Tourism Industry.

Questions (23)

Trevor Sargent

Question:

105 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the objectives set out in his Department’s mission statement are being achieved in relation to the continued development of an environmentally sustainable and spatially balanced tourism sector, through formulating, monitoring and reviewing a range of supporting policies and programmes; the units of measurement to gauge progress being used; if these targets will be tangibly met by the end of 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6116/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

The high level tourism goal referred to in the Deputy's question was designed to provide my Department, in the context of its overall mission, with an operational focus over the three years of its first statement of strategy. The Statement of Strategy 2003-05, which is available in the Oireachtas Library, also identifies: specific strategies for the achievement of this high level goal; specific outputs or objectives for the delivery of those strategies; and specific performance indicators to measure the outputs.

My Department's first annual report, which is expected to be published in April next, will detail progress during 2003 in regard to individual strategies and objectives. In the meantime, I am pleased to report that there has been good progress overall in respect of the tourism sectoral goal.

Two developments, in particular, are worth highlighting. The establishment of a new statutory National Tourism Development Authority was one of the main tourism priorities for, and achievements in, 2003. Working closely with the tourism industry, Fáilte Ireland now provides a one-stop-shop for strategic and practical support to develop and sustain Ireland as a high quality and competitive tourist destination. With its establishment we have, for the first time, an organisation dedicated to excellence in product and service delivery, the two key experiences of the tourist visitor to Ireland.

In terms of tourism marketing, both Tourism Ireland Limited and Fáilte Ireland regard environmentally sustainable and spatially balanced tourism as key components of their marketing strategies, with an appropriate emphasis on both seasonal and geographical spread of business. The annual reports of both bodies provide details on the outcome of their respective marketing strategies and are available in the Oireachtas Library.

The concepts of sustainability and regional spread are also reflected in the tourism product development scheme administered by Fáilte Ireland where the overall objective is to develop the tourism product in an environmental and sustainable way that widens the spatial spread of tourism, diverts pressure from highly developed areas and increases the Border Midland and Western Region's share of national overseas tourism revenue. Under the scheme, support will be concentrated on a limited number of new major visitor attractions, on marketable clusters of existing and new day visitor attractions and activities that have yet to achieve their full tourism potential, and on a series of special interest activities to meet identified niche markets. Progress is reported on a six-monthly basis to the relevant ERDF monitoring committee, in addition to which the Tourism Product Management Board publishes an annual report.

The other major highlight of 2003 was the completion of the first major review of tourism policy and performance in over a decade. The tourism policy review group report sets out a strategy for tourism that is comprehensive, coherent and challenging for both Departments and agencies and for the industry itself. It has put the emphasis on an agenda for action — highlighting 70 individual recommended actions that will support the development of the tourism sector over the next decade. While many of the actions proposed by the review group will have an impact on the sustainability and regional distribution of tourism, key actions in this regard include those relating to product development, tourism promotion, access transport and the appropriate infrastructure and arrangements for the delivery of tourism at regional level.

Work is already under way on a number of the key issues highlighted in the review, but it will fall to the implementation group established on foot of the report to help ensure that it is implemented in an integrated manner and that a partnership approach is adopted by the many actors whose co-ordinated efforts are required if the full potential of the industry is to be realised. In the years ahead, the tourism agenda is likely to be influenced heavily by developments in the wider economy and by concerted action on the part of the tourism industry itself. The new implementation group will be in a strong position to influence the wider agenda in favour of future sustainable tourism development.

National Stadium.

Questions (24, 25)

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

106 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the format, content and timescale of consultations that must now commence with Iarnród Éireann on the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road as the site of the new national stadium given the likely disruption to rail services it will involve; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6128/04]

View answer

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

120 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to concerns expressed by residents living in the Lansdowne Road area of Dublin that the decision to redevelop the site as the new national stadium will deprive the area of the remaining piece of parkland adjacent to the River Dodder; if he plans to consult with the residents in advance of a planning application being submitted for the redevelopment of the stadium; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6127/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I propose to take QuestionsNos. 106 and 120 together.

As the Deputy is aware, the decision taken by the Government was to provide support for the joint FAI/IRFU proposal for the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road. Thus the responsibility for delivery of the project rests ultimately with the two sporting bodies which, I understand, have agreed to establish a special purpose company to oversee its delivery and to report to Government on progress. I have established a steering group, comprising representatives of FAI, IRFU, my Department and the Office of Public Works, to monitor overall progress with redevelopment. This steering group held its first meeting earlier this week.

While it is intended that the demolition of the current west stand and the construction of its replacement will take place without any interruption of the DART services, the detailed arrangements remain to be finalised.

Issues in regard to planning and the acquisition of additional land in the vicinity of the stadium are being dealt with by the IRFU and the FAI in consultation with the local authority and local residents. I understand that IRFU representatives have already met with local residents and that it is the intention of the IRFU and the FAI to maintain dialogue with interested parties as the project proceeds.

National Lottery Funding.

Questions (26)

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

107 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will give preferential treatment to clubs and organisations that promote both female and male sports when allocating national lottery grants in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6163/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country for projects which must be directly related to the provision of sport and recreation facilities. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.

The guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme clearly stipulate that "Applicants will have to submit rules and procedures as evidence of non-discrimination on the grounds of sex, religion, ethnic origin etc." This emphasis on ensuring equality of treatment is reflected in the fact that grants allocated under the scheme are made available only to organisations whose membership is open to both sexes. It should, however, be borne in mind that in some situations patterns of participation may differ as between males and females.

Almost €267 million has been allocated under the programme since 1998 to more than 3,500 projects. As far as my Department is aware, allegations of discriminatory practices have not been made against any of the recipients of these grants.

The 2004 sports capital programme was advertised in the national newspapers on 30 November and 1 December 2003. The closing date for receipt of applications was 16 January 2004. A total of 1,302 applications was received before the closing date and these are currently being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

A review of the existing sports capital programme under the Department's expenditure review programme is currently being finalised. Following this it is my intention to establish an inter-agency steering group to commence work immediately on developing a long-term strategic plan for the provision of sports facilities. I can assure the Deputy that the issue of ensuring equality of access and opportunity will be examined by the inter-agency steering group which will oversee the preparation of the long-term strategy.

Question No. 108 answered with QuestionNo. 101.

Tourism Industry.

Questions (27, 28, 29, 30)

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

109 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to a recent survey carried out by Holiday Which? magazine, showing the cost of holidaying in Ireland is well above the European average; if he has plans to address visitors to Ireland paying inflated prices for hotel accommodation, dining out, and other holiday staples in comparison to other European countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6126/04]

View answer

Jack Wall

Question:

111 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to recent comments from the chairman and chief executive of Fáilte Ireland that despite the optimistic outlook for tourist figures for 2004, consumer prices, especially for food and drink, represent the biggest area of complaint for tourists coming to the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6118/04]

View answer

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

113 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to recent comments from the president of the Irish Tour Operators’ Federation that high costs are forcing Irish families to holiday abroad rather than in Ireland; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that this is unlikely to change in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6123/04]

View answer

Phil Hogan

Question:

116 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress being made in the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report New Horizons for Irish tourism, an agenda for action, on the high absolute levels of and high rates of increase in insurance costs for tourism enterprises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6152/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I propose to take QuestionsNos. 109, 111, 113 and 116 together.

I am aware of the survey and comments referred to in the Deputies' questions. Since my appointment as Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism in June 2002, I have spoken of my concern regarding the increasing levels of dissatisfaction evident in visitor attitude surveys about the value for money offered by the overall tourism experience in Ireland. I welcomed the fact, therefore, that one of the strongest messages from the tourism policy review group was that restoring competitiveness is the major challenge facing the tourism sector and that the industry itself must offer better value to its customers if it is to maximise the opportunities for future growth.

Ireland has never been marketed as a low cost destination but, during the years of significant growth in the 1990s, it was competitive and was seen to be offering holidaymakers value for money. It has long been the case that inexpensive holidays have been available in other European destinations at certain times of the year. This may always be the case but the simple fact is that it is not comparing like with like.

Competitiveness is not exclusively about pricing. Competitiveness must be a function of the overall Irish tourism experience for customers relative to other competing locations, beginning with their initial inquiries about visiting Ireland through to their travelling here, where they go when they arrive, where they stay, who they meet, what they do, what they see, and their perceptions about price and quality.

In Chapter 4 of its report, the review group assessed tourism in Ireland today and confirmed that there is no immediate, single or easy solution to addressing concerns about competitiveness. The group listed some ten specific actions that require responses from both the private and public sectors including proposals on taking responsibility for restoring competitiveness, inflation, benchmarking, customer relationship management, management capability, high standards for competitive advantage and training.

None of the ten listed actions is directed to me, or my Department. However, as I see it, my role is to ensure that a coherent action plan is implemented quickly and effectively. To this end, I have established the high level implementation group to advise and assist in driving forward and monitoring the recommended actions set out in the report.

The first report of the implementation group is due in six months time and we will have to await that report before we can assess the impact of the action plan on competitiveness and value for money. In the meantime, I am pleased to acknowledge certain developments in recent months that should result in tangible benefits for the tourism sector and make a difference to competitiveness and value for money such as minimal increases in the budget in indirect taxation and excise duties on products that are part and parcel of the tourism experience; the Fáilte Ireland initiative, in co-operation with the industry, to address the high cost of insurance for the sector and the accelerated implementation of the Government's own insurance reform package which is bringing tangible benefits in the form of reduced premiums; the fall in the cost of accommodation as reported by the CSO earlier this month; the significant drop in annual inflation, at 1.8% in January, which is a significant drop from the 3.5% in July 2003 when the review group was finalising its report, and much more in line with average EU rates.

Tourism Promotion.

Questions (31)

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

110 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the outcome of the review into the performance of Tourism Ireland; and the main changes proposed arising from the review. [5970/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

As there has not been a formal review into the performance of Tourism Ireland as mentioned by the Deputy, I assume that the Deputy is referring to the Tourism Ireland organisation review.

When the overall staffing structures of Tourism Ireland Ltd. were originally agreed, the company undertook to carry out an organisational review based on the experience of its first two years in operation. The stated aim of that review was to ensure that Tourism Ireland's organisation, structures and staffing were in line with its agreed strategy, policies and priorities. In that context, it has considered its structures, staffing and gradings including the number, location and staff complement of overseas offices. At its meeting in June 2001, the North-South Ministerial Council noted that this review would be undertaken.

It is clear, therefore, that the review, which, I understand, is in the process of finalisation, is an internal day-to-day issue for Tourism Ireland Ltd. Should there be outcomes from the review, which, to be implemented, would require the sanction of my Department and the corresponding Department in Northern Ireland, no doubt they will be put before the Departments in due course. As this is a day-to-day operational matter for the company in the first instance, I am not in a position to comment further at this stage.

Over the past two years, we have seen the bedding down of Tourism Ireland as a successful North-South body engaged in the international marketing of the island of Ireland as a tourism destination. Since taking up office I have lent my political weight to the overseas marketing effort and my experience on the ground, together with the overall tourism results in recent years, bears testimony to the professionalism and energy of Tourism Ireland's staff.

Question No 111 answered with QuestionNo. 109.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Questions (32)

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

112 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the guidelines on public private partnership in relation to swimming pools have been published; if they have been circulated to local authorities; if the restriction that existed for applications for funding for swimming pools under such guidelines has been withdrawn, as in the case of a proposed pool for Lucan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6106/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

The closing date for receipt of applications under the current round of the local authority swimming pool programme was 31 July 2000. No application was made in respect of a swimming pool in Lucan before that date.

An interdepartmental working group was set up in August 1999, to develop guidelines and advise on the other key issues for the operation of a public private partnership, PPP approach in relation to swimming pools. The group was chaired by my Department and made up of members from the then Department of the Environment and Local Government, the Office of Public Works and representatives from three local authorities. The work of this group is now being used to assist my Department in formulating future policy on swimming pools in the context of an expenditure review of the local authority swimming pool programme, which is currently underway and due to be completed by the middle of this year.

This review is examining, among other things, how the programme has worked to date, the benefits which have accrued to the areas where pools have been built and what changes, if any, are required to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of the programme. In that context, finite Exchequer resources and the potential of private sector involvement in the provision of swimming pool facilities will be considered. On completion of this review, the question of revising current guidelines and re-opening the local authority swimming pool programme will be considered. Should the programme be re-opened, all local authorities will be notified.

Government policy in regard to the public private partnership process is co-ordinated by the Department of Finance with advice on individual projects available from the National Development Finance Agency. In general terms, public private partnerships can be a useful vehicle in the provision of large scale infrastructure and amenities to address the needs of expanding communities. Co-operation between local authorities and private sector can act as a means of supplementing and expanding such facilities. However, while it is open to local authorities to pursue this process in regard to any project which they intend to promote, it is generally accepted that the scale of investment in a swimming pool project is not sufficiently large to support a formal PPP.

Question No. 113 answered with QuestionNo. 109.

May Day Celebrations.

Questions (33)

Willie Penrose

Question:

114 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will give details of the plans announced recently for a rock concert involving Irish and international musicians, to be held in O’Connell Street, Dublin, on 1 May 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6125/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

It is intended that a major concert will take place on 1 May to celebrate the enlargement of the European Union. Arrangements are in hand for the broadcasting of the event. Further details will be announced as soon as possible.

Question No. 115 answered with QuestionNo. 108.
Question No. 116 answered with QuestionNo. 109.

Museum Projects.

Questions (34, 35)

Joe Sherlock

Question:

117 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when he expects to receive the report from the board of the Hunt Museum in Limerick following his request for the board to investigate claims by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre that the museum’s collection contained items obtained through business dealings with art dealers linked to the art agents for Adolf Hitler and Herman Goering; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6131/04]

View answer

Róisín Shortall

Question:

128 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has been given a copy of the letter sent to the President, Mrs. McAleese, by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, expressing concern at some of the collection contained at the Hunt Museum in Limerick, particularly its connection to Nazi art dealers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6132/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 117 and 128 together.

I wish to confirm my receipt of the letter sent to the President by the Wiesenthal Centre regarding the Hunt collection and the Hunt Museum. While I have no statutory responsibility for the Hunt Museum, I have, on foot of receipt of this letter, asked the museum to take action to satisfy itself in regard to the allegations made in the letter in so far as they relate to the collections and have requested the chairman of the board to keep me informed of the outcome of the board's actions.

I understand that the Hunt Museum has established an independent review group to be chaired by Mr. Justice Donal Barrington to examine the allegations and to report to the museum as quickly as possible. The completed report will thereafter be forwarded for my consideration of what, if any, further action may be required.

Tourism Industry.

Questions (36)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

118 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to the end of year statement from the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation; if his attention has further been drawn to the confederations concerns that not all businesses shared equally in the growth in tourist numbers in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6119/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I have read and noted the contents of the press release issued by the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation on 30 December last.

Irish tourism has been faced with challenging conditions over the past few years but, with the combined efforts of the industry and the tourism agencies, it has weathered the storm better than many commentators had predicted.

I know that not all areas in Ireland, and not all sectors within the industry, have enjoyed the same rate of return from the growth in tourism generally. It is for this reason that achieving a better balance in terms of regional development remains one of the key objectives of Government macroeconomics policy one to which I am fully committed. One of the objectives of national tourism policy is to achieve as wide as possible a distribution of visitor numbers across the different regions. This is reflected in the programmes and initiatives operated by Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland and in the action plan set out in the recent report by the tourism policy review group.

Achieving this goal has long been a major challenge for the industry it requires co-operation from the public and private sectors alike and can only be delivered if the product offering concurs with the wishes, expectations and demands of holidaymakers.

Notwithstanding the fact that this remains a challenge, it is important to acknowledge the overall contribution of the tourism industry to national economic performance. The indications are that, last year, Ireland increased its share in many of its major tourism markets, despite intense international competition.

The CSO figures for the first nine months in 2003 showed a 5% increase in visitor numbers including increased numbers from Britain, where outbound tourism was very flat. Similarly, in mainland Europe, Ireland appears to have outperformed its main rivals in the German, French, Italian and Spanish markets, with mainland European visitor numbers up by over 8% on the same period last year. The North American market also appears to be turning the corner with strong growth achieved for the first time since 2000. If this level of growth is achieved for the full year, it would represent a good performance in a very difficult year and augurs well for 2004.

Government investment in support of tourism next year will be just under €115 million. Of this, almost €70 million will be spent in general support for the marketing and promotion activities of the tourism State agencies, including the largest ever provision for the tourism marketing fund of €31.5 million. This is both a reflection of the importance attached to marketing as a driver of growth and a strong endorsement of the performance of the two agencies in delivering value for this substantial Exchequer investment.

The two tourism State agencies, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, have set an ambitious target of 4% growth in overseas visitor numbers to Ireland for 2004. They are undertaking a comprehensive suite of marketing activities, across all markets and product niches. I am confident that, with the support of the tourism State agencies, the industry can deliver on these ambitious targets, and I hope that one of the related outcomes will be a better spread of the benefits of tourism throughout the country.

National Conference Centre.

Questions (37, 38)

Emmet Stagg

Question:

119 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when he expects a decision to be made on the four expressions of interest received for the provision of a national conference centre in the Dublin area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6135/04]

View answer

Richard Bruton

Question:

139 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding the provision of a national conference centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6157/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 and 139 together.

As the Deputies are aware, the Office of Public Works received four submissions in response to its advertisement for expressions of interest in the provision of a national conference centre in the Dublin area. The closing date for receipt of submissions was 5 p.m. on Wednesday, 21 January 2004. Those submissions are currently undergoing detailed evaluation by an assessment panel representative of my Department, the Office of Public Works and its advisers, the Department of Finance, Fáilte Ireland and the National Development Finance Agency. A separate panel will subsequently evaluate the site proposals candidates were also required to put forward following which the next stage of the process will be initiated with a view to securing a final decision from Government in the autumn.

Subject to the acceptability of proposals, the national conference centre could, as envisaged in the expressions of interest notice, be constructed before the end of 2007.

Question No. 120 answered with QuestionNo. 106.

National Concert Hall.

Questions (39)

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

121 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding the relocation of the National Concert Hall to Grand Canal Harbour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6151/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

On foot of discussions which have taken place among my Department, the OPW and the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, it has been determined that the site on offer at Grand Canal Harbour is not capable of being developed to meet the accommodation brief for the National Concert Hall and would not offer any significant improvement over the present location given the expenditure that would be involved.

In these circumstances I am considering what other options may be available to me to address the needs of the National Concert Hall. I will report to Government on them in due course.

Departmental Strategy Statements.

Questions (40, 41)

John Gormley

Question:

122 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the units of measurement to gauge progress being used regarding his Department’s mission statement in regard to increased participation in sport, improvement of standards of performance in sport and the development of sports facilities at national, regional and local level; if these objectives will be tangibly met by the end of 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6113/04]

View answer

Dan Boyle

Question:

126 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the objectives set out in his Department’s mission statement are being achieved in regard to increased participation in sport, improvement of standards of performance in sport and the development of sports facilities at national, regional and local level, particularly in disadvantaged communities through the provision of an appropriate and effective policy and public funding context; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6108/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I propose to take QuestionsNos. 122 and 126 together.

My Department's Statement of Strategy 2003-2005, which is available in the Oireachtas Library and on my Department's website, identifies specific strategies for the achievement of the Department's goals for the sport sector, specific outputs or objectives for the delivery of those strategies and specific performance indicators to measure the outputs. My Department's first annual report, which is expected to be published in April next, will detail progress during 2003 in regard to individual strategies and objectives and will record satisfactory progress towards the achievement of the goals set out in the statement of strategy.

The overall public policy objective for Irish sport is to promote and encourage a vibrant and active sports sector, especially in areas of disadvantage, with increased participation, good quality, sustainable facilities and opportunities for people to play an active role in sport. Within this policy context the talents, potential and needs of competitive and the elite are also cherished and supported in their pursuit of excellence and success in top sport. As the Deputies will appreciate, there is a high correlation between active involvement in sport and healthy lifestyle. My Department's role is to provide the overall policy framework and the necessary funding to assist in the provision of sports facilities and to enable its state agency, the Irish Sports Council, ISC, to carry out its various functions. The ISC's role is to promote and develop sport and to monitor the effective delivery of Government policy, adherence to Government financial requirements and standards of good governance by the ISC.

The departmental strategy for sport guides the actions of the ISC in its promotion and development of sport as outlined in the council's Statement of Strategy 2003-2005, Sport For Life. The ISC, in turn, publishes annual reports on its activities and has set out targets to be met by, for instance, national governing bodies of sport which, in order to attract additional challenge funding, must produce innovative strategic plans which will deliver clearly stated aims. Similarly, the carding scheme, under which special supports are provided to high performance competitors, is based on established performance standards and criteria. Annual targets are also set and met by the ISC in regard to the number of doping tests carried out under its national anti-doping programme.

My Department's sports capital programme has been enormously beneficial to clubs, sports organisations and voluntary and community groups in every village, parish and town throughout the country. Since 1998 on the sports capital side alone my Department has allocated almost €267 million to over 3,500 projects. In addition, it should be noted the annual budget for the scheme was fully drawn down in 2003 and that the indicators outlined for the processing of assessments and allocations for the programme are on schedule to be met for the 2004 programme. A review of the existing sports capital programme for the period 1999 to 2002, under the Department's expenditure review programme, is currently being finalised. Following this, it is my intention to establish an inter-agency steering group to commence work immediately on developing a long-term strategic plan for the provision of sports facilities. One of the first tasks of this group will be to oversee the commencement of the audit of sports facilities.

In the course of the expenditure review, an analysis of the allocation of grants was carried out along with a survey to a proportion of applicants during this period. While not yet finalised, the preliminary findings of this review show that the funding provided to over 2,000 voluntary clubs and organisations in the period 1999 to 2002 has helped to build a variety of facilities which have helped increase participation in sport. The survey conducted as part of the review revealed that 64% of respondents, including those in disadvantaged areas, stated that the actual numbers of people using the facility had increased since completion of their project supported under the sports capital programme. Furthermore, 93% of respondents across a wide range of sports stated that support under the sports capital programme had made a difference in helping participants to achieve a higher standard. The review is expected to make recommendations in a number of areas involving the future operation of the sports capital programme including the need for up-to-date information on sporting participation rates and the need to monitor funded projects to assess impact of funding in the areas of participation and improved performance.

The tax relief on donations to certain sports bodies scheme, established under section 847a of the Taxes Consolidation Act, came into effect on 1 May 2002. Since then 72 applications have been received by my Department from interested parties wishing to avail of the scheme. Of these, 64 have been given approved status with a total project cost of €56,810,595. Under the local authority swimming pool programme, my Department is committed to supporting 55 local authority swimming pool projects throughout the country. Delivery of this programme is well under way. My Department also funded the 50 metre swimming pool at the University of Limerick and the National Aquatic Centre at Abbotstown which recently hosted the very successful European short course swimming championships. These are key facilities in the context of our high performance strategy for elite competitors as well as for clubs, learners and fun swimmers.

Sports Capital Programme.

Questions (42)

Jack Wall

Question:

123 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of applications his Department received under the 2004 sports capital programme; when a decision will be made on the exact amount to be available for allocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6136/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis. The 2004 sports capital programme was advertised in the national newspapers on 30 November and 1 December 2003. The closing date for receipt of applications was 16 January 2004. As I recently informed the Deputy in my replies to previous questions, a total of 1,302 applications was received before the closing date. All applications are being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

I will decide soon the level of provisional grant allocations to be made this year having regard both to the quality of the applications received under the 2004 programme and the pattern of grant allocations and draw-downs on foot of earlier years' approvals.

National Stadium.

Questions (43, 44)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

124 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the extent to which agreement has been reached on the future development at Abbotstown, having particular regard to decisions already taken on the provision of a national sports stadium; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6073/04]

View answer

Seán Ryan

Question:

141 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the way in which the Government intends to develop the Abbotstown venue now that it is not to be the venue of the new national stadium; the precise facilities he wishes to establish at the Abbotstown site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6129/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I propose to take QuestionsNos. 124 and 141 together.

The Government has agreed to proceed with the development of state-of-the-art sporting infrastructure at Abbotstown. This initiative will be of lasting benefit to Irish sport. Over time, a network of much needed sports facilities can be built up for the benefit of future generations of sports persons whether amateur, professional or elite.

Earlier this month, I met the board of Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Limited. I outlined the Government's views on the sports campus to it and asked members to provide me with a phased and prioritised proposal, a sporting and business case and annual budgets. The aim is to deliver the component elements of the campus within a realistic time-frame by building on and updating the existing framework plan for the site in consultation with the various interested parties and taking account of developments which have taken place in the meantime.

The scale of the campus is such that it can accommodate the requirements of sporting organisations for high quality pitches and training facilities for both amateur and ranking team sports. This should be of benefit not only to major sports organisations but also to some of our smaller sports whose need for modern facilities is important. I also see the merit in testing private sector appetite for developing an indoor sporting arena. I am aware that many sporting organisations may be interested in relocating offices to Abbotstown. The FAI has already made known its interest in selling its present headquarters in Merrion Square and moving there. There may also be considerable GAA and IRFU interest in exploiting what Abbotstown has to offer for the development of their sports.

The availability of centralised high quality sports facilities will appeal, in particular, to smaller sporting bodies, many of which depend largely on voluntary commitment. Medical and research facilities for elite athletes might be developed at Abbotstown in partnership with one or more of the third level education institutions and this would give a further impetus to the work that the Irish Sports Council is doing to support our elite sportsmen and sportswomen. Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Limited has been given the responsibility for translating this concept into an action plan for delivery and overseeing a programme of development which, over time, will be seen as accomplishing a major transformation in the quality of Ireland's sporting infrastructure.

Question No. 125 answered with QuestionNo. 102.
Question No. 126 answered with QuestionNo. 122.

Day of Welcomes.

Questions (45, 46)

Willie Penrose

Question:

127 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the events planned to take place in Dublin from 30 April to 1 May 2004 to mark the accession of the applicant countries to the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6124/04]

View answer

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

136 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will provide details of the 1 May 2004 celebrations to mark the accession of new states to the European Union; and the cost involved. [5971/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 and 136 together.

Under the cultural programme of the Irish Presidency of the EU, which I launched on 7 January 2004, each of the new member states will be officially welcomed into the EU by an Irish city or town during a special day of welcomes on Saturday, 1 May. The participating towns and cities are Bray, Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Killarney, Galway, Sligo, Letterkenny, Drogheda and Kilkenny. This day will be at the heart of the national celebrations and will involve each of the ten towns and cities hosting distinct and engaging European fairs. A fireworks extravaganza in Dublin will commence celebrations in the capital on Friday, 30 April.

Dublin will also see Merrion Square transformed into a colourful bazaar with marquees, stands and stages making up the European fair on Saturday, 1 May. It is expected that over 100,000 visitors will pass through the fair over the weekend to enjoy the experience of unique and interesting produce from the new EU member states and participate in this fun cultural activity. A major concert of Irish and international stars will take place in O'Connell Street in Dublin on the evening of 1 May and will be a highlight of the weekend. The concert will be produced by RTE and the BBC.

From 22 April to 3 May, there will be a presentation of Vectorial Elevation, a unique artwork which is the largest on-line. We will locate 24 searchlights on and over the buildings in O'Connell Street and every six seconds, from dusk to dawn, a new design will be rendered on the sky for all to see. A large screen will display the signature and comments of the author.

The total projected costs for these celebratory events is €2.144 million.

Question No. 128 answered with QuestionNo. 117.

Tourism Industry.

Questions (47)

Denis Naughten

Question:

129 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the plans he has to review the quality standards in tourism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5972/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I have no direct responsibility with regard to conducting a review of quality standards in tourism, as these are a day-to-day function of the State tourism agencies. However, the Deputy may wish to note that, in policy terms, maintaining standards and quality in the tourism sector is clearly identified as a priority measure in An Agreed Programme for Government.

Since taking up office, I have consistently emphasised that the quality and levels of service offered by the tourism industry are critical to the successful development of the sector. Excellence in the physical design and quality of tourism products and good investment planning must be matched with equally good operational planning and delivery of services. If operational standards do not match the physical quality of facilities, the market potential of these facilities, for both overseas and domestic tourists, may not be fully realised.

Last May I established the new National Tourism Development Authority, Fáilte Ireland. This is a strong and well-resourced body, dedicated to the promotion of excellence in product and service delivery, the twin experiences of both the overseas and domestic tourist. It has a clear mandate to take whatever actions are appropriate to help the industry to hold and increase its market share in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. Fáilte Ireland is now up and running and is ideally placed to support the industry in addressing the new set of challenges facing tourism into the future, including issues such as value for money, competitiveness and quality.

Just over a year ago, I spoke about the tourism industry being at a cross-roads and the need for a major review of policy. That comprehensive review of policy has been completed with the publication last September of the Tourism Policy Review Group's report, New Horizons for Irish Tourism — An Agenda for Action. This report sets out a new vision for Irish tourism as a dynamic, innovative, sustainable and highly regarded sector, offering overseas and domestic visitors a positive and memorable experience beyond their expectations.

One of the key messages in the report is the need for the industry to restore competitiveness and ensure a high level of quality in the Irish tourism experience if it is to maximise the opportunities for future growth. There is no easy or single solution — the competitiveness of Irish tourism is influenced by a huge range of factors and experiences for customers, from initial inquiries about visiting Ireland through to travelling here, where they go when they get here, where they stay, whom they meet, what they do, what they see and their perceptions about price and quality.

Having identified competitiveness and value for money as one of the key strategic drivers of success for Irish tourism, the review group listed some ten integrated actions aimed at the industry, Government and State agencies, designed to translate the strategy into action. These actions require a holistic approach to addressing the issue and focus, in particular, on acknowledging industry responsibility, measures to tackle inflation, benchmarking of the competition, building capability within the industry and upgrading standards as a competitive response.

Work is already under way on a number of the key issues but it will fall to the implementation group, established earlier this month in line with the recommendations of the report, to help ensure that it is implemented in an integrated manner and that a partnership approach is adopted by the many actors whose coordinated efforts are required if the full potential of the industry is to be realised.

Abbey Theatre.

Questions (48)

John Gormley

Question:

130 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if there has been progress on the property acquisition issues in regard to the proposed refurbishment of the Abbey Theatre; if a timeframe for the development has been outlined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6112/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I refer the Deputy to my reply to a priority question on this matter earlier today.

EU Presidency.

Questions (49)

Brian O'Shea

Question:

131 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his priorities for the remainder of the Irish Presidency of the European Union; the events that are arranged by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6122/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

My main priority for the Presidency, in so far as arts, sport and tourism is concerned, is to ensure that normal EU business is conducted efficiently and effectively, particularly given the additional workload and complexities associated which the accession of ten new member states.

On 27 May, I will chair the Education, Youth and Culture Council for those items in the cultural and audiovisual spheres which fall under my remit. One of the main issues for discussion during our Presidency will be the Commission's proposals for post-2006 EU support programmes in the field of culture and film.

The main priority in the sports area is the European Year of Education through Sport which I launched, along with my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Noel Dempsey, in Dublin on 29 and 30 January in Croke Park. As part of our national programme in this regard, we will use this year to promote the importance of sport within the education system, particularly in promoting social inclusion. I also took the opportunity of this launch to host a Troika meeting of Sports Ministers in Dublin.

Just this morning I launched the LEAPS project, Learning and Education through Activity and Participation in Sport, which aims to explore the benefits of using sport as a way of learning mainstream curriculum subjects. This initiative particularly targets potential early school leavers through the school completion programme. The project also heightens awareness and understanding of other cultures through a focus on multi-national sporting activities.

In advancing co-operation in the cultural field, there are three key events which I will be hosting as part of the Presidency: a seminar on cultural and linguistic diversity in Killarney on 11 and 12 March; a seminar on the music industry in Dublin on 19 and 20 April; and a meeting of the European Group on Digitisation of Heritage and Culture in Dublin which will be followed by a conference on digitisation on 28 and 29 June.

The key tourism event of our Presidency will be an international tourism conference on the theme of competitiveness and sustainability taking place on 5 April in Dublin Castle. The conference, entitled Charting Tourism Success, is being organised by Fáilte Ireland. It will bring representatives from the Irish and European tourism industry, together with representatives of the European Commission and other European policy makers, to identify and discuss issues of common interest which impact on the competitiveness and sustainability of the tourism sector in Europe and internationally.

In January, I formally launched the Presidency cultural programme. This extensive programme, which will see over 250 Irish artists and hundreds of European artists presenting work across the expanded EU, is one of the central features of the Irish Presidency. We have already had a very successful concert in Brussels to mark the start of the Presidency there.

The new member states will be officially welcomed into the EU by an Irish city or town in a special day of welcomes on Saturday, 1 May. This day will be at the heart of a national weekend of celebration that will involve each of the ten towns and cities hosting distinct and engaging 'European Fairs', while a fireworks extravaganza in Dublin from a leading European pyrotechnics company will commence celebrations in the capital on Friday, 30 April.

Dublin will also see Merrion Square transformed into a colourful bazaar with marquees, stands and stages making up 'The European Fair' on Saturday, 1 May. It is expected that over 100,000 visitors will pass through the fair over the weekend to enjoy the experience of unique and interesting produce from the new EU member states and participate in the fun cultural activity.

A major concert of Irish and international stars in the centre of Dublin will be a highlight of the weekend and will be produced by RTE and the BBC. It will be broadcast live throughout Europe. The line-up for this concert will be announced shortly.

From a cultural, sports and tourism perspective, the Irish Presidency promises to be both exciting and rewarding for all those involved.

Proposed Legislation.

Questions (50)

Brian O'Shea

Question:

132 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will outline his legislative priorities for the new Dáil session; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6121/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I do not have any legislative priorities for the current Dáil session.

Legislation to establish CSID, Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Limited, as a statutory agency is currently being drafted in light of the Government's decision of 27 January to proceed with development of a sports campus at Abbotstown. It is my intention to seek Government approval for the inclusion of this legislation in the legislative programme for the post-Easter Dáil session.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Questions (51)

Dinny McGinley

Question:

133 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the situation regarding the proposed swimming pool for Ballybofey, County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5974/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

Under the local authority swimming pool programme, administered by my Department, there are four principal stages in a swimming pool project, namely, feasibility study-preliminary report; contract documents; tender and construction. My Department's technical adviser, the Office of Public Works, evaluates each stage and local authorities cannot proceed to the next stage of a project unless prior approval issues from my Department.

The present position in regard to the Ballybofey-Stranorlar swimming pool project is that a feasibility study submitted by Donegal County Council was approved in 2001 and a preliminary report is in preparation. The project can be considered further on receipt of this report. My Department understands, however, that the full financing package for the project has yet to be finalised.

Question No. 134 answered with QuestionNo. 100.

Decentralisation Programme.

Questions (52)

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

135 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his response to concerns expressed by senior and mid-ranking officials in his Department concerning plans for decentralisation of the Department to Killarney; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6120/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I am confident that any of the concerns expressed by officials of my Department regarding decentralisation to Killarney can be addressed. I have established a decentralisation committee in my Department to assist me in driving forward the programme of decentralisation in respect of my Department and its agencies and to ensure that the programme is managed in a way that will be sensitive to the needs of all staff, whether they choose to decentralise or not.

As I see it, one of the main priorities of the decentralisation committee, while implementing Government policy in regard to decentralisation, will be to keep staff informed on an ongoing basis as important issues are clarified and decisions are made. In the meantime, any concerns that staff in my Department may have may be raised through the partnership structures, at departmental council or with any member of my Department's decentralisation committee.

I am aware that decentralisation will change the way in which the public service operates in the future. The new programme will create a wider range of work and career opportunities for individuals working outside Dublin than currently exists. Public servants who aspire to senior management positions will no longer have to migrate to the capital, although many may well continue to do so. Similarly, individuals serving in Dublin will be able to pursue their careers within Dublin but many may chose to avail of promotion opportunities in decentralised offices.

I must again remind the Deputy that the decentralisation programme will operate on a voluntary basis. Civil and public servants who do not wish to transfer to Killarney or any other decentralised location will be assigned to alternative posts in Dublin. The exact procedures which will apply in such cases will be dealt with as part of the implementation process and will, of course, be discussed with the public service unions.

I can assure the Deputy that while I am committed to implementing the programme of decentralisation in so far as my Department and agencies under its aegis are concerned, I also have the utmost regard for the legitimate expectations and views of staff members of my Department and I will do my very best to proceed with the task in a spirit of openness and understanding.

Question No. 136 answered with QuestionNo. 127.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Questions (53)

David Stanton

Question:

137 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when he will announce the public swimming pool programme for 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6100/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

As I indicated in my reply to the Deputy on 18 December 2003, the closing date for receipt of applications under the current round of the local authority swimming pool programme was 31 July 2000. Of the 55 applications for funding, 11 projects have been completed, seven are under construction and 37 are at one of the three principal pre-construction stages of the approval process. Of these 37, two are at tender stage, 20 are at contract document stage and 15 are at the preliminary report stage. Three projects under the programme were recently approved to go to construction, in Churchfield, Cork City, Tuam, County Galway and Ballymun in Dublin city.

Because of the large number of applications still being processed, it is not proposed to re-open the pool programme at present. However, an expenditure review is being carried out on the programme and this review is examining, among other things, how the programme has worked to date, the benefits which have accrued to the areas where pools have been built through the existing programme and what amendments, if any, are required to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of the programme. It is envisaged that the review will be completed by mid-2004.

Sports Capital Programme.

Questions (54)

Seán Crowe

Question:

138 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when he will announce the grants made under the sports capital programme 2004; and if he will consider the application for Templeogue United FC for refurbishment and extension of facilities. [6058/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.

The 2004 sports capital programme was advertised in the national newspapers on 30 November and 1 December 2003. The closing date for receipt of applications was 16 January 2004. A total of 1,302 applications were received before the closing date, including one from the organisation in question. All applications are being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Question No. 139 answered with QuestionNo. 119.

Departmental Requests.

Questions (55)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

140 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he intends requesting the Heritage Council to suspend the Museum of the Year Award currently held by the Hunt Museum in Limerick given the concerns that surround the Museum’s collection and the links it may have with Nazi art dealers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6133/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I have no statutory function in this matter. The Heritage Council, which is an independent body, does not operate under the aegis of my Department.

Question No. 141 answered with QuestionNo. 124.

Ministerial Appointments.

Questions (56)

Joan Burton

Question:

142 Ms Burton asked the Taoiseach the appointments made by him to all companies, boards or agencies operating under the aegis of his Department since 6 June 2002; the persons appointed; and the dates on which the appointments were made. [6267/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Taoiseach)

The bodies under the aegis of my Department are: the National Statistics Board; the National Economic and Social Council, NESC; the National Economic and Social Forum, NESF; the Information Society Commission; the National Centre for Partnership and Performance, NCPP; the Law Reform Commission; and International Financial Services Centre groups.

The appointments made by me to these bodies since June 2002 are set out in the following table.

Body

Appointments

Date of Appointment

National Economic & Social Council

Mr. Jack O’Connor (SIPTU)

All made in Sept/Oct 2003

Ms. Aileen O’Donoghue (IBEC)

Ms. Deirdre Garvey (The Wheel)

Mr. John Mark McCafferty (St. Vincent de Paul)

Mr. John Dolan (Disability Federation of Ireland)

Mr. Niall Callan (Dept. of Environment Heritage & Local Government)

Mr. Colin Hunt (Goodbody Stockbrokers)

Prof. Brigid Laffan (UCD)

Prof. John Fitzgerald (ESRI)

Prof. Eithne McLaughlin (Queens University)

Mr. Peter Bacon (Economic Consultant)

National Centre for Partnership &Performance

Mr. John Walsh (Dept. Enterprise, Trade &Employment) Mr. Fergus Whelan (ICTU)

July 2002November 2003

IFSC Clearing House Group

Mr. Walter Brazil (AIB Capital Markets)

Reconstituted November 2002

Mr. Gavin Caldwell

Mr. Denis Casey (Irish Life & Permanent)

Mr. Brian Collins (Bank of Ireland Security Services)

Mr. Peter Coyne (Dublin Docklands Development Authority)

Mr. Colm Doherty (AIB Capital Markets)

Mr. Brian Goggin (Bank of Ireland)

Mr. John Larkin (William Fry Solicitors)

Ms Aileen O’Donoghue (Financial Services Ireland)

Mr. Michael Ryan (Merrill Lynch Capital Markets Bank Ltd)

Mr. Willie Slattery (State Street International Ireland Ltd)

Mr. Pat Wall (PriceWaterhouseCooper)

National Economic & Social Forum

Of the 62 NESF members, 50 are appointed by nominating bodies, five members are ex-officio and five independent members are appointed by the Government. The five NESF independent appointments are: Dr. Mary P. Corcoran (NUI, Maynooth) Cáit Keane (South Dublin Co Council) Dr. Colm Harmon (UCD) Dr. Brian Nolan (ESRI) Mr. Paul Tansey (Economist) The Government also appoints the Chair and Deputy Chair.

Reconstitution of the NESF has recently been finalised. Members appointed during January/February 2004.

National Statistics Board

Professor Brendan Walsh (UCD) Chair,

Reconstituted with effect from 09 February 2004.

Dr. Patricia O’Hara (Western Development Commission)

Ms Mary Doyle (Assistant Secretary, Department of the Taoiseach)

National Statistics Board—contd.

Mr. Derek Moran, (Assistant Secretary, Department of Finance)

Ms Paula Carey, (ICTU Trade Union Pillar nominee)

Mr. Ciaran Dolan, (ICMSA, Farming Pillar nominee)

Mr. Frank Cuneen, (Business Pillar nominee)

Mr. Donal Garvey, Director General of the CSO is a member of the Board ex-officio

Community Employment Schemes.

Questions (57)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

143 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason community employment participants did not receive a rise in income in January 2004 while jobs directive participants, social welfare recipients and workers all qualified for increases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6202/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

An increase in grant aid for community employment participants was sanctioned with effect from 1 January 2004. The rate payable to community employment participants without dependants increased from €149.20 to €159.20 and the rate for participants with an adult dependant increased from €232 to €248.60. The new rates are in line with the increases provided for in the budget for social welfare recipients.

Immigration Policy.

Questions (58)

Richard Bruton

Question:

144 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the analysis which she has undertaken of the likely inflow of persons from the new members of the EU; the proportion of these whom she estimated may take up employment here; the proportion who may become dependant on social welfare; if she has put in place a response mechanisms to ensure that there is not an excessive inflow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6227/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

Under the accession treaties, which were signed on 16 April 2003, member states have the option of restricting access to their labour markets to nationals of the newly acceded states during a transition period of up to seven years. Ireland made a decision to grant full access to its labour market to nationals of the accession states from the date of accession.

In making this decision, migration from the accession states in recent years was taken into account, together with our likely needs in the years ahead. Furthermore, the Government had regard to the findings of a number of studies carried out on the likely impact of enlargement on EU labour markets. These included studies by Brueker & Boeri for the EU Commission, 2000; Sinn, 2001; and Salt, 1999. Predictions vary, depending on methodology used, but research in general suggests that there will be no sizeable disruptions to EU wages or employment after accession. Most studies estimate an annual flow of workers to the present EU member states of 70-150,000 per year, with some forecasting a drop in the rate of immigration after one decade, and others predicting that the annual flow of migrants will remain high over the whole period of time.

The studies generally pointed to the fact that wage differentials between the host country and country of origin are only one reason that would encourage labour migration. Other factors to be taken into account include proximity, tradition and networks and linguistic barriers. Also, accession itself, or the prospect of it, may have an important influence on expectations and might even reduce the perceived need to migrate in EU accession countries. In Ireland's case, few of these factors, except for higher wages, are present. One can conclude that, all other things being equal, potential migrants from the candidate countries would be less likely to wish to migrate to Ireland and more likely to migrate to neighbouring countries with a long-established tradition of receiving such migrants, and where an established network of their nationals already exists. Austria and Germany alone were expected to receive in the region of 70% of all those moving. However, these countries have opted to retain their current work permit regimes during the transition period following accession.

After accession, it is expected that the majority of Ireland's continuing overseas labour needs will be met from within the expanded EU, thus greatly reducing the need for labour from the rest of the world. Were the Irish labour market to suffer a serious disturbance to the labour market during the transition period following accession, potentially up to seven years, Ireland retains the option of re-introducing an employment permit requirement for nationals of the newly-acceded member states under a provision contained in the Employment Permits Act 2003. The presence of this provision in no way means that an unmanageable influx of migrant workers from the new member states is expected. It is, however, a prudent measure as we move into a new phase in EU enlargement and an uncertain economic climate. The case for such a re-introduction would have to be based on quantitative labour market and unemployment data.

The question relating to the proportion of accession country nationals who may become dependent on social welfare is one that falls within the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs.

Ministerial Appointments.

Questions (59)

Joan Burton

Question:

145 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the appointments made by her to all companies, boards or agencies operating under the aegis of her Department since 6 June 2002; the persons appointed; and the dates on which the appointments were made. [6268/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The information sought is as follows:

National Standards Authority of Ireland

Persons Appointed

Date of Appointment

Ms. Rose Hynes

21 May 2003

Mr. Des O’Loughlin

21 May 2003

Mr. Niall Fitzsimons

21 May 2003

Mr. Páraig Hennessy

4 September 2003

Mr. Edmond Stack

19 November 2003

Shannon Development

Persons Appointed

Date of Appointment

Mr. Brian O’Connell

6 June 2002

Nítrigin Éireann Teoranta (NET)

Persons Appointed

Date of Appointment

Mr. Conor O’Mahony

29 September 2003

Enterprise Ireland

Persons Appointed

Date of Appointment

Mr. Gus Fitzpatrick (re-appointed)

24 July 2002

Mr. Brian Kearney (re-appointed)

24 July 2002

Mr. Pat Molloy — Chairperson (re-appointed)

24 July 2003

Ms. Veronica Perdisatt (re-appointed)

28 July 2003

Mr. Kieran McGowan (re-appointed)

28 July 2003

Crafts Council of Ireland

Persons Appointed

Date of Appointment

Ms. Mary Anne O’Brien (Chairperson)

9 April 2003

Mr. Martin Walsh (Chairperson)

17 June 2003

Ms. Cathy Honan (re-appointed)

17 June 2003

IDA Ireland

Persons Appointed

Date of Appointment

Ms. Loretta Brennan-Glucksman

5 March 2003

Mr. Kieran Corrigan (re-appointed)

5 March 2003

Mr. Brian Whitney

19 September 2003

Mr. Paul MacKay

15 January 2004

Mr. Nial Ring (re-appointed)

15 January 2004

Forfás

Persons Appointed

Date of Appointment

Mr. Martin Cronin

6 August 2002

Mr. Peter Cassells

1 January 2003

Dr. Don Thornhill

18 June 2003

Dr. William Harris

11 September 2003

Mr. Frank Ryan

12 November 2003

Mr. Paul Haran

1 January 2004

Mr. Rody Molloy

1 January 2004

Labour Court

Persons Appointed

Date of Appointment

Mr. Kevin Duffy (Chairman)

17 December 2003

Mr. Finbarr Flood (Deputy Chairman)

1 February 2004

Mr. John Doherty (Member)

27 July 2003

Mr. Noel O’Neill (re-appointed as member)

28 July 2003

Mr. Robert Grier (Member)

1 March 2003

Mr. Jimmy Somers (re-appointed as member)

1 February 2003

Mr. Patrick Pierce (re-appointed as a member)

5 Oct 2002 — 31 Dec 2002

Labour Relations Commission

Persons Appointed

Date of Appointment

Mr. Tom Wall (Ordinary Member)

1 April 2003 replaced by

Mr. Peter Bunting (Ordinary Member)

10 February 2004

Mr. Peter McLoone (Ordinary Member)

1 April 2003

Mr. Liam Downey (Ordinary Member)

1 April 2003

Mr. Brendan McGinty (Ordinary Member)

1 April 2003

Mr. Maurice Cashell (Chairman)

1 April 2003

Ms. Breege O’Donoghue (Ordinary Member)

1 April 2003

Ms. Josephine Feehily (Ordinary Member)

1 April 2003

Rights Commissioners Service of the Labour Relations Commission

Persons Appointed

Date of Appointment

Mr. Michael Rooney

23 September 2002

Ms. Janet Hughes

26 August 2003

Mr. David Iredale

1 September 2003

Mr. Tony Bregazzi

5 December 2003

Mr. Mark A. McGrath

1 February 2004

National Competitiveness Council

Persons Appointed

Date of Appointment

Mr. Martin Cronin

21 June 2002

Mr. Kevin Bonner (re-appointed)

21 June 2002

Mr. William Burgess (Chairman)

21 June 2002

Ms. Aine Mizzoni (re-appointed)

21 June 2002

Mr. Neil Ormonde (re-appointed)

21 June 2002

Mr. John Fingleton

1 June 2003

Mr. Peter McLoone

1 June 2003

Mr. Willy Slattery

1 June 2003

Mr. Seamus O’Morain

1 June 2003

Mr. Rory Ardagh (re-appointed)

1 June 2003

Ms. Jane Williams (re-appointed)

1 June 2003

Mr. John Travers (re-appointed)

1 June 2003

Mr. Brendan Butler

30 September 2003

Science Foundation of Ireland

Persons Appointed

Date of Appointment

Dr. Pat Fottrell (Chairperson)

25 July 2003

Mr. Frank McCabe (Deputy Chairperson)

25 July 2003

Dr. Don Thornhill (Board Member)

25 July 2003

Mr. Erich Bloch (Board Member)

25 July 2003

Dr. Kristina Johnson (Board Member)

25 July 2003

Mr. John Travers (Board Member)

25 July 2003

Dr. Jane Grimson (Board Member)

25 July 2003

Dr. Jim Mountjoy (Board Member)

25 July 2003

Dr. Martina Newell McGloughlin (Board Member)

25 July 2003

Mr. Ned Costello (Board Member)

25 July 2003

Dr. Anita Jones (Board Member)

25 July 2003

Dr. Jacqueline Hunter (Board Member)

25 July 2003

Skillnets

Persons Appointed

Date of Appointment

Mr. Denis Colfer

3 October 2002

Mr. John Daly

9 February 2004

Company Law Review Group

The following appointments were made by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment in December 2003: membership is from 1 January 2004-31 December 2007: Mr. Thomas B. Courtney (Chairman); Mr. Michael Halpenny; Mr. Enda Twomey; Ms. Muriel Hinch; Mr. Conall O'Halloran; Ms. Deirdre Somers; Ms. Marie Daly; Mr. Ralph MacDarby; Ms. Fiona Delahunty; Mr. Jonathon Buttimore; Mr. William Johnston; Mr. Paul Appleby; Mr. Paul Egan; Mr. Paul Farrell; Ms. Nora Rice; Mr. Vincent Madigan; Ms. Tanya Holly; Ms. Marie O' Connor; Mr. Lyndon McCann.

Company Law Consolidation

The following appointments were made to the interim board of the Irish Auditing and Accounting Supervisory Authority:

Persons Appointed

Date of Appointment

Mr. Paul Appleby

11 July 2002

Mr. Ronald Long

18 July 2003

Mr. Michael Deasy

16 February 2004

Health and Safety Authority

Persons Appointed

Date of Appointment

Mr. Martin Lynch

16 September 2002

Employment Appeals Tribunal

The following appointments were made by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment on 30 January 2004 for a three year term of office to expire on 29 January 2007.

Vice-Chairmen

Mr. Kieran Buckley; Mr. Con Guiney; Mr. Leachlain S. Ó Catháin; Ms. Dympna Cusack; Mr. Tony Halpin; Mr. Mark O'Connell; Ms. Penelope McGrath; Mr. Emile Daly; Mr. Thomas O'Donoghue; Ms. Catherine Egan; Ms. Elva Kearney; Mr. Peter J. O' Leary; Mr. Patrick G. Goold; Ms. Marian Petty; Mr. Kevin P. Kilrane; Ms. Margaret Levey; Mrs. Moya Quinlan; Mr. Fergal T. Fitzgerald Doyle; Mr. James Flanagan; Mr. Sean Mahon; Mr. Joe Revington; Mr. Myles Gilvarry; Mr. Eoin Martin; Mr. Tom Ryan; Ms. Clodagh Gleeson; Ms. Bernie Glynn; Mr. Dermot MacCarthy; Mr. Jeremiah Sheedy; Ms. Geraldine Small.

Trade Union Members

Mr. Frank Barry; Mr. Ben Kearney; Mr. Michael McGarry; Ms. Rita Bergin; Ms. Hilary Kelleher; Mr. Bernard McKenna; Ms. Eveta Brezina; Mr. Tony Kennelly; Mr. George Hunter; Mr. Nick Broughall; Mr. George Lamon; Mr. Owen Nulty; Mr. Brendan Byrne; Mr. Sean Mackell; Ms. Clare O'Connor; Mr. Paddy Woods; Ms. Mary Maher; Mr. Kevin O'Connor; Dr. Anne Clune; Mr. Des Mahon; Mr. Seamus O'Donnell; Mr. James Dorney; Ms. Alice Moore; Ms. Emer O'Shea; Ms. Breda Fell; Mr. Jim Moore; Mr. Ciaran Ryan; Ms. Kay Garvey; Ms. Rita McArdle; Mr. Tom Wall; Ms. Noirin Greene; Mr. John McDonnell; Ms. Catherine Warnock; Mr. Dominic McEvoy.

Employer Members

Mr. Patrick Bracken; Mr. Richard Keating; Mr. Neil Ormond; Mr. Joe Browne; Mr. James O'Neill; Mr. Gerry Phelan; Mr. William Brown; Mr. Pat Pierce; Mr. Gerry McAuliffe; Mr. Pat Casey; Mr. Cyril McHugh; Mr. Peter Pierson; Mr. Frank Cunneen; Mr. Don Moore; Mr. William Power; Mr. Robert D.E. Prole; Ms. Ann Delahunt; Mr. Desmond Morrison; Mr. Moss Flood; Mr. Jim Redmond; Mr. Michael J. Murphy; Mr. Michael Forde; Mr. Roger Murphy; Mr. John Reid; Mr. Tom Gill; Mr. Eamon Ryan; Mr. Billy O'Carroll; Mr. James Goulding; Ms. Marie Sweeney; Mr. Terence O'Donnell; Mr. John Guinan; Mr. Paul O'Leary; Mr. John Walsh; Mr. Ben Kealy; Mr. Declan F. Winston.

The following were appointed between 6 June 2002 and 29 January 2004, and re-appointed on 30 January 2004.

Vice-Chairmen

Mr. Dara Hayes appointed on 2 September 2002; Mr. John Fahy appointed on 24 June2003

Ordinary Members

Mr. Mel Kennedy (Employer Panel) appointed on 2 April 2003; Mr. Paul Clarke (Trade Union Panel) appointed on 2 April 2003; Mr. Sam Nolan (Trade Union Panel) appointed on 2 April2003.

Joint Labour Committees of the Labour Court

Persons Appointed

Date of Appointment

Mr. Colin Walker (Chairman Catering JLC)

5 July 2002

Mr. Colin Walker (Chairman Hotels JLC)

20 October 2003

Mr. Des Casey (Chairman Hotels JLC)

12 November 2003

Ms. Patricia McCarthy (Chairman Provender Milling JLC)

20 October 2003

Ms. Patricia McCarthy (Chairman Aerated Waters 20 October 2003 and Wholesale Bottling JLC)

Work Permits.

Questions (60)

Arthur Morgan

Question:

146 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of work permit holders formerly employed in an ineligible occupational sector which have successfully obtained work permits in an eligible occupational sector since the ineligible categories were introduced. [6353/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

Applications for work permits are considered on the basis that an employer certifies to my Department that she or he is unable to recruit a suitable employee from among the EU workforce. It is the employer who is granted the permit and no records are kept tracking employees who have been employed in an occupational sector which subsequently became ineligible and who have been the subject of a successful application for another occupational sector.

Ministerial Appointments.

Questions (61)

Joan Burton

Question:

147 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Defence the appointments made by him to all companies, boards or agencies operating under the aegis of his Department since 6 June 2002; the persons appointed; and the dates on which the appointments were made. [6269/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Defence)

I have, as Minister for Defence, made the following appointments since 6 June 2002:

Name

Date Apointed

Coiste an Asgard

Mr. Sean Flood

31 July 2002

Mr. Gerard O’Donnell

09 August 2002

Dr. Roy Brown

09 August 2002

Mr. Michael Murphy

09 August 2002

Ms. Joannes Berkery

09 August 2002

Ms. Kalanne O’Leary

24 September 2002

Mr. Patrick O’Hara

30 September 2002

Mr. Seamus McLaughlin

09 October 2002

Commodore Frank Lynch

05 October 2003

Mr. Gerry Donnelly

11 February 2003

Name

Date Appointed

Army Pensions Board

Commandant John Tobin

24 October 2002

Animal Welfare.

Questions (62)

Finian McGrath

Question:

148 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason fur farms are legal here; and if he has proposals to change the legislation in order to ensure that these animals are treated humanely. [6389/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

Fur farming is a legitimate farming activity in this country. Under the Musk Rats Act, 1933 (Application to Mink) Order 1965 the keeping of mink is prohibited except under licence from my Department. Licences are issued under this legislation only if the applicant, following an inspection carried out by officials from my Department, is found to be compliant with a number of key conditions.

Licensed fur farms are also inspected by my Department to assess compliance with Council of Europe recommendations concerning fur animals and Council Directive 98/58/EC concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes. These inspections have found that the licensed fur farms have been operating in compliance with current legislation. Inspections have also found that the slaughter methods employed by the licensed fur farms are permitted under the Sixth Schedule of the European Communities (Protection of Animals at Time of Slaughter) Regulations 1995.

I have no plans to ban fur farming in Ireland. My Department will continue to monitor the operation of the licensed fur farms under the relevant legislation.

Ministerial Appointments.

Questions (63)

Joan Burton

Question:

149 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the appointments made by him to all companies, boards or agencies operating under the aegis of his Department since 6 June 2002; the persons appointed; and the dates on which the appointments were made. [6270/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

The information requested by the Deputy is outlined in the following Schedule. Some of these appointments are made from nominations by the farming organisations.

SCHEDULE

Company/Board/Agency

Name

Date of Appointment

Teagasc

Dr. Tom O’Dwyer

15-09-2003 (Re-appointment)

Mr. Michael O’Dwyer

15-09-2003 (Re-appointment)

Mr. Patrick Kelly

15-09-2003 (Re-appointment)

Mr. Jerry Hency

12-10-2003

Prof. Patrick Fottrell

24-09-2002 (Re-appointment)

Mr. Ruaidhri Deasy

24-09-2002 (Re-appointment)

Mr. Jim Beecher

24-09-2002 (Re-appointment)

An Bord Bia

Ms. Gina Quin

24-09-2002

Ms. Mary J. Byrne

04-12-2002

Mr. John Dillon

04-12-2002

Mr. Dan Lenihan

04-12-2002

Mr. Michael Kilcoyne

04-12-2002

Mr. Noel Cawley

09-07-2003

Ms. Brid Rodgers

31-12-2003

Mr. Dan Browne

31-12-2003

Mr. Pat O’Rourke

31-12-2003

Ms. Gina Quin

31-12-2003 (Re-appointment )

An Bord Glas

Mr. Dan Lenihan

23-12-2002 (All re-appointments)

Mr. Tom Ambrose

23-12-2002 (All re-appointments)

Mr. John Barry

23-12-2002 (All re-appointments)

Ms. Angela Binchy

23-12-2002 (All re-appointments)

Mr. Liam Butterly

23-12-2002 (All re-appointments)

Mr. Kieran Dunne

23-12-2002 (All re-appointments)

Ms. Bridie O’Neill

23-12-2002 (All re-appointments)

Mr. Jeremiah O’Shea

23-12-2002 (All re-appointments)

Mr. Tom Power

23-12-2002 (All re-appointments)

Mr. Michael Slattery

23-12-2002 (All re-appointments)

Mr. Jerry Sweetman

23-12-2002 (All re-appointments)

National Milk Agency

Mr. George Kearns

16 -09-2002

Mr. James Murphy

16 -09-2002

Mr. George Kearns

09-12-2003 (Re-appointment)

Mr. James Murphy

09-12-2003 (Re-appointment)

Mr. Pat Brophy

09-12-2003

Mr. John O’Callaghan

09-12-2003

Mr. Michael Kilcoyne

09-12-2003

Mr. Walter Maloney

09-12-2003

Mr. Richard Donoghue

14-01-2004

Mr. John Foster

14-01-2004

Irish National Stud

Mr. John Osborne

23-07-2002

Mr. Jim Beecher

13-11-2002

Lady O’Reilly

07-08-2003

Mr. Tony Smurfit

07-08-2003

Grant Payments.

Questions (64)

Gerard Murphy

Question:

150 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if all payments can be made in 2004 immediately to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [6287/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

The person named applied for 2003 slaughter premium only and did not apply under any other 2003 livestock scheme. He has been paid the 2003 slaughter premium less an amount deducted in respect of a penalty.

To date, the person named has submitted one application under the 2004 livestock schemes, i.e. a special beef premium application in respect of 14 animals. Applicants may lodge up to 12 applications during 2004 at times of their own choosing.

Under the relevant EU regulations, the person named cannot be paid the initial 60% of estimated entitlement until on or after 16 October 2004. The balance plus any 2004 extensification premium due shall be paid in 2005 after it has been established whether or not the regional beef quota has been exceeded and after the expiry of any relevant retention period(s) and completion of all checks.

EU Directives.

Questions (65)

Paddy McHugh

Question:

151 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will review the draft nitrates directive action programme as proposed by the Government in order to remove any dates applicable to chemical fertiliser applications to grassland and other lands and to manure or slurry applications to land, in view of the fact that such requirements to adhere to the proposed dates will impose crippling and unaffordable costs on farmers. [6340/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

The nitrates directive, which is the responsibility of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, requires that an action programme which in turn must include a measure relating to periods when the land application of fertiliser is prohibited. The dates proposed in the draft action programme which was submitted for consultation were selected having regard to the length of the growing season, soil types and weather conditions in Ireland. The application of nutrients during the winter period can present a risk to the environment and is considered to be an inefficient way of utilising valuable plant nutrients.

In 1996 my Department and the then Department of the Environment, in consultation with the farming organisations, published the code of good agricultural practice to protect waters from pollution by nitrates. The dates proposed in the draft action programme for limitations on land application of fertiliser are in general agreement with those identified for this purpose in the 1996 code.

In Sustaining Progress, the Government stated that "recognising the importance of the Nitrates Directive and its impact on certain farmers, a number of initiatives shall be taken in the context of optimising the use of available EU and national budgetary resources". These initiatives included a review of REPS with higher payment rates, and changes to the terms and conditions of the farm waste management scheme and dairy hygiene scheme in particular increasing the income and eligible investment ceilings. The improvements in the farm waste management scheme and dairy hygiene scheme have already been delivered, and proposals for REPS, including an average 28% increase in payments, are with the Commission.

Grant Payments.

Questions (66)

Dan Neville

Question:

152 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when compensation payment for two tuberculosis reactors will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [6352/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

Appropriate valuation payments for two tuberculosis reactor animals have been processed and payment will be made shortly.

Disabled Drivers.

Questions (67)

Jerry Cowley

Question:

153 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Finance when the recommendations of the review of the disabled drivers and disabled passengers concessions scheme will be available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6205/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

As I have said in a reply to a previous parliamentary question, the Interdepartmental Report of the Review Group on the Disabled Drivers' and Disabled Passengers' (Tax Concessions) Scheme is under consideration in my Department. The report is a substantive one and needs to be studied carefully. On completion of this process, I envisage that the report will be made available publicly.

Kilkenny Castle.

Questions (68)

John McGuinness

Question:

154 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance the demand which exists within the tourism market to have Kilkenny Castle open in the month of December 2004; and if the general maintenance of the castle can be programmed in such a way that it does not prevent the castle from opening. [6206/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

Essential maintenance, including painting, decorating and heating, has traditionally been carried out during the month of December at Kilkenny Castle when demand for visitor access is at its lowest, at about 2,000 visitors. In the past the castle was closed on Mondays in December to allow for these works but more recently the maintenance works programme has been compressed into the period contiguous to Christmas.

However, the Office of Public Works is reviewing the opening arrangements with a view to ensuring that visitors are facilitated to the greatest extent possible, consistent with good health and safety practice.

Stamp Duty.

Questions (69)

Seymour Crawford

Question:

155 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Finance when a person (details supplied) will be dealt with; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the refund on the stamp duty due to them for almost two years has not been paid; if he can expedite this as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6232/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they received the original stamped instrument of transfer from the Land Registry on Monday, 23 February 2004. The refund application is being processed at present and payment will issue within five working days.

Disabled Drivers.

Questions (70)

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

156 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Finance the concessions that are available in regard to buying a car for a family (details supplied) that lives in a remote area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6233/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

The disabled drivers' and disabled passengers' (tax concessions) scheme is open to people with disabilities that meet the specified criteria and have obtained a primary medical certificate to that effect. The senior area medical officer attached to the local health board is responsible for the medical assessment and the issue of the medical certificate.

The medical criteria for the purposes of the tax concession under this scheme are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. Six different types of disablement are listed under the regulations and a qualifying person must satisfy one or more of them. The six types of disablement are as follows: persons who are wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs; persons who are wholly without the use of one of their legs and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that they are severely restricted as to movement of their lower limbs; persons without both hands or without both arms; persons without one or both legs; persons wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg; and persons having the medical condition of dwarfism and who have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

Only an individual who qualifies under the medical criteria as set out above may be issued with a primary medical certificate. Possession of a primary medical certificate provides for remission or repayment of vehicle registration tax, VRT, plus a repayment of value added tax, VAT, on the purchase of the vehicle, plus a repayment of VAT on the cost of adaptation of that vehicle. Repayment of the excise duty on fuel used in the motor vehicle, and exemption from payment of annual road tax to local authorities are also provided for.

The Revenue Commissioners are unable to consider an application for the relief without the issue of a valid primary medical certificate.

Application for the primary medical certificate should be made in the first instance to the appropriate health authority. In the event that a certificate is issued, application for relief should then be made to the Revenue Commissioners, Central Repayments Office, Coolshannagh, Monaghan, Phone (047) 82800.

Tax Code.

Questions (71)

Jack Wall

Question:

157 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the recourse open to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who has been unable to obtain a P60 from his employer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6235/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer is not obliged to receive a form P60 from his former employer, as he was not in the employment on 31 December 2003. He correctly received a form P45 from his former employer on cessation of the employment in 2003. The taxpayer subsequently submitted an unemployment repayment claim to the Inspector of Taxes and this claim was processed on 23 January 2004, by issue of a PAYE balancing statement 2003.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer requires a form P60 for 2003, as part of a shared ownership application for local authority housing purposes and that the balancing statement issued on 23 January 2004, by the Inspector of Taxes, will suffice for such purpose. The Inspector of Taxes has arranged that a duplicate PAYE balancing statement 2003 issues to the taxpayer, in the event that the original has been mislaid. The Inspector of Taxes has also arranged that a letter, showing the taxpayer's earnings from each employment in 2003, issues to the taxpayer.

Ministerial Appointments.

Questions (72)

Joan Burton

Question:

158 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the appointments made by him to all companies, boards or agencies operating under the aegis of his Department since 6 June 2002; the persons appointed; and the dates on which the appointments were made. [6271/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

The following table sets out the appointments made since 6 June 2002 to various companies, boards and agencies operating under the aegis of my Department. My aim in making such appointments is to select people with the required qualities, expertise and experience to make a contribution to the body in question.

Company/Board/Agency

Names of people appointed since 6 June 2002

Date on which appointments were made

National Development Finance Agency

Dr Michael Somers

January 2003

Mr Jim Farrell

Ms Ann Fitzgerald

Mr Anthony Jones

Mr Peter McManamon

Ms Ann Counihan

December 2003

National Lottery Board

Mr Kieran McGowan

November 2002

Mr John Hynes

Mr Eamonn Ryan

Mr Donal Curtin

July 2003

Mr Ray Bates

November 2003

Mr Micheal Ó Muircheartaigh

November 2003

Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland (1)

Mr Gerard Danaher

May 2003

Ms Deirdre Purcell

Mr David Begg

Mr Friedhelm Danz

Mr John Dunne

Mr Roy Donovan

Mr Martin O’Donoghue

Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority (2)

Mr Brian Patterson (Chair)

May 2003

Mr Alan Ashe

Mr Friedhelm Danz

Mr Gerard Danaher

Mr John Dunne

Mr Jim Farrell

Ms Deirdre Purcell

Mr Dermot Quigley

Revenue Powers Group

Mr Justice Francis Murphy (Chair)

March 2003

Ms Julie Burke

Mr James Jennings

Ms Suzanne Kelly

Mr Sean Moriarty

Mr Michael Mullins

Mr Roderick Ryan

Decentralisation Implementation Committee

Mr Phil Flynn (Chair)

December 2003

Mr Eddie Sullivan

Mr Sean Benton

Ms Jane Williams

Mr Dermot Quigley

Mr Fred Devlin

Valuation Tribunal

Ms Mairead Hughes

September 2003

Interim Board of the Civil Service Childcare Agency

Mr John Bradshaw

April 2003

Ms Marie McLaughlin

June 2003

Mr Ernan Tobin

February 2004

Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal

Dr Angela McNamara

June 2002

Dr Austin O’Carroll

Dr Frank X. Keane

Central Steering Committee for Expenditure Reviews

Mr John Hynes

June 2002

Ms Julie O’Neill

October 2002

Independent Estimates Review Committee

Mr Kevin Bonner

July 2002

Mr Maurice O’Connell

Mr Dermot Quigley

Committee for Performance Awards

Ms Ann Fitzgerald

January 2003

Civil Service Arbitration Board

Mr Gerard Durcan S.C. (Chairperson)

July 2002

Mr Derek Hunter

Mr Tom Wall

Adjudicator for the Civil Service and Teachers C & A Schemes

Ms Niamh Stewart B.L.

July 2002

Permanent Defence Forces Arbitration Board

Mr Gerard Durcan S.C. (Chairperson)

January 2004

Mr Derek Hunter (as member nominated by Government)

Mr George Maybury (as member nominated by the representative associations)

Adjudicator for Defence Forces C & A Scheme

Ms Niamh Stewart B.L.

January 2004

Independent Mediation Officer for the Civil Service Grievance Procedure

Mr Kieran McGovern

March 2003

Chairperson of the Civil Service Disciplinary Code Appeals Board

Ms Inge Clissmann

April 2003

Alternate Director at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

Mr Desmond O’Malley

July 2003

Alternate Director of the International Monetary Fund

Mr Charles X. O’Loghlin

May 2003

Board of Directors of the European Investment Bank

Mr Noel O’Gorman

March 2003

Finally, in addition to the appointments outlined in the above table, the President, on the advice of the Government following a resolution passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas, appointed Ms Emily O'Reilly as Ombudsman and Freedom of Information Commissioner with effect from June 2003.

Footnotes:

(1) In addition to the persons named above the following are ex officio members of the board; the governor and director general of the Bank, the Secretary General of the Department of Finance, the chairperson of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority and the chief executive of that authority.

(2) In addition to the persons named above the chief executive and the consumer director of the authority areex officio members of the board.

Tax Regimes.

Questions (73, 74, 75)

Richard Bruton

Question:

159 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he has acted on the recommendations of the OECD reports on harmful tax competition; if he has satisfied himself that no provisions of Irish tax law fall foul of the criteria set out by the OECD; and the extent to which Ireland participates in the various fora of the OECD on harmful tax competition. [6310/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

The OECD report, Harmful Tax Competition: An Emerging Global Issue, published in 1998, established an international framework to counter the spread of harmful tax competition. The report focused on geographically mobile activities, such as financial and other service activities. It adopted certain criteria for determining whether preferential tax regimes in OECD member countries were harmful as well as guidelines for addressing such harmful preferential regimes. Under the guidelines, member countries were asked to refrain from adopting new measures or extending the scope of or strengthening existing measures that constitute harmful tax practices; review existing measures for the purpose of identifying those that constitute harmful tax practices; and remove the harmful features of any harmful preferential regimes within five years.

To carry out its work on identifying harmful preferential tax regimes, the OECD requested that each member country perform a self-review of its preferential tax regimes by reference to the relevant criteria.

Ireland has participated fully in the OECD harmful tax competition project and has completed a self-review of the four relevant regimes: international finance services centre, the Shannon Airport zone, foreign dividend exemption and foreign branch profit exemption. There are no outstanding issues in regard to these regimes.

Finally, the harmful tax competition work is carried out principally through the forum — working group — on harmful tax practices, a subsidiary body of the Committee on Fiscal Affairs. Officials from the Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners serve on the steering group of the forum, along with Government representatives of France, Japan and the United States.

Richard Bruton

Question:

160 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if the EU has adopted position papers on the harmonisation of corporate tax regimes; if the Government has carried out an evaluation of the regime here as a basis for defending the rights of member states to develop their own corporate tax regimes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6311/04]

View answer

In 2001, the European Commission issued a communication setting out its strategy in the company taxation area. Its strategy is a twin track approach of targeting particular obstacles in the short to medium term by taking a direct approach to each of the issues and finding a specific answer to the problem; and adopting a longer term comprehensive measure, a proposal for a common consolidated corporate tax base for companies for their EU-wide activities. In 2003, the Commission issued a communication which updated developments on the 2001 communication.

We have no particular difficulty in addressing the removal of tax obstacles to trade where these are shown to exist. We do not go along with tax harmonisation or with proposals for a consolidated tax base. In our evaluation, and in my experience, the best way to defend a member state's right to pursue its own tax policies appropriate to its needs is to retain the requirement for unanimity on all tax issues when they come before Council.

Richard Bruton

Question:

161 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he has conducted an evaluation of the corporate tax regimes of the new entrants to the EU; the key areas in respect of which they differ from the regime here; and his views on whether any of these provisions constitute harmful tax competition. [6312/04]

View answer

During the accession negotiations, the accession states committed themselves to the principles of the code of conduct, adopted in December 1997, and to introducing only new measures that are in conformity with those principles. The Deputy will recall that the code of conduct is a political agreement designed to curb harmful competition in business taxation. Once measures were identified as being harmful under the code, then the measure had to be rolled back subject to an agreed time frame for transitional arrangements.

As part of the accession process the EU Commission reviewed the corporate tax regimes of the ten accession states. In doing so, the Commission used the same criteria as that applied when the corporate tax regimes of the existing member states were reviewed under the code of conduct process. The findings of the Commission were then considered by the member states and Council agreed that a number of the 30 regimes identified have harmful features which must be rolled back.

From 1 May 2004, the accession states as full members of the Union will be members of the code of conduct group. It is anticipated that work will continue in that group.

What is clear is that each member state as well as the accession states has different corporate tax regimes. One of the key areas in which they differ is in their corporate tax rates. While we have always played our part in the evaluation of other corporate regimes we have also stated that the rate of tax applying is not a valid criteria. We believe that the issue of all tax rates is a sovereign matter for each member state to decide, so long as the underlying regime is not harmful. This has long been Ireland's position and will remain so.

Tax Code.

Questions (76)

John Cregan

Question:

162 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Finance the situation in relation to inheritance tax from parents of three children; the details of the exemption thresholds; if the family home in which one single working child lives with parents is valued and included in the estate; the situation if the house, for example, of €500,000 is to go to such a child and the balance of, for example, €400,000 is to be divided equally, if this would push one person over the threshold; if not, if the estate and exemption limits are tested in totality; if it is advisable to share the estate equally and allow the siblings make private arrangements to settle the house transfer; and if this is in order. [6394/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

For the purpose of gift and inheritance tax, the relationship between the person who provided the gift or inheritance, i.e. the disponer, and the person who received the gift or inheritance, i.e. the beneficiary, determines the maximum tax-free threshold. The group thresholds are indexed by reference to the consumer price index. The current year thresholds are as follows:

Group

Relationship to Disponer

Group Threshold 2004

A

Son/Daughter

456,438

B

Parent*/Brother/Sister /Niece/Nephew/Grandchild

45,644

C

Relationships other than Group A or B

22,822

*In certain circumstances, a parent taking an inheritance from a child can qualify for group A threshold.

Estates and exemption limits are not tested in totality rather each beneficiary is entitled to the thresholds outlined and inheritance or gift tax is imposed on each individuals benefit from an estate.

In regard to the example outlined by the Deputy, a child inheriting under €456,438 would be exempt from inheritance tax provided there were no prior benefits received from this individual falling into the same group threshold. All benefits taken within the same threshold since 5 December 1991 are aggregated in calculating tax due.

Where a benefit inherited by a child includes property valued over €456,438 there would normally be a tax liability attached to the benefit exceeding that sum, calculated at the rate of 20%. However, in circumstances where a child is resident in that property, section 86 of the Capital Acquisitions Consolidation Act 2003 may apply. This section provides that gifts or inheritances of a dwelling-house taken on or after 1 December 1999 will be exempt from capital acquisitions tax provided the following conditions are complied with: the recipient has occupied the dwelling house continuously as his or her only or main residence for a period of three years prior to the date of the gift or inheritance; at the date of the gift or inheritance of the dwelling-house the beneficiary must not own any other dwelling-house or any interest in any other dwelling house; and the beneficiary must occupy the dwelling house as his or her only or main residence for a period of six years after the date of the gift or inheritance. This will not apply where a beneficiary is 55 years or over on the date of the gift or inheritance.

In regard to subsequent or additional inheritances taken by an individual benefiting from the dwelling house exemption above, the full tax-free thresholds apply before they become liable to inheritance tax.

With regard to sharing an estate equally and allowing siblings to make private arrangements for settling the house transfer, I would refer to the threshold for group B above and point out that gifts over this amount would have a liability to gift tax.

Foreign Honours.

Questions (77)

Arthur Morgan

Question:

163 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the full details of each occasion in the past ten years on which the Government has consented or objected to the receipt of titles of nobility or of honour by citizens of this State with reference to Article 40.2.2 of the 1937 Constitution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6285/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

The prior approval of the Government, as provided for in Article 40.2.2 of the Constitution of Ireland, has been required by an Irish citizen on two occasions in the past ten years and this approval was given.

This prior approval was given in December 2000 on the awarding of a knighthood to Dr. A.J.F. O'Reilly by the United Kingdom and in July 2001 for the awarding of the Darhaj Panglima Jasa Negara, PJN, Kerhormat, to Mr. John F. Coyne by Malaysia.

Ministerial Appointments.

Questions (78)

Joan Burton

Question:

164 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the appointments made by him to all companies, boards or agencies operating under the aegis of his Department since 6 June 2002; the persons appointed; and the dates on which the appointments were made. [6272/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

In August 2002, the Minister for Foreign Affairs appointed the following to the board of the Fulbright Commission for a two year term: Prof. Patrick Fottrell, former president, NUI Galway; Prof. Brian Hillery, emeritus professor, graduate school of business, UCD; Prof. Joyce O'Connor, president, National College of Ireland; and Dr. Don Thornhill, chairperson, Higher Education Authority.

On the recommendation of the report of the Ireland Aid review committee, the Government decided to establish the advisory board of Ireland Aid, ABIA, subsequently changed to the advisory board for development co-operation. The Minister appointed the following persons to the advisory board for a three year period with effect from 1 August 2002: Mr. Desmond O'Malley, chairperson, who resigned on 16 July 2003; Mr. David Andrews; Mr. David Begg; Mr. Howard Dalzell; Mr. Jerry Liston; Fr. Gerard O'Connor; Mr. Larry O' Loughlin; Ms. Morina O' Neill; Ms. Sally O' Neill; and Ms. Lorraine Sweeney.

On 6 March 2003, the Minister appointed Mr. Padraig McManus to the advisory board and on 4 September 2003, Mr Chris Flood was appointed to succeed Mr O'Malley as chairperson.

On the recommendation of the report of the Ireland Aid review committee, the Government decided to establish the Development Education Advisory Committee, DEAC. The following were appointed to DEAC for a two year period with effect from 1 January 2003: Mr. Peadar Cremin, chairperson; Ms. June Barry; Mr. Michael Doorly; Fr. P.J. Gormley; Ms. Jacqui Harrison; Ms. Annette Honan; Ms. Alisa Keane; Ms. Frances Leahy; Mr. Hugh O'Neill; and Rev. Sahr Yambasu. On 28 March 2003, Ms. Honan resigned and was replaced by Ms Morina O'Neill on 8 May 2003. Also in May, Mr. O'Neill was replaced by Mr. Robert Kirkpatrick. Ms. Frances Leahy resigned from DEAC on 12 August 2003 and was replaced by Mr. Peter Johnson on 24 October.

Since 6 June, 2002, the following appointments have been made to the board of the Agency for Personal Service Overseas, APSO: 1 August 2002, Mr. Joe O' Hara and Mr. John Murphy; 20 January 2003, Ms. Catherine Boylan; 29 April 2003, Ms. Helen Browne; 1 August 2003, Mr. Aidan O'Connor 12 September 2003, and Mr. Pat Bourne, to replace Ms. Browne who resigned in September 2003. Since 1 January 2004, APSO has been integrated into Development Co-operation Ireland. It is expected that the board of APSO will be wound up shortly.

Special Educational Needs.

Questions (79)

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

165 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science the details of all schools in County Kerry which have applied for special educational resources; the number of children in each school awaiting these services; when the application was made in each case; the status of each application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6183/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

My Department has received in the region of 140 individual applications for special educational resources, SER, from primary schools in County Kerry between 15 February 2003 and 31 August 2003 and approximately 50 individual applications after 1 September 2003.

SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003, are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

The arrangements for processing applications received after the 31 August 2003 will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

School Staffing.

Questions (80)

John McGuinness

Question:

166 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will examine again the number of pupils who attend and who will attend the Johnswell NS, Kilkenny to determine if a teacher can be retained; and if a decision will be expedited. [6184/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

The staffing of a primary school for a school year is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year. The staffing schedule governing the appointment and retention of mainstream class teachers is finalised for a particular year following discussions between officials from my Department and the education partners. The staffing schedule for the current school year issued to the boards of management of all primary schools in February 2003 and is also available on my Department's website.

The mainstream staffing of Johnswell NS for the current school year is a principal and two class teachers, based on an enrolment of 54 pupils on 30 September 2002. It is hoped that the staffing schedule for the 2004/05 school year will be finalised and the necessary circular issued to the relevant school authorities shortly.

Schools Building Projects.

Questions (81, 82)

Olwyn Enright

Question:

167 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the expected time-scale before St. Manchan’s national school, Tubber, Moate, County Westmeath will be progressed to stage four and five; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6185/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

The proposed large-scale building project for St. Manchan's national school, Tubber, Moate, County Offaly is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. This proposed project is at stage 3 — developed sketch scheme — of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band 2 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

The proposed project will be authorised to progress to advanced architectural planning during 2004. Indicative timescales have been included for large-scale projects proceeding to tender in 2004. The budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

168 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science when it is expected that St. Manchan’s national school, Tubber, Moate, County Westmeath will hear from his Department authorising their design team to go ahead to advanced architectural planning; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6186/04]

View answer

The proposed large-scale building project for St. Manchan's national school, Tubber, Moate, County Offaly is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. This proposed project is at stage 3 — developed sketch scheme — of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band 2 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

The proposed project will be authorised to progress to advanced architectural planning during 2004. Indicative timescales have been included for large-scale projects proceeding to tender in 2004. The budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

School Accommodation.

Questions (83)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

169 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the shortage of primary school places in Portlaoise and to the fact that parents in Portlaoise are being told that their children must wait until they are six before they will receive school places; the plans he has to provide additional primary places in Portlaoise for September 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6187/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

The Deputy will be aware that a facilitator, Dr. Tom McCarthy, was appointed to assist in the development of a long-term plan for the provision of primary and post-primary school accommodation in the Portlaoise area.

Following receipt of his recommendations it was decided that the educational provision at post-primary level required to be addressed as a matter of urgency. As this has now been finalised, officials in the school planning section of my Department are examining the educational provision at primary level with a view to establishing the best way forward. The school authorities will be kept informed of the situation.

School Staffing.

Questions (84)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

170 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science the action his Department can and does take when a school employs an untrained teacher in a situation in which a trained teacher is available for the post concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6188/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

My Department's position is that, as far as possible, fully qualified teachers should be employed in primary schools. While there is a shortage of trained teachers and it is not always possible, as a result, to secure the services of a trained teacher, school authorities are expected to make reasonable efforts to ensure that any vacancy which may arise is filled by a fully qualified teacher.

If my Department becomes aware of a situation where an unqualified teacher is employed in preference to a fully qualified teacher, the matter will be taken up with the school authorities concerned.

Special Educational Needs.

Questions (85)

John Ellis

Question:

171 Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department will provide cover for a person (details supplied) which was applied for in 2003. [6189/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I can confirm that my officials have recently written to the board of management of the school referred to by the Deputy approving special needs assistant support for the pupil in question.

Departmental Appointments.

Questions (86)

Joan Burton

Question:

172 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the appointments made by him to all companies, boards or agencies operating under the aegis of his Department since 6 June 2002; the persons appointed; and the dates on which the appointments were made. [6273/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following tabular statement.

Department of Education and Science — Ministerial Appointments to State board, agencies and companies since 6 June 2002.

Board/Company

Name

Date of Appointment

Higher Education Authority

Mr. Colm Jordan

01 July, 2002

Dr. Maurice Bric

11 February, 2003

Prof. Ciaran Murphy

11 February, 2003

Prof. Sarah Moore

11 February, 2003

Mr. Colm Jordan

11 February, 2003

Ms. Prisca Grady

11 February, 2003

Cllr. Maria Corrigan

11 February, 2003

Ms Carol M. Herron

11 February, 2003

Mr. Will Priestley

01 July, 2003

National University of Ireland

Mr. Benedict Reid

11 February, 2003

Ms Cathy Honan

11 February, 2003

Mr. Chris Flood

11 February, 2003

Ms Tina Roche

11 February, 2003

University of Limerick

Mr. Don O’Malley

14 February, 2003

Ms Kaye Doyle

14 February, 2003

Mr. Michael Ryan

14 February, 2003

National College of Art and Design

Mr. Charlie Hennessy

14 February, 2003

Dr. Fionnuala Doyle-O’Neill

14 February, 2003

Ms Mairín Quill

14 February, 2003

Mr. Ciaran Mac Gonigal

14 February, 2003

Ms Patricia Oliver

14 February, 2003

Mr. Frank Bissette

14 February, 2003

Dr. Niamh O’Sullivan

14 February, 2003

Mr. Robert Corish

14 February, 2003

Mr. John Brennan

14 February, 2003

Ms Betty Newman Maguire

12 May, 2003

School of Celtic Studies, Dublin Institutefor Advanced Studies

Prof. Máire Herbert

11 September, 2003

Prof. RuairíÓ hUiginn

11 September, 2003

Léargas — The Exchange Bureau

Two vacancies

Under consideration at present

Residential Institutions Redress Board

Dr. Helen Cummiskey

25 June, 2002

Prof. Desmond Greer

25 June, 2002

Dr. Ruth Pilkington

10 October, 2002

Mr. Richard O’Connell

2 December, 2002

Judge Sean O’Leary

5 December, 2002

Ms Ann O’Brien

May, 2003

Mr. John O. Mason

23 September, 2003

Ms Mary Concannon Bleutt

25 September, 2003

Ms Darina Conlon

January, 2004

Residential Institutions Redress ReviewCommittee

Judge John Buckley

16 December, 2002

Mr. Colm Gaynor

23 May, 2003

National Educational Welfare Board

Mr. Brendan Callaghan

February, 2003

Mr. Richard Dooley

May, 2003

An Chomhairle um OideachasGaeltachta

Seán Ó Floinn

March, 2003

Nóra Ni Loingsigh

March, 2003

TRBDI Ltd.

Mr. Michael Bulfin

19 June, 2002

Mr. Seamus O’Keefe

17 December, 2002

Mr. Michael Bulfin

25 April, 2003 (reappointed)

Mr. Seamus O’Keefe

25 April, 2003 (reappointed)

Ms Fionnuala McGeever

25 April, 2003

Mr. Luke Murtagh

25 April, 2003

Mr. Conor Morris

25 April, 2003

Ms Maeve O’Sullivan

25 April, 2003

Ms Sheila Hoctor

25 April, 2003

Mr. Tim Looby

25 April, 2003

Mr. David Hough

25 April, 2003

Mr. Padraig Culbert

25 April, 2003

Ms Elaine Gleeson

20 June, 2003

Ms Frances Fogarty

26 November, 2003

Mr. James Murphy

26 November, 2003

National Council for Special Education

Tom Murray

24 December, 2003

Christy Lunch

24 December, 2003

Mary Grogan

24 December, 2003

Mary Keane

24 December, 2003

Maisie Dooley

24 December, 2003

Gearóid O’Conluain

24 December, 2003

Daraine Mulvihill

24 December, 2003

Brendan Ingoldsby

24 December, 2003

Antoinette Buggie

24 December, 2003

P.J. Gannon

24 December, 2003

Dr. Michael Shelvin

24 December, 2003

Frankie Berry

24 December, 2003

National Centre for Technology inEducation

John Fanning

1 October, 2003

Dr. Gerard McNamara

1 October, 2003

Dr. Sarah Fitzpatrick

1 October, 2003

Ms Una Halligan

1 October, 2003

Ms Eileen Ward

1 October, 2003

Jerome Morrissey

1 October, 2003

Bill Morrissey

1 October, 2003

Advisory Council for English LanguageSchools ACELS

Anne Murray

February, 2003

Margaret Kelly

October, 2003

Integrate Ireland Language Training Ltd.(Board of Directors)

Emer Egan

28 February, 2003

Tom Plunkett

28 February, 2003

Paul Caffrey

12 December, 2003 (replacing Emer Egan)

National Council for Curriculum andAssessment (NCCA)

Sr. Catherine Prendergast

January 2003

Dr. Catherine O’Brien

January 2003

Doreen McMorris

January 2003

State Exams Commission

Mr. Jimmy Farrelly

March 2003

M.B. O’Hara

March 2003

Barra O’Briain

March 2003

Dympna Glendunning

March 2003

Dr. Martin Newell

March 2003

Commission to Inquire into ChildAbuse

Judge Sean Ryan

December 2003

Schools Building Projects

Questions (87, 88)

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

173 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science if funding will be provided under the summer works scheme 2004 for the provision of work on the playground and boundary wall at Holy Cross Mercy School, Killarney, for safety purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6286/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

The scope of the works required at the school referred to by the Deputy is appropriate for consideration under the summer works scheme which was announced in December last.

Officials in the school planning section of my Department are currently in the process of registering and assessing all applications received for the summer works scheme 2004. Details of the result of this assessment and the schools which will receive funding will be published no later than 27 February 2004.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

174 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of the building programme at St. Killian’s national schools, Castleview, Kingswood Heights, Tallaght, Dublin 24; the action proposed in respect of the ongoing roof problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6317/04]

View answer

The proposed large-scale building project for St. Killian's national school is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. This proposed project is at stage 4/5, detail design/bill of quantities, of architectural planning. It has been assigned a “band 3” rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

Indicative timescales have been included for large-scale projects proceeding to tender in 2004. The budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme, including St. Killian's national school. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

With regard to the roof problem, a member of my Department's staff has visited the school and has reported that the roof has now been repaired. The school was also advised to complete an application under the summer works scheme for roof replacement. However, according to my Department's records, no application for these particular works has been made.

A consultant working for the Office of Public Works has also visited the school to prepare a report on the asbestos. The air tests carried out were clear and the OPW will continue to monitor this situation.

Special Educational Needs.

Questions (89)

Finian McGrath

Question:

175 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if the process for the urgent need of 4,000 special needs assistants will be accelerated in order to assist children with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6393/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I take it that the Deputy is referring to the balance of 4,000 applications for special education resources, SER, received from schools between 15 February 2003 and 31 August 2003.

SER applications received in my Department in that period are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to Circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the

most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

Departmental Appointments.

Questions (90)

Joan Burton

Question:

176 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the appointments made by him to all companies, boards or agencies operating under the aegis of his Department since 6 June 2002; the persons appointed; and the dates on which the appointments were made. [6274/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources)

The material requested by the Deputy is provided in the following table.

State Body

Name of Appointee(s)

Date of Appointment

An Post

Ms Margaret McGinley (Chairperson)

04.02.2003

Mr. Donal Curtin (Chief Executive)

14.07.2003

Ms Cathy Herbert

04.02.2003

Mr Peter Wyer

04.02.2003

Mr. James Quinlivan

09.05.2003

Mr. James Hyland

11.12.2003

Mr. James Alan Sloane*

01.01.2004

(*elected Postmaster Director: appointment requires Minister’s approval)

Commission for Communications Regulation

Mr. John Doherty (Chairperson)

02.01.2003

30.11.2004

Ms Isolde Goggins (Commissioner)

02.01.2003

RTE

Mr. Des Geraghty

22.10 2002

Broadcasting Authority of Ireland

Mr. Conor J. Maguire (Chairperson)

02.12 2003

Mr. John Waters

Ms Mary Davis

Ms Angela Kerins

Ms Kay McGuinness

Mr. Tom Collins

Ms Vivienne Jupp

Mr. John O’Brennan

Ms Mary Kerrigan

Mr. Joe Griffin

Digital Hub

Mr. William Burgess (Chairperson)

21.07.2003

31.07.2003

Mr. Philip Flynn (Chief Executive)

Dr. Don Thornhill

Mr. Dan Flinter

Mr. John Fitzgerald

Mr. Sean Dorgan

Mr. Paul Kavanagh

Mr. Peter Cassells

Ms Jackie Harrison

Mr. Paul McGuinness

ESB

Mr. Padraig McManus (Chief Executive)

17.02.2002

Mr. Joe Lacumbre* (Deputy Chairperson)

01.01.2003

Mr. John McGinley*

Mr. Pat Smith*

Mr. Eamonn Connelly*

(*elected Worker Directors: these appointments require the Minister’s approval)

Bord na Móna

Mr. Donagh O’Donoghue (Chairperson)

13.11.2002

Mr. Fergus McArdle

Mr. Paschal Campbell

Ms Johanna Downes

Mr. P.J. Coghill

19.05.2003

Bord Gáis Éireann

Mr. Pearse O’Hanrahan

19.12.2002

Mr. Tom Donlon

26.03.2003

Mr. Micheal O’Faolain

19.05.2003

Sustainable Energy Ireland

Mr. Martin Finucane

24.10.2003

Coillte Teoranta (appointments made up to transfer of responsibility to Minister for Agriculture and Food on 01.01.2004)

Mr. Brendan McKenna (Chairperson)

26.06.2002

Ms Sinead Leech

Mr. Martin Lowery (Chief Executive)

Mr. Breffni Byrne

07.08.2002

Mr. Richard Howlin

14.05.2003

Mr. Frank Toal

29.07.2003

Irish National Petroleum Corporation

Mr. Edmund O’Connell (Chairperson)

22.06.2002

Mr. Seamus Ó Scolláin

25.09.2003

Ms Mary Austin

Mr. Vincent Caffrey

Mining Board

Mr. Philip O’Brien (Chairperson)

21.07.2003

Mr. John Shackleton

04.12.2003

Mr. Eoin Ó Buachalla

Port of Cork Company

Cllr. Tim Falvey

14. 02.2002

Mr. Paul Millard

15.10.2002

Mr. David Doolan

Dublin Port Company

Ms Brenda Daly

22.09.2002

Mr. Seamus Martin

Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company

Mr. Thomas Quinn

05.12.2002

Mr. Don McManus

05.02.2004

Drogheda Port Company

Mr. Tom O’Reilly

24.01.2003

Mr. Frank Maher Cllr.

Jacqui McConville

21.12.2003

Galway Harbour Company

Mr. Robert Molloy

10.02.2003

Mr. Martin Connolly

04.12.2003

New Ross Port Company

Ms Rosie Kehoe

17.02.2004

Cllr. Sean Connick

Shannon Foynes Port Company

Mr. Gerard Reidy

17.02.2002

Mr. Joe Treacy

Port of Waterford Company

Ald. Thomas Cunningham

19.08.02

Mr. Ben Gavin (Chairperson)

05.02.2004

Ms Fiona Robbins

Mr. Pádraig Ó Gríofa

Mr. Maurice Lonergan

Mr. Michael Flynn

Mr. Patrick Murphy

Mr. Derek Donnelly

Marine Institute

Dr. J.P. Crowley (Chairperson)

11.04.2003

Mr. Joey Murrin

28.11.2003

Bord Iascaigh Mhara

Mr. Patrick Gallagher

06.06.2002

Mr. Hugh Byrne (Chairperson)

08.07.2003

Loughs Agency

Mr. Jack Allen

13.12.2002

Mr. Keith Anderson

Mr. Francis Feeley

Mr. Dick Blackiston-Houston

Dr. Patrick J. Griffin

Lord Cooke of Islandreagh

Ms Siobhán Logue

Ms Jacqui McConville

Mr. Joseph Martin

Mr. Tarlach Ó Crosáin

Mr. Peter Savage

Mr. Andrew Ward

(these appointments were made jointly with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland)

Eastern Regional Fisheries Board

Ms Betty Hayes

08.12.2003

National Salmon Commission

Dr. Philip McGinnitty

31.01.2003

Mr. Brendan O’Rourke

19.08.2003

Mr. Brian Sheerin

31.01.2003

20.08.2003

Sports Capital Programme.

Questions (91, 92, 93)

Jerry Cowley

Question:

177 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if there are grants or plans to make moneys available to establish a gymnasium in the area of Louisburgh, County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6208/04]

View answer

Jerry Cowley

Question:

179 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if there are grants available to establish a gymnasium in a rural area of west Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6203/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 177 and 179 together.

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.

Applications are considered which have been submitted by or on behalf of voluntary and community organisations, including sports clubs; in certain circumstances, schools, colleges and local authorities; and national governing bodies of sport and third level education institutions, where it is evident that the proposed facility will contribute to the regional and-or national sporting infrastructure.

The 2004 sports capital programme was advertised in the national newspapers on 30 November and 1 December 2003. The closing date for receipt of applications was 16 January 2004. No application for funding was received under the programme for a gymnasium in the Louisburgh area. No further applications can now be made in 2004.

It remains open for the group behind this project to submit an application under a future round of the sports capital programme. The application can then be evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria to determine its suitability for funding. The assessment criteria of the sports capital programme are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I have arranged for officials within my Department to send on a copy of the current guidelines, terms and conditions to the Deputy for his information.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

178 Mr. Deenihan asked the Min mster for Arts, Sport and Tourism the timescale nor the commencement of work on the new stadium at Lansdowne Road; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6170/04]

View answer

Preparatory work leading to the construction of a new stadium at Lansdowne Road is already under way. Since the Government's decision of 27 January to support a joint IRFU-FAI proposal to redevelop Lansdowne Road into a 50,000 all seated stadium, my Department has been in regular contact with both the IRFU and FAI to plan for project implementation. A steering group has been established to advance the project, which includes representatives of the IRFU, FAI, my Department and OPW. Its first formal meeting was held last Monday morning, 23 February. A priority for the steering group will be to ensure that all the legal, financial, planning and procurement requirements are met in an efficient and timely manner so that the work on the project can commence at the earliest possible date.

Actual construction, which is expected to take 29 months, is scheduled to commence in 2006 and be completed by the end of 2008. The delivery of the project will be undertaken by a special purpose vehicle to be set up by the IRFU and FAI. Discussions leading to the establishment of such a vehicle are at an advanced stage.

Question No. 179 answered with QuestionNo. 177.

EU Presidency.

Questions (94)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

180 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the details of the programme for marking the access of new EU member states in Dublin on 1 May 2004; the time, nature and location of events; the projected cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6204/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

Under the cultural programme of the Irish Presidency of the EU, which I launched on 7 January last, each of the new member states will be officially welcomed into the EU by an Irish city or town in a special day of welcomes on Saturday, 1 May. The participating towns and cities are Bray, Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Killarney, Galway, Sligo, Letterkenny, Drogheda and Kilkenny. This day will be at the heart of the national celebrations that will involve each of the ten towns and cities hosting distinct and engaging 'European Fairs'. A fireworks extravaganza in Dublin will commence celebrations in the capital on Friday, 30 April.

Dublin will also see Merrion Square transformed into a colourful bazaar with marquees, stands and stages making up 'The European Fair' on Saturday, 1 May. It is expected that over 100,000 visitors will pass through the fair over the weekend to enjoy the experience of unique and interesting produce from the new EU member states and participate in this fun cultural activity.

A major concert of Irish and international stars will take place in Dublin on the evening 1 May and will be a highlight of the weekend. The concert will be produced by RTE and the BBC.

From 22 April until 3 May, there will be a presentation of Vectorial Elevation, one of the most unique and the world's largest on-line artworks. Some 24 searchlights will be located on and over the buildings in O'Connell Street. Every six seconds, from dusk to dawn, a new design will be rendered on the sky for all to see while a large screen will display the signature and comments of the author.

The total projected costs for these celebratory events is €2.144 million.

Ministerial Appointments.

Questions (8)

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

95 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding the acquisition of additional space to refurbish and extend the Abbey Theatre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6171/04]

View answer

Oral answers (8 contributions) (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

As I informed the Deputy in response to a similar question on 18 December last, the Government, on 29 January 2003, authorised me to invite expressions of interest by way of public invitation from the private sector in participating, on the basis of a PPP, in the capital redevelopment of the Abbey Theatre in and-or around the vicinity of the site of the existing theatre.

My Department, with the Department of Finance and the Office of Public Works, has been working to implement that decision. To be compatible with the functions, profile, and status of a national theatre and to address the acknowledged defects with the existing theatre a redeveloped premises requires: to be a signature development, representative of a national theatre in the 21st century; to be in an appropriate civic setting and form part of the overall urban regeneration represented by the O'Connell Street integrated area plan and north-east inner city plan; three significant enlarged auditoria — Abbey, Peacock and a third multi-purpose space; a dedicated education and outreach facility; a publicly accessible archive; a restaurant-bar; improved public areas; disabled access for audiences and artists; and best practice theatre production facilities.

For the Abbey and Peacock to function efficiently, effectively and without compromise, their basic functioning must not depend on movement of goods and people by mechanical lift. In essence this means that the stages of both the Abbey and Peacock must be positioned at ground level. In addition, both theatres must have easy access, also at the same level, to the scenery store and the prop store. It is agreed between the management of the Abbey and the OPW that there is a requirement for a ground floor footprint that is considerably larger than now exists. Therefore, for the theatre to stay in its existing location it will be necessary to acquire properties adjacent to the existing premises.

Indications are that such acquisition will prove very costly and problematic in timescale. My Department and the OPW are carefully examining all the issues now arising and I hope to report to Government in the very near future.

Is the Minister implying that it will be very difficult to stay on the present site if we are to refurbish the existing Abbey Theatre? In a recent interview inThe Irish Times the Abbey’s artistic director expressed similar sentiments, stating that it would take four times the existing footprint to provide a new theatre. In view of the possibility that it may be very difficult to acquire the necessary space on the present site, is the Minister actively looking at other sites in the city? For example, the Carlton cinema has been mentioned and that site would be part of the regeneration of the centre of Dublin. The Custom House is now unoccupied. Could that be considered? Will the Minister go back to the original site at Grand Canal Quay? That was the original choice of the board in 2001 but for political reasons it was thwarted. Are the Minister and his Department looking at additional sites, apart from those already mentioned, to provide a proper theatre for the new millennium? This is the centenary of the Abbey, which is surely the time to go forward with a new, state-of-the-art theatre.

There is no doubt that for many people the Abbey has a cultural and historic resonance which for obvious reasons would not be replicated in another site. We have not yet actively engaged in looking at alternative sites because the OPW is currently looking at the options for the properties which would be required for a larger footprint at the present location.

I am coming to the conclusion that because of problems of cost and acquisition it may not now be possible for us to proceed with the construction of the new Abbey Theatre at its present location. That has not been ruled out but it is beginning to look more difficult. Obviously once a decision is made on this I will go to the Government for a recommendation. At that point we would look at alternatives.

I appeal to the Minister to avoid a repetition of the national stadium saga. It was not the Minister's fault that the saga went on for four or five years. However, it is important that there is no recurrence of this procrastination in the case of the Abbey. Does he agree that the Abbey is as much a state of mind and ideas and a geographical footprint? Moving it to another location will not damage the future of theatre in the country. I am not one of those people who are hung up on the present site if it cannot be expanded or if the floor space for a proper theatre cannot be provided. When will the Minister make the decision to move away from the existing proposal? When will he decide to examine other sites?

The ghost of Lady Gregory is not likely to be seen at a new location, if that is what Deputy Deenihan is suggesting, but it is necessary for us to finalise opinions on the existing location and on the possibility of acquiring additional properties there to enlarge the footprint. I do not intend to bring recommendations to the Government until we have come to a decision on that. We should reach a conclusion relatively soon but I remind the Deputy I have been in this position for only 18 months. We have a stadium. The conference centre——

We are moving on.

Now we are getting culture.

The Minister implied he is going to move. He has more or less announced that today.

Access to Sporting Facilities.

Questions (9)

Jack Wall

Question:

96 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if, when assessing applications made to the sports capital programme, his attention has been drawn to the need to support, in particular, the disadvantaged areas targeted under the RAPID programme to foster local development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6168/04]

View answer

Oral answers (3 contributions) (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, is run on an annual basis and allocates funding towards the provision of sporting and recreational facilities to sporting and voluntary and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country.

Applications received under the programme are evaluated in accordance with detailed criteria which are laid out in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme and which, when combined, are designed to meet as far as possible the four main objectives of the programme.

These objectives are as follows: to develop an integrated and planned approach to the development of sport and recreational facilities; to assist voluntary and community organisations with the development of appropriate facilities in appropriate locations that will maximise use in terms of participation in sport and recreation; to encourage the multi-purpose use of facilities at national, regional and community level by clubs, community organisations and national governing bodies of sport; and to prioritise the needs of disadvantaged areas in the provision of facilities.

In the past three years alone, €97 million has been allocated under the sports capital programme to more than 1,000 projects in respect of the provision of facilities in areas categorised as disadvantaged. Nevertheless, my Department continues to evaluate how best to provide for the needs of disadvantaged areas in terms of providing sporting and recreational facilities and increasing participation under the programme.

For the 2003 programme, at the initiative of my Department and in consultation with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Area Development Management, ADM, which is the agency with responsibility for the administration of RAPID, it was decided that only those areas that have been designated by Government for special support through the schemes administered by Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, namely, RAPID 1, RAPID 2, local drugs task force areas and CLÁR, should be treated as disadvantaged areas. As part of the designation, it was also agreed to give a higher assessment rating to those projects from RAPID areas that had been endorsed by their local RAPID area implementation team.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

This designation of disadvantaged areas has been continued for the 2004 sports capital programme.

The positive approach taken by my Department in supporting applications received from disadvantaged areas has been favourably commented upon by ADM. In addition, ADM organised a special information presentation by my officials for the RAPID area implementation teams in December last, prior to the application deadline for the 2004 sports capital programme. On 28 January last, I met my colleague, the Minister for Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, to discuss in detail how our Departments might best work together to continue to identify and prioritise projects from disadvantaged areas. I reassure the Deputy that projects which meet the basic qualifying conditions and which are located in RAPID areas will again be prioritised under this year's programme as they were in 2003.

I welcome the Minister's reply. I would be one of the first to state that the sports capital grant system has been of major benefit to sports club across the country. However, because of the shortfall in the RAPID programme, there is a necessity to ensure that, in the next round of grants which comes on stream in the next month or two, RAPID or disadvantaged areas are treated as special cases. In many of these cases the voluntary sector is not in a position to orchestrate applications properly and, in such instances, if it is feasible, the Department should pay special attention to them.

The forthcoming audit of sports facilities, which the Minister has sought, will demonstrate that sporting facilities in many disadvantaged areas are not on a par with those in other towns and villages. The RAPID programme has not been funded to the extent it should. Therefore, it is important that these areas are treated with special attention in the forthcoming round of grants.

I assure the Deputy that the areas concerned will continue to receive close attention from officials in the Department when assessing applications. As the Deputy is aware, the applications are assessed against certain criteria, one of which is the designated status of the area concerned. Any objective observer would agree that the RAPID areas have been treated with a great deal of sympathy over the period of life of the sports capital programme. Furthermore, it is necessary to continue to build such facilities in disadvantaged areas because of the tremendous benefits in terms of social behaviour. In those circumstances, I assure Deputy Wall that RAPID areas will continue to receive the most sympathetic consideration of the Department. In addition, if a place is within one of the areas concerned, the local funding required is reduced from 30% of the total cost to 20%.

Artefacts Displays.

Questions (10)

Tony Gregory

Question:

97 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the Irish Council Against Blood Sports has been in correspondence with his Department regarding its concerns at the ongoing cruelty involved in live hare coursing, including video evidence of the success of drag coursing abroad; if he has fully considered all the issues raised given his reply to Question No. 246 of 18 February 2004; and if he will make a statement on the need for legislative change. [6210/04]

View answer

Oral answers (10 contributions) (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

As I explained in my reply to the earlier parliamentary question referred to by the Deputy, under section 26 of the Greyhound Industry Act 1958, the Irish Coursing Club, ICC, is recognised as the controlling authority for the breeding and coursing of greyhounds, subject to the provisions of the Act, the constitution of the club and the general control and direction of Bord na gCon.

The Irish Council Against Blood Sports has written to my Department about drag coursing and the availability of a video showing drag coursing events abroad. As the Deputy will be aware, the question of introducing drag coursing to Ireland has already been raised with the ICC by the monitoring committee which comprises officials of my Department, the Department of Agriculture and Food, Bord na gCon and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

The ICC informed the committee that it does not propose to change to drag coursing and that the muzzling of greyhounds and the continued veterinary inspections by both the coursing clubs and the Department of Agriculture and Food have significantly reduced the incidence of injuries to hares. In light of these initiatives, I do not propose to introduce changes in legislation to introduce drag coursing in Ireland.

I am more interested in the Minister's views and his policy on this issue than those of the Irish Coursing Club, about which I am well aware. Does the Minister agree that the introduction, even on a pilot phase, of drag coursing, which uses a lure rather than a live animal, would be a step forward and a more humane alternative to the current practice of traumatising timid wild animals — hares — and subjecting them to the cruel and terrorising practice of greyhounds being set upon them? What is the Minister's view on the introduction of drag coursing and would he see it as a more humane alternative? Does he agree that a tiny minority of die-hard coursing people are resisting change and a more humane practice? As the Minister well knows, these are the same people who resisted the introduction of muzzling, which had to be forced on them.

I dislike posing this question under the heading of "sport" because I do not regard the terrorising or infliction of cruelty on animals as sport. Is it not part of our appalling record in animal welfare that we allow the practice of enclosed hare coursing as well as the use of packs of hounds to hunt domesticated tame deer, as practised by the Ward Union Hunt? Moreover, other activities have been exposed recently which would not be tolerated in other EU countries, such as puppy farming and the new development of fur farming in which Arctic foxes are farmed for their fur and subjected to horrific deaths.

Does the Minister agree that, due to the activities of a small minority, we unfortunately have a dismal and appalling record in animal welfare and does he further agree that the continuation of such a medieval, archaic and anachronistic activity as hare coursing is part of that culture of cruelty? What are the Minister's views on these issues because they are important and, if the Government does not deal with them, action will be forced on us by the European Community.

Deputy Gregory should be under no illusion about the fact that coursing is a popular sport among a considerable number of people.

They are a small minority of the population.

Since the introduction of the muzzling of greyhounds, the incidence of injuries to hares has been greatly reduced and has been accompanied by monitoring and inspections carried out by veterinary officers and wildlife experts. In those circumstances, the Irish Coursing Club's assurances on the high standards enforced at coursing meetings should be accepted. The muzzling of greyhounds was necessary and has dramatically improved the situation and the sport is well-ordered and run.

As the Minister did not answer my first question, I will repeat it. Will the Minister agree that the introduction of drag coursing would be a more humane alternative to the current practice of live hare coursing? Will he agree that hares continue to be injured, killed and brutalised by muzzled greyhounds and traumatised by being taken out of the wild in the first instance? It is a practice which is increasingly unacceptable in the modern world.

I have been informed by the ICC that in its opinion greyhounds would not follow the lure in these circumstances.

Has the Minister an opinion?

That is the view of the coursing club and the people who control the sport, which I must take into account.

It is done in Australia and all over the world.

Arts Funding.

Questions (11)

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

98 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the reason the chairman of Bord na gCon has resigned. [6314/04]

View answer

Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

The Deputy will be aware that under section 8 of the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958, the chairman of the board may at any time resign his office by letter addressed to the Minister and the resignation shall take effect as and from the date of the receipt of the letter by the Minister. A letter of resignation from his position as chairman of Bord na gCon was received in my Department last Friday, 20 February, from Mr. Taggart. No reasons for his resignation were given in his letter but I understand there had been a somewhat contentious meeting of the board earlier in the week.

At the outset I want to place on record my own and the Government's appreciation of the energy and vision of Mr. Taggart who has always had my full confidence and support. His drive, passion and foresight at the helm of Bord na gCon since his appointment as chairman in 1995 has created a vibrant greyhound industry as evidenced by the year on year increases in attendances and betting and the countrywide network of modern facilities which are attracting growing numbers of people to greyhound meetings throughout the country.

Following subsequent contacts involving representatives of the greyhound industry, Mr. Taggart and myself, Mr. Taggart intimated that his services are again available to work for the further development of the greyhound industry and I welcome this development.

I welcome the announcement by the Minister that the chairman, Pascal Taggart, has changed his mind. Nevertheless, I would ask him to be more forthcoming as to why he resigned in the first instance. I will add my view, given that the Minister is not prepared to tell the House and the public what happened.

Is the Minister aware that two members appointed by the Government totally frustrated the workings of the board, leading to Mr. Taggart's resignation? One member took the bizarre action of taking a court injunction against his own board and his own directors, which subsequently failed. The other member, in sympathy with him, sought to have his legal costs paid and totally obstructed and frustrated the board meeting last Wednesday, forcing Mr. Taggart and another director to offer their resignations. What action will the Minister take to ensure incidents such as these will not recur? Will he allow these people to remain on the board or will he take some other action?

The Minister has a major gender balance problem on the board. There is just one woman on the board, even though there were three in my time. I have no hesitation saying that I was the person who identified Mr. Taggart as the proper chairman for Bord na nGon because of his genuine interest in racing and his business acumen, and he has proved me right. I am sure everyone will accept that he was an inspired choice at the time. I remind the Minister that his record is demonstrated by figures. Bookmaker betting has increased from €22 million to €91 million, totaliser betting from €6.7 million to €50 million and attendance figures have increased from 580,000 to 1.3 million. The figures speak for themselves. What will the Minister do to ensure there will not be a recurrence at the next meeting of what happened last Wednesday and what has happened in the case of one director for the past two years?

The Deputy will be aware that it is not the function of the Minister, nor can he give details about what did or did not happen at a board meeting. On learning of Mr. Taggart's resignation, I subsequently made contact with the greyhound industry and I am pleased to say that these consultations resulted in Mr. Taggart accepting the appointment as chairperson of the board. I am well aware of the contribution Mr. Taggart has made to the greyhound industry in Ireland and I am particularly pleased that he has agreed to take up his position.

As Deputy Deenihan knows, I am not in a position legally to remove people from the board that easily. I noted newspaper comments by the Deputy to the effect that he was being hounded out of office. I had no intention of becoming involved in hounding anyone out of office. I want the man to stay where he is as I greatly respect his performance as chairperson of the board.

The Minister may or may not be aware that Mr. Taggart took no directors fees or travel expenses since being appointed, and he has worked 25 hours a week. Last week a letter was sent to the Minister by the greyhound fraternity, from trainers, owners, bookmakers and other stakeholders, after more than 300 people attended a meeting in Portlaoise. These people are not happy with Mr. Taggart changing his mind and becoming chairman. They want a board to represent their interests. The Minister has a responsibility to ensure that Bord na gCon works effectively and efficiently and that the directors on the board, who are answerable to him, work with the same purpose and for the good of the racing industry. If he cannot give that assurance, he cannot have responsibility for the greyhound industry.

I had consultations with representatives of the industry and there was a frank exchange of views. It will benefit the industry if Mr. Taggart continues as chairperson. I regret that the meeting was so contentious and became so fractious. However, as Deputy Deenihan will be aware, I was neither at the meeting nor did I seek to motivate anyone going to it. My entire interest is, and was long before I went into politics, the good of the industry. I had a very good relationship with Mr. Taggart long before I became Minister with responsibility for the industry. As Deputy Deenihan outlined, he has done a great deal for the industry and I want him to continue to do so. If I had any hand, act or part in what did or did not go on at the meeting, I do not think I would have met people in the industry in regard to its future and the future of Mr. Taggart.

I am pleased he has decided to resume his position as chairperson and I look forward to a far greater degree of constructive debate within the board in the future.

Will the Minister contact the directors?

I cannot make people say anything. However, I can make known my views, which I have done.

Arts Plan.

Questions (12)

Jack Wall

Question:

99 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the reason he recommended Lansdowne Road as the location for the new national stadium as opposed to the site at Abbotstown; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6169/04]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

Proposals for meeting the stadium needs of our rugby and soccer teams have been the subject of discussion in the House over a long period. I indicated that it was my intention to bring proposals to Government to deal with the matter. Accordingly, last month I brought two options to Government to deal with the current deficit in modern stadium facilities in Dublin. These were the development of a stadium at Abbotstown or the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road stadium. The Government decided to approve the proposal to support a joint Football Association of Ireland-Irish Rugby Football Union project to redevelop Lansdowne Road as a 50,000 all-seated state-of-the-art stadium.

In this context the Government approved the provision of funding of €191 million towards the project, which is estimated to cost €292 million, with the balance being provided by the two sporting organisations.

What mechanism will be used to draw down State funding in this regard? Will it be the same mechanism used in regard to investment in Croke Park? Will the IRFU drive the project or will the Minister's Department have an input into the project team? What part will the FAI play in the project? Will it be like in the past whereby the IRFU will be the landlords and the FAI will be strictly tenants in the national stadium? Will control of the stadium be within the remit of the IRFU?

My understanding is that all of that needs to be discussed. In due course we will see what emerges from it. As of now the fee simple is held by the IRFU. It is possible that a management team will run the new stadium from which the various sporting organisations will rent it for their respective events. With regard to the question of the funding, the IRFU and the FAI have committed themselves to putting up in excess of €100 million, which will be put up through the advance sale of tickets to corporations and the business community generally.

Construction of the stadium will be overseen by a monitoring committee, which I will establish under the direction of Mr. Furlong, Secretary General of the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism. He has agreed to direct this implementation team, which will be charged with ensuring the timely construction of the stadium. It is hoped the stadium will be constructed by 2008 and that the pre-planning and planning issues can be got over as quickly as possible. Obviously, if there are objections this will possibly give rise to difficulties but I hope there will not be objections. I remain confident that the stadium will be up and running by 2008. We badly need this stadium. Irish sport was the winner. The stadium will prove to be a useful facility for all the sporting organisations involved and people will be extremely comfortable with it.

I welcome the decision. The new stadium will be of major benefit.

As an aside to the position regarding the stadium, I wish to ask a question I have asked previously on a number of occasions, in response to which the Minister will probably say he has no control over the matter. A sports conscious man like Mr. McManus was willing to give to the Exchequer IR£50 million to develop a national stadium. Does the Minister intend to talk to Mr. McManus about his offer, or is it within his remit to do so? Is it feasible for him to make representations for such money to be invested in some sporting organisations that need funding? Alternatively, could such money be used to fund RAPID programmes, or is the matter only within the remit of Mr. McManus at this stage?

When Mr. McManus put forward IR£50 million for the construction of a national stadium, it was given on the basis that the Government would construct a publicly funded stadium with a capacity of 80,000 at Abbotstown, but that patently will not now be built. The Government decided that the stadium will proceed at Lansdowne Road. Budgetary considerations and economic conditions meant we were not in a position to proceed with the Abbotstown proposal. In those circumstances the task I had was to see if there was a viable alternative that would be acceptable. I am happy to say we have such an alternative and that the stadium project can now proceed.

With regard to Mr. McManus's money, I do not believe it is available for Lansdowne Road. It would be quite unfair to ask him now to switch over to a concept to which, in truth, he had not subscribed in the first instance. We are constructing a new sporting campus at Abbotstown. That point may have been lost in the euphoria of the moment when we announced details of the stadium. The campus will be of considerable benefit. We intend to ensure that, as resources allow, we will have a necklace of centres where we can ensure sporting excellence and greater participation at Abbotstown. The National Aquatic Centre, which was built on budget and on time, is an example of what can be achieved there. I envisage proceeding with the campus and planning for it.

The Campus Stadium Ireland Board was convened. I explained what I and the Government wanted. I asked its members to prioritise the building of the campus, set out the facilities they believe are required and in the order in which they are required in order that I would be enabled to go to the Minister for Finance during the Estimates discussions in the autumn with a view to obtaining funding to progress the campus. It is important to point out that an important part of the Government decision was that the campus would proceed.

That concludes priority questions. We now come to deal with Other Questions. I remind Members that supplementary questions and answers are confined to one minute.

Tourism Promotion.

Questions (13, 14)

Damien English

Question:

100 Mr. English asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the timescale for the first report of the high level implementation group established to drive forward and monitor the report (details supplied) of the Tourism Policy Review Group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6155/04]

View answer

Emmet Stagg

Question:

134 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will report on his address to the Tourism Action Plan 2003-2005 Implementation Group, at its inaugural meeting of 5 February 2004; the precise role and remit of the implementation group; the number of times it will meet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6134/04]

View answer

Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 and 134 together.

On 14 January last, I announced the membership of a high level group to oversee the implementation of the initial two-year Action Plan for Irish Tourism, recommended by the Tourism Policy Review Group in its report, New Horizons for Irish Tourism — An Agenda for Action. Mr. John Travers, who chaired the Tourism Policy Review Group, will chair the implementation group. The other members are Philip Furlong, Secretary General of my Department, Jim Murphy, managing director, Prem Group, Michael O'Donoghue, managing director, O'Donoghue-Ring Hotels, Eileen O'Mara Walsh, O'Mara Travel, Raymond J. Rooney, businessman, and Paul Tansey, economist.

In line with the recommendation in the report, the high level group will advise me on the implementation on the Tourism Action Plan 2003-2005, publish reports on its work, results and deliberations at six-monthly intervals, and sit for a period up to the end of 2005. Under its terms of reference, the group will capitalise on the current impetus for change and modernisation within the public and private sectors, to ensure that the action plan is seen as an integrated set of actions. It will work in partnership with the tourism industry, the key State agencies, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, and relevant Departments highlighting, in particular, constraints to progress, and make recommendations on how best they might be addressed, and by whom.

The implementation group, which has agreed to meet monthly, held its inaugural meeting on 5 February last. In addressing the group, I expressed my appreciation of its willingness to advise and assist me in what I regard as one of the key objectives in terms of my tourism portfolio. I highlighted the co-ordinated and partnership approach that underpins the terms of reference, and mentioned my belief that, in the years ahead, the tourism agenda will be influenced heavily by developments in the wider economy and by the potential for concerted action on the part of the tourism industry itself. I said that I believed the group would be in a strong position to influence the wider agenda in support of future sustainable tourism development. The first report of the implementation group will cover the period to end July 2004 and I would expect to receive it before the end of August.

I welcome the Minister's response. I have absolute confidence in the chairman of the implementation group, Mr. John Travers, and the other members of it to carry out their work effectively and efficiently.

This is a practical report and I hope it will not gather dust as previous reports on tourism have. The Minister did his best to ensure it will not. The report has some 77 recommendations. How does the Minister propose that the implementation group will advance the proposals in regard to infrastructure? I refer in particular to the N69, the N86 and the Ring of Kerry road? The Minister travels the Ring of Kerry road on a weekly basis and he will be aware it is in bad condition. Given the strong recommendation in regard to infrastructure in the report, how does the Minister propose to ensure there will be further investment in these main tourist arteries, which are national secondary roads, when road funding is being directed at our national primary road system?

It is true that funding is being directed at our national primary road system and unquestionably there have been considerable improvements in recent years. I accept it is true that national secondary routes require attention. I have strongly lobbied for the inclusion of the Ring of Kerry route and the Dingle-Tralee route in the national development plan and they are included as specific tourist routes which should require funding. The hope is that between now and 2006 they will receive further funding. They have received funding in the past, some of it substantial.

Regarding the implementation of the more than 70 recommendations in the report, the implementation group has been asked to implement these in the manner outlined in the report. The report is unique in that it not only sets out the key objectives but also the methods for their achievement. I expect the group to follow the report guidelines on implementation.

Will the implementation group work solely through the Minister's Department? Regarding roads, is it within the group's right to approach the NRA or a specific local authority when following certain recommendations, or must it work only through the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, with the infrastructure created in that way? Is the group an independent body which can make representations to ensure that the more than 70 recommendations are implemented? Is that within its remit?

It would be helpful if I set out the terms of reference of the group. The group will advise the Minister on the implementation of the tourism action plan 2003-2005, publish a report on its work, results and deliberations at six-monthly intervals, and sit a for period up to the end of 2005. It will capitalise on the current impetus for change and modernisation in the public and private sectors to ensure that the action plan is seen as an integrated set of actions requiring a co-ordinated impartial approach across Departments, agencies and industry towards implementation. The report will discuss with lead actors their operational plans for, and commitment to, the implementations of actions falling within their remit, including effectiveness indicators against which performance will be measured. It will: highlight any constraints to progress and recommend how they might be addressed, and by whom; recommend any changes that should be made to the action plan in light of experience as it is rolled out; and contribute to the evaluation of the tourism strategy in autumn 2005, or earlier if the tourism environment proves to be more volatile than anticipated. This step will be a milestone in the ongoing review process which will be an inherent element of the development process for the industry in the future.

Another key recommendation involves access rights to land. The Minister may be aware of a recent court case where a farmer was imprisoned because of a problem he had with people walking on his land. Does the Minister envisage the implementation group proposing new legislation to clarify access rights for visitors to the countryside, and is that a priority? Going on information I have received, the problem is going to become more widespread right across the country.

Access to land, and walking across land, is of immense importance because of the number of people who participate in that exercise in the country, including people from abroad who come here for that purpose. The issue comes under the remit of the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ó Cuív, to the extent that it impinges on rural life. I understand that he has set up a group to look at means by which the problem of access to land for walkers can be resolved, and I hope its efforts are successful.

National Sports Stadium.

Questions (15, 16, 17)

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

101 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if a national audit of local sports facilities commenced in mid-2003 as outlined in his Department’s mission statement; the envisaged timeframe for completion of this audit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6107/04]

View answer

Dan Boyle

Question:

108 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the impact the national audit of local sports facilities will have in facilitating the provision of sport and recreation facilities on a nationwide basis as per the mission statement of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6109/04]

View answer

Trevor Sargent

Question:

115 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress being made in the national audit of local sports facilities as outlined in his Department’s mission statement, including the timeframe for completion of this audit and the expected impact this audit will have on the provision of sport and recreation facilities nation-wide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6117/04]

View answer

Oral answers (5 contributions) (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 101, 108 and 115 together.

The commitment as outlined in the programme for Government, to complete a national audit of local sports facilities, is being undertaken as part of the development of a long-term strategic plan for the provision of sports facilities. The first step towards developing such a strategy, a review of the existing sports capital programme under the Department's expenditure review programme, is currently being finalised. The outcome of this review will help identify the level of facilities that have been put in place in recent years with the assistance of national lottery funding, and produce recommendations on priorities for future funding.

Following this, I intend to establish an interagency steering group to begin work immediately on developing a long-term strategic plan for the provision of sports facilities. One of the first tasks for this group will be to oversee the commencement of the audit of sports facilities. Given the volume of facilities that may potentially be included in such an audit, covering the entire country, it is important that a robust methodology is used to record, classify and assess the facilities to be included.

In light of the enormity of the task, it could take a number of years to complete a comprehensive audit of all sports facilities. However, it may be possible to conduct the work in stages, to ensure that some useful results are available in the short term for input into the proposed strategic plan for the provision of sports facilities due for completion within the next year.

Once completed, the audit will enable policy makers to map the location of the various sports facilities throughout the country, leading to a more effective targeting of new or additional facilities which will complement rather than duplicate what is already available. In this way, a more efficient use of financial resources can be achieved, and a fostering of greater co-operation between complementary facility providers can be encouraged.

Is it not true that the Minister would be better off throwing in the towel right now and saying, "Mea culpa.” This is not going to happen within the lifetime of the Government. I remember talking to the Minister last year about the nationwide audit of local sports facilities, which is crucial, not just in terms of providing more much-needed facilities, but also in terms of working with schools which are losing out because their physical education in the sports ground has been taken away. A much more interactive approach is needed. Is the Minister aware that in his own strategy statement he said that one of the priorities is to facilitate the provision of sport and recreation facilities nationwide, to include the efficient and effective delivery of the sports capital programme, and the interagency group? Did the Minister say in the strategy statement that he wants to see a national audit of local sports facilities completed, and that this audit would begin by mid-2003? Since that is not within a cat’s whisker of beginning by June 2004, will the Minister acknowledge that this strategy is up in the air, is a failure, and that this is one of the key issues in the programme for Government which will not have carried out within the lifetime of the Government?

The strategy is not a failure. It has been decided that as a first step, before the commencement of the audit, an assessment of what has been achieved under the Department's sports capital programme should be carried out. That is perfectly logical. This was done in the context of an expenditure review of the programme which seeks to assess the benefits that the investment to date has yielded, and to identify any difficulties or inefficiencies associated with the operation of the programme. The review was to have been completed during 2003 to facilitate the start of the audit during that year, but has taken longer than expected due to the scale of the programme and the time required to analyse the volume of information collected. The report on this review is expected in the near future.

One must realise that there has been major expenditure under the sports capital programme since 1998. Almost €270 million has been allocated to more than 3,000 projects across the country. It is not a simple task. The audit in Northern Ireland took over two years. Once the assessment is complete, we will move to the next stage.

Can the Minister say what will be included in the national audit? It will obviously include more than what sports facilities are available. Will it deal with the use of a facility by local schools, for example, with access for the disabled, and the practice of gender balance in a facility, that is, provision for male and female sports? Will the audit be more than an account of the facilities that are there? Will it include usage and access for various groups? I am sure the audit will do more than merely count the facilities available.

As I said, €270 million has to date been allocated to 3,500 projects throughout the country under the sports capital programme, and this is only since 1998. It is, therefore, apparent that a considerable amount of work has been done. I anticipate that the audit would represent a comprehensive body of work which will enable policymakers to map the location of the various sports facilities throughout the country, whether they are provided through voluntary sports organisations, are funded privately or have benefited through public funding.

It is fair to say that a better fix on the location of existing sports facilities will lead to more effective and more accurately targeted funding of new facilities and a more efficient use of financial resources. This will apply across all Departments involved in the provision of sports facilities. It will be comprehensive and I anticipate it will deal with issues such as the disabled, gender and so on to which Deputy Deenihan referred.

Sports Funding.

Questions (18, 19)

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

102 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if plans to develop and manage information technology to support the delivery of his Department’s mission and objectives, as outlined in its mission statement, including a review of IT strategies of former Departments and the new departmental IT strategy for 2003-06, will be affected by his Department’s and agencies’ relocation to Killarney; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6110/04]

View answer

Eamon Ryan

Question:

125 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the original cost projects for plans to develop and manage information technology to support the delivery of his Department’s mission and objectives, as outlined in its mission statement, including a review of IT strategies of former Departments and the new departmental IT strategy for 2003; the projected monetary and percentage increase envisaged as a result of the decentralisation programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6115/04]

View answer

Oral answers (3 contributions) (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 and 125 together.

The decision to relocate the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism in Killarney will not affect the plans to develop and manage information technology in support of delivering the Department's objectives. The relocation will mean that the application and use of information technology will become central to the efficient delivery of services and communications.

The first statement of strategy 2003-05 of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism provided for a review of the two information technology strategies of the former Departments of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands and Tourism Sport and Recreation, and for the development of a new IT strategy for the period 2003 to 2006. This review has been carried out and a new IT strategy has been agreed.

The new strategy identifies a number of new projects to support delivery of objectives set out in the Department's mission statement. These comprise a specially made and developed management information system comprising a sophisticated financial accounting database system, the estimated cost of which to 2008 is €1.1 million; a new human resource management system comprising an enhanced database system developed on PeopleSoft-HRMS software — the PeopleSoft product was selected by the Department of Finance for development as the human resource management system for the Civil Service — the estimated cost of which is €172,000; and the installation of a new suite of security products for the Department's local area network to enhance the Department's ability to protect itself from potentially damaging scenarios associated with the world wide web. The main elements of the improved security resource comprise a superior anti-virus product with filtering capability and a firewall system capable of meeting the security requirements of the Government's data virtual private network link completed at the end of 2003, the cost of which was €23,000.

Additionally, the IT strategy provides for the ongoing replacement of network hardware and software as dictated by normal end-of-life scenarios, and an annual budget allocation of €150,000 is available to meet this need. If the Department is decentralised to a building in Killarney equipped with a modern networking architecture, it should be possible to relocate all the existing software and some of the hardware and systems to the new location. It is not anticipated that significant additional costs will accrue to the projects that can be attributed to decentralisation. Some additional hardware and connectivity costs may arise but it is too early to quantify these.

Has the Minister received any extra funding for connectivity costs? What estimates have been done for video-conferencing facilities, for example? I know the Minister will not plaster the beautiful Kerry landscape with "Welcome to O'Donoghue country" posters but, given the huge furore over the decentralisation programme, he will acknowledge that it might be difficult to get staff to move to Kerry, regardless of how beautiful it is, if they have been working in Dublin and are used to it.

Has the Minister considered the impact of IT training on people who will move from other Departments to his one? Will there be an additional cost for the training of staff? Is the local loop unbundled sufficiently in the Kerry region to cater for broadband communications? Given that tourism is a face to face, hands-on type of business, does the Minister acknowledge video-conferencing is essential and that we need proper access facilities and proper training from an IT perspective?

The strategy statement said the IT strategy would be in place by April 2003. Was it in place by then? Will the mid-term review of the IT strategy due to be completed by the end of 2004 be completed by then? What are the financial implications, if any, of the relocation and the IT extras which will need to be tidied up by the end of the year?

The new IT strategy to be developed for the Department was to have been developed for the period 2003 to 2006. I understand the review has been carried out and that the IT strategy has been agreed. There is no question or doubt but that video-conferencing is desirable. It will be useful in the decentralisation of Departments to the various locations.

I have no doubt about the capacity of Killarney, from a communications perspective, to ensure a successful home for the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism. It will add greatly to the town and to the county. It is appropriate that a Department of this nature should locate in Ireland's tourism capital. It is something to which many people look forward.

I do not anticipate any IT difficulties. I agree it is desirable that staff are trained in new methodologies and I understand this is ongoing. I am as confident as I possibly can be that all will go smoothly.

Arts Funding.

Questions (20, 21)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

103 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will report on the outcome of his meeting with the community games organisation in 2003 and the assistance his Department will be providing to ensure that the community games will have a permanent home for the national annual games; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6114/04]

View answer

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

190 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will report on the contacts he has had with the community games movement regarding this country; if organisations need to identify a new home for the annual national games held for many years in Mosney holiday centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6316/04]

View answer

Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 103 and 190 together.

I had a number of meetings during 2003 with representatives of the community games organisation at which I advised them of my desire to ensure that they had some certainty regarding a venue for their national events. The most recent of these meetings was held on 19 November 2003.

At my request officials of my Department met the reception and integration agency which, as the Deputy will be aware, has arrangements in place for the use of the Mosney centre. Arising from this latter meeting, officials of my Department visited Mosney on 13 February 2004 to meet the reception and integration agency and representatives of the community games organisation.

During what was a positive meeting, all sides confirmed their willingness to help ensure that the facilities in Mosney continue to be available to host the games. The community games representatives expressed their satisfaction with the range and quality of the facilities and services available at Mosney and their suitability for their national events. They also confirmed that there is no other venue in Ireland with the scale and variety of facilities required for their national events as currently structured and that any question of providing a special, dedicated venue on the scale required, which would be used only a few times a year, would be unrealistic.

I am pleased to say that the reception and integration agency confirmed at the meeting that, for as long as it is using Mosney, the community games can avail of the facilities there, and certainly up to and including 2005. The agency hopes it will be in a position to agree to a continuation of the use of the Mosney facilities beyond 2005, in which case the future of the community games at Mosney will be secured for some time to come. This arrangement was welcomed by the community games representatives at the meeting.

I thank the Minister for his efforts in this regard. The community games has a long-standing tradition in Ireland and has helped to develop and produce some of our finest athletes and encourage people to participate in sport. The Minister will acknowledge that Mosney is synonymous with the community games and that any efforts on his part to ensure that continues are welcome. Are there any long-term plans to set up a task force to ensure Mosney can be used beyond 2005? What, if any, financial requirements would be made of the Minister's Department to ensure that happens?

The needs of the community games, in terms of its national finals, are unique in sport. It deals with a large number of children and young people who need facilities for a multiplicity of sports, disciplines and events as well as extensive residential accommodation, catering and so on over a few weekends, preferably all on the one site.

They admit that the idea of a specially dedicated facility for community games, which would require extensive and costly facilities and which would only be used a few times a year, is totally unrealistic. That presents us with a difficulty in proceeding. We have to ascertain if it will be possible to obtain Mosney after 2005. The reception and integration agency has been very kind in this respect and I acknowledge the generosity of its director, Mr. Waters, in ensuring that the games can proceed at Mosney into the foreseeable future. The reception and integration agency has stated that for as long as it is in Mosney, there will not be a difficulty for the community games.

As regards an event as unique as this one, all we can do is look ahead, in so far as we possibly can, with a view to ensuring that the games will not die. We have succeeded in doing this and I am confident that in the future we will be in a position to accommodate the community games again in one fashion or another. I thank Deputy Gogarty for his kind words. I am very committed to the games and I will try to do everything humanly possible to ensure their continuance at one venue or another.

From the contacts I have had with them, I know that the organisers of the community games appreciate the efforts the Minister has made to ensure their continued use of Mosney. He gave that commitment to the House on previous occasions when the issue arose. The history of the community games has been one of major benefit to the country. In future, the Abbotstown facility could meet the criteria laid down for the community games, apart from the residential aspect. Could the development of Abbotstown resolve the problems being encountered by the community games in the long term? In his statement, the Minister said he was happy with Mosney but there are question marks over its residential capacity and the games' organisers are concerned about that. Is it feasible for Abbotstown to host the community games if the residential aspect could be facilitated?

I certainly foresee Abbotstown playing a major role in the development of Irish sport in future. It will be an extremely useful facility from the perspective of the community games. The residential aspect is the problem, given the difficulties in housing the thousands of children participating in such an event. That is why Mosney is so useful because the residences are already there and have been used for years.

It is difficult to predict what will happen in future concerning the community games. We are assured of having them until 2005 and the reception and integration agency will be in Mosney beyond that date so there is no immediate threat to the games. We should look to the future, however, to see how we can ensure the continuance of the games. In this respect, we will continue our involvement with the community games organisers. I feel sure that when this year's games are over, the organisers will continue their dialogue with us regarding next year's games. We will try to ensure their continuance from year to year.

During the Minister's discussions with the community games organisation, was there any mention of a more regional approach to the games in future? Adopting a more inter-provincial approach in advance of the national championships may be a way of getting over the accommodation problem.

We did not enter into such a discussion but it is clear that the community games organisers want to continue the existing format. The involvement of so many children from various backgrounds in a communal setting reflects the community aspects of the games. The objective of the games is to foster a love of sport among young people, as well as promoting community involvement. As Deputies have said, the big problem is providing temporary accommodation for that number of children during the games. We have resolved the difficulty up to now but we will have to revisit the issue.

As regards Deputy Deenihan's question, to the best of my memory, the games organisers did not mention anything about running the championships on a more provincial basis. They still favour the current format.

Health Services.

Questions (22)

Richard Bruton

Question:

104 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his views on the effect that the weakening dollar will have on the number of US tourists coming here in 2004; the measures he intends to put in place to make Ireland a more price attractive destination for US tourists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6156/04]

View answer

Oral answers (5 contributions) (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

In 2003, Ireland performed strongly in the US market against stiff international competition. While final figures are not yet available from the Central Statistics Office, Tourism Ireland estimates a 6% increase in US visitor numbers to the Republic of Ireland last year despite the impact of the war, increased threats of terrorism and SARS. This compares to a 1% increase in the number of Americans visiting Europe generally and a decrease of 8% experienced by our near neighbours in the United Kingdom.

Building on the positive performance last year, the early indications are that interest in visiting Ireland remains strong among US consumers in 2004. The target for 2004 is for a 6.8% growth in visitor numbers from the US. In that context, Ireland's competitive position appears to be holding up well even against the continued depreciation of the dollar against the euro. However, as the main holiday booking season is a number of weeks away, it is too early to make definite judgments on any adverse currency impact.

The euro is more than 25% stronger now than it was at the start of 2003. This problem is not unique to Ireland but to all eurozone countries and to sterling. It is particularly important, however, that prices on the ground in Ireland are kept in line with those in other eurozone destinations. To bring home the message that Ireland continues to offer value for money, Tourism Ireland is engaging in a major co-operative marketing campaign this year with tour operators and carriers in this vital market, which will promote a range of specially priced offers for travel to Ireland. These offers are also featured on a special offers website,www.shamrock.org, which is being extensively promoted to the American public in key US cities.

As I have said in previous replies on the broader issue of competitiveness, I very much welcome the fact that the key message from the tourism policy review group is that restoring competitiveness is the major challenge facing the tourism sector and that the industry must offer better value to its customers if it is to maximise the opportunities for future growth.

Competitiveness must be a function of the overall Irish tourism experience for customers relative to other competing locations, beginning with their initial inquiries about visiting Ireland through to their travelling here, where they go when they arrive, where they stay, who they meet, what they do, what they see and their perceptions about price and quality.

Despite the growth, last year we were still over 100,000 short of the peak numbers in 2000. Therefore, we still have some way to go to get back to that level. The indications I am getting from the market show that while it was looking well, there are now some doubts overhanging it. The Minister should ensure that we will remain as price-competitive as possible to attract more American tourists. For example, green fees can easily be influenced, with air fares and accommodation costs, including bed and breakfast establishments, guest houses and hotels. Restaurants and other services must remain price-competitive also. The strengthening euro will make Ireland less competitive, although I realise that the same problem exists across the eurozone. The Minister is aware that we have high staff rates and are on top of the European price league. He should take steps to ensure that, wherever possible, green fees in 2004 are kept at the same level as they were last year. Other prices must be kept under control also. If the figures do not prove to be as good as last year, does the Minister have contingency plans for the American market to attract more tourists? The Taoiseach, the Minister and other Ministers will visit America on St. Patrick's Day. What plans are in place to promote Ireland on St. Patrick's Day given that it represents an ideal opportunity?

We have been in contact with Ministers travelling abroad to give them information packs on the countries they are visiting and speaking notes and so on to promote Ireland. The Taoiseach correctly identified St. Patrick's Day as a window of opportunity for Ireland. He is of the view that visits by Ministers to various parts of the world and America, in particular, can be extremely beneficial in terms of ensuring Ireland's profile is raised. It is also a time when Ireland can be sold for other purposes and, therefore, such opportunities are grasped, which is wise.

We have also been in consultation with Ministers regarding the possibility of them becoming involved in tourism promotion at other times of the year when they travel abroad in connection with their portfolios, except when they are on EU business. The Taoiseach is also anxious that this should happen. The tourism industry performed strongly in America last year considering that the number of Americans who travelled abroad reduced by 8%. However, the number of Americans who visited Ireland increased by 6% while the increase in the number who visited Europe generally only increased by 1%. Ireland's success was not mirrored elsewhere in Europe. We are looking forward to a better year this year with a growth target of 6.8%. All the indications are this is achievable.

The Deputy referred to competitiveness and costs. Certain developments in recent months should result in tangible benefits for the sector and make a difference to competitiveness and value for money. For example, a minimal increase in the budget in indirect taxation and excise duties on products that are part and parcel of the tourism experience, will help. The Fáilte Ireland initiative in co-operation with the industry to address the high cost of insurance premiums in the sector and the implementation of the Government's insurance reform package will help, as will the reduction in the cost of accommodation reported by the CSO earlier this month. There has been a significant reduction in annual inflation. It stood at 1.8% in January, which is a major reduction from 3.5% in July 2003 when the review group was finalising its report, and it is much more in line with the EU average rate.

I am pleased with the reports regarding the US market so far. With regard to contingency plans, a strong marketing campaign has been under way in the US since late last year for this season. The campaign will yield results. The carrying capacity of airlines from the US remains a worry. If there was a greater number of gateway cities, which Aer Lingus or other airlines could utilise, the numbers visiting Ireland would increase beyond our projected growth. That is an issue for another day.

If the dollar continues to experience problems against the euro, can the Minister do anything to make it more attractive for American tourists to visit Ireland? Their holiday will cost them 25% more this year than in 2002.

The strength of the euro against the dollar is not conducive to helping the situation. However, other countries are experiencing this difficulty. Nonetheless, since the Iraq war, there is a pent up desire among many Americans to travel. This will more than offset the disadvantage that all countries within the eurozone are experiencing as a result of the low value of the dollar against the euro. A strong marketing campaign is under way in the US and this year we will be close if we do not exceed our record year in that market. I am confident we will be there or thereabouts.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.

Organ Transplants.

Questions (106)

Seán Ryan

Question:

193 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will report on the provision of a transplant unit at the Mater Hospital, Dublin 7; when it will open; and if it is intended to extend or alter the search for donors. [6176/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Final arrangements are being put in place to facilitate the commencement of the surgical component of the lung transplant programme in the near future. Considerable preparatory work has already been completed including the provision of appropriate assessment facilities required to support the development of the service and the appointment of key transplant personnel at the Mater Hospital, Dublin. It has been designated as the surgical site. This year Revenue funding of €7.9 million was provided to support the programme. The transplant unit at the Mater hospital expects to be on-call for its first lung transplant from 1 April.

Ireland has traditionally had a high rate of organ donation. Part of it is due to the annual donor awareness campaign. It is promoted by the Irish Kidney Association on behalf of the Irish Donor Network and supported by my Department.

International experience has shown that the rate of lung donation is likely to increase with the inception of a national programme. The proximity and interaction of the retrieval and transplant teams has also been shown to maximise the retrieval rate.

In the near future I shall establish an expert group to examine organ donation, procurement and utilisation policy in Ireland. It will be done as part of the national health strategy's commitment to develop organ transplantation services with a view to increasing donation and utilisation rates. In April the Irish Transplantation Society, in conjunction with the Irish Nephrological Society, is organising a consensus conference to discuss the issues associated with a living donor transplantation programme.

Medical Cards.

Questions (107)

John McGuinness

Question:

194 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if an application will be expedited for a medical card in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [6177/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Responsibility for the provision of a medical card is, by legislation, a matter for the CEO of the relevant health board or authority. My Department has asked the CEO of the South Eastern Health Board to investigate the matter and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Board Services.

Questions (15, 16, 17)

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

101 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if a national audit of local sports facilities commenced in mid-2003 as outlined in his Department’s mission statement; the envisaged timeframe for completion of this audit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6107/04]

View answer

Dan Boyle

Question:

108 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the impact the national audit of local sports facilities will have in facilitating the provision of sport and recreation facilities on a nationwide basis as per the mission statement of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6109/04]

View answer

Trevor Sargent

Question:

115 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress being made in the national audit of local sports facilities as outlined in his Department’s mission statement, including the timeframe for completion of this audit and the expected impact this audit will have on the provision of sport and recreation facilities nation-wide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6117/04]

View answer

Oral answers (5 contributions) (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 101, 108 and 115 together.

The commitment as outlined in the programme for Government, to complete a national audit of local sports facilities, is being undertaken as part of the development of a long-term strategic plan for the provision of sports facilities. The first step towards developing such a strategy, a review of the existing sports capital programme under the Department's expenditure review programme, is currently being finalised. The outcome of this review will help identify the level of facilities that have been put in place in recent years with the assistance of national lottery funding, and produce recommendations on priorities for future funding.

Following this, I intend to establish an interagency steering group to begin work immediately on developing a long-term strategic plan for the provision of sports facilities. One of the first tasks for this group will be to oversee the commencement of the audit of sports facilities. Given the volume of facilities that may potentially be included in such an audit, covering the entire country, it is important that a robust methodology is used to record, classify and assess the facilities to be included.

In light of the enormity of the task, it could take a number of years to complete a comprehensive audit of all sports facilities. However, it may be possible to conduct the work in stages, to ensure that some useful results are available in the short term for input into the proposed strategic plan for the provision of sports facilities due for completion within the next year.

Once completed, the audit will enable policy makers to map the location of the various sports facilities throughout the country, leading to a more effective targeting of new or additional facilities which will complement rather than duplicate what is already available. In this way, a more efficient use of financial resources can be achieved, and a fostering of greater co-operation between complementary facility providers can be encouraged.

Is it not true that the Minister would be better off throwing in the towel right now and saying, "Mea culpa.” This is not going to happen within the lifetime of the Government. I remember talking to the Minister last year about the nationwide audit of local sports facilities, which is crucial, not just in terms of providing more much-needed facilities, but also in terms of working with schools which are losing out because their physical education in the sports ground has been taken away. A much more interactive approach is needed. Is the Minister aware that in his own strategy statement he said that one of the priorities is to facilitate the provision of sport and recreation facilities nationwide, to include the efficient and effective delivery of the sports capital programme, and the interagency group? Did the Minister say in the strategy statement that he wants to see a national audit of local sports facilities completed, and that this audit would begin by mid-2003? Since that is not within a cat’s whisker of beginning by June 2004, will the Minister acknowledge that this strategy is up in the air, is a failure, and that this is one of the key issues in the programme for Government which will not have carried out within the lifetime of the Government?

The strategy is not a failure. It has been decided that as a first step, before the commencement of the audit, an assessment of what has been achieved under the Department's sports capital programme should be carried out. That is perfectly logical. This was done in the context of an expenditure review of the programme which seeks to assess the benefits that the investment to date has yielded, and to identify any difficulties or inefficiencies associated with the operation of the programme. The review was to have been completed during 2003 to facilitate the start of the audit during that year, but has taken longer than expected due to the scale of the programme and the time required to analyse the volume of information collected. The report on this review is expected in the near future.

One must realise that there has been major expenditure under the sports capital programme since 1998. Almost €270 million has been allocated to more than 3,000 projects across the country. It is not a simple task. The audit in Northern Ireland took over two years. Once the assessment is complete, we will move to the next stage.

Can the Minister say what will be included in the national audit? It will obviously include more than what sports facilities are available. Will it deal with the use of a facility by local schools, for example, with access for the disabled, and the practice of gender balance in a facility, that is, provision for male and female sports? Will the audit be more than an account of the facilities that are there? Will it include usage and access for various groups? I am sure the audit will do more than merely count the facilities available.

As I said, €270 million has to date been allocated to 3,500 projects throughout the country under the sports capital programme, and this is only since 1998. It is, therefore, apparent that a considerable amount of work has been done. I anticipate that the audit would represent a comprehensive body of work which will enable policymakers to map the location of the various sports facilities throughout the country, whether they are provided through voluntary sports organisations, are funded privately or have benefited through public funding.

It is fair to say that a better fix on the location of existing sports facilities will lead to more effective and more accurately targeted funding of new facilities and a more efficient use of financial resources. This will apply across all Departments involved in the provision of sports facilities. It will be comprehensive and I anticipate it will deal with issues such as the disabled, gender and so on to which Deputy Deenihan referred.

Hospital Services.

Questions (109)

John McGuinness

Question:

196 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if rehab care will be provided at the national rehab unit, Dún Laoghaire in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; if it will be expedited in view of the length of time they have waited, both in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin and St. Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6179/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

My Department has made inquiries. Recently the National Rehabilitation Hospital confirmed that the individual is on its waiting list and cannot indicate an admittance date. The scheduling of hospital admissions is a matter for the consultant concerned and is determined solely on the basis of medical priority.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Questions (110, 111)

John McGuinness

Question:

197 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of an application under the housing aid for the elderly scheme in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if the application can be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6180/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The provision of health services in Kilkenny is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the SEHB. My Department has asked its CEO to investigate the matter and to reply directly to the Deputy, as a matter of urgency.

John McGuinness

Question:

198 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of an application under the housing aid for the elderly scheme in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if the application can be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6181/04]

View answer

The scheme in the Kilkenny area is operated by the SEHB, on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Local Government. My Department has asked the board's CEO to investigate the matter and to reply to the Deputy, as a matter of urgency.

Health Board Services.

Questions (112)

Jerry Cowley

Question:

199 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will give further details to those given in Parliamentary Question No. 363 of 17 February 2004; if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo with aniridia is entitled to replacement lenses as required; if their medical circumstances come within this category; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6207/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Responsibility for the provision of optometric services to eligible persons in County Mayo rests with the Western Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Hospital Services.

Questions (113)

Michael Ring

Question:

200 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for cataract surgery. [6239/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The provision of hospital services for people living in County Mayo is a matter for the Western Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer of the board to reply directly to the Deputy in regard to the matter raised.

Ministerial Appointments.

Questions (114)

Joan Burton

Question:

201 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Health and Children the appointments made by him to all companies, boards or agencies operating under the aegis of his Department since 6 June 2002; the persons appointed; and the dates on which the appointments were made. [6276/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

This information is currently being compiled by my Department and will be forwarded directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Health Board Services.

Questions (15, 16, 17)

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

101 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if a national audit of local sports facilities commenced in mid-2003 as outlined in his Department’s mission statement; the envisaged timeframe for completion of this audit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6107/04]

View answer

Dan Boyle

Question:

108 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the impact the national audit of local sports facilities will have in facilitating the provision of sport and recreation facilities on a nationwide basis as per the mission statement of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6109/04]

View answer

Trevor Sargent

Question:

115 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress being made in the national audit of local sports facilities as outlined in his Department’s mission statement, including the timeframe for completion of this audit and the expected impact this audit will have on the provision of sport and recreation facilities nation-wide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6117/04]

View answer

Oral answers (5 contributions) (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 101, 108 and 115 together.

The commitment as outlined in the programme for Government, to complete a national audit of local sports facilities, is being undertaken as part of the development of a long-term strategic plan for the provision of sports facilities. The first step towards developing such a strategy, a review of the existing sports capital programme under the Department's expenditure review programme, is currently being finalised. The outcome of this review will help identify the level of facilities that have been put in place in recent years with the assistance of national lottery funding, and produce recommendations on priorities for future funding.

Following this, I intend to establish an interagency steering group to begin work immediately on developing a long-term strategic plan for the provision of sports facilities. One of the first tasks for this group will be to oversee the commencement of the audit of sports facilities. Given the volume of facilities that may potentially be included in such an audit, covering the entire country, it is important that a robust methodology is used to record, classify and assess the facilities to be included.

In light of the enormity of the task, it could take a number of years to complete a comprehensive audit of all sports facilities. However, it may be possible to conduct the work in stages, to ensure that some useful results are available in the short term for input into the proposed strategic plan for the provision of sports facilities due for completion within the next year.

Once completed, the audit will enable policy makers to map the location of the various sports facilities throughout the country, leading to a more effective targeting of new or additional facilities which will complement rather than duplicate what is already available. In this way, a more efficient use of financial resources can be achieved, and a fostering of greater co-operation between complementary facility providers can be encouraged.

Is it not true that the Minister would be better off throwing in the towel right now and saying, "Mea culpa.” This is not going to happen within the lifetime of the Government. I remember talking to the Minister last year about the nationwide audit of local sports facilities, which is crucial, not just in terms of providing more much-needed facilities, but also in terms of working with schools which are losing out because their physical education in the sports ground has been taken away. A much more interactive approach is needed. Is the Minister aware that in his own strategy statement he said that one of the priorities is to facilitate the provision of sport and recreation facilities nationwide, to include the efficient and effective delivery of the sports capital programme, and the interagency group? Did the Minister say in the strategy statement that he wants to see a national audit of local sports facilities completed, and that this audit would begin by mid-2003? Since that is not within a cat’s whisker of beginning by June 2004, will the Minister acknowledge that this strategy is up in the air, is a failure, and that this is one of the key issues in the programme for Government which will not have carried out within the lifetime of the Government?

The strategy is not a failure. It has been decided that as a first step, before the commencement of the audit, an assessment of what has been achieved under the Department's sports capital programme should be carried out. That is perfectly logical. This was done in the context of an expenditure review of the programme which seeks to assess the benefits that the investment to date has yielded, and to identify any difficulties or inefficiencies associated with the operation of the programme. The review was to have been completed during 2003 to facilitate the start of the audit during that year, but has taken longer than expected due to the scale of the programme and the time required to analyse the volume of information collected. The report on this review is expected in the near future.

One must realise that there has been major expenditure under the sports capital programme since 1998. Almost €270 million has been allocated to more than 3,000 projects across the country. It is not a simple task. The audit in Northern Ireland took over two years. Once the assessment is complete, we will move to the next stage.

Can the Minister say what will be included in the national audit? It will obviously include more than what sports facilities are available. Will it deal with the use of a facility by local schools, for example, with access for the disabled, and the practice of gender balance in a facility, that is, provision for male and female sports? Will the audit be more than an account of the facilities that are there? Will it include usage and access for various groups? I am sure the audit will do more than merely count the facilities available.

As I said, €270 million has to date been allocated to 3,500 projects throughout the country under the sports capital programme, and this is only since 1998. It is, therefore, apparent that a considerable amount of work has been done. I anticipate that the audit would represent a comprehensive body of work which will enable policymakers to map the location of the various sports facilities throughout the country, whether they are provided through voluntary sports organisations, are funded privately or have benefited through public funding.

It is fair to say that a better fix on the location of existing sports facilities will lead to more effective and more accurately targeted funding of new facilities and a more efficient use of financial resources. This will apply across all Departments involved in the provision of sports facilities. It will be comprehensive and I anticipate it will deal with issues such as the disabled, gender and so on to which Deputy Deenihan referred.

Hospital Accommodation.

Questions (117)

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

204 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has had contacts with regard to reports of discussions in respect of a merger between Tallaght Hospital and St. James’s Hospital; if his attention has been drawn to reports of concerns of staff representatives in the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6318/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Officials of my Department have received a preliminary briefing on discussions which are ongoing between representatives of the hospitals mentioned by the Deputy and the Faculty of Health Sciences at TCD in regard to future governance arrangements. I would anticipate that any concerns raised by staff will be taken into account in the formulation of any proposals for change.

Smoking Ban.

Questions (118)

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

205 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding actions proposed in respect of the implementation of the smoking ban; the consultations proposed in the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6319/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

My Department and the relevant agencies have developed a national public information campaign, entitled "Smoke-Free at Work", which will be rolled out across TV, radio and print media. In addition, a series of print materials for workplaces, employees and the general public will be available over the coming weeks and these will be available on line at the new "Smoke-Free at Work" website. The campaign will provide guidance and information to all sectors of society in preparation for 29 March.

Information will also be available on line from the Office of Tobacco Control and the Health and Safety Authority websites. A memorandum of understanding has been agreed by the two agencies which will help to ensure compliance with the new measure. Workplace locations traditionally visited by the Health and Safety Authority will now also have to comply with the new smoke-free measure as part of their general compliance with health and safety requirements. Monitoring compliance with the smoke-free requirements in the food and hospitality area will be carried out by officers from health boards and the Office of Tobacco Control. The emphasis of the campaign will be on compliance building and in harnessing the widespread public support and goodwill that exists for a smoke-free environment.

Adapting to the new measure will require some adjustment, particularly for those in workplaces which, up to now, have not benefited from the existing statutory controls on the smoking of tobacco products. I am confident that people will adjust, just as they did when cinemas, theatres, hairdressing salons, aeroplanes and numerous other settings went smoke-free. The trade union movement is strongly supportive and I am encouraged by the willingness shown by employer's organisations in the various sectors in recommending compliance with the new measure to their members. Most people are law abiding and responsible and I expect that the vast majority of employers, employees and the public will respect this important new public health measure.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Questions (119)

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

206 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children the status of the Mortell report; the action he proposes to take to respond to the report’s reference to the subsidisation of pharmacy services in disadvantaged circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6320/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

I established the pharmacy review group in November 2001 to examine the pharmacy issues raised in the OECD report on regulatory reform in Ireland. The group submitted its report on 31 January 2003. I have been examining the complex legal and other issues surrounding the group's recommendations. Deputies will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the report's recommendations before completion of this examination. I intend to publish the report shortly.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Questions (120, 121)

Paddy McHugh

Question:

207 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has completed his consideration of the planning brief for Tuam health campus; if he will meet a cross community deputation from Tuam to discuss the project; and the date of such a meeting. [6337/04]

View answer

Paddy McHugh

Question:

208 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will approve the submission from the Western Health Board of the planning brief for Tuam health campus submitted to his Department on 8 October 2002; and if he will make the finance available to allow planning of the Tuam health campus to commence. [6338/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 207 and 208 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Galway area is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the Western Health Board. The board has submitted to my Department a proposal to develop a health campus in Tuam, County Galway.

My Department is at present examining the health capital programme for 2004 and beyond to ascertain what new projects can be progressed through either planning or construction stages, taking account of existing commitments and overall funding resources available. It is in this context that my Department will continue to liaise with the Western Health Board regarding the proposed development in Tuam in the light of the board's overall capital funding priorities.

Pending clarification of the position relating to the capital programme, I am of the view that there would be little point in meeting a deputation from the local group at this stage. I will, however, keep the request in mind for the future.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Questions (122)

Paddy McHugh

Question:

209 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will introduce legislation to ensure that pharmacies stay in the hands of pharmacists; and if he will legislate for a one pharmacist, one pharmacy model. [6339/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The opening and operation of retail pharmacies in Ireland is governed by the Pharmacy Acts 1875 to 1977, subject to restrictions imposed by non-pharmacy legislation such as the Planning Act. Pharmacies have not been exclusively pharmacist controlled since 1890. Any individual or company may open a pharmacy providing that the shop and the dispensing and compounding of medical prescriptions are personally supervised by a person who is a pharmacist and is employed in a full-time capacity and is not acting elsewhere in a similar capacity. I have no plans to legislate for a one pharmacist, one pharmacy model.

Penalty Points System.

Questions (123)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

210 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Transport if a member of the fire brigade who is driving a fire appliance going to or from a fire or other such emergencies will be liable for penalty points if the speed limit is exceeded; the position if such a member is involved in a traffic accident; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6196/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

Regulations made under the Road Traffic Acts exempt the drivers of ambulances, fire brigade vehicles and Garda Síochána vehicles, while being used in the course of duty, from all speed limits with the exception of the motorway speed limit. Therefore, save in respect of a breach of the motorway speed limit, drivers of such emergency service vehicles cannot be charged with an offence of exceeding a speed limit and accordingly penalty points do not arise.

However, all drivers on the public roads are required under regulations to observe a general obligation regarding speed which requires that a vehicle shall not be driven at a speed exceeding that which will enable its driver to bring it to a halt within the distance which the driver can see to be clear.

The question of the determination of the causes and contributory factors of a traffic accident, including decisions on the charging of any road user involved in an accident with an offence under the Road Traffic Acts, is a matter for the investigating member of the Garda Síochána.

Departmental Appointments.

Questions (124)

Joan Burton

Question:

211 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport the appointments made by him to all companies, boards or agencies operating under the aegis of his Department since 6 June 2002; the persons appointed; and the dates on which the appointment were made.

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

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

The appointments made by me include worker directors to the boards of State agencies under the aegis of my Department, where this is required in section 15 of the Worker Participation (State Enterprises) Act 1977, and chief executives of such agencies where legislation specifies that they become,ex officio, a director of the company.

Appointments to the Board of the Irish Aviation Authority are made by my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy McDaid, under the powers conferred on him by S.I. No. 402 of 2002; Transport (Delegation of Ministerial Functions) Order 2002, for example, the IAA.

In other cases my appointments are made on the nomination of outside bodies, for example, the DTO and the Advisory Council to the Commission for Taxi Regulation.

Board

Appointments made since 6 June 2002

Relevant Experience/Position

Aer Lingus

William Clarke — 01.07.2002

Worker Director

Frank Cox — 01.07.2002

Worker Director

Sean Murphy — 01.07.2002

Worker Director

Nora O’Reilly — 01.07.2002

Worker Director

John Sharman — 21.03.2003 (UK)

Chris Wall — 23.12.2003 (Re-appointment)

Aer Rianta

Joe Gantly — 28.07.2003

Director on the Board of Aer Rianta and Chairperson-designate of proposed Cork Airport Authority

Patrick Shanahan — 28.07.2003

Director on the Board of Aer Rianta and Chairperson-designate of proposed Shannon Airport Authority

Coras Iompair Eireann (CIE)

None

Board Designate of Proposed Dublin Airport Authority

Gary McGann — 28.07.2003

Chairperson-designate of proposed Dublin Airport Authority

Board Designate of Proposed

Patrick Blaney — 16.10.2003

Shannon Airport Authority

Tadhg Kearney — 16.10.2003

Rose Hynes — 16.10.2003

Michael B. Lynch — 16.10.2003

Padraic Burke — 16.10.2003

Reg Freake — 16.10.2003

Olivia Loughnane — 16.10.2003

Dublin Transportation Office

Andy Cullen — 19/11/02 (re-appointed 9/1/04)

Assistant Secretary, Dept. of Transport

Kevin Ring — 19/11/02 (re-appointed 9/1/04)

Dept. of Environment, Heritage & Local Govt.

Bill Lilley — 19/11/02 (re-appointed 16/1/04)

Managing Director, Bus Eireann

Frank Allen —19/11/02 (re-appointed 9/1/04)

Chief Executive, Rail Procurement Agency

Conor Mc Carthy — 19/11/02 (re-appointed 9/1/04)

Chairman, Dublin Transportation Office

Owen Keegan — 19/11/02 (re-appointed 9/1/04)

Director of Traffic, Dublin City Council

Derek Brady — 19/11/02 (re-appointed 9/1/04)

County Manager, Dun Laoire/Rathdown Co Co

William Soffe — 19/11/02 (re-appointed 9/1/04)

County Manager, Fingal County Council

Joe Horan — 19/11/02 (re-appointed 9/1/04)

County Manager, South Dublin County Council

Alan Westwell — 19/11/02 (re-appointed 16/1/04)

Managing Director, Dublin Bus

John Henry — 19/11/02 (re-appointed 9/1/04)

Director, Dublin Transportation Office

Michael Tobin — 19/11/02 (re-appointed 9/1/04)

Chief Executive, National Roads Authority

Michael Reidy — 19/11/02 (re-appointed 9/1/04)

Represents Iarnrod Eireann

Niall Bradley — 19/11/02

County Manager, Kildare Co. Council

Tom Dowling — 9/1/04

County Manager, Meath County Council (replaced Niall Bradley)

Tony Hickey — 19/11/02 (re-appointed 9/1/04)

Assistant Commissioner, An Garda Síochána

Irish Aviation Authority (By Minister of State, Dr James McDaid)

Eamonn Brennan — 12.05. 2003

Chief Executive Officer, IAA.

Neill Branagan — 17.06.2003

Air Traffic Controller

Medical Bureau of Road Safety

Denis Cusack — 01.07.2002

Professor of Forensic Medicine, UCD.

Bernadette Herity — 01.04.2003

Former Professor of Public Health Medicine & Epidemiology, UCD

Brendan Gogarty — 01.04.2003

Barrister

Fenton Howell — 01.04.2003

President of the Irish Medical Organisation

Hilary Dalton — 01.04.2003

Assistant Principal, Dept. of Transport.

National Safety Council

John Weafer — 18.09.2003

Principal Officer, Department of Transport

Brian Huston — 31.01.2004

National Roads Authority

Bernard McNamara — 20.03.2003 (re-appointment)

Connie Ní Fhatharta — 20.03.2003 (re-appointment)

Brendan O’Mara — 03.04.2003

Railway Procurement Agency

Hamid Foroughi — 27.11.2002

Worker Director

John Maguire — 20.03.2003

Frank Allen — 6.08.2002

Chief Executive, RPA

Advisory Council to the Commission for Taxi Regulation

Pat Byrne — 04.11.2003

Former Garda Commissioner

Denis Fitzpatrick — 04.11.2003

Chief Supt. An Garda Síochána

Noreen Mackey — 04.11.2003

Competition Authority

Sadie Doherty — 04.11.2003

Consumer & Community interests

Jerry Brennan — 04.11.2003

SIPTU

John Ussher — 04.11.2003

Irish Taxi Drivers Federation

Deirdre Power — 04.11.2003

Irish Hotels Federation

Deirdre O’Keeffe — 04.11.2003

Failte Ireland

Michael Kilcoyne — 04.11.2003

Consumer Association of Ireland

Vincent Kearns — 04.11.2003

National Taxi Drivers’ Union

Denise Kinahan — 04.11.2003

Taxi Company Owners Association

Tom Fannin — 04.11.2003

National Chauffer Drive Association

Brian Killeen — 04.11.2003

Transport Logistics

Mary Keogh — 04.11.2003

National Disability Authority

Vincent Thornton — 04.11.2003

Irish Motor Industry

Carmel Mulroy — 04.11.2003

Chambers of Commerce of Ireland

Christopher Humphrey — 04.11.2003

National Private Hire & Taxi Association

Joe Gavin — 04.11.2003

County & City Managers' Association

Aer Rianta.

Questions (18, 19)

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

102 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if plans to develop and manage information technology to support the delivery of his Department’s mission and objectives, as outlined in its mission statement, including a review of IT strategies of former Departments and the new departmental IT strategy for 2003-06, will be affected by his Department’s and agencies’ relocation to Killarney; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6110/04]

View answer

Eamon Ryan

Question:

125 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the original cost projects for plans to develop and manage information technology to support the delivery of his Department’s mission and objectives, as outlined in its mission statement, including a review of IT strategies of former Departments and the new departmental IT strategy for 2003; the projected monetary and percentage increase envisaged as a result of the decentralisation programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6115/04]

View answer

Oral answers (3 contributions) (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 and 125 together.

The decision to relocate the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism in Killarney will not affect the plans to develop and manage information technology in support of delivering the Department's objectives. The relocation will mean that the application and use of information technology will become central to the efficient delivery of services and communications.

The first statement of strategy 2003-05 of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism provided for a review of the two information technology strategies of the former Departments of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands and Tourism Sport and Recreation, and for the development of a new IT strategy for the period 2003 to 2006. This review has been carried out and a new IT strategy has been agreed.

The new strategy identifies a number of new projects to support delivery of objectives set out in the Department's mission statement. These comprise a specially made and developed management information system comprising a sophisticated financial accounting database system, the estimated cost of which to 2008 is €1.1 million; a new human resource management system comprising an enhanced database system developed on PeopleSoft-HRMS software — the PeopleSoft product was selected by the Department of Finance for development as the human resource management system for the Civil Service — the estimated cost of which is €172,000; and the installation of a new suite of security products for the Department's local area network to enhance the Department's ability to protect itself from potentially damaging scenarios associated with the world wide web. The main elements of the improved security resource comprise a superior anti-virus product with filtering capability and a firewall system capable of meeting the security requirements of the Government's data virtual private network link completed at the end of 2003, the cost of which was €23,000.

Additionally, the IT strategy provides for the ongoing replacement of network hardware and software as dictated by normal end-of-life scenarios, and an annual budget allocation of €150,000 is available to meet this need. If the Department is decentralised to a building in Killarney equipped with a modern networking architecture, it should be possible to relocate all the existing software and some of the hardware and systems to the new location. It is not anticipated that significant additional costs will accrue to the projects that can be attributed to decentralisation. Some additional hardware and connectivity costs may arise but it is too early to quantify these.

Has the Minister received any extra funding for connectivity costs? What estimates have been done for video-conferencing facilities, for example? I know the Minister will not plaster the beautiful Kerry landscape with "Welcome to O'Donoghue country" posters but, given the huge furore over the decentralisation programme, he will acknowledge that it might be difficult to get staff to move to Kerry, regardless of how beautiful it is, if they have been working in Dublin and are used to it.

Has the Minister considered the impact of IT training on people who will move from other Departments to his one? Will there be an additional cost for the training of staff? Is the local loop unbundled sufficiently in the Kerry region to cater for broadband communications? Given that tourism is a face to face, hands-on type of business, does the Minister acknowledge video-conferencing is essential and that we need proper access facilities and proper training from an IT perspective?

The strategy statement said the IT strategy would be in place by April 2003. Was it in place by then? Will the mid-term review of the IT strategy due to be completed by the end of 2004 be completed by then? What are the financial implications, if any, of the relocation and the IT extras which will need to be tidied up by the end of the year?

The new IT strategy to be developed for the Department was to have been developed for the period 2003 to 2006. I understand the review has been carried out and that the IT strategy has been agreed. There is no question or doubt but that video-conferencing is desirable. It will be useful in the decentralisation of Departments to the various locations.

I have no doubt about the capacity of Killarney, from a communications perspective, to ensure a successful home for the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism. It will add greatly to the town and to the county. It is appropriate that a Department of this nature should locate in Ireland's tourism capital. It is something to which many people look forward.

I do not anticipate any IT difficulties. I agree it is desirable that staff are trained in new methodologies and I understand this is ongoing. I am as confident as I possibly can be that all will go smoothly.

Public Transport.

Questions (126)

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

213 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Transport if assistance is being given to Dublin Bus to deal with the difficult problems it is encountering with regard to smoking on buses; if he will seek a report on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6329/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I wish to advise the Deputy that this is an operational matter for the company concerned. However, Dublin Bus has informed me that Dublin Bus Byelaws 1996 and the Tobacco (Health, Promotion & Protection) Regulations 1995 prohibit smoking on buses. In an effort to address the issue of smoking generally on buses, Dublin Bus has introduced the use of plain clothes inspectors who exclusively target incidents of smoking, thereby securing the evidence required for a successful prosecution. This has resulted in a number of persons having been brought before the courts. The detection programme is ongoing and offenders will be prosecuted.

Light Rail Project.

Questions (127)

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

214 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Transport his plans and proposals to deal with the challenge of the Red Cow roundabout in respect of the Luas project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6332/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The position in regard to the N7-M50 junction, Red Cow roundabout, is that it is part of the plans for the upgrade of the M50 overall. The National Roads Authority and South Dublin County Council are currently preparing plans, including a motorway order and environmental impact statement, for the N7-M50 — Red Cow — junction. The upgrade works at the Red Cow interchange are intended to remove as much traffic as possible from the signal controlled environment through the provision of additional structures and free flow slips that are separated from other traffic movements. This will significantly increase the overall capacity of the interchange and reduce the Luas/car interface so that both the road and Luas network will have increased capacity. The proposed works will reduce the volume of traffic interfacing with Luas, i.e. traffic crossed by Luas, by more than half. Subject to satisfactory progress in planning and design and securing An Bord Pleanála approval, it is expected that work on upgrading the Red Cow interchange will commence in spring 2005 and be completed by spring 2007.

In the meantime, both the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, and the Dublin Transportation Office, DTO, are satisfied that Luas, despite the current unsatisfactory traffic conditions at the Red Cow junction, will be able to operate satisfactorily using existing traffic signal sequences, pending the upgrade of the junction as part of the M50 upgrade project. The trams are driven in much the same way as a car or a bus in that tram drivers yield to other traffic if they are confronted with a red light.

Public Transport.

Questions (128)

Finian McGrath

Question:

215 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the reason the cost of the Dublin Port tunnel has risen from €440 million in October 2000 to €680 million in 2004; and if he will clarify other difficulties in relation to this project. [6392/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The contract for the port tunnel, which is a design and build contract, was awarded in December 2000. The contract was awarded, excluding provision for price variation, in the sum of €448 million. At that time, when land acquisition, construction supervision etc. were included, it was anticipated that the all-in cost, including construction, would be in the region of €580 million. The construction period will extend to mid-2005 and allowing for the operation of the price variation clause over that five year period, it is currently estimated that the final out-turn cost, including price variation, will be in the region of €715 million — current prices. The cost increase between the all-in cost at 2001 prices and the all-in cost prices in 2004 is attributable to the price variation clause which takes account of construction cost inflation over the period concerned including both the costs of labour and materials.

The position on the height of the tunnel is that my Department engaged Atkins to review the feasibility, safety implications and cost of raising the height of the Dublin Port tunnel. They were requested to review a range of options for increasing the operational height of the tunnel, their feasibility, having regard to the state of implementation of the current design and build contract, and the likely additional costs and impact on the project completion date.

The final report was received from Atkins on 8 December 2003. I am currently reviewing the findings of the report and have sought further information from the NRA pertaining to its conclusions.

Registration of Title.

Questions (129, 130, 131, 132)

Seymour Crawford

Question:

216 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the case of a person (details supplied) will be dealt with; if it will be expedited as a matter or urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6209/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that this is an application for a transfer order which was lodged on 2 September 2002. Dealing Number D2002CS007672M refers.

I am further informed that the application is receiving attention in the Land Registry and, subject to no queries arising, will be completed within the next few weeks.

Michael Ring

Question:

217 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the issue of a map to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be expedited. [6243/04]

View answer

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that this is an application for a special features folio file plan which was lodged on 10 February 2004. Application Number P2004SM011381C refers.

I am further informed that the application is receiving attention in the Land Registry and will be completed within the next few weeks.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

218 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a person (details supplied) will be dealt with; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the refund on the stamp duty due to them for almost two years has not been paid; if he will expedite this case as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6245/04]

View answer

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that this is an request from the Revenue Commissioners to review the Revenue stamp duty on a deed of transfer in regard to Instrument Number D2001CS006741J. I am also informed that this deed of transfer was forwarded to the Revenue Commissioners on 23 February 2004.

John Ellis

Question:

219 Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department will complete a dealing on land registry (details supplied). [6246/04]

View answer

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that this is an application for a transfer which was lodged on 11 December 2003. Dealing Number D2003CS012725Y refers. I am further informed that this application is receiving attention in the Land Registry and will be completed as soon as possible.

Ministerial Appointments.

Questions (133)

Joan Burton

Question:

220 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the appointments made by him to all companies, boards or agencies operating under the aegis of his Department since 6 June 2002; the persons appointed; and the dates on which the appointments were made. [6278/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

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

Name of Company/ Board/Agency

Name of Person Appointed

Date of Appointment

Solicitor’s Disciplinary Tribunal

Sean Mc Clafferty

1 August, 2003

Padraig Ingoldsby

Margaret O’Shea

Caroline Caslin

President of the Human Rights Commission

Dr Maurice Manning

1 August, 2002

Internet Advisory Board

Audrey Conlon (Chair)

15 September, 2003

Philip Watt

3 February, 2004

Board of Directors of the Land Registry and Registry of Deeds

Kevin Condon

December, 2002

Equality Authority

Karen Erwin,

23 June, 2003

Chairperson Leonard Hurley,

Vice-Chairperson Tony Donohoe

Marie Moynihan

Joan Carmichael

Paddy Keating

Gráinne Healy

Carol Fawsitt

Mary Keogh

Thomas Mc Cann

Cearbhall Ó Meadhra

Bob Quinn

Legal Aid Board

Anne Colley (Chair)

19 September, 2003

Clare Pilkington

12 September, 2003

Noirin Slattery

30 October, 2002

Frank Goodman

30 October, 2002

David Barniville, BL

19 September, 2003

Independent Monitoring Commission

Joseph Brosnan

7 January, 2004

Richard Kerr

7 January, 2004

Remembrance Commission

David Andrews

29 October, 2003

Pat Hume

Catriona Murphy

Paddy Mullarkey

Conor Brady

Film Censor’s Office

John Kelleher, Official Film Censor

8 November, 2002 (effective from 7 April, 2003)

Blathnaid Quilligan

December, 2003

Censorship of Films Appeals Board

Paul O’Higgins

5 December, 2002

Ann Walsh

5 December, 2002

Cathy Herbert

5 December, 2002

Sarah Moorhead

5 December, 2002

Kevin Myers

5 December, 2002

Ann Mooney

5 December, 2002

Fr Damien Mc Niece

5 December, 2002

Rev. Conor David Pierpoint

5 December, 2002

Dave Tyndall

5 December, 2002

David Connolly

18 August, 2003

Interim Parole Board

Sean Lowry

1 July, 2002

Martin Tansey

1 July, 2002

Arbour Hill Prison Visiting Committee

John Murphy

20 September, 2002

Eithne Killeen

20 September, 2002

Seamus Quinn

1 October, 2002

Rita Hayes

1 October, 2002

Jim Hanrahan

17 February, 2003

Ita Greene

17 February, 2003

Castlerea Prison Visiting Committee

Mary Devine O’Callaghan

20 September, 2003

Nuala Carroll

17 February, 2003

Ken Glynn

17 February, 2003

Susan Meagher

17 February, 2003

Christy Gorman

17 February, 2003

Michael Nevin

17 February, 2003

Paul Gogan

17 February, 2003

Eddie Brady

26 March, 2003

Cloverhill Prison Visiting Committee

Peggy Downey

7 December, 2003

Fintan Hudson

7 December, 2003

Eddie Martin

7 December, 2003

Dermot Flynn

7 December, 2003

Christine Ryan

7 December, 2003

Michael Coyle

7 December, 2003

Cork Prison Visiting Committee

Sadie Jordan

20 September, 2002

Colette Carter

20 September, 2002

Jack Roche

20 September, 2002

Eddie Creighton

1 October, 2002

Anne Butler

1 October, 2002

Ray O’Mahony

1 October, 2002

Donal O’Shea

16 October, 2002

Terry Kelly

17 February, 2003

Cáit Uí Fhaoláin

18 December, 2003

Thomas J. Lynch

18 December, 2003

Eileen Curran

18 December, 2003

Curragh Place of Detention

Gerry Mc Mahon

17 February, 2003

Paddy Cullotty

17 February, 2003

Evelyn Varley

17 February, 2003

Clare Murphy

17 February, 2003

Mary Ryan

17 February, 2003

Maureen Hyland

17 February, 2003

Michael Hanrahan

17 February, 2003

Wilhelmena Daly

17 February, 2003

Brian O’Reilly

26 March, 2003

Fort Mitchel Place of Detention

John Hodnett

20 September, 2002

Visiting Committee

Angela O’Connor

20 September, 2002

Elizabeth O’Beirne

20 September, 2002

Eamon Rafter

20 September, 2002

Kevin O’Neill

20 September, 2002

Elizabeth Leahy

1 October, 2002

Dan Collins

12 November, 2002

Margaret Coady

17 February, 2003

Limerick Prison Visiting Committee

Michael Fahy

30 August, 2002

Ger Connolly

20 September, 2002

Colette Scanlon

20 September, 2002

Tom O’Keeffe

20 September, 2002

Robert Mulcahy

20 September, 2002

Ann O’Keeffe

20 September, 2002

Eileen O’Brien

2 October, 2002

Noirin Mitchell

2 October, 2002

Teresa Lynch

15 October, 2002

Loughan House Place of Detention Visiting Committee

Eddie Feeley

31 October, 2002

Clifford Kelly

31 October, 2002

Kathleen Richie

31 October, 2002

Niall Mc Cole

31 October, 2002

Alice Bonner

31 October, 2002

Brendan Hughes

31 October, 2002

Martin Doonan

31 October, 2002

Mary Kathleen Johnston

12 November, 2002

Mountjoy Prison Visiting Committee

Pierce Wyse

2 October, 2002

Desmond Gibney

2 October, 2002

Betty Minihane

2 October, 2002

Carmel Bolger

12 November, 2002

Portlaoise Prison Visiting Committee

Catherine Quinn

30 August, 2002

HHJ Gray

20 September, 2002

Mary Wheatley

20 September, 2002

Catherine Rochford

2 October, 2002

Tom Colgan

18 December, 2003

Michael Hough

18 December, 2003

Shelton Abbey Place of Detention Visiting Committee

Kevin Fitzgerald

13 August, 2002

Pat Doran

13 August, 2002

Oonagh Doyle

13 August, 2002

Pat Fitzgerald

13 August, 2002

Colette Douglas

9 September, 2002

Hugh O’Keeffe

31 October, 2002

PJ Sheridan

31 October, 2002

John Byrne

31 October, 2002

Peadar Clohessy

31 October, 2002

Kathleen Maher

31 October, 2002

John Murphy

17 February, 2003

St. Patrick’s Institution Visiting Committee

Mary Murphy

20 September, 2002

Hugh Lynn

20 September, 2002

Noel Cloak

20 September, 2002

Michael Burns

20 September, 2002

Training Unit Place of Detention Visiting Committee

Tras Honan

20 September, 2002

Kathleen Diamond

31 October, 2002

Noel Coade

31 October, 2002

Deirdre Kenneally

31 October, 2002

Geraldine Foster

31 October, 2002

Mary Kelly

31 October, 2002

Patsy Geraghty

12 November, 2002

Censorship Of Publications Board

Doirbhile Flanagan SC, (Chair) Noreen Kennedy

17 February, 2003

Expert Group on Codification

Professor Finbar McCauley, (Chair) Jean Monnet Paul Anthony Mc Dermott, BL Professor Paul Mc Cutcheon Matthew Feely Elizabeth Howlin Geraldine Larkin Mary Keane BL

17 January, 2003

Refugee Appeals Tribunal

Eamon Cahill

20 November, 2003

Aidan Eames

20 November, 2003

Eamonn Barnes

20 November, 2003

Jim Nicholson

20 November, 2003

Donal Egan

20 November, 2003

Patrick Hurley

20 November, 2003

Sunniva McDonagh

20 November, 2003

Des Zaidan

20 November, 2003

Bernadette Cronin

20 November, 2003

Michael O’ Kennedy

20 November, 2003

John Ryan (Chair)

3 December, 2003

Bernard Mc Cabe

12 January, 2004

Mary E Laferty

12 January, 2004

David Mc Hugh

12 January, 2004

Ricardo Dourado

12 January, 2004

Elizabeth O’ Brien

12 January, 2004

Olive Brennan

23 January, 2004

Doreen Shivnen

23 January, 2004

Con Murphy

13 February, 2004

Independent Monitoring Committee for the Refugee Legal Service

Fr Brian Moore

12 September, 2002

National Disability Authority

Sadie Tierney

10 June, 2002

Courts Service Board

Michael Mellett

November 2002

Gerry Mc Caughey

November, 2002

Olive Braiden

November, 2002

Caoimhin Ó hUiginn

January, 2004

Ground Rents Abolition.

Questions (13, 14)

Damien English

Question:

100 Mr. English asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the timescale for the first report of the high level implementation group established to drive forward and monitor the report (details supplied) of the Tourism Policy Review Group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6155/04]

View answer

Emmet Stagg

Question:

134 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will report on his address to the Tourism Action Plan 2003-2005 Implementation Group, at its inaugural meeting of 5 February 2004; the precise role and remit of the implementation group; the number of times it will meet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6134/04]

View answer

Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 and 134 together.

On 14 January last, I announced the membership of a high level group to oversee the implementation of the initial two-year Action Plan for Irish Tourism, recommended by the Tourism Policy Review Group in its report, New Horizons for Irish Tourism — An Agenda for Action. Mr. John Travers, who chaired the Tourism Policy Review Group, will chair the implementation group. The other members are Philip Furlong, Secretary General of my Department, Jim Murphy, managing director, Prem Group, Michael O'Donoghue, managing director, O'Donoghue-Ring Hotels, Eileen O'Mara Walsh, O'Mara Travel, Raymond J. Rooney, businessman, and Paul Tansey, economist.

In line with the recommendation in the report, the high level group will advise me on the implementation on the Tourism Action Plan 2003-2005, publish reports on its work, results and deliberations at six-monthly intervals, and sit for a period up to the end of 2005. Under its terms of reference, the group will capitalise on the current impetus for change and modernisation within the public and private sectors, to ensure that the action plan is seen as an integrated set of actions. It will work in partnership with the tourism industry, the key State agencies, Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, and relevant Departments highlighting, in particular, constraints to progress, and make recommendations on how best they might be addressed, and by whom.

The implementation group, which has agreed to meet monthly, held its inaugural meeting on 5 February last. In addressing the group, I expressed my appreciation of its willingness to advise and assist me in what I regard as one of the key objectives in terms of my tourism portfolio. I highlighted the co-ordinated and partnership approach that underpins the terms of reference, and mentioned my belief that, in the years ahead, the tourism agenda will be influenced heavily by developments in the wider economy and by the potential for concerted action on the part of the tourism industry itself. I said that I believed the group would be in a strong position to influence the wider agenda in support of future sustainable tourism development. The first report of the implementation group will cover the period to end July 2004 and I would expect to receive it before the end of August.

I welcome the Minister's response. I have absolute confidence in the chairman of the implementation group, Mr. John Travers, and the other members of it to carry out their work effectively and efficiently.

This is a practical report and I hope it will not gather dust as previous reports on tourism have. The Minister did his best to ensure it will not. The report has some 77 recommendations. How does the Minister propose that the implementation group will advance the proposals in regard to infrastructure? I refer in particular to the N69, the N86 and the Ring of Kerry road? The Minister travels the Ring of Kerry road on a weekly basis and he will be aware it is in bad condition. Given the strong recommendation in regard to infrastructure in the report, how does the Minister propose to ensure there will be further investment in these main tourist arteries, which are national secondary roads, when road funding is being directed at our national primary road system?

It is true that funding is being directed at our national primary road system and unquestionably there have been considerable improvements in recent years. I accept it is true that national secondary routes require attention. I have strongly lobbied for the inclusion of the Ring of Kerry route and the Dingle-Tralee route in the national development plan and they are included as specific tourist routes which should require funding. The hope is that between now and 2006 they will receive further funding. They have received funding in the past, some of it substantial.

Regarding the implementation of the more than 70 recommendations in the report, the implementation group has been asked to implement these in the manner outlined in the report. The report is unique in that it not only sets out the key objectives but also the methods for their achievement. I expect the group to follow the report guidelines on implementation.

Will the implementation group work solely through the Minister's Department? Regarding roads, is it within the group's right to approach the NRA or a specific local authority when following certain recommendations, or must it work only through the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, with the infrastructure created in that way? Is the group an independent body which can make representations to ensure that the more than 70 recommendations are implemented? Is that within its remit?

It would be helpful if I set out the terms of reference of the group. The group will advise the Minister on the implementation of the tourism action plan 2003-2005, publish a report on its work, results and deliberations at six-monthly intervals, and sit a for period up to the end of 2005. It will capitalise on the current impetus for change and modernisation in the public and private sectors to ensure that the action plan is seen as an integrated set of actions requiring a co-ordinated impartial approach across Departments, agencies and industry towards implementation. The report will discuss with lead actors their operational plans for, and commitment to, the implementations of actions falling within their remit, including effectiveness indicators against which performance will be measured. It will: highlight any constraints to progress and recommend how they might be addressed, and by whom; recommend any changes that should be made to the action plan in light of experience as it is rolled out; and contribute to the evaluation of the tourism strategy in autumn 2005, or earlier if the tourism environment proves to be more volatile than anticipated. This step will be a milestone in the ongoing review process which will be an inherent element of the development process for the industry in the future.

Another key recommendation involves access rights to land. The Minister may be aware of a recent court case where a farmer was imprisoned because of a problem he had with people walking on his land. Does the Minister envisage the implementation group proposing new legislation to clarify access rights for visitors to the countryside, and is that a priority? Going on information I have received, the problem is going to become more widespread right across the country.

Access to land, and walking across land, is of immense importance because of the number of people who participate in that exercise in the country, including people from abroad who come here for that purpose. The issue comes under the remit of the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ó Cuív, to the extent that it impinges on rural life. I understand that he has set up a group to look at means by which the problem of access to land for walkers can be resolved, and I hope its efforts are successful.

Stardust Tragedy.

Questions (135)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

222 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received a new forensic report on the Stardust tragedy of 1981, in which 48 people lost their lives; if his Department has assessed the new report; and if the matter will be referred to the Garda Bureau of Criminal Investigation for urgent re-examination and investigation. [6315/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I can inform the Deputy that my Department has received a report on the fire at the Stardust in 1981, which has been compiled at the behest of the Stardust Victims Committee, and has forwarded this report to the Garda Commissioner and the Forensic Science Laboratory for examination of the material contained in the report, with particular reference to any matters or evidence contained in the report which would be considered as "new evidence" or matters not dealt with by the tribunal of inquiry.

Crime Prevention.

Questions (136, 137)

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

223 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has had the opportunity of considering the merits of the STAY project based in St. Aengus Parish, Tallaght, Dublin 24, which has the strong backing of the Garda Síochána; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this is a worthwhile project which clearly deserves funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6321/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 139 of 26 November 2003. The position remains as set out in that reply.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

224 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will liaise with the Garda Síochána regarding the crime and vandalism affecting the scout den at Tymon North, Tallaght, Dublin 24; his views on the need for action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6322/04]

View answer

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the detective branch at Tallaght Garda station is currently investigating recent incidents of crime and vandalism at the scout den at Tymon North. I am further informed that regular Garda patrols give the area ongoing attention. In addition, the two local community gardaí have been requested to pay particular attention to the area and to liaise with scout leaders. Furthermore, the divisional crime prevention officer will make arrangements to meet with scout leaders with a view to advising on improving security at the den.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Questions (138)

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

225 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the contacts he has had with regard to the need for closed circuit television in various locations throughout Tallaght, Dublin 24; if his attention has been drawn to the need for such provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6323/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

As the Deputy is aware, Tallaght is one of 17 locations which is set to receive a new Garda town centre CCTV system, subject to the availability of funds. The other locations are, in alphabetical order, Athlone, Ballyfermot, Bray, Carlow, Castlebar, Clondalkin, Clonmel, Dundalk, Dún Laoghaire, Ennis, Finglas, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, Sligo, and Waterford.

Phase 1 of the scheme comprises Bray, Dundalk, Dún Laoghaire, Finglas, Galway and Limerick. The contract for the supply, installation and commissioning of Garda CCTV systems for these locations was awarded to SKS Communications Ltd. and work on the implementation of these systems is ongoing at present.

Phase 2 of the scheme comprises Athlone, Clondalkin, Tallaght and Waterford. The pre-tender process for these systems is at an advanced stage. Request for tender and detailed technical specification documents are currently being drafted by the telecommunications section at Garda Headquarters, having regard to experience with other Garda CCTV systems and technological developments in this field. It is intended that these systems will go out to tender during the first quarter of 2004.

Phase 3 of the scheme comprises Ballyfermot, Carlow, Castlebar, Clonmel, Ennis, Kilkenny and Sligo. The planning for the installation of these systems is scheduled to commence later this year.

With respect to the contacts which I have had with regard to the need for CCTV in various locations throughout Tallaght, I am informed that while the Garda authorities are aware of preliminary discussions regarding the extension of the proposed Tallaght town centre CCTV system to Jobstown, no formal proposal or application for such an extension has yet been received by the CCTV Advisory Committee.

The Deputy will recall that he asked in his parliamentary question of 19 November 2003, Ref. No. 27796/03, if Kiltalown would be included in the "closed circuit television scheme as required by the community" and was informed that the CCTV Advisory Committee had not received any application to consider a CCTV system for that area. I am informed that no such application in respect of Kiltalown, or, for that matter, any other location in Tallaght, Dublin 24, has since been brought to the attention of the CCTV Advisory Committee. If any such applications are received, they will be processed in the normal manner.

I am further informed that while expressions of interest in my Department's community based CCTV scheme have been received from South Dublin County Council, it is unclear from departmental records what, if any, areas in Tallaght the council intends to cover in any application it may envisage making under the scheme.

Crime Prevention.

Questions (139)

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

226 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Garda Síochána have the resources to deal effectively with the serious crime problems at the bridge across the Tallaght bypass linking The Square and Seán Walsh park; if his attention has been drawn to the importance of this bridge to the community and to the fact that the bridge should remain open and be safe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6325/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I have been informed by the Garda authorities who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the gardaí in Tallaght are aware of the importance to the local community of the footbridge across the Tallaght bypass linking The Square shopping centre and Seán Walsh park.

In order to combat crime and ensure safety in the area, extra Garda foot patrols have been allocated to the area. These patrols are augmented by the community gardaí and the mountain bike unit. In addition, plain clothes personnel conduct ongoing covert operations in the vicinity.

The gardaí in Tallaght will make every effort to ensure the bridge remains open and safe for pedestrians. Local Garda management are satisfied that they have adequate resources to deal with the problems associated with the footbridge.

Proposed Legislation.

Questions (140)

John Deasy

Question:

227 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the level of consultation between him and the Garda Commissioner in drafting the Garda Síochána Bill 2004. [6384/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

There was detailed consultation between both myself and officials of my Department and Garda management during the drafting process for the Garda Síochána Bill.

Garda Retirement.

Questions (141)

John Deasy

Question:

228 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will consider allowing the changes in the retirement age for gardaí to be brought into effect immediately for all serving members, and not just for members who join the force after 1 April 2004, to ensure that the changes will have an immediate effect on the numbers in the force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6385/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

The Garda Síochána (Retirement) Regulations 1951 govern retirement from the Garda Síochána. These regulations state,inter alia, that every member of the Garda Síochána shall retire from the Garda Síochána on attaining the age which is applicable to the rank in the Garda Síochána at the time of retirement by each member, that is to say, in the case of a member holding the rank of chief superintendent or superintendent on attaining the age of 60 years; and in the case of a member below the rank of superintendent on attaining the age of 57 years.

There are currently no plans to alter these regulations for serving members. The changes in the retirement age for members of the Garda Síochána, outlined in the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2004, will apply only to "new entrants" who are recruited to the Garda Síochána after 1 April 2004.

Garda Strength.

Questions (142)

John Deasy

Question:

229 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí in the force at 1 January 2003; the number who are expected to join the force during 2004 and the number who will be retiring; the estimated numbers in the force at 31 December 2004; and if he expects the force to reach its projected target of 12,200 by the end of 2004. [6386/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I have been informed by the Garda authorities who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of the Garda Síochána, all ranks, as at 1 January 2003 was 11,895.

In April 2000 the Government agreed,inter alia, to a system of delegated authority under which recruitment is carried out to maintain the strength of the force at an agreed level. In April 2002 the Government agreed to increase the approved strength of the force by 200 to 12,200.

A total of 115 gardaí, all ranks, are due to retire from the force on compulsory age grounds in 2004. In addition, the Commissioner has projected that a total of 342 trainees are required to meet the demand created by compulsory retirements and projected voluntary retirements and other discharges for 2004. However, he cautions that all projections are based on variables and are therefore subject to change. The matter of voluntary retirements will be closely monitored, particularly in the early months of this year when historically a higher number of applications are received.

Some 690 Garda trainees were taken into the Garda college during 2003. The Commissioner has projected, based on the anticipated rate of retirement, that the maximum authorised force strength of 12,200 will be achieved during 2004.

Garda Operations.

Questions (143)

John Deasy

Question:

230 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans he has to introduce a special drugs unit into Mayo in view of the vast coastline and the presence of an airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6387/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there are no plans at present to introduce a special drugs unit into the Mayo division. However, as part of the commitment to the Garda Síochána Policing Plan and in order to achieve its objectives, a divisional drugs team has been established which consists of members of the Garda Síochána experienced in the area of drugs. A panel of such members has been formed from around the Mayo division for the purpose of conducting operations and for collection and collating of intelligence in regard to the illicit use of drugs. Operations are organised on the basis of such intelligence. The Garda authorities consider this method of operation appropriate for the Mayo division.

In addition, the Coastal Watch scheme is in operation in the Mayo division in the three districts which have a coastline, that is, Westport, Belmullet and Ballina. The scheme is similar to the concept of the Community Alert and Neighbourhood Watch schemes and operates at each Garda sub-district along the coast. The gardaí also perform duty at Knock Airport in regard to arrival and departure of external flights.

The area of drug enforcement is monitored by the Garda authorities on a regular basis in order to ensure that adequate measures are in place to deal with offenders.

Garda Training.

Questions (144)

John Deasy

Question:

231 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the firearms training facilities available to gardaí in the Skerries area; if the facility at Gormanstown is no longer available; the alternative facilities he has sought; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6388/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that gardaí in the Skerries area are usually trained in the use of firearms in the Gormanstown army range. If this facility is not available, training is provided at the Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park or in other locations in the Leinster area.

Penalty Points System.

Questions (145)

Gay Mitchell

Question:

232 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason penalty points for an alleged offence of speeding on 8 March 2003 will not be entered into the record of the licence of a person, details supplied, in Dublin 6W until 25 February 2004, nearly a year after the date of the offence and seven months after the payment of a fixed charge, effectively meaning they will have penalty points for a period of three years and 11 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6395/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

The matter referred to by the Deputy is an operational matter for the Garda Síochána and as such I have no role in regard to it. However, I have had inquiries made and I am informed by the Garda authorities that, while delays occurred at several stages during the processing of this speeding notice, a number of set periods are provided for in the Road Traffic Acts, for example, a vehicle owner has up to 28 days within which she or he may nominate the person driving the car followed by a further 56 days within which she or he may avail of the option to pay the fixed charge.

Contributory factors to the delay in the case referred to by the Deputy were that the recipient of the fixed charge notice did not respond to it for seven weeks, as is her statutory right. However, when the notice was returned it was not completed as required by law and consequently had to be returned to her leading to a further delay.

Neither I nor the Garda authorities have any involvement in the recording of penalty points on a driving licence but I understand it is not correct to say that the points are on this person's licence for a period exceeding three years. I am informed that when the issues mentioned were finalised and the cheque payment cleared, the Garda authorities then transmitted the information to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government which in turn notified the driver that the penalty points would be recorded against her licence for a three year period with effect from four weeks from that date, as required by sections 5 and 7 of the Road Traffic Act 2002.

The Deputy will appreciate that the penalty points system is currently operating on a semi-manual basis. It will be computerised later this year when the fixed charge processing system becomes operational.

EU Funding.

Questions (146, 147, 148)

Olwyn Enright

Question:

233 Ms Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the new LIFE regulation will be adopted at EU level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6197/04]

View answer

Olwyn Enright

Question:

234 Ms Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he expects the LIFE budget for 2005 and 2006 to be increased; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6198/04]

View answer

Olwyn Enright

Question:

235 Ms Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will seek a general exemption for small NGOs from the requirement to provide a bank guarantee when applying for LIFE co-financing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6199/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 to 235, inclusive, together.

In November 2003, the European Commission published a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and the Council amending Regulation (EC) No. 1655/2000 concerning the financial instrument for the environment, LIFE.

The key aims of the proposal are to extend the third phase of LIFE until 31 December 2006; bridge the gap between the expiry of the current regime and the new post-2006 financial perspectives; make LIFE consistent with the 6th Environmental Action Programme and Regulation (EC) No. 1605/2002 on the financial regulation applicable to the general budget of the European Communities; and amend the comitology provisions to substitute the management committee procedure for the regulatory one in light of the European Court of Justice's judgement of 21 January 2003.

The Irish Presidency is consulting with EU member states and acceding state representatives and with the European Parliament's rapporteur and chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Policy with a view to reaching a first reading agreement to avoid any significant delay in the funding of projects in 2005. I believe there are good prospects for reaching such an agreement. Consequently, I anticipate adoption of the new regulation before the dissolution of Parliament in May.

As the principal aim of the proposal is to extend the third phase of LIFE until 31 December 2006, pending the post-2006 financial perspectives, specific substantive changes to operational aspects of the regulation are not envisaged. The proposals include a limited increase in funding for accompanying measures to allow for improvement in dissemination and monitoring activities.

Environmental Policy.

Questions (149)

Olwyn Enright

Question:

236 Ms Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has read the BirdWatch Ireland proposal entitled Greening Europe; the priorities for the Irish Presidency of the European Union; his views on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6200/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

My Department has received the document entitled Greening Europe, which was prepared by Birdlife International, with input from its Irish partner, BirdWatch Ireland, in prospect of the Irish EU Environment Presidency.

My priorities for the Irish Presidency are focused around three key areas: advancement of the EU's internal environment policy and legislation agenda. The Environment Council has a wide-ranging policy and legislative agenda and I am giving priority to key proposals on air quality, waste management, climate change, chemicals and nature conservation. Negotiations on a number of issues including a proposal to extend the current LIFE regulation programme are ongoing with a view to maximising progress at the Council of Environment Ministers' meeting on 2 March; preparation of the environmental contribution to the annual review of the Lisbon Agenda by the European Council at its spring meeting. Informed by a number of inputs from the European Commission, such as the recently published Annual Environment Policy Review, 2003, and Spring Report, I will emphasise the need to decouple economic growth and social progress from environmental degradation. In particular, I will be promoting innovation and investment in clean technologies with a view to boosting competitiveness and growth, increasing employment and strengthening environmental protection. Finalisation of the environmental contribution to the annual review of the Lisbon Agenda will be a priority for the Environment Council meeting on 2 March; and effective participation by the EU in wider international fora. I am working to maintain the EU's leadership in promoting sustainable development at international level, including through pursuit of the plan of implementation arising from the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002. My main priority is to lead EU participation in a number of significant international meetings in the first half of 2004, including the 7th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, incorporating the first meeting of the parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which I attended last week in Malaysia, and the 12th Session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development to be held in the United States in April 2004.

In addition to the above, my Department is organising or involved in a number of conferences and seminars which will be held in Ireland during the Presidency. An informal meeting of the Environment Council will be held in Waterford from 14 to 16 May 2004 and will focus on communications from the European Commission on the sustainable use of natural resources and the recovery and recycling of waste. I will also be hosting a major stakeholder conference in May on implementation of the EU biodiversity strategy of action.

Electronic Voting.

Questions (150)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

237 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will elaborate further on plans to accommodate blind persons in electronic voting; if voice activation, Braille or other methods to facilitate a secret ballot for blind voters will be made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6201/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Since its first use in 2002, a number of improvements have been made to the voting machine to improve its user friendliness for the visually impaired and other users. The new features include an increase in the size and legibility of candidate details, the use of larger preference numbers and brighter displays for better visibility and the use of a redesigned "Cast Vote" button. As with previous elections, a large copy of the ballot paper will be displayed in the polling station and a voter with a visual impairment may also avail of assisted voting facilities.

In addition, my Department is examining the development of a facility for the future whereby visually impaired voters, who would otherwise require assistance to vote, will be able to use the new voting system independently. My Department will be consulting with the National Disability Authority and the National Council for the Blind, who have already provided constructive input into the improvements made to the voting machine in regard to the development of this voting machine feature.

Control of Dogs.

Questions (151, 152)

Bernard Allen

Question:

238 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he proposes to introduce mandatory State subsidised neutering and spaying of all non-licenced dogs. [6228/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I have no proposals for the introduction of such measures.

Bernard Allen

Question:

239 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he proposes to introduce mandatory State sponsored micro-chipping of all dogs to reunite missing dogs with their owners. [6229/04]

View answer

The Control of Dogs Regulations 1998 require the owner or other person in charge of a dog to ensure that the dog shall at all times wear a collar bearing the name and address of the owner inscribed thereon, on a plate, badge or disc attached thereto. The regulations contain penalties for non-compliance with this requirement or for defacing or rendering illegible the particulars described above.

These arrangements followed consideration of all practicable options for ensuring identification of dogs, including that of micro-chipping. There is, accordingly, no proposal at present to alter them.

Animal Welfare.

Questions (153)

Bernard Allen

Question:

240 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he proposes to provide proper resources for the ISPCA and rescue centres to implement dog welfare measures. [6230/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Animal welfare is a matter for the Department of Agriculture and Food in the first instance. My Department's responsibility lies with the Control of Dogs Acts 1986 and 1992 and regulations made thereunder which provide a regulatory framework for dog control. Some local authorities employ the ISPCA for dog control in their areas and revenues raised from dog licence fees are used for this purpose. In addition, my Department has in recent years paid an annual grant of €35,352 to the ISPCA for the operation and maintenance of a national guard dog register.

Control of Dogs.

Questions (154)

Bernard Allen

Question:

241 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he proposes to implement a licensing system for all dog breeders subject to minimum care standards. [6231/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

My Department is currently engaged in discussions with relevant interests regarding the proper management of kennels in respect of the powers vested in it under the Control of Dogs Acts 1986 and 1992. These discussions are currently ongoing.

Ministerial Appointments.

Questions (155)

Joan Burton

Question:

242 Ms Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the appointments made by him to all companies, boards or agencies operating under the aegis of his Department since 6 June 2002; the persons appointed; and the dates on which the appointments were made. [6279/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

A number of different processes are involved in appointments made to bodies under the aegis of my Department. In some cases statutory selection procedures must be followed or nominations must be sought from independent nominating panels before appointments are made by the Government or by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. In other cases only particular public office holders may be appointed to certain boards. In a number of situations, only some appointments to the body concerned are made by the Minister.

Subject to the above, the details sought in the question are listed in the following table.

Name of Body

Name of Person Appointed since6 June 2002

Date Appointment made

An Chomhairle Leabharlanna

Mr. Seán Ryan

20 May 2003

Cllr. Denis Bourke

Cllr. Cora Long

Cllr. Luie McEntire

Cllr. Michael Abbey

Cllr. Laurence O’Neill

Ms Deirdre Ellis-King

Ms Ruth Flanagan

Mr. Robert Adams

Mr. Donall O’Luanaigh

Mr. John Fitzgerald

Ms Beatrice Doran

Mr. Richard Lennon

Building Regulations Advisory Body

Mr. Gerard Grogan

19 February 2003

Dublin Docklands Development Authority Council

Mr. Liam Whelan

2 June 2003

Ms Emer Costello

10 September 2003

Environmental Protection Agency

Mr. Larry Stapleton*

17 June 2003

Mr. Gerry Carty*

Fire Services Council

Mr. Donal Connolly

11 February 2003

Mr. Tony Gleeson

Cllr. Mary Bohan

Mr. Stephen Brady

Mr. Jim Byrne

Ms Anne Costello

Mr. Frank Dennison

Mr. John L’Estrange

Ms Attracta McKay

Cllr. Enda Nolan

Mr. Teddy O’Connor

Ms Theresa White

Housing Finance Agency

Ms Maria Graham

5 February 2003

Local Government Computer Services Board

Mr. John Fitzgerald

11 October 2003

Mr. Fred Bradley

Local Government Management Services Board

Mr. Kevin Cullen

18 July 2003

Mr. Aidan Kinch

Mr. Jim Lillis

National Building Agency

Cllr. Pat Leahy

7 November 2002

Mr. Des Dowling

5 February 2003

Rent Tribunal

Ms Moya Quinlan

31 July 2003

Ms Mary Doyle

Ms Louise Moloney

Mr. Joe McPeake

Mr. Kieran Buckley

Ms Morette Kinsella

Mr. John Leddin

Mr. William Stanbridge

Mr. Fred Devlin

Irish Water Safety Association

Mr. Frank Nolan (Chair)

4 February 2003

Ms Kathryn Byrne

Ms Breda Collins

Mr. Michael Cuddihy

Mr. Brian Farrell

Ms Patricia Hutchinson

Mr. Jim Lawlor

Mr. Brendan McGrath

Ms Martina Maloney

Mr. Michael Murphy

Mr. Martin O’Sullivan

Mr. Martin Condon

24 September 2003

Comhar

Ms Christine Croton

12 November 2003

Private Residential Tenancies Board

Mr. Bernard McDonagh

4 November 2002

Heritage Council

Ms Mary Moylan

14 November 2002

Ms Deirdre Ellis-King

12 March 2003

Mr. Éamonn McEneaney

12 March 2003

Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland

Prof. Kieran R. Byrne

24 February 2003

Nature Conservation Designation Appeals Advisory Board

Mr. Sean Duignan

1 May 2003

*Appointments made by the Government on foot of nomination by a statutory selection committee.

House Prices.

Questions (156)

Richard Bruton

Question:

243 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on proposals that would restrict the right of persons selling houses to increase the price to prospective purchasers without cost justification; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6288/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

Regulatory control of house prices would not be an appropriate policy instrument in the current housing market. Such regulation was discontinued after some years in the early 1980s and it is not proposed to reintroduce it.

This matter was also assessed in the consultancy report, An Economic Assessment of Recent House Price Developments (1999), published by my Department, which considered the question of administrative price control of new houses but concluded that this kind of intervention could be ineffective and would result in distortions to the market, to the detriment of house buyers.

The Government's preferred policy is to increase the supply of houses to meet increasing demand and to improve affordability, particularly for first-time buyers, and in this way seek to bring moderation to house price increases. The measures introduced by this Government to boost supply, such as significant investment in infrastructure, removing planning constraints and promoting the increased residential densities are having effect, with house building in Ireland now advancing at the fastest rate in Europe. The year 2003 is the ninth successive year of record housing output with house completions up 19.3% on 2002 and a total 68,819 units built. House completions in 2003 are also up 14% in Dublin and 10.5% in the greater Dublin area on 2002 levels.

Local Authority Funding.

Questions (157)

Martin Ferris

Question:

244 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason the increase in the budget allocation to Tralee was below the average for the State. [6289/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I assume that the question refers to the 2004 general purpose grants from the local government fund notified to Tralee Town Council.

Tralee Town Council has been allocated €2.9 million in general purpose grants towards their day-to-day expenses in 2004. This represents an increase of 11.7% over the 2003 baseline allocation and is about four times the expected rate of inflation for the year. The increase of over €300,000 that Tralee Town Council has been allocated over its 2003 baseline is in fact the third largest increase in monetary terms of any town council.

Electronic Voting.

Questions (158)

Finian McGrath

Question:

245 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will urgently change his proposals on electronic voting and reconsider the old system in order to ensure confidence in the democratic process. [6391/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

I am committed to delivering the benefits of electronic voting and counting to the entire electorate at the European and local elections. The new system has a proven track record of use in the Netherlands and in a number of areas in Germany. More recently it has also been approved for use in France. It has been tested extensively by a range of independent test institutes and companies and has been successfully used in seven constituencies in Ireland. I am confident that the integrity and security of the democratic process will be enhanced by the system and I look forward to its successful implementation.

Security of the Elderly.

Questions (159)

Seán Ryan

Question:

246 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if, in 2002 or other years, he approved grants under the community support for older people to a company (details supplied) for the replacement of equipment previously supplied by another company (details supplied) and grant aided by her Department; and, if so, the details of the scheme and the grant given. [6192/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

The purpose of the scheme of community support for older people is to provide funding for initiatives to improve the security of vulnerable older people.

Grants are paid directly to the locally based organisations. No grants are paid to individuals or alarm companies under this scheme.

Under the terms of the 2003 scheme, grant aid was made available towards the once-off costs of purchase and/or installation of small-scale physical security equipment and socially monitored alarm systems. In 2003, for the first time since the scheme was introduced, funding was made available towards the cost of replacement, where socially monitored alarms previously installed under this scheme were broken.

The relevant local organisation has responsibility for the purchase and installation of the security equipment and my Department has no direct involvement in this aspect of the scheme.

Ministerial Appointments.

Questions (160)

Joan Burton

Question:

247 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the appointments made by him to all companies, boards or agencies operating under the aegis of his Department since 6 June 2002; the persons appointed; and the dates on which the appointments were made. [6280/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

In response to the Deputy's query, I wish to confirm that the following appointments have been made to companies, boards or agencies operating within the ambit of my Department since 6 June 2002. The details are as set out in the following appendix.

Appendix

Arramara Teo

Directors

Date of Appointment

Tom Hyland

6/10/2003

Risteard Mac Donnacha

6/10/2003

Marie Tinney

6/10/2003

National Drugs Strategy Team (NDST)

Member

Date of Appointment

Padraic White, Chairperson

February 2004

Western Development Commission (WDC)

Member

Date of Appointment

Billy Grimes

24/06/2003

Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board

Member

Date of Appointment

David Brennan

10/10/2003

An Coimisiún Logainmneacha

Membership

Date of Appointment

Seosamh Ó Braonáin (Cathaoirleach)

03/06/2003

Dr Nollaig Ó Muraile

03/06/2003

An tOllamh Pádraig Ó Riain

03/06/2003

Marcus Ó Floinn

03/06/2003

Dr Ríonach UíÓgáin

03/06/2003

An tOllamh Máirín Ní Dhonnchadha

03/06/2003

Liam Mac Con Iomaire

03/06/2003

Dr Edel Breathnach

03/06/2003

Tom Crowley

03/06/2003

Máire Ní Chiarba

03/06/2003

Dr Úna Uí Bheirn

03/06/2003

Prionnsias de Priondargást

03/06/2003

An Foras Teanga/The Language Body
Nominations are made by the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive. Appointments are made by the North/South Ministerial Council.
(1) Members with responsibility for exercise of functions through Foras na Gaeilge.

Membership

Date of Appointment

Liam Corey

13/12/2002

Anne Craig

13/12/2002

Gordon McCoy

13/12/2002

Aodhán Mac Poilín

13/12/2002

Gearóid Mac Siachais

13/12/2002

Patrick McGlone

13/12/2002

Treasa Ní Ailpín

13/12/2002

Caitríona Ní Cheallaigh

13/12/2002

Mairéad Nic Sheaghain

13/12/2002

Maolseachlainn Ó Caolaí

13/12/2002

Leachlainn Ó Catháin

13/12/2002

Pádraig Ó Duibhir

13/12/2002

Gearóid Ó hEara

13/12/2002

Diarmuid Ó Murchú

13/12/2002

Maighréad Úí Mhairtín (Chair)

13/12/2002

Bríd Uí Néill

13/12/2002

(2) Members with responsibility for exercise of functions through Ulster Scots Agency

Membership

Date of Appointment

Lord Laird of Antigarvan (Chairperson) (Joint Chairperson)

13/12/2002

Pádraig de Bhál

13/12/2002

James Devenney

13/12/2002

Linda Lunney

13/12/2002

Alastair Simpson

13/12/2002

Robert Stoker

13/12/2002

Dr. Éamonn Ó Domhnaill

13/12/2002

Dr. Ian Adamson

04/09/2003

Commissioners for Charitable Donations and Bequests

Appointments are made by Government.

Membership

Date of Appointment

Peter Mullock

1 July 2003

EU Enlargement.

Questions (161)

Richard Bruton

Question:

248 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the analysis which she has undertaken of the likely inflow of persons from the new members of the EU, the proportion of these women she estimates may take up employment in Ireland, the proportion who may become dependent on social welfare, and if she has put in place any response mechanisms to ensure that there is not an excessive inflow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6247/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Family)

It is not possible at this stage to predict the level of in-flows from and out-flows to the ten acceding countries which may arise after May 2004.

Free movement of persons is one of the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by Community law and includes the right to live and work in another member state. The right of free movement applies not only to workers but also other categories of people such as students, pensioners and EU citizens in general.

The Employment Permits Act 2003 provided a legislative basis for the granting of full labour market access to nationals of the EU accession states after accession takes place on 1 May 2004. From that date, nationals of these countries will no longer require employment permits to work in Ireland.

The Act also contains a safeguard mechanism whereby a requirement for employment permits may be reintroduced in respect of nationals of the relevant countries should the Irish labour market suffer an unexpected disturbance during the transitional period after EU enlargement takes place. Any question of reintroducing a requirement for such permits would be a matter for my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

We have a strong economy and we will welcome people who want to come here to work. Last year Irish businesses depended on 47,000 work permits to be issued to non-nationals to help them meet their labour supply requirements. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment estimates that after 1 May this year, as much as 70% to 80% of that requirement will be met by workers from the ten new accession countries.

In regard to access to social welfare payments, I have said previously that I will not allow our social welfare system to become overburdened in the context of EU enlargement and I will be taking steps to ensure the system is protected in the light of,inter alia, measures being introduced elsewhere and particularly in the UK in light of the common travel area.

In that regard the UK is putting in place a series of measures designed to address the issue of access to social security payments, including a new workers registration scheme and changes in the conditions for qualification for social security payments.

I am currently examining the provisions which are being introduced and I will be proposing changes to the social welfare code to similar effect. These measures will be sensible, considered and reasonable.

Ministerial Appointments.

Questions (162)

Joan Burton

Question:

249 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the appointments made by her to all companies, boards or agencies operating under the aegis of her Department since 6 June 2002; the persons appointed; the dates on which the appointment were made. [6281/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Family)

The five statutory agencies operating under the aegis of my Department are the Pensions Board, the Combat Poverty Agency, Comhairle, the Social Welfare Tribunal and the Family Support Agency.

The Pensions Board was established under the Pensions Act 1990 and has the general function of monitoring and supervising the operation of the Pensions Act and pensions developments generally. The current membership of the board is 17. On 16 February 2004 I appointed Mr. Michael McNulty as chairperson of the board following the resignation of the previous chairperson. I also appointed a Pensions Ombudsman, Mr. Paul Kenny, from 28 April 2003. This appointment was made on foot of an open competition undertaken by the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission.

On the Combat Poverty Agency, the current membership of the board of the agency is 16. Since 6 June 2002 I have appointed 12 members to the board. Appointments to the Combat Poverty Agency Board since 6 June 2002 are as follows:

Member

Date of Appointment

Joan O’Flynn

5th December 2002

Anthony Gavin

31st January 2003

Frank Curran

31st January 2003

Maria Gorman

31st January 2003

Alice Robertson

31st January 2003

Tony Lane

31st January 2003

Marie O’Neill

20th February 2003

Olive Sweetman

7th May 2003

Maria Corrigan

7th May 2003

Tony O’Callaghan

20th August 2003

Margaret Sweeney

20th August 2003

Pearse O’Hanrahan

6th December 2003

As regards Comhairle, the current membership of the board of Comhairle is 20. Since 6 June 2002 I have appointed 15 members to the board. Appointments to Comhairle since 6 June 2002 are as follows:

Member

Date of Appointment

Tom Daly (Chair)

12th September 2002

Hubert Kearns

4th November 2003

Mairin Byrne

12th September 2002

John Hogan

19th June 2003

Martin Naughton

19th June 2003

Joe Meagher

19th June 2003

Michael Walsh

19th June 2003

Patricia Walshe

19th June 2003

David Ormond

19th June 2003

Maria Mangan

8th July 2003

Inez Bailey

12th September 2002

John Bosco Conama

12th September 2002

Nigel Brander

12th September 2002

Caroline Casey

12th September 2002

Paul Hogan

12th September 2002

The current membership of the Social Welfare Tribunal is five. Since 6 June 2002 I have appointed five members to the tribunal. Appointments to the Social Welfare Tribunal since 6 June 2002 are as follows:

Member

Date of Appointment

Colin Walker (Chair)

6th March 2003

Patrick Pierce

4th October 2003

Dympna Harpur

4th October 2003

Fergus Whelan

4th October 2003

Richard Keating

4th October 2003

The board of the Family Support Agency was formally established on 6 May 2003 and the members appointed from then were:

Mr. Michael O'Kennedy SC (Chair)

Ms Paddie Connellan

Ms Sinead Hanly

Mr. Gerard Mangan

Ms Clare Cashman

Mr. Dick Hickey

Mr. Brendan Murphy

Dr. Colm O'Connor

Ms Muriel Walls

Ms Dilly O'Brien

Ms Brid Rocks

In addition, Ms Margaret Farrell was appointed on 31 July 2003.