Question No. 53 answered with Question No. 22.

Office of Public Works Properties

Questions (54)

Robert Troy

Question:

54. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the profit from the gift shop sales at the State’s tourist and historical sites run by the Office of Public Works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29680/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I have answered a series of questions (Nos. 26589 – 26592 on 30As indicated at that time, there are two types of retail operation at heritage visitor sites managed by the OPW; the first is where a small amount of material is sold directly by the sites themselves; the second is where a franchise operation manages the retail operation separate from the OPW.

The majority of the 70 attended visitor sites managed by the OPW do not operate a separate retail outlet for gift merchandise but sell limited visitor material on an across the counter basis. As this operation is managed by site Guide staff as part of their normal range of duties, it is not therefore feasible to derive accurate figures in relation to the cost base for the retail activity (as opposed to all of the separate guiding and related duties), and information relating to the profit generated by such activity is not available. In the main, the kind of merchandise sold is low volume and focusses, for the most part, on postcards and publications related to the site or other historical sites nearby.

Two visitor sites, namely Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange) Visitor Centre in Co. Meath and Dublin Castle have designated retail outlets which operate on a franchise basis. The type of merchadise sold at these locations is much more varied and would encompass what might be termed more general visitor memorabilia rather than the historic publications material found at the majority of OPW manned sites.

In the case of Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre, the franchise operation was introduced in June 2012 with a fee of €20,000 per annum payable. The fees for 2010, 2011 and 2012 in respect of Dublin Castle Gift Shop amounted to €19,046.16.

In general, the majority of OPW visitor sites have limited space and facilities to operate a retail outlet. The primary focus at OPW sites is on the preservation and presentation of the sites in question and the commercial activity referred to is largely secondary. The scope to develop more substantial retail outlets is therefore to an extent curtailed by both the lack of physical space and the distraction from the core aim. There are consequently no immediate plans for the development / expansion of this area of operations, though additional franchise operations will be considered where space and other consi derations permit.

Passport Applications

Questions (55, 56)

Billy Timmins

Question:

55. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding passport applications for children; the length of time taken to process; if applicants-parents must make an appointment with the Passport Office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29730/13]

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Billy Timmins

Question:

56. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding passport applications; the length of time they take to process; if there are exemptions to the period for emergency passports; the criteria for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29731/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 55 and 56 together.

Customers (both adults and children) applying through the Passport Express service are given a commitment by the Passport Service that ten days from the date of receipt by the Passport Service of properly completed applications a passport will be issued. Last year over 83% (428,000) of all persons applying for their passports in the State used Passport Express Irish citizens applied for their passports through Passport Express.

There is no requirement for applicants or parents of applicants to present at a passport office in person. However for those who have non-emergency urgent travel, the Passport Service now operates an appointment system and extended opening hours in our Molesworth St office. This has significantly reduced the incidence of queues and reduced waiting time for members of the public. The should be noted that the minimum turn around time for a passport is 3 working days.

In cases of genuine emergency every effort is made by the Passport Service to meet a travel date where the Passport Service is satisfied that:

- the proposed journey is related to the death or serious injury or illness abroad of a close relative or a medical emergency relating to the applicant him/herself; and

- the presence of the applicant at the foreign location in connection with such an unexpected event is necessary or highly desirable; and

- the need to travel has arisen at short notice.

Additionally, my Department provides a Duty Officer Service outside normal office hours to deal with matters requiring immediate attention, including the issue of passports.

Citizenship Applications

Questions (57)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

57. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his Department can assist and advise a person (details supplied) on relocating to Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29888/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

It would appear from the information you have provided that the person has a grandparent who was born in Ireland. This would entitle her to apply for Irish citizenship through Foreign Birth Registration. Details on how to apply, and what supporting documents are required, can be found on our website www.dfat.ie. The other issues raised relate to the immigration and residency requirements and should be addressed to the Minister for Justice and Equality.

Passport Statistics

Question No. 59 withdrawn.

Questions (58)

Brendan Smith

Question:

58. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide a breakdown of the number of Irish passport holders in each country throughout the world; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29941/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The Passport Service technology system does not record “address” information in the structured format necessary to facilitate the production of management information in relation to place of residency, place of birth etc. However I can provide some information regarding numbers of passports issued by our Embassies and Consulates around the world in 2012 which may be of assistance to the Deputy.

Country

Number

Abu Dhabi

898

Abuja

256

Addis Ababa

17

Ankara

77

Athens

145

Auckland

1832

Beijing

618

Berlin

1474

Berne

756

Boston

1794

Brasilia

100

Bratislava

18

Brussels

588

Bucharest

60

Budapest

64

Buenos Aires

162

Cairo

271

Canberra

5646

Chicago

1632

Copenhagen

166

Dar-Es-Salaam

46

Edinburgh

33

Hanoi

100

Helsinki

85

Kampala

41

Kuala Lumpur

468

Lilongwe

11

Lisbon

143

Ljubljana

29

London

52550

Lusaka

73

Luxembourg

233

Madrid

1502

Maputo

31

Maseru

4

Mexico

138

Moscow

90

New Delhi

138

New York

5281

Nicosia

109

Oslo

101

Ottawa

2128

Paris

1554

Prague

104

Pretoria

2586

Riga

11

Riyadh

355

Rome

388

San Francisco

3094

Sydney

3282

Seoul

85

Shanghai

113

Singapore

417

Sofia

36

Stockholm

249

Tallin

7

Tehran

3

Tel Aviv

167

The Hague

730

Tokyo

162

Valetta

75

Vienna

191

Vilnius

22

Warsaw

85

Washington

739

Question No. 59 withdrawn.

Public Sector Staff Data

Questions (60)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

60. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of persons employed in the public sector by his Department or agency, and by grade, for each year of the five consecutive years for which the most recent data is available. [30455/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The information sought by the Deputy is set out in the following table. The figures include officers from other Government Departments serving in our missions abroad, most notably Ireland's Permanent Representative to the EU in Brussels, but exclude staff that are locally recruited abroad. The figures at December 2012 include a number of temporary staff recruited for the lead up to and the duration of Ireland's Presidency of the EU.

Staff in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Grade

FTE* Number end Dec 2008

FTE Number end Dec 2009

FTE Number end Dec 2010

FTE Number end Dec 2011

FTE Number end Dec 2012

Secretary General

1

1

1

1

1

Second Secretary General

4

2

2

2

2

Deputy Secretary General

4

5

5

3

3

Assistant Secretary/General and equivalent

42

43

37

35

30

Principal Development Specialist

3

4

5

5

5

Counsellor/Principal Officer/Principal Officer Architect

91

83

82

79

76

Senior Development Specialist

20

19

18.6

17

16

Accountant

6

4

4

4

5

Assistant Principal/First Secretary/Assistant Legal Advisers/Translator/Senior Architect/Press Officer

187.9

187.9

187.8

180.1

179

Development Specialist

23

27.8

26.8

24.8

24.8

Higher Executive Officer/Third Secretary/Administrative Officer/Librarian

176.7

169.35

179.55

178.4

168

Executive Officer

108.2

101.3

97.9

96.4

92.1

Staff Officer

42.2

42.2

43

41.1

37.6

Clerical Officer

480.8

466.2

436.6

426.8

410.7

Cleaners/Services Officer/Services Attendant/Nightwatchpersons

46.8

47.8

46.8

46.8

42

Ministerial staff/Advisors

10

11

12

11

13

Civilian Driver

4

5

4

4

2

Temporary Administrative Officer/Clerical Officer/Interns for Presidency

-

-

-

-

25

Total

1250.60

1219.55

1189.05

1155.40

1127.20

* Full Time Equivalent

There are no State agencies under the aegis of my Department.

National Pensions Reserve Fund Plans

Questions (61)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

61. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Finance in view of the decision to wind up the National Pension Reserve Fund which was designed to pre-fund public sector and social welfare pensions from 2025, when he will bring forward proposals to ensure adequate resources are available to meet pension liabilities as they fall due; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29940/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

The National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) was established on 2 April 2001 under the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000 for the purpose of meeting as much as possible of the cost to the Exchequer of social welfare pensions and public service pensions to be paid from the year 2025 until the year 2055, or such other year as may be specified by order.

As announced last week, the Government has decided to establish the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund which will absorb the NPRF and whose resources will be channelled towards productive investment on commercial terms in the Irish economy.

While the need for the State to provide for social welfare and public service pensions obligations has not abated, fostering economic activity and employment is currently a greater priority and this will in turn put the State in a better position to meet its pensions obligations in the longer term.

I understand my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will initiate an actuarial review of the cost of future pensions. The Deputy will be aware of the many changes in both pay and public service pensions in recent years which will have to be taken account of in any new review. As the longer-term evolution of public service pay is a particularly important factor in determining pension costs, it will be more appropriate to start the actuarial assessment once the position on public service pay is clarified in the coming months.

Mortgage Arrears Proposals

Questions (62)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

62. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Finance if consideration will be given to a submission made by an organisation (details supplied) in County Laois; the actions that will be taken on foot of the recommendations in this submission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29702/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

My officials and I have reviewed the contents of the recent submission that I have received from the organisation referred to by the Deputy. The Government is acutely aware of the significant difficulties some homeowners are facing in meeting their mortgage and other debt obligations and it is committed to advancing appropriate measures to assist those mortgage holders who are experiencing genuine difficulty.

The Government has put in place a comprehensive strategy to address the problem of mortgage arrears. The implementation of this strategy is overseen at Government level by a special Government Sub-Committee chaired by An Taoiseach, and at official level by a high level Steering Group chaired by my Department’s Secretary General or other senior officials. This Steering Group consists of senior officials from the Departments of the Finance, An Taoiseach, Environment, Community and Local Government, Justice and Equality, Social Protection and Public Expenditure and Reform, as well as the Central Bank and the Insolvency Service of Ireland. This Group meets on a fortnightly basis and its purpose is to co-ordinate and drive the implementation of the strategy across Government and to receive and monitor the reports from the relevant Departments and agencies on the implementation of their respective areas of the overall strategy.

Following on from the recommendations of the 2011 Inter-Departmental Report on Mortgage Arrears, the main elements of the mortgage arrears strategy are:

- Innovative Personal Insolvency Reform: The Personal Insolvency Act, in place since the end of 2012, now provides accessible statutory insolvency frameworks to allow debtors and creditors reach arrangements to resolve unsustainable mortgage and personal debt positions. The Insolvency Service of Ireland, which was officially launched in April, will oversee the operation of the new insolvency frameworks and will very soon be in a position to commence processing insolvency applications.

- Comprehensive Advice and Guidance: In addition to existing arrangements, the Government has introduced a range of information and guidance resources to assist mortgage holders through what can be a difficult and stressful process. A dedicated website, www.keepingyourhome.ie, has been put in place to provide general public information on mortgages arrears issues. In addition, there is a Mortgage Arrears Information Helpline, which was established under the aegis of the Citizens Information Board, to provide more tailored information to individual callers. Finally, a panel of accountants has been put in place to provide “one to one” independent advice to borrowers who have been provided a long term forbearance resolution offer by their lender in respect of a mortgage on their primary home. All of these information services are provided at no direct charge to the users of the service.

- Keeping families in their homes: As a social housing response, a “mortgage to rent” scheme is now in place on a nationwide basis. This option is available to households who have unsustainable mortgages and who would qualify for social housing support. Provided they meet this and other appropriate criteria, this allows families, in the context of an agreed resolution to an unsustainable mortgage, to remain in their home.

- Mortgage Arrears Resolution Strategies: The implementation of sustainable mortgage arrears solutions by individual banks for their distressed customers, with Central Bank oversight, is a key element of the overall framework to address the mortgage arrears problem. The Central Bank initiative announced last March, sets time bound and measurable targets for the main banks, requiring them to systematically address their arrears book. This is a very important step to resolve the impasse on arrears. The Central Bank is initially requiring the main mortgage lenders to propose sustainable solutions to 20% of mortgages that are in arrears (of over 90 days) by end June. The target rises to 30% by the end of September and to 50% by the end of December 2013. The Central Bank will monitor and audit the performance of banks in relation to the targets and, crucially, will also assess whether the modifications provided are in fact sustainable solutions. More recently, the Central Bank also announced a pilot initiative for the restructuring of multiple debt situations to test the viability of a negotiated approach where there is more than one lender involved. In that overall context, and also in the context of the Central Bank’s role in the area of protecting the consumer of financial services, I have also asked my officials to forward the submission from the organisation referred to by Deputy to the Central Bank for its attention and necessary follow up.