Hospital Services

Questions (261)

Frank Feighan

Question:

261. Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health his plans for a new eight bed palliative care centre at Roscommon County Hospital. [12287/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Taxi Regulations

Questions (262, 263)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

262. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport the current number of SPSV licence holders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12048/13]

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Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

263. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport; Tourism and Sport the number of enforcement officers attached to the National Transport Authority to invigilate the taxi sector; the number of enforcement officers as a percentage of the total number of taxi licence holders, that is, the number of enforcement officers per head of the taxi population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12049/13]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 262 and 263 together.

I am informed by the National Transport Authority (NTA) that the current number of SPSV driver licence holders is 33,717 and there are currently 22,830 SPSV vehicle licences. There are eight enforcement officers in the NTA. An Garda Síochána also plays a major part in the enforcement regime. 

Concerning ‘on street’ enforcement specifically, there has been very good cooperation between An Garda Síochána and the NTA. The NTA carried out over fourteen and a half thousand on-street vehicle checks as part of their enforcement activities during 2012. In addition, An Garda Síochána also carried out a significant number of vehicle checks on small public service vehicles, both as part of joint operations carried out in conjunction with the NTA and as part of their normal road traffic policing activities. The NTA is currently drafting an enforcement plan for 2013 which will be coordinated with An Garda Síochána's policing plan for 2013. That will assist with continued co-operation during 2013. 

In addition, under Actions 21 and 25 of the Taxi Regulation Review Report published last year, Garda powers are to be extended to allow members of An Garda Síochána to issue fixed charged notices with respect to 11 additional SPSV fixed charge offences. The Taxi Regulation Bill 2012 specifically provides for this and will  further support measures to ensure that operators and drivers can operate under a robust regulatory framework supported by an effective enforcement regime. The Bill passed the Committee Stage in the Seanad on the 27th February last. Following enactment of the Taxi Regulation Bill later this year, I envisage a significant stepping-up of the enforcement effort with regard to the taxi regulations.

Sports Capital Programme Expenditure

Questions (264)

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

264. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if a sports club (details supplied) who have had national lottery funding committed to it, can have the draw down period for that funding extended, in view of unforeseen, but resolvable, problems that have arisen from a decision of the local planning authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12068/13]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The club referred to by the Deputy was allocated a grant of €300,000 under the 2006 Sports Capital Programme towards the provision of a sports hall and dressings rooms. The club has made very little progress in drawing down this grant and the Deputy will appreciate that grants cannot be kept open indefinitely. The club have been reminded on several occasions of the need to progress this project and draw down the grant.  The club now needs to engage with my officials and ensure that all outstanding documentation is sent to the Department as soon as possible.

Tourism Industry Issues

Questions (265)

Finian McGrath

Question:

265. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of tourists between the ages of 18 and 35 years who visit here as two out of every five tourist are under 35 years of age. [12069/13]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The matter raised is an operational one for Failte Ireland, which collects such information under its tourism research function, through its surveys of overseas travellers.  I have referred the Deputy's Question to Failte Ireland for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.

Parking Regulations

Questions (266)

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

266. Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to examine the operation of clamping companies and the practice of clamping by local authorities. [12070/13]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Section 101B of the Road Traffic Act, 1961 (inserted by Section 9 of the Dublin Transport Authority (Dissolution) Act, 1987), provides for the clamping and/or towing of vehicles illegally parked on a public road or in local authority car parks by either a member of the Gárda Síochána, a person appointed in writing by a local authority for said purposes, or a traffic warden. There is currently no regulation of clamping companies nor of the activity of clamping on private land.

In line with the commitment in the Programme for Government to regulate the vehicle clamping industry, I presented a discussion document to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Environment, Transport, Culture and the Gaeltacht in which I outlined the principal issues to be addressed in regulating the industry, my proposals on the shape of appropriate legislation and invited their views. The Committee responded to me in a comprehensive report which contained a number of recommendations, many of which I hope to include in the resulting legislation.   Preparation of the General Scheme of the Bill is at an advanced stage in my Department and I hope to be in a position to bring legislation before the Oireachtas in 2013.

Rural Transport Services Provision

Questions (267)

Nicky McFadden

Question:

267. Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans for the delivery of rural transport in County Westmeath in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12121/13]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Westmeath Rural Community Transport Association Ltd has been allocated €129,353.00 of the 2013 RTP budget from January to June 2013, with a further proposed, allocation of €129,353.00 from July to December. Additionally, €32,234.50 of Free Travel Pass funding has been allocated to Westmeath Rural Community Transport Association Ltd from January to June, 2013, with a further proposed, allocation of €32,234.00 from July to December. This represents a total 2013 allocation of €323,174.50, of combined RTP and FTP funding for the provision of the RTP service in Westmeath.

My aim is to strengthen the RTP by ensuring a more efficient delivery structure by maximising integration with other state transport services and by making  the programme a sustainable part of the public transport system. This is in line with the Programme for Government commitment to maintain and extend the RTP with other local transport services.   Since becoming Minister for Public and Commuter Transport the developments I have initiated have been aimed at ensuring that into the future there is a more complete and cost effective transport service offering in rural areas that better meets the transport needs of all users. To this end national responsibility for local and rural transport services integration, including the RTP, was assigned to the National Transport Authority (NTA) with effect from 1 April 2012, putting such services in a broader transport context.  I also established the National Integrated Rural Transport (NIRT) Committee in April 2012, comprising key stakeholders and chaired by the NTA, to oversee and manage a partnership approach to implementing integrated local and rural transport.

I am well aware of the very valuable work done by the RTP Groups in identifying and delivering the transport needs of their local community.  However, given  resources are limited and that the Value for Money and Policy Review of the RTP, published last year, recommended organisational restructuring to achieve efficiencies and the better alignment of the 35 RTP groups with local authorities, it is necessary that the current delivery mechanisms and structures are examined and revised. To not do this would mean that vital services would be threatened. The current structures of the RTP are not sustainable if the required efficiencies and savings are to be achieved. If these are not achieved then with the limited resources available services will decline.

Work is underway to determine the optimal structure for the delivery of rural transport from an efficiency and service perspective. One of the proposals being examined is that the RTPs be "aligned" with local authorities and that a number of Coordination Units be established.  I would emphasise that no decision has been taken but I am hopeful that I will be in a position to recommend a new structure later this year which will allow for the maximising of spend on services and the reduction of administration costs.

I will be ensuring that any future structure for the RTP will be based on community input, local flexibility and involving the voluntary sector.  Rural Transport by its nature is community-based and this will remain under any new structure.   While I can understand and fully appreciate that this restructuring creates a level of uncertainty for RTP groups, I am hopeful that the outcome will be a better service delivered more efficiently. I will work with all involved over the coming months to make any transition as smooth as possible.

Cycling Facilities

Questions (268)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

268. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he is currently reviewing the application of traffic regulations that apply to cycle tracks; if he will clarify if traffic regulations SI 181/97, 182/97, 273/98, 274/98 define a cycle track in the same manner as other traffic lanes and if they define a duty to yield for other traffic crossing the cycle track; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12173/13]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The 1998 Regulations to which the Deputy refers amend the 1997 Regulations in order to provide a uniform definition of a cycle track as 'part of a road, including part of a footway or part of a roadway, which is provided primarily for the use of pedal cycles'.  Cycle tracks are defined on the ground by signage, including markings on roads or footpaths as set out in the Road Traffic (Signs) Regulations 1997-2012.

A cycle track is specifically called a track in the regulations and is not identified as a 'lane'.  I presume that the Deputy's reference to a duty to yield refers to Regulation 8 of S.I. No. 182 of 1997, which deals with Yielding Right of way, and refers to lanes.  This Regulation does not apply to cycle tracks as, when a cycle track 'crosses' other traffic, the crossing is not part of the cycle track.  Cycle traffic moving from one section of cycle track to another through a junction must abide by the controls at the junction, such as traffic lights or yield signs, on the same basis as any other traffic. I am not currently reviewing the regulations in respect of cycle tracks.

Driving Licence Issues

Questions (269)

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

269. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will address the genuine issues raised in correspondence regarding driving licences (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12268/13]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

Irish driver licensing rules operate within the framework of an EU-wide licensing system. The criteria essential for recognition of licences from other countries are testing and licensing regimes which meet the requirement of the EU directive on driver licences.  On this basis Ireland recognises licences from, and has mutual recognition and exchange of licence arrangements with, other EU Member States and a number of other jurisdictions where research and discussion has shown that standards in those jurisdictions match those here.

Driver licensing regimes in the United States of America vary between the different States, and not all of the States meet the required standards.  As a result, the USA is not one of those countries with which Ireland has mutual recognition of licences.

In the absence of an exchange agreement, persons taking up Irish residence are treated as beginners and must go through the procedure of obtaining a driving licence by passing the theory test, obtaining a learner permit, taking lessons and sitting the driving test.  While this can seem demanding in individual cases where people have a safe driving record in another jurisdiction, the overriding policy concern behind these regulations is that the Irish system must be satisfied that people are properly qualified to drive on our roads.  However, I would point out that the normal rule that learners cannot take the test until they have been learners for six months is waived for applicants who come to Ireland with a full licence from another country.