Homeless Persons.

Questions (15)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

11 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the review of the homeless strategy is expected to be completed. [27396/04]

View answer

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

My Department has recently sought tenders from consultants to carry out a review of the Government's homeless strategy. The closing date for receipt of tender applications is 5 November 2004. While an exact timeframe for undertaking the review cannot be given until the successful tenderer is appointed, it is hoped that the review will commence before the end of the year and will be completed within six months.

Question No. 12 answered with Question No. 7.

Nuclear Safety.

Questions (16)

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

13 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the latest communication he has had with the British authorities on the issue of Sellafield; the outcome of that communication; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27574/04]

View answer

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

Ongoing contact through correspondence and meetings at ministerial, official and expert level is being maintained with the UK authorities regarding a range of issues in regard to the Sellafield nuclear plant. These contacts are productive and reflect an increasing recognition by the UK Government of the serious concerns held by the Irish Government in regard to Sellafield. There remains, however, a significant difference of views between the Irish and UK Governments regarding the continued operation of Sellafield.

In accordance with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government, our policy is to bring about the safe closure of Sellafield. This is based on our concerns in relation to the potential hazards arising from a nuclear accident or incident, the impacts of radioactive discharges on the marine environment, concerns about the generation, management and disposal of radioactive waste and the risk posed by the associated transport of radioactive materials through the Irish Sea. The UK response to these concerns is that radioactive discharges from Sellafield pose no threat to human health or the environment, the Sellafield plant and related transports are safe and secure, and the legacy wastes arising from the UK's nuclear programmes are being addressed through the establishment of the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency, NDA.

The provisional measures award and orders of the UNCLOS tribunal of 24 June 2003 and 14 November 2003 recommended that Ireland and the UK enter into dialogue to improve co-operation and consultation between the two Governments and report to the tribunal on specified dates. Complex discussions, confidential to the tribunal and the parties pending outcomes, are at present continuing, in line with the obligation on both parties to improve co-operation and co-ordination arrangements. It is my intention to report on progress arising from this process in due course.

As well as contacts with ministerial colleagues, my officials and scientific experts from the RPII continue to meet their UK counterparts on a regular basis during which Ireland's concerns regarding operations at Sellafield are raised. Such contacts continue to be productive. However, there remains a significant difference of views in relation to operations at Sellafield. The UK response to concerns raised by Ireland is that operations at Sellafield are safe and do not adversely impact on the environment. This Government holds a significantly different view and has at every opportunity expressed these views directly to the UK Government and its relevant authorities at all levels. The Government will not hesitate to explore further options in relation to Sellafield as they become available.

I intend to continue to highlight Ireland's concerns on Sellafield and the nuclear industry generally to my UK ministerial counterparts.

Waste Management.

Questions (17, 18, 19, 20)

John Perry

Question:

14 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the research report on adverse pregnancy outcomes around incinerators and crematoriums in Cumbria between 1956 and 1993, in particular the finding that there was a significantly increased risk of lethal congenital anomaly, specifically spina bifida and heart defects in relation to proximity to incinerators. [27580/04]

View answer

Damien English

Question:

62 Mr. English asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of the findings of the health research report, Health and Environmental Effects of Landfilling and Incineration of Waste, commissioned by his Department there was a lack of available information on the health status of residents residing near waste facilities and a lack of baseline human health data at national, regional and county level, the EPA will consider and have available such data before the next stage is reached in relation to landfilling and waste incineration. [27577/04]

View answer

Arthur Morgan

Question:

95 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will take action to prevent the construction of incinerators until a full review of the health effects of incineration on communities has been carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27382/04]

View answer

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

99 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of the report he has received on the health implications of waste incineration; the part of this report which plays in the formulation of the Government’s waste policy; if incineration forms part of his waste management strategy; the locations at which it is proposed to place municipal waste incinerators in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27315/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 14, 62, 95, and 99 together.

As members of the House will be aware, the clear policy direction of the Government is set out in two policy statements, the 1998 Waste Management: Changing Our Ways, and the 2002 Preventing and Recycling Waste: Delivering Change, and has been updated in this year's Taking Stock and Moving Forward statement.

Thermal treatment with energy recovery has an important role to play as one element of the Government's integrated approach to waste management. This approach is firmly grounded on the internationally accepted hierarchy which places the most emphasis on waste prevention and minimisation, followed by re-use, recycling and energy recovery, so as to leave the least possible residual amount for disposal to landfill.

Those European countries which are recognised as among the most environmentally advanced, such as the Netherlands and Germany, combine high rates of recycling with the extensive use of modern, highly regulated thermal treatment facilities.

This integrated waste management policy is underpinned, and was foreseen, by the Waste Management Act 1996 introduced by the then Minister for Environment and Local Government, Deputy Howlin. Consistent with this, Fine Gael has until recently, accepted thermal treatment "as an integral part of a waste management strategy .... properly located, operated and monitored high-temperature incineration can be consistently operated ... with no significant pollution."

The Government has ambitious targets for waste management by 2013 including: diversion of 50% of household waste from landfill; recycling 35% of municipal waste; and 85% recycling of construction and demolition waste. We have made major progress in the last few years including: recycling 21% of municipal waste in 2002, which is up from 13% in 2001; a significant slow down in municipal waste growth to less than 1% in 2002 with a 4% drop in waste going to landfill; and a 25% increase in material being accepted at local authority recycling centres.

However, even when we meet our targets for diverting waste from landfill it is likely that we will still have to treat up to 1.7 million tonnes of municipal waste per annum. The provision of a suitable network of thermal treatment plants will significantly reduce the waste we will have to landfill and lower our dependence on the most unsustainable waste option. Regarding hazardous waste, our heavy reliance on the export of hazardous waste has been recognised as a potentially serious deterrent to future industrial development in Ireland. All these factors have informed Ireland's waste management policy, and if the Deputies opposite were honest, they would accept this position.

There has been some mis-reporting surrounding the health effects of thermal treatment and their consideration in the environmental licensing process. The EPA may not grant a waste licence unless it is satisfied that the activity concerned, carried on in accordance with the licence conditions, will not cause environmental pollution. The agency operates to highest EU and WHO standards.

The EPA takes the view that if the licensed emission limits are complied with, then human health is protected in line with best international practice. I would like to take this opportunity to reject the recent comments of Deputy O'Dowd regarding the EPA's consideration of health effects. In this regard, I received yesterday a letter from the director general of the agency on the matter which I will be pleased to forward to interested Deputies.

In relation to the Health Research Board study, the preparation by my Department and the Department of Health and Children, of a response to this desk-based research has taken longer than originally anticipated. The delay arose due to the need to also consider a more recently published report by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the Review of Environmental and Health Effects of Waste Management. This study looked at cancer, respiratory diseases and birth defects and found no evidence for a link between the incidence of the diseases and the current generation of incinerators.

It is often forgotten that nine hazardous waste incinerators are already in operation in Ireland. The EPA estimates that these have contributed a fraction of 1% of national dioxin emissions to air. Even assuming that 1 million tonnes of municipal waste might be managed by way of incineration in 2010, the report projects that dioxin emissions from waste incineration would account for less than 2% of total dioxin emissions to air.

I am aware of the concerns of local communities regarding the development of thermal treatment and other major waste management facilities. I will do all that is possible to assuage these concerns. In particular, I will examine best practice in ongoing environmental monitoring of such projects including, in particular, ensuring that the local community is involved in overseeing such monitoring.

Waste Disposal.

Questions (21)

Joe Costello

Question:

15 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the recent European Court of First Instance decision to rule against Ireland for failure to protect human health through properly controlling waste dumps; the steps he is taking to ensure Ireland will in future comply with the European Commission’s waste disposal directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27322/04]

View answer

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

It would be premature to comment in detail on the relevant opinion of the Advocate General, given the further consideration which must be given to this matter by the European Court. However, I intend that the opinion will be carefully assessed and where gaps have been identified in our current control regime these will be urgently rectified. Nevertheless, it must be stressed that this case relates to past activities and, in the interim, substantial advances have been made in the statutory provisions governing waste management in Ireland, and their enforcement.

The Waste Management Act 1996, as amended by the Waste Management (Amendment) Act 2001 and the Protection of the Environment Act 2003, along with a range of supporting regulations, have brought the law in relation to waste into line with best European practice. The licensing regime operated by the EPA has also significantly evolved and over 160 waste licences have been issued by the agency to date. The provision of modernised waste infrastructure and services, all fully licensed, is continuing at an accelerated pace.

A comprehensive review of waste management policy, Taking Stock and Moving Forward, issued in April 2004, demonstrated considerable advances in the provision of waste services between 2001 and 2003, for example, the number of bring banks increased from 1,400 to 1,700, and the number of civic amenity sites increased from 46 to 61 and the position regarding licensed landfill capacity also showed improvement.

I regard enforcement as a key element in making further progress. This objective is being advanced in a number of ways. There has been considerable strengthening of enforcement powers and penalties under the Protection of the Environment Act 2003. Some €7 million has been allocated for the first year of a major five-year campaign of waste enforcement activity with the objective of supporting and enhancing local authority enforcement activity. The Office of Environmental Enforcement, OEE, has been established and has in turn established a national enforcement network to ensure a consistent standard of enforcement quality and evenness of activity across local authorities. The OEE has recently engaged consultants to conduct a study of unauthorised waste activities, which will include establishing the extent of unauthorised activities, a review of current procedures and the development of guidance on investigation of unauthorised activity.

I intend to continue to place major emphasis on ensuring further progress, including any further measures which may prove necessary in response to the prospective judgment of the European Court.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Questions (22)

Richard Bruton

Question:

16 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the Government adopted new measures to secure the Kyoto targets in the context of the decision on carbon taxes. [24626/04]

View answer

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

The National Climate Change Strategy, published in late 2000, provides a comprehensive framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the most efficient and equitable manner, and for ensuring that Ireland meets its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In announcing the decision not to proceed with the introduction of a carbon tax, the Minister for Finance reiterated the Government's commitment to its emissions target, and its intention to intensify action on the non-tax measures in the strategy to compensate for the non-introduction of the tax.

Work is currently in progress in my Department, in consultation with other relevant Departments and agencies, on a review of the national climate change strategy, taking account of all developments since its publication four years ago. A key purpose of this review will be to ensure the adequacy of existing measures and the development, where appropriate, of additional measures relevant to climate change abatement. I intend that this review will be completed by early 2005.

Election Management System.

Questions (23, 24, 25, 26)

Bernard Allen

Question:

17 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of his Department’s electronic voting programme; the total spent to date; if plans to hold an election by electronic voting are in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27537/04]

View answer

Joe Costello

Question:

41 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the proposed timetable for the introduction of electronic voting; if the Government still plans to introduce electronic voting before the next general election; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27321/04]

View answer

Pat Breen

Question:

48 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the cost of storing the electronic voting machines purchased; if maintenance is required to keep them in working order; and the cost of same. [27534/04]

View answer

Bernard Allen

Question:

82 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether the recently purchased machines (details supplied) are suitable to be used in the context of an election here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27538/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 17, 41, 48 and 82 together.

In parallel with the continuation of the work of the Commission on Electronic Voting, my Department is developing a programme of further assessment, testing and validation which is intended to address the concerns raised in the commission's interim report published last April on the secrecy and accuracy of the electronic voting and counting system. The objective of this programme is to demonstrate both to the commission and to the public that the Nedap-Powervote electronic voting system, which was selected following detailed assessment of the requirements to be met in Irish electoral conditions and the holding of an open international tender competition, is suitable to be used at Irish elections. The timing of the further use of the system is dependent on the progress made with this programme of work and the dates on which future polls may be held.

The cost to date of the electronic voting and counting project is some €51 million. Regarding storage of the voting equipment, returns received in my Department from 25 of the 28 Dáil returning officers indicate that annual storage costs, including rental, insurance and other costs, in respect of the electronic voting equipment amount to €546,000. In some cases, however, this includes dedicated election office space in addition to equipment storage.

While the voting machines do not require regular maintenance between polls, the equipment contract negotiated with Nedap-Powervote provides for free servicing and repair where necessary of all voting equipment until the end of 2007.

Waste Disposal.

Questions (27, 28)

Brendan Howlin

Question:

18 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will elaborate on his recent comments that action against illegal waste activity would have the highest priority in his ministerial role; the efforts he will make to stamp out illegal waste activity throughout Ireland; the specific measures he proposes to take; the timetable for an action plan on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27326/04]

View answer

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

58 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the details of the new guidelines he is considering to force illegal waste operators and landowners to remove refuse from illegal dumps rather than treat it on site; if he has met the director general of the Environmental Protection Agency to discuss the scope for accelerating and sharpening action against illegal waste operations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27327/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 and 58 together.

Tackling environmental crime, including Illegal waste activity, demands the highest priority. While such enforcement is a matter for the local authorities and the office of environmental enforcement, I am determined to ensure that they actively use the legislative framework and resources now in place. Very significant powers are available to local authorities under the Waste Management Act 1996 to enable them to tackle illegal waste activity, and they were further strengthened by the Protection of the Environment Act 2003. They are empowered to order measures to be taken in relation to the disposal of waste, including the remediation of any effects arising from illegal activities. They may directly take appropriate actions to remedy or counteract such activities and to recover their costs through the courts. They also have substantial powers to halt vehicles, inspect premises and examine records. Maximum penalties of €15 million and-or a ten year sentence attaching to illegal waste activities are also substantial.

To assist local authorities in acting on these powers some €7 million has been allocated from the environment fund to directly support a more vigorous approach to environmental enforcement, with a particular emphasis on combating dumping and other unauthorised waste activities. This is now being reflected in the presence of additional enforcement personnel on the ground.

I have met the director general of the Environmental Protection Agency, within which the OEE is located, and have stressed the importance I attach to its work. The office is well placed to mobilise a co-ordinated national response across all local authorities to what is a national priority. Those involved in environmental crime do not respect local authority boundaries or national frontiers and our response to them must be as comprehensive and sophisticated as possible.

I am particularly concerned to ensure that detected illegal landfills are dealt with to the highest environmental standards. My Department is developing guidelines on best practice in this regard in consultation with the OEE. I intend shortly to issue these as policy directions under the power available to me in the Waste Management Acts.

In addition, a comprehensive study has been commissioned by the OEE to establish and document the extent of unauthorised waste activities in Ireland. Among the objectives of the project are to review and document current procedures and practices used by the relevant authorities to investigate unauthorised waste activities, as well as the use of powers available to tackle unauthorised activities. I will carefully consider the results of this study to identify any further actions that may be necessary in consequence of its findings.

The OEE has also established a working group on unauthorised waste, including representatives of the local authorities and my Department, whose functions include co-ordination of enforcement actions against companies and individuals involved in the illegal movement and disposal of waste in Ireland. I am fully supporting this more integrated approach to enforcement.

EU Directives.

Questions (29)

Billy Timmins

Question:

19 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make a statement on the recent report commissioned by his Department on the EU nitrates directive. [27563/04]

View answer

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

I refer to the reply to Question No. 191 of 13 October 2004.

Subsequently, a national nitrates action programme was finalised on the basis of the recommendations made by the independent adviser, Mr. Denis Brosnan, in his report and was formally submitted to the European Commission on 22 October 2004. Copies of the nitrates action programme and Mr. Brosnan's report are available in the Oireachtas Library.

Flood Relief.

Questions (30, 31, 32)

John Deasy

Question:

20 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department has plans to provide extra funding to local authorities to fund the cleaning and repairing of public areas following recent flooding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27556/04]

View answer

Liam Twomey

Question:

52 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the financial assistance he can offer to local authorities in view of the recent disastrous flooding in many parts of the country. [27535/04]

View answer

Michael Noonan

Question:

103 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is satisfied that local authorities had sufficient emergency flooding plans in place for the recent flooding in the south and east; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27555/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 20, 52 and 103 together.

The primary role of the local authorities in response to flooding is to ensure public safety and all initial efforts are, therefore, directed to saving life and preventing injuries. Where possible, the local authorities also assist in the protection of property.

My Department's primary concern is to ensure that, when adverse conditions arise, the local authorities are geared to respond promptly and effectively to help offset the worst effects of these conditions. My Department issues a circular annually reminding local authorities of the need to revise and update, as necessary, their contingency plans for dealing with the consequences of severe weather conditions. This includes arrangements to take necessary action arising from early warnings from Met Éireann, the necessity to be proactive as regards public relations and information, and availability of equipment and stocks.

Arising from the work of the interdepartmental committee on major emergencies, IDC, following the November 2000 flooding my Department issued a questionnaire to the main local authorities, city and county councils in February 2003 seeking information in relation to plans and arrangements that they had in place to deal with severe weather emergencies. From the replies received at that time, it is clear that all local authorities have plans in place for dealing with flooding and have worked to put relevant recommendations of the IDC into effect. This means that emergency response personnel have equipment and stocks, for example, pumps, sandbags, etc. available to assist local communities in flooding situations and that the local authorities have arrangements in place for issuing accurate and timely information to the public, public representatives and the local media. From information received in relation to the recent flooding incidents, it is clear that these plans were fully deployed in the affected areas.

My Department has no direct role in relation to flood damage and compensation for householders or others who suffer losses as a result of flooding. The Office of Public Works has primary responsibility for devising and implementing such flood relief measures.

Neither are there any funds available to the Department specifically to meet expenditure incurred by local authorities due to flooding. However, funding provided to local authorities in respect of non-national roads takes account of the need to address such incidents. Also, local authorities can, where necessary, provide emergency short-term accommodation for persons made homeless as a result of disasters such as flooding. My Department recoups 90% of the cost of providing such accommodation.

Question No. 21 answered with QuestionNo. 7.

Radon Gas Levels.

Questions (33, 34, 35, 36, 37)

Paul McGrath

Question:

22 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he and the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland is satisfied with the current reference level for radon gas in work places; his views on whether radon gas can be just as dangerous to the health of workers as the effects of passive smoking; if he has proposals for changing this level of the interests of workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27558/04]

View answer

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

30 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland directed any employer of self-employed person responsible for a workplace to measure radon levels in the workplace with regard to the Radiological Protection Act 1991 (Ionising Radiation) Order 2000 (SI 125 of 2000); and if so, the action taken. [27560/04]

View answer

John Bruton

Question:

35 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of local authorities, Departments, State and semi-State bodies which carried out inspections in high radon areas; the actions carried as a result; if he and the Radiological Protection Institute are satisfied regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27575/04]

View answer

Michael Ring

Question:

92 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the views of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland to a directive of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989 (details supplied); if the inspections have been carried out to his and the institute’s satisfaction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27594/04]

View answer

Paul McGrath

Question:

102 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of workplaces which have assessed their exposure to radon gas; his and the Radiological Protection Institute’s views on whether statutory effect should be given to ensure that all workplaces carry out this assessment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27559/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 22, 30, 35, 92, and 102 together.

The exposure of workers in Ireland to radon gas in the workplace is subject to regulatory control set out in the Radiological Protection Act 1991 (Ionising Radiation) Order 2000. This order implements the 1996 EU basic safety standards directive laying down standards for the protection of workers and the general public from exposure to ionising radiation. The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, RPII, is responsible for its enforcement in Ireland.

The order specifies a radon concentration reference level for workplaces of 400 becquerels per cubic metre, Bq/m3, averaged over a minimum period of three months. Under the order, employers are required to carry out radon measurements of their workplaces when directed to do so by the RPII. Where workplaces are found to have concentrations greater than the reference level, employers must evaluate whether remedial action to reduce the radon concentration to less than 400 Bq/m3 is justified.

The radon concentration reference level for workplaces in Ireland is consistent with that set in many other EU states, including the UK, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. This reference level is lower than that set in other EU states such as Greece, Italy, Hungary and the Czech Republic where the reference levels range from 500 to 1000 Bq/m3. The Irish reference level is also lower than that suggested by other international bodies such as the International Commission for Radiological Protection.

The RPII is satisfied that the current reference level is appropriate and consistent with best international practice and has no plans to bring forward recommendations for its change. The RPII estimates that approximately 150 to 200 deaths per annum are attributable to radon gas, whereas about 7,000 deaths in Ireland each year are attributable to tobacco related illness.

My Department understands that there are no statistics that specifically compare the risks of passive smoking and radon gas exposure. However, when radon gas is detected, ventilation and remediation measures can significantly mitigate any detrimental effects of the gas.

Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989, employers are required to identify hazards arising in the workplace, assess the risks arising from those hazards and put in place measures to eliminate or control the risks which arise. The Health and Safety Authority has stated that, under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989, all indoor workplaces in high radon areas must have radon measurements carried out.

Under the order made in 2000, the RPII has powers to direct employers or self-employed person responsible for workplaces falling within the scope of the order to carry out radon measurements. On receipt of a direction, an employer or self-employed person has six months to comply with the direction and carry out a radon measurement. There are currently three radon measurement laboratories approved under the order of 2000 to carry out radon measurements in workplaces. Of these the RPII is the largest.

During 2001 and 2002 the RPII issued some 3,000 directions to employers in Tralee and Ennis. Both these areas had been identified in previous surveys as being located in a high radon area. However, the response to these directions was disappointing when only 408 employers carried out radon measurements. The RPII have again directed some of these employers to carry out radon measurements.

Employers were given six months to respond to the directives and this period elapses in December 2004 and January 2005. After this period the RPII expects to seek prosecutions against those employers who have failed to comply with the direction to carry out a radon measurement.

The RPII is working closely with the State Claims Agency on its efforts to promote awareness of radon among State employers. An initiative was launched in January this year entitled Radon Risk in State Buildings initiative. State employers have reacted positively to this initiative, and many State employers have either completed or are currently carrying out radon measurements either with the RPII or one of the other approved radon measurement laboratories.

To date, the RPII has carried out radon measurements on behalf of the Department of Education and Science in over 4,500 schools and other workplaces in the country. For those workplaces where high levels are found the RPII is satisfied that measures are being applied to reduce the radon concentrations in accordance with the legislation.

Both the Health and Safety Authority and the RPII take measures to inform employers and the public about radon gas. The RPII will be holding the third in a series of national radon fora in Dublin in November to raise awareness of radon as a health risk. Both the RPII and my Department will continue to use appropriate opportunities to raise public awareness of radon and to implement the provisions of the order working closely in harmony with the Health and Safety Authority.

Election Management System.

Questions (38)

Simon Coveney

Question:

23 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount that has been spent on the Commission on Electronic Voting to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter [27539/04]

View answer

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

In accordance with section 25 of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2004, funding to meet the expenses of the commission is made available to it by the Minister for Finance from the central fund. I understand that to date €0.7 million has been provided from the central fund in this regard.

The Commission on Electronic Voting is an independent body which was established by the Legislature to assess the secrecy and accuracy of the Nedap-Powervote electronic voting and counting system. My Department does not have details of its activities or agendas.

Traveller Accommodation.

Questions (39)

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

24 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will establish and fund a national Traveller accommodation agency to ensure the delivery of the required traveller accommodation. [27582/04]

View answer

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

It is not proposed to establish a national Traveller accommodation agency. It is not clear that such a centralised agency would be better positioned to deal with issues that arise in relation to the provision of Traveller specific accommodation such as land acquisition, objections from local communities, court challenges from such communities and consultation with Travellers in relation to accommodation requirements. Travellers are also accommodated in standard social housing, including shared ownership and tenant purchase schemes, provided by local authorities; a national agency would add a significant element of organisational and administrative complexity which might not enhance the delivery of accommodation services.

The Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998 put in place the structures to provide accommodation for Travellers across the whole range of accommodation options, including standard social housing and Traveller specific accommodation. In the first four years, 2000-03, of the first local authority Traveller accommodation programmes an additional 1,369 Traveller families have been accommodated. This compares favourably with the four years prior to the commencement of the programmes during which an additional 516 families were accommodated.

Local authorities are now preparing new Traveller accommodation programmes to cover the period 2005-08. These new programmes will give a renewed impetus to the provision of accommodation for Travellers. With a view to improving the rate of accommodation provision, local authorities have been instructed to include annual targets for the provision of all categories of accommodation for Travellers in each of the four years of the new programmes. With increased monitoring by the national Traveller accommodation consultative committee and continued Government commitment to supporting local authorities through the provision of funding, I am satisfied that the existing structures are the most appropriate mechanisms for meeting the accommodation needs of Travellers.

Local Government Service.

Questions (40, 41, 42, 43)

Enda Kenny

Question:

25 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if all local authorities will be instructed to provide private interview rooms for private discussions with customers at their request. [27597/04]

View answer

Tom Hayes

Question:

34 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to strengthen quality customer service in local government. [27596/04]

View answer

Paul Kehoe

Question:

101 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his new proposals, to enhance the democratic mandate and policy role of elected members of local authorities. [27595/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

216 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the benefits accruing from his Department’s delivering Better Local Government initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27682/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 25, 34, 101 and 216 together.

The Better Local Government modernisation programme has brought significant benefits to local government. These include: constitutional recognition and guaranteed local elections; enhanced levels of funding; strengthened political and management structures; and an updated legal framework as well as an efficiency agenda focused on improved corporate planning, IT, human resources and customer service. Updated financial management systems, facilitating better financial management and planning, have also been introduced, and a new initiative to improve service standards with an extended range of performance indicators was launched this year.

Local government modernisation also provides an enhanced role for elected members in local authority policy formulation and review, in partnership with representatives of the social partners, through the establishment of strategic policy committees, SPCs. I intend to assist the spread of best practice in respect of SPCs through provision of policy focused training for elected members when the current strand of induction training for new councillors is completed. I will also be stressing the importance of executive policy support for the committees in my discussions with local authority management.

The role of the locally elected representative has been further strengthened by the creation of a single mandate for councillors from the recent local elections and also by the improved financial support framework and better training-information opportunities. Additionally, local authorities have a lead role and wider sphere of influence in the county-city development board system aimed at a more integrated approach to economic, social and cultural development. The CDBs allow elected members a direct input into the services provided by other public bodies at local level.

A number of initiatives, implemented as part of the modernisation programme, are specifically centred on improved service provision. These include, for example: the decentralisation of services by local authorities to area level with €31 million in support from my Department for a one-stop-shop programme; substantial investment in e-local government, including €9.8 million from my Department under the initiatives fund focused on the use of technology to improve efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery, particularly in an on-line context; and the requirement on local authorities to produce customer action plans.

In addition, as part of quality customer service, local authorities have progressively taken action, as the opportunity has arisen, to provide better facilities for private discussions with customers. This has been particularly so where local authorities are replacing or modernising their offices or decentralising their services to the local area level through one-stop-shops.

My predecessor established a customer services group in May 2003 with the objective of developing and improving customer service across the local government sector. Arising from the group's work local authorities are obliged from 2004 onwards publicly to report their performance against 42 service indicators across their principal functions. I believe that councillors, as the boards of directors of local authorities, have a central and pivotal role in making this initiative work. They will be able to compare the performance of their authorityvis-à-vis other local authorities and ensure that necessary corrective actions are taken in good time. The customer services group will also shortly begin preparing guidelines for local authorities on customer surveys, customer consultation, complaints, appeals and redress systems. These guidelines, which will be presented to me in the new year, will take account of best practice, including relevant guidance issued by the Ombudsman.

It is my aim, over the lifetime of the Government, to build on progress to date and, in particular, to promote improvements in performance and in service delivery by local authorities to their communities.

Litter Pollution.

Questions (44, 45)

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

26 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is proposing to introduce a compulsory charge on chewing gum makers rather than a levy on individual packets of gum as a means of addressing the need for funds to clean chewing gum from the streets; if such proposals represent a shift in Government policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27328/04]

View answer

Liz McManus

Question:

61 Ms McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the outcome of his recent meeting with representatives from the chewing gum industry concerning the introduction of a specific levy on chewing gum to fund the cleaning of gum from the streets; if he discussed with them the introduction of a compulsory charge on chewing gum makers for this purpose; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27329/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Question Nos. 26 and 61 together.

The consultancy report commissioned to carry out an analysis and recommend appropriate economic instruments to tackle problematic litter items identified in the 2003 litter monitoring body report, that is chewing gum, fast food packaging and automated teller machine, ATM, receipts, was released for public consultation on 23 September 2004.

In relation to chewing gum, the consultants' report proposed two options: a mandatory 10% levy on chewing gum sales, an average 5 centper pack, to be collected at manufacturer-importer-distributor level, which would generate an estimated €4-5 million per annum for use in paying towards the clean-up costs of chewing gum litter, or a negotiated agreement between my Department and the industry involving the putting in place of a comprehensive action plan, incorporating intensive education and awareness campaigns, and including agreed funding levels with agreed tangible targets and timeframes, aimed at changing consumer behaviour in relation to chewing gum disposal and reducing gum litter.

The purpose of the public consultation process was to obtain the views of relevant stakeholders and other interested parties on the report's recommendations. The deadline for the receipt of comments and submissions under the public consultation phase was 29 October 2004.

During the public consultation phase, I held a meeting with representatives of the chewing gum industry to discuss the consultants' report. The industry outlined measures and solutions that it was prepared to implement by way of a negotiated agreement as a means of addressing the chewing gum litter problem.

It is intended that a final decision will be made on this matter before the end of the year on foot of evaluating the submissions received during the public consultation process.

Rural Housing.

Questions (46, 47, 48, 49, 50)

Olwyn Enright

Question:

27 Ms Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the representations he has received on the issue of one-off rural housing since his appointment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27553/04]

View answer

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

69 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he intends to meet An Taisce to discuss the issue of one-off housing; if he is satisfied with the activities of An Taisce on this issue to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27551/04]

View answer

Dan Neville

Question:

83 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on the progress of the consultation initiated by his predecessor on one-off rural housing. [27349/04]

View answer

Olwyn Enright

Question:

97 Ms Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has plans to re-examine the guidelines on one-off rural housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27552/04]

View answer

Michael Noonan

Question:

107 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of planning applications for one-off housing that have been accepted and rejected broken down by year, since 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27554/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 27, 69, 83, 97 and 107 together.

In accordance with normal practice, the Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Sustainable Rural Housing, published on 4 March 2004, were issued in draft form to give all those interested an opportunity to comment before the guidelines are finalised in statutory form. Submissions in relation to the draft guidelines were to be submitted to my Department by 30 April 2004. In view of the importance of the rural housing issue, my predecessor requested planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála to have regard to the draft guidelines with effect from their date of publication. The guidelines are a material consideration both in relation to development plans and in the consideration of planning applications. Planning authorities are required to review and vary their development plans, where necessary, to ensure that their policies on rural settlement are consistent with the policies set out in the guidelines.

A total of 105 submissions in relation to the draft guidelines have been received by my Department from interested organisations and individuals. The submissions have been examined in detail by my Department. I intend to carefully consider any suggestions for clarifying or improving the guidelines before they are finalised. It is my intention that the guidelines will be issued in their final statutory form by the end of this year.

I do not have any specific plans at this time to meet An Taisce in relation to the issue of rural housing. My Department received a submission on the draft guidelines from An Taisce which will be considered along with all other submissions received. The CSO's planning permission quarterly statistical release has included information on the number of permissions granted for one-off houses since the second quarter of 2002. My Department does not collect statistics on the total numbers of planning applications for one-off housing received by planning authorities nor on the number of such applications which are refused permission. However, last year a sample of planning authorities were contacted by the Department and asked to provide information on the numbers of decisions in 2002 on rural housing applications and the percentage of these decisions that were granted or refused. The information provided by the planning authorities sampled was as follows: on average 75% of applications for single rural houses made to the planning authorities surveyed were granted, the highest grant rates were in the westernmost planning authorities with grant rates falling somewhat in the more urbanised areas to the east; most planning authorities in the western half of the country grant around four out of five applications; and where permission is refused, the reasons for refusal generally relate to issues such as traffic safety, public health or protection of the natural and cultural heritage.

My Department is currently considering ways of developing a detailed statistical database to assist policy development and monitoring of trends in relation to rural housing.

Local Authority Staff.

Questions (51)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

28 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to review the selection, interview, and recruitment procedures for local authority staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27347/04]

View answer

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

The recruitment and appointment processes of the Civil Service and certain bodies in the public service have been reformed and modernised under the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) Act 2004. The provisions of the Act were recently commenced and provide a modern and efficient framework for public service recruitment to ensure that the high standard of recruitment and selection is maintained. Recruitment and selection to senior posts in local authorities is carried out by competition conducted by the Public Appointments Service in accordance with the provisions of the Act. The remaining posts are filled by local authorities in accordance with well established recruitment and selection procedures, which will be kept under review having regard to experience in the implementation of the new legislation.

House Prices.

Questions (52, 53)

Dan Boyle

Question:

29 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress he has made in implementing the recommendations of the all-party Committee on the Constitution’s report on property issues. [27587/04]

View answer

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

57 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action that has been taken following the report of the All-Party Committee on the Constitution on the cost of building land; the specific measures that have been implemented arising from this report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27342/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 29 and 57 together.

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 7 and 9 of 30 September 2004. The position is unchanged.

Question No. 30 answered with QuestionNo. 22.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Questions (54)

Gerard Murphy

Question:

31 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount by which Ireland’s carbon emissions have risen since 1990 and since 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27566/04]

View answer

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

With the exception of 1993, greenhouse gas emissions increased each year during the period 1991-2001, at which point they were 31% above 1990 levels. The figure fell to approximately 29% in 2002, and preliminary figures released by the Environmental Protection Agency in July 2004 indicate that emissions for 2003 were down to 24.7% above 1990 levels. This is equivalent to approximately 7.4% above 1997 levels.

Flood Relief.

Questions (55)

Dan Neville

Question:

32 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is satisfied that sufficient warning was given to residents and commuters in Cork city and county of the flooding that occurred there in late October 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27557/04]

View answer

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

Indications of the storm which affected Ireland on 27 and 28 October were given by Met Éireann in its media broadcasts as early as 24 October. Once sufficient degree of certainty of the forecast had been established, Met Éireann issued a severe weather warning to all local authorities and to the media at 10 o'clock on Tuesday, October 26. I understand that public warnings on foot of this would have emanated from local authorities and media in the areas at risk.

The warning covered both Wednesday, 27 and Thursday, 28 October and forecast rainfall totals in excess of 50 millimetres, with parts of Munster and Leinster having possible totals of up to 80 millimetres. Strong winds of up to 55 miles per hour, with gusts of up to 70 to 80 miles per hour were forecast. The warning specifically mentioned that high seas and high tides would lead to coastal flooding, particularly in the south and east of the country.

At 9.30 a.m. on Thursday, October 28, an update to the severe weather warning was issued, forecasting a continuation of the heavy rain and strong winds in the south and east.

I consider that the forecasts issued by Met Éireann were appropriate and professional in terms of the conditions predicted, the areas predicted to be at most risk and the advance warning given. I have also asked my Department to review the recent episode to determine if any further improvement in our warning system can be made.

Planning Issues.

Questions (56)

Joan Burton

Question:

33 Ms Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to recent claims from the Irish Rural Dwellers Association that British planners working for An Bord Pleanála may not possess appropriate training to adjudicate on planning appeals here; if the majority of one-off housing appeals are dealt with by non-national planners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27319/04]

View answer

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

An Bord Pleanála is a body established by statute under the Planning and Development Act 2000 which operates independently in performing its functions. Members are appointed on the basis of nominations involving 37 bodies.

An Bord Pleanála is required to make an independent determination of appeals on planning authority decisions. In dealing with an appeal, the board must consider all submissions on the file, together with the inspector's report and recommendation. The board reaches its own conclusion in each case, in accordance with the proper planning and sustainable development of the area. The board must also have regard to ministerial policy and guidelines, including the recently published draft Sustainable Rural Housing Guidelines.

Question No. 34 answered with QuestionNo. 25.
Question No. 35 answered with QuestionNo. 22.

Architectural Heritage.

Questions (57)

Denis Naughten

Question:

36 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will review the current funding for architectural protection grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22326/04]

View answer

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

The scheme of architectural protection grants is administered by local authorities and is available to owners of protected structures. The scheme is resourced by my Department: the relevant overall provision for 2003 was €2.888 million and for 2004 it has been increased to €4.4 million, an improvement of some 52% over the 2003 provision. Funding for this scheme will be kept under review.

Local Authority Funding.

Questions (58)

Simon Coveney

Question:

37 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the level of direct provision of funding to local authorities over the past seven years in absolute terms and as a percentage of total expenditure of local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27540/04]

View answer

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

The following table sets out details of the total amount of State grants current and capital, paid to local authorities and the percentage this represents of total local authority expenditure for the years in question.

Year

Grants Paid**

% of Total Expenditure

€m

%

1997

1,243.86

40.1

1998

1,341.59

38.4

1999

1,776.16

42.4

2000

2,303.91

43.8

2001

3,054.13

45.4

2002

3,703.69

49.6

2003*

3,575.63

48.6

* Provisional Estimate.

** Excludes income from motor tax, driver licence duties etc. under Local Government Fund (1999-2003) and Local Government (Equalisation) Fund (1997-1998) arrangements.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Questions (59, 60)

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

38 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will provide sufficient funding to acquire, enable and provide 10,000 social housing units in 2005. [27586/04]

View answer

Seán Crowe

Question:

96 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the local authority housing rental stock has declined in the past five years; if the Government is committed to retaining at least the current level of 105,000 units; and if so, the number of units that must be built each year to compensate for the depletion of social housing stock through tenant purchase and other factors. [27384/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 38 and 96 together.

The Government has responded actively to the increased level of social housing need by expanding social and affordable housing output significantly. Spending on housing has increased substantially in recent years, with capital spending in 2004 at four times the 1998 level. The focus of the Government's spending on housing is on responding to the needs of low income groups and those with social and special housing needs through a broad range of targeted initiatives. It is anticipated that through these measures the needs of over 13,000 households will be met in 2004, compared with some 8,500 households in 2000. This includes over 10,000 households assisted through various forms of social rented accommodation, involving new local authority and voluntary and co-operative housing and vacancies arising in existing local authority houses.

The Government is committed to the continued expansion of the social rented housing stock through local authority and voluntary and co-operative housing. The decision to introduce five-year multi-annual capital investment programmes provides an important opportunity to ensure a structured basis for the planning and delivery of all social and affordable housing programmes. Consequently, to maximise the benefits of this multi-annual approach, local authorities have been requested to prepare five-year social and affordable housing action plans for the period 2004 to 2008.

The main objective in developing these action plans is the need to ensure that the investment available for these programmes achieves the desired effect in the long term by tackling real need and breaking cycles of disadvantage and dependency having regard to the funding available under the five-year multi-annual capital envelopes. The Department is currently assessing the draft action plans submitted by the local authorities with a view to finalising them by the end of the year.

The expanded social and affordable housing provision over recent years has had a beneficial impact on the social rented housing stock. Returns from local authorities would indicate that the number of occupied local authority dwellings has increased in recent years. The number of occupied local authority dwellings at end 2003 was in the order of 105,000, compared with over 99,200 at the end of 1998. Having regard to activity on the tenant purchase scheme over the past four years, an average of 1,500 units are required each year to replace units disposed of through the scheme.

EU Environmental Legislation.

Questions (61)

John Gormley

Question:

39 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress he has made in the timely and correct implementation as well as proper application of EU environmental legislation since assuming office. [27590/04]

View answer

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

The Government is firmly committed to ensuring that all measures agreed at EU level are transposed within the timeframe agreed at the Council of Ministers and implemented correctly. I am keenly aware of the importance of timely transposition and effective implementation of EU environmental legislation. Some 200 pieces of EU environmental legislation, including more than 140 directives, have by now been transposed.

There are currently five outstanding directives in my Department's area of responsibility which have yet to be transposed. These include, Directive 2003/53/EC relating to end-of-life vehicles, ELVs, which contains two stages of transposition, the first by 21 April 2002, for new vehicles sold after 1 July 2002, and the second by January 2007, for all other vehicles. There have been difficulties in reaching agreement with the motor industry on ELV take-back arrangements required by the directive. However written agreement was recently reached on a scheme to provide for free take-back of all end of life vehicles from 1 March 2005, some 22 months ahead of the 2007 deadline. It is intended that the directive will be transposed in the first quarter of 2005.

Another Directive 2002/49/EC relates to the assessment and management of environmental noise. Drafting of regulations to transpose this directive is well advanced and transposition is intended in early 2005.

A further Directive 2002/88/EC relates to measures against the emission of gaseous and particulate pollutants from internal combustion engines to be installed in non-road mobile machinery. Draft regulations are nearing completion with a view to circulation to relevant bodies for observations prior to the year-end. It is intended that the directive will be transposed in the first quarter of 2005.

Two further related Directives 2002/95/EC and 2002/96/EC, respectively, concern restrictions on the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment and arrangements for dealing with waste electrical and electronic equipment. Legislative proposals approved by Government for the transposition of both directives are now in drafting.

I intend to give a high priority to completing work on the transposition of directives as rapidly as possible, and to improving national enforcement arrangements, in particular through supporting the work of the office of environmental enforcement, OEE, within the EPA. The main functions of the OEE include improving overall compliance with environmental protection legislation, auditing and reporting on the performance of local authorities in the discharge of their environmental protection functions and taking action, where necessary, and prosecuting, or assisting local authorities to prosecute, significant breaches of environmental legislation in a timely manner.

Local Authority Funding.

Questions (62)

Joe Sherlock

Question:

40 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the extent to which local authorities have not drawn down their allocated funding from the local government fund; the reason the funding has not been drawn down; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27346/04]

View answer

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

The local government fund is used primarily to fund general purpose grants and non-national road grants to local authorities. All the general purpose grants due to local authorities for 2004 — namely a total of €751,545,894 — have been paid in full.

In 2004, the total allocation for non-national roads from the local government fund is €428 million. Grant claims are submitted each month by local authorities on the basis of expenditure incurred by them. A sum of €246,877,240 has been paid to date from the fund in respect of non-national roads and I expect that the balance of €181,122,760 will be paid by the end of the year.

Question No. 41 answered with QuestionNo. 17

Waste Management.

Questions (63)

Richard Bruton

Question:

42 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has been in contact with Wicklow and Kildare County Councils regarding the direction sent to them by the office of environmental enforcement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27571/04]

View answer

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

I have not been in contact with these local authorities as the question of waste enforcement activities in individual cases is primarily a matter for the local authorities concerned and the OEE.

Decentralisation Programme.

Questions (64, 65)

Seán Ryan

Question:

43 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the sections or divisions of his Department which are to be decentralised to Kilkenny, New Ross, Waterford, and Wexford respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27343/04]

View answer

Seán Ryan

Question:

47 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the timetable for the proposed decentralisation of his Department to Kilkenny, New Ross, Waterford, and Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27344/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 43 and 47 together.

All Dublin based operations of my Department are being decentralised, with the exception of Met Éireann, ENFO, the Private Rented Tenancies Board and a small co-ordination section which it is proposed to retain in Dublin to assist with the Department's Dáil and other Dublin business.

Under the Department's implementation plan it is intended that the Minister, Ministers of State, Secretary General and assistant secretaries, environment division, policy-co-ordination support for each of the other divisions along with personnel, corporate development and finance will be located in Wexford. Heritage and planning division and local government division will be based in Waterford. Water and natural heritage division will be located in New Ross and housing division in Kilkenny. The Department will be co-operating with the Department of Finance, the decentralisation implementation group, DIG, and the Office of Public Works to ensure implementation of the programme within agreed timescales. In this regard it is expected that the DIG will report shortly to the Cabinet sub-committee on decentralisation outlining its views on sequencing and timing of moves.

Local Authority Housing.

Questions (66, 67)

Martin Ferris

Question:

44 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he envisages that the 48,000 persons on local authority housing waiting lists will be housed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27397/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

45 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he expects to meet the requirements of families currently on the various local authority housing lists in view of the fact that some of them have been on such lists for up to 12 years, if he has satisfied himself that their needs are likely to be met in the near future; if so, the way in which; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27393/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 44 and 45 together.

Information published as part of the last assessment of local authority housing need undertaken at the end of March 2002 indicates that approximately 60% of households assessed as in need of local authority housing were on the local authority waiting list for less than two years. It is however the case that some applicants for local authority housing are on waiting lists for longer periods on the basis that their housing need has a relative lower priority compared with the needs of households who have been allocated housing. The relative priority of households on the local authority waiting lists is determined in accordance with the authorities' schemes of letting priorities, the making of which is a function reserved to the elected members.

The Government has been conscious of the increased level of social housing need and has responded actively to this situation by expanding social and affordable housing output. For example, it is anticipated that total social housing output this year taking account of new local authority housing, vacancies arising in existing houses and output under other social housing measures will meet the needs of around 13,000 households. This compares with some 7,000 households catered for in 1993.

Local Authority Funding.

Questions (68)

Liam Twomey

Question:

46 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has given consideration to the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland’s recent proposal on a site value tax to fund local government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27541/04]

View answer

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

While I am aware of the recent call by the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland for the introduction of a site value tax, I have received no formal proposal from the CCI in this regard. My predecessor appointed Indecon International Economic Consultants in association with the Institute of Local Government Studies to carry out an independent review of local government funding, which will be completed early next year. I understand that CCI recently held discussions with the consultants and has submitted proposals to them in the context of the study.

Question No. 47 answered with QuestionNo. 43.
Question No. 48 answered with QuestionNo. 17.

Litter Pollution.

Questions (69)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

49 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the measures he is taking to reduce the amount of cigarette debris on streets here due to the introduction of the smoking ban in view of the recent national litter survey carried out by his Department; if he has managed to receive data from all local authorities on this matter in view of the fact that only 34 responded to the original survey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27317/04]

View answer

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

While a range of national anti-litter initiatives is being pursued by my Department through the framework of the Government's litter action plan, including implementation of a national litter monitoring system and support for a range of education-awareness initiatives under the Litter Pollution Act 1997 primary responsibility for management and enforcement responses to litter pollution lies with local authorities. Accordingly, it is a matter for each local authority to decide on the most appropriate public awareness, enforcement and clean-up actions regarding litter, including the problem posed by cigarettes.

The results of the national litter pollution monitoring system survey 2003 were published in August of this year. This report is based on an analysis of data received from 34 local authorities compared to 30 local authorities in the 2002 survey. Most of the major local authorities responded to the survey. While the results do not cover all local authorities, they provide a reliable overview of the litter problem and demonstrate clear patterns from which conclusions may reasonably be drawn.

I expect that the system survey results report for 2004 will include information submitted from almost all local authorities and will enable an accurate assessment to be made of the impact on litter of the smoking ban.

Nuclear Safety.

Questions (70, 71)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

50 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if and the way in which the Irish Presidency of the European Union raised the issue of Sellafield; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27548/04]

View answer

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

53 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has considered raising the issue of Sellafield at EU level to bring pressure to bear on the United Kingdom to close its facility at Sellafield; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27547/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 50 and 53 together.

During its EU Presidency, Ireland was actively involved in seeking to develop a sound consensus in the European Council's atomic questions working group on two proposed directives, one relating to safety of nuclear installations and the other to the safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste. In the event, because a blocking minority of states opposed the principle of a legal instrument and, despite intensive efforts by the Irish Presidency, it was not possible to secure a consensus in the working group for adoption of the directives.

However, the Council of the European Union, at a meeting on 28 June 2004 under the Irish Presidency, adopted conclusions on nuclear safety and on the safety of the management of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste. These conclusions reaffirmed the commitment of the Community and its member states to a high level of nuclear safety and to the safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste.

While the EURATOM Treaty, already envisages the promotion of nuclear energy, Ireland seeks to avail of all opportunities at EU level to steer EURATOM activities in the direction of nuclear safety and radiological protection and away from expansion of the nuclear industry. This approach is in line with An Agreed Programme for Government.

The Irish Government has taken significant steps to bring about the closure of Sellafield. This objective was given added impetus by the legal actions taken by Ireland against the UK under both the OSPAR Convention and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. As the House will be aware, the action under the OSPAR Convention has been heard already but the action under UNCLOS is currently adjourned pending resolution of a jurisdictional issue raised by the European Commission which is now the subject of litigation by the Commission against Ireland before the European Court of Justice.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Questions (72)

Brian O'Shea

Question:

51 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the details of new planning guidelines aimed at creating a five-fold increase in the State’s output of wind energy in relation to the announcement in August 2004; if these new guidelines are in place; if he plans to proceed with the construction of wind farms in areas designated as areas for natural heritage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27333/04]

View answer

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

Draft guidelines for planning authorities on wind energy development were published for public consultation on 4 August 2004. A total of 65 submissions were received by the closing date for the receipt of submissions on 30 September 2004. They are now under consideration by my Department. It is intended to publish the finalised guidelines in early 2005. Planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála will be required to have regard to them thereafter.

Regarding areas designated for natural heritage protection, the draft guidelines state that the designation of a site for conservation of natural or geological does not preclude the development of wind energy. The draft guidelines advise that "the best results in relation to incorporation of heritage considerations into development proposals in designated sites are achieved where prospective applicants and planning authorities work together to identify whether the development may impinge upon particular aspects of heritage, with a view to agreeing on any measures that may be needed to avoid or minimise any potential adverse impacts on heritage."

Question No. 52 answered with QuestionNo. 20.
Question No. 53 answered with QuestionNo. 50.
Question No. 54 answered with QuestionNo. 9.

House Prices.

Questions (73)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

55 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to recent reports that purchasers of new homes under stage-payment schemes are being charged an average of €7,000 for the construction industry practice; if he has plans to abolish stage payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27335/04]

View answer

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

I am concerned to ensure that house purchasers are not being adversely affected by any practices that might make it more difficult or expensive to access a home in certain circumstances.

A structured consultation process is now being initiated with key stakeholders to examine all aspects of stage payments, to identify the exact nature of the issues involved, and to consider fully the implications of different options including potential legislative action. The overall impact on the home buyer will be the central consideration in this process, in particular, to ensure that consumers are not being disadvantaged by any undesirable market practices.

The figure referred to in the question was contained in an opinion commissioned by the Law Society of Ireland and I have noted the points made in this opinion.

National Spatial Strategy.

Questions (74)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

56 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if Drogheda Borough Council will be included in all future discussions in relation to the development of the greater Dublin area. [27562/04]

View answer

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

While emphasising the importance of Drogheda as a primary development centre within the Border region, the regional planning guidelines for that region adopted earlier this year also point out that Drogheda's strategic position within the Dublin-Belfast economic corridor, its location relatively close to the greater Dublin area, and its much improved road and rail connections to and from the capital, mean that factors outside the Border region will also be significant in driving Drogheda's future development. The guidelines suggest that the future growth of the town should be focused on achieving a compact urban form with a good balance of development between the northern and southern environs of Drogheda. In this context the guidelines endorse the preparation of an integrated strategic land use and transportation framework for Drogheda and its environs in Louth and Meath, which broadly conforms with the national spatial strategy, the Border regional planning guidelines and those of the greater Dublin area. Work on the preparation of such a framework is now under way.

The regional planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area also adopted earlier this year recommend that inter-regional co-ordination committees should be established to discuss co-ordination of inter-regional proposals and their monitoring and implementation. In particular the guidelines recommend, in view of the ongoing preparation by Drogheda Borough Council, Louth County Council and Meath County Council of an integrated land use and transport framework for Drogheda, that a co-ordination committee involving those authorities, the Border Regional Authority and the greater Dublin area review team should be established.

My Department is in the process of finalising, in consultation with regional and local authorities, best practice guidance on the implementation of regional planning guidelines. Within this it is intended to cover the question of the putting co-ordination arrangements in place to address planning policies and proposals for areas which straddle the boundaries of two or more regional or local authorities. It is my intention to issue this guidance to regional and local authorities by the end of this year.

Question No. 57 answered with QuestionNo. 29.
Question No. 58 answered with QuestionNo. 18

Social and Affordable Housing.

Questions (75)

John Gormley

Question:

59 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress he has made in providing 10,000 new homes under the Sustaining Progress agreement. [27589/04]

View answer

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

Substantial progress continues to be made on the affordable housing initiative under the Sustaining Progress agreement. Part V affordable units are also an important contribution to the initiative. More than 50 projects on State and local authority lands are planned at this stage which, together with some 2,100 affordable Part V units, will deliver a total of approximately 8,900 units under the initiative. My Department is engaged with a number of other Departments and State agencies with a view to securing further lands to reach the agreed target of 10,000 units. In particular, the Department of Health and Children is examining an inventory of health board lands to identify lands which could potentially yield 1,500 units to the initiative.

Construction has commenced on the Finglas Road site. A number of other projects have been advertised for expressions of interest, including the St. Bricin's military hospital site which was advertised as part of the O'Devaney Gardens redevelopment. Following a short-listing process, it is understood the request for proposals for the St Bricin's site will be issued this month. The Jamestown Road and Infirmary Road projects were advertised for expressions of interest in late September. Collectively, it is estimated that these four projects have the potential to yield more than 700 affordable housing units under the initiative. All projects are being progressed as a priority with activities being paralleled as necessary with a view to early delivery of units.

A number of additional strategies, put forward by the Construction Industry Federation, including the possibility of land swaps, which may accelerate delivery of housing units, are currently being examined as a matter of urgency.

My Department will continue to work with the parties to the pay agreement to expedite effective implementation of the initiative. There is a strong commitment in Government to deliver on this initiative and I believe that the substantial progress made to date emphasises this commitment.

Appointments to State Boards.

Questions (76)

Arthur Morgan

Question:

60 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has examined the possibility of a conflict of interest arising from the appointment of a person (details supplied) to the board of the EPA following their previous employment with a prominent company in the incineration industry. [27381/04]

View answer

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

The directors of the Environmental Protection Agency are appointed by the Government following a statutory selection process which is set out in the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992. The Act provides for the establishment of a statutory selection committee whose function is to select not more than three suitable candidates from which the Government will make an appointment to the appropriate director post. The Environmental Protection Agency (Selected Procedures) Regulations 2004 require the selection committee to advertise publicly for applicants. In the case of the two most recent appointments to the board of the agency, the Civil Service Commission provided operational assistance to the selection committee in relation to the recruitment process.

I am, therefore, satisfied that the recruitment process is manifestly fair, open and transparent. I am also satisfied that the conduct of the process was carried out properly and in accordance with the relevant statutory provisions.

The employment of all the directors of the agency is, in accordance with the terms and conditions of their contract, subject to the high standards set out in the code of conduct for directors and staff of the Environmental Protection Agency, which was adopted by the agency. The code requires that all staff must,inter alia, comply with the statutory obligations under the Ethics in Public Office Acts 1995-2001 to avoid a conflict or potential conflict between their interests and the interests of the agency. The provisions of the code are in addition to those set out in sections 37 and 38 of the 1992 Act which set out requirements in relation to declaration and disclosure of interests.

Question No. 61 answered with QuestionNo. 26.
Question No. 62 answered with QuestionNo. 14.

Regional Development.

Questions (77)

Michael Ring

Question:

63 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the report of the Dublin Regional Authority and Dublin Employment Pact that calls for the creation of a greater Dublin authority; if he has plans to implement any of the report’s recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27561/04]

View answer

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

I assume the question refers to the Agenda for Dublin, published on 19 October 2004 by the Dublin Regional Authority and the Dublin Employment Pact. The recommendations in this report involve a range of Ministers and will be a matter for each of them to consider, as appropriate. The establishment of a greater Dublin authority for land use and transport planning would be a matter in the first instance for my colleague, the Minister for Transport.

In so far as the policy areas within my remit are concerned, the national spatial strategy supports Dublin's pivotal role as a strong and internationally competitive city region, driving both its own economy and overall national development. The strategy endorses the need for the enhancement of Dublin's national role through improved mobility, better urban design, good social mix and top class international and regional connections. To achieve this, it calls for the physical consolidation of Dublin, supported by effective land use policies, to underpin the area's competitiveness and the ability of its public transport system to function more effectively.

The Dublin and Mid-East Regional Authorities have collaborated, under the provisions of the Planning and Development Act 2000, to produce strategic planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area, which were adopted in May 2004. These guidelines, which provide a more detailed long-term planning framework for the area within the overall vision of the national spatial strategy, also provide an illustration of how existing legislation can be utilised to ensure effective strategic planning at the regional level.

The Government has responded actively to the increased level of social housing need by expanding social and affordable housing output significantly. Spending on housing has increased substantially in recent years, with capital spending in 2004 at four times the 1998 level. The focus of the Government's spending on housing is on responding to the needs of low income, groups and those with social and special housing needs through a broad range of targeted initiatives. It is anticipated that through these measures the needs of over 13,000 households will be met in 2004, compared to some 8,500 households in 1998.

In addition, local authorities have been requested to prepare five-year social and affordable housing action plans to provide a framework for delivery of social and affordable housing measures for the period 2004 to 2008. The main objective in developing these action plans is the need to ensure that the investment available for these measures achieves the desired effect in the long term by tackling real need and breaking cycles of disadvantage and dependency.

As part of the homeless strategy, a homeless agency was established for the Dublin area to manage and co-ordinate the delivery of all services by both statutory and voluntary agencies to homeless persons in Dublin. The agency recently finalised its action plan for 2004 to 2006, which concentrates on four main areas. These are the provision of more housing rather than beds, the development of preventative strategies, the improvement of interventions when people become homeless, and an improvement in the collection and collation of data on homelessness.

Having regard to spatial planning and the other policies within my remit, regional co-ordination and co-operation is increasingly the norm. In this context, the Dublin Regional Authority, working closely with the Mid-East Regional Authority and the four Dublin local authorities, will continue to co-ordinate the provision of public services in the region.

Housing Grants.

Questions (78)

Phil Hogan

Question:

64 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the total spent on the disabled persons housing grant, broken down by county, in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27531/04]

View answer

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

The total spent on the disabled persons grant scheme in 2003 is set out in the following table.

Local authority

Expenditure €

County Councils

Carlow

213,045

Cavan

1,684,852

Clare

623,016

Cork (n)

1,719,645

Cork (w)

1,053,000

Cork (s)

2,384,778

Donegal

3,143,992

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown

1,751,899

Fingal

819,938

Galway

1,145,176

Kerry

1,033,939

Kildare

1,110,686

Kilkenny

503,410

Laois

499,597

Leitrim

1,300,488

Limerick

713,534

Longford

914,071

Louth

576,435

Mayo

1,366,888

Meath

1,353,254

Monaghan

1,421,993

North Tipperary

818,982

Offaly

747,208

Roscommon

1,418,820

Sligo

470,753

South Dublin

2,544,886

South Tipperary

927,602

Waterford

844,160

Westmeath

967,940

Wexford

693,824

Wicklow

1,291,689

City Councils

Cork

834,072

Dublin

10,993,203

Galway

902,172

Limerick

663,313

Waterford

546,000

Borough Councils

Sligo

457,320

Town Councils

Bray

25,378

Total

50,480,958

The administration of the disabled persons and essential repairs grant schemes is a matter for individual local authorities. The framework for the operation of the schemes is laid down in statutory regulations and, as far as practicable, is designed to give an appropriate degree of flexibility to local authorities with regard to their administration. It is a matter for the authorities to decide on the level of funding to be provided for the scheme in their areas from within the allocations notified to them for this purpose by my Department and to manage the operation of the schemes within these allocations. My Department recoups to local authorities two thirds of their expenditure on the payment of individual grants and it is the responsibility of the authorities to fund their one third contribution from their own resources from amounts provided for that purpose in their annual estimates of expenditure.

Waste Management.

Questions (79)

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

65 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his view on plans by a subsidiary of a company (details supplied) to deal with three separate illegal dumps on its lands in west Wicklow by creating a special landfill on the site; his further views on the amount of illegal waste on this site, specifically the amount of hazardous material; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27341/04]

View answer

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

The licensing of relevant waste facilities is a matter for the Environmental Protection Agency, which is independent in the exercise of its statutory functions in this regard. I am specifically precluded from involvement in this licensing process.

With regard to the consequences of unauthorised waste activities, I shall shortly be issuing statutory guidance to local authorities and the agency on the appropriate treatment and remediation of unauthorised waste sites.

Planning Issues.

Questions (80)

Dan Boyle

Question:

66 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the needs of children will be recognised in his preparation of a new guidance manual for planning authorities. [27588/04]

View answer

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

New development management guidelines — a review of the development control guidelines of 1982 — are at an advanced stage of preparation by my Department. These guidelines are intended to give advice to planning authorities, planning practitioners and the general public on various areas of planning control and development management. The guidelines deal with the best ways to handle planning applications and other planning control issues, and will not deal with issues relating to any particular section of society.

The needs of children are provided for in the planning context by the guidelines for planning authorities on child care facilities and by the Planning and Development Act 2000. The child care guidelines were published by my Department in July 2001 and are designed to assist planning authorities in making suitable provision for child care facilities in their development plans and to ensure a consistency of approach throughout the country to the treatment of planning applications. Among other things, the guidelines state that a standard, with regard to new housing areas, of one child care facility with a minimum of 20 child care places for approximately 75 dwellings may be appropriate. The Planning and Development Act 2000 provides that planning authorities include objectives in their development plans for the provision, or facilitation of the provision, of services for the community including schools, crèches and other education and child care facilities.

My Department is currently finalising guidelines for planning authorities on development plans, which will be published in draft form for public consultation in the near future. The guidelines will aim to improve the standard and consistency of development plans and thereby improve the quality and consistency of decisions taken on the basis of those plans. They will refer,inter alia, to the mandatory objectives which planning authorities must include in the development plan with regard to community services including schools, crèches and other education and child care facilities. The guidelines will also refer to other community facilities, including facilities for children’s play, such as playgrounds, skateboard parks and other such facilities. The guidelines will indicate to planning authorities that they must respond to the circumstances of their own communities when formulating development plans. Under section 48 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, planning authorities may levy development contributions on developers to fund the provision of community facilities, including playgrounds.

My Department also assists the National Children's Office to administer the playgrounds grants scheme, which aims to increase the range of public play opportunities available to children. The scheme will provide funding for the provision of new playgrounds or refurbishment of existing playgrounds. An additional sum of €2 million was made available this year in my Department's budget for play facilities, to coincide with the launch of the national play policy in March 2004.

Radioactive Materials.

Questions (81)

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

67 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the potential for the development of a so-called dirty bomb here and the importation of the components of such a device into the country; the advice he has been offered by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland on the detection of such components at point of entry into the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27549/04]

View answer

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

The term "dirty bomb" refers to a device created by mixing conventional explosives with radioactive materials so that the detonation of the explosives would result in the dispersal of radioactive materials. National regulatory authorities worldwide and relevant international organisations fully recognise this threat and a number of initiatives have been taken to combat it. For example, the International Atomic Energy Agency has produced a code of conduct on the safety and security of radioactive sources, which Ireland has formally endorsed. This code is intended to help guide national regulatory authorities to develop strategies to ensure that holders of radioactive materials have appropriate safety and security arrangements in place.

Under the Radiological Protection Act 1991, (Ionising Radiation) Order 2000, the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, RPII, is responsible for regulating the custody, use, transport, importation, exportation, distribution, disposal and so on, of radioactive substances, nuclear devices or irradiating apparatus, as specified in the order. Under the order, any such activity is prohibited, save under licence issued by the RPII.

In this context, the RPII has taken a number of steps to improve security in situations where radioactive materials are stored, transported or used in Ireland. Licensed holders of such materials have been instructed by the RPII to pay increased attention to arrangements for ensuring security of the materials held in this country. In addition, the frequency of RPII inspections of radioactive materials and the licensees' storage arrangements has increased. The RPII also proposes to introduce new licensing conditions, which will require the licensee to undertake more frequent inventory checks of all their licensed radioactive materials. This will help to ensure a greater level of security is in place for such radioactive materials, whether in use or not. The RPII has also provided briefing to senior members of the Garda crime prevention unit, including advice on the security hazards posed by different radionuclides and practices.

Radioactive materials imported into Ireland must comply with international requirements in regard to packaging and must be clearly labelled. Obviously, materials being imported for use in the making of a dirty bomb may not be so labelled. In this regard, earlier this year, the RPII held preliminary discussions with the customs authorities to advise them on how they might look out for and detect illegal imports. Security will be further strengthened when the EU high activity sealed sources directive is implemented in national law. This directive, the provisions of which must be enshrined in national law by the end of 2005, requires,inter alia, that customs authorities must be trained in methods for detecting radioactive materials.

The RPII's regulatory services will continue to keep the matter of the security of radioactive sources under constant review and maintain best practice in accordance with international and EU standards and advice.

Housing Grants.

Questions (82)

Phil Hogan

Question:

68 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the total spent on first-time buyer’s grant payments in 2003, broken down by county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27530/04]

View answer

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

The information requested is set out in the following table.

County

No. of grants

Value

Carlow

140

533,372.35

Cavan

154

586,716.30

Clare

286

1,089,620.50

Cork

1,047

3,987,604.35

Donegal

287

1,101,794.70

Dublin

3,482

13,266,099.26

Galway

620

2,385,991.55

Kerry

249

944,812.07

Kildare

549

2,095,443.91

Kilkenny

354

1,348,693.39

Laois

273

1,038,827.88

Leitrim

42

160,011.31

Limerick

490

1,866,829.69

Longford

27

102,858.15

Louth

393

1,497,301.56

Mayo

329

1,253,447.34

Meath

817

3,112,730.50

Monaghan

122

464,799.46

Offaly

212

805,152.88

Roscommon

78

297,169.73

Sligo

155

590,527.09

Tipperary

211

803,861.81

Waterford

232

883,901.83

Westmeath

288

1,097,255.51

Wexford

410

1,562,049.44

Wicklow

247

941,045.51

Total

11,494

43,817,918.07

Question No. 69 answered with QuestionNo. 27.

Waste Management.

Questions (83)

Tom Hayes

Question:

70 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the implications of the recent EPA annual report for waste policy here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27570/04]

View answer

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

The EPA's annual report for 2003 reviews the activities of the agency in that year and the many environmental issues on which it was engaged. With regard to waste management, the report highlights the continuing progress in the rollout of the waste licensing system, for which the agency has statutory responsibility. It also draws attention to the establishment within the agency in 2003 of the office of environmental enforcement and the emphasis that office is placing on tackling illegal waste activity. The report also draws attention to the national waste database report for 2001, also published in 2003 by the EPA, and the need it highlights to further increase recycling activity. It may be noted in this context that an interim national waste database report for 2002, which deals primarily with municipal waste and was published by the EPA in June 2004, records further progress in this regard. For example, the recycling rate of municipal waste is estimated to have advanced to 20.7% in 2002. This is a significant increase in recycling of this waste stream when compared to the EPA report for 2001 which indicated a municipal waste recycling rate of 13.3%.

These reports indicate significant progress since local authorities have begun implementing their waste management plans and, when taken together with my Department's recently published policy statement, Waste Management — Taking Stock and Moving Forward, clearly demonstrate the advances made in delivering the requisite services and infrastructure to ensure we can manage our waste in a modern and sustainable manner.

Communications Masts.

Questions (84)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

71 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he proposes to change existing legislation with regard to the distance between new masts and housing units. [25583/04]

View answer

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

There are no standards in primary or secondary legislation relating to distance between masts and housing units. The guidelines for planning authorities on telecommunication antennae and support structures of 1996 advise that "in the vicinity of larger towns and city suburbs, operators should endeavour to locate in industrial areas or in industrially zoned land." They also advise that "only as a last resort should free standing masts be located in a residential area or beside schools".

National Parks.

Questions (85)

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

72 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the details of the new management plan process for the State’s national parks; the measures that have been put in place to ensure the new five-year plans for the six parks are complied with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27332/04]

View answer

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

The Government's national parks strategy includes the establishment of a management plan process for each of the country's six national parks, at Killarney, Glenveagh, the Wicklow Mountains, Connemara, the Burren, and Ballycroy, County Mayo. Hitherto, Killarney National Park was the only national park subject to a management plan, which was published in 1990. That plan acted as an important catalyst and framework for the many improvements that have been made in the park in the ensuing period.

Changes in EU and national legislation since then, together with unprecedented levels of economic development, warrant a new and more participative approach to management planning for all our national parks. My Department therefore decided to establish a formalised consultative structure to elaborate draft management plans for each of the parks. This strategy involves the establishment of a national park liaison council for each park, three of which are already in place, in the Wicklow Mountains, Killarney and Connemara national parks. The role of these councils is to work with the national parks and wildlife service, NPWS, of my Department on preparing, and subsequently implementing, five-year management plans for the parks. Each draft plan will be the subject of widespread public consultation prior to final adoption and implementation. Once the management plan has been finalised and published, the council will continue to meet with park management to review the ongoing implementation of the plan.

An important element of this review process will involve the presentation by the NPWS regional manager of an annual business plan to the council outlining the park's proposed work programme for that year and the corresponding estimated cost involved, with direct reference to the strategies and targets elaborated in the plan. This review process is designed to achieve an inclusive and consultative approach to protecting and improving our national parks. Moreover, it is intended that, towards the end of the five-year implementation stage, a full assessment of progress achieved will be undertaken and a new management plan will be elaborated.

The management plan for each national park will be introduced on a phased basis. The management plan for the Wicklow Mountains National Park for 2005 to 2009 is the first plan under this strategy to have undergone the full cycle of approval by the park council, as well as a widespread public consultation process. Final editing of this plan is under way and I am hopeful that I will be in a position to formally launch it before the end of the year.

The draft management plan for Killarney National Park was launched by my predecessor in September 2004 and is available for public consultation. Following this, submissions received will be analysed and amendments made as considered appropriate. Once this process has been completed, I envisage that this plan will be published early in 2005.

Work is under way on the preparation of the draft management plans for Connemara and Glenveagh National Parks and a liaison council will soon be established for Glenveagh. My Department hopes to commence the management plan process for both the Burren National Park and Ballycroy National Park, County Mayo in 2005.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Questions (86)

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

73 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the impoundment of the Smerlagh River at Ardydonegan and Derrindaffe, Duagh, Listowel, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27348/04]

View answer

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

The site investigation and construction phases of the Smearla dam, an element of the north-east Kerry regional water supply scheme, stage one, phase two, were included in 15th and 21st places, respectively, in the list of 22 water and sewerage schemes submitted by Kerry County Council in response to my Department's request to all local authorities in 2003 to undertake fresh assessments of the needs for capital works in their areas and to prioritise their proposals on the basis of the assessments.

The priority lists were taken into account in the framing of the water services investment programme for 2004 to 2006, published in May 2004. Given the rating afforded to the Smearla proposal by the county council, it has not been possible to include it in the programme.

Environmental Policy.

Questions (87)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

74 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Aarhus Convention provides for the right to challenge in a court of law public decisions that have been made without respecting environmental law (details supplied); his views on whether the system here by which challenges to public decisions may incur huge legal costs is contrary to the Aarhus Convention; and if he will implement a public interest law mechanism whereby important points of environmental law can be dealt with quickly and without the threat of costs being awarded against citizens attempting to do their civic duty by ensuring Ireland’s environment is afforded the highest level of protection. [27593/04]

View answer

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

Ireland signed the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters on 25 June 1998. Progress towards ratification of the convention is closely aligned with work at EU level. To date, the European Union has adopted two directives as part of its ratification process for the convention. These deal with public access to environmental information, 2003/4/EC, and public participation in certain environmental decision-making procedures, 2003/35/EC. Work is continuing in my Department on the transposition into Irish law of these two directives. Transposition will be required by February 2005 in the case of Directive 2003/4/EC and by June 2005 in the case of Directive 2003/35/EC.

With regard to the access to justice pillar of the convention, work is continuing at EU level in drafting a directive which would, in due course, be transposed into the national law of the different member states. The issues raised in the question will be borne in mind in this context.

Planning Issues.

Questions (88)

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

75 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he intends to introduce legislation regarding planning; the purpose and main provisions of such legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27316/04]

View answer

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

The Planning and Development Act 2000,which was based on a widespread consultation process, represented the most far-reaching reform of the planning system since the original 1963 Act. The Act revised, extended and consolidated the legislative basis for the Irish planning system. There are no plans for widescale amendment of primary planning legislation, although this is kept under review in my Department.

However, the Department is considering submissions received on draft regulations which will amend the Planning and Development Regulations 2001. These regulations contain proposals to further streamline the planning application process. In particular, a standard planning application form is proposed for use by all planning authorities. The draft regulations are available on my Department's website atwww.environ.ie.

The Department has also been examining legislation on development consent for major projects to ensure we have the best possible system for the timely and cost effective delivery of infrastructure. Having examined the problems that have arisen in the area, it is considered that legislation is desirable to address some issues arising in the approval process. In general terms, it is intended in this proposed legislation to reduce the time required for obtaining development consent for necessary major public projects and to co-ordinate and streamline the different procedures now involved, while respecting the requirements of environment and heritage protection and the need for adequate public consultation.

End-of-Life Vehicles.

Questions (89)

Joe Sherlock

Question:

76 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he intends to introduce regulations on end-of-life vehicles; the communications he has had with the EU Commission in regard to the proposed regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27345/04]

View answer

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

Enabling provisions to facilitate implementation of European Parliament and Council Directive 2000/53/EC on end-of-life vehicles were incorporated in the Protection of the Environment Act 2003. My Department has been in ongoing communication with the EU Commission with regard to the transposition of the directive into national legislation. It is intended to make regulations as soon as possible which fully transpose the directive provisions and facilitate its full implementation in 2005.

Waste Management.

Questions (90)

John Deasy

Question:

77 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he intends to take action with regard to illegal dumping in County Wicklow resulting in a reported loss of €20 million to the taxpayer due to the necessity to re-route planned new roads as a direct result of this illegal dumping. [27573/04]

View answer

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

Enforcement action, including the taking of legal proceedings, in particular cases is a matter for the relevant local authority and the office of environmental enforcement. I have no function with regard to individual cases and as such it would not be appropriate for me to comment. On a more general level, I will be issuing statutory guidance to local authorities regarding the question of remediation of sites which have been the subject of unauthorised waste activities.

Planning Issues.

Questions (91)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

78 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will drop the €20 fee for persons to comment on planning applications. [27592/04]

View answer

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

On 23 January 2003, the European Commission issued Ireland with a reasoned opinion to the effect that the €20 fee for the making of a submission on a planning application which requires environmental impact assessment is contrary to the public participation provisions of Directive 85/337/EEC on environmental impact assessment, EIA. A reply to each of the points raised in the reasoned opinion, issued to the European Commission on 16 May 2003, set out our contention that the imposition of a €20 participation fee is not in conflict with the provisions of the directive.

On 22 July 2003, the European Commission issued a press release in which it stated its intention to refer the case to the European Court of Justice. However, no official communication has been received from the Commission to date. I have no proposal to amend the relevant regulations which reflect an approach endorsed by the Oireachtas in the context of the Planning and Development Act 2000.

Environmental Policy.

Questions (92, 93)

Trevor Sargent

Question:

79 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the way in which he proposes to act on the Government’s commitment to provide a biological record centre for Ireland in view of the ongoing loss of biodiversity at sea and on land here. [27584/04]

View answer

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

110 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason the proposed national biological records centre was allocated to Waterford; his views on whether the procedure by which this site was chosen was satisfactory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27331/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 and 110 together.

The national biodiversity plan, published in April 2002, contained a commitment to put in place a national biological data management system to be co-ordinated by a national biological records centre. Subsequently, in December 2003, the Heritage Council, pursuant to sections 6 and 7 of the Heritage Act 1995, recommended to the previous Minister the establishment of a national biological records centre. In May 2004, the Minister responded, welcoming the council's initiative and requesting it to give more detailed consideration to issues such as funding, the composition of a management board and possible choices of location.

In June 2004, the Heritage Council recommended that the records centre be located in Waterford, under the aegis of the Heritage Council and in partnership with Waterford Institute of Technology. The council's choice of location was supported by the emergence of an environmental node in the south east, including the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Heritage Council's own location by elements of the Government's decentralisation proposal, and by the capacity of Waterford Institute of Technology to bring state of the art IT and administrative support as well as a strong environmental pedigree to a partnership. In September 2004, the then Minister, having received further details from the Heritage Council on aspects of finance, governance, procurement and logistical matters, accepted the council's recommendations regarding the proposed location of the records centre subject to an appropriate contract between the Heritage Council and the institute which specified the infrastructure and facilities which the institute would provide and relevant performance indicators for the delivery of the contract.

The Heritage Council is working, in consultation with my Department, on the early finalisation of outstanding issues, including the structure of a management board and the arrangements for funding the centre.

Waste Management.

Questions (94, 95, 96)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

80 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the way in which he intends to deal with waste management; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27392/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

212 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his medium and long-term plans for waste management and disposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27735/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

224 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans for waste management throughout Leinster; if disposal is likely to be by way of landfill, recycling or other means; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27690/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80, 212 and 224 together.

Government policy on waste management is set out in the policy documents Changing our Ways, 1998, Preventing and Recycling Waste: Delivering Change, 2002, and Taking Stock and Moving Forward, 2004. The Government's approach is based on the internationally recognised waste management hierarchy of prevention-minimisation, significantly increased levels of recycling, energy recovery and utilising landfill as the last resort for residual waste that cannot otherwise be recovered. Local authorities have adopted waste management plans which, informed by the performance targets set out in these policy statements, call for the provision of modern integrated waste management services and infrastructure. The implementation of these plans is a matter for the relevant local authorities.

Private Rented Accommodation.

Questions (97)

Willie Penrose

Question:

81 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of complaints that have been filed to the recently established Private Residential Tenancies Board against landlords concerning anti-social behaviour by their tenants; if this new system is providing speedier resolution of such disputes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27337/04]

View answer

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

While there have been some queries to the recently established Private Residential Tenancies Board from the public regarding anti-social behaviour by tenants, the board is not yet in a position to accept dispute referrals, as the relevant part of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 has not yet been commenced. It is intended to bring the remainder of the Act into operation after the deadline for registration expires on 1 December. Only when the dispute resolution service is operational will it be possible to provide statistics on the number of disputes referred to the board.

Question No. 82 answered with QuestionNo. 17.
Question No. 83 answered with QuestionNo. 27.

Local Authority Housing.

Questions (98)

Seán Crowe

Question:

84 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of housing units for rent by local authorities which have been constructed in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27383/04]

View answer

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

Local authorities completed or acquired 3,207 housing units in 2000, 5,022 units in 2001, 5,074 units in 2002 and 4,972 units in 2003. Completions-acquisitions for 2004 are expected to be at the same level as for 2003. Detailed information on the number of local authority houses completed-acquired by individual local authorities for the years 2000 to 2003 is published in my Department's annual housing statistics bulletins, copies of which are available in the Oireachtas Library.

EU Directives.

Questions (99)

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

85 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he hopes to implement the energy performance of buildings directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27567/04]

View answer

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

An action plan to implement the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive-EPBD (2002/91/EC), according to a proposed timetable, is being developed by a working group, comprising senior officials drawn from my Department, the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and Sustainable Energy Ireland. I expect to receive the draft action plan within the next month or so. It will be appropriate to consider the implementation timescale for the action plan on its receipt from the working group.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Questions (100, 101)

Billy Timmins

Question:

86 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he expects Ireland will need to purchase on the international market quotas to avoid fines under the Kyoto Protocol; and the amount he expects Ireland will need to spend on such quotas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27565/04]

View answer

Gerard Murphy

Question:

88 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he expects Ireland will need to purchase on the international market quotas to avoid fines that will accrue due to its non-implementation of the Kyoto Protocol; the amount he expects Ireland will need to spend on such quotas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27564/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 86 and 88 together.

The Government's approach to meeting Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions target under the Kyoto Protocol includes the purchase of carbon allowances. The estimated amount of allowances to be purchased is equivalent to 3.7 million tonnes of emissions per year in respect of the protocol commitment period 2008 to 2012. As the allowances will be bought on the international market, the cost will be dictated by the market price at the time of purchase.

Homeless Persons.

Questions (102)

Willie Penrose

Question:

87 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has received the action plan from the Homeless Agency proposing measures to tackle homelessness; his views on its proposals that local authorities should purchase private houses and apartments for the homeless to take them off the street; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27338/04]

View answer

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

I launched Making it Home: An Action Plan on Homelessness in Dublin 2004-2006, in July 2004. The plan contains a number of actions to increase housing options for homeless persons. One of these actions is to increase the supply of local authority housing in the short term through the purchase or lease, from private owners, of existing self-contained accommodation suitable for single person households.

The provision of appropriate long-term accommodation, whether provided by local authorities, voluntary bodies or the private sector, is necessary to enable people move out of homelessness. In relation to the private rented sector, it is considered that the potential benefits of the approach being adopted in the new rental accommodation scheme, RAS, could be significant in terms of applying greater effectiveness in meeting the needs of homeless households. I understand that the Homeless Agency is examining the potential of this scheme in the context of drawing up a plan to increase housing options for homeless households.

In relation to purchasing private property, local authorities have been advised by my Department that they may purchase private second-hand houses where the cost of the acquisition can be met from the authority's capital allocation and the acquisition represents a cost-effective and economical means by which the authority can meet the housing needs of persons on their waiting lists. It is a matter for individual local authorities to decide on the circumstances and conditions under which they purchase houses, given their knowledge of local housing markets, including prices, which can vary substantially from one area to the next. The approval of the Department is not required for individual purchases.

Question No. 88 answered with QuestionNo. 86.

Housing Crisis.

Questions (103, 104)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

89 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of the ongoing and endemic housing difficulties being experienced by persons across the State, he has plans to bring forward a national housing strategy to address all aspects of the housing crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27395/04]

View answer

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

109 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to a survey (details supplied) showing that house prices for first-time buyer’s are rising by almost €2,000 per month around the country, and by almost €3,000 per month in Dublin; if he has plans to implement a new strategy to reduce the spiralling costs of house prices here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27339/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 109 together.

The unprecedented demand for housing, fuelled mainly by rapid economic growth and demographic changes, has been the major driver of house price increases in recent years. The Government's strategy is to increase housing supply to meet demand and to improve affordability, particularly for first-time buyers, and in this way to seek to bring moderation to house price increases.

The measures introduced by this Government to boost supply, including significant investment in infrastructure, improving planning capacity and promoting increased residential densities, are having effect. The year 2003 was the ninth record year for house completions. Output continues to remain high in 2004 with 47,645 units completed in the first eight months of this year, up 15% on 2003 levels. The rate of house construction in Ireland, namely, 17 houses per 1,000 population, is among the highest rates being achieved in Europe.

While the rate of house price increases is still problematic, this has moderated considerably since the late 1990s when price increases peaked at 40% per annum in 1998. A number of market commentators, including the Central Bank, are now predicting greater balance in the housing market over the next few years, as increased supply has a restraining effect on house prices. Indicative data available to the Department show that first-time buyers continue to have a significant presence in the housing market.

In addition to measures to support a market response to the unprecedented demand, the Government has placed a particular emphasis on the delivery of targeted schemes of affordable housing. Output has increased under the shared ownership and the 1999 affordable housing scheme which are targeted at purchasers with low and modest incomes. Over the coming years, the availability of affordable housing options will be further expanded with units coming on stream through Part V of the Planning and Development Act and the affordable housing initiative. In addition to the units already acquired to date under Part V, 1,600 affordable units were planned or in progress at the end of June, indicating the increased momentum of delivery of this initiative. At the same time, the Government is concerned to ensure that the broad spectrum of housing needs is met.

The total amount of funding available for social and affordable housing measures in 2004 is €1.884 billion. This is over four times the amount provided in 1997 and an increase of 5.4% on the 2003 provision, reflecting the strong commitment of the Government to continue to meet the needs of low income groups and those with social and special housing needs. It is anticipated that the needs of over 13,000 households will be met through these measures in 2004, compared to almost 8,500 in 1998.

The Government will continue to focus on measures to maintain a high level of housing supply in keeping with demand and ensuring that the demand for housing is met in a sustainable manner, and we will continue to monitor and review housing developments and policies as necessary.

Environmental Policy.

Questions (105)

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

90 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of legal proceedings being taken against the Government for its failure to comply with EU legislation designed to protect the environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27323/04]

View answer

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

There are currently nine cases in respect of which the European Commission has initiated legal action in relation to EU environmental directives, eight of which are the responsibility of my Department. This figure includes one case where the Commission has applied to the court for a daily fine in relation to the incomplete transposition of the EIA, environmental impact assessment, directive.

The following are the eight cases for which my Department has responsibility. The dangerous substances in water case relates to a directive on water quality. It is substantially implemented in the context of the Local Government Water Pollution Act and related legislation. For the purposes of this directive, water quality standards have been established for phosphorous and 14 other substances. However, EPA monitoring indicates that dangerous substances are generally not a problem in Irish waters. The directive is being further implemented in the context of implementation of the water framework directive.

With regard to the directive on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment, commonly known as an environmental impact assessment, or EIA, the points at issue relate to one aspect of the implementation of the directive, with specific regard to peat extraction. The Commission applied to the European Court of Justice on 7 July 2003 seeking the application of a daily fine of €21,600 for each day of delay in implementing measures in relation to the environment impact directive. There is ongoing communication with the Commission to resolve the matter.

Three cases relate to alleged failures to designate areas for conservation. The first case concerns the failure to fulfil obligations under the birds directive and the habitats directive and relates specifically to the effects of sheep overgrazing in the Owenduff and Nephin Beg regions. My Department is in communication with the Commission with a view to satisfying the requirements of the Court. The second case relates to the designation of a sufficient number of special areas of conservation under the habitats directive. My Department has worked to meet the requirements of the directive and has to all intents and purposes satisfied the requirements of the court judgment in this case. The third case, proceedings in which were initiated by the Commission during October 2004, relates primarily to allegations that insufficient special protection areas have been classified under the birds directive and the habitats directive and that the protective mechanisms in place are insufficient. The defence in this case is currently being prepared.

With regard to a number of related waste issues, the Advocate General delivered his opinion on this case to the European Court of Justice on 23 September 2004. With regard to end of life vehicles, it is intended to make regulations later this year fully transposing the directive's provisions and facilitating its full implementation in 2005. Regarding reporting requirements under an EU Regulation on ozone depleting substances, a response to the most recent judgment of the ECJ is being prepared.

The ninth case relates to matters for which the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources has responsibility and concerns the shellfish waters directive. The Irish authorities have responded to the letter of formal notice of September 2004, providing clarification to the Commission on the areas in which the Irish implementation programme was deemed to be deficient.

Local Authority Housing.

Questions (106)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

91 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of units of local authority social housing rental stock which are currently unoccupied; the average length of time such units are left unoccupied between tenancies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27394/04]

View answer

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

The management and maintenance of their rented dwellings, including the control of vacant dwellings, is the responsibility of the housing authority concerned. The most recent provisional figures available to my Department from local authorities indicate that at the end of December 2003 there were 4,499 local authority dwellings vacant nationwide, of which 2,465 were de-tenanted for planned refurbishment or major regeneration programmes in rundown estates. While my Department does not have details of the average length of time such units are left unoccupied, short-term vacancies occur on an ongoing basis where dwellings require renovations-improvement to bring them up to an acceptable standard before re-letting. The number of casual vacancies let as first time lettings by local authorities in 2003 was 3,795. Local authorities are encouraged by my Department to ensure that units which become vacant are re-let as quickly as possible.

My Department introduced a special initiative this year for the next two years to allow local authorities to undertake the renovation of houses vacant for periods longer than six months which require major refurbishment. It is expected that funding will be provided for the refurbishment of some 150 such dwellings this year. This step is one of the measures which local authorities have been asked to consider as part of the five year action plans to address social and affordable housing needs.

Question No. 92 answered with QuestionNo. 22.

Presidential Elections.

Questions (107)

Finian McGrath

Question:

93 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on plans to bring forward constitutional amendments to make the election for the Presidency more inclusive and democratic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24181/04]

View answer

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

I have no plans to bring forward proposals to amend the Constitution in relation to presidential elections.

Departmental Expenditure.

Questions (108)

Pat Breen

Question:

94 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the total underspend by the Government in 2003; the reasons for the underspend; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27536/04]

View answer

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

The gross expenditure provision for my Department in 2003 was €2,341.511 million, of which €2,341.193 million was actually spent. The resulting underspend of €318,000 or 0.01% of provision is relatively insignificant in this context.

Question No. 95 answered with QuestionNo. 14
Question No. 96 answered with QuestionNo. 38.
Question No. 97 answered with QuestionNo. 27.
Question No. 98 answered with QuestionNo. 9.
Question No. 99 answered with QuestionNo. 14.

Nuclear Safety.

Questions (109, 110)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

100 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the efforts made to ensure that a shipment of nuclear waste shipped from the US to France in September 2004 did not pass through Irish waters; the Government’s position in relation to shipments of such waste passing through Irish waters in view of the potential risk of nuclear shipments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27318/04]

View answer

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

106 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has complained to the British Government regarding the transportation of hazardous toxic waste through the Irish Sea on a vessel (details supplied) and other ships; the risk to Irish persons were such a ship to sink or be attacked; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27546/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 and 106 together.

This recent shipment between the United States and France arose from an agreement between the US and Russia in regard to the decommissioning of nuclear weapons. The weapons grade plutonium arising from the decommissioning process was shipped from the US to France for fabrication into MOX nuclear fuel for application in US nuclear reactors.

The shipment passed through international and French territorial waters at the European end. My officials sought and received assurances from the US and France that the shipment would not enter Irish territorial waters. In addition to the information received from the US and France, the United Kingdom Government advised my officials of the dispatch of the two ships from the UK to collect the shipment from the US for transport to France. This communication was on a government to government basis and no direct communication took place with British Nuclear Fuels Limited.

The Irish Government has long been concerned about the shipment of nuclear materials. It is also concerned about the risk of a major accident or security incident and about the potential for damage to public health, the environment and the economy arising from any such accident or incident.

The question of imposing a ban on the passage of ships carrying nuclear materials in international waters has proved difficult given the right of passage enshrined in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Irish Government's opposition to such shipments of radioactive material will continue to be voiced in the appropriate international arena and it will continue to press for detailed information about such shipments. Such information is vital in regard to national emergency preparedness and response in the event of any accident or incident.

The concerns of the Irish Government about nuclear shipments in general have been highlighted on numerous occasions at meetings of relevant international organisations such as the International Maritime Organisation and the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, and also at the EU. Ireland, along with a number of like-minded coastal states, has been particularly active in recent years at annual meetings of the IAEA general conference in promoting the adoption by the IAEA of resolutions on the shipment of radioactive materials. These resolutions acknowledge the concerns of a number of states about the potential for damage arising from an accident or incident involving shipments of radioactive materials. In promoting these resolutions, Ireland and like-minded states have sought detailed information from the shipping states on all movements of nuclear materials on the international seas.

The 2004 general conference of the IAEA again saw Ireland adopting a key role in the drafting of the resolution on transport safety, which addresses the issue of communication on shipments between shipping and coastal states. I am pleased to say that this resolution was ultimately sponsored by Chile, France, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Peru, the UK, the USA and Turkey. It received widespread support from all of the other member states of the EU as well as numerous other delegations at the conference. It was adopted at the plenary session of the general conference by consensus on 24 September last. While the issue will continue to prove difficult, I believe this resolution provides a basis on which to address the concerns of coastal states and Ireland with like-minded states will continue to pursue these issues at the IAEA and other relevant international fora.

Question No. 101 answered with QuestionNo. 25.
Question No. 102 answered with QuestionNo. 22.
Question No. 103 answered with QuestionNo. 20.

Housing Grants.

Questions (111)

Seymour Crawford

Question:

104 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reasons behind the variation between the 2003 Estimate provision and the 2003 outturn for private housing grants and subsidies of €19,288,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27532/04]

View answer

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

The increased requirement for private housing grants and subsidies of over €19 million referred to in the question arose from an increased volume of payments in 2003 under the first-time buyer's grant for new houses, in an increased demand under the disabled persons and essential repairs grant schemes.

The new house grant for first-time owner occupiers was abolished with effect from 14 November 2002. However, where a contract to purchase a new house or a contract to build was entered into on or before 14 November 2002, or in the case of a "self build" house where the foundations were poured on or before 14 November 2002, grant applications were accepted up to close of business on 4 December 2002. A total of 13,827 new house grant applications were received in the housing grants section of my Department in the three-week period between 15 November 2002 and 4 December 2002. The deadline for the completion and occupation of the house was later extended from 13 November 2003 to 2 April 2004. These arrangements led to a large increase in the number of grants to be paid in 2003. The allocation for the scheme was supplemented and €11.46 million was paid on top of the original estimate of €32.38 million.

Demands under the disabled persons and essential repairs grant schemes also proved higher than anticipated in 2003, and the original Exchequer allocation of €40.75 million was consequently increased by over €8.5 million to facilitate payments. A review of the disabled persons grant scheme has been under way in my Department and will be completed shortly.

The following table gives a breakdown of estimates and outturn for 2003 for the schemes.

Housing Expenditure 2003.

REV

Outturn

Variation

Subhead

€’000

€’000

€’000

B.2. Private Housing Grants & Subsidies, etc.

1. New House Grants

32,381

43,841

11,460

2. Disabled persons/essential repairs/improvement grants

40,749

49,335

8,586

Total (Capital)

73,130

93,176

20,046

3. Subsidies and loan guarantees

18

6

-12

4. Rent Tribunal

84

30

-54

5. Support for Private Rented Sector (pay)

250

13

-237

non-pay

729

292

-437

Total (Current)

1,081

341

-740

GROSS TOTAL — B.2.

74,211

93,517

19,306

Election Management System.

Questions (112)

Joan Burton

Question:

105 Ms Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the annual report of the Comptroller and Auditor General in relation to the Government’s stewardship of the electronic voting project after the system was withdrawn prior to the local and European elections earlier in 2004; his further views on the Comptroller and Auditor General’s belief that the project should have been subjected to more rigorous cost benefit analysis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27320/04]

View answer

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

I have noted the assessment of the electronic voting and counting project by the Comptroller and Auditor General as set out in his annual report for 2003 which considers a number of issues in relation to the planning and implementation to date of the project.

As regards financial aspects, the report records the analysis by my Department of estimated costs and savings, associated with the introduction of electronic voting and counting, which was carried out in the course of the planning of the project; it also acknowledges that the Government decision to move to electronic voting and counting was influenced primarily by factors other than cost. I am satisfied that this decision was fully justified on the basis of a range of identified benefits which, in addition to savings achievable over the longer term, include providing a higher level of service to the public, improving accuracy, flexibility and speed in the voting and counting processes, and making greater use in electoral administration of modern information and communication technologies.

Question No. 106 answered with QuestionNo. 100.
Question No. 107 answered with QuestionNo. 27.

Private Rented Accommodation.

Questions (113)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

108 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the practice whereby landlords are passing on to their tenants the €70 fee they are required to pay to register with the Residential Tenancies Board; if he plans to take action against landlords who are found passing this fee on to tenants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27336/04]

View answer

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

Landlords may only seek from tenants the rent or other charges agreed to at the commencement of the letting. Under Part 3 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, which will come into operation later this year, a rent review may only occur once per annum unless there has been a substantial change in the nature of the accommodation in the interim. It will also be unlawful to seek a rent greater than the open market rate, so a rent increase would not be possible if the market trend is stable or downward. In any event, competitiveness in the market should preclude registration costs being passed on.

The registration fee under Part 7 of the 2004 Act, which came into operation on 1 September 2004, is €70 per tenancy. The net cost can be as low as €10.15 per tenancy per annum because the fee will cover a tenancy for up to four years and is a tax-allowable letting expense. The single, and potentially multi-annual, registration fee of €70 per tenancy replaces an annual fee per tenancy of €51 that landlords had previously been liable to pay to local authorities. For many landlords, therefore, registration cost may be significantly reduced.

Question No. 109 answered with QuestionNo. 89.
Question No. 110 answered with QuestionNo. 79.

Nuclear Plants.

Questions (114)

Gay Mitchell

Question:

111 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has visited Sellafield nuclear facility in his current capacity; if he plans to visit in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27542/04]

View answer

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

I have not visited the Sellafield nuclear facility either in my current capacity or previously in any other capacity, nor is such a visit planned.

In relation to the Irish Government's ongoing campaign against the Sellafield nuclear plant, the current focus is on fostering the successful completion of ongoing discussions between Irish and UK officials aimed at improving co-operation and consultations between the two countries in regard to Sellafield. These discussions arise from the provisional measures order granted to Ireland in June 2003 by the arbitration tribunal in the context of legal proceedings being brought by Ireland against the UK under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, UNCLOS, in regard to the Sellafield MOX plant.

This order also made provisions for reports on progress towards developing the improved co-operation and consultation structures to be submitted by both Ireland and the UK to the tribunal on specified dates. The next report is due to be submitted by both parties to the tribunal by 30 November 2004. Preparation for this is on schedule. The ongoing discussions and reports remain confidential to both parties and to the tribunal. However, it is my intention to report on any initiatives arising from this process in due course.

As the House will be aware, the substantive hearing of Ireland's legal action against the UK under UNCLOS is currently adjourned pending resolution of jurisdictional issues raised by the European Commission and which are now the subject of litigation between Ireland and the Commission before the European Court of Justice.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Questions (115)

Denis Naughten

Question:

112 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the grants available for group sewerage and water schemes; his plans to review these grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21415/04]

View answer

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

Grants of up to 100% of approved cost are available to privately sourced group water schemes for the provision of essential water treatment and disinfection facilities. Grants of up to 85% of cost are available for related civil works, such as buildings, reservoirs and pipelines, for works associated with connecting group schemes to local authority water mains and for the provision and upgrading of group water schemes generally. All grants are subject to a maximum eligible cost of €7,618 per house. While I am keeping the grant levels under continuing review in consultation with the national rural water monitoring committee and the national federation of group water schemes, there are no proposals at present for an increase.

Group sewerage scheme grants of up to 75% of approved cost, subject to a maximum grant of €2,031 per house, are available for the provision of common or shared waste water disposal systems.

The national rural water monitoring committee is overseeing the implementation of a pilot programme by local authorities to test a range of new, small-scale waste water collection and treatment systems. In total, 12 villages in six counties have been selected as locations for the pilot programme and construction is expected to commence shortly.

Subject to a satisfactory outcome to the pilot testing, the national rural water monitoring committee envisages a potential role for group sewerage schemes in the collection of domestic wastewater from households outside the immediate catchment of such treatment systems. Confirmation of such a role for group sewerage schemes and any review of the associated grants must await the outcome of the pilot programme.

Planning Issues.

Questions (116, 117)

Martin Ferris

Question:

113 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of child care places delivered as a result of compliance by planning authorities with Childcare Facilities: Guidelines for Planning Authorities. [27398/04]

View answer

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

The information sought is not available in my Department.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

114 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to recent figures from the Central Statistics Office showing that one-off houses accounted for 25% of planning permissions granted for new homes throughout Ireland in the second quarter of 2004; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that at the same time the number of apartments built fell by over 2%; his views on whether these statistics are in keeping with the Government’s residential density guidelines which call on local authorities to facilitate schemes delivering higher densities than standard suburban norms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27340/04]

View answer

The CSO planning permissions quarterly statistical release sets out information on planning permissions granted for houses and apartments. The following tables summarise the relevant information. It is noteworthy that the number of apartments for which permission was granted has almost doubled as a percentage of the total number of dwellings granted permission, from under 16% in 1998 to over 30% in 2003 and the first two quarters of 2004.

The CSO publication has included information on the number of permissions granted for one off houses since the second quarter of 2002. The data shows that permissions for one off houses has been broadly within the range of 18% to 30% of permissions for all dwellings in that period. The guidelines for planning authorities on residential density are aimed at increasing residential density in urban and suburban locations. This data clearly indicates that there have been significant changes in housing patterns in these areas, with more traditional suburban forms of development being replaced by more mixed forms of higher density development. As evidence of this, the number of apartments for which permission has been granted has almost doubled as a proportion of the total number of permissions for dwellings. It is clear that these trends are broadly in conformity with the guidelines.

Table 1: Number of apartments granted planning permission as a percentage of all dwellings (houses and apartments) granted planning permission in each year.

No. of apartments granted

No. of houses granted

Total No. of dwelling units granted

Apartments as % of all dwellings granted

1998

7,431

39,958

47,389

15.7

1999

12,801

63,795

76,596

16.7

2000

17,415

73,828

91,243

19.1

2001

17,780

60,666

78,446

22.7

2002

18,259

51,055

69,314

26.3

2003

28,749

49,605

78,354

36.7

2004 (First 2 Quarters)

15,660

35,707

51,367

30.5

[Source: CSO planning permissions statistical release series.]

Table 2: Number of one off houses granted planning permission as a percentage of all dwellings (houses and apartments) granted planning permission in each quarter

No. of one off houses granted

No. of houses (excluding one offs) granted

No. of Apartments granted

Total No. of dwelling units granted

One offs as % of all dwelling units granted

Q2 2002

3,781

11,455

5,163

20,399

18.5

Q3 2002

4,677

8,824

4,771

18,272

25.6

Q4 2002

3,944

6,269

4,125

14,338

27.5

Q1 2003

4,093

5,418

4,030

13,541

30.2

Q2 2003

4,336

8,782

7,484

20,602

21.0

Q3 2003

4,653

9,741

10,065

24,459

19.0

Q4 2003

4,480

8,102

7,170

19,752

22.7

Q1 2004

5,841

11,213

8,347

25,401

23.0

Q2 2004

6,483

12,170

7,313

25,966

25.0

[Source: CSO planning permissions statistical release series.]

Proposed Legislation.

Questions (118)

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

115 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in relation to the proposed strategic national infrastructure Bill, the aspects of the legislation he envisages will be of benefit to the projects undertaken by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27005/04]

View answer

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

There is a wide consensus that we should have a regulatory system for major infrastructure projects that delivers projects in the right place at the earliest possible time and in a cost effective way. In addition, the system must of course be capable of mitigating the impact of any major project on the environment and on people, and complying with all relevant national and international legal requirements. Having examined the problems that have arisen in the area, it is considered that legislation is desirable to address some issues arising in the approval process. Because of the complexity of the issues involved and the need to consult widely among my colleagues the preparation of draft legislative proposals has taken some time.

In advance of the Government making a decision on these proposals, it would be inappropriate to elaborate on their detail, including details of the types of national infrastructure that might be included in the proposed legislation. In general terms however, it is intended to reduce the time required for obtaining development consent for necessary major public projects and to co-ordinate and streamline the different procedures now involved, while respecting the requirements of environment and heritage protection and the need for adequate public consultation.

Health Board Allowances.

Questions (119, 120)

Michael Ring

Question:

116 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the estimated total cost of paying arrears of the blind welfare allowance due to the misinterpretation of the Blind Welfare Allowance Circular 4/79 by the Department of Health and Children; if her Department has held discussions with the Department of Health and Children in this regard; when funding will be provided for; the number of persons that are affected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27628/04]

View answer

Michael Ring

Question:

118 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has contacted the Department of Finance in relation to securing funding for the payment of arrears of the blind welfare allowance due to the misinterpretation of the Blind Welfare Allowance Circular 4/79; the estimated cost of the total arrears payment; the number of persons affected nationwide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27630/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 116 and 118 together.

The Department of Health and Children has received from the health boards an estimation of the cost of implementing the revised methodology of calculating blind welfare allowance. The estimated cost of the arrears is €4.3 million affecting approximately 700 individuals. The matter is under consideration within the Department.

Health Board Services.

Questions (121, 122)

Michael Ring

Question:

117 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when orthodontic treatment will be made available to persons (details supplied) in County Limerick. [27629/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

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

Question No. 118 answered with QuestionNo. 116.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

119 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will urgently address an issue (details attached); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27636/04]

View answer

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Rialto 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.

Medical Cards.

Questions (123)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

120 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an application for a medical card on behalf of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 16 has been received by the Eastern Regional Health Authority at Lord Edward Street, Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27639/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

Responsibility for the provision of a medical card is, by legislation, a matter for the chief executive officer of the relevant health board or authority. My Department has therefore asked the regional chief executive of the Eastern Regional Health Authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Hospital Staff.

Questions (124)

Gerard Murphy

Question:

121 Mr. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she intends to authorise the Cork University Hospital to recruit a much needed secretary and pain nurse for the intensive care and pain relief services (details supplied). [27665/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

The provision of hospital services, including the appointment of staff at Cork University Hospital is, in the first instance, a matter for the Southern Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the information requested.

Hospital Services.

Questions (125)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

122 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 17 will be admitted to the Rehab centre in Dún Laoghaire for treatment of head injuries resulting from an accident. [27673/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

My Department has made enquiries into this matter and the National Rehabilitation Hospital has recently confirmed that the individual in question is on its waiting list and that it is not possible at this time to indicate when the individual will be admitted. The Deputy will appreciate that the scheduling of admission to the hospital is a matter for the consultant concerned and is determined solely on the basis of medical priority.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Questions (126)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

123 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in providing a special bed in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27710/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

The provision of aids and appliances for people with disabilities is a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards. Accordingly, a copy of the Deputy's question has been referred to the regional chief executive of the Eastern Regional Health Authority with a request that he examine the case and reply directly to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Infectious Diseases.

Questions (127)

David Stanton

Question:

124 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Question No. 73 of 28 October 2004, the assistance, financial or otherwise which is given to the families of patients who contract MRSA while in hospital and as a result become severely ill leading to a longer stay in hospital and financial pressure on such families; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27716/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

The strategy for the control of antimicrobial resistance in Ireland, SARI, was launched in June 2001. Approximately €16 million in funding has been made available to health boards since then — of which €4.5 million was provided in the current year — to implement the strategy. Much of this funding is designated for improving hospital infrastructure for control of infection and for appointing the additional microbiologists, infection control nurses and other health care professionals required for effective control of infection in hospitals.

MRSA infection is generally confined to hospitals and, in particular, to vulnerable or debilitated patients including those in intensive care units, on surgical, burns or orthopaedic wards, elderly and-or very sick patients and those who have open wounds, etc. Carriage of MRSA does not generally pose a risk to family members — unless they are suffering from a debilitating disease — or hospital staff of an affected patient or their close social or work contacts. MRSA does not harm healthy people, including pregnant women, children or babies. MRSA can affect people who have certain long-term health problems. Visitors to patients with MRSA infection should be advised by the local nursing-medical staff to wash their hands thoroughly after visiting patients so as to avoid spreading MRSA.

Infection with staphylococcus aureus or MRSA bacteria can be prevented by practising good hygiene as follows: keeping hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water; keeping cuts and abrasions clean and covered with a proper dressing — a bandage — until healed; and avoiding contact with other people's wounds or material contaminated by wounds.

While financial assistance as such is not given, assistance is given to patients and their families by way of advice. Both patients and families of patients who contract MRSA should ensure they practise good hygiene standards. Hand hygiene is a key component in the control of MRSA and the SARI infection control sub-committee has recently released national guidelines for hand hygiene in health care settings. These guidelines have been widely circulated by the NDSC and are available on the its website,www.ndsc.ie. Each health board — authority region has a regional SARI committee and these are responsible for regional interventions to control hospital infection, including MRSA.

In 1995 my Department prepared a set of guidelines in respect of MRSA which have been widely circulated and include an information leaflet for patients. The SARI infection control sub-committee is currently updating national guidelines on the control of MRSA in health care settings. A draft version of these guidelines will be distributed for consultation shortly and will also be available on the NDSC website. The key recommendations cover such areas as environmental cleanliness and overcrowding, sufficient isolation facilities, hand hygiene, appropriate antibiotic use, early detection of MRSA through surveillance and laboratory detection of MRSA.

Senior hospital and health board managers have corporate responsibility for ensuring that appropriate infection control measures are implemented.

Public Service Staff.

Questions (128)

Richard Bruton

Question:

125 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance, further to Question No. 22 of 14 October 2004, the staff positions which have been suppressed under his decision of December 2002; the public service numbers at December 2002, December 2003 and the forecast for December 2004 and December 2005 under the agreed programme in the various elements of the public service; and the location of the posts yet to be suppressed. [27622/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

In December 2002, in order to control public service numbers, the Government decided to cap numbers at the existing authorised level and to reduce numbers by 5,000 across all sectors by the end of 2005. In July 2003 the Government decided on the timing and location of 4,300 of these posts as follows:

Reduction in 2003

Reduction by 2004

Total Reduction by 2005

Health

200

400

600

Education

200

550

1,000

Civil Service

200

550

1,000

Garda Síochána

0

0

0

Defence Forces

80

220

400

Local Authorities

333

667

1,000

Non-Commercial State- Sponsored Bodies

60

165

300

Total

1,073

2,552

4,300

The baseline for the reduction was the number of authorised posts in December 2002. While there have been increases in some sectors to reflect ongoing policy developments there has been progress as set out below.

The baseline and the end 2003 numbers are as follows:

Baseline end 2002

Target end 2003

Serving end 2003

Public Service

Civil Service [Non-Industrial]

36,874

36,622

35,269

Civil Service [Industrial]

2,186

2,186

2,007

Health Sector

96,000

95,800

96,773

Education Sector

78,350

78,150

78,786

Defence

11,800

11,720

11,559

Garda

12,200

12,200

12,017

Local Authorities

34,300

33,970

33,303

Non Commercial Semi-States

9,541

9,481

9,428

Total

281,251

280,129

279,142

The health sector number serving at end 2003 includes staff taken over by health boards who were previously employed by voluntary agencies.

The targets for end 2004 and end 2005 are as follows:

Target end 2004

Target end 2005

Civil Service [Non Industrials]

36,269

35,824

Civil Service [Industrials]

2,163

2,142

Health Sector

96,950

97,550

Education Sector

77,800

77,350

Defence

11,580

11,400

Garda

12,200

12,292

Local Authorities

33,633

33,300

Non Commercial Semi-States

9,376

9,241

Total

279,971

279,099

I will now outline the changes that have taken place. The authorised numbers in the health sector have increased to take account of the staffing implications arising from the commissioning of new health units, additional disability posts associated with August 2003 and budget 2004 funding packages and staff taken over by health boards who were previously employed by voluntary agencies. The authorised numbers of gardaí have increased to reflect the decision to increase the number of gardaí to 14,000 by 2008.

The targeted reduction in the Civil Service has been revised slightly upwards from the original figure of 1,000 to reflect in the main the omission of the industrial Civil Service category from the original baseline set at December 2002. The targets for the education sector at end 2004 and 2005 will be reviewed in the light of agreed increases in special needs teachers and assistants.

Tax Yield.

Questions (129)

Enda Kenny

Question:

126 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the amount of capital acquisition tax received by the State in each of the past ten years; the percentage of this which was inheritance tax in each year and the percentage paid by children of deceased members in each such year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27623/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the net receipt of capital acquisitions tax, CAT, and the percentage of this which was inheritance tax, in each of the past ten years is as follows:

Year

Total CAT Yield €million

Inheritance Tax as a Percentage

%

1994

74.8

71

1995

75.6

67

1996

103.5

59

1997

112.6

72

1998

141.8

69

1999

192.3

70

2000

222.9

69

2001

167.7

72

2002

150.9

85

2003

213.2

61

The total CAT yield comprises inheritance tax, gift tax, discretionary trust tax and probate tax, although it should be noted that probate tax was abolished in respect of deaths occurring on or after 6 December 2000.

I understand that the Deputy's reference to deceased "members" is to be taken as meaning deceased "persons". I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that it is not possible to separately identify the yield relating to children of deceased persons in the overall inheritance tax yield.

Tax Code.

Questions (130)

Joan Burton

Question:

127 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the number of taxpayers paying tax at the higher rate in 2004; the percentage of taxpayers this represents; and the equivalent figures for each of the previous four years. [27634/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

It is assumed that what the Deputy requires is the number of higher rate taxpayers as a percentage of all income earners on the tax record. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested by the Deputy is as provided in the following table.

Distribution of income earners by higher tax rate, 2000-01 to 2004.

Tax Year

No

Higher Rate

%

2000/01

540,000

30.6

2001†

535,000

29.9

2002*

487,000

26.7

2003*

555,000

29.8

2004*

614,000

32.6

† Short tax "year" from 6 April 2001 to 31 December 2001.
* Provisional and subject to revision.
It should be noted that a married couple who has elected or has been deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit. The numbers of income earners above have been rounded to the nearest thousand as appropriate.

Garda Stations.

Questions (131)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

128 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if the revised sketch scheme for the new Garda station at Leixlip, County Kildare is or will be finalised; when he expects the construction of the Garda station to commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27652/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

A revised brief was received from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform which has increased the scale of the Garda station. Negotiations are ongoing with Kildare County Council with a view to maximising the development potential of the station site to better accommodate the proposed station. On completion of these negotiations, a revised sketch scheme will be issued to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for approval.

Tax Code.

Questions (132)

Brian O'Shea

Question:

129 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance his proposals to allow tax relief on payments into pension schemes made by legally separated spouses in cases in where the only income is maintenance payments (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27662/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

Relief from income tax is available for contributions to a pension by an individual with earnings from a trade, profession or employment. The rationale is that a pension is designed to replace earnings made before retirement. Maintenance payments are not classed as earned income. Maintenance payments should not stop at the normal retirement age. Moreover, if a person had some of these non-maintenance earnings from a trade, profession or employment in addition to maintenance, tax relief would be available on the pension contributions from the non-maintenance source. The Family Law Acts provide that where a spouse is entitled to a pension, a portion of the benefits can be "earmarked" for the dependent spouse by the courts.

National Monuments.

Questions (133)

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

130 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if a caretaker will be appointed to look after an abbey (details supplied); and if remedial works will be carried out to the road leading to the abbey, which is the property of the OPW. [27663/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

The abbey in question is not owned by the Office of Public Works. It is in the ownership of the local authority.

Tax Code.

Questions (134)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

131 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if and when a tax balancing statement for year ending 31 December 2003 will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27676/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a PAYE balancing statement for the year ending 31 December 2003 issued to the taxpayer at his home address on 18 May 2004. A duplicate of the balancing statement will issue in the coming days.

Disabled Drivers.

Questions (135)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

132 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance, further to Question No. 308 of 29 September 2004, the changes that are required in the application by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare to qualify for entitlement under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27709/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that an application form for reliefs under the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) scheme, dated 23 August 2004, submitted by the applicant on behalf of his wife has been properly completed. However, the person concerned must submit a receipt covering the adaptation of the vehicle and the original vehicle registration certificate. The application will be processed immediately on receipt of these. The person concerned has been advised accordingly.

Telecommunications Services.

Questions (136, 137, 138)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

133 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on a recent newspaper article regarding the inadequate response by his Department and Eircom to the urgent need for the early provision of broadband facilities throughout the country, with particular reference to the inadequacy of the investment programme required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27675/04]

View answer

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

In a liberalised market, it is a matter in the first instance for the market players to provide telecommunications and broadband services. Recognising, however, that the pace of high speed broadband rollout to the regions was not sufficient to attain the Government's national broadband goals as set out in New Connections and in its broadband strategy, in March 2002, the then Minister announced the regional metropolitan area network programme. Against the backdrop of this concern, later in 2002, Forfás and the Department of the Taoiseach engaged SJS Consulting Incorporated to review that programme and the policy options for national broadband rollout generally.

As part of this process, the consultants held discussions with my Department, Eircom and other service providers. Officials from my Department met Eircom representatives on a number of occasions to discuss the options put forward by the consultants. The consultants and officials from my Department also met other market players and a number of public consultations under the aegis of IBEC's telecoms and Internet federation and Forfás were also held.

Negotiations were not entered into with Eircom or any other party at any stage. At no stage were terms such as those postulated in The Sunday Business Post article on offer nor did the Government offer to fund Eircom directly or indirectly through subsidised loans, tax breaks or any other means. This has also been publicly confirmed by Eircom.

The Government at the time was dissatisfied with the speed of broadband rollout and decided to intervene with a view to bringing forward proposals to address this problem. Government policy is that it favours investment in open access infrastructure which all operators have access to on similar transparent terms. That is the idea behind the Government's open access metropolitan area network programme, which is rolling out high speed broadband infrastructure to all 120 towns and cities regionally.

The Sunday Business Post article of 31 October last to which the Deputy refers, contends, inter alia, that the Government offered Eircom a €1.8 billion deal to roll out broadband nationally. It also contends that Eircom was offered a range of incentives such as tax breaks, subsidised loans, amendments to the building regulations and price increases as "carrots". These claims are untrue.

Consultancy advice contained in a report to a Government subcommittee, agency or a Department should not be misconstrued as Government policy. The telecommunications market is a regulated market and, thus, action by Government has to be consonant with national and EU regulation. Accordingly, the Government is not in the business of entering exclusive contracts of the kind inferred by the article with any market entities.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

134 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will engage with Eircom to bring about a situation whereby Eircom poles creating traffic hazards and preventing development works being carried out are removed by the company at its own expense; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27697/04]

View answer

The matter raised by the Deputy is an operational matter between Eircom and the relevant local authority. I have no function in these matters.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

135 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the progress being made on the pilot broadband project being carried out (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27698/04]

View answer

Under the terms of a grant agreement drawn up between my Department and the Electricity Supply Board, the company has constructed a 1,300 km fibre optic trunk network, providing low-cost backhaul for broadband service providers in many parts of the country. In addition to the fibre trunk network, the grant agreement also provides for the installation of power line carrier technology, which is under way in 100 premises in Tuam, County Galway. The technology has been, by and large, proven in other countries and is being assessed for technical and commercial suitability under Irish conditions. The project in Tuam is ongoing and the company is addressing technical and network issues as they arise. A full report will be published following completion of the installation.

Electricity Generation.

Questions (139)

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

136 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on whether there is a cause for concern in regard to electricity blackouts in view of electricity blackouts in recent times affecting several European countries and states in the US; and the steps being taken to ensure that blackouts can be avoided here. [27727/04]

View answer

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

Major electricity blackouts are usually the result of a number of contingencies. These include generation shortages, transmission network failures or other operational difficulties. While no electricity power system can be fully protected from such events, I am satisfied adequate measures are in place to reduce the risk of a major blackout occurring on the Irish power system.

The Commission for Energy Regulation, CER, continues to monitor the security of electricity supply situation. Demand for electricity is forecast to increase at an annual rate of between 2.9% and 4.3% over the period 2004-2010 and the supply-demand balance will vary on a real time basis throughout the year depending on demand and generation availability. The current supply-demand balance is deemed to be workable, though not ideal.

The CER has initiated positive actions to redress possible generation capacity shortfalls in the short, medium and longer term, as forecast by ESB National Grid in its Generation Adequacy Report 2004-2010. Short-term measures put in place for this winter include the implementation by ESB National Grid of a demand side management programme, increased imports of 167 MW of electricity from Northern Ireland contracted on a priority basis and 208 MW of additional mobile peaking capacity.

In response to the medium to long-term capacity deficit, two new independent plants successful in the CER's capacity 2005 competition, which will generate up to 500 MW, are due to be commissioned by December 2005 and February 2006 respectively. In addition, the two new peat plants, with a combined capacity of 250 MW, are due to be commissioned by December 2004 and February 2005 respectively.

An ESB plant productivity programme is in place to enhance its availability from 76% in 2003 to a target of 82% during 2004. The CER will impose penalties on a progressive basis to make sure the action programme delivers. The ESB is also undertaking a significant networks investment programme of €4 billion up to 2007 to bring the transmission and distribution systems up to required international standards and to meet projected capacity demand requirements. The programme is being delivered within the planned timeframe and budget.

Further increments of capacity will be required by 2007 to ensure the supply-demand balance over the coming years. In this connection, Viridian Group PLC has recently announced its plans to construct a second 400 MW gas fired power plant at Huntstown, County Dublin. In addition, the Government has given approval to proceed with the development of two 500 MW interconnectors between Ireland and Wales, as a priority, which when operational will further enhance security of supply. The desirability and feasibility of increased interconnection between North and South is being investigated.

At EU level, the Commission has brought forward a draft directive concerning measures to safeguard security of electricity supply and infrastructure investment. The draft directive, which Ireland supports, forms part of a new energy infrastructure and security of supply legislative package, designed in the main to promote investment in the European energy sector with a view to both strengthening competition and helping to prevent the reoccurrence of electricity blackouts. Many of the elements of the proposed directive form part of the electricity regulatory framework in Ireland.

In the event of an emergency, the transmission system operator, ESB National Grid, as part of its licence conditions, has in place a number of specific emergency plans which can deal with the incident quickly and effectively. Procedures for activation and implementation of the plans, as well as communication procedures, are tested and reviewed at regular intervals. For instance, a key element of the plans is to ensure, in the event of a shortage of generation capacity, load shedding is kept to the minimum necessary to make sure the power system remains in a stable operating mode at all times.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Questions (140)

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

137 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his policy on the development of biofuel; if grants or supports are available to encourage its production on a pilot or other basis; if licences are necessary for such production and refining; and if so, from whom. [27728/04]

View answer

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

I am committed to the development of an integrated strategy to increase market penetration of biofuels in Ireland. To this end, an interdepartmental group has been set up by my Department comprising officials from my Department, Sustainable Energy Ireland, and the Departments of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Transport, Agriculture and Food and Finance. The group is considering policy options for the development of a biofuels sector in Ireland and to increase the penetration of biofuels in the transport fuel market.

In March 2004, my Department secured an amendment to the Finance Act 1999, which provides for the introduction of a scheme for excise tax relief for biofuels. The purpose of the scheme is to allow qualified and conditional relief from excise of biofuel used in approved pilot projects for the production of biofuel or the testing of the technical viability of biofuel for use as a motor fuel. My Department is finalising details of the scheme with the Department of Finance. The European Commission has confirmed that the scheme would represent a state aid and consequently its approval is required. The EU energy tax directive 2003 envisages such tax relief and the Commission has approved schemes for excise relief of biofuel in other EU member states. Formal application for Commission approval will be made shortly by the Department of Finance and, assuming approval is granted, the necessary commencement order will then be signed.

Sustainable Energy Ireland is also funding a number of biomass projects and studies through its renewable energy research development and demonstration programme. Under the programme, Sustainable Energy Ireland offers capital grant aid for biofuels market demonstration projects in the pure plant oil, biodiesel and bioethanol categories. The Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources has no role in the issuing of licences for the production or refining of biofuels, which is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. Biofuel is a "mineral oil", as defined in mineral oil tax law, and is, therefore, an excisable product subject to the provisions of the law relating to mineral oil tax and to general excise law. In addition, bioethanol is subject to the provisions of alcohol product tax law. These are matters for the Revenue Commissioners. Further information and applications for authorisations and for licences may be made to the applicant's local Revenue office.

Energy Resources.

Questions (141)

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

138 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in relation to the allocation of the additional 140 MW of renewable energy under AER VI; and if it is his intention to encourage small-scale procedures in relation to this allocation and under other aspects of renewable energy policy. [27729/04]

View answer

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

The Green Paper on Sustainable Energy 1999 established a target to add 500 MW of new renewable energy based electricity generating plant to the electricity network by 2005. Subsequently the market was notified of proposals to allocate support for a further 140 MW of AER projects generally and 50 MW and 28 MW for offshore wind energy and biomass fed combined heat and power, CHP, projects respectively, subject to state aids clearance.

The 500 MW target had prior EU state aids clearance. The necessary state aids clearance for the additional capacities was received recently and I will shortly announce the allocations, by category and applicant, of all the remaining unallocated capacity. I cannot comment further until a formal decision is made. However, once that decision is made, formal allocations within categories to individual projects will be done in accordance with the published AER VI reserve lists. These reserve lists are available on my Department's website,www.dcmnr.ie

Sudanese Famine.

Questions (142)

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

139 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the humanitarian situation in Sudan; the response of the Government of Sudan to the demands of the United Nations and the response generally to the UN consolidated funding appeal. [27730/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

The humanitarian situation in Sudan, particularly the Darfur region, remains at the top of the agenda for Ireland. We have used all avenues open to us to urge action in improving the humanitarian, security and political challenges which exist there.

The Government has provided almost €10 million in funding to Sudan in 2004. The sum of €6 million has been provided in emergency assistance to meet the immediate needs of some of the most vulnerable populations in Darfur. Assistance amounting to over €3 million is being provided to other areas of Sudan, where needs are also great. Sudan has received the most significant level of Irish Government humanitarian support in 2004. In addition, I would also underline that the Irish people have been extremely generous in their private contributions to aid agencies.

The recent progress in meeting immediate humanitarian needs has been put in some jeopardy by an escalation in security incidents over the last few days. Field missions by international organisations have been suspended by the UN security co-ordinator until further notice. The security situation in all three states of Darfur remains highly volatile, and we are keeping in close touch with Irish NGOs operating there about the situation.

This recent deterioration follows on improvements in the humanitarian situation in September and early October. In September the UN World Food Programme, WFP, provided food to 1.3 million people in the Darfur region, exceeding its own target of 1.2 million and recording its largest food distribution since the humanitarian crisis began. Over 1.5 million people are now thought to be displaced within Darfur and 200,000 have crossed the border into Chad. Those affected will need continued humanitarian assistance for some considerable time to come. The needs remain huge and almost one half of all families do not have sufficient food. According to the WFP, 22% of children under five years are malnourished. The WFP remains a key partner for Ireland.

The UN Consolidated Appeal for Sudan for 2004 estimates that approximately US$720 million will be required for humanitarian programmes in Sudan, including Darfur. To date over US$490 million, 68%, has been contributed to this appeal. This does not include the significant funding being delivered to Sudan via NGOs and other international organisations such as the Red Cross family.

It is clear that the Government of Sudan needs to do more to meet its obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions 1556 and 1564. The most recent report by the UN Secretary General's Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, presented to the Security Council on 5 October, showed no real improvement in the overall situation in Darfur and a continuing failure by the Sudanese authorities to disarm the Janjaweed militias and bring those responsible for serious human rights violations to justice. The international community must therefore continue to maintain pressure on the Sudanese Government including, if necessary, through sanctions, to meet its obligations and support all efforts to put an end to the conflict between the Government and local rebel groups. It is also incumbent on the rebel groups to engage constructively in the peace process.

UN Resolution 1564 also calls on the UN Secretary General to set up an international commission of inquiry which will investigate claims of human rights abuses and also genocide. The Government of Sudan has pledged its co-operation with this commission. Ireland fully supports the work of the international commission and looks forward to its producing a report at the earliest opportunity.

Community Employment Schemes.

Questions (143)

Paddy McHugh

Question:

140 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position in relation to persons over the age of 55 seeking positions on community employment schemes who have been participants in schemes previously; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27699/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment)

The community employment, CE, programme provides work experience and training opportunities for the long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged persons with the aim of progressing participants to a job in the open labour market. Participants move from the programme after an agreed period of support and development, which is usually from one to three years.

The terms and conditions of participation on CE are currently under review. In this regard there has been extensive consultation with key stakeholders and the social partners over the past year on the future direction of FÁS labour market programmes. All submissions received as part of this process are being fully considered and will help inform the outcome of the review.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Questions (144, 145, 146)

Brian O'Shea

Question:

141 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his proposals to extend social welfare benefits to legally separated spouses whose only income is the maintenance payments from the other separated spouse and who still pay the health levy at 2% and PRSI at 3% of income (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27656/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Family)

Legally enforceable maintenance payments paid by one spouse to another are assessable as reckonable emoluments, as provided for under the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 1993 and liable for social insurance contributions at PRSI class S. Section 23 of the Social Welfare Act 2000 provided for new PRSI arrangements relating to legally enforceable maintenance payments between spouses. Previously a charge for PRSI arose by both the payer and the recipient of a maintenance payment, amounting in effect to a double payment of PRSI. The revised provisions ensure that PRSI is not charged twice on maintenance payments and that a refund is available to the payer where such occurs. The maintenance recipient continues to be liable for PRSI at class S on the amount of maintenance received. This measure brought liability for PRSI in line with previously existing arrangements for the health contributions and income tax.

Where the recipient of a maintenance payment is in insurable employment and already paying employee contributions at PRSI class A, the recipient is exempted from liability for class S PRSI. In such a case, no social insurance contributions are due on the maintenance payments received. Where a maintenance recipient has income arising from a trade or profession, the maintenance payment is accumulated with other class S income, with liability to social insurance contribution arising accordingly. These arrangements allow the recipient to build an entitlement to social welfare contributory pensions on an individual basis. Payment of class S contributions will enable a self-employed contributor to accrue personal entitlements, most notably to old age contributory pension. Others benefits payable include: widow's or widower's contributory pension; orphans contributory pension; maternity benefit; adoptive benefit; and bereavement benefit.

Any extension of the range of benefits for self-employed contributors who are legally separated from their spouses would have to encompass all self-employed contributors and could give rise to significant additional costs to the social insurance fund.

To extend the range of benefits for self-employed contributors would in any event necessitate an appropriate increase in the rate of PRSI class S contribution. There are no plans at present to extend coverage for further benefits to the self-employed contributors. A self-employed contributor may claim an assistance based payment, such as one parent family payment, unemployment assistance or supplementary welfare allowance. Entitlement to these payments is contingent on fulfilling relevant qualification criteria and satisfying a means test. Income received by way of maintenance from an separated spouse would be assessable as means.

The Department of Health and Children has responsibility for the health levy.

Enda Kenny

Question:

142 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the numbers in receipt of family income supplement as against numbers applicable five years ago; if the eligibility threshold of 1999 is comparable to the threshold of 2004; the way in which this index is calculated; his views on increased cost of living being factored into such eligibility threshold; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27608/04]

View answer

Enda Kenny

Question:

143 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the income threshold for eligibility for family income supplement for couples with one, two or three dependent children; if he will provide a breakdown of the way in which and the comparative by which this threshold is determined; the cost of living factors included in this assessment and the standard by which this is determined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27609/04]

View answer

I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 143 together.

Family income supplement, FIS, is designed to provide cash support for employees on low earnings with families and thereby preserve 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. The range of improvements to the family income supplement scheme instituted in recent years, including the assessment of FIS on the basis of net rather than gross income and the progressive increases in the income limits, have made it easier for lower income households to qualify under the scheme.

Budget 2004 provided for further increases in the FIS income limits with effect from January 2004. These increases raised the weekly income limits by €28 at each point, adding an extra €16.80 to the payments of most existing FIS recipients. The minimum FIS weekly payment was also increased by €7, from €13 to €20. The average weekly payment now stands at €74.16 per week, with a total of 14,303 families — end October 2004 — receiving a supplement under the scheme.

The weekly income thresholds for families with one, two and three children are €407, €433 and €458, respectively. At end December 1999 there were 14,686 FIS recipients compared to 14,303 at end October 2004. To ensure that employment remains an attractive option to people with families, FIS thresholds have been increased in line with increases in the rate of unemployment assistance, UA, relevant to each family size, which have exceeded cost of living increases in recent years.

The following tables demonstrate that the 2004 thresholds compare favourably with the 1999 rates when increase in the consumer price index is taken into account, table 1, and list the numbers of FIS recipients each year from December 1999 to October 2004, table 2. Any decision to increase FIS thresholds will be taken in a budgetary context and in the context of priorities generally, having regard to available resources.

Table 1: FIS Thresholds 1999 and 2004.

Family size

1999

1999 Updated to 2004 using CPI*

2004

1 Child

279.34

341.91

407

2 Children

304.73

372.98

433

3 Children

330.13

404.07

458

4 Children

355.52

435.15

483

5 Children

387.27

474.01

515

6 Children

412.66

505.09

541

7 Children

434.25

531.52

562

8 or more

455.83

557.93

584

* Consumer Price Index

Table 2: Number of Recipient Families of Family Income Supplement.

Number

December 1999

14,686

December 2000

13,181

December 2001

11,880

December 2002

12,043

December 2003

12,317

October 2004

14,303

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Questions (147)

James Breen

Question:

144 Mr. J. Breen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if payments accruing from the Government’s SSIA scheme will be liable to be means-tested for pensioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27640/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Family)

I have recently asked my Department to carry out a comprehensive examination of the current arrangements for assessment of capital, particularly in so far as they apply to SSIAs, and I will consider what action needs to be taken on foot of it. I expect that this examination will be concluded in the near future.

In assessing means for social assistance purposes, account is taken of any cash income the person may have, together with the value of capital and property. Capital may include the following: stocks and shares of every description, which are assessed according to their current market value; savings certificates — bonds — national instalment savings which are assessed according to their current market value; money invested in a bank, building society, etc. Amounts held in SSIA accounts are treated in the same manner as other capital outlined above.

In assessing the value of capital, significant disregards are applied. The first €12,697.38 of capital is disregarded and the assessment is on a sliding scale for amounts above this. In the case of old age pension, for example, a single pensioner with capital of up to €20,315.80 qualifies for a full pension while a single pensioner with capital of up to €68,565.84 qualifies for a minimum pension. These amounts are doubled in the case of married pensioners.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Questions (148, 149, 150, 151, 152)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

145 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, further to Question No. 267 of 7 October 2004, the reason it transpires that arising from a budgetary increase in social welfare, the tenants’ rent support is reduced, thereby wiping out the increase a tenant received in budget 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27659/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Family)

Rent supplements are provided through the supplementary welfare allowance scheme which is administered by the health boards on behalf of my Department. The regulations governing rent supplements stipulate that, in addition to a minimum contribution, currently €13.00 per week, each recipient is required to contribute towards his or her rent any additional assessable means he or she has over and above the appropriate basic supplementary welfare allowance rate. In instances where there is a reduction in the level of household income a greater amount of rent supplement may be payable. Where the level of means in excess of the appropriate basic supplementary welfare allowance increases from any source, there is a corresponding reduction in the amount of rent supplement payable.

In the case identified by the Deputy in Question No. 267, the recent reduction in the amount of rent supplement payable to the person concerned is unrelated to the budget 2004 rate increases. She had been in receipt of a reduced rate of disability allowance and is now in receipt of full rate invalidity pension. This increase in the level of her household income necessitated a reduction in her rate of rent supplement.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that recipients of free schemes may not be able to obtain free telephone rental allowance in certain circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27660/04]

View answer

I understand that the Deputy is referring to persons who may be eligible to receive a telephone allowance from this Department but who have their telephone account with a service provider who is not participating in the scheme.

In October 2003, my predecessor introduced a change in the structure of the telephone allowance to make it a cash credit on bills and not attributable to any particular component of the bill. This change paved the way for eligible clients to switch from Eircom to another participating service provider if they so desired.

A new service, known as wholesale line rental, WLR, was launched by Eircom in August 2004. This enabled single billing for standing charges and calls by additional licensed operators. In practice, this means that these operators purchase WLR from Eircom wholesale on behalf of their customers. In these circumstances, where a customer is eligible for a telephone allowance, he will receive an integrated bill from the operator which will have the telephone allowance credited against it.

Esat BT, Smart Telecom and Access/Gaelic Telecom are now participating, through WLR, in the telephone allowance scheme. Four other companies have signalled their intention to join the scheme on completion of necessary development work and required testing. One has have opted not to participate in the telephone allowance scheme.

The decision whether to participate in the telephone allowance scheme rests entirely with the individual operators.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

147 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason for the reduction of dietary allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [27692/04]

View answer

As stated in my previous reply to the Deputy on 14 October 2004, a review of the person's diet supplement was carried out in May 2004 during which it came to light that an incorrect amount of diet supplement was in payment. The amount of supplement was duly corrected and a revised supplement was awarded from June 2004.

Based on new information about the income of the person concerned, the health board is reviewing his supplement entitlements again now and will contact him shortly in this regard.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

148 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has had their rent allowance reduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27694/04]

View answer

Rent supplements are provided through the supplementary welfare allowance scheme which is administered by the health boards on behalf of my Department.

Supplementary welfare allowance is not normally payable to people in full-time employment. However, special arrangements have been in place for a number of years which allow people on approved schemes such as community employment, CE, retain a portion of their rent supplement on a tapered basis, subject to a gross household income limit of €317.43 per week and certain other conditions.

Participants in CE schemes may opt for assessment under this tapered withdrawal system or the standard supplementary welfare allowance means test, whichever is the more favourable to them.

Under standard assessment rules, rent supplements are calculated to ensure that an eligible 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, which each recipient is required to pay from his or her own resources. Up to €50 per week of additional income from part-time employment is disregarded in the means test, with the aim of ensuring that a person is better off as a result of taking up such an opportunity. CE is regarded as part-time employment for these purposes. There are also earnings disregards applied to the one-parent family payment to the person concerned.

The South Western Area Health Board was contacted regarding this case and has advised that the amount of rent supplement in payment to June 2004 was based on the person's income from his one-parent family payment only. The board reviewed his entitlement when it became aware he was participating in a CE scheme and reduced his rent supplement in respect of July and August 2004.

The board has further advised that the person concerned was unsuccessful in appealing against the decision to reduce his rent supplement.

He was also requested to provide documentation confirming his continued participation in the CE scheme. To date, he has not provided the details sought and accordingly payment of his rent supplement has been suspended. His case will be fully examined on receipt of the requested information and if he has an entitlement to rent supplement, payment will be made at the appropriate level with immediate effect.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

149 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if rent allowance will be reviewed on foot of recent decision to refuse same in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27714/04]

View answer

The South Western Area Health Board was contacted regarding this case and has advised that the person concerned had been requested to provide clarification relating to the lease arrangements on his shared accommodation. He has now provided the clarification sought and consequently rent supplement is now being put in place.

National Car Test.

Questions (153)

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

150 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the NCT testing of cars (details supplied); if he will correct the anomaly in the Road Traffic Act to allow a 1999 registered car which was in a garage but is only having the NCT test carried out now to allow the customer passing the NCT test to have a full two years on the test rather than having to test the car again in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27723/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

In accordance with EU Directive 96/96/EC, passenger cars are required to undergo a roadworthiness test when they are four years old and every two years thereafter. The age of the vehicle and consequently the first test due date are determined by reference to the date of initial registration with subsequent test due dates falling every two years after the first test due date. Under the provisions of the directive, non-use of a vehicle is not a criterion in determining the NCT test due dates. The first test due date for this vehicle was in 2003 on the anniversary of its first registration. In line with the directive's requirement it will be due a test in 2005.

The extension of the validity of a NCT certificate by any period a vehicle is not in use would be a departure from the test schedule laid down in the directive and, accordingly, I would not be in a position to change the existing arrangements.

Taxi Regulations.

Questions (154)

Pat Breen

Question:

151 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport if London taxis will be the specification for wheelchair accessibility here; if it is possible to modify same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27633/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles)(Amendment) Regulations 1998, S.I. No. 47 of 1998, set out the requirements for wheelchair accessible taxis.

The Taxi Regulation Act 2003 specifically provides that an objective of the Commission for Taxi Regulation is to promote access to small public service vehicles by persons with disabilities. In this regard, the commission will be tasked with the determination of future policy in relation to accessible taxis, including the consideration of possible revisions or improvements to the existing wheelchair accessible taxi specification. It is envisaged that this will necessitate specific discussions with both disability and taxi representative groups.

Driving Tests.

Questions (155)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

152 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if an early driving test appointment can be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27667/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The applicant is on my Department's waiting list for a driving test. No documentary evidence has been submitted to my Department indicating that an early driving test is required.

Public Transport.

Questions (156)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

153 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if, arising from his comments to Dáil Éireann following the tragedy at the bus stop-shelter at City Quay, Dublin, he will address on an early date the important issue of the provision of bus stops and shelters in accordance with health and safety standards at the various required locations throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27696/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 156, which I answered on Tuesday, 2 November 2004. The position is unchanged.

The Garda Síochána is the responsible authority for the location of bus stops in Dublin. This power is vested in the Garda Commissioner under section 85 of the Road Traffic Act 1961. Under that section, the Commissioner may issue a direction to a bus operator identifying the specific location of bus stops in respect of any bus route. I understand the gardaí engage in a consultation process with both the local authority and the bus service provider before issuing a direction under section 85.

The review of the location of bus stops following the Dublin Bus tragedy is ongoing by Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann. Dublin Bus has completed the development of a database to facilitate this review process. It is anticipated that this joint review will be completed by mid-2005.

To date there are in excess of 1200 bus shelters in the Dublin area. Dublin Bus is proposing to introduce a further 400 over the next five years. Dublin Bus has a contract with a shelter provider company to erect shelters at stops. The cost of erecting shelters is financed from the advertising revenue. I am informed by Dublin Bus that it is policy that all relevant planning and safety legislation is complied with.

To date there are in excess of 470 Bus Éireann shelters erected throughout the country. Bus Éireann is currently in the process of finalising the award of a contract for the design, manufacture, installation and maintenance of between 180 and 220 additional bus shelters at bus stops along the Bus Éireann route network.

There are a number of external factors that influence the erection of shelters. These include the width and condition of the footpath, the layout of the stop, and the fact that shelters are subject to planning permission and have to comply with local authorities' requirements regarding visual presentation of street furniture, etc.

Rural Transport Services.

Questions (157)

Paddy McHugh

Question:

154 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Transport if a rural transport service will be put in place to cover the north east Galway region to enable elderly persons with no transportation of their own to be provided with transport to local towns and services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27701/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

Under the rural transport initiative, RTI, 34 rural community groups are being financed to operate pilot rural transport services in their areas. Area Development Management Limited, ADM, administers the initiative on behalf of my Department and makes specific allocations to individual project groups from funding provided by my Department. The RTI is now operational in almost all counties and it is for each RTI group to decide on the specific services to be funded from its allocation.

As many of the RTI pilot projects only became fully operational in 2003, the scheme has recently been extended to the end of 2006 in line with the principal recommendation of an evaluation report undertaken by Fitzpatrick's economic consultants and the ending of the national development plan. The extension will facilitate a more comprehensive appraisal of the initiative to take place at that stage. It would be premature, therefore, to consider an expansion of the initiative until the pilot phase has been completed.

Driving Tests.

Questions (158, 159, 160)

Willie Penrose

Question:

155 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport the validity of a registered driving instructor status, within the driver testing and standards authority, of a person (details attached) in County Westmeath; the position in relation to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27715/04]

View answer

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

157 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Transport the status of the driver instructor register; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27720/04]

View answer

Róisín Shortall

Question:

158 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to concerns of driving instructors who are registered with the driving instructor register of Ireland that their qualifications may not be recognised by the proposed driver testing and standards authority; the position regarding the validity of the RDI status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27732/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 155, 157 and 158 together.

I refer the Deputies to my reply to Question No. 154 of Thursday, 14 October 2004. Proposals being developed by my Department for the regulation and quality assurance of driving instruction will involve a test of the competence of individual instructors. A working group comprising representatives of my Department and of instruction interests has formulated the design of the standards a driving instructor must meet. I am considering what arrangements will be put in place to oversee implementation of the standard in the context of the establishment of the driver testing and standards authority. The Driver Testing and Standards Authority Bill 2004, which provides for the establishment of the authority, was published on 6 July 2004 and the Second Stage debate commenced on the 14 October 2004. Regulations will be required to give effect to the proposals for introducing regulation of driving instruction and the position of existing driving instructors will be considered in the context of the drafting of the regulations.

State Airports.

Questions (161)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

156 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport if he will meet with the Mid-West Regional Authority as requested to discuss issues related to Shannon Airport; if he has investigated its assertion that Aer Lingus is in breach of the transatlantic charter regulations in its new Dublin to Florida route; the action he intends to take on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27717/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The Mid-West Regional Authority recently wrote to me regarding the proposed Aer Lingus charter service to Orlando, as well as some other issues, and has requested to meet me to discuss the Ireland-US bilateral air transport agreement. My office is in touch with the authority with a view to arranging a date for a meeting to discuss all of these issues.

Questions Nos. 157 and 158 answered with Question No. 155.

Grant Payments.

Questions (162)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

159 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will review the decision with respect to a REP scheme payment in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27668/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

Farmers in the rural environment protection scheme undertake a five-year contract, which may be terminated only in limited and specified exceptional circumstances which are laid down in the scheme. Under the EU regulations governing REPS, a participant must make an application for each annual payment. Failure to do so means the contract must be terminated and all payments recovered, unless exceptional circumstances apply.

In the case in question, my Department wrote to the person named on 13 September 2001, advising him that he had to lodge his third year payment application form by 31 October 2001. As he failed to do so, my Department had no option but to terminate his participation in the scheme and seek to recover all the payments he had received. The person named has not previously asked my Department to take the state of his health into account. If appropriate medical evidence is now put forward, the case will be reviewed.

Garda Investigations.

Questions (163)

Joan Burton

Question:

160 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of tax assessments raised in conjunction with the work of the Criminal Assets Bureau; the number and values of such settlements; and if any of all of these settlements have been disclosed when they are above the limit set by the Revenue Commissioners for disclosure of settlement. [27661/04]

View answer

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

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of tax assessments made by revenue bureau officers from the inception of the Criminal Assets Bureau in 1996 to 31 October 2004 is 1,017. However, this figure does not necessarily represent 1,017 individual cases as there could be a number of separate assessments in different years against one individual chargeable person.

Not all of tax assessments result in settlements. The tax collection process carried out by the Criminal Assets Bureau following on those assessments will include court action for judgment in many cases. In other cases, collection will involve the use of attachment notices seeking payment to the bureau of debts owed to the chargeable person by third parties. Some cases will involve agreed payments and some but not all of those agreed payments will involve formal settlements.

The overall sum for tax collected by 31 October 2004 by the Criminal Assets Bureau since 1996 is €69,262,409. I am also informed by the Garda authorities that it is not possible to be specific as to how much of that recovered sum represents formal settlements as the variety of agreements reached to recover taxes will vary widely across the different types of cases with which the bureau deals.

The revenue bureau officers are subject to strict rules of secrecy under the law attached to their work. This was only lifted by the Oireachtas under the Taxes Consolidation Act to allow the publication of specific types of tax settlements reached with the Revenue Commissioners. Those provisions relaxing the general rule of Revenue secrecy only apply to tax settlements or agreements entered into by the Revenue Commissioners in excess of €12,700. The provision allowing disclosure does not apply to tax settlements entered into with the Criminal Assets Bureau as the law now stands. The Criminal Assets Bureau believes the current position is operationally useful.

Child Care Services.

Questions (164)

John Perry

Question:

161 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a decision will be made on the application lodged by a child care committee (details supplied) in County Sligo for funding under the equal opportunity child care programme to ensure that it can proceed with its quality child care facility. [27631/04]

View answer

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

I understand a capital grant application for more than €1.3 million was submitted by the group in question to my Department some time ago. An application for staffing grant assistance was also submitted by the group. The equal opportunities child care programme 2000-06 is a seven-year development programme which aims to increase the availability and quality of child care to support parents in employment, education and training. The progress of the programme was commented upon very favourably by the mid-term evaluators of both the regional operational programmes and the National Development Plan 2000-2006 and, following the mid-term review, additional funding of approximately €12 million was made available for the child care measures. This brings the total funding available for the programme to €449.3 million, which includes increased provision for capital developments for which €157 million has been allocated.

Since 2000 my Department, with the technical assistance of ADM Limited has processed and I have approved 1,253 applications for capital grant assistance of more than €120 million and 997 applications for staffing grant assistance totalling €103 million. Almost €45 million has been allocated for quality projects.

A list of outstanding capital applications is being finalised and my Department will write to the applicants in early December. In the meantime, the funding position for this programme will be discussed by the relevant officials in the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Finance. In the interim, it would be premature to comment further on the capital grant application in question.

Visa Applications.

Questions (165)

Enda Kenny

Question:

162 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is a requirement of his Department that in order for non-EU nationals, validly issued with work visas, to bring their spouses and children here they must be in receipt of a net income equivalent to the eligibility limit on income for family income supplement from their employer; if so, the way in which his Department assesses this as being an income necessary to live on; the way in which this breakdown is assessed for cases of a spouse and one child and a spouse and two children respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27635/04]

View answer

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

I have responsibility for policy on family reunion, that is, the policy on granting permission to enter and remain in the State to the spouses and children of non-EEA nationals who are legally resident in the State. This includes the spouses and dependant children of non-EEA nationals who have entered the State for work purposes.

I fully acknowledge that family reunion policy should recognise the needs of persons coming to Ireland to work and be in accordance with the broad needs of the Irish economy, including the safeguarding of public resources. In the case of visa required family members of non-EEA national workers, the general rule is that it is only after the worker has been in the State for 12 months and has been offered employment for a further 12 months that they may be joined by their families. This is subject to the worker being able to support the family without recourse to public funds.

There is no general time restriction in operation with regard to family reunion where the family members in question are not visa required. The only caveat, again, is that the worker in question must be in a position to support the family without recourse to public funds.

When assessing applications for family reunification, the visa officer will consider, amongst other things, whether the level of salary of the worker would come within the ambit of qualifying for payment from public funds. In this regard, the criteria set by the Department of Social and Family Affairs for eligibility for family income supplement payment, FIS, is used. The criteria, which may change from time to time, are available on that Department's websitewww.welfare.ie/publications/sw22.html. If the level of the worker’s income as evidenced by his or her payslips or P60 would qualify for FIS payments, the application for family reunification is generally refused as it is evident that the family can seek recourse to public funds.

Departmental Reports.

Questions (166)

Joe Costello

Question:

163 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the content of urgent reports he has sought from the Garda authorities and the prison authorities about a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27643/04]

View answer

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

I wish to confirm that reports have been sought and received on the matter from both the Irish Prison Service and the Garda Síochána. It would appear from examining the reports that there was a breakdown in communications in conveying the fact that the individual concerned had been charged with new offences. The parties concerned are reviewing their procedures to avoid any recurrence of this type of situation.

Garda Strength.

Questions (167, 168)

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

164 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí unavailable for service due to illness, ill health, incapacity, maternity leave, adoptive leave or otherwise on 25 October 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27645/04]

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 number of gardaí unavailable for service due to illness, ill health, incapacity, maternity leave, adoptive leave or otherwise on 25 October 2004 was: illness, ill health and incapacity — 76; and maternity or adoptive leave — 70. The figure for the number of gardaí who were unavailable for service due to illness, ill heath or incapacity refers to those members who are on long-term sick leave and had not been available for duty for more than 183 days on 25 October 2004.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

165 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of fully trained members of the Garda Síochána in the force at 25 October 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27646/04]

View answer

Garda trainees are attested to the force on successful completion of phase three of their training. On attestation, a Garda trainee becomes a serving member of the force with full Garda powers. Formal graduation takes place following the completion of the fifth and final phase of training. The serving strength of the force at any given time, therefore, includes those who have been attested following completion of phase three of their training but have not yet formally graduated. The strength of the force as at 25 October 2004 was 12,108, all ranks. When an additional 190 gardaí are attested on 26 November, the force strength, already at a record high, will have reached or exceeded 12,200.

With regard to Garda resources generally, I am very pleased that the Government has approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis, in line with the An Agreed Programme for Government commitment in this regard. This is a key commitment in the programme for Government and its implementation will significantly strengthen the operational capacity of the force.

The Commissioner will now draw up plans on how best to distribute and manage these resources. Clearly, however, the additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences in particular, but it will be possible to address other priorities as well, such as the need to significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into front-line, operational, high visibility policing. They will have a real impact.

Proposed Legislation.

Questions (169)

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

166 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has plans to reform family law legislation in order that it is more supportive of parties who engage with that legislation through the courts; his views on whether the more supportive approach of the English legal system in this area of law should be adopted here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27647/04]

View answer

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

Our family law legislation is designed in such a way as to support as far as possible parties involved in or contemplating proceedings in court. The legislation on separation, 1989, divorce, 1996, and guardianship, 1997, is framed to ensure that couples are fully aware of the alternatives to judicial separation, divorce, custody and access proceedings and to assist attempts at reconciliation. It encourages couples to think in terms of agreeing the key elements of a separation or divorce or the care of a child in advance of court proceedings, and where proceedings come before the court, an adjournment is possible to assist reconciliation or agreement on the terms of a settlement. The Legal Aid Board makes the services of solicitors and, where necessary, barristers available to persons of modest means at relatively little cost.

The Family Mediation Service facilitates couples to resolve amicably the terms of a separation or divorce, including the position concerning children. The Family Support Agency, established under legislation in 2001, gives statutory backing to the Family Mediation Service and the agency provides financial assistance to voluntary bodies engaged in family mediation and counselling. Substantial funding from the Exchequer is provided to the Courts Service, the Legal Aid Board, the Family Mediation Service and Family Support Agency to ensure support for families who are in dispute.

The operation of the family law systems I have mentioned are kept under review in the relevant Departments, including the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Legal Aid Service.

Questions (170)

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

167 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the long delays for persons seeking family law and other assistance through legal aid; his views on whether this causes hardship and exacerbates pre-existing legal problems; the proposals he has to remedy the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27648/04]

View answer

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

The Legal Aid Board continuously monitors the operation of its law centre network and where waiting times at a law centre, for whatever reason, become excessive, the position is examined by the board with a view to taking remedial action.

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 priority treatment is necessary to ensure that persons subjected to domestic violence and cases involving the care of children are provided with a speedy service. It is important to note that in 2003, priority appointments offered by law centres were approximately 1500, or almost 22% of the total number of appointments offered to new clients during the year.

In addition, managing solicitors at law centres have authority to give priority to any case on the waiting list at their centre. If, for example, 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 services are delayed, the managing solicitor can accord such cases priority status.

The level of resources provided to the Legal Aid Board has increased significantly in recent years. In 1997, the grant-in-aid available to the board was €10.656 million. The figure of €18.388 million for 2004 represents an increase of almost 73% over that allocation. I envisage the funding for the board being further increased in 2005.

Telecommunications Masts.

Questions (171)

Tony Gregory

Question:

168 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Garda authorities will report on their failure to provide information requested by Dublin City Council’s planning enforcement section about the telecommunications antennae at a location (details supplied) in Dublin 1, specifically the antennae there belonging to commercial mobile phone companies and the absence of an emissions audit on the mast; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27651/04]

View answer

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

I am advised by the Garda authorities that they are unaware of any request for information from Dublin City Council's planning enforcement section about commercial mobile phone companies telecommunications antennae on Garda masts.

The Garda Síochána has engaged the services of an independent engineering company to carry out surveys of the electromagnetic field strengths on masts located at a number of Garda stations. These assessments were conducted against the guidelines set down by the International Commission for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection, ICNIRP, and the EU recommendation on electromagnetic fields, 1999/519/EC. A number of Garda masts were surveyed and, in all cases, the survey findings showed that the cumulative electromagnetic field strengths emitting from the Garda masts were thousands of times below both the public and occupational guidelines.

A number of Garda masts are surveyed on an annual basis to ensure compliance with the recommended guidelines. I am advised that the antennae on the mast at the Garda station referred to by the Deputy is due to be surveyed shortly in this regard.

Asylum Applications.

Questions (172)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

169 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be reunited with their son; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27653/04]

View answer

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

The person in question, accompanied by a daughter and son then aged seven and four respectively, arrived in the State and made an asylum application in June 2000. She gave birth the following August 2000. She withdrew her asylum application and successfully applied for permission to reside in Ireland based solely on her parentage of an Irish born child. The visa application in question relates to a 15 year old son who wishes to join her in the State. No supporting documentation was submitted with the visa application form.

Following the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of L and 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 also decided that the general policy of allowing such parents to be joined in the State by other family members would no longer apply. Accordingly, the immigration division of my Department does not generally approve visas in respect of such visa applications.

Garda Operations.

Questions (173)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

170 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the full and final cost to the State of the Garda security operations in relation to the June 2004 US presidential visit during the US-EU Summit. [27655/04]

View answer

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

I am informed by the Garda authorities that it is not yet possible to provide a full and final cost of the Garda policing arrangements relating to the US presidential visit in June 2004, as a small number of claims and suppliers' invoices remain outstanding. However, I am also informed that, as at 31 October, 2004, the cost of the Garda policing arrangements relating to the visit of the US President was €7.703 million.

Asylum Applications.

Questions (174, 175)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

171 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will defer plans to deport a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; if his attention has been drawn to the life threatening situation to which this family is likely to exposed in the event of proceeding with the proposed deportation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27693/04]

View answer

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

As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the office of the refugee applications commissioner and the refugee appeals tribunal. A final decision on this application for refugee status will be made upon receipt of the decision of the refugee appeals tribunal. Accordingly, at this stage the question of deportation does not arise.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

172 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will reconsider the application for refugee status in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27708/04]

View answer

The person in question, accompanied by her daughter, arrived in the State on 16 April, 2003 and claimed asylum. I should explain that in the asylum process, a claim for refugee status by a child is considered in tandem with that of a parent. Following an interview, the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner recommended that she should not be declared as a refugee and she was notified of this recommendation on 30 December 2003. This recommendation was appealed to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Following an oral hearing, the original recommendation was affirmed and she was informed of this decision on 28 April, 2004.

In accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, the mother was informed on 27 September 2004, that it was proposed to make a deportation order in her case and that of her daughter. She was given the options of making representations within 15 working days setting out the reasons as to why they should not be deported; leaving the State voluntarily before orders were made; or consenting to the making of deportation orders. On 19 October 2004, representations were received on behalf of both mother and daughter from their legal representatives requesting humanitarian leave to remain in the State and including medical reports in relation to both as well as country of origin information.

The case file will now be considered by my Department taking account of section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 dealing with prohibition ofrefoulement. The file will be submitted to me for decision shortly and the persons concerned will then be informed of the outcome.

Garda Regulations.

Questions (176)

Paul Kehoe

Question:

173 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if persons without leaving certificate maths can be considered for entry to the Garda Síochána; if an exception can be made for those without it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27712/04]

View answer

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

Entry to the Garda Síochána is governed by the An Garda Síochána (Admissions and Appointments) Regulations 1988, as amended. The educational requirements for entry to the Garda Síochána are set out in regulation 5(1)(d) of the 1988 regulations which provides that the Commissioner shall not admit a person as a trainee unless the person has, before the first day of September in the year in which the said advertisement was so published, obtained: (i) in the leaving certificate examination of the Department of Education and Science or the leaving certificate vocational programme examination of that Department — (1) a grade not lower than C3 at foundation level, or a grade not lower than D3 at a level other than foundation level, in Irish, (2) a grade not lower than B3 at foundation level, or a grade not lower than D3 at a level other than foundation level, in mathematics, and (3) a grade not lower than D3 in at least three other subjects, including English; or (ii) a grade not lower than the merit grade in the leaving certificate applied of the Department of Education and Science; or (iii) grades in at least five subjects, including Irish, mathematics and English, in another examination of a kind that is in the opinion of the Minister, of a standard not lower than the standard of either of the examinations referred to in clause (i) of this subparagraph, the grades aforesaid being grades that are in the opinion of the Minister, equivalent to the grades specified in the said clause (i); or (iv) a grade in another assessment of a kind that includes Irish, mathematics and English and is, in the opinion of the Minister, of a standard not lower than the standard of the assessment referred to in clause (ii) of this subparagraph, the grade aforesaid being a grade that is, in the opinion of the Minister equivalent to the grade specified in the said clause (ii). These are the statutory regulations and the Commissioner is precluded from admitting to the organisation a candidate who does not comply with the regulations.

Prisoner Transfers.

Questions (177)

James Breen

Question:

174 Mr. J. Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a person (details supplied) in County Clare currently serving a four year jail sentence in Limerick prison will be moved to an open prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27713/04]

View answer

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

I am informed that there is no record of this person applying through the governor of Limerick Prison for a move to an open centre. If such an application is received through the normal channels, it will be considered at that stage.

Reunification Applications.

Questions (178)

Willie Penrose

Question:

175 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason an application submitted by a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath seeking permission to remain in the State, has been refused. [27724/04]

View answer

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

I refer the Deputy to my response to Question No. 176 of 21 October 2004 in relation to the applicant in question. As I stated in that reply, the person in question made an application for family reunification in November 2003 and she was subsequently informed that she did not qualify for this. The immigration division of my Department wrote to the person concerned on 19 October 2004 to ascertain if she has any other basis for seeking permission to remain in the State. A response was received on 2 November confirming this to be the case. Further information has now been requested from the person in question to enable the Department to make a decision on this new application.

Passport Applications.

Questions (179)

Joe Costello

Question:

176 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of parents of non-nationals who, having arrived pregnant in Ireland, had sought and obtained passports prior to leaving the country with their Irish born citizen children, in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27733/04]

View answer

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

The information sought by the Deputy is not available to me nor to my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs who is responsible for the issuing of passports.

Special Educational Needs.

Questions (180)

Gerard Murphy

Question:

177 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on whether she should provide more funding for nursing care in special schools; and if she intends doing so. [27610/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the issue raised by him is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children.

School Transport.

Questions (181)

Gerard Murphy

Question:

178 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a serious shortfall in bus escort grants in schools for special need children; and her plans to alleviate this problem. [27611/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

My Department understands that the Deputy is referring to a particular school in mind. Payment of the escort grant aid in respect of 2004-05 school year for the school in question is being processed.

Special Educational Needs.

Questions (182, 183, 184, 185, 186)

Gerard Murphy

Question:

179 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will make a start-up grant available for new classes at a school (details supplied) in County Cork. [27612/04]

View answer

Gerard Murphy

Question:

180 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the grants which will be made available for children with autism. [27613/04]

View answer

Gerard Murphy

Question:

181 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science if further staff or training of existing staff and a capital grant for accommodation for persons with severe challenging behaviour who are attending a school (details supplied) in County Cork will be made available. [27614/04]

View answer

Gerard Murphy

Question:

182 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on whether all special schools should be allocated a home school liaison teacher; the situation regarding approval for a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and her further views on whether students in special schools need a variety of professional persons to provide multidisciplinary support. [27615/04]

View answer

Gerard Murphy

Question:

183 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has plans to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio for children with autism at a school (details supplied) in County Cork. [27616/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 179 to 183, inclusive together.

In general, the following grants are available to schools who establish special classes for pupils with autism: start-up equipment grant of €635 per class and capitation grant of €589.50 per pupil. In addition to this, my Department's building unit fund a once-off equipment and furniture grant of €6,348.69 when a new autistic class is established. The school concerned has recently re-organised classes to facilitate the setting up of an additional autistic class. My officials are liaising with the Department's inspectorate regarding a set-up grant and a decision will be conveyed to the school authorities shortly.

I have authorised a major expansion in the range of postgraduate training for teachers working with pupils with special needs in four colleges of education and UCD. In addition, I have authorised the introduction of a range of new training programmes to provide a mix of intensive induction training and more advanced training in specific areas. I have also established a special education support service, headquartered in the Laois education centre, to manage, co-ordinate and develop a range of supports in response to identified training needs. The service is developing training teams to deliver training in specific areas. In addition, the service supports a range of local initiatives including the use of e-learning which provides courses on-line during the school year.

My Department is funding temporary accommodation at a cost of €780 per month for the school concerned to facilitate special autism classes. The building project for the school concerned is at an early stage of architectural planning. It has a band one rating. In order to progress the project, a meeting has been arranged between my Department's technical staff, the school authorities and school's design team. My officials are nearing completion of a review of all projects which did not proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme with a view to including them as part of a multiannual programme from 2005. All projects are being assessed against the published prioritisation criteria, agreed earlier this year with the education partners. Each project will be assigned a band rating and the progress of all projects will be considered in the context of the programme from 2005. Following conclusion of the current Estimates and budgetary process, I intend to publish the 2005 building programme which will operate in a multiannual framework.

The home-school-community liaison scheme is a preventative strategy, initiated in 1990 to prevent and counter educational failure in certain designated areas of socio-economic disadvantage. It is targeted at pupils who are at risk of not reaching their potential in the educational system. The scheme is concerned with establishing partnership and collaboration between parents and teachers in the interests of children's learning. It focuses directly on the salient adults in children's educational lives and seeks indirect benefits for the children themselves. Some 176 local co-ordinators are assigned to 309 primary schools in disadvantaged areas to work with school staff, parents and relevant community agencies in advancing the educational interests of children. Since children in special schools can come from different socio-economic backgrounds these schools are not designated disadvantage and were not considered for inclusion in the home-school-community liaison scheme.

However, a family with a child with special needs living in a designated disadvantage area would be visited by a home-school-community liaison scheme co-ordinator in that area. Where children are in special classes in mainstream designated disadvantaged schools the home-school-community liaison scheme co-ordinator works to support parents in parenting, to develop curricular skills with parents and to form groups of parents whose children have special needs.

Special schools in the country have access to professional inputs from physiotherapists, occupational and speech and language therapists etc. Decisions concerning the level of such support rests with the relevant health boards. Children in schools served by the national educational psychological service have access to its service, free of charge, which includes the provision of individual psychological assessments where appropriate. Unfortunately, my Department is not yet in a position to offer this service to all schools. As an interim measure, my Department funds the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments. This scheme is primarily available to those schools that do not yet have access to the national educational psychological service. In order to allow all the eligible schools to have the opportunity to access the available funding, the number of assessments per school is determined by the number of pupils.

The pupil-teacher ratio for children with autism is 6:1. In addition, two special needs assistants provide care support to a maximum of six pupils. My Department's priority has been and will continue to be the implementation of the fundamental legislative and structural measures which are essential to underpin the development and delivery of services for persons with autism.

The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 sets out the rights and entitlements of children with special needs, including autism, to an appropriate education service and providing the necessary framework for effective service delivery. The national council for special education, which will have a local area presence, will play a key role in the development and delivery of services for persons with special needs, including persons with autism. It will have a research and advisory role and will establish expert groups to address particular areas of special needs provision. It will also establish a consultative forum to facilitate inputs from the education partners and other interested parties.

Significant progress has been made in the establishment of the national council. Seventy special education needs organisers have recently been recruited. These people will be a focal point of contact for schools and parents. They will process individual applications for resources for special educational needs. It is anticipated that the council and the special education needs organisers will become operational shortly.

School Transport.

Questions (187)

Olwyn Enright

Question:

184 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of vehicles in use in the school bus transport fleet; the age of each of the buses in use; the amount spent on new vehicle purchases and vehicle upkeep for each year since 1999; the amount spent on vehicle rental for each year since 1999; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27617/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

There are approximately 3,000 vehicles in use each day providing school transport services on behalf of my Department under the school transport scheme. This fleet is made up of Bus Éireann school buses and contractors' vehicles. The bulk of this fleet comprises minibuses provided by contractors, while most large buses are provided by Bus Éireann.

Bus Éireann has informed my Department that the average age of its school bus fleet of large capacity buses is 15.5 years, while the average age of similar large capacity contractors' vehicles is now approximately 18 years. Other categories of contractors' vehicles such as cars and minibuses have a younger average age because large capacity buses have a longer operational lifespan. Since 1999, Bus Éireann has spent over €4.5 million on purchasing vehicles as part of an ongoing school bus fleet replacement programme to continually improve the age profile and condition of their school bus fleet. In addition to this, the Bus Éireann school bus fleet has some 400 large capacity buses that were transferred from their general service fleet into the dedicated school transport bus fleet. Over 250 of these buses were transferred from 1999 to 2003, valued in the region of €5 million, and they represent another valuable source of replacement buses over this period. This investment has produced a perceptible improvement in the condition of the fleet generally.

Contractors provide the largest number of vehicles used to provide school transport services, and as individual private transport operators, they are responsible for the upkeep of their own vehicles. Consequently, Bus Éireann has informed my Department that it is not possible to provide the cost of this vehicle upkeep. Payments to contractors engaged by Bus Éireann to provide services under the school transport scheme amounted to €28.4 million in 1999, €33.3 million in 2000, €40.7 million in 2001, €47.3 million in 2002, and €52.9 million in 2003.

Special Educational Needs.

Questions (188)

John Moloney

Question:

185 Mr. Moloney asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the application for a one-to-one personal teacher and personal assistant for a person (details supplied). [27618/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department is considering an application for special educational needs supports for the pupil in question. My Department's inspectorate has been liaising with the school authorities and officials in the special education section of my Department in the context of the application. This communication is continuing and a decision on the application will be conveyed to the school as soon as the process has been completed.

Schools Building Projects.

Questions (189)

Noel Grealish

Question:

186 Mr. Grealish asked the Minister for Education and Science if a letter of guarantee for a grant of €70,000 will be provided to a school (details supplied) in order to carry out the addition of two classrooms to the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27624/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

My Department's planning section determined in 2003 that the school to which the Deputy refers required one additional temporary classroom to address the short-term accommodation needs in this school.

In July 2003 approval issued to the school authority to purchase one prefabricated classroom of 76 sq. m. to address this shortfall. The grants are made available to schools on the grounds that the schools have no alternative accommodation available to them to meet their immediate needs. To date, the school authority has not provided this accommodation. Failure by the school authority to address this need in the current year will in fact result in the loss of grant aid.

However, it is open to the school authority to reapply for consideration from within the remit of the 2005 capital programme. To date, no application has been received and the closing date for such applications is 5 November 2004.

Schools Refurbishment.

Questions (190)

Dan Neville

Question:

187 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding upgrading and major refurbishment to achieve basic standards for a school (details supplied) in County Limerick. [27625/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

The application for upgrade and refurbishment at the school to which the Deputy refers is being considered as part of a review of all projects which did not proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual programme from 2005. All projects are being assessed against the revised prioritisation criteria, published earlier this year following consultation with the education partners. Each project will be assigned a band rating and the progress of all projects will be considered in the context of the multi-annual programme.

Following conclusion of the current Estimates and budgetary process I intend to publish the 2005 building programme which will operate in a multi-annual framework.

Special Educational Needs.

Questions (191, 192)

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

188 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if additional hours will be provided for a special needs assistant at a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27664/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I can confirm that an application for an increase in the level of special needs assistant, SNA, support from part-time to full-time has been received from the school referred to by the Deputy.

The application will be considered by my Department and a decision will be conveyed to the school at the earliest possible date.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

189 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Science if a special needs pre-school will be put in place at a location (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27700/04]

View answer

I wish to advise the Deputy that the issue raised by him is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children.

Schools Building Projects.

Questions (193)

James Breen

Question:

190 Mr. J. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will make funding available for an extension to the principal’s office at a school (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27711/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

An application for grant aid towards an extension has been received from the management authority of the school referred to by the Deputy.

My officials are nearing completion of a review of all projects which did not proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual programme from 2005. All projects are being assessed against the revised prioritisation criteria, published earlier this year following consultation with the education partners. Each project will be assigned a band rating and the progress of all projects will be considered in the context of the multi-annual programme. The accommodation needs of the school referred to are being considered as part of this review.

Following conclusion of the current Estimates and budgetary process I intend to publish the 2005 building programme which will operate in a multi-annual framework.

Special Educational Needs.

Questions (194)

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

191 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will make a statement on the discrimination against the allocation of special education teachers to girls’ primary schools in which the ratio is 1:200; and if she has plans to reduce this ratio and bring it in line with boys’ schools and mixed schools. [27718/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

As the Deputy will be aware, the proposed new system for resource teacher allocation involves a general weighted allocation for all primary schools to cater for pupils with higher incidence special educational needs, borderline mild and mild general learning disability and specific learning disability, and those with learning support needs, that is, functioning at or below the 10th percentile on a standardised test of reading and-or mathematics. It will also allow for individual allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence special educational needs.

The proposed allocation mechanism is as follows. In the most disadvantaged schools, as per the urban dimension of Giving Children an Even Break, a teacher of pupils with special educational needs will be allocated for every 80 pupils to cater for the subset of pupils with higher incidence special needs. In all-boys schools, the ratio will be one teacher for every 140 pupils. In mixed schools, or all-girls schools with an enrolment of greater than 30% boys, one for every 150 pupils; and in all-girls schools, including schools with mixed junior classes but with 30% or less boys overall, one for every 200 pupils.

In addition, all schools will be able to apply for separate specific allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence disabilities.

The rationale for a pupil-teacher ratio of 150 pupils for every teacher in mixed schools to support pupils with higher incidence special educational needs and learning difficulties-delays is that the pupil-teacher ratio for a learning support teacher was approximately 300 pupils. Some 10% of pupils would be expected to have learning difficulties in the fields of literacy and numeracy and, on that basis, approximately 15 out of a group of 150 pupils would be expected to have learning difficulties. This is considered half of a teacher's caseload. A further 3%, or four or five pupils, in this cohort would be expected to have higher incidence special educational needs and would expect to receive 2.5 resource teaching hours per week. This would account for the other half of a teacher's caseload.

The rationale for the different pupil teacher ratios in boys', 140:1, and girls', 200:1, schools is twofold. International literature on the incidence of disability indicates that, across all disability types, there is a greater incidence in boys than in girls. International and national surveys of literacy and numeracy have found that these difficulties are more common among boys than girls.

The rationale for the level of support proposed for schools in areas of urban disadvantage is that evidence shows that there is a significantly higher incidence of literacy and numeracy difficulties in urban disadvantaged compared to other schools, including those in areas of rural disadvantage.

It is important to emphasise that applications may be made for specific resource teacher allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence special educational needs, regardless of gender of pupil or status of school.

I am conscious of difficulties that could arise with the proposed model, particularly for children in small and rural schools, if it were implemented as currently proposed. Accordingly, I will review the model to ensure it provides an automatic response for pupils with common mild learning disabilities without the need for cumbersome individual applications, while at the same time ensuring that pupils currently in receipt of service continue to receive the level of service appropriate to their needs. The review will involve consultation with educational interests and the National Council for Special Education before it is implemented next year.

Third Level Sector.

Questions (195)

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

192 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has plans for the development of a third level college in Sligo to cater for the international market in areas of tourism, hospitality, conference and business event management; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27719/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

I have no plans for the development of a new third level college in Sligo. As the Deputy is aware, Sligo Institute of Technology provides a range of industry relevant programmes to cater to the needs of the local catchment population. Any proposals for the development of new programmes by Sligo Institute of Technology will be dealt with by my Department in the normal way.

Schools Recognition.

Questions (196)

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

193 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Education and Science her proposals to certify a school (details supplied) in County Sligo in order to avail of the industrial buildings allowance which would secure the future of this college; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27721/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

Previous correspondence did not make clear the context in which recognition was being sought, and it was recommended to the college that the question of recognition, in terms of accreditation of awards, could be addressed by making an application to the Further Education and Training Awards Council.

Section 843 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides for capital allowances for buildings used for third level purposes. However, the Act confines such allowances to approved institutions in receipt of public funding which provide courses which are approved under the higher education grants schemes, and to qualifying expenditure approved for that purpose by the Minister for Education and Science following receipt of advice from the Higher Education Authority. In addition, section 32 of the Qualifications (Education and Training) Act 1999 provides that before making an order for the purpose of establishing an educational institution as a college, the Government is required to establish a committee to consider whether an educational institution should be established and to advise the Higher Education Authority in that regard.

As the allowances are confined under the Act to publicly funded third level institutions, it is not considered that the college in question would be eligible for the relief.

Special Educational Needs.

Questions (197)

Brian O'Shea

Question:

194 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science the proposals she has to provide a choice for students who wish to become speech and language therapists to study through the Irish language in order that when qualified they can provide a service in Gaeltacht schools (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27734/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

In May 2002 the then Minister for Education and Science announced the provision of 175 additional therapy training places to tackle shortages of physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists as identified by the report Current and Future Supply and Demand Conditions in the Labour Market for Certain Professional Therapists, prepared by Dr. Peter Bacon and Associates in 2001.

As part of this initiative, an additional 75 speech and language therapy places were provided at University College Cork, University of Limerick and the National University of Ireland Galway. Intake to these courses commenced in the 2003-04 academic year. The Bacon report set out to address the immediate issue of a shortage of therapists. It recommended that initiatives be set up as a matter of urgency to increase the supply of qualified personnel in each of the three therapy professions. It did not specifically address the provision of services through Irish. As the pre-existing overall shortage of therapists is beginning to be addressed, the issue of meeting the needs of those who require speech and language therapy in a language other than English is only in the early stages of development. I am aware that the colleges concerned are beginning to consider this issue.

More generally, an inter-agency working group on the development of third level education through Irish, comprising representatives from my Department, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Údarás na Gaeltachta and the Higher Education Authority recently reported to my predecessor and to the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The working group made several recommendations on the provision of third level education through Irish and these are under consideration.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Questions (198, 199)

Billy Timmins

Question:

195 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Defence his plans to replace the Learjet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27642/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Defence)

The Learjet, which was acquired late last year for the ministerial air transport service, provides an excellent service for short and medium-haul flights and has proven extremely reliable since it entered service in January this year. The Learjet replaced the Beechcraft KingAir, which is now being used as a training aircraft and for some MATS flights when necessary. During the course of the EU Presidency, the Learjet performed 78 missions, mainly to various European locations and had 100% dispatch reliability over the period. The aircraft proved to be an essential asset in meeting the needs of Ministers who attended numerous meetings throughout Europe during our EU Presidency and it will continue to be required in the future. There are no plans to replace the aircraft.

Billy Timmins

Question:

196 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Defence the number of nuclear, biological or chemical protective clothing suits available in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27669/04]

View answer

The Defence Forces have available to them equipment for monitoring and protecting their members in dealing with nuclear, biological or chemical threats identified from time to time. They hold an extensive range of modern nuclear, biological or chemical equipment that meets their current requirements. This range includes approximately 7,000 nuclear, biological or chemical suits which are available to the Defence Forces. In addition, the Defence Forces have a sufficient stock of respirators for each individual soldier. They also have some 100 of the most technologically up-to-date chemical agent monitors and Defence Forces personnel have been trained in their operation. Other equipment on hand includes biological agent detector and screening kits, group decontamination equipment and personal decontamination equipment.

The requirement for additional nuclear, biological or chemical equipment is kept under continuous review by the Defence Forces. A programme for the purchase of nuclear, biological or chemical equipment is ongoing and whatever equipment deemed necessary is purchased expeditiously to meet the changing requirements. The Garda Síochána has the primary responsibility for law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the State. Among the roles assigned to the Defence Forces is the provision of aid to the civil power — meaning in practice to assist, when requested, the Garda Síochána — which duties include the protection and guarding of vital installations, the provision of certain security escorts etc.

The most important defence against any attack is external vigilance, detection and prevention by the security forces. All the necessary resources of the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces are deployed to this end.

Defence Forces Strength.

Questions (200)

Billy Timmins

Question:

197 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Defence the personnel strength of the Army, including Reserve Forces; the personnel strength of the Air Corps; the personnel strength of the Naval Service; the strength of any other Reserve Forces available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27670/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Defence)

The strength of the Permanent Defence Force, comprising the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service and of the Reserve Defence Force as of 30 September 2004 is set out in the following table:

Number

Army

8,477

Air Corps

872

Naval Service

1,070

Total P.D.F.

10,419

First Line Reserve

408

F.C.A.

12,945

Slua Mhuirí

403

Total R.D.F.

13,756

Electoral Register.

Questions (201)

Tony Gregory

Question:

198 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will introduce measures to provide for the proper identification of persons voting in elections and to streamline the electoral register; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27644/04]

View answer

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

I refer to the replies to Questions Nos. 153 of 29 April 2004 and 1174 of 29 September 2004. I am concerned to ensure that the legislative and administrative arrangements in place in relation to the accuracy of the register of electors and the accessibility of voting arrangements are as flexible as possible while maintaining the security and integrity of the electoral process. I will continue to keep current practice, including the scope for further improvements, under review.

Local Electoral Boundaries.

Questions (202)

Michael Ring

Question:

199 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will appoint a commission to examine local election boundaries in order, in particular, to take account of the major shifts in population to urban areas. [27598/04]

View answer

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

The Local Government Act 2001 provides for the establishment of a Local Government Commission to carry out functions regardinginter alia, the alteration of local electoral areas. Under section 23 of the Act the Minister may, by order, divide local authorities into local electoral areas and fix the number of members to be elected for each electoral area but this may only be done following a report by the local government commission. It is intended to commence the relevant provisions of the 2001 Act, including arrangements for the establishment of the local government commission, as soon as possible.

The June 2004 local elections took place on the basis of the existing local electoral boundaries and there are currently no proposals for examination of these boundaries. Unlike the situation regarding Dáil constituencies, there are no constitutional or statutory requirements for the frequency of local electoral area reviews.

Departmental Programmes.

Questions (203)

John Deasy

Question:

200 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make a statement on the progress to date of the RAPID programme in local government; and if he will extend RAPID to other areas. [27599/04]

View answer

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

There are a number of measures in place in my Department to support the RAPID programme at national and local level. Such measures include the funding of the local co-ordinators for each RAPID area, managing the co-ordination of the programme across the Department, and ongoing consultation with senior management in the local authorities concerned. My Department is examining projects under both strands of the programme which have been received from the local area implementation teams. These proposals mainly relate to social housing, local road improvement measures and environmental issues which are delivered on the ground by local authorities.

The nature and scale of many of these projects, some of which are subject to detailed design and will require phased implementation, has necessitated extensive evaluation as well as consultation with local authorities and with the Area Development Management Ltd. RAPID support team. This evaluation and consultation process is ongoing to ensure that RAPID projects are prioritised in the context of the Estimates provisions for 2005 and onwards. A significant number of RAPID projects have been approved or are under active consideration by my Department and local authorities, as appropriate. Details, as available, are set out in the following table.

In addition to RAPID projects, public agencies, including local authorities, are already providing a wide range of services in all RAPID areas. Extension of the RAPID programme to other areas is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs who has overall responsibility for the programme.

RAPID Area (Strand I)

Project No.

Subject

Report / Position

Cork — Blackpool/The Glen/ Mayfield

CKBG008

Waste & Recycling — Bring Facilities

Approved for grant assistance under the Waste Management Capital Grants Scheme — total allocation (incl. CKFG053) of €107,000.

Cork — Blackpool/The Glen/ Mayfield

CKBG011

Estate Management Mediation Service

Funding of €42,500 in total approved for this, together with projects CKFG 17, CKKC16c & CKTM 28.

Cork — Blackpool/The Glen/Mayfield

CKBG017

Provision of Kurzweil Machine (Mayfield Library)

In July 2003, D/EHLG issued details of grant scheme for purchase of optical scanning facilities to all library authorities. Matter for local authorities to purchase and seek recoupments.

Cork — Blackpool/The Glen/Mayfield

CKBG035

Glen Regeneration Phase 2 & 3

€18.2 million approved for phase 1. Work underway and expected to be completed in early 2004. Proposals awaited from City Council in respect of Phase 2 and 3.

Cork — Fairhill/Garranabraher/ Farranree

CKFG017

Estate Management — Mediation Service

Funding of €42,500 in total approved for this, together with projects CKBG 11, CKKC16c & CKTM 28.

Cork — Fairhill/Garranabraher/ Farranree

CKFG018

Provision of the Kurzweil Machine (St. Mary’s Road)

In July 2003, D/EHLG issued details of grant scheme for purchase of optical scanning facilities to all library authorities. Matter for local authorities to purchase and seek recoupments.

Cork — Fairhill/Garranabraher/ Farranree

CKFG051

Civic Amenity Site — northside

Funding of €365,000 approved for a site in Blackpool to service north Cork City area, under the Waste Management Capital Grants Scheme.

Cork — Fairhill/Garranabraher/ Farranree

CKFG053

Improved availability of Bring Site

Approved for grant assistance under the Waste Management Capital Grants Scheme — total allocation (incl. CKFG 08) of €107,000.

Cork — Fairhill/Garranabraher/ Farranree

CKFG055

Farranree Housing Project for the Elderly

Approved for funding by Minister, 3/12/03.

Cork — Knocknaheeney/ Churchfield

CKKC007c

Cork CC Area Housing Office

Office fully staffed and opened for business 02/10/02 — approved funding of €177,763 paid.

Cork — Knocknaheeney/ Churchfield

CKKC016c

Estate Management — Mediation Service

Funding of €42,500 in total approved for this, together with projects CKBG 11, CKFG 17 & CKTM 28.

Cork — Knocknaheeney/ Churchfield

CKKC018d

Knocknaheeny Regeneration Plan

Funding of €2.05 million provided under Remedial works scheme for window/door replacement in Blocks A, B and C. Revised design plans for Block D are under examination by the Department.

Cork — Knocknaheeney/ Churchfield

CKKC019d

Knocknaheeny Regeneration Block D

Cork — Knocknaheeney/ Churchfield

CKKC024c

Liaison for Community Participation

Approval for Liaison Officer given for Knocknaheeney project.

Cork — Togher/ Mahon

CKTM004

Togher Community Services Centre

Budget cost approved for sum of €390,000 issued 25th June 2004.

Cork — Togher/Mahon

CKTM005

Consultation on Deanrock Regeneration

Council currently developing outline proposals. D/EHLG is liaising with the City Council on these proposals.

Cork — Togher/ Mahon

CKTM028

Estate Management Mediation Services

Funding of €42,500 in total approved for this, together with projects CKBG 11, CKFG 17 & CKKC16c.

Cork — Togher/Mahon

CKTMD108

Childcare/CC Offices (part of Deanrock proposal)

Outline proposals for regeneration of Deanrock are being examined. [Project also referred to DJELR].

Ballymun

DUBBALENV/01

Rediscovery Centre — Waste Management Strategy

The Department is currently in the process of considering this application with a view to advising the applicant of the outcome as soon as possible. Under active consideration.

Ballymun

DUBBALSOC/01

Social Supports Initiative

Funding of €65,047 approved.

Finglas

DUBFING011

Traveller Community Centre at Avila Park

Approved as part of 6 house scheme Avila Park Phase iv.

Northeast Inner City

DUBNEIC001

Improvements flat complexes

D/EHLG is currently funding redevelopment work to a number of flat complexes in the inner city involving part demolition, new build and regeneration. €123m in total (1999 prices) provided over the period 1999-2003.

South West Inner City (Canals)

DUBSW027

Supporting the Regeneration process in St. Michael’s Estate

Dublin City Council are preparing proposals to undertake the redevelopment of St. Michael’s Estate on the basis of a public private partnership. The Department has already given approval to the City Council for the demolition of a number of flat blocks as part of the regeneration programme.

South West Inner City (Canals)

DUBSW028

Supporting the Regeneration process in Fatima Mansions

The City Council signed a contract in August, 2004 for the redevelopment of the complex as a Public Private Partnership project. The Department has already given approval to the City Council for the demolition of a number of flat blocks as part of the regeneration programme.

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown

DRDUNL034

Redevelop the housing stock at Laurel Avenue

Funding of €13.41 million approved.

Limerick — Kings Island

LIMKI 048

Establishment Anti-social Unit

Housing Management Initiative grant approved on 31 May 2004 for funding up to €21,600 in respect of salary of an anti-social behaviour official.

Limerick — Southside

LKS029

Phase II and III O’Malley Park Remedial work Scheme

Phase 1 completed. Approval to proceed to tender for Phase 2 issued July 03. Dedicated Project Officers are being recruited to implement the regeneration plan.

Clondalkin

SDCLON017

Environmental Improvements Prog — Establish and maintain a Recycling Centre (6 bottle & can banks)

Provision of 13 Bring Centres in SDub Co. Co. area approved under the Waste Management Capital Grants Scheme — total allocation €48,000.

Clondalkin

SDCLON019

To implement the Traveller Accommodation Programme in Kishogue

Tender Approved, expected to start 2005.

Clondalkin

SDCLON020

To implement the Traveller Accommodation Programme in Lynche’s Lane

Approved to go to tender.

Clondalkin

SDCLON023

In-fill housing prog — increase housing availability & decrease sites of anti-social behaviour

Eligible for NDP funding. Various proposals being processed, some under construction.

Clondalkin

SDCLON025

To enhance the funding available for the LA housing refurbishment programme in Shancastle & Greenfort

Approval has been conveyed to South Dublin County Council to proceed to a first phase of 100 houses in Shancastle and Greenfort under the Remedial Works Scheme at an estimated cost of almost €2.8 million. Work has already commenced on a number of houses.

Clondalkin

SDCLON026

To enhance the funding available for the LA housing refurbishment programme in Moorfield

Has been approved for Remedial Works Scheme funding. Budget of €3.2m approved.

Tallaght

SDTALL030

Refurbishment of Cushlawn Estate, Killinarden

Approval has been conveyed to South Dublin County Council to proceed to a first phase of 100 houses in Cushlawn Estate under the Remedial Works Scheme at an estimated cost of almost €2.8 million. Work has already commenced on a number of houses.

Tallaght

SDTALL033

Provision of Traveller Accommodation — Kiltipper

Completed June 2004.

Tallaght

SDTALL034

Provision of Traveller Accommodation — Fortunestown

Approved in principle. Awaiting cost plans from Local Authority.

Tallaght

SDTALL035

Provision of Traveller Accommodation — Belgard

Under construction.

Tallaght

SDTALL036

Extend existing Traveller Accommodation in Brookfield

Tender Approved August 2004.

Tallaght

SDTALL040SDTALL046SDTALL048

Environmental Awareness Campaign, Killinarden, Jobstown and Fettercairn.

In 2003 €20,000 was allocated from the Department together with €5,000 matching funding from South Dublin County Council to a scaled down environmental awareness programme incorporating the three designated areas of Killinarden, Jobstown and Fettercairn. The programme of environmental awareness activities will be undertaken by Dublin South County Council environmental awareness officer.

Drogheda

LTHDRO008

Estate Management Training (residents), Home management training (homemakers), Environmental Awareness Involving schools/youth and community, House Maintenance Course

Housing Management Initiative grant approved for an Estate Management Officer and various training initiatives. Funding of €32,576 paid.

Drogheda

LTHDRO18

Remedial Housing works scheme

Approval given. Council considering tenders for a pilot phase of 37 houses. Work has started on the construction of 16 old persons’ dwellings at St. Finians Park. Funding of €1,918,103 allocated.

Waterford

Refurbishment scheme at Clonard Park, Ballybeg

Refurbishment scheme at Ballybeg involves the general refurbishment of some 215 dwellings. A Pilot project was approved in November 2001 for 14 dwellings. Approval issued Feb. 04 to accept tender for a further 66 houses.

Waterford

Development of an intergrated action plan for Larchfield/Lisduggan

Funding for the appointment of an Estates Officer with responsibility for the development of an intergrated action plan for Larchfield/Lisduggan was approved under the Housing Management Initatives Grants scheme on 16 July 2002.

Waterford

WATFC033

Community Facilities — Manor St. John.

The Department has indicated its commitment to providing funding of €0.5 million for the refurbishment of the Community Facility at Manor St. John. It is understood that there is a Childcare Facility on this site.

Waterford

_

Provision for Water and Drainage Infrastructure — Kilbarry Development Area

Contract Documents are awaited in the Department. The Local Authority is currently re-examining local requirements in advance of submitting Contract Documents for approval.

Waterford

Link Road to centre of Ballybeg

Funding approved.

Waterford

WATFC035

Larchville/Lisduggan Area Plan

Manor St. John — New Housing. The Department has funded the construction of 47 houses for Manor St. John and the Scheme was completed in 2003 at a cost of over €5 million. Infill Housing and Environmental Upgrade. It is understood that a further infill housing scheme is being developed by Waterford City Council for submission to the Department. This will also include environmental works to the area. Detailed consideration will be given to the matter when specific proposals are received from the City Council.

Bray

WKBRAY003

Estate Management Development Officer for Bray

Funding of €38,700 for the appointment of an Estate Development Officer and tenants/staff training approved. Project is now completed.

RAPID Area (Strand II)

Project No.

Subject

Report / Position

Bray

WKBRAY004

Audit of Housing Stock in RAPID Area (Bray Town Council)

Funding of €25,000 approved. Project is now completed.

Bray

WKBRAY005

Audit of Housing Stock in RAPID Area (Wicklow County Council)

Project WKBRAY004 (above) has recently been extended to include dwellings owned by Wicklow County Council in the Bray RAPID area. Project is now completed.

Carlow

CW CRLW O14

Housing Management Initiative

Department has received a housing management initiative grant application from Carlow County Council (& Carlow Town Council) for funding under the 2003 Scheme. Funding up to €45,330 approved in Aug 2003.

Cavan

CN CAVN 002

Construction of Social Housing — Fair Green

Approval has issued to the Council to provide 4 apartments and 6 houses at Fair Green Hill, Cavan. The scheme is scheduled to be completed in 2004. Funding of €1.2million approved.

Cavan

CN CAVN 003

Construction of Social Housing — Tullacmongan

Construction of 18 houses was completed in July, 2004 at an estimated cost of €1.9m.

Cavan

CN CAVN 007

Construction of Central Library and Heritage Centre

Total grant-aid approved for this project is €4,742,495. Project under construction.

Cavan

CN CAVN 008

Construction of Housing at Mount St. Francis — Stage II

Under Construction.

Mallow

CK MALL 014

Estate Management — Powerscourt

Funding of up to €23,000 approved. Fully paid Aug 2003.

Youghal

CK YOUG 008

Remedial Works Scheme — Raheen Park

Works have been approved under the Remedial Works Scheme Approval of Tender and Budget cost of €137,087 issued March 04.

Youghal

CK YOUG 029

Estate Management — Greencloyne & Chestnut Drive

Funding up to €46,000 approved in Aug. 2003 under Housing Management Initiative Grant Scheme 2003.

Mallow

CK MALL 038

Gouldshill/Town Council Local Agenda Environment Partnership Fund.

This project received €1,250 from the Department’s Local Agenda 21 Environmental Partnership Fund in 2003 (€2,500 with local authority co-financing). A further grant of €7,680 was awarded on 10.03.04.

Youghal

CK YOUG 046

Local Agenda 21 Partnership Fund-Reduce Youghal’s Waste Initiative

This project has received €1,250 from the Department’s Local Agenda 21 Environmental Partnership Fund in 2003 (€2,500 with local authority co-financing). The LA21EPF Funding has been received. Applications for further funding for this project were invited in November 2003. A further grant of €5,000 was awarded on 11.12.03.

Galway

GY GLWY 012

Refurbishment of Walter Macken Flats (96 no. dwellings)

Construction work on the refurbishment works to 96 dwellings at Walter Macken Flats, Galway has commenced. The refurbishment works include the replacement of the existing flat roof, the installation of central heating, plumbing, rewiring, internal refurbishment and upgrading of the general environment of the estate. Funding of €6.3 million has been approved.

Galway

GY GLWY 013

Refurbishment of 44 no. maisonettes at Mervue

Approval has been given to the City Council to accept a tender for the refurbishment works to 44 maisonettes at New Mervue, Galway. The refurbishment works include the installation of central heating, rewiring, smoke alarms, internal refurbishment and upgrading of the general environment of the estate. Funding of €1.4 million approved.

Galway

GY GLWY 014

Housing Development at Merlin Park, Ballybane; construction of 114 houses

This development is a mix of local authority, voluntary and affordable units. The final Phase 1, Stage 3 has recently been completed at an estimated cost of €4.3m. 62 local authority houses have already been completed in Stages 1 and 2. The estimated cost of the scheme is €11.27m.

Galway

GY GLWY 015

Proposed construction of 268 new dwellings at Merlin Park

Work has commenced on the 1st phase of 52 houses at an estimated cost of €6.2m.

Galway

GY GLWY 016

Ballybane Neighbourhood Centre

The Department is providing funding of €250,000 to Galway City Council under the One Stop Shop Programme towards this development. Construction commenced. Expected completion of library and medical centre, end 2004.

Galway

GY GLWY 017

Refurbishment of 24 no. local authority houses at St. Finbarr’s Terrace, Bohermore

Designated for funding under the Remedial Works Scheme. Approval issued to the City Council in June, 2004 for a tender for a pilot phase of 24 houses at an estimated cost of €3.8m.

Galway

GY GLWY 018

Housing Management Initiative Grant, Ballinfoile

Funding of up to €45,600 approved under the Housing Management Initiative Grant scheme in 2002. €30,600 paid in 2003.

Galway

GY GLWY 019

Construction of 236 no. units at Bóthar na gCóiste, Ballinfoile

This scheme includes local authority, voluntary and affordable houses — all 126 local authority units are now completed. The total estimated cost of the scheme is €34.5m.

Galway

GY GLWY 020

Construction of 19 no. social housing scheme for elderly people and people with disabilities at Sandyvale, Ballinfoile

This scheme was completed in 2003 at a cost of €2.3m.

Galway

GY GLWY 021

Westside Housing Inclusion Project

Funding of up to €39,161 approved under the Housing Management Initiative Grant scheme in 2002. €28,639 paid in 2003.

Galway

GY GLWY 022

Westside Bris Project

Paid €8,800 in Dec 2003.

Galway

GY GLWY 025

Library at Westside

Library officially opened 23.1.04

Galway

GY GLWY 027

Redevelopment of Hillside Park and development of three group schemes

It is understood that the National Building Agency in conjunction with Galway City Council are currently formulating proposals for this major development. At early design stage.

Galway

GY GLWY 028

Construction of three group units at Bóthar na gCóiste

This scheme was recently completed at a cost of €560,000.

Tralee

KY TRAL 016

Earth Education Project

Grant of €19,020 was awarded in March 2004 in respect 2003 application.

Tralee

KY TRAL 026

Affordable Housing Proposal — Application for Site Study

Subsidy approved 9th July 2003.

Athy

KE ATHY 008

Remedial Works Scheme at Townspark and Carbury Park

An allocation of €100,000 has been made to Athy Town Council in 2004 for the scheme. Departmental approval issued in July 04 to enable the Council seek tenders for the project.

Athy

KE ATHY 009

Employment of Tenant Liaison Officer

Funding up to €31,750 approved in Aug. 2003 under the Housing Management Initiative Grant Scheme 2003. €28,800 paid in Nov. 2003.

Kilkenny

KY KLKY 011

Traveller Accommodation

Approval to go to tender 18.3.04. Expected to go to Tender before end of 2004.

Kilkenny

KY KLKY 027

Ossory Park Remedial Scheme

Work on pilot phase of 16 houses currently underway for completion by end of 2004. Detailed plans and costings awaited from the Council for Phase 2.

Longford

LDLGFD 026

Housing Management Initiative

Funding of up to €16,000 approved in Aug. 2003 under the Housing Management Initiative Grant scheme 2003.

Clonmel

ST CLON 005

Estate Management Initiative

An application has been received for funding under Housing Management Initiative Grant scheme 2003. €30,600 paid in Sept 2003.

Tipperary

ST TIPP 001

Housing Management Initiative, Tipperary Town

Funding of up to €7,500 approved. €7,500 paid in 2003.

Carrick-on-Suir

ST CKSR 010

Ballylynch Renewal Programme

Works have been approved under the Remedial Works Scheme and approval to proceed to tender stage with a pilot scheme of 10 houses was issued Oct 03. In May 04 approval was given for phase 1A of the scheme which involves the provision of central heating in 73 LA owned houses and the replacement of doors and windows in both the rented and privately owned homes. Under the terms of the RWS private householders must pay 50% of the cost of works.

Athlone

WM ATHL 005

Redevelopment of St. Mel’s Terrace

Grant aid of €50,000 has been approved under the Local Authorities PPP Fund, for a feasibility study to examine the redevelopment of St. Mels Terrace, using a Public Private Partnership approach. The study was completed in June 2004.

Athlone

WM ATHL 006

Athlone Civic Amenity Facility

Grant assistance of €860,703 approved (2003) for this project under the Waste Management Capital Grants Scheme.

Athlone

WM ATHL 028

Battery Heights Windows Replacement Programme

Major refurbishment works to Battery Heights under the Department’s Remedial Works Schemes was completed in the late 1990’s. Approval was given to the Council in July 2003 to undertake window replacement to 33 houses in the estate. It is understood that the Council are considering proposals for the regeneration of the estate. Plans at an early stage.

New Ross

WD NEWR 007

Tenant Participation Officer

Approved May 2004.

New Ross

WD NEWR 008

Bosheen Housing Estate whole estate refurbishment under the remedial works scheme

Scheme designated for funding under the Remedial Works Scheme in 1997. A comprehensive schedule of works based on the cost plan is to be submitted by the Council. New Ross T.C. plan to carry out scheme for 12 houses (specifically for Old Age Pensioners). Surveyed by National Building Agency within the last 2 months who are currently drawing up specifications. Budget to be forwarded to the Department.

New Ross

WD NEWR 017

Construction of a Waste Water Treatment Plant and inceptor sewer

Site investigation complete. An advertisement requesting interest from service providers has been published and short listing has taken place. Contract Documents are awaited in the Department from the County Council. This scheme is scheduled to commence construction late 2005.

Wexford

WD WEXF 015

Wolfe Tone Environmental Works

Refurbishment works under the Remedial Works Scheme has been completed. Approval to seek tenders for environmental works issued by the Department in January, 2004 including the construction of 5 infill houses. The local authority are to seek tenders for the project shortly.

Wexford

WD WEXF 026

Tenant Liaison Officer

Funding up to €38,195 was approved in Aug 2003 under the Housing Management Initiative Grant scheme 2003.

Wexford

WD WEXF 028

Local Agenda 21

Grant of €12,500 awarded in February 04.

Local Government Funding.

Questions (204)

Paul McGrath

Question:

201 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he intends to take to provide better value for money in local government. [27600/04]

View answer

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

While local authorities have primary responsibility for delivering value for money in their activities, my Department is actively involved on a range of fronts to ensure that this is achieved. Key initiatives by my Department include: full implementation in 2004, in co-operation with local authorities, of new financial management systems based on accrual accounting principles and incorporating balance sheets, which is designed to deliver better management information, enhanced performance management capacity and to facilitate improved value for money measurement. The introduction of five-year multi-annual capital investment programmes which provide a structured basis for the planning and delivery of all capital programmes, in a way that ensures that best value for money is achieved.

In the housing area, to maximise the benefits of this multi-annual approach, local authorities have been requested to prepare five-year social and affordable housing action plans for the period 2004-08. This plan-led approach will focus on achieving maximum output under the programmes and ensure that this output is delivered in a coherent, integrated and sustainable manner. In the area of water services, in order to deliver infrastructure more speedily and to improve operation and maintenance standards, my Department has adopted design, build and operate as the standard form of procurement for all new treatment facilities to be provided by local authorities. Public private partnerships are also being used in the areas of waste management and housing.

The first phase — demonstration and capacity building — of the local government e-procurement strategy which was adopted by my Department in 2003 is under way. The strategy will generate value for money in the local government sector through better management of the procurement process including the sourcing of lower prices, lower transaction costs and improved control of inventories. The implementation of the change agenda recommended in a report on the management of the local authority fire service published in 2002 will facilitate the development of the fire and rescue service in a way which will deliver value for money through results and continuous improvement.

My Department has encouraged local authorities to apply value for money principles in an environmental context, chiefly through the development and implementation of environmental management systems such as the eco-management and audit scheme which aims to ensure best use of all resources that have an environmental impact for example in terms of energy conservation. The use of the needs and resources model in the allocation of general purpose grants from the local government fund encourages efficient use of resources by local authorities. The introduction of local authority performance measurement indicators across a range of services will foster increased emphasis on value for money in service delivery. Economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the local government system are key elements in the terms of reference of a major independent review on local government funding which was commissioned this year. The appointed consultants are due to report early next year.

Local Authority Housing Sites.

Questions (205)

Billy Timmins

Question:

202 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he will take to encourage the provision of private sites by local authorities. [27601/04]

View answer

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

It is open to local authorities to provide housing sites at reasonable cost to assist persons in housing need to provide their own housing. Some authorities have a limited capacity to provide housing sites at reasonable cost to individuals who wish to provide their own housing because of the land requirements for a significantly increased number of projects involving the provision of social and affordable housing directly by local authorities. It is estimated that local authorities will provide around 100 sites for sale in the current year. My Department will continue to keep this measure under review.

Fire Services.

Questions (206)

Paul McGrath

Question:

203 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to improve local fire services. [27602/04]

View answer

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

Since the publication of the report Review of Fire Safety and Fire Services in Ireland, my Department has implemented a number of the important recommendations. These include the enactment of the Licensing of Indoor Events Act 2003, which addressed a number of legislative changes called for in the review. The Department is currently working to develop a coherent strategy to implement other key fire safety and fire services elements of the review recommendations. The continuing major capital investment in the fire service, including €91 million since 1997, is an indication of the Government's commitment to delivering a better service locally with improved infrastructure and additional appliances.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Questions (207, 208, 209, 210)

Seymour Crawford

Question:

204 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when funding will be made available for the extension of the water scheme in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27620/04]

View answer

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

The Carrickmacross water supply scheme has been approved for funding in my Department's water services investment programme 2004-06 under the rural towns and villages initiative with an estimated cost of €1.9 million. Monaghan County Council's preliminary report for the scheme is under examination in my Department and will be dealt with as quickly as possible.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

205 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when funding will be provided for the Monaghan town sewerage scheme; his views on whether the lack of proper collection system in Monaghan is the main cause for housing scarcity and high priced housing in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27621/04]

View answer

Significant funding has been allocated under my Department's water services investment programme 2004-06 to facilitate new house building in Monaghan. The Monaghan town sewerage scheme has been approved to begin construction in 2005 at an estimated cost of €13.2 million. Monaghan County Council's preliminary report for the scheme is under examination in my Department and will be dealt with as quickly as possible. The scheme will eliminate constraints in existing collection system and pumping capacity and will allow additional loads from the town to take up the spare capacity currently available in the town's wastewater treatment plant.

The water services investment programme 2004-06 is also funding two wastewater schemes with a combined estimated value of €5 million, under the serviced land initiative which is designed to open up additional areas for housing development. The Old Armagh Road-Castleblayney project, which is already in progress, will provide services for up to 1,000 new residential sites. The second scheme will service a further 600 residential sites in the north eastern collection area and I understand that Monaghan County Council is currently preparing detailed proposals for submission to my Department for approval. These proposals will be given early attention on receipt. Both serviced land initiative projects can be implemented independently of the Monaghan town sewerage scheme and neither is dependent on the increased collection system or pumping capacity being provided under that scheme.

Noel Grealish

Question:

206 Mr. Grealish asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the current status of the Clarinbridge water supply connection to the Tuam regional water supply scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27626/04]

View answer

The Tuam regional water supply scheme and extension to Clarinbridge is included in my Department's water services investment programme 2004-06 to commence construction in 2005. My Department is awaiting receipt of additional information requested from Galway County Council in May 2004 to enable it to finalise its examination of the contract documents for the scheme.

Dan Neville

Question:

207 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the provision of a sewerage scheme for Adare, County Limerick. [27627/04]

View answer

I refer to the reply to Question No. 496 of 2 November 2004.

Housing Grants.

Questions (211)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

208 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason a new house grant has not been granted to persons (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27638/04]

View answer

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

Subject to the other conditions of the new house grant scheme, which was terminated as and from 14 November 2002, a grant may be approved where a contract to purchase or to build a house was entered into, or in the case of a self built house, where the foundations were poured on or before 14 November 2002 and the application for the grant was received in my Department on or before 4 December 2002. In this particular case, a new house grant cannot be allowed as the contract to purchase the house was effected subsequent to 14 November 2002.

Planning Issues.

Questions (212)

Arthur Morgan

Question:

209 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is considering extending the town council boundaries of Drogheda, County Louth; if his attention has been drawn to the considerable private development already occurring immediately outside the current town council boundary; and his views on whether there is a need for extension to allow for social and affordable housing as well as green spaces and recreational development. [27672/04]

View answer

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

Under the provisions of Part V of the Local Government Act 1991 and the associated regulations, it is open to a local authority to initiate a proposal for the alteration of its boundaries. This involves preparation of a formal boundary alteration proposal by the authority concerned including financial, organisational and other implications; invitation of public submissions; and consultation with the other local authorities affected by the proposal, prior to submitting a formal application to the Minister. While a number of town boundary alterations have been made in recent years, no boundary application from Drogheda Borough Council is currently before my Department.

It should be noted that Drogheda Borough Council, Meath County Council and Louth County Council have jointly commissioned the preparation of an integrated strategic land use and transportation framework for Drogheda and its environs in Louth and Meath which broadly conforms with the national spatial strategy, the Border regional planning guidelines and the regional planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area. As part of the development plan process, housing strategies have been prepared at county level which cover the projected requirements of private, social and affordable housing in each county, taking into account demographic and economic trends. The housing strategy for Louth, therefore, covers the delivery of social and affordable housing by both the county council and Drogheda Borough Council. In addition, these authorities have prepared five-year social and affordable housing action plans for the entire area for the period 2004-08 to maximise the potential arising from the Government's decision to introduce five-year multi-annual capital investment programmes. These are currently under consideration in my Department with a view to agreeing them by the end of the year.

Childhood Development Initiative.

Questions (213)

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

210 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the publication of the research project, How are our Kids?, by the Tallaght West Childhood Development Initiative; if he will examine the recommendations in relation to the remit of his Department; if he will consult South Dublin County Council in the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27674/04]

View answer

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

I am aware of the research project referred to in the question. I will refer to its recommendations which fall within my remit.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is involved in significant housing projects in south Dublin and west Tallaght. Its commitment is indicated by the increased funding provided to South Dublin County Council for the construction of new local authority housing in recent years. The council spent €20 million providing new local authority housing in 2000, for example, and €55 million is being given to the council this year for that purpose. As a result of the record funding, the council will build over 600 houses this year. Many new houses are being provided in areas of west Tallaght such as Cushlawn, Fortunestown, Jobstown and Fettercairn. Almost 600 new houses have been completed recently or are under construction in such areas. The new housing schemes are being provided with appropriate community and crèche facilities which are essential to ensure the success of the developments, given the large number of young children who will live in the new estates. The total value of the investment in west Tallaght is over €100 million.

As well as building new houses, the council plans to upgrade and refurbish a large proportion of its many existing houses. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government approved funding of €8.7 million in 2003 for refurbishment work to over 300 houses in a number of estates in the county. The refurbishment of 100 houses in an estate in Cushlawn in west Tallaght, at a cost of €2.8 million, is well under way. The local authority is promoting a special programme to install central heating in 1,000 of its houses. It expects to install central heating in over 800 houses by the end of the year under the programme. Installation is nearing completion in over 270 units in a number of estates in west Tallaght, including Killinarden, Donomore, Dromcarra, Drumcairn, Bawnlea and Kilcarrig.

In addition to the local authority housing programme, I have approved funding of over €48 million this year for two voluntary housing projects at Kiltipper and Fortunestown, involving the provision of 268 dwelling units for households on the council's waiting list. Work on the projects is under way and the Fortunestown project should be completed early next year.

Local authorities, including South Dublin County Council, have been asked by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to produce five-year action plans relating to the full range of social and affordable housing programmes and supporting measures between 2004 and 2008. The plans will ensure that a fully strategic approach is taken by local authorities and that they avail of the certainty provided by multi-annual expenditure programmes. The main objective of the action plans is to ensure that the investment available for the programmes achieves the desired long-term effect by tackling real need and breaking cycles of disadvantage and dependency. Funding is available under the five-year multi-annual capital envelopes to that end. The action plans identify areas of need and set out how local authorities proposes to address such needs over the period of the plans. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is assessing the draft action plans with a view to finalising them by the end of the year.

The Government is committed to the better integration of service provision and the promotion of an expanded social inclusion role for local government. The county and city development boards which have been established in each county and city, including south Dublin, are led by local government. The boards bring together the public sector agencies, the social partners, local government and local development agencies to co-operate and plan for the betterment of communities. The community and voluntary forum which has been established to facilitate community representation nominates two members to the south Dublin development board. Following extensive consultation, the board produced a ten-year strategy for the economic, social and cultural development of the county, A Place for People. The strategy is being implemented by the board's member agencies. The south Dublin development board is involved in co-ordinating the RAPID programme in its area.

Strategic policy committees have been established by South Dublin County Council as part of the local government modernisation programme. Through their representation on the committees, local communities can have a real say in local authority policies, plans and programmes that affect their areas. Local authorities are drawing up corporate plans, which will be the blueprint for the delivery of their services over the next five years. They have been required to place social inclusion at the heart of the plans so that it will be part and parcel of the day-to-day work of elected members and staff.

The main objective of the pilot social inclusion unit which has been established by South Dublin County Council is to embed social inclusion across the policies and services of the local authority. All local authorities are members of the local government anti-poverty learning network which was established by the Combat Poverty Agency in 2000, in conjunction with the Departments of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Social and Family Affairs. The network has played a key role in helping local authorities to embed social inclusion in their work.

Architectural Heritage.

Questions (214, 215, 216)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

211 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of heritage projects being promoted by his Department; his plans in this regard in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27677/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

218 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of heritage projects in County Kildare which are supported by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27684/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

220 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has examined proposals for the restoration and improvement of heritage sites or buildings in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27686/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 211, 218 and 220 together.

An ongoing programme of capital investment works, involving the restoration and improvement of heritage sites in State care, is conducted by the Office of Public Works in agreement with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Under the programme, the OPW has two projects in County Kildare, at Jigginstown House in Naas and Castletown House in Celbridge. My Department also supports conservation projects under the architectural protection grants scheme which is administered by the local authorities.

The total original provision for the architectural protection grant scheme in my Department's Vote for 2004 is €3.9 million. Additional funding of €500,000 has since been made available to the scheme. It will not be possible to indicate the levels of funding which will be available for the architectural protection and conservation grant schemes in 2005 until the 2005 Abridged Estimates Volume has been published. Information on details of the allocations from the overall fund are a matter for the relevant local authorities.

My Department operates conservation grants under the urban and village renewal measure which is part of the local infrastructure sub-programmes of the regional operational programmes which run between 2000 and 2006. The total provision in my Department's 2004 Vote for the conservation grants under the urban renewal measure is €1 million. Grants of €10,000 for each of Castletown schoolhouse No. 1 and Castletown schoolhouse No. 2 were allocated in County Kildare under the scheme.

Question No. 212 answered with QuestionNo. 80.

Recycling Policy.

Questions (217)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

213 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the extent to which he intends to provide facilities for recycling of building materials; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27679/04]

View answer

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

The identification of the need for facilities to increase recycling of waste materials, including construction and demolition waste, is a matter in the first instance for local authorities in the context of their regional waste management plans, which were developed following consultation with local sectoral interests and stakeholders. The provision of such facilities in line with identified needs is primarily a matter for the private sector.

While a number of waste transfer stations accept construction and demolition waste for recycling, greater capacity is required for this waste stream. The co-operation between the construction industry and the statutory authorities in recent years on the recycling of construction and demolition waste is reflected in the significant progress which has been made in increasing the levels of recycling. An estimated 65.4% of construction and demolition waste was recovered in 2001. The industry has acted positively in establishing the National Construction and Demolition Waste Council, as a voluntary producer responsibility initiative, to oversee a comprehensive range of measures aimed at progressively increasing the recycling of construction and demolition waste.

I intend to encourage local authorities to engage proactively with local sectoral interests and stakeholders in the context of the forthcoming review of the respective local and regional waste management plans to ensure that construction and demolition waste recycling facilities are increased.

Road Network.

Questions (218, 219, 220)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

214 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the extent to which he expects to be in a position to protect heritage sites or buildings likely to be affected by new road plans or other developments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27680/04]

View answer

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

Development projects, including roads projects, require consent under the planning and roads legislation and other relevant legislation. An environmental impact assessment is required in the case of major development projects, in accordance with the requirement of EU Directive 85/377/EEC, as amended. The directive requires,inter alia, the preparation, by the proposer of the development, of an environmental impact statement setting out the details of the project and the likely significant effects of the development on the environment. This process allows for adverse effects, including those on built and natural heritage, to be identified at an early stage and necessary changes to be made on foot of recommendations made by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government or other consultees. The environmental impact statements must be taken into account by the local planning authorities, An Bord Pleanála and other consenting authorities when they are making decisions on proposed projects.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is a statutory consultee under planning, roads and other legislation in respect of individual planning applications and other specific development projects. It is consulted on the heritage implications of such projects. Recommendations made by the Department on built and natural heritage in this way are taken into account by the consenting authority in the decision-making process. Regulations made in July 2004 transpose into national legislation EU Directive 2001/42/EC, commonly known as the SEA Directive, which relates to the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment. The Department is one of a number of designated authorities which must be consulted by planning authorities at various stages of the SEA process, by reference to my Department's responsibility for the protection of architectural and archaeological heritage and nature conservation. The comments of environmental authorities on draft plans and programmes and associated environmental reports must be taken into account before the plans or programmes are adopted. I refer also to my reply to Questions Nos. 249 and 250 of 30 September 2004.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

215 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the extent to which a geo-technical or other investigative surveys are carried out on the proposed routes for new motorways with the objective of minimising impact on historic sites with consequent considerable savings to the Exchequer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27681/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

219 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has ensured the use of modern geo-technical or other scientific methods to ensure the protection of historical or otherwise sensitive sites likely to be affected by new motorway proposals in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27685/04]

View answer

I propose to take Questions Nos. 215 and 219 together.

Geophysical survey techniques are used, where appropriate, to assess the archaeological potential of the routes of proposed motorways. The use of such methods has increased in recent years and they are now used extensively during the environmental impact assessment stage and also when archaeological investigations are carried out on approved road developments. Geophysical survey techniques are used to assess the subsurface archaeological potential on the routes of proposed motorways. Other survey methods employed include the use of aerial photography, detailed topographic surveys of archaeological sites and field walking by experienced archaeologists. The records of my Department — the sites and monuments record, including the statutory record of monuments and places — and the National Museum are consulted, as are other published sources including early maps. Archaeological test excavations are carried out on the routes of approved road developments to locate sites that are not visible on the surface and to confirm the archaeological nature and extent of sites that may have been located by geophysical surveys.

Geophysical surveys were carried out in County Kildare in the corridor proposed for the M9-M10 proposed road development to inform the selection of the exact route for the motorway. Such surveys were also used on the N7 Naas Road widening and new interchanges scheme to assess the impact on archaeology and to inform the archaeological test excavation programme. The use of ground penetrating radar is being considered on the Athy inner relief scheme to locate certain features.

Question No. 216 answered with QuestionNo. 25.

Development Levies.

Questions (221)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

217 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the extent to which his Department is likely to curtail funding to the various local authorities throughout the country arising from the sharply increased development levies introduced by the authorities with his Department’s approval; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27683/04]

View answer

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

As I indicated in my response to Question No. 255 of 7 October last, income from development levies is not taken into consideration when determining grant support for local authorities. There are no proposals to alter this.

Question No. 218 answered with QuestionNo. 211.
Question No. 219 answered with QuestionNo. 215.
Question No. 220 answered with QuestionNo. 211.

Architectural Heritage.

Questions (222)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

221 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to discussions relating to the possible future restoration of Donadea Castle and building in County Kildare; if he has been in touch with the owners in this regard or vice versa; if his attention has further been drawn to the groundswell of local support for such a proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27687/04]

View answer

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

I refer to the reply to Question No. 259 on 2 June 2004.

Donadea Castle and its associated buildings are an integral part of Donadea Forest Park, which is owned and managed by Coillte Teoranta. Any development proposals in respect of the property would, in the first instance, be a matter for that organisation. My Department has not been approached by Coillte Teoranta regarding the possible restoration of the castle.

Local Authority Housing.

Questions (223, 224)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

222 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of families rehoused by the various local authorities in each of the past five years on foot of funding provided by his Department or from other sources; the extent to which the number of families on the housing lists has increased or decreased in this period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27688/04]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

223 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to meet the housing needs of families on housing waiting lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27689/04]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 222 and 223 together.

The results of the statutory assessment of local authority housing need, which was undertaken by local authorities in March 2002, indicated that a total of 48,413 households were in need of housing, of which 32,891 were households consisting of two or more persons. The total social housing output for the years 2000 to 2003, taking account of new local authority housing, vacancies arising in existing houses and output under other social housing measures, met the needs of over 8,600 households in 2000, 11,500 households in 2001, 12,700 households in 2002 and 13,600 households in 2003. It is anticipated that in 2004 the housing needs of around 13,000 households will be met.

I also refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 44 and 45 on today's Order Paper.

Question No. 224 answered with QuestionNo. 80.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Questions (225)

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

225 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the provision of a sewerage scheme for the town of Clifden, County Galway, where raw sewage is being disposed of in the bay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27722/04]

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

The Clifden sewerage scheme is included in my Department's water services investment programme for 2004 to 2006, to commence construction in 2005. My Department is awaiting receipt of additional information requested from Galway County Council in September 2003 to enable examination of the revised preliminary report for the scheme to be finalised.