Departmental Staff Rehiring

Questions (103)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

103. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of retired civil or public servants who have been retained by his Department since January 2013 on a short-term contract or consultancy basis where normal abatement rules do not apply. [35842/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department has not retained the services of any retired civil or public servants on a short term contract or on a consultancy basis since January 2013 where normal abatement rules do not apply.

School Textbooks Rental Scheme

Questions (104)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

104. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding schoolbooks; if he has considered the position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35852/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Department of Education and Skills issued Guidelines for Developing Textbook Rental Schemes in Schools earlier this year. While the Guidelines outline a number of strategies to avoid the need for workbooks or to allow workbooks to be re-used from year to year, it is up to the board of management of each individual school to decide on its own school policy in relation to the use of workbooks in schools.

It should be noted that, according to my Inspectorate, the best teachers use a range of active learning approaches in the classroom rather than over-relying on textbooks and workbooks.

Haddington Road Agreement Savings

Questions (105)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

105. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide a yearly detailed breakdown of the sectoral measures and accompanying savings for the duration of the Haddington Road Agreement applicable in his Department and-or non-commercial State sponsored bodies under the aegis of his Department. [35859/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The collective agreements in the education sector are set out in Appendix 5 of the Public Service Stability Agreement 2013-2016 (the Haddington Road Agreement).

As stated by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, the Haddington Road Agreement will facilitate a reduction of €1 billion in the public service pay and pensions bill by 2016. In relation to the education sector, the savings arising under the Agreement have been incorporated in the Department's revised estimate for 2013 and further details for 2014 and 2015 will be incorporated in the vote allocation in the context of the overall estimates process.

Institutes of Technology Issues

Questions (106)

Tom Fleming

Question:

106. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the joint upgrading to university technological status in respect of an institution (details supplied); and if the upgrade status will be approved in 2013. [35924/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Three formal expressions of interest were received by the HEA from groups of institutes of technology in applying for designation as technological universities.

The three applications are from:

1. DIT, Institute of Technology Tallaght, Institute of Technology Blanchardstown;

2. Waterford Institute of Technology and Carlow Institute of Technology;

3. Cork Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology, Tralee.

A clear four stage process and criteria for designation were published last year. The three groups of institutes have now passed the first stage and can proceed to the second stage where detailed plans for merger and meeting the robust performance criteria have to be developed. In the third stage, evaluation of these plans by an international expert panel will take place followed by legal mergers and eventual designation for successful applicants.

The timeframe for this will depend on the capacity of the proposed institutions to meet those criteria.

Open Government Partnership

Questions (107)

Seán Crowe

Question:

107. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will explain the way the Government's commitment to the Open Government process on the work of his Department; if his Department has entered into any commitments under this process; what this process entails for his Department; and what, if any, timeframes are involved. [35642/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I submitted a letter of intent for Ireland to participate in the Open Government Partnership on behalf of the Government in May. A stakeholder consultation process is now underway for the development of proposals for inclusion in Ireland’s Open Government Partnership national action plan. The four core principles of the Open Government Partnership are: Transparency, Accountability, Citizen Participation and Technology and Innovation and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform will consult with citizens, civil society and other interests as well as with Government Departments, in developing proposals for a draft national action plan for approval by Government containing concrete commitments that would align with these key principles. National action plans cover a two-year period. It is envisaged that Ireland will formally become an Open Government Partnership participating country early in 2014.

National Monuments

Questions (108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113)

John Deasy

Question:

108. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his policy on charging entrance fees to national monuments and national historic properties. [35822/13]

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John Deasy

Question:

109. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the current number of national monuments in State care; the number open to the public; and the number that charge visitors an entrance fee. [35823/13]

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John Deasy

Question:

110. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the overall annual cost of managing, maintaining and staffing the total number of national monuments in State care in 2010, 2011 and 2012. [35824/13]

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John Deasy

Question:

111. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the total revenue generated from visitor entrance fees at national monuments in State care in 2010, 2011 and 2012. [35825/13]

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John Deasy

Question:

112. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of persons who visited national heritage attractions, managed by the Office of Public Works, in 2010, 2011 and 2012. [35826/13]

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John Deasy

Question:

113. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the total revenue generated from visitor entrance fees at Office of Public Works managed heritage sites in 2010, 2011 and 2012. [35827/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 to 113, inclusive, together.

The policy in regard to admission fees to National Monument and Heritage sites in State care which are managed by the Office of Public Works (OPW) is reflective of a number of factors, including the need on an ongoing basis to defray some of the running costs, the Government's policy of supporting the wider tourism economy and, in some certain cases, the relative popularity of the site in visitor numbers terms.

Admission charges to State run Heritage sites, where they apply, are generally set quite low relative to other private sector comparators and in approximately 40% of OPW's attended (Guided) sites, there are no charges at all. This reflects the Government's wish to encourage interest in our heritage from both domestic and foreign visitors and to seek to minimise the costs to both the general user and the organised Tour Operator sector of experiencing some of the best heritage sites in the country.

This approach is also designed to support the wider tourism and hospitality industry by encouraging visitor footfall in parts of the country that might not otherwise be in a position to draw such visitors. In a small number of particular cases, admission fees are slightly higher, reflecting a need to control the level of visitors somewhat for conservation reasons and to ensure that the overall number is managed so as to remain consistent with the ability of fragile sites to cope sustainably with significant demand.

Notwithstanding this general policy, which has applied for some time, it is clear that in light of economic pressures on the Exchequer currently, and in particular having regard to the costs involved in maintaining visitor facilities at many of these sites, circumstances may dictate a relatively greater emphasis on cost recovery in the future. However, no decisions have been taken at this time in relation to increasing admission charges at sites, in the interest of continuing to keep costs low to the domestic visitor and the foreign tourist alike.

There are a total of almost 1,000 individual National Monuments in State care at 768 locations around the country. These are managed and maintained by the OPW and include both sites which are in full State ownership and others which are privately-owned but where Guardianship arrangements exist and where the OPW provides maintenance services.

As a general policy, OPW facilitates visitor access to as many National Monument sites as possible. However, access is not always feasible because of a range of issues including physical location, risks associated with dangerous structures and restrictions imposed in some cases by landowners who may wish to limit access, either temporarily or more longer term, by reason of accident risk, livestock etc. OPW would estimate that approximately 10% of the National Monument sites in its care are not accessible at any given time for various reasons.

As part of its remit, the OPW also provides enhanced visitor access, together with Guide facilities in some cases, at 70 of the more prominent visitor locations nationally. These include many of the most iconic heritage sites in the country such as Kilmainham Gaol, the Rock of Cashel, Newgrange etc as well as a number of smaller, less well known properties. Year round access with full Guide services is provided at 24. The remainder (ie 46 no.) are open with Guide services on a seasonal basis on varying dates and for different lengths of seasons generally between March and October. Admission fees are currently charged at 41 out of the 70 guided sites.

The OPW is responsible for the physical care and maintenance of all National Monument sites in State using a direct labour force headquartered at 6 separate Works Depots spread nationally. Works undertaken at National Monument sites fall into 2 broad categories:

- Ongoing light maintenance and small works undertaken by OPW's own direct labour force using materials and supplies taken from general stock on hands:

- Significant larger conservation projects undertaken over a period of years which have supplies of materials specifically provided.

Financial records of expenditures in relation to the management of the National Monuments in State care, including ongoing maintenance works and other overheads such as vehicle fleet costs, consumables, caretaking and other inputs, are kept globally only at a Depot level and are not broken down by site location. The cost of maintenance of the portfolio in the years in question is therefore not available but is subsumed into the overall costs of the OPW National Monuments Service.

The cost of maintaining a Guide Service (ie wage costs for the permanent and seasonal Guide workforce at each of the Guided site locations) for the year 2012 this was €9.4m. The figures for 2011 and 2010 are not available within the time frame as they have to be collated from a number of sources, but will be provided directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

The revenue generated from visitor entrance fees and the respective numbers of visitors in the reference period was as follows:

-

2010

2011

2012

Admissions Income

€6.1m

€6.4m

€6.7m

Visitor Numbers (Guided sites only)

3.3m

3.5m

3.8m

(For clarity, it should be noted that some or parts of certain sites are also freely accessible without entering the Visitor Centre facilities concerned (eg Glendalough Monastic Site, Mellifont Abbey) where an admission charge might apply and the actual footfall may therefore be considerably greater, while various events/exhibitions occur on sites from time to time which may also affect visitor numbers, so the overall tallies, though well sourced, must be qualified to some degree.)