Sick Pay Scheme

Questions (12)

Micheál Martin

Question:

10 Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will publish a Forfás report on the effects of changes to the sick pay regime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34026/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

I have outlined my position on this matter in previous replies given to this House — most recently in reply to Question No. 9 (Ref. 11539/12) of 29 February last from Deputy Dara Calleary.

As I indicated at that time, the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, initiated a consultation process earlier this year on the feasibility and implications of introducing a statutory sick pay scheme. This was very much a first step in considering a range of issues that need to be examined in detail before any proposals can be progressed to possible implementation. Any formal proposals for changes in the sick pay scheme would have to be examined by Government as part of the Budgetary process.

However, to assist me in my consideration of these matters generally, I asked Forfás to examine the potential impact on competitiveness and employment of statutory sick pay, if such a scheme were to be introduced in this country. The report provided to me by Forfás forms part of a deliberative process of Government business, and it would not be appropriate for me to publish the report at this stage.

Enterprise Support Services

Questions (13, 14)

Seán Crowe

Question:

11 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of seed capital scheme certificates applied for by clients of Enterprise Ireland and the number issued. [33865/12]

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Seán Crowe

Question:

16 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will promote the seed capital scheme by Enterprise Ireland. [33866/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 11 and 16 together.

In November 2011 the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, TD, announced a new Seed Capital Scheme (SCS) to encourage individuals currently or formerly in employment to establish new business ventures. The changes introduced by the Minister for Finance included a widening of the types of companies eligible under the Scheme. This widening of the scope of the scheme removed the requirement for certification by Enterprise Ireland.

The scheme provides for a refund of tax already paid by an individual who sets up and takes employment in a new qualifying business. The scheme, which is operated by the Revenue Commissioners, who have details on their website, allows for promoters of qualifying start-up companies to claim a rebate on investments made in their new enterprise based on the individual's income tax payments for the previous 6 years. The individual claiming relief must be a full time employee or a full time director of the company.

In the past entrepreneurs/investors seeking to avail of this tax relief had to seek certification from the relevant State agency supporting their sector. Enterprise Ireland, along with other Government Departments and bodies, was responsible for the provision of certificates in respect of certain qualifying trading operations.

I understand that since 2003, under the initial Seed Capital Scheme Enterprise Ireland issued approximately 335 Seed Capital Certificates. This corresponds to the number of applications for such certificates made by clients of EI. The issue of a certificate by Enterprise Ireland did not guarantee, and did not imply, that Revenue would approve a rebate under the Scheme.

Communicating information on government and agency supports that are available to companies to foster growth and enable job creation has been at the core of the Action Plan for Jobs agenda. Minister Bruton has, along with his ministerial colleagues, promoted a range of supports for business, including the Seed Capital Scheme at Action Plan for Jobs workshops across the country. Information on the Seed Capital Scheme along with other government supports is available on my Department's website under ‘Supports for Business for Job Creation and Productivity'. Similarly, Enterprise Ireland and the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBS) provide information on this and other Government supports via their websites and through regular engagement with their clients.

Media Mergers

Questions (15)

Mick Wallace

Question:

12 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will outline his discussions with the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources as regards the media mergers aspect of the consumer and competition Bill; when he plans to publish this legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33968/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

The media mergers group reported in June 2008 and made recommendations for improvement in the legal framework for considering media mergers. Although not recommended by this group, the previous Minister agreed in principle to allocating responsibility for consideration of the public interest in media mergers to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in June 2010, but this was not implemented.

On entering Government I reviewed the issue and agreed with the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to incorporate the allocation of this responsibility to him into the Consumer and Competition Bill. I brought the Heads of the Bill to Government in July 2011 and received formal approval for the drafting of the legislation. This is now underway. I plan to publish the Bill later this year.

The legislation contains a number of important commitments from the Programme for Government which I am determined to progress. They include ensuring fair operation of markets by giving full effect to the merger of the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority and introducing a legislative base for a code of practice in the grocery sector.

Discussions have taken place between officials in my Department and in the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources whilst I have engaged with my colleague the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on the matter. Minister Rabbitte recently proposed extracting the media merger provisions of this Bill and progressing a stand-alone media mergers Bill. I have carefully considered the issue. I am satisfied that we should proceed with the approach which has been approved by Government. All of the elements of the Bill are important and it would not be desirable to downgrade their implementation. Best regulatory practice dictates one should have a consolidated approach to legislation; therefore I am in favour of a single all-encompassing Bill. I have Government's approval for this approach and, having spoken to the Attorney General seeking priority drafting, notwithstanding the pressure of legislative priorities across the whole of Government, I hope to publish the Bill later this year.

I should point out that there are robust provisions in existing legislation for protection of the public interest in media mergers. Under section 23 of the Competition Act 2002, I, as Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, have the power to consider media mergers from a public interest perspective. The criteria set out in that Act include consideration of the strength and competitiveness of indigenous media business, the spread of ownership and control of media businesses in the State amongst individuals and corporations, the diversity of views reflected in the media and the market share of media businesses.

Question No. 13 answered with Question No. 6.

Employment Support Services

Questions (16, 17)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

14 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide an update on the progress of the development capital fund scheme. [33858/12]

View answer

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

37 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when funding will be made available through the development capital fund scheme. [33857/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 14 and 37 together.

The Development Capital Scheme as outlined in the Action Plan for Jobs has been developed to complement the existing suite of financial supports offered by Enterprise Ireland. A range of other initiatives are already in place for the provision of capital at the early stage and scaling phases, and a clear market failure was identified in the availability of risk capital for established companies seeking to sustain growth and achieve greater scale.

Longer-term investment capital is currently not readily available to Irish growth focused companies in either the form of debt or equity, and there is very limited private equity funds/debt available to innovative SMEs. This situation has resulted in an equity gap, which is constraining the development of a key cohort of established Irish growth companies. Development Capital can be defined as equity funding for the expansion of established and profitable firms, that is, those that have passed the start-up stage.

The exchequer funding requirement for this scheme is €50m over 10 years. It is proposed that EI will commit €25m each to two funds which will leverage a further €50m each from the private sector. Any fund investments supported by EI under this scheme would be made with the State sharing equally in the risks alongside other investors. The proposed scheme will focus on funds that provide equity or quasi debt of between €2m to €10m per investment although it is likely that many investments would be in the €2m to €5m range.

The Scheme was launched on the 12th April 2012 and a call was issued by Enterprise Ireland for ‘ expressions of interest’, from fund managers, with a closing date of 16th July 2012, for receipt of expressions.

Enterprise Ireland is currently in discussion with a number of fund managers, both local and international, regarding their interest in the scheme. On completion of the call, valid applications will be evaluated based on the published criteria and a recommendation made to the Board of Enterprise Ireland. The final commitment to invest will be made by the Board of Enterprise Ireland. Once the selected fund managers have raised sufficient capital to ‘close' their fund, funding under the Development Capital Scheme will be available to invest.

Unemployment Levels

Questions (18)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

15 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in view of the fact that regions are suffering from a higher rate of unemployment, the steps he will take to redress this differential. [33854/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

Regional differentials in economic development have many causes, reflecting different demographic, physical infrastructure, natural resources and competitive strengths. Enterprise policy can contribute to reducing regional differentials, but alone it cannot provide the solution to these many elements.

The enterprise development agencies under the aegis of my Department focus on nurturing and supporting enterprise from early stage start-up through the various stages of development. The agencies have regional structures in order to best understand and maximise regional opportunities. All companies eligible for support from the agencies have the same access to State services regardless of their location.

Different rates of grant aid are provided under EU state aid rules to reflect the greater level of enterprise support needed in some regions. In respect of IDA Ireland a key targets is that 50% of new foreign direct investment projects will be located outside of Dublin and Cork. Central to this strategy is to work with others in the regions to build on existing regional strengths.

This year to date, the IDA has announced the creation of over 5,000 new positions. The regional spread of these projects is encouraging, with Limerick, Galway, Cork, Dublin, Sligo, Dundalk, Kildare and Mayo all benefitting from job announcements.

The new positions announced by IDA alone will translate into a further estimated 1,500 jobs for the construction sector, as well as having positive knock-on effects for local services. Connect Ireland is a new initiative that will promote foreign investment with a broader regional spread.

Employment in indigenous companies supported by the agencies has a much more even regional spread and the aim of agency assistance is to achieve balanced regional growth. A central focus in our Action Plan for Jobs has been to develop policy instruments to help small and indigenous business which has a strong regional spread to establish and grow. New initiatives such as the First Time Exporters and Small Business Division, the Competitive Start Up Fund and my Department's access to finance initiatives are designed to support entrepreneurship, particularly in areas where support structures might be weaker, The reorganisation of local enterprise support and the appointment of managers to develop the potential of community enterprise centres will all help support entrepreneurship, including those who are now unemployed, across the country.

Question No. 16 answered with Question No. 11.

Enterprise Support Services

Questions (19)

Seamus Kirk

Question:

17 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the actions he has taken to assist small and medium-sized enterprises increase access export markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34021/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

Driving export growth is central to our economic recovery and it is a key focus of the Government's Action Plan for Jobs. Enterprise Ireland (EI) has established a new Potential Exporters Division, a key measure in the Action Plan for Jobs. Its role is to stimulate greater activity within companies across all regions and to reorient those demonstrating real growth potential from the domestic to the international market place.

Enterprise Ireland's 29 overseas offices and international networks have an important role to play in helping EI's client companies to access export markets, through positioning them to meet the needs of the specific international market and guiding them in the right direction regarding market contacts and introductions to potential buyers. Through this network, EI clients have secured 294 new buyers this year, while 316 buyers have been attracted to engage with indigenous companies on international business opportunities.

Another essential support to underpin the export ambitions of SMEs is developing a wider network of EU Free Trade Agreements. Free trade and more open markets for trade and investment are essential to help our exporters sell more and into more diverse markets. We know from our own experience that open markets and free trade generate economic growth and jobs. Improving trade opportunities in key markets, and especially with those with whom we already have strong export links, will be a stimulus for recovery. As 90% of future economic global economic growth is set to be generated outside Europe, it is more important than ever to expand the network of EU bilateral Free Trade Agreements. These agreements increase market access for our exporters by reducing barriers and costs to trade and investment and expanding access to public procurement markets helping exporters to consider exporting to unfamiliar high growth markets with considerable consumer spending power.

Government policy is to build on the strength of our existing markets and diversify into new ones. Ministerial-led Trade Missions are an integral part of this process, particularly in countries where government to government contacts are a prerequisite for doing business and I have first-hand experience of the importance of these Trade Missions for Irish companies seeking to win overseas contracts.

EI client companies achieved record levels of exports of €15.2bn in 2011. This exceeds the pre-recession record levels of 2008 and is the highest ever annual export gain achieved by Enterprise Ireland client companies.

Employment Support Services

Questions (20, 21)

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

18 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the targets set for enterprise and jobs bodies to develop jobs for the unemployment black spots identified by the census. [33856/12]

View answer

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

20 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps being taken to redress the unemployment black spots in counties Limerick, Cork, Waterford, Galway and Donegal as identified by the census. [33855/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 and 20 together.

The Government is tackling unemployment generally through the twin strategies of the Action Plan for Jobs and Pathways to Work. The aim of the Action Plan for Jobs is to support the creation of 100,000 net new jobs by 2016, while the objective of Pathways to Work is to provide those who are unemployed with the appropriate training and skills to avail of the job opportunities which will arise as the economy recovers. Both of these strategies are whole of Government, national strategies aimed at creating and sustaining jobs across all regions of the State. It is not possible to set detailed location-specific job targets for the Enterprise Agencies because much of the activity is enterprise led rather than agency led.

Nevertheless, the regional spread of job opportunities is a major concern and in order to improve support for job creation in the regions, I have put the following measures in place:

50% of foreign direct investments will be located outside of Dublin and Cork;

The Succeed in Ireland Initiative has been launched;

The creation of small business and first time exporters units within EI and reorganisation of the County and City Enterprise Boards;

New supports are being put in place for SMEs including microfinance and partial loan guarantee schemes;

The South East Action Plan is being progressed and

Shannon Development is being restructured.

All of the agencies have regional structures to maximise local opportunities. The CEBs are present in all of the locations mentioned. Both Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland have offices in Limerick, Cork, Waterford, Galway and Letterkenny, Co. Donegal. This regional spread allows the agencies to drive take-up of their services and supports such as entrepreneurship programmes focused on identifying new business opportunities, at a local level, thereby maximising take up and impact. In addition, EI has a network of 110 Community Enterprise Centres in operation across the regions. At present, two thirds of employment in Enterprise Ireland client companies, well in excess of 100,000 jobs, is currently located outside of Dublin.

This year to date, the IDA has announced the creation of over 5,000 new positions. The regional spread of these projects is encouraging, with Limerick, Galway, Cork, Dublin, Sligo, Dundalk, Kildare and Mayo all benefitting from job announcements.

EU Funding

Questions (22)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

19 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide an update on the due diligence process with the European Investment Fund in regard to the microfinance fund. [33869/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

The European Progress Microfinance Facility is a European Investment Fund (EIF) initiative to support entrepreneurship and employment through microfinance activities. Capped guarantees may be provided to eligible intermediaries partially covering their portfolios of micro-loans, or loan facilities may be availed of to increase lending to microenterprises.

Initial engagement has taken place between the Social Finance Foundation, who will administer the Microenterprise Loan Fund on my behalf, and the EIF in relation to availing of the EU Progress Microfinance Guarantee Facility. Formal application will be made for the EU Progress Microfinance Guarantee Facility following enactment of the legislation, which provides for the establishment of the microfinance lending entity, Microfinance Ireland, later this month. A rigorous due diligence process is required to secure EIF accreditation, and this will take place during the months of August and September, once the legislation is enacted.

Question No. 20 answered with Question No. 18.

Job Creation

Questions (23)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

21 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the total cost per job created by each of the enterprise agencies under the direction of his Department. [33876/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

As part of the Forfás Annual Employment Survey, the overall cost per job is calculated each year by reference to the cost of jobs created in companies supported by the Enterprise Development agencies, during and sustained to the end of a seven-year period.

The accepted accounting measure for cost per job is ‘Cost per job Sustained'. This is calculated by taking into account all direct agency expenditure on all agency client companies in a seven-year period. Only jobs created during, and sustained at the end of each seven-year period, are represented in the calculations. The cost per job calculation takes the total grants paid to companies to undertake development projects, at both start-up and expansion stages, and the new jobs that arise from these projects.

For 2011 the cost per job created in respect of Enterprise Ireland amounted to €12,024. For IDA Ireland, the cost per job sustained amounted to €14,202 and for Shannon Development, the cost amounted to €16,139.

For the County and City Enterprise Boards, the total average cost per job sustained within the CEB clientele network works out at €6,058.28.

The present Government will continue to champion the cause of companies that can create good jobs in sustainable activities. The Enterprise Development agencies will also play a vital role in contributing to the building of a strong, sustainable and innovative enterprise sector that will lead to the creation of employment and investment opportunities so necessary to our economic recovery.

Credit Guarantee Scheme

Questions (24, 25)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

22 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when the credit guarantee scheme will be in place. [33849/12]

View answer

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

24 Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when he believes the first guarantees will be issued to business through the credit guarantee scheme. [33850/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

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

The Report and Final Stage of the Credit Guarantee Bill 2012 was completed yesterday (Wednesday 11th) in the Dáil. As the proof of the Bill has been passed by Both Houses of the Oireachtas, it must now be submitted by the Bills Office to the President for signature. The President is required to sign the Bill within seven days of receipt.

Following the enactment of the legislation, I will then be in a position to enter into legal agreements with the participating banks to guarantee qualifying loans. It is envisaged that this process of negotiating and signing legal agreements with the banks may take a number of weeks but will be completed as expeditiously as possible.

Every effort is being made to introduce the Scheme as quickly and as smoothly as possible. In parallel with the legislative process, the Operator for the Credit Guarantee Scheme, Capita, has been conducting workshops with the banks over the past few months to ensure that the banks are prepared for the Scheme to go live as soon as possible after the enactment of the legislation. Furthermore, in accordance with section 6 of the legislation, I will be laying the detailed Scheme before both Houses of the Oireachtas within the next few weeks.

It is envisaged that the banks will roll out the Scheme as soon as possible, following the signing of the bilateral legal agreements.

Question No. 23 answered with Question No. 6.
Question No. 24 answered with Question No. 22.

Job Protection

Questions (26, 27)

Denis Naughten

Question:

25 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps he is taking to secure the jobs at the MBNA site in Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33771/12]

View answer

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

114 Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if following the successful sale of its Irish credit card business to Apollo if he will confirm if there is any further progress to report regarding the other 400 jobs currently serving the UK credit card market at Carrick-on-Shannon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34327/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 25 and 114 together.

The process regarding the sale of Bank of America's (BOA) Irish and UK credit card businesses is on-going. Negotiations regarding the sale of the MBNA Ireland portfolio have culminated in its recent sale by BOA to Apollo Global Management, a leading global alternative investment manager headquartered in New York. This transaction involves the approximately 250 employees in Carrick-on-Shannon currently supporting the Irish portfolio transferring to Apollo, under Transfer of Undertakings regulations, in 2013 following a transitionary period for a number of months commencing in 2012. I understand that Apollo and BOA are currently finalising the sale contract. IDA continues to monitor the situation closely, providing appropriate input into the process as it moves forward. The Agency is in regular contact with Bank of America management in Carrick-on-Shannon and Dublin and at corporate level to monitor developments and is also in contact with Apollo.

BOA has not yet sold the UK MBNA portfolio, which is the other business supported out of Carrick-on-Shannon. The IDA understands that the sale of this part of the business is not as advanced as the MBNA Ireland portfolio. The IDA will seek to maintain its insight into Apollo's strategy for the Carrick-on-Shannon centre and will emphasise both IDA's and the Irish Government's interest in supporting the group to build on the existing capability in Carrick-on-Shannon by adding further business in due course.

Research and Development

Questions (28)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

26 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps he is taking to ensure that small and medium-sized enterprises will avail of all supports for research and development. [33861/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

A wide range of programmes are being delivered by the Enterprise Agencies — Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland, to promote research and development and innovation and give Irish enterprise a competitive edge in the global market place.

Enterprise Ireland in particular, has a range of programmes and soft supports focusing on research, and development and innovation to facilitate and support businesses to compete sustainably in international markets. Information on all supports for research and development is available on the websites of Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland and the County Enterprise Boards.

Enterprise Ireland are engaged is a number of specific opportunities to assist the SME sector to avail of its support programmes. For example, through the Enterprise Europe Network which includes Enterprise Ireland and the Chambers of Commerce of Cork, Dublin, Galway, Sligo and Waterford, Enterprise Ireland produced a new on-line directory of innovation supports to assist companies and their advisers in sourcing the various forms of support required to promote innovation and R&D. This new directory was promoted through a series of workshops and seminars held in the various regions. The new directory is now available through the internationally co-ordinated Enterprise Europe Network website.

Enterprise Ireland has appointed 19 Advocates whose role will be to assist companies in formulating projects to develop their business through innovation and R&D. This follows on from previous successful Advocate programmes which have assisted companies to identify their best options for development of new products, processes and services.

The Industry Research and Development Group (IRDG) Innovation Network, supported by Enterprise Ireland, has been undertaking a range of successful seminars around the country including seminars on R&D Tax Credits (including a workshop on Audits), an event devoted to Services Innovation in Waterford and promotion of collaboration through the "Supporting Business In The Mid-West" seminar held at the University of Limerick. This seminar was designed to highlight the benefits of collaboration with Higher Education Institutes for businesses in the Mid-West.

The Irish Software Innovation Network (ISIN), funded by Enterprise Ireland and managed by the Irish Software Association (ISA), offers a free matchmaking and knowledge-brokering service to help software companies to identify and engage with relevant third-level research institutes.

As part of the Action Plan for Jobs Enterprise Ireland is actively working with IDA Ireland to attract 100 companies to avail of R&D tax credits for the first time. The preliminary work involves the development of an updated R&D tax credit brochure, which will be jointly issued by the two agencies later this year. The next stage will involve a series of agency workshops which will promote an understanding and use of "R&D tax credits".

Research and development support programmes and initiatives will continue to be delivered by the enterprise agencies in support of Irish businesses in order to drive growth, sustainability, exports and job creation. My department and its enterprise agencies will continue to promote the application of research and development and innovation to gain competitive advantage and to build on the strengths that have emerged from the investment to date in Science Technology and Innovation.

Proposed Legislation

Questions (29)

Mick Wallace

Question:

27 Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he plans to publish the consumer and competition Bill and introduce it to Dáil Éireann before the end of 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33967/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

The draft heads of the Consumer and Competition Bill, approved by Government in July 2011, are currently with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting and notwithstanding the pressure of legislative priorities across the whole of Government, I hope to publish the Bill later this year.

Departmental Agencies

Questions (30)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

28 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the cost of each of the international offices of the Enterprise Ireland; and the value of trade and investment generated by each. [33875/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

Enterprise Ireland (EI) operates a wide geographical network of offices across the globe (currently 29) which are central to serving Irish indigenous industry and delivering on an export led recovery for Ireland. EI's overseas staff are fully integrated into a coherent global view of client companies' business strategy and are part of integrated global sector teams working with clients, including technologists, business advisers, and other EI specialists as required. Staff are deployed within the network on the basis of identified EI client company needs.

EI's overseas network and international team are critical resources which EI is seeking to maintain at its current complement to support Irish companies increase sales from Ireland and to sustain and grow jobs in Ireland. The tabular statement below sets out the regional location of these offices, together with the EI client export sales, the percentage export growth rate in 2011 and the costs associated with each region.

Enterprise Ireland Overseas Offices

Overseas Office Network Region

EI Client Export sales by Network Region 2011

2011 EI Export growth rate

Costs 2011

Individual Office Locations

UK and Northern Europe

€7,692m

+22%

€4.974m

London

Glasgow

Amsterdam

Brussels

Paris

Stockholm

Southern Europe, Middle East and Africa

€1,706m

+8%

€2.357m

Madrid

Milan

Dubai

Riyadh

Johannesburg

Germany, Central and Eastern Europe

€1,599m

+28%

€3.144m

Prague

Moscow

Budapest

Warsaw

Dusseldorf

AsiaPacific

€978m

+17%

€4.492m

Shanghai

Beijing

Hong Kong

Singapore

Tokyo

Sydney

Seoul

New Delhi

Americas

€1,823m

+77%

€4.076m

New York

Boston

Mountain View, CA

Toronto

Sao Paulo

Rest of World

€736m

+22%

Total

€15.2bn

€19.043m

29

Job Creation

Questions (31)

Michael Colreavy

Question:

29 Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps taken by Enterprise Ireland to promote business start-up for the long-term unemployed since coming into office. [33868/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

This Government is fully committed to its role of facilitating employment creation. Since coming into office, we have been working hard to create the improved economic conditions which will support the maintenance of existing jobs and the creation of new ones. Our objective is to put the country back on the road to economic recovery and full employment.

The Action Plan for Jobs, launched in February of this year, contains over 270 actions to be implemented by all 15 Government Departments as well as 36 State agencies, and is intended to improve supports for job-creating businesses and remove barriers to employment-creation across the economy. The Plan aims to deliver on the Taoiseach's commitment to make Ireland the best small country in the world in which to do business, and increase the number of people at work in Ireland by 100,000 — from 1.8m to 1.9m — by 2016. The Action Plan for Jobs has also set the following established ambitions:

To get Ireland back to a top-five ranking in international competitiveness.

To build world-class clusters in key sectors of opportunity.

To build an indigenous engine of growth that drives up the export market share of Irish companies.

To get the number of people at work in the Irish economy back to 2m by 2020.

Enterprise Ireland has in place a number of supports to assist entrepreneurs, new start-ups, small businesses and microenterprises. Enterprise Ireland assistance to entrepreneurs and businesses encompass supports to develop and test business propositions which are at an early stage, ensuring there is a supportive environment including financial support for eligible start-up companies. Anyone interested in these supports should consult the agency's website at www.enterprise-ireland.com.

Labour activation measures specifically targeted at the long term unemployed are a matter for the Minister for Social Protection. That Department operates a number of schemes which are aimed increasing the rate of business start-up and entrepreneurship among the long-term unemployed, such as the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance. This allowance is designed to encourage the long term unemployed to take up self employment opportunities by allowing them to retain a reducing proportion of their social welfare payment plus secondary benefits over two years.

The Office of the Revenue Commissioners also operates tax schemes which are aimed at new start-up businesses, such as a Tax Exemption for New Start-up Companies and the Seed Capital Tax Relief Scheme. Further information on these schemes can be found at www.revenue.ie. Please find appended information regarding Seed Capital Scheme, 3 Year Corporate Tax Exemption and Back to Work Enterprise Allowance.

Seed Capital Scheme.

If you start up and work full-time in your own company, you can claim back the income tax you paid in the previous 6 years to invest equity into a company (subscribed as shares) engaged in a qualifying trade. The amount of relief is restricted to the amount of the investment. Since November 2011, the scheme is open to a much wider range of sectors. The ceiling on recoverable tax can now be up to €100,000 in each of the 6 look back years.

3 Year Corporate Tax Exemption

The scheme provides relief from corporation tax on the trading income and certain gains of new start-up companies in the first 3 years of trading. There will be full relief on income and gains relating to the trade where total corporation tax liability in any of the first 3 accounting periods does not exceed €40,000. There will be marginal relief where the tax liability falls between €40,000 and €60,000. You can earn €120,000 tax free per year for the first 3 years.

Back to Work Enterprise Allowance

If you have been signing on for over 12 months and you would like to become self-employed, the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) allows you to keep your social welfare payment for 2 years (Year 1: 100%, Year 2: 75%). To qualify, you must be setting up a business that a Local Integrated Development Company or a Facilitator has approved in writing in advance. A short-term Enterprise Allowance can be claimed by anyone who has lost their job and who is eligible for Jobseekers' benefit. It runs until your Benefit payment would have expired.

EU Funding

Questions (32)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

30 Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the target date to secure European Investment Fund approval for the microfinance guarantee facility. [33870/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

The European Progress Microfinance Facility is a European Investment Fund (EIF) initiative to support entrepreneurship and employment through microfinance activities. Capped guarantees may be provided to eligible intermediaries partially covering their portfolios of micro-loans, or loan facilities may be availed of to increase lending to micro-enterprises.

Initial engagement has taken place between the Social Finance Foundation, who will administer the Microenterprise Loan Fund on my behalf, and the EIF in relation to availing of the EU Progress Microfinance Guarantee Facility. Formal application will be made for the EU Progress Microfinance Guarantee Facility following enactment of the legislation, which provides for the establishment of the microfinance lending entity, Microfinance Ireland, later this month. A rigorous due diligence process is required to secure EIF accreditation, and this will take place during the months of August and September, once the legislation is enacted.

Enterprise Support Services

Questions (33)

Gerry Adams

Question:

31 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when the financial support will be available to allow the small and medium-sized enterprises to access cloud computing. [33851/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

There are various supports currently available to businesses which may wish to operate from a cloud computing platform. Enterprise Ireland proactively supports the development of its client companies in meeting the challenges posed by Cloud Computing through the application of a range of existing financial supports including:

Feasibility study grants to investigate business opportunities;

R&D grants to support the development of new products and processes;

Support for LEAN initiatives aimed at productivity improvement and the development of new business models;

Investment in HPSUs with Cloud based technologies and services (Specifically through the Innovative Start-up, Overseas Entrepreneur, Competitive Start and iGAP programmes); and

Innovation Vouchers/Partnerships to support Industry/Third Level collaboration.

In addition to this Enterprise Ireland is engaged in a range of activities with client companies to promote Cloud opportunities and advise companies on what they need to know to take advantage of the Cloud, including an awareness campaign and transitional support. Under the Technology Centres programme, EI and IDA have jointly supported a Cloud Technology centre which will conduct research aimed at producing technologies for use by both SME's and larger companies in exploiting Cloud computing opportunities.

A key part of our Action Plan for Jobs is to ensure that we have more businesses establishing, succeeding, investing, expanding, and creating employment. To achieve this, we are implementing a series of targeted initiatives to make it easier for small businesses to access credit. The Microenterprise Loan Fund Scheme, which is expected to be operational from early autumn, will facilitate up to €40million in additional lending to microenterprises over the next five years. I am also in the process of introducing the Temporary Partial Loan Guarantee Scheme for SME's who, because of lack of collateral or because of the sector they operate in, face difficulties in accessing traditional bank credit.

These initiatives coupled with existing actions in respect of the Innovation Fund and the Development Capital Scheme will strongly contribute to addressing the credit needs of business and facilitate business modernisation and expansion, and the creation and maintenance of jobs.

Community Enterprise Centres

Questions (34)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

32 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will report on the recent announcement of the awarding of funding for business development managers at 37 community enterprise centres across the country; when the funding will be made available in order that local job and business support agencies including a council (details supplied) can appoint a new business development manager; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33772/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

I recognise the importance of a business development function within community enterprise centres and I recently announced funding to support the appointment of Business Development Managers to 37 community enterprise centres as part of a €2m Programme managed by Enterprise Ireland. This announcement follows on from a Government commitment under Action Point 2.5 of the Action Plan for Jobs 2012. This initiative is aimed at protecting and growing businesses in the community.

I understand that the particular Council to which the Deputy is referring has been allocated funding to support the employment of a Business Development Manager and was notified in writing by Enterprise Ireland last month. It is now a matter for the Council concerned to pursue the appointment or the retention in employment of a Business Development Manager as appropriate.

Job Initiatives

Questions (35)

Denis Naughten

Question:

33 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps he is taking to support enterprise development in the midland and western regions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33770/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

Supporting new and existing indigenous and foreign-owned businesses, across all regions, is central to our plans for recovery, growth and jobs. The Action Plan for Jobs contains a number of measures which are aimed specifically at the facilitation and incentivisation of national enterprise development from start-ups to growth companies. It also sets out measures that will enhance linkages between foreign owned multi-national and indigenous Irish companies through for example, enhanced sub-supply opportunities.

The Plan is a whole Government plan with a national focus across all regions. In addition to a continued focus on supporting and growing enterprise, the Action Plan for Jobs sets out an ambitious plan for developing employment initiatives within communities. The range of actions set out in the plan recognises that while it is Government who will create the right operating environment for business growth and job creation, it is the local entrepreneurs who will create the jobs.

The Enterprise Development agencies will be at the forefront of implementing the Action Plan for Jobs across all regions and will ensure that local enterprises can maximise their contribution to economic and jobs growth. In terms of the specific supports delivered, a total of €15m was approved to indigenous companies in the Midland and Western Regions in 2011, supporting more than 18,000 jobs. Additionally, IDA-supported companies employed over 17,500 people between the two regions.

From the beginning of 2011 to date, IDA Ireland has announced the creation of more than 1,200 jobs across the two regions in locations including Galway, Tullamore, Athlone and Castlerea Co. Roscommon. Of the 92 High Potential Start-ups assisted by Enterprise Ireland throughout the country in 2011, four are based in the Midlands region and eight in the West. In addition, Enterprise Ireland hosted Exporting Awareness Events last March and May in Athlone and Galway respectively, attracting over 160 attendees between them who were either first time or early stage exporters. EI funding for Innovation Partnership and Research Funding to the Third Level Sector in the Midlands Region in 2011 amounted to €854,796 for eight projects.

Live Register

Questions (36)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

34 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in view of the differing levels of unemployment identified in the census and the live register, if he will provide the rate that is used by his Department. [33853/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

In common with other Government Departments, my Department looks to the International Labour Organisation(ILO) measurement of unemployment in the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS), as the primary measure of unemployment.

The QNHS uses the International Labour Office (ILO) standards for the measurement of employment and unemployment. These standards establish objective criteria which allow the proper identification of the employment status of individuals based on their activity. By applying these standards, the QNHS allows estimates to be derived which are comparable with other countries. It is also consistent in application over time thereby facilitating a trend analysis which is critical from a policy perspective. This approach is in accordance with international practice whereby estimates based on ILO standards are seen as the preferable source of estimates of unemployment, rather than registered unemployment figures such as those based on the Live Register in Ireland or those derived from the Census.

The Census is different in several respects from the QNHS. The main differences are that the Census uses a subjective question relating to a person's Principal Economic Status (PES), whereas the ILO definition used in the QNHS is a much more strict definition of unemployment, and therefore tends to be lower. To be unemployed under the ILO definition, persons must be without work in the week before the survey and available for work within the next two weeks, and had taken specific steps, in the preceding four weeks, to find work. The ILO definition is internationally recognised and is used for cross country comparisons. In addition, the mode of the survey used in the Census is very different as a responsible adult must provide information for members of the household, while the QNHS is administered by way of a face to face interview. Accordingly, the unemployment information collected on the Census is not comparable to the QNHS. The Live Register is not used to measure unemployment, as it can, for example, include people who are working part-time. It is, however, used as an indicator of changes in the trend in the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate as it is more up-to-date than the QNHS.

Job Creation

Questions (37)

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

35 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide a detailed breakdown of the types of jobs created in Cork since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33969/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

The information compiled by the Enterprise Development agencies does not include details of the types of jobs created in Cork. However, I can provide the Deputy with information regarding jobs in Enterprise Development agency-supported companies based in Cork, which are compiled in the Forfás Annual Employment Survey. Because the figures are compiled on an annualised basis, the figures for 2012 will not be available until the early part of 2013. The figures in respect of jobs created, in various sectors, in agency-supported companies in Cork in 2011 are set out in the table accompanying this reply. The Deputy may wish to consult with the Central Statistics Office as regards overall numbers of jobs created in Cork.

Jobs Created in Enterprise Development Agency-Supported Companies in Cork in 2011

Sector

Number of Full Time Equivalent Jobs Created in 2011

Manufacturing

1,751

International Services

1,163

Financial Services

56

Miscellaneous Other Employment

102

Total

3,072

Cross-Border Enterprise Initiatives

Questions (38)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

36 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when he will conclude the consideration of the cross Border studies report and proposals for a border development zone. [33864/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

In general, the report is an extensive piece of work which identifies current cross-border economic realities and places them in their historical context. Its focus on a possible framework for cross border development is welcome and is an important contribution to both Governments' consideration of the issues involved. However, the question of establishing a border development zone raises considerable challenges, particularly in the current economic climate and against the backdrop of competing policy and institutional priorities.

In the context of regional and all-island economic development, and recognising opportunities to pursue mutually beneficial cross border co-operation on aspects of economic policy and infrastructure/spatial planning, IDA Ireland already cooperates extensively on a number of initiatives with Invest Northern Ireland. Both agencies also share a strategic focus on attracting companies from the targeted sectors of ICT, Financial Services and Clean technologies.

An example of co-operation between IDA Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland is the joint development of the North West Business and Technology Zone Initiative (NWBTZ) (North West NOW). The fundamental aim has been to capitalise on the combined strengths of Letterkenny and Derry City as an economic corridor. The focus has been on developing compatible infrastructure and property solutions, which are now in place, and make the region more attractive for investment.

There is also close co-operation between Invest NI and Enterprise Ireland. The clients of each agency can access the services provided of the others including market services, trade missions, trade fairs, seminars etc. For example, Invest NI clients can participate in Enterprise Ireland management development programmes such as Leadership 4 Growth and International Selling.

Question No. 37 answered with Question No. 14.

Research and Development

Questions (39)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

38 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps he is taking to streamline the application process and support in respect of research and development across Departments. [33862/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

There is a wide range of diverse supports for different types of research and development across a number of Government Departments and State Agencies. There are no plans, at present, to streamline application processes for this diverse range of R&D supports across all research funders. The application criteria for research in, say, medical devices would be very different from the application criteria for an energy project.

However, in line with the recommendations of the Research Prioritisation Steering Group's Report, for the purpose of competitive calls for funding, research funding Agencies will be adapting their application process to the stage-gate process. This means that research funders will consider how to assess relevance to, and impact on, one of the 14 priority areas of opportunity identified as likely to deliver economic and societal impact. While obviously recognising the need to allow sufficient flexibility to accommodate the outcomes required by specific programmes, it is envisaged that Agencies will ensure that relevance to the priority areas is one of the key criteria in assessing applications and in this way will ensure a degree of consistency across agencies. The stage gate model will not apply to in-company R&D funding.

In addition, the Research Prioritisation Steering Group's Report recommended there should be coherence and a consistency of approach between funding programmes to reduce the administration burden on both agencies and applicants and also to allow for system level evaluations. Implementation of this recommendation will be considered by the Prioritisation Action Group in as part of its ongoing sequencing of reforms.

Unemployment Levels

Questions (40)

Martin Ferris

Question:

39 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the way in which unemployment levels are reflected in budget allocations across enterprise agencies. [33873/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

The budgetary allocations of the Enterprise Agencies take account of a range of factors, including the anticipated demand for key programmes and services, as well as new policy initiatives by the Government.

The Government's Infrastructural and Capital Investment Programme 2012-2016 which was published on 10 November 2011 has a particular relevance for my Department in terms of supporting job retention and creation. The capital investment programme covers a broad range of critical areas including economic infrastructure, environmental infrastructure and social investment.

In total, €2.334 billion in capital investment is provided to my Department for jobs, enterprise and innovation over the period from 2012 to 2016. There is an increase in the annual allocation for enterprise support from €508 million in 2011 to its highest ever level of €514 million in 2012, reflecting the priority accorded to job creation by the Government. Continued investments in research, technological development and innovation have been and will remain a pivotal element of our enterprise development offering to 2016.

A number of new initiatives will also be funded through my Department's Budget, including a Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme, a Microenterprise Loan Fund, a Development Capital Scheme, Innovation Fund Ireland and the Succeed in Ireland initiative.

All of the initiatives funded by my Department and its Agencies will support economic growth and job creation, thereby having a positive impact on unemployment levels.

Job Statistics

Questions (41)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

40 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of jobs created on an annual basis in each of the past three years and to date in 2012; the numbers of which were in the manufacturing, services and IT sectors; the number of jobs lost in each category in the same period; the extent if any to which he intends to specifically target particular headings in order to address emerging trends; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33900/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

The figures in respect of jobs in Enterprise Development agency-supported companies and those supported by the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) are compiled in the Forfás Annual Employment Survey and the CEB Annual Employment Survey respectively on an annualised basis. The figures in respect of jobs created and lost in Enterprise Development agency-supported companies in 2011 are set out in the table accompanying this reply. The figures refer to the manufacturing and services sectors. As the figures are compiled on an annualised basis, the figures for 2012 will be available in the early part of 2013.

The Deputy may wish to consult with the Central Statistics Office as regards jobs created and lost in the economy as a whole.

The Action plan for Jobs 2012 contains a number of sectoral-focused initiatives that include the sectors outlined by the Deputy. These include the establishment of a Manufacturing Development Forum, to identify the needs of that sector which is being led by my Department and implementing an action plan to address the skills needs of the ICT sector, which is being led by my colleague the Minister for Education and Skills.

Jobs Created in Agency-assisted companies in the Manufacturing and Services Sectors

Sector

2009

2010

2011

Manufacturing

6,794

8,167

9,042

Services

6,590

11,371

11,191

Total

13,384

19,538

20,233

Jobs Lost in Agency-assisted companies in the Manufacturing and Services Sectors

Sector

2009

2010

2011

Manufacturing

28,711

14,289

9,423

Services

14,711

9,101

6,130

Total

43,422

23,390

15,553

Job Creation

Questions (42)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

41 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which he has identified those parts of his portfolio of jobs, enterprise and innovation which have performed best in terms of job retention and job creation over the past 12 months with particular reference to making the greater contribution to growth and economic recovery; if he will identify specific areas for improvement which might further enhance growth and economic prospects in the short to medium term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33899/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

The jobs, enterprise and innovation elements of my Department's portfolio are inextricably linked.

For example, the competitive advantage created by the use of technology and innovation is a key driver in achieving Irish economic recovery and supports job creation. In 2011, over €700m of IDA investment projects were in research, development and innovation; these investments are supporting direct and indirect jobs in the economy. Companies that undertake Research and Development and capitalise on innovation have also shown a greater resilience during the economic crisis. Export and employment levels in indigenous firms engaged in R&D consistently outperform those of firms not engaged in such activities.

My Department's enterprise agencies provide a comprehensive range of assistance to enterprises to support their growth and underpin job creation.

In 2011, IDA Ireland supported the creation of over 11,594 new full time jobs, while 6,950 jobs were lost, giving a net increase of 4,544 jobs in the period.

Enterprise Ireland supported the creation of just over 9,000 new full time jobs last year. While a similar number of jobs were lost, this was a very strong performance after three successive years of job losses far exceeding the number of jobs created. In addition, Enterprise Ireland client companies achieved record levels of exports of €15.2bn in 2011. This exceeds the pre-recession record levels of 2008 and is the highest ever annual export gain achieved by Enterprise Ireland client companies

We will build on all of these positive developments. Up to the end of June this year, there have been 49 new announcements by the IDA, with the potential to create almost 5,500 jobs. Enterprise Ireland has announced details of supports to companies which have to potential to see over 2,000 jobs come on stream. This represents a very strong performance in the face of intense competition for Foreign Direct Investment and a challenging domestic environment.

Enterprise Support Services

Questions (43)

Gerry Adams

Question:

42 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when the support will be available for small and medium-sized enterprises to develop a presence on the internet. [33852/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

As recognised in the Action Plan for Jobs 2012, internet communications is set to be one of the fastest growing sub-markets within ICT, with potential growth rate as high as 20 percent per annum over the next decade. Therefore, small and medium enterprises need to concentrate on developing this resource as a major tool for their day to day business. Already Enterprise Ireland provides a number of supports to help SMEs in this area. Enterprise Ireland formulated and developed a funding support programme called the eBusiness Management Initiative (eBMI) to assist SMEs in developing their online marketing potential. To date 356 client companies have received support under this Initiative and the approved value of this support is €5.4m.

Additionally, Enterprise Ireland has a dedicated resource called the Internet Marketing Unit. The Internet Marketing Unit is focused on helping client companies to exploit the Internet as a route-to-market, and to assist companies develop a strategy that will shape how they do business online. The Unit provides a range of services, including strategic guidance, workshops and seminars and funding support. This Unit also runs a number of eMarketing and Social Media events for clients each year. These events have become extremely popular and are always full to capacity. The Unit regularly publishes case-studies and other online marketing collateral through Enterprise Ireland's website.

Another initiative, the Internet Growth Acceleration Programme (iGap), has been launched by Enterprise Ireland in conjunction with the Irish Internet Association (IIA), which is an intensive management development programme aimed exclusively at high potential internet/games companies. This programme has been very successful and is now in its third year. To date, 62 companies (122 promoters) have completed the iGAP programme. The fourth iGAP will be launched in October 2012. iGAP has, over the last 36 months, equipped promoters within the Irish internet/Games industry with the practical tools needed to formulate aggressive international growth plans and scale their businesses. iGAP incorporates practical learning from world-class serial entrepreneurs, it is delivered over six monthly modules and covers fundamental topics integral to building a global internet business. The modules are combined with more intensive support from an implementation coach who supports the participating companies as they complete their programme milestones.

The County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) provide a range of grants to eligible micro-enterprises, which can cover all business costs directly attributable to growing and developing a business, as well as training and one-to-one mentoring initiatives to assist individual businesses develop as appropriate to their remit and the needs of the business. In addition, where appropriate opportunities present to offer additional services, the CEBs act in conjunction with other organisations, such as Google in their recent "Getting Business Online" to make additional services and supports available. In 2011 CEBs provided over 100 training seminars in the "Getting Business Online" initiative, resulting in the creation of almost 900 new business websites.

To date in 2012, CEB locally-arranged training includes topics such as: ‘ICT Essentials for SMEs', ‘Social Media for Your Business', ‘Blogging Effectively for Your Business', ‘E-Marketing', ‘Digital Marketing Strategy and Website Analytics', and ‘Getting Irish Business Online' training.

Research and Development

Questions (44)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

43 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the target date for the achievement of 3% of gross domestic product spent on research and development in view of recent assessments of growth. [33863/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

Under the Europe 2020 Strategy, the European Council adopted a number of headline targets, including improving the conditions for research and development, in particular with the aim of raising combined public and private investment levels to 3% of GDP by 2020. In accordance with the Strategy, Member States have adopted national targets on the basis of these headline targets, as set out in their National Reform Programmes, taking account of their relative starting positions and national circumstances and Ireland's target in relation to R&D is as set out above.

In light of current economic circumstances and participation in the EU/IMF Programme, Ireland's National Reform Programme, transmitted to the European Commission on 29 April 2011, specified that Ireland's target in relation to expenditure on R&D is to improve the conditions for research and development, in particular with the aim of raising combined public and private investment levels to 2.5% of GNP (approximately equivalent to 2.0% of GDP) by 2020.

Job Initiatives

Questions (45)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

44 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if in view of the unemployment figures at unemployment exchanges (details supplied) in Dublin 5 and 13 since 2008 he will outline his plans to address this jobs catastrophe in conjunction with the city and county enterprise boards, the Northside Partnership and the Fingal Leader Partnership; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33773/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

The Government is tackling unemployment generally through the twin strategies of the Action Plan for Jobs and Pathways to Work. The aim of the Action Plan for Jobs is to support the creation of 100,000 net new jobs by 2016, while the objective of Pathways to Work is to provide those who are unemployed with the appropriate training and skills to avail of the job opportunities which will arise as the economy recovers. Both of these strategies are whole of Government, national strategies aimed at creating and sustaining jobs across all regions of the State.

I have met with the representatives of small business in North Dublin and recently held a public meeting with small businesses on the Northside to discuss the Action Plan for Jobs. The concerns raised included access to finance, competitiveness of costs and rates, prompt payments, VAT thresholds, enterprise supports, regulatory burdens, employer costs and sectoral opportunities.

The Action Plan for Jobs addresses many of these concerns of small business with specific initiatives. They are currently in the course of implementation and will benefit small businesses on the Northside. A key measure in the Action Plan for Jobs is to facilitate the development by Dublin City University of the vacant former Enterprise Ireland site in Glasnevin into an internationally recognised "Innovation Campus", involving a partnership of education and research institutions, enterprises and the semi-state sector. Its focus will be on research-active Cleantech firms.

The Agencies under my Department are also rolling out their plans of support for businesses on the Northside. Enterprise Ireland is actively promoting entrepreneurship in Dublin and provides a range of enterprise programmes and other initiatives to approximately 500 companies on the Northside ensure that emerging technologies and business ideas with export potential are supported to become a commercial reality.

There are currently 1,290 Enterprise Ireland client companies in Dublin City and Fingal County, employing over 27,000 people in full time employment and almost 5,600 people in contract or part time jobs. In 2011, Enterprise Ireland paid out €21.5m in funding to client companies in Dublin City and €4.6m to companies in Fingal. To date in 2012, the agency has paid out more than €7m to companies in the areas covered by Dublin City and Fingal.

In February this year, Enterprise Ireland launched a new Community Enterprise Centre (CEC) Programme for the maintenance or establishment of a strong business development function in Community Enterprise Centres funded by the agency. Since the foundation of the first CEC Programme in 1989, Enterprise Ireland has paid out more than €2.4m in funding to six Community Enterprise Centres on the Northside of Dublin, two of which are based in Coolock and Darndale. Dublin City Enterprise Board and Fingal County Enterprise Board support enterprise development and job creation throughout the Northside of Dublin, through the provision of both direct and indirect assistance for small business. Hundreds of companies will benefit from start-up grants, mentoring and management development training.

International Agreements

Questions (46)

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

45 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if Ireland has been approached about joining the Open Government Partnership; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that many of our EU partners are already members; if he will consider getting Ireland to sign up to this multilateral initiative to make governments better; if he will endeavour to make contact with the Open Government Partnership regarding joining; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34225/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is an ad hoc international initiative which was launched in 2011 and which is overseen by a multi-stakeholder International Steering Committee involving Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as civil society representatives. The aim of the organisation is to promote progress by participating states in relation to enhanced transparency and anti-corruption measures. To my knowledge, the Government has not been in receipt of any approach by the OGP to join the organisation and the question of possible participation by Ireland has not yet been examined. It would be necessary as part of any such examination to consider, in conjunction with the other relevant Government Departments, the potential added value of membership as well as the resources implications.

Ireland participates at EU level and within the OSCE, OECD, Council of Europe and United Nations frameworks in efforts to promote cooperation on, and improvement in, transparency and anti-corruption measures. We ratified the UN Convention Against Corruption in 2011 and are also a party to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. During the Nineteenth Session of the UN Human Rights Council in March 2012, Ireland co-sponsored a resolution on "The role of good governance in the promotion and protection of human rights", which was adopted by the Council. This encouraged States to ratify the UN Convention Against Corruption and emphasised the role of good governance in the full realisation of human rights, sustained economic growth, sustainable development and the eradication of poverty and hunger.

Flood Relief

Questions (47)

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

46 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Finance if he intends to establish a fund to assist business owners whose properties were affected by the recent flooding in the Cork region; the amount of money to be allocated to this purpose and the way in which it will be administered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34051/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

As Minister for Finance I do not have a role in determining whether or not such a fund should be set up. However, I am in discussion with my Ministerial colleagues with a view to determining what reliefs could be made available.

In addition, the Office of Public Works has been allocated funding for the provision and management of flood alleviation works and for the assessment and planning for flood risk.

My colleague the Minister for Social Protection also has two schemes in place that, subject to certain criteria being satisfied, can assist households who have been the victims of flooding. These schemes are called "Exceptional Needs Payments" and "Urgent Needs Payments".

Under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme, the Department of Social Protection can make a single payment to help meet essential, once off, exceptional expenditure, which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. These payments are known as "Exceptional Needs Payments".

In addition to the payment of Exceptional Needs Payments, Supplementary Welfare Allowance legislation provides for assistance in the form of an urgent needs payment. In certain circumstances, this payment can be made to persons who would not normally be entitled to Supplementary Welfare Allowance. Examples of situations where such assistance may be provided would be in the aftermath of flooding or a domestic fire where the immediate needs, such as food, clothing fuel, household goods and perhaps shelter of the people affected may be met by an urgent needs payment in cash or in kind.

Disabled Drivers

Questions (48)

Anthony Lawlor

Question:

47 Deputy Anthony Lawlor asked the Minister for Finance the reason a person who is without or lost the use of one leg may be eligible for the disabled drivers tax relief scheme but a person must have lost or be without the use of both arms before they can be deemed eligible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34062/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and VRT (up to a certain limit) on the purchase of a car adapted for the transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities, to those who meet certain disability criteria. The disability criteria for eligibility for the tax concessions under this scheme are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994 (S.I. 353/1994). To get the Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must be severely and permanently disabled and satisfy one of the following conditions:

a) be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs;

b) be wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs;

c) be without both hands or without both arms;

d) be without one or both legs;

e) be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg;

f) have the medical condition of dwarfism and have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

The scheme began in 1968 as a relief from road tax on motor vehicles for mainly wheelchair users with the initial disability criterion at a) above. After a review of the operation of the scheme in 1989, new Regulations were drawn up and the disability criteria at b), c), d) and f) were included. The disability criterion at e) was included in 1994.

A special Interdepartmental Review Group reviewed the operation of the Disabled Drivers Scheme. The terms of reference of the Group were to examine the operation of the existing scheme, including the difficulties experienced by the various groups and individuals involved with it, and to consider the feasibility of alternative schemes, with a view to assisting the Minister for Finance in determining the future direction of the scheme.

The Group's Report, published in July 2004, sets out in detail the genesis and development of the scheme. It examines the current benefits, the qualifying medical criteria, the Exchequer costs, relationship with other schemes and similar schemes in other countries. The Report also makes a number of recommendations, both immediate and long-term, referring respectively to the operation of the appeals process and options for the future development of the scheme.

In respect of the long-term recommendations, including the qualifying disability criteria, given the scale and scope of the scheme, further changes can only be made after careful consideration. For this reason, the Government decided that the Minister for Finance would consider the recommendations contained in the Report of the Interdepartmental Review Group in the context of the annual budgetary process having regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme. This consideration is undertaken on a regular basis.

Tax Code

Questions (49)

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

48 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance the amount received in 2011 from the ending of the exemption from benefit-in-kind tax for employer provided child care; the amount received to date in 2012; the expected amount for 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34118/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

The provision of certain free or subsidised child care facilities by employers were exempt from a benefit-in-kind charge on the employees that availed of such facilities. This exemption was abolished in Budget and Finance Act 2011. With a view to keeping the scheme simple and reducing administration on the part of employers, there was no notification procedure for employers involved. Accordingly, the Revenue Commissioners do not have separately identifiable costs or statistics for the scheme. It was estimated at the time of Budget 2011 that its abolition would yield €3 million to the Exchequer in 2011 and €6 million in a full year.

Cost was not the only factor that was taken into account when the decision was taken to abolish the exemption. Indeed, the Commission on Taxation recommended its abolition, citing equity, due to the likelihood that only large employers would have the ability to make the necessary investments.

Notwithstanding the abolition of this relief, a number of other support measures are in place to ease the burden on working parents. These include the Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) programme, which funds community child care services to enable them to charge reduced child care fees to qualifying parents, the Childcare Education and Training Support (CETS) programme which provides free child care places to qualifying FAS and VEC trainees and the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme which provides for a free preschool year for children in the year before commencing primary school. Generous entitlements to paid and unpaid maternity leave as well as child benefit payments are also provided.

EU-IMF Agreement

Questions (50)

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

49 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance the way he expects to achieve the commitment with the EU and IMF through the memorandum of understanding to deliver full year savings of €940 million in tax relief in the broad pension tax relief area in the period to 2014; the measures that have been taken to date to achieve same; the savings that have resulted from those measures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34119/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

The agreement reached with the EU/IMF in 2011 included implicit commitments to deliver full year savings of €940m in tax relief in the broad pension area in the period to 2014. Budget and Finance Act 2011 contained measures estimated to deliver about €290m of savings in this area (in full year terms). The measures included: removal of employee PRSI relief and the application of the USC to employee pension contributions; removal of employee PRSI relief and the application of the USC to the public service pension-related deduction; reduction by 50% in employer PRSI relief on employee pension contributions; reduction in the annual earnings limit for determining maximum allowable pension contributions for pension purposes from €150,000 to €115,000 per annum; reduction in the maximum allowable pension fund on retirement to €2.3 million from 7 December 2010; increase from 3% to 5% in the annual imputed distribution applying to the value of Approved Retirement Fund (ARF) assets; reduction in the lifetime limit of tax-free retirement lump sums to €200,000 with tax applying to amounts in excess of this amount on a staged basis.

Further to these measures, Finance (No. 2) Act 2011 introduced the pension fund levy which raised over €460 million. When taken with the Budget and Finance Act 2011 measures, this represents an overall full year contribution of €750 million from the pensions sector coming into 2012. In addition, in Budget and Finance Act 2012, further changes were made to the tax arrangements in the pensions area (including the removal of the remaining employer PRSI relief on employee pension contributions and an increase from 5% to 6% in the annual imputed distribution from higher value ARFs). These changes are estimated to yield about €95 million in a full year.

In my Budget 2012 speech, I made the point that while the EU/IMF Programme included a commitment to move to standard rate tax relief on pension contributions I did not propose to do this or to make changes to the existing marginal rate relief at this time. I indicated that further reform of the incentive regime for supplementary pension provision will be required to make the system sustainable and more equitable over the long term and that my Department and the Revenue Commissioners would consult with the various stakeholders on this issue. That process is ongoing.

Tax Reliefs

Questions (51)

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

50 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance the estimated savings that would accrue to the Exchequer from reducing the tax relief on pension contributions from the marginal rate to either 33% at the marginal rate or if relief was standardised to 20% in a full tax year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34123/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I assume the Deputy is referring to individual pension contributions, the tax relief on which is allowed at the taxpayer's marginal tax rate — the standard or higher rate of income tax as appropriate in each case. A breakdown of the cost of tax relief on employee contributions to occupational pension schemes is not available by income tax rate, as tax returns by employers to the Revenue Commissioners of employee contributions to such schemes are aggregated at employer level. An historical breakdown is available by tax rate of the tax relief claimed on contributions to personal pension plans — retirement annuity contracts and personal retirement savings accounts — by the self-employed and others, to the extent that the contributions have been included in the personal tax returns of those taxpayers.

There is, therefore, no statistical basis for providing definitive figures. However, by making certain assumptions about the available information, it is estimated that the full-year yield to the Exchequer from confining tax relief to the standard rate of 20% in respect of individual contributions to occupational pension schemes, retirement annuity contracts and personal retirement savings accounts would be approximately €470 million.

The estimated full-year yield to the Exchequer from confining tax relief to a rate of 33% for individuals who can obtain relief at the 41% rate in respect of individual contributions to occupational pension schemes, retirement annuity contracts and personal retirement savings accounts would be approximately €180 million. It is assumed that tax relief at the flat rate of 33% would not be available to claimants who are currently confined to tax relief at the standard rate of 20%.

These estimates do not allow for possible behavioural changes that could arise from changes in the rates of relief.

Post Office Network

Questions (52)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

51 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Finance if he will formulate a strategy to ensure that a network of sub post offices serving all of Ireland will be sustained into the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34135/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I have no role in relation to An Post. The Government's core policy goal for the postal sector is to ensure that Irish customers, both business and residential, enjoy competitively priced, high quality postal services. The Government is committed to a strong and viable An Post and supports its maintenance of the maximum number of economically viable post offices. While I do appreciate the importance of post offices to communities the operation of An Post's post office network is a matter for the board and management of the company and not one in which I, as Minister for Finance, have a statutory function.

Promissory Notes

Questions (53)

Michael McGrath

Question:

52 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the interest expense associated with the promissory note in 2013 as a percentage of the GDP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34142/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

A series of promissory notes were issued to Anglo Irish Bank and the Irish Nationwide Building Society in 2010 (prior to both of these bodies being amalgamated to form the Irish Banking Resolution Corporation (IBRC)) totalling €30.6 billion. A further €250 million promissory note was issued to the Educational Building Society. When taken together, the outstanding amount on these promissory notes, following scheduled instalments in 2011 and 2012, currently amounts to €25.3 billion. In 2013, total instalments of €3.1 billion are due to be paid to these financial institutions under the State's promissory note obligations. These instalments are made up of both capital repayments and interest.

From a Government accounting perspective, interest is calculated on an accruals basis. In these terms, post-interest holiday, the interest charge for 2013 is €1.9 billion. Based on current forecasts, this represents 1.2% of GDP for 2013.

National Asset Management Agency

Questions (54)

Michael McGrath

Question:

53 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the approximate loss that the National Asset Management Agency has suffered as a result of developers successfully declaring bankruptcy in the UK, the number of such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34143/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

As the Deputy is aware, for a debtor to avail of bankruptcy in any given jurisdiction he/she must first of all establish that jurisdiction as his/her centre of main interest (COMI). The establishment of COMI is a matter for the relevant authorities in the jurisdiction in which bankruptcy is sought. I am advised by NAMA that as a secured creditor, its debt recovery position has not been impacted by debtors declaring bankruptcy in the UK. I am further advised by NAMA that in the case of debtors directly managed by the Agency approximately 20 debtors have successfully applied for bankruptcy in the UK.

As previously advised to the House, NAMA in its position as a secured creditor is generally neutral on the locus of bankruptcy proceedings as long as location does not prejudice its potential recoveries from the bankruptee.

NAMA advises that the comparatively shorter duration of bankruptcy in the UK is not a consideration for it as the bankrupt's unsecured assets remain in the control of the bankruptcy trustee long after the bankrupt may have been discharged from bankruptcy and any failure to make full disclosure may result in the period of bankruptcy being extended, in the case of the UK beyond the initial one year period to such time as the bankrupt co-operates with the trustee-in-bankruptcy or the official receiver, which may be several years. NAMA advises that it is currently challenging the release from bankruptcy in Northern Ireland of one debtor in the Courts, due to non-cooperation with the bankruptcy trustee.

NAMA further advises that its position on the locus of bankruptcy proceedings is partially based on positive on-going engagement with several trustees in bankruptcy of NAMA debtors who have been adjudged bankrupt in the UK. The Agency points out that the bankruptcy regime in the UK is well established, sophisticated and that trustees in bankruptcy under the UK system possess extensive powers to compel production of legal and banking information, on a cross-border basis, from the bankrupt. These powers have been used in bankruptcy cases involving NAMA debtors to uncover significant undeclared assets of some debtors.

The position of unsecured creditors is fundamentally different. Unsecured creditors, whose claims are subordinate to that of secured creditors, may seek to bolster their position by pursuing bankruptcy proceedings against a debtor. It is worth noting that bankruptcy proceedings are rarely brought by secured creditors and usually in cases of non or lack of full disclosure.

In summary, NAMA does not see the success of developers declaring bankruptcy in the UK rather than Ireland as significantly prejudicing its potential recoveries from the bankruptees.

Tax Code

Questions (55)

Ann Phelan

Question:

54 Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Finance if he will clarify if there is an exemption for full income tax on pension amounts less than €50,000 for persons over the age of 70 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34155/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

The position is that exemptions from income tax are available to individuals aged 65 and over during a year of assessment in accordance with the provisions of section 188 of the Taxes Consolidated Act 1997.

For the years of assessment 2012, in order to qualify for the exemption an individual's income must be less than €18,000 in the case of a single individual or €36,000 in the case of a married couple or civil partners.

In addition, these exemption limits are increased by €575 in respect of each of the first 2 qualifying children and by €830 in respect of each subsequent qualifying child. The section also provides for marginal relief where an individual's total income exceeds the exemption limit applicable to that individual, but does not exceed a sum equal to twice that limit.

Where marginal relief applies the individual is taxed at 40% on all income above the exemption limits to a ceiling of twice the exemption limit. Once the income exceeds twice the exemption limit marginal relief is no longer available and the individual pays tax under the normal tax system. It should be noted, however, that where the individual's income is greater than the exemption limit but below twice that limit, the taxpayer is always given the benefit of the more favourable treatment between the use of marginal relief or the normal tax system.

It should be noted that a "qualifying child" is a child, resident with the claimant, who is born in the tax year and who is under 18 years of age at the beginning of the tax year; or, if over 18 at the beginning of the year, is receiving full-time instruction at an educational establishment, or is permanently incapacitated by reason of mental or physical infirmity from maintaining himself or herself and had become so incapacitated before the age of 21 or while receiving full-time instruction at an educational establishment. Further details are available on Revenue information leaflet IT8 — Income Tax Exemption and Marginal Relief — available at www.revenue.ie.

Tax Collection

Questions (56)

Billy Timmins

Question:

55 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding medical expenses in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34159/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the medical expenses claim that was made by the person concerned for 2011 has been reviewed. As the person concerned did not pay any tax for 2011, no refund is due in respect of this medical expenses claim.

Tax Code

Questions (57)

Patrick Nulty

Question:

56 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Finance further to previous replies regarding a potential wealth tax and the possibility of collection of same, if he will confirm if by 2014 the new Central Statistics Office household finance and consumption survey is expected to contain enough information to introduce a wealth tax in Ireland; and if not, if he will confirm the timeframe that it will take to put in place the necessary process to calculate wealth tax liability in Ireland and the changes to the current system that will be required; and if he will also consider the possibility of a wealth tax taking into account the global assets of Irish citizens, rather than just the assets held in Ireland, which would be in line with the wealth tax system in France which transcends France’s borders. [34163/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

As previously indicated to the Deputy, in response to question 25411/12 on 23 May last, the Government does not propose at this time to introduce a wealth tax, although all taxes and potential taxation options are constantly reviewed. The data to be collected by the CSO as part of its Household Finance and Consumption Survey is not being collected for the purposes of calculating the potential yield from a wealth tax but to collect general information on the financial situation and behaviour of households.

As regards the tax system taking account of the global assets of Irish citizens, the liability to taxation of individuals in Ireland is determined on the basis of residence, ordinary residence and domicile rather than citizenship. Individuals who are resident, ordinarily resident and domiciled in Ireland for tax purposes are currently liable to Irish Income Tax on worldwide income, Irish Capital Gains Tax on worldwide gains, and Irish Capital Acquisitions Tax on worldwide gifts and inheritances, subject to double taxation relief, where available.

Tax Compliance

Questions (58)

Jack Wall

Question:

57 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has any outstanding charges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34170/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the person concerned has an outstanding liability of €278.30 in respect of 2009. A demand notice issued for this amount on the 17th February 2012.

The person concerned has not yet submitted a Return of Income for 2010, which was due last October. A reminder issued on the 10th February 2012, and the Deputy may wish to advise the persons to attend to this matter without further delay.

Flood Relief

Questions (59)

Michael McGrath

Question:

58 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he has any plans to establish an assistance fund for the victims of the recent flooding in Cork city and county; if he will provide details of the way that the fund will operate, the eligibility criteria for residents and businesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34172/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

As Minister for Finance I do not have a role in this matter. However, I am in discussions with my Ministerial colleagues with a view to determining what reliefs could be made available. At present, assisting households in the immediate aftermath of flooding is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Social Protection.

The Department of Social Protection has two schemes in place that, subject to certain criteria being satisfied, can assist households who have been the victims of flooding. These schemes are called "Exceptional Needs Payments" and "Urgent Needs Payments".

Under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme, the Department of Social Protection can make a single payment to help meet essential, once off, exceptional expenditure, which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income. These payments are known as "Exceptional Needs Payments".

In addition to the payment of Exceptional Needs Payments, Supplementary Welfare Allowance legislation provides for assistance in the form of an urgent needs payment. In certain circumstances, this payment can be made to persons who would not normally be entitled to Supplementary Welfare Allowance. Examples of situations where such assistance may be provided would be in the aftermath of flooding or a domestic fire where the immediate needs, such as food, clothing fuel, household goods and perhaps shelter of the people affected may be met by an urgent needs payment in cash or in kind.

Tax Code

Questions (60)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

59 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Finance if persons who get married are eligible to be treated as a married couple for income tax purposes in the year of marriage; if not, the reason that this is not permitted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34196/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

The position is that in accordance with the provisions of section 1020 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 two individuals continue to be taxed as single persons in their year of marriage. However, if the tax payable as two single persons in that year is greater than the tax which would be payable if the couple had been taxed jointly as a married couple for the year, a refund of the difference may be claimed. Any refund due is only from the date of marriage and will be calculated after the end of the year of marriage following a claim in that respect, which can be made through PAYE Anytime at www.revenue.ie/en/online/paye-anytime.html. Full information on the taxation of married couples is available on Revenue leaflet IT2 at www.revenue.ie.

Tax Code

Questions (61)

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

60 Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance if he will explain the basis under which vehicle registration tax is not an import tax since all vehicles sold in Ireland are imported; if he will agree that this tax is effectively an import duty in all but name; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34198/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) is charged on the first registration of a vehicle in the State. Vehicles may be brought into the State and held unregistered, without payment of VRT, as long as they are stored on premises and by persons authorised by the Revenue Commissioners to do so. Vehicle registration taxation systems are compatible with EU law and are operated by a number of EU Member States.

Banks Recapitalisation

Questions (62)

Michael McGrath

Question:

61 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will oppose any requirement that direct recapitalisations of banks be backed up by sovereign guarantees to the European Stability Mechanism in respect of the funds injected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34203/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Euro Area Summit Statement of 29th June affirmed that it is imperative that the vicious circle between banks and sovereigns be broken. The Statement of 29th June also stated that it has been agreed that when an effective single supervisory mechanism is established, involving the ECB, for banks in the euro area, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) could have the possibility to recapitalise banks directly. This would rely on appropriate conditionality, including compliance with state aid rules, which should be institution specific, sector-specific or economy-wide and would be formalised in a Memorandum of Understanding. It was also agreed that the Eurogroup will examine the situation of the Irish financial sector with the view of further improving the sustainability of the well-performing adjustment programme.

In addition, the Eurogroup Statement of 9th July stated that in order to break the vicious circle between banks and sovereigns, technical discussions on the future ESM direct recapitalisation instrument will start in September.

The government has agreed in principle to the separation of banking debt from sovereign debt and in principle to the possibility of ESM funds being used to directly recapitalise the banks. This is an agreement in principle. While detailed work has begun, it would not be appropriate to prejudge the outcome of that work or any discussions to take place between Eurogroup Finance Ministers in the coming months by making further statements beyond the principle that we are in favour of the separation of banking debt from sovereign debt and that we welcome the development.

Banking Operations

Questions (63)

Michael McGrath

Question:

62 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if in view of reports of market manipulation of rates in the London inter-bank lending market he has asked the regulatory authorities to investigate if similar practices took place in the Dublin inter-bank market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34204/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

As stated in my reply to the question (Ref No. 33569/12) put down by the Deputy on 10 July, a number of international investigations are ongoing, including one by the European Commission, and the British Bankers Association is currently undertaking a review of the way Libor is set and is expected to publish its findings shortly. Euribor-European Banking Federation is the body responsible for Euribor fixings. It is an international non-profit making association under Belgian law founded in 1999 with the launch of the Euro and based in Brussels. Its members are national banking associations in the Member States of the EU which are involved in the Eurozone.

The choice of banks quoting for Euribor is based on market criteria and geographical spread, to ensure that the diversity of the euro money market is adequately reflected, thereby making Euribor an efficient and representative benchmark. Both AIB Bank and Bank of Ireland currently sit on the list of contributing banks.

A representative panel of 43 banks provide daily quotes of the rate, rounded to three decimal places, that each panel bank believes one prime bank is quoting to another prime bank for interbank term deposits within the Euro zone, for maturity ranging from one week to one year. The published rate is a rounded, truncated mean of the quoted rates: the highest and lowest 15% of quotes are eliminated (the 6 highest and lowest), the remainder are averaged and the result is rounded to 3 decimal places.

In relation to the Dublin Interbank market, upon the Euro's introduction, no such reference rate mechanism exists. The majority of fixings used in the Dublin market are those set by Euribor and Libor set in conjunction with the EBA.

The Central Bank of Ireland has informed me that they have not received any complaints from the regulated banks nor have there been any issues raised with the Bank on this issue. In the course of its normal regulatory engagement with the banks it will raise this topic as appropriate.

Bond Markets

Questions (64)

Michael McGrath

Question:

63 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider offering investors a range of inflation linked bonds to assist the Government’s funding programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34205/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I am advised by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) that they have decided in principle to issue an inflation-linked bond when market conditions permit and that they are currently working on the technical aspects of such an issue. An announcement on the detailed plans for the issue will be made in due course.

Banking Sector Regulation

Questions (65)

Michael McGrath

Question:

64 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his views on the impact for customers of suggestions that Ulster Bank is moving its regulatory supervision to the Bank of England; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34206/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I have been informed by the Central Bank that it has not received any formal application to change the regulatory or legal status of Ulster Bank Ireland Ltd from that of a subsidiary of Royal Bank of Scotland Group. However, there are some informal indications that Ulster Bank Ireland Ltd may change its regulatory status and be subject to regulation by the Bank of England and the UK Financial Services Authority as in the case of its parent, Royal Bank of Scotland.

That option is available for all banking groups in terms of how they operate in jurisdictions under European regulation, whether as subsidiaries or as branches.

The Central Bank has full prudential and conduct of business supervisory control over licenced banking subsidiaries. For banks that would opt to operate as branches, the Central Bank would retain powers over conduct of business regulation and liquidity requirements. Accordingly, the Central Bank would maintain its full consumer protection remit over all banking entities operating in Ireland irrespective of their regulatory configuration.

Bank Charges

Questions (66)

Michael McGrath

Question:

65 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will be meeting with the banks, as he did in November 2011, to discuss their plans to pass on the recent European Central Bank rate reduction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34207/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I do not intend to meet the banks to discuss their plans in relation to the recent interest rate reduction. The lending institutions in Ireland are independent commercial entities. Ultimately the pricing of financial products, including standard variable mortgage interest rates, is a commercial decision for the management team and board of each lending institution, having due regard to their customers and the impact on profitability, particularly where the cost of funding to each lending institution, including deposit pricing, is under pressure.

Neither the Central Bank nor I have any responsibility for the variable mortgage interest rate charged by the financial institutions. I have no powers to compel the institutions to reduce their rates.

Revenue Commissioners Investigations

Questions (67)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

66 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the amount of cash seized by the Revenue Commissioners at Dublin Airport and Dublin Port for the years 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012; the amount of same that has been returned to the Exchequer in each of these years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34235/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Finance)

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the following tables represent the amounts of cash seized by Revenue at Dublin Airport and Port, and the amounts of cash that have been forfeited to the Exchequer under criminal justice legislation. There can often be a significant gap between the date of seizure and the date of forfeiture as detailed investigations are required. Some €2,166,321 of the cash seized in Dublin Airport and Port is still under investigation.

Cash Seizures Table

Year

Airport

Port

Total

2009

718,348

297,245

€1,015,593

2010

832,552

68,660

901,212

2011

594,385

39,939

634,324

2012

433,325

17,559

450,884

Total

2,578,610

423,403

3,002,013

Cash Forfeitures Table

Year

Airport

Port

Total

2009

379,623

379,623

2010

1,919,665

26,775

1,946,440

2011

770,378

223,350

993,728

2012

204,995

48,000

252,995

Total

3,274,661

298,125

3,572,786

Pension Provisions

Questions (68)

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

67 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Skills when pension payments will be granted in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34033/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

An application form was issued last April by officials in the Pension Unit of my Department to the person to whom the Deputy refers. When the completed application form is returned to the Pension Unit, the application will be processed.

Vocational Education Committees

Questions (69)

Sandra McLellan

Question:

68 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to a dispute between two workers and the vocational education committee following the closure of a VEC créche in a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34042/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

This issue relates to a créche operated by County Cork Vocational Education Committee (VEC). Officials in my Department have and continue to liaise with the VEC in relation to the matter. Primarily, this is a matter for the VEC, which operates the créche and is the employer of the workers in question.

Foirne Scoile

Questions (70)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

69 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna an bhfuil athmheas déanta ag an Aire Stáit (sonraí tugtha), mar a gheall sé sa Seanad ar an 28ú lá de Mheitheamh, ar an gcinneadh gan an dara hoide a fhágáil i Scoil Inis Meáin go mórmhór ó tharla go mbeidh ochtar scoláire sa scoil an bhliain seo chugainn, cad é toradh an athmheasa sin; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [34052/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

I gCiorclán Bunoideachais 0007/2012, atá le fáil ar shuíomh gréasáin mo Roinne, leagtar amach na socruithe foirne do na bunscoileanna go léir, scoileanna oileáin ina measc, don scoilbhliain 2012/13. I measc na socruithe sin tá soláthar don dara nó don tríú phost múinteoireachta príomhshrutha a choinneáil i scoil oileáin, faoi réir ag tairseacha áirithe daltaí, 8 agus 45 faoi seach, agus sa chás amháin gurb í an scoil sin an t-aon bhunscoil amháin atá fágtha ar an oileán. Níl aon athrú déanta ar an bhfoirniú atá beartaithe don scoil dá dtagraíonn an Teachta sna socruithe atá foilsithe don scoilbhliain 2012/13, faoina ndéantar scoil aon oide den scoil in ionad scoil dhá oide. Ar bhun eolais a chuir an scoil ar fáil maidir leis na reámh-mheastacháin de na rollacháin thar na blianta amach romhainn, beidh an rollachán ag athrú idir 8 agus 4 dalta sa tréimhse idir Meán Fómhair 2012 agus Meán Fómhair 2014.

Chun comparáid a dhéanamh, éilítear ar na scoileanna beaga a ndeachaigh an beart buiséid i gcion orthu bheith ag réamh-mheas 17 dalta ar a laghad i mí Mheán Fómhair 2012 chun bheith in ann an dara múinteoir acu a choinneáil go sealadach i scoil dhá oide.

Tá an Rialtas seo tar éis an t-oideachas a chosaint sa mhéid gur féidir leis. Tá laghduithe i bhfad níos mó ná sin á ndéanamh ar an gcaiteachas, agus ar líon na bhfostaithe sa tseirbhís phoiblí, in earnálacha eile, i gcomparáid leo sin atáá ndéanamh i scoileanna. Ach tá teorainneacha leis an leibhéal caiteachais ar an oideachas agus leis an líon post múinteoireachta is acmhainn linn. In aimsir seo na deacrachta geilleagraí, táthar ag iarraidh ar na fostaithe uile sa tseirbhís phoiblí na seirbhísí poiblí againn a sheachadadh le leibhéal laghdaithe acmhainní, agus ní cheart go mbeadh múinteoirí i scoileanna beaga díolmhaithe ón éileamh sin.

School Staffing

Questions (71)

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

70 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider issuing a circular advising all schools that all new positions in schools, both temporary and permanent, must be advertised openly and fairly to enable all available teachers to apply for the position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34060/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

The recruitment and appointment of teachers to fill teaching posts is a matter for the individual school authority, subject to procedures published under Section 24(3) of the Education Act 1998.

In May of last year, Circular 31/2011 detailed staged appointment procedures applicable to all posts from September 2011. These require schools at primary and post-primary level to maintain a list of appropriately qualified registered teachers who notify the school that they are available for substitute teaching at short notice.

Where a substitute teacher is needed at short notice and advertising for the position is not feasible, the school must contact a person on the list established by the school or use a national service such as SubSearch or TextaSub.

Vacancies of 24 weeks or more are governed under agreed appointment procedures at primary level (Contained within the "Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure" booklet which was last updated and published on 1st December 2011) or at Post Primary level (Circular 20/2012).

At primary level vacancies of 24 weeks or more must be advertised on one of the four listed websites, which include sites run by the Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN) and the management bodies. Vacancies for the post of principal may also be advertised on www.publicjobs.ie.

Circular 20/2012, applicable to the post-primary sector, issued in June 2012 and is removing the requirement to place advertisements in the national print media from 1st January 2013 in favour of internet based advertising of teaching posts. Current arrangements include the use of www.publicjobs.ie for Principal and Deputy Principal posts and www.educationposts.ie for all other teaching posts.

The selection of sites on which to advertise teaching positions or any changes to the current list of websites are a matter for the management bodies.

Schools Refurbishment

Questions (72)

John Perry

Question:

71 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will approve the additional funding to this school (detail supplied) in County Sligo in view of the fact that there is not adequate space to hold whole school assemblies and the best option is to erect two functional classrooms with sliding sound proof partition between them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34066/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

In September 2011, the school referred to by the Deputy was granted funding for the provision of 2 Mainstream Classrooms under my Department's Additional Accommodation Scheme.

In May 2012 the school applied for additional funding for a sliding sound proof partition between both classrooms so that the school could use the rooms for assemblies, choir practice and parent meetings. This application was refused and the school advised that any building works carried out over and above those approved must be funded by the Board of Management, as was set out in the Department's original letter of approval.

I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that there are many competing demands on my Department's capital resources and in this context it must prioritise applications for the provision of much needed additional mainstream classroom accommodation.

School Curriculum

Questions (73, 74)

Brendan Smith

Question:

72 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will respond to a report from the National Competitiveness Council which questions if changes to the maths curriculum will resolve underachievement in maths; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34071/12]

View answer

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

86 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there is a timetable for implementing the recommendations contained in the report Maths and National Competitiveness published by the National Competitive Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34219/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 72 and 86 together.

I received the Discussion Document for the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) on "Maths and National Competitiveness". It is a helpful input into the debate on the role of numeracy and in particular mathematics in primary and post-primary education. I welcome the introduction to the Discussion Document which was prepared by the NCC itself. It highlights the many initiatives currently underway to improve the quality of teaching and learning so as to ensure that the outcomes for our students in this curricular area continue to improve over the next number of years.

These initiatives include my publication of the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy last year, the introduction of Project Maths, the prioritisation of Continuing Professional Development for our Maths teachers, the funding by my Department of a post-graduate Diploma in Maths to upskill out-of-field Maths teachers, the request to schools for greater amount of time for teaching maths both at primary and post primary levels. In addition, I welcome provision of 25 bonus points from Higher Education institutions for Leaving Certificate students who achieve a grade D3 or higher in higher level maths. That measure alone has seen a 25% increase in the number of students who indicated that they were going to sit the Higher Level Maths paper last month. Initial teacher education has increased from 3 to 4 years from this September at primary level and from one to two years at second level. The Teaching Council will be consulting on the minimum entry requirements for Teacher Education.

The Discussion Document is one of many which I have received on mathematics in our primary and post-primary curriculum. It highlights the concerns of this Government and me that I have expressed on many occasions. I will continue to prioritise literacy and numeracy in the primary and post-primary sectors. I would agree with the NCC when it highlights, in the introduction to the document, that "mathematical skills are essential for enabling people to fully participate and work in a modern society".

School Staffing

Questions (75)

Brendan Smith

Question:

73 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of resource teacher and learning support posts allocated in each year since 1997, including the number to be allocated for the 2012/2013 school year. [34072/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available in my Department. The Statistics Section of my Department's website contains extensive data at individual school level in county order. The most recent information available relates to the 2010/2011 school year.In the current school year there are circa 6,700 resource and learning support (General Allocation Model) posts in primary schools.

Under the proposed reforms for the coming school year the combined resources available for GAM (General Allocation Model) and language support (currently 4,700 posts) will be used to create a single simplified allocation process to cover both the GAM and language support. Schools will have autonomy on how to deploy the resource between language support and learning support depending on their specific needs. The new GAM arrangements also provide for additional permanent teaching posts (350) to be given to schools with high concentration of pupils that require language support. Further additional temporary EAL support will also be provided, as necessary, to schools that will have high concentrations of pupils that require language support in the 2012/13 school. These allocations will be made on the basis of appeals by any of these schools to the Staffing Appeals Board.

The NCSE has notified all schools of their allocation for the 2012/13 school year of resource hours for low incidence special needs. The arrangements for how schools access these resource hours in teaching posts are set out in the Department Staffing Circular 0007/2012. Under these arrangements a network of over 2,500 full-time resource posts has been put in place in close to 1,700 base schools throughout the country. The list of these schools and the criteria used to select them is set out in the published Circular. These resource posts are allocated on a permanent basis and the teachers in them will undertake NCSE approved (low incidence) resource hours in the base schools or in neighbouring schools. Schools that are unable to access these hours will be allocated mainly temporary part-time posts. It is also open to schools to make a joint application for a full-time temporary resource post. The final staffing position for all schools will ultimately not be known until the Autumn. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed and all appeals to the Staffing Appeals Board will have been considered.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (76, 77)

Brendan Smith

Question:

74 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of special needs assistants allocated in each year since 1997, including the number to be allocated for the 2012-13 school year. [34073/12]

View answer

Brendan Smith

Question:

75 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of special needs assistants allocated during the 2011-12 school year compared to what was provided for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34074/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 74 and 75 together.

Firstly I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for processing applications from schools for special educational needs supports including Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support, to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's established criteria for the allocation of such supports and the staffing resources available to my Department.

There are 10,575 Whole Time Equivalent (WTE) SNA posts available for allocation in the 2012/13 school year which is the same number of posts which were available for allocation for the 2011/12 school year. The NCSE is currently notifying schools of their SNA allocation for 2012/13, based on the number of valid applications received and the extent of the care needs of qualifying children. The NCSE allocated a total of 10,324 WTE SNA posts to schools in the 2011/12 school year. Every child who met the criteria for access to SNA support in the 2011/12 school year received this support. Similarly, it is expected that the demand for SNA support in the coming school year can be met within current numbers and that all children who meet the criteria for SNA support will have access to such support.

The specific information requested by the Deputy for 2001 to 2011 is provided in the following table. Accurate information before 2001 is not available but I can advise the Deputy that there were approximately 300 SNAs employed in schools in 1997. Finally, I wish to advise the Deputy that this Government has demonstrated its commitment to protecting services for children with special educational needs by maintaining the overall number of SNA posts which will be available for allocation to schools for the 2012/13 school year, at a time when there has been a requirement to make savings across a range of expenditure areas.

Year

Number of Special Needs Assistants 2001-2009

2001

2,988

2002

4,979

2003

5,367

2004

5,869

2005

7,294

2006

8,390

2007

9,824

2008

10,442

2009

10,342

2010

10,543

2011

10,324

Special Educational Needs

Questions (78)

Brendan Smith

Question:

76 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he or the National Council for Special Education carries out an analysis or provides estimates of the expected number of children with low incidence special needs that will enter primary school over the coming years and the supports that will need to be in place to meet demand; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34075/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating resources to schools to support children with special educational needs (SEN). The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

I wish to advise the Deputy that, for children under the age of 5, the NCSE, through its network of SENOs, liaises with Assessment Officers in the Health Service Executive (HSE) in respect of the assessment of need process under the Disability Act 2005. The Assessment Officer contacts the relevant SENO when an educational need is identified as part of the assessment process. My Department's Circular 0020/2011 clarifies the roles of the NCSE and the HSE in relation to the assessment of need process, as well as the role of the school in this regard. This Circular is available on my Departments website at www.education.ie.

Separately the NCSE developed estimates on the prevalence of SEN as part of its process to advise the Minister on the implementation of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN), Act 2004. The Council estimated at that time that up to 18% of the school going population may have a special educational need, as defined under the EPSEN Act, while a more recent NCSE Report: A Study of the Prevalence of Special Educational Needs (2011) estimates that this figure may be even higher that 18% of the pupil population.

School Guidelines on Mental Health

Questions (79)

Brendan Smith

Question:

77 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills the progress made to date in drafting interdepartmental guidelines to establish a framework for addressing mental health in the education system, when the guidelines will be published and if he will ensure that these are applied to primary level as well as post-primary level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34076/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

My Department is aiming to launch the Guidelines on Mental Health for Post-Primary Schools later this year. These guidelines aim to support schools in developing a whole-school approach to mental health promotion and suicide prevention and are of relevance to all members of the school community. In particular, they have been developed to support principals, guidance counsellors, student support teams, and teachers. In addition, boards of management and in-school management teams play a central leadership role in mental health promotion. It is not planned to develop Mental Health Guidelines for Primary Schools, as the Social, Personal and Health Education curriculum provides particular opportunities to foster the personal development, health and well-being of children to help them create and maintain supportive relationships. The SPHE curriculum provides a consistent and comprehensive approach to promoting the health and well-being of children and to the development of responsible behaviour and a range of generic skills, attitudes and values. The implementation of SPHE is also influenced significantly by the ethos and characteristic spirit of the school.

School Curriculum

Questions (80)

Brendan Smith

Question:

78 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider the introduction of a whole-school approach to tackling mental health in education rather than the current curriculum based approach; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34077/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is a mandatory part of the curriculum in primary schools and in junior cycle since 2003 and is designed, inter alia, to promote positive mental health. SPHE is supported by comprehensive teacher guidelines and a curriculum support service which provide training and advice for schools and a resource directory. The SPHE curriculum, at both primary and post primary levels, emphasises that an effective and meaningful SPHE programme provides learning opportunities in a combination of ways including: discrete time, a positive school climate and atmosphere and an intergrated approach across a number of curriculum areas. The curriculum also notes that the SPHE programme is most effective when the approach is consistent and responsibility is shared by parents, teachers, students, boards of management, health professionals and relevant members of the community which is done through the adoption of a whole school approach.

The Department has also issued guidelines to schools on the development of whole-school policies in the areas such as anti-bullying, RSE, substance use, managing critical incidents, whole-school guidance planning etc which are also important in promoting positive mental health. The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), operating within the Department, provides a range of services both direct and indirect which support the personal, social and educational development of students in primary and post primary schools. NEPS provides assistance, upon request, to all schools and school communities that experience critical incidents, traumatic events such as the death of a student or staff member which effect the school communities ability to operate. NEPS also responds to queries in relation to individual children from other sections of the Department of Education and Skills and from the specialist agencies. 166 Psychologists are employed directly within NEPS and currently the Public Appointments Service is actively pursuing the filling of a further 9 posts in this regard.

Mental Health Services

Questions (81)

Brendan Smith

Question:

79 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide the specific actions in A Vision for Change relating to education which have been implemented by the Department of Education and Skills since A Vision for Change was published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34078/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

My Department is fully committed to supporting the social and emotional well-being of all students in line with government policies and good educational principles. These include the implementation of SPHE, RSE, services from NEPS and other national support services. Schools and their management are responsible to support the educational needs and well-being of all young people including those who have particular needs. My Department collaborates and co-operates with other Departments and Agencies in this area.

School Curriculum

Questions (82)

Brendan Smith

Question:

80 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider an independent review of social personal and health education and its effectiveness in mental health promotion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34079/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

The Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) in the Primary School composite report presents the findings from a thematic evaluation of SPHE in 40 primary schools. As part of its ongoing evaluation of curriculum implementation, the Inspectorate conducted this thematic evaluation in 2007 in order to gain a clear insight into what was happening in the provision of SPHE. As part of this evaluation relevant school documentation and pupils' work were examined, SPHE lessons were observed and interviews were conducted with teachers, management and pupils. In addition, the responses provided by senior pupils and their parents in SPHE questionnaires were analysed.

At post-primary level, 63 subject inspections in SPHE were conducted between September 2010 and May 2011. Inspectors visited 301 SPHE lessons taught by 264 different teachers. In each post-primary school evaluated, a questionnaire was administered to a group of third-year students to ascertain their experiences of junior cycle SPHE. A total of 2,634 questionnaires were administered. Inspectors also met with a group of senior cycle students in each school to ascertain their experiences of SPHE with a particular focus on provision for a senior cycle RSE programme as it applied to them. It is planned that a composite report based on the evaluations undertaken on SPHE lessons at post-primary level will be published towards the end of 2012.

Teachers’ Remuneration

Questions (83)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

81 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34156/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

As a result of Budget 2012, Circular 70/2011 provides that teachers who had been engaged in a public sector teaching post on or before 4 December 2011 are eligible to retain the qualification allowances they were entitled to be in receipt of on that date. Such teachers will not be paid any additional allowance where they acquire any further qualification on or after 5 December 2011. The position of teachers who, on 5 December 2011, were undertaking courses will be considered in the context of the public service-wide review of allowances being led by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. This includes the individual case outlined for response. Teachers who were appointed to teaching for the first time on or after 5 December 2011 but before 1 February 2012 are eligible for allowances on the basis of their qualifications at entry to the profession up to a maximum of the allowance which had been applicable to an honours primary degree.

Pending the outcome of the review of allowances, they are not payable to new beneficiaries from 1 February 2012. The only exceptions to this prohibition are principal and deputy principal allowances and, for a limited period of time, the assistant principal allowance. These decisions were taken due to the upward pressure on the cost of teacher allowances. These provisions are outlined in Circular 70/2011 and Circular 3/2012. These measures are concerned with the sustainability of the public service pay bill and in particular the need to find payroll savings in the education vote. Without immediate action, this upward pressure would have cancelled out the savings made elsewhere in the education system and would bring about even harsher adjustments to schools and services. I am not in a position to comment further until the outcome of the review is known.

Special Educational Needs

Questions (84)

Patrick Nulty

Question:

82 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on matters raised in correspondence (details supplied) regarding special needs resource allocation in national schools; if he will address the matters raised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34157/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

Firstly, I wish to clarify that this Government has maintained funding for resources for children with special educational needs at a time when there is a continued requirement to make expenditure savings across a range of areas. There is no overall reduction in Resource Teaching numbers for the coming school year. Overall, 9,950 posts will be provided for Resource Teaching support for the 2012/13 school year, the same number as that provided for last year and an increase of 350 over that provided for in 2010. 5,500 of these posts are available to the NCSE for allocation for pupils with assessed low incidence special educational needs. This number cannot be exceeded under the Employment Control Framework (ECF).

For the 2011/12 school year an allocation of 90% of valid identified resource teaching allocations was made to schools by the NCSE to schools in order to provide schools with the majority of their allocation while preserving enough capacity to deal with all applications received and ensure that the Department of Education and Skills remained within ECF obligations. The number of valid applications received by the NCSE for the 2012/2013 school year to date has risen marginally with rising enrolments in schools. Therefore, in order to ensure there are sufficient remaining posts to make allocations for late or emergency applications, while staying within the ECF, the NCSE will initially allocate 85% of assessed needs to schools. This will ensure that there are a sufficient number of posts retained to make allocations for late or emergency applications, while staying within the ECF.

Schools are being asked to make up any time lost through grouping of students and more effective management of teaching time, to ensure that every child who needs support can access support and are treated the same. Schools should monitor and utilise these resources to best support the needs of qualifying pupils, in accordance with my Department's guidance.

Finally, I wish to assure the Deputy that it is my intention that resources available to my Department are utilised to optimum benefit to ensure the best possible outcomes for students with special educational needs. In this regard my Department is seeking advice from the NCSE on policy options for the allocation of these resources in future, with a view to ensuring that the most appropriate and efficient model is in place in the coming years.

School Guidelines on Mental Health

Questions (85)

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

83 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Education and Skills in view of the fact that international best practice demonstrates the benefit from early intervention, when will work commence on guidelines for primary schools on mental health; if the whole-school approach will be adopted for these guidelines; the way in which unions and mental health professionals will be consulted on these guidelines; and in light of the child death review, will co-ordination between Health Service Executive child and adolescent mental health services and child welfare and protection services be mapped out in part through such guidelines. [34175/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

It is not planned at this point in time to develop Mental Health Guidelines for Primary Schools. However, my Department is acitively considering how greater coordination and linkages can be fostered between Health Service Executive, the child and adolescent mental health services and child welfare and protection services. The Health Promoting School initiative supports such collaborative linkages in primary schools. The Social, Personal and Health Education curriculum which must be implemented in all primary schools provides particular opportunities to foster the personal development, health and well-being of children to help them create and maintain supportive relationships. The SPHE curriculum provides a consistent and comprehensive whole-school approach to promoting the health and well-being of children. Through an SPHE programme children can develop a framework of values, attitudes, understanding and skills that will inform their actions and decisions in these areas of their lives both now and in the future. SPHE aims to foster self-worth and self-confidence and places a particular emphasis on developing a sense of personal responsibility for one's own behaviour and actions. Children can learn how to manage their own behaviour and to set and review personal goals within a safe and supportive environment. Such intrapersonal development will increase the child's sense of self-efficacy and help him/her to be more in control of his/her own life. The implementation of SPHE is also influenced significantly by the ethos and characteristic spirit of the school.

Obesity Levels

Questions (86)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

84 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills with regard to the dangers of obesity in Ireland, his views on whether it would make more sense to educate and train young persons regarding the dangers of eating food which is unhealthy for them throughout their school years rather than waiting until they are finished school and then trying to alert them to the calories contained in food by forcing the providers and sellers of such food to account for the calorie content on menus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34178/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

Our young people are educated about the dangers of eating food which is unhealthy during their primary and second level education. It is important to realise that school is just one small but influential aspect of their lives.

The Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme is a mandatory part of the curriculum in primary schools and in junior cycle. The overall aim is to help develop students' self confidence and self-esteem, and promote the skills for living, for responsible decision making and for mental, physical and emotional well-being. It is supported by comprehensive teacher guidelines and curriculum support services which provide training and advice for schools and a resource directory.

At primary level, one of the strand units ‘Taking care of my body' specifically addresses the need for regular exercise and activity as well as the area of nutrition and food and the need for a balanced diet. This unit is built upon from Infants classes onwards. By Fifth and Sixth classes children are encouraged to realise and accept responsibility for making wise food choices and adopting a healthy, balanced diet, and in that, exploring and examining the food pyramid.

Elements of this strand are supported by "Food Dudes" programme which encourages children to eat more fruit and vegetables both in school and in the home. The programme is managed by Bord Bia and funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries and the EU through the School Fruit Scheme.

Physical Education also forms a mandatory part of the primary curriculum. Aims of the PE curriculum include promoting enjoyment of, and positive attitudes towards, physical activity and its contribution to lifelong health related fitness.

There are many examples of good practices at school level which aim to raise students' awareness of factors that impinge on their health and well-being and that help them to develop desirable lifestyle habits. For example, many primary schools operate healthy eating policies with the support of parents.

At post-primary level, SPHE for Junior Cycle builds on the primary SPHE Curriculum. In this way, all students are provided with the opportunity to develop the skills and competences to enable them to develop a framework for responsible decision-making and to promote their physical, mental and emotional health and well-being. Personal health issues are addressed in a holistic way in the post-primary SPHE curriculum. Nutrition and physical activity are specifically addressed in the SPHE module on "Physical Health". In addition cross-curricular links with other subjects such as Home Economics, PE and Junior Science that deal with SPHE-related topics are encouraged.

In 2009, the Department carried out a Lifeskills Survey to establish policy and practice in relation to nutrition, exercise, health, growing up, bullying and other aspects of the SPHE programme. The results of the survey showed that 97% of the primary schools which responded promote healthy lunches, and have content on a balanced diet, regular exercise and the food pyramid, 95% encourage physical activity in school breaks and 89% have sport outside of school hours, while 85% have a healthy food policy.

At post primary level 97% of the schools which responded have content on a balanced diet and regular exercise, 90% have sport outside of school hours and 88% encourage physical activity in school breaks. The survey re-issued to schools in May of this year and results will be expected later in the year.

Teaching Qualifications

Questions (87)

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

85 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason postgraduate degrees are not taken into account by the Teaching Council when assessing the qualifications of teachers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34218/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

The Teaching Council is the statutory body for the recognition of qualifications and the registration of teachers.

Matters in relation to recognition of individual qualifications and registration of teachers are set out in the Teaching Council (Registration) Regulations 2009 which were approved by the Minister for Education and Science in November 2009 and laid before the Houses. They are also available on the Teaching Council's website.

Applications on the basis of qualifications as a primary school teacher are governed by Regulation Two. Applications on the basis of qualifications as post-primary school teacher are governed by Regulation Four. Applications on the basis of qualifications as a Montessori or other suitably qualified teacher are governed by Regulation Three. Applications on the basis of qualifications as a teacher in a recognised school whose qualifications are not comprehended by Regulations 2, 3, or 4 are considered under Regulation 5.

The Council considers relevant postgraduate degrees in conjunction with relevant undergraduate studies in determining eligibility to register.

Question No. 86 answered with Question No. 72.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Questions (88)

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

87 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the pupil-teacher ratio provided in budget 2012 will result in a school (details supplied) in County Offaly remaining without a fourth teacher for the academic year 2012-13; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34241/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

The criteria used for the allocation of teachers to schools is published annually on my Department's website. The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30 September. The staffing arrangements in schools for the 2012/2013 school year can also be affected by changes in their enrolment, the impact of budget measures and the reforms to the teacher allocation process. As part of the Budget 2012 decisions, the number of pupils required to gain and retain a classroom teaching post in small primary schools will be gradually increased between September 2012 and September 2014. The detailed arrangements are set out in the Department's Staffing Circular 0007/2012 and is available on my Department's website. The staffing of the school referred to by the Deputy is remaining unchanged at three mainstream classroom posts for the coming school year 2012/13.

Public Procurement

Questions (89)

Patrick Nulty

Question:

88 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the steps he is taking to ensure that social considerations are incorporated into the public procurement process; if he will undertake an evaluation of public procurement to ascertain the degree to which social considerations form part of the process; in view of the high level of unemployment if he will direct public entities to include prioritisation of social considerations such as job creation and job retention as part of the public procurement process; his views on if it is acceptable that Irish jobs are lost due to a lack of inclusion of social considerations in the public procurement process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34108/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Expenditure)

The rules on awarding public contracts have provisions which allow the specification of social criteria, such as the requirement for employment of long term unemployed, as a condition in the performance of the contract. Any such provision must be compatible with EU law, i.e. they must be made known to all interested parties and must not restrict participation by contractors from other Member States. Subject to this, contracting authorities have the discretion to apply such conditions, as appropriate.

I understand that the National Procurement Service is currently looking at developing guidance for contracting authorities in relation to the use of such social clauses.

Under the EU Directives on public procurement, public works, supplies and service contracts above certain thresholds must be advertised on the Official Journal of the EU and awarded on the basis of objective and non-restrictive criteria. For contracts below these thresholds, the general requirement is that they be advertised on the national public procurement website www.etenders.gov.ie or, depending on value, awarded on the basis of a competitive process of direct invitation to an adequate number of suitable suppliers.

The aim of the rules is to promote an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement regime which delivers best value for money. It would be a breach of the rules for a public body to favour or discriminate against particular candidates on grounds of nationality and where the EU Directives apply there are legal remedies which may be used against any public body infringing these rules. In this regard, it is worth pointing out that the open market regime also offers opportunities for Irish companies to win business abroad and reliable EU studies indicate that many Irish businesses are successful in this regard.

Departmental Contracts

Questions (90)

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

89 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will outline in tabular form the numbers of contractors hired by the Office of Public Works to undertake works on various projects across the past five years; the details of length of time for which contractors were hired; the projects for which the contractors were hired; the cost of hiring each of these contractors; the number of hired contractors that have outstanding moneys owed to them by the OPW; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34252/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Expenditure)

The Office of Public Works is currently assessing the resources and time required to deal with the Question and will revert to the Deputy in due course regarding how the matter is to be approached.

Coastal Protection

Questions (91)

Tom Fleming

Question:

90 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will investigate the possibility of funding being made available to carry out coastal protection works in the vicinity of the property of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34055/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Expenditure)

It is open to Kerry County Council to submit an application to the Office of Public Works under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme for funding to undertake works at the location concerned.

Any application submitted will be assessed under the eligibility criteria for coastal erosion protection measures and having regard to the overall availability of budgetary resources.

Coastal Erosion

Questions (92)

Joan Collins

Question:

91 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he has received an application from Sligo County Council seeking grant aid of €290,000 to finance protection measures to manage coastal erosion at Strandhill, County Sligo; if it has been brought to his attention that there is concern that if remedial action is not taken soon to protect the dunes south of the promenade at Strandhill that much of the dunes will be lost to the sea; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34214/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Expenditure)

I am very aware of the situation in Strandhill, having visited the area in April, 2012.

Sligo County Council submitted an application in May, 2012 under the OPW Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme for funding of €290,000 to undertake works to address the erosion issues at Strandhill. These works were recommended by RPS consultants in a report commissioned by the Council into the issues at Strandhill.

However, the OPW has recently revised the eligibility criteria for coastal erosion applications and consequently, the Council was advised of the need to resubmit the application under the criteria now in place in order to be eligible for consideration.

A revised application is awaited. Any such application received will be assessed in accordance with the current criteria, in particular the benefit to cost ratio, and having regard to the overall availability of financial resources for such works in 2012.

Public Sector Pay

Questions (93)

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

92 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide details of the number of public servants who earn salaries (details supplied) after 1 March 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34254/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Expenditure)

The data available to my Department will be sent to the Deputy next week. Data which is not yet available will be sent to the Deputy as soon as it is to hand.

Flood Prevention Measures

Questions (94)

Finian McGrath

Question:

93 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding major flooding problems at a location (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [34323/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Expenditure)

I am advised that the River Naniken is conveyed by way of a culvert for a substantial part of its entire length and forms an integral part of the urban storm drainage system. Therefore, the responsibility for addressing flooding problems at the location in question rests with Dublin City Council not with the Office of Public Works.

Departmental Appointments

Questions (95)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

94 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will report on the establishment of the new economic and evaluation service; the number of economists and accounting and finance professionals that have been recruited to this new unit; their responsibilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30513/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Expenditure)

The Government decided in March this year to set up the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service (IGEES). An Administrative Officer (Economist) competition was run by the Public Appointments Service. To date, 15 staff have been recruited from this competition to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. After a period of training and development, some of these recruits will be seconded to other Departments with identified economic analysis needs. A further 5 staff have taken up economist roles to address the needs of the Department of Finance for economic analysis. In addition, economist appointments to other Government Departments are also taking place. Staff working in IGEES will support Departments in evaluating policy and expenditure options; value for money reviews; cost benefit and regulatory impact analyses and competition issues. The staffing requirements within my Department will be kept under regular review and a decision taken regarding future recruitment as the need arises.

Departmental Staff

Questions (96)

Clare Daly

Question:

95 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the salary package of the head of Science Foundation Ireland. [34133/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

The salary sanctioned by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform for the Director General of Science Foundation Ireland, Professor Mark Ferguson, is €189,115 gross per annum. This includes a personal pension contribution rate. Professor Ferguson commenced in the post on 16th January 2012.

Enterprise Ireland Investments

Questions (97)

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

96 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide an itemised list in spreadsheet format of all current investments by Enterprise Ireland; the criteria that applies to making investments; the oversight there is of each decision; the way the investments are audited for value for the taxpayer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34116/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

Due to the significant volume of information requested by the Deputy, my Department has been unable to collate the information within the timeframe given. I will endeavour to provide the information to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Enterprise Ireland Investments

Questions (98)

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

97 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the amount Enterprise Ireland has lost on investments since the year 2000 on an annual basis for companies that have gone into liquidation or receivership; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34117/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

Between 2000 and the end of 2011, Enterprise Ireland incurred losses of €35,548,000 on its investments in companies that have gone into liquidation or receivership. In the same period, Enterprise Ireland earned €329,234,000 from the proceeds of sales of companies in which it had invested. Details for each year are set out in the table:

Investment amounts lost on companies in Liquidation/Receivership and the Sales proceeds earned on investments 2001-2011

Year of Loss

Amount lost €’000

No. of Companies

Sales Proceeds €’000

2000

0

100,801

2001

0

49,552

2002

2,471

13

12,025

2003

0

11,642

2004

4,342

23

13,143

2005

3,684

17

32,874

2006

4,703

11

19,886

2007

4,436

14

18,974

2008

2,134

12

14,531

2009

5,363

23

9,105

2010

3,529

13

14,685

2011

4,886

17

32,016

Total

35,548

143

329,234

Work Permits

Questions (99)

Clare Daly

Question:

98 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on the suggestion of introducing a special technology visa to allow those with specialist skills and experience to take up employment here. [34130/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

Ireland remains a very open and welcoming country for non-Irish nationals in our Labour Force. Quarter 1 2012 labour market statistics show there are 274,000 non-Irish nationals in our labour force of just over 2 million. Ireland remains a very attractive location for Foreign Direct Investment. Favourable demographics and consistent investment in education ensure a plentiful supply of highly qualified workers with excellent technical, language and customer services capabilities, as well as a reputation for flexibility and innovation. In addition, Irish employers have access to the EU and EEA labour force in accordance with EU law on freedom of movement or Accession Treaties.

While there are currently no Government plans to introduce a special technology visa it is current Government policy to issue new employment permits in respect of jobs requiring key skills and where there is a recognised scarcity of suitably skilled workers. With regard to the specific issue of employment permits for specified highly skilled and strategically important occupations, where a skills shortage exists, Green Card employment permits may be issued. ICT professionals, professional engineers and technologists are specifically catered for under this scheme. The Green Card permit is issued to the employee and allows his or her employment in the State by the named employer in the occupation specified on the permit. It may be issued for a period of two years. The employee may apply for immediate family re-unification and an application for long-term residence may be made after two years. No labour market needs test (e.g. newspaper and FÁS/EURES advertising) is required prior to making an application. Up to 50% of staff employed by a company in Ireland may be employment permits holders.

The Department also operates an Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) scheme. This scheme is designed to facilitate the transfer of senior management, key personnel or trainees who are foreign nationals from an overseas branch of a multinational corporation to its Irish branch. Up to 5% of the entire workforce may have such ICT Permits. However for startups this level may be increased on a case by case basis for an initial period. No labour market needs test is required in respect of an application for an Intra-Company Transfer permit. Certain basic criteria must be met.

I should add that the Government is also guided by the Expert Group for Future Skills Needs and keeps its permit policy under review and can adapt to changing circumstances. A report produced by this Group entitled Addressing High-Level ICT Skills Recruitment Needs confirms that Ireland is a successful major centre for ICT operations with around 75,000 people employed in 8,000 companies. Indeed, ten of the top ICT companies in the world have substantial operations in Ireland.

The research undertaken by the Group, the Secretariat to which is provided by Forfás, indicates that the global ICT market is expected to grow by 5% between 2009 and 2014/15 with potential growth rate as high as 20% per annum over the next decade. In order to exploit these opportunities, however, it is crucial to ensure that Ireland's labour force is appropriately skilled. In this context the Group's report found that there are a range of skills and recruitment difficulties within the ICT sector with the result that, as at December 2011, there were approximately 1,800 vacancies in the sector. These vacancies arose mainly due to the lack of graduates with high-level ICT Honours Degrees and above which are required to fill such positions as Computer Software Engineers, ICT Network Specialists and Engineers, ICT Security Experts, ICT Telecommunications, ICT Project Managers and IT Sales and Marketing/Foreign Languages Skills Personnel. The report points out that this challenge is not unique to Ireland as such high level ICT skills are also in short supply globally.

In order to address these challenges from domestic sources I, along with my colleague, Deputy Ruairi Quinn, T.D., Minister for Education and Skills, subsequently launched the ICT Action Plan: Meeting the High Level ICT Skills Needs of Enterprise in Ireland. The Action Plan establishes an overreaching target of doubling the annual output from honours degree ICT undergraduate programmes to 2,000 graduates by 2018 and outlines a number of actions that will be implemented to ensure an increased output of appropriately skilled graduates in the medium term 2015-2018.

Employment Rights

Questions (100)

Dan Neville

Question:

99 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the advice or assistance available to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34242/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

Information Officers from the Workplace Relations Customer Service (WRCS) phone service provide impartial information on a wide variety of employment rights legislation to both employees and employers by telephone, in writing and by email.

The service is available at 1890 80 80 90, Monday to Friday from 9.30 am to 5 pm (including lunch). However, an advice or advocacy service is not provided.

An extensive range of explanatory leaflets, and a comprehensive Guide to Labour Law, can also be downloaded from the WRCS website at www.workplacerelations.ie.

Where an employee has not been paid, or is owed wages, and whether currently in employment, or if the employment has ended, a complaint concerning the underpayment or non-payment of wages can be taken to the Rights Commissioner Service under the Payment of Wages Act.

A single complaint form is available for complaints to the Rights Commissioners Service. The complaint form, together with details on taking a case, is available from www.workplacerelations.ie or through their Information Service at 1890 80 80 90.

An Information Officer has been in contact with Mr Barrett and provided him with information on his entitlements.

Job Creation

Questions (101, 102, 103, 104)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

100 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of manufacturing jobs created in each of the past five years to date; the extent to which such employment has had a requirement for low, medium or higher skills; the degree, if any, to which comparisons have been made with other jurisdictions in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34255/12]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

102 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which technology and innovation has been or will be utilised in the retention and creation of jobs in the manufacturing sector over the past five years to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34257/12]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

105 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the studies that have been carried out to determine the cause or causes for the relocation of manufacturing or service jobs from this country to other jurisdictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34260/12]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

108 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he and-or his Department have studied the most commonly quoted causes for failure to retain or create new employment in the manufacturing, services or retail sectors; the extent, if any, to which he can put in place measures to address such issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34263/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100, 102, 105 and 108 together.

Since the 1960s manufacturing has played a strong role in Ireland's economic development and growth. It is a key driver of innovation and technological advance, is an important source of jobs for people at all skills levels and generates many additional secondary jobs. However, there has been a noticeable decline in numbers employed in manufacturing and in the contribution from manufacturing activities to Ireland's employment and exports vis-a-vis services activities over the past decade. This is not necessarily surprising, and it echoes what has been happening in most developed economies.

While there has been a net reduction in overall employment in the past five years, jobs have been created in agency-assisted companies. The number of net new jobs created in manufacturing has declined since 2006 when 19,497 new jobs were created. The number of new jobs created in manufacturing since then is as follows: 11,553 in 2008, 7,500 in 2009, 9,308 in 2010 and 10,010 in 2011 (Source: Forfás Annual Employment Survey). A similar decline has taken place in the sector in most developed economies. For example, a reduction in the manufacturing sectors employment and its contribution to total employment since 2000 has also been experienced in Germany, UK, USA, Netherlands and Korea (Source: OECD).

The manufacturing sector in Ireland has experienced considerable structural change over the last decade. Although it is a very challenging and internationally competitive environment, there is considerable potential for the manufacturing sector in Ireland.

The Action Plan for Jobs 2012 set out a number of actions to address particular issues facing the manufacturing sector in Ireland, which include the need to address the costs of production, the issue of scale and absorptive capacity, management development and upskilling, among a number of other issues.

Key initiatives relating to the Manufacturing Sector in Ireland have recently commenced:

1) The Manufacturing Development Forum: Chaired by Patrick Miskelly of Cadbury, the Forum comprises senior corporate representatives in manufacturing in Ireland together with enterprise development agency officials. It includes both strong indigenous participation and representatives of the foreign sector. The Forum will, in the immediate term, ensure that manufacturing remains central to current and future industrial policy. The first meeting of the Forum took place on 29 June. The Forum will examine the full range of factors influencing employment levels and growth opportunities in the sector, including technology and innovation capacity.

2) Forfás Long-term Vision and Strategic Plan: Forfás has commenced a study to revisit the role of manufacturing in Ireland’s economy to assess where it stands today and to set out a strategic vision for 2020 aimed at reversing the current employment trend and enabling a return to growth. This research will set out the policy actionsneeded to support a sustainable and competitive manufacturing sector to 2020 in the context of global trends, the on-going transformation of the sector and the existing issues facing the sector in Ireland.

3) Assessment of Manufacturing Skills Needs: The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, working alongside Forfás in the development of the Long-term Vision and Strategic Plan, is currently undertaking an in-depth study on the future skills needs of the manufacturing sector in Ireland, building on previous sub-sectoral work and undertaking new firm-level inquiry.

Both the Long-term Vision and Strategic Plan and the Assessment of Manufacturing Skills Needs will be completed by the end of 2012.

Manufacturing has contributed significantly to Ireland's economic development in the past and is a crucial element of Ireland's future economic structure. The combined work of the Manufacturing Development Forum, Forfás and the EGFSN will provide a solid grounding for the achievement of sustainable growth in employment in manufacturing companies in the short term.

Economic Competitiveness

Questions (105, 106, 107)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

101 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the cost factors most regularly reoccurring in any determination of viability or sustainability in respect of job retention or job creation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34256/12]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

103 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has studied the issue of cost as affecting employment in the service sectors; if any particular studies have been done with a view to ensuring that the costs here are in accord with those in more competitive or adjoining jurisdictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34258/12]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

104 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he is satisfied regarding the competitiveness of the economy; the issues most commonly raised by employers, consumers or investors in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34259/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 101, 103 and 104 together.

The National Competitiveness Council (NCC) monitors business cost and competitiveness issues facing the Irish economy and offers recommendations on policy actions required to enhance Ireland's position in these areas. The NCC's "Costs of Doing Business in Ireland" report, last published in June 2011, benchmarks business costs against a range of Ireland's key competitor countries. The report provides an analysis of costs at sectoral level.

The NCC will shortly publish "Ireland's Competitiveness Scorecard 2012" which analyses Ireland's international competitiveness using 127 individual indicators. These range from measures such as economic growth and quality of life, to the policy inputs that will drive future competitiveness, such as the education system and the delivery of infrastructure.

In its recent reports, the NCC has identified an improvement in Ireland's competitiveness. This improvement is reflected in the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2012, published in May by the Institute for Management Development (IMD). Of the 59 countries benchmarked by the IMD for 2012, Ireland ranked 20th overall, up from 24th in 2011, and 8th out of the 24 EU countries featured. Ireland was ranked first in a number of areas, including in relation to investment incentives, skilled labour and attitudes towards globalisation.

However, more must be done to ensure that the improvements we have achieved are structural in nature and sustained in the longer-term. We need to tackle the remaining areas where we can best support a competitive environment which will support viable and sustainable jobs. Areas which have been identified as important in this regard include access to finance, business costs, the alignment of skills with enterprise needs, and the reduction in administrative burdens on business.

The Action Plan for Jobs is addressing these, and other, issues which will support Ireland's competitiveness.

Question No. 102 answered with Question No. 100.
Questions Nos. 103 and 104 answered with Question No. 101.
Question No. 105 answered with Question No. 100.

Job Creation

Questions (108)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

106 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which he and his Department have evaluated the potential for job creation through technology and innovation over the next five years having particular regard to past experiences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34261/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

In October 2010 a Research Prioritisation Steering Group was appointed with the task of conducting a comprehensive analysis of Research, Development and Innovation activity in Ireland. Its remit was to identify the areas of greatest opportunity in terms of the fit between our strengths and capacities on one hand and the potential return on investment -economically and socially — and the potential for jobs on the other. The Steering Group was chaired by former General Manager of Intel Ireland and Vice-President of Intel Corporation, Mr. Jim O Hara, and its membership was drawn from enterprise and research strands with expertise from private and public sectors.

The Group presented their Report towards the end of last year and at the end of February this year the Government agreed to implementation of the recommendations of the Report as a whole-of-Government policy goal. This means the alignment of the majority of public investment in science, technology and innovation, over the next 5 years, to the 14 areas of opportunity identified by the Steering Group as most likely to deliver economic and societal impact and ultimately jobs.

Implementation of research prioritisation has been underway since March of this year, under the direction of a Prioritisation Action Group which I personally chair and the Group includes representatives of all key Government Departments and research funders.

Job Retention

Questions (109)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

107 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has studied the effect of upward only rent reviews on the retention of jobs in retail, manufacturing or services sectors; if any particular reports have been sought or made available to his Department regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34262/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

The Land Conveyancing and Law Reform Act 2009 abolished upward-only rent reviews for all new leases signed on or after 28 February 2010. However, upward-only rent review clauses continue to apply to leases which were entered into prior to that date.

I am aware, from representations which have been made to me by business organisations, of the difficulties this causes for some businesses in the retail, manufacturing and services sectors.

Despite extensive consideration by the Government, it has not proved possible to develop a targeted scheme to tackle upward only rent reviews in existing business leases which would not be vulnerable to a legal challenge or require compensation to be paid to landlords.

While legislative intervention may not be feasible, the Minister for Finance has outlined the role which NAMA can play in dealing with the problems caused by upward only rent reviews which apply to NAMA properties. NAMA has published policy guidance which will inform the approach to be taken where tenants are experiencing difficulties in paying rents in these cases.

Separately, the Department of Justice and Law Reform has continued to progress the recommendations of the Working Group on Transparency in Commercial Rent Reviews since it reported in July 2010. Businesses can make use of the Rent Review Arbitration Code, which was drawn up by the Working Group, to help to resolve rental issues at a lower cost, in considerably less time, and in a less adversarial way for the parties concerned than through formal legal processes.

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, also announced on 4th April last that he had signed the first Commencement Order and the Establishment Order under the Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011. Among the responsibilities of the Property Services Regulatory Authority, which is to be established under the Act, is to set and enforce standards in the provision of property services by auctioneers, letting agents and property management agents and to provide redress mechanisms for consumers of those services. The Authority will also have statutory responsibility for the establishment and maintenance of a Commercial Leases Database which will provide greater transparency in relation to market rental rates for comparable properties.

I believe that these measures will help all rents return to their true market levels.

Question No. 108 answered with Question No. 100.

Job Creation

Questions (110, 111)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

109 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the degree to which he and his Department have engaged with employers with a view to ascertaining how best to generate new jobs with particular reference to incentivising job creation by existing employers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34264/12]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

111 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which all employers have been approached with a view to absorbing by way of job creation a greater number of persons off the live register; if incentivisation will be utilised in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34266/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 and 111 together.

In my role as Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, I have on-going engagement with individual employers and business representative bodies.

In preparing the 2012 Action Plan for Jobs, I consulted with a wide range of stakeholders, including employers, to obtain their views on actions to support employment creation. The Action Plan contains over 270 measures to support the Government's objectives of making Ireland the best small country in which to do business and getting 100,000 extra people back to work by 2016.

I have held a series of regional follow-up meetings on the Action Plan for Jobs, which employers and business interests have been invited to attend to explore what further actions need to be taken to support job creation in the economy. I will also be consulting with employer representative bodies shortly in the context of developing ideas for the 2013 Action Plan for Jobs.

The Government's strategy on Labour Market Activation — Pathways to Work — aims to ensure that, as employment opportunities arise through the Action Plan for Jobs initiative, as many of those jobs as possible will be filled by people from the Live Register. Pathways to Work envisages a more meaningful engagement between the Department of Social Protection and employers to achieve this objective.

The Department of Social Protection has also simplified and extended the Employer Job (PRSI) Incentive Scheme. This scheme provides exemption from the payment of employers' PRSI contributions for 18 months when a qualifying unemployed person is recruited. Other supports and incentives available to employers to take on new employees, such as Revenue Job Assist, are also being actively promoted.

The Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, has, in addition, announced an increase of 1,000 additional places on the JobBridge internship programme this year. JobBridge gives employers the opportunity to provide meaningful work experience to unemployed people and, as a secondary benefit, gives employers the opportunity to consider the suitability of an individual for a position within the company once they complete their internship.

Work Permits

Questions (112)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

110 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of applications for work permits received by his Department in each of the past three years to date in 2012; the numbers granted and-or refused in each of the years in question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34265/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

I have set out the details sought by the Deputy in the following table:

Year

Received

New

Renewal

Total

Refused

Withdrawn

2012

2,864

1,598

611

2,209

599

56

2011

6,408

3,184

2,016

5,200

1,007

201

2010

8,460

3,394

3,877

7,271

990

199

2009

10,305

4,024

3,938

7,962

1,901

442

The Deputy will note that in 2011, the most recent complete year for which statistics are available, my Department received 6,408 applications for renewals of permits and new employment permits and that permits issued in respect of 5,200, or 81% of these cases. Ireland remains a very open and welcoming country for non-Irish nationals in our Labour Force. Quarter 1 2012 labour market statistics show there are 274,000 non-Irish nationals in our labour force of just over 2 million. Favourable demographics and consistent investment in education ensure a plentiful supply of highly qualified workers with excellent technical, language and customer services capabilities, as well as a reputation for flexibility and innovation. In addition, Irish employers have access to the EU and EEA labour force in accordance with EU law on freedom of movement or Accession Treaties.

The Employment Permit structures and procedures have been designed and maintained to protect the Irish labour market while ensuring that key specific skills are available that will enable the Irish economy to expand and develop.

Question No. 111 answered with Question No. 109.

Small and Medium Enterprises

Questions (113)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

112 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which research has been carried out to identify possible disincentives to job creation in the small and medium sized enterprises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34267/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

A number of reports have been published on the topic of small business in Ireland in recent years including the Small Business Forum report "Small Business is Big Business" and the CSO annual report on "Small Business in Ireland".

The Advisory Group for Small Business was established in June 2011 to focus on the key concerns that face small enterprises in Ireland. The Advisory Group facilitates structured and regular dialogue between its chair, the Minister for Small Business, and representatives of the small business sector on issues of concern to that sector.

The Advisory Group for Small Business is active in identifying impediments to small business. A key focus for the Group is on how to promote the economic development and job potential of the sector having regard to the current constraints on the national finances and to recommend action points that feed into the ‘Action Plan for Jobs.' The annual Action Plan for Jobs is designed to help create an environment where small and medium sized enterprises can flourish.

The Advisory Group's Report "The Voice of Small Business" was published in November 2011. The Report identifies issues of concern for small business such as access to finance, labour market costs and access to procurement. The Report sets out the recommendations of stakeholders in the small business sector to address these issues and lists the actions that they consider need to be put in place by Government to assist SMEs to cope with the current economic crisis and to position them for future growth and job creation.

Thirty-four of the Advisory Group's actions/recommendations were included in the Action Plan for Jobs, published in February.

The first Quarterly Progress Report on the Action Plan for Jobs, covering Quarter 1of 2012, was published by Government on Friday 20 April 2012. This Progress Report is available on my Department's website, under the "Publications" link: http://www.djei.ie/publications/2012APJ_First_Progress_Report.pdf.

The second Quarterly Progress Report on the Action Plan for Jobs, covering Quarter 2 of 2012, will be published by Government on Friday 13 July 2012.

Job Statistics

Questions (114)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

113 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the total number of jobs through foreign direct investment created in each of the past three years to date in 2012; the extent to which emerging trends have indicated opportunities for the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34268/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

The figures released by the IDA in its Annual Report 2011 show that there are 145,878 people currently working in IDA client companies, this represents a 4.4% increase on the previous year. In the first six months of 2012 alone, in excess of 5,000 new jobs have been announced by IDA client companies with some of the biggest announcements coming from PayPal, Apple and Mylan. Sectors where growth is particularly strong include consumer services, ICT, life sciences and international financial services. The pharmaceutical sector in particular has seen a number of significant announcements in the first half of 2012 from companies including Eli Lilly, Amgen, Allergan and Mylan; these announcements have been made despite the global challenge of patent expiry in the pharmaceutical sector, which demonstrates Ireland's strong reputation as a hub for the pharmaceutical and bio-pharmaceutical sectors.

The Forfás Annual Employment Survey reports on job gains and losses in companies that are clients of the industrial development agencies. Information is collected annually and aggregated at county level. The survey shows that in the 3 year period 2009 to 2011, there were a total of 25,918 full time jobs created in IDA supported companies. Figures for 2012 will not be available until the end of the year. The attached tabular statement shows the number of jobs created in each of the years 2009 to 2011:

Table showing number of full time new jobs created in IDA Client Companies in the period 2009-2011

2009

2010

2011

New Jobs created

5,239

9,075

11,594

Question No. 114 answered with Question No. 25.

Job Creation

Questions (115)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

115 Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if considering unemployment numbers in excess of 3,400 people in County Leitrim which has a population of just 32,000, the relevant agencies such as Enterprise Ireland and the Industrial Development Agency are doing enough to attract inward investment and in particular foreign direct investment to Carrick-on-Shannon, which has over 500 people under the age of 25 registered as unemployed at the local exchange office. [34328/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

There are 4 IDA Ireland supported companies in Leitrim employing 903 people. These include Bank of America which is based in Carrick on Shannon, ElastoMetall Ireland, and Valspar Industries Ireland Ltd. Mirror Controls International is the most recent investment to Co. Leitrim following the transfer of its production to the Manorhamilton facility from Montfoort, Holland, resulting in the creation of 50 jobs. IDA is actively engaged with its existing base of companies in Leitrim, highlighting the ongoing importance of upskilling/reskilling and the need to add high value activities in order to ensure sustainability and ongoing development.

As Ireland competes for investments at the highest end of the value chain, the concept of scale is crucial. Leading corporations require a significant population of highly qualified talent, essential physical and digital infrastructure coupled with the availability of sophisticated professional support services. There is intense and continual international competition to win FDI, which is mainly dominated by Metro City Regions with populations in excess of 1 million i.e. London, Manchester, Boston and Los Angeles. Ireland has only one Metro City Region, the Greater Dublin area. In order to achieve regional economic development, IDA Ireland focuses on marketing Gateway locations within each Region and highlights the opportunities provided by Hub locations which are within commuting distances of these Gateways. In addition, IDA Ireland promotes other locations as part of its marketing efforts in response to specific client requirements. It must be remembered, however, that in the final analysis, it is the investor who decides where to locate.

Similarly, Enterprise Ireland is actively focused on the creation of new jobs through supporting entrepreneurs setting up new High Potential Start-Up Companies, the retention and creation of new jobs in existing companies and in enhancing the innovation capability of Ireland at a national and regional level through support of research in companies and third level institutions. Enterprise Ireland also supports the provision of incubation space for new start ups both on college campuses and Community Enterprise Centres.

On the 10th June 2012, a new Competitive Feasibility Fund for the North West was launched. The closing date was the 22nd June 2012. This was aimed at entrepreneurs with a new business proposition to create jobs in Leitrim, Sligo and Donegal. A feasibility grant of up to €25,000 (50% of eligible expenditure) is available to investigate the viability of the idea. 37 applications were received, with a number from Co. Leitrim and these are currently being assessed. To date in 2012, total approvals to Enterprise Ireland clients is €36,930 of which €35,159 has been paid. Since the inception of the Innovation Voucher Scheme in 2007, forty seven companies in Leitrim have availed of these vouchers worth a total of €235,000.

Services for People with Disabilities

Questions (116)

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

116 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans for the advocacy for persons with disabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34058/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The National Advocacy Service for People with Disabilities (NAS) was established under the Citizens Information Board (CIB) in January 2011. NAS provides an independent, confidential and free, representative advocacy service to vulnerable people with disabilities who cannot self advocate, while supporting others to use mainstream services.

The budget assigned to the National Advocacy Service for People with Disabilities in 2012 is €3.2 million.

During 2011 the service was established in locations across the country. The service is managed by five Citizens Information Services in Dublin (Clondalkin), Westmeath, Offaly, Waterford and Leitrim and staffed by five Managers, 35 advocates (full-time equivalents) and five administrators.

The aim of the National Advocacy Service is to ensure that the voices of people with disabilities are heard and their rights safeguarded. The Service has a particular remit for people with disabilities who are isolated from their community and services, have communication differences, are inappropriately accommodated, live in residential services, attend day services and have limited informal or natural supports.

As a new service NAS has been targeting promotion of the service to residential institutions. In 2011 all five regions conducted an extensive programme of visits and presentations to management, staff and service users in residential services.

The list of advocates, their contact numbers and the counties which they cover can be accessed by following the NAS link on www.citizensinformationboard.ie.

Universal Social Charge

Questions (117)

Ciara Conway

Question:

117 Deputy Ciara Conway asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will confirm when the health levy refund will be repaid to those who were overcharged; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34158/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The Department has received a very high level of enquiries in relation to requests for refunds of the Health Contribution over the last year. To clarify the position in relation to eligibility for a refund, a person who earned more than €26,000 in 2008, 2009 and 2010 was liable to pay the Health Contribution and is not due a refund.

A person who earned less than €26,000 and never earned more than €500 in any one week would not have been charged the Health Contribution and is not eligible for a refund.

A person may be entitled to a refund of the Health Contribution if he or she earned less than €26,000 in 2008, 2009 or 2010 and earned more than €500 in any particular week in those years.

The Department of Social Protection refunds the health contribution where it is found that the conditions for refund are met. The Department is currently processing requests for refunds of the health contribution received in mid-January 2012.

The Health Contribution was included in the Universal Social Charge (USC) with effect from 1 January 2011 and no Health Contribution refunds arise after that date.

Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance Scheme

Questions (118)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

118 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will be made on a back to school allowance application in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34037/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The back to school clothing and footwear allowance (BSCFA) entitlements of some 115,350 families in respect of 205,125 children have now been automatically established with reference to their primary scheme entitlement with no application form required. Letters have issued to the people identified in this way, informing them of their entitlement and notifying them that payment will issue in week commencing 16 July.

Customers who do not receive an automated payment are required to complete an application form which will be processed from a centralised unit in the Department. A text message acknowledging receipt of application forms will issue this year to everyone who submits a claim form.

If the person concerned has not already received a letter from the Department they should now complete a claim form and return it to PO Box 131. I can assure the Deputy that every effort will be made to process applications promptly.

Social Welfare Code

Questions (119)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

119 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if an increase in one parent family allowance or jobseeker's allowance is applicable in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34040/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

A review of the case is being undertaken and the person concerned will be informed of the outcome once the review is completed.

Employment Support Services

Questions (120)

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

120 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review a decision to refuse a place on a JobsBridge scheme to a person (details supplied) in County Cork; if the person is entitled to sign for social welfare credits; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34046/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The National Internship Scheme was launched on 1st July 2011. It provides internship opportunities of either 6 or 9 months for unemployed individuals at all skills levels. The aim of JobBridge is to assist individuals in breaking the cycle where they are unable to get a job without experience. It provides them with an opportunity to gain valuable experience, relevant knowledge and skills within a working environment. The Scheme is open to organisations in the private, public and community or voluntary sectors.

The Scheme has made significant progress to-date. 8,406 internship placements have commenced since the launch of the Scheme in July 2011. There are currently 4,915 interns undertaking internship placements. In addition, there are in excess of 2,100 internship posts currently advertised on the JobBridge website www.jobbridge.ie.

The eligibility to access the National Internship Scheme is based on the overall objective of labour market policy in ensuring a pathway to appropriate employment, training and education opportunities.

For these reasons, it has been proposed as a matter of public policy that eligibility for the scheme be targeted at those in receipt of a Live Claim (Jobseekers Allowance/Jobseekers Benefit/One Parent Family Payment/Disability Allowance/Signing for Credits) for 78 days out of the last 6 months. Time spent of certain government sponsored training may also be taken into account when calculating eligibility. As such, the policy objective is to prioritise scarce resources to those in receipt of a Live Claim or on the Live Register so as to increase their chances of leaving it thereby ensuring a reduction in Exchequer costs over time. Therefore, the qualifying period is 3 months (78 days) for an individual in receipt of any of the qualifying payments listed above.

The person concerned is currently ineligible for a qualifying payment. I wish to advise that it appears from our records that the person concerned is eligible to sign for credits. In such cases, an individual who is unemployed and does not qualify for an unemployment payment, can sign-on for credits at their local Social Welfare Office. The individual would then get a credit for each full week of proven unemployment; i.e. that they are be available for work, genuinely seeking work and capable of work.

The person concerned could therefore apply at her local Social Welfare Office, Hanover Street provided she is capable of work. A Deciding Officer would then examine the claim and advise her of the outcome as soon as possible. Should the person concerned be successful, she would then become eligible for an internship placement in line with the qualifying period stated above.

Carer’s Allowance

Questions (121)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

121 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection when carer’s allowance will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34053/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The person in question has been awarded carer's allowance and received their first payment on 21st June 2012.

Community Employment Schemes

Questions (122)

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

122 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans for disability services and providers that currently offer places under community employment schemes under the review of community employment schemes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34059/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

Community Employment (CE) provides a range of supports to services in the health and social care related sector in the community. The main sponsors are organisations in the disability sector. The total number of ring-fenced places available to support health services is 2,800 places. Other health and social care places on CE are on non-specific or mixed CE schemes. These schemes are not meant to be stand-alone services but function as an added support to the mainstream statutory or voluntary provider. The Department of Social Protection recognises that CE acts as a resource for communities to identify their own needs and priorities and over the years has become a vital service to communities.

Following the completion of the CE Financial Review, at the June, DSP regions were notified of their revised budget allocation for all CE Schemes, this includes disability services and providers of such services. CE Scheme Sponsors were then notified individually of their budget allocations for materials and training. Under the revised arrangements notified to Sponsors, schemes were provided with a specific level of support aimed at meeting the particular costs necessarily incurred by them, as recommended by the Region, having regard to the overall level of funding available for community employment nationally.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Questions (123)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

123 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the progress to date in the determination of eligibility to rent support in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34063/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The person concerned has been awarded rent supplement from the commencement date of his tenancy. The person concerned is in receipt of his full entitlement to rent supplement based on his household circumstances. All arrears will issue accordingly.

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Questions (124)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

124 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the exact entitlement to jobseeker’s allowance in the case of a person (details supplied); the entitlement should the person take up employment of less than 20 hours per week; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34064/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

Payment of jobseeker's allowance to the person concerned was disallowed as his weekly means from casual employment were in excess of the statutory limit. If he suffers a reduction in his level of employment he should re-apply for jobseeker's allowance.

Social Welfare Benefits

Questions (125)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

125 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when arrears will issue on an application in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34065/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

Arrears due to the person concerned will issue by cheque this week.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Questions (126)

Jack Wall

Question:

126 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a rent allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34081/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 15 March 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 11th May and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Questions (127, 128)

Regina Doherty

Question:

127 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection now that Ashbourne and Ratoath, County Meath, have been moved to be managed to the Fingal Area Office, if the same rent supplement rates will apply to Ashbourne and Ratoath that apply to Finglas, Glasneven and so on, Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34086/12]

View answer

Regina Doherty

Question:

143 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection if a review of the rental markets in Ashbourne and Ratoath, County Meath, was conducted; if she will state the justification for not raising the rent supplement levels in these towns to the level applying in Finglas, Glasneven and so on; if she will supply in tabular form the rent supplement levels that previously applied and currently applied in each of these towns; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34199/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 and 143 together.

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term income support, to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The aim is to provide short term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer. There are approximately 92,000 persons in receipt of rent supplement for which the Government has provided a sum of €436 million for 2012.

As part of the ongoing streamlining of services following the integration of the community welfare service into the Department, responsibility for the management of this service for Ratoath and Ashbourne has recently transferred to the Dublin North Division. There has been no change to the provision of the community welfare services provided locally in Ratoath and Ashbourne. New maximum rent limits came into force on 1 January 2012 and are in place until June 2013. The emphasis of the rent limit review was to ensure that maximum value for money for tenants and the taxpayer was achieved whilst at the same time ensuring that people on rent supplement are not priced out of the market for private rented accommodation.

For all counties, major urban population centres were tested as part of the rents review to ensure that rent supplement applicants can access temporary housing arrangements whilst seeking employment opportunities. In the case of Meath the following areas were isolated for consideration: Ashbourne; Athboy; Bettystown; Dunshaughlin; Navan; Trim; Ratoath; Kells; Laytown; Enfield; and the rest of Meath county as a whole. Maximum rent limits are set on the basis of geographic location and the County Meath rent limits remain in place for Ashbourne and Ratoath. Current information shows there is accommodation available at the new maximum rent limits in county Meath. It is important to bear in mind that the purpose of the review is to ensure availability of accommodation for rent supplement tenancies and not to provide rent supplement tenants with access to all housing in all areas.

The current and previous maximum rent limits for County Meath are set out in the following table. The Department will continue to monitor rent levels throughout the country but at this stage there are no plans to revise the existing rent limits.

2012 Rent Supplement Rent limits for County Meath

County

Single person in shared accommo- dation

Couple in shared accommo- dation

Single person

Couple with no children

Couple or one-parent family with one child

Couple or one-parent family with two children

Couple or one-parent family with three children

County Meath

€200

€260

€390

€450

€550

€610

€675

2010 Rent Supplement Rent limits for County Meath

County

Single person in shared accommo- dation

Couple in shared accommo- dation

Single person

Couple with no children

Couple or one-parent family with one child

Couple or one-parent family with two children

Couple or one-parent family with three children

County Meath

€260

€265

€468

€550

€650

€700

€750

Pension Provisions

Questions (129)

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Question:

128 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason she is unable to provide a forecast service to person’s in relation to their future State pension when requested to do so; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34091/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The Department is committed to delivering the best possible service to its customers and to utilising the potential of modern technology and available delivery channels in meeting this objective. To this end, a new application has been developed and launched early in 2011 which allows for the automatic issue of contribution statements where the person's record is in order and does not require investigation. Production of a statement of contributions involves an examination of both the computerised PRSI records from 1979 and, in some cases, the earlier paper-based records from 1953 to 1979. In normal circumstances, where the record is fully in order, statements are issued within two weeks. However, processing of requests can take longer where further information or clarification of work periods, etc. is required.

For administrative reasons, a decision was taken in May 2007 to stop providing the traditional forecast service and to replace this with the provision of a copy of the individual's contribution history along with a booklet entitled "Working it Out". The contribution history record, along with the guide, provides the customer with the information required to decide when to retire and how best to optimise their State Pension entitlement. The change has also enabled the State Pension Section to concentrate on the primary task of processing pension claims and in implementing improvements to the service provided to people on reaching pension age. State Pension claims are now processed in a timely manner, with in excess of 90% of these claims awarded before the customer reaches pension age. The Department has also developed a claim initiation service whereby customers who are known to have an entitlement to State Pension are pro-actively invited to apply.

There are no plans to re-establish a pensions forecasting service as the focus remains on processing pension claims in a timely manner and available resources are prioritised for this purpose. However, the Department will continue to provide the current service (a copy of the person's record along with the information booklet) to enable customers to work out their entitlements and the network of Local Offices and Citizens Information Offices will continue to serve as points of contact to assist people in this regard.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

Questions (130)

John McGuinness

Question:

129 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection the timeframe for a decision to be taken in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in respect of their application for domiciliary care allowance; and if the matter will be expedited in view of the urgency of this case. [34093/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

An application for domiciliary care allowance (DCA) was received on the 2nd July 2012. This application has been forwarded to one of the Department's Medical Assessors for their medical opinion. Upon receipt of this opinion, a decision will issue to the customer. Currently, it can take up to 8 weeks to process an application for DCA.

Social Welfare Appeals

Questions (131)

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

130 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider the concerns raised in correspondence (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34106/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 4 April 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 27th April and the case has been referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Departmental Contracts

Questions (132)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

131 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will provide details of any existing or planned contracts between her Department and a company (details supplied) for the provision of labour market activation services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34111/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The Department does not have any existing or planned contracts with the company in question for the provision of labour market activation services.

Homeless Persons

Questions (133, 134)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

132 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will review the supports available for vulnerable young persons leaving the care system at 18 years but who are being forced into emergency homeless accommodation because their income is too low for them to afford to move on into independent living; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34113/12]

View answer

Clare Daly

Question:

136 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will award adult rates of social welfare payments to young persons trying to get out of homeless accommodation. [34125/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 132 and 136 together.

The €100 rate of jobseeker's allowance was introduced for claimants aged under 20 in April 2009, and this rate was applied to claimants aged up to 21 from December 2009. The €100 rate does not apply to certain categories of claimant including:

claimants with a qualified child;

those transferring to Jobseeker's Allowance immediately after exhausting their entitlement to Jobseeker's Benefit;

those making a claim for Jobseeker's Allowance where that claim is linked to a Jobseeker's Allowance claim made within the previous 12 months to which the maximum personal rate applied;

those transferring directly to Jobseeker's Allowance from Disability Allowance;

certain people who were in the care of the HSE during the period of 12 months before he or she reached the age of 18.

A rate of €144 applies to claimants aged 22-24. The adoption of these measures reflected the need to encourage more young jobseekers to improve their skills by either pursuing further study or accessing a labour market programme.

Receiving the full adult rate of a jobseekers payment without a strong financial incentive to engage in education or training can lead to welfare dependency. While many young people with low levels of education and training were able to get work in construction and other areas when the economy was doing well, they are likely to find it much harder to get work over the course of the next few years. The measures encourage young jobseekers to improve their skills and remain active in the labour market in order to avoid the risk of becoming long-term unemployed and will help them to progress into sustainable employment on a long-term basis. Where a person is in receipt of a rate of jobseeker's allowance described above and he or she participates in a course of education, training, Community Employment, Rural Social Scheme or Tús, the full normal rate of payment applicable to that course or scheme applies without any reduction for persons aged under 25.

I understand that Deputies have been contacted with regard to these measures following a campaign by Focus Ireland. My officials met with Focus Ireland in May, 2012 in relation to their concerns. These are being examined and further discussions are planned.

More generally, it may be noted that my Department's role with regard to persons who are homeless is mainly income maintenance. Under the social welfare system, homeless people have entitlements to the full range of social welfare schemes, including supplementary welfare allowance and associated supplements, subject to the normal qualifying conditions. My Department, through its work in the Homeless Persons Unit and the Asylum Seekers and New Communities Unit provides assistance to people in sourcing the most appropriate accommodation available. In addition, prison and hospital in-reach services are provided to explore accommodation options and, where necessary, liaise with local authorities to identify and source the most appropriate accommodation available for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. This ensures that where possible, people are diverted away from homeless services and towards community-based supports.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Questions (135)

Patrick Nulty

Question:

133 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of households in receipt of rent supplement; and of these households, the number that have been in receipt of same for more than six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34120/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term income support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The aim is to provide short term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer. The Government has provided a sum of €436 million for this scheme in 2012.

There are approximately 92,000 persons in receipt of rent supplement of which 73,300 are in receipt of payment for six months or more.

The rental accommodation scheme gives local authorities specific responsibility for meeting the longer-term housing needs of people receiving rent supplement for 18 months or more. Details of these cases are notified regularly by my Department to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.

On 16th June 2011, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and the Minister for Housing and Planning published a new housing policy framework statement. This framework statement reflects the content of the Programme for Government and sets out the principles to underpin the development of housing policy into the medium term. Specifically, it contains the announcement for the transfer of responsibility in providing housing needs for long term rent supplement recipients to housing authorities. A multi-agency steering group, which includes representation from my Department, has been established to develop proposals to give effect to this transfer.

Mortgage Interest Supplement

Questions (136)

Patrick Nulty

Question:

134 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of households in receipt of mortgage interest supplement; and of these households, the number that have been in receipt of same for more than six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34121/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The purpose of mortgage interest supplement is to provide short-term income support to eligible people who are unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which is their sole place of residence. The Government has provided approximately €51 million for this scheme in 2012.

There are currently approximately 17,600 mortgage interest supplement recipients of which 15,000 have been in receipt of payment for six months or more. Mortgage interest supplement is not an appropriate long-term support. The Inter-Departmental Mortgage Arrears Working Group recommended the establishment of two schemes, mortgage to rent and mortgage to lease, for eligible households to access social housing supports. Details of the mortgage to rent scheme have been announced recently by the Minister of State for Housing and Planning.

Mortgage Interest Supplement

Questions (137)

Clare Daly

Question:

135 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection the instructions that have been issued to community welfare officers in relation to requesting documentary evidence from financial institutions regarding mortgage distress when processing mortgage interest supplement. [34124/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The purpose of mortgage interest supplement (MIS) is to provide short-term income support to eligible people who are unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which is their sole place of residence. The supplement assists with the interest portion of the mortgage repayments only. There are currently 17,600 persons in receipt of mortgage interest supplement, with almost €51m provided in 2012.

From 18 June 2012, applicants for mortgage interest supplement must comply with an alternative payment arrangement agreed with their lender for a cumulative period of not less than 12 months prior to becoming eligible for the scheme. The underlying principle of this legislative change is to ensure that mortgage interest supplement eligibility criteria reflect the forbearance arrangements set out in the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Process.

To satisfy this new condition, documentary evidence is required from the lender which will establish—

Whether the applicant is currently engaged with the lender in addressing his or her mortgage obligations and has complied with the terms of any alternative payment arrangements put in place for a cumulative period of not less than 12 months.

The details of the terms of any previous and the current alternative payment arrangement(s), and

The periods for which the alternative payment arrangements have been in place.

The Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears provides that lenders must assist borrowers in ensuring that all requests for documentation and information for the purposes of applying for State supports in relation to mortgages are processed within ten business days of receipt.

Question No. 136 was answered with Question No. 132.

Community Employment Schemes

Questions (138)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

137 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social Protection the way a training programme (details supplied) where participants are trainees, in recovery from addiction, unlike other community employment schemes whose participants have roles as clerical staff, child care workers, maintenance and so on, will survive a 50% cut to its training grant which is vital for the scheme and its participants; if provisions will be made in order that more flexible arrangements to current funding will be arranged for this vital training service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34147/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

Community Employment is an employment programme which helps long-term unemployed people to re-enter the active workforce by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to work routine. The programme assists them to enhance and develop both their technical and personal skills which can then be used in the workplace.

Reductions in training and material grants were announced as part of Budget 2012. The Department subsequently undertook a financial review of all CE projects, the main objective of which was to identify areas where savings could be achieved so that best use could be made of available funds. As a result of the review, there are now new arrangements in place to ensure best value is obtained on a range of items including insurance, audits etc.

Community Projects have been advised that any underspend on materials can be reallocated to their training budget. In addition to the budget allocation that has been made to all CE projects, there is also a wide range of training available through both FAS and the VEC's which can be accessed at no cost by CE participants.

The Department recently wrote to the project sponsor concerned to advise it of an improved budgetary allocation following the recent review. An official of the Department has been trying to make contact with the sponsor over the past few days and will be available to meet with the sponsor to discuss any issues, concerns and options.

Rural Social Scheme

Questions (139)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

138 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection if the number of places on rural social schemes in County Galway will be increased as the schemes are proving an invaluable source of employment for many people in the country and great work is being carried out for local communities by participants on the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34149/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The purpose of the rural social scheme is to provide income support for farmers and fisherpersons who have an entitlement to specified social welfare payments. Persons are engaged for 19.5 hours per week to provide certain services of benefit to rural communities. The rural social scheme currently provides work opportunities for around 2,600 participants and 130 supervisory staff. I have no plans to increase the number of places available on this scheme. The funds allocated for 2012 amount to €45.66m, which should enable the scheme to continue as in previous years but does not allow for the recruitment of additional participants above the numbers stated above. These funds meet the pay costs of participants and supervisors, provision of materials, insurance, health and safety, training and related operational costs.

Carer’s Allowance

Questions (140)

Pat Breen

Question:

139 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on a carer’s allowance will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34166/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The person in question has been awarded carer's allowance. She received her first payment on 28th June 2012.

Carer’s Allowance

Questions (141)

Pat Breen

Question:

141 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision for carer’s allowance will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34174/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

I confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question.

On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of the case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Child Benefit

Questions (142)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

142 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding children’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34181/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

In accordance with Social Welfare Legislation, child benefit is paid up to and including the month of a child's 16th birthday, and continues to the month of the 18th birthday only, provided the child is in full-time education.

In order to continue payment to the person concerned, the school/college that the child is attending must certify the date of completion of education on the application form.

In this case, payment of child benefit was made up to and including June 2012, the end of the academic year, when the child completed the Leaving Certificate.

As is normal procedure, an application form will automatically issue to the person concerned in August. This should be completed if the child returns to full-time education. Arrears due from July 2012 will then be paid and payment will continue to December 2012, the month of the child's 18th birthday.

Question No. 143 was answered with Question No. 127.
Question No. 144 withdrawn.

Carer’s Allowance

Questions (143)

Pat Breen

Question:

145 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on carer's allowance will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34240/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

I confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question.

On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of the case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

Questions (144)

Pat Breen

Question:

146 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on a domiciliary care allowance appeal will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34244/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 13 February 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 28th June and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Disability Allowance

Questions (145)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

147 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the reasons for refusal of disability allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) who is deemed by their consultant as being unfit for work, if this inquiry will be taken as grounds for appeal and-or referral for oral hearing; if an application for invalidity pension is more appropriate in this case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34276/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

Following receipt of the application for disability allowance from the person concerned the medical evidence supplied with his claim was referred to one of the department's medical assessors who was of the opinion, based on the information supplied, that the person was not medically suitable for disability allowance. The deciding officer accepted this opinion and refused the claim and the person was notified in writing of this decision.

Further medical evidence received from the person was referred to another medical assessor who was also of the opinion, based on the information supplied, that the person was not medically suitable for disability allowance. The deciding officer accepted this opinion and the original decision to refuse the claim remained unchanged and the person was notified in writing of this outcome.

When conducting an assessment, the medical assessor does not dispute the existence of the certified cause of incapacity but rather s/he assesses the degree to which the loss of function in work-related activities, resulting from disease or injury, affects the person's ability to perform either their own job or alternative types of work.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that any appeal in this case should be made directly to the Chief Appeals Officer, Social Welfare Appeals Office, D'Olier House, D'Olier Street, Dublin 2, by the person concerned, within 21 days of notification that the review of his disability allowance application was unsuccessful.

An application form and information booklet for invalidity pension has been issued directly to the person today. He should complete and return this form in the freepost envelope provided, upon receipt of which, his entitlement will be examined and he will be notified of the outcome in due course.

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Questions (146)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

148 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when jobseeker’s allowance will be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) who was in receipt of disability allowance following surgery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34278/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

According to the records of this Department, the person concerned has not applied for a jobseeker's allowance.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Questions (147)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

149 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the current position in respect of rent support in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who submitted the required information as requested arising from review some months ago. [34279/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The Department has not received information requested in February 2012 in connection with a review of entitlement to rent supplement of the person concerned. The person concerned has been issued with a reminder subsequent to the initial request to which there has been no response. When the necessary response has been received the Department can then complete the review.

Rent Supplement Scheme

Questions (148)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

150 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will consider a slightly higher than average rent support in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34280/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The person concerned has informed the Department that her landlord has agreed to reduce her rent to €540 per month. Rent supplement will be reinstated and back dated on receipt of verification of the reduction in rent.

Invalidity Pension

Questions (149)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

151 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the current or expected position in regard to the determination of appeal in respect of invalidity pension in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34281/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an appeal, for the person concerned, has not been received by that office.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Disability Allowance

Questions (150)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

152 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when eligibility for disability allowance will be determined in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34282/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

I confirm that the Department is in receipt of an application for disability allowance from the above named person. On completion of the necessary investigations on all aspects of the claim a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Invalidity Pension

Questions (151)

Barry Cowen

Question:

153 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Offaly may expect a decision on their appeal for invalidity pension. [34297/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal, by the person concerned, was registered in that office on 09th May 2012. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Question No. 154 withdrawn.

Carer’s Allowance

Questions (152)

Barry Cowen

Question:

155 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Offaly may expect a decision on their appeal for carer’s allowance. [34303/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The person concerned was refused carers allowance on the grounds that the care recipient is not so disabled as to require full time care and attention as prescribed in regulations. He was notified of this decision, the reasons for it and of his right of review or appeal.

The person concerned appealed this decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office and submitted further medical evidence in support of the appeal. This information has been forwarded to the medical assessor for further consideration.

If the outcome remains unchanged a submission will be prepared and the file and papers will be forwarded to the Social Welfare Appeals Office for determination.

Invalidity Pension

Questions (153)

Barry Cowen

Question:

156 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Offaly may expect a decision on their appeal for invalidity pension. [34304/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer having fully considered all the available evidence, including that adduced at oral hearing, has allowed the appeal. The person concerned has been notified of the Appeals Officer decision.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Carer’s Allowance

Questions (154)

Barry Cowen

Question:

157 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Offaly may expect a decision on their application for carer’s allowance. [34306/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The application for carer's allowance from the person in question was refused on the grounds that the care recipient is not in need of full-time care and attention as laid down in the regulations.

The person in question has requested a review of this decision and has submitted further medical evidence in support of the application.

Once the review is completed in this case the person in question will be notified directly of the outcome.

Carer’s Allowance

Questions (155)

Barry Cowen

Question:

158 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 10 may expect a decision on their application for carer’s allowance. [34307/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

I confirm that the department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question.

On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of the case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Invalidity Pension

Questions (156)

Barry Cowen

Question:

159 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Offaly may expect a decision on their appeal for invalidity pension. [34310/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that no appeal in respect of Invalidity Pension has been registered for the person concerned.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance Scheme

Questions (157)

Barry Cowen

Question:

160 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Offaly may expect a decision on their application for back to school clothing and footwear allowance. [34311/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The back to school clothing and footwear allowance (BSCFA) entitlements of some 115,350 families in respect of 205,125 children have now been automatically established with reference to their primary scheme entitlement with no application form required. Letters have issued to the people identified in this way, informing them of their entitlement and notifying them that payment will issue in week commencing 16 July.

Customers who do not receive an automated payment are required to complete an application form which will be processed from a centralised unit in the Department. A text message acknowledging receipt of application forms will issue this year to everyone who submits a claim form.

If the person concerned has not already received a letter from the Department they should now complete a claim form and return it to PO Box 131. I can assure the Deputy that every effort will be made to process applications promptly.

Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance Scheme

Questions (158)

Barry Cowen

Question:

161 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Offaly may expect a decision on their application for back to school clothing and footwear allowance. [34312/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

The back to school clothing and footwear allowance (BSCFA) entitlements of some 115,350 families in respect of 205,125 children have now been automatically established with reference to their primary scheme entitlement with no application form required. Letters have issued to the people identified in this way, informing them of their entitlement and notifying them that payment will issue in week commencing 16 July.

Customers who do not receive an automated payment are required to complete an application form which will be processed from a centralised unit in the Department. A text message acknowledging receipt of application forms will issue this year to everyone who submits a claim form.

If the person concerned has not already received a letter from the Department they should now complete a claim form and return it to PO Box 131. I can assure the Deputy that every effort will be made to process applications promptly.

Disability Allowance

Questions (159)

Barry Cowen

Question:

162 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3 may expect a decision on their appeal for disability allowance. [34316/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer having fully considered all the available evidence allowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. The person concerned has been notified of the Appeals Officer decision.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Carer’s Allowance

Questions (160)

Barry Cowen

Question:

163 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Offaly may expect a decision on their application for carer’s allowance. [34318/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Social Protection)

I confirm that the department is in receipt of an application for carer's allowance from the person in question.

On completion of the necessary investigations relating to all aspects of the case a decision will be made and the person concerned will be notified directly of the outcome.

Advertising Standards

Questions (161)

Clare Daly

Question:

164 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will deal with advertising standards and protocol in relation to the highly offensive and inaccurate youth defence advertisements. [34134/12]

View answer

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

The matter of advertising on billboards does not come within the remit of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, and I have no function in the matter.

The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) is a non-statutory self-regulatory body, independent of Government and set up and financed by the advertising industry. Certain marketing communications that do not have any commercial element do not come within the existing remit of the Code of Standards for Advertising, Promotional and Direct Marketing drawn up by the ASAI.

My Department has informally raised the question of remit with the ASAI and I am informed that they had considered matter at an earlier juncture but decided against any attempt to extend their remit to cover non-commercial advertising on the grounds that any such measure could raise profound constitutional and freedom of expression issues.

I understand that the ASAI intend to review their remit later this year which offers all stakeholders the opportunity to engage with them on this difficult issue.

Broadcasting Services

Questions (162, 163, 164)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

165 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the fact that Independent Broadcasters of Ireland, who rely entirely on advertising to fund broadcasting and operational activities, are at an unfair disadvantage to RTE; if a fairer system of financing local radio network will be put in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34138/12]

View answer

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

166 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on whether an amendment of section 108 of the 2009 Act to define and limit the commercial mandate of RTE would be in the interest of fairness, in particular to the independent broadcasters of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34139/12]

View answer

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

167 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views regarding funding of the BAI from the new household broadcasting charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34140/12]

View answer

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

I propose to take Question Nos. 165 to 167, inclusive, together.

I fully recognise the contribution of the independent radio sector in bringing diversity to the airwaves, and serving the needs of communities, often at a very local level. As I noted when I addressed the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI) Annual Conference earlier this year, "Local radio gives a voice and enhances social dialogue for people of all ages ... it provides a forum for local communities; it enhances a local community; its gives confidence to people and indeed is an expression of the community in which the station is broadcast".

However, it should be clear that these stations were founded as commercial operations with creating a profit for their owners as their primary objective. Station owners sought and accepted licences on clear commercial terms. In many cases, their success in the licence application process was assisted by the voluntary commitments they gave in regard to the provision of public service type content, over and above that required by the relevant legislation. The fact that some of these stations are now undergoing an understandable degree of financial stress does not mean that the State should immediately step in and provide funding — they are and remain commercial companies. Moreover, it should also be noted that their very popularity in the communities they serve is, in many cases, as a distinct result of the local news content and current affairs type programming that they provide and which, in turn, gives them a powerful advertising presence and thus earning potential. As the economy recovers, it is to be expected that this commercial pressure will ease as advertising revenues recover apace.

In practical terms, EU State Aid rules provide a serious and unavoidable obstacle to the IBI proposal. The Principle of Additionality means that State funding can only be provided to companies where, in the absence of such funding, the service would not be delivered. The fact that the commercial broadcasters already provide a range of public service content voluntarily would clearly rule out the provision of any state funds on this basis.

As the Deputy may be aware, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) is presently engaged in the first "5 year review" under Section 124 of the Broadcasting Act 2009. This review, which builds on the single year reviews completed thus far, will examine issues in relation to Section 108 of the Act and the commercial funding of these corporations as well as the impact of further "top slicing" of the available licence fee fund. As such, I expect that it will fully engage with questions around RTÉ's presence in the advertising market, and the nature of their commercial remit. I will, of course, consider any suggestions or recommendations that may emanate from this around legislative change. Equally, I remain of the view that the existing BAI Levy system is the most appropriate means by which that organisation should be funded, unless of course, a compelling reason is brought forward in this review.

Post Office Network

Questions (165)

Pat Breen

Question:

168 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the sustainability of the post office network in the country; the options and proposals for the sustainability of the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34201/12]

View answer

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

Operational matters and the sustainability of the post office network are a matter for the management and Board of An Post and one in which I have no statutory function.

As shareholder however, I do have a strong concern in relation to the ongoing commercial position of the Company and I regularly liaise with the Company in this regard. An Post has been adversely affected by a significant and ongoing downward trend in its core mail business. In response, it has sought to control costs and diversify operations whilst continuing to provide a high quality national service. I fully support the Company's strategy in this regard, such as its engagement in banking services and its recent involvement with Aviva.

The Government is committed to a strong and viable An Post and supports its maintenance of the maximum number of economically viable post offices. In the context of public sector transformation, I have stressed to my Government colleagues that the increased use of the post office network should be considered by public sector bodies where this is appropriate.

Household Charge

Questions (166)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

169 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will ensure that all household charges, second home charges and so on may be paid through the post office network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34136/12]

View answer

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

Both the household charge and the charge on non-principal private residences are on a self-assessment basis and it is a matter for an owner of a residential property on the respective liability date to determine if he or she has a liability and, if so, that person is required to declare that liability by completing the relevant declaration form and to pay the charge by the due date.

There is a range of options available for persons to pay both charges. Online systems (www.householdcharge.ie and www.nppr.ie) are in place in the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) to enable homeowners to pay the charges by credit or debit card. In addition, homeowners can make payment by cheque, postal order, credit or debit card by completing the relevant payment details on the declaration forms and returning them through the post.

Bureaus are in place in the LGMA to administer the charges on a shared service/agency basis for all local authorities. In addition, all county/city councils have been requested to have arrangements in place for persons to attend their principal offices to pay the charges. An Post has assisted in broadening the number of local outlets where the household charge declaration form is available and the form has been made available outside the counter in the network of 1,152 local post offices.

I am satisfied that there is a comprehensive suite of payment options available to persons to pay both the household charge and the charge on non-principal private residences and I have no plans at present to alter these arrangements.

Tidy Towns Committees

Questions (167)

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

170 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the support or advice he will give to tidy towns committee that are looking to expand in their areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34047/12]

View answer

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

The guiding principle of TidyTowns is volunteerism and self-help, using one's own skills and resources to improve one's own environment. Committees are usually comprised of local volunteers representing the local area.

As with any volunteer committee intending to expand in their area, I would advise that they advertise in their local paper, on notice boards, in schools, libraries, community centres, sports clubs or on any locally used websites, notify their local radio station, distribute leaflets in their area, invite local people who may be interested to become involved, and include the local school children. TidyTowns promotes inclusivity and most well established TidyTowns committees are very willing to help and advise their fellow committees. The TidyTowns Handbook, available online on www.TidyTowns.ie, is invaluable to TidyTowns groups and as well as informing work activities in innovative and environmentally friendly ways, it also advises on group structure, meetings, interaction with the wider community and networking with others.

Housing Grants

Questions (168)

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

171 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the schemes available to persons who are on low incomes to buy a new home; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34061/12]

View answer

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

There are two types of house purchase loan available from local authorities: standard annuity loans targeted at lower income first time buyers and those under the Home Choice Loan scheme which are available to qualifying middle income first time buyers affected by the "credit crunch". The terms and conditions governing the operation, including eligibility terms, of annuity mortgages and the Home Choice Loan are set out under the Housing (Local Authority Loans) Regulations 2009 and the Housing (Home Choice Loan) Regulations 2009 respectively. These are available on my Department's website: www.environ.ie.

Non-Principal Private Residence Charge

Questions (169)

John O'Mahony

Question:

172 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason penalties are being applied for non principal private residence payment to persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34092/12]

View answer

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

The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, as amended, broadened the revenue base of local authorities through the introduction of the charge on non-principal private residences (NPPR). The charge is set at €200 and is being levied and collected by local authorities.

The Act places the onus on an owner of a residential property which is situated in the State to assess his or her liability for the charge in the first instance. There is no obligation on local authorities to issue notifications or invoices regarding the charge. However, nationwide advertising has taken place each year since its introduction in 2009 to ensure general awareness of the charge and the liability dates. In tandem, local authorities have undertaken their own advertising campaigns locally. Communications have also issued to persons who paid the charge in respect of previous years reminding them of their possible liability for the charge.

While significant efforts are being made to ensure that property owners are aware of the charge and the liability dates, as the charge is based on self-assessment principles it is ultimately a matter for persons with a liability to pay the charge by the due date to avoid late payment fees.

Social and Affordable Housing

Questions (170)

Patrick Nulty

Question:

173 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the amount paid to Homebond in relation to social and affordable housing units constructed on behalf of local authorities in the past ten years; the means by which a homeowner can ascertain the amount that was paid from their house asking price to Homebond; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34109/12]

View answer

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

The amounts paid by building contractors and developers to companies providing structural guarantees, including amounts paid to HomeBond, are a matter between the parties concerned and not one in which the local authority or my Department had any involvement. Accordingly, it is not possible to provide details of the amounts paid by contractors or developers in respect of the structural guarantees on properties acquired by local authorities under my Department's social housing investment programme.

Departmental Reports

Questions (171, 172)

Clare Daly

Question:

174 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will make public the report of the pyrite panel, which has been in his possession for a number of weeks and which is long overdue [34128/12]

View answer

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

183 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the progress made to date if any in the resolution of situation arising from houses affected by pyrite; if any progress has been made through possible mutualisation of insurability through the insurance federation or equivalent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34286/12]

View answer

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

I propose to take Questions Nos. 174 and 183 together.

I have recently received the report of the independent pyrite panel and I am currently considering its content and recommendations in relation to providing options for a resolution for homeowners dealing with pyrite problems. It is my intention to publish the report shortly, following its consideration by Government.

Motor Taxation

Questions (173)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

175 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to allow persons pay their motor tax through the post office network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34137/12]

View answer

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

While the operation of the motor tax system is kept under regular review, I have no plans currently to introduce the collection of motor tax through the post office network. Under existing arrangements, motor tax is payable in person or by post via motor tax offices in 29 local authorities. It is also payable online at any time, with some 55% of vehicle owners who are eligible to do so now taxing their vehicles online.

Social and Affordable Housing

Questions (174)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

176 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the guidance if any he has issued to housing authorities in relation to the allocation of social housing; if all such authorities are required to have a scheme of letting priorities; if the RAS scheme is applied when deciding on allocations; if a housing applicant is entitled to know the number of points that have been applied to their application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34145/12]

View answer

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

Under Section 22 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 all housing authorities are required to make an allocation scheme (in place of a scheme of letting priorities). The making and amendment of such an allocation scheme for social housing is a reserved function of the elected members of each housing authority. The Social Housing Allocation Regulations 2011, which commenced on 1 May 2011, set out the conditions that housing authorities must take into account when making their allocation schemes. Guidance on the making of allocation schemes and the terms of the legislation has issued both from my Department and the Housing Agency. This guidance is updated regularly and is available on the Housing Agency's website (www.housing.ie).

The 2009 Act gives legislative recognition to rental accommodation availability agreements as a form of social housing support. Therefore, in accordance with the legislation, allocations of RAS accommodation to applicants on the waiting list, who are in receipt of rent supplement, are provided for as part of the allocation scheme adopted by the housing authority. Section 22(7) of the Act allows for a rent supplement tenant/household on the waiting list who is moving directly into RAS to be dealt with outside the normal prioritisation of the allocation scheme. This would generally be the case where the applicant is moving into RAS with their existing private landlord.

As is the case with all social housing supports, allocation schemes also provide a transfer mechanism to tenants, including RAS tenants, where they wish to move from one type of social housing support to another.

It is a matter for the housing authority to communicate effectively with applicants for social housing support, and I would expect such communication to be conducted in a reasonable manner.

Non-Principal Private Residence Charge

Questions (175)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

177 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if a couple who both owned houses in 2012 and had each lived in their own house for this full year and got married in March 2012 are liable for the non principal private residence charge on one of these houses in 2012; the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34197/12]

View answer

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

The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, as amended, broadened the revenue base of local authorities by introducing a charge on non-principal private residences. The charge is set at €200 and liability for it falls, in the main, on owners of rental, holiday and vacant properties. The Act places the onus on an owner of a residential property which is situated in the State to assess his or her liability for the charge in the first instance, irrespective of where the person is domiciled.

The Act has a starting position of a universal liability for residential property in respect of the charge. It goes on to exempt certain buildings and owners from this liability, the most important exemption being where a property is occupied by the owner as his or her sole or main residence on the liability date.

Under the Act, an owner of a residential property who is not living in that property as his or her sole or main residence on the liability date of 31 March is liable to pay the NPPR charge by 30 June in each year unless otherwise exempt.

Local Authority Funding

Questions (176)

Joan Collins

Question:

178 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if it has been brought to his attention that he was consulted on the terms of reference for the financial appraisal of Sligo County Council; the reason he did not recommend as part of the terms of reference that the consultants examine, review and assess the performance and competence of the management of the county council; his views that the performance of the management of local authorities should be exempted from such investigations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34213/12]

View answer

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

I refer to the replies to Questions Nos. 864 of 18 April 2012, 273 of 8 May 2012 and 99 of 21 June 2012, and Sligo County Council's decision to engage an independent financial consultant to prepare a report on the financial position of the Council. The report is intended to inform and advise the Council members and management on possible ways forward in dealing with the challenging financial circumstances of the Council.

I understand that the report is to be submitted to the Council later this month.

Local Authority Staff

Questions (177)

Joan Collins

Question:

179 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide a list of courses funded by local authorities for senior executives in local government; the location at which these courses are held; the cost of these courses; and the number of attendees per council each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34220/12]

View answer

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

Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each City and County Manager is responsible for staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authorities for which he or she is responsible. Accordingly, the detailed information sought is not available in my Department.

Local Authority Management

Questions (178)

Joan Collins

Question:

180 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when a city or county manager becomes chairperson of the County and City Managers Association and is obliged to spend a number of days each week carrying out the functions and duties as chairperson of that body, if the local authority compensated for the significant period of time the manager is carrying out the functions and duties of chairperson of the CCMA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34224/12]

View answer

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

The County and City Managers' Association (CCMA) is the organisation through which senior managers in local government provide sectoral leadership across business and programme areas. The CCMA works closely with Government Departments and other key stakeholders to engage on and to advance key public service delivery issues. The operation of the CCMA, as such, and duties of its Chairperson, in this context, are a matter for local authorities.

Local Authority Staff

Questions (179)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

181 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of requests received from Dublin City Council for permission to employ additional staff in the years 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012; the number of these requests that have been approved, pending or refused in each of these years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34236/12]

View answer

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

The moratorium on recruitment and promotion in the public service was introduced in March 2009 in response to the financial crisis. My Department operates a delegated sanction from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for implementation of the moratorium in relation to local authorities, and any exceptions to the moratorium in local authorities require sanction from my Department.

Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each City and County Manager is responsible for staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authorities for which he or she is responsible. In this regard, it is a matter for City and County Managers, in the first instance, to ensure that the moratorium is implemented while the appropriate service levels are maintained.

My Department examines all staffing sanction requests on a case by case basis having due regard to the continued delivery of key services in the context of staffing and budgetary constraints. In considering sanction requests public safety, maintaining key front line services and economic issues are given precedence.

The information requested in respect of Dublin City Council staffing requests is set out in the table below. In the period since December 2008 Dublin City Councils staff numbers have reduced by 1,067.1 (15.4%) WTE from 6,931.5 to 5,864.4.

Dublin City Council Staffing Requests

2009

2010

2011

2012

Received

1

167

59

63

Approved

1

167

53

11

Pending

0

0

0

52

Refused

0

0

5

0

Withdrawn

0

0

1

0

Social and Affordable Housing

Questions (180)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

182 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which voluntary housing associations to whom responsibilities have been devolved in respect of housing developments provided by the State under the capital allowance or other schemes are subject to regulation and audit; if such schemes have access to funding from the State on an annual basis; the purpose of such funding; the extent to which such organisations hold funds on deposit; if such organisations might be deemed to be in competition with potential first time homebuyers on the housing market; if any specific or new regulations or guidelines are proposed in respect of this sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34285/12]

View answer

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

The Government's Housing Policy Statement, published in June 2011, identifies approved housing bodies (AHBs) as key partners in the delivery of social housing. This recognises both the constrained funding levels available for local authority construction programmes and the capacity and track-record of the voluntary and cooperative housing sector.

The sector is a significant provider of social housing for persons with specific categories of need. The Capital Assistance Scheme (CAS) has provided a significant proportion of the capital for the provision of these units within the overall funding available for my Department's Social Housing Investment Programme.

Section 6 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1992, enables housing authorities to provide assistance to approved housing bodies in respect of the provision of housing. Departmental funding is only available to those bodies that have been granted approved status for the provision of housing. In this context, my Department's Memorandum VHU: 2/02 of May 2002 provides guidance to approved housing bodies in relation to governance procedures and the capital funding schemes.

Under CAS, funding of up to 100% of the approved cost is available to approved housing bodies for the provision of accommodation for older people, people with an intellectual, physical or mental health disability, the homeless, returning emigrants and victims of domestic violence. The administration of the scheme, including the detailed appraisal of new projects and the certification that proposals comply with the terms and conditions of the scheme, is the responsibility of the relevant housing authority.

Funding is allocated to housing authorities on an annual basis under the Social Housing Investment Programme and includes a provision to meet existing commitments for projects that are underway under CAS.

The move from capital funded programmes of construction and acquisition by approved housing bodies to more revenue funded options presents challenges for them. As such, I intend to develop an enabling regulatory framework for the sector that will provide support and assurance both to the sector itself and to its external partners as it takes on the expanded role envisaged for it in the policy statement and to underline its status as a viable and attractive investment opportunity for financial institutions.

I will develop this framework in consultation with the sector but I expect that it will:

assist approved housing bodies to develop key governance and management structures to facilitate an expanded remit;

provide independent scrutiny and validation of such bodies' competences; and

place sustainable housing management policies and practices at the heart of a coordinated approach to the development of the sector.

The development of such a regulatory framework which is both robust and harmonised with the varying capacities of individual AHBs will take some time. In the interim my Department is actively working with the sector on the development of a voluntary code which I expect most bodies will endorse. This code, which should be finalised and agreed in the coming weeks, will serve as a learning opportunity for the sector and for my Department as we develop a longer-term statutory framework that will best support the enhanced role of AHBs.

I expect that the code will set out, inter alia, key basic principles of good governance and financial management and also the range of reporting obligations that currently apply to the sector.

Question No. 183 answered with Question No. 174.

Property Services Regulation

Questions (181)

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

184 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when the proposed modifications to sections 87 and 88 of the Property Services Regulation Act 2011 making the dissemination of false or misleading lease information an offence will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34069/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

Part 12 of the Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011, which includes Sections 87 and 88, came into operation on 3 April 2012 (S.I. No. 112 of 2012 refers). Section 94 of the Act deals with general offences and, among other matters, specifies that it is an offence to give false or misleading information to the Property Services Regulatory Authority. That provision has been in operation in its entirety since 6 July 2012 (S.I. No. 198 of 2012 refers). I have no proposals to modify sections 87 and 88 of the Act at this time.

Crime Prevention

Questions (182)

Regina Doherty

Question:

185 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Justice and Equality in view of ongoing vandalism and criminal activity if he will consider a review of the regulation of the scrap metal industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34101/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

I am informed that An Garda Síochána is very much aware of the increase in the theft of metal and is targeting such crime, and burglaries and theft related crimes generally, through a number of policing initiatives.

The Garda response is also informed by its work with the metal theft forum which draws together a range of key stakeholders affected by this sort of crime. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the drafting of a Metal Theft Crime Prevention and Reduction Plan is at an advanced stage and that this work is proceeding in consultation with the stakeholders represented on the metal theft forum. I look forward to the outcome of this process and will study any Garda recommendations concerning regulation, in conjunction with all stakeholders and relevant Departments.

Consideration of such recommendations will also need to have regard to the issues arising from the report on the Cash for Gold trade which was prepared by my Department. I have requested the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence to consider the content of that report and that it consider holding hearings on the issues raised and obtains the views of all relevant interested parties.

In addition, I can also inform the Deputy that my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government is examining waste licensing and permitting legislation to ensure all necessary provisions are in place to avoid situations that might be exploited by criminals. In this regard I understand that draft regulations are in preparation in consultation with relevant stakeholders.

The Garda operational response is ongoing and taking place in parallel to the formal development of the Metal Theft Crime Prevention and Reduction plan. I am informed that the plan is expected to be available shortly. I am confident that the Gardaí are doing everything they can to progress this complex matter, in consultation with the other stakeholders, so as to ensure a properly considered and strategic response.

Road Traffic Offences

Questions (183)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

186 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the necessary arrangements are now in place in every court to ensure that summonses issued from 16 May 2012 onwards have been amended to advise persons charged with an offence under the Road Traffic Acts to bring their driving licence and a copy of the licence to court with them; if he will confirm that court clerks are now recording the details of licence and the details of the licence or permit and that the copy of the licence or permit have been produced as is law now since October 2011; if same is not taking place in every court, the deadline for the full closure of this loophole; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34151/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

I wish to inform the Deputy that the Courts Service has confirmed that the necessary arrangements are in place to ensure that summonses issued since 16 May 2012 include wording to advise persons charged with an offence under the Road Traffic Acts to bring their driving licence with them, together with a photocopy of the licence, when they are attending court.

As the Deputy is aware the courts are, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of their judicial functions and the conduct of proceedings within the courtroom is a matter for the presiding judge. However, the Service has confirmed that all judges of the District Court have been asked to facilitate arrangements for the collection and recording of driving licence details where a driving licence or copy thereof is produced to the court. The Service has also indicated that the Court Registrar will record details of the licence to facilitate the application of the appropriate penalty points. Legislation in relation to the Road Traffic Acts is, of course, a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Road Traffic Legislation

Questions (184)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

187 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will report on all of the reported administration and technical issues experienced by the courts and the Garda including any necessary changes to IT systems in relation to the implementation of section 54 of the 2010 Road Traffic Act; if all of these issues have now been resolved; if so, if he will now commence section 54 of that Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34152/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

As road traffic legislation is the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, the question of the commencement of section 54 of the Road Traffic Act 2010 is a matter for consideration by him. As with any changes to the fixed charge system, technical and administrative measures have to be addressed to facilitate their introduction. I am informed by an An Garda Síochána that they will work with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Courts Service to ensure that appropriate systems and mechanisms are in place to facilitate any planned commencement of section 54 of the Act.

Garda Investigations

Questions (185)

Denis Naughten

Question:

188 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No 8 of 20 June 2012, if the Garda Commissioner has received the final report from the gardaí carrying out the examination; if he has received an update from the Commissioner; if he has received a final report on the examination from the Commissioner, and if not, when he expects to receive this report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34184/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the review of the case in question is not yet finalised and that a number of matters remain outstanding. I expect to receive an update from the Garda Commissioner when these are finalised. As I indicated in my reply to the Deputy's question on 20 June, I am very aware of the concerns which have been expressed about this case, but feel it is important in the first instance that we allow the present Garda examination to proceed to a conclusion. Upon receipt of Commissioner's report I will then review the situation.

Coroners Service

Questions (186)

Joan Collins

Question:

189 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the sum of money Sligo County Council is required to provide to cover the cost of the operation of morgue and coroner expenses in the current year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34189/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

The procedures for preparing a budget by a local authority are set out in the Local Government Act 2001. I have no function in that process, which is reserved under the Act to members of the local authority concerned. As I explained in my answer to Question No. 31793/12 on 3 July 2012, the relevant Statutory Instrument (No. 155 of 2009) sets out on a statutory basis the various fees and expenses which are payable by a local authority in relation to the coroner service. I understand that the local authority in question is aware of its statutory obligations in relation to this service.

Garda Strength

Questions (187)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

190 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of gardaí by rank in the Traffic Corps stationed at a location (details supplied) in Dublin 9; the number of marked and unmarked traffic cars, jeeps, motorbikes allocated to the unit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34230/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

I am informed by the Garda authorities that as of 31 May 2012, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the personnel strength of the Traffic Corps in the Dublin Metropolitan Region North was 20. The Garda Traffic Corps is a Divisional Unit and not a Station Unit.

The information in relation to the number of marked and unmarked traffic cars, jeeps, motorbikes allocated to DMR North Traffic Unit is as shown in the following table:

Cars

Motorbikes

4x4

Total

Marked

Unmarked

Marked

Marked

1

2

4

2

9

While Garda vehicles may be designated as Traffic Corps vehicles by reason of their livery, all Garda vehicles are required to engage in traffic policing as part of their routine duties. Similarly, Traffic Corps vehicles are also engaged in policing duties rather than being exclusively reserved for traffic duties.

The allocation of Garda vehicles is monitored and reviewed on a continual basis. The responsibility for the efficient deployment of all official Garda vehicles in each Division is assigned to the Divisional Officer, who may allocate vehicles between Stations as required by operational circumstances.

Garda Transport

Questions (188)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

191 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of marked and unmarked Garda cars and vans allocated to each station in the Dublin region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34231/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

The provision and allocation of Garda vehicles is a matter for the Garda Commissioner in the context of his identified policing priorities. At Divisional level responsibility for the efficient deployment of Garda vehicles is assigned to the Divisional Officer, who may allocate vehicles between Districts and stations in the light of operational requirements.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that, on the basis of the information readily available, the number of Garda vehicles assigned to the Districts in the Dublin Region on 1st July 2012 was as set out in the table below:

DMR

CARS

VANS

TOTAL

DISTRICT

MARKED

UNMARKED

MARKED

UNMARKED

BALBRIGGAN

4

4

2

0

10

BALLYMUN

7

24

13

5

49

BLACKROCK

9

9

1

1

20

BLANCHARDSTOWN

11

34

4

1

50

BRIDEWELL

2

6

3

0

11

CLONDALKIN

6

15

2

3

26

COOLOCK

6

20

3

0

29

CRUMLIN

4

16

3

3

26

DMR TRAFFIC

11

10

2

2

25

DONNYBROOK

4

6

2

3

15

DUNLAOGHAIRE

6

9

6

2

23

FITZGIBBON ST

4

16

4

0

24

KEVIN STREET

7

10

3

1

21

LUCAN

5

13

5

2

25

PEARSE STREET

6

18

2

1

27

RAHENY

4

12

2

0

18

STORE STREET

4

18

3

1

26

TALLAGHT

8

15

4

1

28

TERENURE

3

10

1

0

14

Garda Resources

Questions (189)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

192 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the additional resources being allocated to Dublin city centre to deal with the increase in the number of serious assaults on persons over the past few months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34232/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

The Deputy will be aware that the Commissioner, in consultation with his senior management team, is responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, throughout the organisation and I have no function in the matter.

Garda management closely monitors this allocation of resources, including transfers and retirements, in the context of crime trends, policing needs and other operational strategies in place on a District, Divisional and Regional level, to ensure optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public.

In this regard, I am informed by the Garda authorities that policing measures are in place to address the concerns raised by the Deputy. These include the designation of certain areas as hotspots for criminality and additional high visibility patrols being directed by local Garda management. In particular, a high visibility policing initiative has recently been reintroduced by Assistant Commissioner Dublin Metropolitan Region, including within the Dublin city catchment area. Dedicated high visibility patrols are conducted in key thoroughfares at strategic times, as dictated by crime trends and foot fall for these areas. These measures will be subject to close monitoring by local Garda management and will be continually reviewed to ensure they target prevailing trends.

The Gardaí also make effective use of CCTV in the city centre, with 44 CCTV cameras, monitored by Garda personnel from the Garda Camera Office on O'Connell Street, and a further 33 CCTV cameras monitored from Pearse Street Garda Station on a 24 hour basis. CCTV systems have proved to be of significant assistance in the prevention and detection of incidents of crime since their initial introduction.

I am further informed that situation is being kept under ongoing review and I can assure the Deputy that I am in regular contact with the Garda Commissioner with a view to ensuring that our streets are safe for all our citizens.

Naturalisation Applications

Questions (190)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

193 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress made to date in the determination of eligibility for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34269/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that an application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in December, 2011.

The application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation, such as good character and lawful residence.

It is recognised that all applicants for citizenship would wish to have a decision on their application without delay. Considerable resources are deployed to process applications and these resources together with the necessary administrative arrangements are kept under review.

As well as being a significant event in the life of its recipient, the granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation as provided for in law is also a major step for the State which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Naturalisation Applications

Questions (191)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

194 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the remaining procedure to be followed in respect of an application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34270/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that applications for a certificate of naturalisation were received from the persons referred to by the Deputy in October, 2010.

Section 15 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. One such condition is that the applicant intends in good faith to continue to reside in the State after naturalisation.

As the persons referred to by the Deputy swore on their application forms that they did not intend to reside in the State after naturalisation, it was considered that they did not comply with this condition. Consequently, the applications were deemed ineligible.

Further applications were submitted by the persons referred to in April 2012. As the required application fees were not included with the application forms, they were returned in their entirety to the applicants. To date no new applications have been received from any of the persons referred to.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Naturalisation Applications

Questions (192)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

195 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current position and progress made to date and further requirement if any in the determination of eligibility of naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 18; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34271/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that a valid application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in April, 2011.

The application is now at an advanced stage of processing and the applicant will be informed of my decision as soon as possible. It is recognised that all applicants for citizenship would wish to have a decision on their application without delay. Considerable resources are deployed to process applications and these resources together with the necessary administrative arrangements are kept under review.

As well as being a significant event in the life of its recipient, the granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation as provided for in law is also a major step for the State which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Naturalisation Applications

Questions (193)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

196 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if consideration might be given for the review of application for naturalisation in the case of persons (details supplied) who were deemed to have been four days short of Stamp 4 approved residency which occurred during house-moving, and a further ten days short of qualification which was due to delay in obtaining national passports, both events over which the applications had no control and who were at all times resident within the State and compliant with all regulations. [34272/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that on examination of the applications submitted it was determined that the persons in question did not meet the statutory residency requirements as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. The persons concerned were informed of this in letters issued to them on 5 June, 2012.

Applicants for a certificate of naturalisation are required to provide evidence that they were resident for the periods of time set out in the Act and that they had the permission of the Minister to remain in the State for the prescribed period. Periods of residence for which an applicant does not have permission of the Minister are not reckonable for the purpose of satisfying the residency requirements.

Applicants for naturalisation must fill in the prescribed application form and swear in their statutory declaration that the particulars in the application form are true. One section of the application form relates to residency permissions. In that section of the form, the statutory residency requirements are clearly set out and applicants are referred to the online residency checker before the applicants are required to set out their residence permissions in tabular format on the form itself.

It is open to any individual to lodge an application for citizenship if and when they are in a position to meet the statutory requirements as prescribed in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 as amended. The on-line Naturalisation Residency Calculator available on the INIS web-site at www.inis.gov.ie can be used as a guide to whether an individual satisfies the naturalisation residency conditions and, if not, give an indication of how long they should wait before making an application.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Residency Permits

Questions (194)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

197 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will indicate, notwithstanding his replies to previous parliamentary questions, if he has had sight of further and detailed submissions made in the past three months by persons (details supplied) in County Kildare wherein they set out a new case for temporary extension of residency while awaiting decision in regard to permanency, thereby greatly alleviating the serious anxiety and suffering caused by the family’s vulnerability at present; if he will use his absolute discretion to grant the facility on immediate humanitarian grounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34273/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the position is unchanged since the Deputy's previous Parliamentary Questions. The Deputy should note that the persons concerned cases are actively under consideration. All representations submitted by the persons concerned will be considered before a final decision is made. Once a decision has been made, this decision and the consequences of the decision will be conveyed in writing to the persons concerned.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from the INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Naturalisation Applications

Questions (195)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

198 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current or expected position in the determination of naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34274/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's question.

It is open to any individual to lodge an application for citizenship if and when they are in a position to meet the statutory requirements as prescribed in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 as amended. The on-line Naturalisation Residency Calculator available on the INIS web-site at www.inis.gov.ie can be used as a guide to whether an individual satisfies the naturalisation residency conditions and, if not, give an indication of how long they should wait before making an application.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Naturalisation Applications

Questions (196)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

199 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress made to date and the expected outcome in the determination of naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare whose spouse has already been granted citizenship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34368/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

I am advised by the Citizenship Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that an application for a certificate of naturalisation was received from the person referred to by the Deputy in August, 2010.

The application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation, such as good character and lawful residence, and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible.

It is recognised that all applicants for citizenship would wish to have a decision on their application without delay. Considerable resources are deployed to process applications and these resources together with the necessary administrative arrangements are kept under review.

As well as being a significant event in the life of its recipient, the granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation as provided for in law is also a major step for the State which confers certain rights and entitlements not only within the State but also at European Union level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process.

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to INIS by e-mail using the Oireachtas Mail facility which has been specifically established for this purpose. This service enables up to date information on such cases to be obtained without the need to seek information by way of the Parliamentary Questions process. The Deputy may consider using the e-mail service except in cases where the response from INIS is, in the Deputy's view, inadequate or too long awaited.

Air Ambulance Service

Questions (197, 198)

Nicky McFadden

Question:

200 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Defence if the emergency air ambulance service, originally operating from Custume Barracks, Athlone, County Westmeath will return to the barracks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34039/12]

View answer

Denis Naughten

Question:

201 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Defence further to the topical issue of 20 June 2012 if he has received a report regarding the cause of the accident the implications, if any, for the operation of the service; the reason the interim service is operating out of Baldonnell aerodrome and when it is planned to re-establish the service in Athlone, County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34183/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 200 and 201 together.

A heavy landing incident involving the Emergency Aeromedical Service (EAS) helicopter occurred on 19th June 2012. The Air Accident Investigation Unit in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport is leading an investigation into the incident and this investigation is ongoing.

On 3 July 2012, the Air Corps resumed the EAS service using an AW 139 aircraft operating out of Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel. At this stage, it is not possible to say when the service will resume from Custume Barracks, Athlone. The Air Corps will keep the situation under review having regard to its operational commitments.

Defence Forces Allowances

Questions (199)

Sean Fleming

Question:

202 Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Defence if the Border duty allowance is still in existence; the number of persons currently in receipt of this; the rate of the allowance; the estimated cost for 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34227/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Defence)

Border Duty Allowance was introduced in January 1972 and is still in existence. It is payable at the rate of €96.23 per week to Enlisted Personnel and €111.97 per week to Officers. The Department sought to cease payment of this allowance under the modernisation agenda contained in the "Towards 2016" Defence Sector Action Plan. Following disagreement between the Department and the Representative Associations this issue went to third party Adjudication. The Adjudicator found in favour of the Association and ruled that the allowance should be retained on a personal to holder basis for those who were in receipt of it on the 3rd February 2009. There have been no new recipients since this date and the allowance is being phased out as current holders retire or leave the Defence Forces. There are currently 796 personnel in receipt of Border Duty Allowance (763 Enlisted Personnel and 33 Officers). Based on current recipients the cost of Border Duty Allowance for 2012 is estimated at €4 million. As the Deputy is aware the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is undertaking a review of allowances and premium payments across the public sector. I understand that Minister Howlin will bring proposals to Government shortly on this issue.

Single Payment Scheme

Questions (200)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

203 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a 1% single farm payment penalty in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will be reconsidered in view of the financial difficulty that this will cause the person and the relatively minor nature of the non compliance issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34085/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

An application under the Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on the 14th of April 2010.

This application was selected for a Cross Compliance/Ground Eligibility inspection.

During the course of the Cross Compliance inspection breaches were recorded relating to a bovine herd register, bovine passport, incomplete flock register and missing sheep dispatch dockets that resulted in an overall Cross Compliance penalty of 1% being recorded.

During the course of the Eligibility inspection, deductions due to scrub and ineligible areas led to a claimed area of 75.51ha being reduced to a payable area of 73.72ha. As the difference between the area found and the area claimed was 1.79ha no further penalty would apply.

The person named was informed of this decision and of his right to seek a review. Such a request was submitted and the review of the Eligibility inspection resulted in the payable area being increased to 74.98ha. Any monies owing to the person named as a result of this decision will be processed as soon as possible. The 1% Cross Compliance penalty was also reviewed and the decision was that the original penalty be upheld. The person named was informed of this decision and of his right to appeal the outcome of to the Independent Agriculture Appeals office, to date no such appeal has been lodged.

Severe Weather Events

Questions (201)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

204 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in view of the crisis in the farming community due to the high level of rainfall during the summer months that has resulted in only one third of the silage harvest cut and saved, his contingency plans or proposals to assist the farming sector at this difficult time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34141/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

I am fully aware of the impact of the very difficult weather conditions of recent weeks on farmers and of the potential impact on farm incomes. I have sought EU approval for the advance payment of the 2012 Single Payment Scheme. If approved, this will enable payment to issue immediately following 15 October and will represent early payment of substantial funding to farmers. The submission has already issued to the Commission and my aim is to obtain an early response.

I also fully appreciate the value and importance of the other scheme payments to farmers and I remain committed to ensuring that the maximum numbers are paid at the earliest possible date, mindful, of course, of the over-riding necessity to ensure compliance with the governing EU requirements. REPS payments in respect of 2011 are up to date and AEOS payments are well advanced and continue to issue as quickly as possible. My intention is to ensure that payments in respect of 2012 which are due later in the year are brought forward to the earliest possible date.

Insofar as farm inspections are concerned, the number of such inspections is prescribed in EU regulations. The Department's inspection staff are trained to ensure all scheme requirements and obligations are met by the applicants inspected and will take into consideration the difficult management conditions on the ground, provided the applicant is making every effort to keep damage liability to a minimum as a result of the continuous high rainfall over the last number of weeks. Finally, I am aware that Teagasc held clinics in all their local offices on Friday 6 July, for farmers seeking individual advice on addressing problems created by the current adverse weather conditions.

Ferry Services

Questions (202)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

205 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in view of the fact that the cable car providing a link to the Dursey Island in west Cork no longer takes animal livestock in the interest of health and safety and the ferry service is not a reliable and practical option, farmers are now in the situation of not being able to ferry their animals over and back at a time that they wish, his plans to provide financial assistance to alleviate this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34179/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

All matters associated with the operation of the cable car to Dursey Island are the responsibility of Cork County Council. Cork County Council engaged consulting engineers to carry out studies on the cable following which the transportation of all animals by cable car to and from Dursey Island ceased from 30th January 2012. I have no plans to provide financial assistance for the transport of animals to and from Dursey Island.

Severe Weather Events

Questions (203)

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

206 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in view of one of the wettest summers on record, leading to crop failure, poor grazing conditions and reduced milk production, the measures being taken by his Department to assist farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34215/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

I am fully aware of the impact of the very difficult weather conditions of recent weeks on farmers and of the potential impact on farm incomes. I have sought EU approval for the advance payment of the 2012 Single Payment Scheme. If approved, this will enable payment to issue immediately following 15 October and will represent early payment of substantial funding to farmers. The submission has already issued to the Commission and my aim is to obtain an early response.

I also fully appreciate the value and importance of the other scheme payments to farmers and I remain committed to ensuring that the maximum numbers are paid at the earliest possible date, mindful, of course, of the over-riding necessity to ensure compliance with the governing EU requirements. REPS payments in respect of 2011 are up to date and AEOS payments are well advanced and continue to issue as quickly as possible. My intention is to ensure that payments in respect of 2012 which are due later in the year are brought forward to the earliest possible date.

Insofar as farm inspections are concerned, the number of such inspections is prescribed in EU regulations. The Department's inspection staff are trained to ensure all scheme requirements and obligations are met by the applicants inspected and will take into consideration the difficult management conditions on the ground, provided the applicant is making every effort to keep damage liability to a minimum as a result of the continuous high rainfall over the last number of weeks. Finally, I am aware that Teagasc held clinics in all their local offices on Friday 6 July, for farmers seeking individual advice on addressing problems created by the current adverse weather conditions.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme

Questions (204)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

207 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding payment under the agri-environment options scheme in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34287/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

The applicant was approved for participation in the Agri-Environment Options Scheme with effect from the 1st September 2010 and full payment totalling €482.65 issued in respect of 2010. Under the EU Regulations governing the Scheme and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue.

Payment in respect of the 2011 scheme year is subject to an administrative checking process which includes verification of capital investment claims through checks on receipts. A claim for reimbursement for non-productive capital investment was received by my Department and there are a number of issues which need to be addressed before the claim can be processed further. My Department issued a letter on 10th July 2012 to the person named with regard to these issues. Upon receipt of a satisfactory response to the issues the application will be processed further.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme

Questions (205)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

208 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which agri-environment options scheme payments have been made to date and are likely to continue in the future in view of the high dependability on such payments in the farming sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34288/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

Under the EU Regulations governing the Agri-environment Options Scheme (AEOS) and other area-based payment schemes, a comprehensive administrative check, including cross-checks with the Land Parcel Identification System, must be completed before any payment can issue. Payments for the AEOS 2010 scheme in respect of 2010 are nearly completed. A total of €6.756m has been paid to date. A further €22,039m has been paid out in respect of the 2011 scheme year. All applications which have cleared the administrative checking process have been paid. The majority of issues arising on unpaid cases relate to invalid capital investment claim details submitted by applicants. Officials in my Department are clearing outstanding queries on an ongoing basis and payments will continue as outstanding queries are resolved.

Payments under the AEOS 2011 scheme are also subject to the comprehensive administrative checks. This process has now been completed and I expect payments to commence shortly. Every effort is being made to ensure that participants receive their initial payments under the scheme as quickly as possible. In the event of any queries arising from these checks my Department will be in direct contact with the applicants concerned as soon as possible. I am, of course, conscious of the importance of such payments to the farming sector and accordingly I have allocated additional resources to ensuring that outstanding payments issue as soon as possible. Payment in respect of the 2012 scheme years will commence later in the year.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme Conditions

Questions (206)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

209 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he is hopeful that he can achieve an improvement in the agri-environment options 3 scheme having particular regard to the extent to which the farming community must continue to rely on such a scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34289/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

I am aware of the importance of agri environment payments to the agriculture sector and am actively considering the possibility of re-opening the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) to allow for the submission of applications either on an amended basis from the existing scheme and/or on a limited scale, including the possibility of re-opening for applications later in the year. The full year cost of any new scheme will have to be met in 2013 and any decision to re-open AEOS will be taken in the context of consideration of the resources available and the need to remain within the agreed expenditure ceiling for my Department in 2013. I will make an announcement as soon as I have reached a decision on the situation.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme

Questions (207)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

210 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to the difficulty created by downsizing of the REP scheme having particular regard to the fact that many farmers has made medium-term budgetary plans which have now fallen into disorder; if he will examine the full extent of the cohort of farmers in this category with a view to resolution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34290/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

The Rural Environment Protection Scheme covers a five year contract period and annual payments continue to be made to approximately 30,000 participants who remain in the Scheme. I am, of course, conscious of the importance of agri environment payments to farmers and I re-opened the Agri-environmant Options Scheme (AEOS) 2011 despite the serious budgetary pressures and constraints facing my Department. I am actively considering the possibility of re-opening AEOS this year to allow for the submission of applications either on an amended basis from the existing scheme and/or on a limited scale. The full year cost of any new scheme will have to be met in 2013 and any decision to re-open AEOS will be taken in the context of consideration of the resources available and the need to remain within the agreed expenditure ceiling for my Department in 2013. I will make an announcement as soon as I have reached a decision on the situation.

Agri-Environment Options Scheme Conditions

Questions (208)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

211 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has received submissions form the Irish Farmers’ Association regarding alternative proposals in respect of improvements in the agri-environment options 3 scheme; if he has examined the potential and possible benefit to the economy in the context of these proposals with a view to implementation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34291/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

I have received a number of representation regarding the reopening of the Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) in 2012 including submissions from the Irish Farmers Association. My own and the Government's on-going commitment to agri-environmental schemes are evident in the funding of €243m which has been provided to meet commitments under Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) and AEOS in 2012. The commitment is also clear from the fact that despite serious budgetary pressures, I re-opened the AEOS to new entrants last year. Due to the on-going situation in the national finances, strict budgetary constraints remain in place and, as a result, management of the limited resources represents a very challenging situation involving difficult choices.

Nevertheless, I have examined the various submissions submitted to me and I am actively considering the possibility of re-opening AEOS to allow for the submission of applications either on an amended basis from the existing scheme and/or on a limited scale, including the possibility of re-opening for applications later in the year. I will make an announcement as soon as I have made my decision.

Animal Welfare Issues

Questions (209)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

212 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has had any discussions with the banking sector in respect of finance and the local authorities in respect of development arising from animal welfare legislation coming into force in January 2013 which imposes extra costs on producers; if he has been in a position to obtain agreement to the effect that adequate funding will be made available from the lending sectors to meet such requirements and that the building extensions requirements remain reasonable in terms of timescale and levy impositions in difficult economic times when the national economy has become more dependent on the agricultural sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34292/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

The pig sector remains the third largest individual component of the agri-food sector, with production, prices and exports all growing significantly during 2011. This growth has continued during 2012 with prices for example, over 6% ahead year-on-year. The industry faces a number of challenges in the short and medium term and my Department will continue to assist the sector to resolve these issues.

New EU Animal Welfare rules set down new standards in relation to the housing of sows and these are due to come into force on 1st January 2013. A significant number of producers have undertaken the necessary work required in order to upgrade their facilities in order to comply with the new rules. In March 2012, Teagasc estimated that approximately 36% of pig units, housing some 44% of the sow population are presently compliant with the provisions. I have been clear in my view that a fully compliant pig sector is an essential regulatory and competitive requirement with effect from 1st January 2013.

My Department is in regular contact with banking representatives and has highlighted the particular needs of the pig sector, both for investment finance, in order to meet the new sow housing requirements, and for working capital. One of the main banks has recently launched a €250 million agri investment programme and I am hopeful of similar initiatives from other lenders in the near future. It is of course important that those seeking credit present a suitable business case with detailed cash flow projections. In this context the Department also facilitated contacts between Teagasc and the Banking sector to encourage seminars and training in relation to credit application. Any farming enterprises that feel they have not been treated fairly in relation to access to credit also have recourse to the Credit Review Office, who will review their case.

In relation to planning it is a matter for each local authority to consider applications for sow housing developments on a case by case basis. I understand that planning authorities are processing such applications and are aware of the 1st January, 2013 deadline.

Finally, I have recently announced a number of enhancements to the Sow Welfare Scheme which will assist farmers in completing necessary investment works, and in negotiating investment finance with banks. The investment ceiling has been increased to €500,000 per pig producer for the first sow house. In addition, an investment ceiling of €300,000 will now be available for each of the next three houses. The maximum grant rate of 40% of investment remains unchanged. I have provided a total of €13 million for this scheme with €4 million already committed and I welcome applications from pig producers for this funding. The closing date for applications is 31st October 2012.

Food Industry

Questions (210)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

213 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he is confident that he can ensure the continued economic environment in the agri-food producing sector with particular reference to the need to meet the requirements of the 2020 proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34293/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

Food Harvest 2020 (FH2020) is the high-level strategic policy document for the development of the agriculture, food, fisheries and forestry sector for the next decade. Its implementation, as well as the parallel negotiations at EU level to ensure an appropriate CAP policy and EU Budget framework post 2013 are the steps which I am pursing to ensure the continued economic environment of the agri-food sector.

I oversee the coordination of the state contribution to FH 2020 in conjunction with representatives from Bord Bia, Teagasc, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Enterprise Ireland, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and my own Department. There is also regular engagement with various private sector groups with have a key role in developing the sector. Details of progress made on FH2020 are contained in the Food Harvest 2020 Milestones for Success report, see web link following. I anticipate that the 2nd progress report will be available next month. http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/media/migration/ publications/2011/FoodHarvestProgressReport260711.pdf.

At European level, the future shape of the Common Agricultural Policy will be a key driver for the continued viability of family farms. In this respect I am pleased that the EU Commission's proposals for reform of the CAP are predicated on the principles of ensuring viable food production, sustainable management of natural resources and climate action as well as balanced territorial development. There is good support among my colleagues in the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers for these objectives and I would be confident that, notwithstanding differences about the details, future EU agricultural policy will recognise and reward the important contribution of the agri-food sector to economic recovery and growth and to sustainable development.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (211)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

214 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will indicate notwithstanding financial restraints imposed on his Department due to economic circumstances on an annual basis in each of the past four years to date in 2012; if he will retain sufficient budget support and structures in place in 2013 in view of the degree to which the agri food sector has become the focus in economic revival; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34294/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

All Departments have been allocated expenditure ceilings for the period 2012-2014 under Medium-Term Expenditure Framework which was introduced by the Government in the Comprehensive Expenditure Report. The report outlines the Government's plan for a return to sustainable growth in the economy and sets out in some detail the measures that will be taken to put the national finances in order including annual public expenditure and revenue targets for the period.

Against this background and the on-going difficulties in the public finances, it is my intention that the Exchequer resources available to my Department will be managed over the next few years to provide the optimum benefit to economic activity in the agricultural, food, fisheries and forestry sectors and to realising the potential which clearly exists for the sectors to contribute to the national economic recovery. In addition to the normal annual Voted Exchequer resources, my Department is responsible for the payment of approximately €1.3 billion of EU funds, most of which relates to the Single Payment Scheme which represents a major injection of funding into the rural economy. Regardless of the current financial pressures, I am also committed to ensuring the most effective and efficient service delivery by my Department and to realising value for money for the substantial funding which is provided in support the sectors.

Departmental Reports

Questions (212)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

215 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if any study has been carried out by his Department into farm operational costs with particular reference to the need to ensure maximum cost-effectiveness in the ongoing economic situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34295/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

My Department does not conduct studies into farm operational costs. However, as part of its National Farm Survey programme, Teagasc conducts an annual survey, using a nationally representative sample on over 1,000 farms, to monitor farm outputs, costs and incomes. The results of the 2010 survey are shown in the attached link, while the output from the 2011 survey will be available later this year: http://www.teagasc.ie/publications/2011/1016/NFS10.pdf. In addition, Teagasc operate Profit Monitors to help farmers measure the profitability of their farming enterprise and to analyse the financial performance of the farming business. These tools allow farmers to easily identify input costs that are higher than average or output sales that are below average and to take the necessary corrective action.

Agri-food Sector

Questions (213)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

216 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he is satisfied regarding the future viability of existing farm enterprises including the need to retain supports through the common agricultural policy in order to preserve the integrity and independence of the agrifood sector in this country and throughout Europe particularly in the present economic climate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34296/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine)

The CAP remains of crucial importance to preserve the integrity of the agri-food sector in Ireland and throughout the EU. It provides the framework within which the sustainable development of a competitive and efficient agricultural sector is pursued, as well as the resources to assist in its achievement. In this way the CAP makes a vital contribution to economic growth in the EU and to global food security.

The OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2011-2020 highlighted the significant challenges to addressing global food insecurity and the major opportunities for food and agricultural producers arising from the higher average prices projected over the coming decade. It noted that public and private sector investments are required in agricultural research and development, institutions and infrastructure to increase the productivity of the sector and to improve the ability to deal with climate change and resource scarcity. In recognising that volatility will remain a feature of agricultural markets, it said that coherent policies are required to both reduce volatility where possible and to limit its negative impacts. The CAP is such a coherent policy. It has underpinned the ongoing modernisation of the European agriculture sector. In recent years it has become increasingly market-orientated, and increasingly focused on the sustainable development of the agricultural economy. It has also responded to the evolving demands of consumers in relation to the environment and the need to adapt to climate change. In this way the CAP has helped the agriculture sector to become more productive, more competitive and more sustainable while maximising its contribution to the economy.

Foreign Adoptions

Questions (214)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

217 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the progress made to date regarding the signing of a bilateral agreement between Russia and Ireland to enable adoptions from Russia to recommence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34054/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Children and Youth Affairs)

Adoptions from Russia, effected under the transitional arrangements provided for in the Adoption Act 2010, are ongoing and are currently being examined, and recognised, by the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI). Under the provisions of the legislation, such adoptions may take place up to the end of October 2013.

As regards adoptions thereafter, Russia has not ratified the Hague Convention and there appears to be no immediate prospect that this will happen. Therefore, future adoptions from Russia, beyond those provided for under the transitional arrangements, may only be possible under a bilateral agreement. The negotiation of bilateral agreements on inter-country adoption with states who have not ratified the Hague Convention is governed by Section 73 of the Adoption Act 2010. Any bilateral arrangements which might be entered into would be required by law to meet the minimum standards set out in the Hague Convention.

It is the role of the Adoption Authority to make an assessment of whether the inter-country adoption legislation and practices in a non-contracting state, in this case Russia, are in compliance with both Irish legislation and the principles of the Hague Convention.As part of this assessment the Adoption Authority has reviewed a draft bilateral agreement presented to it during previous discussions with its Russian counterparts and has provided me with an initial assessment in this regard. As a result of this, the issues which may require further exploration with the Russian authorities have been considered. I have recently asked the Adoption Authority to engage further with the Russian authorities on issues raised in their report to me.

Departmental Correspondence

Questions (215)

Denis Naughten

Question:

218 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 137 of 2 May 2012 when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34188/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Children and Youth Affairs)

My Department will be in correspondence with the Deputy regarding his question this week.

National Lottery Funding

Questions (216)

Finian McGrath

Question:

219 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will support an organisation (details supplied) as a matter of priority. [34324/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Children and Youth Affairs)

My Department has no specific funding allocation to provide for bodies such as that referred to by the Deputy. However it is open to organisations working with or providing services to children and young people to apply to my Department for lottery funding. The criteria for lottery funding and the application form are available on my Department's website, www.dcya.ie.

Hospital Services

Questions (217)

Tom Hayes

Question:

220 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary will receive an appointment in Waterford Regional Hospital. [34083/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

The Special Delivery Unit (SDU) is working to unblock access to acute services by improving the flow of patients through the system, and by streamlining waiting lists, including the management of referrals from GPs by hospitals. The SDU is working closely with its partner agencies — mainly the HSE and the NTPF.

As a priority, public hospitals were instructed to ensure that, by the end of 2011, they had no patients waiting more than 12 months for treatment. I can confirm that the vast majority of hospitals achieved this objective. During 2012, the SDU will support hospitals in the delivery of a 9 month maximum wait time for inpatient or daycase surgery.

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. Should the patient's general practitioner consider that the patient's condition warrants an earlier appointment, he/she would be in the best position to take the matter up with the consultant and hospital involved.

Health Service Allowances

Questions (218)

John O'Mahony

Question:

221 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health when a decision will be made on an appeal application for a mobility allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34031/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Health Services

Questions (219, 220)

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

222 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health when a home care package, already approved, will be provided in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34032/12]

View answer

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

229 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health when a home care package, already approved, will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34088/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 222 and 229 together.

As these are service matters they have been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Medical Cards

Questions (221)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

223 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health if a medical card application will be granted in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34034/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Health Service Expenditure

Questions (222, 223)

Tom Fleming

Question:

224 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health if he will confirm that the €500 million overspend in the health budget will not have an impact on front-line services and patient care; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34038/12]

View answer

Tom Fleming

Question:

240 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Health if he will confirm that the €500 million overspend in the health budget will not result in further bed closures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34176/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 224 and 240 together.

Based on the existing drawdown on its Vote, the Health Service Executive is forecasting a shortfall in Vote terms of €450-€500m, with the Executive indicating that hospital activity, expenditure in the Primary Care Reimbursement Service and higher than planned superannuation costs being the significant factors.

Given the extent of the projected overrun, further cost containment measures will have to be introduced over the course of the rest of the year. My Department has been working closely with the HSE to identify the measures necessary to ensure that it balances its budget and achieves a balanced vote. Following intensive discussions with my Department, HSE senior management has instructed regional management this week that hospital activity must be brought back in line with service plan targets. In addition the HSE must deliver on its other service plan targets at national and regional levels, with a renewed focus on reducing absenteeism, agency costs and overtime. The HSE will also begin putting probity measures in place to achieve more cost-effective and clinically appropriate usage of approved drugs. Management has also instructed the regions to ensure that patient safety and quality issues are addressed when activity levels in hospitals are being aligned to service plan targets.

The HSE will also seek to reduce and eliminate budget deficits while minimising the impact on front line services by fast tracking new, innovative and more efficient ways of using reducing resources. New models of care will be introduced across all services, which will treat patients at the lowest level of complexity and provide quality services at the least possible cost. The roll-out of the National Clinical Care Programmes and Special Delivery Unit initiatives will also deliver greater productivity.

At the beginning of this year, I informed the House that 2012 would be a very challenging year for the health services. The HSE's Service Plan was framed so as to protect frontline services to the greatest extent possible within the resources allocated to it. I believe that if the HSE successfully addresses the issues I have outlined, the objective of the National Service Plan will be achieved.

Medical Cards

Questions (224)

Heather Humphreys

Question:

225 Deputy Heather Humphreys asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan will receive their medical card; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34041/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Health Services

Questions (225)

Patrick Nulty

Question:

226 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Health when a child (details supplied) in Dublin 15 will receive speech and language therapy: the reason for the delay in same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34056/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities

Questions (226)

Dominic Hannigan

Question:

227 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Health if he will consult with end users of disability services before decisions are taken regarding new budgetary decisions that are due to be taken in the next budget; his plans for the PA programme over the next five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34057/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

Pending completion of the national estimates, budgetary and service planing process for 2013 it is not possible to predict the service levels to be provided next year. Personal assistant services are an integral part of the specialist disability services provided by the Health Service Executive. The National Service Plan for this year includes provision for 1.64 million personal assistant/home support hours for over 11,500 people with a disability.

Health Service Allowances

Questions (227)

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

228 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Health when he will revise the mobility allowance in order to render it compliant with the Equal Status Act, in view of the fact that those over 66 cannot currently access this allowance, when will they be able to access this mobility allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34084/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

The Department of Health has accepted the Ombudsman's recommendation to review and revise the mobility allowance so as to render it compliant with the Equal Status Acts. The Department also notes that the Ombudsman, in a footnote to her recommendation, expresses no view as to the terms of the revision of the mobility allowance other than the revised scheme should be compliant with the Equal Status Acts. The Department accepts that the mobility allowance cannot continue to operate on the current basis. The Department has pointed out to the Ombudsman that there are a range of potential policy options that need to be considered. Final policy decisions in this regard have yet to be taken.

Question No. 229 answered with Question No. 222.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Questions (228)

Willie Penrose

Question:

230 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update in relation to the review that has taken place concerning the fair deal scheme; when same will be finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34095/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

A public consultation process to inform the review of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme commenced on the 14th June. A call for submissions was made in national newspapers and a notice was placed on the Department of Health website. The closing date for receipt of submissions is the 16th July.

When the public consultation process has concluded, the Department of Health will be seeking tenders through the public procurement process for the carrying out of the review. This process takes approximately 4 months. It is anticipated that the review itself will take approximately three months to complete. It is expected that the review will commence in the last quarter of this year and be completed in early 2013.

It is not possible to be more specific about the exact timelines involved at this point. The timeframe for the Request for Tenders being published will be dependent on how many submissions are received and how long it takes to analyse them. Thereafter, the awarding of a contract for the review will depend on how many tenders are received. The more tenders that are received, the longer it will take to evaluate them.

The Terms of Reference for the review of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme are:

Taking account of Government policy, demographic trends and the fiscal situation—

1. To examine the on-going sustainability of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme,

2. To examine the overall cost of long-term residential care in public and private nursing homes and the effectiveness of the current methods of negotiating/setting prices,

3. Having regard to 1. and 2. above, to consider the balance of funding between long-term residential care and community based services,

4. To consider the extension of the scheme to community based services and to other sectors (Disability and Mental Health), and

5. To make recommendations for the future operation and management of the scheme.

As the Scheme is statutory based, the implementation of any recommendations arising from the review may require significant amendments to the Nursing Homes Support Scheme Act 2009.

Medical Cards

Questions (229)

Jack Wall

Question:

231 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health if a person who has been refused a medical card on appeal can, having now received confirmation from their doctor and consultant of further medical problems seek a review of the appeal decision; if so, if their medical card will still be valid in such circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34098/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

I have asked the Health Service Executive for a report on the issue raised by the Deputy. I will revert to the Deputy on the matter as soon as possible.

Health Service Allowances

Questions (230)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

232 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health if the full home care package will be granted in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34107/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Medical Cards

Questions (231)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

233 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the number of medical card applications awaiting a decision on their application; the number that have been waiting for more than two, three, four, five and six months or longer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34114/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Medical Cards

Questions (232)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

234 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the number of medical card appeal applicants awaiting a decision on their appeals; the number that have been waiting for more than two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight and nine months or longer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34115/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Health Services

Questions (233)

Clare Daly

Question:

235 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Health if she will address the registration of creative arts therapists to ensure that creative arts therapies are included in the list of professions covered by the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005. [34126/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

The Health and Social Care Professionals Council, established in 2007 and the 12 registration boards being established under the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005 (the Act), will be responsible for protecting the public by regulating health and social care professionals in Ireland. The object of the Council is to protect the public by promoting high standards of professional conduct and professional education, training and competence among the registrants of the following 12 health and social care professions designated under the Act: clinical biochemists, dietitians, medical scientists, occupational therapists, orthoptists, physiotherapists, podiatrists, psychologists, radiographers, social care workers, social workers and speech and language therapists. In time, only registrants will be entitled to use these titles.

These 12 professions were designated in the Act which is being implemented on a phased basis, and currently 2 registration boards have been established. These are the Social Workers Registration Board and the Radiographers Registration Board. It is hoped that the remaining 10 registration boards and their registers will be established by end 2014.

While the proposed system of statutory registration applies, in the first instance, to 12 health and social care professions, the legislation empowers the Minister for Health to include, if he considers it appropriate and in the public interest to do so, additional health and social care professions in the regulatory system over time, as appropriate. Section 4 of the Act provides a definition of a health and social care profession and also sets out the factors governing the subsequent addition of any further professions into the regulatory system at a later date, including:

(a) The extent to which the profession has a defined scope of practice and applies a distinct body of knowledge;

(b) The extent to which the profession has established itself, including whether there is at least one professional body representing a significant proportion of the profession's practitioners;

(c) The existence of defined routes of entry into the profession and of independently assessed entry qualifications;

(d) The profession's commitment to continuous professional development;

(e) The degree of risk to the health, safety or welfare of the public from incompetent, unethical or impaired practice of the profession;

(f) Any other factors that the Minister for Health considers relevant.

The priority at present for my Department is to develop statutory registration for the 12 professions specified in the Act in the first instance. The extension under the Act of statutory registration arrangements for other health and social care professionals will not be considered until after the initial designated 12 professional grades have been fully dealt with.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Questions (234)

Colm Keaveney

Question:

236 Deputy Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Health when a person (details supplied) in County Galway will receive a pain clinic appointment in view of the chronic pain this person suffers. [34144/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

The Special Delivery Unit (SDU) is working to unblock access to acute services by improving the flow of patients through the system, and by streamlining waiting lists, including the management of referrals from GPs by hospitals. The SDU is working closely with its partner agencies — mainly the HSE and the NTPF.

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. Should the patient's general practitioner consider that the patient's condition warrants an urgent appointment, he/she would be in the best position to take the matter up with the consultant and hospital involved. The GP may also wish to consider referring the patient to the pain clinic in Galway University Hospital.

Ambulance Service

Questions (235)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

237 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Health when the ambulance centre in a town (details supplied) in County Galway will open; what the recruitment process will be for the centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34148/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Calorie Posting on Menus

Questions (236)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

238 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health his views on whether the proposal to bring in compulsory accounting of the number of calories in each item of food in hotels, restaurants and so on, at a time when these businesses are struggling to keep their doors open and persons in employment, will add an unbearable financial burden on them as it will be time consuming, complicated and another layer of bureaucracy and rules for persons to have to abide by; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34164/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

As Minister for Health I established the Special Action Group on Obesity to advise me on priority actions to tackle overweight and obesity. This Group identified putting calorie information on menus of fast food establishments, restaurants, bars and coffee shops, as one of a range of measures.

Therefore, I have prioritised calorie posting on menus as a key initiative that will have a positive impact in addressing the problem of our rising levels of overweight and obesity, and as a means of educating the general public on the calorie content of food portions. It is a simple concept that will provide consumers with information on calories and facilitate them in make healthier choices, eat smaller portions and enjoy food without over-eating. It is essential to recognise that a small, but sustained positive change in the eating behaviour of a large number of individuals can have a major effect on our obesity crisis and I strongly believe that calorie menu labelling is of a range of actions that offers this potential.

I recognise that the scheme needs to be operated on a voluntary basis initially to allow a period of time for the development of a system, including technical tools, to support the food service sector.

Last week I launched the Food Safety Authority of Ireland's report on their national consultation. I was very encouraged to find that there was an overwhelming demand by consumers (96%) for calorie menu labelling in food outlets, with 89% saying that calories should be displayed beside the price of food and drink items on the menu. I was also encouraged to see that when asked whether calorie labelling should apply to outlets serving alcoholic drinks, 84% of consumers said calorie labelling of alcoholic beverages should apply in these outlets.

The report also indicated that food service businesses themselves were in favour of calorie menu labelling, with nearly three in four food service businesses in favour of calorie menu labelling in food establishments.

However, there is a clear message from the FSAI report and from food business delegations that I have met with, that food service outlets, especially small independent restaurants, need technical support to implement such a scheme in terms of calculating calorie content of the food they sell. I am aware that the potential cost and the time involved in implementing calorie menu labelling are also a concern. Taking these concerns into account, I am considering how best food service businesses can be provided with some assistance in implementing the scheme.

Hospital Services

Questions (237)

Patrick Nulty

Question:

239 Deputy Patrick Nulty asked the Minister for Health if he or the Health Service Executive have received any request from the neurosurgical department in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, to increase bed capacity at any stage within the past five years; his policy in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34165/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Question No. 240 answered with Question No. 224.

Obesity Levels

Questions (238)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

241 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health with regard to the dangers of obesity in Ireland, his views on whether it would make more sense to educate and train young persons regarding the dangers of eating food which is unhealthy for them throughout their school years rather than waiting until they are finished schools and then trying to alert them to the calories contained in food by forcing the providers and sellers of such food to account for the calorie content on menus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34177/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

As Minister for Health I established the Special Action Group on Obesity to advise me on priority actions to tackle overweight and obesity. This Group identified putting calorie information on menus of fast food establishments, restaurants, bars and coffee shops, as one of a range of measures. Therefore, I have prioritised calorie posting on menus as a key initiative that will have a positive impact in addressing the problem of our rising levels of overweight and obesity, and as a means of educating the general public on the calorie content of food portions. It is a simple concept that will provide consumers with information on calories and facilitate them in make healthier choices, eat smaller portions and enjoy food without over-eating.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland‘s report on their national consultation, which I launched last week, showed that there was an overwhelming demand by consumers (96%) for calorie menu labelling in food outlets. With regard to schools, my Department already has Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Preschools and Primary Schools which are being implemented in liaison with Health promotion teams in HSE areas and similar Guidelines for Post Primary Schools to facilitate them in drawing up a Healthy School Food Policy are at an advanced stage.

Ambulance Service

Questions (239)

Denis Naughten

Question:

242 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 662 of 22 May 2012, the progress made to date on establishing a new ambulance service in west Roscommon; if he will confirm that the service will be operational before 1 August 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34185/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Patient Statistics

Questions (240)

Denis Naughten

Question:

243 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No 155 of 19 June 2012 if he will confirm the date for the publication of the report on mortality rates at acute hospitals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34186/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

The Chief Medical Officer of my Department is finalising a report examining the potential of hospital discharge data in measuring the quality of health care. This includes the measure of recorded 30 day in-hospital mortality rates following heart attack. It is expected that the report will be finalised and published in the near future.

Health Reports

Questions (241)

Denis Naughten

Question:

244 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health the current status of the report of the national emergency medicine programme; his plans, if any, to act on the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34187/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

The Emergency Medicine Programme report, which I launched on 19 June this year, sets out a vision for the development and delivery of emergency medical services in the State. The programme document will be hugely valuable. It is clinically led and is one of the key clinical programme documents. As for the other clinical programmes, it is a policy document, and there are areas still for discussion and improvement, but it will inform the development of government policy in this area.

Tobacco Control Measures

Questions (242)

Paschal Donohoe

Question:

245 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Health if he has conducted or commissioned any studies, reports or focus groups on plain or generic packaging of tobacco products; if he will outline the results of any such studies, reports or focus groups; if he is considering following the example of the UK and Australia in proposing plain packaging legislation as a means of reducing the number of young people taking up smoking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34194/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

My Department has not conducted or commissioned studies specifically relating to plain or generic packaging of tobacco products. It is recognised that in an environment of increasing prohibition of tobacco advertising and sponsorship worldwide, the cigarette pack has become a key marketing tool for the tobacco industry to promote their products.

I am aware that before the UK make any decision regarding standardised or plain packaging for tobacco products a consultation process is being conducted with a closing date for submissions of 10th August, 2012. I am also aware that the Australian legislation which introduces plain packaging for tobacco products is being challenged in its High Court and that a judgment in this regard is pending. Plain packaging is one of the issues being considered in the context of the revision of the Tobacco Products Directive by the European Commission in consultation with Member States. I understand that the legislative proposal in relation to this is due to be published later this year.

In recent discussions with representatives of the European Commission I have indicated my wish that the proposal for a revision of the Directive be published as soon as possible in order for Ireland to significantly progress it during the Irish Presidency in January 2013. The introduction of plain packaging is also being considered by the Tobacco Policy Review Group, which is expected to report shortly. My Department will continue to monitor developments in Australia and the UK in this regard and these developments together with the forthcoming revision of the EU Tobacco Products Directive will inform policy in this area. I will continue to support any international developments in relation to plain or standardised packaging for tobacco products.

Health Services

Questions (243)

John McGuinness

Question:

246 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 445 of 17 January 2012, if he will arrange an urgent appointment for at the ear, nose and throat clinic, Waterford Regional Hospital (details supplied) in County Waterford. [34200/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Hospitals Building Programme

Questions (244)

Joe McHugh

Question:

247 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Health if he will update Dáil Éireann on the contract that was awarded by the Health Service Executive to a company (details supplied) for the development of a new wing of Letterkenny General Hospital, County Donegal; if that company’s application met all the criteria that was set out in the tender; if he will comment specifically on its qualification for criteria around bond requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34208/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

The management and delivery of the health capital programme is a service matter. Therefore your question has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply

Medical Cards

Questions (245)

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

248 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health the position regarding the approval of a medical card renewal application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34211/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Cosmetic Surgery

Questions (246)

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

249 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Health his plans to regulate the cosmetic surgery industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34217/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

Health care professionals, including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, pharmacists etc. employed by Cosmetic Surgery Clinics in Ireland are required to be registered with their relevant professional regulatory body. Much of the legislation governing healthcare professionals has been extensively updated and amended in recent years with the publication of a number of relevant Acts including the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005, the Medical Practitioners Act 2007, the Pharmacy Act 2007 and the Nurses and Midwives Act 2011. In addition, my Department is in the process of preparing legislation to make it mandatory for all medical practitioners engaged in clinical practice to have adequate clinical indemnity insurance.

Cosmetic surgery is one of the priority areas which has been identified to be addressed by a new system of licensing. Officials of my Department are currently working on the Licensing of Health Facilities Bill which will provide for a mandatory system of licensing for public and private health service providers. The legislative proposals are being prepared broadly in line with recommendations made in the Report of the Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Insurance and are designed to improve patient safety by ensuring that healthcare providers do not operate below core standards which are applied in a consistent and systematic way. The intention is to have a proportionate system which has the confidence of the public. Standards and other requirements will be enforceable through inspection and imposition of sanctions as necessary. Licensing will be targeted at areas which are not currently subject to regulation. It is expected that outline proposals for the new system of licensing should be finalised by year end.

General Practitioner Services

Questions (247)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

250 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the number of long-term illness patients who quality for free general practitioner care; the number in receipt of same in December 2011; the number in receipt now; when legislation introducing the scheme will be published; when it will be enacted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34221/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

The Programme for Government commits to reforming the current public health system by introducing Universal Health Insurance with equal access to care for all. As part of this, the Government is committed to introducing, on a phased basis, GP care without fees within its first term of office. Primary legislation is required to give effect to Government commitment to introduce a universal GP service without fees. Legislation to allow the Minister for Health to make regulations to extend access to GP services without fees to persons with prescribed illnesses is currently being drafted by the Attorney General's office and will be published shortly. Implementation dates and application details will be announced in due course.

General Practitioner Services

Questions (248)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

251 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the number of meetings he has held with the Irish Medical Organisation regarding extending the free general practitioner care to those with long-term illnesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34222/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

I have met with the Irish Medical Organisation and the Irish College of General Practitioners to outline the Government's intentions and further discussions will be arranged shortly once the legislation is finalised.

Hospital Charges

Questions (249)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

252 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health the amount generated through the €100 accident and emergency charge for the years 2009, 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34234/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Medicinal Products

Questions (250)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

253 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the approximate value assigned that every quality adjusted life year is assigned by the National Centre for Phamacoeconomics when determining the cost effectiveness of new drugs; if this has changed since the start of the year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34239/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

The National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE) plays an important role in the assessment process of the cost effectiveness of new medicines. The NCPE report is an input into decision making in the HSE regarding the appropriateness of reimbursing medicines and determining price. A pharmaceutical manufacturer submits an economic dossier to the NCPE for assessment. This dossier relates the added cost (expressed in euro) to the added benefit (expressed in additional life years gained) or expressed in quality adjusted life years (QALY) for the medicine in question. Since 2009 the NCPE has assessed medicines using cost-effectiveness thresholds of €20,000 and €45,000 per quality added life year (QALY). There has been no change to the range of values employed by the NCPE since the start of this year.

Medical Cards

Questions (251)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

254 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health if and when a medical card will be renewed in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34283/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Medical Cards

Questions (252)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

255 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health if he will indicate notwithstandinghis replies to previous parliamentary questions, if his attention has been drawn to the fact that information requested in respect of the determination of eligibility for medical card was supplied and to the extent of sworn affidavits; if the information submitted might be collated with a view to further evaluation of entitlement to a medical card in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34284/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Medical Cards

Questions (253)

Barry Cowen

Question:

256 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on a case (details supplied); and when the person concerned can expect a decision on a review of medical card application. [34319/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Questions (254)

Barry Cowen

Question:

257 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on a case (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and when the person may expect an appointment at Midlands Regional Hospital, County Offaly. [34320/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

The Special Delivery Unit (SDU) is working to unblock access to acute services by improving the flow of patients through the system, and by streamlining waiting lists, including the management of referrals from GPs by hospitals. The SDU is working closely with its partner agencies — mainly the HSE and the NTPF.

As a priority, public hospitals were instructed to ensure that, by the end of 2011, they had no patients waiting more than 12 months for treatment. I can confirm that the vast majority of hospitals achieved this objective. During 2012, the SDU will support hospitals in the delivery of a 9 month maximum wait time for inpatient or daycase surgery.

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. Should the patient's general practitioner consider that the patient's condition warrants an earlier appointment, he/she would be in the best position to take the matter up with the consultant and hospital involved.

Medical Cards

Questions (255)

Barry Cowen

Question:

258 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on a case (details supplied); and when the person may expect a decision on a review of medical card. [34321/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Questions (256)

Barry Cowen

Question:

259 Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on a case (details supplied) in County Offaly; and when the person may expect an appointment for an ultrasound in the Midlands Regional Hospital, County Offaly. [34322/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

The Special Delivery Unit (SDU) is working to unblock access to acute services by improving the flow of patients through the system, and by streamlining waiting lists, including the management of referrals from GPs by hospitals. The SDU is working closely with its partner agencies — mainly the HSE and the NTPF.

As a priority, public hospitals were instructed to ensure that, by the end of 2011, they had no patients waiting more than 12 months for treatment. I can confirm that the vast majority of hospitals achieved this objective. During 2012, the SDU will support hospitals in the delivery of a 9 month maximum wait time for inpatient or daycase surgery.

The next priority for the SDU is access to diagnostics. This programme of work has commenced in terms of access to GI endoscopy and will later in 2012 examine access to radiology services.

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply. Should the patient's general practitioner consider that the patient's condition warrants an earlier appointment, he/she would be in the best position to take the matter up with the consultant and hospital involved.

Cycle Facilities

Questions (257)

Regina Doherty

Question:

260 Deputy Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding funding phase 1 of the Boyneside trail, cycle/walkway along the River Boyne; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34044/12]

View answer

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

Meath Co. Co. submitted a proposal under the National Cycle Network Funding Scheme for delivery of a 3 km cycle route from Drogheda Ramparts to the entrance of Oldbridge. This was identified as Phase 1 of a potential route linking Drogheda, Slane, Navan and Trim. Funding for the Drogheda Ramparts to Oldbridge route was announced on 7th June. The route will be delivered by Meath Co. Co., and their application outlines the need for detailed consultation, planning and route design, and in this context it identifies an expected completion date of February 2014.

Pilot Training Courses

Questions (258, 259, 260, 261)

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

261 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the assistance that he intends to provide to the young trainee pilots and their families impacted by the breakdown in the commercial relationship between The Pilot Training College in Waterford and the Florida Institute of Technology considering the PTCW received €18,000 in support from Enterprise Ireland in 2008 and in 2010 the State agency took a significant stake in the form of €400,000 worth of repayable preference shares. [34067/12]

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Clare Daly

Question:

262 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will intervene with Enterprise Ireland to ensure a satisfactory outcome for students left abandoned by PTC Ireland, whose contract has been terminated by the Florida Institute of Technology, to enable them to complete their studies. [34132/12]

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Clare Daly

Question:

268 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will assist students caught up in the PTC crisis in Florida, in view of the fact that the Irish Aviation Authority licensed this course, and that the State failed to ensure appropriate regulation. [34131/12]

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Joanna Tuffy

Question:

274 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the action he is taking to assist 80 Irish trainee pilots currently stranded in Florida after their courses were cancelled due to a dispute between the Pilot Training College in County Waterford and the Florida Institute of Technology; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34251/12]

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

I propose to take Question Nos. 261, 262, 268 and 274 together.

The Pilot Training College Waterford (PTCW) is a privately owned and operated flight training college. The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has responsibility for approving and overseeing flight training organisations in Ireland so I have referred the question to them for direct reply in relation to their functions in this regard. However, I would like to note that I have agreed with the IAA that the IAA will fund the flight costs of those self-financing students in Florida who have an existing contract with PTCW and who wish to leave the USA. I will also give consideration to a bonding/insurance scheme in future to provide financial protection for students of flight training organisations; however, such a scheme would most likely be on a voluntary basis.

The IAA is also endeavouring to ensure that the students affected will be able to avail of alternative training arrangements. It has also indicated that it will strive to facilitate the crediting of all flight and ground training carried out to date in Florida towards the students' final qualifications.

I am not in a position to comment on Enterprise Ireland's investment in the company as the role of the agency is not within my remit.

Road Maintenance

Questions (262)

Gerald Nash

Question:

263 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in view of the current difficult economic conditions, where households are trying to cope with increased pressures, if he will consider relaxing the requirements for residents living on 50/50 roads to contribute 50% to the cost of repairing these roads; if the allocation to the local authorities for the upkeep of these roads is not matched by a 50 per cent contribution by the residents, the allocation will remain unused and returned to the Central Fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34202/12]

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

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads, in its area, is a statutory function of each road authority in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on such roads are a matter for the relevant local authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of projects to be funded is also a matter for the local authority.

As regards State road grants for public roads, paragraph 3.9 of my Department's "Memorandum on Grants for Regional and Local Roads” (revised in April 2012 and available in the Oireachtas Library) outlines the arrangements governing community involvement in eligible road works. The Memorandum provides that a portion of a local authority’s discretionary grant allocation may be reserved for community involvement schemes. In addition up to 7.5% of a local authority’s Restoration Programme can be used for such schemes in cases where local contributions (in money or kind) meet not less than 25% of the total cost of a project. Within the parameters set in the Memorandum the detailed arrangements for the community contributions is a matter for the local authority concerned.

Córas Iompar Éireann Annual Report

Questions (263)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

264 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason Córas Iompar Éireann requested an extension for the publication of its annual report and accounts for 2011 to 30 September 2012; his reasons for granting this request; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34043/12]

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

The CIE Board has in recent months been engaged in an extensive process of cost-reduction negotiations with its unions and is also engaging with financial institutions on its future funding requirements. To facilitate this, the Board requested an extension of the publication of the Annual Report and Accounts for 2011 to 30th September 2012. I consented to the request for an extension as an exceptional measure.

Search and Rescue Service

Questions (264)

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Question:

265 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will assure the people of the north west of Ireland that he will not accept the proposal to wind down Malin Head Marine Rescue Sub Centre in the report compiled by Fisher Associates, Irish Coast Guard: Value for Money Review and the level of State investment undertaken in the ongoing refurbishment the Malin Head Marine Rescue Sub Centre. [34070/12]

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

The Fisher reports identified a number of key issues which need to be addressed in Ireland's maritime transport sector and marine emergency response regimes. These include enhancing Ireland's pollution preparedness and response capability and Coast Guard volunteer training and management. I have informed the Government that my Department will consider the matters raised in the reports and an action plan to address the deficiencies will be prepared, which I will present to Government in October.

I wish to make it clear that I do not propose to accept or reject any of the recommendations proposed by the Fisher reports at this stage and no decisions have been taken in relation to any of the issues involved.

In preparing the response each recommendation will be assessed and actions will be prioritised to address the deficiencies. This process also represents an opportunity to create more efficient and effective maritime safety regulatory arrangements and emergency response services. In particular, we now have an opportunity to address serious deficiencies in Ireland's ability to address a major pollution incident, and to improve the management and training of Coast Guard teams around Ireland. It will be crucial too for the development of shipping, trade and employment, which have a key role to play in Ireland's economic recovery.

New communications systems are currently being installed in the Malin Head station, which has been closed since May, as part of a general upgrading of communications infrastructure in the Coast Guard. It is expected that the upgrade work will be complete next month and the Malin station will reopen at that time.

Work on communications architecture and associated preparatory work in Malin to enable the equipment to be installed, including refurbishment and a general clean up of the centre will cost in the region of €100,000.

The work on enhancing the communications infrastructure in the three Coast Guard rescue co-ordination stations is essential for the on-going operation and maintenance of the service. Very old equipment that has passed its operating life has to be replaced now irrespective of any decisions that might be taken in the future regarding the operation of any of the station.

Commemorative Plaques

Questions (265)

Peter Mathews

Question:

266 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans (details supplied) regarding the Luas line in Dundrum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34100/12]

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

I understand from the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) that a plaque was erected on the 19th July 2004 on the bridge in Dundrum to commemorate William Dargan. Fr. Daniel Dargan S.J., a direct descendant of William Dargan and the then Minister for Transport, the late Mr. Seamus Brennan, were present on the occasion.

Sporting Organisations

Questions (266)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

267 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will raise the issue of the salaries of CEOs of voluntary sporting bodies, receiving significant State support, with those bodies and the Irish Sports Council in view of the current economic circumstances and that he is operating within a severely reduced budget for the support and promotion of sporting activities and infrastructure throughout the country; his views if any such CEO should receive a multiple of the Taoiseach’s salary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34112/12]

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

I have no official function in relation to the remuneration of personnel within the sporting organisations in question which are independent, autonomous bodies. Government funding for National Governing Bodies of sports is provided through the Irish Sports Council. The funding for the three main field sports (GAA, FAI and IRFU) is ring-fenced for the non-professional elements of the sport and is mainly focused on programmes aimed at increasing participation.

Question No. 268 answered with Question No. 261.

Penalty Points System

Questions (267)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

269 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has asked the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications in its review of the penalty points system to comment on the one point penalty allocation under the 2010 Act for learner drivers who have been found to be driving unaccompanied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34154/12]

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

I recently published the Review of the Irish Penalty Points System, which was conducted by my Department. The Review, in the main, deals with the level of points for road traffic offences currently within the penalty points system and contains recommendations for the adjustment in the level of points for certain offences. I have asked the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications to examine the Review and provide me with comments on its recommendations.

The provision for adding "unaccompanied learner permit holders" to the list of penalty point offences is contained in the Road Traffic Act 2010. The relevant section has not yet been commenced and once I have received the Committee's input I will consider the adjustment of penalty points further.

Sports Capital Programme

Questions (268)

Joan Collins

Question:

270 Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of applications received from Sligo Borough Council and Sligo County Council for funding under the sports capital programme 2012; the details of projects for which grant aid has been sought; and when the grant allocations will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34212/12]

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

A new round of the Sports Capital Programme (SCP) was launched on 28th March 2012. By the deadline for applications the Department had received more than 2,150 applications.

Sligo Borough Council made one application to develop a sand based soccer pitch and tarmac MUGA at Cleveragh Regional Park. Three applications were received from Sligo County Council. These applications were for (i) a replacement roof on an existing sports storage shed/club house at Rosses Point, (ii) the provision of outdoor gym equipment/fitness trail at Carrowhubbock South, and (iii) the provision of a cluster of outdoor gym equipment at Union, Ballygawley. I expect to announce allocations in late Autumn/early Winter 2012.

Road Signage

Questions (269)

Jerry Buttimer

Question:

271 Deputy Jerry Buttimer asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to increase signage on motorway on ramps reminding drivers to yield to traffic already on the main carriageway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34216/12]

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

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The planning, design and implementation of individual national roads, including the provision of signage, are matters for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

Noting this, I have referred the Deputy's question to the NRA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you don't receive a reply within 10 working days.

Road Maintenance

Questions (270)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

272 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount spent by the National Roads Authority on the maintenance of the M50 for the years 2010 2011 and to date in 2012; the works that were carried out in each project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34233/12]

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

As Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The construction, improvement and maintenance of individual national roads, including repair and maintenance works on the M50, are matters for the National Roads Authority (NRA) under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007. Noting this I have referred the Deputy's question to the NRA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you don't receive a reply within 10 working days.

Airline Licences

Questions (271)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

273 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he will grant a licence to a company (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34237/12]

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

As the licencing of airlines and the safety oversight of airline operations are the responsibility of the Commission for Aviation Regulation and the Irish Aviation Authority respectively, I have forwarded the question to both Authorities for direct reply. I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if he has not received a reply within ten working days.

Question No. 274 answered with Question No. 261.

Driving Licences

Questions (272)

Finian McGrath

Question:

275 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding photo ID. [34326/12]

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

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) is responsible for the introduction of the new plastic card driving licence and will also, from January 2013, be the national driver licensing authority. The new system of driver licensing will require the RSA to tender for customer interface services. I understand from the RSA that they intend to ask tenderers for this service to offer their own proposals for the capture of photo ID.