Questions Nos. 108 and 109 answered with Question No. 106.

Mortgage Interest Rates

Questions (110)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

110. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which mortgage interest rates here compare with those applicable in other jurisdictions throughout the European Union; when the rates charged are likely to converge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25842/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The latest data on Retail Interest Rates published by the Central Bank (which was released on 14 June 2019) show that the average interest rate in Ireland on all new mortgages agreed in April 2019 was 3.03%. This interest rate varied considerably across countries, with the average for the euro area being 1.70%. A link to the publication is below:

https://centralbank.ie/docs/default-source/statistics/data-and-analysis/credit-and-banking-statistics/retail-interest-rates/interest-rate-statistics-april-2019.pdf?sfvrsn=4

The European Central Bank (ECB) sets monetary policy and official interest rates for the Eurozone as a whole and also plays a key role in the prudential supervision of European banks and the maintenance of the stability of the overall banking system in the context of the Single Supervisory Mechanism. It is a matter for each credit institution to set its own lending and deposit rates having regard to cost and competitive considerations and also to make its own lending decisions.

As the Deputy is aware, a number of factors contribute to the differential between Irish mortgage rates and those in other countries including the relatively large historical loss experience in the Irish market during the financial crisis and the related legacy issues of non-performing loans. In Ireland there is a relatively high level of non-performing loans in the banking system. Banks are required to make adequate provisions for such loans.

Banks are also required to hold an adequate level of capital against mortgage lending. These capital requirements are calculated with reference to historical loss and default rates. The high levels of mortgage default experienced by Irish banks in the aftermath of the financial crisis mean that Irish banks are required to hold relatively more capital for new mortgage lending than many of their European peers, in some cases substantially more capital.

In addition to their capital requirements banks are also required to build up additional capital to meet regulatory capital buffers such as the countercyclical capital buffer which is intended to ensure banks can withstand future adverse economic shocks.

The impact of these capital requirements is reflected in the interest rates charged for mortgages in Ireland.

Furthermore, the Irish banking system continues to hold a large amount of lower yielding tracker mortgages on their balance sheets and there is currently a high level of concentration in the market for new mortgage credit.

As I have mentioned before, the Central Bank has introduced a number of changes to the Consumer Protection Code that are designed to help consumers make savings on their mortgage repayments; for example, provision 6.5 (g) of the Code now requires lenders at least annually to, inter alia , notify their variable interest (other than tracker) mortgage customers whether they can move to a cheaper interest rate as a result of a change in their loan to value interest rate band and, if the customer is permitted to move, to invite the borrower to contact the lender to discuss the matter. If the consumer is not permitted to move to a lower loan to value band with a lower interest rate, the consumer is nevertheless to be notified that he/she may be able to avail of a lower loan to value interest rate band from another lender based on an up to-date valuation of the property. It should also be noted that the Central Bank macro prudential loan to value and loan to income residential mortgage lending restrictions do not apply to switcher mortgages. More generally, the Code also requires lenders at least annually to provide to variable rate (excluding tracker) mortgage holders:-

- a summary of other mortgage products offered by that lender which could provide savings for the consumer at that point in time,

- a statement that consumers should keep their mortgage arrangements under review as there may be other options that could provide savings for the borrower and

- a link to the relevant section of the Competition and Consumer Protection website relating to mortgage switching or changing mortgage type

(https://www.ccpc.ie/consumers/financial-comparisons/mortgage-comparisons/).

Housing Policy

Question No. 112 answered with Question No. 107.

Questions (111)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

111. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the measures he can put in place to create an economic environment favourable to young persons seeking to acquire a home for the first time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25844/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Department of Finance published updated macroeconomic forecasts with the Stability Programme Update (SPU) in April. GDP is projected to expand by 3.9 per cent overall in 2019 and by 3.3 per cent in 2020. Growth at these levels ensures that Ireland is one of the fastest growing countries in Europe.

Ireland’s strong economic performance has manifested itself in the labour market. The level of employment increased by 81,200, or 3.7 per cent, on average in the year to Q1 2019. As a result, there are now more people working in Ireland than ever before at 2.3 million. Encouragingly, the vast majority of employment growth was in full time positions. Economic growth has also allowed the Government to run a budget surplus in 2018, the first in over a decade.

The positive economic conditions have resulted in strong wage growth, which in turn has fed through to more people being able to purchase a home for the first time. For example, there were over 37 per cent more first time buyer purchases in Q1 2019 than there were in Q1 2016. Residential construction has increased during this time.

Notwithstanding these positive developments, the Government recognises that there are affordability constraints on first time buyers and has implemented a number of measures to assist, such as the Help to Buy Scheme and the Affordable Purchase Scheme. The best approach to improving affordability in the long term is to increase supply. The Government has put in place a number of significant initiatives to achieve this including a record allocation for housing provision to the Department of Housing Planning and Local Government in 2019, as well as the establishment of the Land Development Agency, Home Building Finance Ireland and changes to the tax system in the form of the vacant site levy.

Question No. 112 answered with Question No. 107.

Economic Policy

Questions (113)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

113. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the degree to which he has identified particular or specific threats to the stability of the economy pre or post-Brexit with particular reference to changing training conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25848/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

The Stability Programme Update 2019 published by my Department in April, sets out the principal economic risks facing the Irish economy, along with an assessment of their relative likelihood and economic impact (see following table). The balance of risk is firmly tilted to the downside, both in the short-term and over the medium-term.

The Irish economy is in an unusual position at present, facing possible domestic overheating and capacity constraints on the one hand, and a slowdown in key export markets on the other. In addition to this, the UK’s forthcoming exit from the EU is causing uncertainty in terms of Ireland’s future trading relationship.

In March 2019, the Department of Finance and the ESRI published a comprehensive assessment of the potential impact of Brexit. This report shows that compared to a no Brexit baseline, the level of GDP in Ireland would be around 2.6 per cent lower in a ‘deal’ scenario, and 5.0 per cent in a disorderly ‘no deal’ scenario, ten years after Brexit. The report also estimates that, after ten years, Irish exports would be reduced by 4.6 per cent in a 'deal' scenario, and 8.3 per cent in a ‘disorderly no deal’ scenario.

Other than Brexit, the main short-term risks relate to a sharper-than-assumed deterioration in the international environment and an escalation of trade protectionism.

Over the medium-term, the principal risks relate to potential overheating as the economy approaches full-employment, and changes in other jurisdictions that affect the competitiveness of Ireland’s corporate tax regime.

The economy is in a good position to meet these challenges. Economic growth, which resumed early this decade, has been consistently among the highest in the EU for a number of years, notwithstanding reservations about the headline data.

The recovery is perhaps most clearly evident in the labour market. The unemployment rate has fallen to 4.4 per cent from the peak of 16 per cent in 2012. There are now more people at work in Ireland than ever before.

The headline budget deficit was eliminated last year for the first time in a decade. Mitigation measures have been prioritised by building up the resilience of the economy and the public finances, thus improving the capacity to deal with an adverse economic shock. Some €1.5 billion has been set aside in a Rainy Day Fund. Our companies are being supported to prepare for Brexit, to diversify their markets and supply chains, to develop new skills and to explore new opportunities.

The Government will continue to work to strengthen the resilience of the economy, to maximise opportunities and to prepare our economy for the challenges ahead, including through the Ireland Connected Trade and Investment Strategy, the 10-year National Development Plan and Future Jobs Ireland 2019.

Table: macro-economic risk assessment matrix

Risk

Likelihood

Impact and Transmission Channel

External

External demand shock

Medium

High – the global economy has slowed and it is possible that the temporary slowdown becomes more prolonged.

Geopolitical factors

Medium

High – increased geopolitical uncertainty has the potential to disrupt growth in key regions and generate headwinds for output and employment in Ireland.

Disruption to world trade

Medium

High – the Irish economy is deeply embedded in the international economy and has benefitted enormously from globalisation, so that any increase in protectionism could potentially have a detrimental impact on living standards.

“Hard-Brexit”

Medium

High – An outcome to the continuing EU-UK negotiations which resulted in a WTO-type arrangement between the EU and UK would have a particularly detrimental impact on Irish-UK trade.

Domestic

Concentrated production base

Low

High – Ireland’s production base is highly concentrated in a small number of high-tech sectors, with the result that output and employment are exposed to firm- and sector-specific shocks.

Loss of competitiveness

Medium

High – as a small and open economy, Ireland’s business model is very much geared towards export-led growth, which, in turn, is sensitive to the evolution of cost competitiveness.

Housing supply pressures

High

Medium – supply constraints in the housing sector can adversely impact on competitiveness by inter alia restricting the mobility of labour.

Overheating economy

Medium

Medium – With the labour market approaching full employment, stronger than assumed growth could lead to overheating pressures. While boosting growth over the short-term, overheating pressures could generate significant imbalances over the medium-term.

Economic Policy

Questions (114)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

114. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the extent to which issues with the potential to overheat the economy have been identified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25850/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Finance)

Our economy is in good shape, following several years of economic recovery driven by the export sector, the domestic economy is now increasingly playing an important role in helping to drive growth. Modified domestic demand, a measure of underlying economic activity in the domestic economy, increased by 4.5 per cent in 2018.

Despite the rapid rate of recovery, the main signs of overheating – for instance pay developments, credit growth, and inflation - do not yet suggest that significant overheating pressures have emerged.

The labour market arguably provides the best barometer of the health of the economy at present. The strong growth in employment over the last number of years has continued into this year, with total employment increasing by 81,200 (+3.7 per cent) in the year to Q1 2019. In parallel the unemployment rate has fallen from a peak of 16 per cent in early 2012 to 4.4 per cent in May 2019. This rate of unemployment and the recent signs of a pick-up in earnings are consistent with an economy that is running close to full employment. Although these positive developments in the labour market are welcomed, we need to monitor these development closely as a significant acceleration in wages, would undermine Ireland’s competitiveness.

For 2018 as a whole, Ireland’s inflation averaged just 0.7 per cent, this compares to an average inflation rate of 1.9 per cent for the EU as a whole. The comparatively low level of inflation in Ireland should help to maintain our competitiveness and protect real wage growth. While price pressures have been seen in the housing market, these are more a function of structural imbalances between supply and demand, which we are actively seeking to alleviate, rather than evidence of over-heating.

As in any healthy economy, the pick-up in credit growth has taken hold, albeit at a modest pace. However, since the financial crisis, a number of additional safeguards have been put in place to prevent the unsustainable build-up of credit, most notably the introduction of the macro-prudential regulations by the Central Bank.

Over the medium term, with the domestic economy expected to drive growth, it is important that we remain cognisant of the potential upward pressure this will place on both prices and wages, which could give rise to a loss of competitiveness. Indeed, in order to prevent overheating pressures emerging we must focus on maintaining competitiveness-oriented policies, whilst avoiding pro-cyclical policy measures. To this end, the Government will continue to implement budgetary policies designed to ensure economic stability and fiscal sustainability. This prudent approach to our public finances will help to mitigate against any future downturn in economy activity.

Housing Policy

Questions (115)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

115. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will consider a capital allocation towards the provision of local authority or affordable housing, thereby making a prudent investment as opposed to the current policy of subventions through HAP or rent support in lieu of local authority housing to the extent of €2,000 per month each month ad infinitum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25843/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

Following a review of Rebuilding Ireland at the end of 2017, there has been a renewed emphasis on increasing the number of social housing units through build programmes.

Reflecting this renewed emphasis, an overall housing capital budget of €1.4bn was provided in Budget 2019 representing a 24% increase over the 2018 allocation. This will help deliver 10,000 new social housing homes in 2019 through a range of build and acquisition programmes.

As Rebuilding Ireland progresses, each year will see the housing needs of more households met through direct build and less through the Housing Assistance Payment, with published targets for HAP decreasing from a peak of 17,000 additional units in 2018 to 10,000 in 2021.

Furthermore, under Rebuilding Ireland, the Government is already providing significant capital allocations, through the local authorities, for the delivery of affordable housing:

The Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF) was established in 2017 to provide offsite infrastructural support for private housing developments a portion of which will be offered at affordable prices. The Fund was originally €200m, comprising an Exchequer allocation of €150 million matched by a €50 million contribution from participating local authorities, over the period 2017 - 2019.

The Serviced Sites Fund is designed to get affordable home-building started quickly on local authority sites in the areas with the greatest affordability challenge. A total amount of €310 million is available for the Serviced Site Fund (SSF) out to 2021, to fund key facilitating infrastructure, on public lands, to support the provision of affordable homes to purchase or rent. At a maximum grant of €50,000 per affordable home, at least 6,200 affordable homes are being targeted under the Fund. The awarding of this funding is contingent on the local authority ensuring the delivery of affordable homes to rent or to buy from the site(s) without delay. The affordable homes from the sites funded under the Fund will be either affordable purchase under the 2009 Act or cost rental.

Recognising that it is often those households renting in the main urban areas that face the greatest affordability challenge, the development of a viable cost rental sector is also a Government objective. A Cost Rental model is being developed by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Housing Agency, relevant local authorities and Approved Housing Bodies in the context of a number of pilot cost rental projects at Enniskerry Road in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown and at St. Michael’s Estate in Inchicore (Dublin City Council). These pilots may provide a useful template to develop further projects at scale across many local authorities.

Project Ireland 2040 Funding

Questions (116)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

116. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the degree to which he expects the objectives of Project Ireland 2040 to be sufficiently funded and in line with projections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25849/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

Project Ireland 2040, which comprises the National Development Plan (NDP) 2018-2027 and the National Planning Framework (NPF), was launched by the Government on 16th February 2018. The NDP seeks to reform how public investment is planned and delivered. It sets out a strategic vision for Ireland’s public capital infrastructure priorities over the next 10 years that is strictly aligned with the National Strategic Outcomes for Ireland’s new spatial strategy contained in the NPF.

The plan signals a shift to a greater integration of regional investment plans, stronger co-ordination of sectorial strategies and more rigorous selection and appraisal of projects to secure value-for-money. A suite of key reforms has been introduced to support the efficient implementation of Project Ireland 2040 and its objectives including:

- The establishment of a Construction Sector Group to ensure regular and open dialogue between Government and the construction sector;

- A Project Ireland 2040 Delivery Board consisting of Departmental Secretaries General that meets regularly to ensure effective leadership of the implementation process;

- The establishment of an Investment Projects and Programmes Office in my Department to coordinate reporting on the plan and to drive reforms, including strengthened business case and project appraisal;

- The publication of a Capital Projects tracker to inform citizens about projects in their areas and to give a greater overview to the construction sector;

- A Capability Review of public sector bodies is being undertaken by my Department to ensure that the State’s delivery practices are of the highest standard; and

- As part of the ongoing reform of Ireland’s capital management systems, the Office of Government Procurement is conducting a review of construction procurement strategy and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is reviewing the Public Spending Code. The purpose of these reviews is to strengthen the existing guidance to better align with the realities of project delivery and with a particular focus on improved financial appraisal, cost estimation and management.

These reforms are designed to support public bodies as they work to achieve value for money and to maximise outcomes from investment in public capital infrastructure.

As the Deputy will be aware, projections for general government revenue and expenditure beyond 2023 have not yet been compiled. However, Project Ireland 2040 does set out the national spending envelope up to 2027, allocated to each National Strategic Outcome to ensure that Project Ireland 2040 objectives can be pursued in the light of the expected funding allocation.

Protected Disclosures Data

Questions (117)

Micheál Martin

Question:

117. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of whistleblower complaints in his Department since the legislation was introduced in 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25664/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has protected disclosures procedures in place that have been developed in line with the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 and agreed upon by the Management Board. Section 22 of the Protected Disclosures Act requires that annual reports be published in relation to disclosures received by the Department. This is done via the Gov.ie website. I can confirm that there were no protected disclosures received by the Department since the Act came into force in 2014.

Freedom of Information Requests

Questions (118)

Joan Burton

Question:

118. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to ensure public bodies have the appropriate resources, knowledge and experience to apply the Freedom of Information Acts following the recent increase in demand for such requests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25689/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The Freedom of Information Act 2014 is a key pillar supporting the openness, transparency and accountability of the public sector. However, as the Deputy has noted, the move towards a more user-friendly system and the abolition of fees have seen a significant increase in the number of requests. There has been a 67% increase between 2014, the last year of operation for the operation for the previous legislation, and 2017. It is expected that the Information Commissioner's next annual report will show that the number of requests in 2018 exceeded the 33,979 received by civil and public sector organisations in 2017 as part of a consistent upward trend. This continuing increase in demand may be seen both as a measure of the legislation's success and a significant challenge for public bodies.

Against this backdrop, the Central Policy Unit for Freedom of Information at my Department has continued to work closely with stakeholders throughout the civil and public service with a view towards improving FOI practice. Our aim is to ensure that requesters' objectives are met by the most efficient possible means, while building capacity both in terms of technical knowledge, but also an appreciation of the broader significance of this legislation for the business of their organisations. In addition, the Central Policy Unit liaises closely with the Office of the Information Commissioner as well as members of the public, providing guidance and advice on making the most of the FOI system through its help-desk service.

The Central Policy Unit is currently at an advanced stage of the tender process for a revised FOI training framework. Over 9,000 participants have received training under the previous framework. This new initiative aims to build on that success in the initial implementation of the 2014 Act, providing public servants with the practical skills and expert technical knowledge necessary to ensure more effective and efficient operation of the FOI system into the future.

Departmental Offices

Questions (119)

Joan Burton

Question:

119. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the cost of renting, leasing and hiring office space for his Department including public bodies in each of the years 2015 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form. [25690/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department has financed one lease during the specified period. This lease is with the Technical University Dublin for learning facilities to support the Civil Service Learning and Development programme. The cost details of this lease are set out in the following table. The leasing costs to the bodies under the aegis of my Department, outside of those leased by the Commissioners of Public Works, are also included. In line with Standing Order 42A, the Office of Public Works will provide their response directly to the Deputy.

Organisation

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Department of Public Expenditure and Reform

Nil

Nil

Nil

10,800

135,926 (full year cost)

Bodies under the aegis:

Office of the National Lottery Regulator

80,962

88,324

88,234

88,324

40,973 (to date)

Departmental Circulars

Questions (120)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

120. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the target date for issuing a circular to public sector employers in respect of the changes under the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2019. [25696/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

As the Deputy is aware, Parental Leave is a statutory entitlement, and the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2019 will increase the amount of unpaid parental leave for relevant parents.

I understand that the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, expects to sign a commencement order no later than 19 July, 2019, to give effect to the revised parental leave arrangements. Once the legislation has been commenced the new provisions will apply to all employees in all sectors.

Once in place my Department will issue the relevant notification to inform civil servants. Other sectors are responsible for notifying their own staff about the changes.

Office of Public Works Properties

Questions (121)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

121. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if a decision has been made on an application to remove an OPW burden on the lands of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25772/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

Officials in my Department have informed me that correspondence from the legal representatives of the person referred to by the deputy has been received recently. This correspondence is being considered and a response will issue shortly.

Office of Public Works Properties

Questions (122)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

122. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if a building (details supplied) will be retained in public ownership due to its historical significance; if the OPW has plans to purchase the building; if it can discuss this matter with the HSE; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25776/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The Commissioners of Public Works, on behalf of the State, manage a large and diverse property portfolio, which ranges from office accommodation to visitor centres, Garda stations, among others. The acquisition of property is subject to a range of factors including the suitability of a property to meet a particular requirement.

At present, the Commissioners of Public Works have no requirement in the Cavan area that could be met in these buildings. Therefore, there are no plans to acquire the property in question.

Parental Leave

Questions (123)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

123. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position on the transferability of parental leave from one parent to another under legislation and practice in circumstances in which the two parents are working for separate public sector bodies, for instance a local authority and a Department; and if such a transfer of leave can be permitted under such circumstances in view of the fact that both parents are ultimately paid through Exchequer funds and are full-time permanent personnel. [25811/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The Irish public service comprises the Civil Service, the Defence sector, the Education sector, the Justice sector, the Health sector, Local Authorities and the Non-Commercial State Agencies.

Each sector is a separate and distinct employer. Each of the sectors is regulated by the relevant Minister in accordance with the relevant legislation. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform regulates the Civil Service determining the terms and conditions of civil servants through Section 17 of the Civil Service Regulation Acts 1956 – 2005.

Under the Parental Leave Acts, both parents have an equal separate entitlement to parental leave. If both parents work for the same employer, and the employer agrees, 14 weeks of one parent’s parental leave entitlement may be transferred to the other (Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Acts 2008, paragraph 72).

While civil servants are deemed to be employed by the same employer for the purposes of Parental Leave provisions, employees in local authorities have a different employer. Therefore, under legislation, parental leave cannot be transferred between parents employed in the Civil Service and a local authority.

Special Educational Needs Staff Contracts

Questions (124)

Darragh O'Brien

Question:

124. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason six special needs assistants working in a clinic (details supplied) will have their contracts terminated in summer 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25622/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible for allocating a quantum of Special Needs Assistant (SNA) support for each school annually taking into account the assessed care needs of children qualifying for SNA support enrolled in the school.

The NCSE allocates SNA support to schools in accordance with the criteria set out in Department Circular 0030/2014, which is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie, in order that students who have care needs can access SNA support as and when it is needed.

In considering applications for SNA support for individual pupils, the NCSE take account of the pupils' needs and consider the resources available to the school to identify whether additionality is needed or whether the school might reasonably be expected to meet the needs of the pupils from its current level of resources.

SNAs are not allocated to individual children but to schools as a school based resource.

SNA allocations to all schools can change from year to year as children with care needs leave the school, as new children with care needs enrol in a school and as children develop more independent living skills and their care needs diminish over time.

The NCSE Appeals Process may be invoked by a parent or a school where it is considered that a child was not granted access to SNA support because the requirements outlined in Circular 0030/2014 were not complied with. Schools may also appeal a decision, where the school considers that the NCSE, in applying Department policy, has not allocated the appropriate level of SNA support to the school to meet the special educational and/or care needs of the children concerned.

Where a school has received its allocation of SNA support for 2019/20, but wishes new enrolments or assessments to be considered, which were not taken into account when the initial allocation was made, they may continue to make applications to the NCSE.

The closing date for receipt of appeals in regard to SNA allocations is Friday 27 September 2019.

As this question relates to a particular school, I have referred the question to the NCSE for their direct reply. I do not have a role in making determinations in individual cases.

Protected Disclosures Data

Questions (125)

Micheál Martin

Question:

125. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of whistleblower complaints in his Department since the legislation was introduced in 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25657/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

In accordance with Section 22 of the Protected Disclosure Act 2014, my Department has published information on protected disclosures received during 2015, 2016 and 2017 on its website:

https://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Corporate-Reports/Annual-Report/

In summary, in 2015, 3 protected disclosures were received from workers in the Education sector. In 2016, 2 protected disclosures were received from workers in the Education sector. In 2017, 10 protected disclosures were received from workers in the Education sector. In 2018, 4 protected disclosures were received from workers in the Education sector. To date in 2019 there have been 4 protected disclosures received from workers in the Education sector.

There were no protected disclosures received from Department staff since the legislation was introduced.

Schools Site Acquisitions

Questions (126)

Brendan Ryan

Question:

126. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 172 of 14 May 2019, if there has been further progress on the site acquisition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25691/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The position is that work is progressing and ongoing with the landowner in question and Kildare County Council in addressing technical considerations crucial to the delivery of the site and the commencement of the legal conveyancing process. Due to reasons of commercial sensitivity I am unable to elaborate further at this point.

Gaelscoil Issues

Questions (127)

Brendan Ryan

Question:

127. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 166 of 14 May 2019, the date on which the new Gaelcholáiste will officially open; the accommodation that has been sourced in a centre (details supplied) to enable the opening; the progress made on the provision of temporary accommodation at a school as future temporary accommodation for the Gaelcholáiste; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25692/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

In relation to the planned new Gaelcholáiste to which the Deputy refers, my Department has recently received correspondence from the school patron, Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board, which sets out that for operational reasons the ETB has decided it is in the best interest of the school communities in the Maynooth and surrounding areas to defer the opening of this new school from September 2019 to September 2020.

The Gaelcholáiste will be located on the current Maynooth Post Primary School/Maynooth Community College grounds which will be coming available as these schools move to the Maynooth Education Campus.

The ETB has indicated that a high number of expressions of interest for September 2020 have already been received and that enrolment will commence in Autumn 2019 for September 2020.

Schools Building Projects Status

Questions (128)

Brendan Ryan

Question:

128. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 279 of 21 May 2019, if there has been further progress in finalising the project brief; if so, the details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25693/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is included on the Department's school building programme to be delivered as part of the National Development Plan.

The accommodation brief for the project is being finalised at present and my Department will be in contact with the school authorities as soon as this process has been completed.

School Transport Appeals

Questions (129, 130, 131)

Carol Nolan

Question:

129. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of school transport appeals lodged in each of the years 2016 to 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25713/19]

View answer

Carol Nolan

Question:

130. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of school transport appeals upheld in each of the years 2016 to 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25714/19]

View answer

Carol Nolan

Question:

131. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of school transport appeals lodged to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25715/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 129 to 131, inclusive, together.

School transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department.

There are currently over 117,500 children, including over 13,000 children with special educational needs, transported in over 5,000 vehicles on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country covering over 100 million kilometres annually.

The School Transport Appeals Board is independent of my Department. Under the terms of reference of the Board, the Board determines appeals against decisions made by, or on behalf of, the Department of Education and Skills regarding the provision of school transport services and/or grant-aid under the terms of the School Transport Schemes.

I can advise that in 2016 a total of 191 appeals were heard and none were allowed; in 2017 a total of 144 appeals were heard and none were allowed; in 2018 a total of 251 appeals were heard and 4 were allowed; to date in 2019 a total of 121 appeals were heard, and 3 were allowed.

A number of appeals were referred by the Board to my Department's School Transport Section for clarification and/or further consideration arising from additional information which came to light during the appeals process.

Special Educational Needs Data

Questions (132, 133)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

132. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of primary school children on the waiting list for a special classroom in Ashbourne, County Meath. [25729/19]

View answer

Thomas Byrne

Question:

133. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of primary school children waiting on a place in a special room in County Meath. [25730/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 132 and 133 together.

The enrolment of a child to a school is a matter, in the first instance, for the parents of the child and the Board of Management of a school. My Department has no role in relation to processing applications for enrolment in schools or keeping waiting lists.

The NCSE has a statutory function to plan and co-ordinate the provision of education and support services to children with special educational needs, in consultation with the relevant education partners and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

This includes the establishment of special class and special school placements in various geographical areas where there is an identified need.

In deciding where to establish a special class in an area, the NCSE take account of the current and projected demand and the available school accommodation both current and planned.

The Council ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.

As the Deputy's question relates to identified need in a particular area I have arranged for the question to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.