Election Management System

Questions (136)

Heather Humphreys

Question:

136. Deputy Heather Humphreys asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if special consideration will be given to ensure that those currently unemployed will be given the opportunity to take up work at polling stations and count centres for the local and European elections on 23 May; the guidelines that will be issued to returning officers regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14251/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The primary role of my Department in electoral matters is to provide an appropriate policy and legislative framework for a modern and efficient electoral system. Within that framework, local returning officers are responsible for all matters in connection with the actual conduct of elections and referendums, including the selection, appointment and training of polling station and count staff in accordance with the relevant provisions of electoral law.

My Department routinely issues guidance to Returning Officers in advance of each election and referendum. The guidance issued for the European Parliament and local elections being held on 23 May 2014 emphasises that the smooth conduct of polls is dependent on maintaining a cadre of sufficiently skilled and experienced people. Having regard to that overall objective, returning officers are advised to employ competent and efficient persons as polling and count staff and asked to give consideration, where possible, to employing suitable persons who are unemployed, particularly for the position of polling clerk where the responsibilities of the post can be fulfilled under the guidance of the Presiding Officer.

Local Authority Housing Eligibility

Questions (137)

Arthur Spring

Question:

137. Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 507 of 25 February 2014, if the same guidelines were issued to all local authorities in relation to the administration of the housing aid for older people; and if the guidelines contained information in relation to the exemption for applicants under the age limit based on hardship grounds or where specific advice is provided by medical professionals. [14262/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Housing Aid for Older People Scheme (HAOP) provides grants of up to € 8,000 to assist older people living in poor housing conditions to have necessary repairs or improvements carried out to their homes. Grant-eligible works include structural repairs or improvements, re-wiring, repairs to or replacement of windows and doors, provision of water supply and sanitary facilities, provision of heating, cleaning, painting etc.

Some changes to the suite of Grants for Older People and People with a Disability were made earlier this year on foot of the report by a review group, established in 2013 by my Department to examine the terms and conditions governing the suite of grants. The aim of the review was to spread the benefits of the schemes as widely as possible and to ensure fairness and value for money in their operation. While the age limit for eligibility under the HAOP has been increased from 60 to 66 years, a lower age limit can apply at the discretion of the local authority in certain cases. The detailed administration of the scheme , including the assessment, approval and payment of grants to applicants, is the responsibility of the relevant local authority. Revised guidelines for the administration and operation of the scheme have issued to all local authorities.

Waste Management

Questions (138)

Brian Stanley

Question:

138. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has received a report on health and safety related to waste collection facilities in the south Dublin area since the recent fire at the Oxigen plant. [14264/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

On 25 January, the Dublin Fire Service responded to an emergency call reporting a large fire at the Oxigen Environmental Waste facility in an industrial estate at Ballymount, Dublin. In co-ordination with An Garda Síochána, the Dublin Fire Service managed the incident and brought the fire under control four days later. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was also on site since early on 25 January.

Once the fire was brought under control, the EPA took steps to commence a full investigation in the normal way. I also wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency requesting that, in addition to identifying possible causes of the fire and an analysis of the type of wastes affected, the report should include the following: an assessment of the type and quantities of pollutants released to the atmosphere by the fire, including from any hazardous material present; consideration of the levels of, and impacts from, air pollution monitored in the vicinity of the fire by EPA staff; any other data available, such as data recorded by the relevant local authorities, the HSE sector or the EPA’s national ambient air quality monitoring network; and using the data above, an indicative assessment, where practicable, of the likely exposure to the population in the vicinity of the plume.

I am aware that the EPA is currently finalising a report and I expect to receive it within the next two weeks.

Homeless Accommodation Funding

Questions (139)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

139. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if funds are being dedicated to the prevention of homelessness; if his Department is aware of the increased incidence of homelessness among families and in non-city locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14292/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department’s role in terms of homelessness involves the provision of a national framework of policy, legislation and funding to underpin the role of housing authorities in addressing homelessness at local level. Statutory responsibility for the provision of accommodation for homeless persons rests with the housing authorities. The purposes for which housing authorities may incur expenditure in addressing homelessness are prescribed in Section 10 of the Housing Act 1988.

Traditionally it has been difficult to quantify the number of homeless persons on an on-going basis; this is in part a consequence of the volatility within this cohort of housing need. The Pathway Accommodation and Support System (PASS) was extended nationally in 2013 and is now operational nationwide. PASS will assist housing authorities to report on the dynamics of homelessness as it is addressed and 2014 will be the first year for which PASS will produce composite national data. These reports will be published on my Department's website as soon as they are available.

In February 2013 I published the Government’s Homelessness Policy Statement in which the aim to end long-term homelessness by the end of 2016 was outlined. The statement emphasises a housing-led approach which is about accessing permanent housing as the primary response to all forms of homelessness. The availability and supply of secure, affordable and adequate housing is essential in ensuring sustainable tenancies and ending long-term homelessness.

The Homelessness Oversight Group, which I established in 2013 for the purposes of reviewing the progress of the approach being advocated in the statement, identifying obstacles and proposing solutions, has submitted its first report to me. The report considered the prevention of homelessness as well as families presenting as homeless. A copy of this report is available on my Department's website, www.environ.ie.

On 25 February 2014, the Government approved the establishment of a Homelessness Policy Implementation Team and an implementation unit. The team is tasked with implementing the Homelessness Oversight Group's First Report. This will include the preparation and publication of a structured, practical plan to make the transition from a shelter-led to a sustainable housing-led response to homelessness and to achieve the 2016 goals for homelessness. This plan will be a practically focused delivery plan to secure a ring-fenced supply of accommodation to house homeless households within the next three years and mobilise the necessary supports. It will contain actions that will be direct, immediate and solutions based.

The implementation team is representative of the key State agencies dealing with homelessness, housing and related services because the solutions to homelessness do not solely reside in my Department. The team is being led by my Department and it includes a senior official from the Department of Social Protection and the Health Service Executive as well as the Managers of Dublin City Council and Monaghan County Council, representing local authorities. The team will report on this plan to the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy in April 2014 and quarterly thereafter.

I am acutely aware of the significant number of families now presenting as homeless in the Dublin region and the extremely challenging situation that this is presenting to Dublin City Council. My Department is working with Dublin City Council on measures to address this emerging situation and the plan will incorporate actions to address this and other accommodation related issues.

Water Services Provision

Questions (140)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

140. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the establishment of Irish Water has become an impediment to the taking estates in charge process; the arrangements he has put in place to overcome same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14315/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

As stated in Circular Letter PL 21/13 issued by my Department to planning authorities on 30 December 2013 in the light of the transfer of certain statutory water services functions from local authorities to Irish Water with effect from 1 January 2014, legislative amendments to further clarify the existing provisions on the taking in charge of housing estates will be made in 2014. However, contrary to certain misunderstanding that may exist following the recent establishment of Irish Water, there is no specific legal impediment to the taking in charge of water services infrastructure by local authorities at present. As also indicated in this circular letter, pending further legislation and guidelines in 2014, planning authorities have been advised that they should in the first instance consult with Irish Water on any proposal to take in charge water services infrastructure which would ultimately be transferred to Irish Water under section 12 of the Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013.

Departmental Staff Expenses

Questions (141)

Clare Daly

Question:

141. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the protocol on assistant principal officers and principal officers using their private cars and claiming unvouched expenses when official cars are available in his Department; if he has received any complaints regarding same; and the oversight that is in place to deal with same. [14842/14]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department does not provide official cars for any staff.

In the context of official travel, it is Departmental policy that public transport should be used wherever possible where it is deemed necessary to travel for business purposes. Staff are only permitted to use their own cars and claim the appropriate civil service mileage expenses to travel to and from meetings where no suitable public transport (e.g. train or bus) is available, where public transport is available only at equal or greater expense or where the use of public transport would result in the loss of official time which it is necessary to avoid.

Staff travelling between Departmental offices, where public transport options are available, may opt to use their own private vehicles but may only claim the appropriate public transport rates (train/bus) in such circumstances.

Residency Permits

Questions (142)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

142. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the current and-or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14323/14]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the person referred to is the subject of a Deportation Order and therefore has no entitlement to residency in the State. The person concerned has been evading his deportation since 14 October 2009 and should he come to the notice of the Garda authorities would be liable to arrest and detention. He should, therefore, present himself to the Garda National Immigration Bureau without any further delay.

The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter outside the State. The enforcement of the Deportation Order remains an operational matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Queries on the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS by Email 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.