higher level, there are no plans at present to change the arrangements in place.

I would advise the student in question to apply to his local grant awarding body to establish his eligibility or otherwise for a grant.

Section 473A, Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997, as amended by Section 11 of the Finance Act 2011, provides for tax relief, at the standard rate of tax, for tuition fees paid in respect of approved courses at approved colleges of higher education including certain approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in EU Member States and in non EU countries. Details are available on the Revenue Commissioners' website at www.revenue.ie.

Departmental Bodies

Niall Collins

Question:

202 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline the composition and persons involved in the Department’s legislative council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23649/12]

The Department does not have a Legislative Council.

Public Procurement Contracts

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

203 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps being taken to ensure that the schools built under the school building programme, and the replacement buildings for prefabs, provide jobs for tradespeople local to the construction being carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23651/12]

It is a key principle, enunciated in the Public Procurement Guidelines, published by the NPPPU, that the public procurement function is discharged honestly, fairly, and in a manner that secures best value for public money. Contracting authorities must be cost effective and efficient in the use of resources while upholding the highest standards of probity and integrity.

The Guidelines require a competitive process carried out in an open, objective and transparent manner to achieve best value for money in public procurement. This is in line with EU Treaty principles and EU Directives on public procurement. The recently published Department of Finance Circular 10/10 was designed to provide small and medium enterprises with a level playing field for competing for public contracts.

Essential principles to be observed in conducting all procurement functions include non-discrimination, equal treatment, transparency, mutual recognition, proportionality, freedom to provide service and freedom of establishment. The Directives impose legal obligations on public bodies in regard to advertising and the use of objective tendering procedures for contracts above certain value thresholds.

In common with the rest of the Public Sector, capital works projects in schools are tendered under the standard Public Works Contracts as required by the Department of Finance and the Government Contracts Committee for Construction (GCCC). These contracts do not include provisions concerning the employment of local labour.

School Accommodation

Sandra McLellan

Question:

204 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a decision will be made regarding an extension to a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23652/12]

An application for additional accommodation has been received from the school referred to by the Deputy. This application is currently being assessed and my Department expects to convey a decision on this application to the school authority shortly.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme

Joan Collins

Question:

205 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding payments in respect of a person (details supplied). [23679/12]

The Education Finance Board is an independent statutory body established pursuant to section 23 of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (Amendment) Act 2005. My officials have forwarded your request to the Board requesting that it respond directly to you in relation to this matter.

Higher Education Grants

Michael Creed

Question:

206 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Skills the procedures to be followed when a person wishes to appeal a higher education grant refusal when this decision has also been upheld on appeal to the local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23684/12]

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

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

207 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a maintenance grant in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 4. [23699/12]

To satisfy the terms and conditions of the student grant scheme in relation to progression, a student must be moving from year to year within a course having successfully completed the previous year or be transferring from one course to another where the award for the subsequent course is of a higher level than the previous course.

The objective of this policy is to help as many students as possible to obtain one qualification at each level of study. Given the level of demand on the student grant budget from first time students and students that are progressing with their studies to a higher level, there are no plans at present to change the arrangements in place.

In the scenario presented by the Deputy, a student who already holds a Level 8 undergraduate qualification and intends to pursue a second undergraduate degree at the same level is not considered to be in progression and cannot be considered for funding, regardless of whether grant aid was made available to pursue the previous qualification.

However, tax relief at the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education including approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in EU Member States and in non-EU countries. Further information on this tax relief is available from the Revenue Commissioners.

In relation to the issue of independent living, the position is that a student may be assessed as an independent mature student if he/she has attained the age of 23 on the 1st of January of the year of first entry to an approved course or of re-entry following a break in studies of at least three years and is not ordinarily resident with his/her parents from the previous 1 October. Otherwise he/she would continue to be assessed on the basis of his/her parents' income.

School Staffing

Finian McGrath

Question:

208 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding staffing arrangements in respect of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [23720/12]

When the moratorium on the filling of posts of responsibility was introduced the Government exempted Principal and Deputy Principal posts in all primary and post-primary schools and these posts continue to be replaced in the normal manner. The impact of the moratorium is therefore limited to Assistant Principal and Special Duties allowances payable to teachers on promotion. Vacancies at this level arise due to retirements in the specific grades and typically also from the knock on effect of filling Principal and Deputy Principal posts.

Some further limited alleviation was announced in August 2011 for schools that are acutely affected by the impact of the moratorium at Assistant Principal level. The alleviation arrangements are set out in the published Department Circular 53/2011. Applications for alleviation were received from 153 primary schools and the individual schools were notified directly of the outcome. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is currently conducting a review into allowances across the public sector. It is expected that this review will be finalised shortly.

Third Level Staff

Anne Ferris

Question:

209 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a breakdown of all unauthorised allowances to each of the senior academics for the 2005 to 2011 period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23740/12]

I would like to refer the Deputy to the letter from the Secretary General of my Department to the Public Accounts Committee of 28 November 2011.

The letter states that the Higher Education Authority (HEA) has conducted an exercise to determine definitively the quantum of monies at issue in respect of unauthorised payments to senior staff in each of the universities. The exercise encompassed payments made in respect of all post-holders in the university sector comprehended by the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector between June 2005 and February 2011 inclusive.

The following table sets out the extent of unauthorised allowances based on information provided to the HEA by each university. The amounts identified in each case should be treated as provisional. They are currently being verified by the Office of Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) to test the completeness and accuracy of the calculations produced. Unfortunately, I am unable to provide the information in the format requested by the Deputy as this exercise has not been finalised and presented to the Public Accounts Committee. It is hoped that this will be completed soon.

Table

UCD

€3,583,000

UCC

€1,526,000

NUIG

€578,000

NUIM

€272,000

TCD

€1,383,000

UL

€448,000

DCU

€53,000

Question No. 210 answered with Question No. 200.

Higher Education Grants

Simon Harris

Question:

211 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills the grants available to Irish students who have been accepted for postgraduate study at universities in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23814/12]

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

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

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

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

In addition to this, the Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD) provides funding to higher education institutions for the provision of services and supports for full-time students with disabilities, including those pursuing post graduate study at universities in Northern Ireland.

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

Adult Education

Dan Neville

Question:

212 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the appropriate funding will be provided for the continuation of the services being provided at a centre (details supplied) in County Limerick. [23819/12]

The centre referred to by the Deputy is a Senior Traveller Training Centre (STTC).

In line with the Traveller Education Strategy and the 2008 Value for Money (VFM) Review of Youthreach and STTCs, it was announced in Budget 2011 that an integrated further education provision for Travellers would be implemented through the phasing out of STTCs by June 2012.

The full range of Adult and Further Education part-time and full-time programmes, such as Adult Literacy, Community Education, Back To Education Initiative (BTEI), Youthreach, the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) and Post Leaving Certificate (PLC), have been and will continue to be open to Travellers.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

213 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding the Residential Institutions Redress Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23822/12]

The correspondence, inter alia, calls for the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Bill 2012 to be voted down and suggests that not one survivor will benefit directly from the Fund only service providers. As the Deputy will be aware, this Bill has been drafted following the unanimous agreement of an all-party motion passed in Dáil Éireann in the aftermath of the 2009 Ryan Report publication. The Bill is intended to establish a Statutory Fund for the benefit of survivors in line with the spirit of the motion agreed by the Dáil.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Second Stage Debate on the Bill commenced last week. The Fund will be operated by a Board, whose membership will include four former residents. The Bill provides that on application to it, the Board can make an arrangement with a person, whether or not the person is resident in the State, for the provision of an approved service to support the needs of an eligible former resident and can pay a grant to such former resident, to assist them to avail of an approved service.

The classes of services from which the Board can determine the approved services to be provided comprise:

mental health, counselling and psychological support services;

health and personal social services;

educational services; and

housing support services, including adaptation or improvement of real property but not including financial aid for the purchase, mortgage or charge of real property.

In determining criteria, the Board will take account of the individual circumstances of eligible former residents and it will assess the likely effects of the provision of the service on the health and general well-being, personal and social development, educational development, or the living conditions of former residents.

I do not accept the suggestion that the Fund will only benefit service providers, clearly the services provided must be targeted to the specific needs of the individual applicant to the Board.

Disadvantaged Status

Brendan Smith

Question:

214 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider a review of schools concerning DEIS status and the mechanisms he has in place for schools to qualify for DEIS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23830/12]

A key priority for my Department is to prioritise and target resources in schools with the most concentrated levels of educational disadvantage. That challenge is significant, given the current economic climate and the target to reduce public expenditure. This limits the capacity for any additionality in the DEIS programme. In this context, I have no immediate plans to undertake the type of review to which the Deputy refers.

The process of identifying primary and second-level schools for participation in DEIS was managed by the Educational Research Centre (ERC) on behalf of my Department and supported by quality assurance work co-ordinated through the Department's regional offices and the Inspectorate in 2005.

Furthermore a review mechanism was put in place in 2005 to address the concerns of those schools that did not qualify for inclusion in the School Support Programme under DEIS but regarded themselves as having a level of disadvantage which is of a scale sufficient to warrant their inclusion in the programme.

A Report on the First Phase of the Evaluation of DEIS was published by the Education Research Centre, on behalf of my Department, in January 2012. In addition, a national composite report on the effectiveness of DEIS planning in primary and post-primary schools was also published by the Inspectorate of my Department in January 2012. These evaluations demonstrated positive outcomes for both schools and children participating in the DEIS programme.

Vocational Education Committees

Brendan Smith

Question:

215 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he intends to issue a circular to provide for by-elections for staff representatives to vocational education committees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23831/12]

My Department proposes to proceed with by-elections to fill vacancies for representatives of staff and parent representatives in a number of vocational education committees as early as possible in the next school year. It is intended to issue a circular well in advance of the election date, which has yet to be determined.

Education and Training Boards

Brendan Smith

Question:

216 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the provision he intends to make for learner/service user representation on the boards of the new education and training boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23832/12]

In October 2011 the General Scheme of an Education and Training Boards Bill was referred to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education. The General Scheme was also published at that time. Following discussions with my Department and relevant stakeholders, the committee prepared a report which I responded to at a meeting of the committee on 25 January 2012. The composition of the new education and training boards is one of the issues which was raised by stakeholders with the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education and identified in Chapter 3 of the Joint Committee's report.

The General Scheme has now been referred to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government for formal drafting. The issue of the composition of the new bodies is being considered as part of the drafting process.

Third Level Courses

Brendan Smith

Question:

217 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will report on the implementation of the strategy on internationalisation of Irish education; if he is satisfied that sufficient progress is being made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23833/12]

The Government is strongly committed to promoting Ireland as a centre for international education. The Programme for Government sets out an ambitious target of doubling international student numbers over the coming five years, through full implementation of the international education strategy, Investing in Global Relationships. International education is also identified in the Action Plan for Jobs as a crucial sector for growth.

Significant progress is being made in implementing the strategy. Some key recent developments include:

The new international brand and marketing campaign for Irish education, Education in Ireland, is being managed by Enterprise Ireland and has been rolled out in a number of key markets, including the USA, China and Russia.

Enterprise Ireland is undertaking a range of other initiatives, including social media marketing and a pilot Student Ambassador programme to promote Ireland to international students.

I will shortly be formally launching a new international scholarship scheme targeting high-performing students in our key markets with a view to significantly raising Ireland's profile.

The High Level Group on International Education, which is chaired by my Department, has agreed a set of priority markets, and market-specific plans are being developed on a rolling basis. Inter-governmental relationships are also being strengthened with these partner countries, through the signing of memorandums of understanding and exchange of high level visits.

Education missions form a crucial part of our overseas outreach. The most recent mission was led by Minister of State Ciaran Cannon to China, and further missions are planned for later this year.

My Department is also supporting the hosting of the Annual Conference of the European Association for International Education in Dublin later this year. Over 4,500 leading professionals in international higher education from more than 85 countries will participate in this conference, which will provide a unique platform to promote awareness of Ireland among sectoral professionals.

Higher Education Grants

Patrick Nulty

Question:

218 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding grants for postgraduate students in the coming academic year; if he will review the decision to end maintenance payment under the student grant scheme for students entering new postgraduate courses from the 2012/2013 academic year onwards with a view to re-instating the payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23834/12]

The Deputy will be aware that, in the context of the necessary but difficult expenditure reduction measures announced in Budget 2012, new students entering postgraduate courses from the 2012/13 academic year onwards will not be entitled to maintenance payments under the Student Grant Scheme. However, those students who meet the qualifying conditions for the special rate of grant will be eligible to have their post-graduate tuition fees paid up to the maximum fee limit under the Student Grant Scheme.

Existing postgraduate students will not be affected. In addition, a further limited number of students who would previously have qualified under the standard grant thresholds will qualify to have a €2,000 contribution made towards the costs of their fees. My Department estimates that this will help an additional 4,000 postgraduate students. There will be a new income threshold for this payment which will be lower than the standard grant threshold. The income threshold for this level of grant is currently being determined in the context of the formulation of the student grant scheme for the 2012/13 academic year.

In access terms, the requirement to pay a fee is considered to be a greater obstacle to entry than lack of maintenance support at postgraduate level. This is why I opted to maintain the fee-payment ahead of maintenance payments for postgraduate students. My priority as Minister for Education and Skills is to preserve access to undergraduate higher education courses despite the difficult circumstances in our public finances. As a result, no changes were made to the eligibility criteria for undergraduate students in the recent Budget. It is also worth emphasising that 41% of all undergraduate students currently receive a grant and pay no student contributions.

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

As the Government had factored in the savings from the changes in the student grant scheme to the public expenditure programme for 2012 onwards, I regret that I am not in a position to reverse or vary them.

Schools Building Projects

John Paul Phelan

Question:

219 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the funding for a much needed extension to a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23852/12]

The delivery of the proposed extension at the school in question has been devolved to Co. Kilkenny VEC and I understand that the VEC will shortly commence the process of appointing a Design Team.

John Paul Phelan

Question:

220 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is continuing to allocate devolved grants for extensions to school buildings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23853/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that as outlined in the Five Year Plan and in view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a physical school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet significant demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The Five Year school building programme is focused on meeting those demographic needs. This announcement represents major advances in how the school building programme is publicised, and will provide certainty to patrons and school communities concerning the major school building projects that my Department is in a position to progress.

I also wish to advise the Deputy that where an immediate enrolment need in an area has been identified e.g. the appointment of an additional teacher and where school's existing accommodation cannot provide for this growth, the Department will be prepared to consider applications by schools for capital funding for additional classrooms mainly on a devolved basis.

Any applications for grant aid for additional school accommodation can only be considered in the context of the challenges that I have outlined above.

State Examinations

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

221 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if all examination superintendent invigilator work is remunerated at the same rate per hour per day regardless of level of exam or location of venue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23854/12]

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

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

School Staffing

Derek Nolan

Question:

222 Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 84, if whistle blowers can be facilitated with respect to reporting appointments of retired teachers; as set out in Circular 0031/2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23858/12]

Under Circular 31/2011 each principal must report to his or her board of management on a regular basis on the fact that a list of unemployed registered teachers is being maintained, and the circumstances in which he or she has had to engage a registered teacher in receipt of a pension under a public service pension scheme or an unregistered person. Records relating to recruitment and appointment must be made available by the school for inspection by the Department and a copy of such a record must be furnished to the Department upon a request being made for this. My Department is monitoring the appointment of retired teachers on an ongoing basis.

Institutes of Education

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

223 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Education and Skills the role being played in the educational system here with the development of Chinese Confucius institutions; the funding streams available to universities and colleges through these institutions; if he will explain the detail, role, purpose and benefit of the Confucius institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23866/12]

The Confucius Institutes are an initiative of the Chinese Government, intended to promote study and awareness of Chinese language and culture worldwide. There are two such Institutes in Ireland, both based in universities: the UCC Confucius Institute and the UCD Confucius Institute for Ireland. As autonomous institutions, both universities have their own direct relationships with the Chinese authorities regarding funding and management of the Institutes.

I welcome and support the role played by the Confucius Institutes in promoting awareness of Chinese language and culture in Ireland, in particular the work they are doing locally and nationally with schools, through the provision of Chinese teachers and support materials. The Confucius Institutes in Cork and Dublin have been working with schools over a number of years, supporting Chinese Culture and Language learning on a school by school basis. A Transition Unit was developed by the UCD Confucius Institute based on its experience of working with Irish schools. It is designed to introduce students to both traditional and modern aspects of Chinese culture and to support students learning some of the Chinese language, integrated into the teaching of each topic.

Higher Education Grants

Finian McGrath

Question:

224 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a third level student (details supplied) was treated in such a manner. [23868/12]

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

The Deputy will appreciate that in the absence of all of the relevant details that would be contained in an individual's application form and supporting documentation, it would not be possible for me to say whether or not a student should qualify for a grant. Where a grant application is refused, the reason for the refusal is given by the grant awarding authority. An applicant may appeal the decision to the relevant awarding authority. Where the appeals officer decides to reject the appeal, the applicant may appeal this decision to my Department or the independent appeals board, as appropriate. No appeal has been received in my Department to date.

Special Educational Needs

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

225 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the annual allocation of funds to the National Behaviour Support Service; the nature of resources required by this service; if any qualitative analysis has been undertaken by the National Behaviour Support Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23899/12]

The allocation of funds to the National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS) is €2,041,927 for 2012 . This funding covers the full cost of the service including the employment of 1 National Co-ordinator, 4 Assistant National Co-ordinators, 7 Regional Development Officers, 1 Literary Development Officer, 1 Speech and Language Therapist, 1.75 Occupational Therapists and 1 Research Officer.

No overall qualitative evaluation of the NBSS has taken place. However qualitative research has been undertaken in the areas of the Behaviour Support Classrooms and Academic Literacy, Learning and Study Skills which show that preventative strategies and early intervention approaches adopted by teachers in their classroom and as part of wider school systems, structures and practices avoid the creation of a "wait to fail" model for student interventions. There is ongoing research in Whole School, Targeted Intervention and Intensive, Individualised Behaviour as part of NBSS's three levels of support.

Higher Education Grants

Brendan Griffin

Question:

226 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the result of an appeal will be known in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23913/12]

An appeal from the person in respect of whom details were supplied by the Deputy is due for consideration at the next sitting of the Student Grants Appeals Board which is scheduled for the 7th June 2012.

Special Educational Needs

Brendan Griffin

Question:

227 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills when an examination reader will be supplied to a student (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23914/12]

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations including organising the holding of examinations and determining procedures in places where examinations are conducted including the supervision of examinations. I can inform the Deputy that the Commission operates a scheme of Reasonable Accommodations in the certificate examinations. Applications for such accommodations are submitted by schools on behalf of their students.

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

Bullying in Schools

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

228 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a list of the organisations and individuals invited to participate in the forum on bullying; the issues related to bullying that are expected to be examined; if he will provide a copy of the agenda for the meeting; if cyber bullying will be considered; if a specific budget will be put in place to implement any measures that come out of the forum or will the measures be examined on a cost neutral basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23931/12]

I recently announced details of a forum to explore ways to tackle the problem of bullying in schools. This Anti-Bullying Forum is due to take place on the 17th of May 2012 and will bring together a range of experts, support groups and representatives of the schools sector including parents and students. It is envisaged that there will be a range of speakers on the day of the Forum which will include contributions from my Department, the National Anti-Bullying Coalition (NABC), an acknowledged academic or other expert in the field of anti-bullying and contributors from the school sector from the various perspectives of school principal, parent and pupils. The Forum will also give other stakeholders an opportunity to give their views. The agenda for the Forum and the list of organisations attending the Forum will be made available on my Department's website shortly.

The objective of the Forum will be to explore with all the relevant stakeholders how best to tackle bullying in schools and to consider what changes or updating of existing practices and procedures are required to achieve this having regard to what is feasible to implement in the current financial climate. The work of the Forum and any recommendations from it must be cognisant of the current very difficult and challenging budgetary environment that is resulting in all areas of the public sector, including schools, having to operate on a reduced level of resources for the foreseeable future. Bullying is a problem I take very seriously and I hope that the Forum will provide an opportunity to set out a roadmap on how best to tackle all forms of bullying in our schools.

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

School Enrolments

Brendan Smith

Question:

229 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of pupils that are expected to need school places in junior infants in September 2012 in Ashbourne, County Meath. [23982/12]

Brendan Smith

Question:

230 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of junior infants classes expected to be needed to accommodate junior infants in September 2012 in Ashbourne, County Meath. [23983/12]

Brendan Smith

Question:

231 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there will be enough places in the various ethos based multi-denominational and non-denominational schools to cater for the needs and requirements of parents in Ashbourne, County Meath, for pupils starting school in September 2012; and the ratio of pupils expected to attend each school in the town. [23984/12]

Brendan Smith

Question:

232 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason research was carried out among parents of prospective pupils in Ashbourne, County Meath, to ascertain their preference with regard to the ethos of schools in the town. [23985/12]

Brendan Smith

Question:

233 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the projected school enrolment needs for Ashbourne, County Meath over the next ten years. [23986/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 229 to 233, inclusive, together.

The need for additional school provision in Ashbourne was identified by analysis carried out by the Forward Planning Section of my Department, using enrolment data and demographic trends. My Department put in place an application and patron selection process for the establishment of new schools to cater for increasing demographics in Ashbourne.

Applications for patronage of the new schools were received from An Foras Patrúnachta and from Educate Together, both of whom are well established national patron bodies. Both patron bodies proposed to establish multi-denominational schools. Given that all existing schools in Ashbourne were Catholic in ethos, the provision of multi-denominational schools would increase diversity and parental choice in the area. Following consideration of these applications, approval was given for the commencement of a new Gaelscoil which opened in September 2011 and a new Educate Together School which will open in September 2012.

Prior to September 2011 there were three primary schools in Ashbourne town, all of which were under Catholic patronage. During 2010 and 2011 the Department had been examining the question of increasing the number of primary school places in Ashbourne to cater for the expected increase in enrolments. As part of that consideration the Department consulted with the patron of the three Catholic schools regarding extending the capacity of those schools. The patron indicated that, following local consultation in Ashbourne, the consensus was that the parish should not be involved in further primary school provision in the area.

With the commencement of the two new primary schools in Ashbourne there will be capacity for at least seven junior infant classes across the five schools in Ashbourne for September 2012. Five of these junior infant classes will be provided in schools with a Catholic ethos and two will be provided in schools with a multi-denominational ethos. The two newer schools also have the potential to take a second class group of junior infants each if necessary. This additional capacity at junior infant level should be more than sufficient to meet the projected demand for places in Ashbourne based on the analysis of child benefit data for the area.

School Staffing

John McGuinness

Question:

234 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a resource teaching post will be allocated to a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24055/12]

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.

Higher Education Grants

Peter Mathews

Question:

235 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to reintroduce postgraduate grants or if there is a plan to bring in a student loan scheme to finance postgraduate studies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24063/12]

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. Existing postgraduate students will not be affected while pursuing their current course.

In making these changes, I have provided for fee support for those students who meet the qualifying conditions for the special rate of grant — they will continue to 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. However, there will be a new income threshold for this payment which will be lower than the standard grant threshold. The income threshold for this level of grant is currently being determined in the context of the formulation of the student grant scheme for the 2012/13 academic year.

Tax relief is also available on postgraduate tuition fees. Details in relation to this relief are available from the Revenue Commissioners.

In addition to this, the Student Assistance Fund will continue to be made available through the access offices of third-level institutions to assist students in exceptional financial need. Also the Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD) provides funding to both further and higher education institutions for the provision of services and supports for full-time students with disabilities.

My Department is continuing to explore a range of possibilities for the provision of supports to assist students pursuing studies at postgraduate level.

As the Government had factored in the savings from the changes in the student grant scheme to the public expenditure programme for 2012 onwards, I regret that I am not in a position to reverse or vary them.

Regulatory Impact Assessments

Terence Flanagan

Question:

236 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number and description of any regulatory impact assessments that have been undertaken by his Department on legislation or proposed legislation since 9 March 2011; the stage in the legislative/policy development process at which the RIAs have been carried out; the number of RIAs that have been published by his Department over the same period; the manner of publication involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23496/12]

The Department has carried out work on two RIAs in the period since 9 March 2011. The Education (Amendment) Bill 2012 was published on 9 January 2012. A screening RIA for this Bill was finalised in December 2011 and is available to download on the Department's website. The RIA for the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Bill 2011 was published at the same time as the Bill in July 2011. The RIA is also available on the Department's website.

Schools Building Projects

Seamus Kirk

Question:

237 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a building project at a school (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24078/12]

The building project referred to by the Deputy is currently at an early stage of Architectural Planning.

The Design Team was recently appointed and commenced Stage 1 (Preliminary Sketch Design) of the design process. My Department is awaiting a status update and completion of preliminary design works from the Board of Management and their Design team.

Special Educational Needs

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

238 Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of special need hours in total, relating to the number of pupils, that have been authorised for a school (details supplied) in Dublin 12 for the forthcoming academic year 2012/2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24109/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that all primary schools, including the school referred to by the Deputy have been advised of their revised General Allocation Model (GAM) allocation for the coming school year, based on the number of mainstream classroom teaching posts in the school in the proceeding year, which itself is based on school pupil enrolments. In relation to any additional allocation of resource teaching time for children with low incidence special needs, which is not provided for through general allocation, I wish to advise that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating resource teachers and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support, which now includes a requirement for them to have regard to an overall cap on numbers of posts available.

Schools have been advised to make applications to the NCSE for low incidence resource teaching and SNA support for the 2012/13 school year by 16th March, 2012. Schools will subsequently be advised by the NCSE of their allocation for the 2012/13 school year, based on the number of valid applications received. It is open to schools to contact their local SENO in this regard, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

Third Level Remuneration

Patrick Deering

Question:

239 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills the different salary scales for the different grades of lecturer in the National University of Ireland Maynooth; and the increments or reductions they have received since 2008 [24114/12]

The information sought by the Deputy is in the table:

01/06/2007

01/03/2008

01/09/2008

01/01/2010

Grade

Non-PPC

PPC

Non-PPC

PPC

Non-PPC

PPC

Non-PPC

PPC

Sen Lec

65,116

68,541

66,744

70,255

68,413

72,011

64,033

67,310

68,964

72,595

70,688

74,410

72,455

76,270

67,710

71,143

72,810

76,642

74,630

78,558

76,496

80,522

71,346

74,970

76,632

80,666

78,548

82,683

80,512

84,750

74,961

78,775

80,463

84,701

82,475

86,819

84,537

88,989

78,584

82,592

84,317

88,751

86,425

90,970

88,586

93,244

82,227

86,420

88,148

92,780

90,352

95,100

92,611

97,478

85,849

90,230

91,960

96,796

94,259

99,216

96,615

101,696

89,454

94,027

Lecturer

48,936

51,509

50,159

52,797

51,413

54,117

48,307

50,808

50,657

53,331

51,923

54,664

53,221

56,031

49,979

52,579

59,945

63,094

61,444

64,671

62,980

66,288

59,006

62,065

64,798

68,202

66,418

69,907

68,078

71,655

63,722

66,990

69,641

73,305

71,382

75,138

73,167

77,016

68,350

71,814

74,495

78,411

76,357

80,371

78,266

82,380

72,939

76,642

79,329

83,498

81,312

85,585

83,345

87,725

77,511

81,452

Asst Lect

33,825

35,609

34,671

36,499

35,538

37,411

33,623

35,355

35,907

37,795

36,805

38,740

37,725

39,709

35,646

37,481

38,035

40,035

38,986

41,036

39,961

42,062

37,714

39,657

39,841

41,938

40,837

42,986

41,858

44,061

39,469

41,506

41,627

43,814

42,668

44,909

43,735

46,032

41,205

43,330

43,423

45,704

44,509

46,847

45,622

48,018

42,950

45,167

45,210

47,590

46,340

48,780

47,499

50,000

44,687

47,000

47,074

49,544

48,251

50,783

49,457

52,053

46,498

48,899

48,937

51,510

50,160

52,798

51,414

54,118

48,308

50,809

50,793

53,457

52,063

54,793

53,365

56,163

50,113

52,701

52,735

55,510

54,053

56,898

55,404

58,320

51,999

54,696

54,593

57,472

55,958

58,909

57,357

60,382

53,805

56,603

Jun Lect

36,624

38,552

37,540

39,516

38,479

40,504

36,343

38,215

38,402

40,419

39,362

41,429

40,346

42,465

38,070

40,030

40,218

42,338

41,223

43,396

42,254

44,481

39,836

41,895

41,681

43,870

42,723

44,967

43,791

46,091

41,257

43,384

43,128

45,397

44,206

46,532

45,311

47,695

42,663

44,868

Sub Lect

29,094

30,630

29,821

31,396

30,567

32,181

29,024

30,517

Teaching Qualifications

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

240 Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills in relation to the teaching of mathematics, his views that school management should deploy teachers who do not meet the qualification criteria for teaching mathematics as set down by the Teaching Council into the teaching of mathematics when there are more suitable qualified teachers in the school who might be deployed instead, and in cases where those teachers are already deployed in departments which are currently overstaffed. [24122/12]

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

241 Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills in schools in which pupils are set by ability in mathematics, across both junior and leaving certificate programmes, resulting in a division between honours and ordinary level classes and also further divisions of the ordinary level classes into progressively less able groups, his views on whether it is appropriate to deploy particular teachers in a school to teach exclusively lower or lowest ordinary level/foundation levels sets, or should teachers be deployed across a range of ability sets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24123/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 240 and 241 together.

In the first instance, I would point out that the deployment of teaching staff in the school is a matter for the school management authorities. I acknowledge, however, that the proportion of Mathematics teachers without a major qualification represents a challenge to the system. This is, however, also a feature of education systems in other jurisdictions. The results of a survey of mathematics teaching undertaken by the Teaching Council, in 2011, shows that 66.4% of maths teachers are fully qualified to do so, 31.1% have undergone some studies in maths and only 2.5% of teachers teaching maths have no third level qualification/studies in maths.

Last September proposals were announced to introduce a course for teachers of Mathematics who may not have a formal qualification in the subject to upskill to the recognised levels. The tendering competition is now over and the assessment process is at an advanced stage. Arising out of this competitive process, I hope that the first courses will commence during the forthcoming school year. The course/s will aim to provide teachers with suitable mathematical content knowledge along with appropriate pedagogical strategies in line with the new Project Maths initiative. The provision of the training programme addresses the following recommendation of the Report of the Project Maths Implementation Support Group: "The Department of Education and Skills should work towards ensuring that all post primary students at all levels are taught mathematics solely by teachers who hold a qualification in mathematics by 2018. Post graduate courses for existing teachers should be provided on a scale and level commensurate with this objective."

It will provide unqualified maths teachers with the opportunity to up skill their knowledge of mathematics and study the strategies best suited to the new Project Maths syllabuses. Providing for high quality teaching and learning of mathematics is of key strategic importance to the State. In addition, schools have been asked to make every effort to deploy teachers who hold a qualification in mathematics to teach mathematics, which is particularly important in the formative years of junior cycle.

I believe that class grouping should be designed to enhance the students' appreciation and understanding of mathematics and should serve to provide all students with an appropriate level of challenge but in a manner that is a positive learning experience for the student. A growing number of schools now place students in mixed-ability classes until the composition of the higher and ordinary-level cohorts is decided. The groupings within these levels should, where appropriate, contain a mix of abilities. It is essential that any decisions taken in this regard are educationally sound and focus on the students' educational experience and on enhanced outcomes. Ultimately it rests with the individual school to develop, in partnership with its stakeholders, an educationally sound rationale, for the manner in which class groups are composed, which recognises the need for all of its students to achieve to the highest level possible.

School Staffing

Gerry Adams

Question:

242 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an appeal in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Louth; the number of teachers the school will have for September 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24131/12]

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.

Special Educational Needs

Clare Daly

Question:

243 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will direct the chief executive officer of the National Council for Special Education to respond to the questions raised by e-mail to the CEO (details supplied) dated 21 March 2012. [24144/12]

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) was set up as an independent statutory body to improve the delivery of education services to persons with special educational needs arising from disabilities with particular emphasis on children. I have requested the NCSE to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the Deputy's question.

Schools Building Projects

Michael McGrath

Question:

244 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a request by a school (details supplied) in Cork for an increase in the size of a general purpose room as part of the design stage of a planned new school building (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24153/12]

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an early stage of architectural planning. My Department is currently considering the school's request for an increase in the size of the GP room and will revert to the school authority shortly with a decision on the matter.

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

245 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the stage of the proposed development of a new building for a school (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24177/12]

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet the demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The five year programme announced recently is focused on meeting those demographic needs.

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at an early stage of architectural planning. The Stage 1 submission, which incorporates Preliminary Design, was recently lodged with my Department and is currently being reviewed. When this is complete, my Department will revert to the Board of Management and their Design Team and assuming no other issues arise the project will proceed to the next stage of architectural planning. School building projects currently in architectural planning, including the project referred to by the Deputy, will continue to be advanced incrementally over time within the context of the funding available. However, in light of current competing demands on my Department's capital budget, it is not possible at this time to indicate when this project will progress to tender and construction stage.

Appointments to State Boards

Timmy Dooley

Question:

246 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Education and Skills the appointments made by him to State boards under the remit of his Department since March 2011 that were advertised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24243/12]

In accordance with Government policy, expressions of interest have been sought through the Public Appointments Service (PAS) from suitably qualified and experienced persons for consideration for appointment to the following boards of Bodies operating under the aegis of my Department: Leárgas Ltd — The Exchange Bureau; The Higher Education Authority; The Qualifications and Quality Assurance Authority of Ireland (to be newly established); The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA); The State Examinations Commission (SEC); The Teaching Council.

To date, appointments have not been made to Leárgas or to the Qualifications and Quality Assurance Authority of Ireland. Vacancies on other boards of Bodies under the aegis of my Department that arise during 2012 will continue to be advertised on my Department's website. The Deputy should note that in making any direct Ministerial appointments, I am not necessarily confined to those who make such expressions of interest but will ensure that all of those appointed have the relevant skills and competencies for the positions.

School Curriculum

Brendan Smith

Question:

247 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a report by a person (details supplied) which criticised the subject matter of project maths and the inadequate training of teachers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24256/12]

Brendan Smith

Question:

248 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the recommendations from a recent report on project maths from a college (details supplied); which, if any, of these recommendations he will implement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24257/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 247 and 248 together.

The detailed comments in the "Interim Report on Project Maths" prepared by the School of Mathematical Sciences in UCC will be considered by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment which is the body responsible for the development of the Project Maths syllabus. The research was completed last November and the focus of their analysis is on an earlier version of syllabus which has now been updated. Ongoing engagement with third level mathematics and engineering departments has been a feature of the NCCA's work in developing the syllabus. Indeed, the lead author of this UCC study, Dr. James Granell, is the nominee of the Irish Universities Association (IUA) to the NCCA's Board of Studies for Maths.

While there will always be differing views on curricular reform, Project Maths has been welcomed by FORFAS, the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, Engineers Ireland and industry interests. Implementation of the change is supported through a Project Maths Implementation Support Group, as an industry/education partnership. This Group reported in 2010 on how stakeholders from business, second level and higher education can work together to achieve the objectives of Project Maths and its recommendations are being progressed. Project Maths implementation is supported by a comprehensive investment in professional development for teachers, at a cost estimated to be in the region of €3.3m per annum.

In addition, the Department has tendered for the development of a post graduate course for teachers who need more intensive support. A wide range of resources for the project are available on www.projectmaths.ie. The support for teachers is supplemented by evening courses in the Education Centre network and by summer courses in the National Centre of Excellence for Maths and Science Teaching and Learning in the University of Limerick.

Teaching Qualifications

Brendan Smith

Question:

249 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the engagement he has had or intends to have with teachers in relation to the progress of project maths; if teachers are satisfied with the content of the course and that their professional development is sufficient; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24258/12]

Implementation of the revised mathematics syllabuses began in all schools in 2010. The syllabuses were developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), which has a representative structure including organisations representing teachers. Both the development of the syllabuses and the associated professional development support has been informed by the experiences of a group of initial schools involved in project maths. Representatives from those schools are on the Department's steering committee for project maths.

A comprehensive programme of professional development for teachers is in place and a wide variety of resources are available. In relation to professional development workshops, I am happy to be able to place on record the high satisfaction rating there is amongst the teaching community with the content of training and support provided by the Project Maths Development Team. After each workshop, attendees are asked to rate their satisfaction level with the content. Over the 6 workshops provided to date the satisfaction rating averages 98%. This reflects the commitment and professionalism of not just the support team but also the mathematics teaching community who have actively engaged with the support provided. The NCCA has also commissioned research on the impact of Project Maths on student's attitudes and attainment.

Schools Refurbishment

Seán Kyne

Question:

250 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will report on the experience of his Department this year in terms of the new approach to small buildings and improvement works which would have previously been catered for under the summer works scheme. [24262/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that as outlined in the Five Year Plan and in view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a physical school place, the delivery of major school projects to meet significant demographic demands nationally will be the main focus for capital investment in schools in the coming years. The Five Year school building programme is focused on meeting those demographic needs. This announcement represents major advances in how the school building programme is publicised, and will provide certainty to patrons and school communities concerning the major school building projects that my Department is in a position to progress.

In the context, therefore, of the financial constraints imposed by the need to prioritise available funding for the provision of essential school accommodation, it is not possible for me to advance with a summer works programme this year. In addition to the standard capitation grant, the Deputy will be aware that a Minor Works Grant issued to primary schools last November for the school year 2011/2012 at a cost of €28m. It is open to schools to prioritise the use of these funds to address issues such as those to which the Deputy refers.

School Patronage

Seán Kyne

Question:

251 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if, owing to the evidence provided by existing schools in terms of school places on the western side of Galway city which indicated that a new Irish-medium school in Knocknacarra is not required, he will confirm that the decision to grant a new school is based on efforts to increase plurality of school patrons. [24338/12]

In June 2011, I announced that 20 new primary schools are to be established up to 2015 across a number of locations to cater for increasing demographics. My Department invited patrons and prospective patron bodies to make applications for patronage of the new primary schools that are due to be established in 2012 and 2013. Following my consideration of the recommendations of the New Schools Establishment Group, I announced in March of this year that the new school to open in Knocknacarra in 2013 will be an Irish medium school. However I also stated that further clarification would be sought from An Foras Patrunachta and the City of Galway VEC before a decision would be made on patronage of this new school. The basis for the decision to open a new school in Knocknacarra was made following a detailed study of the available demographic data for this area. I am aware that my officials had a meeting with a deputation of principals from Galway City West Schools on 29th March, 2012 to discuss the local principals' concerns regarding the need for a new school in the Knocknacarra area. The issues raised by the principals at that meeting are being considered further.

Schools Building Projects

Seán Kyne

Question:

252 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the community of Knocknacarra, County Galway, are in the main supportive of upgrading and providing an extension for a local school (details supplied) rather than resources being directed at establishing a new school. [24342/12]

The basis for the decision to open a new school in Knocknacarra was made following a detailed study of the available demographic data for this area. I am aware that my officials had a meeting with a deputation of principals from Galway City West Schools on 29th March, 2012 to discuss the local principals' concerns regarding the need for a new school in the Knocknacarra area. The issues raised by the principals at that meeting are being considered further.

For purposes of the Five Year School Building Plan announced recently, new school building projects as well as major extensions have been identified and prioritised on the basis of meeting demographic needs in areas where such needs have been identified. In that regard, the current status of projects already in architectural planning, including the project referred to by the Deputy, was also considered. School building projects currently in architectural planning, including the project referred to by the Deputy, will continue to be advanced incrementally over time within the context of the funding available. However, in light of current competing demands on the Department's capital budget, it is not possible to progress this project to tender and construction stage at this time.

Flood Relief

Catherine Byrne

Question:

253 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide a report on any works have been undertaken to prevent further flooding of the Poddle river; the cost of these works; the future works that are planned; the way he is helping residents who were affected by flooding last year to secure home insurance and flood cover; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23665/12]

Following the serious flooding of houses and commercial properties from the River Poddle, which occurred during the major flood event of October, 2011, South Dublin County Council (SDCC) applied for funding under the Office of Public Works' (OPW) Minor Works Scheme to undertake a number of measures designed to alleviate flooding from this watercourse. The Minor Works Scheme provides funding to local authorities to undertake projects with an estimated cost of less than €500,000 and which can be completed within a relatively short-time frame.

The OPW approved funding of €250,000 to the Council in March this year under the Scheme to undertake a number of measures along the River Poddle. The measures consist of the redesign and reinstallation of three trash screens, works at two pedestrian bridges and channel maintenance. The progression of these measures is a matter for the Council. In addition to the measures outlined above, the OPW is to fund and undertake direct works costing an estimated €200,000 to increase the attenuation capacity at the Tymon Park ponds. Consultants have been commissioned to design earthen embankments and a wall in Tymon Park to double the storage of water in the existing ponds.

The consideration of flooding matters on the River Poddle on a long-term basis is being addressed through the ongoing Eastern Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Study, which was commissioned in 2011 as part of the OPW's national CFRAM programme. This study will identify and examine in detail the cause of flooding throughout the eastern catchment, and produce an integrated plan of specific measures to address the significant flood risk factors in a pro-active and comprehensive way. A detailed assessment of the flood risk pertaining to the River Poddle will be undertaken as part of this study and measures formulated to address the issues arising. The consultants have been asked to accelerate this element of the study.

In relation to the difficulties some people may be experiencing in obtaining insurance cover for flood risk, I have had discussions recently with the major insurance companies in the Irish market and officials in my Office are currently engaged with the Irish Insurance Federation (IIF) in relation to this matter. The industry has indicated to me that the incidence of households or businesses being refused cover or being charged excessive premiums is marginal and that where it arises the causes are complex with each case being assessed in light of the particular circumstances applying. The OPW and the IIF are keen to establish a sustainable means of sharing information on areas vulnerable to flooding and on identifying flood defence works carried out or funded by the OPW and the impact of those works in reducing the risk of flooding in areas where flooding previously occurred. The OPW has provided some information to the IIF but work is ongoing to clarify a number of issues with a view to agreeing with the IIF a viable basis on which information can be provided. There are complex technical issues involved concerning the design standards and risk levels of defence works and maintenance arrangements. My officials will continue to work with the IIF to finalise matters as soon as possible.

In addition to the exchange of technical information with the IIF, I am keen that more information is gathered on the extent of the problems being experienced by members of the public in obtaining insurance. In this regard I understand that the Irish National Flood Forum, who I met recently, will be undertaking a survey to gather as much information as possible in this area from their member organisations. Details should be available shortly on its website www.irishnationalfloodforum.com. The OPW will continue to keep the matter under review with the IIF.

Fiscal Policy

Robert Troy

Question:

254 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when will the list of potential stimulus for the economy be compiled; if all Members of the Oireachtas will have an opportunity to submit proposals for that list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23895/12]

Since coming into office, the current Government has been working on a range of measures to boost employment and help stimulate economic growth. The first such measure announced by the Government was the Jobs Initiative, launched in May 2011, which comprised a range of taxation and expenditure measures of €1.8bn designed to help get people back to work. More recently my colleague, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, launched the Action Plan for Jobs 2012, a plan to rebuild the economy and create jobs through improving supports for job-creating businesses and removing barriers to employment-creation across the economy. Further work to stimulate economic growth and create employment is ongoing and I would be happy to receive any proposals that Deputies wish to submit in this regard.

Departmental Expenditure

Brendan Griffin

Question:

255 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding works (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23941/12]

The Office of Public Works approved funding of €100,000 to Kerry County Council in February, 2012 under the Minor Works Scheme to undertake embankment strengthening works at this location. The progression of these works is a matter for the Council.

Departmental Functions

Catherine Murphy

Question:

256 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if it is within the competency of the Office of Public Works to be able to set and enforce by-laws for members of the public at OPW managed sites; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24044/12]

The Office of Public Works (OPW) is responsible for the care and operational management of a large number of properties and sites nationwide, including a significant number of heritage sites. These heritage properties range from nationally and internationally important prehistoric monument sites to later examples of the built heritage from various eras and key national historic houses and gardens.

In this context of the management of certain properties within the heritage portfolio, there are powers under primary legislation for relevant Ministers to create bye-laws governing, inter alia, aspects of public access to and activities within these properties. The enforcement of bye-laws duly created is a matter for site management personnel employed by OPW who are charged with monitoring the properties on a regular and ongoing basis and who ensure that relevant provisions are adhered to.

Departmental Staff

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

257 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when a new Office of Public Works panel will be formed (details supplied). [24064/12]

The Office of Public Works has already filled its complement of seasonal general operative positions in the Mayo/Galway area for the 2012 season from existing staffing panels. Consideration will be given in due course to the formation of new panels, in the light of operational requirements for future seasons. When new panels are required, vacancies are advertised in the local media and on the OPW website, accordingly as restrictions on public service recruitment permit.

Regulatory Impact Assessments

Terence Flanagan

Question:

258 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number and description of any regulatory impact assessments that have been undertaken by his Department on legislation or proposed legislation since 9 March 2011; the stage in the legislative/policy development process at which the RIAs have been carried out; the number of RIAs that have been published by his Department over the same period; the manner of publication involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23502/12]

Since the 9 March 2011 my Department has undertaken two Regulatory Impact Assessments. The first regulatory impact assessment was in relation to the proposed Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill 2012. The RIA was carried out at the preparation of the draft Heads or general Scheme of the Bill stage and has not yet been published. The second regulatory impact assessment was in relation to the Construction Contracts Bill 2010. This was carried out before second stage in the Dáil (RIA was not possible before this as it was a Private Member's Bill). It was published on the Department's website: www.per.gov.ie/ reports on 27 September 2011.

Appointments to State Boards

Timmy Dooley

Question:

259 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the appointments made by him to State boards under the remit of his Department since March 2011 that were advertised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24250/12]

In response to the Deputy's question the following appointments were made to bodies under the aegis of my Department:

An Post National Lottery

Name of Appointee

Date Appointed

Mr. Donal Connell — Chairman

re-appointed February 29th 2012.

The position to which Mr. Connell was re-appointed by me as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform was not advertised as under the National Lottery Act 1986, the majority shareholder of the National Lottery Company (i.e. An Post) nominates the person to fill this position.

On 22nd November 2011, I re-appointed Mr. Connell as chairman until 29th February 2012 in order to allow him time to appear before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance Public Expenditure and Reform. Mr. Connell appeared before the Committee on 14th December 2011 and his re-appointment as Chairman has been ratified with effect from the 29th February 2012.

Civil Service Arbitration Board

Name of Appointee

Date Appointed

Mr. Turlough O’Donnell, S.C. (Chair)

Appointed 1 July 2011

Mr. Gerard Barry

Mr. Tom Wall

Mr. George Maybury

Mr. Hugh O’Flaherty

In accordance with the Government's recent decision, the new procedures for appointment to State Boards dictate that expressions of interest are invited from persons interested in being appointed to the boards of State Bodies and Agencies operating under the Department's aegis. Persons being proposed for appointment as chairpersons of State Bodies/Agencies may be required to make themselves available to the appropriate Oireachtas committee to discuss the approach which they will take to their role as chairperson and their views about the future contribution of the body or Board in question and, following that discussion, decisions will be taken by either the Government or myself, as appropriate, to confirm the nominee as chairperson. In the case of the Civil Service Arbitration Board the new procedures were not used and the Chairman was not interviewed by Oireachtas as the conciliation and arbitration scheme for the Civil Service, the Permanent Defence Forces, the Garda and Teachers sets out the nomination process for the Board and its appointment by Government.

Public Appointments Service

Name of Appointee

Date Appointed/Re-appointed

Mr. Eddie Sullivan, Chairman

1st September 2011

Mr. Des Dowling, Assistant Secretary — Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government

Dr. Deirdre O’Keeffe, Assistant Secretary — Department of Justice and Equality

Ms Patricia Coleman, Director — Department of Public Expenditure and Reform

Mr. Seán McGrath — National Director of HR in the HSE (has since resigned)

Ms Judith Eve — former Chairperson the Civil Service Commissioners, Northern Ireland

Dr. Eddie Molloy — Management Consultant

Mr. Dan Murphy, former General Secretary of the PSEU

Mr. Bryan Andrews as CEO of the PAS holding office on an ex officio basis.

Replaced by Ms. Fiona Tierney, CEO, PAS

20th March 2012 — on appointment as CEO

The appointments were not made using the new procedures and the previous Chairman was reappointed to the role on the new board.

The reason for not following the new procedures in relating to board appointments is that the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act, 2004 states that I, as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (in consultation with Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, the Minister for Health and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence) should appoint members of the Board of the Public Appointments Service.

The Board is meant to be representative of our client base. The majority of the board is therefore civil or public servants, nominated by the relevant Minister. There is also a union representative nominated by ICTU. I reappointed the outgoing Chairman and the two external members were appointed by me because of their expertise in strategic change and public service recruitment respectively.

Industrial Disputes

Ciara Conway

Question:

260 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the measures that will be taken to ensure that a company complies with a recommendation of the Labour Court; the recourse a person might have in cases where a company is unwilling to act on a recommendation of the Labour Court, yet continues to benefit from Government funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24308/12]

The system of industrial relations in Ireland is essentially voluntarist in nature with the terms and conditions of employment of workers being determined in the main by a process of voluntary negotiation and agreement without the direct intervention of the State.

In general, Irish law does not try to impose a solution on parties to an industrial relations dispute, but rather is designed to help support the parties in resolving their differences. The State takes a supportive role, by providing a framework and institutions through which good industrial relations can prosper, rather than an interventionist one. Institutions such as the Labour Court and the Labour Relations Commission were established to assist in the resolution of disputes between employers and workers.

The experience and expertise of the State's industrial relations machinery offers the best avenue for resolving issues in dispute. It is expected that the parties to a dispute come to the process in good faith and consequently are prepared to give serious consideration to the decisions or recommendations made.

Even what often appears to be the most intractable of disputes is capable of resolution where both sides engage constructively and in good faith in this voluntary process. The principle of good faith implies that both sides in a dispute make every effort to reach an agreement and endeavour, through genuine and constructive negotiations, to resolve their differences.

However, responsibility for the resolution of disputes remains a matter for the parties involved.

Planning Issues

Finian McGrath

Question:

261 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding a company (details supplied) in Dublin 17. [23919/12]

I understand that the issue of concern relates to a planning permit and is therefore not a matter in which I have any function.

Further to previous concerns raised by the Deputy, Enterprise Ireland contacted the company to offer any relevant enterprise related supports. The agency will continue to engage with the company in this regard.

Regulatory Impact Assessments

Terence Flanagan

Question:

262 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number and description of any regulatory impact assessments that have been undertaken by his Department on legislation or proposed legislation since 9 March 2011; the stage in the legislative/policy development process at which the RIAs have been carried out; the number of RIAs that have been published by his Department over the same period; the manner of publication involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23500/12]

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to Regulatory Impact Assessments (RIAs) carried out in my Department since 9 March 2011 is set out in the tables:

2012

RIA Undertaken on (Name of Bill/Act/ Regulations)

Stage RIA Conducted

When Published

How Published

Credit Guarantee Bill 2012

Prior to drafting of General Scheme of a Bill (November 2011).

11 April 2012

Online on Department’s website

Microfinance Loan Fund Bill 2012

Prior to drafting of General Scheme of a Bill (April 2012)

Will be published with the Bill in May 2012.

To be published

Friendly Societies and Industrial and Provident Societies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2012

Work on the RIA commenced in conjunction with consideration of legislative changes, and following a public consultation. The RIA was submitted to Government with the Memorandum seeking approval for the drafting of the Bill.

RIA will be published in conjunction with the publication of the draft Bill.

To be published

Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Reporting of Accidents, Illness and Dangerous Occurrences) Regulations 2012

RIA carried out by Health and Safety Authority as part of public consultation process.

Draft RIA presented 9 February 2012.

Published online on www.hsa.ie.

Review of the Patents Act 1992

To examine if it is necessary to bring forward legislation in this area.

March 2012

Online on Department website

2011

RIA Undertaken on (Name of Bill/Act/ Regulations)

Stage RIA Conducted

When Published

How Published

Competition (Amendment) Bill 2011

The RIA was prepared in conjunction with the preparation of the Bill which gives effect to an EU/IMF Programme commitment.

29 September 2011

Online on Department’s website

European Communities (Transnational Information and Consultation of Employees Act 1996)(Amendment) Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 380 of 2011)

During consultation with stakeholders on the approach to be taken in transposing the EU Directive

April 2011

Online on Department’s website.

Industrial Relations (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 2011

Prior to the Government decision on the publication of the Bill

December 2011 on publication of the Bill.

Hard Copy and online on Department’s website

Protection of Employees (Temporary Agency Work) Bill 2011

Following public consultation and before publication of the Bill.

May 2012

Online on Department’s website.

Consumer and Competition Bill

The RIA was prepared in conjunction with the preparation of the Bill.

The RIA will be published in conjunction with the publication of the draft Bill.

To be published

Work Permits

Michael McGrath

Question:

263 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding an appeal in respect of an employment permit application on behalf of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [24180/12]

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 elsewise.

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

Appointments to State Boards

Timmy Dooley

Question:

264 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the appointments made by him to State boards under the remit of his Department since March 2011 that were advertised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24248/12]

The Deputy will be aware that Government policy is to introduce greater transparency in the appointment process. In line with this policy and in an effort to broaden the pool of suitable candidates for consideration for appointment to boards, I sought expressions of interest last summer from suitably qualified people for appointment to the boards of several agencies under my Department's remit. I also made it clear in advertising those vacancies that I would not be restricted to only those who responded to the advertisement.

IDA Ireland

Mr. Alan W. Gray and Ms Mary Campbell were appointed to the Board of IDA Ireland on 6th February 2012. While these posts were publicly advertised, neither of those appointed applied through the expression of interest process. Ms Mary Campbell was identified following consultations with IDA Ireland to nominate a person with relevant international financial experience for my consideration for appointment to the Board.

National Standards Authority of Ireland Board (NSAI)

Ms Barbara O'Leary and Mr. Terry Landers were appointed to the Board of NSAI on 6th March 2012. Both appointments were publicly advertised and Ms O'Leary and Mr. Landers both applied through the expressions of interest process.

National Consumer Agency (NCA)

Ms Colleen Savage and Mr. Eugene Gallagher were appointed to the Board of the National Consumer Agency on 6th May 2012. Both appointments were publicly advertised and Mr. Gallagher applied through the expressions of interest process.

I have just launched a further expressions of interest campaign in respect of Board vacancies that have arisen or are due to arise over the coming months. In this respect, my overriding focus is to find the best people for particular board appointments. In making appointments I will have regard to the expertise and experience of individuals, the balance of skills and attributes in terms of the overall composition of the board, the gender balance of the board and the availability and commitment of people to serve on the board.

Employment Support Services

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

265 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide an update on any plans to try to match up local people with local projects in construction, particularly if these construction projects are funded out of the Exchequer or by State agencies, local authorities, schools and so on; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23658/12]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

277 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide an update regarding her need to match up unemployed trades people with construction projects in their local area, particularly projects funded out of the Exchequer or funded by State agencies, local authorities or schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23702/12]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

282 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the need for her to ensure that unemployed trades people are matched up with vacancies on construction projects in their area, particularly ones funded by the Exchequer or carried out by or on behalf of State agencies, local authorities and public schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23738/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 265, 277 and 282 together.

Unemployed trades people on the Live Register have access to the services of the DSP Employment Service (recently transferred from FÁS to the Department), either by voluntary contact with the service or by referral under the Employment Action Plan. All vacancies that have been notified to the service through its National Call Centre are displayed on the Department's website as well as on self-service kiosks in employment service offices. Individual clients will also have relevant local vacancies drawn to their attention as part of their engagement with officers of the employment service (for example during or as part of the follow-up to a guidance interview).

Notification of vacancies to the employment service is a matter for the employer concerned. The number of skilled building jobs notified to the service has been running at very low levels, having fallen from 5,000 in 2007 to about 800 in 2012. Just over 250 such jobs have been notified to the service in the first four months of 2012.

Social Insurance

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

266 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Social Protection the amount of money generated in revenue from pay related social insurance. [23696/12]

I understand that the Deputy is specifically referring to PRSI revenue in 2011. The total received in PRSI in 2011 was €7,540 million. This total, which is net of the National Training Fund Levy, is provisional pending the completion of the statutory audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

FÁS Website

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

267 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to any technical difficulties with the FÁS website in the recent past; if as a result persons were unable to apply for public positions in the Limerick area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23728/12]

The IT Department with responsibility for the FÁS website have informed me that they are not aware of any technical problems with the FÁS website in the recent past. I understand that if a technical problem did occur with the FÁS website the problem would be global and would affect all geographic areas. The Jobs Ireland section of the FÁS website has transferred to the Department of Social Protection and is administered by FÁS in the interim.

Job Application Deadlines

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

268 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection if FÁS is obliged to put closing dates for receipt of applications for jobs when advertising on their website. [23729/12]

Employers are not obliged to put closing dates for receipt of applications for jobs when advertising on the FÁS Jobs Ireland website. Specifying a closing date for receipt of applications is at the discretion of individual employers who advertise on the FÁS Jobs Ireland website. All vacancies advertised on the Jobs Ireland website are displayed for eight weeks, after eight weeks employers may choose to display their vacancy for an additional period of time.

Community Employment Schemes

Martin Ferris

Question:

269 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention had been drawn to the fact a recent survey of 1,421 former community employment scheme participants found that 54% had found employment or moved into further education; and if she agrees that this supports the maintenance of the programme. [24041/12]

The FÁS Planning and Research Department, approximately every two years, commissions independent consultants to undertake a follow-up survey of a representative sample of those who left FÁS employment and training programmes 13-18 months previously. The purpose of these independent surveys is to provide FÁS with information on the relative effectiveness of its programmes in terms of the labour market impact on the (former) participants. Such intelligence is vital for FÁS in order to continue to enhance the effectiveness of the services it provides to the unemployed.

The most recent survey was carried out at the end of last year of a representative sample of former participants who left FÁS programmes over the period June to September 2010. The survey will be placed on the FÁS web-site and available to the public within the next few days.

With regard to the Community Employment programme specifically; the following was the labour market position of former participants at the time of the survey (i.e. 13-18 months after leaving the programme):

Employed 13%.

In further education or training 41%.

Unemployed 38%.

On home-duties 7%.

As such, 54% of CE participants had positive outcomes in the sense that they were either employed or progressed to other training or employment programmes over a year after finishing the programme.

I have always supported the CE programme as it has achieved the objectives that it was set up for and benefits both communities and participants. Progression to employment and education/training continues to be the key performance objectives for the programme. Given the recent changes announced in Budget 2012 the issue of value for money and efficiencies have also to be added to the key objectives for this and all employment programmes. As my requested review of CE is nearing completion, I shall be further informed in making decisions in relation to the role of CE in the broader context of the Pathways to Work initiative by the results of the above survey.

Disability Allowance

Jack Wall

Question:

270 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a social protection appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23640/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the disability allowance claim of the person concerned was disallowed following an assessment by a Medical Assessor who expressed the opinion that she was medically unsuitable for the allowance. An appeal was registered on 15th March 2012 and in accordance with the statutory procedures the relevant Departmental papers and the comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the matter raised in the appeal have been sought. In that context, an assessment by another Medical Assessor will be carried out.

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

Citizens Information Services

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

271 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Social Protection when the Citizens Information Office in Dunboyne, County Meath, will reopen; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23659/12]

Meath Citizens Information Service (CIS) is funded through the Citizens Information Board to provide information, advice and advocacy to the citizens of Co. Meath. There are three full-time offices based in Navan, Trim and Ashbourne. Over several years, outreach services have been offered in various locations in the county, including Dunshaughlin, Dunboyne, Summerhill, Laytown/Bettystown, Oldtown and Kells.

In March of this year, a decision was made by the Board of Meath CIS to suspend the Dunboyne outreach service which was provided on a 3 hours per week basis in the Rehab Care Centre. The decision was made on the basis of quantitive data which indicated a low level of users in previous years, the availability of full time centres in nearby locations and the most efficient deployment of resources in the county as a whole.

CIS will continue to provide targeted information sessions to local groups and communities where a need has been identified or to meet specific requests.

Carer’s Allowance

Dan Neville

Question:

272 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps she will take to deal with the problem of backlog in the processing of carer’s allowance applications (details supplied). [23669/12]

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 scheme. This involves the development of information technology functions and associated business process re-organisation. It is anticipated that the new system will introduce significant processing efficiencies and a quicker and more responsive service to the customer. Accordingly, the project is being given high priority and involves a significant level of time and commitment from the relevant staff in the Department. This has had a short-term negative impact on claim processing times. This essential focus of certain staff resources will continue until the completion of the modernisation project in June of this year when all existing carer's allowance claims will be transferred onto the new processing system.

Accurate processing time figures are not available at present as applications are still being processed on both the old and the new computer systems. The average time to award an application at present is estimated at around 28 weeks. There are currently approximately 7,800 new applications registered and awaiting a decision and approximately 330 new applications are received each week. 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, approval has recently been given for the assignment of temporary staff to expedite the reduction of the backlogs. However, it is expected to be a significant number of months before the backlog is reduced to an acceptable level.

In the meantime, if a person's means are insufficient to meet their needs while awaiting a decision on an application, they may apply for a means-tested supplementary welfare allowance payment.

Question No. 273 withdrawn.

Invalidity Pension

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

274 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social Protection when an appeal for the grant of invalidity pension will be determined in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23676/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal, by the person concerned, was registered in that office on 15th March 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the 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.

Question No. 275 withdrawn.

Rent Supplement

Martin Heydon

Question:

276 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who is due a backdated payment of rent supplement at the end of the month: if payment will be made urgently; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23689/12]

Martin Heydon

Question:

284 Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who is due a backdated payment of rent supplement at the end of the month; if it will be paid immediately; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23779/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 276 and 284 together.

In order to alleviate the financial concerns of the person concerned, the Department has made an exceptional needs payment for the month of April. A payment for May cannot be issued in advance and will issue accordingly at the end of the month to the person concerned.

Question No. 277 answered with Question No. 265.

Rent Supplement

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

278 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite an application for rent supplement in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23705/12]

The Department suspended the rent supplement payment of the person concerned as he changed address without informing our office. No application has yet to be received in relation to his new address. The application can be processed when the necessary information has been provided.

Community Employment Schemes

Finian McGrath

Question:

279 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a community employment scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [23716/12]

The Community Employment (CE) Programme is a labour market intervention designed to assist the long term unemployed return to the work force. Persons eligible to apply should be aged 25-65 years who are unemployed for over 12 months and who are currently in receipt of one of the following payments from the Department of Social Protection:

Jobseeker's Benefit (JB).

Jobseeker's Assistance (JA).

One-Parent Family payment (OFP).

Widows/Widowers/Surviving Civil Partner's (Contributory) Pension.

Widows/Widowers/Surviving Civil Partner's (Non Contributory) Pension.

Deserted Wife's Benefit (DWB).

Farm Assist (FA).

To be eligible to participate on a community employment scheme, it is mandatory that all participants are currently in receipt of one of the above listed payments on their expected CE start date for a period of one year.

Furthermore, the following applies:

Persons availing of the Tús, Springboard or JobBridge programmes, or receiving Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) may not simultaneously participate on Community Employment (CE).

Persons engaged on the Tús, Springboard or JobBridge programmes, or receiving Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) may not avail of spousal swap option for CE (to allow their spouse on CE) for the duration of their own programme.

Time spent on Tús, Springboard, JobBridge or Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) will not count towards the qualifying period for eligibility to CE.

The person concerned was in receipt of Jobseekers Benefit from 6th February 2010 to 1st October 2010, a total of 33 weeks. To be eligible for CE, she would have to be currently in receipt of one of the payments listed above, for a total of 52 consecutive weeks. Time spent on the VTOS programme does not count as part of this qualifying period.

As she is currently not in receipt of any of the above payments, she does not meet the eligibility criteria to be considered for a place on a Community Employment Scheme.

John McGuinness

Question:

280 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a community employment scheme placement in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny [23734/12]

John McGuinness

Question:

283 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be allowed to complete their time on the community employment scheme placement they were granted in view of the fact that it was a departmental error relative to their qualification for the scheme; and if she will acknowledge the expectation created by the placement and agree to allowing them the full term. [23777/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 280 and 283 together.

The eligibility criteria for a person to complete one year on community employment requires the person to be over 25 years and in receipt of a qualifying payment from the Department of Social Protection for 52 continuous weeks prior to commencement.

The eligibility criteria for a person to complete in excess of one year on community employment requires that a person be in receipt of a qualifying payment and or participation on community employment for not less than 156 weeks.

A person in receipt of a disability payment from the Department of Social Protection is required to be in receipt of a qualifying payment for a minimum of 26 weeks.

This person was in receipt of a payment from the Department for 79 continuous weeks prior to commencement on the programme and is thus only eligible for 52 weeks and participation will terminate in October 2012.

There was no Departmental error in this case as the employer of this person was made fully aware of the eligibility of the person prior to their commencement on the scheme.

The person concerned should contact their local employment service office, in October 2012 to discuss other options that may be available to them.

Invalidity Pension

John McGuinness

Question:

281 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will confirm the medical assessment examination that was undertaken by her Department in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow regarding his claim for invalidity pension; if the two medical assessments he had confirming his entitlement to illness benefit were considered; if his ongoing care under his consultant general practitioner was considered in the context of his invalidity pension claim; if his case will be reviewed with a view to granting him invalidity pension; and if she will expedite the matter [23735/12]

The application for invalidity pension, by the person concerned, was disallowed by a Deciding Officer following a medical assessment by a Medical Assessor of the Department who expressed the opinion that he was medically unsuitable for invalidity pension. I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an appeal was opened and in the context of that appeal his case was reviewed by a second Medical Assessor who also expressed the opinion that he was medically unsuitable for invalidity pension.

In the light of the second medical opinion and in accordance with 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 were 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.

Question No. 282 answered with Question No. 265.
Question No. 283 answered with Question No. 280.
Question No. 284 answered with Question No. 276.

Money Advice and Budgeting Service

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

285 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection his views on a statement by the Money Advice and Budgeting Services stating that almost all households dependant on social welfare payments cannot live a dignified life; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23797/12]

I am aware of the ongoing research of the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice on minimum essential budgets for selected household types. I met with representatives of the partnership when they made a pre-Budget submission in September last.

MABS has worked with the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice and other organisations involved in supporting families with money difficulties over several years to develop an improved understanding of the requirements of different families when they are managing their outgoings on a low or reduced income.

The recently launched on-line Minimum Income Standard Calculator makes the work of the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice readily accessible to the general public, and readily applicable to real household situations. The calculator is based on a social consensus view of the minimum needs for everyone. It aims to be a broad tool covering as much of the general population as possible but cannot show what is required for individual needs.

The ongoing research by the Vincentian Partnership, one of a number of research models , presents useful information which is studied with interest by my Department in the context of Budget formulation, having regard both to needs and to the resources available to meet those needs.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

286 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if any child over the age of three years is non-verbal has been found either on initial application or on review to be ineligible for domiciliary care allowance; and if so the number of such children and their age at the time of the decision. [23803/12]

The Department is not in a position to provide a breakdown of the applications received and applications reviewed based on medical diagnosis. However, if the Deputy has any specific case or cases in mind, he can forward the details to the Department and they can be examined.

Social Insurance

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

287 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan may expect to receive due holiday pay in addition to the redundancy payment from the social insurance fund which they have already received. [23806/12]

A claim in relation to minimum notice and arrears of holiday pay under the Insolvency payment scheme was submitted manually on behalf of the person concerned on 5 July 2011 by the Receiver. These claims were processed by my Department on 8 December 2011 and payment issued to the Receiver on 16 December 2011.

In addition, an on line claim under the Insolvency payment scheme was received from the Receiver on behalf of the person concerned in February 2012 in respect of a Rights Commissioners Award under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. This claim was processed by my Department on 24 April 2012 and payment issued to the Receiver on 4 May 2012.

Employment Rights

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

288 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection when it is expected that payments will be issued to employees of a company (details supplied) in respect of their claims awarded by the Rights Commissioner under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 following a hearing by the commissioner; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23807/12]

In February 2012 on line claims were received from the Receiver, on behalf of 40 former employees of the firm to which the Deputy refers. These claims were in respect of Rights Commissioners Awards under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. These claims were processed by my Department on 24 April 2012 and payment issued to the Receiver on 4 May 2012.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

289 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will publish the protocols governing decision making under the domiciliary care allowance scheme. [23813/12]

In advance of the transfer of the domiciliary care allowance (DCA) scheme to the Department, an expert medical group was established to agree a set of consistent and objective guidelines for use nationally in determining eligibility of children for the scheme. This group was established as there were no agreed medical guidelines for the scheme while it was administered by the HSE. The group was chaired by the Department's Chief Medical Advisor and comprised senior medical personnel from the HSE as well as eminent professionals in the areas of physical disabilities which affect children and child psychiatry/psychology. The primary purpose was to agree a set of consistent and objective guidelines for use in determining eligibility for the scheme. The report of the Group was reviewed independently by external medical experts. The report of the Expert Medical Group is available from the Department on request. A copy will be forwarded to the Deputy.

Free Travel Schemes

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

290 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of people in receipt of a free travel pass for each of the past five years; if she will provide the numbers who are recipients of carer’s allowance, invalidity pension and disability allowance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23825/12]

A table detailing the number of recipients of a free travel pass for each of the past five years follows. The table also details the number of free travel pass recipients who were in receipt of carer's allowance, invalidity pension and disability allowance in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011. However, a breakdown of the total is not available for 2008.

Free Travel Recipients

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Total Number of Travel Passes

637,312

664,767

678,477

699,164

726,322

Carer’s Allowance

31,591

N/A

42,953

45,346

49,905

Invalidity Pension

48,161

N/A

48,022

46,645

48,453

Disability Allowance

86744

N/A

95,813

97,408

99,506

Social Welfare Appeals

Michael Creed

Question:

291 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection when an appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be dealt with; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23836/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 16 August 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office 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.

Insolvency Payments Scheme

John O'Mahony

Question:

292 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question Number 544 on Wednesday 18 April 2012, when a decision will issue on this application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23839/12]

As detailed in my response to Parliamentary Question number 544 (which was answered on 18 April 2012) a claim under the insolvency payments scheme was submitted manually on behalf of the person concerned on 29 November 2011 in respect of arrears of wages, holiday pay and minimum notice. The Department is currently processing manually submitted claims received in July 2011.

Notwithstanding this, the Liquidator resubmitted an on line claim on behalf of the person concerned in April 2012. The Department is currently processing on line claims submitted in February 2012. Every effort is being made to process claims as quickly as possible but, unfortunately, it is likely to be a number of months before the claim in question is finalised.

Invalidity Pension

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

293 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite an appeal for invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23845/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal from the person concerned was received on 27th 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.

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

294 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for social welfare in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23847/12]

An application for jobseeker's allowance from the person concerned has been awarded and all arrears due have been paid.

Disability Allowance

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

295 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding eligibility for disability allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23906/12]

I confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for disability allowance from the above named person. On completion of the necessary investigations on all aspects of the claim a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

296 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding eligibility for rent allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23907/12]

The person concerned was refused rent supplement on the 21st of February 2012. Her rent is far in excess of the prescribed limits. The person concerned recently resubmitted another application but her rent remains over the limit. The client has been notified of her right to appeal the decision.

Redundancy Payments

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

297 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regrading an application for redundancy in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; when the application was submitted; and when it is likely that payment will issue. [23924/12]

A redundancy lump sum claim in respect of the person concerned was received on 8 September 2011. Redundancy lump sum claims received in August 2011 are currently being processed so it is expected that the claim in question will be finalised in the coming weeks.

Insolvency Payments Scheme

Gerald Nash

Question:

298 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Social Protection when an insolvency payment will be granted in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23936/12]

A claim under the Insolvency payment scheme was submitted manually on behalf of the person concerned on 22 September 2011 in respect of arrears of wages. The Department is currently processing manually submitted claims received at the end of July 2011. Every effort is being made to process claims as quickly as possible but, unfortunately, it is likely to be a number of months before the claim in question is finalised.

National Internship Scheme

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

299 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Social Protection in relation to the operation of JobBridge scheme in Cork City and Cork County, the number of companies currently and previously participating in the scheme; the number of internships offered; the number of participating interns and the number of interns who have completed an internship; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23939/12]

The National Internship Scheme was launched on 1 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. 6,971 jobseekers have commenced their internship since 1 July 2011. There are currently 4,675 interns participating on JobBridge. In addition, there are in excess of 1,750 internship posts currently advertised on the JobBridge website www.jobbridge.ie. See table below for information relating specifically to Cork City and County as at 9 May 2012:

Area

The number of Host Organisations who have participated to-date

The number of participating interns (currently)

The number of interns who have finished an internship

Cork City

269

307

179

Cork County

139

154

51

Total

408

461

230

Social Welfare Appeals

Niall Collins

Question:

300 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal hearing in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [23944/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer having fully considered all the available evidence, including that adduced at oral hearing, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned. The person concerned has been notified of the Appeals Officer decision.

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.

Invalidity Pension

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

301 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if a review will take place of the decision to disallow an application for invalidity pension in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if this representation will be accepted as a late appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24048/12]

Invalidity pension is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and who satisfy the contribution conditions.

This department received a claim for invalidity pension for the person concerned. The medical evidence provided by the claimant in support of his claim was examined by a medical assessor who was of the opinion that the person concerned is not eligible for invalidity pension as he does not satisfy the medical criteria. The application for invalidity pension was, accordingly, disallowed by a deciding officer. He was notified of this decision and the reason for it.

If the person concerned has any additional or supplementary medical evidence which was not already submitted in support of his claim, he may request a review of the decision by sending the additional information to the invalidity pension section as soon as possible. Any further medical evidence will be evaluated by a medical assessor and a decision on the review will issue to the applicant. The applicant will have the right to appeal this decision if he is not satisfied with the outcome of the review.

If he has no additional medical evidence for submission, he may make an appeal in writing to the Social Welfare Appeals Office as soon as possible, clearly stating the grounds for his appeal and enclosing the original decision notification if at all possible.

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Billy Timmins

Question:

302 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an appeal for jobseeker’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24065/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 10 February 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office 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.

Regulatory Impact Assessments

Terence Flanagan

Question:

303 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number and description of any regulatory impact assessments that have been undertaken by her Department on legislation or proposed legislation since 9 March 2011; the stage in the legislative policy development process at which the RIAs have been carried out; the number of RIAs that have been published by her Department over the same period; the manner of publication involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23503/12]

My Department carried out one regulatory impact analysis (RIA) during the period in question, following a Government decision in October 2011, in relation to the proposed changes to defined benefit pension schemes included in the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2012.

The RIA was split into two parts: Part 1 dealt with the changes to the defined benefit model and in particular the proposal to introduce a risk reserve into the funding standard; Part 2 dealt with the re-introduction of the funding standard. The RIA was developed following a consultation that took place on changes defined benefit pension provision and included the views expressed during the consultation process.

The RIA was published on the Department's website and made available to all deputies in advance of the publication of the Bill. It is available at:

http://www.welfare.ie/EN/Policy/Legislation/Regulatory%20Impact%20Analysis/Documents/riapension.pdf

The RIA process attempts to clarify the relevant factors for decision-making through the comprehensive and systematic compilation of relevant information. When considering legislative measures within the Department it helps to balance possible solutions to a problem, against the wider economic and distributional goals.

RIAs are normally used within the Department where significant legislative changes are proposed, rather than smaller changes to existing social welfare schemes which may take place each year. Examples in recent years include:

Retirement Annuity Contracts in the 2006,

The Citizens Information Bill in 2006,

Implementation of proposals on trusteeship in 2008.

Disability Allowance

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

304 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social Protection when an appeal for disability allowance will be decided in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; the reason for the delay in processing this appeal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24090/12]

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

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

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

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

Community Employment Schemes

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

305 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will report on the outcome of the review of a community employment scheme operated by a company (details supplied) and the recommendations in relation to the current and future funding of the scheme and in particular in respect of the materials grant arising from the review; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24099/12]

Following reductions in the Training and Materials Grant on Community Employment (CE), as announced in Budget, an initial review of the financial resources of all schemes was undertaken. Standard templates were developed and issued to all CE projects. Discussions were held between local CE Sponsors, including Moygownagh Enterprise CE Scheme, and the Departmental Officers responsible for the scheme under local management.

The outcome of the review will inform the overall approach to be taken by the Department in relation to how to secure the best outcome for CE schemes and for their participants taking account both of the large amount of money we spend on CE schemes and the valuable contribution that CE Schemes, including Moygownagh Enterprise, make to their communities.

The purpose of the review is to examine the income and funding of sponsoring organisations in terms of their ability to continue to deliver the programme. It is also being carried out in the context that there are community and voluntary sponsoring organisations that receive funding from a multiplicity of state agencies. Alternative sources of support will be examined, particularly with reference to funding from other state agencies to avoid duplication.

The review will also seek to establish if income is generated by scheme activity and the potential for its utilisation of these funds to cover project costs.

Following on from changes to the training and materials grant for CE schemes announced in Budget 2012, a commitment has been made that no CE scheme will close pending the completion of this review.

The review is currently nearing completion and CE Schemes will be advised of the outcome directly.

Rent Supplement

Simon Harris

Question:

306 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason rent allowance has not been paid for three consecutive months in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow. [24102/12]

Rent Supplement was temporarily suspended due to the failure of the person concerned to reduce their rent to the prescribed limits. The person concerned has now reduced her rent accordingly. In order to alleviate the concerns of the client and landlord, the Department has issued arrears by Exceptional Needs Payment for March and April. Rent Supplement for May will issue in due course.

Carer’s Allowance

Martin Ferris

Question:

307 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) will receive a decision on their carer’s allowance application. [24113/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 6 February 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office 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.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

308 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding domiciliary care allowance (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24132/12]

Customers who have their entitlement to domiciliary care allowance (DCA) reviewed are asked to provide relevant up-to-date medical evidence and details of the additional care needs of their child within 60 days. The information provided by the parent/guardian for review is assessed by a medical assessor and a decision is made based on the medical opinion they provide.

Where payment is stopped as a result of a review, the parent or guardian is invited to submit any further information they may wish to have considered and that information is further examined by a Medical Assessor. Alternatively, they may appeal the decision directly to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Pension Provisions

Gerry Adams

Question:

309 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider reviewing the decision to extend the age whereby a citizen can access a pension at age 66 years; if he will confirm that public servants who are due to retire this year aged 65, as per their contracts, will face the prospect of having to seek jobseeker’s allowance for a one year period until they reach the pensionable age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24139/12]

I would like to re-iterate the policy background to the necessary changes to State Pension provision. With increases in life expectancy, more people are living to pension age and living longer in retirement. The period for which an average pension will be paid will be greater than the period for which a pension is paid at present. This has obvious and significant implications in relation to the future costs of State pension provision and therefore pension reform is necessary if we are to have a sustainable and fair pension system in Ireland. One of the ways we are addressing these issues is for people to work longer and contribute more if they are to have the financial support they wish to receive in retirement.

The Social Welfare and Pensions Act, 2011 provides that State pension age will be increased gradually to 68 years. This will begin in 2014 with the standardisation of the State pension age at 66. State pension age will be increased to 67 years in 2021 and to 68 in 2028.

There are no plans to change the dates of implementation.

In relation to State pension, there are two main contributory State pension schemes — the State pension (transition) and the State pension (contributory). The State pension (transition) is paid to people aged 65 who have retired from work and who have the required number and class of social insurance contributions. State pension contributory (SPC) is paid at age 66 to those who meet the qualifying conditions.

With effect from 1 January 2014, the State pension (transition) will be abolished and accordingly, people who retire on reaching age 65 between now and then may apply and qualify for the State pension (transition) provided they have the required number of PRSI contributions at the relevant Class.

The conditions of retirement for public servants are the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. Public service pensioners who are due to retire this year at age 65, in line with their contracts, will receive their public service pensions on retirement. If their pensions are integrated with social welfare benefits, the State pension (transition) may also be payable at age 65 if the qualifying conditions are met.

Medical Certification Fees

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

310 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Social Protection if she has finalised proposals to seek a reduction in the cost of funding medical certification fees; if she will provide the details of those proposals that were prepared by her Department post-budget 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24155/12]

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

311 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Social Protection if the 10% reduction in medical fees announced in budget 2012 has been applied; if she will confirm that the fee of €8.25 for a standard medical certificate has been reduced by €0.825 to €7.425 equivalent to a 10% cut; if the fee of €44.44 for a detailed medical report has been reduced by €4.444 to €40 equivalent to a 10% cut; if these 10% reductions have not been applied, if she will detail the amount such a reduction as outlined would have saved on the out turn for 2011; the expected saving in 2012 if it was applied; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24156/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 310 and 311 together.

As part of Budget 2012, it was announced that a reduction of 10% in the administrative cost of medical certification would be achieved this year.

This is being achieved through a reduction in the number of medical certificates that doctors are required to issue.

The frequency of certification by a person's doctor has been reduced in cases where a person's medical condition is deemed such that less frequent certification is appropriate.

At this stage, it is not proposed to implement a rate reduction as rates have remained unchanged since July 2003.

Dental and Optical Benefit Scheme

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

312 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Social Protection the reduction on fees paid to dentists and opticians since 2009 under the treatment benefit scheme; the annual saving realised from those measures; the specific itemised fees currently paid to dentists and opticians under this scheme; if she will provide a sum total of the annual amount of fees paid under each item; the amount in total that was spent in 2011; the expected spend in 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24157/12]

The Dental and Optical Benefit schemes have been limited to the provision of free dental and optical examinations since 1 January 2010. Treatments previously covered under the schemes, such as fillings, extractions, spectacles and lenses, have not been paid on claims approved on or after that date. The current treatments, associated fees and the total 2011 cost in each instance are detailed:

Treatment

Current Fee

Cost in 2011

Dental Examination

€33.00

€8.99 million

Ophthalmic Examination

€22.51

€2.85 million

Ophthalmic Exam (with dilation)

€45.02

€195,000

Medical Eye Exam (single)

€25.55

€920

Medical Eye Exam (double)

€51.10

€239,600

The total annual fees and savings are detailed below (2009, as the last year before the schemes were reduced, is used as the reference point):

Scheme

2009 Spend

2011 Spend

Saving

Dental

€62.28 million

€9.15 million

€53.13 million

Optical

€16.99 million

€3.29 million

€13.7 million

Total

€79.27 million

€12.44 million

€66.83 million

The projected spend on the Dental benefit scheme in 2012 is approximately €8.5 million, with €3.4 million expected to be spent on the optical scheme.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

Question:

313 Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for Social Protection when domiciliary care allowance will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath. [24228/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 27 October 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office 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.

Appointments to State Boards

Timmy Dooley

Question:

314 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Social Protection the appointments made by her to State boards under the remit of her Department since March 2011 that were advertised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24251/12]

The three statutory bodies operating under the aegis of the Department are the Social Welfare Tribunal, the Citizens Information Board and the Pensions Board. In addition, the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman comes under the remit of the Department but it does not have a Board.

Social Welfare Tribunal

The Social Welfare Tribunal consists of a Chairperson and four ordinary members, two on the nomination of Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and two nominated by Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC). One of the ICTU members of the Tribunal resigned in 2011 and on the nomination of ICTU, a replacement member, Ms Chris Rowland was appointed commencing 24 October 2011.

Citizens Information Board

I have made two appointments to the Citizens Information Board since coming into office.

Mr. Eugene McErlean was appointed with effect from 7 September 2011. This followed a public request for expressions of interest from suitably qualified and experienced individuals announced in July 2011. On foot of this request, 172 applications were received and his appointment was made following a rigorous selection process in accordance with the legislation governing appointments to such a board.

On 1 November 2011, I appointed Ms. Fiona Ward as a member and as she is the Department's representative on the board, the vacancy was not publically advertised.

There are currently two vacancies on the Citizens Information Board and appointments will be made from the responses received following a public request for expressions of interest in July 2011.

Pensions Board

I have made no appointments to the Pensions Board since coming into office. There are currently two vacancies on the Pensions Board. No decision has been made on advertising these vacancies, pending the completion of the Critical Review of the amalgamation of the regulatory function of the Pensions Board with the Financial Regulator, under the Public Service Reform programme.

Invalidity Pension

Willie Penrose

Question:

315 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Social Protection when an appeal hearing in relation to a refusal of an application for invalidity pension will be held in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath and if same can now be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24303/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal, by the person concerned, was registered in that office on 14 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.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

Simon Harris

Question:

316 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on the fact that parents are receiving domiciliary care allowance review letters signed by the anonymous DCA section rather than being assigned to a contact name; if she will ensure that future letters issued to parents provide a contact name for a person within her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24309/12]

I can assure the Deputy that all correspondence issuing from the Department's domiciliary care allowance section contains the staff member's name and their contact details.

Finian McGrath

Question:

317 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection if there has been a directive to refuse the domiciliary care allowance to families. [24323/12]

Domiciliary care allowance (DCA) is now in payment in respect of 26,000 children, an increase of over 3,000 since the Department took over responsibility for the scheme from the HSE in April 2009. Spending on the Scheme and the respite care grant, which is automatically paid to all recipients, has increased from €138m to €145m between 2010 and 2011. Expenditure on both payments in 2012 is expected to be in the region of €146m.

There has been no directive issued to staff to refuse the domiciliary care allowance to families. In line departmental practice on all social welfare schemes, DCA cases are routinely reviewed whereupon customers are asked to provide relevant up-to-date medical evidence and details of the additional care needs of their child within 60 days.

In a very small number of cases where customers have not returned information or made contact with the Department, payments have been suspended. Payments have been restored in these cases when the customers concerned contacted the Department and they remain in payment until the review process is completed.

Rent Supplement

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

318 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding rent allowance and housing in respect of separated persons (details supplied); her view on same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24336/12]

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from another source. The overall aim is to provide short-term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer. To qualify for rent supplement, a person must be residing in private rented accommodation or accommodation for homeless persons (or any combination of these) for a period of 183 days within the preceding 12 months of the date of claim for rent supplement. A person may also qualify for rent supplement where an assessment of housing need has been carried out in the 12 months preceding the date of claim and the person is deemed by the relevant local authority to be eligible for and in need of social housing support. In all other cases, a person who wishes to apply for rent supplement is referred, in the first instance, for an assessment of eligibility for social housing support by a housing authority. Only when the person has been assessed as being eligible for and in need of social housing support, does the person become eligible for consideration for rent supplement. Policy in relation to the assessment of housing need is a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

Architectural Heritage

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

319 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his plans for the former Hume Street Hospital to ensure that it retains some form of civic use. [23698/12]

Anne Ferris

Question:

321 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his views on the purchase of numbers three to eight Hume Street, Dublin, for the purposes of a cultural centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23744/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 319 and 321 together.

The complex of buildings referred to by the Deputies is on the Record of Protected Structures for Dublin City. My Department has no involvement in the current ownership or use of the former Hume Street Hospital and has no plans involving these buildings. My statutory role with regard to protected structures is underpinned by the provisions of the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2011 and does not extend to any function regarding the sale of a protected structure in private ownership. Under Part IV (Architectural Heritage) of the Acts, inclusion on the Record of Protected Structures places a duty of care on the owners and occupiers of protected structures and gives planning authorities powers to deal with development proposals affecting them in order to safeguard their future, in this case Dublin City Council. My Department's policy and best practice advice consistently recommends that appropriate new uses are identified and pursued for all vacant or derelict protected structures, as this is the best means of ensuring conservation of their architectural heritage.

Arts Funding

Finian McGrath

Question:

320 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his views on proposals from the National Campaign for the Arts (details supplied). [23719/12]

I am well acquainted with the views of the National Campaign for the Arts. Senior officials from my Department met members of the campaign recently. I have been fully briefed on that meeting.

Question No. 321 answered with Question No. 319.

Architectural Heritage

Anne Ferris

Question:

322 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in view of recent reports that many historic buildings in Dublin are in danger of falling into dereliction due to funding cuts, the actions are being taken to remedy this deterioration; if he will provide a list of the buildings at risk and the repairs that are needed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23745/12]

My Department is responsible for the legislative framework, general policy development and promotional awareness of Ireland's built heritage. My Department also provides some limited funding for the built heritage directly or through the OPW and local Government. Some €2,005,000 has been provided in this year's Estimates for built heritage capital. My Department provides funding to the Heritage Council which in turn supports many heritage projects throughout the country. My Department is providing a total of €4,811,000 of Exchequer Funding for the Heritage Council in 2012, together with €1,500,000 from my Department's share of the Environment Fund. Under the architectural heritage provisions of the Planning and Development Act 2000, each planning authority is required to include in its development plan a Record of Protected Structures. Details of the buildings in Dublin included in this Record would be available from Dublin City Council.

In relation to protected structures, section 59 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides for a planning authority to serve notice to require works to be carried out in relation to endangerment of such structures. On the basis of information provided by Dublin City Council, 16 notices were served in 2008, 17 in 2009, two in 2010 and eight in 2011. It should be noted that my Department does not maintain a list of buildings at risk. In 2011, my Department set up an Expert Advisory Committee representing key stakeholders to review the operation of Part IV (Architectural Heritage) of the Planning and Development Act 2000. This review includes an examination of how the legislation is operating in practice regarding the protection and management of architectural heritage from a central and local government perspective and the need, in the light of current economic circumstances, to consider alternative ways of supporting the conservation of protected structures.

In the context of the Government Policy on Architecture 2009-2015, my Department is developing various policy actions which can contribute to the protection and appropriate reuse of our built heritage and seek to deal with ongoing strategic objectives indirectly affecting our architectural heritage, such as climate change, adaptive reuse for historic properties and a forward plan-led approach to cultural heritage and urban design in our towns and cities. The scope to provide additional funding for the protection, conservation and development of the State's built heritage is constrained by the current national economic difficulties and the significant reduction in the public finances. However, my Department will continue to provide funding for the protection, conservation and development of our built heritage, in so far as resources allow.

Wildlife Protection

Brendan Griffin

Question:

323 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if an environmental impact statement is required by the National Parks and Wildlife Service in respect of bank reparation works at a location (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23940/12]

The repair works to which the Deputy refers are the subject of an application for notifiable activity consent under Regulation 14 of the European Communities (Natural Habitats) Regulations 1997 as this relates to proposed works within a European nature site. As the application was made under those Regulations before the making of the European (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011, I understand the question of requiring an environmental impact assessment does not arise in this case. However, it is a requirement in accordance with Ireland's obligations under the Habitats Directive that, before notifiable activity consent can be given to the repair works, the design of the works must be such as to protect and maintain the saltmarsh, while at the same time avoiding the flooding of farmland.

Regulatory Impact Assessments

Terence Flanagan

Question:

324 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the number and description of any regulatory impact assessments that have been undertaken by his Department on legislation or proposed legislation since 9 March 2011; the stage in the legislative / policy development process at which the RIAs have been carried out; the number of RIAs that have been published by his Department over the same period; the manner of publication involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23492/12]

Since my Department was established in June 2011, one technical Bill, the Irish Film Board Bill 2011, which did not require a Regulatory Impact Assessment, has been enacted. My Department is currently bringing forward the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission (Amendment) Bill 2011, which provides for the consolidation of the State's translation services. As this is also a technical Bill, involving a straightforward transfer of functions, I understand that no Regulatory Impact Assessment is required. In respect of the Gaeltacht Bill 2011, which is currently being drafted, work had commenced in my Department on a Regulatory Impact Assessment. However, following a decision by Government in May 2011 to retain the existing status quo in relation to Údarás na Gaeltachta, it was considered that a Regulatory Impact Assessment was no longer required.

Turbary Rights

Paul Connaughton

Question:

325 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway has not received compensation to cease cutting turf on their bog; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24105/12]

The land referred to by the Deputy is located in a natural heritage area designated in 2003. In 2010, the then Government decided that turf cutting should come to an end on raised bog natural heritage areas at the end of 2013. However, the current Programme for Government contains an undertaking to review the situation with regard to turf cutting on natural heritage areas. On 15 April 2011, the Government made a number of decisions in relation to turf cutting in Ireland, including the putting in place of a compensation package for those who are required to cease cutting, the establishment of a Peatlands Council and the drawing up of a national strategy on peatland conservation and management. In the context of the national strategy, the position regarding raised bog natural heritage areas, which are designated under national legislation, will be examined in advance of the 2014 cutting season in accordance with the Programme for Government. My Department is giving priority to putting in place the compensation requirements in relation to the cessation of cutting on the 53 raised bog special areas of conservation. In the circumstances, and in light of the decision to review the approach to these areas more generally, the issue of any further purchase of land or rights in natural heritage area bogs, including the land referred to, is being kept under review.

Úsáid na Gaeilge

Pearse Doherty

Question:

326 D’fhiafraigh Pearse Doherty den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an ndéanfar soláthar i bhforálacha an Bhille nua Gaeltachta do chatagóiríéagsúla Gaeltachta, bunaithe ar líon na gcainteoirí gníomhacha Gaeilge atá sna limistéir éagsúla, mar atá molta sa Staidéar Cuimsitheach Teangeolaíoch ar Úsáid na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht. [24218/12]

Tá sé beartaithe go ndéanfar foráil faoin mBille Gaeltachta do shainmhíniú reach-túil nua ar an Ghaeltacht a bheidh bunaithe feasta ar chritéir theangeolaíocha le hais an tsainmhínithe mar a sheasann sé faoi láthair atá bunaithe ar limistéir shonracha gheografacha.

Tá sé i gceist go dtabharfar stádas reachtúil faoin mBille Gaeltachta do cheantair phleanála teanga sa Ghaeltacht a bhfuil stádas agus riachtanais teangeolaíocha éagsúla acu mar a bhí molta sa Staidéar Teangeolaíoch ar Úsáid na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht. Tabharfaidh an reach-taíocht atáá ullmhú faoi láthair feidhm reachtúil don phróiseas pleanála teanga faoina mbeidh plean teanga á ullmhú ag leibhéal an phobail do gach ceantar pleanála teanga. Déanfaidh na pleananna sin comhtháthú maidir le gníomhaíochtaí teanga, oideachais, pleanála agus forbairt shóisialta agus pobail. Tá plé ag dul ar aghaidh le tamall idir mo Roinnse agus Údarás na Gaeltachta faoin bhealach is fearr le tabhairt faoin phróiseas pleanála teanga.

Appointments to State Boards

Timmy Dooley

Question:

327 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the appointments made by him to State boards under the remit of his Department since March 2011 that were advertised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24239/12]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 396 of 31st January 2012. There have been no changes to board memberships since that date.

Planning Issues

Finian McGrath

Question:

328 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he has any contact with those person’s who are proposing to build a golf course at Inch strand in Kerry; his views on the suitability of this Special Area of Conservation for such a golf course; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24320/12]

Finian McGrath

Question:

329 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he has discussed the proposal to build a golf course at Inch strand in Kerry with any officials from his Department; the advice he has received to date; his views that previous Ministers were advised not to proceed with such a development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24321/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 328 and 329 together.

Inch Strand is within a Special Protection Area and a Special Area of Conservation. Any proposal to develop a golf course on the site must be subjected to an appropriate assessment of the implications of such a development on these areas. Golf course developments are subject to planning permission and it would fall to the planning authority, in this case Kerry County Council, to undertake the assessment as part of the planning process.

I am aware of plans by the owners of Inch Strand to develop a golf course on the site but I understand that no formal proposals have yet been made. As a statutory consultee under the Planning and Development Acts, my view will be sought if such a planning application is made. My officials have been in contact with the owners and their representatives over the past number of years to offer advice on the implications of the designations for developments on the site. At their request, I agreed recently to meet with them, along with officials from my Department, to discuss their proposals for the site.

Regulatory Impact Assessments

Terence Flanagan

Question:

330 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number and description of any regulatory impact assessments that have been undertaken by his Department on legislation or proposed legislation since 9 March 2011; the stage in the legislative / policy development process at which the RIAs have been carried out; the number of RIAs that have been published by his Department over the same period; the manner of publication involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23494/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that since 9 March 2011 there has been one RIA undertaken by my Department. The RIA was prepared to accompany a Memorandum for Government on the drafting of the Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011 and it was published with the Bill on the 27th September 2011. The Bill, Explanatory Memoranda and RIA were made available on my Department's website and also on the Oireachtas website. The Bill itself was enacted on the 25th February 2012 as the Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2012.

Appointments to State Boards

Timmy Dooley

Question:

331 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the appointments made by him to State boards under the remit of his Department since March 2011 that were advertised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24241/12]

I have sought expressions of interest for all bodies under the aegis of my Department. Since taking up office on the 9th of March 2011, I have made 12 appointments to four State Boards as follows:

Body

Appointee

An Post

Mr. Donal Connell

Mr. James Wrynn

Mr. Paul Henry

Bord na Móna

Ms Denise Cronin

Mr. John Horgan

EirGrid

Dr Gary Healy

Ms Regina Moran

Mr. Liam O’Halloran

Ms Bride Rosney

Ms Doireann Barry

Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland

Ms Julie O’Neill

Mr. Michael Conlon

Housing Aid for the Elderly

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

332 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding assistance for urgent repair work in respect of a person (details supplied). [23700/12]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O’Sullivan): The Housing Adaptation Grant Schemes for Older People and People with a Disability provide a range of grants for necessary improvement works or adaptations to houses in order to facilitate the continued independent occupancy of their own homes by older people and people with a disability. The schemes are administered by Local Authorities and it is a matter for each local authority to determine how the funding is apportioned between the various grant measures and to manage the operation of the schemes in their areas from within the capital allocations provided by my Department.
The suite of grants include three separate grant measures; the Mobility Aids Grant scheme with grants of up to €6,000, the Housing Aid for Older People scheme with grants of up to €10,500 and the Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability with grants of up to €30,000, depending on household income.

Services for People with Disabilities

Finian McGrath

Question:

333 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide an update on the availability of housing for the disabled in Dublin and any schemes for deaf persons. [23718/12]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O’Sullivan): It is a matter for individual housing authorities to assess the specific social housing needs and priorities in their areas, including those for adults with a physical, mental health or intellectual disability, and to identify a range of housing options to meet such needs.
In addition to standard social housing options by way of local authority lettings, the rental accommodation scheme and the social leasing initiative, a wide range of supports is also provided to meet the specific accommodation needs of people with a disability. These include measures under the suite of Housing Adaptation Grant Schemes for Older People and People with a Disability, adaptation works to local authority houses and up to 100% grants to support the provision of specific accommodation by voluntary housing bodies. Notwithstanding the more constrained fiscal environment, meeting the housing needs of the most vulnerable sections of society, including persons with a disability, will continue to be prioritised by Government.

Local Authority Funding

Noel Coonan

Question:

334 Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the assistance available to local authorities that are in negative equity; if the same consideration can be given to local authorities as is afforded to banking institutions, particularly as any shortfall in value will have to be accounted for in the local authorities’ own funds; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that many authorities are struggling on their budgets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24086/12]

It is a matter for each local authority to determine its own spending priorities in the context of its annual budgetary process having regard to both locally identified needs and available resources, and to manage its own day-to-day finances in a prudent and sustainable manner.

General-Purpose Grants from the Local Government Fund are my Department's contribution towards meeting the cost to local authorities of providing a reasonable level of services to the public. €651m in General-Purpose Grants has been allocated to local authorities for 2012. In addition, local authorities will retain some €77 million in pension related deductions in 2012.

Local authorities' cost and income bases vary significantly from one another and calculating an appropriate distribution of these Grants is complex. A number of factors are taken into account, including the overall funding available, the estimated cost to each authority of providing a reasonable level of services to their customers and the income each authority may generate from local sources.

I am satisfied that the General-Purpose Grant allocations provided for 2012, together with the income available from other sources, will enable local authorities to provide a reasonable level of services in their areas.

Burial Regulations

Robert Dowds

Question:

335 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to introduce regulations for burials here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23655/12]

Robert Dowds

Question:

336 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to regulate crematoriums in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23656/12]

Robert Dowds

Question:

337 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if Ireland is adhering to current EU regulations on emissions from crematoriums; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23657/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 335 to 337, inclusive, together.

Regulations are currently in place regarding burials and burial grounds, namely Part III of the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878, as amended in Part VI of the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act, 1948 and more recently, the Local Government Acts, 1994 and 2001, and also in the Rules and Regulations for the Regulation of Burial Grounds 1888 and amendments thereto.

Having regard to other priorities and the broader range of legislative priorities to be progressed across my Department's remit, there are currently no plans to introduce new regulations in this area, or new legislation to regulate crematoria in Ireland.

My Department is not aware of any EU Directive on crematoria, nor are there specific provisions in the Air Pollution Act 1987 that apply to crematoria. However, the establishment and operation of a crematorium is subject, where applicable, to the provisions of certain other legislation dealing with planning and development, environmental protection and air pollution.

Local Authority Housing

Sandra McLellan

Question:

338 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the funding available to tenants of local authority housing who do not have insulation in their homes as they were tenants prior to the implementation of BER; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23675/12]

Under the Department's Social Housing Investment Programme, local authorities are allocated capital funding each year in respect of a range of measures to improve the standard and overall quality of their social housing stock. The programme includes a retrofitting measure aimed at improving the energy efficiency of older apartments and houses by reducing heat loss through the fabric of the building and the installation of high-efficiency condensing boilers.

My Department provides a grant of up to €15,000 per house, depending on the energy improvement achieved, for necessary works such as attic and wall insulation, the replacement of windows and external doors and the fitting of energy-efficient condensing boilers. Under this year's improvement works programme the focus will continue on returning vacant properties to productive use. Local authorities may also undertake works, out of the allocations provided, to improve the energy efficiency of occupied units, where the local authority considers this appropriate. In drawing up improvement works programmes which include the upgrading of tenanted properties, I envisage that local authorities would give priority to older houses which currently lack adequate wall and roof insulation.

Social and Affordable Housing

Dessie Ellis

Question:

339 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide a breakdown by area of the number of shared ownership homes that have been repossessed in Dublin City Council. [23687/12]

Dessie Ellis

Question:

340 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide a breakdown of the number of shared ownership homes there are in the State by council area. [23688/12]

Dessie Ellis

Question:

350 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide a breakdown by council area of the number of shared ownership homes which have been repossessed in the past 12 months. [23923/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 339, 340 and 350 together.

My Department collates and publishes a wide range of housing statistics that inform the preparation and evaluation of housing policy and these can be viewed on my Department's website www.environ.ie. Data regarding the number of completed shared ownership transactions are available on the website and the most recent data relate to 2010. My Department does not collate data on the number of shared ownership homes that have been repossessed.

Voting Rights

Brendan Griffin

Question:

341 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his view on voting rights for referendum (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23690/12]

Jim Daly

Question:

357 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views in relation to a native British born person (details supplied) that has been living in Ireland since 1978 being excluded from voting on the upcoming stability treaty referendum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24172/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 341 and 357 together.

Subject to age and residency requirements, a registered elector's citizenship determines the polls at which he or she is entitled to vote. British Citizens may vote at Dáil, European Parliament and local elections. Irish Citizens alone are entitled to vote in Presidential elections and referendums. While electoral law is subject to ongoing review, I have no proposals at present to extend the current arrangements for voting by non-Irish citizens.

Waste Management

John McGuinness

Question:

342 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views or policy relative to the big bin project now being introduced to local authorities throughout the country by an Irish company (details supplied); if in the interest of sustaining and creating jobs he will consider introducing guidelines for local authorities in respect of the concept in order that there is a uniform response from each authority rather than the varied and inadequate response which exists at present; if he will query the negative response from Laois and Limerick councils in order that at least the promoters get the opportunity to make a presentation; if he has been contacted by the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23733/12]

Waste management planning is a local authority function, as is the permitting of small scale waste facilities. Under section 60(3) of the Waste Management Act 1996 the Minister is precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to the performance by a local authority, in particular circumstances, of a statutory function vested in it.

It is a matter for local authorities to determine the appropriate controls for facilities such as pay-to-use compactors, having regard to the waste management plan within the region and in line with the requirements of the waste hierarchy as expressed in the Waste Framework Directive. While my Department has engaged with promoters of pay-to-use compactors, I have no plans for the introduction of guidelines concerning such facilities.

The Programme for Government commits to the development of a coherent national waste policy, adhering to the waste hierarchy, which will aim to minimise waste disposal in landfill and maximise recovery. I am prioritising this commitment, as I am anxious to provide early regulatory certainty, in the form of both policy and legislation, to ensure that the necessary actions and investments are progressed to achieve those aims. I expect to be in a position to submit final proposals in this regard to Government in the coming weeks. The new national waste policy will have among its primary objectives the diversion of material from landfill towards more productive uses.

Rural Development Programme

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

343 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he hopes to appoint a body to administer the Leader funding in areas such as the Gaeltacht of Chorca Dhuibne; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23737/12]

Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta (MFG), the group contracted by my Department to deliver Axes 3 and 4 (LEADER) of the Rural Development Programme (RDP) in Gaeltacht Areas, went into liquidation on 7 September 2011. Progress, in the context of the legal "winding up" process, is ongoing and all relevant RDP (LEADER) project files have been released by the liquidator and are now in the possession of my Department.

The process of identifying those promoters whose projects are at an advanced stage of development and are most likely to be ready to make a claim for payment is underway and an interim system, in cooperation with Local Development Companies contiguous to Gaeltacht areas, is in place to facilitate payment of these projects in the short term. Many of these files have now been sent to the relevant Local Development Companies who will be in touch directly with the promoter to arrange payment in the very near future.

In the context of the delivery of Axes 3 and 4 (LEADER) of the Rural Development Programme in Gaeltacht areas in the longer term including Chorca Dhuibne, my Department is currently examining the submissions made as part of an overall process, commenced in March 2012, seeking expressions of interest from established Local Development Companies to deliver the LEADER elements of the RDP in MFG areas for the remainder of the Programming period. Some further work has to be done to finalise this process; however I understand that it will be completed for most areas very shortly.

Motor Taxation

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

344 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding the proposed centralisation of motor tax offices (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23798/12]

I presume the Question refers to the centralisation of motor tax services in one location within a local authority area, as there are no plans to centralise motor tax services at a national level. The administrative arrangements for the provision of services by a local authority within its functional area are a matter for that authority.

Foreshore Licences

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

345 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding an application for a foreshore licence (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23816/12]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 117 of 14 March 2012.

My Department instructed Donegal County Council on 19 April 2012 to make arrangements for public consultation in respect of this application. Following the public consultation procedure, which has yet to be commenced by the Council, the application can be progressed to the next steps, which will include assessment by the Marine Licence Vetting Committee. I will make a determination on the application in due course based on the recommendations of the Marine Licence Vetting Committee and my Department.

Sport and Recreational Development

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

346 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on the management of the Dublin-Wicklow mountains; if his attention has been drawn to damage being caused on our mountain ranges by motor bikes and quad bikes which are causing irreparable damage to the land surface; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that these vehicles are devastating our 5,000 year old cairns; if he will take the necessary steps to ban these vehicles on our mountains and that he will protect by use of sensitive boundaries the stone walling and Cairns which exist in the Dublin-Wicklow mountain range that are being damaged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23820/12]

I have no direct responsibility for the management of the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains. My Department administers the Walks Scheme, which covers the development, enhancement and maintenance of National Waymarked Ways and priority walks. This scheme is managed locally by the relevant Local Development Company who liaise with the private landowners on a trail, and process payments in respect of the maintenance works carried out by the landowners. The Walks Scheme is in place on the Wicklow Way.

Where such activity has been reported on the Wicklow Way, steps have been taken, in consultation with private landowners and others, to restrict access to that route by having locks fitted to gates to prevent access by certain vehicles. This has proven to be a generally successful intervention on this trail.

With regard to damage that may have been caused to 5,000 year old cairns, this is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

I am of course also aware of the damage that has been, and is being, caused in sensitive areas by the indiscriminate use of scrambler bikes and quads; however, I have no powers to ban such vehicles on private lands. The use of quads is commonplace among the farming community in upland areas and is an important aspect of their ability to operate effectively in such areas. The control of such machinery on private land is a matter for the landowner unless the particular area is a designated Special Area of Conservation, a Special Protection Area or a National Heritage Area in which case, it would be a matter for the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

In relation to Co. Wicklow, I understand that the Wicklow Outdoor Recreation Committee consists of all the major landowners in the area of the Wicklow Mountains including relevant State Agencies such as Coillte and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Local landowners are also represented, as is Wicklow County Council. Contact should be made be made in the first instance with the relevant Director of Services in Wicklow County Council. State Agencies and Local Authorities are in a position to introduce Bye Laws to manage unwanted activities on their own lands.

Protected Structures

Niall Collins

Question:

347 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has any plans to assist owners of thatched roof structures and dwellings, which are recorded as protected structures by their Local Authorities, to obtain affordable insurance cover; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23827/12]

Under my Department's Renewal or Repair of a Thatch Roof of a House grant scheme, a grant up to €3,810, or two thirds of the approved cost, whichever is the lesser, may be payable in respect of necessary works to renew or repair the thatched roofs of houses. A higher grant of up to €5,714 may be payable where the house is situated on certain specified islands off the West and South coasts. In the case of medical card holders, a grant of up to €6,350, or up to 80% of the approved cost, may be payable in respect of houses situated on the mainland, rising to €8,252 where the house is situated on a specified off-shore island.

Eligibility under the grant scheme is contingent on the house being occupied as a normal place of residence on completion of the approved works.

My Department has no function in relation to property insurance matters. That function falls within the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

Fuel Quality

Terence Flanagan

Question:

348 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will respond to a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23829/12]

My Department's responsibility for fuel quality standards arises from the perspective of ensuring that petrol and diesel sold in the State meet prescribed environmental specifications to reduce the polluting effect that certain substances have on the environment, when emitted to air as part of the fuel combustion process. My Department does not have a role in regulating fuel standards from a consumer perspective in terms of quality assurance or the operational performance of the fuel. Directive 98/70/EC relating to the quality of petrol and diesel fuels is transposed in Ireland through the European Communities Act 1972 (Environmental Specifications for Petrol, Diesel Fuels and Gas Oils for use by non-road mobile machinery, including inland waterway vessels, agricultural and forestry tractors, and recreational craft) Regulations 2011. Under the Directive, Ireland is required to report annually to the European Commission the results of a sampling programme for both petrol and diesel, including any breaches of the environmental specifications of the fuel.

Ireland's latest results, which were submitted to the Commission on 30 June 2011, indicated that fuel sold in the State during 2010 was predominantly compliant with the environmental specifications set out in Irish legislation. The Commission collates the data received from Member States and publishes annual reports, which are available to download from the Commission's website: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/air/transport/fuel_quality_monitoring.htm Sampling of fuels is carried out by officers of the Revenue Commissioners and the samples are analysed by the State Laboratory. In addition, the Irish Petroleum Industry Association (IPIA) contracts an independent laboratory to sample and analyse fuel and the results of that process are also included in Ireland’s report to the Commission.

Motor Taxation

Billy Kelleher

Question:

349 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if a person (details supplied) bringing his own car into Ireland is eligible for a rebate, as he has abided by all the rules but still has been issued a fine, as he could not tax his car without the NCT. [23855/12]

Liability for motor tax arises from the date of registration of a vehicle and is payable from the first date of the month of registration. Where a vehicle licence is taken out in a subsequent month, arrears are due in respect of the previous month. I presume the reference to "fines" is to these arrears.

There is no provision for reimbursing the difference between the level of arrears paid and the motor tax payable were the vehicle licence taken out in the month due.

Question No. 350 answered with Question No. 339.

Local Authority Housing

Catherine Byrne

Question:

351 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the progress that has been made to allow for the sale of local authority flats as provided for in the Housing Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2009; when tenants will be able to begin the process of purchasing their flat; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24042/12]

The necessary statutory instruments were made in December 2011 under the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 to enable the new scheme for the tenant purchase of apartments to come into operation on 1 January 2012. Further regulations will be made in the coming months prescribing the form of the transfer orders for the three transfers of property ownership involved in the scheme. I have asked housing authorities, as the initial step in implementing the scheme, to identify apartment complexes in their housing stock that might be suitable for designation for tenant purchase, subject to the required level of support from the tenants of the complexes concerned. As housing authorities must take a series of steps in the run-up to the individual designation of complexes for tenant purchase, it is not possible to say at this point when councils will be a position to issue the first invitation to tenants in a designated complex to purchase their apartments under the scheme.

Regulatory Impact Assessments

Terence Flanagan

Question:

352 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number and description of any regulatory impact assessments that have been undertaken by his Department on legislation or proposed legislation since 9 March 2011; the stage in the legislative/policy development process at which the RIAs have been carried out; the number of RIAs that have been published by his Department over the same period; the manner of publication involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23497/12]

My Department has completed and published the following Regulatory Impact Assessments (RIAs) since my appointment, relating to the following legislation/policy proposals:

1. The Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2011,

2. The Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Bill 2011,

3. The Water Services (Amendment) Bill 2011,

4. The EU Industrial Emissions Directive (2010/75/EU),

5. European Union (Stage II Petrol Vapour Recovery During Refuelling of Motor Vehicles at Service Stations) Regulations 2011,

6. European Communities (Technical Specifications for the chemical analysis and monitoring of water status) Regulations 2011 which relate to quality control and quality assurance of water sampling and analysis,

7. Proposed Amendment of Part K (Stairways, Ladders, Ramps and Guards) of the Building Regulations and accompanying Technical Guidance Document K,

8. Proposed Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2012.

RIAs are generally undertaken within my Department at an early stage in the policy development process, as they are regarded as a valuable tool in deciding the best approach to take, and it is the normal practice to attach the RIA to the relevant Memorandum seeking approval from Government.

The above RIAs are published on my Department's website.

A further RIA has been undertaken relating to the assessment of the impact of 3 key areas of Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Bill 2011, viz.:

(a) extension of Residential Tenancies Act to the Voluntary and Cooperative housing sector;

(b) proposal to address illegal deposit retention; and

(c) proposal to address rent arrears.

It is intended that this Bill, along with the RIA, will be published later this year.

Local Authority Funding

Brian Stanley

Question:

353 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the amount of funding allocated to Dublin City Council for the operation of the energy efficiency/retrofitting programme within Dublin City Council. [24094/12]

In March I announced details of the 2012 housing capital allocations to local authorities, totalling some €251.5 million. In excess of €62 million has been made available for the various housing programmes in the Dublin City Council area. Of this, €2,928,150 has been allocated for the operation of the energy efficiency/retrofitting measure.

Water Charges

Brian Stanley

Question:

354 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the location of the 300,000 homes that cannot be installed with water meters. [24095/12]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 2 of 3 May 2012, which sets out the position in regard to the installation of water meters.

Local Authority Charges

Terence Flanagan

Question:

355 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding household charge or property tax payments for the next three years (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24159/12]

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

Non-Principal Private Residence Charge

Jim Daly

Question:

356 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views in relation to the non principal private residence charge being applied to the family home of persons that are forced to emigrate to find employment on a temporary basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24160/12]

The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, as amended, broadened the revenue base of local authorities by introducing a charge on non-principal private residences. The charge is set at €200 and liability for it falls, in the main, on owners of rental, holiday and vacant properties. The Act places the onus on an owner of a residential property which is situated in the State to assess his or her liability for the charge in the first instance, irrespective of where the person is domiciled.

The Act has a starting position of a universal liability for residential property in respect of the charge. It goes on to exempt certain buildings and owners from this liability, the most important exemption being where a property is occupied by the owner as his or her sole or main residence on the liability date. Where a property is not occupied by the owner, it falls liable for the levy, even if it is the only property that person owns.

Question No. 357 answered with Question No. 341.

Social and Affordable Housing

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

358 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the way a person applies to be on an incremental purchase scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24179/12]

Subject to compliance with the Housing (Incremental Purchase) Regulations 2010, which set out the general terms and conditions of the Incremental Purchase Scheme, the operation of the scheme is a matter for individual housing authorities. Households wishing to apply should do so to the relevant housing authority, which will supply full details of the scheme and the application process.

Unfinished Housing Developments

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

359 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question Nos 187 and 193 of 28 March 2012, if he will clarify the answer (details supplied) [24185/12]

As indicated in the reply to Questions 187 and 193 of 28 March 2012, part of the process of preparing the National Housing Development Survey 2011 involved the provision by local authorities of 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.

On foot of the initial correspondence received from each local authority, and further correspondence and clarification between the Housing Inspectorate of my Department and local authorities sector where required, this categorisation formed the basis for the list of those unfinished developments eligible for a waiver on the annual household charge, with only those households in developments in categories three and four eligible for the waiver. The list of developments in which households are eligible for the waiver in 2012 is set out under the Local Government (Household Charge) Regulations 2012; this list forms the full and final list in this regard. A revised list of estates will be prescribed for 2013 after which time the waiver for unfinished housing developments will end. The categorisation process in this regard is currently being finalised and my Department will be in touch with each local authority to establish the composition of this revised list over the coming months. It is anticipated that the numbers of categories 3 and 4 developments will decrease significantly as my Department continues to work with local authorities and other stakeholders to resolve outstanding issues, including through the Public Safety Initiative. The development of Arra View was not included on the final list of those estates which qualify for a waiver on the Annual Household Charge for 2012.

Local Authority Staff

Robert Troy

Question:

360 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the cost of overtime for staffing local authority offices to facilitate the payment of the household charge on 31 March 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24226/12]

Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each City and County Manager is responsible for staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authorities for which he or she is responsible. Accordingly, the details sought in the question are not available in my Department.

Appointments to State Boards

Timmy Dooley

Question:

361 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the appointments made by him to State boards under the remit of his Department since March 2011 that were advertised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24244/12]

Up to 28 March 2012, the latest date for which information is available, the position is as follows:

Agency / Board

Name of Appointee(Chairperson highlighted)

Position advertised

An Bord Pleanála

Dr. Mary Kelly (Chairperson)

Yes

An Bord Pleanála

Ms Mary MacMahon

No

An Bord Pleanála

Mr. Conall Boland

No

Building Regulation Advisory Board

Mr. Aidan O’Connor (Departmental representative)

No

Building Regulation Advisory Board

Mr. Paul Kelly

No

Building Regulation Advisory Board

Mr. Conor Taaffe

No

Dormant Accounts Board

Mr. Michael Morley (Chairperson)

No (reappointed)

Dormant Accounts Board

Mr. Des Gunning

No (reappointed)

Environmental Protection Agency

Ms Laura Burke (Director General)

Yes

Housing Finance Agency

Dr. Michelle Norris (Chairperson)

Yes

Housing Finance Agency

Mr. John Hogan (Department of Finance nominee)

No

Housing Finance Agency

Mr. Phillip Nugent (Departmental representative)

No

Housing Finance Agency

Mr. Colm Brophy

Yes

Housing Finance Agency

Mr. Michael Murray

Yes

Housing Finance Agency

Mr. Padraic Cafferty

Yes

Housing Finance Agency

Dr. Mary Lee Rhodes

Yes

Irish Water Safety

Ms Breda Collins (Chairperson)

Yes

Irish Water Safety

Mr. John Considine

Yes

Irish Water Safety

Mr. Michael Cuddihy

Yes

Irish Water Safety

Mr. Tom Doyle

Yes

Irish Water Safety

Mr. Brendan McGrath

Yes

Irish Water Safety

Mr. Paul Murphy

Yes

Irish Water Safety

Mr. Seamus O’Neill

Yes

Irish Water Safety

Mr. Martin O’Sullivan

Yes

Irish Water Safety

Ms Anne Ryan

Yes

Irish Water Safety

Ms Lola O’Sullivan

Yes

Irish Water Safety

Mr. Christy McDonagh

Yes

Irish Water Safety

Mr. Tim O’Sullivan (Departmental representative)

No

Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency

Mr. Rich Howlin (Chairperson)

No

Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency

Mr. John O’Connor

No

Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency

Mr. Eddie Lewis (Departmental representative)

No

Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency

Ms Marie McLaughlin (Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Representative)

No

Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency

Mr. Peter Carey County Manager Laois County Council

No

Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency

Ms Ann McGuinness Westmeath County Council

No

Local Government Computer Services Board

Mr. Eddie Breen (Chairperson) County Manager Wexford County Council

No

Local Government Computer Services Board

Mr. Michael Malone County Manager Kildare County Council

No

Local Government Computer Services Board

Mr. Barry Quinlan (Departmental representative)

No

Local Government Computer Services Board

Mr. Enda Holland (Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Representative)

No

Local Government Management Services Board

Mr. Eddie Breen (Chairperson) County Manager Wexford County Council

No

Local Government Management Services Board

Mr. Donal Enright (Departmental representative)

No

Local Government Management Services Board

Mr. Michael Malone County Manager Kildare County Council

No

Local Government Management Services Board

Mr. Barry Quinlan (Departmental representative)

No

National Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee

Mr. Tom Coughlan County Manager Clare County Council

No

Private Residential Tenancies Board

Mr.Tim Ryan

Yes

Private Residential Tenancies Board

Ms Tricia Sheehy Skeffington

Yes

Private Residential Tenancies Board

Ms Paula O’Reilly (Departmental representative)

No

Radiological Protection Institute Ireland

Professor William Reville (Chairperson) Professor of Biochemistry UCC (Retired)

Yes

Radiological Protection Institute Ireland

Dr. Paraic James Senior Lecturer, DCU

Yes

Radiological Protection Institute Ireland

Dr. Maurice Fitzgerald Dental Council

No

Radiological Protection Institute Ireland

Dr. Patricia Cunningham Consultant Radiologist

No

A notice was placed on my Department's website on 19 July, 2011 seeking expressions of interest, from suitably qualified and experienced persons, for consideration as members or chairpersons of the boards of State bodies under the aegis of my Department. The notice is updated regularly as specific vacancies arise. However, expressions of interest can be made at any time and will be kept on file in my Department for consideration as vacancies occur. All appointments are made in accordance with the appropriate legislation governing appointments to each body. In considering applications due regard is had to Government policy regarding gender balance on State Boards.

A number of different statutory processes are involved in appointments to State boards. In some cases statutory selection procedures must be followed or nominations must be sought from independent nominating panels before appointments are made by the Government or by the Minister. In a number of situations, only some appointments to the body concerned are made by the Minister, or appointments are made with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

The Boards of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and An Bord Pleanála are executive in nature and members are employed on a full time salaried basis. The appointments as Chairperson of An Bord Pleanála and Director General of the EPA were made by Government following competitions held by the Public Appointments Service. The Chair of the Board for the Housing and Sustainable Communities Agency (HSCA) has been re-appointed on an interim basis pending enactment of legislation in respect of the HSCA.

The following members were appointed to the Board of Pobal, a not for profit company under the aegis of my Department, by Government:

Mr. Séamus Boland (Chair).

Mr. Thomas Maguire.

Mr. Liam Keane.

Ms Siobhan McLoughlin.

Ms Jennifer McHugh.

Mrs. Mari Hurley.

Article 3 of the Articles of Association of Pobal requires the Minister to consider nominations received from a list of stakeholders and the Social Partners defined by Government in 2005. The list comprises:

National Social Partners

Social Partners party to the Sustaining Progress Agreement; and Stakeholders,

Area and Community Partnership,

County Childcare Committees, and

City and County Managers Association.

A consultation process was conducted in June/July 2011 and 22 nominations received from the Stakeholders and the National Social Partners were considered in bringing forward proposals to Government for the appointments to the vacant positions on the board.

Taxi Regulations

Dessie Ellis

Question:

362 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of SPSV licences that have been granted to persons with Garda National Immigration Bureau stamp 2 and stamp 2a visas. [23673/12]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the specific information requested regarding the issue of licences for small public service vehicles to certain categories of people according to their immigration status is not available and would necessitate a disproportionate deployment of Garda time and resources to collate.

Citizenship Applications

Finian McGrath

Question:

363 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding an application for citizenship in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford. [23865/12]

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that a valid application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in October, 2009. The application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible. As the processing requirements and time taken to complete necessary checks vary from case to case, it is not possible to provide a specific date for determination of an individual application. I can inform the Deputy that good progress continues to be made in reducing the time taken to process the generality of applications.

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.

Criminal Prosecutions

Patrick Nulty

Question:

364 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons who have been prosecuted each year, in tabular form, pursuant to the offence of section 19D of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994, as inserted by the Housing Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24184/12]

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.

Charitable Organisations

Robert Dowds

Question:

365 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he intends to force charitable organisations to publish yearly accounts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23654/12]

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.

Court Procedures

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

366 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider amending the regulations governing the small claims procedure in order that businesses can use it to recover small debts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23661/12]

Gerry Adams

Question:

385 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will outline the process followed when an individual brings a claim to the small claims court; whether the registrar of the small claims court is allowed to make an arbitrary judgement without allowing the claimant a hearing. [24138/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 366 and 385 together.

The small claims procedure of the District Court is an alternative method of dealing with a civil proceeding in respect of a small claim. The majority of claims are dealt with by administrative staff in the local District Court offices. Typical claims are:

a claim in respect of goods or services purchased from somebody selling them in the course of a business,

minor damage to property (excluding personal injuries), and

the non-return of a rent deposit for certain types of dwellings.

The procedure does not cover claims in respect of debts, personal injuries or breaches of leases or higher purchase agreements. Generally such cases may be more effectively and speedily dealt with by way of civil bill.

From its inception the procedure was designed to handle consumer claims cheaply without involving a solicitor. The District Court Clerk, in his/her capacity as the Small Claims Registrar, processes the claims. Where possible, the registrar will negotiate a settlement without the need for a court hearing. Approximately half of processed claims are settled in this way. If the matter cannot be settled the registrar will bring the claim before the District Court. The Deputy will be pleased to learn that the procedure was expanded from January 2010 to allow for business to business claims of the same nature. The procedure is kept under review by my Department.

Data Protection

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

367 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Article 29 Working Party have stated that the European Commission is making changes to data protection rules without proper oversight and that they have serious reservations with regard to the extent the commission is empowered to adopt delegated and implementing acts and the number of times these are used; his views on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23664/12]

I am aware that the Article 29 Working Group, the European Data Protection Supervisor and other interested parties have submitted views on aspects of the Commission's proposals to update the Union's data protection standards. Both the Chairman of the Working Group and the Supervisor have already presented their views to member state representatives in the relevant working group. Their submissions will, therefore, inform the working group's consideration of the Commission's proposals.

Citizenship Applications

Paudie Coffey

Question:

368 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding a naturalisation application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23666/12]

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that an application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in September, 2011. The application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible. The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

369 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a decision will be made on an application for naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23681/12]

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that an application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in March, 2012. The application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible. The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Legal Aid Service

Brendan Griffin

Question:

370 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the cost to the Exchequer of the legal aid system over the past five years; the number of persons per annum that avail of the service; the number of convictions that occurred in such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23691/12]

Under the Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Act 1962, the Courts, through the judiciary, are responsible for the granting of criminal legal aid. An applicant for legal aid must establish to the satisfaction of the court that his/her means are insufficient to enable him/her to pay for legal representation him/herself. The Court must also be satisfied that, by reason of the gravity of the charge or exceptional circumstances, it is essential in the interests of justice that the applicant should have legal aid. The constitutional right to criminal legal aid was established in 1976 in the Healy -v- Donoghue case.

Year

Number of Certificates Granted

Expenditure

2007

46,620

€46.365m

2008

55,265

€55.297m

2009

55,664

€60.338m

2010

55,412

€56.544m

2011

54,092

€56.116m

The Legal Aid Board is the independent statutory body which provides legal aid in civil cases. The two main criteria are the financial eligibility test and the merits test. The volume of business in this area over the past five years is indicated in the following data provided by the Legal Aid Board.

Year

Legal Aid Cases

Legal Advice Cases

Expenditure

2007

9,390

4,525

€24.288m

2008

9,017

5,900

€26.310m

2009

9,032

7,138

€26.310m

2010

9,344

7,288

€24.225m

2011

9,492

8,333

€24.125m

Garda Stations

Finian McGrath

Question:

371 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason he closed Whitehall Garda station, Dublin 9. [23717/12]

In the Policing Plan for 2012, the Garda Commissioner proposed the closure of a number of Garda stations, including Whitehall Garda Station, after a detailed review of all aspects of the stations and a careful analysis of the potential for the more efficient deployment of Garda members in the areas concerned. Commenting on the closures in the Policing Plan, the Commissioner said that "these decisions were only made after careful analysis and research and I am confident that this action will result in a more efficient delivery of policing services". I fully support the Commissioner in his objective of bringing new efficiencies to the delivery of policing services and of prioritising frontline operational policing for the benefit of the public.

International Agreements

Anne Ferris

Question:

372 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has not been incorporated into domestic law in view of the fact that Ireland has incorporated other international human rights instruments into international law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23848/12]

Ireland signed the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination in 1968 and ratified it in January 2001 whereupon it became binding on Ireland in international law. Ratification occurred after the enactment of the Employment Equality Act 1998 and the Equal Status Act 2000. Once the Treaty obligations have been legislated for, those legislative provisions are binding in domestic law. There is no obligation under the Convention for Ireland to incorporate the Convention into domestic law. Ireland has chosen to fulfil the international obligations binding on us following accession to the Convention through our domestic legislation which deals specifically with all the forms of racial discrimination prohibited by the Convention. Once all the Convention's obligations have been provided for, there is no specific need to incorporate the Convention into domestic legislation.

Criminal Prosecutions

Anne Ferris

Question:

373 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide data on the number of charges and convictions brought under the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act per year since its enactment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23849/12]

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.

Crime Levels

Anne Ferris

Question:

374 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he is aware of any cases where the Judge has considered racial motivation as an aggravating factor at sentencing; if he will provide data on the number of such cases per year over the last ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23850/12]

The Deputy will be aware that judges are independent in the matter of sentencing as they are in other matters concerning the exercise of judicial functions, subject only to the Constitution and the law. The decision reached in any case or the sentence imposed, including the factors taken into account, are matters for the presiding judge. Statistics on reports of racially motivated crime are collated by the Central Statistics Office and are available on the website of the Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration. Statistics on the number of complaints to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, alleging discrimination on the grounds of race and/or religion and on cases taken under the race ground of the Employment Equality and Equal Status Acts are also available on that website.

The Deputy may also be aware of the Irish Sentencing Information System or "ISIS" which is an initiative of the judiciary and is an electronic system designed to gather information about the range of sentences and other penalties that have been imposed for particular types of offences across court jurisdictions. The website became operational as a pilot in August 2010 and includes statistics on sentencing, synopses of relevant court judgments and access to a database on actual sentences imposed in various crimes and cases. I consider the website has the potential in time to be a valuable tool not only members of the judiciary but also for lawyers, researchers and those of us concerned with the needs of victims and their families. I understand that ISIS will be evaluated after it has been operating for some time and I will arrange to draw this issue to the attention of the ISIS Steering Committee in that context.

Citizenship Applications

Michael McNamara

Question:

375 Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when a decision will issue on a citizenship application in respect of persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23897/12]

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, June 2008 and February 2009 respectively. The applications are currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicants meet the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible. While good progress continues to be made in reducing the large volume of cases on hands, the nature of the naturalisation process is such that for a broad range of reasons some cases will take longer than others to process. It is a statutory requirement that, inter alia, applicants for naturalisation be of good character. In some instances that can be established relatively quickly and in other cases completing the necessary checks can take a considerable period of time. I can, however, inform the Deputy that enormous progress has been made in dealing with the backlog and steps are being taken to process all outstanding applications and to have made significant inroads into them by the end of this year.

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.

International Terrorism

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

376 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his statement published on 4 May on MerrionStreet.ie was referring to the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign; the names of the declassified documents which he believes demonstrates Osama Bin Laden’s supporters see Ireland as promising ground; the evidence to substantiate this claim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23903/12]

My statement issued on 4th May referred to the action of the group mentioned by the Deputy, as reported in the national press, in directing its members to "target" a musical group in order to intimidate the group into cancelling their proposed concerts in Israel which they proposed to undertake "to promote love between two divided communities". While I understand the group's action in cancelling their proposed tour, I deplore the cyber-bullying and intimidation which led them to do so. It is my belief that cultural and artistic exchanges have the capacity to make a significant contribution to fostering understanding and tolerance in a troubled part of the world. The newly declassified documents referred to in my statement and widely covered by the media were those recently uploaded onto their website by the Combating Terrorism Center, West Point, New York and collectively entitled "Letters from Abbottabad", one of which documents refers specifically to Ireland.

Prisoner Releases

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

377 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of applications for special family-event day compassionate release currently on hand; the number of such applications likely to be approved; if such release is restricted to a particular category of prisoner; if any particular category of prisoner is excluded from such consideration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23908/12]

My replies to previous Parliamentary Questions explained the criteria which applies including the circumstances when temporary release may be provided and what matters must be taken into account. 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 though it does not necessarily follow that a prisoner will receive temporary release even if the recommendation is to that effect.

I have been informed by the Irish Prison Service that the reason given for seeking a period of temporary release is recorded with supporting documentation on the individual prisoner file. However, 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.

Citizenship Applications

Sean Fleming

Question:

378 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of applications for citizenship that are waiting for over two years to be completed in view of the fact that he has sought to address this issue and will priority be given to completing all current applications that are on file over two years as urgently as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23929/12]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to PQ No. 72 of the 8th May 2012:

When I came into office just over a year ago one of my first objectives was to address the length of time taken to process applications for naturalisation and to significantly reduce the number of cases on hand. At that time there were over 22,000 cases on hand and applications were taking an average time of over two years to process and many were waiting 3 to 4 years. I regarded this as unacceptable. In June 2011, I announced a series of measures to address this issue including improved application forms, which are currently available online with an associated online residence checker, re-engineering of processes that were a barrier to achieving maximum efficiency plus streamlined and accelerated procedures for certain types of application.

Through these and other measures enormous progress has been made, notwithstanding a substantial increase in the volume of valid applications received in 2011, during which a total of 18,500 valid applications were received compared to 12,500 in 2010. In the period 9 March 2011 to 8 March this year, a total of 17,500 valid applications were determined. By contrast, in 2010, a decision was reached in just under 7,800 cases. So far this year I have made decisions on some 9,200 applications and I expect to have made a decision on a further 3,500 applications by the end of May and on around another 12,000 applications between June and the year end. Thus this year will see approximately 24,000 cases dealt with, which represents a more than three fold increase in the number of cases dealt with over 2010 levels. I think the House will agree that by any standards of reasonable measurement this represents a major achievement.

I also undertook to get to the stage by the second quarter of this year, that in the generality of cases i.e. around 70%, that persons applying for a certificate of naturalisation will be given a decision on their application within six months. In this regard, a major effort has and continues to be made in reducing the time taken to process applications. It is expected that the six month timeframe for the generality of new applications received from this month onwards will be achieved. Under the new Job-Bridge Programme announced by the Government a total of sixteen individuals have been engaged by the Citizenship Division of my Department to date. The primary purpose of the scheme is to provide work experience for those involved and to improve their prospects of getting back into the workforce. I am advised that the scheme is extremely successful and mutually beneficial in addressing the backlog and enabling the individuals in question to gain good experience in the workplace.

Last Summer I also decided to in introduce citizenship ceremonies for the first time since the foundation of the State. This allows candidates for citizenship make their declaration of fidelity to the Irish nation and loyalty to the State and receive their certificate of naturalisation in a meaningful and dignified manner which befits the importance and solemnity of the occasion. To date, 47 such ceremonies have been held at which almost 11,000 candidates have become Irish citizens under the new procedures. These ceremonies are an unqualified success.

The nature of the naturalisation process is such that for a broad range of reasons some cases will take longer than others to process. It is a statutory requirement that, inter alia, applicants for naturalisation be of good character. In some instances that can be established relatively quickly and in other cases completing the necessary checks can take a considerable period of time. The primary aim over the past year has been to reduce the large volume of cases on hand as swiftly as possible and this has been achieved in the generality of cases. I am also confident that significant inroads will also be made with the remaining cases by year end. In such a fast moving environment where large volumes of cases are processed quickly, the calculation of averages for processing times has little meaning and the priority of the Immigration Service has been to deal with the cases on hand rather than divert resources to other activities.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

379 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the procedures to be followed for naturalisation in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24046/12]

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person referred to by the Deputy has confirmed his availability to attend a citizenship ceremony on 14 June, 2012 at which I intend to grant him a Certificate of Naturalisation.

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.

Regulatory Impact Assessments

Terence Flanagan

Question:

380 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number and description of any regulatory impact assessments that have been undertaken by his Department on legislation or proposed legislation since 9 March 2011; the stage in the legislative/policy development process at which the RIAs have been carried out; the number of RIAs that have been published by his Department over the same period; the manner of publication involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23501/12]

The information requested by the Deputy is as follows.

Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011— A Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) was prepared on publication of the Bill and has been published on my Department’s website.

Personal Insolvency Bill— A RIA was prepared on publication of the General Scheme of the Bill. This has not yet been published but will be published on my Department’s website in due course.

Mental Capacity Bill— A RIA is being prepared to accompany the Mental Capacity Bill that is being finalised for publication in this Dáil session.

Legal Services Regulation Bill— A RIA will be published in advance of the Committee Stage of the Bill. On the matter of the Legal Services Regulation Bill, the Deputy may wish to note that although a preliminary RIA had been in preparation for the Bill, because of the prescribed and exceptional 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 RIA is further advanced and will continue against the backdrop of the amendments to the Bill that are being prepared for the Committee Stage. The RIA will be published in advance of the Committee Stage for timely consideration. The Deputy will be aware that the relevant Guidelines specifically allow for a RIA to follow a Bill in such exceptional circumstances as applied in this instance.

The National Vetting Bureau Bill— A RIA was prepared during preparation of the Bill and was published on my Department’s website.

Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill 2012— A RIA was prepared during preparation of the Bill and was published on my Department’s website.

Criminal Justice (Community Service) (Amendment) Act 2011— A RIA was prepared during preparation of the Bill and was published on my Department’s website.

Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012— A RIA was prepared during preparation of the Bill and was published on my Department’s website.

Criminal Justice (Search Powers) Bill 2012— A RIA was prepared during preparation of the General Scheme/Drafting of the Bill but has not yet been published. It is proposed to publish the RIA on my Department’s website in due course.

Criminal Justice Act 2011— A RIA was prepared during preparation of the Bill and was published on my Department’s website.

Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill 2012— A RIA was prepared prior to circulation of the Heads of the Bill to Government but has not yet been published. It is proposed to publish the RIA on my Department’s website in due course.

Recent Judgement of the Court of Justice of the EU— A RIA was prepared during drafting of the Heads of the Bill and will be published on my Department’s website. The Deputy may wish to note that this RIA concerns legislation to give effect to a recent judgement of the Court of Justice of the EU (ECJ) which prohibits gender differentiation in insurance, with effect from 21 December, 2012. The RIA concerns the legislation rather than the policy options, as, following the ECJ decision, there are no other policy options open.

Legislative Programme

Brendan Griffin

Question:

381 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the Spent Law will be in place and the time frame for same. [24119/12]

The Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012 was approved for publication by the Government on 1 May 2012 and was presented to the Seanad on 2 May 2012, where it is currently awaiting Second Stage. The Bill builds on the recommendations in the 2007 Law Reform Commission Report on Spent Convictions in allowing former offenders to withhold details of certain qualifying convictions once certain conditions have been met and an appropriate conviction-free period has elapsed. However, all past convictions will have to be disclosed by persons who wish to work with children and vulnerable adults and when they are applying for certain sensitive positions in the public service. In that regard, the Bill will have to dovetail with the National Vetting Bureau Bill that I intend to publish shortly.

The timeframe for enactment will depend on the ordering of business in the Houses of the Oireachtas and on any amendments that may be tabled during the Bill's passage. Having said that, the Deputy can be assured that the Government wishes to see this Bill enacted as quickly as possible.

Garda Stations

Noel Grealish

Question:

382 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Justice and Equality in view of the fact that the new Garda Regional and Divisional Headquarters at Murrough, Renmore, County Galway has passed through all planning stages, if he will give a commitment that this new headquarters will go to tender without delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24120/12]

Noel Grealish

Question:

383 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will honour a commitment given by the previous Government that when the new Garda Regional and Divisional Headquarters at Murrough, Galway is constructed that the existing station at Millstreet will be retained as a city centre substation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24121/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 382 and 383 together.

The programme of replacement of Garda stations is based on the agreed accommodation priorities established by An Garda Síochána and it is progressed in co-operation with the Office of Public Works. Provision for expenditure on capital projects, including the provision of Garda accommodation, is provided for in the Vote of the Office of Public Works.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that plans for the construction of a new Regional Headquarters in Galway have been developed by the Office of Public Works. Further progress on this project will be pursued in the context of An Garda Síochána's identified accommodation priorities and in the light of sufficient resources being available within the OPW Vote.

I am further advised that Mill Street station will continue to serve as a Regional and Divisional Headquarters until such time as a new headquarters is provided. Any decision in relation to the station at that stage will be a matter in the first instance for the Garda Commissioner in the context of his operational requirements.

Prisoner Transfers

Ann Phelan

Question:

384 Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the circumstances under which a prisoner is moved from secure or closed prison to open prison in view of recent media coverage of some inmates deciding to leave Loughan House in County Cavan, including one inmate with over 90 convictions, including the manslaughter of a member of An Garda Síochána, it appears there may be some people in open prison that should not be there, and vice versa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24127/12]

As the Deputy is aware I published the Report into the escape by the prisoner referred to on the 28th March 2012. As I stated, when publishing the Report, 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 the necessary steps to ensure that a mistake of this nature does not reoccur.

I have been informed 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 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 at Director level of the Irish Prison Service.

Open centres are an integral part of the rehabilitation process, in that they allow prisoners to experience a lower security environment prior to their release back into the community. In the case of prisoners coming to the end of long sentences, accommodation in an open centre can help mitigate the effects of institutionalisation. In general, the more relaxed visiting regime in open centres can have a positive effect in consolidating family supports.

Prisoners being considered for a transfer to an open centre are identified by a number of different means but primarily on the recommendation of the Prison Governor or the therapeutic services in the prisons. Before a final determination, a number of factors may be taken into account and I have set these out previously in my answer to written question no. 1004 on 18th April, 2012.

Prisoner review meetings are held on a regular basis in all prisons. At these reviews, the Governor and staff and all services involved in the sentence management of the prisoner offer their views and recommendations. This vital information allows for an informed decision on the prisoner's sentence management. 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.

Question No. 385 answered with Question No. 366.

Missing Children

Gerry Adams

Question:

386 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he has been in contact with a person (details supplied) in relation to child abduction; if he has provided any assistance to the family; and the position regarding this situation. [24146/12]

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

Garda Deployment

Eamonn Maloney

Question:

387 Deputy Eamonn Maloney asked the Minister for Justice and Equality in view of the fact Tallaght Garda Station, Dublin 24, is awaiting the appointment of a Garda Chief Superintendent and a Garda Superintendent, the date on which these appointments will be announced. [24154/12]

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

I am of course fully conscious of the importance of maintaining a sufficient strength in the senior ranks to support the investigative, management and supervisory capacity of the Force. To this end I am in ongoing discussion with my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and I hope to be able to build on recent progress in filling key senior vacancies.

Road Safety

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

388 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of unaccompanied learner drivers that have been involved in fatal and serious collisions each year since 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24162/12]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

389 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of unaccompanied learner drivers that have been convicted after being involved in a fatal or serious collision each years since 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24163/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 388 and 389 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that 45 unaccompanied learner drivers were involved in a fatal collision and 74 were involved in a serious injury collision between 1 January 2009 and 14 May 2012. The following table provides a breakdown of the statistics by year:

Number of unaccompanied learner drivers involved in fatal and serious injury collisions*

Year

Fatal

Serious Injury

2012 (to 14 May)

3

5

2011

10

22

2010

11

20

2009

21

27

Total

45

74

*These statistics are provisional, operational and subject to change.

The Deputy will be aware that, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service and I have no role in the matter. Section 4(3) of the 1998 Act provides that the Courts Service is independent in the performance of its functions, which includes the provision of statistics.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that the information sought by the Deputy regarding the number of unaccompanied learner drivers that have been convicted after being involved in a fatal or serious collision each year since 2009 are not available. Information concerning summonses, convictions and fines with respect to unaccompanied learner drivers generally is set out in my response to the Deputy's Question No. 391 of today's date.

Road Traffic Offences

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

390 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of learner drivers since 2009 that have received a caution to date for failing to display L plates and or for driving unaccompanied by a qualified driver; the number of learner drivers in the same period that have received several cautions for these offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24164/12]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

392 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will report on the recent operation learner driver; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24169/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 390 and 392 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that An Garda Síochána under Operation Learner Driver conducted two specific enforcement operations, in conjunction with the Road Safety Authority and other relevant stakeholders, targeting learner drivers in March and April this year.

The following table provides a combined breakdown of offences detected during these operations (in some cases both offences were committed by the same driver):

Number of Learner Drivers Driving Unaccompanied and orWithout L-plates Detected under Operation Learner Driver

Number of Learner Drivers Checked

Unaccompanied

No L-plates

Caution

Proceedings commenced*

2,200

946

660

949

279

*This figure is the number of proceedings commenced to 10 May 2012 and is provisional, operational and liable to change.

I am further informed that statistical information relating to the overall number of cautions issued to learner permit drivers for failing to display L-plates and for driving unaccompanied by a qualified driver since 2009 is not readily available and would necessitate the expenditure of a disproportionate amount of Garda time and resources to compile.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

391 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of learner drivers that have been summoned to court for failing to display L plates and or being unaccompanied by a qualified driver since 2009; the number of learner drivers that have been convicted in court of this offence; the average fine imposed on learner drivers by the court after being convicted of this offence; if any drivers have received the maximum €1,000 fine in court for this offence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24165/12]

The Deputy will be aware that, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service and I have no role in the matter. Section 4(3) of the 1998 Act provides that the Courts Service is independent in the performance of its functions, which includes the provision of statistics.

However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that the information sought by the Deputy is as set out in the table below:

Provisional Learner Driver Failing to Display "L" Plates on a vehicle

Year

Summonsed

Convicted

Average fine

Maximum Fine

2009

2,625

410

€142.37

No

2010

2,966

503

€132.80

No

2011

2,718

634

€133.50

No

Provisional Learner Driver Unaccompanied by a Qualified Driver

Year

Summonsed

Convicted

Average fine

Maximum Fine

2009

2,751

446

€150.38

No

2010

3,447

718

€156.41

No

2011

3,150

854

€149.70

No

Question No. 392 answered with Question No. 390.

Appointments to State Boards

Timmy Dooley

Question:

393 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the appointments made by him to State boards under the remit of his Department since March 2011 that were advertised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24249/12]

The information requested is set out below.

Property Services Regulatory Authority

I appointed a Chairperson and ten ordinary members to the Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA) on 3 April 2012. These appointments were made following the seeking of expressions of interest from members of the public in December 2011.

Chairperson

Geraldine Clarke

Ordinary Member

Regina Terry

Myles O'Reilly

Paul Mooney

Josephine Henry

Martin Hanratty

Deirdre Fox

James Doorley

Patrick Davitt

Edward Carey

Carol Boate

I can also inform the Deputy that, of the other State board appointments that I have made since March 2011, none were advertised either for reasons of timing, in that vacancies had to be filled quickly, or because relevant legislation required that the appointments be made on the nomination of a particular professional body. However, I wish to further inform the Deputy that I plan to seek expressions of interest from members of the public regarding the filling of further vacancies on State boards, unless on a case by case basis, such a process is thought to be impractical.

Visa Applications

Patrick Nulty

Question:

394 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will expedite a joint visa in respect of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 15; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24255/12]

The visa application referred to was made on 7 March 2012. The application was refused on 1 April 2012. An appeal of this decision was submitted on 16 April 2012. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the visa appeal application was approved on the 8 May 2012. As the application was comfortably dealt with within the time-frame outlined on the INIS website, and considering the nature of the visa application which involved a long-stay move to the State, I am satisfied that there were no delays in processing this application.

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.

Residency Permits

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

395 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons who presented to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of the Garda National Immigration Bureau to apply for extensions of residence for timed out students since the arrangements for such extensions began; the number of extension applications being granted and the number being refused; the number of persons who have timed out but have not presented for an extension and thus may have left the State or may be illegally resident in the State; his views on long term plans for timed out students. [24259/12]

The new immigration regime for full time non-EEA students has been in operation since 1 January 2011. These new immigration rules are designed to reform the student immigration regime in a manner that is better integrated with Ireland's immigration policy generally while providing a stronger regulatory framework for the development of the international education sector.

In order to ensure a smooth transition from the old regime to the new, special transitional arrangements were put in place for those students already in the State who were affected by the change in the immigration regime and, in particular, by the introduction of limits on the duration of student residence. Students were allowed to complete any course they had commenced prior to the introduction of the new rules.

As a special concession "timed-out" students were granted a six month extension of their immigration permission to allow those students to address their immigration status in the State. During this six month concession period, "timed out students" were permitted to work full time and to apply for an employment permit or green card without having to return to their country of origin. Whilst this six month concession was initially non-renewable, in recognition of a tighter labour market, a further two three month extensions of the "timed out" concession has been extended to students who have been resident in the State prior to 1 January 2006, in order to permit them to finalise their status in the State. In essence, this has afforded such students up to one year to seek an alternative permission to be in the State.

Whilst an exact figure for the number of students who have presented to the Garda National Immigration Bureau and the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service seeking "timed out" permission is not currently available and the level of departure from the State is not recorded because Ireland does not operate exit controls, a snapshot of non-EEA students resident in Ireland as at end March 2012 shows that on that date there were approximately 1400 students recorded as being in the category in question. This figure is fluid as students finish their courses and in some cases others previously granted the concession go on to degree level education.

Overall, it should be borne in mind that the time limits themselves, at 7 years overall and 3 years within the language and non-degree sector, are not ungenerous. Student permission cannot be open ended and, even without the new time limits, has always been recognised as a more limited immigration status (for instance it is not reckonable for naturalisation).

Therefore I am satisfied that significant measures have been put in place to ensure that non-EEA students resident in Ireland prior to 1 January 2011 have been treated fairly with the introduction of the new arrangements. The transitional measures have provided ample time for students to seek alternative means of remaining in the State and some have in fact done so. Ultimately anyone seeking to stay on must have a sustainable basis to their residence. Further extensions of the timed out concession itself could only be justified for a limited subset of the student population. In that regard, it should be noted that to operate any other policy would be to tacitly acknowledge that entering the State as a student would facilitate permanent migration to the State. I am not aware of any country that has such a system in place.

Anti-Social Behaviour

Ciara Conway

Question:

396 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide an update on the current legislative position regarding tackling anti social behaviour; the remedies that might be available to persons suffering as a result of this behaviour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24339/12]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that current policing strategies are predicated on preventing crime, public order offences and anti-social behaviour and are designed to promote an environment conducive to the improvement of the quality of life for residents in the community. I am further informed that policing measures are in place to address any difficulties experienced by members of the community with respect to incidents of public disorder and other anti-social behaviour. This includes areas being designated as hotspots for such criminality, additional high-visibility patrols being directed by local Garda management, including regular patrols by uniform and plain-clothes units, including the Community Policing and Garda Mountain-Bike Units, local Detective and Drug Unit personnel, supplemented as required by Divisional Crime Task Force and Traffic Corps personnel.

Strong legislative provisions are in place to combat anti-social behaviour. Part 11 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 provides for civil proceedings in relation to anti-social behaviour by adults and Part 13 of the Act relates to anti-social behaviour by children. These provisions set out an incremental procedure for addressing anti-social behaviour. With regard to children, these range from a warning from a member of An Garda Síochána, to a good behaviour contract involving the child and his or her parents or guardian, to referral to the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme and finally to the making of a behaviour order by the Children Court. With regard to adults, they include a warning and the making of a civil order by the court.

A range of other legislative provisions are also available to An Garda Síochána in order to address anti-social behaviour and public order incidents, and to bring criminal proceedings where appropriate. These include measures under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Acts and the Intoxicating Liquor Acts. In particular, the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008 gave further powers to the Gardaí to tackle misuse of alcohol, including the power to seize alcohol in the possession of an under 18 year old which they suspect is for consumption in a public place. They can also seize alcohol to forestall public disorder or damage to property. Gardaí may also issue fixed charge notices for the offences of intoxication in a public place and disorderly conduct in a public place.

Regulatory Impact Assessments

Terence Flanagan

Question:

397 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Defence the number and description of any regulatory impact assessments that have been undertaken by his Department on legislation or proposed legislation since 9 March 2011; the stage in the legislative / policy development process at which the RIAs have been carried out; the number of RIAs that have been published by his Department over the same period; the manner of publication involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23495/12]

There have been no Regulatory Impact Assessments (RIA) carried out by my Department during the period in question. The Department of Defence is not a regulatory authority as commonly understood. The Defence Acts and Regulations made thereunder are for the most part, focused on the Defence Forces only and do not apply to the ordinary citizen or to business. Notwithstanding this, the Department applies the principles set out in the RIA Guidelines issued by the Department of the Taoiseach where appropriate. My Department is also represented on the RIA Network chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach.

Appointments to State Boards

Timmy Dooley

Question:

398 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Defence the appointments made by him to State boards under the remit of his Department since March 2011 that were advertised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24242/12]

The bodies under the aegis of my Department are the Civil Defence Board, the Army Pensions Board and the Board of Coiste an Asgard. The Civil Defence Act 2002 provides that the Board shall consist of at least eight but not more than fourteen members who shall be appointed by the Minister for Defence. Legislation is currently being drafted to dissolve the Civil Defence Board and transfer the functions of the Board back into the Department of Defence. I appointed the current Board as an interim measure from 11 July 2011. Membership of the interim Board appointed from 11 July 2011 is set out in the following table:

Name

Nominating Bodies

Civil Defence Board Chairperson

Mr. Brian Spain, Director, Department of Defence

Nominated by the Minister for Defence

Civil Defence Board Members

Mr. Cathal Duffy, Principal Officer, Department of Defence

Nominated by the Minister for Defence

Ms Clare Tiernan, Principal Officer, Department of Defence

Nominated by the Minister for Defence

Mr. Robert Mooney, Principal Officer, Department of Defence

Nominated by the Minister for Defence

Mr. Bill Smith, Director General, Civil Defence Board

Appointed as Director General, Civil Defence Board

Mr. Ned Gleeson, County Manager, Limerick City Council

Nominated by City and County Managers Association

Mr. Keith Leonard, Assistant Fire Advisor

Nominated by the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government

Dr. Barbara Rafferty

Nominated by Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland

Ms Becci Cantrell

Nominated by the Environmental Protection Agency

Ms Veronica Forde, Assistant Civil Defence Officer

Nominated by the Civil Defence Officers Association

Lt. Col. Tony Kelly, SSO, Defence Forces

Nominated by the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces

Detective Superintendent Orla Mc Partlin, An Garda Síochána

Nominated by the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána

Mr. Fergal Conroy

Elected volunteer member of Civil Defence

Ms Eileen Joyce

Elected staff member of the Civil Defence Board

The Army Pensions Board is an independent statutory body established under the Army Pensions Act, 1927. The Act specifies that the Board shall consist of a chairman and two ordinary members. The two ordinary members must be qualified medical practitioners of whom one must be an officer of the Army Medical Corps. The chairman and the non military ordinary member are appointed by the Minister for Defence with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance. The Army Medical Corps ordinary member is appointed by the Minister for Defence on the recommendation of the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces.

The position of Army Medical Corps ordinary member became vacant due to retirement in 2011, and I have since appointed Commandant Adam Lagun to the Board on the recommendation of the Chief of Staff. As the Army Pensions Act 1927 specifies that one of the ordinary members must be an officer of the Army Medical Corps, this position was not publicly advertised. Details of Commandant Lagun's appointment to the Army Pensions Board were published in the Iris Oifigiúil on 13 January 2012.

Harbour Charges

John Halligan

Question:

399 Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will clarify the proposed increases in rates and charges for leisure crafts at harbours around the country; if he will reconsider the imposition of this excessive charge for the most basic of facilities for leisure crafts in harbours. [23638/12]

Charges for the use of facilities at each of the six Fishery Harbour Centres are currently levied by virtue of the Fishery Harbour Centres (Rates and Charges) Order 2003. My Department has however recently conducted a review of the 2003 Order and a draft new Rates and Charges Order, the first proposed changes to the fee schedule for almost a decade, has been prepared on foot of that review.

Charges for use of the facilities in the Fishery Harbour Centres by yachts and other pleasure craft have been introduced for the first time. This follows the provision of specialised marina facilities at Dingle and now Rossaveal Fishery Harbour Centres in particular, in response to the importance of such developments in the marine leisure and tourism area.

The new draft Order was the subject of a public consultation process that closed on 20 April last, and I am pleased to note that my Department has now received a total of 87 submissions in relation to the revised charges, from a wide range of stakeholders in the Fishery Harbour Centres. Many of those were from the leisure and tourism sectors.

These submissions are being given careful consideration at present, and when the examination is complete I will, if necessary, make any appropriate amendments to the new Rates and Charges Order before it is finalised.

Animal Welfare Legislation

Sean Fleming

Question:

400 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when the Animal Health and Welfare Bill 2012 is expected to be completed through the Oireachtas; the planned commencement dates for the implementation of this new legislation; if it will it be able to deal with animal welfare issues that arose prior to, but are continuing after the passage of the legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23645/12]

Sean Fleming

Question:

405 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the proposed new Animal Health and Welfare Bill 2012 will impose new responsibilities on the Turf Club and Horse Racing Ireland regarding the welfare of horses while in training with a licensed trainer; the obligations on these bodies in relation to these issues prior to this new legislation being finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23710/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 400 and 405 together.

In the first instance the keeper of animals is primarily responsible for their welfare. The principal statutes governing cruelty to all animals in this country, including race horses, is the Protection of Animals Act 1911 and the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act, 1965. Responsibility for enforcing this legislation rests with An Garda Síochána who may, on receipt of a complaint, investigate and bring a prosecution against any person alleged to have committed an offence under these Acts.

The new Animal Health and Welfare Bill will consolidate and update existing legislation in the area of animal welfare. There will be provisions for powers of intervention where an animal is deemed to be at risk of being welfare compromised and issues such as the prevention of unnecessary suffering and abandonment of animals will also be addressed. The Bill has recently had its second stage in the Seanad. A date of implementation will be set once the Bill has been passed by the Oireachtas. The Animal Health and Welfare Bill will not have retrospective effect and any issues that arise prior to the passage of this legislation will be dealt with under the relevant legislation currently in force.

Animal Welfare Issues

Sean Fleming

Question:

401 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he is satisfied with the views of Horse Racing Ireland and the Turf Club that current legislation is silent in relation to the issue of welfare of horses while in training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23647/12]

My Department's responsibility, which is set down in legislation, currently extends to the welfare and protection of farmed animals only i.e. animals normally bred or kept for the production of food or for use in or for the purpose of farming. The relevant legislation in this area is the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes Act 1984 and the European Communities (Welfare of Farmed Animals) Regulations 2010, SI 311 of 2010. Animals "used in competitions/shows, cultural or sporting events or activities while so being used" are outside the scope of SI 311 of 2010.

The principal statutes governing cruelty to all animals, including race horses, are the Protection of Animals Act 1911 and the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act, 1965. Responsibility for enforcing this legislation rests with An Garda Síochána who may, on receipt of a complaint, investigate and bring a prosecution against any person alleged to have committed an offence under these Acts. An individual may report matters to the Gardaí or indeed if he or she wishes to institute civil proceedings.

The Programme for Government 2011 contains a commitment to strengthen legislation on animal cruelty and animal welfare. The main vehicle to fulfil this commitment is the new Animal Health and Welfare Bill which consolidates and updates existing legislation in the area of animal welfare and brings the responsibility for the welfare of all animals under the remit of my Department. The Bill is currently being considered by the Oireachtas.

Sean Fleming

Question:

402 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his responsibility in relation to the welfare of horses in Ireland especially those involved in the horse-racing industry and if he has any role in enforcing standards in this legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23648/12]

My Department's responsibility, which is set down in legislation, currently extends to the welfare and protection of farmed animals only i.e. animals normally bred or kept for the production of food or for use in or for the purpose of farming. The relevant legislation in this area is the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes Act 1984 and the European Communities (Welfare of Farmed Animals) Regulations 2010, SI 311 of 2010. Animals "used in competitions/shows, cultural or sporting events or activities while so being used" are outside the scope of SI 311 of 2010.

The principal statutes governing cruelty to all animals, including race horses, are the Protection of Animals Act 1911 and the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act, 1965. Responsibility for enforcing this legislation rests with An Garda Síochána who may, on receipt of a complaint, investigate and bring a prosecution against any person alleged to have committed an offence under these Acts. An individual may report matters to the Gardaí or indeed if he or she wishes to institute civil proceedings.

The Programme for Government 2011 contains a commitment to strengthen legislation on animal cruelty and animal welfare. The main vehicle to fulfil this commitment is the new Animal Health and Welfare Bill which consolidates and updates existing legislation in the area of animal welfare and brings the responsibility for the welfare of all animals under the remit of my Department. The Bill is currently being considered by the Oireachtas.

Sugar Reform Compensation

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

403 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding an application for sugar beet compensation in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; when payment will be granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23650/12]

An official of my Department has been in direct contact with the person named concerning the outstanding payment in respect of an element of the compensation due on foot of the Sugar Reform package. It is expected that the payment in question will issue in the coming weeks, directly to the bank account of the person named.

Direct Payment Schemes

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

404 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he envisages any changes in the future for farmers who have their farmland, holding and entitlements leased; if he will confirm that the entitlements will go back to the original owner when the lease is up; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23653/12]

Under the current Single Payment regulations entitlements that are leased out with land revert to the owner on expiry of the lease for the land.

The European Commission published its proposals for reform of the CAP post 2013 in October last and negotiations on those proposals are continuing. Under the proposals existing single payment entitlements will be abolished on 31 December 2013 and new entitlements will be allocated to eligible farmers in 2014. As the negotiations are still at an early stage it is too soon to speculate on what the final outcome and details of the reform will be.

I will continue to consult with farming organisations and other stakeholders as the negotiations progress.

Question No. 405 answered with Question No. 400.

Fish Quota

Noel Harrington

Question:

406 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when he will announce the allocations for boarfish; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23785/12]