I propose to take Questions Nos. 73, 101, 115, 132 and 157 together.
In law, the preparation of the Register of Electors is a matter for each local registration authority. It is their duty to ensure, as far as possible and with the cooperation of the public, the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the Register; house to house or other sufficient enquiries must be made for this purpose.
In April 2006, I announced a package of measures to assist local authorities in their work on preparing the 2007/8 Register, which included the use of Census enumerators or other temporary personnel to support local authorities in preparing the Register; over 1,500 personnel were engaged in this work.
In addition, my Department worked with a group of local authority managers and senior officials to put in place an enhanced programme for improving the next Register. Detailed procedures for the carrying out of registration fieldwork were finalised and issued to local authorities in early July. The procedures included provision for ensuring that each household was visited and provided with forms and information at least twice, if necessary. In the event that this process did not satisfactorily register the household, written notification would then be given cautioning of the danger of being omitted from the Register.
I also committed to providing additional ring-fenced financial resources to support local authorities' own spending in respect of the register campaign and advised authorities that a contribution of some €6 million can be made available in this regard. An initial allocation of some €3 million, based on the number of households in each local authority area, was made available in July to local authorities for registration work and a further €2 million in register funding is being processed.
As regards publicity and awareness, a two-stage approach was developed, involving information notices followed by an intensive media campaign. Information notices were published in the national press on 19–21 August, urging co-operation with local register campaigns. In addition, a national publicity and awareness campaign costing €1 million and involving TV, radio, press and outdoor advertising ran from 11 September.
An online register search facility was made available through local authority websites and a central website www.checktheregister.ie was also set up, containing direct links to each local authority's eReg enquiry screen, to facilitate people in checking that they are on the Draft Register.
New arrangements for the deletion of names of deceased persons from the Register are now in place: the new system allows for the efficient and timely deletion of the names of deceased persons from the Register using the Death Event Publication Service which has been developed by Reach in association with the General Register Office.
New guidance for local authorities on Preparing and Maintaining the Register of Electors was made available to authorities in electronic format on 31 May. Printed copies of the guidance were subsequently sent to all local authorities, returning officers and relevant Government Departments. In the final version of the guidance, the importance of local authorities cross-checking the Register with other databases available to them was stressed.
I provided an additional two weeks — from 25 November to 9 December — to allow persons not on the Draft Register to apply for inclusion on the Final Register to be published on 1 February 2007. That gave people over five weeks — from 1 November to 9 December — to check, and apply for entry on, the Register. Local authorities now have until 2 January to make corrections to the Draft Register; county registrars have until 12 January to make amendments to it and people interested have a legal right to be heard in this regard. I also advanced legislative provision so that lists of persons on the current register but not included on the Draft Register can be made available by local authorities. In addition, a person who is not on the Final Register may apply for inclusion on the Supplement to the Register which closes on the fifteenth day before the next polling day.
Local authorities have carried out an extensive and intensive campaign in respect of the Draft Register for 2007/8, with the information available indicating both significant numbers of additions (379,394) to, and deletions (505,042) from, the Register. Some 170,000 people were written to asking them to contact their council to confirm their details and warning of the danger of being omitted from the Register. Final figures regarding the number of additions to and deletions from the Register will not be known until authorities and County Registrars have completed their work and the final register is published in February. However, on the basis of the work already undertaken, I am satisfied there will be significant improvement in the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the Register.