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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 21 Jun 2012

Vol. 769 No. 3

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.

Overseas Missions

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

11 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to any discussion being held regarding deployment of the Austro-German EU battlegroup; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30058/12]

Ireland is committed to participation in the Austro-German led Battlegroup, which will be on stand-by from 1 July 2012 to 31 December 2012. In 2010, the then Government approved Ireland's participation in this Battlegroup. The other members of the Austro-German Battlegroup are Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Our contribution will be a Reconnaissance Company together with staff posts at both the Operational and Force headquarters amounting to approximately 175 personnel. Leading up to and during the standby period one officer has been deployed to the Battlegroup Headquarters in Ulm, Germany. This officer is engaged in training and planning activities.

Any decision by Ireland to participate in a specific Battlegroup operation is subject to our national sovereign decision-making procedures —"Triple Lock", i.e. UN mandate, Government and Dáil approval. The issue of Battlegroup usability and flexibility has been discussed at the EU Defence Ministers meetings I have attended. Also, within the EU itself, a number of committees, including the Political and Security Committee and the EU Military Committee, keep the issue of Battlegroup response under constant review in consultation with all EU Member States. Any decision to deploy the Austro-German Battlegroup will continue to be taken by unanimity by the Council of the European Union. In addition, Ireland will retain the sovereign right to decide on participation in any crisis management mission involving the Austro-German Battlegroup. There have not been any discussions to date regarding any particular deployment of the Austro-German EU Battlegroup.

Overseas Missions

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

12 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Defence the role that the Irish Defence Forces will play in the UN mission in Syria: if their preparation has changed in view of the deteriorating in the situation there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29944/12]

The United Nations Security Council authorized the establishment, for an initial period of 90 days, of a supervision mission, known as the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS). The purpose of the mission is to monitor a cessation of armed violence "in all its forms by all parties" in Syria. The new mission is also tasked with monitoring the full implementation of the six-point plan proposed by Joint Special Envoy for the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Mr. Kofi Annan. On 24th April 2012, the Government approved the deployment of up to six members of the Permanent Defence Force as unarmed military observers to UNSMIS, in response to a request from the United Nations. Six Defence Forces personnel were deployed to the mission area on 11 May 2012. The role of the Irish personnel is to observe and report on the security situation, and any transgressions of the ceasefire agreement and the implementation of the six-point plan.

However, over the weekend, General Robert Mood, Head of the mission announced that UNSMIS had suspended its activities owing to an intensification of armed violence across the country in the preceding days. Currently, UN observers are not conducting patrols and are staying in their locations until further notice, and engagement with the parties is being restricted. The suspension of the mission is being reviewed on a daily basis by the UN with operations resuming when the situation is fit for the observers to carry out their activities. As with all missions where Defence Forces personnel are deployed, the security situation in Syria will continue to be monitored closely by the Defence Forces to ensure the security of the Irish personnel deployed to the mission.

Defence Forces Reserve

Clare Daly

Question:

13 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Defence if he will review the implementation of the moratorium on recruitment and promotion in the Reserve Defence Forces. [29848/12]

Recruitment to the Reserve Defence Force (RDF) is ongoing but limited due to resource constraints. The current budgetary provision provides for approximately 30,000 paid training man days. In 2011 and 2012, I sanctioned paid training man days to include support for the training of new recruits to the RDF. This was sufficient to train approximately 400 recruits during 2011 and 2012. The military authorities manage recruitment in this context. The numbers actually enlisted in any one year may not reflect the numbers of recruits trained in that year. In 2011 there were a total of 267 reservists enlisted and up to the end of May 2012 there have been a total of 85 enlistments to the RDF.

In October 2011 I agreed to sanction limited promotions within the RDF to bring the current strength in all ranks to 70% of the established strength in each rank as provided for in Defence Force regulations CS 4. In the case of promotions from Private to Corporal, the sanction provided that promotions could be made which brought strength to 60% of the established strength as provided for in Defence Force regulations CS 4. I also indicated that any ranks where the strength was at or above 70% (or 60% in the case of Corporal Rank) would not be considered for promotion. In considering the issue of promotions for the RDF I was mindful of the fact that a Value for Money view of the serve is ongoing. Additionally I had to have regard to the Comprehensive view of Expenditure which was underway at the time and which placed a requirement on Government Departments to identify opportunities for savings across all aspects of business. The position agreed by me in October last remains in place.

European Defence Agency

Brian Stanley

Question:

14 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Defence if he has participated in discussions regarding the possible establishment of an operation headquarters for common defence and security policy structures; the financial implications such a development would have in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30060/12]

On 23 March 2012, the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union decided to activate, for the first time, an EU Operations Centre in Brussels. The purpose of the Centre is to improve coordination and strengthen civil-military synergies between three Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions in the Horn of Africa. The EU is currently conducting two military operations in the Horn of Africa.

1. Operation EUNAVFOR ATALANTA, which protects humanitarian aid shipments and fights piracy off the Somali coast and

2. EUTM Somalia, which contributes to the training of Somali security forces in Uganda. Ireland plays a leading role in the EUTM Somalia mission contributing ten Defence Forces personnel, including the Mission Commander Colonel Michael Beary.

The third mission, currently in planning is a civilian mission, which will include expert military support personnel, designed to strengthen maritime capacities in the region (EUCAP NESTOR). These three missions fall within the context of the EU Strategic Framework for the Horn of Africa, adopted on 14 November 2011.

The EU Operations Centre has six tasks as follows:

support the Civilian Operations Commander in Brussels for the operational planning and conduct of the upcoming EUCAP NESTOR mission;

support the EUTM Mission Commander, based in Kampala (Uganda) and enhance strategic coordination between EUTM Somalia and the other CSDP missions in the Horn of Africa.

liaise with Operation EUNAVFOR ATALANTA, whose Headquarters is in Northwood, UK;

provide support to the EU's Crisis Management and Planning Directorate (CMPD);

facilitate interaction between the Horn of Africa CSDP missions and operation and the Brussels-based structures;

facilitate coordination and improve synergies amongst EUNAVFOR Operation ATALANTA, EUTM Somalia and EUCAP NESTOR, in the context of the Horn of Africa Strategy and in liaison with the European Union Special Representative for the Horn of Africa.

The EU Operations Centre will not have command responsibility, but will fully respect the existing civil and military chains of command for the various missions. The Council appointed Navy Captain Ad van der Linde (of the Royal Netherlands Navy) as the first Head of the activated EU Operations Centre. Capt van der Linde has a dedicated staff of some sixteen personnel. The Operations Centre will be active for an initial period of two years, which may be extended if the Council so decides. Its activities and financing will be regularly reviewed. There are no financial implications for Ireland from the establishment of the EU Operations Centre.

Question No. 15 answered with Question No. 9.

Army Barracks

Sean Fleming

Question:

16 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Defence the progress he has made with the future of closed Army barrack sites in Mullingar, Clonmel, Castlebar and Cavan; if any progress has been made on these plans; the consultations that have occurred with the local community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29955/12]

As I have previously outlined to the House the consolidation of the Defence Forces formations into a smaller number of locations is a key objective in the ongoing defence modernisation programme and has been recommended in many reports over the past number of years. This was a key consideration of Government in addressing this issue as releasing personnel from security and support functions enables the operational capacity of the Defence Forces to be maintained notwithstanding the fall in strength. As with previous rounds of consolidation under the Defence Forces modernisation programme, barracks once vacated are being disposed of with the proceeds being used to fund the upgrading of Defence Forces equipment and infrastructure.

Since the announcement of the Government decision on barrack closures my Department has written to each Government Department and various agencies and local authorities seeking expressions of interest in acquiring any of the properties to benefit the local community as a whole but with particular emphasis on job creation measures. As a result I can confirm that agreement has been reached with Mayo County Council for the purchase of Mitchell Barracks Castlebar. The Council has already taken over the property under a caretaker agreement pending full completion of the necessary legal paperwork to complete the transfer of Title.

There have also been discussions between officials from my Department and a number of other State agencies in relation to the sale of Kickham Barracks Clonmel, and Cavan; however these discussions are still ongoing. Some discussion has also taken place in relation to Mullingar Barracks; however no substantial progress has been made towards achieving a sale. I can assure you that every effort will be made to dispose of the barracks so as to maximize the benefits to the local community.

Military Archives

Michael Moynihan

Question:

17 Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Defence the progress he has made in furthering plans to develop the military archives; his plans to digitise the offline records of the archive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29963/12]

The Military Archives are located in Cathal Brugha Barracks, Rathmines, Dublin 6. The Military Archives are the designated place of deposit for the records of the Department of Defence, the Defence Forces and the Army Pensions Board under the terms of the National Archives Act 1986. Archives are held there and, because of space constraints, in other locations. The function of the Military Archives is to collect, preserve and make available material relating to the history of the development of the Defence Forces from the formation of the Irish Volunteers in November 1913 up to the present day, inclusive of Defence Forces' overseas service with the United Nations from 1958. The Archives also hold the Bureau of Military History collection.

The digitisation of records is an ongoing process in the Military Archives. Collections digitised so far include a collection of maps, plans and drawings of various posts and barracks around the country. The digitisation of the collection known as the Bureau of Military History is currently underway. Additionally, a Military Service Pensions Archive project is underway to process approximately 300,000 military service pension files covering the Easter 1916 Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War. The purpose of this project is to make the records for this period available to the public and to historians in time for the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising in 2016. This is a principal project of the Government centenary commemoration programme.

The requirement for a more suitable home for the Military Archives has been recognised for some time. The long-term accommodation for the Military Archives is being reviewed in the context of the Government Centenary Programme and the Military Service Pensions Archive project.

Question No. 18 answered with Question No. 9.
Question No. 19 answered with Question No. 10.
Question No. 20 answered with Question No. 9.

Defence Forces Deployment

Brian Stanley

Question:

21 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Defence if he will provide an update on Air Corps activity in supporting the National Parks and Wildlife Service; the number of times that the Air Corps aircraft have been used to assist the NPWS during each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30064/12]

To assist the NPWS in its role in securing the conservation of a representative range of ecosystems and to maintain and enhance populations of flora and fauna in Ireland, the Air Corps provides transport for NPWS personnel in order to facilitate surveys of species that are difficult to view from the ground or at sea, such as waterfowl, seals and deer, as well as surveys of habitats such as cliffs and uplands which are difficult to access. As part of the national effort to ensure Ireland's compliance with the EU ban on turf cutting in Special Areas of Conservation, Air Corps aircraft have also been used recently to transport NPWS personnel to monitor these areas.

These services are provided to the NPWS as the need arises and within the available capability of the Air Corps, having regard to both current and contingent operational commitments. Details of NPWS missions flown by the Air Corps for the past five years are presented in the tabular statement below:

Year

Missions Flown

2007

21

2008

15

2009

37

2010

10

2011

32

2012 (to date)

36

Question No. 22 answered with Question No. 9.

Cyber Security Policy

Dessie Ellis

Question:

23 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Defence if he will provide details of any meeting he has had with the Department of Communications, Energy and National Resources on the issue of cyber security policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30061/12]

My colleague the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources is devising a national cyber security policy aimed at protecting economic infrastructure, informing and assisting citizens. The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources regularly briefs the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning on matters relating to this policy and on cyber security issues more generally. In the first instance, each State agency, business and individual should take every precaution with regard to their security. Awareness of security, the risks and available safeguards, should be seen as the first line of defence for the security of information systems and networks.

I am aware of considerable activity in this regard and my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, has undertaken a number of awareness campaigns aimed at individuals, SMEs, the education sector, the public sector and business and most recently launched "Make IT Secure 2012", the latest campaign in the public awareness initiative on the safe use of the internet.

As Chairman of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning, I regularly receive briefings on progress regarding the ongoing work in relation to cyber security. The most recent briefing was at the meeting of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning on Monday last. Obviously it would be inappropriate to go into any detail on this ongoing work for security reasons but I can inform the Deputy that an Inter-Departmental Cyber Security Committee is being established and the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning will continue to be regularly briefed through the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

The Defence Forces have also provided assistance in relation to national cyber security response. In the context of the roles of the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces, considerable resources are invested in minimising the threats associated with cyber attack and malicious security breaches. This includes investment in training and comprehensive measures with regard to the security of Defence Forces information and communications systems when deployed, in Ireland and overseas. Details of measures taken are not publicised again for security reasons.

Separately, as Minister for Justice and Equality, I can advise that the European Commission published a proposal for a Directive on attacks against Information Systems in September 2010 and the Department of Justice and Equality is closely engaged in the progress of this proposal.

Overseas Missions

Michael Colreavy

Question:

24 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Defence if he will withdraw Irish Defence Force personnel from Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30063/12]

On 20 December 2001, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1386 under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, authorising the establishment of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. Ireland has participated in the NATO-led UN mandated mission since 5 July 2002, following the Government Decision of 2 July 2002, authorising the provision of seven (7) members of the Permanent Defence Force for service with the force. Since 2002, the Government has reviewed and approved, on an annual basis, the continued participation by seven (7) members of the Permanent Defence Force in ISAF. Participation in the mission is subject to ongoing review.

On 21 May 2012, at its summit in Chicago, NATO endorsed an exit strategy that calls for handing control of Afghanistan's security to its own security forces by the middle of 2013 and for the withdrawal of most of the 130,000 foreign troops serving with ISAF by the end of 2014. It is proposed that the seven Defence Forces personnel will continue to serve with ISAF in the immediate future, subject to ongoing review. However, as the mission downsizes and ISAF HQ staff are withdrawn, Irish personnel will be withdrawn from the ISAF mission.

Question No. 25 answered with Question No. 9.

Army Barracks

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

26 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he has examined all possible options and alternatives to the proposed closure of a further number of military installations throughout the country having particular regard to the impact of closures imposed by his predecessors; if it is recognised that the savings projected by his predecessors were not in all cases fully realised when considered against the negative economic impact on regional areas and the possible weakening of traditional structures and military presence; if he will take these matters to the forefront in the context of any future plans for the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30034/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

130 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the lessons learned, if any, following the previous closure of various military barracks throughout the country by his predecessors; if the economic benefits (details supplied) were in fact realised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30230/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

131 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the number of military barracks closed, decommissioned or downgraded and-or subsequently disposed of by his predecessors in the period 1998 to 2010; if the then Administration had cited any particular objective and-or benefit or otherwise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30231/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

132 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if in the context of any discussion he expects to have with the military authorities, it is likely that the possible closure of further military barracks occasioned by economic circumstances can be alleviated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30232/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

136 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the usage proposed or current use of the various military barracks closed by his predecessors in the years 1998 to 2010; if the original objectives were met in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30236/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 26, 130 to 132, inclusive, and 136 together.

As I have previously outlined to the House the consolidation of the Defence Forces formations into a smaller number of locations is a key objective in the ongoing defence modernisation programme and has been recommended in many reports over the past number of years. This was a key consideration of Government in addressing this issue as releasing personnel from security and support functions enables the operational capacity of the Defence Forces to be maintained notwithstanding the fall in strength. As with previous rounds of consolidation under the Defence Forces modernisation programme barracks, once vacated, are being disposed of with the proceeds being used to fund the upgrading of Defence Forces equipment and infrastructure.

Since 1998 there have been 3 major barrack consolidation programmes. In July 1998 the then Government announced the closure of 6 barracks (Ballincollig and Fermoy (both Cork), Devoy (Naas), Magee (Kildare), Castleblaney and Clancy (Dublin)). In the context of the 2009 Budget, the then Government announced the closure of four barracks, (Monaghan, Lifford and Rockhill (Donegal) and Longford). In November 2011 the Government announced the closure of four barracks, Castlebar, Clonmel, Cavan and Mullingar.

To-date eight of these barracks have been disposed of. These are:

Ballincollig,

Fermoy,

Naas,

Clancy,

Castleblaney,

Monaghan,

Longford,

Castlebar.

In relation to the remaining barracks the following is the situation:

Agreement has also been reached for the sale of Lifford and Rockhill to Donegal County Council.

Discussions are ongoing in relation to the possible sale of:

a portion of Clonmel Barracks,

Cavan Barracks to another State Agency.

Magee Barracks in Kildare and Columb Barracks in Mullingar remain the property of the Department of Defence.

The total realised to-date in terms of sales of surplus property is €84m approx. This, together with income of €18m approx from the sale of other smaller military properties and married quarters has been re-invested in providing equipment and infrastructure for the Defence Forces. There have also been gains in other areas. For example military personnel occupied on security and support functions within the four barracks closed on 30th March 2012 have been released for operational duties leading to an efficiency gain of around €5 million per annum. In addition, there are direct cash savings of approximately €1.3 million per annum arising from utilities, maintenance and security duty allowances in the four barracks. This latest phase of consolidation will bring to fourteen the number of military barracks closed since 1998. I can confirm that no further barrack closures are envisaged at this time.

Defence Forces Strength

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

27 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if, in the course of his discussions with senior military personnel, agreement has been reached on the future optimum strength of the Defence Forces, permanent and reserve; the degree to which provision for training and upgrading in terms of facilities, equipment and procedures is being provided for in such a context; if he will ensure that the need for a strong, reliable and well-equipped Defence Forces now and in the future is provided for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30035/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

133 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which he expects to be in a position to maintain the strength of the Army, navy and Air Corps at the various regional locations throughout the country for the foreseeable future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30233/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 27 and 133 together.

Arising from the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure, the Government decided to reduce the strength ceiling of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) to 9,500 personnel. In response to this reduced strength ceiling, I initiated a major re-organisation of the Defence Forces, both permanent and reserve. The re-organisation will ensure that, within the strength level of 9,500 PDF personnel, the operational effectiveness of the Permanent Defence Force is prioritised. I have tasked the Chief of Staff and the Secretary General of the Department of Defence to bring forward detailed proposals for my consideration. Work is ongoing in this regard.

I am advised that military training techniques are kept up to date. Defence Forces training plans are specifically structured to provide the capabilities needed to execute the roles assigned to them by Government. The challenge of preparing military units for participation in international peace support operations is a major element of Defence Forces collective training. The primary focus of this training is the attainment of a capability for military interoperability in order to conduct peace support operations to international standards.

The acquisition of new equipment for the Defence Forces remains a focus for me as Minister for Defence. However, it is imperative that the Department and the Defence Forces, similar to all other Government Departments, look to whatever efficiencies we can make. We must take into account the current difficult economic environment. This will determine the overall financial envelope available for the Department for the acquisition of new military equipment and for upgrading and refurbishment programmes over the coming years. Decisions will be made accordingly on a strictly prioritised basis with a view to maintaining the capability to meet all roles assigned by Government to the Defence Forces.

A particular focus is in ensuring that modern and effective equipment is available for overseas peace support operations. In this regard, the personal equipment which the individual soldier has at his/her disposal in Lebanon and on other overseas missions compares very favourably with the equipment in use by other countries. I am satisfied that the level of resources available to the Defence Forces, including equipment and training resources, enables the Defence Forces to carry out their roles both at home and overseas.

Foreign Conflicts

Finian McGrath

Question:

28 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide an update on the Syrian crisis and the role of Irish UN soldiers. [30095/12]

The Government continues to be gravely concerned at the deteriorating situation in Syria, marked by escalating violence and mounting casualties with well over 10,000 people estimated to have been killed since the beginning of the crisis 15 months ago. Following the barbaric murders of hundreds of innocent civilians and small children in Houla and al Qubair, which I have strongly condemned, fighting and offensive operations have stepped up considerably between the Syrian regime, its affiliated militias and opposition factions across the re country. The continued shelling of towns and villages by the Syrian armed forces using lethal weapons, artillery and combat helicopters is particularly reprehensible. The use of force of this kind against defenceless civilians is despicable and testifies further to the regime's complete disregard for human life and for the safety of its own people.

Those guilty of gross human rights violations such as the atrocities perpetrated in Houla and al Qubair must be held to account. Ireland, with its EU partners, was very active in securing the adoption by the UN Human Rights Council on 1 June of a resolution which extended the mandate of the UN Commission of Inquiry in Syria to investigate the events at Houla and to report on any responsibility that may warrant criminal prosecution. We have also made clear that we will support any referral of Syria by the UN Security Council to the International Criminal Court.

The escalating violence and a sharp increase in attacks on patrols operated by the UN Supervision Mission in Syria — attacks which have put at risk the Mission's members (including the six serving Irish officers) — have compelled the Force Commander of this Mission, General Robert Mood, to announce the suspension of its monitoring activities. Such direct targeting of UN personnel, coupled with obstruction and the prevention of access to specific sites and areas, is completely unacceptable and a blatant violation of the provisions of UN Security Council Resolutions 2042 and 2043 which established UNSMIS. I call on the Syrian authorities to respect their clear international obligations as host, to ensure the full safety of the observers and to guarantee their freedom of movement. General Mood has said that the suspension of monitoring activities is being reviewed on a daily basis. The UN Secretary General will submit proposals to the Security Council and troop contributors in early July on the future of the Mission, once its current mandate expires on 20 July.

Despite the significant problems it is encountering, the Annan Plan is so far the only platform available to end the violence and to initiate a long-awaited political transition in Syria. We remain fully committed to this Plan. All sides must honour their commitments under it and immediately halt all forms of violence. It is particularly incumbent on the Syrian regime to ensure the complete withdrawal of heavy weaponry and troops from population centres and the release of all political detainees and to ensure free access and movement throughout the country to all, including the media, humanitarian organisations and the UN.

Equally, the international community needs to consider what further steps should be taken if the Annan plan remains unimplemented and the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate. Imposing further sanctions is an option which the Security Council will have to consider. Closer engagement with Russia is also extremely important. Greater cohesion and unity among the Syrian opposition will also be critical if there is to be any chance of initiating a successful political transition to a new, post-Assad Syria. In this regard, the next meeting of the Friends of Syria in Paris on the 6th July, which I would hope to attend, will provide an opportunity to consider how to further increase the pressure on the Syrian regime. That meeting will also be used to urge the opposition parties both within and outside Syria to intensify their cooperation and to agree a common platform.

Ultimately, and despite the current disheartening situation, the complete cessation of violence and implementation of the Annan Plan still offers the best opportunity to end the conflict and to launch a process of urgently needed political reform and transition in Syria. Ireland will work steadfastly with its EU partners towards that goal.

Official Engagements

Brendan Griffin

Question:

29 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding the visit of the Australian Prime Minister; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30154/12]

There are no current plans for an official visit to Ireland by the Prime Minister of Australia in 2012.

Overseas Development Aid

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

30 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if, as part of the review of the White Paper on overseas aid, the matter of ensuring adequate family planning services in countries in which the service is considered inadequate at present is being considered in terms of a policy issue as part of that review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30201/12]

In the extensive public consultation process of the review of the White Paper on Irish Aid, there have been significant inputs and suggestions from a variety of sources emphasising the importance of maternal, neonatal and child health. As part of this input, there has been explicit reference to the value and contribution of family planning to the health of women and children.

Ireland through Irish Aid has long been committed to the Millennium Development Goals and MDG5 in particular. MDG5 has two main targets: reducing maternal mortality and achieving universal access to reproductive health, including ante-natal care and family planning services. Ireland has a strong track record of support to family planning services through support to global initiatives and at country level through government health sectors. We also support NGOs doing complementary work to increase access to family planning services.

Since 2006, Ireland has provided almost €30 million in support of UNFPA's reproductive, maternal and family planning programmes, and through a variety of channels we have assisted access to family planning services in a number of countries where such services are considered inadequate. Such countries include Mozambique, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Liberia, DRC, Zimbabwe and Somalia.

Passport Applications

Willie Penrose

Question:

31 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the alternatives available to a person, who wishes to secure a passport, and who is an Irish citizen with birth certificate, but who does not have available a driving licence or other forms of independent verification; if he will indicate the other forms of identification in order for a passport for her to issue and in this context if he will indicate what other forms of identification will be acceptable to his Department in order that a passport will issue to this person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30268/12]

The Passports Act, 2008 provides that the Minister for Foreign Affairs shall be satisfied as to the identity of each applicant for before a passport is issued to him/her. Proofs of identity are required in respect of all passport applications. These requirements, which are outlined both in the passport application form notes that accompany each application form and on the Department's websitewww.passport.ie, enhance existing procedures to combat passport and identity fraud. They are also intended to increase public awareness of the importance of a passport in terms of a person’s identity and the need to ensure that people take great care in protecting their passports. The most recent Irish passport issued is generally the only photo-identification required for those renewing a passport. First-time applicants or those, whose passports have been lost or stolen, need to provide photo-identification such as a driver’s licence, work ID, student card, social club membership or, where relevant, a passport from another country.

In those exceptional cases where an applicant is unable provide any general photographic ID, the Passport Service will require that the applicant complete and have witnessed a certificate of identity. The certificate includes preprinted details, including the application photograph, and must be witnessed by one from a list of persons, who are acceptable to the Passport Service for this purpose, and who also personally know the applicant. The certificate of identity will be sent to the applicant upon receipt of the original passport application.

Motor Vehicle Registration

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

32 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Finance his plans to introduce a system whereby his Department would receive notifications of registrations from the vehicle registration office; if he has considered amending the vehicle registration requirements to include PPS numbers, in order to detect possible instances of social welfare fraud; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30179/12]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that under the provisions of Regulation 7(1)(c) of SI 318/1992 as amended by SI 400/2010 where a person presents a vehicle for registration and that vehicle is being registered in their name, a PPS number is requested and recorded at the time the vehicle is registered. However the majority of vehicles are registered by third parties, i.e. motor dealers, and there could be sensitivities and data protection issues about PPSNs being required in that context. Regarding the broader question of exchange of information to assist in the detection of fraud, Revenue and the Department of Social Protection already exchange considerable quantities of data. Under the auspices of High Level Group of Revenue and Department of Social Protection officials, consideration is given on an ongoing basis to further exchanges of risk-assessed data, and vehicle purchase data is included in that consideration.

Banking Sector Regulation

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

33 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Finance the engagements the Central Bank of Ireland has had with lenders who appear to have standard variable rates set disproportionate to their cost funds: the outcome of these engagements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30076/12]

The Central Bank has advised me that it has no statutory role in the setting of standard variable interest rates except for a limited role in relation to credit unions. The standard variable rate that financial institutions operating in Ireland charge to customers are determined as a result of a commercial decision by the institutions concerned. This interest rate is determined taking into account a broad range of factors, including European Central Bank base rates, deposit rates, market funding costs, the competitive environment and an institution's overall funding. However, the Central Bank has advised me that it does monitor trends across the industry and raises queries with bank boards in the course of its ongoing supervision activities on pricing both in relation to its Consumer Protection and Financial Stability mandates. Within its existing powers and through the use of persuasion, the Central Bank continues to engage with specific lenders which appear to have standard variable rates set disproportionate to their cost of funds. In particular, the Bank advised me that they have written to all lenders and asked them to consider the impact on arrears when considering any future interest rate increases.

I, as Minister for Finance have no role in the day-to-day commercial and operational decisions of financial institutions and the Central Bank would not report to me on the specific issues arising in its engagements with lenders on this issue. However, the Central Bank has informed me it will continue to monitor developments in this area and raise questions where undue concerns arise.

Tax Reliefs

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

34 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 94 of 6 June 2012, if it is correct that a couple may claim tax relief at a higher rate on a tax saver commuter ticket if they are jointly assessed; the process they have to go through to avail of the higher rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30082/12]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that in the case of a couple who are jointly assessed to tax the rate of tax relief under the travel pass scheme is their marginal rate of tax; (that is, the rate of tax they pay on every extra euro of income earned). The tax relief under the travel pass scheme is given automatically at source by the employer and does not have to be claimed. If the couple's marginal rate of tax is 41%, then they get tax relief at that rate. If their marginal rate of tax is 20%, then they get relief at that rate. I am further informed by the Revenue Commissioners that where a couple are jointly assessed to tax, tax is due at the higher rate on income in excess of €41,800 where only one of the couple is earning. Where the other individual is also earning, the higher rate applies where their joint earnings exceed €65,600. If a couple are not currently jointly assessed but wish to elect to be so, they should contact their local tax office.

VAT Rates

Finian McGrath

Question:

35 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of small businesses experiencing VAT problems over the past 12 months; and the procedures in place to advise and assist these companies [30092/12]

I am assuming that the Deputy's Question is focusing on the challenges for businesses in paying the VAT that is due to the Revenue Commissioners arising from their trading activities. Collection of the taxes and duties payable by individuals and businesses to the Exchequer is a matter in the first instance for the Revenue Commissioners. I am advised by Revenue that they are not in a position to say precisely how many small businesses have experienced problems in paying their VAT over the last 12 months. Businesses will deal with difficulties in paying creditors, including Revenue, in a number of different ways, including by the use of new or extended credit or overdraft facilities, or the use of invoice discounting arrangements to meet their obligation to Revenue on time. In some instance, late or non-payment may be due to unwillingness to pay as distinct from inability to or difficulty to pay. It is not necessarily the case, therefore, that a payment difficulty will manifest itself in a late payment to Revenue or that every late payment is due to inability to make payment.

The timeliness of return and payments is measured by Revenue on an ongoing basis and this provides a measure of the potential challenges for business in being timely compliant. I am advised by Revenue that in 2011 for example, 86% of medium sized businesses (those paying tax of between €75,000 and €500,000 annually) had met their VAT return/filing obligations in the month in which the obligation to file the return and make any payment arose. For the year 2012 to date that percentage has increased to 87%.

I know that Revenue has a strong focus on maintaining and indeed improving the rates of timely compliance by businesses with their tax return and payment obligations. Notwithstanding the more difficult economic circumstances in which businesses are operating at present, it is very important that businesses organise their financial affairs in such a fashion as to ensure that tax debts are paid as they fall due. This is essential not just from an Exchequer viewpoint but also because late or non-payment of tax debts puts those businesses who are timely compliant at a significant competitive disadvantage. It is clear that Revenue's focus is bearing dividends as evidenced by the high and improving timely compliance rates reported by Revenue every year.

As regards advice and assistance to business, Revenue has consistently encouraged businesses experiencing particular tax payment difficulties to work proactively with them at an early stage towards an agreed way through those difficulties so as to quickly restore voluntary timely compliance. In that regard, Revenue has published material for businesses experiencing tax payment difficulties on its website atwww.revenue.ie. I am aware that tax practitioners and representative bodies have recognised Revenue’s practical support and assistance to viable businesses.

Currency Exchange

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

36 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide in a spreadsheet format the value in euro and punt of each individual transaction of punt to euro exchange at the Cental Bank of Ireland in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30098/12]

The information requested by the Deputy is not available on an individual transaction basis. The Central Bank has provided the attached spreadsheet showing the Euro and Irish Pound value of Irish Pound notes and coins exchanged at the Central Bank for each working day in 2011. A total of IR£2.15m was exchanged for €2.74m.

Irish pound notes and coins exchanged at Central Bank 2011 — 0.787564

Posting Date

Amount in €

IR£ received

05/01/2011

297.97

234.67

06/01/2011

42,956.39

33,830.91

07/01/2011

40,976.34

32,271.49

11/01/2011

1,448.14

1,140.50

13/01/2011

36,049.12

28,390.99

14/01/2011

1,257.15

990.09

17/01/2011

1,031.27

812.19

18/01/2011

1,498.29

1,180.00

19/01/2011

177.76

140.00

20/01/2011

74,811.69

58,918.99

21/01/2011

17,458.89

13,749.99

24/01/2011

831.10

654.54

25/01/2011

44,469.52

35,022.59

26/01/2011

5,975.81

4,706.33

27/01/2011

100,572.63

79,207.38

28/01/2011

630.93

496.90

01/02/2011

1,601.02

1,260.91

02/02/2011

1,460.20

1,150.00

03/02/2011

46,722.20

36,796.72

04/02/2011

29,392.40

23,148.40

07/02/2011

952.30

750.00

08/02/2011

70.93

55.86

09/02/2011

1,826.23

1,438.27

10/02/2011

49,241.07

38,780.49

11/02/2011

1,275.60

1,004.62

15/02/2011

1,069.39

842.21

16/02/2011

1,487.87

1,171.79

17/02/2011

38,980.96

30,700.00

18/02/2011

634.87

500.00

21/02/2011

672.02

529.26

22/02/2011

804.36

633.48

23/02/2011

1,028.08

809.68

24/02/2011

33,451.81

26,345.44

25/02/2011

5,454.16

4,295.50

28/02/2011

44,188.16

34,801.00

01/03/2011

1,983.77

1,562.35

02/03/2011

838.03

660.00

03/03/2011

37,549.46

29,572.60

04/03/2011

771.98

607.98

08/03/2011

1,788.83

1,408.82

10/03/2011

31,912.32

25,132.99

11/03/2011

634.87

500.00

14/03/2011

399.17

314.37

15/03/2011

-50.79

- 40.00

16/03/2011

33,133.68

26,094.89

18/03/2011

292.04

230.00

21/03/2011

79.05

62.26

22/03/2011

921.22

725.52

23/03/2011

734.73

578.65

24/03/2011

60,993.13

48,035.99

28/03/2011

2,404.14

1,893.41

29/03/2011

619.63

488.00

30/03/2011

798.92

629.20

31/03/2011

37,496.60

29,530.97

01/04/2011

2,220.51

1,748.79

05/04/2011

1,270.34

1,000.47

06/04/2011

369.24

290.80

07/04/2011

21,204.63

16,700.00

08/04/2011

1,693.68

1,333.88

11/04/2011

1,949.56

1,535.40

12/04/2011

373.84

294.42

14/04/2011

36,597.41

28,822.80

15/04/2011

751.86

592.14

18/04/2011

716.91

564.61

19/04/2011

719.31

566.50

20/04/2011

20,597.13

16,221.56

21/04/2011

2,454.39

1,932.99

26/04/2011

558.69

440.00

27/04/2011

1,328.85

1,046.55

28/04/2011

63,474.39

49,990.14

29/04/2011

7,002.12

5,514.62

03/05/2011

412.41

324.80

04/05/2011

8,030.15

6,324.26

06/05/2011

45,295.11

35,672.80

10/05/2011

3,209.89

2,527.99

12/05/2011

58,251.58

45,876.85

13/05/2011

433.99

341.79

16/05/2011

362.72

285.67

17/05/2011

1,854.19

1,460.29

19/05/2011

45,948.81

36,187.63

25/05/2011

198.28

156.16

26/05/2011

22,347.39

17,600.00

30/05/2011

31/05/2011

3,237.55

2,549.78

03/06/2011

32,457.35

25,562.24

07/06/2011

637.07

501.73

08/06/2011

09/06/2011

31,890.61

25,115.90

10/06/2011

773.69

609.33

13/06/2011

282.14

222.20

15/06/2011

4,958.03

3,904.77

20/06/2011

19,807.91

15,600.00

21/06/2011

2,809.93

2,213.00

22/06/2011

9.35

7.36

23/06/2011

560.22

441.21

24/06/2011

42,917.15

33,800.00

27/06/2011

47.29

37.24

28/06/2011

2,993.79

2,357.80

29/06/2011

472.47

372.10

30/06/2011

24,815.36

19,543.68

01/07/2011

1,784.47

1,405.38

04/07/2011

50.99

40.16

05/07/2011

1,549.07

1,219.99

06/07/2011

743.49

585.55

07/07/2011

2,372.30

1,868.34

08/07/2011

58,339.37

45,945.99

11/07/2011

129.23

101.78

13/07/2011

85.44

67.29

14/07/2011

1,484.05

1,168.78

15/07/2011

32,505.30

25,600.00

19/07/2011

1,203.43

947.78

20/07/2011

2,677.93

2,109.04

22/07/2011

32,345.51

25,474.16

25/07/2011

1,391.62

1,095.99

26/07/2011

48.05

37.84

27/07/2011

113.30

89.23

28/07/2011

572.66

451.01

29/07/2011

31,362.54

24,700.01

03/08/2011

4,748.99

3,740.13

04/08/2011

716.82

564.54

05/08/2011

304.73

239.99

08/08/2011

2,446.53

1,926.80

09/08/2011

987.67

777.85

10/08/2011

78,848.83

62,098.50

11/08/2011

865.16

681.37

12/08/2011

75,464.85

59,433.40

15/08/2011

50,884.73

40,074.98

16/08/2011

2,005.36

1,579.35

18/08/2011

1,853.82

1,460.00

19/08/2011

22,436.27

17,670.00

22/08/2011

2,504.82

1,972.71

24/08/2011

14.64

11.53

25/08/2011

69,744.15

54,927.98

26/08/2011

771.62

607.70

29/08/2011

2,044.28

1,610.00

30/08/2011

469.79

369.99

31/08/2011

62.80

49.46

01/09/2011

986.13

776.64

02/09/2011

65,886.70

51,889.99

06/09/2011

692.46

545.36

07/09/2011

2,166.35

1,706.14

08/09/2011

279.33

219.99

09/09/2011

25,839.93

20,350.60

12/09/2011

1,523.69

1,200.00

14/09/2011

972.78

766.13

16/09/2011

33,063.98

26,040.00

19/09/2011

2,521.26

1,985.65

22/09/2011

1,688.72

1,329.98

23/09/2011

1,549.07

1,219.99

26/09/2011

25.39

20.00

27/09/2011

34,962.21

27,534.98

29/09/2011

563.95

444.15

30/09/2011

31,870.43

25,100.00

05/10/2011

7,123.73

5,610.39

06/10/2011

444.40

349.99

07/10/2011

1,906.16

1,501.22

10/10/2011

21,077.66

16,600.01

12/10/2011

768.05

604.89

13/10/2011

1,783.51

1,404.63

14/10/2011

37,076.36

29,200.01

17/10/2011

1,156.80

911.05

18/10/2011

50.78

39.99

20/10/2011

1,485.57

1,169.98

21/10/2011

30,727.67

24,200.01

25/10/2011

604.78

476.30

26/10/2011

1,142.76

900.00

27/10/2011

1,371.30

1,079.99

28/10/2011

20,595.15

16,220.00

02/11/2011

177.75

139.99

03/11/2011

3,017.02

2,376.10

04/11/2011

23,858.21

18,789.87

07/11/2011

266.14

209.60

09/11/2011

160,242.21

126,201.00

11/11/2011

36,441.48

28,700.00

14/11/2011

2,054.88

1,618.35

15/11/2011

437.72

344.73

16/11/2011

3,428.97

2,700.53

17/11/2011

561.64

442.33

18/11/2011

37,584.25

29,600.00

21/11/2011

708.44

557.94

22/11/2011

-45,800.72

-36,071.00

23/11/2011

1,739.75

1,370.16

24/11/2011

87.89

69.22

25/11/2011

27,810.23

21,902.34

29/11/2011

5,425.14

4,272.64

30/11/2011

26,847.46

21,144.09

01/12/2011

3,226.90

2,541.39

02/12/2011

49,524.38

39,003.62

05/12/2011

1,018.35

802.02

06/12/2011

3,192.87

2,514.59

08/12/2011

57,555.17

45,328.38

09/12/2011

24,277.15

19,119.81

14/12/2011

45,876.02

36,130.30

15/12/2011

1,599.67

1,259.84

16/12/2011

41,495.02

32,679.98

19/12/2011

1,097.05

864.00

21/12/2011

858.66

676.25

22/12/2011

574.20

452.22

23/12/2011

23,871.08

18,800.00

29/12/2011

9,916.65

7,810.00

30/12/2011

6,348.69

5,000.00

31/12/2011

-0.12

-0.09

Grand Total for 2011

2,735,516.57

2,154,394.37

NOTE: Negative figures indicate adjustments to earlier figures

Currency Exchange

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

37 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance the losses the Central Bank of Ireland has made on the exchange of punts to euro since 2002 taking into account the original provision of €60 million in 2002 for future transactions; and the total exchange of punt notes and coins respectively since that provision was made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30099/12]

I refer the Deputy to the reply I provided yesterday to his question on the policy of exchanging Irish pound bank notes and coin for euro since the Irish pound ceased to be legal tender on 9 February 2002. That reply sets out the background to the policy and how the redemption of Irish pound bank notes and coin has been accounted for by the Central Bank. With regard to the total value of Irish pound bank notes and coin redeemed to date, I am informed by the Central Bank that Irish pound bank notes to the value of €485.4 million and Irish pound coin to the value of €89.4 million was redeemed between 9 February 2002 and 31 May 2012. Of the Irish pound bank notes, notes to the value of €65.4 million were redeemed between the end of 2002 and 31 May 2012.

Bank Charges

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

38 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Finance the reason EBS is in a position to raise interest rates on its mortgages in the manner that it is doing; the action he will take to help struggling home owners who have mortgages with EBS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30120/12]

The Deputy will be aware that the Bank's policy in relation to interest rates is a matter for the management and board of the institution. I have no role in the day-to-day commercial and operational decisions of the banks, which include these matters. These decisions are taken by the board and management of the institution. Notwithstanding the fact that the State is a significant shareholder in the institution, I must ensure that the bank is run on a commercial, cost effective and independent basis to ensure the value of the bank as an asset to the State, as per the Memorandum on Economic and Financial Policies agreed with the EU Commission, the ECB and the IMF. However, EBS has informed me that they have no immediate plans to raise variable interest rates. The last time that EBS raised variable interest rates was August 2011. EBS subsequently reduced its variable rates in December 2011 and again in January 2012.

In terms of assisting struggling mortgage holders in general, last summer the Government's Economic Management Council established an inter-departmental group to consider further actions that could be deployed to address the increasing problem of mortgage over-indebtedness. This group, which was chaired by Mr. Declan Keane, produced its report at the end of September and it was subsequently published by Government last October. The report recommended a number of additional measures to assist mortgage holders experiencing significant and genuine difficulty with their mortgage repayments such as personal insolvency reform, "mortgage to rent" initiatives, the provision of an enhanced mortgage advisory function and the development and provision by banks of more flexible and sustainable options to their customers experiencing mortgage difficulty. The Government has accepted the "Keane Report" recommendations as the most appropriate way to address the problem of significant mortgage arrears. A high level steering group of senior officials, chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of Finance, is now overseeing the implementation of these measures across Government and, with Central Bank involvement, the banking sector. In addition, a temporary Government committee, chaired by the Taoiseach, is now meeting on regular basis on the mortgage arrears issue.

EBS has also informed me that as part of AIB Group, it has been participating in the Mortgage to Rent scheme, as recommended in the "Keane Report". Subject to Central Bank approval, EBS also intends to shortly put live a number of other solutions, aligned with the recommendations in the Keane Report.

Budget Timetable

Michael McGrath

Question:

39 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will outline the process, and estimated timeline for each of the stages, involved in the preparation of budget 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30193/12]

The "Two Pack" regulations being discussed in Europe propose a common budgetary timeline that includes the presentation of a draft budget by 15 October each year. However, trilogue negotiations between the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council only commenced recently and it appears that it is extremely unlikely that the regulations will be adopted in time for this year's budgetary cycle. Given the complexities and procedures involved in our Budget process, we simply could not wait any longer for the regulations to be adopted and have decided to proceed as follows. My Department is planning to publish an update of the Medium-Term Fiscal Statement in October of this year and, as is the norm, it is intended that Budget 2013 will be presented to the Dáil in early December, though the exact date has yet to be decided.

The Deputy will also be aware, of course, of the arrangements introduced last year under the new EU-semester, whereby the Stability Programme Update, containing revised macroeconomic and budgetary projections, was prepared and submitted to the European Commission last April. This document was also laid before the Dáil and published on the Department of Finance website. The purpose of these new arrangements is to allow for a more intensive period of peer review of other member-states' budgetary plans, thereby facilitating a greater degree of budgetary coordination across the EU, and they form part of a wider suite of fiscal governance reforms which are emerging at EU level.

Finally, I, as the Minister for Finance, and Brendan Howlin, as the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, along with our respective Departments, will work very closely in the compilation of Budget 2013, as the expenditure estimates are obviously a key factor in devising budgetary policy and calculating the overall budgetary arithmetic.

Irish Bank Resolution Corporation

Michael McGrath

Question:

40 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation has referred any matter to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement or other authorities arising from evidence which has emerged from the bank’s investigations of the financial affairs of the Quinn Group of companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30196/12]

As the Deputy is aware the Board of the bank is responsible for the day to day operations of the bank including matters relation to the recovery of debts and consequential matters. The bank has informed me that it would not be appropriate for the bank to comment on matters which may be the subject of investigation or litigation.

National Asset Management Agency

Michael McGrath

Question:

41 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if the National Asset Management Agency has agreed deals with debtors which involve a reduction or dilution in any form of any personal guarantee the debtors may have given in respect of their loans now held by NAMA; if he will provide details of the number and nature of such deals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30197/12]

Pearse Doherty

Question:

43 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 226 of 12 June 2012 wherein he stated that debt forgiveness has not formed part of agreements entered into by the National Asset Management Agency with debtors, if he will confirm if NAMA has entered into agreements in which personal financial commitments and obligations by debtors have been reduced or waived as part of any agreement. [30225/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 41 and 43 together.

I am advised by NAMA that it did not pay any consideration to participating institutions for personal guarantees attached to acquired loans. This is because it did not consider that such guarantees had any residual value in the vast majority of cases as the amounts potentially recoverable were limited to the value of secured assets. The policy of the NAMA Board from the outset has been to pursue all personal guarantees to the greatest extent feasible where there is value to be obtained. I am advised by NAMA that, with respect to co-operative debtors who have made full disclosure of assets and liabilities, it may, on a case-by-case basis, consider the release of personal guarantees or personal recourse two years after the value of all assets have been realised. I am also advised that the NAMA Board has recently decided that it will review this issue again in the light of any revised personal insolvency regime that may be introduced following enactment of legislation by the Oireachtas.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

42 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 104 and 108 of 6 June, 2012 if he will set out in tabular form the value of property controlled by the National Asset Management Agency and its debtors in each of the 32 counties here. [30218/12]

I am advised by NAMA that the information sought is currently being collated and validated and that it is expected to be available for inclusion in the Agency's Annual Report which is due for publication in July.

Question No. 43 answered with Question No. 41.

Pearse Doherty

Question:

44 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 215 of 12 June 2012, wherein he stated that the said National Asset Management Agency’s provisional impairment charge of €810 million was based on estimated future cash flows on individual loans including cash flow from the future disposal of assets, if he will set out the basis on which NAMA calculates the value of the future disposal of assets and in particular if NAMA makes any assumption on the recovery of property values. [30226/12]

I am informed by NAMA that its 2011 impairment assessment is based on a combination of a detailed cash flow forecasting exercise for all borrower connections which are considered individually significant (corresponding to debtors managed directly by NAMA) and a collective assessment for the rest of the loan portfolio. For all individually significant debtors, in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards, an assessment is made in respect of all future cash flows expected from each individual debtor. This assessment represents a best estimate of the future cash flows reflecting the performance of the individual debtor and other known developments which could impact future cash flows including local economic conditions, the trading performance of the debtor and the value of the property collateral.

In assessing the cash flows for individual debtors, NAMA does not make general assumptions in respect of the recovery of property values. The value of the property collateral that will be recovered by NAMA is assessed individually by debtor and by asset. The value of the property collateral takes into consideration the November 2009 valuation carried out by an independent valuer as part of NAMA's due diligence process as well as subsequent developments in respect of the property which may have an impact on the value that expects to recover. To the extent that expected disposal proceeds are less than those indicated by the November 2009 valuation, the resultant shortfall is reflected within the overall impairment charge.

Special Educational Needs

Finian McGrath

Question:

45 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding reduced support for pupils [30227/12]

Firstly I wish to advise the Deputy that this Government has maintained funding for resources for children with special educational needs at a time when there is a continued requirement to make expenditure savings across a range of areas. There is no overall reduction in Resource Teaching or Special Needs Assistant (SNA) numbers for the coming school year.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports including Resource Teaching and SNA support, 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. Specifically in relation to Resource Teaching allocations, I wish to clarify that the number of posts available to the NCSE for allocation is 5,500 which is the same as last year. This is on top of 4,450 resource and learning support teachers provided to all schools to support children with less complex, or high incidence, learning needs.

In the context of the 5,500 WTE Resource Teaching posts available to the NCSE for allocation for the coming school year, the number of valid applications received for the 2012/2013 school year to date has risen marginally with rising enrolments in schools. It is necessary therefore to manage these resources so that every child who needs support can access support and are treated the same. In order to ensure there are sufficient remaining posts to make allocations for late or emergency applications, while staying within the Employment Control Framework (ECF), the NCSE will initially allocate 85% of assessed needs to schools. Schools are being asked to make up any time lost through grouping of students and more effective management of teaching time, to ensure that every child who needs support can access support and are treated the same.

As a result of the allocations announced on June 13th by the NCSE, 55% of schools will see no change in SNA allocation for the 2012/13 school year. 23% of schools will see some reductions in SNA allocations, while 22% of schools will see some increases in their allocations. This clearly illustrates that SNA allocations are adjusted each year, to ensure that the children who need SNA support to assist with their care needs, are provided with that support.

Finally, I wish to assure the Deputy that it is my intention that resources available to my Department are utilised to optimum benefit to ensure the best possible outcomes for students with special educational needs. In this regard my Department is seeking advice from the NCSE on policy options for the allocation of these resources in future, with a view to ensuring that the most appropriate and efficient model is in place in the coming years.

Michael McGrath

Question:

46 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills in view of his approval of the recent announcement by the National Council for Special Education of the allocation of special needs assistants for the 2012-13 school year, if these allocations represent the final staffing allocation to each school in respect of the 2012-13 school year; and if he will reconsider the decision to remove four SNA posts from a school (details supplied) in County Cork in view of the fact the school caters solely for children on the autism spectrum aged between three and six years and that overall national allocation of SNA remain at 10,575 whole time equivalent posts. [30077/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports including Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support, 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. The NCSE has confirmed that the SNA allocation for the school in question for the 2012/13 school year is a sufficient level of support to cater for the care needs of all qualifying children in the context of the applications received for the 2012/13 school year.

The SNA allocation to the school for 2011/2012 was reviewed by the NCSE which found that the school had a surplus of 4 SNA posts. Having considered the allocation for the coming school year the NCSE has allocated SNA support to meet the requirements of all qualifying children. The 4 surplus SNA posts identified in the review remain surplus to requirements as determined in accordance with the Departments criteria for the allocation of SNA posts and will be removed so that they can be allocated elsewhere where they are needed. It is worth noting that this school has been allocated 12 SNA posts for the forthcoming school year, which is an extensive provision of resources by any measure.

Following the allocation of SNA posts for the coming school year the NCSE will have some 264 posts available for allocation throughout the school year in respect of late or emergency cases arising or new diagnosis. Based on previous experience it is expected that this number of posts will be sufficient to meet any late or emergency demand arising. It is expected that schools seeking to have their SNA provision reviewed, before requesting any review of their SNA provision, will be in a position to demonstrate that they have made every effort to manage their allocation of SNA posts to best effect. It is open to schools to contact their local SENO in this regard, using the contact details available onwww.ncse.ie.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

47 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding special needs assistant services (details supplied) in Dublin 17; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30162/12]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports including Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support, 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. SENOs are currently notifying schools of their SNA allocation for 2012/13, based on the number of valid applications received and, in the case of SNA support, the extent of the care needs of qualifying children.

SNAs should be deployed by schools in a manner which best meets the care support requirements of the children enrolled in the school for whom SNA support has been allocated. It is a matter for schools to allocate support as required, and on the basis of individual need, which allows schools flexibility in how the SNA support is utilised. 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.

John Lyons

Question:

48 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 41 of 14 June 2012, if will he provide clarification on the provision of a special needs assistant for this child. [30167/12]

I have advised the Deputy previously that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports including Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support, to support children with special educational needs. SENOs are currently notifying schools of their SNA allocation for 2012/13, based on the number of valid applications received and, in the case of SNA support, the extent of the care needs of qualifying children.

SNAs should be deployed by schools in a manner which best meets the care support requirements of the children enrolled in the school for whom SNA support has been allocated. It is a matter for schools to allocate support as required, and on the basis of individual need, which allows schools flexibility in how the SNA support is utilised. The parents/guardians of the pupil in question should be advised to liaise with the school in this regard. In addition, it is open to parents to contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available onwww.ncse.ie.

Higher Education Grants

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

49 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if, as part of the means test of a family for a third level grant application, turnover or profit will be considered when assessing a family business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30170/12]

The assessment of means under my Department's student grant scheme is based on gross income from all sources. Therefore, all income is assessed from the same starting point, eliminating any distortion which might arise from different spending decisions. The means test arrangements of the student grant scheme are applied nationally. In the case of both employed and self-employed applicants, gross income is assessed with certain specified social welfare and health service executive payments excluded. The eligibility of an applicant, or the level of the grant awarded, may be re-assessed by the awarding authority in the event of a change of circumstances in the academic year.

Bullying in Schools

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

50 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has examined the practices and policies of other EU jurisdictions in counteracting bullying in schools; if he will outline the outcomes of the recent forum on bullying in schools here and his future proposals in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30173/12]

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. As a follow on to holding the Forum itself, I have invited the stakeholders and any other interested parties, including those unable to attend the event on the day, 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 website www.education.ie. I have also established a working group on tackling bullying in schools, including homophobic bullying, cyber bullying and racist bullying.

The outcomes 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. As part of this process the working group will also consider practices and experiences of other jurisdictions in the area of bullying, in order that these can inform and assist the working group in its work.

School Enrolments

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

51 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the boards of management of national schools are allowed to change their enrolment policies from year to year and in particular, with reference to the age of the child, in view of the fact that parents will need to plan ahead and will have to take into consideration the ensuing possible child care costs, if this is the procedure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30200/12]

The question of enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of schools that are not in a position to admit all pupils seeking entry to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act 1998. In this regard a board of management may deem it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a particular age group or to children living in a particular area or on the basis of some other criterion.

In relation to age, the position is that a child must be at least 4 years of age before she/he may be enrolled in a primary school. Subject to this requirement, individual schools may apply a selection criterion that prioritises children on the basis of their age e.g. to give priority to older children or to give priority to children who have reached the age of four by a date specified by the school. The selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based is matter for the individual school authority. In formulating an enrolment policy a school must, however, ensure it is lawful and applied fairly to all applicants. As the Deputy will be aware, last June, I launched a discussion paper on school enrolment. The document, "Discussion Paper on a Regulatory Framework for School Enrolment" contains suggestions on how to make the process of enrolling in schools more open, equitable and consistent.

Education partners and interested parties were invited to submit their views and the Department is currently co-ordinating their submissions. The feedback from this consultation will help inform the nature and scope of a new regulatory framework for school enrolment. I intend to bring legislative proposals to Government this year, the primary aim of which will be to ensure that every child is treated fairly and that every child has a place at school.

Special Educational Needs

Brendan Smith

Question:

52 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will outline the consequences for schools and pupils needing additional help due to the reduction in the allocations for resource teachers and special needs assistants for 2012-13; if he has considered the concerns outlined by representative groups in the education sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30224/12]

Firstly I wish to clarify for the Deputy that there is no overall reduction in Resource Teaching or Special Needs Assistant (SNA) numbers for the coming school year. This Government has maintained funding for resources for children with special educational needs at a time when there is a continued requirement to make expenditure savings across a range of areas. The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports including Resource Teaching and SNA support, 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.

There are 10,575 SNA posts available for allocation in the 2012/13 school year which is the same number of posts which were available for allocation for the current school year. The NCSE is currently notifying schools of their SNA allocation for 2012/13, based on the number of valid applications received and the extent of the care needs of qualifying children. It is expected that the demand for SNA support in the coming school year can be met within current numbers and that all children who meet the criteria for SNA support will have access to support. The NCSE will have some 264 available posts for allocation throughout the school year in respect of late or emergency cases arising or new diagnoses.

There are 5,500 WTE Resource Teaching posts available to the NCSE for allocation for the coming school year, which is the same as last year. This does not include the 4,450 resource and learning support teachers being provided to all schools to support children with less complex, or high incidence, learning needs. With rising enrolments in schools, the number of valid applications received by the NCSE for the 2012/2013 school year to date is higher than last year. It is necessary therefore to manage these resources so that every child who needs support can access support and are treated the same. Therefore, in order to ensure there are sufficient remaining posts to make allocations for late or emergency applications, while staying within the Employment Control Framework (ECF), the NCSE will initially allocate 85% of assessed needs to schools. Schools are being asked to make up any time lost through grouping of students and more effective management of teaching time, to ensure that every child who needs support can access support and are treated the same.

As a result of the allocations announced on June 13th by the NCSE, 55% of schools will see no change in SNA allocation for the 2012/13 school year. 23% of schools will see some reductions in SNA allocations, while 22% of schools will see some increases in their allocations. This clearly illustrates that SNA allocations are adjusted each year, to ensure that the children who need SNA support to assist with their care needs, are provided with that support. My Department has met the representative groups in the education sector to outline the arrangements for allocating Resource Teaching SNA support to schools for the 2012/2013 school year.

Finally, I wish to assure the Deputy that it is my intention that resources available to my Department are utilised to optimum benefit to ensure the best possible outcomes for students with special educational needs. In this regard my Department is seeking advice from the NCSE on policy options for the allocation of these resources in future, with a view to ensuring that the most appropriate and efficient model is in place in the coming years.

Schools Building Projects

Catherine Murphy

Question:

53 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans regarding building works at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; if there are no plans to upgrade the school's buildings, the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30228/12]

As outlined in the Five Year Plan, the delivery of major school projects required to meet demographic demand will be the main focus for capital investment in the coming years. Due to the financial constraints imposed by the need to prioritise available funding to meet future demographic demands, it has not been possible to advance all applications for capital funding concurrently. The Deputy will appreciate that the primary aim at the core of the Five Year Plan, is to ensure that every child will have access to a physical school place. In the context, therefore, of the financial constraints imposed by the need to prioritise available funding for the provision of essential school accommodation to meet this demographic demand, it is not possible to indicate at this point when a project for the school in question will be progressed.

Apprenticeship Programmes

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

54 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the procedure to be followed to obtain an apprenticeship in the motor industry in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who is currently unemployed and registered with FÁS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30252/12]

This is a day-to-day operational matter for FÁS. I am informed by FÁS that in order to become an apprentice applicants must be at least 16 years of age and have attained a minimum of grade D in 5 subjects in the Junior Certificate or equivalent. Where individuals do not meet the minimum educational requirements they may be registered as apprentices by an employer if prospective apprentices have satisfactorily completed an approved preparatory training course and an assessment interview; or being over 18 years of age, have at least 3 years relevant work experience and satisfactorily completed an assessment interview; and where required the prospective apprentice has passed an appropriate colour vision test. Prospective apprentices can obtain information on entry requirements and trades by accessing the adult career guidance service provided through the NEES Employment Services network or the FÁS Services to Business offices located nationwide.

However, to register as an apprentice the prospective apprentice must first obtain employment in their chosen occupation. Under the statutory rules of apprenticeship all employers are required to register their apprentices with FÁS within two weeks of commencing employment. Furthermore, any employer wishing to register an apprentice must be able to satisfy FÁS that the employer is capable of providing access to the range of work specified in the curriculum for that trade, as well as the necessary tools and equipment. The employer must be able to provide a suitably qualified and experienced craftsperson to oversee the training and work of the apprentice as well as a suitable person approved by FÁS to carry out the specified assessments required to establish an apprentice's competence.

According to FÁS records the individual in question registered with his local NEES Employment Office on 19 January 2012 at which point he would have received a guidance interview. Since his NEES registration he has been met on two further occasions and received update guidance interviews, on 28th February and 25th May 2012. I understand that the FÁS/NEES — Client Services System records currently indicate that the individual in question has not declared his interest in becoming an apprentice. He should contact his local NEES Employment Office to update his records accordingly.

Public Sector Staff

Dara Calleary

Question:

55 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if an employee of the Road Safety Authority can take up employment while on a career break. [30222/12]

Civil servants may be granted a career break for the purposes of child rearing, other domestic purposes, educational purposes and travel abroad. The period of a career break for these purposes can be up to five years. A career break, of up to three years only, may be granted for the purposes of self-employment, with certain conditions attached. Career breaks are not currently granted for the purpose of taking up paid employment in Ireland. The decision on whether to grant a career break is always taken by the department or organisation to whom the request is made and is subject to the operating requirements of the organisation not being adversely affected or undue additional expenditure being incurred. This position is under review by my Department.

Public Sector Staff

Dara Calleary

Question:

56 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if provision remains in place for a public servant to swap positions with another public servant working in another Department or county. [30223/12]

Civil Service departments and other public service organisations vary in relation to the approaches they adopt to the transfer of their own staff between locations and no centrally agreed approach is applied. There are no formal arrangements in place within the civil service to facilitate requests for transfers to other locations/employments, except in the case of grades represented by the Civil and Public Services Union. Transfers for these (mostly Clerical and Staff Officers) are arranged in accordance with formal procedures agreed with the Staff Side at General Council under the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme for the Civil Service. Transfers between grades in the civil service can be arranged on an informal, head-to-head, basis. Such transfers are arranged between the officers seeking to move and the relevant Personnel Units and require the agreement of both Personnel Officers.

Terence Flanagan

Question:

57 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of persons who have been made redundant, broken down between compulsory and voluntary, in the public sector over the fast five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30070/12]

Based on returns to made to my Department there were 2,157 voluntary redundancies and 20 compulsory redundancies (the Garda Training College) over the last five years. My Department is awaiting complete returns from the Department of Education and Skills. These will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as they are to hand. Certain categories of staff such as those employed under a fixed-term or specified purpose contract may qualify for a severance payment when their contract ends. These payments are not generally classed as redundancy payments and are not included in the above returns.

Denis Naughten

Question:

58 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of posts to be filled in the current Public Appointments Service recruitment competition for administrative officer in each stream in both Dublin and non-Dublin locations; the Departments involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30165/12]

Earlier this year the Public Appointments Service advertised an Administrative Officer competition in the following six specialist areas: Economics; Banking and Finance; Human Resources; Tax Policy; Accountancy; and Law. A total of 3,403 applications were received and the following is a summary of the activity in respect of the competition.

Economics. Following the selection process a total of 41 candidates were deemed suitable and placed on the panel for this stream. To date 35 have been offered appointments. Of the vacancies notified to PAS, 34 were in Dublin and 1 in Portlaoise. The Departments involved are Departments of Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, An Taoiseach and Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Portlaoise).

Banking and Finance. A panel of 25 has been established and to date 6 candidates have been assigned to the Department of Finance (Dublin). It is anticipated that an additional 6 candidates will be assigned shortly to Dublin vacancies.

Human Resources; Tax Policy; Accountancy; and Law streams. The selection process is ongoing for these specialist areas, therefore panels have not yet been finalised. PAS has not yet received clarification on the numbers and location of vacancies to be filled from these streams. It is however anticipated that the vacancies will be located in Dublin.

The location of an appointment is dictated by the needs of the employing Department and as such it is a matter for each Department to decide.

Consumer Association of Ireland

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

59 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will meet with a delegation from the Consumers' Association of Ireland to discuss its funding problems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30108/12]

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

60 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the amount of funding that was given to the Consumers' Association of Ireland in the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30109/12]

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

61 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his plans for the Consumers' Association of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30110/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 59 to 61, inclusive, together.

The Consumers' Association of Ireland (CAI) is a non-government, independent and non-profit organisation. The Association, which is a registered charity, is mainly funded by subscriptions from its members and by the sale of its magazineConsumer Choice. The position regarding funding from my Department for the years 2007-2012 is set out in the following table:

Year

Amount of funding paid to the CAI in €

2007

66,000.00

2008

68,000.00

2009

68,000.00

2010

28.954.09

2011

Nil as no application received from the CAI

2012

No application received from the CAI to date

The House will appreciate the importance of ensuring that value for money is the uppermost consideration when expending public money and any application from the CAI for funding must be evaluated in that context. I am currently arranging to meet with the CAI as requested by the Association.

Employment Rights

Terence Flanagan

Question:

62 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding the part-time workers Act (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30175/12]

The Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001 implemented EU Council Directive 97/81/EC into Irish law. The purpose of the Directive was to implement the Framework Agreement on part-time work concluded by the European cross-industry organisations UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC. The purpose of the Framework Agreement, which was annexed to the Directive, was to eliminate discrimination against part-time employees and to improve the quality of part-time work. It also aimed to facilitate the development of part-time work on a voluntary basis and to contribute to the flexible organisation of working time in a manner which takes into account the needs of employers and employees.

Clause 5.3 of the Framework Agreement (which is not a mandatory provision) provides that, as far as possible, employers should give consideration to: "(a) requests by workers to transfer from full-time to part-time work that becomes available in the establishment; (b) requests by workers to transfer from part-time to full-time work or to increase their working time should the opportunity arise; (c) the provision of timely information on the availability of part-time and full-time positions in the establishment in order to facilitate transfers from full-time to part-time or vice versa; (d) measures to facilitate access to part-time work at all levels of the enterprise, including skilled and managerial positions, and where appropriate, to facilitate access by part-time workers to vocational training to enhance career opportunities and occupational mobility; (e) the provision of appropriate information to existing bodies representing workers about part-time working in the enterprise."

Section 13(5) of the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001 contained provisions in relation the preparation and publishing of a Code of Practice by the Labour Relations Commission in relation to the steps that could be taken by employers for the purposes of Clause 5.3 of the Framework Agreement. The Labour Relations Commission prepared this Code of Practice, based on the provisions in Section 13 of the 2001 Act, following consultation with the social partners. It was deemed to be a Code of Practice and implemented, in 2006, by the Industrial Relations Act 1990 (Code of Practice on Access to Part-Time Working) (Declaration) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 8 of 2006). Under Section 42(4) of the Industrial Relations Act 1990, the Code is admissible in evidence in any proceedings before a Court, the Labour Court, the Labour Relations Commission, the Employment Appeals Tribunal or the Equality Tribunal.

I am satisfied that Clause 5.3 of Council Directive 97/81/EC has been correctly transposed by way of the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001. I note that this is confirmed by a 2003 report on the implementation of the Directive undertaken by the European Commission. As mentioned above, Clause 5.3 of the Directive is not a mandatory provision. It requires that, as far as possible, an employer should give consideration to a request by workers to transfer from full-time work to part-time in certain circumstances and vice-versa.

The Code of Practice contains provisions both in relation to transferring from full-time work to part-time work and from part-time work to full-time work. For example, in paragraph 4 of the Code, under the "General Principles" heading, one of the basic principles referred to is that, as far as possible, employers should give consideration to requests by employees to transfer from part-time to full-time work or to increase their working time should the opportunity arise. In addition, the heading in paragraph 8 of the Code also includes a reference to the transfer from part-time to full-time work. Ireland has, accordingly, met its responsibilities in relation to transposition of this clause of the Framework Agreement by way of a Code of Practice implemented under Section 13 of the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001.

Action Plan for Jobs

Brendan Griffin

Question:

63 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his plans to introduce measures to support established medium employers, average 60 employees who are struggling for survival in current economic conditions. [30183/12]

The Action Plan for Jobs contains over 270 actions to be implemented by all 15 Government Departments as well as 36 State agencies, and is intended to improve supports for job-creating businesses and remove barriers to employment-creation across the economy. The Plan aims to deliver the Taoiseach's commitment to make Ireland the best small country in the world in which to do business, and increase the number of people at work in Ireland by 100,000 — from 1.8m to 1.9m — by 2016.

The Plan includes a number of measures to improve supports for SMEs including the following:

Access to credit through the introduction of the Temporary Partial Guarantee Scheme, which will make it easier for viable small and medium businesses to access finance.

Closely monitoring the lending targets for the pillar banks and ensuring that these targets are met.

Helping SMEs to improve the quality of their loan applications.

Improved tax incentives have been introduced for small business such as the Employer's PRSI Incentive Scheme and Revenue Job Assist which provide for significant cost savings for employers who take on extra staff and an improvement in the Seed Capital Scheme for new start-ups.

We are actively working to facilitate more SMEs to compete for public procurement opportunities.

There is an increased emphasis on mentoring of SMEs and funding has been provided to support a new Management Development Networks programme.

Other supports which help companies to reduce their costs through greater energy efficiency are available from Enterprise Ireland, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

Enterprise Ireland has established a new Potential Exporters Division to deliver a wide range of initiatives, focussed on helping companies to export to international markets.

To assist the cash flow of businesses, Government Departments and State Agencies (excluding commercial semi-state bodies) are obliged to pay their suppliers within 15 days of receipt of a valid invoice. Any businesses experiencing difficulties in securing such 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.

A new website —businessregulation.ie— has been launched and is aimed at reducing the burden of red tape on business by bringing together in one place clear information on regulations imposed by over 30 Government bodies and how to comply with them. The website was developed to address a clear need identified by business for a single source of information on regulatory requirements. The Government will report on the delivery of these measures in its quarterly Progress Reports on the Action Plan for Jobs.

Job Creation

Denis Naughten

Question:

64 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will approve a proposal by a company (details supplied) to establish a programme for economic self-reliance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30188/12]

I have not directly received a proposal from Dunhill Rural Enterprises Ltd., but I understand that the organisation has developed a model for the creation of jobs in small local communities through the establishment of networks of micro-enterprises. Given the scale of our unemployment problem, I believe that all sectors of society have a role to play in addressing job creation in the economy — Government, the business sector and the community sector. This is recognised in the Action Plan for Jobs, which sets out a series of actions to support local initiatives undertaken by enterprises and by communities.

The Action Plan includes a commitment to conduct a report on the potential of social enterprises to create jobs. The report will identify the actions required by Government and other relevant bodies and agencies to support the creation of jobs in the sector. It will examine potential initiatives in the area, and will set out recommendations for the sector. Forfás is carrying out this work on my behalf. The project scoping work and initial research has involved discussions with a number of relevant parties, including Dunhill Rural Enterprises Ltd. I have asked Forfás to complete their work and to report to me by the end of the year.

Employment Rights

Jack Wall

Question:

65 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views regarding a submission (details supplied); his plans to address the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30217/12]

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

66 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position with the Industrial Relations (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30219/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 65 and 66 together.

The Industrial Relations (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill 2011 was published on 22 December 2011. The Bill completed Second Stage in the Dáil on 19 January 2012 and Committee Stage on Tuesday last, June 19th. It is expected that the legislation will complete its passage through the Oireachtas before the Summer recess. When enacted, this Bill will implement the programme of reforms to the JLC/REA systems agreed by Government in July 2011. It will radically overhaul the system so as to make it fairer and more responsive to changing economic circumstances and labour market conditions. It will also reinstate a robust system of protection for workers in these sectors in the aftermath of the High Court ruling in the John Grace Fried Chicken case.

Work Permits

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

67 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will reconsider the application by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare and-or a new application for a work permit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30258/12]

My officials advise me that this Work Permit application was refused on the 15th December 2011 on the grounds that it is current Government policy to issue new employment permits only in respect of:

highly skilled, highly paid positions or;

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

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

where an employer does not have more than 50% of its workforce drawn from non EEA nationals

Furthermore permits are issued in respect of employment where it is established that a minimum salary of €30,000 per annum is on offer, based on a 39 hour week.

It appeared that insufficient efforts were made to recruit/train an Irish or EEA National for this position. New work permit applications can only be considered where it is established that the position has been advertised with FÁS/EURES for a period of 8 weeks and that this advertisement has been flagged as a work permit vacancy and advertised for at least six days in both local and national newspapers.

Finally, it also appeared from the information provided that this employee was already working for the company without having a valid employment permit and that the company had no other employees. The applicant was notified of this decision in writing and of their right to appeal this decision within 21 days. As no appeal was received in the Employment Permits Section this matter is now at an end. If however the applicant wishes to make a new application in this instance the matter will be given further consideration.

Illness Benefit

Willie O'Dea

Question:

68 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views regarding the IMF staff report on changes to the sick pay regime; if he will outline his Department’s liaisons with the Department of Social Protection on this matter; if employers groups have expressed concern at changes to the system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30262/12]

Earlier this year, the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, who has policy responsibility for the Illness Benefit scheme, held a consultative meeting to discuss potential changes to the scheme in Ireland. Representatives from my Department and Forfás attended this forum, along with a number of business representative organisations. A Staff Report on Ireland's economic developments and policies was published by the International Monetary Fund on 15th June. The report encourages the reforming of sick leave policies in Ireland by requiring employers to pay for the first two to four weeks of illness. The views expressed in the paper are those of the IMF staff team and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Executive Board of the IMF. In fact, the report is inaccurate in commenting that the State pays sick pay from the outset of an illness when, in practice, no payment is made for the first three days of illness.

The cost to the State of sickness payments in the social welfare system is currently estimated to be approximately €900 million per annum. This includes payments to those with sick pay entitlements in both the private and public sector. Improved management of absenteeism across all sectors would obviously be welcome in terms of cost savings and increased productivity.

Employers' groups have publicly outlined their views on proposed changes to the sick pay scheme and have expressed concerns about the potential impact on enterprises. They have pointed out that there is already a high commitment to managing absenteeism at enterprise level. The Government will examine any proposals which the Minister for Social Protection may submit to it for consideration, and will have regard to the overall impact of the measures proposed.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

Jack Wall

Question:

69 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a domiciliary care allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30073/12]

Jack Wall

Question:

72 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a domiciliary care allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30123/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 69 and 72 together.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 09th November 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office and the case was referred to an Appeals Officer on 16th April 2012 who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

Nicky McFadden

Question:

70 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on a domiciliary care allowance appeal will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30081/12]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 3rd January 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 22nd May 2012 and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision based on the documentary evidence presented, or if required, hold an oral hearing. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Insolvency Payments Scheme

John Lyons

Question:

71 Deputy John Lyons asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application under the insolvency payments scheme in respect of a person (details supplied). [30084/12]

Claims under the Insolvency Payments Scheme in respect of the person concerned have recently been awarded. It is expected that, in the coming days, the associated payment will issue to the liquidator who should pay the monies to the person concerned as soon as possible thereafter.

Question No. 72 answered with Question No. 69.

Exceptional Needs Payment

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

73 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 84 of the 14 June 2012, if an exceptional needs payment can be given in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30128/12]

The person concerned and an officer of the Community Welfare Service are due to meet on Thursday, 21st June 2012. The current circumstances of the person concerned and any entitlement to an exceptional needs payment will be discussed at this meeting.

Community Employment Schemes

Gerry Adams

Question:

74 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide a list of all community employment schemes in County Louth in tabular form; the numbers of participants per scheme; the length of time each scheme will be active; the location of each scheme; the supervisor of each scheme; the funding that was provided to each scheme in 2009, 2010, 2011; the funding that will be provided in 2012; the number of jobs or CE places that have been lost in each scheme in 2012; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30130/12]

The following table shows the name and location of each Community Employment (CE) Scheme in County Louth as well as the number of participants by scheme and the change in the number of participants each year since 2009. It also shows the amount of funding by project for the years 2009, 2010, 2011. Budgets for 2012 will be finalised as soon as the financial review of CE Schemes is completed which is expected in the near future. Officials from the Department will be in touch with CE sponsor organisations once the review is completed. There are no plans locally to change either the number of schemes or the number of participants per scheme. All projects are funded on a year by year basis and will continue to operate subject to the rules of CE. The Deputy should note that supervisors are full-time employees of the sponsoring organisation and can be contacted through their employer.

Places Allocated to each Project

Places Lost since 2009

Places Gained Since 2009

Actual Spend €

SPONSOR NAME

Location

2009

2010

2011

2012

2009

2010

2011

ANNAGASSAN/ CASTELBELLINGHAM CE

Annagassan / CBH

16

16

16

16

0

0

262,333.00

273,605.41

253,844.99

ARDEE COMMUNITY EMPLOYMENT PRO

Ardee

28

28

28

28

0

0

484,825.35

527,790.12

443,032.99

AVE. RD. AREA COMM. DEV. GROUP

Dundalk

36

38

34

36

0

0

642,757.89

621,574.38

477,718.34

CENTRAL CE SCHEME

Dundalk

23

28

28

28

0

5

401,381.27

413,586.70

344,923.66

COMMUNITY SERVICES CENTRE

Drogheda

20

20

20

20

0

0

422,084.74

344,944.87

288,078.36

COOLEY COMMUNITY PROJECTS LTD

Cooley Omeath Cford

16

16

34

34

0

18

268,850.74

286,908.64

551,359.25

DROGHEDA AREA WOMENS NETWORK

Drogheda

19

18

18

18

1

0

316,591.19

250,583.35

234,907.14

DROGHEDA FOOTBALL SCHEME LTD.

Drogheda

20

20

20

21

0

1

344,851.80

367,925.70

339,034.96

DROGHEDA HOMELESS AID GROUP

Drogheda

16

16

16

16

0

0

256,084.57

240,034.34

237,576.49

DROGHEDA RESOURCE CENTRE

Drogheda

37

43

43

43

0

6

621,913.32

661,774.61

507,860.31

DROGHEDA WOMENS REFUGE

Drogheda

18

18

21

18

0

0

327,053.85

335,477.62

273,927.40

DROGHEDA YOUTH DEVELOPMENT BF

Drogheda

29

28

29

29

0

0

463,420.82

478,971.60

429,491.15

DROGHEDA YOUTH DEVELOPMENT YTH

Drogheda

25

22

22

25

0

0

353,878.60

349,474.63

305,243.82

DROICHEAD ARTS CENTRE

Drogheda

19

18

18

18

1

0

326,859.48

320,600.60

252,369.80

DUNDALK ICTU CENTRE LTD.

Dundalk

43

52

53

53

0

10

798,714.57

756,583.70

600,697.27

DUNLEER COMMUNITY EMP. COMMITTE

Dunleer

21

21

23

23

0

2

365,669.88

357,972.68

334,205.98

HOLY FAMILY COM. DEV. GROUP

Dundalk

25

24

25

20

5

0

443,765.58

394,313.76

242,204.66

INNISKEEN/WEST LOUTH DEV. GROUP

Dundalk Rural

23

26

26

26

0

3

365,864.40

384,881.16

327,511.27

LIFESTYLE DEVELOPMENT GROUP

Drogheda

25

24

24

24

1

0

364,278.18

407,855.44

347,413.07

MID LOUTH COMMUNITY EMPLOYMENT

Mid Louth / Tallanstown

61

67

61

61

0

0

1,049,227.81

1,018,212.20

880,660.53

MILLMOUNT COMMUNITY SERVICES LTD

Drogheda

42

42

42

42

0

0

605,474.84

632,858.37

491,547.47

MOUNT OLIVER AND DISTRICT CE LTD

Dundalk Rural

25

32

34

34

0

9

458,817.04

553,399.40

465,366.41

NORTH DROGHEDA C.E.SPONSOR GP.

Drogheda

32

32

32

32

0

0

577,631.30

603,280.15

465,597.85

REDEEMER DEVELOPMENT GROUP

Dundalk

57

57

57

46

11

0

1,006,953.57

1,032,053.62

877,870.78

SOCIETY OF ST VINCENT DE PAUL

Drogheda

17

17

17

17

0

0

303,291.17

292,853.72

234,182.59

ST JOSEPHS DEV GROUP

Dundalk

36

36

37

36

0

0

585,782.29

601,142.17

471,308.92

SWAP

Dundalk

28

48

48

48

0

20

441,792.25

737,311.81

602,789.86

THE FANE COMMUNITY GROUP

Blackrock/ Haggardstown

19

20

26

26

0

7

356,015.61

497,381.80

340,877.97

TOGHER COMM. PROJECT GROUP

Togher

20

20

20

20

0

0

293,704.44

337,550.05

306,543.56

Totals

796

847

872

858

19

81

13,509,869.55

14,080,902.60

11,928,146.85

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

75 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the correct level of jobseeker’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30142/12]

The person concerned is in receipt of €40.00 per week jobseeker's allowance. Following the submission of additional information, a review of this case is being undertaken at present, and the person concerned will be informed of the outcome once the review is completed.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

76 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if jobseeker’s allowance payment will continue to be granted in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30143/12]

The person concerned may be eligible to participate on the National Internship Scheme (JobBridge) while retaining his current rate of payment prior to commencement on the scheme. In addition, all JobBridge participants receive a top-up payment of €50.00 per week. An application form for the Scheme issued to the person concerned on 19th June 2012.

Community Employment Schemes

Sandra McLellan

Question:

77 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will conduct a review of the socio-economic values of community employment schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30152/12]

The Community Employment (CE) Scheme is a key element of social provision in Ireland and its value and contribution is recognised by all stakeholders and beneficiaries. In addition to its labour market activation role, CE provides two key socioeconomic benefits. Firstly, it provides a valuable role for CE workers in their own communities, many of whom would otherwise be marginalised and economically inactive. Secondly, it helps to sustain community organisations and to provide valuable social services in disadvantaged areas. There are also key benefits to the CE participants themselves in terms of personal development, self-esteem, accredited training and valuable work experience. The intrinsic value of CE lies in the economic contribution it makes towards the provision of services, many of which would fall back on the State to provide at much higher cost.

Sandra McLellan

Question:

78 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Social Protection the State agency that will be processing the community employment training grants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30153/12]

Staff in this Department will be processing the training grants for CE schemes.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

79 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Social Protection the outcome of a medical review of a domiciliary care allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30164/12]

An application for domiciliary care allowance was received from the person concerned in September 2011. This application was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for the allowance. A letter issued on the 15th November 2011 advising the person concerned of the decision. She subsequently requested a review of this decision and supplied additional information on her child's condition. Her application along with the extra information she provided, was reviewed by a second Medical Assessor who found the child to be medically eligible for the allowance. The person concerned was notified of the decision on the 13th June 2012 and payment will issue shortly.

Invalidity Pension

Pat Breen

Question:

80 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on invalidity pension will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30177/12]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an oral hearing of the appeal of the person concerned took place on 28th May 2012 and the Appeals Officer is now considering the appeal in the light of all the evidence submitted, including that adduced at the hearing. The person concerned will be notified of the Appeals Officer decision when the appeal has been determined. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Fraud

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

81 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans to address those persons who, with no visible sign of income other than welfare payments from the State, can afford extravagances and public displays of a variety of different natures including family and religious celebrations; if she has engaged the services of the Garda and Revenue to examine the finances of such individuals; if she is satisfied that her Department has sufficient resources to investigate such persons; if she would consider the establishment and promotion of a confidential service for members of the public to provide information on such persons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30180/12]

The prevention of fraud and abuse of the social welfare system is an integral part of the day-to-day work of my Department which makes payments to some 1.4 million people every week and processes in excess of 2 million claims each year. However, it is important to recognise that the vast majority of people are receiving the entitlement that is due to them. The Deputy may be aware of the Department's Fraud Initiative (2011-2013) which is aimed at putting in place a range of actions to combat fraud and abuse and to ensure there is public confidence and trust in the social welfare system.

The Department's Special Investigation Unit (SIU) is specifically tasked with investigating fraud and abuse of social welfare schemes. Its work involves a broad range of management, liaison, enforcement, investigation and intelligence gathering duties and it operates at the high or more organised end of social welfare fraud and abuse. Individuals whose lifestyle and display of wealth or assets are not commensurate with social welfare dependency are targeted for investigation. Where intelligence or reliable reports are received about persons engaged in concurrent working and claiming or under declaration of income, reviews of eligibility are immediately undertaken. The Unit works closely with Revenue staff in the Joint Investigation Unit, with the Gardaí and other compliance and enforcement agencies.

The Department accepts reports of possible fraud from members of the public in relation to the various schemes it administers. To this end, it operates both a dedicated phone number and there is also a facility on the Department's website to make such reports. Members of the public are asked to provide as much detail about the case they are reporting as possible and they can do so anonymously.

Reports can be made as follows:

By email;

By phone: (01) 6732123, (071) 9672648 or Locall: 1890 927999; or

By Post: Central Control Division, DSP, Shannon Lodge, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim.

All anonymous or confidential reports are examined and, where relevant, are referred to scheme owners and/or to the Department's inspectors for appropriate follow-up action.

Question No. 82 withdrawn.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

83 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason payment of rent allowance has ceased in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if and when payment will be instated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30210/12]

There is no record of an application for rent supplement in respect of the person concerned.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

84 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the maximum rent level acceptable in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare, in view of the fact that the accommodation meets the special needs requirements of two adults, one wheelchair bound; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30253/12]

A review of this case is being undertaken at present and the person concerned will be informed of the outcome once the review is completed.

Invalidity Pension

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

85 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review the decision and-or refer the existing appeal for oral hearing the refusal for invalidity pension in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30254/12]

Invalidity pension is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and who satisfy the contribution conditions. This department received a claim for invalidity pension for the person concerned. The medical evidence provided by the claimant in support of his claim was examined by a medical assessor who was of the opinion that the person concerned is not eligible for invalidity pension as he does not satisfy the medical criteria. The application for invalidity pension was, accordingly, disallowed by a deciding officer. The applicant was notified of this decision and was advised of his right to request a review of the decision and also of his right to lodge an appeal with the social welfare appeals office.

The applicant has submitted further medical evidence and requested a review of the decision. The additional medical evidence will be evaluated by a different medical assessor and a decision on the review will issue to the applicant. The applicant will have the right to appeal this decision if he is not satisfied with the outcome of the review.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

86 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when appeal in respect of refusal for invalidity pension will be processed in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [30255/12]

Invalidity pension is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and who satisfy the contribution conditions. This department received a claim for invalidity pension for the person concerned. The medical evidence provided by the claimant in support of her claim was examined by a medical assessor who was of the opinion that the person concerned is not eligible for invalidity pension as she does not satisfy the medical criteria. The application for invalidity pension was, accordingly, disallowed by a deciding officer. The applicant was notified of this decision on 19 May 2012 and was advised of her right to request a review of the decision and also of her right to lodge an appeal with the social welfare appeals office. To date no additional supporting evidence has been received from the person concerned nor has the person in question lodged an appeal.

Departmental Reports

Willie O'Dea

Question:

87 Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Social Protection when she expects to have a final report prepared on her consultation on changes to the sick pay system; when she expects to bring proposals to cabinet; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30261/12]

The report of the consultative seminar on the feasibility and implications of introducing a scheme of statutory sick pay held in February 2012 is now available on the Department's website athttp://www.welfare.ie/EN/Policy/CorporatePublications/Finance/exp_rev/Pages/consultation.aspx. The range of complex issues associated with the introduction of such a scheme will continue to be addressed over the coming months, both within the Department and in consultation with key stakeholders, including other Government Departments. The issues involved will be discussed in the course of the wider process associated with the preparation of Budget 2013 and any decisions which might be taken by Government on the possible introduction of a statutory sick pay scheme will be considered in that context.

Irish Language

Ciara Conway

Question:

88 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if it is proposed to have the Irish Water board-Uisce Éireann included under the remit of the Acht Teangan in order that customers will receive correspondence as Gaeilge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30126/12]

Ciara Conway

Question:

89 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will list the bodies and or agencies that are due to come under the remit of the Acht Teangan; if he will outline a timeframe for this process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30127/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 88 and 89 together.

The Official Languages Act 2003 (Public Bodies) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 150 of 2006) came into effect on 1 May 2006. The purpose of these Regulations was to update the list of public bodies in the First Schedule to the Official Languages Act, having regard to changes in the public sector since the commencement of the Act in 2003. The matter of drafting further Regulations, to update the list of public bodies that come within the scope of the Act, will be considered in the context of the review of the Act which is currently being undertaken by my Department.

Turbary Rights

John O'Mahony

Question:

90 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive payment for the sale of turbary rights which are being processed for over four years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30260/12]

The individual referred to in the Question has applied to sell his interest in land in a raised bog special area of conservation under the voluntary bog purchase scheme, administered by my Department. I am advised that processing of applications on hand under this scheme is slow, due to capacity constraints in undertaking the work involved. I understand that there are a number of issues in relation to the application from the individual referred to in the Question, and we will write to the applicant in relation to the issues within the next few weeks.

Telecommunications Services

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

91 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his attention had been drawn to the fact that Eircom will only accept payments through the An Post of a minimum of €20 even when the payee is in credit with his or her account, or if the balance is less than €20; if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties that this presents for persons on low incomes or dependent on social welfare, and if he intends to address this matter. [30090/12]

The regulation of telecommunications operators, including regulatory issues surrounding billing by operators, is the responsibility of the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) in accordance with its functions under the Communications Regulation Act 2002, as amended.

I understand from ComReg that Eircom introduced a minimum €20 payment for transactions using the over-the-counter service in October 2010. Eircom pointed out that it will continue to offer its customers facilities to pay bills by agreed instalments at levels below the minimum €20 payment imposed on the over-the-counter service. The alternative payment options include the Household Budget scheme and Postpoint service operated by An Post, the Payzone and Paypoint services operated by various service providers across the country, payments using Bank of Ireland and AIB ATMs, payments by electronic means and that it has notified these alternatives to its customers.

Natural Gas Grid

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

92 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when the report of the regulator regarding Shannon Liquefied Natural Gas will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30190/12]

The Deputy will be aware from my replies to previous Parliamentary Questions that the decision on the regulatory treatment of the gas interconnectors is statutorily a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) and I have no function in the matter. Most recently, the CER decision has been delayed by the requirement for the regulator to provide material to my Department in response to the further submission by Shannon LNG to the Directorate General (DG) for Competition. Detailed responses in relation to the issues raised about State aid compliance have recently been provided by my Department to the DG for Competition. The CER has assured my Department that it remains committed to publishing a final decision at the soonest practicable date and is hopeful, subject to no further blockages emerging, that a decision will be made this month.

Radio Broadcasting

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

93 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if there are plans to introduce a foundation licence for amateur radio, similar to the one available in Britain which allows 10 watts on amateur bands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30202/12]

The management of the radio spectrum is a statutory function of the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) under the Communications Regulation Act 2002, as amended. I am advised by ComReg that the foundation licence for amateur radio referred to by the Deputy is unique to Britain and that it is not widely recognised outside of Britain. The amateur radio licence issued by ComReg (under Statutory Instrument No. 192 of 2009) is of an international standard that is recognised by over 40 countries.

While some national authorities have implemented some form of entry level licence, these licences have not achieved full international recognition as of yet. Furthermore, Ireland's radio amateur representative body, the Irish Radio Transmitter Society, has advised ComReg that a foundation licence or similar is not something of interest to the radio amateur community. I understand that while the matter will be continually reviewed by ComReg in light of international practices, there is no immediate plan to reduce the qualifications to facilitate a foundation type of licence.

Property Taxation

Michael McGrath

Question:

94 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his Department has had any contact with Revenue regarding a possible role for Revenue in collecting the property tax that will be introduced in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30194/12]

An independently-chaired Inter-Departmental Expert Group was established to consider the structures and modalities for an equitable valuation-based property tax. The Group has recently completed its work and submitted its report to me. The approach to the report will be considered by the Government in due course.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Arthur Spring

Question:

95 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when the assessment of the preliminary report on the Tarbert sewerage scheme submitted by Kerry County Council will be completed in order that the he can make a decision on the approval of the scheme. [30071/12]

The Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2013, provides for the development of a comprehensive range of new water services infrastructure in County Kerry. The Programme includes contracts under construction and to commence to the value of over €92 million in the country during the period of the Programme.

A Contract for a wastewater treatment plant for Tarbert is included amongst the list of contracts in the county to start in the period 2010-2013 with the network element of the scheme to advance through planning during the same period. The Preliminary Report for the scheme was submitted by Kerry County Council and is being assessed by my Department. However, the Council was requested to provide additional information to enable my Department to complete its assessment. The Council has submitted the required information and my Department is now finalising its assessment. A decision will be conveyed to the Council shortly.

Foreshore Licences

Michael McCarthy

Question:

96 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if it is acceptable that an organisation faces having to pay a considerable fee a second time in respect of a public advertisement process (details supplied); if there are financial subventions available to assist with the second incidence in view of its high cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30080/12]

Public participation is a necessary and important feature of the foreshore assessment process conducted by my Department. Detailed instructions were issued to the applicant in writing on how information relating to the application was to be made available to the public. Unfortunately, the applicant has not complied with those instructions and my Department is now considering the matter in consultation with the applicant before deciding on the most appropriate next steps.

Departmental Reports

Clare Daly

Question:

97 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will ensure that the pyrite panel report, which has already been substantially delayed, is published soon, in order that its contents can be discussed prior to the summer recess. [30111/12]

I understand that the Pyrite Panel will be submitting its report to me in the coming days and I intend to publish it as quickly as possible after reviewing it.

Appointments to State Boards

Clare Daly

Question:

98 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will ensure that the new Building Regulations Advisory Body has no representatives from HomeBond and is more reflective of consumers and the general public. [30112/12]

I will shortly be seeking expressions of interest from persons willing to serve on the Building Regulations Advisory Body. This opportunity will be advertised publicly on my Department's website in the near future. I anticipate a high level of interest and I look forward to making suitable appointments in the coming months.

Local Authority Funding

Joan Collins

Question:

99 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if a senior official in his Department (details supplied) participated in drafting a portion of the report relating to a proposal to engage private consultants to carry out a financial appraisal of Sligo County Council, which was presented by the Sligo county manager to a meeting of the county council on the 2 of April 2012; if he agreed-approved the brief and terms of reference for the financial appraisal; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the elected members of the county council were not consulted by council management with regard to the brief and terms of reference; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the financial appraisal is fundamentally flawed by virtue of the fact that there is no proposal in the terms of reference for the consultants to examine, review or assess the performance and competence of the management of the county council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30113/12]

I refer to the replies to Question numbers 864 of 18 April 2012 and 273 of 8 May 2012, and Sligo County Council's decision to engage an independent financial consultant to prepare a report on the financial position of the Council. The report is intended to inform and advise the Council members and management on possible ways forward in dealing with the challenging financial circumstances of the Council. I have already confirmed that my Department was consulted on the terms of reference for the review and I have asked to be provided with a copy of the report when it is complete. I understand that the report is to be submitted to the Council early in July.

Local Authority Staff

Joan Collins

Question:

100 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of permanent and temporary staff employed by Sligo County Council in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30115/12]

The number of persons employed by Sligo County Council in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012, is set out in the table below on a whole time equivalent basis (WTE):

Sligo County Council

Permanent WTE

Temporary WTE

Total WTE

December 2008

527.23

59.57

586.8

December 2009

498.37

31.55

529.92

December 2010

485.45

25.00

510.45

December 2011

467.18

21.56

488.74

March 2012

463.51

11.56

475.07

Water Services

Ciara Conway

Question:

101 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if Irish Water will come under the Acht Teangan, whereby the company would be obliged to provide correspondence or bills as Gaeilge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30117/12]

The Government decided in December 2011, based on the recommendations of an independent assessment, to establish a public water utility company, Irish Water, to take over the operational and capital delivery functions of local authorities in the water services area. Following further consideration as to whether Irish Water should be established as a new entity or whether existing bodies in the Semi State sector could undertake the function, the Government decided that Irish Water should be established as an independent state owned company within the Bord Gáis Group. While I understand that Bord Gáis Éireann does come under Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla, specific legislation will be brought before the House to establish Irish Water which will set out more detailed provisions regarding the establishment and operation of Irish Water, including whether it will come under Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla.

Local Authority Staff

Joan Collins

Question:

102 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide, in tabular form, the numbers of persons employed in each local authority earning more than €100,000 per annum; the positions for which they receive these salaries and the section in which they work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30118/12]

As of 31 March, 2012 there were 235.8 local authority staff, consisting of City and County Managers, Assistant Managers and Directors of Service, on salary scales the maximum points of which are in excess of €100,000. The breakdown by local authority is provided in the following table:

Table

Cork City

9

Dublin City

36.8

Galway City

5

Limerick City

4

Waterford City

5

Carlow

6

Cavan

5

Clare

5

Cork

13

Donegal

6

Dun Laoghaire

9

Fingal

7

Galway

6

Kerry

6

Kildare

6

Kilkenny

5

Laois

4

Leitrim

6

Limerick

6

Longford

5

Louth

6

Mayo

6

Meath

6

Monaghan

4

Offaly

5

Roscommon

5

Sligo

4

South Dublin

7

Tipperary North

5

Tipperary South

6

Waterford

5

Westmeath

4

Wexford

5

Wicklow

8

LA Total

230.8

Regional Authorities

5

Overall Total

235.8

Planning Issues

Robert Dowds

Question:

103 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason submissions to An Bord Pleanála cannot be viewed either by the public or by the persons making the planning application, until a decision has been made by An Bord Pleanála. [30168/12]

While Section 146 of the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2010 provides that the files on appeals can be inspected by members of the public 3 days after the appeals are determined by the Board, in practice the Board circulates substantive submissions received to interested parties for their information, and usually for comment, during the course of an appeal. Information in relation to appeals procedures is available atwww.pleanala.ie.

Burial Grounds

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

104 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is satisfied that existing regulations governing the construction and erection of headstones is adequate; if he will consider reviewing the current practices in place within local authority areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30181/12]

The management and maintenance of burial grounds is entirely a matter for each local authority concerned and one in which my Department has no direct function. Local authorities also have a general power to make bye-laws in relation to burial grounds, including bye-laws in relation to headstones. The making of such bye-laws is a matter for decision by individual local authorities and is a reserved function of the elected members.

Local Authority Housing

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

105 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in view of the constraints facing local authorities, and the number of unoccupied local authority houses, if he will examine the pre-letting conditions which local authorities must attain in advance of letting houses, particularly in relation to energy ratings; if he will consider allowing tenants of local authority houses apply to the relevant agencies themselves for financial assistance to insulate their houses, with the occupiers contribution being paid partially or wholly in lieu of rent for an agreed period of time with the local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30182/12]

In accordance with the provisions of the Housing Act, 1966, the provision and management of dwellings, including the carrying out of planned maintenance programmes and pre-letting repairs, is the responsibility of the relevant housing authority. Housing maintenance works, including pre-letting repairs, are funded directly by local authorities from their own resources, including from rental income and receipts from the disposal of properties and sales of houses to tenants.

Under my Department's Social Housing Investment Programme, local authorities are allocated capital funding each year in respect of a range of measures to improve the standard and overall quality of their social housing stock, including the regeneration of large social housing estates and flat complexes, estate wide remedial works schemes, a retrofitting measure to improve the energy efficiency of older apartments and houses and funding for extensions and adaptations to meet the needs of tenants with a disability etc. Given the constraints on capital budgets for new stock, my Department has in recent years placed a greater emphasis on local authority social housing improvement works programmes and on the early return of vacant units to productive use.

A total of €18 million is being provided this year for improving the quality and energy efficiency of older housing stock. Beginning in 2011, my Department required local authorities to focus the energy retrofitting programme on bringing vacant stock back into productive use. The 2012 programme will build on the achievements of 2011 when more than 2,600 vacant units were refurbished and made available for re-letting. While local authorities may undertake work on tenanted properties, there is a continuing focus on making vacant properties available for re-letting as quickly as possible. Grants of up to €15,000 per house are generally available for improving the fabric of the house with a further grant of up to €3,000 where additional essential works are needed. Over the course of 2010 and 2011 a total of 4,492 houses were improved.

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), which falls under the remit of my colleague the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, provides a range of grant supports to homeowners to improve the energy efficiency of their dwellings, reduce emissions and improve comfort levels. However, these measures do not apply to tenants of local authority houses and any proposal to extend the benefits of these schemes to local authority tenants is, in the first instance, a matter for the Minister concerned.

I intend to review the operation of the Social Housing Improvement Works Programme, including the energy efficiency measure, with a view to possible changes aimed at improving the targeting and overall effectiveness of the various measures. This review will include issues like co-ordinating the carrying out of pre-letting repairs and installation of attic and wall insulation in older properties.

Local Authority Charges

John McGuinness

Question:

106 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to introduce fees to declare vintage or classic vehicles off the road; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30209/12]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 483 of 19 June 2012 which sets out the position in this matter.

Building Regulations

Terence Flanagan

Question:

107 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding Priory Hall (details supplied), Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30212/12]

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

An Ghaeilge

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

108 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil an bhfuil sé i gceist aige a mholadh don Roinn Ealaíon, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta go dtabharfaí na Cinn Chomhairimh i dtoghcháin agus i reifrinn faoi scáth Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla, 2003, i bhfianaise an fhreagra a fuair mé ar Cheist Pharlaiminte Uimhir 87 an 14 Meitheamh 2012; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [30220/12]

Ní thagann Ceann Comhairimh nó a fhoireann díreach faoi Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla, 2003. I dtreoirlínte a eisítear roimh gach toghchán chuig Ceann Comhairimh molann mo Roinn go ndéanfadh siad cinnte de go bhfuil oifigigh ceannais and cléirigh vótaíochta sa Ghaeltacht ábalta a chuid gnó a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge. Iarrtar ar Cheann Comhairimh freisin, sna treoirlínte, a chinntiú go bhfuil fógraí agus postaeir i stáisiúin vótála sa Ghaeltacht, chomh maith le comharthaí don stáisiúin vótála, i nGaeilge amháin. Níl sé ar intinn agam athrú a dhéanamh maidir le stádas oifigigh toghcháin faoi Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla, 2003.

Social and Affordable Housing

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

109 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when it is expected that measures will be introduced to alleviate the unfair burden on shared ownership mortgage holders who are finding it impossible to meet the requirements of the scheme particularly when their rent repayments exceed loan repayments for, in some situations, a much lower part of the equity; if he will examine the matter as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30256/12]

Under the Shared Ownership scheme the rent charged on the local authority's equity in a shared ownership transaction is to cover the funding costs to the Housing Finance Agency which are based on borrowings at the prevailing interest rates. Any difference between the rent and prevailing interest rate is reflected in the capital outstanding on the property, i.e. if the rent charged in any period is greater than the prevailing mortgage interest due on the local authority's share the purchase price of the outstanding equity will be reduced accordingly.

Local authority mortgage holders and including those who purchased under shared ownership — also benefit from extremely keenly priced interest rates which generally run at around 0.5% lower than the best rates available in the market and currently stand at around 1.5% below average variable rates available in the market. This is a very substantial differential. To take account of the current housing market conditions, the Government's housing policy statement, published in June 2011, announced the standing down of all affordable housing schemes, including the shared ownership scheme, in the context of a full review of Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000. That review is now underway and it is expected to conclude later in the year. Any future changes to legislation governing affordable housing schemes, including shared ownership, will be informed by that review.

Liquor Licences

Charles Flanagan

Question:

110 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of special exemption orders granted in respect of licensed premises in 2011 and the revenue raised therein; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30075/12]

The Deputy will be aware that, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service. The Act provides that the Service is independent in the performance of its functions, which includes the provision of statistics. However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has informed me that the total number of Special Exemption Order applications dealt with by the District Court in 2011 was 53,837. The income from court fees in respect of these applications was €16,151,100. Excise duty of €110 per application is also payable to Revenue. The Service has indicated to me that statistics are not maintained on the number of such orders granted by the Court and that the data could not be extracted without a disproportionate expenditure of staff time and resources which could not be justified in the circumstances.

Garda National Immigration Bureau

Brendan Griffin

Question:

111 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on a matter regarding the immigration bureau at Dublin Airport (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30140/12]

Enquiries with members of the Garda National Immigration Bureau and officials of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, who carry out immigration control at Dublin Airport, did not identify any incident similar to that described by the Deputy. However, if details regarding the flight on which the persons concerned travelled to Dublin airport can be provided, it would greatly assist in identifying the immigration control point at Dublin airport at which the persons presented in order to seek permission to enter the State. This would, of course, assist with any further enquiries. As a general principle, the Deputy will be aware that it is open to a member of the public directly affected by the conduct of a member of An Garda Síochána that he or she believes is misbehaviour to contact the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission as the body responsible for receiving and dealing with all complaints made by members of the public concerning the conduct of members of An Garda Síochána. A witness to such behaviour may also make a complaint.

Personal Debt

Terence Flanagan

Question:

112 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the action he will take on the issue of personal debt and mortgage arrears; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30166/12]

I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 353 of 7 February, 2012, which was as follows:

The reform of personal insolvency law, the Heads of Bill which I have published, will involve the introduction of three new non-judicial debt settlement systems, subject to relevant conditions in each case. These are as follows:

A Debt Relief Certificate to allow for the full write-off of qualifying unsecured debt up to €20,000, after a one-year moratorium period for debtors with "no assets — no income";

A Debt Settlement Arrangement for the agreed settlement of unsecured debt of €20,001 and over with two or more creditors;

A Personal Insolvency Arrangement for the agreed settlement of both secured and unsecured debt of €20,001 to €3 million with one or more creditors. The Personal Insolvency Bill will also continue the reform of the Bankruptcy Act 1988, begun in the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 and will include, critically, the introduction of automatic discharge from bankruptcy, subject to certain conditions, after 3 years in place of the current 12 years.

I am of the view that new personal insolvency laws, including the bankruptcy law reform, should provide a significant incentive for financial institutions to develop and implement realistic agreements to manage or settle debt with their customers. Such agreements should in time become the norm as the most sensible and cost-effective arrangements, particularly where the issue is one of dealing with repayment difficulties for a single major debt, secured or otherwise. These agreements could include measures to address mortgage arrears.

The Personal Insolvency Bill is currently being drafted by my Department in cooperation with the Office of the Attorney General and Parliamentary Counsel. I can assure the Deputy that the Bill remains a legislative priority for the Government and the revised time frame for publication of the Bill is now the end of June with the strong intention to commence Second Stage in the Dáil prior to the Summer recess to facilitate early passage of the legislation through the Oireachtas in the Autumn session.

Citizenship Applications

Finian McGrath

Question:

113 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position regarding citizenship in respect to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 [30093/12]

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that an application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in May, 2011. On examination of the application submitted it was determined that the person in question did not meet the statutory residency requirements as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. The person concerned was informed of this in a letter dated 26 May 2011. It is open to any individual to lodge an application for citizenship if and when they are in a position to meet the prescribed statutory requirements.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme

Robert Dowds

Question:

114 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will provide an update on his plans regarding the Bethany Survivors’ Group. [30169/12]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 502 for written answer on 19 June, 2012. While I cannot be more specific at this time, consideration continues to be given to issues relating to the former Bethany Home and how they might be addressed.

Crime Statistics

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

115 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons that have been charged under the Prohibition to the Incitement to Hatred Act 1989; the number of convictions that have been in relation to the Prohibition to the Incitement to Hatred Act 1989; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30171/12]

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. I have requested the CSO to provide statistics directly to the Deputy.

Prison Medical Service

Jack Wall

Question:

116 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reasons a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is not in receipt of treatment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30184/12]

The Irish Prison Service provides general healthcare services for the assessment, treatment and care of prisoners comparable to those available in a community primary care setting and which are appropriate to a custodial environment. Prisoners are referred to external specialist services as clinically indicated by the prison doctor and referrals are on the same basis as for citizens in the general community covered by the GMS (Medical Card Scheme).

Having consulted with the Irish Prison Service and clinical personnel in Midlands Prison, I have been informed that the prisoner referred to is receiving the appropriate care for his condition, including referral to specialist services, and has undergone a surgical procedure in this regard. Since this procedure, the prisoner has attended a review with the appropriate hospital specialist. Any further hospital treatment will be as directed by that specialist. As I am sure you are aware, however, medical confidentiality is a time honoured principle of professional healthcare ethics and accordingly I am not at liberty to divulge specific information relating to a person's medical records.

Control of Firearms

John McGuinness

Question:

117 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 200 of the 20 October 2011, if he will now respond in view of the fact that the civil proceedings have been dealt with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30208/12]

I have requested a report from the Garda authorities in relation to the matter referred to by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy again when the report is to hand.

Family Reunification

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

118 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or expected position in regard to family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30242/12]

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person referred to by the Deputy was issued with a negative decision on her family reunification application on the 9th January 2012 and a copy of the consideration detailing the reasons for the decision was also provided.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by Email using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up-to-date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Naturalisation Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

119 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress made to date or expected position in regard to entitlement to naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30243/12]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) in October 2011. On examination of the application submitted it was determined that the person in question did not meet the statutory residency requirements as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. The person concerned was informed of this in a letter issued to her on 6 June, 2012.

It is open to any individual to lodge an application for citizenship if and when they are in a position to meet the prescribed statutory requirements. The on-line Naturalisation Residency Calculator available on the INIS web-site atwww.inis.gov.ie can be used as a guide to whether an individual satisfies the naturalisation residency conditions and, if not, give an indication of how long they should wait before making an application.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Asylum Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

120 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan; his views on the repeated request that their child be registered as an asylum seeker in view of the fact that their child already holds an Irish passport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30244/12]

The person concerned is a failed asylum applicant. Arising from the refusal of her asylum application, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was notified, by letter dated 30 March, 2010, that the then Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a Deportation Order or of making representations to the then Minister setting out the reasons why a Deportation Order should not be made against her. In addition, she was notified of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006.

The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome. In the event that the application for Subsidiary Protection is refused, the position in the State of the person concerned will then be decided by reference to the provisions of Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. All representations submitted will be considered before a final decision is made. In advance of a final decision being made, the case of the person concerned will be examined to determine what, if any, impact the European Court of Justice Judgment in the Zambrano case may have on her case. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the person concerned.

The legal representative of the person concerned submitted an Irish passport on behalf of the child of the person concerned and was informed by letter from my Department dated 26 October 2011 that because her child held an Irish Passport, the provisions of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) do not apply in the child's case. Equally it was stated that the Section 3 letter issued to the child in July, 2011 would have no further effect.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Naturalisation Applications

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

121 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or expected status in respect of residency or naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30245/12]

The person concerned was granted permission to remain in the State on the basis of family dependency on 20 April, 2011. This permission is currently valid until 18 January, 2014. Officials in the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to. It is open to any individual to lodge an application for citizenship if and when they are in a position to meet the statutory requirements as prescribed in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 as amended.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

122 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress made to date in the determination of an application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30246/12]

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that a valid application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in July, 2011. The application is at an advanced stage of processing and the applicant will be informed of my decision in due course. It is recognised that all applicants for citizenship would wish to have a decision on their application without delay. Considerable resources are deployed to process applications and these resources together with the necessary administrative arrangements are kept under review.

As well as being a significant event in the life of its recipient, the granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation as provided for in law is also a major step for the State which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

123 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current residency status and or eligibility for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30247/12]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) in September 2011. On examination of the application submitted it was determined that the person in question did not meet the statutory residency requirements as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. The person concerned was informed of this in a letter issued to her on 5 June, 2012.

It is open to any individual to lodge an application for citizenship if and when they are in a position to meet the prescribed statutory requirements. The on-line Naturalisation Residency Calculator available on the INIS web-site atwww.inis.gov.ie can be used as a guide to whether an individual satisfies the naturalisation residency conditions and, if not, give an indication of how long they should wait before making an application. The person concerned currently has permission to remain in the State until 13 July 2016.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

124 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or expected status and or entitlement to naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30248/12]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) in September 2011. On examination of the application submitted it was determined that the person in question did not meet the statutory residency requirements as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. The person concerned was informed of this in a letter issued to him on 5 June, 2012.

It is open to any individual to lodge an application for citizenship if and when they are in a position to meet the prescribed statutory requirements. The on-line Naturalisation Residency Calculator available on the INIS web-site atwww.inis.gov.ie can be used as a guide to whether an individual satisfies the naturalisation residency conditions and, if not, give an indication of how long they should wait before making an application. The person concerned currently has permission to remain in the State until 21 February 2016.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Army Barracks

Nicky McFadden

Question:

125 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Defence if he has fully considered the historical significance and iconic importance of Custume Barracks, Athlone, County Westmeath during any discussions he has had with high ranking or other military officers regarding the possible barrack closure; if he is prepared to consult with all agencies with an interest in the retention of the barracks had it its existing military presence and profile at Athlone; if his attention has been drawn to the strong local support from political, social, economical and historical interests for the retention of the Barracks in its present form; if he will meet representatives of such interest groups to discuss these issues of concern; if in the meantime, he will postpone any decision to close the barracks or decline to take any action which might culminate in its closure pending discussions with local interests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30100/12]

Nicky McFadden

Question:

126 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Defence if he has considered altering the guidelines given to senior military personnel in their examination of the role and function of the various military barracks throughout the country and in particular keeping in mind strategic regional and traditional issues and values which might significantly improve the prospects for the retention of existing or increased military presence at Custume Barracks, Athlone, County Westmeath; if he will also in the course of consideration of impositions imposed arising from the economic crisis fully taken into account the social and economic benefit of Custume Barracks in its present form to the area; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that significant budgetary cuts of equal magnitude can be achieved without the closure of the barracks which would result in an unnecessary and disproportionate punishment of Athlone and its hinterland simply to accommodate the fallout from the economic negligence of the previous administration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30102/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 125 and 126 together.

As the Deputy is aware, arising from the Government's Comprehensive Review of Expenditure, the strength ceiling of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) was reduced to 9,500 personnel. In response to this reduced strength ceiling, I initiated a major re-organisation of the Defence Forces, both permanent and reserve. As a three Brigade structure is no longer viable at this strength level, the re-organisation will encompass a reduction in the number of Army Brigades from the current three to two.

There has been a concerted campaign of misinformation about the possible impacts of this reorganisation on Custume Barracks, Athlone. In particular this campaign has claimed that a withdrawal of the Brigade headquarters would result in a reduction in the strength level in Custume Barracks by 600 personnel. In order to clarify the position and refute this misinformation, I recently announced where the headquarters of the two new Brigades would be located, which is Cork and Dublin and what this means for Custume Barracks.

I can confirm again that within an overall strength of 9,500, the numbers serving in Custume Barracks will be of the order of 1,000 personnel. There are presently 1,050 personnel in Custume Barracks. Accordingly, the re-organisation will have no dramatic impact on numbers in Custume Barracks. I can also confirm again that under the re-organisation Custume Barracks will not close and that it will continue to be an important operational military barracks. I trust that this clarifies the position and disproves the campaign of misinformation, which has caused undue concerns for the citizens of Athlone and its environs.

Defence Forces Reserve

Michael McGrath

Question:

127 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question No. 150 of 12 October 2011, the numbers, by Brigade of Reserve Defence Force officers promoted under DFR R5 para 31(2) each year since 2005 and to date in 2012; and if it is his policy to continue such promotions for those qualified in 2012; the number RDF Officers been promoted to date arising from his decision in October 2011 and if he will give details of the appointments to which they have been promoted. [30103/12]

The table below sets out the numbers, by Brigade of Reserve Defence Force officers promoted under DFR R5 para 31(2) each year since 2005 and to date in 2012.

Formation

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2 E Bde RDF

0

0

2

8

0

0

0

0

1 S Bde RDF

0

4

2

3

0

0

0

0

4 W Bde RDF

0

2

4

3

0

0

0

0

RDF TA

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

NSR

0

0

0

3

0

0

0

0

Total

0

6

8

17

0

0

0

0

In October 2011 I agreed to sanction limited promotions within the Reserve Defence Force to bring the current strength in all ranks to 70% of the established strength in each rank as provided for in Defence Force Regulations CS 4 (ranks where the strength was at or above 70% would not be considered for promotion). Since my decision of October 2011 no RDF Officers have been promoted, however the military authorities have advised me that arrangements for competitive RDF Officer Promotions are currently being put in place and interviews will commence shortly to fill selected vacancies in the RDF up to the authorised level of 70% of the permitted RDF Officer strength.

Defence Forces Reserve

Michael McGrath

Question:

128 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Defence with regard to the value for money review of the Reserve Defence Force, if he will provide the number and duration of meeting held; the names and appointments of those conducting the review; the frequency of meetings held in 2012 and what output if any has been formulated to date. [30104/12]

A Value for Money Review of the Reserve Defence Force commenced in February 2010. In accordance with the appropriate guidelines, a Steering Committee was established to oversee the Review. This Steering Committee is comprised of representatives from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces. A Working Group undertakes detailed analysis and prepares preliminary drafts for consideration by the Steering Committee. Since the commencement of the VFM Review there have been a total of ten Steering Committee meetings. On average, the duration of these meetings is of the order of approximately two hours. In addition, the Steering Committee have visited a Reserve summer camp in the Curragh and met with the Representative Associations. Certain members of the Steering Committee have also met with senior Reserve Officers. The membership of the Steering Committee (with replacements in brackets) is as follows:

Ms Mary Butler, Independent Chairperson(Until 22 February, 2012).

Mr. Robert Mooney, Principal Officer, Department of Defence.

Col. Colm Campbell, Director Strategic Planning Office, Defence Forces(Replaced by Col. Michael Meehan as Director SPO).

Ms Ann Price, Principal Officer, Department of Defence(Replaced by Ms Aileen Nolan, Principal Officer, Department of Defence).

Lt. Col. Tony Daly, Acting Director Reserve Defence Force(Replaced by Col. George Kerton, Director Reserve Defence Force, who was subsequently replaced by Lt. Col. Liam O’Carroll, Acting Director Reserve Force).

Mr. Dermot Quigley, Principal Officer, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Mr. Eoin Dormer, Central Evaluation Unit, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform(Replaced by Mr. Fiachra Kennedy, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform).

Mr. Tadhg O'Doherty, Assistant Principal Officer, Department of Defence(Secretary to the Steering Committee, replaced by Mr. Ciaran Desmond, Assistant Principal Officer, Department of Defence, who was subsequently replaced by Ms Valerie Byrne, Assistant Principal Officer, Department of Defence).

Ms Butler was unable to continue as Chairman and it is anticipated that a new independent Chairperson will be appointed to the Steering Committee in the near future. In the interim period Mr. Robert Mooney, Department of Defence, is acting as Chairman.

The Steering Committee has met on 3 occasions to-date in 2012, i.e. on the 22nd February, on the 3rd May and most recently, on the 6th June last. The next meeting is scheduled for July. Drafting of the Review is continuing and the Steering Committee are currently reviewing a number of draft Chapters. I have asked the Steering Committee to progress the Review as quickly as possible and I anticipate its completion by the end of September.

Ferry Services

Noel Harrington

Question:

129 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Defence the costs of operating the ferry service between Cobh and the Naval Base in Haulbowline, County Cork; the frequency of the service; the revenue if any collected; his plans to reduce the costs of operating this service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30158/12]

The ferry service operating between Cobh and the Naval Base provides transport between Cobh and the Naval Base for Naval Service personnel and civilian staff. The service, which has been in existence for over 50 years, currently operates on the basis of both a scheduled time-tabled service and an on call 24 hours a day service. The service, which is a valuable asset, provides the Naval Service with significant flexibility and capability in the harbour region and is required for Naval operational reasons. Labour costs make up the majority of the operating costs of the service. The costs for 2011 comprised direct labour costs of €910,833 and maintenance costs of €63,781. There is no revenue generated by the service. The question of reducing the operational costs in relation to the provision of this service is under consideration.

Questions Nos. 130 to 132, inclusive, answered with Question No. 26.
Question No. 133 answered with Question No. 27.

Naval Service Personnel

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

134 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the number of promotions approved, pending or still to be effected at all ranks in the Naval Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30234/12]

The attached table outlines the number of vacancies in the Naval Service. The number of vacancies, by rank, is based on the Employment Control Framework (ECF) of 1,094, the portion allocated to the Naval Service from the overall ECF figure of 10,000 for all ranks in the Permanent Defence Force, versus the strength of 942 as at 31 May 2012, the latest date for which figures are available. Competitions under the new fully competitive merit-based promotion schemes agreed for Generals have taken place while competitions for Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers are ongoing.

As the Deputy will be aware a major re-organisation of the Defence Forces has been initiated resulting from the Government decision to maintain the strength of the Permanent Defence Force at 9,500. This re-organisation, which will prioritise "front line" service delivery, will have an impact on the number of vacancies in each rank. I have asked the Chief of Staff and Secretary General to bring forward detailed re-organisation proposals for my consideration. Work is ongoing in this regard. The effect of the changes on promotion cannot be determined until the proposals are considered and decisions made. Promotions will be carried out within the resource envelope allocated to Defence.

Vacancies in the Naval Service on 31 May 2012

Commodore

Captain

CMDR

LT CMDR

LT

S/LT

WO

SCPO

CPO

SPO

PO

L/SEA

A/SEA Cadets

Total

Naval Service

0

0

1

9

18

0

2

3

31

6

55

8

19

152

Air Corps Recruitment

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

135 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the number of promotional positions vacant or waiting to be filled or otherwise deferred in the Air Corps, at all ranks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30235/12]

The attached table outlines the number of vacancies in the Air Corps. The number of vacancies, by rank, is based on the Employment Control Framework (ECF) of 886, the portion allocated to the Air Corps from the overall ECF figure of 10,000 for all ranks in the Permanent Defence Force, versus the strength of 756 as at 31 May 2012, the latest date for which figures are available. Competitions under the new fully competitive merit-based promotion schemes agreed for Generals have taken place while competitions for Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers are ongoing.

As the Deputy will be aware a major re-organisation of the Defence Forces has been initiated resulting from the Government decision to maintain the strength of the Permanent Defence Force at 9,500. This re-organisation, which will prioritise "front line" service delivery, will have an impact on the number of vacancies in each rank. I have asked the Chief of Staff and Secretary General to bring forward detailed re-organisation proposals for my consideration. Work is ongoing in this regard. The effect of the changes on promotion cannot be determined until the proposals are considered and decisions made. Promotions will be carried out within the resource envelope allocated to Defence.

Vacancies in the Air Corps on 31 May 2012

LT GEN

MAJ GEN

BRIG GEN

COL

LT GEN

COMDT

CAPT

LT

SM

BQMS

CS

CQMS

SGTS

CPLS

PTES CADETS

TOTAL

Air Corps

0

0

0

1

1

7

6

17

2

1

26

6

22

20

22

131

Question No. 136 answered with Question No. 26.

Defence Forces Strength

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

137 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which the number of women, in the Air Corps, at all ranks, has fluctuated in each of the past five years to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30237/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

138 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which the number of women, in the Naval Service, at all ranks, has fluctuated in each of the past five years to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30238/12]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

139 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which the number of women, in the Army, at all ranks, has fluctuated in each of the past five years to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30239/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 137 to 139, inclusive, together.

The following tables set out the number of women by rank serving in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps at 31 December for each of the years 2007 to 2011, and at 31 May 2012, the latest date for which figures are available.

The Government is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for men and women throughout the Defence Forces and to the full participation by women in all aspects of Defence Forces activities. Unlike many other national armed forces, the Defence Forces have no restrictions as regards the assignment of men or women to the full range of operational and administrative duties. All promotions and career courses are open to both genders on merit. In 2007, the Department received the report of a TNS/MRBI study it had commissioned, titled "Retention and Recruitment of Women in the Defence Forces". This research was commissioned with a view to identifying areas where action could be taken to maximise the number of women applicants to the Defence Forces, hence increasing the number joining. The question of retention was also studied.

The results of the research were, on balance, positive. Three-quarters of serving women agreed that the Defence Forces are a good place to work. In addition there was a very high level of satisfaction (70%-80%) expressed as regards the issues of job security, pay and benefits and the variety of work on offer. The recommendations of the report have been implemented and the challenges identified therein continue to be addressed.

The Defence Forces, on the direction of the Chief of Staff, has established a Working Group to examine levels of participation by women in the organisation. The Working Group will,inter alia, inquire into why women apply or do not apply for positions within the Defence Forces and what can be done to increase awareness among women of a career in the Defence Forces. The data gathered from the review will be used to formulate new policies in this area, specifically aimed at increasing participation by women in the Defence Forces. The Defence Forces prides itself on providing a gender neutral working environment. Policies on equality are being constantly communicated to all ranks. The military authorities are alert and vigilant to this issue and are committed to addressing this matter in a continuing and proactive manner.

Strength of Women in the Army 2007-2012

LT Gen

Maj Gen

Brig Gen

Col

LT Col

Comdt

Capt

LT

Total Offrs

SM

BQMS

CS

CQMS

SGTS

CPLS

Total NCOS

PTES

Cadets

Total

31-Dec-07

1

18

44

40

103

3

1

23

102

129

216

8

456

31-Dec-08

1

21

48

41

111

3

1

32

108

144

200

13

468

31-Dec-09

2

19

43

47

111

3

1

32

109

145

194

12

462

31-Dec-10

1

18

41

51

111

2

1

33

109

145

200

11

467

31-Dec-11

2

19

46

45

112

2

1

35

119

157

194

4

467

31-May-12

2

20

44

48

114

2

32

119

153

191

1

459

Strength of Women in the Air Corps 2007-2012

LT Gen

Maj Gen

Brig Gen

Col

LT Col

Comdt

Capt

LT

Total Offrs

SM

BQMS

CS

CQMS

SGTS

CPLS

Total NCOS

PTES

Cadets

Total

31-Dec-07

3

2

5

1

1

10

12

15

1

33

31-Dec-08

2

2

4

1

3

10

14

13

1

32

31-Dec-09

4

1

5

1

4

10

15

12

1

33

31-Dec-10

4

2

6

1

4

9

14

12

32

31-Dec-11

2

3

5

1

4

13

18

7

30

31-May-12

2

3

5

1

4

13

18

6

29

Strength of Women in the Naval Service 2007-2012

LT Gen

Maj Gen

Brig Gen

Col

LT Col

Comdt

Capt

LT

Total Offrs

SM

BQMS

CS

CQMS

SGTS

CPLS

Total NCOS

PTES

Cadets

Total

31-Dec-07

10

8

18

7

7

40

6

71

31-Dec-08

2

10

11

23

9

9

35

3

70

31-Dec-09

2

10

11

23

9

9

34

6

72

31-Dec-10

2

10

14

26

8

8

34

2

70

31-Dec-11

3

13

12

28

11

11

28

1

68

31-May-12

4

12

12

28

11

11

27

1

67

Overseas Missions

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

140 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which he has had discussions and EU and UN level with regard to future deployment of the Defence Forces overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30240/12]

During each EU Presidency both formal and informal meetings of Defence Ministers are held. Last November I attended the formal meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council with Defence Ministers. The Operation Commanders of the three current EU-led missions were also in attendance. Discussions were focused on these current operations and future proposed developments.

Ireland contributes Defence Forces personnel to two of the three current EU military missions. Ireland contributes seven personnel to the Operation ALTHEA mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ireland also contributes ten personnel, including Mission Commander Colonel Michael Beary, to EUTM Somalia, the EU's mission to train Somali security forces in Uganda. The other EU military mission, Operation EUNAVFOR ATALANTA, is the EU's first maritime operation which contributes to improving maritime security off the coast of Somalia and in the Indian Ocean. Ireland does not currently contribute personnel to this operation. Ireland has received an invitation from the Operational Commander of Operation EUNAVFOR ATALANTA to contribute an Autonomous Vessel Protection Detachment (AVPD) to the Operation. The Department is considering whether it will be in a position to contribute an AVPD to this operation.

The EU is also planning a Regional Maritime Capacity Building mission to enhance the capacity of Somalia and the wider Horn of Africa region to fight piracy. The proposed mission will be complementary to and have close coordination with Operation EUNAVFOR ATALANTA and EUTM Somalia and international actors. This will be a civilian mission augmented with military expertise.

Ireland will participate in the Austro-German led Battlegroup which will be on standby from 1 July 2012 to 31 December 2012. The other members of the Austro-German Battlegroup are Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Training and planning is currently ongoing in preparation for a Battlegroup deployment if such a decision is taken by the Council.

Regarding UN missions, Ireland currently contributes 356 personnel to the UNIFIL Mission. Following the deployment of a contingent of some 170 personnel of the Armed forces of Finland to UNIFIL, a joint Irish-Finnish Battalion was formed in May 2012. Other personnel are serving as monitors and observers with several United Nations missions. Six Defence Forces personnel are currently serving as military observers with the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS). Overall there are currently 440 Defence Forces personnel serving overseas.

The Department of Defence constantly reviews the deployment of Defence Forces personnel overseas. However, following the deployment to UNIFIL, it is not anticipated that there will be any major deployments of troops to further missions in the foreseeable future. Within the EU itself, a number of committees, including the Political and Security Committee and the EU Military Committee, keep the issues of troop deployments, including rapid response, under constant review in consultation with all EU Member States.

Defence Forces Expenditure

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

141 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he is satisfied regarding the availability of adequate resources to ensure the on-going upgrading of facilities and equipment for the Army, Navy and Air Corps with particular reference to the need to ensure availability and readiness in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30241/12]

I am satisfied that the level of resources available to the Defence Forces, including equipment and training resources, enables the Defence Forces to carry out their roles both at home and overseas. The acquisition of new equipment for the Defence Forces remains a focus for me as Minister for Defence. However, it is imperative that the Department and the Defence Forces, similar to all other Government Departments, must take into account the current difficult economic environment we are now operating in. The budgetary situation will continue to dictate the level of funding available for new equipment and upgrades. Decisions will be made accordingly on a strictly prioritised basis with a view to maintaining the capability of all roles assigned by Government to the Defence Forces. I am satisfied that the Defence Forces have the necessary resources to fulfil all roles assigned to them by Government including the provision of assistance in any emergency situations that may arise.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

142 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding an agri-environment option scheme payment in respect of persons (details supplied). [30078/12]

The applicant was approved for participation in the Agri-Environment Options Scheme with effect from the 1st September 2010 and full payment totalling €662.82 issued in respect of 2010. Payment in respect of the 2011 Scheme year is subject to an administrative checking process which includes verification of capital investment claims through checks on receipts. A claim for reimbursement for non-productive capital investment was received by my Department. There were a number of issues with this claim and the accompanying documentation. My Department has been in contact with the person named a number of times with regard to these queries, however the matter has not been satisfactorily resolved. Upon receipt of a satisfactory response to all the outstanding issues the application will be processed further.

On-farm Investment Schemes

Dan Neville

Question:

143 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding an application for grant aid under the dairy equipment scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [30086/12]

The persons concerned are applicants under the Dairy Equipment Scheme and submitted an application under the tranche which closed at end-January 2012. This tranche was very heavily over-subscribed and the selection of applications which are to go forward to the approval process has recently been made. The applicants concerned were not successful and the application will therefore be rolled over to the next tranche.

Cattle Societies

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

144 Deputy Luke “Ming” Flanagan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the legislation under which the Irish Cattle Breeders Federation was set up. [30139/12]

The Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) was established in 1997 as a cooperative and is registered with the Registrar of Friendly Societies. It has been approved under EU legislation (Commission Decision 2006/427/EC) by my Department as the designated organisation to carry out performance recording, assessment of genetic value and publication of breeding values for dairy and beef cattle in Ireland.

Departmental Correspondence

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

145 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding correspondence sent to his office (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30160/12]

I regret that a reply was not issued to the representations made. The position is as follows.

Additional conservation measures were introduced for the first time in 2009 to protect depleted stocks of cod, whiting and haddock in ICES Area VIa (off the north west coasts of Donegal and Scotland). These restrictions involved the use of larger mesh size, escape panels in nets and a ban on certain types of fishing gear. These restrictions were continued under EU Regulation 1288/2009 with some modification to allow for a fishery by means of mechanised jigging for mackerel and black pollock for the period up to the end of June 2011. Council Regulation 579/2011 provided for a further extension of these measures for the period up to the 31 December 2012. The restrictions on haddock were removed following the adoption by the EU Commission of emergency measures (Commission Regulation 161/2012) in February 2012.

I am very well aware that the measures in place, which precludes fisheries for lesser spotted dogfish and mechanised jigging for White Pollock (saithe), have been a matter of concern for fishermen which had traditionally fished these species in these waters. In October 2011, the Department submitted a request for a number of changes to the EU Regulation, including changes that would permit a fishery for spurdog and White Pollock and supported the case with the BIM studies involving pilot work on the impact of these local fisheries on stocks subject to additional conservation measures (cod, whiting and spiny dogfish) and requested that the case be evaluated by Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee (STECF). STECF report of April 2012 is fully supportive of the inclusion of an amendment to allow for a mechanised jigging fishery for White Pollock. In relation to the fishery for lesser spotted dogfish, it recommends that if the proposal from Ireland is accepted any fishery must be subject to a number of conditions which are set out in the report.

I understand that the EU Commission has indicated that it will propose a further extension of the provisions of Council Regulation 579/2011 in the near future. In that regard, I will be seeking amendments that will permit a fishery for White Pollock and for lesser spotted dogfish based on this STECF advice.

Grassland Sheep Scheme

Brendan Griffin

Question:

146 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a decision has been made on an appeal for a 2010 grassland sheep scheme application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30186/12]

The appeal to which the Deputy refers was replied to by letter dated 21 February 2012. However, I have arranged for an official of my Department to make direct contact with the person named to again outline the issues concerning the Grassland Sheep Scheme application in question.

Milk Quota

John McGuinness

Question:

147 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding an application for quota in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; when a decision will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30205/12]

In February 2012 my Department announced details of the 2012 Scheme for the Allocation of Milk Quota to New Entrants to Dairying with a closing date of 4 May 2012. About 270 applications have been received and examined in my Department for eligibility. All valid applications are currently being distributed to the members of the Assessment Panel for consideration and the Panel hope to be in a position to recommend a list of suitable applicants to me by mid August. I can confirm that an application has been received from the named person and has been forwarded to the Panel for consideration.

Sheep Fencing-Mobile Equipment Scheme

John McGuinness

Question:

148 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding an application under the sheep fencing/mobile handling equipment scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; when a decision will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30206/12]

The person concerned submitted an application for grant-aid under the Sheep Fencing/Mobile Equipment Scheme during the course of the tranche under that Scheme which closed on 29 February 2012. The application has been selected to proceed to the approval stage and the required pre-approval checks should be completed shortly to allow the approval to issue. Under the terms and conditions of the Scheme, work may not commence on the investment items concerned until written approval has been issued by my Department.

Milk Quota

John McGuinness

Question:

149 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding an application for milk quota in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; when a decision will issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30207/12]

In February 2012 my Department announced details of the 2012 Scheme for the Allocation of Milk Quota to New Entrants to Dairying with a closing date of 4 May 2012. About 270 applications have been received and examined in my Department for eligibility. All valid applications are currently being distributed to the members of the Assessment Panel for consideration and the Panel hope to be in a position to recommend a list of suitable applicants to me by mid August.

I can confirm that an application has been received from the named person and has been forwarded to the Panel for consideration.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

150 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a file relating to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be transferred from his Department to the Agriculture Appeals Office to enable the appeal to be decided on, in view of the fact that the file has been requested on four occasions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30214/12]

The person named was approved for participation in the Agri-Environment Options Scheme with effect from 1 December 2010 and full payment totalling €416.65 issued in respect of 2010. Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. The application was also selected for an inspection which resulted in a penalty being imposed. A letter detailing this penalty issued to the person named on 23 December 2011. An appeal was submitted on 9 January 2012. The appeal was unsuccessful and on 30 January 2012 a letter to this effect issued to the person named.

An appeal was submitted to the Agriculture Appeals Office on 29 February 2012. In order to process the appeal, the Agriculture Appeals Office requested a report on the facts and contentions advanced by the appellant. However due to a staff vacancy in the Western Region the appeal is currently awaiting review. I expect this post will be filled shortly and this appeal will then be given priority.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme

Willie Penrose

Question:

151 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath has not received their REPs payment for 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30269/12]

The person named joined REPS 4 in April 2009 and has received payment for the first two years of his REPS contract. Officials in my Department recently became aware that the person named also joined the NPWS Farm Plan Scheme in July 2007. It is not permissible to be in both schemes at the same time and so the matter is currently under investigation. My Department will be in contact with the person named regarding the matter.

Child Care Services

Patrick Nulty

Question:

152 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in relation to the ten children in detention in the UK and Nebraska in specialised units as a result of High Court Detention Orders, the reason sufficient secure places are not available in this jurisdiction; the measures he is taking to ensure that sufficient places will be made available urgently; his policy or evidence based criteria that supports the practice of sending Irish children abroad to be detained; if it would be more cost effective to provide secure places in this jurisdiction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30213/12]

Under the Child Care Act, 1991, the Health Service Executive has a duty to promote the welfare of children who are not receiving adequate care or protection. The policy of the HSE is to place children in care settings, preferably in foster care, as close as possible to their home and community. There were 6,236 children in the care of the state in April 2012, the vast majority of whom were in foster care (5,601) and residential care (378).

A very small minority of young people under 18 years of age have highly specialised needs arising from severe behaviour difficulties, due to their childhood experiences or in some cases as a result of injury, accident or disability. The care needs of these young people are generally met by directly provided residential services or services commissioned by the HSE within Ireland.

For a small number of young people (ten at present), the HSE is on occasion required to make arrangements for their placement in care and treatment facilities outside of the State, primarily in the UK, to allow for access to an individually tailored mix of care and therapeutic services and psychiatric treatment not currently available in this country. This is done on as infrequent a basis as possible and only where such placement is considered to be in the best interest of the child. These placements are made under the order and supervision of the High Court.

The HSE ensure that these placements are suitable and the child's social worker visits regularly, and makes arrangements for family or carers of the child to also visit. The units in which the children are placed are inspected and regulated by their national authorities and the HSE is attentive to the standards of care delivered in these specialised units. I should emphasise that the referral of persons abroad for specialised therapeutic interventions is an established feature within our health and social care system and decisions in each case are made in the best interests of the individual. The level of requirement for these services is closely monitored by the HSE's National Director for Children and Family Services and my officials.

Child Protection

Michael Lowry

Question:

153 Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the actions taken by social workers in a case (details supplied) in County Kildare; the steps that have been taken to protect the children in this case; the reason this case is not being taken seriously by the social workers involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30215/12]

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

Medical Cards

Tom Fleming

Question:

154 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health if he will urgently examine a medical card application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [30079/12]

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

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Tom Fleming

Question:

155 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health if he is satisfied that the fair deal scheme is adequately funded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30089/12]

The total gross budget for long-term residential care in 2012 is €994.7m. This is effectively the budget for the Nursing Homes Support Scheme albeit that pre-Nursing Homes Support Scheme arrangements must also be facilitated from within the subhead, i.e. people in contract beds, people who choose to remain on subvention and people who were in public nursing homes prior to the commencement of the Scheme.

Additional funding of €55 million was originally allocated to the Nursing Homes Support Scheme for 2012. However, the Minister for Health subsequently decided to transfer €13 million of the €55 million for an initiative being developed by the Special Delivery Unit in 2012 to improve access to care and quality of care for the frail elderly, achieve better patient outcomes and experience as well as better value for money. A further €5 million was transferred to Primary Care services to underpin overall government policy of shifting focus to primary and community services.

There were 3,497 applications for the Nursing Homes Support Scheme between January and end-April 2012. In that same period, 4,242 applications were processed to conclusion. Of the applications processed to conclusion, 2,885 were approved for funding and 1,358 were withdrawn. There is nobody on the placement list waiting for funding under the Nursing Homes Support Scheme at present.

Finally, a public consultation process to inform the review of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme commenced on the 14th June. A call for submissions was made in national newspapers and a notice was placed on the Department of Health website. The closing date for receipt of submissions is the 16th July. When the public consultation process has concluded, the Department of Health will be seeking tenders through the public procurement process for the carrying out of the review. This process takes approximately 4 months. It is anticipated that the review itself will take approximately three months to complete. It is expected that the review will commence in the last quarter of this year and be completed in early 2013.

The Terms of Reference for the review of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme are:

Taking account of Government policy, demographic trends and the fiscal situation — 1.to examine the on-going sustainability of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme, 2. To examine the overall cost of long-term residential care in public and private nursing homes and the effectiveness of the current methods of negotiating/setting prices, 3. Having regard to 1. and 2. above, to consider the balance of funding between long-term residential care and community based services, 4. To consider the extension of the scheme to community based services and to other sectors (Disability and Mental Health), and 5. To make recommendations for the future operation and management of the scheme.

Home Help Service

Finian McGrath

Question:

156 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health the reason families are no longer allowed to contribute €20 per week towards their home care packages which is resulting in further cuts to services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30096/12]

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

Food Safety Standards

Charles Flanagan

Question:

157 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health in relation to the promotion policies promoting a balanced diet, if his attention has been drawn to the model in respect of nutrient profiling as drawn up in the United Kingdom, categorises cheese as less healthy than diet cola; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this UK nutrient profiling model proposed by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland is used for the purpose of regulating the advertising of food to children in the UK only and is at odds with nutrient profiling models used in any other EU State; if the result of such nutrient profiling is consistent with the food pyramid as promoted by his Department which recommends three servings from the milk, cheese and yogurt food group per day; his views on the current importation of the UK nutrient profiling model; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30106/12]

I am aware of the model for nutrient profiling as developed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK for use in regulating broadcast advertisements for children and that the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland are proposing using this nutrient profiling model for the purpose of regulating the advertising of foods and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt to children in Ireland.

There are a range of nutrient profile models in use in other countries. In the recent WHO report ‘Guiding Principles and Framework Manual for the development or adaptation of nutrient profile models' the WHO cites the UK FSA model as an example of a nutrient profiling model. The Healthy Eating Guidelines and Food Pyramid resource from my Department, is an education tool and provides broad nutrition advice. It allows 3 servings a day from the Milk, Yogurt and Cheese shelf of the Food Pyramid. However the focus is on choosing low fat cheeses regularly as full fat cheeses are high in saturated fat. Reducing saturated fat is a key target of my Department's Cardiovascular Health Strategy.

Dental Services

Jack Wall

Question:

158 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health the reason a child (details supplied) in County Kildare has not had their dental treatment completed by the Health Service Executive even though they have a valid medical card and is full time student under 16 years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30119/12]

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

Hospital Accommodation

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

159 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Health the position regarding a hospital (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30138/12]

The Deputy will be aware that my colleague the Minister for Health asked the HSE to carry out a viability reviewof all public long-term residential facilities for older people focusing on a number of areas including the unit’s ability to meet HIQA Standards in terms of environmental structures, staffing availability, location and stock, etc. This review will then form the basis for discussions between the Department and HSE with a view to a final submission of a set of proposals to the Minister. The submission referred to by the Deputy will be considered in the context of the review.

Professional Qualifications

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

160 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health if he has considered representations from the Irish Association of Creative Arts Therapists seeking statutory registration and recognition of creative arts therapies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30141/12]

The Health and Social Care Professionals Council, established in 2007 and the 12 registration boards being established under the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 (the Act), will be responsible for protecting the public by regulating health and social care professionals in Ireland. The object of the Council is to protect the public by promoting high standards of professional conduct and professional education, training and competence among the registrants of the following 12 health and social care professions designated under the Act: clinical biochemists, dieticians, medical scientists, occupational therapists, orthoptists, physiotherapists, podiatrists, psychologists, radiographers, social care workers, social workers and speech and language therapists.

These 12 professions were designated in the Act which is being implemented on a phased basis, and currently 2 registration boards have been established. These are the Social Workers Registration Board and the Radiographers Registration Board. It is hoped that the remaining 10 registration boards will be established by end 2014. When a registration board is appointed it will work towards the opening of a statutory register for that profession.

While the proposed system of statutory registration applies, in the first instance, to 12 health and social care professions, the legislation empowers the Minister for Health to include, if he considers it appropriate and in the public interest to do so, additional health and social care professions in the regulatory system over time, as appropriate. Section 4 of the Act provides a definition of a health and social care profession and also sets out the factors governing the subsequent addition of any further professions into the regulatory system at a later date, including: (a) The extent to which the profession has a defined scope of practice and applies a distinct body of knowledge; (b) The extent to which the profession has established itself, including whether there is at least one professional body representing a significant proportion of the profession's practitioners; (c) The existence of defined routes of entry into the profession and of independently assessed entry qualifications; (d) The profession's commitment to continuous professional development; (e) The degree of risk to the health, safety or welfare of the public from incompetent, unethical or impaired practice of the profession; (f) Any other factors that the Minister for Health considers relevant.

The priority at present for my Department is to develop statutory registration for the 12 professions specified in the Act in the first instance. The extension under the Act of statutory registration arrangements for other health and social care professionals will not be considered until after the initial designated 12 professional grades have been fully dealt with. Questions relating to the recognition of creative arts therapies in the public health services, the need for such services and the direct employment of creative arts therapists are matters for the Health Service Executive in the first instance. Any proposals relating to grade and pay levels would, of course, require the approval of my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Hospital Services

Robert Troy

Question:

161 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Health if he will arrange for a person (details supplied) to be transferred from Mullingar General Hospital, County Westmeath to St. James Hospital, Dublin 8, for an emergency operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30159/12]

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

Health Services

Finian McGrath

Question:

162 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health if he will publish the report which analysed the relative costs involved in the services provided by the Daughters of Wisdom, Cregg House, Sligo and the Health Service Executive arising from discussions between both parties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30163/12]

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

Expert Body on Fluoridation

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

163 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health the way he has prevented the possibility of bias towards fluoridation issues within the members of the Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health; the way he intends to maintain fairness, transparency, and impartiality in the group’s advice to his Department; the way he justifies that current members engage in granting independent advice to his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30172/12]

The Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health and its sub-committees have broad representation from areas such as dentistry, biochemistry, environmental health and public health medicine. The expert body's reports, position statements and minutes of its meetings are published on its website to ensure transparency. In evaluating ongoing research on all aspects of fluoridation, the expert body accepts the fundamental scientific tenet that any single piece of scientific evidence by itself remains hypothetical unless it can be repeated or confirmed by other scientists. Therefore, it considers scientific evidence that has been submitted to examination by other scientists, usually by publication in recognised peer reviewed scientific journals, after such publication has been approved by independent referees. This ensures that the advice provided by the expert body is impartial and evidence-based.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

164 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the nursing home support scheme in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [30178/12]

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

National Lottery Funding

Jack Wall

Question:

165 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health if funding is available for a support group (details supplied) in County Kildare who have been refused such necessary funding by the Health Service Executive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30185/12]

My Department administers a national lottery discretionary fund from which once-off grants are paid to community and voluntary organisations, providing a range of health related services. If an organisation wishes to make an application for national lottery funding they should send in a formal application. Detailed procedures, along with the application form are set out on the Department's website —www.doh.ie.

Vaccination Programme

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

166 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the administration of vaccine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30191/12]

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

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

167 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Health if backdated payments under the nursing home support scheme were allowed at the time when a person (details supplied) in County Limerick made their application; and if on those grounds, a backdated payment can be applied in this case. [30192/12]

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

Medical Cards

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

168 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health when it is expected that a medical card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who have submitted all relevant documentation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30257/12]

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

Primary Care Centres

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

169 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health if there is a proposal to make changes to a health centre (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30271/12]

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

Penalty Points System

Robert Troy

Question:

170 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will re-examine the review on penalty points regarding motor cyclists being treated like learner/novices road users and will be subject to double penalty points in view of the fact that this appears to be direct discrimination against motor cyclist and is not warranted, in fact motorcyclist casualties are been falling faster than any other mode expect cyclist in recent years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30105/12]

The Review of the Irish Penalty Points System, which I recently published, recommends that, in order to effect a targeted reduction in the number of motor cyclist road fatalities, further research into specific penalties for motor cyclists may be merited. The Review is currently with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications. Once I have received the Committee's input I will consider the adjustment of penalty points further.

Motor cyclists represent a disproportionate number of road fatalities compared to the number of motor cycles registered. While the trend is continuing downwards, in 2010 motor cyclists were the third highest category of road user fatalities at 17, behind car users with 130 road fatalities and pedestrians with 44 road fatalities. To date, in 2012, 7 motor cyclists and 3 pillion passengers have been killed on Irish roads. According to published OECD figures, a motor cyclist is two to three times more likely to be killed in Ireland than in other European countries. In terms of fatality rates per 10,000 registered motorcycles, Ireland was found to have the second highest rate amongst the twenty countries compared.

Road Maintenance Projects

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

171 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the policy regarding roundabouts that are in the control of the National Roads Authority being part of sponsored roundabout schemes run by county councils; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30129/12]

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The planning, design and maintenance of individual road projects, including traffic junctions, is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 acting in conjunction with the local authorities in whose administrative area the roads are located.

Bus Services

Denis Naughten

Question:

172 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will confirm that Bus Éireann x20 route expressway service between Dublin and Galway will continue to serve Athlone, Ballinasloe and Loughrea; if he will confirm that the Bus Éireann 20 route expressway service between Dublin and Galway will continue to serve smaller towns between the two cities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30189/12]

Bus Éireann operates expressway services as commercial services in what is a competitive bus market. Such services also require a licence from the National Transport Authority. I have referred the Deputy's letter to Bus Éireann for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Sports Capital Programme

Michael Creed

Question:

173 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the total capital value of applications received under the sports capital grant scheme; if he will provide a breakdown of these applications on a county basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30229/12]

My Department has received over 2,000 applications for funding under the 2012 Sports Capital Programme. The process of inputting paper based hard copy applications into the Sports Capital Programme database is on-going. However, until this process is completed, it is not possible to provide definitive figures for the exact number of applications received or the exact amount of funding sought for the whole country or for individual counties. When this information is available I intend to publish it on the Department's website.

Civil Aviation Regulation

Dessie Ellis

Question:

174 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the problems faced by musicians who need to bring their instruments with them onboard aircraft; his plans to work with his EU partners to address these problems which are an inconvenience to professionals trying to earn a living. [30264/12]

The aviation market in the EU was fully liberalised in 1992 and the operation of the internal market is governed by common rules which were updated in 2008 and are set out in EU Regulation (EC) 1008/2008 which is directly applicable in Ireland and other Member States. Therefore airlines are not subject to regulation in areas such as the setting of fares, other charges, routes to fly, etc. and the decision to charge a passenger for the transport of a musical instrument is at the sole discretion of each airline. Furthermore, European Regulations in the area of airline operations allow airlines to establish their own procedures for the stowage of baggage and cargo, subject to certain conditions relating to safety and security.

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