I propose to take Questions Nos. 1007, 1010, 1013 and 1017 together.
Deputies will be aware that my Department will decentralise to two locations — the Irish language functions to Na Forbacha, Galway, where my Department already has an office, and the remaining functions to Knock Airport, County Mayo.
It is also intended to decentralise a section of ADM to Clifden, County Galway and subject to the approval of the North/South Ministerial Council, 30 staff of Foras na Gaeilge will move to Gweedore in County Donegal.
To advance the decentralisation process in my Department, a decentralisation unit has been established comprising a higher executive officer and a clerical officer, reporting to the personnel officer. A departmental committee comprising members of senior management and staff has also been established. The first meeting of this committee was held on Wednesday, 14 January and a liaison officer has been appointed to maintain direct contact with the central implementation committee and the Department of Finance.
Two special meetings of the partnership committee have taken place to date to brief staff on issues arising relating to decentralisation. Appropriate contacts with union interests are also being maintained and a full briefing of information available to date has been given to the union representatives through our departmental council. Arrangements have also been put in place whereby I will meet with the decentralisation committee on a regular basis.
All staff have access to a special decentralisation corner on our computer network in which relevant information regarding decentralisation is being posted. A regular bulletin will be circulated where answers to questions raised by staff are answered — the first of these issued on 16 January 2004.
A survey has not taken place in my Department to determine the interest of staff in participating in the decentralising programme. However, officials working in the decentralisation unit are at present engaged in compiling information packs relating to the regions in question. It is intended that this information will assist staff in making informed decisions about their future work locations. The Department's training unit will also have a key role in supporting effective communications throughout this challenging change process. Information seminars on the decentralised locations will be held in due course.
The assessment of the impact of risks to the organisation arising from decentralisation is clearly important. Drawing on the resources of the departmental committee and the experience of Departments which have decentralised functions in the past, this issue will be carefully considered and addressed over the coming period. My Department's membership of the central liaison committee will also assist in this regard.
Timely intake of new staff and an appropriate training schedule can help ensure there will be no undue loss of expertise and knowledge in the Department arising from decentralisation.