Bank Guarantee Scheme Administration

Questions (82)

Michael McGrath

Question:

82. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the amount of money held by the then Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland at 30 September 2008 in respect of the deposit guarantee scheme for banks and building societies; and to specify the amount currently being held by the Central Bank of Ireland in respect of the same scheme. [32532/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I wish to inquire about a Bill which may be of some assistance when dealing with agitated backbenchers. It is the mediation Bill. After this morning's session it is becoming more desperate. Will the Bill be published by the end of the year?

Economic Data

Questions (83)

Michael McGrath

Question:

83. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his views on the recent fall in GDP; the actions the Government will take to arrest the decline in output; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32534/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

The figures published last week by the CSO show that GDP contracted by -0.6 per cent quarter-on-quarter in the first quarter of 2013 and by -0.9 per cent year-on-year.

Almost all components of domestic demand contracted in year-on-year terms in the first quarter. Private consumption was down -1.6 per cent, partly due to low car sales. Investment fell -19.8 per cent as there were fewer purchases of aircraft than in the same quarter of the previous year. Government consumption continued to fall as public service employment continues to shrink in line with policy objectives.

On the external side, exports fell by -4.1 per cent. This is primarily due to patent expiration in the pharma sector as goods exports are down -9.4 per cent. Weak trading partner demand is also impacting. Imports fell by -4.2 per cent.

Notwithstanding these data, the labour market continues to show signs of stabilisation. Figures published this morning show that unemployment has fallen from a high of 15.1 per cent in February 2012 to 13.6 per cent in June 2013. In addition, the latest Exchequer returns published yesterday by my Department highlight the consistent improvement in Ireland’s public finances with the gap between income expenditure continuing to narrow.

The latest GDP figures are below expectations of both domestic and international forecasters. This makes the Government’s primary macroeconomic policy objective of putting the economy back on a sustainable growth path so as to move to a point where sustained net employment creation is taking place, even more imperative.

In this regard, competitiveness has improved substantially in recent years, with inflation at or below the euro area since March 2008. Tangible progress is being made to ensure a banking system healthy enough to support productive investment by inter alia the SME sector. In relation to the public finances, the policy objective remains the correction of the excessive general government deficit by 2015, as recommended by the ECOFIN Council in late-2010. All of the interim annual deficit ceilings set by the Council have been met, and the Government remains committed to bringing the deficit below 3 per cent of GDP within the stated time horizon.

Finally, I would like to emphasise that the Government remains committed to tackling the unacceptably high level of unemployment. Reflecting this, the Action Plan for Jobs 2013 set out over 333 actions to be undertaken in the coming year to support job creation and complement measures already undertaken in the Jobs Initiative and the Pathways to Work.

Bond Redemption

Questions (84)

Michael McGrath

Question:

84. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if sales have taken place to date by the Central Bank of Ireland of the portfolio of Irish Government bonds it holds which replaced the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation promissory notes; the total value of such transactions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32608/13]

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Written answers (Question to Finance)

I have been advised by the Central Bank that the portfolio of Government bonds now held by the Bank following the liquidation of IBRC will be sold as soon as possible, provided conditions of financial stability permit. The Bank has, however, undertaken that a minimum amount of bonds will be sold in accordance with the following schedule: to end 2014 (€0.5bn), 2015-2018 (€0.5bn p.a.), 2019-2023 (€1bn p.a.), 2024 and after (€2bn p.a.). The Bank normally reports in detail on its balance sheet only at annual intervals although it also publishes a more aggregate balance sheet on a monthly basis. While the latter does not contain details of its investment holdings, it is my understanding that no sales have so far taken place from this portfolio.

State Bodies Mergers

Questions (85)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

85. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide an update on the merger of the National Centre for Technology in Education with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment in order to integrate ICT education and further aid the number of students opting for ICT courses at third level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32500/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Programme for Government included a proposal to merge the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE) with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. Following consideration of the issues involved, it was decided that the school-focused functions of the NCTE should be integrated more closely with other support services for teachers and schools and that certain functions relating to curriculum development be transferred to the NCCA. Therefore the NCTE was formally merged with the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) as of 1st June 2012, while a senior post from the NCTE dealing with curricular matters was assigned to the NCCA. A new senior management team consisting of a Director and four Deputy Directors was appointed to the PDST organisation as a whole.

One of the Deputy Director posts has responsibility for the ICT support service functions carried out by the staff of the former NCTE. The new configuration ensures greater integration of ICT within teaching and learning both in terms of policy and practice. In relation to increasing the number of students opting for ICT courses at third level, the joint Government-Industry ICT Action Plan, which was published in January 2012, sets out a multi-level approach with an overarching aim of doubling the number of graduates from ICT disciplines to 2,000 by 2018. It contains a comprehensive range of measures to build the domestic supply of ICT graduates, in the short, medium and long term, including through the roll out of the ICT graduate skills conversion programmes. Almost 1,500 places have been provided for graduate jobseekers under the two rounds of the ICT graduate skills conversion programmes that have issued to date. More than 400 people have already graduated from these programmes and a further 300 are due to graduate before the end of this year. In addition, more than 3,700 people have enrolled on ICT programmes under the first two rounds of the Springboard reskilling initiative and a further 2,000 ICT Springboard places have been made available under the third phase of Springboard which was launched in June 2013.

The Plan has helped to raise awareness of employment opportunities in ICT. Technology courses accounted for 20.5% of all honours degree level first preference applications through the CAO this year. The increase in demand from students for technology courses, including a 50% increase in first preference applications for computing over the past 5 years is very positive in building the future supply of graduates.

School Accommodation

Questions (86)

Gerry Adams

Question:

86. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a school (details supplied) in County Louth has proposed to integrate an autism unit into its school and that a prefabricated building has been in place for some time; the reason the service has not yet been established in this school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32309/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) engaged with County Louth VEC during the 2011/2012 school year with a view to establishing an autism unit at one of its post-primary schools in Louth. The VEC, in collaboration with the NCSE, identified the school concerned as being suitable for the establishment of such a unit.

The NCSE recommended that an autism unit would be established at the school in question to commence in January 2013. My Department sanctioned temporary accommodation for this unit on that basis. The NCSE has since advised that the ASD class did not go ahead because the anticipated demand did not materialise. I understand that it is the NCSE's intention to keep the matter under review in the context of any emerging need.

Student Support Schemes Issues

Questions (87)

Robert Troy

Question:

87. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider that there is little point in the Government fully accepting the recommendations of the Fottrell report, committing to increasing medical student numbers, investing the time and resources in establishing the GEM programmes and then making no provision to support students who will be returning to education driven by a passion to pursue a career in medicine (details supplied). [32329/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Students pursue GEM programmes as second undergraduate degree courses and consequently are not eligible for free fees or for student grants. However in order to widen access to GEM programmes, and give assistance towards the financial burden on each student pursuing these programmes, the fees of participatng EU students are partly subsidised by the State via the Higher Education Authority. For the 2012/13 academic year, this subsidy amounted to €10,000 per annum in respect of each EU student participating in GEM programmes in the State. In addition the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provides tax relief, at the standard rate, for tuition fees paid in respect of approved courses.

Schools Building Projects Administration

Questions (88)

Paudie Coffey

Question:

88. Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Education and Skills the date by which tenders have to be submitted to his Department for the construction of a new school (details supplied) in County Waterford; if a work schedule and completion date for the construction of the school will be published; if he will appoint a project co-ordinator to ensure adequate liaison and progress on the project between his Department and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government which is providing funding for a public library on the site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32334/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

A project manager has been appointed by my Department to oversee the delivery of the project referred to by the Deputy. Tenders for the project are due for return on July 15th 2013 and the relevant officials from Waterford City Council have been kept updated in relation to the project progress. Assuming no issues arise it is anticipated that construction will commence in Quarter four 2013. This project is being co-funded by Waterford City Council; therefore all funding queries on the public library should be raised with Waterford City Council in the first instance.