Teacher Training Provision

Questions (226)

Dara Calleary

Question:

226. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Education and Skills the current status of the proposed amalgamation of the Church of Ireland College of Education with St. Patrick's College, Drumcondra and the Mater Dei Institute of Education with DCU; the level of consultation that has taken place with Church of Ireland parents and teachers across the country on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15333/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I have accepted the recommendations set out in an International Review Panel report commissioned by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on the structures of initial teacher education (ITE). The report recommended that teacher education be provided in six "centres for teacher education" and that Church of Ireland College of Education would be suitably positioned to join a number of the proposed new configurations. It is a clear objective of the restructuring that the quality of teacher education will be enhanced for all stakeholders. The Review Panel, in its deliberations, respected and was aware of the denominational governance of Colleges of Education. It heard a separate presentation from the Church of Ireland College of Education. The Panel did not make any recommendations in relation to denominational matters other than to note that student teachers of any denomination, or none, are accommodated and afforded opportunities to prepare, according to their individual wishes, for the teaching of religion.

In the course of consideration of the report, I have advised the college authorities that while I cannot support the Church of Ireland College remaining on their current campus, I am happy for them to negotiate their own destiny, consistent with their desire to protect their ethos within the broad parameters of the HEA report. CICE has publicly signalled its intention to join DCU, St Patrick's College, Drumcondra and the Mater Dei Institute and I understand that progress is well advanced in this regard. It is of course open to any individual college to consult further with the stakeholders relevant to its own context at any time.

My Department and the HEA are in contact with the consortia to monitor progress and a full implementation plan is expected to be submitted to HEA shortly. I am committed to ensuring that all primary schools have a sufficient supply of appropriately trained teachers. In this context the Deputy may wish to note that I signed the Church of Ireland College of Education Order under the Employment Equality Act 1998 (section 12) last year. This Order permits the College to reserve 32 places in the first year of the Bachelor of Education degree course for students who are members of the Church of Ireland or who belong to the broad Protestant tradition during the academic years 2012/13 to 2017/18 inclusive.

School Textbooks Rental Scheme

Questions (227)

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

227. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the definition of a book rental scheme for the purposes of making payments under the seed capital grant scheme; the criteria his Department uses to decide when the provision of books by a school to its pupils is a book rental scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15364/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Budget 2014 announced that additional funding was provided to the Department which involved an investment of €15 million to support the establishment of book rental schemes in primary schools that do not currently operate them. With the limited funding available, I believe that targeting this funding to make sure that every parent in Ireland has access to some level of a book rental scheme was the greatest good that could be achieved. The Primary School Census 2011, 2012 and 2013 included a question which asked a school to indicate if they operate a textbook rental or loan scheme to enable pupils and parents to rent or borrow some or all of the main textbooks used in the school. Schools that indicated that they did not operate a book rental or loan scheme in the Primary School Census in 2013 were contacted in early 2014 to advise them of the application process.

School Placement

Questions (228)

Seán Kyne

Question:

228. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps available to a family whose child has been unable to obtain a place in the primary school (details supplied) in County Galway nearest the family home on account of the categorisation of applicants, of which religion is a particular factor in this case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15386/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The selection and enrolment of pupils in schools is the responsibility of the authorities of the individual school. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking school places in an area. However, this may result in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice. As schools may not have a place for every applicant, a selection process may be necessary. This selection process and the enrolment policy on which it is based must be non-discriminatory and must be applied fairly in respect of all applicants.

Under section 15 (2) (d) of the Education Act, 1998, each school is legally obliged to disclose its enrolment policy and to ensure that as regards that policy that principles of equality and the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parents choice are respected. Section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 provides for an appeal by a parent or guardian to the Secretary General of my Department, or in the case of an Educational Training Board (ETB) school to the ETB in the first instance, where a Board of Management of a school, or a person acting on behalf of the Board, refuses to enrol a student in a school, expels a student or suspends a student for 20 or more days in any school year. My Department has no authority to compel a school to admit a pupil, except in the case of an appeal under section 29 of the Education Act, 1998 being upheld. Section 29 appeal application forms are available on my Departments website at the following link http://www.education.ie/en/Parents/Services/Appeal-against-Permanent-Exclusion-Suspension-or-Refusal-to-Enrol/Section-29-Appeals-Application-Form.doc or from Section 29 Administration Unit, Department of Education & Skills, Friars Mill Road, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, phone 0761 108584.

The Educational Welfare Service of the Child and Family Agency (EWS) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The EWS may be able to offer assistance and advice on securing a school placement within the pupil's area. The contact details for the EWS is Educational Welfare Service of the Child and Family Agency, Unit 19 Sandyfort Business Centre, Grealishtown, Bohermore, Galway, phone number 091 385302.

Bord Gáis Privatisation

Questions (229)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

229. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans for the resources raised by the sale of Bord Gáis Energy; if 50% of the revenue will be used for job creation measures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15210/14]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The House will be aware of the Government's consistent position that the funds released from asset disposals, including the sale of Bord Gáis Energy, should be used, in one form or another, to support job creating initiatives in the economy. At Budget time, I factored a total of €110m into the Estimates for 2014 in respect of projects supported from the sale of State assets. €45m of this will fund part of the advance works associated with the new PPP Programme. Specifically, €25m will be spent on the Grangegorman project and €20m on road PPPs. The remaining €65m will be spent on the continued roll-out of the additional Exchequer investment projects announced in 2013 (€25m on Energy and €40m on Schools). I have already indicated that additional capital investment has been authorised to deal with the flooding crisis and the determination of the amount of money available for further stimulus investment will be considered in this context.

Public Sector Pensions Levy

Questions (230)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

230. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the amount of pension levy paid by public service pensioners who retired up to 29 February 2012 due to the impact of the public service pension reduction under the following bands for 2013: €12,000 - €24,000, €24,000 - €60,000, €60,000 - €100,000 and €100,000 upwards; the amount paid each month in 2014 in the above bands; the amount paid by the same pensioners who retired under PSPR after 29 February 2012 in the above bands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15325/14]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Public Service Pension Reduction (PSPR), which affects certain public service pensions and which was introduced on 1 January 2011 under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2010 is not a levy on pensions; instead it is an actual reduction of a public service pension, based on a progressively structured set of income bands and reduction rates. There are now a number of different rates of PSPR applicable, depending on the size of the pension and the pensioner's date of retirement relative to the applicable date of the various pay cuts that have applied to public servants in recent years.

Pensioners with public service pension income below €12,000 are in all cases exempt from PSPR. In respect of retirements up to 29 February 2012, PSPR reduces all affected public service pensions on the basis of either of two sets of rates. First, for pre-March 2012 retirement on pension up to €34,132, the following PSPR rates apply to the pension (these rates also applied to pre-March 2012 pensions above €34,132 prior to PSPR rate increases which took effect on 1 July 2013): Up to €12,000: Exempt - Any amount over €12,000 but not over €24,000: 6 per cent (€720) Any amount over €24,000 but not over €60,000: 9 per cent (€3,240) Any amount over €60,000 but not over €100,000: 12 per cent (€4,800) Any amount over €100,000: 20 per cent.

Second, for pre-March 2012 retirement on pension above €34,132, the following PSPR rates apply to the pension: Up to €12,000: Exempt - Any amount over €12,000 but not over €24,000: 8 per cent (€960) Any amount over €24,000 but not over €60,000: 12 per cent (€4,320) Any amount over €60,000 but not over €100,000: 17 per cent (€6,800) Any amount over €100,000: 28 per cent.

For pensioners who retired after 29 February 2012, and for public servants who retire up to the end of the "grace period" in respect of the pay reductions that applied to higher paid public servants on 1 July 2013, in each case on pensions in excess of €32,500 only, the following PSPR rates apply to the pension: Up to €12,000: Exempt - Any amount over €12,000 but not over €24,000: 2 per cent (€240) Any amount over €24,000 but not over €60,000: 3 per cent (€1,080) Any amount over €60,000 but not over €100,000: 5 per cent (€2,000) Any amount over €100,000: 8 per cent.

In respect of each of the three sets of PSPR rates, the reduction rates relate to the amount of pension income in each of the bands and are therefore progressive in its application. PSPR is estimated to yield some €125 million annually in support of the fiscal position, based on the foreseen full-year outcome associated with the PSPR rates in force following the PSPR rate adjustments on 1 July 2013, which were legislated under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2013. Prior to these rate adjustments, the full-year yield from PSPR is estimated to have been of the order of €100 million. However information on the amount arising from the reduction applied to those pensions falling into each band relative to each rate is not available in my Department. 

Flood Prevention Measures

Questions (231)

Michael P. Kitt

Question:

231. Deputy Michael P. Kitt asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform when flood relief work will be undertaken on a road (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15419/14]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Office of Public Works (OPW) received an application this year for funding of €19,000 under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme for flood mitigation works at Greenfields, Headford, Co. Galway. This application is currently being assessed having regard to the eligibility criteria of the Scheme and OPW's overall allocation for flood risk management. It is open to Galway County Council to carry out these works using its own resources. OPW approval to carry out the works is not required.

Roads Maintenance Funding

Questions (232)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

232. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the Office of Public Works will make a contribution towards the improvement of a road (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14783/14]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The ringfort referred to at Leacanabuaile, Kimego West, Kerry is in private ownership. It is in the Guardianship of Commissioners of Public Works which is responsible for maintaining the National Monument. The Leacanabuaile site is generally accessed on foot from a small car-park which is provided by the OPW to serve the nearby (State-owned) Cahergal Stone Fort and visitors are explicitly encouraged to use this route to visit Leacanabuaile. Funds are made available to the Commissioners for the maintenance and conservation of National Monuments and the provision of facilities for visitors and it is not appropriate to allocate funds for the purposes suggested.

National Monuments

Questions (233)

Gerald Nash

Question:

233. Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the Office of Public Works will consider further enhancing the tourism and heritage experience at Old Mellifont Abbey, County Louth by ensuring that there is a full-time complement of guides on-site, bringing it in line with other locations in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14796/14]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Old Mellifont Abbey, which is a National Monument in State Ownership, is maintained by the National Monuments Service of the Office of Public Works. This National Monument is currently the subject of a significant project designed to improve elements of its presentation and to provide greater access for those with limited mobility. The presentation works involve provision of new and improved signage on site and the access works relate to the provision of new and extended universal access via pathways and a boardwalk on site. The carpark at the site is also being extensively improved and resurfaced.

This project had been planned since early last year but given that it involves practically all of the site and having regard to adverse weather for the past several months, it was not feasible to commence until now. The works will take about 8 weeks to complete commencing immediately after Easter. Thereafter the site will reopen to the public as normal with Guided services available for the remainder of the season up to the 24th September.

The OPW National Monument Service is anxious to promote and market the National Monument sites in its care and, in this regard, Mellifont Abbey is a key location on the Boyne Valley Drive launched in 2012 to promote and facilitate tourism in the region. The works being undertaken at Mellifont are a direct response to the Boyne Valley Drive initiative and recognise the importance of the site to the route. The aim of the project is to ensure that visitors to the site, and particularly those very many people who visit when Guides are absent, can enjoy and access the site more fully. The provision of a fulltime Guide Service is a significant, and costly, step. The resources available to the OPW for the delivery of Guide services remain under significant pressure and there are therefore no long term plans to extend the Guide service at Old Mellifont Abbey beyond the current seasonal offering.

Office of Public Works Projects

Questions (234)

Gerry Adams

Question:

234. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a number of subcontractors who were employed to carry out the River Dargle, County Wicklow, flood relief scheme remain unpaid for their work; the action he will take to resolve the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15052/14]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I am aware that a number of sub-contractors employed on the Bray Flood Relief scheme have not been paid for the work they carried on out this project. However, while The Office of Public Works is providing funding for the scheme, the main contract for the project was between SIAC and Bray Town Council, as the Contracting Authority. The question of enforcement of a Main Contractor's contractual obligation to a Sub-Contractor is a matter between those parties, and sub-contractors who are owed money need to pursue this matter directly with the Main Contractor.

Flood Prevention Measures

Questions (235)

Robert Troy

Question:

235. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the consultations he has held with the various State bodies and interested parties regarding the serious issue of flooding along the banks of the River Shannon; the progress made to date; if he will provide an indicative timeframe as to when the necessary works will be carried out to ensure this problem is addressed without delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15111/14]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Office of Public Works (OPW) as the lead agency for flood risk management works closely with a wide range of other agencies and relevant parties to ensure a high level of co-ordination, co-operation and consultation in addressing flood risk nationally. One significant area of co-operation is in relation to the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) Programme which the OPW is currently undertaking with its technical consultants and in partnership with local and regional authorities and other key stakeholders including Waterways Ireland, Inland Fisheries Ireland, the ESB and the Environmental Protection Agency. The CFRAM Programme is a strategic approach that recognises the need, in line with international best practice, to move to a more sustainable, planned and risk-based approach to dealing with flooding problems. Under the Programme, following public consultation, detailed flood maps are produced and flood risk management measures are assessed and taken to outline design. These measures will be prioritised and set out in a Flood Risk Management Plan. More information on the Programme is available on www.cfram.ie.

The core strategy for addressing flood risk in the Shannon Basin is the Shannon Catchment Flood Risk Assessment & Management (CFRAM) Study. The Shannon CFRAM Study is being conducted by Jacobs Engineering on behalf of the OPW and I am advised that good progress is being made on the project. The Shannon River Basin District covers some 17,800kms2 and includes parts of 17 counties. A total of 66 locations along the Shannon have been identified for further assessment under the Study. The output of this important project will be an integrated plan of specific measures to address, in a comprehensive and sustainable way, the significant flood risk factors in the Shannon basin.

Under the Study, work on Draft Flood Maps will be finalised during 2014 and Flood Risk Management Plans are due to be finalised in 2015. It is not possible at this point to state when any specific measures recommended in the CFRAM study will be implemented. Pending the finalisation of the CFRAM Plan, it is open to any of the local authorities adjoining the Shannon to apply to the OPW under its Minor Works Scheme for funding to assist with any small scale localised measures that the local authorities consider may help to alleviate flooding along the river. Any application received will be assessed under the Scheme's eligibility criteria including a requirement that any measures are cost beneficial, and having regard to the overall availability of funding. Application forms and related guidelines are available on the OPW website under Flood Risk Management.

The Shannon CFRAM Study involves public consultation with individuals and organisations who have an interest in the Shannon including property owners, recreational users, the farming community and environmental stakeholders. Consultations to date include the national public consultation process that took place during 2011 as part of the CFRAM Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment. The Shannon CFRAM Stakeholder Group met in October 2011 on the subject of Strategic Environmental Assessment. Two Public Open Days on the Shannon CFRAM Study were held in Athlone during April 2012. Presentations on the Shannon CFRAM Study were provided at local/regional authority meetings during December 2012 to June 2013. Public Information Days on Draft Flood Maps were held in Borrisokane, Co. Tipperary and Mullingar, Co. Westmeath during October 2013. The extensive consultation with stakeholder groups under the study is a recognition of the multifaceted nature of the Shannon river system and its diverse uses and functions. More information is available on the project website www.shannoncframstudy.ie.

Capital Expenditure Programme

Questions (236)

Dara Calleary

Question:

236. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the level of public funding committed to County Mayo in 2013 and to date in 2014; the number of capital projects that have commenced and been completed in County Mayo in 2013 and to date in 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15164/14]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

My Department is responsible for setting the overall allocations (both capital and current) across Departments and for monitoring monthly expenditure at Departmental level. Within the overall allocations set by my Department, individual Ministers and their Departments allocate funds across various projects and programmes in line with their Department's priorities. Information in relation to allocations at project level can be obtained from the relevant Departments who will also have appropriate information regarding regional allocations. Details in relation to the overall Exchequer capital budget for 2014 along with the allocations for individual Departments is set out in the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2014 which is available on my Department's website.

Bord Gáis Privatisation

Questions (237)

Seán Fleming

Question:

237. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the gross consideration being paid by the purchaser of Bord Gáis Energy; the total costs that are being incurred in the sale process; the way these costs are broken down; the net cash that the State will receive from the sale; the date on which the State will receive the proceeds of the sale; the manner in which the cash will be deployed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15297/14]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I am happy to inform the House that BGE last week entered into a definitive agreement to sell the Bord Gáis Energy business to a consortium comprising Centrica plc, Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners LP and iCON Infrastructure on the basis of an enterprise value of €1.1bn. BGE and the buyer consortium must now move to deliver on the conditions for completion of this transaction, including a restructuring of the energy business into three separate companies and the completion of a number of regulatory processes, and it is currently expected that the sale will be completed within Q2 2014.

The final sale price and net receipts to the State will be subject to adjustments at completion for certain balance sheet items, such as  net debt and working capital, and the level of certain of BG Energy's earnings from 1 January 2014 to completion (the value of which will be retained by BGE). The Board of BGE will then begin paying special dividends to the Exchequer, commencing immediately following completion, as funds are both available and required. The total costs incurred by the State during this sale process will not be established until the deal is completed, at which stage they will be disclosed.

As I have previously informed the House, part of the receipts from the sale will be used to invest in infrastructure as part of a stimulus programme. Because of Government Accounting rules, not all of this money can be counted as general government receipts in one year, the receipts and hence the expenditure will therefore be spread over a multi-annual period. I have already indicated that additional capital investment has been authorised to deal with the flooding crisis and the determination of the amount of money available for further stimulus investment will be considered in this context.

Public Sector Staff Career Breaks

Questions (238, 239)

Seán Fleming

Question:

238. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of separate incentivised career break offers that are in existence across the public service; if he will outline details of the various schemes on offer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15298/14]

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Seán Fleming

Question:

239. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of public employees who have received or will receive before the end of 2014 a circular advising details on incentivised career break options; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15299/14]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 238 and 239 together.

There are two instances of incentivised career break schemes in the public service, in the Health Service Executive (HSE) and in An Garda Síochána. The HSE scheme was offered in 2013 and I understand that just over 350 staff availed of it. The Garda scheme is currently open to applications and has a closing date of 31 May 2014. I understand that details of the scheme have been circulated to all members of An Garda Síochána. All operational and administrative details of this scheme are being dealt with by An Garda management.

Departmental Funding

Questions (240)

John O'Mahony

Question:

240. Deputy John O'Mahony asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the amount of funding allocated by his Department in County Mayo; the list of projects that benefited in 2011, 2012, 2013 and to date in 2014 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14894/14]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

No funding has been allocated to County Mayo by my Department nor the Offices under the aegis of my Department for the years 2011, 2012, 2013 and to date in 2014. However, investments by a number of agencies under my Department's remit such as the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and the local County Enterprise Boards, have supported and will continue to support enterprises and jobs in the county.

Friendly Societies Regulation

Questions (241)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

241. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the agency responsible for the investigation of breaches of the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1893 in relation to friendly societies; the way an investigation can be initiated; the powers it has in relation to breaches of the Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14940/14]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

The Registrar of Friendly Societies has a range of functions relating to friendly societies and industrial and provident societies, dating back to the late nineteenth century, under the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts 1893-1978 and the Friendly Societies Acts 1896-1977. Under the legislation industrial and provident societies and friendly societies may register with the Registrar of Friendly Societies, subject to a range of obligations in relation to such registration. Principally, these include the following obligations: to register their rules and the titles and names of officers; to submit an annual return to the Registrar, specifying the receipts and expenditure, funds and effects of the society (as well as a copy of the audited accounts of the society); to submit a copy of all alterations of rules, new rules; and change of officers made during the previous year, and; to maintain a registered office and to notify the Registrar of any change in the registered office.

Breaches of the Acts may be dealt with by the imposition of a fine (where an offence has been committed) or by cancellation of the registry of a society. Offences include (but are not limited to) a failure to give notice, send any return or document, not allow anything to be done or sent which the Acts require; wilfully neglecting or refusing to furnish information required under the Acts; furnishing false or insufficient information; a refusal to attend or produce documents in relation to a dispute. The Registrar may cancel the registration of a society where it has been obtained by fraud or mistake, or where a society has wilfully and after notice from the Registrar violated any of the provisions of the Acts.

In relation to disputes there is provision under both codes of legislation for the parties to a dispute, by consent, to refer a dispute to the Registrar, unless the rules of the society expressly forbid such a referral. The Registrar may, with the consent of the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, hear and determine such dispute, and may order the expenses of determining same to be paid out or the funds of the society or by such parties to the dispute as she thinks fit.

In the case of industrial and provident societies, the Registrar also has (with the consent of the Minister) power to appoint an inspector or inspectors to examine into and report on the affairs of a society, or to call a special meeting of the society, upon application to her by one tenth of the number of members of a society, or of one hundred members in the case of a society exceeding one thousand members. While I have set out briefly the broad detail of the main provisions in relation to the areas raised by the Deputy there are some differences between the bodies of legislation in the procedures applicable to friendly societies and industrial and provident societies, and the Acts should be read carefully in respect of each individual type of society to determine the rules applicable.