Press Council.

Questions (10)

Mary Upton

Question:

10 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding his consideration of the recommendations of the Legal Advisory Group on the Defamation Law, particularly in regard to the proposals for the establishment of a statutory press council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6262/04]

View answer

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

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Question No. 48 of 29 January 2004.

In that response I indicated that, on foot of a commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government, I asked the legal advisory group, in September 2002, to report to me on the issues involved with regard to defamation and to make recommendations. I brought the group's report to Government in June 2003. I have at all times indicated that it is the group's report; it is not a report by me to Government or indeed a report of the Government and, more particularly, the Government has made no decision in respect of the substance of the contents of the report.

One of the more specific of the legal advisory group's terms of reference was to consider the nature and extent of any statutory intervention which might attach to the establishment of any entity concerned with the regulation of the press. This is a subject where there is, it would be fair to say, some divergence of views as to the optimum approach to be followed.

The group, having carefully weighed up the options, recommended the establishment of a statutory press council with functions which would include the preparation of a press code of conduct and the investigation of complaints concerning alleged breaches of that code. The report sets out, in some detail, the main features of such a council including matters pertaining to its operation and structure and the draft defamation Bill contains a template for the legislative intervention which would be required were such an entity to be established.

The particular model examined by the group is by no means the only, or, for that matter, the most obvious model for a statutory press council and other models have been suggested during the consultative period as to how such a statutory press council could be composed. These will be given careful consideration by me before bringing any proposal to Government.

Some of the recommendations contained in the report are more radical than others and will, inevitably, provoke considerable comment. That has the merit of securing an informed and wide-ranging debate on this important topic. In that regard, I decided, in consultation with my colleagues in Government, that the best way to proceed was to have a period of public consultation which will allow all interested parties who so wish to comment on the substance of the recommendations contained in the report. The deadline for receipt of submissions was 31 January 2004. As well as inviting written submissions on the report I held a major conference on 1 December last to facilitate an exchange of views from a cross-section of interested parties. The conference was well attended and was thought provoking.

Following completion of the consultative process I intend to reflect carefully on the consensus that emerges on the issues and also on the best way forward on the proposals I bring to Government. I hope to bring forward proposals in the latter half of this year.

Ministerial Appointments.

Questions (11)

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

11 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the Garda Human Rights Advisory Committee will be established; the persons who will sit on it; its terms of reference; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6371/04]

View answer

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

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that a human rights working group advises the commissioner on the development of strategy in the area of human rights and associated issues.

The human rights working group is chaired by a Garda superintendent, and its membership, in addition to Garda personnel, includes two independent human rights advisers — Ms Mary O Rawe and Mr. Brian Ruane, one of whom represents Amnesty International.

This working group is tasked to highlight and promote the fundamental nature of human rights and personal dignity in a policing context in a developed liberal democracy; raise awareness of the national, regional and international standards for the protection of human rights; articulate the key role of the Garda Síochána in the protection of human rights and the dignity of all; identify groups and individuals who may be at risk and require support; audit Garda policies and codes of professional conduct; develop education-training interventions designed to inculcate respect for human rights and personal dignity in all gardaí and formulate proposals and develop partnership initiatives which contribute to the further development of best practices in policing.

In addition, the Garda Síochána have commissioned Ionann Management Consultants to conduct a human rights audit. The final report of the consultants is still awaited and the report's recommendations will be fully considered in due course.

Drug Seizures.

Questions (12, 13, 14, 15)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

12 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the cost of securing premises containing quantities of seized drugs until their destruction in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6328/04]

View answer

Paul McGrath

Question:

20 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the consideration he has given to changing the laws of evidence in order to negate the need for large quantities of seized drugs to be retained and stored for evidential purposes, in circumstances in which a mere sample would suffice. [6330/04]

View answer

Billy Timmins

Question:

28 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the types of premises which quantities of seized drugs were retained in between the event of seizure and the event of destruction in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6326/04]

View answer

Paul Kehoe

Question:

66 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the length of time between the seizure of large drugs hauls and their destruction in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6327/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 12, 20, 28 and 66 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that all illegal drugs seized are initially conveyed to the Forensic Science Laboratory at Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park for technical examination.

When analysed, smaller quantities of seized drugs are retained at the relevant district or divisional headquarters where they are stored until required for court purposes. The drugs are placed in evidence bags which are labelled and sealed and placed in secure conditions until required for evidential purposes. These stations are manned on a 24 hour basis with no specific cost involved in securing the stored drugs.

In regard to significant drug seizures, they are retained at Garda Headquarters which is also manned on a 24 hour basis, with no specific cost involved, until the case has been determined and an order for their destruction obtained.

There were no other costs incurred in securing premises containing quantities of drugs seized in 2003.

During the year 2003 there were a number of significant seizures involving cannabis resin, ecstasy tablets and cocaine. In respect of two seizures of 1.6 tonnes and 0.25 tonnes of cannabis resin, respectively, in which prosecution were not forthcoming, both were destroyed after a six-month period with a representative sample being retained in case of any future developments that could lead to a prosecution. All other significant seizures occurring during 2003 have resulted in persons being arrested and charged. Their cases are currently before the courts awaiting determination. Section 10 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1984, provides for the introduction in evidence of a certificate of analysis signed by an officer of the Forensic Science Laboratory in regard to the drug. The certificate constitutes sufficient evidence of the facts stated therein until the contrary is shown.

I have no plans at present to change the laws of evidence in this regard. There is, at present, no evidential requirement under law to retain the full amount of seizures of drugs for the purposes of prosecution. The arrangements for the retention, production in evidence and destruction of seizures are operational matters for the Garda Síochána. I understand that such arrangements are the subject of periodical advice from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to the Garda authorities.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Questions (16)

Tom Hayes

Question:

13 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of money which has been expended on the installation of closed circuit television systems in towns throughout the country since he took office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6333/04]

View answer

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

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

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that when the go-ahead was given to proceed with the installation of the above 17 town centre CCTV systems, it was decided that the implementation of the CCTV systems in these locations would proceed on a phased basis.

If work were to commence on all 17 locations simultaneously, it would prove difficult to manage due to the complexity of the process and the geographical distribution of the proposed systems. Additional resources would also be required.

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

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that, since I took office in June 2002, a total of €2,339,687.07 has been expended on the CCTV schemes currently being installed in Bray, Dún Laoghaire, Dundalk, Finglas, Galway and Limerick and in respect of the completion of the Cork CCTV scheme.

Equality Legislation.

Questions (17)

Trevor Sargent

Question:

14 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason persons providing personal services in domestic settings are excluded from the definition of employee in the Equality Bill 2004 and therefore from the protections afforded under the Bill in relation to harassment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6372/04]

View answer

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

Section 3 of the Equality Bill, as passed by the Seanad, provides a new definition of "employee" to include, where the context admits, members or former members of regulatory bodies as required by the directives and to exclude, with respect to access to employment, persons employed in the provision of personal services in another person's home affecting the private or family life of those concerned. For clarity, section 3 of the Bill also includes the following definition "personal services" in relation to such services, provided in a person's home, includes but is not limited to services that are in the nature of services in loco parentis or involve caring for those residing in the home".

This limited exclusion replaces more broadly based exclusions of employment in domestic settings in the Employment Equality Act 1998 and is intended to strike a balance between the rights of a person to private and family life with the right to equal treatment in employment. The Bill does not exclude from the protections against discrimination afforded persons who are employed in the provision of personal services in domestic settings. The provisions of section 8 of the Bill, which enhance the protection available to employees against harassment, apply fully to persons employed in domestic settings.

Proposed Legislation.

Questions (18)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

15 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the kind of information he envisages would be conveyed under section 22 of the Garda Síochána Bill 2004 as initiated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6359/04]

View answer

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

I have to respect the fact that the Garda Síochána Bill will be debated next week in the Seanad and it would be inappropriate if in this House were to pre-empt its discussions on any aspect of the Bill.

I do not wish, therefore, to start going into details on items which are more appropriate to the Second Stage or Committee Stage debate on the Bill.

Illegal Immigrants.

Questions (19)

John Bruton

Question:

16 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he intends to take interdepartmental initiatives to promote the integration of long-stay immigrant groups here as part of an overall Irish and EU approach to migration; and the core elements of the Irish political, democratic and social identity which he wishes for immigrants to take on board as part of a process of integration into Irish political, democratic and social structures. [4401/04]

View answer

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

The Deputy has highlighted a broad number of issues which are relevant to ongoing debate in relation to immigration in Ireland and the range of issues covered is quite broad. Civil society, and not just Government, has a role to play in responding to the issues thrown up by migration. These issues, in so far as responsibility falls to Government, span a number of Departments but I will focus here on the ones which are relevant to my Department.

The Deputy will be aware that there are several categories of immigrants to the State such as EEA-Swiss nationals, non-EEA-Swiss nationals with employment permits, work visas or work authorisations, students, refugees and asylum seekers. My Department has specific responsibilities in regard to asylum seekers and refugees, who constitute only part of the immigrant population. Migrant workers make up the greater portion of the immigrant population and they have played and continue to play an important role in contributing to sustained economic growth in Ireland.

The Reception and Integration Agency, which was established in 2001 under the aegis of my Department, is responsible for the co-ordination and implementation of integration policy in the case of persons with refugee status or with leave to remain in Ireland.

Integration measures for the agency's clients are underpinned by the following general policy objectives: to ensure the upholding of the rights of all newcomers regardless of ethnic and cultural background; to create opportunities to enable newcomers to effectively participate in the economic, social and cultural aspects of Irish society and by so doing exercise their rights and discharge their responsibilities; to promote the development of a tolerant, inclusive society in which both newcomers and host society, irrespective of background, can, over time, share and develop a sense of being Irish while respecting the cultures and practices inherent in the emergence of our new multi-cultural society and to encourage and assist the host population to understand and value the economic and social contribution of newcomers.

On the broader EU dimension, the Reception and Integration Agency is represented on the EU Immigration and Asylum Committee's National Contact Points on Integration. This group, which meets on a regular basis, was established in 2003 to exchange information and good practices in the area of integration at the European level. The group's first annual report on migration and integration in Europe is expected to be presented to the European Council in June 2004.

It is worth mentioning, that with regard to specific EU initiatives, the Reception and Integration Agency is the responsible authority in Ireland for the administration of the European Refugee Fund. The fund began operating on 1 January 2000 and will continue until 31 December 2004. The selection of suitable projects is carried out by a committee, especially appointed each year by the Reception and Integration Agency and comprises representatives from both Government and NGO sectors with experience in the fields of reception, integration and repatriation. Fifty projects in Ireland were being funded in the period 2000 to 2003 under the European Refugee Fund.

Furthermore, the Reception and Integration Agency is currently working in partnership with the Ministry of Labour in Finland on the MORE project which is targeted to develop, in trans-national co-operation, comprehensive resettlement models which can be utilised in European Union member states. There is a clear need to create models which would link together all resettlement related measures from interviews and decisions made in the first country of asylum to the local level reception and integration measures. The MORE project aims to address this need. Co-operating organisations in the project are the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, International Organisation for Migration and the European Commission for Refugees and Exiles. The project is of 18 months duration and it is co-funded by the EU Commission under the European Refugee Fund.

As the Deputy will be aware, ‘KNOW Racism', the national anti-racism awareness programme, was launched by the Taoiseach in October 2001. A core budget of €5.7 million was allocated by Government to the programme over a three-year period. The programme was implemented by a high level steering group in partnership with the equal status division of my Department. As an indication of the partnership approach which was taken to this issue, the framework for the awareness programme was drawn up by the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism, NCCRI, following a three-month consultation process with key statutory and non-statutory organisations. The programme has stimulated and supported initiatives on an ongoing basis in partnership with key organisations at national level as well as at local level. A number of events, such as International Day Against Racism on 21 March and the Anti-Racist Workplace Week in the first week in November, are now firmly established as a result. The programme touched many aspects of Irish life and it has paved the way for the national action plan against racism.

The involvement of local communities was an important component of the KNOW Racism programme and for example, in the last grant scheme administered by KNOW Racism, a total of €322,000 was allocated, in July 2003, to 87 successful applicants in 21 counties. This was the fourth phase of grants disbursed under the programme. In total, over the past three years a total of €1.29 million was allocated to 450 successful projects in 26 counties. The grants were awarded to community groups and organisations for the development of local anti-racism initiatives or projects. The aim was to support actions which stimulated public awareness of racism, helped create the conditions that make it more difficult for racism to exist and promoted an inclusive approach to minority groups.

As the Deputy may also be aware, my Department is in the process of finalising Ireland's first ever national action plan against racism. The consultation process for the plan took place between March 2002 and February 2003 and was overseen by a steering group, with representation from both Government and non-government organisations. In July 2003, I published Diverse Voices, A Summary of the Outcomes of the Consultative Process and a Proposed Framework for the National Action Plan Against Racism, which is available on my Department's website. This document outlines the five main objectives which the framework for the plan will be built around. Briefly, these objectives are protection from racism, inclusion in the socio-economic sense, equality of access to the provision of services, participation of minorities in Irish society and decision making and recognition and building respect of cultural diversity and promoting interaction and understanding.

The plan is nearing completion and we are in the process of taking on board observations which we have received from other Departments of State. When this process is completed I will bring the plan to Government.

In regard to the forthcoming local elections which will be held on 11 June, as the Deputy is well aware, it is not necessary to be an Irish citizen to vote in the elections or to stand for election. To promote the theme of participation, the NCCRI, in partnership with Integrating Ireland, ran a campaign towards the end of last year to inform members of minority ethnic groups, particularly refugees and asylum seekers, of their voting rights and to encourage them to use their franchise. Furthermore, a key tool in ensuring that the elections are kept free from racism is the anti-racism protocol for political parties, developed by NCCRI and signed up to by all political parties represented in the Oireachtas. NCCRI intends to re-launch the protocol as part of its 21 March public awareness programme.

Garda Investigations.

Questions (20, 21)

Joe Costello

Question:

17 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he intends to establish an inquiry into events surrounding the murder of two persons (details supplied) and subsequent Garda investigation as sought by relatives of one of the murdered people; if he consulted with the Attorney General, the gardaí, the relatives of the murdered persons and their legal representatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6212/04]

View answer

Tony Gregory

Question:

151 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has considered the requests for an inquiry into the Grangegorman murders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6442/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 17 and 151 together.

As I have previously outlined to the House, a letter from the legal representatives of the sister of one of the murder victims was received in my office on 11 February. The letter asks that there be a full independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the murders and grounds this request on the protection afforded by the European Convention on Human Rights. I am presently in the process of consulting with the Garda authorities and the Office of the Attorney General in order to assist me in my consideration of the request. I expect to be in a position to respond to the solicitor's letter in the near future.

Human Rights Commission.

Questions (22)

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

18 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date with regard to the operation of the Human Rights Commission; the number of staff employed by the commission; the budget allocated to the commission for 2003; the services the commission is offering to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6251/04]

View answer

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

I wish to refer the Deputy to my reply to a similar question on this matter on 29 January 2004, the text of which is repeated below. There has been no change in the position since that date.

The Human Rights Commission has now recruited the final member of its administrative staff, which brings its staffing complement to the ten staff requested by it. The chief executive of the commission was appointed in June 2002.

The commission recently moved to its new permanent office accommodation which is located in Jervis House, Jervis Street, Dublin 1 and that will be a crucial factor which will enhance its capability to provide services to the public in line with its wide statutory mandate and remit, as outlined in section 8 of the Human Rights Commission Act 2000. In that regard, I would direct the Deputy's attention to the commission's First Strategic Plan 2003-06, which it published on 31 March 2003. The plan sets out the areas of work on which the commission proposes to focus over the next four years, and it is a key document in the process of the commission's ongoing consultation and dialogue.

The commission's budget for 2003 was €1.28 million. However, it also received an additional once off payment of €536,000 in 2003 to assist it in the acquisition of its new premises. The commission's budget for 2004 is €1.823 million.

Garda Complaints Board.

Questions (23)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

19 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he intends to provide additional funds or resources to the Garda Complaints Board to allow it to better discharge its functions, pending the establishment of the Ombudsman Commission for the Garda; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6221/04]

View answer

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

In the first instance, could I refer the Deputy to the 2002 annual report of the Garda Síochána Complaints Board which stated that although it had raised the issue of the absence of resources in the past, it acknowledged that there had been a positive response to this from my Department and, as a result, the board was in a stronger position to carry out its functions than previously, particularly in regard to tribunals.

I would also refer the Deputy to the publication by me on 17 February last of the Garda Síochána Bill 2004, which specifically provided for the replacement of the current Garda Síochána Complaints Board with a new, fully independent, Garda Ombudsman Commission.

The financial allocation of the board has been increased from €1.43 million in 2003 to €2.472 million in 2004. This additional allocation will provide,inter alia, initial funding for the set-up of the new Garda Ombudsman Commission when the Bill is passed by the Oireachtas. The increased allocation demonstrates my commitment to the continued funding of the complaints board and the establisment of the new commission as soon as is practicable.

Question No. 20 answered with QuestionNo. 12.

Witness Intimidation.

Questions (24)

Liz McManus

Question:

21 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date in the review of the witness protection programme; if he is considering additional measures to support witnesses who may be giving evidence in court cases involving serious charges, but who may not wish to enter the protection programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6225/04]

View answer

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

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the review of the procedures of the witness security programme is ongoing under the supervision of an assistant commissioner.

The review, which is both thorough and in-depth, includes consideration of: a recent judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeal; the measures to support witnesses in court cases who may not wish to enter the programme; and current best practice from an international perspective. When received, the recommendations of the review will be given full consideration.

Garda Reserve Force.

Questions (25, 26, 27)

Dinny McGinley

Question:

22 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons he envisages appointing as members of the Garda reserve force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6351/04]

View answer

Dan Neville

Question:

24 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has satisfied himself that giving the same powers to members of a Garda reserve force as available to those in the permanent force is in the interests of the security of the State; and if he has further satisfied himself that such a decision will be in the interests of the citizens. [6350/04]

View answer

Olwyn Enright

Question:

40 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the anticipated cost of training a recruit for the Garda reserve force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6355/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 22, 24 and 40 together.

The draft scheme of the Garda Síochána Bill made public in July 2003 made reference to a "Garda Síochána Reserve". Deputies will note that the Garda Síochána Bill, as published, does not refer to a reserve but rather it provides in section 14 for the appointment of volunteer members.

As is explained in the explanatory and financial memorandum to the Bill, section 14 provides a basis in law for the resources of the Garda Síochána to be supplemented by the appointment of persons as volunteer members of the Garda Síochána. It is an enabling provision only, and I must emphasise that no decision on the appointment of such members has been taken by the Government. The questions on numbers of persons to be appointed and the associated costs are therefore premature.

As regards the question of powers for any volunteer members, I draw the Deputies' attention to subsection (2) which provides that no person may be appointed as a volunteer member unless he or she has completed the prescribed training.

I have to respect the fact that the Garda Síochána Bill will be debated next week in the Seanad and it would be inappropriate if in the House we were to pre-empt their discussions on any aspect of the Bill. I do not wish therefore to start going into any more detail on items which are appropriate to the Second Stage or Committee Stage debates on the Bill.

Child Care Services.

Questions (28)

Olwyn Enright

Question:

23 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has considered the benefits of promoting the use of certain school buildings for child care purposes out of school hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5213/04]

View answer

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

The National Development Plan 2000-2006 enabled the Government to make a significant commitment to the development of quality child care in Ireland as a direct response to the recommendations of the Expert Working Group on Childcare, which was established under Partnership 2000 to develop a strategy for the development and delivery of child care. With funding under regional operational programmes of the national development plan and subsequent reallocations to my Department, the Government has made €436.7 million available to me for the development of child care through the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000 — 2006, EOCP. The programme is aiming,inter alia, to increase by 50% the supply of centre based child care places during the seven years of the national development plan and to develop quality child care to meet the needs of parents in employment, education and training.

The Partnership 2000 Expert Working Group on Childcare noted that, with regard to school age child care, also known as out of school hours child care or after school care, "there had been relatively little interest in the topic of after-school care compared with childcare for pre-school children". It recommended that a special policy be developed in respect of school age child care, a task subsequently undertaken in 2002 and 2003 by a Sub-Group of the National Childcare Co-ordinating Committee, NCCC. The remit of the Working Group on School Age Childcare was to: review existing provision for school age child care in Ireland and other jurisdictions; develop guidelines on quality standards for school age child care; make proposals for the development of school age child care services, on an all year round basis, taking into account the diverse forms of such child care; and report to the National Childcare Co-ordinating Committee on these issues.

In its report to the NCCC in July 2003, the working group made 33 recommendations covering all aspects of school age childcare including development, quality, training, transport and the way forward. The working group defined school age child care as "Childcare for school going children provided outside of normal school hours where the same children attend the childcare facility on a regular basis and access to the service is clearly defined by agreement with parents and guardians".

A number of the recommendations directly addressed the issue of the use of school property and-or premises. The use of school premises for such purposes is a matter for the patrons and managing authorities of the schools and it is my Department's intention to enter into discussions in the near future with the various parties in order to create an awareness of the benefits to be derived for local communities through the use of such school premises to include a school age child care facility which would offer parents a seamless service while also ensuring that the child care service to be provided was of a high quality offering a developmental programme of activities to the child.

Following these exploratory discussions, it would be my intention to launch the report of the Working Group on School Age Childcare in the near future at a conference and seminar on school age child care where the major stakeholders can meet to discuss the development of school age child care services in a positive and well informed manner.

Funding for the development of school age child care facilities is available under the equal opportunities childcare programme and, in February 2002, my Department undertook a special media campaign inviting applications for capital and staffing grant assistance for the development of school age child care services. The advertisement was targeted at community-not for profit groups, parent groups and school managing authorities. However, the response has not been as good as was hoped. Notwithstanding this, over €14.6 million has already been committed in funding to 174 applicants for both capital and staffing grants for school age child care facilities under the EOCP.

Question No. 24 answered with QuestionNo. 22.

Garda Communications.

Questions (29)

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

25 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of other common law jurisdictions whose Garda commissioner equivalent must seek the approval of the Minister for Justice prior to publishing key documents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6357/04]

View answer

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

There are over 50 states whose legal systems are based on the common law system including states such as Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Each has at least one police service, many of the larger states have more than one and some have more than 50 distinct police services. It would not be practical to conduct a survey of all these police services and in any event what is at issue is whether what is proposed in the Garda Síochána Bill is right for the circumstances in this jurisdiction. I look forward to debating the matter during the passage of the Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Deportation Orders.

Questions (30)

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

26 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons deported broken down by gender and nationality in respect of the mass deportations that took place on 12 February 2004; the number of such persons who were under 18 years of age; if he has satisfied himself that all those deported had access to legal advice in advance of the orders being executed; the number of gardaí involved in the operation; the cost to the Exchequer in terms of the cost of chartering the plane and the number of Garda hours involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6252/04]

View answer

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

A charter flight from Dublin travelled to Moldova via Romania on 12 February 2004 to facilitate the removal of 13 Moldovan and 53 Romanian nationals. Included in this group were two Romanian nationals who were voluntarily repatriating to their country of origin. On the flight were ten persons under the age of 18, including two Irish born children accompanied by their Romanian parents.

The breakdown of those returned was as follows:

Country

Males

Females

Female children(under 18)

Male children(under 18)

Romania

37

6

4

6

Moldova

9

4

Nil

Nil

Some 35 members of the Garda Síochána were involved and 385 Garda hours were expended in the operation. The aeroplane used was a Boeing 757 and was chartered at a cost of €93,600.

Aircraft charter is an internationally recognised mechanism for ensuring the safe and effective deportation of persons to their countries of origin and most EU countries use such charter flights. In evaluating the cost of a charter flight for the purpose of deporting persons to their country of origin, the cost of the continued presence of persons who are the subject of deportation orders in the State has to be taken into account. These costs include social welfare costs, direct provision costs, and detention costs in certain cases. Although not a factor in this instance, the use of chartered flights is also the only viable option in cases where there is disruptive behaviour of the persons being deported or there are other genuine concerns of the airlines who have to look after passenger safety.

It is misleading to characterise the operation that took place as a mass deportation, that term implying that individual consideration of cases had not taken place. In this respect and in regard to access to legal advice, it should be made clear that deportation orders issue only following an exhaustive procedure set out in the Immigration Act 1999. Under section 3 of that Act persons whom the Minister proposes to deport must be so notified and be given the options to make representations within 15 working days setting out the reasons they should be not be deported; leave the State before the order was made; or consent to the making of a deportation order. Before making a deportation order the Minister must take account of criteria specified in section 3(6) of that Act and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (Prohibition of Refoulement). At any point in this process a person may seek legal advice. Further, in most cases deportations are proposed when the person concerned has failed to be granted refugee status and throughout the asylum process legal advice is available, including from the Refugee Legal Service.

People Trafficking.

Questions (31)

Jack Wall

Question:

27 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action being taken to combat the reported trafficking of women, especially from Eastern Europe, for purposes of prostitution here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6263/04]

View answer

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

I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 14 tabled for answer on 29 January 2004. The situation remains unchanged.

Question No. 28 answered with QuestionNo. 12.

Garda Recruitment.

Questions (32)

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

29 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans he has to honour his pre-election promise to recruit an additional 2,000 gardaí; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6346/04]

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 23 February 2004 is 11,920.

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.

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.

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.

I have already made it quite clear that I will not be content with raising the strength of the Garda Síochána to an historic high of 12,200 by the end of 2004. As soon as budgetary circumstances permit I intend, with the approval of the Government, to make progress towards the target of 14,000 provided in the programme for Government.

Garda Equipment.

Questions (33)

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

30 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether legal advice has been obtained as to the human rights implications of the use of non-lethal technology here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6368/04]

View answer

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

The recommendations of the Working Group on Less Lethal Weapons were forwarded to me by the Garda Commissioner on 30 July 2002. The Government, having considered the matter, granted approval on 19 November 2002 for the introduction of certain "less lethal" weapons for use by the Garda Emergency Response Unit, ERU, where this is necessary to avoid the use of firearms.

As regards any human rights implications, I should emphasise that the purpose of making available less lethal weapons is to provide an alternative to the use of potentially lethal firearms. More generally, it is also worth noting that the section 7 of the Garda Síochána Bill 2004 will place a statutory duty on the Garda Síochána, in performing its functions, to have regard to the importance of upholding human rights.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Questions (34)

Paul McGrath

Question:

31 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress which has been made in implementing his commitments to installing closed circuit television systems in towns throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6331/04]

View answer

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

Garda CCTV systems are currently in operation as aids to policing in the following areas: Dublin city North-Central — comprising 40 cameras — provides coverage of O'Connell Street and surrounding areas. All cameras are monitored from the Garda office in O'Connell Street; Dublin city South-Central — comprising 24 cameras — provides coverage of Temple Bar-Grafton Street and surrounding areas. All cameras are monitored from Pearse Street Garda station; Cork city — comprising 29 cameras — provides coverage of the main streets in the city and adjoining areas. All cameras are monitored from Anglesea Street Garda station; Tralee, County Kerry — comprising 24 cameras — provides coverage of the town centre and adjoining streets. All cameras are monitored from Tralee Garda station; 17 locations are also set to receive new Garda town centre CCTV systems, subject to the availability of funds.

The locations are, in alphabetical order: Athlone, Ballyfermot, Bray, Carlow, Castlebar, Clondalkin, Clonmel, Dundalk, Dun Laoghaire, Ennis, Finglas, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, Sligo, Tallaght 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.

I am pleased to announce that the full installation and commissioning of Dún Laoghaire CCTV system was completed on Tuesday, 24 February 2004. All eight cameras are now fully operational. Some 12 of the 13 cameras in Bray CCTV system are in place and relaying images to Bray Garda station. Commissioning of the system is expected to take place shortly. Some 23 of the 24 cameras in Limerick CCTV system are operational and being monitored from Henry Street Garda station. Again, commissioning of the system is expected to take place shortly. In Dundalk, six of the ten cameras are operational. Work on the installation of the remaining cameras is nearing completion.

It was intended that Finglas CCTV system would consist of nine cameras — to be monitored from Finglas Garda station. An offer has been made from statutory and other bodies to fund additional cameras for incorporation into the Finglas scheme. This offer is currently under consideration by the CCTV Advisory Committee which was established by the Garda Commissioner to evaluate applications for CCTV systems. Legal advice has been sought, by the committee, on this matter. Upon receipt of the committee's views, I expect to be in a position to decide on this matter.

I have been further informed that the issue regarding the provision of suitable space to accommodate the monitoring of CCTV cameras in Finglas Garda station is currently being considered with regard to the overall accommodation needs of Finglas Garda Station.

A total of seven submissions were received by my Department in respect of the Galway CCTV scheme following the planning process. These are currently under consideration by my Department and responses will issue to all those who have made submissions very shortly.

Phase 2 of the programme of CCTV implementation will consist of 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 comprises Ballyfermot, Carlow, Castlebar, Clonmel, Ennis, Kilkenny and Sligo. The planning for the installation of these systems is scheduled to commence later this year.

Garda Personnel.

Questions (35)

Willie Penrose

Question:

32 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of juvenile liaison officers in the gardaí at the latest date for which figures are available; if he has plans to extend the scheme in view of the proven success of it in dealing with juvenile offenders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6244/04]

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 as at 23 February 2004 there are 85 JLO gardaí and eight JLO sergeants working in the various divisions throughout the country. In addition to this, the National Juvenile Office has a staff of one superintendent, two inspectors, two sergeants and four civilians.

Part 4 of the Children Act 2001 came into law in May 2002. This effectively placed the Garda juvenile diversion programme on a statutory basis for the first time in its 40 year history. Included in the Act is the introduction into the criminal justice system of the concept of restorative justice and family conferencing, the provisions of which are currently being put into effect by the Garda Síochána.

The diversion programme is delivered throughout the country by specially trained gardaí. Resource implications are constantly under review and applications for additional resources are made on a case by case basis when and where necessary.

Proposed Legislation.

Questions (36)

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

33 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if consultation on the contents of the Equality Bill 2004 was engaged in with civil society and all relevant stakeholders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6370/04]

View answer

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

Prior to the preparation and drafting of the Equality Bill, the purpose of which is to amend the Employment Equality Act 1998 and the Equal Status Act 2000 to give effect to EU equality Directives 2000/43/EC (Race Directive), 2000/78/EC (Framework Employment Directive) and 2002/73/EC (Gender Equal Treatment in Employment Directive), the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform undertook a comprehensive consultation process.

With respect to the transposition of the employment aspect of the three directives, a discussion paper was presented to the social partners and other relevant interests in July 2002, some of whom subsequently made written submissions to my Department. A series of bilateral discussions followed in the latter half of 2002 with those bodies.

A less formal consultation process was also undertaken in relation to the race directive as it affects the Equal Status Act. This included the use of information meetings on the directives organised by the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism and other fora, such as the public consultation on the forthcoming National Action Plan against Racism, to disseminate interest and awareness among key interest groups in the race directive. Certain issues raised in the consultations have been taken into account in the Equality Bill 2004 which was published in January this year.

Asylum Applications.

Questions (37)

Seán Ryan

Question:

34 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications for asylum received during 2002, 2003 and to date in 2004; the number of applications upheld by the Refugee Appeals Commission; the number of appeals submitted to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the number of such appeals upheld; the number of applications for leave to remain and the number of such applications granted; the number of deportation orders made and the number of such deportations carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6253/04]

View answer

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

The information requested is contained in tabular format, a copy of which is being circulated to Deputies.

Table 1: Number of asylum applications received and the number of recommendations by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner to grant Refugee Status (at first instance) in 2002, 2003 and 2004*.

2002

2003

2004*

No. of applications received

11,634

7,900

392

No. of recommendations to grant refugee status

893

345

44

* as at 31/01/04

**It is assumed that the reference in the Deputy's Question to "Refugee Appeals Commission" refers to the office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner.

Table 2: Number of appeals submitted to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the number upheld (at appeal stage) in 2002, 2003 and 2004*.

2002

2003

2004*

No. of appeals received

5,159

4,730

205

No. of appeals upheld (granted refugee status)**

1,099

825

70

*as at 31/01/04

**Substantive cases

Table 3: Number of Deportation Orders Signed and Number Effected in 2002, 2003 and 2004*.

2002

2003

2004*

No. of Deportation Orders signed

2,430

2,411

131

No. of Deportation Orders effected

521

590

38

* as at 31/01/04

Table 4: Number of Applications for Leave to Remain received from current or former asylum applicants

2002

2003

2004*

No. of applications received

6,887

1,272

45

*as at 31/01/04

Table 5: Number of Applications granted for Leave to Remain by category

2002

2003

2004*

Parentage of Irish Born Child

3,113

172

0

Marriage to an Irish National

86

132

3

Dependant of EU Citizen

138

77

6

Humanitarian Grounds

159

83

0

*as at 31/01/04

Crime Prevention.

Questions (38)

John Bruton

Question:

35 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will initiate an inquiry into the murder by the IRA of a person (details supplied) in view of a newspaper report which suggested that the Garda did not give adequate advice on their personal protection to this person in view of the risks involved in the valuable and patriotic services this person was providing to the State, and which also suggested that the British authorities knew this person was to be murdered by the IRA but took no steps to warn the Garda or protect them in any other way. [6166/04]

View answer

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

I am assured by the Garda authorities that a full investigation took place into the murder in 1991 of the person in question, responsibility for which was claimed by the Provisional IRA. Although no person has to date been charged in connection with this murder, the investigation remains open. I am informed by the Garda authorities that it is not Garda policy to comment upon any aspect of operational security matters. I have no proposals in regard to the holding of a further inquiry into this case.

Garda Strength.

Questions (39)

Brian O'Shea

Question:

36 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of recruits who have graduated from the Garda Training College as full Garda members since 6 June 2002; the number of Garda who have retired, resigned or otherwise left the force since 6 June 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6237/04]

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 833 recruits have graduated from the Garda College since 6 June 2002. This figure of 833 comprises those who have successfully completed the student/probationer education/training programme. This figure does not include those who have been attested to the force upon completion of phase three of their training programme and who have yet to complete the fifth and final phase of that programme. A total of 735 members — all ranks — have resigned, retired or otherwise left the Garda Síochána since 6 June 2002.

Employee Protection.

Questions (40)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

37 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way in which a person can assess whether unlawful discrimination has occurred or the likelihood of success of an action based on the condition set out in section 28 in regard to the Equality Bill 2004. [6377/04]

View answer

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

Section 28 of the Equality Bill 2004 as passed in the Seanad amends section 74 of the Employment Equality Act 1998 by extending the meaning of victimisation for the purposes of the Act. As a result, a number of additional actions will be included which may be cited as having given rise to a dismissal or other adverse treatment of an employee by his employer, thereby constituting victimisation under the Act of 1998. The additional actions under section 28 of the Equality Bill are: a complaint of discrimination, representation or support of a complainant, being a comparator for the purposes of the Act or lawfully opposing an act which is unlawful under the Equal Status Act 2000. These additions will considerably strengthen the scope of the protection afforded to employees, particularly in situations where they are exercising their rights under the Employment Equality Act. The investigation of a complaint of victimisation will continue to be a matter for ODEI, the Equality Tribunal, or the Labour Court in a claim of unfair dismissal. In addition, the Equality Authority will continue to offer advice to persons in regard to the application of the Act.

Common Law System.

Questions (41)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

38 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of other common law jurisdictions which have provided a statutory basis for the Minister for Justice equivalent to issues directives to the Garda Commissioner equivalent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6358/04]

View answer

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

There are over 50 states whose legal systems are based on the common law system including states such as Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Each has at least one police service, many of the larger states have more than one and some have more than 50 distinct police services. It would not be practical to conduct a survey of all these police services and in any event what is at issue is whether what is proposed in the Garda Síochána Bill is right for the circumstances in this jurisdiction. I look forward to debating the matter during the passage of the Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Employment Rights.

Questions (42)

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

39 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the calls made by the Equality Authority for the introduction of legislation to make employers take more positive steps to promote equal rights in the workplace; if he will make a statement on this matter.

View answer

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

A legislative and administrative framework for equality has been in place for some time with the enactment of the Employment Equality Act 1998 and the Equal Status Act 2000, and with the establishment of the Equality Authority and the ODEI, the equality tribunal. The Equality Bill 2004, which is currently before the Oireachtas, will amend both of these Acts to give effect to EU equality directives 2000/43/EC, race directive, 2000/78/EC, framework employment directive, and 2002/73/EC, gender equal treatment in employment directive. While the opportunity is being taken in the Equality Bill to more closely align the provisions of the Acts and to introduce a number of procedural improvements, the principal purpose of the legislation is to give effect to the EU directives which I have referred to and more general issues of policy and practice which are not currently under review.

As part of the consultation process undertaken by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in 2002, prior to the preparation and drafting of the Equality Bill, a submission setting out 45 recommendations was received from the Equality Authority. Included in these was a recommendation that the equality legislation implement a duty on the private sector to prepare and implement on a regular basis action plans to promote employment equality and to promote equality within the provision of goods and services across the nine grounds in a planned and systematic way; and that the Equality Authority should be given a role to establish, maintain and enforce standards in regard to these action plans. I understand that, in addition to the formal submission received from the authority, it has also advocated this approach in the course of some more recent equality fora.

As I have said, the focus of the legislation amending the Employment Equality and the Equal Status Acts is to successfully transpose the EU equality directives, none of which requires the imposition of such a duty on employers or service providers. The existing infrastructural approach to equality assigns the key role in these matters to the Equality Authority in keeping with its key functions in regard to the elimination of discrimination and the promotion of equality of opportunity.

Part VI of the Employment Equality Act, applicable also in regard to the Equal Status Act, makes provision for a comprehensive system of equality reviews and action plans centred on this key role. The authority may invite a particular business, group of businesses or the businesses making up a particular industry or sector thereof to carry out an equality review in relation to their business or businesses and or prepare and implement an equality action plan in respect of that business or businesses.

The authority may also itself carry out an equality review and prepare an equality action plan in relation to a particular business, except where it has less than 50 employees, group of businesses or the businesses making up a particular industry or sector thereof. Further, it may employ persons qualified to audit the level of equality of opportunity which exists in such business or businesses, and to examine the practices, procedures and other relevant factors present, to determine whether they are conducive to the promotion of equality of opportunity. In addition, the Employment Equality Act gives specific powers to the Equality Authority to refer for enforcement, by the High Court or the Circuit Court as appropriate, any case of non-compliance with an equality action plan.

Question No. 40 answered with QuestionNo. 22.

Gangland Killings.

Questions (43)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

41 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps being taken to reduce access to and use by criminals of firearms, in view of the fact that the number of murders involving the use of such weapons has increased from four in 1998 to 21 in 2003; the steps he intends to take to ensure that those using such weapons are brought to justice in view of the fact that proceedings have been commenced in respect of only four of the murders in which firearms were used in 2003; the position in regard to his review of the firearms control policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6222/04]

View answer

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

I assure the Deputy that I share his concern in relation to the issue of firearms becoming available to criminals. I have made inquiries with the Garda authorities who have informed me that the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation investigates homicides, serious and organised crime on a national basis. I am further informed that any action taken against organised criminal groups who habitually use firearms in the course of their criminal activities is focused through intelligence-led operations.

This approach allows Garda management to utilise local divisional resources, along with specialised units, to maximum effect. I have discussed this matter on several occasions with the Garda Commissioner and I am confident that every effort is made by the Garda Síochána to bring those engaged in crime to justice and that appropriate action is taken where sufficient evidence is available.

The provisional number of murders in 2003 involving firearms has decreased by one following the investigation of an incident where a person received a fatal shotgun wound. This incident is no longer being investigated as a murder and has been reclassified. Therefore, the provisional figure for 2003 for murders involving firearms is now 20 murders recorded, seven detected and four with proceedings commenced. These figures are provisional and are subject to a validation process.

My Department has almost finalised a review of the firearms control policy with the intention of updating the legislation in this area. The security of weapons held legitimately by individuals or dealers from robbery by criminals will be dealt with in the context of this proposed legislation. I hope to bring proposals to Government shortly.

Consultancy Costs.

Questions (44)

Joan Burton

Question:

42 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he intends to undertake a review of his Department’s policy in regard to the hiring of consultants, especially in view of the fact that almost €30 million has been paid out to consultants, since the last general election; the steps in place to ensure value for money in regard to such consultants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6214/04]

View answer

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

I regret that the reply given by me in written response to a parliamentary question of 27 January 2004, reference No. 1094/04, caused serious misunderstanding and grossly exaggerated the cost of consultancy services in my Department. I should point out that the figures provided by me in response to that question included, inadvertently and erroneously, not only costs of all consultancy projects initiated by my Department, but also the costs of non-consultancy out-sourcing of certain IT services and software development services, the necessary technical expertise for which is not available in Departments. This wrongly categorised expenditure amounted to €26.4 million, or 90.3%, of the €29.3 million referred to in the written reply.

In fact, this IT and software expenditure does not fit into the category of consultancy described by Department of Finance guidelines on the matter and should more properly have been described as contracted IT services.

Two of the more significant of these IT projects relate to the introduction of the fixed charge processing system, penalty points, and the implementation of the new Government financial management system which will integrate the financial systems for the Department, the Courts Service, the Garda Síochána and the Prison Service.

On the matter generally, my Department follows strict Government public procurement guidelines in relation to engaging consultants and outside contractors for all projects, including IT work, and contracts are awarded on the basis of the most economically advantageous tender received.

A much smaller sum has been spent on consultants engaged by my Department to help carry out research on issues such as the employment of people with disabilities in the public service and the codification of the liquor licensing laws, and to help policy research in a number of areas such as immigration and citizenship, and gender and employment equality.

The small number of projects involving consultants are actively managed by my Department so as to ensure agreed deliverables and outputs are achieved and value for money is obtained.

My Department's policy in regard to the engaging of consultants is that such a course of action is resorted to only when absolutely necessary and that full value for money is derived from all such expenditure.

Bicycle Theft.

Questions (45)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

43 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the measures his Department are considering taking to reduce the level of bike theft in Ireland given the increases in this reported crime over the last year. [2163/04]

View answer

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

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the number of pedal cycle thefts in the provisional statistics for 2003 is 518 which is an increase of 21% over the previous year. A detective superintendent in the Dublin metropolitan region has been appointed to oversee a policing initiative to tackle this increase.

Every opportunity is availed of through school visits, community meetings and crime prevention leaflets to inform the community of the importance of taking basic security measures in relation to bicycles. Garda personnel can provide assistance with the identification marking of bicycles which subsequently assists identification of the owner if the bicycle is stolen.

Every bicycle stolen or recovered is recorded on the PULSE system which is a very effective aid to restoring bicycles to their owners.

Penalty Points System.

Questions (46)

Gerard Murphy

Question:

44 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has satisfied himself with the operation of the penalty points system; and his views on the Garda delays in issuing notices under section 5 of the Road Traffic Act 2002. [6364/04]

View answer

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

The main objective of the penalty points system and all Garda activity in the area of road safety is to change road user behaviour, through enforcement and surveillance, ultimately resulting in a reduction of the numbers killed and injured on our roads. While there is no room for complacency, particularly given the number of recent tragedies, provisional Garda figures for 2003 indicate a reduction of 36 in the number of road deaths.

Section 5 of the Road Traffic Act 2002 to which the Deputy has referred deals with the notification to licence holders of the endorsement of penalty points. This aspect of the system is a matter for the Minister for Transport rather than the Garda Síochána.

Nevertheless, the Deputy will appreciate that the penalty points system is currently operating on a semi manual basis. This will change later this year when the fixed charge processing system becomes operational. I think the Deputy will agree that the benefits of the considerable advances in road safety achieved in the period since the introduction of penalty points outweigh the regrettable delays resulting from the operation of the interim manual system.

I am satisfied that the role played by the Garda Síochána to date in the introduction and ongoing enforcement of the penalty points has been vital in the progress made.

Garda Operations.

Questions (47)

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

45 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether chapter three of the Garda Síochána Bill 2004 raises the prospect of political interference in the policing of the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6356/04]

View answer

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

Chapter 3 of Part 2 of the Garda Síochána Bill will provide, for the first time, a clear statutory definition of the respective roles of the Minister and the Commissioner in relation to policing with appropriate checks and balances.

I believe that the provisions of the chapter, far from being a vehicle for political interference, are instead a balanced mechanism for accountability to the Government and Oireachtas while providing the Commissioner with the necessary authority to exercise his policing functions efficiently and with efficacy.

I have to respect the fact that the Garda Síochána Bill will be debated next week in the Seanad and it would be inappropriate if this House were to pre-empt their discussions on any aspect of the Bill. I do not wish therefore to start going into any more detail on items which are appropriate to the Second Stage or Committee Stage debate on the Bill.

Public Order Offences.

Questions (48)

Simon Coveney

Question:

46 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 72 of 29 January 2004, if he will give further details regarding his proposals for a fixed penalty procedure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6363/04]

View answer

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

As I indicated in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 72 of 29 January 2004, I am considering the introduction of a statutory provision allowing for a fixed penalty procedure in respect of certain lesser public order offences, which would enhance the power of the Garda to deal with such offences in an efficient and effective way and offer an alternative to a court prosecution. Such a procedure would be similar to the fixed penalty procedure in respect of road traffic offences whereby a person charged with a relevant offence is issued with a written notice indicating that if he or she pays the appropriate penalty this will avoid a prosecution before the courts.

The proposal is being considered in the context of the proposed Criminal Justice Bill which I expect to publish this session.

Prison Accommodation.

Questions (49)

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

47 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is planning to close the Dóchas women’s prison in the Mountjoy complex; the basis for such a closure in view of the amount of public money spent in developing the Dóchas prison and the quality of the service it provides; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6218/04]

View answer

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

Since the opening of the Dóchas centre in 1999, there has been a serious overcrowding problem there, even with the benefit of an additional 20 spaces provided in the final phase of its construction. I do not regard this as an acceptable situation.

Social trends across Europe indicate that we will continue to experience an increasing level of women prisoners in our prison system in the future. It is the Government's intention, therefore, to include an expanded version of the Dóchas centre in the plans to move the entire Mountjoy prison complex to a green-field site in the greater Dublin area. Provision will also have to be made for additional spaces for women prisoners in the Munster area where there is currently serious pressure on the 20-person unit at Limerick prison.

Garda Vetting Unit.

Questions (50)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

48 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is considering the extension of the scope of the central vetting unit as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6345/04]

View answer

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

I understand that the working group established to examine the issue of extending the services of the Garda central vetting unit to other groups, taking into account all aspects of the vetting of persons coming in contact with children and vulnerable adults, held its final meeting on 23 February, 2004. I further understand that the report of the working group will be submitted to the Garda Commissioner and myself in the near future. I can assure the Deputy that full consideration will then be given to the report, including its recommendations.

Garda Deployment.

Questions (51)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

49 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he proposes to increase the number of gardaí available for patrol in the greater Dublin area, with particular reference to areas with high crime levels; his views on whether the situation is sufficiently serious to provide the extra number of gardaí promised in the programme for Government in order to deal with the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6382/04]

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 great emphasis is placed on foot patrols by local management within the Dublin metropolitan region. It is Garda policy to ensure that as many personnel as possible are engaged on foot patrols and as further personnel resources become available, they are assigned to foot patrol duty. Foot patrols are carried out at retail centres, areas of high density of traffic and areas where public order issues arise, and are continually reviewed to ensure they are addressing the policing needs of an area. In addition to routine foot patrols, dedicated foot patrols are also in place by way of various operations and initiatives which are ongoing and focus on areas of high crime levels. Garda management in the Dublin metropolitan region is satisfied that adequate personnel and resources are currently in place to meet the present policing needs of the region.

With regard to the recruitment of additional gardaí, 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 achieved2004.

I have already made it quite clear that I will not be content with raising the strength of the Garda Síochána to this historic high by the end of 2004. As soon as budgetary circumstances permit I intend, with the approval of the Government, to make progress towards the target of 14,000 provided in the programme for Government.

Immigration Bill 2004.

Questions (52)

Phil Hogan

Question:

50 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the purpose which lies in the decision to appeal a case (details supplied) in view of the fact that the Immigration Bill 2004 has been passed in acknowledgement of the legislative weakness in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6361/04]

View answer

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

The decision to appeal this judgment was taken in consultation with the Attorney General. The potential effects of the judgment itself go beyond immigration related matters. It has longer term implications for the Legislature in that it appears to rule out the possibility of legislating by reference to a text not appearing in the Bill in question. In addition, it has implications for cases which are currently before the courts.

Equality Bill 2004.

Questions (53)

Dan Boyle

Question:

51 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Equality Bill 2004 will be referred to the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority for their views; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6379/04]

View answer

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

Prior to the preparation and drafting of the Equality Bill, the purpose of which is to amend the Employment Equality Act 1998 and the Equal Status Act 2000 to give effect to EU equality directives 2000/43/EC, race directive, 2000/78/EC, framework employment directive, and 2002/73/EC, gender equal treatment in employment directive, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform undertook a comprehensive consultation process. This process was conducted during 2002 and included the social partners and other key stakeholders, including the Equality Authority. Subsequent to the publication of the Bill in January 2004, further consultations took place with the Equality Authority.

Since the principal purpose of the legislation is to give effect to the EU directives, the Bill was not specifically referred to the Human Rights Commission, which has a considerable workload, but which is free to comment as it sees fit.

Prison Committals.

Questions (54)

Jack Wall

Question:

52 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of women committed to prison in each year since 1994; the length of sentences for which they were committed; the average number of women incarcerated at any one time in any of those years; the number of prison spaces for women in each of these years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6266/04]

View answer

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

The total number of female committals, average number in custody, and capacities of the two female prisons for the years from 1994 to 2002 are set out in the table below. Official figures for the total number of committals and the average numbers in custody are not yet available for the year 2003.

Year

Number of Females Committed to Custody

Average number of females in custody

Capacity of Mountjoy Prison (Female)

Capacity of Limerick Prison (Female)

2003

Not available

Not available

80

20

2002

1,043

104

80

16

2001

1,115

96

80

16

2000

845

72

80

12

1999

868

84

40

12

1998

903

71

40

12

1997

933

63

40

12

1996

703

48

40

12

1995

696

39

40

12

1994

669

42

40

12

Sentencing Policy.

Questions (55, 56)

Tom Hayes

Question:

53 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has satisfied himself with the consistency of sentences being passed down in the District Courts throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6334/04]

View answer

Dan Neville

Question:

60 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans he has to introduce sentencing guidelines, specifically for summary offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6349/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 53 and 60 together.

Under our legal system, the law provides generally for maximum penalties for criminal offences. The law enables the judge to exercise his or her discretion, within the maximum penalty, by reference to the conclusions he or she has reached after hearing the case, including all the evidence and assessing the culpability and circumstances of the accused. I have no proposals to depart from this principle.

The complex question of sentencing policy was addressed at length by the Law Reform Commission which specifically recommended against the introduction of statutory sentencing guidelines. Its report pointed out a number of differences of opinion among members of the commission in relation to some of the recommendations in the report which tends to underline the obvious complexities which arise in relation to sentencing policy. There are, however, a number of provisions relating to the general area of sentencing which may be of interest to the Deputies.

In accordance with the provisions of the Courts and Court Officers Act 1995, funds have been made available to the Judicial Studies Institute, which was established by the Chief Justice for the purposes of judicial training. I understand that the issue of sentencing has been examined by the institute in the context of its training programme.

Section 36 of the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act 1961 makes provision for meetings of District Court judges to discuss, inter alia, the avoidance of undue divergence in the exercise of the jurisdiction of the court and the general level of fines and penalties.

Garda Inquiries.

Questions (57)

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

54 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received the report of the senior Garda officer who has been requested by the Commissioner to examine all matters featured in a television programme (details supplied) of 8 January 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6220/04]

View answer

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

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that inquiries into matters emanating from the "Prime Time" programme are continuing and it will take some time to complete this work. It would be inappropriate to make any comment at this point in time.

Garda Stations.

Questions (58)

Michael Ring

Question:

55 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations which have reduced their opening hours since he took office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6343/04]

View answer

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

I am informed by the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána that the reduction in the opening hours of Garda stations releases personnel employed on indoor administrative duties. Such personnel can be utilised more effectively in providing a visible Garda presence on outdoor policing duties. I have been informed by the Garda authorities who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources including personnel, that some 18 Garda stations throughout the country have reduced their opening hours since I took office on 6 June 2002.

Bench Warrants.

Questions (59)

John Deasy

Question:

56 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of outstanding bench warrants as at 31 January 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6290/04]

View answer

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

The information sought by the Deputy has been requested from the Garda authorities and I will contact the Deputy when their report is to hand.

Internet Grooming.

Questions (60, 61)

Denis Naughten

Question:

57 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has satisfied himself that the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 is sufficient to deal with the problem of Internet grooming; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6347/04]

View answer

Denis Naughten

Question:

96 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether a more satisfactory means of legislatively addressing the problem of Internet grooming has presented itself; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6348/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 96 together.

The Deputy will be aware from my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 1 of 29 January 2004 that I have been examining the question of Internet grooming in the context of legislation which will be required for compliance with two recent EU framework decisions.

Prisoners Releases.

Questions (62)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

58 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners absent without leave from prisons as a result of escapes or failure to return from temporary release; the steps being taken to deal with this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6258/04]

View answer

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

I again take the opportunity to dispel any belief that there is a major security issue in this area. In this context, I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 403 of 18 November 2003 and Parliamentary Question No. 5 of 29 January 2004 which give background material on the issue.

The most recent list of persons who are at least technically "at large" indicates that there are 665 such persons. As previously indicated, this list is under ongoing review, on a case by case basis, and it is anticipated that this process, when completed, will lead to a more realistic and significantly reduced figure. The Deputy will appreciate that the examination of individual records is a timely process and that this exercise is subject to the resources available to undertake this process.

Garda Stations.

Questions (63)

Damien English

Question:

59 Mr. English asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations which are manned for less than 30 hours per week; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6342/04]

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 a total of 495 Garda stations in the country are manned, that is, open to the public, for less than 30 hours per week. The extension of the current opening hours of these Garda stations would necessitate the employment of Garda personnel on indoor administrative duties. Such personnel can be utilised more effectively in providing a visible Garda presence on outdoor policing duties.

Question No. 60 answered with QuestionNo. 53.

Crime Levels.

Questions (64)

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

61 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the recent survey published by the Small Firms Association showing that the cost of crime to small business had jumped by 25% to almost €1 billion per year; his views on the accuracy of these figures; the action he intends to take to deal with this serious crime problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6223/04]

View answer

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

I am aware of the survey in question and I am very conscious of the considerable costs incurred by the business community as a result of crime. I welcome all well informed input and research on crime related issues. It is not my intention to in any way undervalue or underestimate the experiences of those who were victims of crime and who responded to the survey conducted by the Small Firms Association.

However, it should be borne in mind that the annual crime statistics compiled by the Garda Síochána are much more broadly based and thus provide a more reliable guide to the cost of crime in general. Having said that, even though the SFA's respondents stated the cost of crime had risen sharply, the survey also records that the incidence of crime against small business reduced by 4%. This reflects the decrease recorded in the Garda statistics: crime overall was down by 2% on 2002. In addition, the value of property stolen in burglaries, robberies and thefts recorded in the Garda crime statistics was €96.9 million in 2002. The comparable provisional figure for 2003 was €73.3 million, representing a decrease of 24%.

The Garda Síochána provides a range of crime prevention supports to the small and large business communities alike. They include the services of crime prevention officers who carry out surveys throughout the country and provide advice on how security may be strengthened. They also disseminate information on crime prevention through their booklet, A Guide to Retail Security. The Garda Síochána is also involved in supporting a number of business watch schemes throughout the country.

Firearms Licences.

Questions (65)

Billy Timmins

Question:

62 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the rationale of the policy of not issuing licences for 0308 firearms and other similar armaments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6324/04]

View answer

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

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Priority Question No. 4 of today on this matter.

Garda Síochána Bill 2004.

Questions (66)

Phil Hogan

Question:

63 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has satisfied himself that as drafted, aspects of the Garda Síochána Bill 2004 will retain in many instances the status quo of gardaí being investigated by gardaí; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6360/04]

View answer

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

The provisions of sections 83 to 91 of the Garda Síochána Bill, 2004 deal with the ways in which complaints against the Garda Síochána are to be investigated by the independent Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

In essence the position is that in cases of death or serious harm to a person, the Ombudsman Commission must investigate the matter itself using its own team of inquiry staff. This applies to all such cases irrespective of whether a complaint has been made. In all instances other than those involving death or serious harm, the commission in its independent discretion may again opt to have the matter investigated by its own staff by conducting a civil type inquiry or criminal investigation as the circumstances require, or it may request the Garda Commissioner to investigate the matter subject to certain conditions, which allow for the possibility that the commission may at any time take over that investigation. The commission could also decide to supervise that Garda Síochána investigation from the very beginning.

In no way do I accept that the Bill provides for a system of investigation where the gardaí investigate themselves which bears any comparison with the present process under the Garda Siochána (Complaints) Act 1986. No matter what route is chosen by the Ombudsman Commission to carry out an investigation under the Bill, whether as a result of a complaint or otherwise, and whether in regard to the most serious allegations relating to the commission of criminal offences or to those at the lower end of the scale involving breaches of discipline, the policy as reflected in the Bill is that the Ombudsman Commission retains control and direction over the whole proceedings.

Garda Stations.

Questions (67)

Damien English

Question:

64 Mr. English asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations which closed during 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6341/04]

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 that no Garda stations closed during 2003.

Equality Bill 2004.

Questions (68)

Trevor Sargent

Question:

65 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether the obligations on an employer in respect of persons with disabilities in the Equality Bill 2004 meets the requirements under the UN Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6373/04]

View answer

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

The Equality Bill 2004 which is presently before the Oireachtas will amend the Employment Equality Act 1998 and the Equal Status Act 2000 to give effect to EU equality Directives 2000/43/EC, race directive, 2000/78/EC, framework employment directive, and 2002/73/EC, gender equal treatment in employment directive. In accordance with the framework employment directive, section 9 of the Bill replaces section 16(3) of the Employment Equality Act 1998 in relation to the employer's duty to accommodate the needs of a person with a disability to enable access and participation in employment.

The UN Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (1994) cover all aspects of the lives of people with disabilities including provisions relating to employment. The rules are voluntary in nature and are considered primarily guidelines to the development of policy. In the area of employment, the rules provide that laws and regulations in the employment field should not discriminate against people with disabilities and must not raise obstacles to their employment. Equality legislation to date, and now the Equality Bill 2004, supports and enhances this aim. Other elements in the employment rule relate to the active support of people with disabilities in employment, the adaptation of workplaces, public awareness campaigns and a range of other measures geared to support the integration of people with disabilities in employment. The Equality Bill allows for such measures for this purpose. In general the aims of the standards rules are being advanced both on an administrative and legislative basis.

Question No. 66 answered with QuestionNo. 12.

Deputy State Pathologist.

Questions (69)

Mary Upton

Question:

67 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a deputy State pathologist will be appointed; if the post has been advertised; the reason a situation was allowed to develop whereby the State pathologist will have to conduct every post mortem in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6261/04]

View answer

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

I can inform the Deputy that, following the recent appointment of a person to the post of State Pathologist, a vacancy for a deputy State pathologist exists. I can also inform the Deputy that my Department has requested the Office of the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commissioners to make arrangements for the filling of this post as a matter of urgency. I can further inform the Deputy that arrangements for assistance for the State Pathologist in the performance of post mortems and other related work have been put in place, as an interim measure, until a deputy State pathologist is appointed.

Inquest Procedures.

Questions (70, 71)

Emmet Stagg

Question:

68 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the anomaly whereby only one medical doctor can give evidence at an inquest; if his attention has further been drawn to the concerns expressed by coroners regarding this anomaly; the steps he intends to take in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6260/04]

View answer

Emmet Stagg

Question:

80 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress which has been made in implementing the Report of the Working Group on the Coroner Service published in December 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6259/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 68 and 80 together.

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Question No. 21 of 29 January 2004. The position has not changed.

Garda Recruitment.

Questions (72)

Brian O'Shea

Question:

69 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the membership of the Garda at the latest date for which figures are available; the progress made to date with regard to the commitment to recruit an additional 2,000 gardaí; the annual capacity of the Garda Training College at Templemore; if he has plans to extend the college or otherwise increase training capacity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6236/04]

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 23 February 2004 is 11,920.

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 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.

I have already made it quite clear that I will not be content with raising the strength of the Garda Síochána to an historic high of 12,200 by the end of 2004. As soon as budgetary circumstances permit I intend, with the approval of the Government, to make progress towards the target of 14,000 provided in the programme for Government. Any training issues which arise, including the issue of capacity, will be addressed in that process.

The Garda College currently has accommodation on a weekly basis of 400 single rooms. These are utilised on a weekly basis to cater for student and course accommodation. The student Garda living out programme that has been developed to cater for increased numbers of Garda trainees enables Garda students to be accommodated off campus and within the environs of Templemore and can accommodate a further 300 students per week.

Garda Stations.

Questions (73)

Tom McEllistrim

Question:

70 Mr. McEllistrim asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the long awaited new Garda barracks for Castleisland, County Kerry, will proceed in view of the very inadequate and hazardous conditions of the present temporary Garda station; the recent serious assault resulting in the death of a person in the town on 27 January 2004; and the concerns of local persons regarding the rising disorder in the town, especially after dark. [6167/04]

View answer

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

There are plans to build a new Garda station in Castleisland, as soon as is practicable, to replace the old station which was destroyed by fire.

To this end, the Office of Public Works, who have responsibility for acquiring property for the State, were requested to source a suitable site in the town. When they have done that, consideration will be given to providing the new station. As with all such projects, I should point out that progress will be achieved as quickly as overall priorities within the Garda building programme and the availability of financial and other resources allow.

I understand from the Garda authorities that they are unaware of any hazardous condition in the existing temporary accommodation in Castleisland.

In relation to the serious incident referred to by the Deputy, I am informed by the Garda authorities that the matter was fully investigated and a file is currently being prepared for adjudication by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Finally, I am informed by the Garda authorities that the level of public order incidents in Castleisland sub-district has dropped from 62 in 2002 to 38 in 2003.

Court Awards.

Questions (74)

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

71 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount paid out either in respect of court awards or out of court settlements for claims taken against members of the Garda in respect of assault, unlawful arrest, or other breach of a citizens right in respect of 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 to date; the number of cases in which awards were made by the courts; the number of cases which were settled out of court; the number of such cases pending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6241/04]

View answer

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

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to court awards and out of court settlements in actions taken against members of the Garda in respect of assault, unlawful arrest or other breaches of citizens' rights is set out in the following table.

As of 31 December 2003 there were approximately 750 civil actions taken against members of the Garda Síochána on hand. In the short timeframe for answering this parliamentary question, it is not possible to give a breakdown of these actions in the form of the number of allegations of assault, unlawful arrest and other breaches of citizens' rights. However, a database introduced in 2002 for the purposes of recording civil actions taken against members of the Garda Síochána indicates that in 2003 — the first complete year for which figures are available — of the 142 actions initiated or received in that year by my Department, there were 34 cases of alleged assault recorded and 38 cases of alleged unlawful arrest recorded. The remaining 70 cases recorded included allegations of defamation and harassment. In the year to date, 13 actions have been initiated/received. They include four cases of alleged assault and six cases of alleged unlawful arrest.

Civil actions may be taken by the general public against members of the Garda Síochána for compensation for alleged wrongs and personal injuries inflicted on them by Garda members in the performance of their duties. The highest percentage of these types of civil actions against the Garda Síochána is in relation to assault and unlawful arrest. The great majority of these cases have been settled for less than €25,500. Settlement of cases takes place on the advice of the Chief State Solicitor, the Attorney General and State Counsel.

The Garda Commissioner has informed me that incidents which result in successful claims against the State in respect of the actions of gardaí are examined with a view to identifying and implementing operational strategies to eliminate or reduce similar claims in the future. The Garda Commissioner has also informed me that the Garda Síochána (Discipline) Regulations 1989 are invoked in appropriate cases where the actions of individual Garda members come into question. One of the principal aims of the Garda Síochána Bill 2004 is the establishment of a new mechanism for dealing with complaints against members of the Garda Síochána which will secure public confidence and which will address the acknowledged shortcomings in the existing law and procedures on complaints.

Year (Total Amount)

Assault

Unlawful Arrest

Other

2001 €1,619,746.83

Awards

1,904.61 (1)

20,950.68 (2)

22,220.42 (1)

Settlements

123,164.59 (5)

33,965.49 (3)

162,782.25 (9)

Costs

244,665.35

123,199.41

886,894.03

Total

369,734.55

178,115.58

1,071,896.70

2002 €1,240,388.40

Awards

1,270 (1)

3,809.21 (1)

56,500 (2)

Settlements

166,924.48 (6)

106,835.58(10)

185,078.82(11)

Costs

230,769.67

148,714.19

340,486.45

Total

398,964.15

259,358.98

582,065.27

2003 (Provisional) €1,276,127.55

Awards

11,000 (1)

10,000 (2)

4,870 (2)

Settlements

75,000 (4)

303,011 (5)

112,814.84 (4)*

Costs

145,561.70

71,794.28

542,075.73*

Total

231,561.70

384,805.28

659,760.57

2004 (Provisional) (as of 24/2/04) €30,375.33

Awards

0

0

0

Settlements

10,000 (1)

4,007 (1)

0

Costs

0

16,368.33

0

Total

10,000

20,375.33

0

The number of cases in which awards were made by the courts and the number of cases which were settled out of court are shown in brackets in each case.

*These provisional figures are updated from those circulated with reply to Parliamentary Question No. 15, dated 29 January, as a result of being clarified in the process of drawing up the 2003 Appropriation Account.

Detention Centres.

Questions (75)

Gerard Murphy

Question:

72 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the places of detention for juveniles under the auspices of his Department; the number of young persons detained in each centre; his plans to expand and further develop the service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6365/04]

View answer

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

For the purpose of this question a juvenile is assumed to be a person aged under 18 years of age. St. Patrick's Institution is the designated detention centre for male offenders aged between 16 and 21 years of age for which my Department has responsibility. In practice, the majority of juveniles committed to custody are detained there. In addition, each of the prisons in the State can accommodate persons aged 17 years and over. With these provisions in mind, the location of juveniles in custody on 24 February 2004 are set out in the followingtable.

Location

Number

St. Patrick’s Institution

56

Cloverhill Prison

6

Castlerea Prison

1

Cork Prison

4

Limerick Prison

3

Mountjoy Prison (Female)

5

Midlands Prison

1

Wheatfield Prison

3

Total

79

The Children Act 2001 provides a statutory framework for the future development of the juvenile justice system. There is a requirement under the Act for my Department to provide separate detention facilities for 16 and 17 year olds. Consideration is being given to locating a stand-alone juvenile detention centre in the proposed replacement campus for the Mountjoy complex.

Proposals for Prisons.

Questions (76)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

73 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals for the future of the Fort Mitchell and the Curragh Prisons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6216/04]

View answer

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

The Deputy will be aware that on 11 November 2003, the Government approved a series of measures, to be taken on a rolling basis with effect from 1 January 2004, in the event of failure to reach agreement with the Prison Officers' Association on a change agenda aimed at eliminating overtime payments and reducing other costs in the Irish Prison Service. These measures included the mothballing of the Curragh Place of Detention and Fort Mitchel Place of Detention.

The reasons for the Government decision have been well aired in the House and indeed in the Seanad. I would refer the Deputy to the Adjournment debates in this House on 12, 18 and 27 November 2003 and to an Adjournment debate in the Seanad on 19 November 2003. In the course of those debates, I made it clear that the Irish Prison Service could not continue to spend public money to feed an overtime culture which was virtually out of control, while maintaining outdated and inefficient work practices. I also made it clear that I had no desire to close or mothball prisons and that my preference was for a mutually advantageous agreement with the Prison Officers' Association which would ensure an efficient and cost effective Prison Service into the future. My position has not changed in that regard.

In the absence of agreement with the Prison Officers' Association, the Curragh Place of Detention closed on 20 January 2004 and Fort Mitchel closed on 10 February 2004. I have no plans at present to reopen either of the two facilities.

European Arrest Warrant.

Questions (77)

Joe Costello

Question:

74 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if only eight of the 15 members states have enacted legislation providing for the introduction of the European arrest warrant; the reason he felt it necessary to ask the Houses of the Oireachtas to enact the European Arrest Warrant Bill 2003 prior to the Christmas 2003 recess; the further reason the provisions of the Bill did not come into effect from 1 January 2004 throughout the EU; if he will take the opportunity to address the concerns raised by Amnesty International and the Human Rights Commission regarding the measure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6211/04]

View answer

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

Eight member states, including Ireland, met the deadline of 1 January 2004 for the implementation of the framework decision on the European arrest warrant. The European arrest warrant is now in force in relations between those member states. Of the remainder, the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting this month which I chaired was assured that the great majority would have complied with their obligations by the end of April.

Implementation of the framework decision requires the enactment of national legislation in each member state and, as for the outstanding member states, I understand that the parliamentary processes are under way for the enactment of their legislation.

Member states accepted certain obligations when agreeing to adopt the framework decision on the European arrest warrant — it was adopted unanimously by all member states in June 2002. In particular, member states accepted the obligation relating to the deadlines for implementation, including the specific requirement in Article 34.1 that "Member states shall take the necessary measures to comply with the provisions of the Framework Decision by 31 December 2003". It is a matter for each member state to comply with the obligations it assumed when adopting the framework decision. Ireland fulfilled its obligation by having its implementing legislation in place by the 31 December deadline.

The Deputy refers to concerns raised by Amnesty International and the Human Rights Commission regarding the European arrest warrant. Those concerns are focused in particular on the need for effective safeguards for arrested persons. In that regard, I would like to point out that the framework decision contains several safeguard provisions, including the obligation set out in Article 1.3 to respect the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the ECHR. In addition, recitals 12 and 13 of the framework decision provide that a member state may continue to apply its constitutional rules relating to due process, freedom of association, freedom of the press and freedom of expression in other media. Those recitals also provide that a person may not be surrendered if the warrant has been issued for reasons connected with his or her sex, race, religion, ethnic origin, nationality, language, political opinions or sexual orientation or if there is a risk of the death penalty, torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.

The framework decision also contains several specific mandatory and discretionary grounds for refusal of a request to surrender, for example, if the person has not reached the age of criminal responsibility or has already been tried for the offence in question, and also provides that guarantees may be required from the requesting state, for example about a retrial where the original trial was held in absentia, before a person is surrendered. Once arrested, a person whose surrender has been sought has a right to a lawyer and an interpreter.

The European Arrest Warrant Act 2003, in particular Part 3, gives effect in Irish law to these safeguards. It is a matter for the other member states to give effect to these provisions in a manner that is consistent with the framework decision and their national legal systems.

I would also like to draw the Deputy's attention to the statement Ireland made at the adoption of the framework decision. Ireland declared that it would surrender persons only for the purposes of bringing them to trial or for the service of a sentence and not for the purposes of investigation. The aim of the declaration was to avoid the risk of persons being held in investigative detention following surrender. Section 11(3) of the 2003 Act gives effect to the declaration in Irish law.

Courts Service.

Questions (78)

Liz McManus

Question:

75 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made by the Courts Service with regard the guidelines for members of the Garda acting as jury keepers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6234/04]

View answer

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

As the Deputy will appreciate, under the Courts Service Act 1998, the Courts Service is independent in the performance of its functions, including the management of the courts. The issue of security arrangements within the courts, including arrangements concerning juries, is a matter, in the first instance, for the Courts Service to consider. In this regard, I am advised by the Courts Service that it is currently in the process of producing guidelines for jury keepers. I am further advised that the Courts Service hopes to be in a position to finalise the guidelines in the very near future.

EU Justice and Home Affairs Council.

Questions (79, 80)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

76 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the outcome of talks at the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on 19 February 2004 in Brussels regarding the proposed establishment of a European intelligence agency as a European counterpart to the CIA; and the Government’s position as represented at the meeting. [6381/04]

View answer

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

81 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the outcome of the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on 19 February 2004 in Brussels, particularly with respect to the status of plans for moving forward with the common migration and asylum policies; the Government’s position on the way in which these policies should be shaped; the developments the Government anticipates in advance of the next Council meeting on 31 March 2004; and if these policies will in fact be concluded during the Irish Presidency of the EU. [6380/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 76 and 81 together.

I chaired the meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs, JHA, Council in Brussels on 19 February 2004. The Council discussed a range of issues and significant progress was made on a number of agenda items.

The issues discussed included, in the context of the development of common asylum policies, the proposal for a Council directive on minimum standards on procedures in member states for granting and withdrawing refugee status, the procedures directive, and the proposal for a Council directive on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third country nationals and stateless persons as refugees or as persons who otherwise need international protection, the qualifications directive .

There was an orientation debate on the procedures directive. The objective of this proposal is, inter alia, to establish minimum procedures in member states for examining applications for asylum. The main focus of the debate was on the appeals element of the proposed directive. In light of the debate, the Presidency will bring forward further proposals with a view to reaching an agreement by the 1 May 2004 deadline set by the Amsterdam treaty. There was also a discussion on the qualifications directive. The purpose of this proposal is to provide a framework for an international protection regime based on existing international and community obligations and the current practice of member states. The intention is that both proposals will be further examined at the March JHA Council when the Presidency hopes that progress can be made with a view to reaching agreement by the 1 May 2004 deadline set by the Amsterdam treaty.

The Council also provided an opportunity for the Secretary General of the Council and High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Mr. Javier Solana, to make a presentation on the European security strategy, A Secure Europe in a Better World. Austria, in the context of that discussion, also put forward a number of ideas as to how the European security strategy might be implemented including,inter alia, a proposal for the establishment of a European intelligence agency. The Presidency undertook to reflect further on how the JHA Council could best contribute to the development of the ESS in keeping with the mandate given to the Irish Presidency by the European Council to take forward work on the strategy.

Progress was made on a number of other items at the Council, including agreement on a Council regulation on establishing a programme for financial and technical assistance to third countries in the area of migration and asylum; a Council recommendation concerning a security handbook concerning co-operation between member states for the purpose of preventing terrorist acts at the Olympic Games and other comparable sporting events; Council conclusions arising from the Three Year Report of the European Police College, CEPOL, and the development of the visa information system, VIS; two important outstanding questions in the context of the ongoing negotiations recognition to confiscation orders; and the establishment of a Friends of the Presidency Group for the purpose of drawing up a report on organised crime originating in the western Balkans.

There was also a discussion on the implementation of the European arrest warrant and a presentation by the Commission on its proposal for a Council regulation on the standards for the security features and biometrics in EU citizens' passports. This proposal will now be examined in the relevant Council framework.

Garda Deployment.

Questions (81)

Seymour Crawford

Question:

77 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the decision of Thurles Town Council to engage security personnel confirms the need for a fully resourced community policing initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6294/04]

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 that the following Garda community relations initiatives are in operation from Thurles Garda station: six Neighbourhood Watch schemes and three community alert schemes. I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that local Garda management are satisfied with the current policing arrangements in Thurles. These policing arrangements are separate from arrangements put in place by Thurles Urban District Council, or other local authorities, to deal with estate management or related issues within their remit.

Legal Aid Service.

Questions (82)

Joe Sherlock

Question:

78 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps being taken to reduce the waiting time for an appointment with a solicitor at the legal aid centres given that the average waiting time is five months and that this can rise to 13 months at some centres; his views on whether such waiting times are acceptable; the additional funding which has been provided in the Estimates for 2004 to reduce waiting times; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6256/04]

View answer

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

The Deputy will be aware that under the terms of section 30 of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995, the provision of legal aid and advice is the function of the Legal Aid Board and that in accordance with the provisions of section 3 (3) of that Act, the board is independent in the exercise of its functions.

The board continuously monitors the operation of its law centre network to ensure its resources are used to maximum effect in making its services available to the greatest number of eligible persons. The additional management posts made available in recent years are enabling the board to develop a more structured change management approach to the provision of civil legal aid throughout the State. This approach is geared to examine the throughput of cases at law centres and where waiting times, for whatever reason, become excessive the position is examined by the board with a view to taking remedial action.

The Deputy will be aware that the grant-in-aid to the Legal Aid Board for this year is €18.388 million, an increase of almost 5% over the 2003 provision of €17.539 million. The resources provided to the Legal Aid Board in recent years has increased significantly. In 1997 the grant-in-aid available to the board was €10.656. The figure for 2004 represents an increase of almost 73% during this period. During this period also sanction to employ additional staff was conveyed to the board. Since 1997 sanctioned posts in the board's law centre network increased from 191 to 215, of which 89 are solicitor posts, an increase of eight solicitor posts.

With regard to persons waiting to see a solicitor, the board operates a procedure whereby priority is accorded for certain categories of cases, for example, domestic violence, child care, child abduction and other cases where there are time limits. These cases are dealt with immediately and such applicants are not placed on a waiting list. Such a system for priorities is necessary to ensure, for example, persons who are subjected to domestic violence and cases involving the care of children are provided with a speedy service. In 2002 priority appointments were offered by law centres to over 20% of applicants for the board's services.

In addition, managing solicitors at law centres have authority to give priority to any case on the waiting list at their centres. For example, if an applicant is gravely ill, or in cases where an applicant is in danger of losing assets or of losing title to a legal remedy if legal services are delayed, the managing solicitor can accord such cases priority status.

Inquiries into Garda Activities.

Questions (83)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

79 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action which has been taken to implement the recommendations of the Nally report regarding the keeping of better records of North-South contacts, exchanges in intelligence matters, a written code of instructions and guidelines on intelligence gathering and agent handling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6238/04]

View answer

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

I am advised by the Garda authorities that appropriate action has been taken in line with the recommendations of the Nally report.

Question No. 80 answered with QuestionNo. 68.
Question No. 81 answered with QuestionNo. 76.

Proposed Legislation.

Questions (84)

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

82 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects that the promised disability Bill will be published; the discussions he has had with disability groups regarding the terms of the Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6265/04]

View answer

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

I assure the Deputy it is my intention, in accordance with the commitment given in An Agreed Programme for Government, to circulate a disability Bill in some weeks time. Given the complex and cross cutting issues involved, the preparation of the Bill is being overseen by the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion.

The disability Bill is a key part of the framework being put in place by the Government to underpin the equal participation by people with disabilities in Irish society. The framework includes the Education for Persons with Disabilities Bill 2003, which has recently completed Committee Stage; the Comhairle (amendment) Bill, which is being prepared in the Department of Social and Family Affairs regarding the provision of advocacy and sign language interpretation services; sectoralplans for key public services; and equality legislation.

Following concerns expressed by interest groups, the Government agreed to further consultations about the Disability Bill 2001 and proposals for disability legislation. An expert consultation team was appointed by the Government in April 2002 to oversee the consultation process. The team met and received the views of stakeholders, including the disability legislation consultation team, DLCG, the social partners, the community and voluntary sector and relevant Departments before completing its task in February 2003. These discussions covered a broad range of issues, including assessment of need, related service provision, access to public buildings and services including transport and redress.

As Deputies will be aware, the DLCG is a group representative of people with disabilities, their families, carers and service provider which was brought together by the National Disability Authority, NDA, to facilitate dialogue at national level, both within the sector and with the consultation team. The DLCG presented the document, Equal Citizens — Proposals for Core Elements of Disability Legislation, to the expert consultation team in February 2003.

The Taoiseach and the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Dea, who has responsibility for equality and disability issues met the DLCG in mid-July 2003. A further meeting took place between the group and the Taoiseach on 27 November 2003. Separate meetings have also taken place between the DLCG and the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O'Malley. The discussions at these meetings covered such matters as assessment of need, standards, service provision, the need to build capacity in key sectors of the public service so as to allow provision of disability accessible services in a cost effective way and workable redress mechanisms. The DLCG was assured of the Government's commitment to publish the disability Bill as a matter of priority.

In recent weeks, there have been meetings between the DLCG and officials from my Department, the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Social and Family Affairs. At these meetings, the DLCG was given an outline of the proposals for legislation and their views about these proposals were discussed and noted for consideration by the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion. The Cabinet committee and the Government are finalising their deliberations about the Bill, which will be circulated in some weeks time.

Local Drug Task Forces.

Questions (85)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

83 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on the findings of the recent report published by the north inner city drugs task force entitled Drugs, Crime & Community — Monitoring Quality of Life in the North Inner City; and the implications this report has for his Department. [3251/04]

View answer

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

During 2002 my Department funded the Dublin north inner city local drug task force's study, Drugs, Crime & Community in Dublin — Monitoring Quality of Life in the North Inner City, at a cost of €10,800. The report, which was compiled by Mr. Johnny Connolly, was formally launched at a seminar held in Ozanam House, Dublin 1 on 23 June 2003.

The study was concerned with the piloting of a research instrument to aid in ascertaining the quality of life in a specific location in Dublin's north inner city with a focus on the impact of drug related crime and anti-social behaviour. The recommendations contained in the report are currently under consideration by a subgroup of the task force which will formulate proposals for action to relevant Departments, including my own, and other agencies.

Proposed Legislation.

Questions (86)

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

84 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has proposals for legislative change to support the mediation process as a method of dispute resolution. [6165/04]

View answer

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

The Civil Liability and Courts Bill, which I published recently, contains provisions relating to mediation in personal injuries actions. The Bill provides that a court may direct that parties to a personal injuries action meet in a mediation conference, with an independent chairperson, to discuss and attempt to settle the action. Where a party fails to comply with a direction to take part in the mediation, the Bill provides that the court may direct that party to pay costs incurred after the giving of the direction.

The Rules of the Superior Courts (Commercial Proceedings) 2004, made by the superior courts rules committee with my concurrence, have provision for mediation, conciliation or arbitration in commercial proceedings. The rules apply generally to claims, other than claims for damages for personal injuries, with a value of at least €1,000,000.

The second programme of the Law Reform Commission, approved by Government, includes alternative dispute resolution, ADR, among the topics which will be examined by the commission. I look forward to the outcome of this work in due course.

At European level, in April 2002, the European Commission produced a Green Paper on ADR in Civil and Commercial Law. This was with the objective of launching a broad consultation process as to how best to promote ADR. It is understood that the Commission may present a proposal for a legislative instrument on ADR before the end of this year but there is no information available as to the likely content of such a proposal.

Equality Legislation.

Questions (87)

Dan Boyle

Question:

85 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the reason, under section 47 of the Equality Bill 2004, non-nationals are excluded protection under the Equal Status Act 2000 in respect of widely defined actions of public authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6378/04]

View answer

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

This section does not permit discrimination, in the provision of goods and services, to anyone in the State, on the basis of race or nationality.

Section 47, however, clarifies that any action taken by a public authority, governing or arising from the entry to and residence in the State of non-nationals is not challengable under the Equal Status Act 2000. This was implicit in the existing Act because permitting entry to and residence in the State is not a "service" within the meaning of the Act. Moreover, treating persons differently on the basis of their legal status, for example, distinguishing between those lawfully and unlawfully resident in the State, and those seeking asylum and those granted it, is not discrimination on the grounds of race or nationality.

Article 3 of the race directive states, "This Directive does not cover difference of treatment based on nationality and is without prejudice to provisions and conditions relating to the entry into and residence of third country nationals and stateless persons on the territory of Member States, and to any treatment which arises from the legal status of the third-country nationals and stateless persons concerned."

In the Equal Status Act, we outlaw discrimination on the ground of nationality. This goes beyond the requirements of the race directive.

In line with Article 3(2) of the directive, we wish to extend the statutory exclusion in section 14 of the Equal Status Act 2000 to also exclude non-statutory schemes, for example, direct provision for asylum seekers, which allow different treatment on the basis of the legal status of third country nationals from the remit of the Equal Status Act 2000. This amendment is required also to keep in line with a similar amendment being provided for the Employment Equality Act 1998.

Contrary to what is suggested by the Deputy, section 47 narrowly defines the actions of the public authorities that are exempt, namely those actions governing or arising from the entry to and residence in the State of non-nationals.

Strategic Management Initiative.

Questions (88)

Willie Penrose

Question:

86 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received the report from the steering group working under the SMI on Garda organisational structures which he told Dáil Éireann on 29 January 2004 was expected within the coming weeks; the main findings of the report; if it is intended to publish the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6242/04]

View answer

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

The Garda SMI implementation steering group has finalised its report, which I have just received. I am having the report examined in my Department and will give careful consideration to all of the steering group's recommendations and to the question of publication.

Proposed Legislation.

Questions (89)

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

87 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he proposes to introduce legislation relating to judicial conduct; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6164/04]

View answer

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

An Agreed Programme for Government contains a commitment to bring forward legislation to provide effective remedies for complaints about judicial misbehaviour including lay participation in the investigation of complaints.

Work on the development of the scheme of a Bill is under way in my Department. As indicated in the Government's legislative programme for the current Dáil session, published by the Government Chief Whip on 25 January last, I expect to seek Government approval to publish the Bill in the current year.

Garda Investigations.

Questions (90)

Joan Burton

Question:

88 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the Garda investigation into the murder of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6213/04]

View answer

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

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the murder of the person referred to in the Deputy's question was fully investigated by the Garda and an investigation file was forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions for directions.

I am further informed that in 2002 the investigation was subsequently reviewed by members of the Garda independent from the investigators who carried out the original investigation and a report was forwarded to the DPP who directed that no prosecution should ensue.

Arising from recent related civil proceedings at Cork Circuit Court and following consultation with the DPP, the Garda Commissioner requested the officers who undertook the 2002 review to conduct an evaluation of the oral evidence tendered at the hearing. Any new evidence arising out of this process will be forwarded to the DPP for directions.

As the Deputy will appreciate, I have no role in the investigation or prosecution of cases. This is a long standing principle of our system of justice. The role of the Garda is to investigate alleged offences, to gather whatever evidence may be available and to submit a report to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The question of whether a person should be prosecuted and for what criminal offence is the responsibility of the DPP. The director, who is independent in the performance of his functions, makes his decision on the basis of the Garda findings viewed against the background of common and-or statute law. In the circumstances it would, therefore, be inappropriate for me to comment further on the case.

Garda Strength.

Questions (91)

John Perry

Question:

89 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí who retired during 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6335/04]

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 a total of 417 members — all ranks — resigned, retired or otherwise left the Garda during 2003.

Freedom of Information.

Questions (92)

Joe Sherlock

Question:

90 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he intends to bring forward an order applying the Freedom of Information Act 1997 to the Garda; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6255/04]

View answer

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

The Garda Síochána is one of the bodies under the aegis of my Department which has not to date been made subject to the Freedom of Information Acts of 1997 and 2003.

The FOI Acts have been extended to additional public bodies on a phased basis since it commenced in April 1998. The Government has decided that this process should continue so that all bodies appropriate for inclusion are covered by end 2005. The Department of Finance is, therefore, conducting a consultation with all Departments with a view to preparing a list of bodies that are considered to be appropriate or inappropriate for inclusion under FOI for submission to the Government in the near future. I do not wish to anticipate the outcome of this process, but I do not anticipate the extension of the FOI Acts to the Garda.

Garda Equipment.

Questions (93)

Pat Breen

Question:

91 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the type and quantity of non-lethal weaponry which was issued to the Garda in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6292/04]

View answer

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

In November 2002 I authorised the acquisition and introduction, for use by the emergency response unit, of three less than lethal devices recommended in the Implementation Plan for the Introduction of Less than Lethal Devices into An Garda Síochána.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that a request for tender for the acquisition of non-lethal weapons was issued to a number of companies late last year. This tender process is still ongoing. I am further informed that there was no non-lethal weaponry issued to gardaí in 2003.

Garda Retirement.

Questions (94)

Michael Ring

Question:

92 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans he has to increase the retirement age for existing gardaí and sergeants from 57 to 60; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6344/04]

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 Operations.

Questions (95)

Seymour Crawford

Question:

93 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of Garda time spent in trying to detain persons pursuant to bench warrants in the period 1 January 2004 to 31 January 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6295/04]

View answer

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

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the information requested is not readily available and could only be obtained by the expenditure of a disproportionate amount of Garda time and resources which could not be justified in the circumstances.

Citizenship Applications.

Questions (96)

Seán Ryan

Question:

94 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Government is considering proposals to withdraw the constitutional right of citizenship to all those born on this island; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6254/04]

View answer

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

The Government is concerned at the abuse of Irish citizenship law by persons with no connection to the State arriving in Ireland with the sole objective of giving birth to a child who will, as a result of being born in Ireland, be entitled to Irish citizenship. The Supreme Court judgement of 23 January 2003, in the cases ofL&O, brought clarity to the situation of those non-national parents of a child born in Ireland who sought to establish a basis for residence in the State solely on the basis of their parentage of such a child. On 17 July 2003 the Government's policy on the handling of claims for leave to remain in the State from the parents of such children was announced. Ireland is the only member state of the European Union which grants citizenship to a child based solely on its birth on the national territory. In all other member states the citizenship of a child is dependent on the citizenship of the parents and/or the status and duration of residence in the member state concerned.

There are serious issues relating mainly to citizenship to be dealt with and the Government is considering all aspects, including the question of whether constitutional and legislative change may be necessary.

Garda Investigations.

Questions (97)

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

95 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the investigation which has been held into the murder of a person (details supplied) on 27 January 2004; if the Garda investigation has been completed; if a file has been sent to the DPP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6219/04]

View answer

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

The person referred to by the Deputy was found in his cell in the B wing of Mountjoy prison at approximately 12:07 p.m. He was attended to by medical orderlies before being removed to the Mater Hospital where he was pronounced dead at approximately 12:45 p.m.

I am informed that the internal investigation being carried out by the Governor of Mountjoy Prison is at an advanced stage and it is expected that he will report his findings to me in due course.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there is an ongoing Garda investigation into the murder of the person concerned and that an investigation file will be forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions in due course.

Question No. 96 answered with QuestionNo. 57.

Garda Operations.

Questions (98)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

97 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons involved in organised crime or deemed to be benefiting from such activities in the greater Dublin area; the extent to which any or all of them have been arrested and charged in the past two years; if each or all of them have holiday homes or residential accommodation outside the State; the extent to which their operations including drugs and firearms dealings have been curtailed in the same period; the number of times such persons have travelled outside the State in this time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6383/04]

View answer

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

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the policy of tackling organised criminal groups through targeted intelligence-led operations has yielded excellent results during the past year. This covered several areas of criminal activities, including armed robberies and trafficking in illicit drugs.

To this end the co-ordination and tasking of the individual specialised units attached to national support services and crime and security branch, together with the utilisation of local units in consultation with regional assistant commissioners, has proven very effective.

There is continual analysis of criminal intelligence by specialised units which allows for a varied Garda response to particular trends in criminal activity.

As I indicated to the Deputy in my reply to Questions Nos. 149 and 157 on 29 January, the most recently completed EU Situation Report on Organised Crime identified 17 major crime groups in this country. Approximately half of these groups operate in Dublin but, by its nature, the position in regard to gangland activity, including the composition of various groups, does not remain static.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that to disclose any aspect of operational intelligence runs the risk of inhibiting its effectiveness. It is not the practice or policy of the Garda Síochána to comment on particular operations carried out by specialist national units.

When intelligence-led operations against organised criminal groups are mounted by the Garda Síochána arrests are made where the circumstances warrant such a course of action.

Joint Policing Committees.

Questions (99)

John Deasy

Question:

98 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the meetings of bodies referred to in section 31(2)(a) of the Garda Bill 2004 will be principally held in public. [6291/04]

View answer

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

The working arrangements for the joint policing committees, which it is proposed to establish under section 32, will be addressed in guidelines to be agreed between my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and myself. I will have particular regard, in agreeing guidelines, to the desirability of the greatest possible degree of openness and transparency consistent with effectiveness in the operation of the committees.

I have to respect the fact that the Garda Síochána Bill will be debated next week in the Seanad and it would be inappropriate if in this House were to pre-empt its discussions on any aspect of the Bill. I do not wish therefore to start going into any more detail on items which are appropriate to the Second Stage or Committee Stage debate on the Bill.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Questions (100, 101)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

99 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the promised tribunal of inquiry arising from the Cory report will be established; the form it will take; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6240/04]

View answer

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

In accordance with the recommendation of Mr. Justice Peter Cory, I secured Government approval in December last for the establishment of a public inquiry into the murders in 1989 of RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and RUC Superintendent Bob Buchanan.

The Government further approved that the public inquiry will take the form of a tribunal of inquiry under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts 1921 to 2002.

My Department is currently drafting specific terms of reference for the tribunal, in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, and I intend to secure further Government approval as soon as possible to bring the necessary resolutions before both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

100 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way he envisages a Garda volunteer force to operate with reference to his recently announced plans to establish such a force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6366/04]

View answer

As is explained in the explanatory and financial memorandum to the Garda Síochána Bill 2004, section 14 provides a basis in law for the resources of the Garda Síochána to be supplemented by the appointment of persons as volunteer members of the Garda Síochána. It is an enabling provision only, and I must emphasise that no decision on the appointment of such members has been taken by the Government.

I have to respect the fact that the Garda Síochána Bill will be debated next week in the Seanad and it would be inappropriate if this House were to pre-empt their discussions on any aspect of the Bill. I do not wish therefore to start going into any more detail on items which are appropriate to the Second Stage or Committee Stage debate on the Bill.

Garda Recruitment.

Questions (102)

John Perry

Question:

101 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí recruited during 2003. [6336/04]

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 a total of 690 trainees commenced training in the Garda College in Templemore during 2003.

Crime Prevention.

Questions (103)

Pat Breen

Question:

102 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the need for town councils to supplement the work of the Garda; by engaging security personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6293/04]

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 it is their view that there is no need for town councils to supplement the work of the Garda Síochána.

I have been further informed that Garda management is satisfied with current policing arrangements. These policing arrangements are quite separate from any arrangements put in place by any local authority to deal with estate management or other related issues within its remit.

Prison Staff.

Questions (104)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

103 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to efforts to settle the industrial dispute involving members of the Prison Officers’ Association; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6215/04]

View answer

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

Discussions between the Irish Prison Service and the Prison Officers' Association are taking place at the Labour Relations Commission with the assistance of a facilitator. As these discussions are still ongoing, the Deputy will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to comment in detail on progress at this time. I very much hope that agreement can be reached in the discussions.

Export Licences.

Questions (105)

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

104 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the details of the dual use export licences for goods within the 3A001a7 category since 1 January 2000; and if any of the goods authorised for export were for incorporation into military systems. [6411/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

My Department issued 554 dual-use export licences within the 3A001a7 category since 1 January 2000. These data are broken down as follows:

Dual-use export licences under Category 3A001a7

Year

Number of Licences issued

2000

41

2001

96

2002

201

2003

210

2004 (to 25/02/2004)

6

Total

554

None of the goods were authorised for export my Department for incorporation into military systems. My Department is unable to disclose the names of the licensed exporters as all dealings with individual applicants for export licences, which can involve the disclosure of commercially sensitive information, are conducted on the basis that confidentiality will be maintained.

EU Trade Policy.

Questions (106)

Gay Mitchell

Question:

105 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the duties of Article 133 committee of the European Union; her views on the case for greater transparency in relation to this committee; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6435/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

Community trade policy is decided according to the provisions of Article 133 of the EC Treaty. The European Commission negotiates on behalf of the member states in consultation with a special trade policy committee provided for under the treaty — the so-called Article 133 committee — which comprises trade officials representative of all EU member states. A key element of the duties performed by the committee includes the provision of advice to the European Commission, as negotiator, in the conduct of trade negotiations from the opening through to the conclusion of EU multilateral, regional and bilateral trade agreements.

Committee members discuss the full range of trade policy issues impacting on the Union, from strategic issues including the launch of WTO multilateral trade rounds, trade aspects of wider EU concern, including regional and bilateral trade agreements between the Union and non-EU states, to specific issues which impact on the export of products and services. This ensures a consistent policy approach in the formulation and evolution of the common commercial policy — CCP — of the Union.

Decisions on the mandate to open trade negotiations, directives for negotiation to guide the Commission as lead EU negotiator, and the decision ultimately on whether to adopt an accord rests solely with the Council of Ministers. In these cases the European Commission submits proposals to the European Council for approval. It is the Council of Ministers alone, as decision-makers, which has ultimate responsibility for approval of proposals to open, conduct and finalise EU trade agreements in the context of the development of the CCP.

Regular and substantive discussions with stakeholders are a feature of the process of consultation on key policy issues and negotiating positions considered at 133 committee meetings. In addition to consultation at the official level, across Departments, ongoing consultations are undertaken with other stakeholders including civil society. Meetings and consultations are convened with the business community, the farming community and development NGOs at the request of these interested parties. Thus, for example, the network of NGOs under the trade matters umbrella meets regularly, at its request, with myself and with officials from relevant Departments, including the Departments of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Foreign Affairs, and Agriculture and Food.

Since assuming the Presidency of the European Union, the agendas of the meetings of the Article 133 committee are published in advance, in the interests of greater transparency, on the Irish EU Presidency website, www.eu2004.ie.

I regard the current arrangements as being appropriate and, in the context of regular and ongoing consultations with key stakeholders, as providing a substantial degree of transparency in the operation of the work of the 133 committee.

Employment Support Services.

Questions (107)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

106 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the efforts she has made to date to replace the 300 jobs lost arising from the closure of a company (details supplied) in County Kildare; the extent to which she has met with bodies, groups or agencies likely to provide replacement or alternative jobs; if she has met or will again meet with management or employees of the company with a view to a solution; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6510/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

The State agencies, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, which have responsibility for enterprise development, have been marketing the Celbridge facility for some months. An updated profile of the facility was circulated to IDA's network of overseas offices but efforts to attract a replacement project have not been successful. However, interest has been expressed in acquiring the facility for non-manufacturing purposes but agreement has not yet been reached on this issue.

Enterprise Ireland and the Kildare County Enterprise Board have provided advice to a number of Schneider employees interested in starting small businesses. There is considerable ongoing enterprise development in the ICT sector in the Leixlip area which should provide opportunities for alternative employment.

FÁS is meeting staff, who are being made redundant, and offering them its full range of support services, including career guidance, access to labour market information, and training courses, where appropriate, to enhance employability. To date, with the co-operation of the company, FÁS has interviewed over 100 workers for this purpose. Out-placement consultants are also working closely with the company in seeking other employment opportunities.

While I have not met interests from the Celbridge area in relation to the Schneider job losses, the State agencies, under the aegis of my Department, are working closely with them with a view to finding alternative employment for the workers affected.

Milk Quota.

Questions (108)

Gerard Murphy

Question:

107 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a person (details supplied) in County Cork can be awarded extra quota under the hardship clause; and if he will make a statement with regard to the qualifying criteria used for gaining extra quota. [6443/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

The allocation of milk quota from the national reserve is granted on the basis of recommendations from the Milk Quota Appeals Tribunal. The tribunal is a body established to consider applications for additional quota from individual producers who have suffered severe hardship in the context of the milk quota system. There is no record of the person named having applied to the tribunal in the current 2003-04 quota year. While the deadline for application in respect of the current quota year has passed, an application may be made for the 2004-05 quota year when the application forms become available in the autumn.

The tribunal gives priority to the following categories of producers: small scale producers whose entitlement to purchase quota under recent milk quota restructuring schemes was limited; younger dairy farmers with small milk quotas; producers whose butterfat representative levels are very low; and producers who are in financial difficulty.

In assessing these applications, the tribunal takes account of the following factors: current quota size; off-farm income and/or other farm enterprises; size of holding; family circumstances, including succession; commitment to dairying; and previous allocations from the national reserve.

Grant Payments.

Questions (109)

Michael Ring

Question:

108 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has had their REP scheme payment reduced. [6484/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

An amended plan was received in my Department on 11 February 2004. The amended plan declared a reduction of some 3.8 hectares in the commonage area of this holding.

The applicants payment will now be based on some 34.4 hectares at the enhanced measure A rate of payment of €242 per hectare with the balance up to the maximum of 40 hectares at the €151 per hectare rate. Previously the applicant had declared some 38.2 hectares as eligible for the enhanced measure A rate of payment.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Questions (110)

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

109 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if his attention has been drawn to the concerns of many farmers who entered the farm retirement scheme (details supplied); and if he has proposals to deal with the injustices thereby arising. [6491/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

My Department is involved in working groups and in continuing discussions with the European Commission on the detailed rules for implementing the mid-term review agreement. While it may be some time yet before the position is clear, I have already raised and will continue to raise a number of issues relating to farmers who have retired under the early retirement schemes, and the implications for them of de-coupling and the single payment scheme.

The legal position regarding the single payment system, as laid down in the European Council regulation, is that entitlements are not linked to land but to farmers who were active producers during the reference period and who remain active farmers in 2005. A farmer who joined the early retirement scheme has undertaken to give up farming permanently, and therefore he or she cannot be regarded as a farmer when the time comes to activate single payment entitlements in 2005.

Retired farmers cannot themselves activate entitlements that were earned during the reference period. However, following negotiations, the Commission has indicated that it favours arrangements that will allow family members who take over these holdings to have access to the national reserve. This would include cases where the land was leased to a non-family member at the time of retirement because a family member, usually a son or daughter, was not yet ready or eligible as a transferee at that time but subsequently takes over.

I will continue work to secure as favourable an outcome as possible to these and other issues affecting retired farmers, having regard to the legitimate aspirations of the various stakeholders involved.

Public Service.

Questions (111, 112)

Richard Bruton

Question:

110 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the recorded number of persons employed in the public service whose pay is met directly or indirectly by the Government in each quarter of 2001, 2002, 2003 and in 2004 to date. [6421/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

Aggregate figures for numbers of persons employed within the public service are not available on a quarterly basis for the period in question, but are available on an annual basis. The following table sets out the figures by sector for the years concerned.

2001

2002

2003Estimated

2004Projected

Civil Servants

36,092

37,796

37,593

37,164

Garda Síochána

12,460

12,642

12,688

12,646

Defence Forces

11,808

11,650

11,600

11,400

Education

73,295

75,720

76,989

76,489

Non Commercial semi-State Bodies

11,086

11,612

11,476

11,331

Health Services

92,996

95,679

95,800

95,600

Local Authorities

32,062

34,175

33,845

33,515

269,799

279,274

279,991

278,145

Footnote:

All figures are on a whole-time equivalent basis at 31 December.

Local Authority numbers are not included in the Public Service Pay bill

Richard Bruton

Question:

111 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the difference in absolute numbers and in the trends of public service numbers as recently published by FÁS, as published by the Central Statistics Office, and as recorded by his Department; and the extent to which the Government’s target of reducing public service numbers by 5,000 has been achieved under each of these measures. [6422/04]

View answer

I assume the question refers to the FÁS Quarterly Labour Market Commentary for the first quarter of 2004, which was published last week. The employment figures quoted therein are drawn from the CSO Quarterly National Survey, 2003, quarter 3. These figures indicated that employment in a category headed "public services" increased by just over 20,000 to 373,000 from the third quarter of 2002 to the third quarter of 2003. There was a certain amount of comment on these figures in the media but many of the conclusions drawn were inaccurate.

Most significantly the CSO figures in this survey are not an indicator of public service employment. The CSO classification of "public services" includes sizeable private sector elements in the health and education sectors including work without a public sector parallel. For example, the health sector figure includes private sector health practitioners and providers and also private crèche workers. The education sector figure includes private schools, colleges, and training providers.

As regards public sector employment, a more relevant CSO series is that on public sector employment and earnings, although it should be noted that this survey includes the commercial State companies, which are not covered by the Government's numbers policy, and only includes figures in respect of the health sector, which is covered by the numbers policy, annually, in respect of December, rather than quarterly as for all other sectors. The most recent figures available under this series are in respect of September 2003, published on the 18th of this month. This shows a reduction of 5,000, from 240,700 to 235,700, between June and September 2003. There is certainly a seasonal element in this but the reduction in 2003 was more than double the average reduction in the same months in the previous three years.

It is also worth noting that the CSO figures under both headings discussed above include all employees whether full-time or part-time. The surveys cover those who worked at least one hour in the reference week. The most appropriate measure for the purposes of monitoring the effect of the Government's policy on public service numbers is whole time equivalents. On this basis my Department's figures show a total public service employment of 279,274 at 31 December 2002 and an estimated 279,991 at 31 December 2003 with a projected figure of 278,145 at the end of 2004.

Therefore, the level of public service employment, having risen steadily over a number of years up to 2002, stabilised in 2003 and should fall this year. Within that overall 2003 picture, numbers are marginally up in the health sector, attributable mainly to persons taken on as public servants during 2003 following the withdrawal of certain private and voluntary providers from areas of the health service; numbers in the education sector rose by about 1,250, largely attributable to special needs education provision; while numbers reduced in the rest of the public service.

The figures by sector of the public service are as follows:

Public Service Employment

31/12/2002

31/12/2003Estimated

31/12/2004Projected

Civil Service

37,796

37,593

37,164

Garda Síochána

12,642

12,688

12,646

Defence Forces

11,650

11,600

11,400

Education

75,720

76,989

76,489

NCSSB’s

11,612

11,476

11,331

Health Services

95,679

95,800

95,600

Local Authorities

34,175

33,845

33,515

Public Service

279,274

279,991

278,145

All Figures are on a Whole-Time equivalent basis.

Local Authority numbers are not included in the Public Service Pay bill.

Bank Levies.

Questions (113)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

112 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which his Department has increased levies or charges on bank customers; the way in which this compares with competitors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6436/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

In budget 2003, I announced a number of increases in stamp duty charges on various financial products such as ATM cards, laser cards, credit cards, cash cards and cheques. As the Deputy may be aware, the Finance Act 2003 gave legislative effect to increases in these stamp duties from €6.25 to €10 on ATM cards and from €19 to €40 on charge cards and on credit card accounts. The 2003 Finance Act also introduced a stamp duty of €10 on laser cards with a payable duty of €20 on a combined ATM/laser card. I would point out that the stamp duty on credit cards and ATM cards had not been increased since 1992 and 1996 respectively. Consequently, there had been a reduction in real terms in the rate of these duties and it was considered appropriate to apply such increases in budget 2003 to assist the Exchequer. There were no further changes to these stamp duty charges in budget 2004.

In relation to bank charges in general, I would like to point out that the control of non-interest bank charges rests with the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, IFRSA. It has a wide regulatory remit which covers consumer protection and prudential supervision of the services provided by most of the financial services industry. The Department of Finance is not responsible for the regulation of such bank charges.

Property Status.

Questions (114)

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

113 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Finance if he has been in communication with solicitors acting for a person (details supplied) concerning their interest in a small piece of ground at a location (details supplied); if he will respond to the request made especially in view of the long period of time which has elapsed since the issue first arose; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6464/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

The position regarding the property in question is that it has not been clarified if indeed it has vested in the State. It has been recommended to the person referred to in the question that she secure legal advice on the status of the property. To date, no communication from a legal representative acting on behalf of this person has been received either by my Department or by the Chief State Solicitor who is representing me in this matter.

Until the status of the property has been established, I am not in a position to make a decision in relation to this case.

Bank Accounts.

Questions (115)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

114 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the continuing difficulty for some young people, particularly those in trainee positions, in opening bank accounts due to the list of documents required of them by their banks, and in particular documents which prove address; if his attention has been further drawn to a bank (details supplied) in Dublin 11 which is no longer accepting ML 10 Garda forms as proof of identity and address; and the plans he has to change the regulations to make it easier for young people to open bank accounts. [6519/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

Section 32 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994 requires financial institutions to take reasonable measures to identify their customers. Recommended procedures for the implementation of this provision are set out in guidance notes issued under the aegis of the money laundering steering committee which is chaired by the Department of Finance and includes representatives of financial services industry bodies and the regulatory authorities and State agencies, including the Garda Síochána. The full text of the money laundering guidance notes for credit institutions is available on the Department of Finance website athttp://www.finance.gov.ie/Publications/ otherpubs/monlaun.htm.

Identification of a customer comprises two elements. These are name verification, typically evidenced by photograph-bearing document such as passport, driving licence or other reputable source document, and address verification. Paragraph 28 of the guidance notes states that any measures adopted by credit institutions should not deny a person access to financial services solely on the grounds that they do not possess certain specified identification documentation. Paragraph 45 of the guidance notes provides for those persons who cannot reasonably be expected to produce certain forms of identification, such as a person who does not have a passport or driving licence and/or whose name and Irish address does not appear on a utility bill, electoral register or directory. One of the alternative methods of verifying a persons name is the Garda form mentioned by the Deputy. My understanding is that the bank referred to by the Deputy has no difficulty in accepting this form as proof of identity.

However, the guidance notes do not intend that this form should be used to verify a person's address.

The alternative methods of address verification set out in the guidance notes include; letter/statement from a person in a position of responsibility, for example, a solicitor, accountant, doctor, minister of religion, teacher, social worker, community employment scheme supervisor, who is in a position to confirm the person's address to the credit institution. In such instances the person providing the letter/statement must present to the relevant credit institution providing proof of identity and verifying his or her status to the credit institution.

Documentation/cards issued by a Department showing the address of the person.

Normally, difficulties arising at account opening are resolved by an approach from the prospective customer to the branch management or to the bank's customer service department. I should stress that it is a matter for each institution to ensure that its procedures satisfy the legal requirement under the Criminal Justice Act 1994 that financial institutions take reasonable measures to identify their customers.

School Transport.

Questions (116)

Jerry Cowley

Question:

115 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo is unable to avail of a school bus service even though it is only three miles away from their home; and the reason the evaluation of this route is based on schools (details supplied) which have both been closed for approximately 20 years. [6407/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

My Department has requested Bus Éireann to furnish a report on the matter. When this report is received and considered, the school transport section of my Department will be in contact with the family referred to in the details supplied by the Deputy.

Special Educational Needs.

Questions (117)

Willie Penrose

Question:

116 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science if an application will be expedited for a resource teacher for a person (details supplied) at a school in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6408/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I can confirm that my Department has received applications for special educational resource, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy including an application for the pupil in question.

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 at or before 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 resource already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

Proposed Legislation.

Questions (118)

Dermot Fitzpatrick

Question:

117 Dr. Fitzpatrick asked the Minister for Education and Science when it is proposed to publish the Grangegorman Development Bill; the purpose of the Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6409/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

My Department is currently engaged in finalising legislation for early publication which will set up an agency with the responsibility of developing a 73 acre site at Grangegorman as a single campus for the Dublin Institute of Technology comprising 65 acres. In addition, the agency will be responsible for the development of the balance of the site to address the interests of the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the Northern Area Health Board. The agency will be known as the Grangegorman development agency.

The function of the agency in the initial phase will be to draw up a strategic development plan for the site. The proposed legislation will make provision for comprehensive consultation with all interested parties, including local residents and representatives.

Special Educational Needs.

Questions (119)

Seán Power

Question:

118 Mr. S. Power asked the Minister for Education and Science when a special needs assistant will be assigned to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare attending Moone national school, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6410/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

The school referred to by the Deputy currently has the services of one shared learning support teacher and one shared resource teaching post. I can confirm also that my Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school, including an application for resource teaching support for the pupil in question. My Department has no record of receiving an application for special needs assistant support for this pupil.

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 at or before 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.

University Funding.

Questions (120)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

119 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will provide extra funding to universities whose current budgets will have to incorporate the extra cost of benchmarking and other national pay awards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6438/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

An amount of €630.5 million has been provided in the 2004 Estimates for universities and HEA designated institutions. I have no plans to provide additional funding to the sector this year.

From 1997 to 2004 there has been an increase of almost €300 million in the recurrent provision to the university sector. This represents an increase of approximately 90% over this period. Overall funding, capital and current, for the wider higher education sector will stand at €1.48 billion in 2004. This is up €631 million or 74% on 1997 levels.

I am aware that the universities will be challenged in the short term by the constraints on recurrent Exchequer funding placed on them in 2004, having regard to overall cost pressures. I appreciate that individual institutions are required to find economies and to become more streamlined in some of their operations in order to reconcile available budgets with pre-existing demands and commitments. This must be viewed, however, in the context of overall increases in investment in higher education over recent years and the Government's longer term strategic objective for excellence in the sector.

Ireland's spend on higher education as a percentage of GDP in 2000 ranked us eighth out of 29 OECD countries looked at. If GNP, as opposed to GDP, is used as the comparator for Ireland, we would be placed among the top ranking OECD countries on this measure.

The Government has identified the placement of our higher education system at the top rank of the OECD in terms of quality and levels of participation as a key national strategic issue and we are continuing to work towards that. In this context, I have asked the OECD to conduct a wide-ranging review of higher education in Ireland and this is currently under way. The objective of this review is to lay down a strategy for future excellence for higher education in Ireland in the context of the intensely competitive global environment in which we now operate. Moving forward, we need to measure ourselves against the best systems worldwide if we want to build on the strong foundations for success that we already enjoy here in Ireland. The OECD review will provide us with that international reference point and will consider all of the issues and challenges associated with achieving those goals.

Schools Building Projects.

Questions (121, 122, 123, 124)

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

120 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science , further to Parliamentary Question No. 422 of 27 January 2004, the progress which has been made regarding the provision of a CABAS school in Shankill, County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6455/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I am most anxious that all children, including children with autistic spectrum disorders, receive education appropriate to their needs.

There are seven facilities in the State operating on a pilot-project basis and using alternative educational methods for teaching children on the autistic spectrum. Three of the seven are CABAS facilities, whose teaching method involves a comprehensive application of behaviour analysis to schooling approach. I wish to confirm that my Department is prepared to continue to provide funding for the three CABAS facilities for the next school year, 2004-05.

My Department will, in due course, consider the reports of the inspectorate on autism-specific provisions and any issues arising therefrom will be raised directly with the relevant managements. The position regarding the future of the CABAS facilities beyond 2004-05 will be considered in the context of this process.

My Department is actively considering applications from CABAS, Dublin, for autistic provision in south County Dublin. My officials are liaising with my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, in this regard. A response will issue to the applicants as quickly as possible.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

121 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will issue a statement clarifying when his Department will be providing the necessary finances to provide appropriate accommodation for Liscarroll national school, County Cork. [6456/04]

View answer

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that a one classroom extension, GP room and ancillary accommodation for Liscarroll national school, County Cork, is listed for proceeding to tender and construction as part of the 2004 school building programme. The tendering process will commence shortly and the school authorities will be kept advised of developments.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

122 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science when the sanctioning of the proposed new works for Lismire national school, Kanturk, County Cork will begin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6457/04]

View answer

An application for grant-aid towards improvement works has been received from the management authorities of Lismire national school.

When publishing the 2004 school building programme, I outlined that my strategy going forward will be grounded in capital investment based on multi-annual allocations. My officials are reviewing all projects which were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme, with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual school building programme from 2005, and I expect to be in a position to make further announcements on this matter in the course of the year.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

123 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will reconsider the application for a new school for Aghinagh, Macroom, County Cork. [6458/04]

View answer

My Department will be in contact with the school authorities in the near future with a view to progressing this project.

School Accommodation.

Questions (125)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

124 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the status and proposed use for a site, currently being reserved for a school (details supplied) is about to be reviewed by the local authority and that the local authority require confirmation from his Department that it will approve the school; if he will arrange for his Department’s intentions to be clarified with the local authority so that the site is not put in jeopardy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6459/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

My Department is considering options for the long term accommodation needs of Gaelscoil Cholmcille including the possible purchase of a site. However, due to the commercial sensitivities surrounding site acquisitions the Deputy will appreciate that I am unable to comment on specific site purchase issues.

Third Level Fees.

Questions (126)

Michael Ring

Question:

125 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the way in which the third level grant means test treats family income supplement and farm assist payments; and if both these payments are treated as income. [6483/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

Under the means test provisions of my Department's student maintenance grant schemes, a candidate's reckonable income for the purposes of the award of a grant is the candidate's gross income from all sources and that of his/her parents or guardians, where applicable. The following social welfare and health board payments are excluded when calculating a candidate's reckonable income: child benefit; family income supplement; disability allowance — where paid to the candidate; blind pension — where paid to the candidate; means tested one-parent family payment; orphan's pension; back to education allowance; foster care allowance; domiciliary care allowance; and carer's allowance.

As family income supplement is one of the excluded payments, it is not included in the calculation of reckonable income for grant purposes. As farm assist is not one of the excluded payments, it is considered in the calculation of reckonable income for grant purposes.

Schools Building Projects.

Questions (127)

Dan Boyle

Question:

126 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Education and Science , further to Parliamentary Question No. 207 of 22 October 2002, the details of the PE hall development for Coláiste Chríost Rí, Capwell Road, Cork, in view of the fact that it is not listed on the current building programme. [6487/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

As the Deputy may be aware, 2004 is designated as the European Year of Education through Sport, EYES, the official launch of which was successfully held in Dublin in January. To coincide with EYES, my Department's published 2004 school building programme includes a number of physical education halls at post-primary level that can proceed to tender and construction in the current year.

These sports facilities are to be delivered under two programmes, the dual use PE halls under the drugs task force initiative and the generically-designed halls, which will provide the template for future sports facilities in schoolsnationwide.

Both programmes will be evaluated on an ongoing basis throughout the construction phase and in relation to the generically designed halls in particular, this will inform any decision to extend the scheme to those post-primary schools requiring new or refurbished indoor sporting facilities. Progression of the PE hall development project at Coláiste Chríost Rí will be considered in this regard and in the context of a multi-annual building programme from 2005 onwards.

Special Educational Needs.

Questions (128)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

127 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of special needs class places catering for children with autism or other special needs available in the various schools in north Kildare; if all ages are catered for; the number of such places required at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6513/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the following special classes are currently operating in mainstream primary schools in County Kildare: ten classes for children with autistic spectrum disorder operating at a pupil teacher ratio of 6:1; six classes for children with mild general learning disability, MGLD, operating at a pupil teacher ratio of 11:1; and seven classes for children with severe profound general learning disability operating at a pupil teacher ratio of 6:1.

In addition, there is one special school for pupils with MGLD and two special schools for pupils with moderate general learning disabilities catering for approximately 165 pupils.

My Department also provides funding for the Saplings Project, a facility sanctioned on a pilot basis which uses applied behavioural analysis methodologies for children with autism. Some 30 children are currently enrolled in the facility.

In general, applications for enrolment in primary schools are made directly to the boards of management by parents without reference to my Department, so the number of places required is not available.

The Department allocates resource teacher posts and special needs assistant posts to second level schools and vocational educational committees to cater for pupils with special needs, including pupils with autism. Applications for such support are made to the Department by the relevant school authorities. Each application is considered on the basis of the professionally assessed needs of the pupil(s) in question and the nature and level of the support provided is based on the advice of the National Educational Psychological Service.

The Department is currently reviewing a range of possibilities for the development of appropriate models of support at second level for children with autism in the north Kildare/west Dublin area with a view to putting in place the necessary support services when required.

Health Board Services.

Questions (129, 130)

Seán Ryan

Question:

128 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position following requests by the family of a person (details supplied) that they be moved to another hospital, as soon as possible. [6423/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Responsibility for the provision of care and treatment of the named individual rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has therefore asked the regional chief executive to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply to him directly.

Seán Ryan

Question:

129 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the urgent need to provide one-to-one 24 hour care at home for a person (details supplied) in County Dublin with properly trained carers to facilitate all their needs regarding disability and chronic illness. [6424/04]

View answer

The provision of health related support services, including home help services for people with physical and sensory disabilities, is a matter for the relevant health board. Accordingly, the Deputy's question has been referred to the regional chief executive, Eastern Regional Health Authority, with a request that he examine the case and reply directly to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Hospital Services.

Questions (131)

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

130 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans he has for the future of Mallow Hospital, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6425/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The Deputy will be aware that the provision of services at Mallow General Hospital is a matter for the Southern Health Board.

The national task force on medical staffing — Hanly report — concluded that the reorganisation of acute hospital services is needed to implement a consultant-provided service based on consultants working in teams and, as required under the European working time directive, to reduce the average working hours of non-consultant hospital doctors.

In this regard I recently announced the composition of the acute hospitals review group. The group, to be chaired by Mr. David Hanly, will build on the work done by the national task force on medical staffing. The acute hospitals review group will prepare a plan for the interim health services executive for the reorganisation of acute hospital services, taking account of the recommendations of the Hanly report including spatial, demographic and geographic factors. The role of all acute hospitals, including Mallow Hospital, will be examined in this context.

Health Board Services.

Questions (132)

Gay Mitchell

Question:

131 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if an urgent appointment will be arranged for a person (details supplied) for a hearing assessment for a new hearing aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6426/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Dublin 12 area is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the South Western Area Health Board acting under the aegis of the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply direct to him as a matter of urgency.

Fitness to Practise.

Questions (133)

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

132 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there is an ongoing delay in setting up an inquiry into a case (details supplied) and other related issues. [6430/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Arising from the report of the fitness to practise committee of the Medical Council into the professional conduct of the person in question, the Government has agreed to establish a non-statutory inquiry into certain matters of concern at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda. Following consultations with the Attorney General, Judge Maureen Harding Clark of the International Criminal Court has been appointed to chair the inquiry. I understand Judge Clark is currently studying the transcript of the proceedings at the fitness to practise committee and other relevant background documentation. Premises have been secured and recruitment of staff, both legal and administrative, is under way. The terms of reference and format of the inquiry are being finalised and I intend to bring recommendations to Cabinet in the very near future.

Adoption Services.

Questions (134)

Gay Mitchell

Question:

133 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if his Department will make sufficient resources available to the health boards in order to ensure that there is no delay in dealing with inter-country adoption applications; and if each health board will have adequate resources. [6439/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The allocation of resources within the health boards is a matter for the management of each board.

Health Board Services.

Questions (135, 136, 137)

John McGuinness

Question:

134 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if domiciliary care allowance will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if it will be backdated to birth; if they are entitled to this allowance and to have it backdated by right; if the same arrangement has been made for other parents with autistic children; if the five hours home support due to this family since September 2003 will be provided; the reason for the delay in this matter; if the attention of the parents of autistic children has been drawn to their entitlements in a proactive way; if the services are being delivered in the same fashion; if not, the reason therefor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6445/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Domiciliary care allowance may be paid in respect of eligible children from birth to the age of 16 who have a severe disability requiring continual or continuous care and attention which is substantially in excess of that normally required by a child of the same age. The condition must be likely to last for at least one year. Where medical confirmation is supplied which pre-dates the actual date of application and the health board's senior area medical officer is satisfied that the child required continual or continuous care and attention, substantially in excess of that normally required by a child of the same age, then payment may be made from the date that he or she is satisfied such additional care and attention is required.

The assessment of entitlement to and payment of the domiciliary care allowance in any individual case and the provision of other support services, such as home supports, is a matter for the relevant health board as is the provision of services for people with disabilities. Accordingly, a copy of the Deputy's question has been forwarded to the chief executive officer, South Eastern Health Board, with a request that he examine the case and reply directly to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

John McGuinness

Question:

135 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if an application for mobility allowance in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow will be approved; and if a decision will be expedited in view of the fact that the original application was made on 17 July 2003. [6446/04]

View answer

The assessment of entitlement to and payment of the mobility allowance in any individual case is a matter for the relevant health board. Accordingly, a copy of the Deputy's question has been forwarded to the chief executive officer, South Eastern Health Board, with a request that he examine the case and reply directly to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

John McGuinness

Question:

136 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if an appointment will be expedited for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny at County Clinic, James Green, Kilkenny, with a person (details supplied) with regard to their heart condition and qualification for domiciliary care allowance. [6447/04]

View answer

The assessment of entitlement to and payment of the domiciliary care allowance in any individual case is a matter for the relevant health board. Accordingly, a copy of the Deputy's question has been forwarded to the chief executive officer of the South Eastern Health Board with a request that he examine the case and reply directly to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Hospital Services.

Questions (138)

John McGuinness

Question:

137 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in providing treatment for throat cancer for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if there is a waiting list for such patients; the action he is taking in the matter; if treatment will be expedited for this person; the action he will take in this case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6448/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Responsibility for the provision of hospital services for people resident in County Kilkenny is a matter for the South Eastern Health Board.

My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the South Eastern Health Board to investigate the matter and reply directly to the Deputy.

Disabled Drivers.

Questions (139)

John McGuinness

Question:

138 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if a primary medical certificate will be issued to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if a mobility allowance will also be sanctioned in this case. [6449/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The medical assessment for the purpose of the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions scheme is carried out by the senior area medical officer in the relevant health board. This function is to assist the Department of Finance which has statutory responsibility for the scheme.

Accordingly, my Department has asked the regional chief executive of the Eastern Regional Health Authority to investigate this case and reply directly to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

A mobility allowance is a means tested monthly health board allowance. The purpose of this allowance is to provide financial support to eligible people who are unable to walk or use public transport and is intended to enable them to benefit from a change in surroundings — for example, by financing the occasional taxi journey.

A maximum amount of €142 per month, from 1 January 2004, is available only to eligible persons who do not benefit from the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions scheme. Those who benefit from both the disabled drivers and disabled passengers — tax concessions — scheme and mobility allowance will receive a mobility allowance up to a maximum amount of €71 per month from 1 January 2004.

The granting of a primary medical certificate is not a prerequisite for the provision of a mobility allowance. The application for mobility allowance would be considered separately. The individual concerned should apply directly to the health board.

Child Care Services.

Questions (140)

John McGuinness

Question:

139 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason an operation urgently required by a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny has not been arranged by the SEHB at Manchester Children’s Hospital; if the advice and arrangements as set out by the consultant paediatrician at St. Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny in December 2003 will be followed; and if this operation will be carried out without further delay. [6450/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Responsibility for the provision of services for people resident in County Kilkenny is, in the first instance, a matter for the South Eastern Health Board.

My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer of the South Eastern Health Board to investigate the matter and reply directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Questions (141)

Michael Ring

Question:

140 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for assessment for a knee replacement to Galway Regional Hospital and placed on the waiting list. [6451/04]

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 relation to the matter raised.

Health Board Communications.

Questions (142, 143)

Michael Ring

Question:

141 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason Question No. 672 of 27 January 2004 has not been replied to in full. [6452/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Responsibility for all meetings held by the Western Health Board rests with the board, as previously stated. My Department has therefore asked the chief executive officer to investigate further the matters raised by the Deputy and reply to him directly.

Michael Ring

Question:

142 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason Parliamentary Question No. 735 of 27 January 2004 has not been replied to in full. [6453/04]

View answer

I understand from the Western Health Board that a reply has issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Board Services.

Questions (144)

Jack Wall

Question:

143 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made in regard to a nursing subvention application for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6485/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the County Kildare area is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the South Western Area Health Board acting under the aegis of the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply direct to him as a matter of urgency.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Questions (145)

Jack Wall

Question:

144 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Offaly is confined to their living room without proper facilities; if he will investigate the problems attached to this person with a view to having them rectified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6486/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The provision of services for people with disabilities is a matter for the relevant health board. Accordingly, a copy of the Deputy's question has been referred to the chief executive officer, Midland Health Board, with a request that he examine the case and reply to the Deputy directly as a matter of urgency.

Health Board Services.

Questions (146)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

145 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a residential place will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6514/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Responsibility for the provision of services to persons with an intellectual disability and those with autism in the Kildare area is a matter, in the first instance, for the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has asked its CEO to investigate the matter and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Questions (147)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if screening for breast cancer can be provided for young women in view of the fact that those in the younger age group are regularly affected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6516/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

Since 1997 there has been a cumulative additional investment in excess of €550 million in the development of appropriate treatment and care services for people with cancer, including symptomatic breast services. The benefit of the investment is reflected in the significant increase in activity that occurred and breast cancer surgery increased by 39% nationally.

In March 2000 the national breast screening programme commenced. Phase one of the programme covers the Eastern Regional Health Authority, Midland Health Board and North Eastern Health Board areas. Screening is offered every two years, free of charge, to all women in those areas in the target age group of 50 to 64 years. The target population consists of approximately 136,000 women and represents about 50% of the national target population.

Last year I announced the extension of the BreastCheck programme to counties Carlow, Kilkenny and Wexford and also the national roll-out to the southern and western counties. When the programme is sufficiently developed and it is assured that a quality service is being delivered at national level, consideration will be given to extending the upper age limit to 69 years. There are no plans to target women below the age of 50 years.

This position is consistent with the report on development of services for symptomatic breast disease. It states that clear proof of the value of population based breast screening has, up to now, been confined to women over the age of 50 years. It is also consistent with a recent recommendation adopted by the European Union. This advocates the introduction of cancer screening programmes that have demonstrated their efficacy having regard to professional expertise and priority setting for health care resources.

Any woman, irrespective of her age or residence, who has immediate concerns or symptoms should contact her GP. She will be referred, where appropriate, to the symptomatic services in her region.

Driving Licences.

Questions (148)

Niall Blaney

Question:

147 Mr. Blaney asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to reform the legislation whereby drivers who reside here and who drive Northern Ireland category A company vehicles are treated differently to drivers of category B company vehicles in similar circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6402/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

A category A vehicle is a motorcycle and a category B vehicle is a car or small van. A person who holds a driving licence issued by an EU member state or the European economic area, including Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, in the appropriate category is licensed to drive a vehicle of that category in Ireland for so long as that licence remains valid. My officials will be in touch with the Deputy directly on the matter.

Taxi Hardship Panel.

Questions (149)

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

148 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport the structures being put in place to administer the taxi hardship panel; the number of staff employed; the administrative costs involved; the number of persons compensated to date; the total sum expended; and the amount expected to be expended over the next year. [6428/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The taxi hardship payments scheme is implementing the recommendations of the taxi hardship panel report. Area Development Management Limited has been engaged to administer and manage the scheme. It recruited a team of ten persons on a contract basis.

Last August it was estimated that it would cost €536,000 and take nine months to administer the scheme. ADM operates as a non-profit-making organisation. It must recoup all of the costs incurred when administering schemes or projects on behalf of the State. The costs will be met over and above any hardship payments made under the taxi hardship payments scheme.

Under the scheme 203 persons have received a total of €2,458,000 up to 4 February. The payments do not represent compensation but rather compassionate payments in respect of extreme personal financial hardship.

The hardship panel estimated, based on consideration of the submissions made to it, that the total claims under any future scheme should not exceed €15 million. At present it is not possible to say how much the scheme will cost as it will depend on the number of applications received and whether the persons applying qualify for payments.

CIE Properties.

Questions (150)

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

149 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport the talks that have taken place between officials of his Department and CIE in Galway on the future use or disposal of CIE property; the plans that have been discussed with local authorities; the bodies with which talks have taken place; and the conclusions that have been reached on the future provision of adequate integrated rail and bus facilities for public transport in Galway. [6429/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The disposal of property is a matter for the CIE group.

CIE had discussed the development of integrated bus and rail facilities in Galway with local authorities. At present the matter is being planned and no final decisions have been made.

Prisons Building Programme.

Questions (151, 152)

Tony Gregory

Question:

150 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans, timescale and details for the relocation of Mountjoy Prison, Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6441/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

167 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the timescale for the building of a new prison and sale or disposal of the existing Mountjoy Prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6509/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 150 and 167 together.

An advertisement was placed in the national newspapers seeking a suitable replacement site for the Mountjoy complex within 25 kilometres of Dublin city centre, convenient to and accessible from the main public transport and road networks. It must also be available for immediate development, subject to the relevant planning requirements.

Last Monday was the closing date for expressions of interest. I received 23 proposals and their examination and rating is under way. I expect to make a determination on them by the end of next month.

I intend to close the Mountjoy complex as soon as a suitable replacement prison has been built. The capital generated by the sale of the complex will be used to acquire a site and finance a new prison.

Question No. 151 answered with QuestionNo. 17.

Prisoner Transfers.

Questions (153)

Jack Wall

Question:

152 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will investigate the transfer of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare from St. Patrick’s Institution to Shelton Abbey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6401/04]

View answer

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

The prisoner concerned is serving a cumulative sentence of two years for the unauthorised taking of an MPV, criminal damage, no insurance, assault and trespass. He is scheduled to be released, with standard remission, on 27 July 2005. Therefore, I am not prepared to consent to his transfer to an open centre at this time.

Garda Recruitment.

Questions (154)

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

153 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he intends to hold the next phase of Garda recruitment; the strength of the force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6432/04]

View answer

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

The Garda authorities are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel. They have informed me that the personnel strength of the force, including all ranks, as at 23 February is 11,920.

In April 2000 the Government agreed,inter alia, to a system of delegated authority. This means that 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.

During 2003 the Garda college accepted 690 trainees. The Commissioner has projected, based on an anticipated rate of retirement, that authorised strength of 12,200 will be achieved during this year. He also indicated that 342 trainees are required to meet the demand created by compulsory retirements and projected voluntary retirements and other discharges for 2004. He cautions that all projections are based on variables and are therefore subject to change. At present recruitment is carried out to maintain the force at its authorised maximum strength.

Asylum Applications.

Questions (155, 156)

Dan Boyle

Question:

154 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the process being pursued regarding persons (details supplied). [6488/04]

View answer

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

In the cases concerned, the wife arrived in the State in July 2002 and made an asylum application, the husband arrived in the State in December 2002 and made an asylum application. Both applications were unsuccessful. They also applied for residency on the basis of parentage of an Irish child born in December 2002.

Following the decision of the Supreme Court in the cases of L & O, the separate procedure that existed to enable persons to apply to reside in the State on the sole basis of parentage of an Irish born child ended on 19 February 2003. The Government decided that the separate procedure would not apply to cases outstanding on that date. At present there are a large number of such cases outstanding, including the case referred to by the Deputy.

Since the persons in question do not have an alternative legal basis for remaining in this jurisdiction the issue of permission to remain will be considered. This will be done only in the context of a ministerial proposal to deport them. They have already been notified of such a proposal and were given an opportunity to make representations. If, in the light of representations and a range of factors set out in section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, the Minister decides not to make a deportation order they will be given leave to remain on a humanitarian basis.

At present I cannot say when the file will be further examined because of the large number of such cases on hand.

Dan Boyle

Question:

155 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the process being pursued regarding a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [6489/04]

View answer

The person in question made an application for asylum and is currently awaiting a final determination. She is entitled to remain in the State pending the result being issued to her.

The person also made an application for permission to remain in the State based on parentage of an Irish child born in September 2002. Following the decision of the Supreme Court in the cases of L & O, the separate procedure that existed to enable persons to apply to reside in the State on the sole basis of parentage of an Irish born child ended on 19 February 2003. The Government decided that the separate procedure would not apply to cases outstanding on that date. At present there are a large number of such cases outstanding, including the case referred to by the Deputy.

Permission to remain on the basis of parentage of an Irish born child will only be considered in the context of a ministerial proposal to deport her. It will only occur if she is refused refugee status in the State. In that context she would be notified of the proposal and given an opportunity to make representations. If, in the light of representations and a range of factors set out in section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, the Minister decides not to make a deportation order she will be given leave to remain on a humanitarian basis.

Garda Deployment.

Questions (157)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

156 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the number of gardaí will be increased in the stations throughout County Kildare in accordance with commitments entered into in the programme for Government and demographic trends; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6496/04]

View answer

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

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of the Carlow-Kildare division, as at 24 February 2004, was 324. It represents an increase of 32 personnel or 10.9% since 31 December 1997. Garda management will continue to appraise the policing and administrative strategy employed in the division with a view to ensuring that an effective Garda service is maintained.

The matter will be kept under review. When additional personnel next become available the needs of the division will be considered in the context of the overall needs of Garda divisions.

Courts Service.

Questions (158)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

157 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent backlogs are caused in the courts by failure to complete a book of evidence or other reasons; the extent he can address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6497/04]

View answer

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

The prosecution of offences is a matter primarily for the Director of Public Prosecutions and, as Minister, I have no direct role. I have a general responsibility for the efficient working of the criminal justice system but I am concerned about delays in proceedings. I invited the National Crime Council to conduct a study of delays in the criminal justice system and I met the council with a view to expediting the development.

Delays in bringing cases to trial can, on occasion, be caused by a failure on the part of the prosecution to complete books of evidence in the time prescribed. The report of the working group on the jurisdiction of the courts contain a recommendation that the existing 42 day period set for the service of the book of evidence is too short and that it should be extended to 90 days. The recommendation was made on the basis that the existing period is "unrealistically short in a great many cases".

The group also agreed with the view that the requirement that depositions be taken in the District Court is cumbersome and can contribute to delays in proceedings. It recommended that the Criminal Procedure Act 1967 should be amended to provide that evidence directed to be taken under section 4F of the Act, whether by way of sworn deposition or by video link, be taken before a judge of the court to which the return for trial has been made. My Department is considering both recommendations.

Garda Recruitment.

Questions (159)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

158 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he will deliver on the commitment given in the programme for Government to provide an extra 2,000 gardaí; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6498/04]

View answer

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

The Garda authorities are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel. They informed me that the personnel strength of the force, including all ranks, as at 23 February 2004 is 11,920.

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 by 200 to 12,200.

During 2003 the Garda college accepted 690 trainees. The Commissioner has projected, based on an anticipated rate of retirement, that authorised strength of 12,200 will be achieved during this year. He also indicated that 342 trainees are required to meet the demand created by compulsory retirements and projected voluntary retirements and other discharges for 2004. 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 the year when historically a higher number of applications are received.

I have already made it quite clear that I will not be content with raising the strength of the force to an historic high of 12,200 by the end of 2004. As soon as budgetary circumstances permit I intend, with Government approval, to move towards the target of 14,000 provided in the programme for Government.

Legal Aid Service.

Questions (160)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

159 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the cost to his Department or the State through his Department of providing free legal aid for organised crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6499/04]

View answer

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

In 2003 the cost of legal aid was €37.35 million. Statistical details of the type or nature of crimes alleged against persons granted legal aid are not maintained.

Garda Operations.

Questions (161)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

160 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of times leaders or activists in criminal gangs have been questioned, arrested or detained in the past month, having particular regard to the well publicised activities of such groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6500/04]

View answer

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

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there is continual analysis of criminal intelligence by specialist units. It allows for a varied Garda response to particular trends in criminal activity. It is not the practice or policy of the force to comment on operations carried out by specialist national units.

Garda management adopted a strategy of tackling organised criminal groups through targeted intelligence led operations. They yielded excellent results during the past year and covered several areas of criminal activities, including armed robberies and trafficking in illicit drugs. When such operations are launched by the force arrests are made where warranted.

Courts Service.

Questions (162)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

161 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will offer extra resources to the Courts Service to expedite cases, particularly in the family law courts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6502/04]

View answer

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

The Courts Service is responsible for the day-to-day management of the courts under the Courts Service Act 1998. I am responsible for ensuring that it is adequately funded and €97.49 million will be provided in 2004.

The service allocates resources and implements its strategic plans and policies and maintains an appropriate level of service. However, judicial resources are being reviewed.

Garda Patrols.

Questions (163, 164)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

162 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he will increase the number of gardaí available for all day foot and mobile patrols in the greater Dublin area, having particular regard to the commitment given prior to the general election 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6503/04]

View answer

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

The Garda authorities are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel. They have informed me that mobile, both uniform and plain clothes, carry out regular patrols throughout the Dublin metropolitan region.

The region's management places a great emphasis on foot patrols. It is Garda policy to ensure that as many personnel as possible are engaged on foot patrols and as further personnel resources become available, they are assigned to foot patrol duty. In addition, dedicated foot patrols are also in place by way of various operations and initiatives.

Mobile and foot patrols are continually reviewed to ensure that they address the policing needs of an area. They target areas of high crime and where public order issues frequently arise.

Garda management in the Dublin metropolitan region are satisfied that adequate personnel and resources are currently in place to meet policing needs.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

163 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he will increase the number of gardaí patrolling the Ballymun and Finglas areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6504/04]

View answer

The Garda authorities are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel. They have informed me that the Ballymun and Finglas areas are patrolled by mobile and foot patrols on a 24 hour basis. This includes personnel from uniform units, detective units, divisional task force units and community police personnel.

Local Garda management in each area are satisfied with the current level of patrols. The capacity to respond to contemporary demands is kept under review and resources are deployed accordingly.

When additional personnel next become available the needs of Ballymun and Finglas Garda stations will be considered in the overall context of the needs of all stations.

Punishment Shootings.

Questions (165)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

164 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he has taken to address the issue of IRA or criminal punishment shootings, having particular regard to obvious information at his disposal; if he has issued instructions to combat this menace; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6505/04]

View answer

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

There has been no recent reported incident in this jurisdiction of the kind referred to by the Deputy. Any such incident would be fully investigated by the Garda Síochána.

The Deputy will be aware of reports of such vicious and cruel incidents occurring in Northern Ireland. I have clearly outlined my views on the matter. Such incidents are discussed,inter alia, at regular meetings involving myself, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Garda Commissioner and the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Prison Accommodation.

Questions (166)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

165 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way in which adequate prison places exist at present, in view of the fact that two prisons are closed and it is proposed to build a newer, bigger prison in order to accommodate prisoners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6506/04]

View answer

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

The provision of approximately 1,300 new prison spaces in recent years has meant that the Irish Prison Service is in a far better position to accommodate prisoners for the duration of their sentences and has resulted in the virtual elimination of the "revolving door" syndrome which brought the criminal justice system into disrepute in the mid-1990s. However, this is not to say that I am totally satisfied with the number of spaces currently available. For example, it is clear that we do not have sufficient capacity in our female prison facilities and, accordingly, steps will have to be taken to rectify this situation. In this context, it is recognised that it is difficult to predict precisely the number of spaces which we will need in the future and a number of factors will impact on this including the level of crime and the sentences imposed by our courts. These factors will be taken into consideration in the planning and design of the proposed replacement campus for the Mountjoy complex.

The most pressing accommodation issues actually relate to the quality rather than the quantity of prison spaces. In my view, it is not acceptable in this day and age to subject prisoners to the slopping out process which takes place in some of our older prisons each morning. This is one of the fundamental reasons behind the Government decision to replace the Mountjoy complex, which dates from the mid-19th century, with a modern prison facility.

The recent mothballing of Fort Mitchel and the Curragh Places of Detention are an unrelated matter and, as I have already stated, were deemed necessary because of the crippling overtime levels which are prevalent in the prison system and which I am currently addressing in the context of an ongoing industrial relations process. I cannot stress strongly enough that reforming manning levels and working arrangements in the prisons is key to ensuring value for money for the taxpayer. In any event, the net effect of these temporary closures was a loss of only 25 prison spaces as the closures were offset by the making available of additional places at both the Midlands and Limerick Prisons.

Asylum Applications.

Questions (167)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

166 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the legal options open to persons (details supplied); if the application on the grounds of their child’s birth here will be processed in view of the fact that they made it prior to the Supreme Court judgement; and if not, if they can revert to their original application as asylum seekers. [6507/04]

View answer

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

The wife arrived in the State in October 2002 and made an asylum application. Her husband arrived in the State in December 2002 and made his asylum application. Both persons subsequently withdrew their asylum applications and applied for residency on the basis of parentage of an Irish child born in December 2002.

Following the decision of the Supreme Court in the cases of L & O, the separate procedure which then existed to enable persons to apply to reside in the State on the sole basis of parentage of an Irish born child ended on 19 February 2003. The Government decided that the separate procedure would not apply to cases which were outstanding on that date. There are a large number of such cases outstanding at present, including the case to which the Deputy refers.

Since the persons in question do not have an alternative legal basis for remaining in this jurisdiction the issue of permission to remain will be considered, but only in the context of a ministerial proposal to deport them. They have been notified of such proposal on 18 February 2004 and have an opportunity to make representations in this regard. If, in the light of those representations and the range of factors set out in section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, the Minister decides not to make a deportation order they will be given leave to remain on a humanitarian basis.

Any query by the persons concerned regarding the question of reverting to their original asylum applications should be addressed by them tothe Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner.

Question No. 167 answered with QuestionNo. 150.

Refugee Status.

Questions (168)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

168 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the refugee application of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6511/04]

View answer

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

As the Deputy will be aware, under the Refugee Act 1996, two independent statutory offices were established to consider applications/appeals for refugee status and make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted.

These two offices are the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, which considers applications for a declaration as a refugee at first instance, and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which considers applications for a declaration at appeal stage.

A final decision will be made in this case upon receipt of the recommendation of the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner.

Asylum Applications.

Questions (169)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

169 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6512/04]

View answer

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

The person concerned, who is from the Democratic Republic of Congo, entered the State on 9 January 2000 and applied for asylum. His application was refused and he was informed of this on 19 September 2000. He appealed this decision to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. The decision was affirmed on appeal and he was informed of this on 10 August 2001.

In accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, he was informed on 19 September 2001 that it was proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him and was given the following options: to make written representations within 15 working days to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform setting out reasons he should be allowed to remain in the State; voluntarily leave the State; or consent to deportation. An application for leave to remain was received on 10 October 2001. No further representations have been received from the person concerned, or his legal representative, since this date.

The case file in this matter must be examined having regard to the criteria set down in section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 — prohibition ofrefoulement. In this latter respect, refoulement has been an issue in respect of the Democratic Republic of Congo and consideration of the file has been postponed pending developments in this regard. It is noted that the situation in that country is improving and other EU member states have begun returning persons there. I expect, therefore, that the case file will be submitted to me for a decision shortly.

Citizenship Applications.

Questions (170)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

170 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in respect of naturalisation in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6517/04]

View answer

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

I have been informed by officials in the citizenship section of my Department that one of the persons concerned is already an Irish citizen, through registration in the foreign births register, and that there is no record of an application for naturalisation having been received from his non-national spouse. I am not in a position to advise on the eligibility for naturalisation of the spouse without receiving further details.

However, I can advise the Deputy that a declaration of post-nuptial citizenship from the spouse was received in my Department in November 2002. One of the statutory requirements for post-nuptial citizenship is that the Irish spouse has been an Irish citizen for three years at the time of declaration. Since the husband only registered in the foreign births register on 16 July 2001, the declaration and associated papers were returned to the declarant on 15 May 2003 with an explanatory letter. It was made clear in that letter that a post-nuptial declaration could be made at any time after 16 July 2004, when the Irish spouse will have been an Irish citizen for three years, provided that the other statutory conditions are satisfied at that time.

Garda Deployment.

Questions (171)

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

171 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a garda sergeant will be replaced (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6518/04]

View answer

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

I refer the Deputy to the reply to her Parliamentary Question No. 447 of Tuesday, 24 February 2004, where this information was provided.

Architectural Heritage.

Questions (172)

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

172 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the proposals or plans he has for the future of Doneraile Court and demesne, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6403/04]

View answer

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

The re-roofing of Doneraile Court was completed during 2001 at a cost of some €900,000 with assistance from EU Structural Funds, under the Tourism Operational Programme 1994-1999.

A further sum of €2.54 million has been allocated under the National Development Plan 2000-2006 for the carrying out of works to enable Doneraile Court to be opened to the public.

My Department is in consultation with the Office of Public Works to devise a scheme of improvement works for the court but the estimated cost of the project greatly exceeds the NDP funding allocation. Other possible sources of funding are being investigated but it is not possible at this stage to predict the outcome of this exercise.

A number of minor capital works were carried out at Doneraile Wildlife Park in 2003 and the park will continue to be managed to its present high standard and kept open for the enjoyment of the general public as heretofore.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Questions (173, 174)

John Gormley

Question:

173 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the major increase in ozone pollution levels recorded in 2003; the steps his Department is taking to ensure that the public is aware of health effects of ozone pollution; if he will ensure that levels of ozone which exceed EU standards will be notified to the public so that those suffering from health problems can take precautionary steps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6466/04]

View answer

John Gormley

Question:

184 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the major increase in ozone pollution levels recorded in 2003, which exceeded EU standards; the steps he intends to take to deal with this problem; if he intends to make it mandatory that such episodes are made public so that those suffering from health problems can take precautions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6465/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 173 and 184 together.

Monitoring and reporting of ozone levels have been the responsibility of the Environmental Protection Agency under the Environmental Protection Agency 1992 (Ozone) Regulations 1997. I made new regulations — Ozone in Ambient Air Regulations 2004 — on 11 February 2004, transposing Directive 2002/3/EC of 12 February 2002 relating to ozone in ambient air, which repealed the 1997 regulations. Under the 1997 regulations extant in 2003 the agency was required to measure concentrations of ozone in the air and to inform the public, with the assistance of Met Éireann, whenever ozone levels exceed either the population information threshold, 180 µg/m3, or the population warning threshold, 360 µg/m3, for the mean value over one hour. The 2004 regulations strengthen the public information requirements by requiring the agency to routinely inform the public on at least a daily basis and, wherever appropriate and practicable on an hourly basis, of the concentrations of ozone in ambient air. The agency is doing this,inter alia, through its new air quality website, which I launched last month.

Under the 2004 regulations the agency is required, where the information threshold — 180 µg/m3 — or the new, more stringent alert threshold — 240 µg/m3 — is or, where practicable, is predicted to be exceeded, to make certain information publicly available as soon as possible and by appropriate means. This information includes any such exceedance, its location, start time, duration, forecasted changes in concentrations, the type of population groups potentially at risk, possible health effects and recommended conduct, and preventive action to reduce pollution or exposure to it.

Due to Ireland's geographical location and meteorological circumstances, ozone pollution is not a problem here. No exceedances of the lower information threshold were reported by the EPA on behalf of Ireland during the last seven summer seasons — 1997-2003 — when hot weather conditions, and the presence of ozone precursors which chemically react in sunlight, caused ozone pollution episodes in many parts of mainland Europe.

I understand from the agency that in 2003 one relatively minor exceedance of the population information threshold was recorded at a concentration level of 181.2 µg/m3. This occurred on 18 April, Good Friday, between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. and lasted for one hour. Due to a problem earlier in the day with the data transmission element of the agency's automatic monitoring system this specific concentration level was not notified to Met Éireann for public information broadcast though levels above 160 µg/m3 were so notified; as these notifications were below 180 µg/m3 they did not trigger a Met Éireann broadcast. When contacted the following day by Met Éireann about the anomalous repetition of the same notification, the agency discovered the transmission error and rectified the problem immediately. Given the relatively minor nature of the exceedance, its short duration, and the maintenance of subsequent readings below180 µg/m3, the agency did not ask Met Éireann to issue any public information alert as the exceedance had happened the previous day.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Questions (175, 176, 177, 178, 179)

Bernard Allen

Question:

174 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the way in which the Ringsend waste water plant is funded; if the polluter pays principle applies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6412/04]

View answer

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

The capital cost of the Ringsend waste water treatment plant was primarily co-financed by the Exchequer and the EU Cohesion Fund, supplemented by contributions raised by Dublin City Council from non-domestic consumers in accordance with Government water pricing policy.

The operational phase of the design, build and operate contract will be funded by a combination of local government fund moneys in respect of the domestic share of the operational costs and contributions from the non-domestic sector in respect of such costs attributable to that sector.

Bernard Allen

Question:

175 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the polluter pays principle will be introduced for water and sewerage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6413/04]

View answer

Charges for non-domestic users of water services are already provided for in legislation and are widely established. It is Government policy to bring greater uniformity to these arrangements by requiring that all non-domestic users of water services meet the costs of providing them with these services on a metered basis by 2006. This is in line with the proper application of the polluter pays principle and the requirements of the EU water framework directive.

The Local Government (Financial Provisions) Act 1997 precludes the charging of domestic users of water services and there is no proposal for amendment of this provision.

Bernard Allen

Question:

176 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of sewerage schemes and water schemes funded in 2003 and 2004 in each local authority area; the way in which they are being funded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6414/04]

View answer

Bernard Allen

Question:

177 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will give details of the best practice in regard to water and sewerage schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6415/04]

View answer

Bernard Allen

Question:

178 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the criteria used in deciding the method of funding new or upgrading water and sewerage schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6416/04]

View answer

I propose to take Questions Nos. 176 to 178, inclusive, together.

My Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2003 — 2005, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas Library, sets out a timetable under which funding will be provided by my Department to facilitate the commencement of specific schemes during the period 2003 to 2005. Funding is also available to allow schemes included in the programme under the rural towns and villages and serviced land initiatives to proceed to construction once the contract procurement process has been completed. In addition, schemes have been identified to advance through planning to which construction start dates will be assigned in future phases of the programme. The selection of small public water, group water and sewerage scheme proposals for funding under the devolved rural water programme is a matter for the local authorities concerned within general guidelines laid down by my Department.

My Department has established the public private partnership approach, employing the design-build-operate — DBO — model, as the standard practice for the procurement and management of new water and wastewater treatment infrastructure under the water services investment programme. In this context, DBO offers a number of distinct advantages over traditional procurement, including: single point responsibility for design, construction, operation and maintenance, which incentivises the contractor to optimise the whole life cost of the project; acceleration of infrastructure provision and reduced exposure to construction inflation as the operational phase, and the related payments to the contractor, do not commence until construction has been completed; better allocation of risk, resulting in greater certainty of final capital cost; and use of new and innovative technologies with associated technical and economic advantages.

Local authorities are being assisted in the implementation of this policy through a range of guidance and other supports produced by my Department.

Capital funding of the water services investment programme is primarily Exchequer based, supplemented by contributions raised by local authorities from the non-domestic sector in accordance with Government water pricing policy. Exchequer funding in respect of approved schemes is recouped to authorities by my Department on an individual scheme basis.

The devolved rural water programme is funded through a combination of annual Exchequer block grant allocations by my Department to individual local authorities, supplemented by authorities' own resources and other non-Exchequer funding, including capital contributions by group water scheme members.

Electronic Voting.

Questions (180)

Bernard Allen

Question:

179 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if all surpluses will be distributed at elections under the electronic voting system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6418/04]

View answer

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

The count rules to be applied at the June polls are the same as set out in current legislation, including the provisions regarding the treatment of surpluses.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Questions (181)

Pat Breen

Question:

180 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he envisages works to be carried out on the Clonlara sewerage scheme and upgrading the water scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6420/04]

View answer

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

The Clonlara sewerage scheme has been approved for funding in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2003-2005 under the serviced land initiative. I approved a brief for the appointment of consultants to prepare a preliminary report for the scheme in October 2003, and it is now a matter for Clare County Council to advance the preparation of this report.

The Gillogue water supply scheme, which I understand will provide an improved water supply to Clonlara, has also been approved for funding under the serviced land initiative. I approved contract documents for stage 2, phase 1, of this scheme in August 2003. My Department is now awaiting Clare County Council's tender report in respect of the works involved.

Heritage Delegation.

Questions (182)

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

181 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he or officials of his Department recently met with a visiting delegation from UNESCO; the purpose of the meeting; the matters discussed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6460/04]

View answer

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

Officials of my Department met with the UNESCO delegation to assist them with their mission to report to the World Heritage Committee on the state of conservation generally of the Brú na Bóinne world heritage site and on any impact on this site from the proposed thermal waste facility at Carranstown, County Meath.

My Department facilitated the delegation with a visit to the site and a programme of meetings. The delegation met with elected local representatives, officials of Meath County Council, local interested parties including NGO representatives, officials from the OPW and my Department, and Indaver Ireland. The delegation will submit a report to the World Heritage Committee at its meeting to take place this summer.

Waste Disposal.

Questions (183)

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

182 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the arrangements or procedures that are in place for the safe removal and disposal of small amounts of asbestos (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6461/04]

View answer

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

Primary responsibility for the management of any waste lies with the holder or producer of the waste. The Waste Management Acts 1996-2003 prohibit any person from holding, transporting, recovering or disposing of waste in a manner which causes or is likely to cause environmental pollution, defined in section 5 to include action which would to a significant extent endanger human health.

The European Communities (Protection of Workers)(Exposure to Asbestos) (Amendment) Regulations 2000 implement Article 7 of Council Directive 87/217/EEC on the prevention and reduction of environmental pollution by asbestos by amending the requirements of the plan, provided for in Article 12 of Directive 83/477/EEC, which must be prepared prior to any demolition work involving asbestos. The effect of the amending regulations is to ensure that the demolition of buildings, structures and installations containing asbestos and the removal therefrom of asbestos or materials containing asbestos fibres or dust do not cause significant environmental pollution; the regulations also provide for the protection of workers on the site. This plan must be made available on request to,inter alia, an inspector of the Health and Safety Authority.

In addition, the Air Pollution Act 1987 provides a basis for a local authority to monitor the nature, extent and effects of such emissions, including asbestos emissions, as the local authority may consider necessary for the performance of its functions under the Act or as they may be directed by the Minister to carry out.

The movement of hazardous waste, including asbestos waste, within the State is subject to a notification procedure, involving the provision of consignment notes to local authorities of dispatch and destination. The Waste Management (Movement of Hazardous Waste) Regulations 1998 also transpose EU requirements regarding the labelling of waste containers and the mixture of wastes. Article 7 of the Waste Management (Hazardous Waste) Regulations 1998 prohibits emissions of asbestos fibres or dust during transport of such waste.

The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, is responsible for waste licensing and is empowered under relevant waste management licensing regulations to attach conditions to licences to give effect to provisions of EU directives, including Council Directive 87/217/EEC on the prevention and reduction of environmental pollution by asbestos.

An information leaflet entitled Asbestos in your Home, Briefing Sheet 29, is available from ENFO, my Department's public information service on environmental matters. This includes advice on the maintenance of asbestos materials, and their removal and disposal. The leaflet advises the public to contact the Health and Safety Authority to obtain information on the handling and use of asbestos. Relevant advice on the disposal of asbestos would also be available on request from local authorities and the EPA.

Hunting Licences.

Questions (184)

Tony Gregory

Question:

183 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the numbers and so on of all deer released and not recaptured as per condition two of the licence for the Ward Union Hunt for each year 1999-2003. [6463/04]

View answer

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

My Department is responsible for issuing an annual licence to the Ward Union Hunt Club under section 26(1)(ii) of the Wildlife Act 1976, as amended. One of the conditions attached to the licence in recent years requires that "the Ward Union Hunt Club shall inform the Minister of the number and sex of all deer released and not recaptured together with an indication of where such deer were last sighted".

The following figures on deer releases were received from the Ward Union Hunt Club for the period requested — a havier is a castrated male deer:

Season

Sex

Total Number

1998/1999

8 Stag & 2 Havier

10 Deer

1999/2000

7 Stag & 3 Havier

10 Deer

2000/2001

9 Stag & 4 Havier

13 Deer

2001/2002

8 Stag & 1 Havier

9 Deer

2002/2003

16 Stag

16 Deer

Question No. 184 answered with QuestionNo. 173.

Register of Electors.

Questions (185)

Enda Kenny

Question:

185 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the measures that have to be taken to inform non-nationals of their voting entitlements in the upcoming local and European elections; if measures to encourage voter registration among this group have been taken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6468/04]

View answer

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

The form used by registration authorities to compile the 2004-2005 register of electors contains information for non-nationals in regard to their eligibility to vote and to stand at the 2004 European and local elections. In accordance with EU Directive 93/109, EU citizens, apart from Irish or UK citizens, who are resident in Ireland, other than those who were registered at the 1994 or 1999 European elections, must complete an application form and declaration in order to be registered as European electors. It is understood that registration authorities are contacting such potential European electors as are known to them to ensure they are aware of these additional requirements. In addition, advertising will also be undertaken in 2004 to alert nationals of EU applicant member states of their eligibility to take part in the 2004 polls, as well as all non-nationals who may be entitled to be registered for local elections.

National Compensation Scheme.

Questions (186)

Michael Ring

Question:

186 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when details of the SAC national compensation scheme will be published; and when farmers will be able to apply. [6481/04]

View answer

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

I expect that full details of the scheme to be operated by my Department will be available by mid-2004, and farmers will be able to apply for a farm plan under the scheme from that time. The scheme, which will be available to those farmers who do not choose to join REPS, will be applicable to lands in Natura 2000 sites — special areas of conservation and special protection areas — and commonages, and will reflect the same habitat and species management requirements as apply in REPS measure A. Compensation under this scheme, however, will be assessed on the basis of actual losses derived from the farm plan, as distinct from the area based calculation in REPS.

SAC Appeals.

Questions (187)

Michael Ring

Question:

187 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason for the backlog in the SAC Appeals Advisory Board; and the further reason one particular appeal is outstanding since September 2000. [6482/04]

View answer

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

My Department has recently met with representatives of the Appeals Advisory Board to address ways and means of reducing the present backlog of appeal cases. Arrangements have now been put in place to expedite the hearing of appeals, including of the case referred to.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Questions (188, 189, 190, 191)

Gay Mitchell

Question:

188 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the plans she has to increase the earning limit for the one parent family payment, or make allowance for those with more than eight children; when the present limit of €293 was last increased; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6427/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Family)

Policy under the one parent family payment is to encourage and facilitate lone parents in moving into the paid labour force so that they may avoid long-term welfare dependency. The main element of this policy is an earnings disregard of €146.50 per week. Earnings above this limit are assessed at 50%, up to a maximum of €293 per week. These limits have been in place since 1997. The earnings disregard is designed to assist in overcoming the particular obstacles which lone parents may face in taking up employment and training opportunities and to encourage them to return to employment, instead of remaining dependent on social welfare payments. Lone parents who exceed the upper income limit applying under the one parent family payment may be eligible for the family income supplement.

The family income supplement, by providing cash support for employees with families on low earnings, preserves the incentive to remain in employment in circumstances where the employee might only be marginally better off than if s/he were claiming other social welfare payments.

I am satisfied that the social welfare arrangements in place for lone parents are appropriate and support general policy in this area, which is to provide income support for lone parents while at the same time encouraging them to consider employment as a realistic alternative to long-term welfare dependency. The position is being kept under review and changes will be considered when necessary.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

189 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a companion pass will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6433/04]

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People in receipt of an invalidity pension who are medically certified as unfit to travel alone are entitled to a companion free travel pass from my Department.

The person concerned is in receipt of an invalidity pension and a standard free travel pass which entitles her to travel free. Late last year she applied for a companion free travel pass. The medical report forwarded by her in support of her application was sent to my Department's chief medical adviser for his advice.

The chief medical adviser considered that the person concerned did not satisfy the medical criteria for receipt of a companion free travel pass, and that she is fit to travel unaccompanied. Based on this advice, the Department refused her application. The case was further reviewed following an examination by another medical adviser and following further information supplied by the person concerned the decision was unchanged. However, I am having the case examined again in the light of the Deputy's representations on the matter.

John McGuinness

Question:

190 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if the rent allowance being awarded to persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be increased in view of their medical and financial circumstances. [6480/04]

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Subject to certain conditions, the supplementary welfare allowance scheme provides for the payment of a weekly or monthly supplement in respect of rent to eligible people in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation needs and who do not have accommodation available from any other source.

The scheme is administered on behalf of my Department by the health boards and neither I nor my Department have any function in deciding entitlement in individual cases.

Rent supplements are subject to a means test and are normally calculated to ensure that a person, after the payment of rent, has an income equal to the rate of supplementary welfare allowance appropriate to his or her family circumstances, less a minimum contribution, currently €13.

In addition to the minimum contribution, each applicant is required to contribute towards his or her rent any additional assessable means that he or she may have over and above the appropriate rate of basic supplementary welfare allowance.

The South Eastern Health Board was contacted on behalf of the family in question and has advised that the amount of rent supplement in payment, which incorporates a disregard of €120 per week in respect of rehabilitative earnings, is the maximum amount payable in this case.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

191 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason rent allowance has been reduced in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare whose rent has remained at its present level for the past two years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6515/04]

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One of the conditions for receipt of rent supplement is that applicants are required to make a minimum contribution towards their rent from their own resources.

With effect from 5 January 2004, the rate of the minimum contribution increased from €12 to €13 per week. This increase maintains the relationship between the minimum contribution and the personal rate of basic supplementary welfare allowance which was increased by €10 in the recent budget.

The South Western Area Health Board was contacted on behalf of the individual in question and has advised that the recent reduction in the amount of rent supplement in payment is a result of the increase in the rate of minimum contribution required from all rent supplement recipients.