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 10, inclusive, answered orally.

Arts Promotion

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

11 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the full extent to which he expects and or intends to involve or utilise the arts, culture and heritage sectors in economic recovery with special emphasis on the marketing of a positive natural image; the degree to which he can quantify the effect in financial terms in the case of the current year. [27109/12]

The arts, culture and heritage sectors continue to offer vital opportunities for the provision of important cultural, social and employment benefits to communities throughout the country. The nature of employment within the arts sector encompasses a very wide range of activities. It can include those engaged in the arts practice within specific artistic genres and can also encompass areas which flow from such artistic pursuits. It may also embody the whole industrial creative sectors, including the audiovisual production sector.

The Government appreciates and values the contribution the arts sector makes to the internationally renowned artistic reputation of this country. Within the current economic constraints, investment in the arts, culture and creative sectors is more important than ever, having regard to the employment intensity of the sector. The Deputy will be aware that a report (An Assessment of the Economic Impact of the Arts in Ireland) published by the Arts Council in 2011 indicated that the arts sector provides significant direct and indirect employment, supporting some 21,300 jobs and contributing €306.8 million in taxes. The arts also impact on the wider creative industries, contributing €4.7 billion to the economy and supporting 79,000 jobs.

The heritage area is also increasingly identified as a primary stimulus in the tourism sector and my Department is committed to promoting greater appreciation and understanding of Ireland's rich heritage as a valuable amenity for business, farming and tourism and as a means of presenting Ireland as an attractive destination for sustainable inward investment. A report published by the Heritage Council last month indicates that Ireland's historic environment supports over 35,000 jobs and contributes in the order of €1.5 billion to the national economy. It also indicates that one fifth of total visitor expenditure in Ireland is attributable to our historic environment.

While the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, and the agencies under its remit, have primary responsibility for the promotion of Ireland generally as an attractive visitor location, heritage sites, including national parks and national monuments, feature strongly in much of this promotion. In addition, my Department through, for example, the provision of important heritage inventories, the funding for the conservation and presentation of the built heritage, and through support for the Heritage Council, assists in promoting greater appreciation and understanding of Ireland's heritage as a valuable amenity for residents and visitors alike. My Department is also directly involved in developing heritage initiatives with Fáilte Ireland, the Heritage Council and other organisations. I am confident that these and other initiatives will contribute to the quality of the national heritage tourism product, economic recovery and job creation.

As the Deputy will be aware, in the Government'sAction Plan for Jobs, there are 11 specific actions in the areas of arts, culture and creative enterprise which are to be undertaken by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the agencies under its remit. The relevant actions are set out in section 7 of the Plan and I look forward to continuing progress in relation to these actions in the period ahead.

Scéim Feirmeoireachta Éisc

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

12 D’fhiafraigh Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an raibh aon phlé idir Údarás na Gaeltachta agus BIM maidir le cúrsaí oiliúna a chur ar fáil i bhfeirmeoireacht éisc má leantar ar aghaidh leis an scéim feirmeoireachta éisc in Inis Oírr. [27091/12]

Tuigtear dom go bhfuil Meabhrán Comhthuisceana i bhfeidhm idir Údarás na Gaeltachta agus BIM agus go bhfuil comhoibriú maith, dá bharr, idir an dá eagraíocht.

Tuigtear dom fosta go bhfuil Údarás na Gaeltachta agus BIM ag obair as lámha a chéile maidir le forbairt an togra atá beartaithe in Inis Oírr. Ag cruinniú a tionóladh idir BIM agus Údarás na Gaeltachta le déanaí, aontaíodh go bhfuil sé riachtanach cúrsaí oiliúna i bhfeirmeoireacht éisc a chur ar fáil do mhuintir na háite chun cabhrú leo an tairbhe is fearr a fháil ón tionscnamh seo. Tuigtear dom go bhfuil sé i gceist ag an dá eagraíocht tabhairt faoin bpróiseas oiliúna nuair a bheidh na ceadúnais chuí faighte agus cúrsaí pleanála socraithe don tionscnamh.

Arts Funding

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

13 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which he is satisfied regarding the adequacy of direct and or indirect funding for the arts at local level; if sufficient emphasis is placed on incentivising local performing groups; if such groups are directly supported in their efforts to secure or upgrade premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27108/12]

The Government's policy on the arts is to promote and strengthen the arts in all its forms, to increase access to and participation in the arts, and to make the arts an integral and valued part of our national life. I am continuing to work towards this goal with my Department and the agencies within its remit, and I remain committed to securing the best possible level of funding for the arts sector.

The State appreciates and values the contribution the arts sector makes to the internationally renowned artistic reputation of this country. Within the current economic constraints, such investment in the arts, culture and creative sectors is more important than ever, having regard to the employment intensity of the sector and their potential for assisting with cultural tourism initiatives.

I was pleased to recently launch The Philanthropy Leverage Initiative. This initiative, established with funding of €230,000 for 2012, is designed to encourage philanthropic sponsorship and endowment funding of the arts from private sources. The scheme aims to promote support for the arts from private sources and to unlock 2 to 5 times the funding put up by the taxpayer. The Philanthropy Leverage Initiative will provide an incentive to arts organisations to proactively seek new and multi-annual relationships with sponsors which deliver private sector financial support, thereby increasing overall funding available to the arts. The initiative will be available across projects of varying scale, geography and art forms. The Leverage Initiative will run in parallel with a second initiative — the Philanthropy Capacity Building Initiative — which is operated by the Arts Council.

Capital investment in cultural infrastructure has greatly improved access to and participation in the arts for large numbers of people nationwide. Facilities funded include integrated arts centres, theatres, galleries, studios and creative and performance spaces. In this manner, my Department provided the bulk of capital funding for buildings and refurbishing arts facilities around the country, mainly in the not for profit sector, while the Arts Council provides the ongoing revenue support for many of the facilities.

In terms of indirect funding, my Department, in conjunction with the Arts Council, has developed an initiative calledCulturefox, which is a free promotional medium for arts and culture events. Culturefox is both a website and an “app”, and is available to all arts and culture practitioners at national, regional and at local levels. It is free to use for promoters and consumers alike.

As the Deputy is aware, I also forwarded details to him on 25 April last of financial assistance provided to bodies/groups over the period since the establishment of my Department on 2 June 2011.

Calafoirt agus Céanna

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

14 D’fhiafraigh Jonathan O’Brien den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas faoin tacaíocht a bhfuil a Roinn in ainm a bheith á tabhairt d’fhorbairt na Cé in Inis Oírr, an dtabharfaidh sé soiléiriú maidir leis na híocaíochtaí a tháinig ón Roinn chun an Ché a fhorbairt, agus an bhfuil sé i gceist ag an Roinn forbairt na Cé a chríochnú. [27098/12]

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

473 D’fhiafraigh Peadar Tóibín den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas faoin tacaíocht a bhfuil a Roinn in ainm a bheith á tabhairt d’fhorbairt na Cé in Inis Oírr, an dtabharfaidh sé soiléiriú maidir leis na híocaíochtaí a tháinig ón Roinn chun an Ché a fhorbairt; agus an bhfuil sé i gceist ag an Roinn forbairt na Cé a chríochnú. [27134/12]

Tógfaidh mé Ceisteanna Uimh. 14 agus 473 le chéile.

Mar is eol don Teachta, is cé de chuid Comhairle Contae na Gaillimhe an ché seo. Ach an oiread le céanna Árann agus Inis Meáin, ar cheadaigh mo Roinnse deontais de luach €58m ina n-iomláine dóibh le blianta beaga anuas, aithníonn mo Roinnse an tábhacht a bhaineann leis an gcé seo do phobal Inis Oírr.

Idir na blianta 2004 agus 2007, cheadaigh mo Roinnse deontais de luach €784,000 inan-iomláine chun cur ar chumas Chomhairle Contae na Gaillimhe tabhairt faoin obair seo a leanas i ndáil leis an gcé in Inis Oírr: réamhstaidéar, múnlóireacht fhisiceach agus measúnacht tionchair timpeallachta, chomh maith le ceadúnais a fháil, dearadh a dhéanamh, doiciméid chonartha a ullmhú, tairiscintí a lorg agus bainistiú cuí a dhéanamh ar an gconradh.

Tuigtear dom go bhfuil cead pleanála agus ceadúnas forchladaigh faighte ag an gComhairle Contae d'fhorbairt na cé in Inis Oírr. Meastar go mbeidh costas de €8.5m ar an obair atá beartaithe agus, ós rud é nach bhfuil acmhainní airgeadais den chineál sin ag mo Roinnse — ná ag an gComhairle Contae, tuigim — i láthair na huaire, níl sé beartaithe dul i mbun tairisceana don togra sa ghearrthéarma.

Architectural Heritage

Dessie Ellis

Question:

15 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the financial funding initiatives being put in place to protect and promote the walled towns here. [27101/12]

The Heritage Council, a body under the aegis of my Department, operates a specific initiative to support walled towns across the island of Ireland — the Irish Walled Towns Network.

I understand that the Council provided over €1.8m to walled towns in the past 3 years. The funding provided for this initiative is a matter for the Heritage Council.

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.

Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

16 D’fhiafraigh Mary Lou McDonald den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an raibh aon phlé idir é agus an Roinn Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe faoi athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an gcinneadh Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga a chónascadh le hOifig an Ombudsman agus léiriú a dhéanamh ar cé mhéid airgid atá á shábháil de bharr an chinnidh agus ar an mbonn a bhí leis an gcinneadh. [27089/12]

Mar is eol don Teachta, d'fhógair an Rialtas ar 17 Samhain 2011 go raibh cinneadh tógtha feidhmeanna Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga a chónascadh le hOifig an Ombudsman agus go raibh an cinneadh sin le cur i gcrích i gcomhthéacs an athbhreithnithe ar Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003, atá ar siúl ag mo Roinnse faoi láthair. Tógadh an cinneadh sin mar chuid dePhlean Athchóirithe an Rialtais don tSeirbhís Phoiblí. Faoin bPlean sin, tá sé beartaithe ag an Rialtas go ndéanfar cuíchóiriú ar 48 comhlacht poiblí faoi dheireadh na bliana 2012 agus go ndéanfar athbhreithniú criticiúil ar 46 comhlacht poiblí eile faoi mhí an Mheithimh 2012.

Tá sé ráite go soiléir ag an Rialtas nach sábháil airgid amháin atá á lorg sna cúrsaí seo. Mar atá ráite ibPlean Athchóirithe an Rialtais don tSeirbhís Phoiblí, tiocfaidh na buntáistí is suntasaí as timpeallacht riaracháin níos simplí agus níos éifeachtaí a bheith ann, rud a thabharfaidh cuntasacht dhaonlathach níos fearr, níos lú dúblála agus línte freagrachta níos soiléire don saoránach.

Glactar leis, ar ndóigh, go dtagann saincheisteanna chun cinn do na heagraíochtaí éagsúla atá i gceist de thoradh na gcinntí seo agus go bhféadfadh leasuithe reachtaíochta a bheith san áireamh chomh maith. Tá Coiste Athchóirithe bunaithe ag mo Roinnse chun scrúdú a dhéanamh ar na saincheisteanna ábhartha a bhaineann leis na heagraíochtaí ar leith a thagann faoi scáth mo Roinne. Tá an coiste seo ag plé leis na heagraíochtaí éagsúla atá i gceist, lena n-áirítear Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga, le gur féidir cinntí an Rialtais a chur i bhfeidhm ar bhealach éifeachtach agus éifeachtúil. Ar ndóigh, bíonn plé rialta idir mo Roinnse agus an Roinn Caiteachais Phoiblí agus Athchóirithe i dtaca leis an ábhar seo fosta.

Turbary Rights

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

17 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in view of the fact that 11 of 53 protected bogs are being cut by turf cutters, if he has had any success in securing a 12 month extension in the derogation from the EU on these bogs; if he will provide an update regarding the talks with the EU on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27242/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

489 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he and/or his Department have engaged in outgoing discussions with the EU Commission on the issue of efforts to resolve difficulties arising from the displacement of traditional turf cutting at various bogs throughout the country; the success of any such deliberations; if the various compromise positions put forward over the past year have been accepted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27502/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

491 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the various attempts made to resolve issues arising from displacement of traditional cutters from various bogs throughout the country in the past two years; the extent to which any such proposals have been accepted by each of the parties involved including the EU Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27504/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 17, 489 and 491 together.

Earlier this year, at the request of the Government, Mr. Conor Skehan, Chairman of the Peatlands Council, convened a Peatlands Forum, under the Chairmanship of Mr. Justice John Quirke, and involving my Department, the IFA, the Turf Cutters and Contractors Association, Bord na Móna, and representatives of turf-cutting and environmental groups. This Forum allowed each community affected by the cessation of turf-cutting to put forward their views on the issues and follow-up steps were identified for each bog.

The report on the Forum from Justice Quirke also recommended that a national plan should be prepared to examine how the 53 raised bog special areas of conservation are to be protected. This recommendation was agreed to by Government. Dáil Éireann also gave unanimous support to a Private Members' Motion, which called for such a national plan to be put in place. On the 3rd of April, I, together with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Mr. Phil Hogan, T.D., met with EU Environment Commissioner Potoènik in Brussels, where we secured the support of the European Commission for developing a National Raised Bog SAC Management Plan. This plan will be developed over the coming 12 months.

The plan will be wide-ranging, looking at the practical aspects of conserving and managing the affected bogs and will allow solutions for turf-cutters to be explored in detail. In the context of such a plan, it may be possible to bring some flexibility, within the terms of the EU Habitats Directive, that could allow limited cutting within a small number of sites. The plan will be progressed both at local level for each site and through the Peatlands Council.

An extension to the "derogation" is not legally possible. While the Plan is being prepared, no unauthorised turf cutting can take place on the protected bogs. Any unauthorised cutting will be dealt with through prosecution and cross-reporting. The State may also pursue contractors and turf-cutters involved in illegal damage to meet remediation costs.

The Government has put in place a flexible package of compensation for affected turf cutters. Those affected who want to cease cutting turf completely can apply for compensation of €1,500 per annum for the next 15 years. Eligible cutters are also entitled to a one-off payment of €500 for this year. This means the total compensation package is worth €23,000, index linked and tax-free.

For those who wish to continue cutting, my Department is working to relocate turf cutters to alternative bogs. Turf has now been cut on the first of these relocation bogs and others are being prepared or are being identified in consultation with affected cutters. Where relocation bogs are not yet available, turf-cutters can choose between a €1,500 payment or the delivery of 15 tonnes of turf, each year while the relocation bog is being identified, acquired and prepared for cutting. They will also be entitled to the one-off €500 payment. To date, more than 2,100 applications for compensation have been received by my Department with payments issued to some 550 applicants already. The first deliveries of turf have also been made in recent days.

My Department is maintaining ongoing contact with the European Commission both in terms of the development of the national plan and in regard to updating the Commission on the unauthorised cutting to date and the steps being pursued on enforcement.

Scéimeanna Teanga

Michael Colreavy

Question:

18 D’fhiafraigh Michael Colreavy den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta cé mhéid scéimeanna teanga a cuireadh i ngníomh ó thosach na bliana, cé mhéid acu a bheartaíonn sé a chur i ngníomh, agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas maidir leis na scéimeanna sin nach bhfuil curtha i ngníomh fós. [27094/12]

Tá dhá scéim teanga daingnithe agam faoi fhorálacha Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla go dtí seo i mbliana. Ciallaíonn sé seo go bhfuil 107 scéim teanga san iomlán, a chlúdaíonn 192 comhlacht poiblí, daingnithe ón uair gur tháinig an tAcht i bhfeidhm. Tá sonraí maidir leis na scéimeanna uilig atá daingnithe go dáta, mar aon leis na scéimeanna atá á n-ullmhú faoi latháir, ar fáil ar shuíomh idirlín Oifig an Choimisinéara Teanga,www.coimisineir.ie.

Tá plé leanúnach ar siúl ag oifigigh mo Roinne le comhlachtaí poiblí maidir le scéimeanna teanga a ullmhú agus a aontú. Sa chomhthéacs sin, tá suas le 20 dréachtscéim á bplé go gníomhach ag mo Roinn faoi láthair agus tá mé dóchasach, mar sin, go ndéanfar dul chun cinn sásúil chun tuilleadh scéimeanna a dhaingniú agus a fhoilsiú faoi dheireadh na bliana seo.

Tax Reliefs

Michael McGrath

Question:

19 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he has held any discussions with the Department of Finance on the extension of tax relief to apps, games and other digital content as part of the review of section 481 tax relief; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27236/12]

The whole area of development of the Irish audiovisual industry (including the gaming sector and other digital content) was examined during the preparation of the Creative Capital Report — Building Ireland's Audiovisual Creative Economy. The Report was published in July 2011 and an implementation Committee to pursue the execution of its recommendations has been established. One of the recommendations in the Report is the extension of Section 481 until the end of 2020. It is currently approved until the end of 2015. A public consultation process to assist the Department of Finance in examining the operation of the Section 481 Scheme beyond 2015 was announced on 24 May 2012. This consultation process invites interested parties to make submissions on the economic impact assessment of the operation, status and future development of the Section 481 Scheme. My Department is involved in this consultation process.

The Deputy will appreciate that primary responsibility for the support and promotion of film-making in Ireland, in respect of both the indigenous sector and inward productions, is a matter for the Irish Film Board (IFB). This agency is funded through my Department and is independent in its day-to-day operations.

Soláthar Pinsean.

Martin Ferris

Question:

20 D’fhiafraigh Martin Ferris den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta cén sciar de bhuiséad Údarás na Gaeltachta a chaitear ar phinsin daoine atá fós fostaithe, agus ar phinsin daoine atá tar éis éirí as an Údarás. [27097/12]

Caitheann Údarás na Gaeltachta thart ar €4.4 mhilliún sa bhliain ar phinsin 135 duine atá ag fáil pinsean faoi Scéim Aoisliúntas an Údaráis.

I láthair na huaire, tá duine amháin athfhostaithe ag an Údaras ar chonradh sé mhí go 31 Lúnasa 2012 ar chostas breise de €23,663 anuas ar an €28,017 a bheadh iníoctha leis an duine mar phinsean.

Departmental Bodies

Sean Fleming

Question:

21 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will confirm the future of the Heritage Council in view of the report that heritage is worth €1.5 billion to the economy; if he will ensure that the 35,000 jobs it supports are safeguarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27227/12]

Under the Public Service Reform programme announced by Government on 17th November last the Heritage Council is included in Appendix IIb: Candidate Bodies for Critical Review by end of June 2012. The focus of the review is to examine the potential merger of functions of the Council into my Department. Any decision in relation to the future of the Council will await the finalisation of that review.

I welcome publication of the report cited by the Deputy which was commissioned by the Heritage Council, a body funded by my Department. The Steering Committee responsible for commissioning and overseeing completion of the report was chaired by an official in my Department. The reportEconomic Value of Ireland’s Historic Environment and its findings will help to inform the development of heritage policy and related initiatives by my Department.

Museum Projects

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

22 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if it remains his position that he intends to take Bank of Ireland’s College Green branch into the hands of the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27235/12]

Robert Troy

Question:

451 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the discussions he has held on his plans to repossess the Bank of Ireland College Green premises, Dublin; his plans to use the building as a major heritage attraction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26231/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 22 and 451 together.

I refer the Deputies to my previous replies on this matter. As outlined in those replies, I met the Chair and Chief Executive of Bank of Ireland and had a constructive engagement on the issues.

My dialogue with the Bank is continuing.

Arts Funding

Gerry Adams

Question:

23 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his plans to better support arts and heritage initiatives in rural areas; and the percentage of the overall budget allocated to developing rural arts and heritage. [27106/12]

The Government's priorities for the arts are set out in the Programme for Government. Responsibility for the promotion of the arts at all levels throughout the country is devolved primarily to the Arts Council. The Council is a statutory body, funded by my Department, and independent in its day-to-day operations, including in relation to its funding decisions.

The Deputy may be aware that I recently launched The Philanthropy Leverage Initiative. This pilot initiative, established with funding of €230,000 for 2012, is designed to encourage philanthropic sponsorship and endowment funding of the arts from private sources. The scheme aims to promote support for the arts from private sources and to unlock multiples of the funding put up by the taxpayer. The Philanthropy Leverage Initiative will provide an incentive to arts and culture organisations to seek new and multi-annual relationships with sponsors which deliver private sector financial support, thereby increasing overall funding available to the arts. The initiative will be available across projects of varying scale, geography and art form. Full details are available on my Department's website.

Arts Promotion

Seamus Kirk

Question:

24 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will confirm the future of opera here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27230/12]

Responsibility for the promotion and funding of opera falls within the remit of the Arts Council. Under the Arts Act 2003, the Arts Council is a statutorily independent body.

Commemorative Events

Derek Keating

Question:

25 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if, as part of the centenary celebrations to commemorate 1916, he will ensure that commemoration services and ceremonies will include the Four Courts, the Custom House and Kilmainham Gaol in view of the fact that these and others are centres of significance when remembering those who sought our independence in 1916; if he will outline any initial plans and his view of such planned ceremonies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21295/12]

Robert Troy

Question:

446 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if any armies other than the Irish Army will be involved in the centenary celebrations of the 1916 Rising. [26378/12]

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

456 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the steps being taken in preparations for the forthcoming centenary anniversary of the Easter Rising to allow for the involvement of relatives to those who took part in the Rising during the commemorative events; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26402/12]

Gerry Adams

Question:

482 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the progress that has been made in preparations for the commemoration of the centenary of the 1916 Rising. [23767/12]

Gerry Adams

Question:

483 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the commemorations that are planned by the State in the year ahead. [23768/12]

Micheál Martin

Question:

484 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he or his officials have attended meetings recently to discuss the commemoration of 1916; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24825/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 25, 446, 456 and 482 to 484, inclusive, together.

As Deputies will be aware, we are already arrived on the Centenary anniversary of the tumultuous decade that saw the transition from the campaign for Home Rule to the establishment of an autonomous Irish State. It was a period when the parliamentary process was overtaken by the resort to arms in Ireland and the descent of Europe into war. It was also a period of transformation and cultural renewal in Irish society, following on electoral reform, land reform, education reform and migration. The demand for constitutional change was in parallel with the assertion of workers' rights and women's rights. The decade from 1912 to 1922 is the most momentous of modern Irish history and requires a comprehensive commemorative programme that will acknowledge the achievements of the revolutionary generation and enhance the understanding today of the events that shaped our society.

While it is intended that the official commemorative programme will continue through the entire Decade of Centenaries until 2022, consideration is currently being focused on an initial programme to 2016.

With a strong commitment to the development of a comprehensive and balanced programme of commemorations, I very much appreciate the support of the Oireachtas All-Party Consultation Group. The meetings of this Group, of which I am Chairman, not only provide opportunities for suggestions and advice from members in relation to the programme, but also allow interested institutions and groups to make presentations in relation to their expectations in the coming years. At the most recent meeting on 22 May, the Group discussed commemorative planning with a cross-community group from Belfast and met with members and officials from Dublin City Council in relation to future co-operation.

In order to ensure a coherent presentation of the history of the period, the commemorative arrangements will be aligned, as far as possible, with the historic timeline of the Centenary anniversaries. I very much appreciate that the commemorative programme will have the support of a panel of distinguished historians, chaired by Dr Maurice Manning, providing advice for the Government and the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on both the overall commemorative programme and on any specific issues which may arise. I very much hope that the commemorative programme will strengthen the public interest in our national history and encourage original research at local and national level. I understand that the expert group will be consulting widely — with universities, educational and cultural bodies, local historical associations and committees, and individuals — on the advancement of historical study.

To date in 2012, there have been a number of significant centenary commemoration events. In late March, the Northern Ireland First Minister, Mr. Peter Robinson, MLA, visited Iveagh House in Dublin, at the invitation of the Tánaiste, to offer his reflections on Carson's influence and on Irish Unionism. The centenary of the introduction of the Third Home Rule Bill in the Westminster Parliament on 11 April was marked by memorial lectures on the work of John Redmond and the Irish Parliamentary Party, hosted by Waterford City Council. In mid-April, I addressed a conference in Belfast about the Ulster Covenant, organised by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

With support from my Department, Dublin City Gallery — The Hugh Lane is currently hosting a major exhibition —Home Rule and Modern Ireland. The centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant will be marked on 28 September of this year, although the details of any event have not yet been confirmed. The county libraries of Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan will host exhibitions on the Covenant this year, with support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Other events planned this year include the completion of the restoration of Erskine Childers’ yacht, Asgard, and the continuation of the National Library of Ireland’s Europeana World War I collection roadshows.

The developing programme of special Centenary commemorations will complement the established arrangements for annual commemorations, which includes the National Day of Commemoration and the commemorations at the GPO and Arbour Hill. The annual commemoration of the Great Famine and other events outside the Centenary framework will also continue. In this regard, consideration is being given to special commemorative arrangements for events such as the millennial anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf in 2014.

With our priority attention to the immediate future, the arrangements for commemoration in 2016 are still at an early stage of consideration. The significance of particular buildings and sites in relation to the Rising will be borne in mind in developing the commemorative programme. Similarly, the special arrangements for military ceremonies or parades on the Centenary of the Rising in 2016 have yet to be addressed. I would renew my invitation to Deputies and all interested persons to send me any contributions or suggestions they would offer towards the developing programme. If Deputies have any particular interests or concerns in this regard, I would be grateful to hear from them.

Cursaí na Gaeltachta

Dessie Ellis

Question:

26 D’fhiafraigh Dessie Ellis den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta cén buiséad atá ag Ealaín na Gaeltachta i mbliana i gcomparáid leis na 5 bliana roimhe seo; agus cad iad na pleananna atá aige maidir le forbairt na heagraíochta seo. [27095/12]

Tuigtear dom ó Údarás na Gaeltachta gur cuireadh maoiniú mar a leanas ar fáil d'Ealaín (na Gaeltachta) Teo le cúig bliana anuas:

Bliain

Maoiniú

2011

€820,000 (suas go Márta 2012)

2010

€866,000

2009

€950,000

2008

€1,013,000

2007

€980,000

Tuigtear dom ó Údarás na Gaeltachta fosta go mbeidh buiséad de €700,000 ar fáil d'Ealaín (na Gaeltachta) Teo i leith forbairt na n-ealaíon sa Ghaeltacht don tréimhse ón 1 Aibreán 2012 go dtí an 31 Márta 2013. Beidh €350,000 den bhuiséad seo á chur ar fáil ag Údarás na Gaeltachta, leis an bhfuílleach le teacht ón gComhairle Ealaíon.

Tuigtear dom chomh maith go bhfuil plean straitéise d'fhorbairt na n-ealaíon sa Ghaeltacht don tréimhse 2012-2016 ullmhaithe ag Ealaín (na Gaeltachta) Teo agus go bhfuil an plean sin curtha faoi bhráid na Comhairle Ealaíon. Táthar ag súil go mbeidh an plean seo réidh le seoladh taobh istigh d'achar gairid.

Brian Stanley

Question:

27 D’fhiafraigh Brian Stanley den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta cén buiséad atá ag Óige na Gaeltachta i mbliana i gcomparáid leis na 5 bliana roimhe seo; agus cad iad na pleananna atá aige maidir le forbairt na heagraíochta seo. [27096/12]

Tuigtear dom ó Údarás na Gaeltachta gur cuireadh maoiniú mar a leanas ar fáil d'Óige na Gaeltachta le sé bliana anuas:

Bliain

Maoiniú

2012

€285,000

2011

€340,000

2010

€367,000

2009

€300,000

2008

€300,000

2007

€300,000

Ach an oiread leis na heagraíochtaí eile pobail atá ag feidhmiú sa Ghaeltacht, beidh ról lárnach ag Óige na Gaeltachta i gcur i bhfeidhm naStraitéise 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge . Beidh Óige na Gaeltachta ag obair as lámha a chéile leis na heagraíochtaí forbartha pobail sa Ghaeltacht chun a chinntiú go mbeidh ról ag an óige sa phróiseas pleanála teanga.

Chomh maith leis sin, leanfaidh Óige na Gaeltachta ag cur seirbhísí ar fáil d'aos óg na Gaeltachta. Tuigtear dom go bhfuil oifigí ag Óige na Gaeltachta i gcontaetha Dhún na nGall, Gaillimh agus Corcaí. Tá 55 club óige faoi chúram na heagraíochta ag feidhmiú sna Gaeltachtaí éagsúla agus ag freastal ar timpeall 2,000 ball. Anuas air sin, tá 6 ionad 'buail isteach' ag feidhmiú sa Ghaeltacht le tacaíocht ó Óige na Gaeltachta. Tuigtear dom go ndéanfar gach iarracht cur le líon na n-ionad sin taobh istigh de na srianta airgeadais atá ar Údarás na Gaeltachta san aeráid eacnamaíoch reatha.

Question No. 28 answered with Question No. 6.

Arts Promotion

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

29 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the steps being taken to promote Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann which is taking place in Derry in 2013. [27102/12]

My Department provides an annual current grant to Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. In 2012, this amounts to €1.675m. This grant assists,inter alia, with the day-to-day running costs of the organisation, along with various deliverables. Comhaltas has a nationwide network of branches that promotes Irish traditional music in all its forms, including the playing of the harp and uilleann pipes, Irish traditional dancing, traditional singing in both Irish and English, and Irish language classes.

The Deputy will appreciate that the promotion of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann is primarily a matter for Comhaltas CeoltóiríÉireann itself.

Famine Memorabilia

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

30 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the reason very little famine memorabilia is currently on exhibition; and his plans to address this matter. [27107/12]

The Deputy will be aware that, as Chair of the National Famine Commemoration Committee, I am responsible for ensuring on behalf of the Government that appropriate arrangements are in place to commemorate the Great Irish Famine with an annual memorial day. This year's National Famine Commemoration took place on Sunday, 13th May in Drogheda, County Louth. Details of the work of the National Famine Commemoration Committees since 2008 in implementing a varied and diverse annual programme of events to coincide with the National Famine Commemoration are available on the relevant pages of my Department's website athttp://www.ahg.gov.ie/en/NationalFamineCommemoration2012/.

In relation to the display of famine memorabilia in exhibitions, the Deputy will appreciate that decisions in relation to any such displays would be operational matters for the relevant cultural institutions or other entities concerned. I should, however, draw the attention of the Deputy to my reply to Question No 293 of 7 February 2012, in which I pointed out that the National Famine Commemoration Committee had previously considered the possibilities around exhibiting a collection dedicated to the Irish Famine in the National Museum of Ireland. The Committee was given to understand that much of the evidence relating to the Great Famine is statistical and pictorial, and, as there are very limited artefacts that could be exhibited at the National Museum, the position is that there is insufficient material to support a dedicated exhibition at that venue. The Deputy will, of course, be aware that there are many local museums and other entities around the country that display material relating to the Famine period, the Irish National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park, Co Roscommon, being an excellent example.

Údarás na Gaeltachta

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

31 D’fhiafraigh Peadar Tóibín den Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil sé ar intinn aige leanúint leis na toghcháin chuig Bord Údarás na Gaeltachta i mbliana agus, mura bhfuil, cén tslí ina mbeartaíonn sé an Bord a thoghadh nó a roghnú. [27085/12]

Tá cinneadh tógtha ag an Rialtas deireadh a chur leis an riachtanas do thoghcháin do bhord Údarás na Gaeltachta. Dá bhrí sin, beidh foráil sa Bhille Gaeltachta, a fhoilseofar go luath, chun feidhm a thabhairt do chinneadh an Rialtais. Leagfar amach an próiseas chun bord nua a cheapadh d'Údarás na Gaeltachta sa Bhille Gaeltachta fosta.

Architectural Heritage

Martin Ferris

Question:

32 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the availability of funding for restoration works on protected buildings throughout Ireland. [27103/12]

€1,252,000 has been provided by my Department in this year's Estimates for built heritage capital. As part of this capital programme, €500,000 is allocated specifically for protected structures at risk. Applications for this funding are made by local authorities to my Department. However, it should be noted that the deadline for applications in 2012 has now passed.

The remaining built heritage capital allocation supports funding to the Office of Public Works in respect of national monuments and historic properties in State care, a special projects fund and archaeological capital works.

My Department also provides funding to the Heritage Council, which, in turn, supports many heritage projects throughout the country. This year my Department is providing a total of €4,811,000 of Exchequer Funding for the Heritage Council, together with €1,500,000 from my Department's share of the Environment Fund.

Other programmes may also provide funding which could be used to support protected structures, for example, the LEADER Programme.

Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 9.

Job Creation

Seán Crowe

Question:

34 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the initiatives in place to fully utilise the area of heritage to contribute to job creation. [27100/12]

Ireland's rich heritage has a key role to play in national economic recovery. My Department is currently promoting the role which Ireland's heritage has to play in making our country an attractive destination for sustainable tourism and inward investment, both in terms of the operation of Ireland's national parks and nature reserves, and in terms of our unique built heritage, which distinguishes us and which makes Ireland an attractive tourist location for both visitors and Irish people themselves. Cultural and heritage tourism is one of the most important elements of Ireland's tourism product, and heritage properties, including those in State care, are an important element of that attraction.

My Department provides some limited funding under a number of headings for investment in the built and natural heritage, and also supports the Heritage Council and the Irish Heritage Trust in their work in the heritage area. However, 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. My Department is therefore focusing on working creatively across Government and with partner bodies such as the Heritage Council, the Irish Heritage Trust, Fáilte Ireland, the LEADER Programme and other heritage interests in seeking to ensure that resources are directed towards the heritage sector. My Department will also continue to provide funding for the protection, conservation and development of our built and natural heritage, in so far as resources allow.

The recently published Heritage Council research documentEconomic Value of Ireland’s Historic Environment provides comprehensive evidence-based data that support and enhance our innate understanding of the importance of our built heritage. I welcome publication of the report, which is a useful tool that complements the work of my Department and the findings of which will help to inform the development of the Government’s heritage policy and related initiatives. The report indicates that capital investment in built heritage conservation provides significant employment in the construction industry and is of major benefit to the national economy. Such investment also assists in developing and maintaining specialised skills among conservation professionals and craftspeople.

In the context of the Government Policy on Architecture 2009-2015, my Department is developing various policy actions which contribute to the protection and appropriate re-use of our built heritage and aim to deal with on-going challenges facing our architectural heritage, such as the adaptive re-use for historic properties and a forward plan-led approach to cultural heritage and urban design in our towns and cities. This will also assist in the maintaining of specialist jobs in the wider heritage sector and in particular the repair and maintenance industry.

Passport Applications

Patrick Nulty

Question:

35 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding an application for passports by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26202/12]

Passports were posted to persons in question on 30 May, 2012.

Overseas Development Aid

Michael McNamara

Question:

36 Deputy Michael McNamara asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the reason the social accountability component of the protection of basic services programme in Ethiopia was not continued after its initial pilot phase ended in 2008; if there are any plans to re-start same; the state of play of other relevant proposals for independent evaluation of donor assisted Government spending in Ethiopia; the reason they are taking so long to implement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26262/12]

Ethiopia is one of the nine Programme Countries for the Government's aid programme, where we have a commitment to the provision of long term strategic assistance. One of the key aims of our development cooperation programme in Ethiopia is to support the increased use of basic social services such as health and education by its citizens. While the Government of Ethiopia has made substantial progress in deploying basic services across the country, there is still a relatively low uptake of such services by the poorest and most marginalised communities, especially women. Ireland supports efforts to address this by improving the capacity of service providers and the quality of the basic services, as well as tackling the barriers poor people face when accessing these services. These efforts are advanced through a multi-donor programme with the title Protection of Basic Services. Ireland has supported this Programme since 2006.

The social accountability component of the Protection of Basic Services programme aims to enable Ethiopian citizens to express their needs and preferences for improved and effective services delivery and to hold policy-makers and service providers accountable for weak performance. Engagement in social accountability by citizens, local government officials and service providers is intended to improve service delivery by making public services more effective, efficient, responsive and accountable.

The pilot phase of this component commenced in January 2008 and concluded in July 2009. Irish Aid supported this first phase, and its preparation, with funding of €720,000. At the end of the pilot phase, the World Bank, acting on behalf of Ireland and other donors, commissioned an independent evaluation of the pilot. This evaluation confirmed that social accountability facilitated improved, constructive dialogue between citizens and local government officials in the pilot areas. It also concluded that there was an increased citizen awareness of their rights, responsibilities and entitlements to basic services.

In light of this positive evaluation, and following a rigorous process of design and procurement, led by the World Bank, the second phase began in late 2011 and will run for two years. Irish Aid has so far provided €1.8 million in funding for this second phase. Our Embassy in Addis Ababa is engaged in the management and oversight of the programme, as an active member of the steering committee chaired by the Government of Ethiopia and of the donor technical advisory group.

All programmes assisted by international donors in Ethiopia are regularly submitted to independent external evaluation, as was the case with the pilot phase of the social accountability programme. The Protection of Basic Services programme has also been reviewed recently by an international firm commissioned by the European Union Delegation. The Evaluation and Audit Unit of my Department has commissioned an external independent evaluation of the Irish Aid Country programme in Ethiopia for the period 2008-2012. This will provide an evidence-based assessment of the performance of the programme as a whole and of its contribution to partner programmes we have funded, including the Protection of Basic Services programme. This evaluation will be completed in the coming months and the full evaluation report will be made available to the public through the Irish Aid website.

More generally, Irish Aid has in place a range of rigorous checks and safeguards to ensure that Ireland's development assistance is achieving the intended development results and benefiting those who are most in need. These include regular audits, independent evaluations, independently-commissioned surveys and frequent field monitoring visits.

Imprisonment Abroad

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

37 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has considered the case of persons (details supplied) both of whom are imprisoned; his view on this situation; if he proposes to assist these persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26301/12]

I am aware of the situation concerning the two men referred to by the Deputy. As neither of them is an Irish citizen it is not possible for my Department to offer them consular assistance. The Greek authorities are under no legal obligation to assist our Embassy with any requests made in connection with this investigation, as we have nolocus standi in the matter. However, on hearing of Mr. Marku’s predicament, and notwithstanding the fact that he is not a citizen of Ireland, the Irish Embassy in Athens made contact with the Greek police in an effort to convey the Irish Government’s interest in this case on the basis that he is married to an Irish citizen. It was made clear to our Embassy that the authorities in Crete would not provide them with any information regarding this investigation owing to the fact that no Irish citizen was involved in the case.

To clarify further, the Embassy has certain rights of communication and contact with Irish citizens in Greece to facilitate the exercise of our consular functions under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (1963). This Embassy has no such rights for other persons, even if they are related to Irish citizens.

Dialogue on Iran

Finian McGrath

Question:

38 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will support dialogue in relation to Iran. [26322/12]

Relationships with Iran continue to be dominated by grave concerns over its nuclear programme, reflected in successive UN Security Council and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolutions adopted since 2006 and notably in the IAEA's report of 24 February 2012 which highlighted possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme.

The international community has consistently urged the Iranian Government to respect and fulfil its international obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and to engage seriously and unconditionally in discussions aimed at confirming the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme.

Ireland has strongly supported this position. As a State Party to the NPT, Iran must fulfil its commitments and obligations under the Treaty. These include the obligation under Article II "not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices" and the obligation under Article III to conclude a safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

Ireland continues to support strongly the dual-track approach which EU High Representative Ashton is pursuing on behalf of the E3+3 (France, Germany, UK, US, Russia and China). This combines a willingness to negotiate with Iran a determination to apply sanctions if these are required in order to ensure that it responds seriously to the concerns of the international community.

Given the overall lack of progress in persuading Iran to respond to the international concerns (which have been deepened by the most recent IAEA reports), the EU and other international partners such as the US and Canada found it necessary earlier this year to impose further rounds of restrictive measures against Iran. In the case of the EU, these included an embargo on Iranian crude oil imports to the EU which is due to come into effect on 1 July. While imposition of these further measures has not been easy, not least in terms of the impact on global oil prices which affects us all, I nonetheless believe that these additional sanctions have been necessary and effective in persuading Iran to return to the negotiating table and to accept an invitation from High Representative Ashton to resume discussions with the E3 + 3.

Following an initial constructive round of discussions in Istanbul on 1 April, the E3+3 and Iran held a further round of talks in Baghdad on 17/18 May. While no agreement has yet been reached and substantial difficulties remain, HR Ashton has reported from the Baghdad talks that there is some common ground between the parties. The talks indicated an apparent readiness on Iran's part to proceed on the basis of reciprocity and to contemplate confidence-building measures (CBMs), including in relation to the crucial enrichment issue. However, more work needs to be done in elaborating any possible package of CBMs.

A further round of negotiations is scheduled to take place in Moscow on 18 June, at which time it is hoped that Iran will come forward with a specific and constructive response to the proposals outlined by the E3 + 3 at the Baghdad meeting. Such positive engagement on Iran's part will be necessary in order to prevent a further ratcheting-up of sanctions, already due to be tightened with the full entry into force on 1 July of the EU oil embargo.

The Government remains strongly of the view that the issues surrounding Iran's nuclear activities can only be adequately addressed and resolved through diplomacy and negotiations, and not by any other means. We will continue to advocate this position in all international fora, including at EU and UN level.

Trade Relations

Finian McGrath

Question:

39 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will further develop and build economic and cultural links with Argentina in 2012-2013. [26323/12]

Longstanding and close bilateral ties have characterised relations between Ireland and Argentina since diplomatic relations were formally established between the two countries in 1948, the same year that Ireland opened a resident mission in Buenos Aires. Argentina opened its resident mission in Dublin in 1964.

Consultations between senior officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and their Argentine counterparts also take place on a regular basis to discuss and develop co-operation in the political, economic and cultural spheres. Consultations took place most recently in Argentina in May 2011.

In 2011, Argentina was Ireland's 44th largest trading partner. Total merchandise trade stood at €227,777,000, a 37.8% increase over 2010. There are a number of Irish companies with significant investments in Argentina, and there exists further niche opportunities in the country for Irish companies. Ireland's embassy in Buenos Aires is working with the state agencies and Irish companies in efforts to access these opportunities. The embassy is working to establish an Irish business network as part of this work, which will support exploration of export opportunities and enhance opportunities for networking.

Further to this, a working holiday agreement exists between Ireland and Argentina whereby 100 young citizens of both countries can travel to and work in the other country for up to one year. It is hoped to increase the number of places available under this programme to 200 per year.

The embassy in Buenos Aires has a varied cultural programme targeting the 500,000 Argentines with Irish ancestry as well as the wider Argentine public. St. Patrick's Day celebrations have been increased in recent years with celebratory events in all of Argentina's main cities. There are also efforts ongoing to hold an Irish Cultural Week in 2013, hopefully to coincide with St. Patrick's Day celebrations next March.

Departmental Funding

Niall Collins

Question:

40 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the amount of funding committed by his Department to capital projects; if he will provide details of the projects and funding committed; the funds that have been drawn down for the projects; when the balance will be drawn down; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26632/12]

My Department is responsible for two Votes: Vote 27, International Co-operation and Vote 28, Foreign Affairs and Trade. For 2012, the Vote 28 capital allocation is €4.1million and the allocation for Vote 27 is €0.265m. The total expenditure to date is €287,000.

This funding is used to support the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) services in my Department, the maintenance of state-owned properties abroad and the provision of vehicles for official use at missions abroad.

ICT-related capital expenditure covers the purchase of office machinery and equipment, including IT and telecommunications hardware and software to support the Department offices, at HQ and abroad, including the Passport Service. Current projects involving capital investment include upgrades to elements of the Passport Service infrastructure, upgrades to existing hardware and software applications and the provision of a solution for processing applications for Foreign Birth Registrations (citizenship through ancestry), Marriages Abroad and document authentications

The capital allocation in respect of premises expenses covers the cost of maintenance of state-owned properties abroad (used as offices and official residences of Ambassadors). Many of these properties have been owned by the State for several decades and refurbishment inevitably becomes necessary over time in order to ensure they remain fit use as platforms in promoting the interests of the State and also to protect the investment previously made.

Projects in respect of which funding has been committed to date are:

Location

Project

Estimated cost

Brussels, Luxembourg, Strasbourg

Adapting and equipping the offices of the Permanent Representation in Brussels and the delegation rooms at the European Institutions to meet the operational needs of Ireland’s Presidency of the EU in 2013

€250,000

Iveagh House

Installation of lift to facilitate universal access to upper floors (shared cost with OPW)

€225,000

Rome

Following closure of the Resident Embassy to the Holy See, reconfiguration of the Villa Spada to facilitate relocation of both the office and the residence of the Embassy to Italy.

€180,000

Washington

Necessary repair works at the Embassy.

€250,000

Passport Applications

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

41 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the reason a person (details supplied) cannot get an Irish passport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26879/12]

The Passports Act, 2008 provides, among other things, that only Irish citizens are entitled to be issued with Irish passports. Each application received by the Passport Service must, therefore, demonstrate that person's entitlement to Irish citizenship before a passport can issue. The Passport Service must operate within the law on this as in all matters.

The Department received an application from the person in question last April. This application accompanied applications from her mother and an older sibling in respect of whom passports have since been issued. Her mother was entitled to citizenship on the basis that she became a naturalised Irish citizen on 1 April, 2012. In terms of the older sibling, she was born in the State in 2002. Under the terms of Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended (the Act), this child was automatically an Irish citizen by virtue of her birth in the State.

It should be noted, at this stage, that the child's father also became a naturalised Irish citizen on 1 April, 2012 and has been issued with an Irish passport.

The position for the person in question is different, however. She was born in Dublin on 8 February, 2008. The Act was amended in 2004 to provide that a person, born in the State on or after 1 January 2005, where neither parent is an Irish or British citizen or otherwise entitled to reside in the State or Northern Ireland without restriction at the time of that person's birth, may claim citizenship by birth in the State (and thereby establish eligibility for an Irish passport) only where a parent has been lawfully resident in the State for three years of the four years preceding that his/her birth.

As neither parent was an Irish citizen in 2008, their residence in the four year period from 8 February, 2004 to 7 February, 2008, which immediately preceded their daughter's date of birth, had to be examined by the Department to determine her entitlement to Irish citizenship.

In line with guidelines provided by Department of Justice and Equality, which is the Department responsible for immigration and citizenship, the proofs of lawful residence, which are accepted and considered by this Department for passport applications, are immigration stamps in passports and/or the registration cards/books. These are issued to persons registering their lawful presence in the State with the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB). In addition, the Department will accept letters from GNIB that state the various permission details which have been issued to a person. All of these are official documents/permits, which can be objectively verified by the Department, if required.

GNIB have provided information to the Department that shows the parents have been registered in the State since 16 June, 2005. The amount of residence from this date to 7 February, 2008 is less than three years. As the statutory requirement has not been met, their daughter's entitlement to Irish citizenship has not been demonstrated. Accordingly, her application for a passport has been refused under the Passports Act, 2008 on the grounds that she is not an Irish citizen.

There was contact between the Department and the parents during the processing of their daughter's application. On 11 May last, the Department wrote to the parents to inform them of the decision to refuse their daughter a passport and to explain the background for it.

It remains open to the parents to pursue the matter of their daughter's entitlement to become a naturalised Irish citizen with the Department of Justice and Equality. In the event that she does acquire Irish citizenship by this or any other means, the Passport Service will be in a position to issue a passport on receipt of a new application.

Human Rights Issues

Michael Creed

Question:

42 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will raise at the next EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting the need for the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan to comply with international humanitarian law to provide for safe access for humanitarian aid for the civilian population in South Kordofan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26889/12]

The Government remains seriously concerned about the situation in Sudan and South Sudan. We are working with our EU partners to ensure that, in addition to a focus on the political and security situation, priority is given by the international community to the vital issue of humanitarian access to people and communities affected by the conflict and the tension in the region. We will continue to use all available opportunities, within the EU and internationally, to raise these issues.

The situation in Sudan and South Sudan, including the humanitarian crisis in Southern Kordofan, has been discussed by EU Foreign Ministers at their meetings over recent weeks and months. In January, with Ireland's encouragement, the EU 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. The EU also emphasised that the ongoing conflicts in Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur remain obstacles to progress in providing the full range of support that we would like to provide to Sudan, and in the region. In April, the EU called on the Government of Sudan and the SPLM North to engage in an inclusive political process to resolve the ongoing conflict.

The UN Security Council on 2 May and 17 May adopted Resolutions demanding that both Sudan and South Sudan fulfil their obligations under international law to allow access by humanitarian agencies to civilian populations in need of assistance.

Through Irish Aid in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Government has provided substantial assistance for those affected by the conflict in this region. Earlier this year, we allocated €2 million for the UN-managed Common Humanitarian Funds for both the Republic of Sudan and South Sudan. On 24 May, we announced an allocation of a further €3m in funding. These funds are being provided to help UN agencies and NGOs target the most critical humanitarian needs across both countries, including in areas affected by conflict and by displacement of populations from the Blue Nile and South Kordofan areas. We have made available a further €1.22 million to Irish NGOs for programmes in Sudan and South Sudan under the annual Irish Aid Humanitarian Programme Planning funding scheme.

Ireland's emergency humanitarian assistance to Sudan and South Sudan is saving lives daily. The Government will continue to monitor closely the situation in South Kordofan, the Blue Nile, and other areas facing critical need across the Horn and Sahel regions of Africa. Along with our EU partners, we will continue to press for unrestricted humanitarian access to affected civilians.

Ministerial Appointments

Robert Troy

Question:

43 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will outline all staff appointments he has made since last March; the name of those appointed; their positions; their salaries; if any of these appointees are former retired public servants and in receipt of a pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26956/12]

No such appointments have been made by me since March 2012.

Human Rights Issues

Finian McGrath

Question:

44 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide an update on human rights, the role of the EU and the UN in Colombia, Kurdistan and Sri Lanka. [26977/12]

Human rights are a cornerstone of Ireland's foreign policy. With our European Union partners, we monitor closely the human rights situations in many countries throughout the world. We do this on the basis of information obtained from a variety of sources, including the United Nations, the EU and other international organisations, as well as civil society organisations.

The Deputy will be aware of the Government's concerns about indications of continuing human rights abuses in Colombia, where trade unionists, human rights activists and people who were displaced from their lands over the course of the civil conflict are among the vulnerable groups. The efforts of President Santos' administration since August 2010 to improve the situation should, however, be acknowledged. These efforts include the passage of the landmark Victims' Rights and Land Restitution legislation (2011) and a conference on human rights which is scheduled to take place at the end of 2012.

The Deputy will also be aware of the EU's policy of engagement and dialogue with the Government of Colombia. Ireland actively supports this policy. We believe it offers the best way to further the objectives of supporting democracy and improving the human rights situation there. We will continue to monitor the situation and to support the Colombian Government's efforts, both in partnership with the EU and in our bilateral contacts with Colombia.

Ireland is active on human rights issues in Sri Lanka, both at EU level and in the UN Human Rights Council. We were to the fore in the EU decision to suspend GSP+ status for Sri Lankan exports in 2010. We have conveyed our concerns directly to officials at the Sri Lankan Embassy in London and again at the UN in Geneva on 22 March 2012. We support engagement with Sri Lanka to address these issues. It is important, however, that the Sri Lankan Government demonstrates a genuine commitment to the protection of human rights in Sri Lanka, to reconciliation among the country's communities and to a political solution to the divisions on the island.

The particular difficulties faced by the Kurdish population in a number of countries vary from one to the other. We continue to avail, both bilaterally and at EU level, of all appropriate opportunities to engage with the countries concerned on the general human rights situation in each, including specific issues concerning the Kurds and other minorities.

There are minority Kurdish populations in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, each of which has expressed grievances centred on issues of identity. In Iran, Iraq and Turkey, the situation has at various times been greatly complicated by the existence of armed groups seeking an independent Kurdish state. This has led to armed conflict and has exacerbated human rights difficulties. The general human rights situation in Syria and Iran, in particular, is profoundly disturbing; the protection of minority rights in these countries gives rise to particular concern.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

45 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has made representations on an EU and UN level regarding the increase in the number of executions being carried out by the Iranian Mullah regime; if he has made representations to the Swiss Government in relation to Mr. Fariborz Firoozi, arrested on 4 May, and still in custody in Switzerland, awaiting deportation to Iran where he risks being executed by the Mullah regime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26994/12]

As I have repeatedly stated in the past, the human rights situation in Iran is profoundly disturbing. The period since the Presidential election of 2009 has been characterised by an intensification of human rights violations on many fronts. Of particular concern are the high level of executions, including executions after trials which failed the most basic standards of natural justice, including the absence of any right of appeal or rights of defence. Equally, capital sentences are imposed for a number of offences which, according to international standards, should not result in such punishment. I am also concerned about the continuing imposition of the death penalty against minors, in violation of Iran's obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the practice of secret executions in Iran which has been highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran.

Ireland has spoken out consistently against such abuses. At EU level, we fully supported High Representative Ashton's statement of 30 May, following an earlier statement last January, in which she expressed her deep concern about the alarming increase in the number of reported executions in Iran, in sharp contrast to the worldwide trend towards the abolition of the death penalty. The High Representative also called on Iran to commute all death sentences for offences not considered to be among the most serious crimes by international standards. Ireland has also supported the High Representative's call on Iran to halt the execution of Sakineh Ashtiani and Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani and all pending executions and to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty.

Given the gravity of these abuses as well as the unwillingness of the Iranian Government to redress these entrenched practices, the EU felt compelled in April 2011 to adopt wide-ranging sanctions against those responsible for committing grave human rights violations, including a stringent travel ban and asset freeze. Last October the latter was extended to include additional individuals. These strong measures send an important political signal to all those in the Iranian judicial system and elsewhere who perpetrate human rights abuses. It leaves them in no doubt about Ireland's and the EU's resolve to ensure that fundamental freedoms and human rights are fully respected.

Ireland also continues to be active at UN level in highlighting the serious human rights situation in Iran. This includes our co-sponsorship both of a General Assembly resolution, adopted last October, which expressed the international community's deep concern at the human rights situation in Iran and of a Resolution, adopted by the UN Human Rights Council on 22 March, which welcomed the report and recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran and expressed serious concern at the developments noted in that report. At a bilateral level, my Department also engages in ongoing dialogue with the Iranian Ambassador and his Embassy and regularly conveys our grave concerns at the human rights situation in Iran, including the unacceptable use of the death penalty.

In relation to the particular case mentioned, I understand that Mr. Fariborz Firoozi is a young Iranian activist who fled Iran in fear of imprisonment and persecution. Mr. Firoozi is currently being held in detention by the Swiss authorities. He is in the process of being transferred to Hungary under the terms of EU Regulation 2003/343 (otherwise known as the Dublin II agreement) which established the criteria and mechanisms for determining the member State responsible for examining an asylum application lodged by a third-country national.

Switzerland became party to this Regulation in June 2005. It determines the EU member State responsible for examining an application by any asylum-seeker seeking international protection under the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951 relating to refugee status. As Hungary in this case is deemed responsible for considering Mr. Firoozi's application under the terms and criteria of the Geneva Convention, it is not in Ireland's jurisdiction and competence to assess the merit of his application for refugee status. We have no reason either to believe that Mr. Firoozi's basic entitlements will not be adequately sustained in the relevant procedure to be initiated in Hungary under Regulation 2003/343. It is worth recalling that this foresees a review mechanism should Mr. Firoozi wish to appeal an eventual negative decision.

Foreign Conflicts

Finian McGrath

Question:

46 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will support the Colombians for Peace group at both EU and UN level. [27015/12]

My colleague, the Minister of State with responsibility for Trade and Development, Mr. Joe Costello, T. D., met with a delegation from Colombians for Peace on 22 May, during their visit to Ireland.

As I have made clear in replies to other parliamentary questions on Colombia, and as Minister Costello informed the delegation during their meeting, the government of Ireland is ready to support representatives of civil society in Colombia in their efforts to address the legacy of the conflict in that country.

Departmental Staff

John O'Mahony

Question:

47 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of additional staff to be employed by the Irish permanent representation office in Brussels for the forthcoming Irish Council Presidency; the number of applicants; the number recruited to date; the nationality of those recruited to date; the number of officials to be seconded from Irish Government Departments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27261/12]

The Presidency staffing plan for the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU in Brussels has been prepared following a co-ordinated and careful evaluation of the needs of all Government Departments and Offices. While the details are not fully finalised, the staffing of the Permanent Representation is expected to temporarily increase by some 80 officers in the lead-up to and for the duration of the forthcoming Irish EU Presidency from January to June, 2013. This number comprises 8 staff assigned from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and 37 from other Departments and Offices, as well as a small number of secondments from other sources.

Separate processes are also under way in Brussels for the temporary local recruitment of approximately 20 interns and 10 clerical staff, of which the greater portion has been sought and will be funded by other Departments and Offices. These posts are open to eligible citizens of the EU and of the other European Economic Area member states — Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. In excess of 540 applications were received for the intern posts from which, following a competitive interview process involving 60 short-listed candidates, a panel of the 30 candidates deemed the most highly qualified and suitable for appointment was established.

While candidates placed on the panel are now being offered temporary assignments, a breakdown on the basis of nationality will not be available until all appointees are in place. The focus of the recruitment process has been to select candidates with extensive EU knowledge and expertise. Nevertheless, I understand that a large proportion of the candidates qualified for appointment are Irish. In the case of temporary clerical staff, the focus will be on administrative experience and language skills. The closing date for receipt of applications for those posts is 15 June. The contracts of all locally employed staff will terminate at the end of the Presidency in June 2013.

Human Rights Issues

Anne Ferris

Question:

48 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on reports that approximately 600 Tibetans have been detained in their homeland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27456/12]

The Government is closely following the reports of the detention of several hundred Tibetans by the Chinese authorities and is concerned about this volatile situation.

Ireland together with our EU partners believes that constructive dialogue between the Chinese Government and the representatives of the Dalai Lama is the best way to address differences and tensions in Tibet and to reach a solution that respects Tibetan culture, language, religion and identity. It is important for the long-term peace and stability of the region that the two sides come to an agreement on the future of Tibet. To this end, we continue to encourage an early resumption of dialogue by the parties.

The promotion of human rights is an important dimension of European foreign policy, as enshrined in the Treaty of the European Union. Constructive dialogue remains the EU's preferred channel for working to improve the human rights situation in China. Human rights are discussed as part of regular political dialogue as well as during specific human rights dialogues with China which have taken place since 1995.

The Irish Government continues to convey its concerns about the situation in Tibet directly to the Chinese authorities through regular contacts in both Dublin and Beijing. The issue of Tibet is also raised by the European Union in its dialogue with China. Most recently, the EU raised the issue of Tibet last week at the 31st round of the EU-China human rights dialogue in Brussels.

Tax Code

Brendan Griffin

Question:

49 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Finance his plans for the future retention of the 9% VAT rate; if the policy is self-financing to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26133/12]

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.

With regard to the financing of the 9% VAT rate, the Jobs Initiative provided for a pension levy that would offset the cost of the introduction of the 9% VAT rate. Over their lifetime, these measures were designed to be budgetary neutral and they are in line with expectations to date.

National Asset Management Agency

Patrick Deering

Question:

50 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Finance the number of properties owned by the National Asset Management Agency that are rented by the State and the total amount of rent that has been paid to NAMA for the past three years. [26226/12]

There are NAMA debtors who own properties which are leased to state agencies and who derive income from them. The properties are leased to the State by these debtors on an arms-length basis. NAMA's primary concern is whether a property is generating cash flow that allows interest and principal on the debt to be repaid by a debtor. NAMA advises me that it does not own any properties that are rented by the State.

NAMA advise me that the total amount of rental income that originates from commercial property leased by NAMA debtors and receivers to the State is not readily available. NAMA does not currently categorise the source of monies paid by debtors into their loan accounts as being rental income from a particular sector of the economy. However, NAMA advise that the amount of monies being paid by State bodies is not likely to be substantial in the context of NAMA's total rental income.

I have asked NAMA to compile the data as sought by the Deputy and NAMA have undertaken to carry out a review of their loans with a view to identifying all properties that involve payment of rent by the State. I will forward this data to the Deputy on receipt from NAMA.

Drugs Seizures

Dara Calleary

Question:

51 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Finance if he will outline in tabular form the number and type of prescription drugs seized by customs officials to date in 2012. [26596/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

52 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Finance if he will outline in tabular form the total number of prescription drugs seized by customs officials annually from 2005 to 2011; the type of drugs seized; and the estimated value of same. [26598/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

53 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Finance if he will outline in tabular form the total quantity and estimated value of illegal non-prescription drugs seized by customs officials from 2005 to 2011. [26606/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 51 to 53, inclusive, together.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the following tables set out the details requested by the Deputy of seizures by Revenue's customs service of prescription drugs and illegal non-prescription drugs:

Prescription drugs seized

Year

Number of Tablets

Estimated value €

2012

360,527

686,383

The principal types of prescription drugs encountered to date in 2012 are sedatives such as benzodiazepines, sleeping tablets, erectile dysfunction medicines, steroids and slimming tablets.

Prescription drugs seized

Year

Number of Tablets

Estimated value €

2005

14,902

147,924

2006

1,160

16,205

2007

207,178

1,534,615

2008

556,956

1,665,191

2009

935,181

2,384,530

2010

1,652,124

2,752,219

2011

1,285,340

2,211,079

The principal types of prescription drugs seized over the course of 2005 to 2011 have been sedatives such as benzodiazepines, sleeping tablets, erectile dysfunction medicines, steroids and slimming tablets.

Section 17 of the Irish Medicines Board (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2006 appointed officers of Customs as enforcement officers for the purpose of the Irish Medicines Board Act 1995. Revenue's Customs service works closely with the Irish Medicines Board in enforcing the law relating to medicinal products, drug precursors, medical devices and other healthcare products.

Illegal non-prescription drugs seized in 2005

Type of Drug

Quantity (kg)

Value (€)

Herbal Cannabis

180

360,000

Cannabis Resin

3,784

28,100,000

Ecstasy

78,964 tablets

2,400,000

Heroin

0.01

1,700

Cocaine

63.3

4,400,000

Khat

373

750,000

LSD

65,408 tablets

650,000

Illegal non-prescription drugs seized in 2006

Type of Drug

Quantity (kg)

Value (€)

Herbal Cannabis

131

260,000

Cannabis Resin

25.6

176,000

Ecstasy

1,123 tablets

13,000

Heroin

0.6

51,000

Cocaine

61.1

6,001,000

Khat

473

905,000

LSD

1,528 microdots 0.001 kg

15,000

Illegal non-prescription drugs seized in 2007

Type of Drug

Quantity (kg)

Value (€)

Herbal Cannabis

1,406.31 kg

16,141,678

Cannabis Resin

414.5 kg

2,901,893

Ecstasy

3,333 tablets

106,445

Heroin

22.8 kg

4,565,778

Cocaine

1,617.9 kg*

113,251,542

Khat

168.1 kg

336,200

LSD

5 tabs

50

*Includes 1,550kg from attempted landing at Dunlough Bay, Cork in July 2007.

Illegal non-prescription drugs seized in 2008

Type of Drug

Quantity (kg)

Value (€)

Herbal Cannabis

459

5,507,663

Cannabis Resin

3196.7

22,377,100

Heroin

70.2

14,046,700

Cocaine

1545*

108,150,000

Ecstasy

62 tabs

310

Khat

47.9

89,800

LSD

350 tabs

3,500

*Includes a maritime seizure of 1,500 Kgs. (‘Dances With Waves').

Illegal non-prescription drugs seized in 2009

Type of Drug

Quantity (kg)

Value (€)

Herbal Cannabis

1,170.4

14,245,506

Cannabis Resin

2,276.2

15,924,144

Heroin

0.002

300

Cocaine

34

2,379,670

Ecstasy

75 tabs

377

Khat

50.3

100,500

LSD

1000 tabs

10,000

Illegal non-prescription drugs seized in 2010

Type of Drug

Quantity (Kg)

Value (€)

Herbal Cannabis

259

3,147,297

Cannabis Resin

6.8

40,622

Ecstasy

698 tablets

3,390

Heroin

1.3

189,900

Cocaine

37.4

2,615,095

Khat

218.3

436,600

LSD

0.1

1,500

Illegal non-prescription drugs seized in 2011

Type of Drug

Quantity (Kg)

Value (€)

Herbal Cannabis

449.5

5,394,013

Cannabis Resin

935.4

5,612,347

Ecstasy

50,722 tablets

254,382

Heroin

1.7

255,900

Cocaine

138.5

9,697,242

Khat

177.1

354,200

LSD

0.04

600

Illegal Importation of Drugs

Dara Calleary

Question:

54 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Finance the legislation he is reviewing in relation to the strengthening of the law regarding the illegal importation of prescription drugs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26718/12]

The Deputy may be aware this is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Health.

However, I understand the Department of Health is reviewing the Misuse of Drugs Regulations with a view to introducing additional controls on certain prescription drugs being traded illicitly, for example benzodiazepine medicines. These additional controls include introducing import and export controls as well as an offence of possession, thereby assisting the law enforcement roles of Customs and of the Garda Siochána.

The Department of Health will consult with key stakeholders in relation to the proposed amendments.

Tax Code

Terence Flanagan

Question:

55 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he will deal with the following matter (details supplied) regarding carbon tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26898/12]

Increasing the carbon tax by €5 to €20 in Budget 2012 meant a relatively small increase spread across all mineral oils and natural gas rather than larger increases in the excise rates on specific fuels, such as petrol or diesel. The amount of €20 charged per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted through the combustion of mineral oils is set down in the Finance Act 2012, and this carbon charge is an integral part of the rates of Mineral Oil Tax applied to those fuels. A move to link the carbon charge directly to the market price of carbon credits could, therefore, involve frequent adjustments to Mineral Oil Tax rates, and give rise to uncertainty for fuel suppliers and customers. It would also give rise to an additional administrative burden both for taxpayers and for the Revenue Commissioners. Accordingly there are no proposals for altering the present arrangement under which the carbon charge is determined periodically through the Budget process.

Noel Harrington

Question:

56 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Finance the incentives available to employees to invest in the company of their employment; his plans to introduce any new incentives; the schemes that have been abolished in the past five years; the actual cost per annum to the Exchequer of the schemes abolished and the existing schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27471/12]

Unfortunately, it was not possible to collate the information required for this answer in the time allowed. I will provide the Deputy with the answer in writing shortly.

Niall Collins

Question:

57 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance if a VRT or VAT exemption will be issued to a person (details supplied). [26138/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that an application for relief under the Disabled Drivers/Passengers scheme was received from the person (details supplied) on 27th April 2012. In order to process this application, the Central Repayments Office, Monaghan requested an original Primary Medical Certificate. This was received on the 18th May 2012. An Exemption Notification, dated 24th May 2012, issued subsequently. This enables the applicant to register the vehicle and obtain exemption from VRT. When the vehicle is registered, the applicant can apply for a refund of VAT, by forwarding a purchase invoice for the vehicle (marked paid in full), invoice for adaptations (marked paid in full), and the IVA (Individual Vehicle Approval) certificate.

Patrick Nulty

Question:

58 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Finance when a PRSI refund will be granted in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15 as outlined in the correspondence supplied; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26149/12]

My colleagues are actively examining the correspondence received and will revert directly to the individual in due course.

National Asset Management Agency

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

59 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons appointed to the advisory group for the National Asset Management Agency; the terms of their appointment; when each person was appointed; the number of times they met as a group since their appointment; when they are due to report to him; the matters on which they report; the form that this report will take, and if this report will be made public. [26153/12]

The advisory group currently consists of three members; Mr. Michael Geoghegan; Mr. Denis Rooney and Mr. Frank Daly, the chairman of NAMA. Mr. Geoghegan acts as chair of the group and all members of the Group were appointed on 7 March 2012. Each of the individuals has agreed to work on apro-bono basis.

This group was set up to advise me on specific issues related to NAMA. The group operates on an informal basis and reports directly to me. As such there is no formal report to be published. It is important to say that this group is not a shadow Board nor is it intended to provide a route for me as Minister to get involved in the day to day running of the Agency.

The group's advice to me primarily relates to the strategy of NAMA as proposed by the board of NAMA; the appointment of directors to NAMA; the remuneration of the senior executives of NAMA and any further advice that I may seek on any matter relating to NAMA.

I have agreed that the group will meet and report to me at least four times a year. I have met with the group on one occasion since it was established. It is also open to the Chair to contact me as issues arise. I expect the advisory group to play a valuable role and I can confirm that I am satisfied with the operation and progress of the group to date.

Tax Code

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

60 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Finance his plans to make e-books used in schools exempt from VAT, as normal, printed school books are; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26167/12]

The VAT rating of goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. In Ireland the zero rate applies to printed books, including atlases, children's picture, drawing and colouring books and books of music. Under the EU VAT Directive, all digitised publications, regardless of their rate when printed (for example, a book liable at zero rate), are treated as the supply of a service liable at the standard 23% rate of VAT. E-books, online newspaper subscriptions and online information services purchased via download over the Internet are also considered the supply of services liable for VAT at the standard rate. There is no option under EU VAT law to exempt e-books from VAT.

Bank Guarantee Scheme

Michael McGrath

Question:

61 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 172 of 1 May 2012, if he will arrange for the outstanding information relating to Bank of Ireland to be forwarded on at an early date. [26183/12]

As requested by the Deputy, I am setting out below the details supplied to me by Bank of Ireland as being the latest information available in response to his question.

Number of staff members (FTE)* who currently earn a basic salary between

Euro

Sterling

Dollar

100k and <200k

457

56

22

200k and <300k

43

5

18

>300k

18

4

21

*full time equivalents.

Tax Code

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

62 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance the tax relief available to landlords on mortgage interest for rental income from tenants of commercial property; the cost of this in 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26184/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that landlords may deduct interest on money borrowed to purchase, improve or repair commercial property from the gross rent when computing their rental profits for tax purposes on that property. Interest incurred before the first occupation of the property by a tenant for the purposes of a trade or undertaking, or between lettings, is not deductible.

I am also informed by the Commissioners that the information provided for interest relief for rental property is based on claims for such relief on all rental properties included in personal income tax returns filed by non-PAYE taxpayers declaring interest on borrowings to be offset against rental income assessable under Case V, Schedule D. It is not possible to separately identify how much of this cost is associated with commercial property.

Based on personal income tax returns filed by non-PAYE taxpayers for 2010, the latest year available, the amount of tax foregone by allowing a deduction for interest on borrowings to be offset against all rental income assessable under Case V, Schedule D for both residential and commercial property is estimated at €660 million.

This estimate is based on assuming that tax relief was allowed at the top income tax rate of 41% and the figure provided could, therefore, be regarded as the maximum Exchequer cost in respect of those taxpayers. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they are not in a position to provide data for 2011 as the tax returns for that year are not yet due. The figures for 2010 are subject to adjustment in the event of late returns being filed or where returns already filed are subsequently amended.

It should be noted that any corresponding data returned by PAYE taxpayers in the income tax return form 12 is not captured in the Revenue computer system. However, any PAYE taxpayer with non-PAYE income greater than €3,174 is required to complete an income tax return form 11. This return is the source of the figures provided in this reply.

Ministerial Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

63 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Finance the names of each special adviser for whom he approved a pay increase in excess of the Government cap and the amount involved in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26195/12]

In my Department, I have appointed Mary Kenny and Eoin Dorgan as special advisers. The salary for both special advisers has been €83,337 per annum since their appointment. No salary increases have been approved in respect of either appointment.

Oifig na gCoimisinéirí Ioncaim

Pearse Doherty

Question:

64 D’fhiafraigh Pearse Doherty den Aire Airgeadais an bhfuil deireadh curtha le hAonad 088, an rannóg a d’fhreastail ar phobal na Gaeilge, in Oifig na gCoimisinéirí Ioncaim; má tá, cé a bheidh ag próiseáil foirmeacha Gaeilge anois, an mbeidh daoine gan Ghaeilge ag plé leis na foirmeacha, agus an gcuirfidh sé seo moill ar an bpróiseas do dhaoine a líonfaidh foirm as Gaeilge; an bhfuil córas nua ann; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [26239/12]

Cuireann na Coimisinéirí Ioncaim in iúl dom go ndearna siad roinnt athruithe riaracháin le déanaí ar an mbealach ina ndéantar bainistíocht ar a seirbhís 1890 do chustaiméirí Gaeilge. Cinnteoidh na hathruithe sin nach mbeidh aon laghdú i gcaighdeán na seirbhíse atá ar fáil do chustaiméirí atá ag lorg comhairle trí Ghaeilge.

Maidir le próiseáil tuairisceáin agus comhfhreagras Gaeilge, cuireann na Coimisinéirí in iúl dom freisin, cé go bhfuil siad ag athbhreithniú na socruithe riaracháin don tseirbhís seo faoi láthair, níl aon athrú déanta ar fhreagrachtaí go dtí seo. Leanfaidh foireann oifigigh in oifigí éagsúla Ioncaim, Aonad 88 i nDúiche Bhaile Átha Cliath Thuaidh san áireamh, ar aghaidh leo ag soláthar seirbhís Ghaeilge. Beidh fógraíocht ann i leith aon athruithe a chuirfear i bhfeidhm.

State Banking Sector

Clare Daly

Question:

65 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Finance the reason the Irish State, via the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, paid full value €2.5 billion to a company (details supplied) even though the prospectus clearly stated that if Irish Nationwide was not in a position to pay, then the investors would lose. [26273/12]

As the Deputy is aware the Board of the bank is responsible for the day to day operation of the bank. Nonetheless, the Deputy may wish to note that the company referred to in the question was an independently rated funding vehicle set up by INBS that enabled INBS to access low cost funding from the ECB. It was fully consolidated into INBS and all securities issued by that company were held by INBS. Therefore at no time were any securities sold to external investors. The structure was unwound at no gain or loss to IBRC in April 2012 as the particular securities no longer met ECB criteria and therefore the bank was no longer able to access low cost ECB funding.

Tax Code

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

66 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Finance if he will arrange for a P21 to be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26279/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a P21 Balancing Statement for 2011 issued to the person in question on 25th May 2012.

Central Bank Guidelines

Pearse Doherty

Question:

67 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that the Central Bank of Ireland guidelines published on 20 December 2011 entitled impairment provisioning and disclosure guidelines will apply to the National Assets Management Agency for its reporting of its 2011 results; and if the guidelines do not apply to NAMA, if he will provide the reasoning for this position. [26305/12]

The Central Bank guidelines published in December 2011 were for the financial institutions covered by the ELG scheme to follow in the development and application of their impairment provisioning frameworks. Under the NAMA Act 2009, NAMA is not regulated by the Central Bank and it follows that Central Bank guidelines do not apply to NAMA.

However, I am advised by NAMA that it has carried out a review of its impairment policy against the Central Bank guidelines and that NAMA is applying the relevant applicable principles.

In preparing its annual accounts and calculating any impairment charges, NAMA use international financial reporting standards (IFRS) which are consistent with the Central Bank guidelines.

International Agreements

Pearse Doherty

Question:

68 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance when will he put the Danish and Swedish bilateral agreement before the Dáil Éireann. [26307/12]

The Swedish and Danish bilateral loan agreements were laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas on March 28th 2012 and April 30th 2012 respectively.

State Banking Sector

Pearse Doherty

Question:

69 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that it is the intention of the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation to pay in full the two unsecured, unguaranteed senior bonds that fall due on 26 June, 2012; if he will confirm the sums to be paid and the identity of the bondholders; and if he has taken steps to reduce or defer these payments. [26308/12]

As the Deputy is aware the Government is committed to delivering a return to a successful vibrant economy. In this context I have indicated that there is no private sector involvement for senior bank paper or Irish Sovereign debt without the agreement of our external partners. This commitment has been agreed without external partners and is now the basis on which Ireland's future financing strategy is built. This strategy is working well as evidenced by the reduction in pricing of Irish Sovereign debt in the secondary markets and the recent successful bond exchange offer by the NTMA.

IBRC has confirmed that two unguaranteed senior bonds with a combined principal value of €0.6bn are scheduled to mature on 26 June 2012. IBRC's position on its publicly traded securities remains unchanged. The Bank is contractually obliged to repay senior securities on their maturity dates.

As already indicated it is not possible to identify bond holders with any degree of certainty. Such securities are freely tradable once issued and therefore the issuer (i.e. the Bank) has no means of establishing the underlying ownership. These securities are publicly traded and dealt through market participants and settled by clearing house systems. An issuer does not have any access to the records of the clearing house. At maturity, the Bank will instruct its paying agent to transfer the funds due to the clearing house who will then distribute the funds to the holders of the securities as per their records.

Exchequer Revenue

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

70 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance the level of surplus income the Exchequer expects to receive from the Central Bank for 2011; if, as recently reported it is more than €958 million; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26331/12]

I have been informed by the Central Bank that surplus income payable to the Exchequer amounted to €958,343,153.88 for the year ended 31 December 2011. The Central Bank of Ireland transferred the amount in full to the Exchequer on 11 May 2012.

Tax Reliefs

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

71 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Finance when the increased mortgage interest relief for those who purchased their homes between 2004 and 2008 will be commenced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26403/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they continue to work with all qualifying lenders to ensure that the necessary software changes to lenders' Tax Relief at Source (TRS) systems are in place at the earliest possible date.

The speed with which the required software changes can be developed and implemented varies from lender to lender. The majority have now successfully completed testing of their software programs to enable them pass on the 30% rate. Where for any reason Revenue is concerned that the pace of implementation is less than optimal having regard to all of the circumstances, Revenue is in direct contact with the lender concerned to ensure the necessary changes are implemented as a matter of urgency.

As an interim relieving measure, a 25% rate available in the Information Communication Technology (ICT) systems was applied to all eligible accounts from January 2012. The current software changes allow for the introduction of the 30% rate in the lenders' ICT systems resulting in the passing on of the remaining 5% to the mortgage account holders and any relief due since 1 January.

Tax Collection

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

72 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 171 of 15 May 2012, if he will supply a table for the tax year 2011, using data from the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social Protection, to show by range of gross income, the sources of incomes for those aged 65 and over distinguishing between the following categories, income from work and self employment, occupational or personal pensions, social welfare pensions, other income and total gross income; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26431/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the most recent basic data available on the incomes of income earners aged 65 and over from which information of the type requested by the Deputy could be derived are in respect of the income tax year 2010.

Income Earners Aged 65 or over — Distribution of 2010 gross incomes

Range of gross Income

Number of cases in range

Total Gross Income €

Employment Income* €

Social Welfare pensions €

Income from other sources

0-10,000

25,262

104,680,175

86,114,269

10,503,377

8,062,528

10,000-12,000

7,308

81,413,896

31,151,383

45,370,929

4,891,583

12,000-15,000

16,582

223,922,244

71,031,883

142,023,654

10,866,707

15,000-17,000

9,842

157,341,738

63,249,828

83,572,743

10,519,167

17,000-20,000

14,834

275,310,905

117,080,773

136,110,631

22,119,501

20,000-25,000

26,743

601,206,889

248,582,804

309,169,693

43,454,393

25,000-27,000

9,750

253,259,160

117,175,867

116,601,302

19,481,991

27,000-30,000

12,887

367,127,427

186,415,485

149,867,842

30,844,099

30,000-35,000

18,489

599,417,898

337,696,666

207,644,974

54,076,258

35,000-40,000

15,820

592,543,750

356,010,457

180,780,408

55,752,885

40,000-50,000

21,793

971,399,000

625,178,352

253,389,123

92,831,526

50,000-60,000

13,109

715,250,054

487,498,392

149,392,592

78,359,070

60,000-75,000

11,065

738,094,226

521,743,820

122,617,066

93,733,340

75,000-100,000

7,977

680,107,680

489,262,800

83,309,062

107,535,818

100,000-150,000

4,645

554,775,505

385,391,044

47,622,702

121,761,760

150,000-200,000

1,564

268,325,577

174,255,740

14,987,196

79,082,641

200,000-275,000

925

216,316,703

137,580,496

8,961,583

69,774,624

Over 275,000

1,085

680,657,847

357,548,566

9,761,048

313,348,233

Totals

219,680

8,081,150,674

4,792,968,625

2,071,685,925

1,216,496,124

*Income from Employees and Self-employed.

While social welfare pensions can be separately identified from other sources of income in Revenue statistics it is not possible to do so in respect of income from private pensions. Consequently income from private pensions cannot be presented separately in the table.

The figures in the table are based on details from tax returns on record at the time the data were compiled for analytical purposes. This was generally based on coverage levels representing in or about 90% of all returns expected.

It should be noted that the income ranges shown in the above table relate to Gross Income as defined in Revenue Statistical Report 2010. A married couple that have elected or have been deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one taxpayer.

Banking Sector Regulation

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

73 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance his views on correspondence regarding AIB charges (details supplied). [26435/12]

As I noted to the House on 18 April 2012, the Bank's policy in relation to fees is a matter for the management and board of the institution.

The Relationship Framework that was specified on 30 March 2012, as per the Memorandum on Economic and Financial Policies agreed with the EU Commission, the ECB and the IMF, defines the nature of the relationship between the Minister for Finance and Allied Irish Banks. This framework, inter alia, rules out intervention by the Minister for Finance in day-to-day management and commercial decisions and allows the bank appropriate discretion to define its own strategic budget, and business plans.

Cash Reserves

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

74 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a breakdown of the cash reserves held by the National Treasury Management Agency on 31 March 2012 by account and source; his views on the purpose to which those various sums are committed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26530/12]

Cash reserves and other balances held by the National Treasury Management Agency on behalf of the State at 31 March 2012 were as follows:

NTMA Cash Reserves/other balances

€ billion

Exchequer Account

13.26

Capital Services Redemption Account

0.03

Deposits

0.55

Housing Finance Agency Guaranteed Notes

3.86

Dormant Accounts Fund

0.14

Other Ministerial balances

0.74

Total

18.58

The figures above include cash held in the Exchequer Account in the Central Bank, cash held by the NTMA on deposit, Housing Finance Agency Guaranteed Notes held by the NTMA, cash available in the Dormant Accounts Fund and other Ministerial funds.

The cash reserves are available for use by the State, with the exception of the Housing Finance Agency Guaranteed Notes, which are not immediately callable as they provide funding to the Housing Finance Agency.

The Exchequer Account is funded by borrowings under the EU/IMF Programme. These borrowings are for the general financing requirements of the Exchequer which include the funding of the budget deficit and the re-financing of maturing debt.

The Capital Services Redemption Account is used to record certain transactions "of a normal banking nature" related to the management of the national debt. These include transactions in foreign exchange contracts and other derivatives, receipts of deposit interest earned. The balance in the account is used to make repayments in respect of normal banking transactions or towards defraying interest and expenses on the National Debt.

The NTMA places short-term deposits from the Exchequer account as part of a daily short-term cash management operation.

The Dormant Accounts Act 2001, as amended by the Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Act 2005, provides that balances on dormant accounts in certain financial institutions be transferred to the State and disbursed for charitable purposes or purposes of societal or community benefit. The Act guarantees the right of account holders to reclaim their moneys at any time. The balances on dormant accounts, including accrued interest, are paid into the Dormant Accounts Fund which is managed by the NTMA.

The Other Ministerial balances are mainly cash balances held as part of the management of the Post Office Savings Bank Fund which can be made available as short-term funding for the Exchequer Account.

Liquidity is managed by the NTMA to ensure that the State has adequate reserves at all times to meet obligations as they fall due. Balances can vary widely depending on the timing of tax receipts, Exchequer payments, borrowings and repayments.

National Asset Management Agency

Pearse Doherty

Question:

75 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 207 of 22 May 2012, if he will advise the number of the 4,000 vacant residential dwellings that are currently habitable; the number of the 4,000 dwellings that are habitable and currently being marketed for sale or rent; the reason habitable homes would be kept vacant and off the rental or sale market by the National Asset Management Agency. [26574/12]

I am advised by NAMA the units to which the Deputy refers are under the control of NAMA debtors and receivers and I understand that the further breakdown sought by the Deputy is not currently available. As I stated in my response of 22 May (PQ 24849/12), NAMA is currently engaged in an extensive analyses of the residential portfolio under the control of its debtors and receivers and this is expected to continue for some time. I reiterate that NAMA's policy is to ensure that all residential units controlled by its debtors and receivers are made available either for sale or rental at the earliest possible opportunity.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

76 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 205 of 22 May 2012, if he will clarify the maturity time period of the Government bond issued to the National Asset Management Agency; if the bond is a 90 day maturity, maturing on 30 June, not May as the parliamentary question response stated or is it a shorter maturity date; and if he will confirm that the rest of the response is accurate. [26587/12]

I would like to thank the Deputy for the opportunity to clarify the statement made as part of the response to PQ 24847.12. As per my direction to NAMA in accordance with Section 14 of the NAMA Act 2009, the maximum maturity allowable on the Bond in question was 90 days. The €3.06 billion facility was drawn on the 3rd April 2012.

However, as the Agency had been directed to enter a commercial transaction they were free to agree any terms within the parameters set out in my direction. In this instance I am advised that the Agency decided that the initial maturity date would be 30th May 2012.

I am also advised that the Agency rolled the Bond over on 30 May 2012 as the Bank of Ireland shareholders have yet to approve the main transaction in this process. The new maturity date of the latest NAMA / IBRC bond is 20th June 2012, which is within the 90 day maximum maturity provided for in my direction.

Departmental Funding

Niall Collins

Question:

77 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance the amount of funding committed by his Department for capital projects; if he will provide details of the projects and funding committed; the funds that have been drawn down for the projects; when the balance will be drawn down; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26631/12]

My Department has an allocation of €150k for capital for the 2012 Estimates year. It is envisaged that this capital will be used to fund relocation to a new premises as the lease on our 2-4 Merrion Row premises has expired. No funds have been drawn down to date. It is expected that the spend will take place during June/July 2012.

Tax Code

Michael McGrath

Question:

78 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if a medical device (details supplied) is subject to VAT. [26647/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the VAT rating of goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. While the EU VAT Directive and Irish VAT law provide for the possibility of applying a reduced rate of VAT to the supply of certain medical equipment this possibility does not extend to the supply or hire of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines typically used in the treatment of sleep apnoea. Nor is there any provision in VAT law that would make it possible to apply an exemption or the zero VAT rate to the supply or hire of such products. The supply or hire of CPAP machines is therefore liable to the standard 23% VAT rate. The supply of parts and accessories is also liable to VAT at the standard rate.

I understand from the Revenue Commissioners that the charges incurred on the supply, maintenance or repair of any medical, surgical, dental or nursing appliance used on the advice of a practitioner qualify for income tax relief on medical expenses and that this applies in this case. In addition, the expense incurred may also qualify under the Drugs Payment Scheme administered by the Health Service Executive.

National Debt

Sean Fleming

Question:

79 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Finance if he will outline the figures for the national debt outstanding at the end of each year from 1985 to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26666/12]

The National Debt is calculated by the National Treasury Management Agency and historical data is published on their website —http://ntma.ie/GovernmentDebt/historicalData.php. The table below sets out the National Debt for the years 1985 to 2011. The National Debt was €129.0 billion at end May 2012.

Year

Total € Million

1985

23,492

1986

27,440

1987

30,085

1988

31,250

1989

31,525

1990

31,849

1991

32,223

1992

33,450

1993

36,006

1994

37,111

1995

38,358

1996

37,980

1997

38,966

1998

37,510

1999

39,851

2000

36,511

2001

36,183

2002

36,361

2003

37,610

2004

37,846

2005

38,182

2006

35,917

2007

37,560

2008

50,398

2009

75,152

2010

93,445

2011

119,082

Sources: Finance Accounts and NTMA (from 1990).

Note: Figures for 2011 are unaudited.

National Asset Management Agency

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

80 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Finance the extent of work undertaken by and fees paid to an organisation (details supplied) by the National Asset Management Agency for each year in the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26670/12]

NAMA has informed me that it has engaged accountants, solicitors and other professional advisors in its initial establishment, the acquisition of its loan portfolio and its ongoing operations. A breakdown of the fees in relation to the organisation in question are shown below. The analysis is based on fees invoiced to and paid by NAMA in the period from inception to 31 March 2012. Amounts are inclusive of VAT.

2010

2011

2012

Total

Property due diligence:

330k

428k

2k

760k

Portfolio management fees:

490k

1,978k

427k

2,896k

Tax Code

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

81 Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the cash accounting scheme as it exists in Ireland, with a condition that businesses have an annual turnover of no more than €1 million to qualify, is too restrictive; and if he will consider the extension of the scheme to businesses with a turnover of less than €2.5 million, as recommended by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. [26677/12]

I would point out that VAT is normally accounted for on the basis of invoices issued, i.e. VAT is payable on the total sales invoiced in the relevant period, regardless of whether or not the trader has been paid for the supply in that period. However, the cash basis of accounting provides traders with the option to account for VAT on a cash receipts basis. This means that the trader is not required to pay VAT until payment for the supply is actually received. Availing of this option assists firms in the critical area of cash flow.

In order to avail of the cash receipts basis of accounting for VAT, a business must either a) be supplying goods or services, where 90% of the supplies are to persons who aren't registered for VAT, or b) have an annual turnover which is less than €1 million. The annual turnover threshold for eligibility for the cash basis of accounting is €1 million and has been effective since 1 March 2007. Although it is possible under EU VAT law to increase the threshold, the cash basis can only be used for "certain transactions or certain categories of taxable persons". It cannot be used to replace the normal VAT arrangements across the board. In addition, increasing the cash basis threshold from €1 million to €2.5 million would be very costly to the Exchequer, costing in excess of €150 million in the year of introduction.

Banks Recapitalisation

Michael McGrath

Question:

82 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide details of the number, value and maturity date of Irish Government bonds held by each of the covered institutions at the end of 2011 and at the present time. [26709/12]

Irish government bonds held by each of the covered institutions are as follows:

Irish Government Bonds — Year end 2011*

Carrying Value

AIB

€5,217m

BoI

€4,222m

IBRC

€303m

ILP

€2,319m

Figure for BOI excludes €462m held in its life company

Figure for ILP excludes bonds held by Irish Life.

*Excludes promissory notes.

Information beyond year end 2011 has not been published and is commercially sensitive.

Irish Government Bonds — Year end 2011 Maturity

< 1 year

1-5 Years

> 5 years

Total

AIB

€693m

€2,205m

€2,319

€5,217m

BoI

€437m

€2,798m

€987

€4,222m

IBRC

€303m

ILP

€176m

€1,604m

€539m

€2,319m

State Banking Sector

Catherine Murphy

Question:

83 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a breakdown of staff numbers, full time, part time and contract staff, by grade, details of corresponding remuneration and any resulting travel and subsistence expenses for the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Limited, formerly Anglo Irish Bank Corporation Limited, for the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and estimated provisions for 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26716/12]

As the Deputy is aware the Board of the bank is responsible for the day to day operation of the bank including the staffing, general pay rates and expenses incurred by bank staff in the performance of their duties.

I have been informed by the bank that staff numbers and associated costs are detailed in the Bank's accounts on an annual and interim basis, the most recent being the 2011 Annual Report and Accounts. The Bank does not further breakdown details of staff numbers in terms of grade and corresponding remuneration. I have also been informed by the bank that total staff costs costs in the organisation have reduced by 48% from end 2008 to end 2011 and this includes 6 months of additional cost resulting from the merger with INBS in 2011.

In terms of travel, accommodation and other related expenses the bank has informed me that such costs have decreased from c. €6.7m in 2008 to c. €1.2m in 2011, a percentage decrease of c. 82%.

Electronic Payments System

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

84 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance if it is intended that Government Departments will pay suppliers electronically in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26766/12]

The funding of payments made by line Departments and Offices is organised through the Paymaster General's Office, which is part of my Department. Virtually all payments by Government Departments from their annual Votes are now made electronically. Since 2001 Departments have reduced the number of payable orders issued annually from 4.2 million to an expected 190,000 in 2012, which is a reduction of over 95%. These paper payments have been replaced by electronic funds transfers to the bank accounts of payees. The Croke Park Agreement commits to the use of electronic payments, which will achieve greater efficiency. The Public Service Reform Plan envisages the abolition of payable orders as a payment method for Government Departments with effect from mid 2013.

Motor Taxation

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

85 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance when the current review of vehicle registration tax and motor tax will be completed; when the results will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26773/12]

As the Deputy will be aware Budget 2012 announced a public consultation to review options for the improvement of VRT and Motor Tax revenue in future years, in the context of a fall in VRT yields from €1.4bn in 2007 to €387m in 2011.

The closing date for receipt of submissions under the public consultation process was 1 March 2012. 34 submissions were received, 12 of which were from representative organisations or firms with the remainder from individuals. While there was a general welcome for the consultation process, the views varied considerably from those supporting the immediate removal of VRT to a restructuring of the existing system.

My officials are currently in the process of meeting industry representatives and developing options in consultation with the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government.

Tax Refunds

Jack Wall

Question:

86 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding an application for a tax rebate in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26795/12]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that reviews for 2008 and 2009 were issued on 10 August 2010 and 11 November 2010 respectively. These reviews were based on the information available at that time and included tax relief for interest paid as claimed. The Revenue Commissioners are now writing to the person concerned for additional information to enable them to review the position for 2008 to 2011 inclusive.

Illegal Trade in Tobacco Products

Alan Farrell

Question:

87 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide, in tabular form, the annual estimated loss to the Exchequer due to the illegal selling of tobacco products in 2010 and 2011; his Department’s proposals to minimise losses in 2012 and 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26838/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners, who are responsible for the collection of tobacco products tax, and for tackling the illicit trade in cigarettes and tobacco products, that there is no internationally recognised method for precisely determining the amount of tax lost as a result of the illicit trade in cigarettes. However, a survey commissioned by Revenue and the Office of Tobacco Control in 2010 estimated that 20% of cigarettes consumed in the State had not been taxed in this jurisdiction. This figure was further broken down as 14% illicit product and 6% legally imported by passengers arriving into the State from other jurisdictions. A further survey was conducted in 2011, the final results of which are due to be released within the coming weeks.

The following is the annual estimated loss in respect of excise duty and VAT, based on a 14% loss to the exchequer from illicit cigarette consumption.

Year

Quantity of Illegal Cigarettes

Estimated loss

2010

750,000,000

€250,800,000

2011

750,000,000

€251,600,000

The illegal smuggling of cigarettes and other tobacco products and the illicit selling of these products is a problem for many tax jurisdictions throughout the world. Ireland has a longstanding policy, primarily because of health concerns and also for budgetary reasons, of high tobacco taxation, and this makes this State a particularly attractive market for tobacco smugglers. Easy access to Ireland via cheap flights from countries with significantly lower tobacco taxes accentuates the attractiveness of Ireland for criminals involved in the illegal importation and sale of tobacco. The Revenue Commissioners are responsible for the collection of tobacco products tax, and for tackling the illicit trade in cigarettes and tobacco products. They attach a high priority to this area, and they continuously review their response to the problem and their effectiveness in tackling the illicit tobacco trade.

The operational strategy employed by Revenue to tackle the illicit tobacco trade is multi-faceted. It includes ongoing analysis of the nature and extent of the problem, developing and sharing intelligence on a national, EU and international basis, ongoing review of operational policies, development of analytics and detection technologies, and optimum deployment of resources at point of importation and inland 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 order to disrupt the internal distribution network for illicit tobacco.

In 2010, Revenue established a high-level internal group, chaired at Commissioner level, to examine the risks related to tobacco products tax evasion and to oversee and optimise the detection of contraband and counterfeit tobacco products. This group has promoted a number of initiatives aimed at counteracting the illicit trade in tobacco. These include the adoption of a comprehensive tobacco strategy, which is underpinned by annual action plans. This 3-year (2011-2013) strategy, which is published on Revenue's websitewww.revenue.ie, includes a series of programmes which are designed to complement each other in targeting the supply and demand sides of the market for contraband tobacco in Ireland.

Revenue's strategic-level plans include ensuring that the legitimate trade remains compliant; delivering more effective and visible interventions through enhanced capability and better deployment of resources; further development of cooperation and intelligence sharing at organisational, national and international level; a commitment to prosecute all serious cases of tobacco tax evasion and a focus, in partnership with other Government agencies, on reducing the demand for contraband tobacco.

EU-IMF Programme

Alan Farrell

Question:

88 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Finance if he will outline the long term sustainable repayment plans for loans given to recapitalise the banking system and to fund the day to day expenditure of the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26840/12]

I understand your question is intended to ascertain when the loans drawn down from the EU/IMF Programme will be repaid. I would first of all emphasise that the funds drawn down under both the EU/IMF programme and the bilateral loan agreements are not ring-fenced for particular uses and contribute alongside tax and other State revenues to meeting all calls on the Exchequer. However, the cost of bank recapitalisation to date has been met from our existing resources — cash reserves and the NPRF. Under Ireland's EU-IMF Programme, which is due to expire at the end of 2013, a total of €67.5 billion in loans will be provided from EU facilities, bilateral loans and the IMF.

At the end of April 2012, Ireland's nominal borrowings under the EU/IMF Programme amount to €48.97 billion.

The weighted average life of the loans drawn down to date is 9.8 years.

The estimated all-in fixed euro equivalent cost of loans received under the EU/IMF assistance programme is 3.46%.

When the programme was initially agreed the average maturity of all loans was set at 7½ years. Following the Euro Area Heads of State or Government meeting in July 2011, it was agreed that average maturities for the EU facilities, the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism (EFSM) and the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), should be extended. For the EFSF, maturities will now be a minimum of 15 and up to 30 years.

The repayment of the loans from the IMF commences in 2015, and that for the EU loans we have received from the EFSM and the EFSF also commences in 2015.

In the case of the bilateral loans from the UK, Sweden and Denmark, repayment is due 7½ years after each drawdown.

In relation to the schedule of the current interest rate being charged to Ireland on all forms of funding under the EU/IMF Programme of financial support, the following table supplied by the NTMA, provides the information for all amounts outstanding as at 30 April 2012.

Irish Horseracing Industry

Alan Farrell

Question:

89 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding tax and other incentives given to the horse racing and breeding industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26849/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that there are no specific statutory tax incentives for the horse racing and breeding industry.

Before 1 August 2008, profits or gains from stallion fees were exempt from income tax and corporation tax, although all other profits from horse-breeding, such as the sale of yearlings, were always taxable. The exemption no longer applies to profits or gains arising on or after that date.

Since 1 August 2008, stallions are treated as stock in trade which means that income from stud fees and profits or gains on the sale of the stallions are fully taxable in the hands of both corporate and individual owners.

A write-off over 4 years of the cost of a stallion is allowed as a deduction for tax purposes in computing income from stallion fees and profits or gains on the sale of stallions. This 4-year write-off period reflects the fact that some stallions have a short nomination life and also takes into account that the majority of stallions are unsuccessful at stud. The impact of the deduction on taxable profits during the write-off period is directly related to the success, or otherwise, of the stallion. Without this provision the cost of a stallion would, under normal rules, be allowed as a deduction upon its disposal or death.

Greyhound Industry

Alan Farrell

Question:

90 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding tax and other incentives given to the greyhound racing and breeding industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26850/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that there are no specific statutory tax incentives for the greyhound racing and breeding industry. Profits from stud greyhound service fees arising before 1 August 2008 were exempt from income tax and corporation tax. The exemption no longer applies to profits or gains arising on or after that date.

Casual Trading

Patrick Nulty

Question:

91 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Finance the enforcement action taken by the Revenue Commissioners to ensure that markets that operate on weekends are fully compliant with their VAT and tax liabilities; the number of inspections undertaken each year to ensure full compliance; the way members of the public can report suspected non-payment of these tax liabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26855/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that specific measures have been implemented to tackle hidden economy issues in the cash sector including casual trading markets. The threat to the Exchequer posed by the shadow economy is fully recognised by Revenue which puts a strong focus and concentration on those sectors that traditionally have been susceptible to shadow activity. Revenue's overall approach to the shadow economy in all sectors, including the weekend trading markets, is underpinned by close consultation and cooperation with the Department of Social Protection (DSP) and over 500 joint Revenue/DSP inspections took place in 2011, and over 200 so far in 2012.

In tandem with this Joint Agency activity, Revenue have run specific projects to detect shadow economy activities and recover VAT, Income Tax and PAYE where due, together with appropriate statutory interest and penalties. These projects include streetscape operations and visits to market, fairs and high profile festivals and events. In 2011, 36 weekend markets were visited and, so far, in 2012 Revenue has carried out 39 streetscape operations.

In combating tobacco smuggling and retail of illicit cigarettes, I understand that Revenue's ongoing activity in this area is complimented by a number of blitz visits to casual trader markets. These types of activities normally take place in off-hours, the majority of which is weekend activity. In 2011, there were 6 national tobacco blitzes and weekend visits were paid to the main risk markets, resulting in 26 seizures amounting to 58,900 cigarettes and 8.68 kilos of tobacco.

In 2011, Revenue committed additional resources to tackling tax evasion in high-risk sectors and carried out over 11,000 audits of businesses and individuals as well as over 546,000 other compliance checks. These resulted in additional yield for the Exchequer of nearly €483m.

I am further advised by the Revenue Commissioners that any person can inform them of instances of tax evasion through the network of local offices, by phone, email or letter. There is a confidential free-phone number 1800 295 295, for reporting tobacco smuggling or sale of illicit tobacco products. Reports of suspected evasion/fraud should provide as much detail as possible particularly in terms of location, names, addresses, telephone numbers and vehicle registrations. All such reports are treated as confidential and are fully investigated by Revenue.

The Revenue Commissioners inform me that they are committed to tackling tax evasion and avoidance across all areas of the economy. Their goal is to prevent a loss of revenue to the State and at the same time to ensure that a level playing field exists for the benefit of legitimate trade interests.

I am satisfied that the Revenue Commissioners are pursuing programmes that are dealing in a very determined way with tax evasion.

Tax Collection

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

92 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Finance if he will request the Revenue Commissioners for the tax contribution history in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [26858/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that no trace of tax contributions can be found in respect of the person named. Should he wish to discuss tax matters he can telephone Frank Levey in Limerick Tax Office at 061 212800.

General Government Debt

Michael McGrath

Question:

93 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance for each of the years 2006 to 2011 inclusive, if he will provide the final nominal Exchequer balance figure; the final nominal general government balance figure; and the general government balance as a percentage of GDP. [26861/12]

The information requested by the Deputy is available in the following table. The Exchequer balance figures for 2006-2010 are from the annual Finance Accounts. The 2011 figure is as per the end-December 2011 Exchequer Statement. The audited figure will be set out in the 2011 Finance Accounts which will be published later this year. The General Government Balance (GGB) figures for 2006 and 2007 have been provided by the CSO. The 2008-2011 figures are as per the April 2012 Maastricht Returns. The GGB figures are the latest available and the historical figures can be subject to minor technical statistical adjustments on a periodic basis:

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Exchequer Balance (€m)

2,264

-1,619

-12,714

-24,641

-18,744

-24,917

General Government Balance (GGB) (€m)

5,183

124

-13,219

-22,519

-48,607

-20,515

GGB (% of GDP)

3.0%

0.1%

-7.3%

-14.0%

-31.2%

-13.1%

Underlying GGB (€m)

-18,519

-17,032

-14,735

Underlying GGB (% of GDP)

-11.5%

-10.9%

-9.4%

Tax Reliefs

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

94 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Finance his plans to allow civil unions or married couples combine their tax allowances for public transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26883/12]

The tax exemptions for the travel pass scheme operates on two levels in order to ensure that the taxation benefits are given to employees. Firstly, where a travel pass is provided in addition to normal remuneration the taxable BIK that arises on its provision is exempt from tax in the hands of the employee under section 118(5A) of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997.

However, many travel pass schemes operate under what are known as salary sacrifice arrangements. These are arrangements under which an employee agrees with his or her employer to take a cut in remuneration and in return the employer incurs the cost of providing a benefit of a corresponding amount to the employee (that is, a bus, rail or ferry pass).

As a general rule, Revenue does not regard salary sacrifice arrangements as reducing an employee's taxable income. If an employee foregoes salary payable under an existing contract of employment in exchange for a benefit, the employee remains taxable on the "gross" income payable. An exception to this rule is made in the case of the travel pass scheme. Under section 118B of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 where an employee is provided with a travel pass, the employee will not be chargeable to tax on the remuneration sacrificed. The corresponding cost to the employer of the travel pass does not, as stated above, give rise to a BIK tax charge on the employee who receives the travel pass.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that if the couple concerned are jointly assessed the tax relief is, in fact, provided at the couple's marginal rate of tax (i.e. either 20% or 41% depending on the rate of tax applicable to the couple). If the couple is not currently being jointly assessed to tax they should contact their local tax office with a view to ensuring that joint assessment applies to them if this is what they want.

(The issue of determining the boundaries of areas falling within the scope of the all-in-one commuter / Dart and Luas ticket is a matter for the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in consultation with the approved transport service providers.)

Wage Rates

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

95 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Finance his view of whether wage flexibility is needed which will particularly allow the appropriate degree of wage differentiation across different types of workers and stimulate the hiring of young, female and older workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26902/12]

At an aggregate level, my view is that over the medium term wages should move in line with productivity trends. In fact, one of the key problems in the past decade was that wage growth was far in excess of productivity gains. This undermined Ireland's competitive position and resulted in a sharp moderation in export growth from 2000 onwards. Encouragingly, however, some of this competitiveness loss has been reversed and this is standing to us in terms of export growth and larger inflows of FDI.

At a disaggregate level, there must be a degree of wage differentiation in the economy to reflect the heterogeneous nature of employment and the specific demand and supply factors for certain jobs.

But what we cannot have is a situation in which the labour market is distorted through the introduction of an artificial wage gap for individuals performing the same work.

Mortgage Arrears

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

96 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance in view of the Irish mortgage crisis and the amount of persons who find themselves in a desperate situation, should a transparent and completely independent entity be put in place to ensure that the resolution process will not involve persons trying to profiteer on the misfortunes of persons in debt, that is, there should be a non-profit sector assisting persons who have such financial difficulties with their mortgages at present and there should be a strengthened financial services ombudsperson to help in this crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26908/12]

The Government is acutely aware of the increasing financial stress that some households are facing arising from difficulty in meeting their mortgage commitments. The Deputy will be aware that the Interdepartmental Report on Mortgage Arrears indicated that the reform of personal insolvency legislation is a central catalyst to the resolution of the mortgage arrears problem. In particular, it indicated that new non-judicial debt settlement arrangements are vital to address the problem. The Government is in the process of finalising a Personal Insolvency Bill with a view to publishing it at the end of June. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence has indicated a strong intention to commence Second stage prior to the Summer recess to facilitate early passage of the legislation through the Oireachtas in the Autumn session.

The Interdepartmental Report also recommended that a Mortgage Advice Service should be provided to advise people in their dealings with mortgage lenders. The Minister for Social Protection is now finalising the appropriate framework for the provision of this service.

Both of these measures will require the utilisation of independent and professional expertise to best assist people in difficulty with their mortgages or other debts. In finalising these matters and putting in place the necessary structures, the key objective will be to provide the best possible service in the most efficient manner and this general approach does not preclude the non-profit sector or other sectors from appropriate involvement in those proposed important services.

Finally, it is important to point out that the Financial Services Ombudsman was established on a statutory basis as an independent body to deal with complaints from customers of financial service providers and will continue to fulfill this function. The Minister for Finance is not involved in the day to day workings of the Financial Services Ombudsman Bureau.

European Stability Mechanism Fund

Arthur Spring

Question:

97 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Finance if the €700 billion firewall is a set figure for the ESM fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26930/12]

The European Stability Mechanism (ESM) Treaty, was signed by Euro Area Member States on 2 February 2012. The original version of the treaty was signed on 11 July 2011, but it has been modified to incorporate decisions taken by the Heads of State and Government (HoSG) of the Euro Area on 21 July, 9 December 2011 and 2 March aimed at improving the effectiveness of the mechanism.

In order to further improve market confidence and in accordance with the agreement reached at the Euro Area Heads of State or Government (HoSG) meeting on 9 December 2011 and reiterated on 2 March 2012, the HoSG have reassessed the adequacy of the overall EFSF/ESM lending ceiling of €500 billion.

The Eurogroup concluded its review of the ESM capacity on 30 March and agreed in principle the following:

That the ESM will be the main instrument to finance new programmes as from July 2012. 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 €500 billion.

The current overall ceiling for ESM/EFSF lending, as defined in the ESM Treaty, will be raised to €700 billion such that the ESM and the EFSF will be able to operate, if needed, as described above. As of mid-2013, the maximum lending volume of ESM will be €500 billion. The combined lending ceiling of the ESM and the EFSF will continue to be set at €700 billion.

In addition, €49 billion out of the EFSM and €53 billion out of the bilateral Greek loan facility have already been paid out to support current programme countries. All together the euro area is mobilising an overall firewall of approximately €800 billion.

Ministerial Appointments

Robert Troy

Question:

98 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Finance if he will outline all staff appointments he has made since last March; the name of those appointed; their positions; their salaries; if any of these appointees are former retired public servants and in receipt of a pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26955/12]

Since 1 March 2012, the following staff have been appointed to my Department:

Grade

Number of Staff

Salary per annum

Temporary Clerical Officer(on a 1 year contract)

4

€20,859 to €33,607

AO Graduate Recruits(1 Banking/Finance and 1 Economics)

2

€29,922 to €58,294

Credit Access

Finian McGrath

Question:

99 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the advice he will offer on a matter regarding mortgages (details supplied). [26976/12]

Policy in relation to credit lending decisions in the bank referred to is a matter for the management and board of that institution. I have no role in the day-to-day commercial and operational decisions of the bank. Notwithstanding the fact that the State is a shareholder in the bank referred to, I must ensure that the bank is run on a commercial, cost effective and independent basis to protect 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 also been specified that clearly define the nature of the relationship between me and each of the covered institutions. These Frameworks were published on 30 March 2012 and can be found at:http://banking.finance.gov.ie/presentations-and-latest-documents/.

Tax Collection

Dan Neville

Question:

100 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Finance if persons with incomes in excess of €200,000 are now earning more money since the introduction of the universal social charge; the action being taken regarding this anomaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27144/12]

The introduction of the USC, replacing the Income and Health Levies, reduced the top marginal tax rates for both PAYE and self-employed income earners by 4%. In the case of PAYE this allowed for the abolition of the PRSI ceiling and the restoration of the PAYE marginal rate to 52%. However, in the case of the self-employed, where there is no PRSI ceiling, the marginal rate remained reduced. This had the unintended effect of benefiting high earning self-employed income earners.

Therefore, as a transitional measure, a new rate of USC of 10% was introduced in Finance Act 2011 for income in excess of €100,000 arising from self-employment. This restored the self-employed marginal tax rate back to 55% where it was in 2010.

It should be noted that self-employed income earners do not benefit from the PAYE tax credit of €1,650 per annum.

National Asset Management Agency

Finian McGrath

Question:

101 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding a business (details supplied) in Dublin 1. [27195/12]

NAMA has advised me that it holds property as security adjacent to the business referred to in this case. A receiver was appointed to that property in March 2012. The receiver has indicated that he is not aware of any damage to properties adjoining those under his control. It may be more appropriate in this instance to contact the receiver, who is in control of the enforced property. A list of all properties enforced and the contact details of the receivers associated with those properties are available on NAMA's website or the Deputy can contact NAMA atoir@nama.ie. NAMA have also advised that it has no relationship with the development company referred to by the Deputy.

State Banking Sector

Michael McGrath

Question:

102 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of representations made to him or his Department by or on behalf of customers of an institution (details supplied) in 2011 and to date in 2012; the nature of the representations; the way they are handled by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27199/12]

As the Deputy is aware the representations are received in a number of ways including representations through political representatives, from individuals directly, from legal representatives of clients of the bank etc. These representations are received through a number of channels including mail, e-mail and primarily by telephone contact. While the Department has records of written correspondence received that relate to the institution referred to in the question we do not have a breakdown of the representations which are on behalf of customers of the institution. There is generally, no record of telephone communication and the calls are dealt with as received. The overall number of written representations relating to customers of the institution referred to which were received was 20 in 2011 and 16 in 2012.

Under the Relationship Framework the Board of the bank is assigned responsibility and authority in relation to the day to day operation of the bank including the management of relationships with the bank's clients. As a general rule the Department does not become involved in individual cases and will refer callers to the bank, to the Central Bank or to the Financial Services Ombudsman etc. as appropriate and depending on the circumstances of the case. In particular cases where there appears to be a public interest issue, or where the circumstances appear to controvert the bank's policy or practice, the Department may, while referring the client to the bank, raise the matter with the bank to assist in understanding the issues or to ensure that management at the bank is aware of particular or recurrent problems. Any such involvement by the Department is facilitative and does not impinge on the responsibility and authority of the bank.

Strategic Investment Fund

Michael McGrath

Question:

103 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the amount of money that has been invested to date in the strategic investment fund by the Government and by ways of commercial investment by private investors; the amount of money he plans to invest in the funds; the details of the investments made by the fund to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27202/12]

The Government announced the establishment of the Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) 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.

I am also informed that the NPRF has in addition committed, subject to certain pre-conditions, €450 million to finance the national roll-out of domestic water meters.

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.

National Asset Management Agency

Anne Ferris

Question:

104 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Finance the number of National Asset Management Agency sites and their location in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27250/12]

NAMA debtors own property, which may include sites, in County Wicklow which is valued at €475 million by reference to a valuation date of November 2009. NAMA is prohibited by Sections 99 and 202 of the NAMA Act and by the normal rules of banking confidentiality from disclosing details relating to its debtors or their properties. The Deputy will also note that a number of properties located in Co. Wicklow are under the control of receivers appointed by NAMA. Further details are available onwww.nama.ie. The National Asset Management Agency itself does not own sites or other properties in County Wicklow.

Proposed Legislation

Derek Nolan

Question:

105 Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which he has been engaging with a bank (details supplied) to look for solutions to deal with the problems of negative equity; the way the new personal insolvency legislation will address this particular matter specifically; if any systems are in place for enabling those in negative equity to access new mortgages and bring their debt with them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27253/12]

The Government is conscious of the difficulties some homeowners are facing in meeting their mortgage commitments. In accordance with the conclusions of the Inter-Departmental Report on Mortgage Arrears, the key focus of attention is on the development of measures to assist people who are having genuine difficulty in meeting their mortgage payments as opposed to providing assistance for people currently experiencing negative equity.

The Deputy will be aware of the range of measures currently being advanced to address this mortgage arrears problem. The Central Bank is engaging with all regulated mortgage lenders on their mortgage arrears resolution strategies project. The objective of this engagement is to ensure that each lender has an effective strategy and plan for dealing with its mortgage customers who are, or who are likely to be, in difficulty.

The Deputy will be aware that the Interdepartmental Report on Mortgage Arrears indicated that the reform of personal insolvency legislation is a central catalyst to the resolution of the mortgage arrears problem. In particular, it indicated that new non-judicial debt settlement arrangements are vital to address the problem. The personal insolvency proposals are not intended to address the issue of negative equity but to resolve the issue of insolvent debtors in a fair and effective manner.

The Bill remains a legislative priority for the Government and the timeframe for publication of the Bill is now the end of June next and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence has indicated a strong intention to commence Second stage prior to the Summer recess to facilitate early passage of the legislation through the Oireachtas in the Autumn session.

A draft general scheme of a Bill was published by the Minister for Justice at the end of January for consultation and a number of submissions were received in response including from some financial institutions. However, there have also been advances made to allow people currently experiencing negative equity to access new mortgages. The Deputy may wish to note that in a recent speech given by Mr. Matthew Elderfield, the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank said that the Central Bank agreed in late 2010 that two lenders could develop negative equity mortgages on a pilot basis. In light of the limited take-up of these mortgages the Central Bank decided to adapt its approach to make provision of negative equity mortgages easier. The Central Bank has set out for lenders general criteria under which it will consider allowing the provision of such mortgages. The Central Bank has not set prescriptive standards in these areas but will look to see that lenders are taking a reasonable and controlled approach. All such sales however must also comply with the affordability and suitability provisions set out in the Consumer Protection Code.

Tax Reliefs

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

106 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Finance the reason a person (details supplied) has had their one parent family tax credit taken away; the legislation under which this is possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27262/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that Section 462 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 is the relevant legislation governing the one parent family credit. Section 462(2)(c) of this Act provides that this credit shall not apply to a person who is cohabitating with another person. In this case, the taxpayer rang Revenue on 28th May 2012 and, in the course of the telephone conversation indicated that both herself and her child had been cohabitating with her partner since July 2010. As a consequence of this cohabitation, the taxpayer is ineligible for the one parent family credit, and accordingly the credit was withdrawn.

National Asset Management Agency

Regina Doherty

Question:

107 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the plans the National Asset Management Agency has for investing in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27264/12]

The National Asset Management Agency has announced that it plans to invest up to €2 billion in development capital over the period to 2016 to preserve, enhance and complete commercial and residential projects and to develop Greenfield sites. NAMA have advised me that they are currently assessing a wide range of projects that may be suitable for development by reference to expected demand and decisions to invest will be based on those projects which are capable of generating the greatest return to the taxpayer. Pending completion of project appraisal, it is not possible to indicate the location of those projects.

Regina Doherty

Question:

108 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the properties the National Asset Management Agency currently has in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27265/12]

Regina Doherty

Question:

109 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the commercial projects the National Asset Management Agency has in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27267/12]

Regina Doherty

Question:

110 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the residential projects the National Asset Management Agency has in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27268/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 to 110, inclusive, together.

NAMA have advised me that debtors own property in Meath which is valued at €500 million by reference to a valuation date of November 2009. A further breakdown of this figure into commercial and residential projects is not available at present.

NAMA is prohibited by Sections 99 and 202 of the NAMA Act and by the normal rules of banking confidentiality from disclosing details relating to its debtors or their properties.

The Deputy will also note that a number of properties located in Meath are under the control of receivers appointed by NAMA. Further details on those properties are available onwww.nama.ie.

The National Asset Management Agency itself does not own property in Meath.

Regina Doherty

Question:

111 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the number of deferred payment initiative transactions for County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27269/12]

Information on NAMA's 80:20 Deferred Payment Initiative is available on NAMA's website,www.nama.ie, which confirms that 18 properties in Co. Meath were included in this pilot initiative. For reasons of debtor confidentiality, NAMA cannot confirm how many of these have been sold until such time as the pilot phase has been completed.

Tax Collection

James Bannon

Question:

112 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Finance if he will expedite matters in relation to problems relating to outstanding tax in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Longford which is impacting on their ability to conduct their business in view of the fact that they are unable to apply for tax clearance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27285/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the persons concerned have failed to file Income Tax returns for 2010 or VAT returns for 2011 or 2012 to date. In addition, Income Tax for 2007 and 2008 and Preliminary Tax for 2011 has not been paid. The persons concerned have recently been in contact with the Collector General's Office in relation to this matter. Arising from that contact, they will be aware that until such time as the outstanding tax returns are filed, Revenue is not in a position to quantify the tax outstanding or to decide if the informal phased payment arrangement currently in place is sufficient to clear the arrears within a reasonable timeframe. Until such time as they can do this, Revenue will not be in a position to consider issuing a tax clearance certificate.

The persons concerned should now file all outstanding tax returns. The issue of the tax clearance certificate can then be considered further.

Endowment Mortgages

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

113 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance the measures in place to help those who have endowment mortgages whose policies are coming to an end but may not have sufficient capital accumulated to pay the lump sum due a shortfall; the regulations that apply to this financial product; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27356/12]

I have been informed by the Central Bank that where the proceeds of an endowment policy are insufficient to repay the capital element of an endowment mortgage, borrowers should be given ample time to make alternative repayment arrangements. In addition, borrowers are afforded the protections of the 'Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears' in cases where the mortgage is in arrears or in pre-arrears and is secured by the borrower's primary residence. The Deputy may wish to note that, when the risks associated with endowment mortgage products were highlighted in the 1990s, specific provisions were incorporated into the Consumer Credit Act 1995 which require warnings to the effect that the proceeds of a policy may not be sufficient to repay a mortgage. Under the provisions of the Act, endowment mortgage savings plans must be reviewed by the life company at least every five years to check if the plan is on track to repay the mortgage. In this regard, a statement setting out the estimated revised valuation of the endowment policy at maturity must be issued by the insurer to the borrower. If the policy is not on track to repay the mortgage, the life company will recommend an increase in the premium.

Mortgage Lending

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

114 Deputy Luke ’Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that banks are more likely to lend to a purchaser of a property held by a bank than to a purchaser of a non-bank owned property; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27367/12]

The decision on whether or not to grant individual mortgages remains a commercial decision for each individual lending institution and, as Minister for Finance, I have no function in such decisions. This is outlined in the Relationship Frameworks with the banks which provide that the State will not intervene in the day-to-day operations of the banks or their management decisions, including with respect to pricing and lending decisions. These frameworks are published on my Department's website athttp://banking.finance.gov.ie. Mortgage lending must be undertaken on a commercially sustainable and prudential basis by lending institutions and conform fully with regulatory requirements both in relation to the financial institution itself and also the safeguarding of the consumer’s interest. It is important in that context that each lending institution is allowed to assess independently the individual risks in granting mortgage finance.

Tax Collection

Derek Nolan

Question:

115 Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Finance the number of income tax payers, total income and the total tax paid for each of the following income tax bands (details supplied) based on the most recent data available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27372/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested, estimated by reference to the income tax year 2012, is set out in the following table:

All Income Earners for Income Tax Year 2012 (provisional)

Gross Income Range

Gross Income

Numbers

Income Tax

10,000 or less

1,741,727,360

394,606

463,277

10,001-20,000

5,796,765,594

382,929

44,272,743

20,001-30,000

9,590,057,348

386,339

383,536,160

30,001-40,000

10,258,657,138

295,067

779,646,445

40,001-50,000

9,233,596,409

206,874

1,072,754,844

50,001-60,000

7,600,348,121

139,022

1,104,384,156

60,001-70,000

6,189,082,128

95,641

1,008,526,730

70,001-80,000

5,188,204,469

69,443

930,020,106

80,001-90,000

4,079,790,804

48,173

791,911,294

90,001-100,000

3,174,795,435

33,515

657,294,325

100,001-125,000

5,424,046,195

48,901

1,221,866,530

125,001-150,000

3,197,913,149

23,510

783,194,520

150,001-175,000

1,938,858,222

12,027

496,073,330

175,001-200,000

1,320,697,103

7,084

345,448,987

200,001-250,000

1,791,691,539

8,071

479,218,080

250,001-300,000

1,177,244,030

4,322

319,111,068

300,001-350,000

850,570,163

2,631

231,333,328

350,001-400,000

608,215,973

1,630

170,061,818

400,001-450,000

491,782,546

1,161

135,588,743

450,001-500,000

386,210,649

815

107,702,020

500,001-750,000

1,218,485,106

2,030

340,603,596

750,001-1,000,000

552,453,776

647

159,816,557

1,000,001-2,000,000

701,243,630

537

187,200,632

Over 2,000,000

1,033,458,034

120

351,110,637

Total

83,545,894,918

2,165,100

12,101,139,926

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

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 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.

Finian McGrath

Question:

116 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons whose income in 2009/2010 was more than €1 million; the percentage this was of the overall number of taxpayers; the amount of tax paid; and the percentage of overall tax take. [27411/12]

Finian McGrath

Question:

117 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons whose income in 2009/2010 was more than €500,000; the percentage this was of the overall number of taxpayers; the amount tax paid; and the percentage of overall tax take. [27412/12]

Finian McGrath

Question:

118 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons whose income in 2009/2010 was more than €250,000; the percentage this was of the overall number of taxpayers; the amount tax paid; and the percentage of overall tax take. [27413/12]

Finian McGrath

Question:

119 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons whose income in 2009/2010 was more than €100,000; the percentage this was of the overall number of taxpayers; the amount tax paid; and the percentage of overall tax take. [27414/12]

Finian McGrath

Question:

120 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons whose income in 2009/2010 was more than €70,000; the percentage this was of the overall number of taxpayers; the amount tax paid; and the percentage of overall tax take. [27415/12]

Finian McGrath

Question:

121 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons whose income in 2009/2010 was more than €50,000; the percentage this was of the overall number of taxpayers; the amount tax paid; and the percentage of overall tax take. [27416/12]

Finian McGrath

Question:

122 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons whose income in 2009/2010 was more than €40,000; the percentage this was of the overall number of taxpayers; the amount tax paid; and the percentage of overall tax take. [27417/12]

Finian McGrath

Question:

123 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons whose income in 2009/2010 was more than €35,000; the percentage this was of the overall number of taxpayers; the amount tax paid; and the percentage of overall tax take. [27418/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 116 to 123, inclusive, together.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested, estimated by reference to the income tax years 2009 and 2010, is set out in the following tables:

Income Tax Post Budget 2009 (Base Year 2009)

Range of Gross Income

Number of Taxpayers

% of Total Number of Taxpayers

Income Tax *

% of Total Income Tax Yield

Over €35,000

876, 599

38.65

€10,762,083,100

94.73

Over €40,000

731,513

32.26

€10,398,809,400

91.54

Over €50,000

516,201

22.76

€9,497,999,700

83.61

Over €70,000

272,757

12.03

€7,572,424,900

66.66

Over €100,000

116,894

5.15

€5,353,725,300

47.13

Over €250,000

14,503

0.64

€2,094,608,100

18.44

Over €500,000

3,560

0.16

€1,107,367,500

9.75

Over €1,000,000

710

0.03

€577,057,200

5.08

Income Tax Post Budget 2010 (Base Year 2009)

Range of Gross Income

Number of Taxpayers

% of Total Number of Taxpayers

Income Tax *

% of Total Income Tax Yield

Over €35,000

845,248

38.66

€10,280,364,000

94.73

Over €40,000

705,612

32.28

€9,933,101,900

91.53

Over €50,000

497,688

22.77

€9,066,492,400

83.55

Over €70,000

262,573

12.01

€7,209,072,000

66.43

Over €100,000

112,141

5.13

€5,069,555,700

46.72

Over €250,000

13,541

0.62

€1,935,448,000

17.84

Over €500,000

3,222

0.15

€1,006,469,900

9.27

Over €1,000,000

627

0.03

€525,631,900

4.84

* Income tax figures are rounded to nearest hundred.

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

The 2010 figures are estimates from the Revenue tax-forecasting model using actual data for the year 2009 adjusted as necessary for income and employment trends for the year 2010. They are, therefore, provisional and likely to be revised.

It should 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.

Ministerial Meetings

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

124 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the location and dates in 2011 and to date in 2012 on which he has met the European Commission President; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27451/12]

During the election campaign in 2011 I met with President Barroso in Brussels. I have had no further formal meeting with President Barroso in 2011 or 2012.

Tax Code

Sean Conlan

Question:

125 Deputy Seán Conlan asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that it is PAYE workers only that can claim six months income tax back. [27487/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that no taxpayer has an automatic entitlement to tax back for any specific period. In the case of PAYE workers, the calculation of any PAYE tax paid that may be due back to a taxpayer is not based on any time period but is based on the amount of taxable income received by a person in the year in question, the amount of tax paid and the amount of tax credits and reliefs due to the person.

In the case of a PAYE worker who becomes unemployed the calculation of any refund that may be due varies depending on the personal circumstances of each taxpayer and is based on the amount of tax paid up to the date of unemployment, the amount of credits and reliefs utilised up to that date and the amount of other income from all sources that the individual may have for the year in question. It should be noted that jobseekers benefit in excess of €13 each week is taxable.

In the case of taxpayers who are self assessed, i.e. those who are in receipt of income from sources which are not chargeable to tax under the PAYE system or where some but not all of their tax on these sources of income is paid under PAYE (for example individuals with rental income or other investment or trading income) different rules apply for the payment of tax.

With regard to income tax, self-assessed taxpayers must:

pay preliminary tax for a tax year on or before the 31st October of that year,

pay any outstanding tax due for a tax year by 31 October of the following tax year — this is also the date by which their return for the previous tax year is due.

Like PAYE taxpayers, any refund due to self assessed taxpayers for a tax year is calculated based on the amount of taxable income received by a person in the year in question, the amount of tax paid and the amount of tax credits and reliefs due to the person. A period of unemployment of a self-assessed person, while factored into the amount of tax payable by them, does not necessarily give rise to a refund of tax.

School Transport

Dara Calleary

Question:

126 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason secondary school children (details supplied) in County Mayo are being denied school transport even though the bus servicing the school of their choice passes by their door; the reason these same children are being told by Bus Éireann to avail of a service to other schools even though there is no existing bus to service such a run; his views on whether this system is unfair and insensible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26622/12]

Dara Calleary

Question:

127 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason a secondary school (details supplied) in County Mayo is being denied school transport even though the bus servicing the school of their choice passes by their door; the reason these same children are being told by Bus Éireann to avail of a service to other schools even though there is no existing bus to service such a run; his views on whether this system is unfair and insensible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26772/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 126 and 127 together.

Changes to the Post Primary School Transport Scheme mean that from the 2012/13 school year, school transport eligibility for children will be determined by reference to the distance they reside from their nearest post-primary education centre having regard to ethos and language.

Existing eligible and catchment boundary children who are not attending their nearest post primary centre will retain their transport eligibility for the duration of their post primary education cycle provided there is no change to their current circumstances. Siblings of these children and other children who are not eligible for school transport, may apply for school transport on a concessionary basis only in accordance with the terms of the Post Primary School Transport Scheme.

The changes to the Post Primary School Transport Scheme will be applied equitably on a national basis.

While it is the prerogative of parents to send their children to the school of their choice, eligibility for school transport is to the nearest school, having regard for ethos and language.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Brendan Griffin

Question:

128 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of teaching posts lost and the amount of monetary savings to his Department that will arise in the 2012/2013 academic year as a result of changes to pupil requirement thresholds in small schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26130/12]

73 small primary schools were originally due to lose a classroom teacher in September 2012 as a result of the budget measure to increase the relevant pupil thresholds. The Staffing Appeals Board considered appeals from any of the 73 schools that could show that their projected enrolments for September 2012 were sufficient to allow them retain their classroom teacher over the longer term.

35 small schools had their appeals provisionally upheld by the Appeals Board subject to confirmation that their actual enrolments in September 2012 reach the required level.

In these extremely challenging times, all public servants are being asked to deliver our public services on a reduced level of resources and teachers in small schools cannot be immune from this requirement. 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.

School Transport

Brendan Griffin

Question:

129 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will introduce flexibility to students who are not automatically entitled to a bus to their secondary school, which is not their nearest school by allowing supplementary payment options; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26134/12]

Brendan Griffin

Question:

130 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way students who are not automatically entitled to a bus to their secondary school, which is not their nearest school, can be guaranteed access to the most suitable school for their needs and ability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26135/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 129 and 130 together.

Changes to the Post Primary School Transport Scheme mean that from the 2012/13 school year, school transport eligibility for children will be determined by reference to the distance they reside from their nearest post-primary education centre having regard to ethos and language.

Existing eligible and catchment boundary children who are not attending their nearest post primary centre will retain their transport eligibility for the duration of their post primary education cycle provided there is no change to their current circumstances.

Siblings of these children and other children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for school transport on a concessionary basis only in accordance with the terms of the Post Primary School Transport Scheme.

The current school transport charge for eligible and concessionary post primary children is €350 per annum subject to a family maximum of €650. This charge can be paid in two instalments in July and December. Eligible children who hold valid medical cards (GM Scheme) are exempt from these charges.

The changes to the Post Primary School Transport Scheme will be applied equitably on a national basis.

While it is the prerogative of parents to send their children to the school of their choice, eligibility for school transport is to the nearest school, having regard for ethos and language.

Schools Building Projects

Brian Walsh

Question:

131 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a proposed building project in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Galway; the steps required before the project may proceed to the next stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26141/12]

Derek Nolan

Question:

150 Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the stage of the proposed development of a new building for schools (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26414/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 131 and 150 together.

The schools referred to by the Deputies have an application with my Department for capital funding for a major school project.

In view of the need to ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of major school projects required to meet demographic demand will be the main focus for capital investment in the coming years. In the context of the need to prioritise available funding for the provision of additional school accommodation, it is not possible therefore to give an indicative timeframe for the progression of this school project at this time.

Brian Walsh

Question:

132 Deputy Brian Walsh asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a proposed building project in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Galway; the steps required before the project may proceed to the next stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26142/12]

A building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is awaiting appointment of a design team and the commencement of architectural planning. The next step required will be a tender competition for appointment of the design team.

To ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of projects to meet the increasing demographic demands will be the main focus for capital investment over the next 5 years, particularly in those areas where it has been identified that most future demographic growth will be concentrated.

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.

Departmental Bodies

Seán Crowe

Question:

133 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on the transfer of FÁS staff to SOLAS; the timescale in which this transitional period will be completed. [26144/12]

Willie O'Dea

Question:

200 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding SOLAS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27032/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 133 and 200 together.

Following the Government Decision to create SOLAS, an Implementation Group was set up to establish SOLAS. I am chairing this Group and its membership includes representatives from the Department of Education and Skills, FÁS, the Irish Vocational Education Association, the Department of Social Protection, the Department of the Taoiseach, and a representative from the private training sector.

The Heads of a Bill for the establishment of SOLAS have been approved by Government and have recently been referred to the Office of the Attorney General for drafting purposes. The Bill will, inter alia, provide for the establishment of SOLAS, for the dissolution of FÁS and for the transfer of FÁS staff to SOLAS. I expect to publish this legislation in the Autumn session.

Bullying in Schools

Seán Crowe

Question:

134 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for implementing some of the measures discussed recently at the inaugural meeting of the anti-bullying forum. [26145/12]

As the Deputy is aware, the Anti-Bullying Forum, which was held on Thursday 17th May, brought together a range of experts, support groups and representatives of the schools sector including parents and students.

I was very pleased to open this important Forum and to provide an opportunity 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 range of speakers on the day of the Forum included contributions from my Department, Professor Mona O'Moore of the Anti-Bullying Centre, Trinity College, representatives of the National Anti-Bullying Coalition (NABC), and contributors from the school sector from the various perspectives of school principal, parent and pupil. The Forum also gave other stakeholders an opportunity to give their views.

The proceedings of the Forum were broadcast live over the internet and recordings of the day's events can be now viewed by accessing the Anti-Bullying Forum webpage of my Department's websitewww.education.ie. The presentations of the various speakers can also be viewed and downloaded from this page.

In addition to holding the Forum itself, I have invited the stakeholders and any other interested parties to submit their views on this important topic to my Department by 29th June 2012. Full details of how this can be done are available on the Anti-Bullying Forum webpage on my Department's websitewww.education.ie.

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 together with the submissions from the stakeholders and other interested parties 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.

School Accommodation

Seán Crowe

Question:

135 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views that his Department’s GPS system which tracks PPS numbers does not work for Gaelscoileanna and will he agree to look at anomalies and difficulties that parents are experiencing when trying to get children into a Gaelscoil in which there are not enough spaces to meet demand. [26146/12]

As the deputy is aware, the Forward Planning Section of my Department utilises a Geographical Information System (GIS) to analyse demographic data in order to determine the areas where additional school accommodation may be required. A variety of sources are used in this analysis, including census data, school enrolment data, and child benefit data obtained from the Department of Social Protection.

It is anticipated that enrolment in primary and post-primary schools will grow by around 70,000 pupils between now and 2018 — by over 45,000 at primary level and 25,000 at post primary. It is expected that enrolments will continue to rise at post-primary level to the year 2024 at least.

In June 2011, I announced that 20 new primary and 20 new post-primary schools are to be established up to 2017 across a number of locations. I also announced new arrangements for the recognition and determination of patronage of these new primary and post-primary schools. The new arrangements published by my Department provide a balanced approach to allow applications to be made by prospective patrons for the establishment of schools. The criteria used in deciding patronage of the new schools place a particular emphasis on parental demand for plurality and diversity of patronage, which also includes preference for all-Irish school provision.

Disadvantaged Status

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

136 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the funding streams available to DEIS band 1 and 2 schools for ICT initiatives; if any discretionary funds are available for these initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26169/12]

Under my Department's most recent ICT Infrastructure Grant Scheme, all DEIS schools received an additional block grant of €850 on top of the standard grant allocations for primary and post primary schools. This Scheme (which was non-discretionary) was fully allocated between November 2009 and December 2010.

It is not currently possible, in our challenging fiscal context, to provide for a new round of ICT Infrastructure Grants for schools.

Additional financial supports are allocated under DEIS and issued to all participating schools. These resources are provided on the basis of the school size and the school's level of disadvantage. The purpose of these additional resources is to facilitate schools to support the pupils who are most at risk of educational disadvantage. These resources should be focused on the provision of in-school and out-of-school supports for the specific pupils whose enrolment qualified the school for the additional supports.

It is a matter for an individual school to decide how best to apply the funding, to suit a school's particular needs, in accordance with guidelines on the appropriate use of DEIS funding that have issued to all primary and post-primary DEIS schools.

Schools Building Projects

Terence Flanagan

Question:

137 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills when funding will be provided for a new permanent school (details supplied) in Dublin 13; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26194/12]

The major building project referred to by the Deputy is currently at an early stage of architectural planning.

To ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of projects to meet the increasing demographic demands will be the main focus for capital investment over the next 5 years, particularly in those areas where it has been identified that most future demographic growth will be concentrated.

The project referred to will continue to progress through the design stages of architectural planning within the context of available funding. However, due to competing demands on my Departments capital budget, it is not possible at this time to progress the project to tender and construction stage.

Departmental Funding

Dan Neville

Question:

138 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for an increase in the school’s allocation of €200,000 for works in a school (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26205/12]

I can confirm that my Department has received correspondence from the school, referred to by the Deputy, in relation to the matter to which the Deputy refers. The matter can be considered further on receipt of the additional information requested by my Department from the school authority concerned.

Redundancy Payments

Áine Collins

Question:

139 Deputy Áine Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills when partial redundancy will be paid in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [26216/12]

The partial redundancy in respect of the person referred to by the Deputy will be paid on 7th June 2012.

Higher Education Grants

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

140 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has set the income threshold that will apply for eligibility for postgraduate contribution of €2,000 towards fees, in view of the fact that thousands of students are in the process of making important decisions on their future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26223/12]

There will be a new income threshold for the payment referred to by the Deputy, 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 which I expect to be in a position to publish shortly.

School Staffing

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

141 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Education and Skills following the recent publication of the My World Survey on youth mental health by the organisation Headstrong and the UCD school of psychology, if he accepts the survey’s finding that the presence of one good adult is central to the mental health of young people, and that the absence of such a person for a young person to confide in is linked to an increased likelihood of self-harm and suicide and higher levels of depression; if he accepts the survey’s finding that 25% of adolescents would be likely to go to a guidance counsellor for mental health support; if these findings give him cause to rethink his cuts to support for guidance counselling in schools; and if not, if he will explain the reason. [26252/12]

This Government has protected education as much as it can. Far greater reductions in expenditure and in the number of public servants are being made in other sectors relative to those in schools. But there are limits to the level of expenditure on education and the number of teaching posts we can afford. The Budget 2012 measures in relation to the post-primary sector are set out in the documentation that was published by my Department last December. This envisages a net overall reduction of about 450 posts at post-primary level between the current school year and the 2012/13 school year. This net reduction in posts takes account of the impact of the budget measures, demographics and the budget decision to shelter all the DEIS post-primary schools through a reduced staffing schedule of 18.25:1.

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

I want to re-assure the Deputy that all schools must continue to provide guidance to their pupils. However, from September 2012 guidance provision must be managed by schools from within their standard staffing allocation. Schools will have autonomy on how best to prioritise its available resources to meet its requirements in relation to guidance and the provision of an appropriate range of subjects to its students. Decisions on how this is done will be taken at school level and I am confident that schools will act in the best interest of students when determining precisely how to use the teaching resources available to them.

Student Residential Accommodation

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

142 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the person who is the owner of the student residential accommodation on the campus of a school (details supplied) in County Sligo; if all accommodation will be available to students in the academic year commencing in September 2012; if students currently residing in the campus accommodation and wishing to return in September 2012 will be able to do so; and will all deposits paid by students be refunded in accordance with their tenancy agreements. [26264/12]

The Department of Education and Skills has no involvement in the matters referred to by the Deputy. The Deputy may wish to consult the College Authorities directly.

School Curriculum

Kieran O'Donnell

Question:

143 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason ICT is not an examination subject for the junior and leaving certificates in view of the growth of the ICT industry and the necessity of being ICT literate in today’s work environment; his views on the fact that ICT forms part of the school examination curriculum in other countries; the plans he has to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26286/12]

The focus in schools is on using ICT (a) as a tool in learning and (b) to improve the quality of teaching and learning across the curriculum, guided by the ICT curriculum framework developed by the NCCA. This framework is supported by extensive digital resources on the Scoilnet website, by professional development programmes for teachers and by investment in ICT infrastructure. All post primary schools will be connected to a 100Mbps broadband service by the end of 2014, providing for improved integration of ICT in learning.

One of the Statements of Learning in the Junior Cycle reform is to ensure that all students "Use ICT effectively and ethically in learning and in life". The forthcoming Junior Cycle reform will allow for the introduction of optional school developed short courses of 100 hours duration. This will provide opportunities for schools to progress the provision of courses to enhance students' ICT skills which will be embedded in all their learning.

There is also a Transition Year option in relation to "Having Fun with Computer Programming and Games" and, under the ICT Action Plan which I launched earlier this year, this is being expanded nationally.

Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) are also significant components in the syllabuses of Technology and Design and Communication Graphics.

Some work experiences are being provided for students in our post-primary schools through the provision of places in ICT companies in Ireland so as to promote the ICT sector as a career choice.

Business and IT interests place a greater emphasis on improved uptake and performance in mathematics and the sciences in general at the post-primary level than on provision of a specialist courses in computer science.

In an extract from the Report "Key Data on Learning and Innovation through ICT at School in Europe 2011" by Eurydice (European Commission). It notes that, on page 40: "The ‘Handbook on Digital Strategies for Educational Transformation' recommends embedding the use of ICT and digital media across the whole curriculum through specific tasks in all subjects in order to develop digital fluency (European Commission/ICT Cluster 2010, p.29). Empirical research has highlighted that there is indeed a shift from teaching ICT skills in isolation towards more horizontal approaches, ‘crossing the traditional boundaries of academic subjects' and forming part of other complex skills such as collaboration and communication. (Voogt and Pelgrum 2005, p. 172)

Eurydice information on curricula and steering documents show that education policy reflects these findings. ICT is used as a general tool and/or for specific tasks across the different subjects of the curriculum in the large majority of countries."

It is this approach that is being adopted here in Ireland.

Telecommunications Services

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

144 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he will approve the procurement of a broadband router for a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26288/12]

Michael McGrath

Question:

153 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will arrange for a school (details supplied) in County Cork to be provided with an Internet router as soon as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26523/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 144 and 153 together.

My Department has recently entered into a framework agreement with 15 internet service providers as part of the Schools Broadband Access Programme. Under the framework agreement all previous school connections were put out to tender and contracts are due to be signed shortly.

The request for a second connection at Carrigaline Educate Together National School will be included in a mini competition under the new framework agreement. On this basis a second connection for Carrigaline Educate Together National School will be awarded later in the year.

State Examinations

David Stanton

Question:

145 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Skills with reference to reasonable accommodation for students sitting State examinations, if the criteria for eligibility are the same for junior and leaving certificate examinations; the reasons some students who have successfully secured reasonable accommodation in the junior certificate might be unsuccessful in securing similar accommodation for the leaving certificate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26299/12]

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations.

The State Examinations Commission operates a scheme of Reasonable Accommodations in the Certificate examinations. Applications for such accommodations are submitted by schools on behalf of their students. Full details of the scheme is available for downloading from their website:www.examinations.ie/candidates/reasonableaccommodations.

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

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

Higher Education Grants

John Lyons

Question:

146 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the financial supports and grant assistance available to postgraduate students commencing courses in May 2012 in view of the fact students must wait until the grant application system goes live in the next number of weeks, the supports available to those who require funding in the intervening period. [26312/12]

A postgraduate student entering a course for the first time in May 2012 should have made application to the appropriate awarding authority under the Student Grant Scheme 2011 and should have received a decision at this point.

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. Postgraduate students continuing on their existing courses will not be affected.

New students entering postgraduate courses from September 2012 onwards will make their applications for grants to Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI — a division of the City of Dublin VEC) which will administer the Student Grant Scheme on behalf of my Department. The online application facility will be available shortly.

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

In addition, a further limited number of students who would previously have qualified under the standard grant thresholds will qualify to have a €2,000 contribution made towards the costs of their fees. 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.

School Staffing

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

147 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a decision has been made in relation to the staffing numbers at a school (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26342/12]

The criteria used for the allocation of teachers to schools is published annually on my Department's website. The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30 September. The staffing schedule for the 2012-2013 school year is available on my Department's website.While mainstream staffing for any school year is based on the previous September's enrolment, there is a provision whereby schools experiencing rapid increases in enrolment can apply for additional mainstream posts on developing grounds, using projected enrolment. The retention of such posts in the current school year is subject to schools' having achieved their projected enrolment on 30 September. If the enrolment is not achieved the post allocated on developing grounds is suppressed.

I understand that the school referred to by the Deputy has made an application for a mainstream classroom post on developing school criteria for the 2012/13 school year. My Department has notified the Board of Management of provisional approval for this post subject to achieving their projected enrolment on 30 September 2012.

Schools Recognition

Regina Doherty

Question:

148 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a college (details supplied) will be allocated a roll number and a dedicated premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26347/12]

The college referred to by the Deputy delivers Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses and is part of a second level school which is managed by County Meath Vocational Education Committee (VEC). I have no plans at this time to provide stand-alone status to this or any other PLC centre.

By way of background, generally PLC centres must have an approved allocation of at least 500 PLC places in order to be considered for stand-alone status. County Meath VEC's total allocation for the 2011/2012 academic year was 366 PLC places for their 3 PLC centres.

In addition, given the current budgetary constraints, the moratorium on public service appointments and the Employment Control Framework, it is not possible to provide the additional staffing (Principal, Deputy Principal, etc.) that stand-alone status would entail.

School Staffing

Robert Troy

Question:

149 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consult the appeals office with regards to expediting the appeal that was made by a school (details supplied) to protect its staffing allocations for the coming year. [26379/12]

The appeals process at post primary level is now complete and the Chief Executive Officer of Westmeath Vocational Educational Committee has been notified of the outcome of their appeal. The Appeals Board operates independently of the Department and it's decision is final.

Question No. 150 answered with Question No. 131.

Higher Education Grants

Tom Fleming

Question:

151 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will ensure that the productive assets of farm families and other self-employed families are not factored into the assessment of income for the purpose of third level maintenance grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26428/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, I announced last December that the means test for student grants will be amended to take account of the value of certain capital assets as well as income for the 2013/14 academic year.

A dedicated Capital Asset Test implementation group has been established. The group has been charged with bringing forward detailed implementation proposals on new means testing arrangements for student grants, to include the value of assets, for new applicants from the 2013/14 academic year.

No decision has been taken on the treatment of farm or other business assets including productive assets. In the circumstances, I am not in a position to say at this time what assets may be included.

However, any proposals in this regard will require further Government agreement and necessitate legislative amendment.

Schools Building Projects

Michael McGrath

Question:

152 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to a primary school (details supplied) in County Cork which is on the school building programme for a new school building and has been designated to move to construction stage in 2014/15, and has an autism spectrum disorders unit in its current temporary premises; and if he will confirm whether the plans which have been approved by the local authority for the new school building provide for an ASD unit. [26522/12]

As the Deputy is aware, my Department is actively engaged in the process of acquiring a site for the proposed new school, referred to by the Deputy, and have reached agreement, in principal, subject to contract with Cork County Council, in relation to the proposed purchase of the site concerned. In this regard, the issue of the "decision to grant planning permission" by the Local Authority is awaited.

I wish to confirm for the Deputy that it is my Department's intention to make provision for pupils with an autism spectrum disorder within the proposed new school. My Department will be in direct contact with the school authorities concerned to progress this project.

Question No. 153 answered with Question No. 144.

Site Acquisitions

Michael McGrath

Question:

154 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he intends to purchase or lease the intended site for a new school building in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26524/12]

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department has reached agreement, in principle, subject to contract with Cork County Council, in relation to the proposed acquisition of a site for the school to which he refers. With regards to planning permission, a "Notification of Decision to Grant Permission" has been issued by the Local Authority and the "Decision to Grant Permission" is awaited. Once this acquisition is concluded, the proposed building project will be considered in the context of the capital budget available to my Department for school buildings generally.

School Staffing

Mattie McGrath

Question:

155 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the total number of serving primary and second level teachers currently on his Department’s payroll and being paid by payable order; the number of these that have been awarded the salary increase of 2.5% payable from 1 September 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26544/12]

There are eight teachers serving in primary, secondary and community/comprehensive schools currently being paid by payable order.

The Deputy should note that there are fifty six thousand five hundred and forty four teachers paid on the serving payrolls.

None of the eight teachers currently being paid by payable order have received the salary increase of 2.5% from the 1st September, 2008.

Mattie McGrath

Question:

156 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of serving primary and second level teachers currently on his Department’s payroll who having transferred from payable order to electronic funds transfer since 1 February 2009 were given retrospection of the salary increase of 2.5%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26545/12]

There are 6 teachers who opted to be paid by electronic funds transfer in the period February / March 2009 who were given retrospection of the salary increase of 2.5% to the 1st September 2008.

No retrospection was paid to teachers since that time. A Rights Commissioner decision in June 2009 indicated that retrospection should not be paid.

All new staff joining the Department's payrolls are paid by electronic fund transfer only.

Mattie McGrath

Question:

157 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the total number of retired primary and second level teachers who had retired prior to 1 September 2008 and who are currently on his Department’s payroll and being paid by payable order; the number of these that have that have been awarded the salary increase of 2.5% payable from 1 September 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26546/12]

There are 572 retired primary, secondary and community/comprehensive school teachers paid by payable order from the retired teachers payroll operated by my Department who retired before 1st September 2008.

The increase of 2.5% payable from 1st September 2008 was awarded to all these retired teachers.

Mattie McGrath

Question:

158 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the total number of retired primary and second level teachers who retired between 1 September 2008 and 31 January 2009 and are currently on his Department’s payroll and being paid by payable order; the number of these that have been awarded the salary increase of 2.5% payable from 1 September 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26547/12]

There are no retired primary, secondary and community/comprehensive school teachers paid by payable order from the payroll operated by my Department who retired between 01st September 2008 and 31st January 2009. Their pension is paid electronically into an account.

Teachers’ Remuneration

Brendan Griffin

Question:

159 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if teachers who had initiated additional qualification courses on or before 5 December 2011, would be recognised for additional allowances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26557/12]

As a result of Budget 2012, Circular 70/2011 provides that teachers who had been engaged in a public sector teaching post on or before 4 December 2011 are eligible to retain the qualification allowances they were entitled to be in receipt of on that date. Such teachers will not be paid any additional allowance where they acquire any further qualification on or after 5 December 2011. The position of teachers who, on 5 December 2011, were undertaking courses will be considered in the context of the public service-wide review of allowances being led by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

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

Pending the outcome of the review of allowances, they are not payable to new beneficiaries from 1 February 2012. The only exceptions to this prohibition are principal and deputy principal allowances and, for a limited period of time, the assistant principal allowance. These decisions were taken due to the upward pressure on the cost of teacher allowances. These provisions are outlined in Circular 70/2011 and Circular 3/2012.

These measures are concerned with the sustainability of the public service pay bill and in particular the need to find payroll savings in the education vote. Without immediate action, this upward pressure would have cancelled out the savings made elsewhere in the education system and would bring about even harsher adjustments to schools and services. I am not in a position to comment further until the outcome of the review is known.

School Discipline

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

160 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will explain the way it costs almost €1 million to hear the appeals from approximately 390 school pupils who were either expelled or suspended over the three year period 2009, 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26572/12]

Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 provides for an appeal by a parent or guardian to the Secretary General of my Department, or in the case of a Vocational Education Committee (VEC) school to the VEC in the first instance, where a Board of Management of a school, or a person acting on behalf of the Board, refuses to enrol a student in a school, expels a student or suspends a student for 20 or more days in any school year.

A section 29 appeals committee is established for the purposes of hearing and determining an appeal. A committee consists of three persons; an Inspector and two other persons who have the requisite expertise, experience and independence to serve on these committees.

In the three year period referred to by the Deputy, there were 1,126 section 29 appeals admitted by my Department, these included appeals made in respect of permanent exclusions, suspensions and also refusals to enrol. The main costs involved in the section 29 process relate to payments to appeals committee members, including travel and subsistence. The cumulative cost for the three year period in question was €974,000. This amount excludes payments to Inspectors.

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

I invited education partners and interested parties to submit their views to my Department by the 28th of October last and my officials are now co-ordinating the submissions received.

The feedback from this consultation will help inform the nature and scope of a new regulatory framework for school enrolment. The new legislation will remove appeals against refusals to enrol from the Section 29 apparatus.

School Enrolments

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

161 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he expects to have pre-enrolment numbers for the junior infants class 2012/2013 for a town (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26603/12]

Pre-enrolment data by standard or individual school is not available.

Adult Education

Paul Connaughton

Question:

162 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the assistance that is available for low income families, when both partners are working, to avail of short courses such as train the trainer or caring for the elderly FETAC courses, which would help improve their chances of employment in view of the fact that currently such courses appear to be available free or at reduced rates to those wholly dependent on social welfare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26620/12]

My Department provides funds to Vocational Education Committees (VECs) and FÁS to provide a range of full-time and part-time further education and training courses to help people improve their skills and to meet the changing needs of the labour market.

Part-time VEC further education courses are generally free to all adults with less than upper second level education while FÁS training courses are generally free for adults who are in receipt of a welfare payment.

People who wish to find out more about these courses should contact their local VEC or FÁS office.

Departmental Funding

Niall Collins

Question:

163 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount of funding committed to in his Department for capital projects; if he will provide details of the projects and funding committed; the funds that have been drawn down for the projects; when the balance will be drawn down; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26629/12]

The Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2012-16: Medium Term Exchequer Framework published last November provides for an investment of €2.2 billion in the Education Sector over the five year period to 2016. On 12 March this year, I provided details in the 5 year plan of 275 major school building projects that will proceed to construction over the duration of the plan (details of the projects available on my Department's website).

The investment for the Higher Education sector over the five year period amounts to €125m and this allows projects with existing contractual commitments to be completed. These projects include the UCD Science Centre, the University of Limerick Medical School, NUI Maynooth's library project and the new campus development at St. Patrick's College, Drumcondra.

My Department has a capital allocation of €430m this year of which €144m was expended by the end of May.

Special Educational Needs

Michael McGrath

Question:

164 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if any decision has been made regarding the appeal against the proposed withdrawal of special needs assessment posts from a special needs school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26645/12]

The National Council for Special Education is responsible for allocating Special Needs Assistants to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's established criteria for the allocation of such supports and the staffing resources available to my Department.

In considering the level of SNA support required by a school the NCSE takes into account the individual care needs of all qualifying children, supports freed up due to any school leavers, and the identified care needs of newly enrolled children with special educational needs.

A review of the level of SNA support in the special school referred to by the Deputy took place in January of this year. Based on the number of school enrolments and the individual care needs of the children concerned the NCSE indicated to the school that there was a surplus of SNA posts in the school.

I understand that an appeal has been made to the NCSE in relation to this decision and that this is currently being considered by the NCSE. The NCSE will advise the school in relation to this matter as soon as possible and will advise the school of its SNA allocation for the coming school year.

Schools Building Projects

Michael McGrath

Question:

165 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the award of the contract for the construction of an extension to a school (details supplied) in County Cork; when construction work is expected to commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26646/12]

The Deputy will be aware from my previous response to him in December 2011 that this project was at an advanced stage of the tender process but progress had been delayed due to a number of technical issues relating to site access. These issues have now been resolved. However following the withdrawal of both the preferred bidder and the second lowest tenderer, my Department in consultation with the Design Team and school authorities, agreed to re-tender the project.

Subject to no further issues arising, it is envisaged that the project will be re-tendered shortly and will then progress to construction in late 2012 or early 2013.

Higher Education Grants

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

166 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the entitlement to higher education grants, including postgraduate study, available to persons in receipt of the lone parents allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26655/12]

Financial assistance is available to students under the student grant scheme, which from the 2012/2013 academic year will be administered by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI — a division of the City of Dublin VEC) on behalf of my Department. SUSI will accept all new applications in its first year of operation. Renewal applications will continue to be dealt with by the existing 66 grant awarding authorities. Students who are entering approved courses for the first time are eligible for grants where they satisfy the relevant conditions as to nationality, residency, previous academic attainment and means.

A person in receipt of a social welfare payment as a lone parent may be entitled to a student maintenance grant provided they meet the terms and conditions of the student grant scheme. The means-tested one parent family payment is not included in calculating reckonable income where paid to the applicant. In addition, the one parent family payment is an eligible payment for the special rate of maintenance grant. The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter, in the first instance, for the assessing authority.

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.

Those students who meet the qualifying conditions for the special rate of grant will be eligible to have their post-graduate tuition fees paid up to the maximum fee limit under the Student Grant Scheme. In addition, a further limited number of students who would previously have qualified under the standard grant thresholds will qualify to have a €2,000 contribution made towards the costs of their fees. 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.

Proposed Legislation

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

167 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will clarify the conditions of staff who will transfer to the newly formed Qualifications and Quality Assurance Authority of Ireland, particularly non-remuneration-based conditions as outlined in section 21, subsection 2 of the Bill; if he will clarify his comments at Second Stage debate (details supplied) that the apparent diminishment of staff conditions is not the Bill’s intent and if these conditions will be the same as those outlined in the Qualification (Education and Training) Act 1999; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26695/12]

Anne Ferris

Question:

213 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if, in view of the Qualification and Quality Assurance Bill 2011, he will address concerns in relation to section 21(c) on work conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27251/12]

Simon Harris

Question:

229 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide assurances to employees of the four bodies to be covered by the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Bill 2011 that their current conditions of employment as outlined in section 52(8) of the Qualifications and Quality Assurances (Education and Employment) Act 1999 will not be detrimentally affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27465/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 167, 213 and 229 together.

The Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Bill contains provisions to protect the existing remuneration and superannuation entitlements of staff transferring to the Qualifications and Quality Assurance Authority of Ireland. It is appropriate that the Oireachtas would protect remuneration and pension entitlements and these are covered in sections 21 and 22 of the Bill respectively.

In relation to any small variations in other terms, conditions and work practices that may exist between staff in the three organisations, it is not my intention to seek to undermine the working conditions of staff transferring to the new Authority.

However, in order for the new body to operate efficiently and effectively, it is important to achieve as much coherence as possible in working arrangements and terms and conditions. I believe that this can be achieved most effectively through management and staff associations working together, and within the framework of the Croke Park Agreement, to agree common approaches on any issues that arise.

The relevant provisions in the Bill mirror those in the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2010 that covered the transfer of FÁS and HSE staff to the Department of Social Protection.

Schools Building Projects

Sean Fleming

Question:

168 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills when construction will commence on a new school (details supplied) in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26702/12]

The project to which the Deputy refers is at an advanced stage of the tender process. Subject to no issues arising, it is envisaged that the project will progress to construction in the coming weeks.

Special Educational Needs

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

169 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a disability access route to education programme in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26722/12]

The Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) is a third-level admissions scheme for students with a disability. The scheme is operated by a number of higher education institutions and not by my Department. Admissions to the institutions are regulated by the institutions themselves.

The Deputy may wish to contact the Irish Universities Association in this instance.

Dan Neville

Question:

170 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to provide funding for another school (details supplied) in County Limerick for children with autistic spectrum disorder. [26751/12]

My Department has no record of having received an application from the school referred to by the Deputy for the additional accommodation in question.

It is open to the school authority to submit an application for this additional accommodation and the relevant application form can be downloaded from my Department's websitewww.education.ie.

Higher Education Grants

Brendan Griffin

Question:

171 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills when the new on-line student grant scheme application system will be opened; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26752/12]

A new online only grant applications system is being introduced for the academic year 2012/13. All new applications will be made online to a single awarding authority, Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI — a division of the City of Dublin VEC) which will administer the Student Grant Scheme on behalf of my Department. The online facility will be available through the websitewww.studentfinance.ie and is expected to go live early next week on completion of the user acceptance testing phase.

Updates are available on the studentfinance.ie website on an ongoing basis.

School Staffing

Thomas Pringle

Question:

172 Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will list in tabular form all national schools in County Donegal with four or less teachers and the roll number of each school. [26756/12]

The information requested is provided by the National School Annual Census Returns and is contained in the following table:

Roll No.

School Name

Address

Total Enrolment 2010/2011

Walking Principal

Full Time Equivalent Teaching Teachers / Principals

Other full time teachers

Other part time teachers

FTE of part time

Total teachers

05164I

SCOIL NAOMH CHOLMCILLE

OILEAN THORAI, AN BHUN BHIG, CO DHUN NA NGALL

6

0

1

0

1

0.5

1.5

01733B

ARDARA MIXED N S

ARDARA, CO DONEGAL

16

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

07143K

MONREAGH N S

MONREAGH, CARRIGANS LIFFORD, CO. DONEGAL

24

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

07464H

BROWNEKNOWE N S

BROWNKNOWE, RAMELTON, CO DONEGAL

47

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

07626H

S N AN IORBALL RIABAIGH

BAILE UI GHORMAIN, LETHBHEARR, TIR CHONAILL

42

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

09009Q

ROCKFIELD N S

ROCKFIELD BALLYSHANNON, CO. DONEGAL

45

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

10062E

CREESLOUGH N S

CREESLOUGH, CO. DONEGAL

15

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

10595Q

KILBARRON N S

KILBARRON, BALLYSHANNON, CO. DONEGAL

19

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

13563S

S N CHILL COINNIGH

CILL CHOINNIGH, GLENTIES, CO. DONEGAL

23

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

13755E

GARTAN N S

GARTAN, LETTERKENNY, CO. DONEGAL

16

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

15170J

CASHELSHANAGHAN N S

BALLYMALEEL P O, LETTERKENNY, CO. DONEGAL

46

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

15554E

GORTNACART N S

GORTNACART, ARDARA, CO. DONEGAL

37

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

16137Q

DRUMFAD N S

BALLYNASHANAGH P O, LETTERKENNY, CO. DONEGAL

24

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

16142J

S N MIN NA MANRACH

AN CLOCHAN LIATH, LEITIR CEANAINN, CO DHUN NA NGALL

7

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

16242N

S N DUMHACH BEAG

DUMHACH BEAG, BAILE LAIR, CO DUN NA NGALL

14

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

16279N

SCOIL CHOLUIM

BALLYHEERIN, FANAD, LETTERKENNY, CO. DONEGAL

21

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

16384K

SN ARAINN MHOR II

ARAINN MHOR, CO DHUN NA NGALL

12

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

16611S

GLENTOGHER CON N S

CARNDONAGH, CO. DONEGAL

34

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

16664Q

BRUCKLESS N S

BRUCKLESS, CO. DONEGAL

24

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

16763S

S N GLASAIN

CRAOSLOCH, LEITIRCEANAINN, CO DHUN NA NGALL

35

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

16823K

MIN A GHABHANN N S

LETTERMACAWARD, DONEGAL

15

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

16837V

S N DUCHORAIDH

DUCHORAIDH, CO DHUN NA NGALL

23

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

16850N

ST GARVAN’S N.S.

DRUM HALLA, RATHMAOLAIN, LETTERKENNY

21

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

16854V

BUNCRANA N S

BUNCRANA, CO DONEGAL

34

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

16869L

S N AN BHREACAIGH

ARD A RATHA, CO DHUN NA NGALL

47

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

16903I

S N FOTHAR

PORT NA BLAITHCHE, LEITIR CEANAINN, CO DUN NA NGALL

44

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

17241Q

S N DOMHNACH MOR

CASTLEFIN, LIFFORD, CO. DONEGAL

41

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

17447N

S N CRANNAIGHE BUIDHE

CRANNOG BUI, ARDARA, CO. DONEGAL

25

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

17469A

SCOIL CUILM CILLE

BALLINDRAIT, LIFFORD, CO. DONEGAL

21

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

17552K

SCOIL BHRIGHDE

PORTHALL, LIFFORD, CO. DONEGAL

30

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

17716O

ST RIAGHANS NS

DRIMNACROSH, KILRAINE P.O., CO. DONEGAL

40

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

17822N

SCOIL BHRIGHDE

MIN A CHLADHAIGH, GORT A CHOIRCE, CO DHUN NA NGALL

29

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

18058H

SCOIL NAOMH SEOSAMH

RATHDOMHNAILL, TREANTACH, CO DUN NA NGALL

36

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

18086M

DUNFANAGHY N S

DUNFANAGHY, CO DONEGAL

45

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

18295V

S N MIN AN AOIRE

AN CHARRAIG, CO DHUN NA NGALL

21

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

18319J

S N TRIANTA

TRIANTAGH, LETTERKENNY, CO. DONEGAL

20

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

18508M

NAOMH ADHAMHNAIN

LAGHEY PO, DONEGAL, CO DONEGAL

32

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

18700E

S N BAILE AN CAISLEAN

BAILE AN CHAISLEAIN, ST JOHNSTON LIFFORD, CO. DONEGAL

30

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

18874O

KILLYGORDAN N S

MAIN STREET, KILLYGORDON, LIFFORD

20

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

18939Q

S N DONAIGH

CARNDONAGH, CO DONEGAL

32

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

19089A

KILLAGHTEE N S

KILLAGHTEE, DUNKINEELY, CO. DONEGAL

45

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

19235I

PORTLEAN N S

KILMACRENNAN, LETTERKENNY, CO. DONEGAL

42

0

2

0

0

0.0

2.0

09748I

GLENMAQUIN NO 2 N S

KNOCKBRACK, LETTERKENNY, CO. DONEGAL

19

0

2

0

1

0.5

2.5

14704P

MURROE NATIONAL SCHOOL

MURROE, DUNFANAHY, CO. DONEGAL

19

0

2

0

1

0.5

2.5

18703K

S N BAILE AN BHAILSIG

BAILE AN BHAILSIGH, WELCHTOWN, BALLYBOFEY

27

0

2

0

1

0.5

2.5

03294L

S N CAISEAL NA GCORR

GORT A CHOIRCE, LEITIR CEANAINN, CO DHUN NA NGALL

25

0

2

1

0

0.0

3.0

04809A

SCOIL AN AINGIL CHOIMHEADAI

AN CHEIDIDH, BURTONPORT, LEITIR CEANAINN

36

0

2

1

0

0.0

3.0

15532R

CROAGHROSS N S

PORTSALON, LETTERKENNY, CO. DONEGAL

33

0

2

1

0

0.0

3.0

15763N

MOVILLE N S

MOVILLE, CO. DONEGAL

34

0

2

1

0

0.0

3.0

15847T

S N LEITIR MHIC AN BHAIRD

LEITHBHEARR, CO DHUN NA NGALL

33

0

2

1

0

0.0

3.0

15955W

SN ARAINN MHOR I

ARAINN MOR, CO DHUN NA NGALL

47

0

3

0

0

0.0

3.0

16108J

SCOIL NAOMH TREASA C

TIERNASLIGO CLONMANY, LIFFORD, CO. DONEGAL

60

0

3

0

0

0.0

3.0

16357H

S N FHIONNTRA

FINTRA, KILLYBEGS, CO DONEGAL

66

0

3

0

0

0.0

3.0

16458N

INVER N S

INVER, CO DONEGAL

20

0

2

1

0

0.0

3.0

16471F

ST DAVADOGS N S

TAMNEY, LETTERKENNY, CO. DONEGAL

22

0

2

1

0

0.0

3.0

16603T

S N AN CHILLIN

AN CILLIN, INVER, CO. DONEGAL

27

0

2

1

0

0.0

3.0

16836T

NAOMH BRIDHID

GLENMAKEE, CARNDONAGH, CO. DONEGAL

84

0

3

0

0

0.0

3.0

17040G

SN NAOMH SAMHTHANN

DRUMDOIT, CASTLEFIN, CO. DONEGAL

81

0

3

0

0

0.0

3.0

17122I

SN EADAN FHIONNFHAOICH

NA GLEANNTA, CO DHUN NA NGALL

23

0

2

1

0

0.0

3.0

17328F

SCOIL ROISIN

AN CLOCHAN LIATH, CO DHUN NA NGALL

65

0

3

0

0

0.0

3.0

17553M

S N TAODHBHOG

AN CLOCHAN, LEIFEARR, CO DHUN NA NGALL

62

0

3

0

0

0.0

3.0

17956L

SCOIL CHOLMCILLE NAOFA

BALLYLAST, CASTLEFIN, CO. DONEGAL

66

0

3

0

0

0.0

3.0

18250W

S N BAILE MOR

DUNFANAGHY PO, LETTERKENNY, CO. DONEGAL

21

0

2

1

0

0.0

3.0

18710H

SN NA CROISE NAOFA

DUNFANAGHY, CO DONEGAL

38

0

2

1

0

0.0

3.0

18731P

ROBERTSON N S

BALLYBOFEY P O, LIFFORD, CO DONEGAL

44

0

2

0

2

1.0

3.0

18844F

SCOIL MHUIRE

BELCRUIT, KINCASSLAGH, LETTERKENNY

47

0

3

0

0

0.0

3.0

19009W

CRAANFORD N S

CRAANFORD, CO. DONEGAL

35

0

2

1

0

0.0

3.0

20167B

GAELSCOIL EIRNE

FEARAINN AN BHAILE, BEAL ATHA SEANNAIGH, CO DHUN NA NGALL

71

0

3

0

0

0.0

3.0

14941G

RAY N S

RAY, MANORCUNNINGHAM, CO DONEGAL

61

0

3

0

1

0.5

3.5

01572D

S N NAOMH PADRAIG

DRUMFRIES P O, CLONMANY, CO. DONEGAL

52

0

3

1

0

0.0

4.0

05230S

COMHSCOIL CHONMHAS N

CONVOY, LIFFORD, CO. DONEGAL

74

0

3

1

0

0.0

4.0

13872I

ROBERTSON N S

BALLINTRA, CO DONEGAL

55

0

3

1

0

0.0

4.0

15770K

S N NAOMH NAILLE

NA CAOLOGA, INVER, CO DONEGAL

68

0

3

1

0

0.0

4.0

16995Q

S N NAOMH COLMCHILLE

DRUMOGHILL NS, MANORCUNNINGHAM, LETTERKENNY

68

0

3

1

0

0.0

4.0

17035N

S N MHIN TEINEADH DE

ARD A RATHA, CO DHUN NA NGALL

51

0

3

1

0

0.0

4.0

17130H

SCOIL NAOMH DUBHTHACH

MACHAIRE UI RABHARTAIGH, GORT A CHOIRCE, LEITIR CEANAINN

49

0

3

1

0

0.0

4.0

17729A

SCOIL NAOMH PROINNSEAS

MAGHERABEG, MANORCUNNINGHAM, LETTERKENNY

84

0

3

1

0

0.0

4.0

18007N

S N OLIBHEAR PLUINCEID

RANN NA FEIRSTE, ANAGAIRE, CO DHUN NA NGALL

74

0

3

1

0

0.0

4.0

18114O

S N NAOMH EIGHNEACH

DISEART EIGHNIGH, BUNCRANNACH, CO DUN NA NGALL

79

0

3

1

0

0.0

4.0

18120J

SCOIL MHUIRE

CAISEAL CEANNDROMA, CO DHUN NA NGALL

72

0

3

1

0

0.0

4.0

18131O

S N MUIRE GAN SMAL

ARD ARATHA, CO DUN NA NGALL

30

0

2

2

0

0.0

4.0

18251B

AYR HILL N S RAMELTON

RAMELTON, LETTERKENNY, CO. DONEGAL

50

0

3

1

0

0.0

4.0

18446Q

SCOIL NAOMH MHUIRE

CEANN MHALANNA, BALLYGORMAN LIFFORD, CO. DONEGAL

72

0

3

1

0

0.0

4.0

20144M

GAELSCOIL CHOIS FEABHAILL

GAA, BUN AN PHOBAIL, CO DHUN NA NGALL

90

0

4

0

0

0.0

4.0

Higher Education Grants

Brendan Griffin

Question:

173 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if procedures are in place to deal with the large volume of applications for the new student grant scheme in view of the experiences of other centralised applications departments. [26764/12]

Several administrative improvements have been introduced to the student grant schemes in recent years to speed up processing. These include the introduction of a single unified grant scheme in 2011 to make it easier to apply for a grant.

As the Deputy will be aware, from the 2012/13 year onwards, grants will be centrally administered by a single grant awarding authority, Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI — a division of the City of Dublin VEC), which will administer the Student Grant Scheme on behalf of my Department. A new online-only grant applications system is being introduced for the academic year 2012/13.

The student grant scheme for the 2012/13 academic year will be published onwww.studentfinance.ie in the coming weeks and students are urged to apply as early as possible for a grant. They don’t have to wait for a CAO offer. Applicants should make sure that their online application forms are properly completed and that they subsequently submit the correct supporting documentation. Late applications and incorrectly completed applications contribute significantly to delays in getting decisions.

My Department will also continue to work with the CAO, the Institute of Guidance Counsellors and USI to make sure that students apply early for grants.

In addition, the following steps have been taken to ensure that the system runs smoothly in its first year of operation:

1. SUSI will only accept new applications in its first year of operation. Renewal applications will continue to be dealt with by the existing 66 grant awarding authorities.

2. The online applications system is currently undergoing rigorous stress testing to ensure that the application process will run smoothly.

The combination of improvements introduced and control measures in place for the 2012/13 academic year should eliminate much of the delays which some students have experienced in recent years and provide sufficient capacity to handle the large volume of applications.

School Staffing

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

174 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a decision will issue regarding an appeal for a concessionary post in respect of a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26777/12]

The next meeting of the Primary Staffing Appeals Board takes place on Thursday, 14 June and the Boards of Management of the applicant schools, including the school referred to by the Deputy will be notified as soon as possible of the outcome of their appeal. The Appeal Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

175 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of teachers assigned to teach applied maths in second level schools; the number of those that have a qualification in maths; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26786/12]

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

176 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of teachers assigned to teach chemistry in second level schools; the number of those that have a qualification in chemistry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26787/12]

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

177 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of teachers assigned to teach physics in second level schools; the number of those that have a qualification in physics; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26788/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 175 to 177, inclusive, together.

Teacher allocations to second level schools are approved by my Department in accordance with established rules and procedures. In accordance, each school management authority is required to organise its subject options within the limit of its approved teacher allocation. The deployment of teaching staff in the school, the range of subjects offered and ultimately the quality of teaching and learning are in the first instance a matter for the school management authorities.

In relation to the numbers of teachers registered on the basis of qualifications in applied mathematics, chemistry, physics and mathematics, I am advised by the Teaching Council that the current numbers (rounded) are as follows:

Applied Maths — 260;

Maths — 4,100;

Chemistry — 1,900; and

Physics — 980.

Third Level Institutions

Brendan Smith

Question:

178 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he expects to receive a report from the Higher Education Authority on a proposal for funding the higher education sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26792/12]

Tom Fleming

Question:

199 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to increase funding to third level institutions that are struggling to cope with increased numbers, are on a reduced budget and will have to face a 30% hike in student numbers in the coming years as per the Hunt report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27001/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 178 and 199 together.

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

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

Teaching Qualifications

Brendan Smith

Question:

179 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he is taking to address skills shortages in the area of languages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26793/12]

There are a wide range of further and higher education courses available with a foreign language as either a core subject or in combination with a range of other disciplines. Information on all relevant courses is available on the Qualifax websitewww.qualifax.ie. There are also a range of foreign languages available on the curriculum in second level schools — French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Japanese and Arabic. A Post Primary Languages Initiative has been in place since 2000 with the objective of diversifying language provision in schools, focusing particularly on Spanish, Italian, Japanese and Russian. Furthermore a Working Group has developed a draft languages policy for internal submission to the Department in advance of a wider consultation phase.

Almost 150 new part time higher education places on foreign language courses have been made available under Springboard 2012. Employer input and research by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs informed the development and selection of these Springboard programmes.

Accommodation for Children

Michael McCarthy

Question:

180 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 253 of 22 May, 2012, his views on whether it is acceptable that his Department has no role in relation to the setting down of minimum standards for accommodation provided to children under the remote area boarding grant; if he will consider reviewing this matter in view of the concern of some parents regarding the lack of regulation in this area; if he will consider introducing standards in relation to the vetting and inspecting of such accommodation in the same manner that Irish summer colleges are subjected to examination; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26798/12]

I reiterate that my Department has no role in relation to setting down minimum standards for accommodation or the conduct of inspections envisaged by the Deputy.

It is the responsibility of parents to ensure that the accommodation which they secure for their child is of an acceptable standard.

I would encourage parents to ensure they are satisfied with the standard of accommodation for anyone providing accommodation to minors.

School Staffing

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

181 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a school (details supplied) in County Donegal; and his plans to review this decision. [26830/12]

The school submitted an appeal to the Primary Staffing Appeals Board. All appeals submitted to the Primary Staffing Appeal Board were considered in accordance with the published appeals criteria that is set out in my Department's Staffing Circular 0007/2012. This was done at its meeting on 18th and 19th April. The appeal by the school was unsuccessful on the basis that the school did not meet the published appeal criteria. The Appeal Board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final.A total of 367 schools submitted appeals to the April meeting of the Appeals Board. 205 schools had their appeals upheld by the Staffing Appeals Board. A summary outcome of the appeals is now published on my Department's website. Individual schools have been notified of the outcome of their appeals.

FÁS Training Programmes

Alan Farrell

Question:

182 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on the provision of training courses and education through SOLAS in Balbriggan, County Dublin, following the reduction in course provision this year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26844/12]

I understand that in 2011, the FÁS Baldoyle Training Services Unit conducted a comprehensive review of its training provision in the greater Dublin North and West areas, which included the Balbriggan area. This review focused on performance outcomes in line with the FÁS training strategy, in terms of employment, progression to further training and education, and certification. Such reviews are essential to ensure that FÁS Baldoyle Training Services Unit delivers a diverse range of effective training interventions to a broad category of clients, across a wide range of geographical locations, including Balbriggan, within a defined training budget. The 2011 review identified the need for FÁS Baldoyle Training Unit to readjust its 2012 training provision and course type in the Balbriggan area as, in many cases, the key performance training outcomes were not being achieved. Following a recent analysis of labour market opportunities, it has been decided to locate a Contact Centre Support course in the Balbriggan area. This course is scheduled to commence on 11th June, 2012.

School Transport

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

183 Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding school transport in respect of areas (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26848/12]

Changes to the School Transport Scheme for Post Primary children were announced in the 2011 Budget and derived from recommendations in the Value for Money Review of the scheme. From the commencement of the 2012/13 school year, the use of the Catchment Boundary Area (CB) System as a means of determining eligibility for school transport will cease. This means that from the 2012/13 school year, school transport eligibility for pupils will be determined by reference to the distance they reside from their nearest post-primary education centre having regard to ethos and language.

Existing catchment boundary pupils who are not attending their nearest post primary centre will retain their transport eligibility for the duration of their post primary education cycle provided there is no change to their current circumstances. Siblings of these pupils and other pupils who are not eligible for school transport, may apply for transport on a concessionary basis only in accordance with the terms of the Post Primary School Transport Scheme. The current pupil charge for post primary transport is €350 per annum subject to a family maximum of €650. Eligible pupils who hold valid medical cards (GMS Scheme) are exempt from these charges. The changes to the Post Primary School Transport Scheme will be applied equitably on a national basis.

Special Educational Needs

Michael McCarthy

Question:

184 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline the situation regarding special needs assistants provision in a school (details supplied) for the 2012/2013 academic year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26866/12]

Michael McCarthy

Question:

186 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to a situation regarding special needs assistant provision in a school (details supplied) in County Cork; if his attention has been drawn to concerns regarding the effect of the reduction on the pupils concerned; if he will outline his latest position on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26871/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 184 and 186 together.

The National Council for Special Education is responsible for allocating Special Needs Assistants to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's established criteria for the allocation of such supports and the staffing resources available to my Department. All schools were advised to apply to the NCSE for SNA support for the 2012/13 school year by 16th March, 2012. In considering applications for SNA support for the new school year, the NCSE will take into account the individual care needs of all qualifying children, supports freed up due to any school leavers, and the identified care needs of newly enrolled children with special educational needs.

Schools will be advised by the NCSE of their SNA allocation for the 2012/13 school year by June of this year. It is open to schools to contact their local SENO in this regard, using the contact details available onwww.ncse.ie. The NCSE is also developing an appeals process which is intended to be in place for the 2012/13 school year allocations process.

School Accommodation

Simon Harris

Question:

185 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills if pre-fabricated accommodation at a school (details supplied) will be replaced with permanent accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26870/12]

The school referred to by the Deputy was recently assessed for replacement of prefabs with a permanent structure under my Department's new Rented Prefab Replacement Scheme. Enrolments at the school have declined by 15% over the past 5 years and by 6% between 2010 and 2011. As a result of falling enrolments, the long term need for the prefab is uncertain and a permanent build option was eliminated on this basis. Should the school's enrolment increase, the matter can be reviewed again.

Question No. 186 answered with Question No. 184.

School Staffing

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

187 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will identify the schools that employed eight retired primary teachers for more than 40 days, in clear contravention of his Department’s circular which stated priority be given to unemployed, qualified teachers; the action he will take against these schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26900/12]

This matter has been investigated further by my Department. There are currently two primary schools in which teachers who retired during February 2012 have been paid in excess of forty days and are still employed. My Department will contact the schools involved and request them to confirm that are complying with the terms outlined in Circular 31/2011. In the event that they are not complying they will be requested to submit reasons for failing to do so.

Schools Building Projects

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

188 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of second level school projects that are in Band 2:1 that have completed stage 2B and are not in the five year building programme announced this year; the estimated gross cost of these projects; the names and roll numbers of the schools involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26915/12]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

189 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of first level or primary school projects that are in Band 2:1 and that have completed stage 2B and are not in the five year programme announced this year; the gross estimated cost of these projects; the names and roll numbers of the schools involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26916/12]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

190 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of primary school projects that are in Band 2:1 and are at stage 2B at present and are not included in the five year building programme announced this year; the estimated gross cost of these projects; the names and roll numbers of the schools involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26917/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 188 to 190, inclusive, together.

There are no second level schools that are in Band 2.1, that have completed stage 2(b) and that are not in the five year construction programme. There are, however, three such second level projects which are currently working toward the completion of stage 2(b). These are Colaiste Abbain, Wexford, RN71600B, St. Brendan's College, Bray, RN61790D and Scoil Phobail, Clifden, RN91412M. Taken together these three second level projects have an estimated gross cost of twenty million euro.

There are no primary schools with a band rating of 2.1, that have completed stage 2(b) and that are not in the five year construction programme. There are five such primary school projects which are currently working toward the completion of stage 2(b). These are St. Marys NS, Bagnalstown, Co Carlow, RN11135K; Scoil Odhran Naofa, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, RN17932U; Scoil Tigh an Iubhair, Co Louth, RN18635T; Scoil Naomh Padraig, Baconstown, Co Meath, RN02905J andSt Marys Central NS, Donnybrook, Dublin 4, RN19727G. The estimated gross cost of these five primary school projects is seven million euro.

Higher Education Grants

Michael Creed

Question:

191 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he proposes to publish details of the higher education grants scheme and income guidelines for same for the 2012/2013 school year; and if he will outline the organisation that will be processing these applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26922/12]

The student grant scheme for the 2012/13 academic year will be published onwww.studentfinance.ie in the coming week. As the Deputy may be aware, from the 2012/13 year onwards, grants will be centrally administered by a single grant awarding authority Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI — a division of the City of Dublin VEC) which will administer the Student Grant Scheme on behalf of my Department. A new online-only grant applications system is being introduced for the academic year 2012/13. SUSI will accept new applications only in its first year of operation. Renewal applications will continue to be dealt with by the existing 66 grant awarding authorities. The online applications system is currently undergoing rigorous stress testing to ensure that the application process will run smoothly. I am confident that the establishment of a single grant awarding authority will greatly improve the efficiency of the process and will eliminate the delays which some students have experienced in recent years.

School Transport

Arthur Spring

Question:

192 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 109 of 3 May 2012, for the purpose of establishing automatic qualification for rural school transport, if he will identify the nearest qualifying secondary school for children who reside at an address (details provided); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26933/12]

Arthur Spring

Question:

193 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 109 of 3 May 2012, for the purpose of establishing automatic qualification for rural school transport, if children are not entitled to automatic enrolment at their nearest secondary school due to that school offering priority to its preferred feeder schools in the area, are the children then entitled to automatic qualification for rural transport to another school. [26934/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 192 and 193 together.

Under the terms of the Post Primary School Transport Scheme children are eligible for transport where they reside not less than 4.8 kms from and are attending their nearest education centre as determined by the Department/Bus Éireann, having regard to ethos and language. Eligibility for post primary school transport is determined from where children reside and not from where they attend primary school. Bus Éireann is responsible for processing and assessing school transport application forms. In this regard the parents of the children referred to in the details supplied should liaise with their local Bus Éireann office regarding school transport eligibility under the terms of the scheme. Children who are not eligible for school transport may apply for transport to a particular school on a concessionary basis in accordance with the terms of the scheme. The changes to the Post Primary School Transport Scheme will be applied equitably on a national basis.

Education Grants

Michael McCarthy

Question:

194 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties being experienced by parents in receipt of the remote area boarding grant who live on islands where there is no daily access to a secondary school, in view of the extra costs incurred in paying for boarding school fees, and taking into consideration that an individual accommodation provider may require more than the €150 per week provided for by the grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26937/12]

The purpose of the Remote Area Boarding Grant is to give pupils who are educationally disadvantaged because of their remoteness from schools an opportunity to attend school on the same basis as other pupils not so disadvantaged. Pupils resident on off-shore islands that do not have a school providing suitable free second-level education may also qualify for assistance under the scheme. The maximum grant payable under this scheme may not exceed €4947 per pupil per annum. Given the scale of our economic crisis, I have no scope to provide additional funding to increase the grants available under this scheme.

FÁS Training Programmes

Jack Wall

Question:

195 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a submission (details supplied) on the actions the applicant must take to ensure they obtain the necessary forms to allow them continue their apprenticeship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26943/12]

This is a day to day operational matter for FÁS. The person referred to was registered as an apprentice electrician in August 2005; his current status on the FÁS apprenticeship system is "Unemployed" rather than Redundant. In order to participate in the Redundant Apprentice Placement Scheme 2012 (RAPS), FÁS requires documentary evidence of redundancy in the form of a letter from an apprentice's last FÁS approved apprenticeship employer, on company headed paper, confirming the date of redundancy. FÁS have advised me that a letter is being sent by registered post to the person's former employer seeking the relevant information.

Ministerial Appointments

Robert Troy

Question:

196 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline all staff appointments he has made since last March; the name of those appointed; their positions; their salaries; if any of these appointees are former retired public servants and in receipt of a pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26953/12]

One new staff appointment to my Department has taken place since March 2012. Ms Anne Kinneen was appointed as a temporary personal assistant to my colleague Minister of State, Ciarán Cannon, T.D. There were also two new assignments to my Department of existing civil/public servants since March 2012 as follows: Ms Mary Doyle, Deputy Secretary, from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and Mr. Tom Deegan, Principal Officer equivalent, redeployed to this Department on an initial secondment basis from the Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) — Tipperary.

I can confirm that none of these three are retired public servants in receipt of a public service pension. The relevant salary scales or salary point in respect of each post are set out in the table:

Salary Point

Personal Assistant Rate

1

€43,715

2

€45,485

3

€47,304

4

€48,520

5

€49,790

6

€51,365

7

€52,925

LSI 1

€54,490

LSI 2

€56,060

Salary Point

Institute of Technology Senior Management Grades

1

€70,435

2

€72,818

3

€75,200

4

€77,587

5

€79,975

6

€82,356

7

€84,925

8

€87,327

9

€89,874

Salary Point

Deputy Secretary

1

€168,000

Special Educational Needs

Gerry Adams

Question:

197 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills if it is his intention to further cut the maximum entitlement of special needs assistants hours that children with special needs will receive in the 2012/2013 school year to three hours. [26966/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for allocating Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's established criteria for the allocation of Special Education supports and the staffing resources available to my Department. In considering applications for SNA support, the NCSE takes into account the individual care needs of all qualifying children, supports freed up due to any school leavers, and the identified care needs of newly enrolled children with special educational needs. SNAs, once allocated to schools are a school based resource. The allocation of SNAs, while allocated on the basis of an assessed need of an individual child, are allocated to the school and should be deployed with discretion by the school in a manner which bests meets the support and care requirements of the children. There is no maximum number of hours for which SNA support can be provided for any particular child during the school day.

School Curriculum

Sandra McLellan

Question:

198 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to introduce a daily programme that incorporates mental health issues into the school curriculum from a very early age that would run in tandem with our current education system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27000/12]

Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is a mandatory part of the curriculum in primary schools and in junior cycle since 2003 and is designed, inter alia, to promote positive mental health. SPHE is supported by comprehensive teacher guidelines and a curriculum support service which provide training and advice for schools and a resource directory. The Department has also issued guidelines to schools on the development of whole-school policies in the areas such as anti-bullying, RSE, substance use, managing critical incidents, whole-school guidance planning etc which are also important in promoting positive mental health.

Pastoral care supports are promoted in schools through year heads, key tutor systems, home/school links, etc. This is one of the areas which is evaluated as part of a Whole School Evaluation. Schools also engage in a wide range of sport and cultural activities which provide an important opportunity for students to experience success and personal growth.

The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) operating within the Department provides a range of services both direct and indirect which support the personal, social and educational development of students in primary and post primary schools. NEPS also provides assistance in supporting pupils with particular social, emotional or behavioural difficulties. NEPS promotes the development of structures and supports among teachers and schools' care teams which assist and encourage the development of contact and collaboration with the relevant local HSE mental health agencies including the Community Psychology Services and Mental Health Promotion Officers and the referral services of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAHMS).

This Government has protected education as much as it can. Far greater reductions in expenditure and in the number of public servants are being made in other sectors relative to those in schools. But there are limits to the level of expenditure on education and the number of teaching posts we can afford. My Department has published Circular 0009/2012 to inform all post primary school management and staff of the staffing arrangements for post-primary schools for the 2012/13 school year, including in particular, the requirements to manage guidance from within the standard allocation. The circular is available on the Department website.

Question No. 199 answered with Question No. 178.
Question No. 200 answered with Question No. 133.

Educational Disadvantage

Brendan Griffin

Question:

201 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if any precedent exists in which a post primary school has been granted DEIS status outside of a programme of applications being processed by the Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27041/12]

The process of identifying 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. Second-level schools were selected by reference to centrally-held data from the Post-Primary Pupils and State Examinations Commission databases. The identification process was in line with international best practice and had regard to, and employed, the existing and most appropriate data sources available.

In relation to schools that did not qualify for DEIS, it is important to note that an independent review process was available to schools that did not qualify for inclusion in DEIS but regarded themselves as having a level of disadvantage which was of a scale sufficient to warrant their inclusion in the programme. The results of the review were notified to schools in August 2006 and additional schools were added to the programme as a result of making successful review applications. As already advised, none of the existing schools in the country, which were unsuccessful in the initial identification and subsequent review processes, were ever admitted to the DEIS programme. Given the current economic climate and the target to reduce public expenditure there is no capacity at present for inclusion of new schools in the DEIS programme.

Outdoor Education Centres

Brendan Griffin

Question:

202 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his position on the EU Commission case involving outdoor education centres involved in commercial activity; if he recognises the valuable educational contribution and future role of these centres (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27042/12]

A complaint has been made to the European Commission regarding the funding that my Department provides to Outdoor Education Centres, operated by a number of Vocational Education Committees, on the basis that it is unlawful. The Commission is currently in the process of establishing the facts in this matter and my Department is in ongoing correspondence with the Commission in this regard.

Education Grants

Brendan Griffin

Question:

203 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his position on grant aid (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27043/12]

My Department has no plans to review the grant payable under the Remote Area Grant scheme.

School Staffing

Michael Creed

Question:

204 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider the case of a person (details supplied), a teacher who has held their current position since 1995, has had their pay reduced since 2010, arising from an administrative decision at that stage to switch the payment of their salary from their school to the Department of Education and Skills and the subsequent failure of the Teaching Council to recognise their qualifications for registration as a second level teacher; if he will consider this decision in the context of other teaching posts which this person holds in the area of further education where they continue to be paid at the correct qualified rate; if in the circumstances he considers it necessary to amend the legislation establishing the Teaching Council to provide for a grandmother clause to cater for such circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27059/12]

Firstly I wish to advise the Deputy that only teachers with qualifications appropriate to the sector and suitable to the post for which they are employed and who are registered with the Teaching Council are entitled to payment at the qualified rate. It is a matter for the Teaching Council to determine the individual's suitability in this regard. Enquiries in relation to Teaching Council registration should be made directly to the Teaching Council by telephone on LoCall 1890 224224 or +353 (0)1 651 7909 or by email toprimaryregistration@teachingcouncil.ie.

Section 30 of the Teaching Council Act, which is not yet commenced, will require everyone in publicly funded teaching posts to be registered with the Teaching Council in order to be paid from the Exchequer. The only exception to this will be in very limited, short-term circumstances where a registered teacher is not available. The recent enactment of the Education (Amendment) Act 2012 will facilitate section 30 becoming law. My Department and the Teaching Council have issued information to teachers and schools informing them of the forthcoming legal requirements. Further consideration can be given by my officials to the case referred to by the Deputy once the qualifications of the teacher in question have been assessed by the Teaching Council.

FÁS Training Programmes

Brendan Griffin

Question:

205 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a matter (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27127/12]

This is a day to day operational matter for FÁS. FÁS liaises actively with the Department of Social Protection's local Employment Services Office and the Local Partnership Companies to determine demand and responds accordingly. The current Training Centre based in Tralee also services North Kerry and the Dingle peninsula which have higher unemployment figures.

FÁS currently have an active training provision for the Killarney catchment although demand has declined recently compared to some other areas. Over the last 5 years FÁS have run courses in the KTI (Killarney Technology Innovation Centre) Technology Park in two dedicated computer rooms. However the walk-in multimedia training room in Killarney has ceased operation due to decreased demand. Night and evening training courses will continue to be offered in various Killarney venues. A range of courses are also provided from FÁS' on-line/blended suite of courses for the whole of County Kerry.

The Deputy will be aware that the Further Education and Training sector is currently undergoing major structural reform. When established SOLAS will have strategic responsibility for further education currently delivered by Vocational Education Committees (VECs) and training currently delivered by FÁS. This rationalisation will also see the establishment 16 Local Education and Training Boards (LETBs).

Special Educational Needs

Finian McGrath

Question:

206 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a multiple disabled visually impaired unit at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 9 [27173/12]

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), through the local special educational needs organisers (SENOs), is responsible for processing applications from primary and post primary schools for special educational needs supports, including the approval of special classes. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available onwww.ncse.ie. I have arranged for a copy of the Deputy’s correspondence to be forwarded to the NCSE for consideration and for engagement directly with the school.

School Enrolments

Seán Crowe

Question:

207 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a statistical breakdown detailing the counties that are home to children who are attending a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24. [27179/12]

The National School Annual Census does not collect information on the home addresses of pupils. Hence the information requested is not available.

Schools Refurbishment

Billy Timmins

Question:

208 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position in relation to a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow which has applied for additional funding to carry out the necessary work; if this can be allocated as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27186/12]

School authorities are responsible for managing the delivery of their devolved building projects and ensuring that the project is delivered within the approved budget. The school referred to by the Deputy was allocated devolved funding for the provision of a mainstream classroom and a multi-purpose room under my Department's Additional Accommodation Scheme in 2011.

In April 2012 the school authority wrote to my Department requesting additional funding for a number of additional items to the original approved project. When re-assessing the schools application it emerged that the school had changed the scope of works for which the funding had originally been approved. The school authority have been advised that the application for additional funding was unsuccessful and that the Department was satisfied that the grant provided was sufficient to provide the level of accommodation approved. The school were advised to consider reducing the scope of works to that approved by the Department so as to keep within the original budget of approved funding. I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that there are many competing demands on my Department's capital resources and in this context it must prioritise applications for the provision of much needed additional mainstream classroom accommodation.

Special Educational Needs

David Stanton

Question:

209 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of applications submitted to his Department for July provision in 2010, 2011 and 2012 respectively; the number approved and refused each year or still awaiting a decision this year; the number of appeals submitted as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27187/12]

The July Education Programme is available to all special schools and mainstream primary schools with special classes catering for children with autism who choose to extend their education services through the month of July. My Department also provides for a July Programme for pupils with a severe/profound general learning disability. Where school based provision is not feasible, home based provision may be grant aided. Home based July Provision:

In 2010 a total of 2315 applications were approved and 39 applications were refused. In 2011 a total of 2799 applications were approved and 65 applications were refused. The 2012 figures are not yet finalised.

Schools participating in July Provision:

In 2010 a total of 130 schools participated in the school based programme. In 2011 a total of 149 schools participated in the school based programme. The 2012 figures are not yet finalised. The number of applications appealed is not readily available in my Department.

State Examinations

David Stanton

Question:

210 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of applications submitted to the State Examimination Commission for reasonable accommodation in this year’s leaving certificate examinations; the numbers approved and the number refused; the number of appeals submitted to the reasonable accommodation independent appeals committee; the number of successful and unsuccessful appeals; if he will provide a breakdown of the types of reasonable accommodation sought by applicants and the grounds on which they were seeking same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27188/12]

The State Examination Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations. They have in place criteria for reasonable accommodation including an independent appeals system. In view of this I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

Higher Education Grants

Sandra McLellan

Question:

211 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a person studying nursing in the UK currently on unpaid work placement is entitled to grant aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27204/12]

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter for the relevant grant awarding authority. Under my Department's student grant scheme, eligible candidates may receive funding provided they are attending an approved course at an approved institution as defined in the scheme. Students who are attending undergraduate courses in an EU Member State, can apply for a maintenance grant in respect of an approved course which is being pursued in an approved institution.

The Deputy will appreciate that in the absence of all of the relevant details that would be contained in an individual's application form, including those relating to nationality, residency, previous academic attainment and means, it would not be possible for me to say whether or not a student would qualify for a grant or what level of grant would be appropriate. 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.

Departmental Staff

Michael Conaghan

Question:

212 Deputy Michael Conaghan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the level of employment control framework credits that has been provided to each body under the aegis of his Department; and their current staffing level in terms of ECF. [27209/12]

Details of the ceilings in the Government's Employment Control Framework for bodies under the aegis of my Department are provided in the attached table, together with details of the latest available staffing levels.

Department of Education and Skills

Employment Control Framework (ECF) for Aegis Bodies

Name of Body

ECF for end 2012

Staffing numbers at end March 2012*

Whole Time Equivalent

Whole Time Equivalent

FÁS

1,073

1,112

State Examinations Commission (excl temporary clerical staff)

153

142

National Council for Special Education

103

104

NQAI/FETAC/HETAC**

85

83

Higher Education Authority and Research Councils

58

60

Teaching Council

32

26

Residential Institutions Redress Board and Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse

28

28

National Council for Curriculum and Assessment

25

25

*Note — Staffing numbers at a particular point in time may include vacancies waiting to be filled. Numbers do not include staff on career breaks.

**Note — These three organisations will shortly be amalgamated to form the new Qualifications and Quality Assurance Authority of Ireland.

Question No. 213 answered with Question No. 167.

Special Educational Needs

Finian McGrath

Question:

214 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will ensure funding cuts are not applied to a school (details supplied) in Dublin 13 for their July provision from three weeks to two weeks. [27255/12]

I wish to clarify that there have been no cuts made to the allocation for July Provision within my Department's budget. Therefore, any decision by an individual school to reduce the level of July Provision offered is a matter for each school. Any such decision has not been brought about by reductions in the level of available resources by the Department of Education and Skills.

The Deputy will be aware that participation in the scheme is an option for all special schools and mainstream primary schools with special classes catering for children with autism or severe to profound general learning disability that choose to extend their education services through the month of July. Home based tuition of 10 hours per week for the four weeks is provided to children who attend schools that choose not to participate in the scheme. Schools can decide to participate for part of the month of July and accordingly the children in question are allocated home based tuition for the remaining period. My Department's preference is that the home based tuition is undertaken by a fully qualified teacher. However where parents have difficulties in sourcing fully qualified teachers my Department accepts some tutors with alternative qualifications and modifies the rate of payment accordingly.

Schools Building Projects

Sean Conlan

Question:

215 Deputy Seán Conlan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position in relation to the proposed extension to a school (details supplied) in County Cavan; when this extension will be built; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27273/12]

The proposed building project to extend and refurbish Virginia Mixed National School, County Cavan has recently been authorised to proceed to Stage 2a of architectural planning. To ensure that every child has access to a school place, the delivery of projects to meet the increasing demographic demands will be the main focus for capital investment over the next 5 years, particularly in those areas where it has been identified that most future demographic growth will be concentrated. The project for the school referred to by the Deputy, although not included in the 5 year construction programme, will continue to progress through the design stages of architectural planning within the context of available funding. However, due to competing demands on my Departments capital budget, it is not possible at this time to progress the project to tender and construction stage.

Schools Refurbishment

Dan Neville

Question:

216 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding extra funding for classroom accommodation in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27280/12]

My Department approved a devolved grant in April last to the school, referred to by the Deputy, for the provision of one mainstream classroom. The school has appealed this decision and is seeking increased funding for additional school accommodation. This proposal is currently being considered and a response will be conveyed to the school authority as soon as this process has been completed.

Dan Neville

Question:

217 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding funding in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27281/12]

The school, referred to by the Deputy, has applied to my Department for large scale capital funding. In view of the need to prioritise available funding for the provision of additional school accommodation, the delivery of major school projects required to meet future demographic demand will be the main focus for capital investment in the coming years. I wish however to advise the Deputy that my Department approved funding on a devolved basis earlier this year to enable the school address some necessary health and safety works. My Department will also be in further contact with the school authorities shortly in relation to any immediate accommodation needs.

Billy Timmins

Question:

218 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding additional funding in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27283/12]

I wish to confirm to the Deputy that my Department has received correspondence from the school in question in relation to the matter to which he refers. A response will issue to the school authority as soon as the matter has been considered by my Department.

Dara Calleary

Question:

219 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills when he expects an emergency funding application in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Donegal to be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27347/12]

The school referred to by the Deputy submitted an application for funding under my Department's Emergency Works Scheme for a roof replacement in 2010. This application was refused as the scope of works for which funding was sought was outside the terms of the scheme. This decision was appealed and the school authority were informed that the project still remained outside the scope of the scheme. A further appeal has recently been received and is currently being examined by my Department. The school authority will be notified of the decision as soon as possible.

School Staffing

Michael McGrath

Question:

220 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he provides any guidance or instructions to primary schools on the way to distribute the teaching resources among the school’s enrolment, particularly to ensure that class sizes in the school remain broadly consistent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27348/12]

The staffing schedule is the mechanism used for the allocation of classroom teachers to all primary schools. It operates in a clear and transparent manner and treats all similar types of schools equally irrespective of location. The configuration of classes and the deployment of classroom teachers are done at local school level. My Department publishes annual statistics on class size data for each school. The most recent statistics are for the 2010/11 school year. The national average class size is 23.9 pupils. However, with over 20,600 classes in over 3,100 primary schools throughout the country there will always be variations in class sizes at individual school level. My Department's guidance to local school management is that such variations should be kept to the minimum.

Regulatory Bodies

Jim Daly

Question:

221 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has satisfied himself that the current annual fee of €90 for the teacher registration council is a necessary fee; if the amount charged every year represents good value for money for members of the teaching profession; the amount of moneys collected under this heading annually; what these moneys are used for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27377/12]

The Teaching Council is a self funding body with income generated by way of teacher registration and renewal fees. Currently more than 70,000 teachers are registered and 7,500 teachers apply for registration each year. Under Section 23 of the Act, the Council has statutory authority to charge a fee and in this regard the annual teacher registration fee has been set at €90 per teacher per year.

You may wish to note, however, that the outgoing Teaching Council reviewed its financial statements for 2011 and budget for 2012 and decided to recommend that the annual teacher registration renewal fee be reduced from €90 to €65 with effect from 1 January 2013. I have indicated my support for this. The total income from Registration and Assessment Fees for 2011 was €6,783,163.

The Council's income is necessary to meet its statutory obligations. While it is accepted that the Council is not yet in a position to fully discharge its legal functions it is my intention to implement the remaining sections of the Act as soon as is practicable.

Educational Disadvantage

Patrick Nulty

Question:

222 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of wholetime equivalent teaching posts that DEIS secondary chools in the City of Dublin Vocational Education Area will lose in September 2012, in tabular form, taking account of reductions in so called legacy posts, language support teachers, special needs assistants and the integration of guidance teaching hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27382/12]

This Government has protected education as much as it can. Far greater reductions in expenditure and in the number of public servants are being made in other sectors relative to those in schools. But there are limits to the level of expenditure on education and the number of teaching posts we can afford. The Budget 2012 measures in relation to the post-primary sector are set out in the documentation that was published by my Department last December. This envisages a net overall reduction of about 450 posts at post-primary level between the current school year and the 2012/13 school year. This net reduction in posts takes account of the impact of the budget measures, demographics and the budget decision to shelter all the DEIS post-primary schools through a reduced staffing schedule of 18.25:1. This is a 0.75 point reduction compared to the existing PTR of 19:1 that applies in non fee-paying second-level schools.

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

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

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

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

Schools have been advised to make applications to the NCSE for resource teaching and SNA support for the 2012/13 school year by 16th March, 2012. Schools will subsequently be advised by the NCSE of their allocation for the 2012/13 school year, based on the number of valid applications received and in the case of SNA support, the extent of the care needs of qualifying children.

In considering applications for SNA support for the new school year, the NCSE will take into account the individual care needs of all qualifying children, supports freed up due to any school leavers, and the identified care needs of newly enrolled children with special educational needs.

The NCSE will advise schools of their SNA allocation for the 2012/13 school year shortly.

FÁS Training Programmes

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

223 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the procedure that is currently used by FÁS in selecting persons and assessing thier suitability to undertake courses in horticulture as part of reskilling; if FÁS have engaged with representatives of the horticultural industry in terms of candidate selection and course contents; if, as part of the creation of SOLAS, he will require the horticulture industry to be consulted in the re-design of any new courses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27389/12]

The selection of participants for FÁS ‘reskilling' courses is currently a matter for the Department of Social Protection.

Within its Adult Training provision, FÁS currently offers two Horticulture Programmes. One leads to a FETAC Award at Level 4 and the other a FETAC Award at Level 5. These major awards were led by TEAGASC in their development as they are the Authority in Ireland for agriculture and food development, including horticulture.

The forthcoming SOLAS legislation will provide for the dissolution of FÁS and the establishment of SOLAS as a new statutory authority to oversee the Further Education and Training sector. When it is established SOLAS will have strategic responsibility for further education currently delivered by Vocational Education Committees (VECs) and training currently delivered by FÁS. At the present stage of development full details of the day to day operation of SOLAS are still under consideration however, the envisaged remit of SOLAS will include the requirement to consult with the relevant industries for which courses are provided.

Institutes of Technology

Stephen S. Donnelly

Question:

224 Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to a new policy of the Dublin Institute of Technology in relation to job vacancies which states, if you have a current or previous employment relationship in a non-permanent capacity with the Institute, you will not be deemed eligible to apply for this post; his views on whether this complies with the spirit of the European Employment Directive; if it is related as claimed to the employment control framework; if he is concerned about the implications for sustainability of existing research investment by the State and their ability to further invest in niche research expertise at the DIT; if he is further concerned that this will reduce the competitiveness of research in the DIT/ third-level sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27441/12]

As the Deputy will be aware, Institutes of Technology are autonomous bodies and it is a matter for each institution to ensure that their policies and procedures are compliant with employment law. In that regard, I have been informed by Dublin Institute of Technology that it is satisfied that its policy as referred to in the Deputy's question is in accordance with employment law.

I would also like to clarify that the employment control framework operating in the higher education sector at present does not place any restrictions on the number of research posts provided the posts are fully funded from a particular research funding stream.

The Government remains committed to investing in research and innovation. Our higher education institutions have already developed significant research strengths, and through the implementation of the recently published research prioritisation report the Government aims to further enhance our capacity and competitiveness internationally.

Special Educational Needs

Clare Daly

Question:

225 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin regarding their special needs [27442/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department provides for a range of placement options and supports for schools which have enrolled pupils with special educational needs in order to ensure that, wherever a child is enrolled, s/he will have access to an appropriate education.

The enrolment of a child in a school is a matter in the first instance for the parents of the child and the Board of Management of a school. My Department has no role in relation to processing applications for enrolment to schools.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) Special Education Needs Organisers (SENOs) can assist parents to identify appropriate educational placements for children with special educational needs.

Parents may contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs and to seek assistance in identifying placement options, using the contact details available onwww.ncse.ie.

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) can also assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The NEWB will try to help parents to find a school placement if their child has been unable to secure a school placement to date. The NEWB can be contacted at National Educational Welfare Board, National Headquarters, 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7 or by telephone at 01-8738700.

Where a school refuses to enrol a pupil, the school is obliged to inform parents of their right under Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 to appeal that decision to the Secretary General of my Department. Only where an appeal under Section 29 is upheld, may the Secretary General of my Department direct a school to enrol a pupil.

I can also advise that children are eligible for transport under the Department's School Transport Scheme for Children with Special Educational Needs where they have special educational needs arising from a diagnosed disability in accordance with the designation of high and low incidence disability set out in Department of Education and Skill's (DES) Circular 02/05 and where they are attending the nearest recognised: mainstream school, special class/special school or a unit, that is or can be resourced, to meet their special educational needs.

School Transport

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

226 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of students who will be affected by changes to the primary school transport system which will require students to attend their nearest school in order to avail of free transport from September 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27453/12]

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

227 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount of money he is intending to save through changes to the primary school transport rules which requires children to attend their nearest school from September 2012 in order to avail of free transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27454/12]

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

228 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will reverse his plans to change primary school transport rules restricting fee transport to only those students travelling to their nearest school which in many cases will lead to families being divided and students having to break parish boundaries in order to avail of free transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27455/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 226 to 228, inclusive, together.

Changes to the Primary School Transport Scheme were announced in Budget 2011 and derived from recommendations in the Value for Money Review of the Scheme. These changes are being applied equitably on a national basis.

Firstly, I wish to clarify that a school transport charge for eligible primary children was introduced with effect from September 2011. Children who hold valid medical cards (GM scheme) are exempt from paying a charge. The charge applying in the coming school year is €100 or a family maximum of €220.

The Deputy will be aware that from September 2011, the distance criterion of 3.2 kilometres was applied nationally to all children travelling under the primary school transport scheme, including those travelling under the ‘Closed School Rule'.

The second element of the change is scheduled to take effect in September 2012 and will apply only in the case of children commencing their primary education from that date. This second element will restrict school transport eligibility for children entering in September 2012, to those children who meet the distance eligibility criterion and are travelling to their nearest school.

The number of children who may be affected by this second change, and the savings to be achieved as a consequence of the combination of the changes, will not be known until all applications for school transport have been received and assessed by Bus Éireann. However, sample surveys undertaken by Bus Éireann show that the majority of children are in fact attending their nearest school, so this change will not have any practical impact on the majority of children.

Existing eligible children, who are not attending their nearest school, will retain their school transport eligibility for the duration of their primary education cycle provided there are no changes to their current circumstances.

Siblings of these children, who wish to attend the same school, or other children who are not eligible for transport, may apply for concessionary transport subject to a number of terms and conditions.

In this regard, it is worth noting that the annual charge for concessionary tickets will be reduced to €100 for the 2012 school year which is the same charge that applies for eligible tickets.

Question No. 229 answered with Question No. 167.

Schools Building Projects

Michael McGrath

Question:

230 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an extension to a secondary school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27470/12]

The building project referred by the Deputy was included in the 5 year construction programme announced in March and is scheduled to commence construction in 2013.

A stage 2(b) submission was received in the Department in April and following a review by the Department a letter issued to the Design Team. The Department is currently awaiting a response from the Design Team.

The next stage for this project will be progression to tender and construction.

Regulatory Bodies

Seán Crowe

Question:

231 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will explain the purpose of the €11 million that has been generated as surplus by the Teaching Council; the amount of interest this accrues on an annual basis; the way the interest is spent; the number of teachers this might this pay per annum; and the reason the Teaching Council accumulates such a large sums of money. [27473/12]

The Teaching Council's annual accounts for 2011 show a surplus of c. €11m. Of this amount, €4m has been set aside by the Council to cater for contingencies. Interest on funds in 2011 amounted to €252,000 (2010 — €146,000). This interest forms part of the overall income of the Council.

The surplus finance will be used to meet the increased costs of the Council as it expands its role. As is often the case when legislation is introduced, it is on a phased basis. Some of the main functions of the Teaching Council have not yet been commenced. For example, in relation to Fitness to Teach; while this function is not yet commenced, there has been a huge amount of preparatory work done in advance so that the Council will be in a position to undertake this work when the relevant legislative provision is made. This function, along with others such as Probation, Induction and Continuous Professional Development will lead to a significant increase in Council expenditure and staffing needs in the future. I hope to be in a position to commence a number of further sections of the Act within the next 12 months.

The Deputy will be aware that I have publically indicated my support for a recent decision by the Teaching Council to reduce the cost of its registration fee from €90 to €65.

The average cost of hiring a teacher is approximately €60,000.

Seán Crowe

Question:

232 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the criteria that was met in order to qualify for the recently appointed position of Director of the Teaching Council; the salary paid to the Director of the Teaching Council; and the level of consultation there was between his Department and teachers on this appointment. [27474/12]

The recent recruitment of the Director of the Teaching Council was by way of open competition and was carried out in accordance with good human resources practice.

The post of Director of the Teaching Council was advertised on the Public Appointments Service website and also in the National Press.

The salary scale for Post of Director is: €90,355-€110,844 (or as appropriate to the employee's employment history, modified pay scale (€85,957-€105,429).

A comprehensive set of criteria for the post of Director was set out as outlined below:

A proven track record in a senior management role.

Experience of developing and sustaining critical relationships with other public sector bodies.

An understanding of the role and responsibilities of a regulatory body in a complex environment.

A thorough knowledge of the Irish education system.

An appreciation and understanding of the role and work of the Teaching Council.

A career record that demonstrates a high level of competence in conceptual and analytical thinking, financial management and corporate governance.

The capacity to promote the relevance of the Teaching Council among the teaching profession.

As is the norm in public sector recruitment, consultation took place with my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in advance of the process and in relation to the appointment arrangements.

Seán Crowe

Question:

233 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide the figures relating to the number of executive directors who sit on the Teaching Council and to list their individual salaries. [27475/12]

Seán Crowe

Question:

234 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will list the non-elected members of the Teaching Council who are in receipt of and are members appointed by him receiving a salary from the Teaching Council. [27476/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 and 234 together.

There are thirty seven members appointed to the Teaching Council. Under the Teaching Council Act 2001 twenty two members are either directly elected teachers or nominated by teacher trade unions. No salary is paid for being a member of the Council. However, members are entitled to and receive expenses in accordance with Public Service Travel and Subsistence Regulations.

Seán Crowe

Question:

235 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will confirm that there is no facility for teachers to directly contact their elected representative on the Teaching Council. [27477/12]

The Teaching Council is an independent statutory body established by the Teaching Council Act 2001 and my Department is not involved in the day to day affairs of the Council.

The membership of the Council is as set out in the Act. There are 16 elected teachers on the Council. The Council is subject to the normal corporate governance arrangements applicable to public bodies. Neither the Act nor the corporate governance code confers a representative role on individual members. Members of the Council are expected to bring their expert knowledge and professional understanding to the deliberations of the Council.

Communication and consultation with teachers and the public generally is a matter for the Council. It is of course open to any teacher to write to the Council at any time on matters related to Council work.

Seán Crowe

Question:

236 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way the permanent staff of the Teaching Council were first selected and chosen for that position; his view on the view that the Teaching Council should be run by teachers as they are best placed to understand the issues directly affecting members of the teaching profession. [27478/12]

Staff including the original appointees, are recruited by way of open competition, in accordance with norms, procedures and practices which generally apply to appointments to public sector posts.

The composition of the Council provides for teacher representation. Of the 37 member Council, 16 are elected teachers and a further 6 members are nominated by teacher unions. The Council is independent in the discharge of its functions and in its role as regulator of the teaching profession.

Seán Crowe

Question:

237 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason payment from teachers to the Teaching Council have to be paid in a one-off payment and should an option of paying by instalments be available to financially stressed teachers. [27479/12]

The Teaching Council is an independent body established under the Teaching Council Act. Section 33 of the Teaching Council Act deals with the renewal of registration. Renewal of registration involves an application and payment of the renewal fee. The Council is responsible for the administrative arrangements in this matter.

I understand that the Council has in the past provided the option for the payment of the membership subscription through regular deductions from salary. Difficulties arose in the operation of this arrangement which potentially could give rise to questions concerning the registration status of individual teachers. In the light of the planned commencement of Section 30, it was decided to cease the arrangement.

It should be noted that the Council has proposed that the renewal fee will be reduced from €90 to €65 per annum from 1 January 2013 onwards. Where hardship cases arise, these are dealt with on a case by case basis. It is also worth noting that teachers can avail of tax relief on this fee.

Seán Crowe

Question:

238 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way the establishment and the current operation of the Teaching Council benefits teachers, pupils and the citizenry of the Irish State as a whole; if the stated aim of the Teaching Council is to professionalise teaching here; if it is his view that prior to the establishment of the Teaching Council the cohort of teachers was substandard. [27480/12]

Seán Crowe

Question:

240 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide evidence of the benefit of the Teaching Council since its inception with particular reference to teachers, standards of teaching and the results of students results since its establishment. [27482/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 238 and 240 together.

The Teaching Council is the professional standards body for the teaching profession. The Council seeks to set and uphold high professional standards for teaching and teachers. It does this in the interests of pupils and the public good but equally for the reputation and status of the profession. Quality of teaching has been determined as the single most influential factor towards achieving good educational outcomes for students. The work of the Council is focused towards the maintenance and improvement of the standards of teaching and includes:

Developing and implementing a ‘Continuum of Education' which links the professional education and training needs throughout all phases of a teachers career.

Restructuring and extending the programmes of initial teacher education in order that newly qualified teachers are better equipped for the needs of the modern day classroom.

Reviewing and accrediting teacher education programmes.

Putting in place higher qualification and teacher education standards for teachers in the three sectors — Primary, Post-Primary and Further Education.

Putting in place strict good character and Garda vetting requirements.

Publishing a Code of Professional Conduct for teachers (which is currently being revised).

Putting in place induction procedures for newly qualified teachers and a probation process applicable to all newly registered teachers.

Preparing for Fitness to Teach procedures and processes when the Council's powers in this area are commenced by the Minister.

Developing a Continued Professional Development framework for teachers. The individual teacher benefits from being a member of a fully regulated profession. The work of the Council supports teachers in the following key areas:

Protecting standards of entry to the profession, promoting induction processes and fostering best practice in continuing professional development.

Reviewing and accrediting programmes of teacher education.

Promoting research and engaging in debate and discussion on policy issues related to education.

Dealing with complaints as to alleged professional misconduct made against teachers (when Part 5 of the 2001 Act is commenced).

Advising Government on teaching supply and other professional issues.

Enhancing the teacher's individual status and identity by his or her being part of a recognised, collective professional entity, with statutory authority and recognition.

Enhancing the status of the profession and use every opportunity to promote teaching as a career.

Through all of the above the Teaching Council will help teachers to set and maintain the standards for the profession. It is the policy of my Department that all teachers paid from State funds should be registered by the Teaching Council and suitably qualified. The Education (Amendment) Act 2012 which was recently signed by the President paves the way for the commencement of Section 30 of the Teaching Council Act which is part of the progression towards a fully regulated profession.

I am confident that the work of the Council contributes to the quality of educational outcomes for our students.

Seán Crowe

Question:

239 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills in view of the fact that the Teaching Council does not fall under the terms of either the Freedom of Information legislation or the Committee of Public Accounts, the person who has oversight over the Teaching Council and to whom is it accountable. [27481/12]

The Teaching Council Act includes provisions governing membership, funding, accountability and the council's relationship with the Department. The legislation provides for the appointment of a 37 member council. The council has responsibility for operationalising the provisions of the Act and the development of the necessary organisational and collaborative strategies and structures for the effective regulation of the teaching profession. It is responsible for the conduct of its affairs and meeting any obligations arising in this regard.

As a public body, the Teaching Council complies with a range of Government policies and requirements applicable to public bodies generally, including policies on employee numbers and remuneration and corporate governance. Under the Act, the council is a self-funding body but is subject to independent audit and required to publish its accounts, together with its annual report, which are lodged in the Houses each year.

A number of other obligations fall on the Teaching Council which enhance its accountability. It is required to implement the Department's policies on teacher education, probation, qualifications, professional conduct and so on. The approval of the Department is required for the drawing up of regulations in areas such as the election of members, the charging of fees and the registration of teachers. The council is required to provide the Minister with information and advice on matters relating to its functions having regard to resource implications and other relevant matters. In certain circumstances, members of the council may be removed.

Aside from the formal provisions, there is ongoing contact and communication between my Department and the Teaching Council at official level. I meet the Council as required and I am satisfied that the accountability of the council is in order, both in terms of regulation and in practice.

The Council is covered by Freedom of Information legislation. Because of the self funding position of the Council, the terms of reference of the PAC do not extend to it.

Question No. 240 answered with Question No. 238.

School Transport

Sean Conlan

Question:

241 Deputy Seán Conlan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the school bus inspector refuses to allow pupils attending their parish school to travel on the school bus as their house is located 200 meters outside the catchment area (details supplied) [27488/12]

Under the terms of my Department's Primary School Transport Scheme children are eligible for transport where they reside not less than 3.2 kilometres from and are attending their nearest national school, having regard to ethos and language.

Bus Éireann, which operates the school transport schemes on behalf of my Department, has advised that they are not aware of the issue referred to by the Deputy and that all eligible children attending the school in question have a service within guidelines.

If the Deputy wishes to provide more detailed information I will request Bus Éireann to investigate further.

Public Sector Remuneration

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

242 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will direct the Paymaster General to calculate and publish the amount of tax revenue directed in each calendar year since 2007, and the amount budgeted in 2012, for payment of increments to civil and public servants whose remuneration comes entirely from the public purse; if he will direct that the figures be published in tabular form, showing the particular cost incurred per year in respect of increments by grade as follows, higher executive officer, assistant principal officer, principal officer, assistant secretary, secretary general, city or county manager, CEO of a State agency and all equivalent or comparable grades, also any grade the title of which includes one of the following words, senior, specialist, chief, registrar, consultant, inspector, general or advisor, head, director, stiúrthóir, first, governor, principal or manager; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26177/12]

I refer to my replies to Question Nos. 40820/12, 1075/12 and 1076/12 of 11 January 2012.

Pension Provisions

Terence Flanagan

Question:

243 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in view of the fact that there is currently no pension solvency protection for workers, if there is a possibility that responsibility for pension deficits will be passed to the new employers in charge of State assets — leaving them with the decision on whether or not to make up the shortfall or cut the benefits of the members; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26896/12]

Terence Flanagan

Question:

244 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the likely impact of pension deficits on the sale of State assets and indicate if the cost of rectifying these deficits will be deducted from the sale price prior to the proceeds being divided up between debt repayment and stimulus measures, or if they will be dealt with before being put up for sale; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26897/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 243 and 244 together.

The inter-departmental Steering Groups established in respect of each of the State companies listed in the asset disposals programme are taking account of, inter alia, the possible impact of pension deficits on the outcomes of the programme. However, the State is not liable for pension fund deficits arising in commercial state companies. Responsibility for addressing any funding difficulties rests with the trustees of the schemes, the members of the schemes and the companies themselves. I should also point out that these schemes have to meet the minimum funding standard set down by the Pensions Board. As regards the funding standard and its application to individual pension funds or the question of pension solvency protection, these are matters for my colleague the Minister for Social Protection.

Freedom of Information

Patrick Nulty

Question:

245 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if legislation will be brought forward to extend the remit of the Freedom of Information Act to include the National Asset Management Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27490/12]

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

265 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when he expects to publish his revised Freedom of Information Act; the way it differs to the previous amended Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27339/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 245 and 265 together.

The restoration and extension of Freedom of Information (FOI) aims, in line with the Programme for Government commitment, to reverse the substantive restrictions to FOI introduced in 2003 and to extend FOI to all public bodies, including the administrative functions of the Garda Síochána (subject to security exceptions) as well as to non-statutory bodies in receipt of significant funding from the Exchequer.

The current position is that significant work has been undertaken by my Department to examine and assess the key next steps and priorities relating to the implementation of these commitments. My Department is currently considering the responses it has received from other Government Departments in respect of proposals in this area. It is planned to bring proposals to Government in the coming weeks to secure approval to draft amending FOI legislation. Extension of the remit of the Freedom of Information Act to include the National Asset Management Agency will be considered by Government in this context.

Ministerial Staff

Billy Kelleher

Question:

246 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the names of each special adviser whom he approved a pay increase in excess of the Government cap and the amount involved in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26196/12]

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

Property Valuations

Anne Ferris

Question:

247 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when revaluations of commercial properties for the purpose of commercial rates will take place in County Wicklow; if there is a pilot revaluation scheme using the self assessment approach in place; if it has been possible to outsource some of the work; when legislation is due to be published on the Valuation (Amendment) Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26272/12]

As I informed the Deputy in a previous reply, the Commissioner of Valuation is independent in the performance of his functions under the Valuation Act, 2001 and the making of valuations for rating is his sole prerogative. The statute does not accord me as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform any function in this regard.

In accordance with the Act, a revaluation programme which began in November 2005 in the greater Dublin area is ongoing, the current emphasis being in the Dublin City Council area which commenced in May, 2011 involving the valuation of approximately 25,000 properties and which is expected to be completed in 2013.

As part of the roll-out of the revaluation programme to other local authority areas, the Commissioner signed the valuation orders for Waterford City, Waterford County and Dungarvan Town Council areas on 12th December, 2011 and Limerick City and County on 29th March, 2012. The Waterford and Limerick revaluations will be completed in 2013 and 2014 respectively. It is intended to extend the revaluation programme to further local authority areas as soon as it is practicable to do so but it is not possible at present to say where these areas will be.

The Commissioner had indicated that, with the intention of speeding up the revaluation work, two pilot schemes were to be undertaken on outsourcing some of the work and exploring the introduction of a self-assessment scheme. The enabling provisions to allow for the start-up of these schemes were included in legislative proposals approved by Government on 6th December, 2011 and as a consequence, planning for their initiation is currently underway in the Valuation Office.

Significant work has already been done on the formulation of amending legislation to streamline and improve the valuation system and the Heads of a Bill, having been approved by Government, are now with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting of the Bill with a view towards its publication as part of the Government's legislative programme at the earliest opportunity.

State Property

Michael McCarthy

Question:

248 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding a proposal by a local community to utilise a closed Garda station for alternative purposes (details supplied); when a decision will be made on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26287/12]

The Office of Public Works (OPW) is currently assessing the property options arising in respect of the recently closed Garda Station in Castletownshend, County Cork.

This assessment will include other potential State uses for the property. If the property is considered surplus to requirements, the OPW will consider options including disposal on the open market and consideration of any viable local proposals in the matter.

Public Sector Remuneration

Derek Keating

Question:

249 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide in tabular form the number of civil servants employed in the State who are earning less than €30,000 per annum; the number of civil servants in the State who are earning less than €20,000 per annum; the number of public servants in the State and of these the number of these who are earning less than €60,000, €40,000 and less than €30,000 per annum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26300/12]

I refer to my reply to Question No. 1329/12 of 11 January 2012.

Coastal Protection

Brendan Griffin

Question:

250 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if works (details supplied) will be considered for funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26372/12]

The Office of Public Works is not responsible for the maintenance of the Glosha embankments at Cromane, which are located at the south — east end of the Cromane spit.

However, it is open to Kerry County Council to submit a funding application under the OPW's Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme for works at this location. Any application received will be considered by OPW under the scheme eligibility criteria and having regard to the availability of resources.

Croke Park Agreement

Micheál Martin

Question:

251 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will report on any meetings he or his officials attended on the Croke Park Agreement recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21420/12]

Micheál Martin

Question:

252 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the role his Department has in relation to implementation of the Croke Park agreement both internally and across all other Governments Departments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21302/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 251 and 252 together.

The Implementation Body for the Public Service Agreement was established in July 2010 to oversee progress on implementation of the agreed reform and flexibility measures across all sectors of the public service and to ensure that robust and verifiable reforms are secured, which lead to sustainable savings in the cost of public service delivery. I have been in contact with the Body on number of occasions since I became Minister, and the secretariat is provided by my Department.

The secretariat supports the Body in carrying out its remit including co-ordination of the progress reporting required by the Body from the various sectors of the Public Service. The Body also comprises of nominees from Public Service Management, which are represented by officials from my Department.

Both I and officials of my Department regularly meet with senior management from other Departments, sectoral representatives and staff representatives regarding the implementation of commitments under the Agreement.

The Implementation Body is currently carrying out its second Annual Review of the Croke Park Agreement. I expect to receive the final report from the Body later this month and, following its consideration by Government, it will be published and laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

EU Funding

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

253 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will report on his recent meeting with the European Investment Bank; if any proposals for new public private partnerships were discussed at the meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25623/12]

Both myself and my colleague the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, met with officials of the European Investment Bank in Brussels recently to discuss a range of issues. Those talks were very successful and we made good progress on many grounds. The EIB were very positive towards Ireland and made a firm commitment to continue to support Irish infrastructure projects. Following these discussions, officials of my department are continuing to engage with the EIB and other potential investors in order to secure additional funding for Irish infrastructure projects in order to supplement the €17bn Exchequer capital framework. Since coming into office, the current Government has been working on a range of measures to create employment and help stimulate economic growth and investment in infrastructure is just one area through which this will be achieved.

Croke Park Agreement

Seán Crowe

Question:

254 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide an update on proposals to change the sick leave entitlements of public servants, including teachers; and his views on whether these proposals, if implemented, include a significant reduction in the availability of uncertified and certified leave. [25784/12]

As part of the Croke Park Agreement management and staff representatives have agreed to work together to deliver increased productivity and maximise efficiencies in the delivery of public services. It is estimated that the direct cost of sick leave across the public service is over €500m. The State is no longer in a financial position to be able to sustain the cost of the existing sick leave. It is the view of public service management that a reduction in the amount of paid sick leave across the public service will result in increased productivity, a reduction in the cost of sick leave and improved morale. Therefore management has made proposals to reduce the arrangements for paid sick leave across the public service, including the arrangements for teachers.

The Labour Relations Commission is facilitating discussions between the management side and public service unions on proposals to change sick leave provisions across the public service, including teachers. Discussions are ongoing.

State Procurement Process

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

255 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will outline further steps that he intends to take to ensure that small and medium enterprises can fully engage with the State procurement process [20904/12]

I am very aware that public procurement can be an important source of business for local enterprises. Current guidelines (Circular 10/10) issued by my Department require public bodies to promote participation of small and medium-sized enterprises in the award of public contracts. These guidelines set out positive measures that contracting authorities are to take to promote SME involvement in a manner that is consistent with the principles and rules of the existing public procurement regulatory regime. The guidance also highlights practices that are to be avoided because they can unjustifiably hinder small businesses in competing for public contracts. The key provisions of the guidance include:

supplies and general services contracts with an estimated value of €25,000 or more to be advertised on thewww.etenders.gov.ie website;

less use of "restrictive" tendering procedures and greater use of "open" tendering;

ensuring that the levels set by contracting authorities for suitability criteria are justified and proportionate to the needs of the contract;

sub-dividing larger requirements into lots where this is practical and can be done without compromising efficiency and value for money.

Circular 10/10 has been in place for almost two years. It is clear that there is a need to ensure greater consistency in relation to the implementation of this circular. In this regard, the National Procurement Service (NPS) recently established a Working Group on Small and Medium Enterprises to respond to public procurement issues arising for SMEs. The Working Group consists of representatives from the NPS, the Health Service Executive, the Irish Business and Employers Federation, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association, Chambers Ireland, and the Small Firms Association. The Working Group will develop measures to highlight the scope that contracting authorities have under circular 10/10 to encourage SME participation in public procurement processes.

Flood Relief

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

256 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if funds will be made available to South Dublin County Council for the replacement of the footbridge (details supplied) destroyed by recent flooding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26605/12]

The Office of Public Works received an application in April this year from South Dublin County Council under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works Scheme for funding of €100,000 to undertake works to the bridge concerned.

Following an assessment of the application, it was determined that the condition of the structure does not give rise to a flood risk. As such, the project was deemed ineligible for funding under the Scheme and South Dublin County Council was advised accordingly on 15th May, 2012.

Legislative Programme

Patrick Nulty

Question:

257 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the current position regarding the Construction Contracts Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26621/12]

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to introduce new legislation to protect small building subcontractors that have been denied payments from bigger companies. In this regard, my colleague Minister of State Brian Hayes is working with Senator Feargal Quinn to develop the Senator's private member's Construction Contracts Bill into a robust piece of legislation. The Bill is now at Second Stage in the Dáil.

During the Second Stage reading of the Bill, Minister Hayes signalled to the House his intention to bring proposals to Government on Committee Stage amendments dealing with the following issues:

Thresholds:

In order to ensure that the legislation applies to the majority of Construction Contracts the scope of the legislation will be broadened by reducing or removing the current monetary thresholds contained in the Bill.

Adjudication:

This issue of making adjudication awards binding for both the public and private sectors is a complex issue. It is important to strike the right balance between giving this legislation the necessary enforcement provisions, whilst ensuring that the application of the legislation is equitable and the taxpayer is safeguarded.

Supplies:

Proposals are being developed to broaden the scope of the legislation to include bespoke construction supply contracts. However, as I understand it, this is likely to be difficult to define in a manner that is easy to interpret.

When these and a number of other technical issues have been examined, Minister Hayes will bring proposals to Government in advance of Committee Stage. This is an important piece of legislation aimed at creating a more level playing field between contractor and subcontractor in the construction sector. Therefore it is essential that these complex issues are properly assessed so as to avoid imposing unnecessary regulatory or cost burdens on parties in dispute, the State or others.

Departmental Funding

Niall Collins

Question:

258 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the amount of funding committed to in his Department for capital projects; if he will provide details of the projects and funding committed; the funds that have been drawn down for the projects; when the balance will be drawn down; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26636/12]

My Department does not have any capital projects. My Department has a 2012 capital budget of €500,000 which is for normal expenditure on new and replacement hardware to expand and maintain the countrywide Government Network infrastructure that is used for communications by all of the public service. This budget will be drawn down as required over the course of the year.

National Monuments

Robert Troy

Question:

259 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the new arrangements being made regarding opening times of the national heritage sites to facilitate tour coaches trying to showcase as much as possible in a short timeframe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21678/12]

The Office of Public Works is responsible for the care and management of approximately 780 National Monuments and Historic Properties that are in State ownership. A guide service on a seasonal or year-round basis is provided at 70 sites. Details of the opening times and facilities on each site are available onwww.heritageireland.ie. There have been no significant changes to the existing arrangements at guided sites.

All tour operators who are members of the tour operator voucher scheme avail of the discounted rate of admission to our heritage sites. Advance booking is necessary at sites to ensure that the tour group will have an allocated time for their visit. OPW acknowledges the importance of welcoming tour groups to the sites under its care and takes all possible steps to ensure their visit highlights Ireland's rich heritage.

Exchequer Savings

Alan Farrell

Question:

260 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide the proposed savings to the Exchequer from the establishment of the Human Resources Shared Service Centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26839/12]

The Government recently decided to proceed with the implementation of a HR Shared Service Centre (HRSSC) for the Civil Service. The HRSSC will carry out the transactional elements of HR, freeing up staff in Departments, Offices and Agencies to focus on more strategic HR activities. It currently costs the Civil Service €85.6m annually to deliver HR services to 40 bodies. It is estimated that, once fully operational, the implementation of the Human Resources Shared Service Centre (HRSSC) will result in annual savings of €12.5m.

The Civil Service wide Human Resources Shared Service Centre is a key priority and a significant milestone in achieving the Government's commitment to introduce the Shared Service model in a number of areas. This initiative will result in the provision of a high quality and professional HR function at significantly reduced cost and will free up staff in Departments, Offices and Agencies to focus on providing key services. The Government is committed to realising the significant benefits that can be achieved using the shared service model and there will be a keen focus on realising these benefits for the taxpayer.

State Property

Barry Cowen

Question:

261 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform following the recent closure of Geashil Garda Station, County Offaly his plans to make available the former Garda Station to local community groups in the Geashil area. [26875/12]

The Office of Public Works (OPW) is currently assessing the property options arising in respect of the recently closed Garda Station in Geashill, County Offaly.

This assessment will include other potential State uses for the property. If the property is considered surplus to requirements, the OPW will consider options including disposal on the open market and consideration of any viable local proposals in the matter.

Ministerial Appointments

Robert Troy

Question:

262 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will outline all staff appointments he has made since last March; the name of those appointed; their positions; their salaries; if any of these appointees are former retired public servants and in receipt of a pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26960/12]

I have not made any staff appointments in my Department since last March.

Industrial Relations

Clare Daly

Question:

263 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his views on the vetoing by his Department of the terms of a settlement successfully brokered by the Labour Relations Commission between staff and management at the National Museums of Ireland compensating low paid staff for rostering changes; if there are any precedents of compensatory arrangements honoured by employers in the civil and public service which fall outside the terms of the Croke Park agreement. [27030/12]

The issue raised by the Deputy is a matter more appropriately addressed by my colleague, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht under whose remit the National Museum of Ireland falls and in conjunction with whom internal industrial relations concerning that body are dealt with in the first instance.

Ombudsman for Children

David Stanton

Question:

264 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his views on increasing the remit of the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27205/12]

The Deputy will be aware that the Programme for Government contains a commitment to extend the remit of the Ombudsman to ensure that all statutory bodies, and all bodies significantly funded from the public purse, are covered. The next steps in implementing this commitment will be the development of specific proposals relating to the extension of the remit of the Ombudsman in line with the Programme for Government commitment. The remit of the Ombudsman for Children is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

Question No. 265 answered with Question No. 245.

Public Sector Remuneration

Patrick Nulty

Question:

266 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of public sector workers earning less than €20,000, €30,000, €40,000, €50,000, €60,000, €70,000, €80,000, €90,000 and €100,000 per annum and earning more than €100,000 per annum, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27379/12]

Patrick Nulty

Question:

267 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of public sector workers who received an annual increment payment in 2011 earning less than €20,000, €30,000, €40,000, €50,000, €60,000, €70,000, €80,000, €90,000 and €100,000 per annum, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27380/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 266 and 267 together.

I refer to my replies to Question Nos. 1329/12, 40820/12, 1075/12 and 1076/12 of 11 January 2012.

National Monuments

Brendan Griffin

Question:

268 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will enter into negotiations with the landowner regarding the future of the birthplace of Daniel O’Connell at Caherciveen, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27408/12]

The Office of Public Works is responsible for the care, conservation and management of 768 National Monuments that are in State ownership. The birthplace of Daniel O'Connell is not a National Monument designated under the National Monuments Acts and OPW has no plans to engage with the landowner regarding the acquisition of this property.

The acquisition of National Monument sites is a matter for the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

Prompt Payments System

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

269 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the strategies in place to speed up payments due to small and medium enterprises from Government Departments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26766/12]

Since 2009, Central Government Departments have been improving their respective payment times, so as to assist the cash flow of businesses, and are obliged to pay their suppliers within 15 days of receipt of a valid invoice. This 15 day prompt payment rule was introduced by Government on an administrative basis.

Departments are required to report quarterly to my Department on their performance in meeting this target. To date, 11 sets of Quarterly returns have been published on my Department's websitewww.djei.ie . The returns for the first Quarter of 2012 were published on the 3rd of May. These Returns show that in value terms 88% of invoices were paid within 15 days for that quarter.

The ongoing publication of these composite returns by my Department provides clarity in relation to the performance of individual Departments in meeting the terms of the Government Decision.

As part of the commitments in the EU/IMF Programme for Ireland, the 15 day prompt payment rule was extended beyond central Government Departments and rolled out to the Health Service Executive, the Local Authorities, State Agencies, and all other Public Sector Bodies, (excluding Commercial Semi-State bodies), in respect of valid invoices received, on or after, 1 July 2011.

As part of this new extended arrangement, parent Departments are required to publish on their respective websites Quarterly composite reports covering those bodies under their aegis. The individual bodies covered by this arrangement are also required to publish their own Quarterly reports on their websites.

These new reporting arrangements should ensure that all Ministers will be able to monitor the performance of the bodies under their aegis and will enable them to address any issues with those bodies who are not meeting these obligations.

Any Small Businesses experiencing difficulties in securing payments should, in the first instance, approach the Government Department or State body concerned. Any failures to comply with the initiative can also be brought to the attention of the relevant Minister with responsibility for the body concerned.

Under Key Actions Points Nos. 3.44 and 7.13.2 of the Action Plan for Jobs, and to support compliance with the new 15 day Prompt Payment requirement for all public sector bodies and agencies (excluding commercial Semi-State bodies), the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation published the Prompt Payment Official Notice on its website on the 20 March 2012.

Small Businesses can attach this Official Notice of the new payment requirements to relevant invoices. Small businesses themselves should refer instances of non-adherence to the relevant Government Department, public sector body and State Agency. Copies of this Notice are also available on the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation website.

Employment Rights

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

270 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on whether there is a need to address rigidities in the market by reducing the degree of employment protection for permanent jobs. [26903/12]

It is important to maintain an appropriate balance in terms of labour market flexibility and protection of employees and this is something that is constantly under review.

The most recent evidence supporting the view that Ireland is among the least rigid labour markets is available from the OECD's most recent report on the subject of employment protection and the extent of its rigidity across OECD member states. Entitled "Legislation, Collective Bargaining and enforcement: Updating the OECD employment protection indicators (http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/36/9/43116624.pdf), the report ranks Ireland among those member states with the least stringent employment protection systems. On a scale of 0-6, where 0 was the least stringent and 6 the most stringent system, Ireland scored 1.39 overall. This indicator was made up of three sub-indicators:

1. Protection of permanent workers against (individual) dismissal.

2. Specific requirements for collective dismissal.

3. Regulation on temporary forms of employment.

There have been no changes to Irish legislation governing either of the first two sub-indicators (unfair dismissal or collective redundancies) in the period since the OECD report was published in 2008.

In respect of the third OECD sub-indicator (legislation governing temporary employment), the Protection of Employees (Temporary Agency Work) Act, enacted last month, transposes an EU Directive to provide equal treatment between agency workers and directly recruited workers in terms of basic pay and employment conditions.

Even allowing for this legislative change since 2008, I am not convinced that Ireland's rigidity score would be significantly impacted relative to other OECD members, many of whom, as EU Members, were also obliged to transpose the Directive on Temporary Agency Work.

The OECD's analysis that Ireland is not excessively rigid in the application of employment protections is further supported by the report of the World Competitiveness Rankings for 2012 (http://www.imd.org/research/publications/wcy/upload/scoreboard.pdf), released last week by the Swiss Business School, IMD. This report ranked Ireland as Number One globally for the flexibility and adaptability of its workforce. In my view, this is recognition that Ireland is maintaining an appropriate balance between flexibility and protection in our labour market regulation.

I am aware that some EU member states, particularly Scandanavian countries, have pursued a "flexicurity" model, whereby greater flexibilities are available for employers in the termination of staff contracts. However, such a system is only viable where there are complementary balancing measures. Typically a feature of such models is significantly enhanced social protection measures, including generous and sustained income supports, an option that is not feasible in an Irish context in the current economic climate.

National Minimum Wage

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

271 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on whether the minimum wage should be reduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26904/12]

The current Programme for Government contained a commitment to reverse the €1 per hour reduction in the National Minimum Wage introduced by the previous Government on 1 February 2011.

The increase was provided for in the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2011 and effected by the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 (Section 11) (No. 2) Order 2011 on July 1st 2011.

The restoration of the National Minimum Wage to €8.65 per hour represents a significant commitment by the Government to protect the lowest paid and most vulnerable workers. The Government does not have any plans for further adjustments to the National Minimum Wage.

Departmental Funding

Finian McGrath

Question:

272 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the supports or grants available to a business (details supplied) in Dublin 1. [27194/12]

My Department does not provide direct funding or grants to businesses but provides funding to a number of State Agencies, including the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) and Enterprise Ireland, through whom assistance is delivered directly to businesses. The role of Dublin City Enterprise Board as part of the network of CEBs is to develop indigenous potential and stimulate economic activity at a local level primarily through the provision of financial and technical support for the development of small and micro-enterprises.

The promoter may therefore initially wish to contact Dublin City Enterprise Board to discuss what options may be available to them and their proposed business venture. Dublin City Enterprise Board is located on 5th Floor, O'Connell Bridge House, D'Olier Street, Dublin 2; Phone No: 01 6351144, Fax No: 01 6351811: Email:info@dceb.ie Website: www.dceb.ie

Departmental Agencies

Jim Daly

Question:

273 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if Enterprise Ireland has a vested interest in a company (details supplied); if this is compliant with competition regulations with reference to other similar trading companies competing for similar business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27407/12]

The company concerned is a client company of Enterprise Ireland and the company have been supported as part of the enterprise development agenda of the agency. I am informed by the agency that the supports provided to the company are fully compliant with Irish legislation and EU State Aid rules.

Enterprise Support Services

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

274 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if she will consider providing a financial package access to credit which would assist in the set up costs for persons in receipt of social welfare who want to start up a business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27584/12]

The Programme for Government details a commitment to establish a Microfinance Loan Fund targeted at start-up, newly established or growing micro-enterprises across all industry. The Action Plan for Jobs reconfirms this commitment. It is generally accepted that lack of credit severely restricts opportunities to create and support micro enterprises and in so doing help reduce unemployment.

When viewed in a macroeconomic context, microfinance is a very cost effective job creation/protection mechanism generating a high rate of return. In many cases the business promoters and any other staff hired come from the unemployed ranks and are therefore drawing State benefits. Existing employees who choose the entrepreneurial route and set up their own business are also likely to create a residual employment opportunity in their previous organisation.

The Microfinance Fund is designed to stimulate lending to sustainable microenterprises and is targeted at start-up, newly established, or growing micro enterprises across all industry sectors, employing not more than 10 people. It will provide loans of up to €25,000 for commercially viable proposals that do not meet the conventional risk criteria applied by commercial banks. This is part of the Government response to the unmet demand in Ireland for micro-finance.

The Government has approved the allocation of €10 million as seed capital for the Fund. It is anticipated that the Fund will supplement this seed capital by leveraging further funding from private sources, including the banks.

The €10m allocation, supplemented by €15m bank borrowing in tranches of €5m over years 2,3 and 4, will generate €40m in loan expenditure and create 3,800 jobs over a 5 year period. This is based on €8.8m of loan demand and 20% Bad Debts and will greatly assist employment in the microenterprise sector. Finalisation of the required legislation to establish the Fund is on-going and subject to completion of all administrative and corporate governance requirements, it is anticipated that the Loan Fund will become operational in Quarter 3 of this year.

Furthermore, I would bring the Deputies attention to self-employment supports from the Department of Social Welfare. People who are getting social welfare payments can keep all or part of their payment for a time after becoming self-employed if they take part in one of the Enterprise Allowance schemes. There are two schemes: the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance Scheme and the Short-Term Enterprise Allowance Scheme.

Approval normally involves an interview to assess the viability of the proposed project and to provide advice on funding, start your own business courses or other relevant aspects of self-employment.

Employment Rights

Seán Kyne

Question:

275 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation while recognising the very positive measures contained in the proposals to create a world-class Workplace Relations Service, whether the absence of legal advice or representation for claimants might mitigate against the principles of fairness, balance and equality which ought to underpin such a service. [26148/12]

The position in relation to legal advice or representation for complainants will not be changed in any way on foot of the reform.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) will, among other matters, incorporate the proactive information functions, currently discharged by the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA), in relation to informing employers and employees in respect of employment rights and responsibilities with a particular emphasis on complying with employment law and avoiding and resolving disputes.

As is currently the case the provision of such information will not extend to the merits or otherwise of individual complaints or cases. It would not be appropriate for a body which also has an adjudicative role to provide advice to individual complainants.

The Equality Authority (and its proposed successor the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission) will continue to provide advice and advocacy to individuals in relation to equality matters.

The position in relation to representation at hearings of the WRC and Labour Court will be in line with existing arrangements and provisions insofar as the Rights Commissioners, Equality Tribunal, Employment Appeals Tribunal and Labour Court are concerned in that parties will be free to represent themselves or be represented by a person of their choosing.

My aim is to ensure that hearings are conducted in a fair and balanced manner to the highest standards.

Proposed Legislation

Niall Collins

Question:

276 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he sees any merit in introducing a Media Mergers Bill separate from the Competition Bill: if he will detail his meetings with the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on the matter; the dates of the meetings: the discussions that took place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26246/12]

I see no merit in proceeding with stand-alone legislation on media mergers. Following a Government decision, the Consumer and Competition Bill is currently being drafted which will give effect to,inter alia , the recommendations of the Advisory Group on Media Mergers. The media mergers provisions will complement the overall merger and acquisition provisions which will be updated in this Bill.

Discussions have taken place between officials in my Department and in the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources whilst I have been in written communication with my colleague the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on the matter.

Job Creation

Willie O'Dea

Question:

277 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide in tabular form the number of jobs created by Enterprise Ireland and the Industrial Development Agency sponsored companies in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26247/12]

Willie O'Dea

Question:

280 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the projected number of jobs created by the Industrial Development Agency and Enterprise Ireland backed companies in 2012; the projection for 2012 this time last year; the projection for 2013; the numbers created in each of the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26537/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 277 and 280 together.

Figures in respect of the number of jobs created in firms assisted by IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland are published each year in the Annual Report for those agencies and are available on the websiteswww.idaireland.ie and www.enterprise-ireland.com respectively. In 2011, 11,594 jobs were created in IDA Ireland assisted companies and 9,038 were created in Enterprise Ireland assisted companies.

In 2012, the projection for new jobs to be created in IDA Ireland assisted companies is 12,500 and the projection for new jobs to be created in Enterprise Ireland assisted companies is 10,300. These projections are broadly similar to those made for 2012 at this time last year.

The Government's Action Plan for Jobs has set a target of supporting the creation of 100,000 net new jobs over the period 2012 to 2016, with the longer term objective of having 2 million people at work by 2020. I recently announced the progress which has been made in this regard so far this year. Meanwhile, I am already getting suggestions and proposals in relation to preparing the Action Plan for 2013, which I am examining and will bring to Government later this year.

Public Service Contracts

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

278 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if his attention has been drawn the fact that Dun Laoghaire Rathdown libraries have stopped their contract with a company (details supplied) and awarded the contract to an English company; if he acknowledges that this will possibly result in job losses as well as further jeopardising Irish writers published in Ireland; his plans to implement incentives which seek to help protect the Irish publishing industry from tenders sought abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26251/12]

It would not be appropriate for me to comment on specific contracts in the procurement process. Any issues or queries concerning the award of a particular contract should be addressed by the company in question to the procuring authority.

Public procurement policy is primarily a matter for the Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Mr. Brian Hayes, T.D.

Public procurement policy is aimed at ensuring that all public sector purchasing is carried out in a manner that is legal, transparent, and secures optimal value for money for the taxpayer. It is a basic principle of public procurement that a competitive process should be used. As a Member State of the EU, we are also obliged to observe the principles of the free movement of goods and services within the Single Market.

Under EU Directives, contracting authorities are obliged to advertise contracts valued above certain thresholds in the Official Journal of the European Union. The threshold for supplies and general services is currently €125,000. In addition, national guidelines in Ireland stipulate that all contracts for supplies and general services with an estimated value of €25,000 and upwards are to be advertised on the national tenders website,www.etenders.ie. It is open to any interested party to submit a tender for consideration in response to advertisements at EU or national level.

Ultimately, the award of any particular contract is a matter for the procuring authority in question, having regard to the content of the tenders received and the criteria under which they are assessed.

Work Permits

Regina Doherty

Question:

279 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will consider lifting working visa restrictions for skilled non-EU nationals (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26367/12]

The Government has no plans at present to lift employment permits restrictions for non-EU nationals nor does it see that the current policy impedes inward investment. Visas are a matter for my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality.

It is current Government policy to issue new employment permits in respect of jobs requiring key skills and where there is a recognised scarcity of suitably skilled workers. The issue of any employment permit is predicated on a job offer from a prospective Irish employer who has made every effort to recruit an Irish or EEA national for the post. In considering applications the Department takes cognisance of applications submitted with the support of the IDA.

For specified highly skilled and strategically important occupations, where a skills shortage exists, Green Card employment permits may be issued. The Green Card permit is issued to the employee and allows his or her employment in the State by the named employer in the occupation specified on the permit. It may be issued for a period of two years. The employee may apply for immediate family re-unification and an application for long-term residence may be made after two years. No labour market needs test (e.g. newspaper and FÁS/EURES advertising) is required prior to making an application. Sensibly, it is a requirement that no more than 50% of staff employed by a company in Ireland may be employment permits holders.

The Department also operates an Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) scheme. This scheme is designed to facilitate the transfer of senior management, key personnel or trainees who are foreign nationals from an overseas branch of a multinational corporation to its Irish branch. Only 5% of the workforce may have ICT Permits. However for startups this may be waived on a case by case basis for an initial period. No labour market needs test is required in respect of an application for an Intra-Company Transfer permit. Certain criteria apply in the case of ICTs.

Application forms and information in relation to the criteria that apply in the case of all employment permit types including green cards and ICTs are available on my Department's website.

Question No. 280 answered with Question No. 277.

International Conventions

Gerald Nash

Question:

281 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he intends, in view of the requirement under the International Labour Organisation’s constitution to submit adopted conventions to national parliaments within one year of their adoption by the organisation, to submit convention 189 on the rights of domestic workers to Dáil Éireann before 16 June; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26612/12]

I welcome the successful outcome of discussions at the International Labour Conference (ILC) in June 2011 that led to the adoption of a new International labour standard aimed at ensuring Decent Work for Domestic Workers.

The final text of the draft Convention was one that the Irish Government was in a position to support and the Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers has become ILO Convention No. 189, supplemented by a Recommendation.

The question of ratification by Ireland of this — or indeed any — international Convention must be considered from the perspective of any amendments that may be required to existing domestic legislation, as well as the cost implications for both the State and private enterprise, if any, arising from ratification, including enforcement arrangements.

My Department is in the process of assessing the implications of the Convention from these perspectives, including any amendments that may be necessary to existing employment rights legislation which numbers in excess of thirty Statutes, together with associated Regulations and Statutory Instruments.

The date to which the Deputy refers derives from Article 19 of the ILO Constitution which provides that Member States "should bring the Convention before the authority or authorities within whose competence the matter lies for the enactment of legislation or other action”. It is not yet clear that legislation will be required in this case and therefore the question as to whether there will be a legislative role for the Houses of the Oireachtas is not certain.

Nevertheless, I intend to communicate in the near future with the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Jobs Enterprise and Innovation in order to apprise the Committee of the content of the Convention and to provide an update on the process to date.

However, it is important to note that, in the meantime, domestic workers are protected by virtue of the fact that the full suite of employment rights legislation, including that of redress for violations of their employment rights, apply to domestic workers in the same way as they apply to other categories of employees in Ireland.

A voluntary Code of Practice for Persons Employed in Other People's Homes was developed under the Industrial Relations Act 1990. The Code sets out certain employment rights and practices for persons employed in other people's homes and encourages good practice and compliance with the law in such employment situations. In any proceedings before a court, or a workplace relations dispute resolution body, a code of practice shall be admissible in evidence and any provision of the code which appears to the court, body or officer concerned to be relevant to any question arising in the proceedings shall be taken into account in determining that question.

It is also worth pointing out that NERA has carried out a programme of inspections involving domestic workers, as well as continuing to respond to any complaints it receives from domestic workers.

Departmental Funding

Niall Collins

Question:

282 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the amount of funding committed to in his Department for capital projects; if he will provide details of the projects and funding committed; the funds that have been drawn down for the projects; when the balance will be drawn down; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26634/12]

Capital funding allocated to my Department's Vote is primarily expended through various agencies under the remit of my Department, including IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland, Shannon Development, Inter Trade Ireland, the National Standards Authority of Ireland and the 35 City and County Enterprise Boards. Capital funding of €10 million has also been allocated for expenditure by my Department in 2012 in respect of the Micro Finance Loan Fund.

The funding provided to the agencies is used to operate programmes that provide a range of grants, supports and financial facilities to clients. Capital funding also covers the maintenance and development of the agencies' buildings and upgrading of equipment. The funding provided in respect of the Microfinance Loan Fund will provide loans to start-up, newly established, or growing microenterprises.

The Gross Exchequer Capital Allocation for 2012 for the Department and these agencies is set out in the Table overleaf. Expenditure across all Subhead lines is closely monitored by my Department; at the end of April €102 million had been expended from the Capital budget and I anticipate that the 2012 allocation will be spent in full at year end, bearing unforeseen timing issues that may arise with regard to particular projects.

The operation of programmes funded through capital expenditure in my Department's Vote is a day-to-day matter for the agencies concerned. Details of the programmes and projects, which involve many hundreds of clients, are available in the agencies' Annual Reports and on their websites.

Capital Allocation 2012

Agency

2012 Capital Allocation €000

IntertradeIreland

6,000

IDA — Grant to Industry

85,000

IDA — Building Operations

1,000

EI — Grant to Industry

69,500

EI — Capital

1,000

SFADCo

5,000

S and T Development Programmes

291,200

Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI)

26,800

County Enterprise Development

15,000

INTERREG Enterprise Development

3,000

NSAI — Capital

500

Micro Finance Loan Fund

10,000

Total

514,000

Industrial Development

Gerald Nash

Question:

283 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of Industrial Development Agency sponsored site visits to locations in Drogheda, County Louth, including the IDA Business Park, Drogheda, County Meath in 2009, 2010 and 2011 respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26640/12]

I am informed by IDA Ireland that statistics in relation to site visits by potential investors are maintained on a county by county basis only. In the three year period 2009 to 2011 inclusive, there have been a total of 83 IDA sponsored site visits by potential investors to County Louth. The number of such visits paid in each of those years is set out in the attached tabular statement.

The global economy and, in particular, the European economy, which is the primary target market for foreign direct investment (FDI) clients in Ireland, is in a low growth phase. The challenge for IDA is to win FDI in this low growth environment. In addition, there is the intense and continual international competition to win this FDI, which is mainly dominated by Metro City Regions with populations in excess of 1 million people i.e. London, Manchester, Boston, Los Angeles etc. Ireland has only one Metro Region, the Greater Dublin area.

In order to achieve balanced regional development IDA focuses on marketing Gateway locations within each Region as the areas of critical mass. IDA also highlights the opportunities provided by Hub locations, which are within commuting distances of these Gateways. In addition, IDA will promote other locations as part of its marketing efforts in response to specific client requirements and enquiries on an opportunistic basis. With the improved infrastructure now in place, a significant number of people commute within the North East Region, of which Dundalk is the Gateway, and IDA considers a project win in one town in the region to have a positive impact on the other surrounding areas due to the close proximity of all main locations.

IDA has 21 client companies in County Louth employing in the region of 1,500 people. So far this year there have been two job announcements for County Louth with the potential to create a further 1,200 jobs over the coming 3/4 years which will almost double the numbers employed in IDA client companies. In April, Diaceutics, an international business consulting and software application firm specialising in personalised medicine, announced the creation of 20 new jobs over 3 years in Dundalk, while in February, PayPal, the leading global online payments company, announced the creation of 1,000 jobs over the next four years at its new European Operations Centre also in Dundalk. This new Centre will open in July 2012.

This achievement by IDA in securing these investments has to be recognised as an enormous boost for the economy of the Region as a whole.

Table showing the number of IDA sponsored site visits by potential investors to County Louth in each of the 3 years 2009, 2010 and 2011

Year

Number of site visits

2009

33

2010

27

2011

23

Industrial Relations

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

284 Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on the deliberate failure by companies to abide by Labour Court judgements; if he intends to take any action in relation to these cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26720/12]

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.

Recommendations of the Labour Court are not legally binding. Neither the Labour Court, nor I, can compel a company to comply with such recommendations. Ultimately, responsibility for the settlement of a trade dispute rests with the parties involved.

Employment Rights

Patrick Nulty

Question:

285 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will confirm that a company (details supplied) in Dublin 6 must ensure that workers are paid their entitlements back-dated to the 5 December in line with the company’s obligations under the Temporary Agency Work Directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26745/12]

The Protection of Employees (Temporary Agency Work) 2012 Act transposed EU Directive 2008/104/EC on Temporary Agency Work into Irish law. The Act provides for equal treatment in terms of basic working and employment conditions for agency workers, as defined in the Act, as if they were employees recruited directly by the Hirer to do the same or similar job. The Act covers

(a) Basic pay.

(b) Working time.

(c) Rest periods.

(d) Rest breaks during the working day.

(e) Night work.

(f) Overtime.

(g) Annual leave.

(h) Public holidays.

(i) Access to collective facilities and amenities (e.g. canteen, childcare and transport facilities).

(j) Access to information on vacancies in the hirer company.

The provisions in relation to "pay" for agency workers on assignment on 5 December 2011 have retrospective effect to 5 December, 2011 (the date of transposition of the Directive). In respect of agency workers that commenced assignment after 5 December 2011 but before the Act came into effect, the provisions in the legislation relating to "pay" have effect from the date of assignment.

The Act provides a derogation from the principle of equal treatment in relation to ‘pay' in respect of agency workers who hold a permanent contract of employment with an employment agency. For this derogation to apply:

The agency worker must be notified of the implications of the derogation in writing in advance of signing their contract of employment.

The contract of employment must include a statement to that effect.

The agency worker must be paid between assignments at a rate of no less than half of the pay they were entitled to in respect of their most recent assignment (not less than the National Minimum Wage).

In relation to all other entitlements, the legislation is effective from the date of enactment of the Act. "Pay" is defined in the Act as basic pay, and any pay in excess of basic pay in respect of, shift work, piece work, overtime, unsocial hours worked or hours worked on a Sunday but does not include sick pay, payments under any pension scheme or arrangement, occupational social security schemes or financial participation schemes.

The Act does not prescribe the rate of pay other than to require that the rate of pay for the agency worker should be the same as that which applies to a direct employee of the hirer recruited to the same or a similar job. This must have regard for established pay scales, collective agreements, terms and conditions of employment etc. that apply in enactments, collective agreements or any arrangements that apply generally in respect of employees or to a class of employees. The Act specifically allows for the application of arrangements whereby agency workers are entitled to conditions that are better than the basic working and employment conditions provided in the Act.

The hirer is obliged to provide relevant information to allow the Agency to comply with the legislation. Should proceedings in relation to a contravention of the Act be brought by the employee against the agency and the contravention is attributable to the failure by the hirer to provide information as prescribed then the hirer shall indemnify the employment agency in respect of any loss incurred by agency that is attributable to such failure.

Complaints in respect of contraventions of the Act may be presented to the Rights Commissioners within 6 months of the date of the contravention and up to 18 months where reasonable cause for not presenting the case is shown.

Job Creation

Alan Farrell

Question:

286 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the total number of jobs created since March 2011 as a result of investment and initiatives provided by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26843/12]

The figures in respect of jobs in Enterprise Development agency-supported companies and those supported by the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) are compiled in the Forfás Annual Employment Survey and the CEB Annual Employment Survey respectively. As the information is compiled on an annualised basis, the figures in respect of 2011 as a whole are set out in the table accompanying this reply.

No. of Jobs Created in 2011 in Companies supported by the Enterprise Development agencies and the County and City Enterprise Boards

Enterprise Ireland

IDA Ireland

Shannon Development

County and City Enterprise Boards

9,038

11,594

406

7,253

County Enterprise Boards

Alan Farrell

Question:

287 Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his plans for the County Enterprise Board structure, including its staff, premises and operations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26851/12]

The Government has approved the restructuring of the existing micro and small enterprise support mechanisms with a view to creating an enhanced national enterprise support model. The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation will remain responsible for national enterprise policy and budgets but under the new model, enterprise supports will be delivered at local level by a network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), situated in the Local Authorities .

As agreed by Government, the CEBs will be dissolved in their current legal format and their functions, assets and liabilities transferred to Enterprise Ireland (EI). EI is being mandated to work with the Local Authorities to develop benchmarks for service delivery and enterprise supports as well as appropriate structures and delivery models for the LEOs. In this regard, a detailed formal Service Level Agreement (SLA) will be put in place between Enterprise Ireland and the Local Authorities which will set out how the new enterprise support model will operate in practice. The existing staff of the CEBs will be an integral part of the new arrangements.

An Implementation Working Group (IWG) has been set up under the auspices of my Department for the purpose of directing the practical implementation of the Government decision. The IWG will be comprised of all key stakeholders including the City and County Managers Association (CCMA), the CEBs, Enterprise Ireland (EI), the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG), the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) and my own Department. In conjunction with this, my Department is engaging with the Office of the Attorney General regarding the legal and legislative aspects of giving effect to the new arrangements.

Work Permits

Nicky McFadden

Question:

288 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when a decision may be expected on the work permit appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26865/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that this Spousal/Dependant Permit application was refused on the 14th March 2012 on the grounds that it appeared that the proposed employee had already been working in the company without having a valid employment permit. Furthermore, additional information requested from the applicant had not been provided and there appeared to be a discrepancy in the information provided in relation to the numbers of EEA and non-EEA nationals currently employed.

An appeal in respect of this decision was received in the Employment Permits Section on the 5th April 2012. The Appeals Officer is currently examining appeals received on the 2nd April 2012 and this appeal will be examined in sequence.

Job Protection

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

289 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to a company (details supplied), if he will detail if he or his Department have had any discussions with the company regarding the future of the jobs currently located here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26899/12]

Neither I myself nor any officials in my Department have had any discussions with this company in relation to the future of their operation here. In addition, in relation to IDA Ireland, while that Agency welcomed the decision of the company to locate in Ireland, it was not IDA policy to target gambling related companies through grant aid at that time. IDA has had no contact with the company since.

Industrial Disputes

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

290 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps he will take to ensure that there will never be a repeat of the treatment that the workers in the Vita Cortex plant in Cork had to endure for nearly six months and that no workers in Ireland should ever be put through this situation again; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26940/12]

I welcome the fact that a mutually acceptable resolution was found to bring an end to the long running dispute at the Vita Cortex factory. I am conscious of the toll that the events have taken on the workers and their families since 16 December 2011 when 32 workers began the sit-in at the factory arising from a dispute with their former employer over extra-statutory redundancy payments.

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 endeavor, through genuine and constructive negotiations, to resolve their differences.

Ultimately, responsibility for the settlement of a trade dispute rests with the parties involved, which was the case in the Vita Cortex dispute.

Ministerial Appointments

Robert Troy

Question:

291 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will outline all staff appointments he has made since last March; the name of those appointed; their positions; their salaries; if any of these appointees are former retired public servants and in receipt of a pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26958/12]

I assume that the Deputy is referring to appointments to my private Office. I confirm that I have made no such appointments in the period since March 2012.

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

292 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide details of the full annual remuneration of the chief executive officer of Science Foundation Ireland. [27016/12]

The salary sanctioned by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform for the Director General of Science Foundation Ireland, Professor Mark Ferguson, is €189,115 gross per annum. This includes a personal pension contribution rate. Professor Ferguson commenced in the post on 16th January 2012.

Industrial Development

Frank Feighan

Question:

293 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the action he is taking in conjunction with the Industrial Development Agency Ireland to promote and market an Industrial Development Agency site in Roscommon town as a superb location for investment of manufacturing centre based on recent upgrade and investment in infrastructure, broadband and other services. [27118/12]

The provision of property and infrastructural solutions is a key element of IDA Ireland's offerings to potential investors to the regions. The strategy of developing and maintaining lands and property solutions in advance of securing new mobile investments has been a fundamental differentiator in IDA's marketing efforts with overseas clients.

I am informed by IDA that its Roscommon Business and Technology Park, which is located on Racecourse Road, extends to approximately 13 Ha, of which in the region of 7 Ha remains available for promotion. The Park is fully Masterplanned and is maintained to a Flagship Standard with on-going landscape maintenance contracts in place. The Park is available not only to facilitate Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and investments made by indigenous industry supported by Enterprise Ireland, but is also potentially available to facilitate other investments and to act as a catalyst for employment generation in the region. Such investments need not necessarily be supported by either IDA or Enterprise Ireland.

There is intense and continual international competition to win FDI, which is mainly dominated by Metro City Regions with populations in excess of 1 million i.e. London, Manchester, Boston and Los Angeles. Ireland has one Metro Region, the Greater Dublin area. In order to achieve regional economic development, IDA focuses on marketing Gateway locations within each Region as the areas of critical mass and highlights the opportunities provided by Hub locations which are within commuting distances of these Gateways. IDA's Midlands Region consists of the counties of Roscommon, Westmeath, Offaly, Laois and Longford. With the improved infrastructure now in place, a significant number of people commute within the Midlands Region and IDA considers a project win in one Midlands town to have a positive impact on the other surrounding areas due to the close proximity of all main locations.

IDA also promotes Roscommon town to potential overseas investors through its network of overseas offices and in response to specific client requirements but, in the final analysis, it is the investor who decides in all cases where to locate.

Meanwhile, we must not lose sight of the fact that at present there are 900 people employed in IDA supported companies in County Roscommon.

Work Permits

Regina Doherty

Question:

294 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will review the application for work permits (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27197/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that this Work Permit application was refused on the 9th February 2012. An appeal was received in respect of this decision on the 1st March 2012 and the decision to refuse this application was upheld on 2nd May 2012.

As the application has now been refused on appeal there is no further action that can be taken in this instance. However, it is possible for the applicant to apply again including supplementary arguments as to how the granting of employment permits would result in additional employment.

Job Creation

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

295 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the total number of new jobs created in the economy in the past 18 months; the way this compares with earlier periods since 2008; if he will indicate the skills levels required for these jobs; if he is satisfied regarding the competitiveness of the economy and the sustainability of the jobs so far created; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27512/12]

The figures in respect of jobs in Enterprise Development agency-supported companies and those supported by the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) are compiled in the Forfás Annual Employment Survey and the CEB Annual Employment Survey respectively on an annualised basis.

The figures in respect of jobs created in Enterprise Development agency-supported companies and those in companies assisted by the CEBs are set out in Table 1 accompanying this reply. As there are no figures available in respect of jobs created in CEB-supported companies prior to 2011, details of jobs existing in those companies from 2008 to 2010 inclusive are set out in Table 2. There is no information available specific to skills requirements.

The jobs created with agency and CEB assistance contribute greatly to the development of local economies throughout the country and, in addition, the agencies and CEBs work closely with their clients both in the early start-up stages of businesses and also to ensure the sustainability of those businesses through on-going support, advice and mentoring.

The National Competitiveness Council (NCC) has pointed out that Ireland has become significantly more cost competitive since 2008. The World Economic Forum rankings showed Ireland's position holding steady last September (where we stayed at 29th out of 134 countries), with the Institute for Management Development (IMD) Work Competitiveness Yearbook released last week showing Ireland's headline position recovering back into the top 20 (up from 24th in 2011, out of 59 countries). The IMD places Ireland in the top 10 in relation to our business efficiency. This mirrors our 10th position overall in the World Bank's "Doing Business" listings (out of 183 countries). Both of these are a good foundation to build on in seeking, as I have regularly outlined in recent months, our Government's ambition to make Ireland the "Best small country in which to do business". We have jumped ahead of a number of other small countries in the latest results, such as Belgium and New Zealand. We need to make sure that we tackle those remaining areas where we can best support our enterprises and our people.

To make that happen, we need companies, employers, entrepreneurs and innovators who are all viable and thriving, and an enterprise environment that is supportive of their efforts, allowing enterprise and creativity to flourish and quality employment opportunities to be grown and maintained. Many of the actions which we are pursuing through the "Action Plan for Jobs 2012" are aimed at improving Ireland's overall competitiveness — reducing costs and ensuring that the enterprise environment (regulation, infrastructure, availability of skills) are all supportive of those companies which can sustain and create jobs.

Table 1

No. of Jobs Created between 2008 and 2011 in Companies supported by the Enterprise Development agencies and the County and City Enterprise Boards

Year

Enterprise Ireland

IDA Ireland

Shannon Development

County and City Enterprise Boards

2008

13,885

9,203

576

2009

8,463

5,239

260

2010

10,966

9,075

347

2011

9,038

11,594

406

7,253

Table 2

Year

2008

2009

2010

Jobs existing in CEB-supported companiesBased on CEB Annual Employment Survey

33,811

30,726.5

32,910

Job Creation

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

296 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the full extent of foreign direct investment here on a quarterly basis in each of the past three years to date in 2012; the total likely number of jobs to arise therefrom; the main considerations by foreign investors when investing here; the likely trends in the future; if he is satisfied regarding the competitiveness of the Irish economy for the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27298/12]

Statistics relating to foreign direct investment ( FDI) are reported on an annual basis and are published in the IDA's Annual Report. The number of FDI investments won for this country , together with the number of new jobs created in IDA client companies in each of the years 2009, 2010 and 2011 is set out on the tabular statement below.

When deciding on investment locations, Foreign Direct Investors look at the entire business environment in a country, for example: Competitiveness, Market access, Education and skills, Infrastructure, Political and regulatory environment and tax rates. On a global scale, Ireland scores extremely well in many of the key areas of importance to investors. In addition to political stability and a highly attractive corporate tax rate, Ireland has a young, well educated workforce, growing levels of R&D activity, a modern internationally trading enterprise base and a long track record as a successful location for overseas investment.

2011 saw a strong performance in the level of FDI won by Ireland. IDA Ireland client companies created over 13,000 new jobs despite the current global economic situation and a strong increase in international competition. In accordance with the Government's Action Plan for Jobs, IDA Ireland is working to target another 144 new FDI investment projects in 2012, which will create 12,500 new jobs with an associated 8,750 in the wider economy, giving a total impact of 21,250 this year. Up to the end of May 2012, there have been 44 IDA announcements with in excess of 5,000 jobs.

The National Competitiveness Council has pointed out that Ireland has become significantly more cost competitive since 2008. The World Economic Forum rankings showed Ireland's position holding steady last September (where we stayed at 29th out of 134 countries), with the IMD Work Competitiveness Yearbook released last week showing Ireland's headline position recovering back into the top 20 (up from 24th in 2011, out of 59 countries). We are now ranked:

1st for skilled labour and for flexibility and adaptability.

2nd for lack of protectionism and for foreign investors.

3rd for labour productivity and for exports of commercial services.

4th for real corporate taxes.

5th for inward investment flows.

10th for business efficiency, up 8 places from 2011.

The Taoiseach has set the ambition that by 2016 Ireland will be the best small country in the world in which to do business, and the Government has started to implement our plan to deliver on this. Through the Action Plan for Jobs, we are implementing a raft of changes to reduce costs to business, improve access to finance and encourage greater innovation and in the coming months I will be developing a list of areas in which Ireland's performance is lagging internationally and a plan to address this.

Many of the actions which we are pursuing through the "Action Plan for Jobs 2012" are aimed at improving Ireland's overall competitiveness — reducing costs and ensuring that the enterprise environment (regulation, infrastructure, availability of skills) are all supportive of those companies which can sustain and create jobs.

Table showing the number of investments won and new jobs created in IDA supported companies in each of the years 2009, 2010 and 2011

Year

Jobs Created

Number of Investments won

2009

3,568

125

2010

11,224

126

2011

13,068

148

Seamus Kirk

Question:

297 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his plans to examine the labour intensive sectors of the economy; his further plans to stimulate employment in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27306/12]

The 2012 Action Plan for Jobs identifies a number of key economic sectors which the Government will focus on to promote employment opportunities. These sectors include Construction, Manufacturing, Wholesale and Retail, and Tourism, all of which are labour intensive.

The Action Plan identifies a number of specific actions to facilitate the development of these sectors.

Among the key actions identified for the Construction sector is the development of a National Strategy to 2015, which will outline the opportunities, challenges and actions needed to realise the potential of the sector. Work has already commenced on this Strategy, and initial consultations have taken place with key stakeholders.

In relation to Manufacturing, the Government has committed to establishing a Manufacturing Development Forum to assist in identifying the needs of manufacturing enterprises and to progress a transformation agenda in the sector. The Government will also develop a long term vision for the Manufacturing sector and put in place a strategic plan to deliver this vision.

A number of measures have already been introduced by the Government to support the Tourism sector, including a reduction in VAT rates from 13.5% to 9% on many hospitality services to the end of 2013, and the launch of The Gathering, which will take place in 2013 and will be Ireland's biggest ever tourism initiative.

The Action Plan for Jobs also includes a range of measures which will impact positively on the retail and wholesale sectors, including the reform of statutory wage setting mechanisms, simplification and extension of the Employer Job (PRSI) Incentive Scheme, as well as the implementation of a number of the recommendations of the Advisory Group on Small Business.

Progress on the specific deliverables under the Action Plan for Jobs will be published on a Quarterly basis. I anticipate that some of the measures I have outlined above will lead to further initiatives being undertaken in 2013 in relation to the sectors in question. Any such initiatives will be included in the 2013 Action Plan for Jobs.

Social Welfare Appeals

Patrick Deering

Question:

298 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Carlow who have applied to become guardians of their grandchild. [26427/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 8th September 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office and the case has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

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

Employment Support Services

Billy Timmins

Question:

299 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Social Protection her views on correspondence regarding the JobBridge scheme (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26978/12]

The National Internship Scheme was launched on 1st July 2011. It provides internship opportunities of either 6 or 9 months for unemployed individuals 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. As at 24th May 2012, 7,316 internship placements have commenced since the launch of the Scheme in July 2011. There are currently 4,825 interns undertaking internship placements. In addition, there are in excess of 1,800 internship posts currently advertised on the JobBridge website www.jobbridge.ie

The eligibility to access the National Internship Scheme is based on the overall objective of labour market policy in ensuring a pathway to appropriate employment, training and education opportunities.

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

For these reasons, it has been proposed as a matter of public policy that eligibility for the scheme be targeted at those in receipt of a Live Claim (Jobseekers Allowance/Jobseekers Benefit/One Parent Family Payment/Disability Allowance/Signing for Credits) for 78 days of the last 6 months. Time spent on certain government sponsored training may also be taken into account when calculating eligibility. As such, the policy objective is to prioritise scarce resources to those in receipt of a Live Claim or on the Live Register so as to increase their chances of leaving it thereby ensuring a reduction in Exchequer costs over time.

It is not currently proposed to broaden the eligibility criteria of the scheme beyond the current requirements. My Department will however continue to monitor all aspects of the Scheme on an ongoing basis.

Redundancy Payments

Jim Daly

Question:

300 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 282 of 7 March 2012, when a person (details supplied) will be paid their redundancy payment which was due at the end of the month of April; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26140/12]

A redundancy lump sum claim in respect of the person concerned has been awarded and a cheque payment has issued.

Social Welfare Benefits

Charles Flanagan

Question:

301 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the carer’s allowance section at present is only dealing with applications lodged last July or August; her plans to deal with the backlog with a view to speeding up the process in view of the difficult financial situation many persons find themselves in; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26150/12]

The Department is committed to delivering the best possible service to its customers. In the interests of fairness and equity applications are processed 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 essential focus of certain staff resources will continue until the completion of the modernisation project 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 8,670 new applications registered and awaiting a decision and approximately 360 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, the Department is allocating additional resources in the form of overtime working and temporary staff to help reduce backlogs that have built up. However, it is expected to be a number of months before the backlog is reduced to an acceptable level.

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

Social Welfare Appeals

Brendan Griffin

Question:

302 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on a jobseeker’s benefit appeal will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26151/12]

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

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 file has been requested to be returned to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. On receipt of this file, the Appeals Officer will 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.

Brendan Griffin

Question:

303 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an appeal of outstanding jobseeker’s allowance payments in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26152/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 23rd September 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office and the case has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

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

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

304 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will re-examine the case of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly who has had their rent allowance withdrawn; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26157/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 3rd 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. 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.

Colm Keaveney

Question:

305 Deputy Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will confirm a date on which the Department plans to conclude the review for a disability payment appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway. [26163/12]

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 he was medically unsuitable for the allowance. An appeal was registered on 21st February 2012 and in accordance with the statutory procedures the relevant department papers and the comments 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.

Social Welfare Code

Simon Harris

Question:

306 Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason domiciliary care allowance ceased without any notice or review in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26168/12]

The age limit for receipt of domiciliary care allowance (DCA) is 16 years. As the child in question reached the age of 16 years in December 2011, DCA was no longer payable. A letter issued in September 2011 advising that payment of the allowance was due to end in December and that the person concerned could apply for disability allowance in their own right.

Social Welfare Appeals

Colm Keaveney

Question:

307 Deputy Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Galway may expect a decision in relation to an appeal in respect of an over payment of social welfare for qualified children. [26173/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 13th December 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office and the case has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

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

Education Schemes

Sean Conlan

Question:

308 Deputy Seán Conlan asked the Minister for Social Protection if any person in the State has ever received back to education allowance to study theology; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26178/12]

The back to education scheme (BTEA) covers a large range of full-time courses of education in approved colleges spanning basic foundation courses to third level courses across all disciplines, including,inter alia, theology mentioned in the question. Courses may be pursued up to and including a higher diploma level in any discipline [level 8 in the national framework of qualifications (NFQ)] or to a professional diploma in education (primary and secondary teaching; level 8 in NFQ).

Data on individuals who availed of BTEA to study theology is not available.

Social Welfare Benefits

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

309 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding the non-payment of rental allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26180/12]