School Guidance Counsellors

Questions (84)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

84. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of posts and the budget allocated to career guidance in the further and vocational education sector in 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25884/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

Guidance is provided in the Further Education and Training sector through the Adult Education Guidance and Information Service and through the guidance allocations to Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) Colleges.

SOLAS, through the ETBs, funds the provision of an Adult Education Guidance and Information Service that provides a comprehensive, professional quality guidance and information service to the returning adult learner. This service is open to those who;

- are currently on Literacy, BTEI, Community Education and VTOS programmes

- wish to return to learning but do not know what to do or where to start looking

- left school early and wish to continue with their education and training

- are in receipt of social welfare benefits or who are dependent on someone who is in receipt of social welfare benefits

SOLAS allocated €6.4m to the 16 Education Training Boards in respect of Adult Guidance in 2017. In regard to Adult Guidance posts, the information is being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy shortly.

Guidance was also provided to PLC providers via the post primary teacher allocation system for the 2017/2018 school year for the sector as defined in Circular 12/2017. Guidance is a whole school activity where each school collaboratively develops a whole-school school guidance plan as a means of supporting the needs of students. A separate guidance allocation is given by reference to the following table which sets out the basis for calculation by reference to the approved enrolment on in September each year, including PLC students. There are over 30,000 PLC places attracting the guidance allocation.

Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR) reduction to restore Guidance Provision

Category

2012

2016

2017

Total reduction

PTR 19:1 less reduction

Free Education Scheme - Non DEIS

0.3

0.1

0.4

18.6

Access to Higher Education

Questions (85)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

85. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the budget and posts allocated to access programmes in the higher education sector in 2017. [25885/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The annual core grant allocation by the HEA to each higher education institution includes an access funding element which is based on the number of students from access target groups who are participating in each institution as derived from the return of annual student data by each institution to the HEA. In 2017 a total of €31.2 million was allocated to HEA institutions as part of their block grant allocations on the basis of the calculations using their access metrics. The purpose of this access element in the core grant is to support the equity of access infrastructure of each institution, including the staffing of access programmes and services as well as other relevant supports for students provided by a range of services across each institution including teaching and learning, student services etc. Within the overall framework for reviewing the accountability and performance of higher education, each institution is legally autonomous as regards the internal allocation of the budget for and staffing of academic and non-academic supports and services for students, including the budget and staffing of access programmes and services.

In 2017 funding provided by this Department for access programmes, which include the Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH) fund, Student Assistance Fund and the Fund for Students with Disabilities was almost €24m.

Through the PATH Fund a total investment of €16.2m will be made over three years to support greater levels of access and participation in higher education. In 2017 a total of €4.4m was allocated for the three strands of PATH.

In 2016/2017 almost €8m was allocated for the Student Assistance Fund (SAF) supporting 16,000 students in higher education. In 2017/2018 SAF was extended to support part-time student's who are lone parents and from other target groups in the National Access Plan by adding a further €1m to the Fund. A total of €9.1m was allocated through the Student Assistance Fund (SAF) in 2017/2018.

In 2017 €10,022,489 was allocated through the Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD) supporting the participation of almost 12,000 students with disabilities.

Departmental Meetings

Questions (86)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

86. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 80 of 22 March 2018, the status of the proposed engagement with the community and voluntary pillar; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25886/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

As previously advised, in previous years, under the arrangements in place for the Social Partnership process, officials in my Department met on a regular basis with the Community and Voluntary Pillar to discuss educational issues raised by that sector. A series of bilateral meetings took place between Officials in my Department and the Community and Voluntary (C&V) Pillar over a number of years. The last such meeting took place in November 2015.

In recent years engagement with members of the C&V Pillar has taken place either bilaterally or largely through the structures established to implement Better Outcomes Brighter Futures, the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People 2014-2020.

Following on from the Deputy's recent question regarding this matter, my officials have made contact with the Community and Voluntary pillar and have requested the pillar to submit an agenda of the topics they wish to discuss with my Department. Once this has been received, a date will be arranged for further engagement between the C&V pillar and the relevant officials in order to cover the issues raised.

School Accommodation

Questions (87)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

87. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 211 of 22 May 2018, if an official from his Department will be appointed to meet with the principal and chairman of the board of management of a school (details supplied) to discuss the outstanding financial issues including VAT returns and moneys still due to the developer following the school accommodation development in 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25925/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The School has written to my Department in relation to the matters to which the Deputy refers and these are under review. My Department will be in contact with the school directly when an outcome to the review is available.

Commencement of Legislation

Questions (88)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

88. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when all parts of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 will be commenced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25749/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 (Commencement of Certain Provisions Order) 2016 (S.I. No. 12 of 2016) commenced the bulk of the Act with effect from 18 January 2016.  That Commencement Order brought provisions of Parts 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12 and 13 of the Act into operation.  The Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 (Commencement) Order 2017 (S.I. No. 355 of 2017) commenced part of section 47(c) of the Act with effect from 31 July 2017 and the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 (Commencement) (No. 2) Order 2017 (S.I. No. 474 of 2017) commenced provisions of the Act relating to adoption by civil partners and cohabiting couples with effect from 2 November 2017.

Part 10 of the Act, which amended the Passports Act 2008, was commenced by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade on 1 July 2015.

Part 11 of the Act, which related to adoption, was not commenced and was repealed by section 2(2) of the Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017, which came into operation on 19 October 2017, as provided for by the Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017 (Commencement) Order 2017 (S.I. No. 443 of 2017). The provisions in Part 11 have been incorporated into the Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017, for which the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs is responsible. 

Section 177 of the Act has not yet been commenced. Following adoption of the 34th amendment to the Constitution and its subsequent legislative changes, my Department identified a lacuna in the Adoptive Leave Act 1995 that prevents male same-sex married couples from availing of adoptive leave and benefits.  To address this lacuna, my Department has prepared draft legislative proposals that will amend the Adoptive Leave Act and will afford the same entitlements to adoptive leave and benefits to all couples who are married, co-habiting or who are in a civil partnership, irrespective of gender.

Parts 2 and 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 provide for parentage through donor-assisted human reproduction (DAHR).  The issue of the recognition of parentage for same-sex couples and their children is dealt with under Part 2 of the Act.  The Minister for Health has responsibility for commencement of Parts 2 and 3 of the Act. 

Other provisions of the Act which relate to DAHR have not yet been commenced as they are linked to Parts 2 and 3.  The commencement of the provisions of the Act which are related to Parts 2 and 3 will be co-ordinated with the commencement of those Parts by the Minister for Health.

In this regard, the Deputy will be aware that the General Scheme of the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill is undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health.  That Bill will provide for the establishment of an Assisted Human Reproduction Regulatory Authority which will, among other things, undertake certain functions under Parts 2 and 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015.

Part 9 of the Act provides for a number of amendments to the Civil Registration Act 2004.  No provision of Part 9 has yet been commenced.  Some sections cannot be commenced until Parts 2 and 3 are brought into operation by the Minister for Health.  Other sections are dependent on provisions of the Civil Registration (Amendment) Act 2014 being commenced and my Department is liaising with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection in relation to scheduling the commencement of these sections.

Refugee Resettlement Programme

Questions (89)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

89. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the policy and timeframe for the resettlement of Syrian refugees; if it is policy to house family members together; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25806/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) was established by Government Decision on 10th September 2015 as a direct response to the humanitarian crisis that developed in Southern Europe as a consequence of mass migration from areas of conflict in the Middle East and Africa.   Under this programme, the Government had pledged to accept a total of 4,000 persons into the State.  The bulk of these persons were intended to be UNHCR programme refugees from Lebanon and asylum seekers in Greece arriving in Ireland from Greece and Italy under the EU relocation mechanism. However, the latter mechanism did not deliver the numbers envisaged and the Government has chosen to fill the gap by making additional pledges for programme refugees and through the recently announced IRPP Humanitarian Assistance Programme (IHAP), which will provide for the admission of up to 530 immediate family members of Irish citizens, persons with Convention refugee or subsidiary protection status and persons with programme refugee status. 

Ireland had committed to accept 1,040 refugees by the end of 2017 under the resettlement strand of the programme and currently 820 people have arrived.   The remaining individuals are due to arrive in the coming months.

I have pledged to take a further 945 refugees from Lebanon between 2018 (345) and 2019 (600).   At the present time it is intended to undertake two selection missions in Lebanon in 2018, one in June and one in September, in order to select the 345 refugees who will be part of the 2018 pledge.

To date 1,022 people have arrived from Greece. This completed Ireland’s current relocation programme.

In addition, the Government has taken 41 unaccompanied minors from Calais to date and both IRPP and Tusla are in preliminary discussion with officials in Italy and Greece with a view to accepting up to 60 unaccompanied minors before the end of 2019. 

The implementation of the IRPP for resettling Syrian refugees requires a high level of coordination among service delivery agencies at both national and local level.  Service provision is mainstreamed and all the main statutory service providers are represented on the national Taskforce which oversees delivery of the programme. 

 As the Deputy will appreciate, a tailored and flexible approach is required to take account of differing family configurations and the availability of housing stock.  Given the current difficulties in the housing market it is taking about twelve months to source suitable accommodation that match the needs of refugee families.  The Irish Red Cross are also using pledged accommodation from the public to try and meet the needs of single persons as few accommodation options exist within the local authority sector for this cohort. Refugees, once resettled, largely fall under the auspices of the local authority "implementing partner" who provide appropriate services for a period of eighteen months to assist with integration.

Prison Accommodation Standards

Questions (90, 91)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

90. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of male prisoners accommodated in single cell accommodation in accordance with the recommendation of the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25810/18]

View answer

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

91. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he is satisfied that there are adequate prison spaces for male prisoners in the prison system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25811/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 90 and 91 together.

I am advised by my officials in the Irish Prison Service that figures in relation to cell occupancy levels are collated by the Irish Prison Service Statistics Unit for publication quarterly on its website, www.irishprisons.ie. The information can be found in the Information Centre – under Statistics & Information – Census Reports.  In accordance with the latest census on the 18th April 2018, there were 2,001 male prisoners accommodated in single cells.

Given the current number of prisoners in custody – 4,006 on 12th June 2018 - the Irish Prison Service is not in a position to provide single cell accommodation to all prisoners.  Single cell occupancy across the system would result in a bed capacity of less than 3,000 and would not be possible to achieve without releasing sizeable numbers of prisoners considered to represent a threat to public safety. 

It should be borne in mind that in some cases prisoners are housed together for reasons other than lack of capacity.  Family members and friends often elect or are assigned a shared cell. Shared cell accommodation can be very beneficial from a management point of view particularly for those who are vulnerable and at risk of self-harm.  There will always be a need for certain prisoners to be accommodated together.

I am satisfied that there are adequate spaces for male prisoners in the prison estate, and these spaces are configured appropriately, to deal with all categories of prisoners.  The Deputy will appreciate that my officials are concentrating on aligning our prisoner population numbers with the Inspector of Prisons' recommended bed capacity in so far as this is compatible with public safety and the integrity of the criminal justice system.

Prison Accommodation Provision

Questions (92)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

92. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of additional spaces to be provided by the upcoming development at Limerick Prison; the number of additional spaces for males provided from 2015 to 2017 and to date in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25812/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I can inform the Deputy that once construction is complete the new prison in Limerick will have a bed capacity of 285 for male prisoners and a bed capacity of 50 for females prisoners. This compares with the current bed capacity of 210 for male prisoners and 28 for female prisoners.

I can further inform the Deputy that in relation to the number of additional spaces for males provided from 2015 to 2017 and to date in 2018 the position is as follows. In the period 2015 to date no additional spaces have been provided in the prison estate with the exception of Cork prison. The new prison in Cork became operational in February 2016 and it has a bed capacity of 295. This compares with a bed capacity of 210 at the former Cork prison.

Prison Building Programme

Questions (93)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

93. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the estimated cost of the proposed Limerick Prison development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25813/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am informed by the Irish Prison Service that a tender competition for a substantial development at Limerick prison is at an advanced stage. The proposed works comprise the construction of a new wing for male prisoners, a new kitchen, laundry and training facility there and a stand-alone unit to house female prisoners.

As tenders for the development are currently under evaluation, I trust that the Deputy will understand that it would be inappropriate of me to disclose any information in relation to the estimated cost of the project at this stage.

I will provide details of the project cost once the procurement process has been completed.

Bail Law

Questions (94)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

94. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which new bail laws introduced in 2017 are having the desired effect with particular reference to the number of crimes committed by accused persons while on bail; the way in which the numbers of such crimes compare with the two years previous to the introduction of the new restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25822/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, recent changes to the bail laws, including the Criminal Justice Act 2017, have made the bail system far stronger and have made the law as effective as possible in protecting the public against crimes committed by persons on bail. The court has the power to refuse bail where there are reasonable grounds to believe the person is likely to commit a serious offence. In assessing this likelihood, the court must take into account the nature and seriousness of the offence, the accused person’s previous offending and may also take into account the danger he or she poses to the public if bail is granted. The Criminal Justice Act 2017 also strengthened Garda powers to deal with breaches of bail providing a power of arrest without warrant, and made provisions to increase the use of curfews and to facilitate the introduction of electronic tagging for those on bail in certain circumstances. 

In terms of available statistics, the Deputy will appreciate that given the new bail laws were only introduced in 2017, the full impact of these provisions will not yet be reflected in the official recorded crime statistics. However, in order to be of assistance to the Deputy, I have requested that the Central Statistics Office (CSO), as the national statistics body, provide the Deputy with the most readily available figures in relation to crimes committed by persons when on bail.

Work Permits Eligibility

Questions (95)

Robert Troy

Question:

95. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if a person (details supplied) can apply for an extension to their visa to allow them apply for employment under the general works permits. [25830/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Atypical Working Scheme for non-EEA Crew Members is exclusively for the use of non-EEA crew members to undertake employment on board an Irish registered fishing vessel. As noted on the INIS “Atypical working scheme: Non-EEA crew in Fishing Fleet” webpage, permission granted under the Atypical Working Scheme for non-EEA Crew Members is granted solely in respect of employment within the fishing industry and it is not transferable to any other employment permit type.

Any application for an employment permit is a matter for the Employment Permit section of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. It should be noted that any application for an employment permit must be made from outside the State (except in the case of Stamp 1G holders and nurses who have completed their adaptation), and so the individual in question would need to leave the State before he could apply for an employment permit to work in Ireland.

The Atypical Working Scheme for non-EEA Crew Members cannot be extended to make a different employment permit application, but an application for renewal is permitted. If the individual in question is not in a position to apply for a renewal of their permission under the Atypical Working Scheme for non-EEA Crew Members they can apply for a renewal of their residency permission by writing to Residence 2 Division, INIS, 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2.

Residency Permits

Questions (96)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

96. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25833/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the person concerned is the subject of a Deportation Order made on 03 March 2017 following the refusal of the asylum claim made by the person concerned and the detailed consideration of their case under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended). That order remains valid.

Representations were received from the person concerned requesting that the Deportation Order be revoked, pursuant to the provisions of Section 3 (11) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended). Following the consideration of that request, a decision was taken in May 2017 that the Deportation Order should be 'affirmed' and this decision was communicated to the person concerned by registered post dated 13 June 2017.

The Deputy might wish to note that the effect of a Deportation Order is that the person named on the Order is legally obliged to leave the State and to remain outside the State thereafter. The enforcement of the Deportation Order in this case is an operational matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau. 

Queries in relation to the status of individual immigration cases may be made directly to the INIS of my Department by e-mail 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.

Departmental Correspondence

Questions (97)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

97. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of an application by a group (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25850/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

This Department has not received an application for inclusion of programmes in the ILEP from the Gleneagle Group. An application has been received from one of the partner institutions mentioned but it would not be appropriate to discuss the status of the application with a third party. The applicant provider has received correspondence regarding the status of their application.

Work Permits Eligibility

Questions (98)

Tom Neville

Question:

98. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if a matter (details supplied) regarding work permits will be addressed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25788/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

Ireland’s overarching labour market policy is to promote the sourcing of skills and labour needs from within the workforce of Ireland and the European Economic Area. As the economy improves and we approach full employment, labour as well as skills shortages are becoming apparent in some sectors with the consequent potential to constrict growth due to labour shortages.

In recognising the changing economy and labour market plus the challenges faced by enterprises in attracting sufficient labour, officials of my Department are undertaking a review of the economic migration policies underpinning the current employment permits system. The purpose of the review is to ensure that our policies are fully supportive of Ireland’s emerging labour market needs.

The review is overseen by an Inter-Departmental Group, chaired by this Department, and included a public and stakeholder consultation as well as an EU and international benchmarking exercise. A report is expected before the end of June with recommendations on a framework for the future operation of the employment permits regime.

The occupations of labourers, mechanics and carpenters are currently included on the ineligible list of employments for employment permit purposes. In order to remove an occupation from this list, there would need to be a clear demonstration that recruitment difficulties are solely due to shortages and not to other factors such as salary and/or working conditions.

To this end, the construction sector must engage with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, as the relevant lead Department for the sector, in the preparation of a detailed business case setting out the necessary data and evidence to demonstrate that recruitment difficulties are solely due to labour shortages and not to other factors. This business case would then need to be put forward to my Department as part of the ongoing regular reviews of the employment lists.

Details on how to apply for an employment permit, including the criteria required, as well as various checklist documents and a user guide which will assist in the application process are available from the Employment Permits section of my Department’s website – www.dbei.gov.ie. This section also includes a comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions document which answers the majority of the most common queries received from applicants regarding employment permits. A helpline for information on the employment permit regime can be contacted on (01) 417 5333 or Locall 1890 201 616 and any e-mail queries can be directed to employmentpermits@dbei.gov.ie

EU Directives

Questions (99)

Niall Collins

Question:

99. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her views on concerns raised by a person (details supplied) in correspondence with regard to EU Directive COM/2016/0593 final on copyright in the digital Single Market; and if she or her officials have raised these concerns at Council of Ministers level. [25837/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

On 14 September 2016, the EU Commission published a package of copyright reform proposals as part of its Digital Single Market strategy. This included a Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market (hereinafter the “Copyright Directive”). The intention of the Directive is to craft modern copyright legislation suitable for all European citizens. Among the Directive’s many proposals are provisions aimed at ensuring greater rights for press publishers seeking to protect their content online (Article 11), and intended to address the “value gap”, whereby rightsholders are receiving less remuneration despite the increased usage of their works (Article 13).

Officials of my Department have been thoroughly engaged in negotiations since publication of this proposal and have been successful in achieving a number of amendments to address the concerns of our stakeholders. On 25 May, the Copyright Directive was discussed by Ambassadors at Coreper and the Presidency gained approval for a mandate to commence negotiations with the European Parliament.

Negotiations on the Copyright Directive have been exhaustive and while I appreciate the concerns that have been raised, I fully support the intention of this proposal which is vitally important to both the DSM and the digital economy. Our focus has always been on achieving the best balance for the competing interests of all stakeholders, including digital economy actors, rightsholders, and citizens. To that end, there has been extensive engagement with stakeholders across the various issues in Ireland, Brussels, and with other EU Member States, including at Ministerial level.

My Department will engage positively with the negotiations on the proposal going forward to ensure that Ireland can benefit from its many merits as soon as possible.

Work Permits Eligibility

Questions (100)

Ruth Coppinger

Question:

100. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if career guidance teachers will be reinstated on the list of occupations eligible for the critical skill employment permit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25842/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

At my request, my Department is currently conducting a review of economic migration policies underpinning the current employment permits system to ensure that our policies are fully supportive of Ireland’s emerging labour market needs, be they skills or labour shortages in certain sectors. A full report on the review is due by end June. Following on from that Report, it is expected that a review of the Lists of Occupations for Employment Permits will be conducted in the second half of this year.

Where specific skills prove difficult to source within the State and wider EEA, an employment permit may be sought by an employer to hire a non-EEA national. The employment permits system is managed in part through the operation of the highly skilled and ineligible lists for the purpose of grant of employment permits. At present, ‘Career Guidance Teachers’ are listed on the Ineligible List of Occupations (ICEL) for employment permits.

In order to remove an occupation from the ICEL, organisations in the sector should engage the Department of Education and Skills as the relevant lead Department in preparation of a detailed business case setting out the necessary data to substantiate a case for removal from the ICEL.

National Training Fund

Questions (101)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

101. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her views on the 2017 recommendation of the National Competitiveness Council on Ireland’s Competitiveness Challenge 2017 that the National Training Fund must have a clear mandate and objectives regarding in-company training; her further views on reorienting the expenditure profile of the fund to provide greater support to effective in-employment training programmes; and if she has had discussions in this regard with the Minister for Education and Skills. [25928/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

Given the recent fall in unemployment to 5.8% and the increased rate of technological change which will impact on many people currently employed, I support the National Competitiveness Council's recommendation to reorient the expenditure profile of the National Training Fund (NTF) to provide greater support to effective in-employment training programmes.

My Department is participating on a Steering Committee overseeing a review of the NTF commissioned by the Department of Education and Skills and has drawn attention to the recommendations of the National Competitiveness Council in this context.

Skills Development

Questions (102)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

102. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her views on the 2017 recommendation of the National Competitiveness Council on Ireland’s Competitiveness Challenge 2017, that the expert group on future skills needs updated the forecasts to identify the high-level ICT skills demand at occupational level in the broad ICT sector and across other sectors of the economy to 2022. [25929/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

I welcome this recommendation from the National Competitiveness Council, in relation to an updated forecast for high level ICT skills in the Irish economy to 2022.

In 2013, the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) published the study "Addressing the Demand for High-Level ICT Skills". This study included a demand forecast for ICT skills over the period 2013-2018. The findings and recommendations of this report were essential inputs into the development of the ICT Skills Action Plan 2014-2018.

This year, the EGFSN is engaged in a refresh of the demand forecast exercise undertaken in 2013 for the period 2017-2022. This analysis will inform and similarly be a key input into the upcoming ICT skills action plan.

Trade Strategy

Questions (103)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

103. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her views on the fact that Ireland is the most vulnerable nation in increased global trade conflict and protectionism ranked first out of 42 countries in a new index of globalisation (details supplied). [25930/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

The '2018 Globalization Report: Who Benefits Most from Globalization' which the Deputy refers to in his question was published on the 8th June 2018 by Bertelsmann Stiftung. The report analyses globalisation’s effect on growth across a total of 42 countries. The report found that Ireland is the most globalised economy out of the 42 studied and is highly integrated especially in global capital markets. The average annual per capita income gain from 1990 onwards was €1,261 placing Ireland 4th of the countries studied.

Ireland is an open, highly developed and well-connected economy that is dependent on international trade and investment for sustainable growth. I am well aware of the shifting and evolving global challenges which may affect us in the future. No open economy like ours can be fully shielded against global impacts. However, I am confident that we have the right policies to build resilience where possible and firmly strengthen our competitiveness and innovative capacity, thus ensuring the economy is properly positioned to meet any external challenges.

From a Trade policy perspective, the Government’s Trade Strategy, ‘Ireland Connected: Trading and Investing in a Dynamic World’, supports an extensive programme of Ministerial-led trade missions, as part of a major drive towards market diversification. This includes markets that are growing and have scale as well as markets where we are already well established but with potential for further growth. We aim by 2020 to increase indigenous exports by Enterprise Ireland supported companies, including food, to reach €26 billion, achieve 80% of indigenous export growth outside of the UK market and secure 900 new foreign direct investments.

On the 12th of March, Enterprise Ireland announced that it is set to undertake over 200 international and domestic trade events in 2018 to accelerate the number of Enterprise Ireland clients diversifying into new markets, beyond the UK and into the Eurozone and global markets. The number of trade events being undertaken represents a 50% increase on 2017, 70 of these export focused trade events will be led by Government Ministers.

As well as the global efforts supported by our Enterprise Agencies, key to our success has been our commitment to trade liberalisation in order to open new markets for our all trading sectors. The EU suite of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with third countries help to open new markets, break down barriers and provide new opportunities for Irish based firms. Brexit has reinforced the importance of accelerating the delivery of EU trade deals with leading economies and regional blocs.

Most recently, the EU–Canada Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) entered into force provisionally from the 21st September 2017. This means that Irish companies may now take advantage of the all important provisions of CETA including the elimination of tariffs on almost all key exports, access to the Canadian procurement market, the easing of regulatory barriers and more transparent rules for market access.

The EU and Japan reached political agreement last year on an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the EU and Mexico reached political agreement earlier this year on the modernisation of the EU-Mexico Global Agreement. The EU negotiations with the Mercosur countries continue. Last month, EU Trade Ministers approved negotiating directives for free trade agreements with Australia and with New Zealand with the first formal negotiation rounds envisaged to take place in July 2018.

Ireland will continue to support the EU’s ambitious programme of negotiating new Free Trade Agreements giving Irish based firms expanded market access and a predictable trading environment in third countries, including SMEs. To this end, my Department has commissioned a major examination of the economic opportunities and impacts for Ireland arising from EU Free Trade Agreements which will be available later this year.

This week, the Taoiseach launched 'Global Ireland – Ireland’s Global Footprint to 2025' which represents the most ambitious renewal and expansion of Ireland’s international presence ever undertaken, seeking to double the scope and impact of Ireland’s global footprint in the period to 2025. Global Ireland 2025 will support Ireland’s efforts to grow and diversify export markets, inward investment and tourism.

National Development Plan Administration

Questions (104)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

104. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her views on the fact that for the first time in 21 years the Government has given Ministers and their officials the right to decide on the funding of research projects under the new disruptive technologies innovation fund as part of the National Development Plan 2018-2017. [25931/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

In May 2018 the Government agreed in respect of the four funds under the National Development Plan, that is, the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund, the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund and the Climate Action Fund, that each Fund will have an advisory board with civil servants and experts from the relevant sector as members, and final decisions on financial allocations would be approved by the relevant Minister. As part of the corporate governance arrangements under the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund, I as Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, will establish such an advisory board and also a panel of independent international experts to assess applications and to mark and rank these applications based on pre-defined criteria. The advisory board will oversee the full process and will send all eligible proposals to the international panel for scoring and ranking. The international panel’s recommendations will then be brought to me as Minister for a final decision on financial allocations to successful proposals.

Services for People with Disabilities

Questions (105)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

105. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Health the reason for the delay in assessment of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25760/18]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities which will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose, and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. This commitment is outlined in the Programme for Partnership Government, which is guided by two principles: equality of opportunity and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for direct reply to the Deputy.

Hospital Staff Recruitment

Questions (106)

James Browne

Question:

106. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Health his plans to appoint a mental health perinatal nurse to Wexford General Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25739/18]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Medicinal Products Availability

Questions (107)

Shane Cassells

Question:

107. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Health if he will engage with an organisation,(details supplied), the pharmaceutical industry and relevant stakeholders to ensure new medicines are available to persons with multiple sclerosis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25740/18]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The HSE has statutory responsibility for medicine pricing and reimbursement decisions, in accordance with the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013. The Act specifies the criteria for decisions on the reimbursement of medicines. As Minister for Health, I do not have any statutory power or function in relation to the reimbursement of medicines.

In line with the 2013 Act, if a company would like a medicine to be reimbursed by the HSE through the community drugs schemes, it must apply to the HSE to have the new medicine added to the Reimbursement List.

As outlined in the 2016 IPHA agreement, and in line with the 2013 Act, the HSE will decide, within 180 days of receiving the application (or a longer period if further information is sought from the applicant), whether to add the medicine to the reimbursement list, agree to reimburse it as a hospital medicine or refuse to reimburse it.HSE decisions on which medicines are reimbursed by the taxpayer are made on objective, scientific and economic grounds, on the advice of the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE). The NCPE conducts health technology assessments (HTAs) for the HSE, and makes recommendations on reimbursement to assist HSE decisions. The NCPE uses a decision framework to systematically assess whether a drug is cost-effective as a health intervention.The HSE strives to reach a decision in as timely a manner as possible. However, because of the significant monies involved, it must ensure that the best price is achieved, as these commitments are often multi-million euro investments on an on-going basis. This can lead to a protracted deliberation process.

I am keen to engage with industry and to explore ways in which new medicines might be more easily introduced in Ireland. However, any innovative approaches that may be tabled must be compatible with the statutory provisions in place and must also recognise the fundamental pricing/funding issues to be addressed, in the context of finite Exchequer resources.

I have indicated a willingness to meet with MS Ireland and my office is in contact with the organisation to arrange a mutually convenient date.

Treatment Abroad Scheme

Questions (108)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

108. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Health the number of persons who have availed of the treatment abroad scheme in each of the past four years; the costs of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25741/18]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to reply to the Deputy directly.