Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies received from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 32, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 33 to 95, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 96 to 101, inclusive, answered orally.

Nuachtáin Gaeilge.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

102 D’fhiafraigh Mr. Sargent den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén cúnamh a thugann a Roinn don nuachtán Foinse agus don nuachtán de bharr gur nuachtáin náisiúnta iad an dá cheann acu agus an bhfuil moladh tugtha aige do Ranna eile fógraíocht rialtais a chur sa dá nuachtán. [11860/04]

Ní thugann mo Roinnse maoiniú díreach do nuachtáin ar nós agus Foinse go hiondúil. Ar bhonn eisceachtúil, thug mo Roinn deontas aonuaire de £20,000 do i 1999 mar chúnamh d’fheachtas margaíochta.

Is é Foras na Gaeilge go príomha atá ag plé le cúnamh do na nuachtáin sin. Tuigtear dom go bhfuil maoiniú €246,377 tugtha ag an bhforas dodon bhliain reatha, agus tá €234,000 tugtha do Foinse don tréimhse 1 Deireadh Fomhair 2003 go dtí 30 Meán Fómhair 2004.

Níl aon mholadh tugtha ag mo Roinnse do Ranna eile fógraíocht Rialtais a chur i nuachtáin áirithe. Tá cumhacht agam faoi alt 9 de Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003 maidir le húsáid na Gaeilge, nó an Ghaeilge agus an Béarla araon, ar aon fhógraí ó comhlucht poiblí. Tá sé i gceist agam go mbeidh rialacháin déanta agam faoin fhoráil seo taobh istigh de mhí nó dhó.

Faoi na rialacháin, beidh dualgas ar chomhluchtaí poiblí a chinntiú go mbeidh fógraíocht i nGaeilge chomh maith, seachas é a bheith i mBéarla amháin. Ach fós beidh an fhreagracht ar bhainistíocht aon chomhluchta ar leith cinnithe a dhéanamh faoi na foilsiúcháin ina gcuirtear fógraí.

Ferry Services.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

103 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the recent report carried out on behalf of his Department into certain subsidised ferry services to the islands; if, in view of the report’s findings, the subsidies for these vital ferry services will be maintained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11855/04]

John Gormley

Ceist:

107 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the report received by his Department conducted by persons (details supplied) on subsidies made available to air and ferry services to the islands. [11813/04]

Michael Ring

Ceist:

114 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the changes his Department will make to the services offered by island ferry operators, particularly in offering a day return service to islanders; the measures to ensure that ferries and ports are accessible to the disabled and to introduce a separate freight service for the islands as recommended in a recent report commissioned by his Department. [11927/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 103, 107 and 114 together.

The report commissioned from Malachy Walsh and Partners on island transport services was recently completed and presented to my Department. I have now commenced a consultation process with the relevant interests on the islands which were the subject of the report by inviting them to submit observations on the final report by 7 May 2004. On receipt of these observations, I will be in a position to consider further the recommendations of the report. While I do not wish to prejudice this ongoing consultation process, I am pleased with its key findings which confirm the importance of subsidised transport services to the islands. Specifically, the findings are that: ferry services are the lifeblood of the islands and that their need has been confirmed from a socio-economic perspective, the availability of a regular and guaranteed service provides a lifeline service improving the quality of life for islanders, reducing relative remoteness and allowing island populations remain together and to sustain the community identity; the availability of a ferry service also fosters a vibrant tourism industry which contributes to local economic well-being, and to an enhanced awareness and positive appreciation of local traditions, way of life and cultural heritage. Based on the consultants' economic analysis and on several broad assumptions, the subsidised sea and air ferry services to the eight islands within the scope of the study result annually in a local tourism spend of at least €12 million; a broader economic impact of €17 million; a contribution to GNP of €11 million; 275 jobs on the islands and elsewhere being supported by the tourism expenditure; €6 million in tax and excise receipts; and ignoring dead-weight, a benefit-subsidy ratio of 4:1, excluding the Aer Árann subsidy, or 3:1, including the Aer Árann subsidy. A copy of this study is posted on my Department's website atwww.pobail.ie .

Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

104 D’fhiafraigh Mr. Deenihan den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an ndéanfadh sé ráiteas faoin dul chun cinn atá déanta ó ceapadh An Coimisinéir Teanga. [11913/04]

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

129 D’fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas faoin dul chun cinn atá déanta ag na Ranna Stáit ó ritheadh Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla. [11912/04]

Tógfaidh mé Ceisteanna Uimh. 104 agus 129 le chéile.

Dírím aird na dTeachtaí ar an bhfreagra a thug mé ar Cheisteanna Uimh. 162 agus 168 ar 9 Márta 2004 maidir leis an ábhar sin, inar leag mé amach sonraíocht chuimsitheach maidir leis an dul chun cinn atá déanta ag mo Roinn-se ó ritheadh an tAcht i mí Iúil 2003.

Ba mhaith liom tagairt ar leith a dhéanamh do na príomh-chéimeanna atá tógtha agam go dtí seo mar a leanas. Tá €500,000 curtha ar fáil i Meastacháin mo Roinne don bhliain seo chun Oifig Choimisinéir na dTeangacha Oifigiúla a bhunú agus tá an tUasal Seán Ó Cuirreáin ceapaithe ag an Uachtarán mar An Coimisinéir Teanga le héifeacht ó 23 Feabhra 2004. Rinne mé ordú tosach feidhme ar 9 Eanáir 2004 a thugann feidhm don chuid is mó d'fhorálacha an Achta le héifeacht ón lá sin agus ó 1 Bealtaine 2004 i gcás alt 10. Tá réamh-obair ar dhréacht-scéim mo Roinne féin déanta agus táim dóchasach go mbeidh sí foilsithe go poiblí laistigh do mhí nó dhó. Beidh an scéim seo mar mhúnla do chomhlachtaí poiblí eile. Táim dóchasach freisin go mbeidh na dréacht-threoirlínte faoi alt 12 foilsithe go luath ionas gur bhféadfar tús a chur leis an gcéad babhta de scéimeanna ó chomhlachtaí poiblí roimh dheireadh an tsamhraidh. Tá réamh-obair ar siúl i ndáil le rialacháin a dhéanamh faoi alt 9(1) maidir le húsáid na Gaeilge amháin, nó na Gaeilge agus an Bhéarla le chéile, ar stáiseanóireacht, ar chomharthaí agus ar fhógraí. Tugadh feidhm do Chuid 5 den Acht a bhaineann le logainmneacha ó 30 Deireadh Fómhair 2003 agus tá seachtn-ordú déanta agam sa chomhthéacs sin go dáta. Tá i gceist agam ordú eile a dhéanamh go luath maidir le logainmneacha oifigiúla do na ceantair Ghaeltachta.

Táim sásta, mar sin, go bhfuil dul chun cinn suntasach á dhéanamh ag mo Roinnse maidir le cur i bhfeidhm fhorálacha an Achta ar bhonn chéimiúil i gcomhréir leis an bplean gnímh a d'fhógair mé ar 17 Nollaig 2003. Táim sásta freisin go n-éireoidh leis na comhlachtaí poiblí na dualgais reachtúla a thitfidh orthu go céimiúil faoin Acht a chomhlíonadh agus go deimhin go nglacfaidh said leis an dúshlán le meon dearfach agus sa spiorad ceart.

Stádas na Gaeilge.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

105 D’fhiafraigh Mr. M. Higgins den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén dul chun cinn atá déanta i leith stádas na Gaeilge mar theanga oibre den Aontas Eorpach; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [11883/04]

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

143 D’fhiafraigh Mr. Kenny den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén dul chun cinn atá déanta aige chun stádas don Ghaeilge mar theanga oifigiúl oibre den Aontas Eorpach a chur chun cinn; agus an bhfuil sé chun ráiteas a dhéanamh. [11910/04]

Tógfaidh mé Ceisteanna Uimh. 105 agus 143 le chéile.

Dírím aird an Teachta ar an bhfreagra a thug mé ar Cheisteanna Dála Uimh. 187, 188, 189, 190 agus 191 ar 7 Aibreán 2004 maidir le stádas na Gaeilge san Aontas Eorpach. Mar a cuireadh in iúl sa fhreagra sin, agus mar a dúirt mé arís le linn na díospóireachta le déanaí sa Teach faoin gceist, tá grúpa oibre bunaithe ag an Rialtas chun anailís a dhéanamh ar an méid gur féidir a bhaint amach agus na féidearthachtaí atá ann chun dul chun cinn a dhéanamh. Bhí ceithre chruinniú ard-leibhéil ag an ngrúpa oibre seo go dtí seo agus beidh cruinniú amháin eile acu chun an obair a chríochnú go luath.

Táim lán-sásta go bhfuil dul chun cinn fiúntach á dhéanamh ag an ngrúpa oibre agus go mbeifear in ann dul thar n-ais chuig an Rialtas le moltaí dea-bhreithnithe sar i bhfad. Níl sé i gceist agam, mar sin, a thuilleadh a rá faoi na torthaí a d'fhéadfadh a bheith ar an obair seo go léir go dtí go mbeidh tuairisc réitithe ag an ngrúpa oibre agus scrúdú iomlán déanta uirthi. Ach ba chóir go mbeidh daoine lán-cinnte go bhfuilimid go hiomlán dáiríre faoin gceist seo agus go ndéanfar cinneadh a chabhróidh le leas na Gaeilge a chur chun cinn sa bhaile agus thar lear.

An Daonáireamh Náisiúnta.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

106 D’fhiafraigh Mr. Sargent den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cad iad na ceachtanna atá foghlamtha aige ó thorthaí an daonáirimh ó thaobh úsáid na Gaeilge go mórmhór bua na teanga sa Daingean, Co. Chiarraí. [11861/04]

Dírím aird an Teachta ar na freagraí a thug mé ar Cheisteanna Uimh. 80 den 25 Meitheamh 2003, 527 den 7 Deireadh Fómhair agus 70 den 27 Samhain 2003.

Faoi mar a chuir mé in iúl cheana, is léir ó fhigiúirí an daonáirimh 2002 go bhfuil idir ábhar dóchais agus foláirimh iontu.

Mar atá ráite agam, beidh sé mar aidhm lárnach agam, agus mé ag tabhairt faoi pholasaithe a fhorbairt amach anseo maidir le ról na teanga sa Stát, spreagadh agus tacaíocht a chur ar fáil chun cur leis an méid dóibh siúd a bhfuil deis acu Gaeilge a úsáid go laethúil. Tá mé cinnte, leis an gcur chuige ceart, agus le gach uile duine ag obair le chéile, gur féidir linn difríocht an-mhór a dhéanamh ar mhaithe leis an nGaeilge agus leis an nGaeltacht.

Maidir leis an Ghaeltacht tá áthas orm go bhfuil an Daingean chun tosaigh mar bhaile mór ó thaobh úsáid na Gaeilge de, de réir daonáireamh 2002. Tá infheistíocht suntasach déanta ag mo Roinnse i mbuanú na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht agus tá sé tábhachtach go bhfuil torthaí na hinfheistíochta sin le feiceáil sna figúirí is deireanaí.

Question No. 107 answered with QuestionNo. 103.

National Drugs Strategy.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

108 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the measures his Department intends to take to tackle the growing use of drugs throughout the State, as highlighted in research published earlier this month by the NACD and its Northern Ireland equivalent DAIRU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11936/04]

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

138 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the recent drug prevalence survey 2002-03; his views on the report’s findings which demonstrate that drug use has now spread to every corner of the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11835/04]

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

152 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the findings of the drug prevalence survey, commissioned jointly by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and the Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit in Northern Ireland. [11810/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108, 138 and 152 together.

The report to which the Deputies refer is Bulletin 2 of the 2002-2003 drug prevalence survey which I launched last week. The survey was undertaken jointly by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs in Ireland and the Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit in Northern Ireland.

Initial results from the survey, which looked at the overall national position, were published last October last year and showed that most of the general population have never used any illegal drug. Less than 19% reported ever taking an illegal drug.

The second bulletin gives a breakdown of data by health board areas and some of the key findings are as follows: the proportion of those surveyed who reported ever having taken an illegal drug varied between 11% and 29% across health board areas; the lowest rate of recent illegal drug use — those surveyed who reported using an illegal substance in the previous year — was recorded in the North Western Health Board at 3% and the highest rate was in the Northern Area Health Board at 8%; prevalence rates of current drug use, those surveyed who reported having used the drug in the previous month, varied from 0.5% in the North Western Health Board to 5% in the Northern Area Health Board; prevalence rates — lifetime, recent and current — tended to be higher in the eastern part of the country; cannabis was the main illegal drug used on a lifetime, recent or current basis in all health board areas.

Prevalence rates for cannabis were at least twice as high for other illegal drugs; prevalence rates for other illegal drugs were considerably lower than for cannabis across all areas and periods of time. For example, the highest prevalence rate for recent use of ecstasy was 3% and cocaine powder 2%, compared to 8% for cannabis; the profile of illegal drug users showed significant consistency across health boards in almost all areas. Prevalence rates of lifetime, recent and current use were higher among men than women and higher among young people than older people while prevalence rates for sedatives, tranquillisers and anti-depressants were higher among older people and women in most areas.

The research confirms that most people in all regions have never used illegal drugs, even if there are significant regional variations. However, I am aware that the results highlight the fact that drug use is not confined to major cities but is an issue for urban and rural areas. The Government is not in any way complacent about this issue and remains determined to tackle it on several fronts. Through the ongoing implementation of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008, the valuable work being done by the local drugs task forces and the young people's facilities and services fund, and the work commencing by the regional drugs task forces, much is being, and will continue to be, done in future to tackle the drug problem.

All the local drugs task forces, with the exception of Bray, are implementing their second round of action plans. The Government has allocated or spent approximately €65 million to implement the range of projects contained in the plans of the task forces since 1997. A further €11.6 million has been allocated to projects under the premises initiative, which is designed to meet the accommodation needs of community-based drugs projects, most of which are in local drugs task force areas.

In addition, approximately €72 million has been allocated to support over 450 facility and services projects in local drugs task force areas and the four other urban centres under the young people's facilities and services fund. This includes an amount of over €13 million which I recently allocated under round II of the fund, over half of which is in respect of capital developments.

The regional drugs task forces are mapping out the patterns of drug misuse in their areas — as well as the range and level of existing services — with a view to better co-ordination and addressing gaps in the overall provision. This work will then feed into the drafting of regional action plans, which will be assessed by the national drugs strategy team in due course. I hope to be in a position to bring recommendations on funding of the plans to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion early next year and that the regional drugs task forces can begin to implement their plans by mid-2005.

Finally, the publication of the information contained in this bulletin is particularly timely as the mid-term review of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008, will commence soon. This valuable information will significantly add to our knowledge and understanding of drug use across the country which is essential in developing appropriate policies for the future.

Decentralisation Programme.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

109 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position in regard to plans to decentralise Foras na Gaeilge to County Donegal; his views on whether the relocation proposals will not require approval from the North-South Ministerial Council in view of the fact that Foras na Gaeilge is an all-island body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11840/04]

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

130 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if the decentralisation of Foras na Gaeilge will proceed in view of its notification of formal opposition to the move; if its move to Donegal requires approval by the North-South Ministerial Council in view of the fact that Foras is an all-island body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11940/04]

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

135 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the consultation which has taken place with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on proposals to relocate the headquarters of Foras na Gaeilge. [11808/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109, 130 and 135 together.

The Minister for Finance announced in the budget 2004 that the Government had made a decision to implement a wide programme of decentralisation. Among the Departments and public bodies mentioned in the decision, it was announced that Foras na Gaeilge would be decentralising to Gaoth Dobhair, County Donegal, subject to the agreement of the North-South Ministerial Council.

Initial discussions have begun between my Department and the co-sponsor Department in the North, the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, and I have written to the Minister of that Department, Ms Angela Smith, MP, to progress the issue. Discussions continue between the two Departments and between my Department and Foras na Gaeilge.

Community Development.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

110 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the Law Reform Commission report on the future use and organisation of the courts poor box system, and the suggested role his Department should play in this. [11815/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

151 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the Law Reform Commission recommedation to establish a court charity fund; and the way he envisages that moneys from such a fund will be disbursed. [11371/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 110 and 151 together.

The Law Reform Commission usually adopts a two-stage approach to publication of its review work: a consultation paper, and a report. A consultation paper is intended to form the basis for discussion and, accordingly, the recommendations contained in it are provisional. The Law Reform Commission invites submissions on the provisional recommendations. The submissions received in response to the public consultation stage subsequently inform preparation of the report.

The review work which is the subject of both questions is at the first stage: the Law Reform Commission published a consultation paper on the court poor box on 30 March 2004, with a deadline for submissions of 31 August 2004. The consultation paper is available on the commission's website,www.lawreform.ie and, in accordance with the usual practice, the recommendations which it contains are provisional.

The principal provisional recommendations might be summarised as follows: replacement of the current court poor box system, which has been developed by judges as a common law power over many centuries and is not regulated by any legislation, by a statutory scheme, the court charity fund disposition, to be available in the District and Circuit Courts in appropriate cases; where the court does not record a conviction, availability of the court charity fund disposition in respect of summary offences only, subject to a prescribed list of factors; a ceiling, at the limit of the jurisdiction of the District and Circuit Courts, on the maximum amount payable to the court charity fund; application of the funds generated by the replacement scheme for the benefit only of trusts for the relief of poverty, trusts for the advancement of education or religion and trusts for other purposes beneficial to the community to be excluded from the scope of application.

As a guide only to the shape of the proposed reform, the consultation paper contains in appendix a draft scheme of the court charity fund Bill, updating and amending as appropriate various Acts under the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, including the Probation of Offenders Act 1907, the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Act 1983, and the Criminal Justice Act 1993.

The core provisional recommendation to replace the court poor box system by a statutory scheme, together with key features of such a new scheme as proposed in the consultation paper, would be matters for consideration in the first instance by, amongst others, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Courts Service, the Judiciary, the Revenue Commissioners and the National Crime Council. Any eventual decision arising would be a matter for Government in the context of approving proposals for legislation.

As regards the administration of any funds raised by a new statutory scheme, the consultation paper indicates that one possibility would be to recommend that such a separate fund be established within an appropriate Department, for example, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. However, the Law Reform Commission recognises that this is uncharted territory, and as such submissions on the administration and distribution of such funds, and in particular the appropriate body to be designated responsible for this role, are welcome.

I trust that the Deputies find this information helpful, pending publication later in the year by the Law Reform Commission of its report, which will set out definitive recommendations, developed with the benefit of submissions made in response to the public consultation under way.

Clár Dílárnaithe.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

111 D’fhiafraigh Mr. M. Higgins den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil cóip den aighneacht aige a chuir feidhmeannas Fhoras na Gaeilge chuig Angela Smith, fo-rúnaí polaitiúil in Oifig Thuaisceart Éireann, ag diúltú bogadh go Gaoth Dobhair; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [11889/04]

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

149 D’fhiafraigh Mr. Gilmore den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil sé riachtanach don Aire cead a fháil ón gComhairle Aireachta Thuaidh-Theas sular féidir Foras na Gaeilge a dhílárnú go Gaoth Dobhair; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [11881/04]

Mary Upton

Ceist:

160 D’fhiafraigh Dr. Upton den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an mbeidh sé de cheart ag foireann oibre Fhoras na Gaeilge aistriú go dtí poist eile sa Státseirbhís nuair a bheidh Foras na Gaeilge á dhílárnú go Gaoth Dobhair; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [11885/04]

Tógfaidh mé Ceisteanna Uimh. 111, 149 agus 160 le chéile.

Mar is eol don Teachta, d'fhógair an tAire Airgeadais sa cháinaisnéis go raibh cinneadh déanta ag an Rialtas clár leathan dílárnaithe a chur i bhfeidhm. I measc na Ranna agus na gcomhluchtaí poiblí éagsúla a bhí luaite sa chinneadh, fógraíodh go mbeadh Foras na Gaeilge ag dílarnú go Gaoth Dobhair, Condae Dhún na nGall, faoi réir aontú na Comhairle Aireachta Thuas-Theas.

Tá réamh-chomhráití tosaithe ag mo Roinnse leis an gcomh-Roinn urraíochta sa Tuaisceart — an Roinn Cultúir, Ealaíon agus Fóillíochta — agus tá scríofa agam le déanaí chuig Aire na Roinne sin, an tUasal Angela Smith, MP, chun an cheist a chur chun cinn. Tá comhráití i dtaca leis seo ar siúl i gcónaí idir an dá Roinn agus idir mo Roinnse agus Foras na Gaeilge.

I dtaca le ceart foirne oibre an fhorais aistriú go dtí postanna eile sa Státseirbhís, dírím aird an Teachta ar an tuarascáil a foilsíodh d'arb ainm Tuarascáil an Ghrúpa um Fhorfheidhmiú Díláraithe. Tuigtear dom go bhfuil comhráití ar bun fós faoi mholtaí na tuarascála seo.

Tá cóip den aighneacht ó Fhoras na Gaeilge faighte agam.

Question No. 112 answered with QuestionNo. 101.

Community Development.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

113 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when he envisages that the €1.5 million set aside to be spent on the sports capital programme in RAPID areas will be allocated to qualifying groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11928/04]

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

161 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the criteria for funding under the RAPID scheme. [11893/04]

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

170 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when the funding announced for the local authority housing estate enhancement scheme will be allocated to the designated areas; why this money has been allocated to only eight of the 45 disadvantaged areas included in the RAPID scheme; if he expects that the remaining 37 areas will continue to be excluded from this scheme; his views on whether €30,000 for each of the eight areas is inadequate in view of the high urban concentrations in these areas and the large number of estates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11941/04]

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

171 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount of funding that will be made available under the RAPID scheme; if the amount will be matched by other Departments; and if local community and AIT approval will be mandatory for any proposed projects to be funded under RAPID. [11892/04]

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

839 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will give an update on plans to implement the RAPID programme in the Tallaght West area, Dublin 24; the recent contacts with the various groups in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11412/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 113, 161, 170, 171 and 839 together.

In future the RAPID programme will operate on several levels in tandem. In the first instance, there are many small-scale proposals from RAPID plans that have been sent unnecessarily to Departments for consideration, when they could be dealt with more effectively at local level. I am introducing a new delivery mechanism to progress such actions, supported by a new dedicated fund of €4.5 million in 2004. These projects will be co-funded by the relevant local agency etc. under several categories, with broad levels of funding agreed at national level.

In addition, €2 million is being provided for the local authority housing estate enhancement scheme. This scheme will be operated by local authorities and funded on a euro for euro basis, with €1 million from my Department and €1 million from the local authorities through the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Projects to be supported will be selected by the local authorities in consultation with the area implementation teams.

The maximum cost per project will be €50,000. Funding of 45% of project cost is available from my Department. A further 45% is being provided from local authority internal capital receipts and local authorities must provide an additional 10% from their own revenue resources. The types of works eligible for funding include environmental works, landscaping, paving, development of open spaces, seating areas, lighting and boundary walls.

Local authorities and area implementation teams were notified of their allocations last week as shown in the table.

Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs

Local Authority Internal Capital Receipts

25 Strand I areas

€30,000 to each area

€30,000 to each area

20 Strand II areas

€20,000 to each area

€20,000 to each area

Each of the three RAPID areas in Tallaght (Strand I) received allocations as outlined in the table.

Funding of €3 million is being provided to support the development of playgrounds in RAPID areas. My Department is providing €1.5 million and the Department of Health and Children has made a further €1.5 million available to my Department. The scheme aims to provide for new playgrounds or for the refurbishment of existing playgrounds in designated RAPID areas. The local authority, in consultation with the relevant area implementation team, will select the projects to be supported. Details of the operation of this scheme are being finalised.

I also intend to allocate top-up funding to successful projects from RAPID areas under the sports capital programme and €1.5 million has been set aside for this purpose. It is expected that the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism will announce the allocations under the programme soon and I will then consider top-up funding to successful projects from RAPID areas. Other programmes are also under consideration.

It is proposed that Departments will continue to consider larger projects from RAPID plans for allocations from funding streams within each Department. Departments will deal with fewer projects and will be in a better position to prioritise projects and set out timescales for further actions.

Work on improving integration and co-ordination of service delivery at local level will continue, as this is an important component of the RAPID programme.

Question No. 114 answered with QuestionNo. 103.

Proposed Legislation.

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

115 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress to date in relation to the reform of the law on charities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11932/04]

I refer the Deputy to Questions Nos. 130 and 131 of 9 March 2004. I confirm that the public consultation, which is under way, continues until 28 May 2004. I reiterate my invitation to Deputies generally to access the charities regulation page of my Department's website,www.pobail.ie, where, they can find the up-to-date position on progress under the title Key Milestones: Latest.

Irish Language.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

116 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the changes he intends to make to the boundaries of the Gaeltacht in view of the report of Coimisiún na Gaeltachta; and if these changes will be in place before the next elections to Udaras Na Gaeltachta. [11935/04]

Following the recommendation in the report of Coimisiún na Gaeltachta regarding the need for a comprehensive linguistic study of the Gaeltacht, I announced on 31 January 2004 that the contract to undertake this study was being awarded to Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, National University of Ireland, Galway, in conjunction with the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis, National University of Ireland, Maynooth.

The study, which will take two and a half years to complete, commenced at the beginning of April and is scheduled for completion by September 2006. Any proposals regarding the redefining of Gaeltacht boundaries arising from this study will be put before Government in due course.

National Drugs Strategy.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

117 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on research published recently by the NACD which indicates that one part of Dublin north city has a cocaine prevalence rate of 41% and that national usage among 15-34 year olds, at 10.5%, is now the highest ever recorded in the EU; if he acknowledges that Ireland now has a significant and increasing cocaine abuse problem; the new initiatives his Department intends to take to address the growing abuse of cocaine here, particularly in terms of the national drugs strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11937/04]

As I have informed the House on many occasions, I am aware of the evidence of an increase in the prevalence of cocaine use, particularly through the local drugs task forces and the research done by the national advisory committee on drugs.

Initial results from the 2002-03 drug prevalence survey, which looked at the overall national position, and were launched last October showed that 3.1% of the population aged between 15 and 64 years have ever used cocaine, 1.1% used it in the last 12 months and 0.3% used in the last month. Similar results for the 15-34 age group show slightly higher usage: 4.8% have ever used cocaine, 2% have used in the last year and 0.7% reported usage in the last month. Compared with similar surveys undertaken in other European countries, these figures suggest that use in Ireland is close to the average.

Bulletin 2 of the survey was launched last week and contains data by health board area. The figures show that prevalence of all drugs varies considerably across the country, although there appears to be a higher prevalence in the east and particularly in the ERHA region. The figures for the prevalence of cocaine in the three ERHA health boards are: in the East Coast Area Health Board, 10.5% of those surveyed in the 15 to 34 age group reported ever using cocaine, 4.4% reported usage in the last year and 0.6% reported using cocaine in the last month.

In the Northern Area Health Board, 7.7% of those surveyed in the 15 to 34 age group reported ever using cocaine, 3.6% reported using in the last year and 1.6% reported using cocaine in the last month. In the South Western Area Health Board, 7.3% of those surveyed in the 15 to 34 age group reported ever using cocaine, 2.1% reported using in the last year and 1.1% reported usage in the last month. The bulletin does not contain any mention of a cocaine prevalence rate, in any area, of 41%.

The numbers presenting for treatment of cocaine related problems, according to the most recent figures available, remain very low and make up approximately 1% of the overall number. Garda authorities advise me that there are indications of an increase in the availability and use of cocaine. However, offences involving cocaine still represent a small proportion of the overall number of drug offences annually, approximately 5.5% of all such offences, according to the most recent Garda annual report. The increase seems to coincide with an increase in the availability and use of cocaine in Europe generally, as a result of increased production, particularly in Colombia, and a consequential drop in the street price.

Through implementing the 100 actions in the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 and through projects and initiatives operated through the local drugs task forces and the young people's facilities and services fund the problem of cocaine use can be addressed. Each local drugs task force has an action plan to tackle drug use in its area based on its identified priorities. These projects deal with supply reduction, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation for a range of drugs including cocaine. Most drug users engage in poly-drug use and, therefore, projects should be able to address this pattern rather than concentrate on one drug to the exclusion of others. Since 1997, the Government has allocated or spent over €65 million to implement the projects under the two rounds of task force plans.

Regional drug task forces have been established in each health board area throughout the country. Where cocaine use is found to be a problem, this can be reflected in the measures proposed in their forthcoming regional actions plans. The young people's facilities and services fund is doing valuable preventative work. The fund aims to attract "at risk" young people in disadvantaged areas into facilities, programmes and activities that will divert them away from the dangers of drug misuse. Over €72 million has been allocated under the fund to support in the region of 450 facility and services projects. It is vital that we continue to invest in facilities and services in areas worst affected by drugs if we are to stop the flow of young people into a life of addiction.

There is no substitution treatment drug for cocaine and existing services, such as counselling and behavioural therapy are the best treatments available. The three area health boards of the ERHA have recruited additional counsellors and outreach workers in recent years.

I am keeping the matter of cocaine use under review. Furthermore, the strategy provides for an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of the overall framework by the end of 2004. This will examine the progress being made in achieving the overall key strategic goals set out in the strategy and will enable priorities for further action to be identified and a re-focusing of the strategy, if necessary. The need to amend the strategy to reflect changing patterns of drug use will be considered in that context.

Finally, over recent months I have visited several local drugs task force areas and discussed with community representatives and others the nature of the drug problem in their areas, including the issue of cocaine. I have asked the national drugs strategy team to consider how best to develop proposals to help address this issue at a local level.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

118 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on whether alcohol abuse should become part of the national drugs strategy or a wider addiction strategy; his further views on whether there is a need for a joint approach; the reason he does not view alcohol, if abused, as an equally dangerous drug; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11938/04]

My Department has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 which contains 100 individual actions, under the four pillars of supply reduction, prevention, treatment and research, to be implemented by a range of Departments and agencies.

The national alcohol policy, is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children who is pursuing several initiatives in this area. The national drugs strategy calls for increased links between both policies in terms of cross-representation on the relevant committees and working groups to ensure complementarity between the different measures being taken. This is ongoing.

I am not aware of any plans at present to merge the alcohol and drugs policies. Furthermore, such a proposal would require careful consideration given that different policy responses are required for legal and illegal substances.

Offshore Islands.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

119 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the plans he has for the development of island communities. [11370/04]

My Department has taken great strides in developing the islands since 1997. The level of dedicated funding made available by my Department for island development has risen from under €2.5 million in 1997 to €13 million in 2004. Funding is, of course, also provided under other schemes operated by my Department and Údarás na Gaeltachta, in addition to other Departments and bodies.

I will continue to advance the development of island communities and the following measures are either in train or being planned: the full implementation of the Gaeltacht and islands harbours sub-measure of the National Development Plan 2000-2006; the advancement of a five year capital programme for the islands commencing in 2004; the implementation of appropriate recommendations of the recently published report on island transport services, a copy of which is available on my Department's website atwww.pobail.ie; the introduction of a special fund aimed at assisting commercial enterprise on the non-Gaeltacht islands — the Gaeltacht islands are already served in this regard by Údarás na Gaeltachta; improved co-ordination of the provision of State services to island communities and improvement of other necessary services to islands.

Question No. 120 answered with QuestionNo. 101.

Banking Facilities.

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

121 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will report on negotiations he has had with the Irish League of Credit Unions on providing alternative banking facilities in isolated areas. [11809/04]

Joan Burton

Ceist:

166 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the details of his request to the credit union movement to introduce a replacement for travelling banks in the west following the decision of a bank [details supplied] to withdraw this service; the number of customers reliant on travelling banks in Galway and Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11839/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 121 and 166 together.

In the context of the withdrawal of certain travelling bank services, I have been in contact with the Irish League of Credit Unions. Given the valuable role of credit unions as community based organisations, I have asked the league to consider the feasibility of providing alternative services. Contacts on the matter with the Irish League of Credit Unions are continuing.

No numerical data of the nature referred to by the Deputy is held by my Department in regard to banking services.

National Drugs Strategy.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

122 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason very little progress has been made to date by the regional drugs task forces; when he expects the publication of strategies by each of these bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11920/04]

The National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 provides for the establishment of ten regional drugs task forces, RDTFs throughout the country.

I assure the Deputy that much progress has been made to date in establishing the RDTFs and getting them under-way. They are currently mapping out the patterns of drug misuse in their areas — as well as the range and level of existing services — with a view to better co-ordination and addressing gaps in the overall provision. In this context, it should be noted that an amount of €500,000 has been provided by my Department, in the current year, for administrative and technical assistance costs incurred by the RDTFs in their ongoing work.

The work currently under-way by the RDTFs is likely to take up most of the current year and will then feed into the drafting of regional action plans, which will be assessed by the National Drugs Strategy Team. I am hopeful that all of this work can be completed by early next year and I will then bring recommendations in relation to the funding of the plans to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion.

I expect the RDTFs to be in a position to begin the implementation of their plans by mid-2005. The question of publishing the plans will be a matter for the individual health boards.

Community Employment Schemes.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

123 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the measures his Department intends to advance in order to create greater security for those working in the community and voluntary sector in view of a recent publication which highlighted low pay and limited career prospects as a difficulty for that sector to attract and retain staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11923/04]

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

146 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to a recent EU study by the equal at work project which found that low pay and limited career prospects are making it difficult for community and voluntary groups to attract and retain staff; if he intends bringing forward proposals to address pay and working conditions in the community and voluntary sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11837/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 123 and 146 together.

The issue of staff retention and motivation in today's dynamic employment market is one which many organisations across all sectors must face.

Community and voluntary sector organisations are autonomous and, in the context of the resources available to them, assess their own needs and priorities, with the role of the State as that of enabler. While I have no formal role in establishing the terms and conditions of employment operating in the community and voluntary sector, I am keen to see that best practices in recruitment and employment are followed by the sector, especially when supported by core funding from the State. Where such support is provided, my Department would normally require that such best practice is followed. For example, under the community development programme there are a number of professional support agencies whose role is to advise individual projects with regard to their responsibilities in the area of, among other things, employment law, legal issues and general good practice. This expertise has led to a high awareness within the programme with regard to fair and equitable treatment of staff. Jobholders normally hold specific qualifications relative to the particular post and tend to receive salaries commensurate with qualifications and experience levels. Although salary scales are not set within the programme, each funded project is an independent entity, most projects offer incremental salary scales and pension provision as part of the employment contract.

It is important that our community and voluntary sector remains an attractive and vibrant workplace and continues to attract talented people. The recommendations in the report will be considered in the context of my Department's ongoing relationship with the sector.

Irish Language Strategy.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

124 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the work programme of the recently announced Irish language advisory committee; when he plans to announce the nominees to the committee; and the reason the committee will not issue a report detailing its recommendations for the Irish language. [11925/04]

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

125 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position in regard to his proposal to establish the Irish language advisory committee; the role, remit and purpose of the proposed committee; when he expects the committee to be in operation; the budget that will be given to the committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11842/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 124 and 125 together.

The role of the advisory committee will be to provide advice in relation to the advisability of preparing a 20 year strategic plan with realistic goals for the Irish language in the State; short-term strategic priorities for the preservation and the promotion of the Irish language within the State; priorities regarding the implementation of the Official Languages Act and the best and most practical ways to achieve progress with regard to the implementation of that work.

Arising from that, the objective will be to encourage an integrated approach among the main community and State organisations that promote the Irish language. The remit of the committee will cover all issues pertaining to Irish language policy.

I have written to various organisations seeking nominees to the committee. and would hope to announce the membership of the committee by mid-May. I anticipate the first meeting of the committee will be in June.

It will not be a function of the advisory committee to prepare a report. It will meet regularly to discuss and advise me with regard to a range of aspects of Irish language policy. This arrangement represents a more effective and immediate means of generating an action focused consensus about what needs to be done. Given the advisory nature of its work it is not anticipated at this juncture, that the committee will require a dedicated budget.

Tuarascáil Choimisiún na Gaeltachta.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

126 D’fhiafraigh Ms O. Mitchell den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cen dul chun cinn atá déanta aige chun caiteachas forbartha a dhíriú ar na ceanntair is láidre teanga mar a mhol Coimisiún na Gaeltachta. [11934/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

136 D’fhiafraigh Ms Enright den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta chun a fhiafraí den Aire cén dul chun cinn atá déanta aige chun pairtnéireachtaí trascheantair idir na ceantair láidre Gaeltachta agus ceantair atá níos laige a bhunú. [11933/04]

John Perry

Ceist:

165 D’fhiafraigh Mr. Perry den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cathain a thosóidh an feachtas chun réimse leathan poiblíochta agus eolais a chur ar bun a chuideodh le tábhacht na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht agus sa tír mar a mhol Coimisiún na Gaeltachta; agus an bhfuil sé chun ráiteas a dhéanamh. [11911/04]

Tógfaidh mé Ceisteanna Uimh. 126, 136 agus 165 le chéile.

Beidh a fhios ag na Teachtaí gur bhunaigh mé coiste comhairleach i mí Dheireadh Fómhair 2002 le comhairle a chur orm maidir leis na gníomhaíochtaí éagsúla a theastaíonn chun feidhm phraiticiúil a thabhairt do na moltaí éagsúla atá i dtuarascáil Choimisún na Gaeltachta.

Maidir le feachtas poiblíochta agus eolais, tuigtear dom go bhfuil na tairiscintí a fuarthas ó chomhlachtaí fógraíochta agus caidrimh poiblí á scrúdú faoi láthair faoi réir na ngnáthchleachtais chuí maidir le soláthar poiblí agus go gceapfar comhlacht le tabhairt faoin obair go han-luath i gcomhar le Údarás na Gaeltachta agus mo Roinn féin.

Beidh sé mar chuspóir ag an bhfeachtas seo cur ina luí ar thuismitheoirí, go háirithe iad siúd le páistí óga san aoisghrúpa faoi chúig bliana d'aois chomh maith le tuismitheoirí ionchasacha, maidir leis na buntáistí a bhaineann le Gaeilge a roghnú mar phríomh-theanga teaghlaigh. Cé go bhfuil an tionscnamh seo dírithe ar earnáil áirithe de thuismitheoirí na Gaeltachta go príomha, beidh sé chun sochar na teanga lasmuigh den Ghaeltacht chomh maith nuair a chuirtear san áireamh go mbeidh feachtas fógraíochta teilifíse mar chuid de. Tagann an bearta seo trí chéile lena bhfuil molta i dtuarascáil Choimisiún na Gaeltachta go ndéanfaí réimse leathan poiblíochta agus eolais a thionscnamh a chuideodh le tábhacht na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht agus sa tír.

I measc na dtograí eile atá idir lámha ag mo Roinn chun tacú le buanú na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht ar bhealach a thagann lena bhfuil molta i dtuarascáil an choimisiúin, tá tionscnamh pleanála teanga á bhrú chun cinn. Faoin tionscnamh nuálach seo, cuirfear cúnamh airgid — gur fiú €1.56 milliún é — ar fáil d'eagraíochtaí pobalbhunaithe Gaeltachta le tabhairt faoi phlean teanga cuimsitheach a réiteach agus a chur i bhfeidhm ina gceantair feidhme thar tréimhse trí bliana. Bheifí ag súil leis go bhféadfadh pleananna a aithneofar chun críche aitheantais a bheith inaistrithe amach anseo ó cheantar a chéile, rud a thiocfadh lena bhfuil molta sa tuarascáil maidir le páirtnéireachtaí trascheantair a bhunú idir na ceantair láidre Gaeltachta agus ceantair atá níos laige.

Maidir leis an moladh atá déanta sa tuarascáil go ndéanfaí caiteachas forbartha a dhíriú ar na ceantair is láidre teanga, cuirtear neart na Gaeilge san áireamh i measc rudaí eile mar chuid de ghnáthchleachtas chomh fada is a bhaineann sé le measúnú iarratas chun críche scéimeanna mo Roinne.

Ministerial Appointments.

Damien English

Ceist:

127 Mr. English asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the changes he intends to make regarding the future role of ADM; if the board of ADM will be asked to step down in the near future; if so, the persons by whom it will be replaced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11915/04]

The review of ADM carried out by INDECON is part of the broader tri-ministerial review of community and local development structures. The report noted that the context in which ADM now operates has changed significantly since its inception — in particular a shift from EU to Exchequer funding — and identified accountability issues arising from current structures. The report also proposed options to address these issues.

The Government has accepted the broad thrust of the report and that ADM should be restructured to better reflect the context and priorities that now obtain. I have been in communication with ADM and the board has confirmed its willingness to co-operate fully in the process of change arising from the Government decision. At present and as first steps, arrangements are being made to have three additional board members nominated by the Government.

It is my view is that the re-structuring will provide the company with a real opportunity to enhance its key role in support and delivery of Government's programmes to enable communities to tackle the problems of disadvantage.

Rural Social Scheme.

David Stanton

Ceist:

128 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress that has been made in the provision of the new rural social scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11903/04]

John Bruton

Ceist:

140 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when the new rural social economy programme will begin; the persons who will administer and operate scheme; the persons who will be responsible for administering and distributing payments to those employed by the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11918/04]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

843 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when he intends to establish a new rural social scheme; the organisation that will manage the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11969/04]

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

844 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when the special rural scheme for persons on farm assist will commence; the ways the scheme will organised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12110/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 128, 140, 843 and 844 together.

The rural social scheme aims to provide certain services of benefit to rural communities by harnessing the skills and talents available among low income farmers and fishermen and provide income support to low income farmers and fishermen who are in receipt of specified, primarily long-term social welfare payments. I envisage that the arrangements for the scheme will be put in place during the coming weeks.

In my reply to Questions Nos. 122, 133, 171 and 196 on 9 March, I referred to the LEADER groups, and in Gaeltacht areas, an alignment of such groups with Údarás na Gaeltachta as well positioned bodies to deliver the programme locally. That is still my view. Practical arrangements, including the administration and payment systems will be addressed in the context of guidelines for the scheme which are currently being finalised.

Question No. 129 answered with QuestionNo. 104.
Question No. 130 answered with QuestionNo. 109

Irish Language Strategy.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

131 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason he is opposed to the development of a national Irish language strategy to map the future development and preservation of the Irish language. [11924/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

845 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his plans to promote the use of the Irish language in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12112/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 131 and 845 together.

I am not opposed to the development of a national Irish language strategy. I recently announced the setting up of an Irish language advisory committee whose terms of reference include "the advisability of preparing a 20 year strategic plan with realistic goals for the Irish language in the State".

I have set out in my reply to Questions Nos. 124 and 125 on today's Order Paper further details in relation to the establishment of this committee. This is a significant initiative by me in regard to development of future policy with regard to the long term promotion of the Irish language.

I would also refer the Deputy to Questions Nos. 104 and 129 regarding the Official Languages Act 2003 — one of the most important initiatives, in my opinion, towards the promotion of the language for the past number of years. This Act will provide citizens with the opportunity to avail of a better standard of public services through the Irish language in the future.

The Deputies will also be aware that through Foras na Gaeilge, my Department and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in the North fosters and promotes the language on an all-island basis by supporting, financially and otherwise, those concerned with this work.

State Property.

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

132 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the action he has taken following the cancellation of the tender for sale of Údarás na Gaeltachta’s holiday home complex in Connemara; if he will publish the report into the tendering and sale process undertaken by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11856/04]

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

141 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has received the report from Údarás na Gaeltachta into the tender process for the sale of its holiday home complex in Connemara; if he has satisfied himself that the tender and sale process was carried out appropriately; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11858/04]

John Gormley

Ceist:

150 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the further reports on the matter he has received since the decision of Údarás na Gaeltachta to abandon the tender for sale of its 13-house complex at Eanach Mheain, Chontae na Gallimh. [11814/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 132, 141 and 150 together.

I refer the Deputies to my reply to today's Priority Question No 96.

Official Languages Act.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

133 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the reported concerns of the Association of Chief Executives of Public Bodies on the implementation on the Official Languages Act 2003. [11811/04]

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

841 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his proposals in regard to the concerns (details supplied) of some chief executives of public bodies regarding the implementation of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11661/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 133 and 841 together.

I refer the Deputies to my answer to Priority Question No. 97 on today's Order Paper.

Gaeltacht Employment Schemes.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

134 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of companies in existence, established and registered by Údarás na Gaeltachta or full time officials of Údarás; the reasons such companies were formed; and the assets held by such companies. [11807/04]

Section 8(6) of the Údarás na Gaeltachta Act 1979 confers on the Údarás the power to form a body corporate for the purpose of establishing, developing or maintaining industries and productive schemes of employment in the Gaeltacht.

Údarás na Gaeltachta currently holds nine subsidiary companies established for a variety of purposes ranging from, for example, the promotion of cultural tourism to the promotion of new technology in Gaeltacht companies. Details of such companies are contained in the annual reports and accounts of Údarás na Gaeltachta, which are published annually and laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. Information pertaining to the objectives and assets of the companies is available from the Company's Registration Office @www.cro.ie

Question No. 135 answered with QuestionNo. 109.
Question No. 136 answered with QuestionNo. 126.

Departmental Programmes.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

137 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date in regard to the implementation of the CLÁR programme; the number of areas in respect of which plans have been submitted to his Department; the projected budgets for these plans; when work on the implementation of the plans is likely to get underway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11843/04]

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

158 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount of money available to the Government for the CLÁR programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11844/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

847 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position in regard to the CLÁR programme with particular reference to its potential to expand its scope to assist communities for whom it was intended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12114/04]

I propose to take Question Nos. 137, 158 and 847 together.

I introduced the CLÁR programme in October 2001 to address depopulation as well as the decline and lack of services in rural areas. The agreed programme for Government contained a commitment to annual funding for the CLÁR programme and to consider additional areas for inclusion in light of the 2002 population census data. The Government decided on the additional areas for inclusion in the CLÁR programme and I announced these on 17 January 2003. Areas in 18 counties are now included in the programme and there are no plans for any further review of the boundary of CLÁR areas.

CLÁR funds, or co-funds, with other Departments, State agencies and local authorities, investment in selected priority developments. These investments are made, not on the basis of "plans", as referred to by the Deputy, but through a series of measures, over 20 in all, that support physical, economic and social infrastructure such as electricity conversion, roads, water and sewerage, village, housing and schools enhancement, health, broadband and sports and community projects. The measures reflect the priorities identified by the communities in the selected areas whom I consulted at the start of the programme. The projects under each measure are generally selected or recommended by the relevant Departments, State agencies, Leader groups and local authorities in consultation with my Department.

All the 18 CLÁR regions are benefiting under a variety of these measures. It is not possible to detail these, but I will send the information to the Deputies shortly. The measures were agreed with and are, for the most part, operated in tandem with the lead Departments, State agencies or public utilities, as appropriate. This ensures efficiency and effectiveness and meets the needs of the people in the CLÁR areas. I intend to continue this practice for any new measures I may introduce, depending on needs identified. Equally, I will keep under review the operation of existing measures.

The merits of this practice are reflected in the successful delivery of the programme. Expenditure amounted to €14.14 million in 2002 and to €8.613 million in 2003 which, it is estimated, levered out a further €21 million in related public and private expenditure in those two years into the areas which otherwise would have been bottom of the list for infrastructure investment. The provision in the Estimates for 2004 is €13.49 million, a 57% increase in the 2003 outturn, which will enable the continuation of investment under existing measures of the programme and provide scope for the introduction of such new measures as may be identified during the year.

With the ongoing co-operation of other Departments, State agencies and public utilities, CLÁR will continue to deliver on the commitment of supporting rural communities.

Question No. 138 answered with QuestionNo. 108.

Bóithre Straitéiseacha.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

139 D’fhiafraigh Mr. O’Dowd den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén fáth go bhfuil an t-airgead do na bóithre straitéiseacha i gCiarraí gearrtha siar i mbliana, cé gur tugadh geallúint tri bliana ó shin go mbeadh €1,000,000 le fáil gach bliain ar feadh tréimhse cúig bliana. [11908/04]

Sa bhliain 2000 cuireadh soláthar breise airgid ar fáil do mo Roinnse do réimeas an phlean forbartha náisiúnta, chun feabhas a chur ar bhóithre na Gaeltachta nach bóithre náisiúnta iad. Mar thoradh air sin, chuir mo Roinn tús le plean seacht mbliana agus súil aici go mbeadh bóthar maith straitéiseach amháin ar a laghad ag dul isteach chuig gach ceantar Gaeltachta roimh 2007.

Tá áthas orm a dheimhniú don Teachta go bhfuil clár oibre mo Roinne faoin bplean seacht mbliana chun cinn go maith ag an bpointe ama seo.

Bíonn an soláthar airgid atá ar fáil faoin scéim seo roinnte ar bhonn bliantúil de réir: daonra na gceantar Ghaeltachta éagsúla; riachtanais na hoibre; agus méid na hoibre atá curtha i gcrích cheana féin faoin scéim i gcomhar leis na comhairlí contae cuí. Níor tugadh aon ghealltanas fad-tréimhseach ariamh maidir le caiteachas faoin scéim i gContae Chiarraí nó in aon chontae Gaeltachta eile.

Mar eolas don Teachta, tá suimeanna mar seo a leanas íoctha ag mo Roinnse faoin scéim do bhóithre i gContae Chiarraí ó 2000 i leith:

Bliain

Deontas €

2000

1,015,790

2001

1,574,475

2002

1,000,000

2003

1,000,000

Iomlán

4,590,265

Question No. 140 answered with QuestionNo. 128.
Question No. 141 answered with QuestionNo. 132.

Rural Housing.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

142 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the extent of consultations between his Department and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government prior to the publication of the Government’s guidelines for planning authorities on sustainable rural housing; his views on whether the proposals jeopardise good development practice in rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11841/04]

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

173 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if the relaxation of planning guidelines, particularly for one-off rural houses, as a result of new guidelines recently published, will apply only in CLÁR designated areas; the result he anticipates in other non-CLÁR rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11917/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 173 together.

I consulted my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in the preparation of the national spatial strategy prior to its publication, in particular in regard to rural planning. I said in my statement of 4 March last, welcoming the publication of the draft guidelines, that they represent a practical and thorough approach to the issue of rural housing.

The document, Consultation Draft of Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Sustainable Rural Housing, reflects exactly what I have been saying for the past number of years in regard to this issue. They provide a detailed framework which sets out how Government policy on rural housing, as set out in the national spatial strategy is to be taken forward by local authorities.

The guidelines are based on a presumption that people who have roots in or links to rural areas and are part of and contribute to the rural community will get planning permission for houses, provided they meet the normal requirements in regard to matters such as road safety and proper disposal of waste water.

I have frequently been accused of wanting a free-for-all on the rural housing issue but I repeat that what is needed is rural housing within the confines of good planning practice. The consultation draft reflects my position on this issue and it clearly outlines Government policy on the matter.

The guidelines are intended to apply to all rural areas, not just in CLÁR areas.

Question No. 143 answered with QuestionNo. 105.

Visitor Centre.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

144 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position in regard to his plans to provide a visitor’s centre at Padraic Pearse’s summer house in Connemara; if there have been discussions between his Department and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on the matter; the outcome of any such discussions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11838/04]

As the Deputy is aware, this is primarily matter for the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

However Údarás na Gaeltachta has also indicated that it is willing to invest in the project. I have had discussions with officials and the Minister for the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government regarding this matter in the context of the review taking place regarding the national development plan commitments of that Department.

Irish Language.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

145 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress to date of the interdepartmental committee for the islands, the Gaeltacht and the Irish language. [11902/04]

The interdepartmental committee for the islands, the Gaeltacht and the Irish language was established in 1997 in recognition of the need to co-ordinate the provision of my Department's service delivery with those of other Departments and bodies. In its initial stages, the committee frequently met in full session. However, in later years it was felt that it was more efficient to organise bilateral meetings with the various Ministers and most of the achievements of the committee were brought about subsequently on a bilateral basis. These include: a special rate of car tax for cars kept permanently on the islands; an increase in the remote area boarding grant for island children attending school on the mainland; the introduction of an islander allowance payable in respect of certain categories of social welfare benefits; input from my Department with regard to legislation affecting the Gaeltacht and the Irish language, Planning and Development Act, Education Act; the co-ordination of marine works in the Gaeltacht; agreement with regard to the unique role of my Department in the development of sports and recreational facilities in the Gaeltacht; and provision of health services on islands.

It is my intention to continue to pursue specific issues of importance to Gaeltacht and island communities, as well as matters concerning the Irish language, through this forum, in particular on a bilateral basis with the Ministers and Departments concerned.

Question No. 146 answered with QuestionNo. 123.
Question No. 147 answered with QuestionNo. 101.

Student Support Schemes.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

148 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress he has made in conjunction with partnerships and community groups in developing a new student summer jobs scheme as promised. [11906/04]

As I have outlined to the House on a number of occasions, a replacement scheme for the student summer job scheme was never proposed. Rather it was anticipated that partnerships and community groups throughout the country would offer practical assistance and support to students in finding temporary summer employment in the labour market as required.

Such supports are by their nature local and informal. Therefore, it is not feasible to accurately quantify the extent to which these supports have contributed to students finding summer employment.

Question No. 149 answered with QuestionNo. 111.
Question No. 150 answered with QuestionNo. 132.
Question No. 151 answered with QuestionNo. 110.
Question No. 152 answered with QuestionNo. 108.

Voluntary Sector.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

153 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the steps he is taking to improve the profile and status of volunteering particularly as a means of tackling social inclusion. [11942/04]

My Department supports a range of structures and programmes that recognise the important role of volunteers in the area of community and local development. These include: provision for the participation of community volunteers on the boards or other governance structures of partnerships, CDPs, LEADER groups, RAPID area implementation teams; and funding of measures to address, through voluntary activities, a range of challenges facing communities, including disadvantage and social exclusion.

On 1 January 2004, my Department assumed responsibility from Comhairle for the provision of funding to Focus Ireland, Tallaght Volunteer Bureau and Volunteering Ireland to support their work in relation to volunteering. Volunteering is also supported via my Department's funding schemes under the White Paper on the Voluntary Sector and by way of the programme of grants for locally-based organisations in the community and voluntary sector. In addition, my Department supports a number of local volunteering bureaux through the local development programme. My Department will continue to work closely with these and other organisations in this field in supporting the development of volunteering.

Drug Abuse.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

154 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if, in view of recent reports of increasing widespread drug use among young persons here, he intends to extend funding through the young persons facilities and services fund to more areas than those currently serviced by the fund; his views on whether the €13 million provided to the fund announced earlier in 2004 is sufficient to tackle drug use here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11836/04]

As the Deputy is aware, the aim of the young persons facilities and services fund, established by the Government in 1998, is to attract "at risk" young people in disadvantaged areas into facilities, programmes and activities that will divert them away from the dangers of substance abuse.

The main areas being targeted under the fund are the 14 local task force areas of Dublin, Bray and Cork, where a significant drug problem exists or has the potential to develop. However, recognising that the drug problem is not confined to the local drugs task force areas, funding was also allocated to a number of urban areas, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and Carlow. A separate allocation was also made to assist a number of voluntary organisations with a national or regional remit, which have the capacity to deliver targeted education and prevention initiatives.

To date, over €72 million has been allocated under the fund to support in the region of 450 facility and services projects. This amount includes the €13 million worth of allocations which I recently announced for over 100 round II proposals. Through the new funding being allocated, a number of new dedicated youth and community centres will be built and a wide and diverse variety of youth work projects across the 14 drugs task force areas will be supported. Substantial funding is also being made available towards the staffing and operational costs of a number of larger community/youth centres built under round I of the fund. There are no plans at present to extend the young persons facilities and services fund to other areas.

Tuarascáil Choimisiún na Gaeltachta.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

155 D’fhiafraigh Mr. Ring den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cathain atá sé chun moltaí Choimisiún na Gaeltachta faoi athrú bunúsach ar ról Údaras na Gaeltachta a chur i bhfeidhm agus an bhfuil sé chun ráiteas a dhéanamh. [11914/04]

I líne le moltaí Choimisiúin na Gaeltachta tá níos mó d'achmhainní an údaráis ná ariamh á dhíriú ar cur chun cinn na Gaeilge.

Tá athbreithniú straitéiseach ar siúl ag mo Roinn i láthair na huaire, i gcomhar le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta, maidir le todhchaí na heagraíochta. Mar chuid den athbhreithniú seo, tá moltaí ábhartha i dtuarascáil Choimisiún na Gaeltachta maidir le struchtúr Údarás na Gaeltachta á gcur san áireamh.

Offshore Islands.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

156 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the change he has made in the running of his Department since the passing of the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Powers and Functions) Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11944/04]

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

159 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when legislation establishing formal contracts with island ferry operators will be published; the contents of this legislation; and the safeguards it will have to ensure best practice in awarding such contracts particularly after criticism in the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report of past practice. [11926/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos 156 and 159 together.

Following in part from the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General which identified certain legal issues relevant to the provision of transport services to the islands, the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Powers and Functions) Act 2003 was enacted last year.

The purpose of this Act is, firstly, to consolidate previously existing legislative powers held by the Minister in relation to the provision of transport to the islands and, secondly, to address the provision of airstrips on the islands and of connecting bus passenger services as part of certain ferry/air contracts.

As a division dealing with such matters was already in place, the enactment of the legislation has not occasioned significant change in administrative structures within my Department.

In regard to formal contracts with island ferry operators, the position is that my officials have been in regular consultation with the Office of the Chief State Solicitor over the past number of months and have recently received from that office a draft generic contract to be used for all new ferry service agreements entered into by my Department.

In the case of formal contracts with ferry operators providing services, which incorporate road transport links, the position is that, arising from the new legislative provisions in this regard, my Department is in the preliminary stages of preparing draft regulations. These regulations, which will be subject to the consent of the Ministers for Finance and Transport, will set down the agreed destinations for connecting bus passenger services and will form the basis for entering into formal contracts in these particular cases.

With regard to the issue of ensuring best practice in relation to the award of subsidised island ferry contracts, the Deputy will be aware that the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General referred to the need for formal contracts, with enforceable performance clauses, to cover all the subsidised travel services to the islands. Since the publication of that report, my Department has taken steps to ensure that providers formally sign up to the requirements and responsibilities attaching to the provision of subsidised services. In addition, the legal issue arising in relation to the jurisdiction of the Minister to require the provision of supporting bus transport for certain services has been addressed through the enactment of the legislation referred to above.

As part of its wider response to the report's findings, my Department has secured the support of external expert advice to review and validate tendering processes; strengthened provisions in contract documents, including the signing of a declaration so as to ensure disclosure of breaches of any law generally and to ensure contractors' financial and professional suitability; and required all staff involved in the tendering process to be subject to the Ethics Acts or other appropriate form of disclosure. In addition, issues in regard to the optimal duration and terms and conditions of contracts are addressed in a report carried out recently by consultants Malachy Walsh and Partners for my Department, the recommendations of which I am currently considering. A copy of this study is posted on my Department's website atwww.pobail.ie.

Rural Development.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

157 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the role played by his Department at a recent conference held in Tullamore on rural development organised by Teagasc. [11816/04]

Two officials of my Department participated in the conference. One official gave a presentation on the implementation of the Government's rural development policy. The second official chaired the afternoon mini-conference on tourism.

Question No. 158 answered with QuestionNo. 137.
Question No. 159 answered with QuestionNo. 156.
Question No. 160 answered with QuestionNo. 111.
Question No. 161 answered with QuestionNo. 113.

Community Development.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

162 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if it is possible for the North Eastern Health Board to obtain CLÁR funding towards the provision of a new health clinic in Killeshandra, County Cavan, in view of the difficult access to the present clinic and its limited facilities available to meet fire and safety measures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11651/04]

Killeshandra is not in the CLÁR region and therefore cannot be considered for inclusion in the health or any other measure, of the CLÁR programme.

I might explain that, in any event, small capital health projects, to be co-funded under the CLÁR programme, are proposed, in the first instance, by the Department of Health and Children following consultations with the health boards.

Caillteanas Post.

Michael Noonan

Ceist:

163 D’fhiafraigh Mr. Noonan den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas faoin méid postanna atá caillte sa Ghaeltacht le dhá bhliain anuas agus an bhfuil sé chun aon treoracha nua a thabhairt d’Údarás na Gaeltachta chun polasaí nua a chur i bhfeidhm chun postanna a mhealladh chuig an nGaeltacht. [11930/04]

Tá na fíricí maidir le caillteanas poist i 2002 agus 2003 sonraithe sa tábla seo a leanas:

Poist

2002

2003

Athrú

%

Poist lánaimseartha

7,571

7,346

-3.0

Poist iomlán (lánaimseartha/páirtaimseartha/séasúracha)

11,657

11,566

-0.8

Poist nua lánaimseartha

927

1,052

+13

Mar a dúirt mé i bhfreagra ar Cheist Uimh. 199 ar 9 Márta, 2004, tá athruithe suntasacha tagtha ar chúrsaí tionsclaíocha agus eacnamaíocha na tíre seo le blianta beaga anuas agus tá an scéal mar an gcéanna sa Ghaeltachta. Is tuar dóchais é áfach, mar atá léirithe sa tábla, go bhfuil líon na bpost nua ag méadú.

Sna cúinsí uile seo, tá Údarás na Gaeltachta ag díriú ar earnálacha nua fostaíochta, mar shampla, réimse na teicneolaíochta faisnéise, fiontair a bhaineann le hacmhainní mara agus nádúrtha, an geilleagar sóisialach agus turasóireacht chultúrtha.

Tá béim á cur freisin ar dheiseanna oideachais tríú leibhéal a fhorbairt sa Ghaeltacht i gcomhar leis na hinstitiúidí cuí. Chomh maith leis seo, tá an t-údarás ag tabhairt faoi mholtaí eile a cuireadh ar fáil i dtuarascáil an ghrúpa oibre ar chruthú fostaíochta sa Ghaeltacht a foilsíodh ag deireadh 2002. Tá cur síos i bhfreagra ar Cheist Uimh. 193 ar 4 Feabhra, 2004 ar an dul chun cinn suntasach atá déanta maidir le cur i bhfeidhm na moltaí sin.

Chun dul i ngleic le fadhb na dífhostaíochta agus chun deiseanna fostaíochta nuálacha agus Gaeilge-bhunaithe a thapú, sa bhliain 2003 thug mé treoir don údarás 20% den chaiteachas caipitil a chaitheamh ar thograí teanga-bhunaithe. Tá sé i gceist an treoir sin a chur i bhfeidhm arís i 2004.

Bóithre Straitéiseacha.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

164 D’fhiafraigh Mr. McCormack den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cé mhéid airgid a cuireadh ar fáil sna contaetha Gaeltachta do na bóithre straitéiseacha sna blianta 2002, 2003, 2004 agus an bhfuil sé chun ráiteas a dhéanamh. [11909/04]

Tá áthas orm a dheimhniú don Teachta go bhfuil clár oibre mo Roinne faoin bplean seacht mbliana do bhóithre stráitéiseacha sa Ghaeltacht, a cuireadh tús leis i 2000 mar chuid den phlean náisiúnta forbartha, chun cinn go maith ag an bpointe ama seo. Tá sonraí sa tábla leis seo faoi dheontais mo Roinne i leith na mbóithre straitéiseacha sin do na blianta 2002, 2003 agus 2004.

TÁBLA

Scéim na mBóithre Stráteiseacha 2002-2004

Contae

2002 Deontais íoctha

2003 Deontais íoctha

2004 Deontais ceadaithe

Iomlán

Dún na nGall

1,300,000

1,623,844

1,300,000

4,223,844

Maigh Eo

1,200,000

1,125,000

800,000

3,125,000

Gaillimh

1,782,500

1,924,784

1,550,000

5,257,284

Ciarraí

1,000,000

1,000,000

539,000

2,539,000

Corcaigh

634,800

600,000

480,000

1,714,800

Port Láirge

190,461

200,000

150,000

540,461

An Mhí

0

150,000

150,000

300,000

Iomlán

6,107,761

6,623,628

4,969,000

17,700,389

Question No. 165 answered with QuestionNo. 126.
Question No. 166 answered with QuestionNo. 121.

Decentralisation Programme.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

167 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made by his Department in relation to the decentralisation of its staff; if he has undertaken a survey of staff which indicates the number willing to decentralise; when this can be expected to begin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11939/04]

The Deputy will be aware that the progress of decentralisation in any Department is guided by the overall implementation process being carried out by the central implementation group. Significant progress has been achieved within my Department to date.

A dedicated decentralisation unit has been set up to manage the programme. This unit has prepared an information pack, which includes a wide range of information on 17 towns in the area surrounding Knock Airport, as well as Na Forbacha and Clifden. The unit issues regular bulletins to the staff with all the up-to-date information available on decentralisation.

A departmental decentralisation committee has been established to steer the decentralisation process within the Department. Membership of the committee is made up of senior management and staff. In addition, a liaison officer has been appointed to facilitate communication between the Department of Finance and my Department.

Special meetings of the partnership committee are held to specifically address issues arising from decentralisation. There is also regular communication between the Department and staff associations through the departmental council process.

A decentralisation implementation plan for my Department is currently being prepared. Matters which will come within the framework of this plan include: job analysis and process mapping for each function within my Department; induction and training schedules for transferring staff; planning for phased transfer of staff; provision of appropriate office accommodation in each location; logistics; and risk assessment

No survey of staff has been carried out as yet to ascertain the level of interest in decentralisation. The CAF system, as announced in the Flynn report, will carry out this task on a Civil Service wide basis. It is expected that the system will to be available on-line by the end of May to allow staff to register their preferences and that an analysis of the information ascertained will be available by the end of June. My Department will then, subject to such arrangements as are agreed centrally, be in a position to proceed with the next phase of the decentralisation process.

Community Development.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

168 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will make a commitment to have towns and areas like Clones and Castleblayney, which suffered so much from the 35 years of troubles and depopulation in the Border area to be re-examined and included in either the RAPID or CLÁR programme or both; his views on whether without this categorisation, it will be difficult to obtain sufficient funding for the re-opening and restoration of courthouse and other facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11859/04]

The 45 RAPID areas were selected on the basis of objective criteria and neither Clones nor Castleblaney were among the areas identified. There are no plans at present to increase the number of RAPID areas.

As regards CLÁR, An Agreed Programme for Government contained a commitment to annual funding for the CLÁR programme and to consider additional areas for inclusion in light of the 2002 population census data. The Government decided on the additional areas for inclusion in the CLÁR programme and I announced these on 17 January 2003. Areas in 18 counties, including the six Border counties, are now included in the programme. There are no plans at present for any further review of the boundary of CLÁR areas.

Departmental Surveys.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

169 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the results of a customer service survey conducted by his Department; and if he intends to change working practices, structures and so on within his Department as a result of this survey. [11943/04]

As part of the development of its customer charter and customer service action plan for the next three years, a survey of customers was carried out by my Department.

The results of this survey showed a positive attitude by respondents to the standards of service provided by my Department. A Customer Service Action Plan 2004-2007 is now being developed by my Department which, building on the results of the customer service survey, will aim to further enhance our standards of customer service into the future.

Questions Nos. 170 and 171 answered with Question No. 113.

Departmental Programmes.

David Stanton

Ceist:

172 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress on the proposals to make CLÁR funding available for recreational facilities for national schools; the way in which funding will be disbursed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11905/04]

I announced details of the first round of funding under the CLÁR primary school outdoor play facilities enhancement scheme on 29 March 2004. Under the CLÁR programme, €500,000 is being provided for the scheme which matches €500,000 from the Department of Education and Science. The maximum expenditure per school is €10,000, with CLÁR and the Department of Education and Science funding 75% of the cost supplemented by a 25% contribution from local sources. One hundred and ninety seven projects, at a total cost of over €1.1 million in 132 schools will be funded under phase 1 of the scheme. There has been an overwhelming level of interest shown in the scheme and a further round will be announced in the near future.

Question No. 173 answered with QuestionNo. 142.

Official Languages.

John Bruton

Ceist:

174 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the circumstances in which, in accordance with Article 8(3) of the Constitution, provision by law is made for only one of the official languages of the State to be exclusively used in public business. [11620/04]

I have no responsibility for the entirety of legislation enacted since the adoption by the people of the Constitution and still on the Statute Book and no responsibility for the provision of legal advice on the interpretation of any Act or any particular legislative provision. The circumstances in which any particular Act addresses any specific matter under the Constitution would be set out in the Act concerned, or otherwise in the explanatory memorandum accompanying a Bill, or in speeches made in that regard by the sponsoring Minister for the record in this House or in the Seanad. The procedures by which legislation is processed by the Houses are set out in Standing Orders and in the Constitution itself and I have no ministerial responsibility in that regard.

Agricultural Land.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

175 Mr. Ferris asked the Taoiseach if he will provide statistics on the amount of agricultural land that has been purchased and taken out of agricultural use since 1998. [11772/04]

The exact information requested by the Deputy is not available. The CSO compiles statistics on the agricultural area utilised on farms over one hectare from its annual June agricultural survey. This comprises the area under crops, horticulture, silage, hay, pasture and rough grazing in use including fallow and set-aside land.

Year

Agricultural Area Utilised (ha*)

1998

4,414,800

1999

4,418,400

2000

4,443,200

2001

4,410,100

2002

4,372,000

A figure for agricultural area utilised for 2003 will be available when the crops and livestock survey, June 2003, release is published on 30 April.

Multinational Corporations’ Profits.

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

176 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach the amount of profits repatriated by multinational corporations here for each year from 2000 to the latest date in 2004 for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11857/04]

The best statistical indicator of the amount of profits repatriated by multinational corporations in the State is the direct investment income on equity debit figure in the balance of payments release published by the Central Statistics Office each quarter. The following tables show the annual and quarterly outflows for the years 2000-03. Data for the first quarter of 2004 are not available yet but are due to be published by the end of June this year.

Table 1 Direct Investment Income on Equity Debits

Year

Amount €m

2003

29,963

2002

31,739

2001

25,407

2000

22,298

Table 2 Direct Investment Income on Equity Debits

Quarter

Amount €m

2003 Q4

7,703

2003 Q3

7,468

2003 Q2

7,632

2003 Q1

7,160

2002 Q4

8,405

2002 Q3

7,940

2002 Q2

7,982

2002 Q1

7,412

2001 Q4

6,481

2001 Q3

6,370

2001 Q2

6,711

2001 Q1

5,845

2000 Q4

6,067

2000 Q3

6,333

2000 Q2

5,062

2000 Q1

4,836

Irish Agrément Board.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

177 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of persons that are directly employed in the Irish Agrément Board, the comparative figures for the past few years; and the products which have agrément certificates. [11433/04]

The Irish Agrément Board, IAB, is a consultative committee of the National Standards Authority of Ireland, NSAI, established under section 10 of the National Standards Authority of Ireland Act 1996. It deals with certification of building products, processes or systems for fitness for purpose. The IAB does not employ staff directly. Staff working in the agrément division of the NSAI are employed by both NSAI and Forfás. In 1999 the number of staff working in the agrément division was two. In 2000 this number was raised to three and it is envisaged that the number working in the area will be raised to six in the very near future.

There are 169 products approved or certified by the Irish Agrément Board for products, systems or processes. A comprehensive list of its products is to be found on the NSAI website,www.nsai.ie, along with a range of information on the Irish Agrément Board.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

178 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of audits, six monthly or annually, which have been carried out by the Irish Agrément Board on agrément supplied products; and the action that was taken as a result. [11434/04]

In 2001 the National Standards Authority of Ireland commissioned a study on agrément in Ireland. This study was conducted by Fitzpatricks Associates, consultants. As part of the study, there was broad consultation with various groups including client companies, IBEC, Government Departments and Irish Agrément Board management and staff. Arising from the report, the NSAI decided at its board meeting in September 2003 to approve an action plan for agrément.

Due to the lack of effectiveness of the surveillance system operated by the IAB in recent years, site audits were suspended with a view to re-engineering the processes involved. As part of the action plan, the management of the Irish Agrément Board has commenced a pilot study of the requirements of surveillance for waste water treatment systems and the first pilot audit has now taken place. Under the plan, a review of the pilot audit will take place shortly and thereafter a system will be put in place to ensure effective surveillance audits. The number of planned surveillance audit days of certified companies in 2004 is 70.

International Agreements.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

179 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if Ireland will be signing up to the ADR. [11738/04]

A memorandum on this matter, being prepared by my Department, will be submitted to Government by the Department of Foreign Affairs later this year.

Safety Advisers’ Certificates.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

180 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she intends changing the regulation whereby safety advisers have to re-sit their exams every five years. [11739/04]

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

181 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will replace the five yearly exam with a refresher course to be conducted every two years in line with the biannual republication of the ADR manual. [11740/04]

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

182 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position held by the Government with regard to the need for members of the Dangerous Goods Safety Advisors’ Association of Ireland to repeat their examinations every five years; if the Government agrees with proposals to instead introduce a refresher course every two years; and if Ireland proposes to sign up to the European Agreement Concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road, ADR, in view of the fact that until such time, Ireland has no say or input into the ADR. [11870/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 180 to 182, inclusive, together.

The current legislative provisions relating to the appointment, examination etc., of safety advisers for the transport of dangerous goods by road are set out in the European Communities (Safety Advisers for the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road and Rail) Regulations 2001 (S.I. No. 6 of 2001). These regulations transpose: Council Directive 96/35/EC of 3 June 1996 on the appointment and vocational qualification of safety advisers for the transport of dangerous goods by road, rail and inland waterway; and Directive 2000/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2000 on minimum examination requirements for safety advisers for the transport of dangerous goods by road, rail or inland waterway.

Under the regulations and directives, a safety adviser for the transport of dangerous goods must hold an EU certificate of training as a safety adviser. The regulations and directives also lay down the minimum examination requirements for the examination needed to obtain such a certificate. Article 6 of Directive 96/35/EC, relating to the validity of the certificate, provides that:

The certificate shall be valid for five years. The period of validity of a certificate shall be extended automatically for five years at a time where, during the final year before its expiry, its holder has followed refresher courses or passed an examination both of which must be approved by the competent authority.

This is transposed in Ireland through Regulation 7(12) of the 2001 regulations, which provides that:

Where the holder of a training certificate can show to the competent authority concerned, that within the 12 month period which precedes the expiry of the validity of the certificate referred to in paragraph (11) or of any extension of it given under this paragraph, he or she has passed an examination which has been approved by the competent authority, the period of validity of that certificate shall be extended by the competent authority for a further period of 5 years.

I have no proposals currently to alter the existing requirements and I do not envisage changing those requirements in the foreseeable future.

I am informed by the Health and Safety Authority, the national competent authority in Ireland for the regulations, that it is considered too onerous to require training for safety advisers every two years, particularly in light of the decision in October 2003 by the joint meeting of the RID safety committee, international rail transport, and the working party on the transport of dangerous goods, which works under the auspices of the UN-ECE, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, and which takes decisions on the amendments to the international agreements ADR-RID-AND, on the transport of dangerous goods by road, rail and inland waterways respectively.

That unanimous decision, to which all member states of the EU were party, decided that revalidation of safety adviser certificates would be by examination every five years and that such examinations would be approved by the relevant competent authority in each member state. This position will be reflected in the 2005 edition of the ADR, which will become applicable from 1 January 2005, with a six-month transition period. A memorandum on the matter of acceding to the ADR is being prepared by my Department and will be submitted to Government by the Department of Foreign Affairs later this year.

EU Trade Policy.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

183 Mr. Boyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the Government’s response to the recommendations of the Comhlámh report, Beyond Cancun — EU Agricultural Trade Policy and the Majority World. [11166/04]

I welcome the recently published report by Comhlámh, Beyond Cancun — EU Agricultural Trade Policy and the Majority World. It will contribute to the broadening of the debate on agricultural trade policy and the impact of these policies on the development dimensions of the current trade round.

The EU commenced an internal reflection period with key stakeholders including the EU member states, the European Commission and the European Parliament to review the DDA negotiations in the aftermath of the failed Cancun Conference. The European Commission communication which issued, following the conclusion of this period of reflection, in November 2003 notified the approach to reviving the DDA negotiations from the EU perspective. In it there is clear emphasis on the need for the reintegration of developing countries into the world economy as a necessary condition for development, and that such integration will be deeper and fairer if anchored in the multilateral trading system.

The strategy and approach notified in the Commission communication across the full spectrum of DDA negotiating issues was endorsed by the EU Council of Ministers in December 2003. The EU Council encouraged the European Commission, on its behalf, to actively engage with our WTO trading partners aimed at the immediate re-launch of the DDA negotiations and stated that the "Union give priority to the achievement of real benefits in the short term to the poorest countries through rapid progress on issues of importance to them".

The EU, therefore, is committed to work hard to secure genuinely pro-development outcomes in all areas of the Doha work programme, in line with the stress placed on this in earlier Council conclusions. Action to achieve these outcomes are those identified in the September 2002 Communication on Trade and Development, endorsed by the EU Council, including in the areas of market access, multilateral; trade rules, trade-related assistance and capacity building, including the mainstreaming of trade-related assistance into poverty reduction strategy papers, and similar strategies.

I again welcome Comhlámh report and its contribution to the debate which will be considered in the context of the strategies and approach to achieve the desired objectives across the full spectrum of DDA sectors, including in relation to agricultural trade policy. In that context, I understand that my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Walsh, as President of the Agriculture Council, intends to hold a debate at the informal Ministers meeting in Ireland in May on how the impact of CAP reform on international trade as well as opportunities arising from existing and future international arrangements can best be communicated to the EU's trading partners and, in particular, developing countries. EU trade policy is a community competence. As such a common EU approach is developed and formulated in the evolution of the common commercial policy of the Union.

Work Permits.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

184 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on the issue of work permits here and throughout the European Union to citizens of Kosovo. [11192/04]

It should be noted that my Department does not discriminate, positively or negatively, between nationals of the various non-EEA countries. Any work permit granted in respect of personnel from outside the expanded EU is granted on the basis of the skills, experience and qualifications of the person in question. My Department is satisfied from experience in recent years that the great bulk of Ireland's overseas labour needs can be met from within the enlarged EU. However, exceptionally skilled, highly paid employees can still be sourced from the wider world after May 2004. Policies adopted by other member states of the European Union in respect of the issue of work permits are a matter for the Governments of those states.

Community Employment Schemes.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

185 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the response to the report on the document, The Effects of Cuts on Community Employment Schemes in Finglas, as launched by the Finglas Anti-Cuts Action Group recently. [11231/04]

The report in question outlines the very significant role which community employment, CE, plays in the provision of social services in the Finglas area and the success achieved to date in assisting local unemployed persons to take up mainstream jobs. In addition, this report lists a number of recommendations that the group would like to see implemented. The concerns of the Finglas Anti-Cuts Action Group and other sponsor organisations are being considered in the context of the overall review of CE and job initiative currently being undertaken by a group of senior officials and FÁS. The outcome of this review will inform any future adjustments in the structure and the terms and conditions of participation on community employment.

Work Permits.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

186 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she has replied to correspondence (details supplied) regarding residency stamp and work permit; if she will report on the matter; if the obstacles to the complete operation of this innovative service company have been removed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11297/04]

The correspondence referred to raised the question of whether or not non-EEA nationals carrying out a course of studies in Ireland, and in possession of a student visa to do so, would require a work permit if they wished to take up periods of full-time employment in Ireland. My Department issued a response, and had a subsequent meeting with the college in question, both of which clarified the point that non-EEA nationals in Ireland on student visas are entitled to work 20 hours per week and 40 hours per week during vacation periods. However, they are not entitled to take up periods of full-time employment during their studies in the absence of an employment permit.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

187 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare for a work permit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11321/04]

A work permit application in respect of the individual concerned has been refused for a number of reasons, including the fact that she has been illegally resident in the country for over ten months.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

188 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if it is necessary for postgraduate medical and nursing students on clinical practice placement employment in hospitals to apply for work permits; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11322/04]

There is a long-standing arrangement, agreed in conjunction with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, whereby non-EEA postgraduate medical students may take up employment in the State without requiring a work permit to do so, providing the work is an integral part of their studies. It is very important to note that this concession only applies to non-EEA nationals who are undertaking a course of recognised postgraduate studies at a recognised third level institution in Ireland. It does not, however, apply to non-EEA nationals studying in Ireland who may happen to already possess a postgraduate qualification in their home country.

Lost Work Days.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

189 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of work days that were lost in 2003 and for each of the previous five years, as a result of work-related injuries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11358/04]

The figures for the number of work days that were lost in 2003 are compiled by the Central Statistics Office, CSO, and are expected to be available later this year.

In 2002, 3.156 million work days were lost due to work-related injuries and illnesses. It should be noted that this figure is calculated on the basis of those in employment, those unemployed and those not in the labour force. The figure related to those in employment is 1.286 million work days lost. An analysis of these figures, including an economic sector breakdown, is set out in tables 1 and 2. These figures have been obtained through the quarterly national household survey, QNHS, conducted by the CSO. There are no comparable figures available for years prior to 2002 as the questionnaire used by the CSO has changed compared to previous versions.

Table 1

Number of days lost due to work-related injury and illness by ILO economic status, 2002, CSO

ILO Economic status

Number of days lost due to injury

Number of days lost due to illness

Total number of days lost

Number of persons

Days lost per person

In employment

610,400

675,700

1,286,100

1,772,000

0.7

Unemployed

14,400

38,500

52,800

84,900

0.6

Not in labour force

63,200

1,754,800

1,818,000

1,266,400

1.4

Total aged 15 or over

688,000

2,468,900

3,156,900

3,123,300

1.0

Source: QNHS Q1 2003

Table 2

Number of days lost due to work-related injury and illness by NACE Economic sector, 2002, CSO

NACE Economic sector

Number of days lost due to injury

Number of days lost due to illness

Total number of days lost

Number of persons

Days lost per person

A-B

Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing

48,000

81,200

129,100

114,300

1.1

C-E

Other Production Industries

131,300

88,600

219,900

303,200

0.7

F

Construction

99,400

97,000

196,400

188,500

1.0

G

Wholesale and Retail

69,600

84,300

153,900

252,300

0.6

H

Hotels and Restaurants

33,400

33,400

66,800

110,500

0.6

I

Transport, Storage and Communications

57,500

54,100

111,600

110,900

1.0

J-K

Financial and Other Services

23,400

43,500

66,800

226,600

0.3

L

Public Administration, Defence and Social Security

52,500

44,000

96,500

88,600

1.1

M

Education

13,500

28,600

42,000

115,000

0.4

N

Health and Social Work

62,400

93,400

155,800

165,700

0.9

O

Other

19,500

27,800

47,200

96,300

0.5

Total in employment

610,400

675,700

1,286,100

1,772,000

0.7

Source: QNHS Q1 2003

Below Cost Selling.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

190 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will report on the consultations she has had around proposed changes to the retail planning guidelines and the end of the ban on below cost selling; if she intends to make a decision or recommendation on this matter in the near future; and the implications she believes such changes would have for small business people and community-based enterprises. [11359/04]

Responsibility for the retail planning guidelines lies with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, who is currently reviewing the operation of the guidelines in so far as they relate to non-food outlets.

I am continuing to review the Restrictive Practices (Groceries) Order 1987 and the ban on below cost selling contained therein. To date, I have received a large amount of correspondence in the matter from interested parties. I have also met a number of these parties. As Minister with responsibility for consumer welfare, I must, in considering the views of those who advocate retaining the order in its current form, balance those views with the need to ensure that the interests of consumers are best served. I will take the views of all interested parties into consideration before making any decision in relation to the order.

Industrial Development.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

191 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason IDA Ireland or Enterprise Ireland have not been able to get industrialists into the new advanced factory on the Dunmore Road in Tuam; the amount of money that has been spent to date on the project; if there are ongoing discussions with interested parties for the provision of badly needed jobs in the hub town of Tuam; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11382/04]

The management of IDA Ireland's industrial property portfolio is a day to day operational matter for the agency as part of the statutory responsibility assigned to it by the Oireachtas for industrial development and it is not a role in which I have a direct function. I understand from IDA Ireland that the new advanced factory, to which the Deputy refers, has not yet been built. Planning permission was recently obtained for the factory, which is to be located on a new 27 acre business and technology park on the Dunmore Road, Tuam, involving an investment to date of circa €3.5 million. In light of a shift in client needs, IDA Ireland is currently reviewing the building's design in order to ensure that the most up-to-date and suitable facility for attracting new industries is realised.

The industrial development agencies Enterprise Ireland, EI, and IDA Ireland are fully committed to the development of Tuam, which has been designated as a hub town in the national spatial strategy and is, therefore, very much a priority area for these agencies to develop. The agencies are actively promoting Tuam for new investment on an ongoing basis, with IDA Ireland seeking out foreign direct investment through its network of overseas offices and EI concentrating on the development of indigenous industries in the town. The new 27 acre park will significantly enhance the attractiveness of the Tuam area as a potential location for industry, and is an added selling point in the respective strategies of IDA Ireland and EI in their promotion of Tuam to potential investors at home and abroad.

I am confident that the strategies and policies being pursued by the development agencies, together with the ongoing commitment of Government to regional development will bear fruit in terms of additional investment and jobs for the people of Tuam.

Redundancy Payments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

192 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when redundancy will be paid in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11482/04]

My Department was formally notified of the proposed redundancy of the person concerned on 17 December 2003, when statutory form RP1, notice of proposed redundancy, was submitted in respect of that person. No further documentation has been submitted.

Under the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967 to 2003, the Department has a responsibility to ensure that all eligible employees receive their correct statutory redundancy lump sum entitlement. From the information received on form RP1 it appears that the employee concerned fulfils the necessary criteria for a statutory redundancy payment. In the event of the employer failing to make this payment, the Department will make the payment from the social insurance fund, on receipt of the necessary documentation, and will then endeavour to recoup the money from the employer. Information on this matter can be obtained from employment rights information section of the Department — telephone (01) 6313131 or Lo-Call 1890 201615 — or from redundancy payments section — telephone (01) 6312121 or Lo-Call 1890 220222. In addition, my Department has now sent the person concerned a copy of the recently updated guide to the redundancy payments scheme which fully explains the scheme in a user friendly manner.

Printing Industry.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

193 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action she intends to take to secure jobs in the printing industry; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that in excess of €350 million worth of printing is being outsourced to other EU countries, principally the UK, in which the rate of VAT on such services is considerably lower than the rate here; if she has had discussions with the Irish Printing Federation in respect of the haemorrhaging of jobs in this important sector of the economy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11564/04]

The Irish paper, print and packaging sector comprises approximately 600 companies. It employs in the region of 18,000 people and has estimated sales of €1.6 billion per annum. However, over-capacity in the sector has resulted in rationalisation and consolidation. A number of companies have downsized and closed and further rationalisation is expected. Outsourcing is likely to continue to be an option for parts of the manufacturing process.

In June, 2002, the print industry training and development forum was established and, for the first time ever, all the participants in the paper, print and packaging industry came together to respond to a rapidly changing environment. The purpose of the forum was to represent and promote the needs of its members in order to move the industry towards international best practice. State agencies, including Enterprise Ireland, are represented on the forum. The Irish Printing Federation is a member of the forum and issues relating to levels of imports and VAT have been brought to the forum by the federation. In addition, Enterprise Ireland meets the federation on a quarterly basis.

The VAT rates on printed matter were reviewed in the 1998 Finance Act. I understand that the intention at the time was to simplify the rating structure and to extend the lower rates as much as EU obligations would allow. I am informed that under EU VAT law, with which Irish VAT law must comply, it is not possible to introduce new zero rates of VAT and we can only retain the zero rating that was in existence on 1 January 1991. However, all printed booklets are zero-rated for VAT purposes and the lower rate includes a wide range of printed matter such as newspapers, periodicals, brochures, leaflets, etc. I understand that the UK has similar zero rating provisions but for a wider range of printed matter. Overall, I would not be convinced that the VAT differential is the solution to the issue of outsourcing. The printing industry, along with other manufacturing industries, is facing competitive international pressures.

As regards the print sector generally, Enterprise Ireland's primary objective is to develop additional export sales and to establish overseas market presence. In terms of jobs, activity is focused on the creation of new jobs through supporting entrepreneurs setting up new high potential start-up companies and the retention and creation of jobs in existing companies. Research is also supported in companies and third level institutions. Enterprise Ireland will continue to focus its support on key areas that address the needs of clients in both the print and packaging sectors.

FÁS, in association with Enterprise Ireland and employers and unions within the industry, has undertaken a study of the paper and printing industry. The report, which is due to be completed by September 2004, will provide a strategic analysis of the current competitive position of the industry and will include a range of recommendations on the development of appropriate business models and skills sets for the sector.

Offshore Installations.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

194 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the discussions that have taken place between a company (details supplied) and her Department regarding the new contract for the standby-supply boat service at the Kinsale Head gas field as published in the European Journal of the 17 February 2004; if his attention has been drawn to the terms of the new contract; if the terms of the new contract are in conformity with Regulation 13 of S.I. No. 14 of 1991 of the Safety Health and Welfare (Offshore Installations) (Emergency Procedures) Regulation 1991; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10233/04]

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

195 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a company (details supplied) intends to replace the current two vessel standby-supply boat cover at the Kinsale Head gas field with a single self-relieving dual purpose standby-supply boat vessel, if she has satisfied herself that such cover will conform with Regulation 13 of S.I. No. 14 of 1991 of the Safety Health and Welfare (Offshore Installations) (Emergency Procedures) Regulation 1991 in view of the expansion of the gas field, the requirement that no supply vessel can be considered a standby vessel when it is actively engaged in heavy cargo work, have its rescue area impeded by cargo or is carrying hazardous material; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10234/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 194 and 195 together.

The Department had no role relating to any such contract as referred to and would suggest that the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources be contacted directly on this issue.

Day to day responsibility for the administration and enforcement of occupational safety and health legislation, including the Safety, Health and Welfare (Offshore Installations) Act 1987 and the Safety, Health and Welfare (Offshore Installations) (Emergency Procedures) Regulations 1991, made under that Act, rests with the Health and Safety Authority.

Regulation 13(1) of the Safety, Health and Welfare (Offshore Installations) (Emergency Procedures) Regulations 1991 requires that "there shall be on hand at all times, except when prevailing weather and climatic conditions may endanger the crew, passengers or vessels, in the neighbourhood of every offshore installation a suitably equipped vessel, to be known and in these Regulations referred to as a "stand-by vessel", prepared to render immediate assistance in the event of an emergency on, in, at or about the said installation or involving persons working from the said installation". Regulation 13(3) refers to the positioning of a stand-by vessel and Regulation 13(5) requires a stand-by vessel to have adequate accommodation for all persons who may be on an offshore installation at any time and to be adequately equipped to provide medical treatment in an emergency.

I am informed by the Health and Safety Authority that the company referred to owns two fixed production platforms-installations in the Kinsale Head gas field, which are located three nautical miles from each other and are approximately 30 nautical miles form Roches Point lighthouse. Since December 2001, one of these platforms has become what is termed as a "normally unmanned installation", NUI, and, therefore, it only presents a risk to personnel when they are on board for maintenance, etc.

Processing of gas takes place on the platforms, on one of which personnel are located. As a result, a standby vessel is required to render assistance if required in the event of an emergency. I am informed that the company currently has a contract for two full-time vessels — one standby vessel and one support vessel. The standby vessel serves the two platforms. The support vessel is also certified and equipped to be a standby vessel. Its normal activity is to bring cargo in and out of port but it also acts a relief standby vessel when the main standby vessel goes into port to change crew. Standby boats have crew, medical supplies, medic or paramedic, and other supplies on board and two rescue boats attached.

The company has recently tendered to have a single self-relieving dual purpose standby-supply boat vessel. I am informed that there will be one certified standby vessel which will also be capable of carrying supplies and cargo. When a crew change is needed at a platform — normally every two to three weeks — a temporary certified standby boat will come out from port and replace the original standby vessel while it goes into port to change crew and get supplies. This temporary standby boat will be certified to be a standby vessel. I am informed that this arrangement will satisfy Regulation 13 of the Safety, Health and Welfare (Offshore Installations) (Emergency Procedures) Regulations 1991, as at all times there will be a certified stand-by vessel in the vicinity of both platforms.

As regards the reference to "the requirement that no supply vessel can be considered a stand-by vessel when it is actively engaged in heavy cargo work, have its rescue area impeded by cargo or is carrying hazardous material", these restrictions are not specifically mentioned in the 1987 Act or 1991 regulations. Notwithstanding that, from a safety point of view, the Health and Safety Authority would recommend as good practice that such restrictions be observed and I am informed that the company has such procedures in place. I am also informed that the company's procedures, when the supply boat-relief boat comes out to the installation to relieve the standby boat that is waiting to go to shore, are that the existing standby boat waiting to be relieved cannot leave the area until the landing area of the deck of the supply boat is clear for potential casualties, that is, until the supply boat has offloaded its deck cargo on to the installation and the deck is clear. Then, the standby boat waiting to be relieved can go back to port, as the relief standby-supply boat is then ready to act as a temporary standby vessel. I am informed that the Health and Safety Authority has no objection to this arrangement and is satisfied that this complies with Regulation 13 of the 1991 regulations, as long as this procedure is maintained at all times and there is one stand-by vessel available with the rescue area clear.

As regards arrangements in the event of breakdown of the single self-relieving, dual purpose standby-supply boat vessel, I am informed that the following would apply: the standby vessel has spare replacement parts for the vessel on board so the likelihood of the standby vessel being down for long is low; notwithstanding that, each platform has its own self-contained lifeboats capable of reaching Cork harbour on their own; even if the standby vessel breaks down, it has two fast rescue craft it can launch itself which can be at the installation within minutes; and helicopter back-up from Cork Airport or the platform would also be put on a higher state of alert, in the event of a stand-by vessel breakdown.

Retail Sector Figures.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

196 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will provide the most recent statistics on the market share of food sales enjoyed by the supermarket multiples, smaller multiples, convenience retailers, independents and specialist shops. [11600/04]

I am not aware of any official statistics available on the market share of food sales enjoyed by the various retail grocery outlets.

Restrictive Practices.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

197 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will retain the current prohibitions on below cost selling. [11663/04]

I am continuing to review the Restrictive Practices (Groceries) Order, 1987 and the ban on below cost selling contained therein. I hope to conclude this review in the near future.

Industrial Relations.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

198 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will intervene to save the jobs of about 30 construction workers employed by a company (details supplied) in County Louth at a building site at Termonfeckin; that are under threat due to the actions of the main contractor (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11773/04]

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

202 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action she will take to end the dispute at a Termonfeckin, County Louth building site at which workers belonging to a building firm are in dispute with developers (details supplied). [12022/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 198 and 202 together.

Ultimate responsibility for the resolution of industrial disputes lies with the parties concerned. However, for cases where the parties have failed to find a solution to an official industrial dispute, the State provides the dispute-settling machinery of the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court. The experience and expertise of these services are available free of charge to parties in dispute. I understand that the Labour Relations Commission has not been approached by any of the parties to the dispute referred to by the Deputies.

Residency Permits.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

199 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the procedure required for non-nationals to process their residency claim after their five years work permit; if their spouses can apply for residency; if they can work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11830/04]

Applications for residency for non-nationals and their spouses are matters for my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. All non-EEA nationals employed in the State must be covered by a work permit held by the employer.

Community Employment Schemes.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

200 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made in mainstreaming the jobs of workers employed on FÁS schemes with caring organisations like the wheelchair association and centres for independent living; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11871/04]

In accordance with the Government's decision in 1999 to restructure community employment, CE, participation levels have gradually been reduced in line with a strategic shift in policy in favour of training and other more appropriate supports.

Year-end participation levels on CE for the past seven years are as follows:

Year

Year-end places

1997

39,039

1998

39,520

1999

36,579

2000

33,549

2001

30,809

2002

24,991

2003

19,848

The total funding allocation for employment schemes in 2004 has been fixed at €351 million, which will support up to 25,000 places across the three employment schemes, namely, CE, job initiative and social economy. FÁS is being given some flexibility in the management of this financial allocation to maximise progression to the labour market while at the same time facilitating the support of community services. This allocation, €351 million, is similar to the budgeted amount provided in 2003. Accordingly, there will be no reduction in the total level of provision for the three schemes or in the combined participation levels in 2004.

As provided for in the PPF, consideration has been given to the mainstreaming of certain essential services provided through CE. In this regard, approximately 4,500 CE places in schools have been mainstreamed over the past number of years. This involved the appropriate degree of funding being transferred to the Department of Education and Science for the provision of relevant services in schools. In addition, in the region of 2,300 places have peen provided on the social economy programme.

Detailed discussions took place during 2002 involving the Department of Health and Children, health boards, FÁS and sponsor groups including the Irish Wheelchair Association, with regard to the possible mainstreaming of health sector places. However, due to the amount of additional funding required by the Department of Health and Children to mainstream these positions, and having regard to other major demands on the health budget, it was not possible to proceed with mainstreaming.

However, all health service related community employment projects, including those providing services for persons with disabilities, are ring-fenced and protected from reductions. Other services ring-fenced from reductions include drugs task force activity and child-care service provision. Projects in RAPID areas are prioritised. Sponsor organisations, such as the Irish Wheelchair Association, have indicated that they have difficulty in replacing participants who have completed their normal term of community employment due to the lack of suitable applicants coming forward for the programme. In this regard, FÁS has been requested to make every effort to identify community employment participants suitable for the positions in question. Should FÁS encounter difficulties in replacing CE participants with suitable persons, the matter can be considered in the context of the 20% flexibility in relation to extending community employment participation.

The future structure of the CE programme remains under review by a group of senior officials and FÁS. This group will report to Ministers on the outcome of their deliberations shortly.

Job Creation.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

201 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs lost in Westmeath in 2003; and if she will compare this to the number of IDA-aided jobs established in the area during the same period. [11872/04]

Support for job creation in the county is a day-to-day operational matter for the industrial development agencies IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the county enterprise board. The agencies are actively promoting County Westmeath for new investment and jobs on an ongoing basis, with IDA actively marketing the county as a location for foreign direct investment through its network of overseas offices and EI and the county enterprise board concentrating on the development of indigenous industries.

In 2003, overall full-time employment in companies supported by the development agencies was 297,549 of which 128,993 were employed by IDA Ireland supported companies. A total of 22,769 new jobs were created in agency-supported companies during 2003. Of these 9,182 were in IDA supported companies. However, a total of 30,000 full-time jobs were lost nationally in companies handled by the development agencies, in the same period of which 12,193 were in IDA supported companies.

County data for 2003 will not be available until June 2004. However, the 2002 results for County Westmeath were as follows:

All Agencies

IDA Ireland

No. of Companies

129

19

Permanent Employment

5,122

2,776

Gross Gains (New Jobs)

585

157

Job Losses

-391

-178

Net Change in Employment

194

-21

I have arranged that IDA Ireland will forward the relevant county data for 2003 to the Deputy when it becomes available.

Question No. 202 answered with QuestionNo. 198.

Work Permits.

John Perry

Ceist:

203 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment further to Parliamentary Question No. 206 of 9 March 2004, if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this person (details supplied) has an up to date immigration stamp; if their work permit application will be processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12023/04]

I am informed that there is no record of a valid work permit application in this case. Work permit applications, which are incorrect or incomplete, are not regarded as valid applications and are returned to the employer for completion.

Airport Safety Zones.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

204 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question No. 209 of 10 March 2004 and his admission that a draft protected area was prepared in respect of Baldonnel aerodrome in the mid-1950s, if he will clarify if the Aer Rianta report of 1992 confirmed that the planning department of Dublin County Council gave an undertaking in June 1957 that it would consult with the Department of Defence before a decision was made with regard to any proposed development which conflicted with the terms of the said draft order; if he will clarify whether such consultation or consultations subsequently took place; the number of such consultations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11145/04]

Pat Breen

Ceist:

205 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Defence if he will clarify if its associated map, a copy of which is included as part of the Aer Rianta report of 1992, is all square with the map included at page 313a of the 1983 Dublin development plan with regard to the draft protected area order pertaining to Baldonnel aerodrome and which latter map is entitled Casement (Baldonnel) Aerodrome; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11142/04]

Pat Breen

Ceist:

206 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Defence if red safety areas exist at either end of the runways at Casement Aerodrome; when and precisely how such red safety areas were created or designated; the respective sizes of such areas with particular reference to inner and outer widths together with overall lengths and rates of divergence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11143/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 204 to 206, inclusive, together.

Following a review by Aer Rianta on behalf of the Department of Defence of policy in relation to safety zones at Casement Aerodrome in 1992, taking account of existing and future technical and operational requirements of the Air Corps, a map showing revised safety and security areas was forwarded to Dublin County Council for incorporation in its development plan which was under review at that time. The map, designated as Map No. 2 which forms part of the report prepared by Aer Rianta and which differs from the map included at page 313 (a) of the 1983 Dublin development plan, shows the extent of the restricted areas and these include areas coloured red at the end of each runway at Casement Aerodrome. Red safety areas, or runway approach surfaces as they are technically referred to, were first adopted at Casement Aerodrome following the Aer Rianta report of 1992 and were introduced to ensure the safe and unobstructed operation of air traffic to and from Casement Aerodrome in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organisation standards and recommendations. While the safety policy has been kept under review in the interim the runway approach surface areas have been retained. The runway approach surfaces at Casement Aerodrome originate 60 metres beyond the runway thresholds, have a width of 300 metres and diverge at a rate of 15% at each side to a width of 700 metres. The overall length of the runway approach surfaces at Casement Aerodrome are 1370 metres long in the case of each runway. The Department's policy approach is that no new developments should be allowed within the runway approach surfaces. However, extensions to existing domestic dwellings are acceptable in certain circumstances.

Responsibility for planning and development in the vicinity of Casement Aerodrome now rests with the planning department of South Dublin County Council. The practice down the years has been for the local planning authority to consult the Department of Defence in respect of planning applications for proposed developments which may affect Casement Aerodrome. Such consultations have taken place and continue to take place on a regular basis.

Defence Policy.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

207 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence the implications for defence spending in this State of the EU security doctrine agreed in December 2003 which calls on member states to dedicate more resources to defence; if cost projections have been done; if so, to report on the results; if not, when will they be done; and will they be published. [11173/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

208 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence the implications for defence spending in this State of Article 40(3) of the draft EU constitutional treaty which requires member states to progressively improve their military capabilities; if the Government agreed to this provision; and if the Government has received a legal opinion about whether the State could be found to be in breach of the treaty if we fail to improve our military capabilities. [11174/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 207 and 208 together.

I refer the Deputy to my replies to his questions dated 25 March and 6 April 2004, which related to the impact to date on defence spending of EU defence measures and the anticipated impact on defence spending over the next 10 years by EU defence-related measures and commitments.

As I stated in my replies, the Government's White Paper on Defence, published in February 2000, set out a medium term strategy for defence covering the period up to 2010. A major objective of the strategy is to ensure that Ireland has a world-class military organisation capable of carrying out the roles assigned to it by the Government, both at home and abroad. This objective requires an ongoing modernisation process, including an investment programme to ensure that the Defence Forces are properly equipped for these roles.

In seeking to modernise the Defence Forces in accordance with the objectives of the White Paper I have been fully conscious of the need to obtain the best possible efficiencies from existing resources, and have reported to the House on many occasions on the methods by which this has been achieved.

I do not envisage any additional Exchequer requirements for my Department arising from the security strategy.

Questions on the draft treaty come under the remit of my colleague the Minster for Foreign Affairs and accordingly should be tabled to him.

Defence and defence policy are a fundamental expression of national sovereignty. In that context, defence spending is a matter for the Government and has to be undertaken in a prudent and balanced fashion having due regard to the prevailing national socio-economic environment.

I would, yet again, take this opportunity to remind the Deputy that national sovereignty and voluntarism are the fundamental underlying principles of participation in the European Security and Defence Policy, ESDP. Participation in any specific operation by member states is decided on a case-by-case basis and in accordance with respective national decision making procedures.

Defence Force Regulations.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

209 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Defence the reason the amendment of Defence Force Regulations 18(1)(f)(2) was done and the reason it was done at that precise time; and if it was found that the regulation was unconstitutional. [11386/04]

It is presumed that the question refers to Amendment No. 93 to Defence Force Regulations A.15. This amendment came into effect on 14 February 1985.

The purpose of Amendment No. 93 to Defence Force Regulations A.15 was to amend the provisions of Part IV of the regulation which relates to the appointment of officers with professional qualifications. A number of provisions had become out of date by 1985, for example, they did not take account of the fact that women were eligible for appointment as medical and dental officers, nor of the introduction at that time of a short-service commission scheme for medical officers. It was decided at that time to avail of the opportunity to make various other necessary changes in other parts of the regulations and to delete obsolete provisions which were no longer relevant. The effective date of the provisions of the amendment, 14 February 1985, was the date on which the Minister for Defence signed the draft amendment, following approval being received from the Minister for Finance.

Prior to the amendment, paragraph 18(2) provided that an officer of the Permanent Defence Forces should not be recommended for retirement for misconduct or inefficiency unless or until the officer had been given a reasonable opportunity to make such representations as she or he might think fit in regard to the proposed retirement. Amendment No. 93 to paragraph 18(2) extended these particular provisions to comprehend retirement in the interests of the service.

Defence Forces Property.

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

210 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Defence if he has given approval for the construction of a mixed complex of residential and small businesses to the rear of the FCA hall, Slievenamon, Thurles, County Tipperary; if this will result in the demolition of the existing FCA timber building, the provision of a right of way through his Department’s property, a significant reduction in the number of parking spaces and the halving of the space available for training of personnel; if his Department has received financial compensation for the loss of the facilities involved; if it is intended to provide an alternative building for the FCA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11673/04]

My Department has been approached by a developer who wishes to access his property through a portion of the FCA property in Thurles, County Tipperary. The matter was the subject of applications to the local authority for planning permission and permission, subject to conditions, has recently been granted in this regard. One of the conditions stipulates that the development must be carried out solely within the property in the ownership of the applicant and that no part of the development shall encroach on the rights of adjoining property owners without prior consent of the relevant owner. Officials of my Department have agreed to meet with the developer in the near future to discuss his proposed development. No commitment, however, has been entered into in regard to the incorporation of any part of the FCA hall, Slievenamon Road, into the development.

Defence Force Regulations.

David Stanton

Ceist:

211 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Defence the number of applications that were made under the terms of “A” Administrative Instruction, Part 10, paragraph 303 and Defence Force Regulations A 10, paragraph 38(8) for promotion for the rank corporal in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and to date in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11877/04]

The military authorities have advised that the number of personnel promoted to the rank of corporal in accordance with Defence Force Regulation A 10, Paragraph 38 (8) and ‘A' Administrative Instruction, Part 10, paragraph 303 are as follows:—

Number of personnel promoted to the rank of corporal in accordance with Defence Force Regulation A 10,paragraph 38(8).

Number

2000

4

2001

6

2002

5

2003

2

2004

1 (to date)

Number of personnel promoted to the rank of corporal in accordance with "A" Administrative Instruction, Part 10,paragraph 303.

Number

2000

Nil

2001

Nil

2002

Nil

2003

Nil

2004

2 (to date)

Overseas Engagements.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

212 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Defence the plans he has to re-open the file on the Battle of Jadotville, Congo, which took place in September 1960; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11963/04]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

213 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Defence if he will reply to Athlone Town Council following its letter to his Department of March 2004 regarding the Jadotville battle, Congo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11964/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 212 and 213 together.

The Defence Forces have received correspondence on the subject of Jadotville. This submission is presently under examination and a report is expected to be finalised soon. The letter from Athlone Town Council was received in the Department on 6 April 2004. This letter has been acknowledged by my Department and will be replied to once the above report is to hand.

Defence Forces Retirement Scheme.

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

214 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Defence the financial and other assistance given to the widows of old IRA veterans; if there are special arrangements in place to provide nursing home accommodation for such persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12033/04]

Widows of deceased veterans of the War of Independence who died while in receipt of a military service pension or a special allowance qualify for a widow's allowance from my Department, as do widows of other deceased veterans subject to a means test. Such payments are additional to any entitlements under social welfare legislation.

My Department also administers schemes, similar to those under social welfare legislation, for the provision of free travel, free television licences, electricity allowance and telephone rental allowance to veterans and to the spouses of deceased veterans.

There are no special arrangements in place under the auspices of my Department for the provision of nursing home accommodation to widows of veterans. These widows would be eligible for nursing home care or a subvention towards nursing home care under the Health Acts in the same way as other members of the community.

Grant Payments.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

215 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a REP scheme payment for 2003 was not paid to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11126/04]

The person named joined REPS on 1 February 2003. His first annual payment issued to him on 27 February 2003 in respect of the period from 1 February 2003 to 31 January 2004. An application for his second-year payment is currently being processed in accordance with the targets set out in the protocol on direct payments to farmers.

Single Payment Scheme.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

216 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the entitlements farmers who have leased their entire holding have under the single farm payments scheme in view of the statement in a newspaper (details supplied). [11164/04]

Under the European Council regulation introducing the single payment scheme, a farmer may have access to the scheme if he was an active farmer during the reference years 2000, 2001 and 2002 and received payments under the livestock premia and-or arable aid schemes. In addition, farmers for whom entitlements will be established must activate those entitlements in 2005 by continuing to farm and submitting an area aid declaration in that year. In general, farmers must also have an eligible hectare of land for each payment entitlement.

Farmers who had leased their holdings during the entire reference period and were not farming will not have any entitlements established for them under the single payment scheme. The person who was leasing the land and was actively farming during the reference years will have the entitlements established. It should be noted that entitlements are attached to the farmer who was actively farming during the reference period and are not attached to the land. I should point out, however, that during the Council negotiations last year I secured agreement that farmers who take over the holding that was leased out to a third party during the reference period, will be able to apply to the National Reserve for payment entitlements under the single payment scheme. This will be of particular benefit to the offspring of farmers who joined the early retirement scheme before the reference period and leased out the farm to a third party.

Farmers who leased out their holding during or after the reference period, will, because they were active farmers in one or more of the reference years, have entitlements established for them. However, they will need to commence farming again in 2005 and continue to farm in order to activate their entitlements and draw down the single payment for themselves. If they do not return to farming and activate their entitlements the entitlements in question will revert to the National Reserve.

During the course of negotiations on the detailed rules regulation, Ireland secured agreement that a farmer who was farming during one of more of the reference years and who has since leased out his holding to another farmer can apply in 2005 to establish his entitlements and then lease those entitlements out to the farmer who has leased the land. In order to avail of this provision there must be a lease agreement in place in 2005 which provides that the entitlements are to be leased out to the person who is leasing the land. This provision will also be of particular benefit to farmers who joined the early retirement scheme either during or after the reference period. Such farmers are precluded from taking up farming again in their own right but they will be allowed to request to have their entitlements established whereupon they can then lease out the entitlements to the farmer who is leasing the land provided that the lease agreement in place in 2005 provides for this type of arrangement.

Agricultural Trade Policy.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

217 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the Government’s response to the recommendations of the Comhlámh report Beyond Cancun — EU Agricultural Trade Policy and the Majority World. [11165/04]

The Comhlámh report gives a very detailed analysis of the debate on the needs of developing countries and of the implications for them of policy decisions taken at EU level. I am acutely aware of these needs. I am satisfied that the recent reform of the CAP will be of benefit to developing countries, including ACP countries. Decoupled payments will replace production-related supports, thereby reducing the potential distortion impact of production-related supports.

Trade with ACP countries is governed by the terms of the ACP-EU partnership which was signed in Cotonou in June 2000 under which the EU grants non-reciprocal trade preferences to imports from ACP countries. In September 2002, the ACP countries and the EU officially launched negotiations on a series of economic partnership agreements which will replace the existing arrangements with reciprocal agreements that are WTO compatible and which will retain an element of differential treatment for the ACP countries. These economic partnership agreements will cover trade in agricultural products. The current preferential trade regime has been extended pending completion of the negotiations.

Furthermore the EU has recently abolished tariffs and other such restrictions on all products from the 49 poorest countries on the planet — the least developed countries. This "Everything But Arms" initiative gives these countries immediate duty and quota free access to the EU market. This includes products such as beef, milk products, fruits and vegetables. A transitional period applies for rice, bananas and sugar, but full liberalisation will be in place by 2009.

The EU is also prepared to negotiate further special and differentiated treatment for developing countries under a new WTO round. In the context of these WTO talks, the EU is asking that other developed WTO partners provide similar concessions.

Grant Payments.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

218 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding persons (details supplied) in County Wicklow who were not paid their 2003 ewe premium as they did not submit an application form for same; in view of the fact that they have always claimed this payment and that they did not receive an application from the Department for the 2003 payment, if this decision can be re-examined with a view to allowing the payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11238/04]

It was the responsibility of the persons named to ensure that they submitted an application under the 2003 ewe premium scheme. Unfortunately, as they failed to do so, they do not qualify for payment under the scheme.

Early Retirement Scheme.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

219 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if, with regard to the recent changes in the farm retirement scheme, the Minister will confirm if the present income ceiling for farmers by which those pensioners are prevented from benefiting from State pensions will be removed. [11239/04]

It is a requirement of the EU regulations governing the early retirement from farming schemes that any national retirement pension to which a scheme participant, and his or her spouse or partner in a joint management situation, becomes entitled must be deducted from the early retirement pension. This also means that any increases in national retirement pensions granted in the annual Budget Statement must be deducted from the early retirement pension.

As this requirement derives from EU Council regulations, it has been a feature of the early retirement from farming schemes since the start of the first scheme in 1994. There has been no recent change in the situation.

The assessment of eligibility for national retirement or State pensions, including those that are means tested, is the responsibility of the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

220 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if his attention has been drawn to the fact that many farmers who availed of the early retirement from farming scheme are now not in receipt of any payment from his Department due to the fact that they are in receipt of contributory social welfare pension, yet they are still required to fulfil conditions attaching to the farm retirement scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11240/04]

My Department will consider sympathetically all requests from participants who wish to withdraw from the scheme because the value of their old age pension now exceeds the value of their early retirement pension, provided five years' participation has been completed in the scheme and there is no outstanding debt owing to the Department. The retired farmer remains bound in all cases by his or her undertaking to cease commercial farming definitively; this undertaking can be waived only if all pension payments are refunded.

Animal Diseases.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

221 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his response to the suspension of badger culling by the British Animal Health and Welfare Minister following research showing that reactive badger culling increased the rate of bovine tuberculosis in cattle by 27%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11241/04]

I am aware of the decision of the UK authorities to suspend reactive culling of badgers, following reported indications of an increase in TB in cattle. However, I would point out that such a response to the removal of badgers under the Irish programme has not been observed. In any event, it is not possible to extrapolate the UK position to this country as the ecology of the badger is different here — in the UK 70% of badger setts are in woodland and 30% in pasture, while the reverse applies in Ireland and the social group size is different.

Apart from this, I would draw the Deputy's attention to the recent Godfray Review of the randomised culling trial and associated epidemiological research, the response thereto by the independent scientific group on cattle TB and further comments by the Statistical Auditor to the randomised badger culling trials. All of these appear to be at one in their belief that the reactive trials in the UK were suspended prematurely.

Afforestation Programme.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

222 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding forestry grant application for a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11242/04]

Payment of the 2004 forestry premium will be made to the person in question shortly.

Milk Quota.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

223 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the current status of the application for additional milk quota under the hardship scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; when a decision will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11301/04]

Allocations of milk quota from the National Reserve are granted on the basis of recommendations from the Milk Quota Appeals Tribunal. The tribunal is a body established to consider and advise on applications for additional quota from individual producers who have suffered severe hardship in the context of the milk quota system.

The person named submitted an application for additional quota on the grounds of hardship in the 2002-03 milk quota year and he was granted a temporary allocation effective for the 2002-03 year only. However, it was subsequently decided to make that allocation permanent effective from 1 April 2003, that is, the 2003-04 quota year. A letter issued to the person last year outlining this position. There is no record of him having applied again in the 2003-04 quota year. However, an application may be made for the current 2004-05 quota year when the application forms become available in the autumn.

Afforestation Programme.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

224 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will supply a list of the broadleaf species planted near rivers, roads, and scenic areas in 1997 — 2003 which it was stated had been planted in addition to his Department’s statistics which include all broadleaf plantations and broadleaf elements of conifer plantations when the latter is required. [11312/04]

In recent years almost all afforestation sites incorporate some element of broadleaf planting. The broadleaf species, which are normally planted near rivers, roads and scenic areas are oak, ash and rowan as was the case for the period in question.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

225 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will provide a breakdown distinguishing between afforestation on peat soils and those planted on mineral soils according to the grant application forms in 1997-2003 in order to accurately assess the contribution of afforestation to carbon sequestration. [11313/04]

The information requested is not readily available. However, it should be noted that the contribution of afforestation to carbon sequestration uses an averaging approach to take account of differences in rates of carbon emissions and sequestration between mineral and peat soils. Current scientific opinion is that emissions of carbon dioxide from peat following afforestation may be balanced by reductions in emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas which has a far greater effect on global warming.

I would also point out that planting of peat sites has declined to very low levels since the early 1990s due to a site productivity requirement for grant aid and the general shift to farmer based afforestation.

Milk Quota.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

226 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if an application to lease a milk quota from a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be approved in view of the circumstances of the case and the medical evidence provided; and if a decision will be expedited in the case. [11402/04]

Under the milk quota rules, a milk producer who temporary leased all his or her available quota in 2002-03 could not temporarily lease all of his or her available quota in the 2003-04 quota year. There was, however, provision to grant an exemption from that rule in exceptional cases.

The person named did not make an application to my Department for such an exemption until after the final closing date for such applications, which was 27 January 2004. The closing date had already been extended and applications received after the final date of 27 January could not be accepted since milk purchasers had to complete their temporary leasing schemes. I understand the person named was also informed in the course of the year by his milk purchaser of the requirement to make an application for an exemption.

Registration of Title.

John Perry

Ceist:

227 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will intervene on behalf of persons (details supplied) to ensure that the issue regarding the title of the Land Commission land is resolved in view of the fact that the sale of the property is in process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11496/04]

The land in question was vested in June 1993 and the documents necessary for registration are lodged in the Land Registry under schedule 92426. The completion of this dealing is outside the control of my Department.

Mayo Landslide.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

228 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if, in relation to his recent announcement of €100,000 funding for the farming community in north Mayo following the landslides of September 2003, guidelines have been drawn up for its distribution; if application forms have been drafted for persons to apply; and if so, when these forms will be available. [11550/04]

The terms and conditions of the scheme, together with an application form, will be available shortly from my Department's agriculture environment and structures office in Ballina or from the Department's office in Johnstown Castle Estate, County Wexford.

Grant Payments.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

229 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reasons for the delay in the payment of a forestry premium to a person (details supplied) in County Donegal in view of the fact that it was delayed to the end of March 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11559/04]

As in previous years forestry premium payment are made at end of March-April. Payment of the 2004 forestry premium will be made to the person in question shortly.

Animal Diseases.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

230 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he proposes to make changes to the compensation programme arising from scrapie in sheep that will more clearly reflect the current market value of the animal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11560/04]

The scheme recently adopted by my Department for the eradication of scrapie in infected flocks is based on requirements laid down in EU law. It involves genotyping of flocks, retention of scrapie resistant sheep for breeding, disposal of scrapie susceptible sheep and strict controls over purchases into and sales from the flock. I believe that this accelerated "breeding for resistance" programme for infected flocks will result in long term benefits, both in terms of scrapie resistance and the marketability of their sheep, for farmers whose flocks are affected.

The package available for such farmers includes free genotyping of the flock, free genotyping of a limited number of replacement rams, live valuation of breeding stock, an additional "hardship" payment for breeding ewes, and a flat rate payment for factory lambs which, by virtue of their susceptibility to scrapie, are required to be disposed of outside of the human food and animal feed chains. I believe that this is a reasonable, balanced package.

However, I am at present reflecting on whether a minor adjustment to the flat rate lamb price is warranted, having regard to recent increases in lamb prices and taking into account that any linkage of this rate to current lamb prices will expose affected farmers to troughs in the market as well as peaks.

Farm Gate Prices.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

231 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the details of the annual changes in the farm gate price paid for apples since 1995; and the corresponding changes in retail price. [11596/04]

Average annual farm gate prices for eating apples since 1995, are detailed in Table 1. Table 2 details average price per kilo of eating apples, according to a survey carried out on behalf of Bord Glas, for week ending 8 December 2002, and week ending 7 December 2003. Comprehensive prices for apples at retail level are not available to my Department.

Table 1

Year

Average Price per tonne

1996

508

1997

508

1998

470

1999

229

2000

160

2001

375

2002

117

2003

390

Table 2

W/E 8 December 2002 Price per Kilo

W/E 7 December 2003 Price per Kilo

Total Outlets

2.02

2.13

Total Multiples

2.11

2.16

Total Symbols

1.81

2.18

Total Greengrocer/Fruiterer

1.74

1.94

Common Agricultural Policy.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

232 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the impact which the possibility of up to one million acres of extra tillage land becoming available under the new CAP regime will have on the future of farming here; and the way in which this will require a re-evaluation of the strategy outlined in Vision. [11619/04]

The requirement that, in order to draw down the single payment, farmers would have to have 100% of the average land area that they had during the reference period would have resulted in serious problems for certain categories of Irish farmers. For instance, some 56,000 hectares of land has been planted with forestry during the period 2000-03 and quite an amount of land has been acquired under compulsory purchase order by local authorities. In addition, certain farmers who had land rented in or leased in during the reference period may no longer have access to that land. The 100% requirement would therefore have undoubtedly contributed further to an increase in the cost of rented land from 2005 onwards.

I believe that the detailed rules that I have negotiated are in the best interests of Irish farmers and Irish agriculture. I am satisfied that Irish farmers will continue to farm all utilisable agricultural land as they traditionally have done.

The strategies and recommendations contained in the Agri-Food 2010 report are being examined in the context of developments since that report was completed. A broadly based group under the chairmanship of Mr. Alan Dukes will address the issues and challenges, including the introduction of the single farm payment, facing the Irish agri-food sector up to 2015.

Grant Payments.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

233 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan can expect to receive headage payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11653/04]

The person named was paid his full entitlement under the 2003 area-based compensatory allowance scheme amounting to €3,785.40 on 22 September 2003.

The person named applied for premium on 17 animals under the 2003 suckler cow premium scheme. An 80% advance payment amounting to €2,151.84 issued on 17 October 2003. This represented payment for 12 animals, the number of suckler cow quota rights on record for the herdowner. The 20% balancing payment is due to issue shortly.

The person named lodged one application in respect of 21 animals under the 2003 special beef premium scheme and has been paid the 80% advance in respect of these animals. The 20% balancing payment on these animals is due to issue to the person named shortly.

The person named had 23 animals slaughtered under the 2003 slaughter premium scheme and has been paid 80% advance payment on all these animals. The 20% balancing payments are due to issue to the person named shortly.

Payment of 2003 extensification premium is not scheduled to commence until June. The person named opted to participate in the premium but is it too early to confirm if he will qualify for payment.

Horticultural Enterprises.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

234 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the proportion of horticultural enterprises which have participated to date in the Bord Glas business management training programme. [11654/04]

The Bord Glas business management training programme has been in operation since 1998. Since that year 235 horticultural enterprises have participated in the programme. Participation dropped from 89 participants in 2000 to 15 in 2002 and the scheme was suspended in 2003 in order to assess the reasons for the large drop in participation.

The programme has been resumed in 2004. To date, this year there have been 20 participants in the programme. An opportunity to participate will be given to the rest of the industry during the year.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

235 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his views on whether the potential referred to in An Bord Glas Development Plan 2000-2006 for significant growth in the organic sector is being realised; and the level of growth in the sector since 1998. [11655/04]

Bord Bia's comments relate specifically to horticulture and it is clear that there is substantial scope for growth in this sector. Currently the demand for organic fruit and vegetables, even those that can be produced in Ireland, is frequently met by imports. There is a gap in the market that provides an opportunity for farmers willing to consider it, particularly after decoupling when farmers will be able to consider a wider range of options.

The organic sector in Ireland as a whole remains small, however, in comparison to some other countries in the EU, although it has grown in recent years and sales of organic food were worth €38 million in 2003. Currently there are some 1,000 organic operators registered with my Department, and approximately 30,000 hectares of land are being farmed to organic standards.

A national steering group, established on foot of a recommendation in the organic development committee report, acts as the driving force for the development of the sector. It also monitors progress on the implementation of the recommendations. As part of the implementation strategy, a draft organic horticultural development plan, prepared in consultation with relevant stakeholders, will be presented to the next meeting of the group.

Farm Indebtedness.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

236 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the figure for the level of farm indebtedness for 2003. [11656/04]

The figure for farmer indebtedness in 2003 was €1,136 million. This is a reduction of €99 million or 8% on the equivalent figure for 2002.

Horticultural Enterprises.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

237 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he envisages an increase in the horticultural sector as farmers’ production decisions change with the advent of the decoupled single farm payment. [11657/04]

The regulatory provisions establishing the single payment scheme prohibit the growing of fruit and vegetables on lands declared for aid under the scheme and a farmers decision to diversify to the production of horticultural products on such land will be determined by this fact. However, the horticultural sector has operated outside the direct payment system since its inception and due to the relatively small area of land involved and the specialised nature of the enterprise, the impact of the policy change should have only a limited effect on horticulture output.

The horticulture sector has undergone considerable change in recent years and has grown to be a significant entity within the overall agriculture industry. Farm gate value, excluding potatoes, increased by some 6% over the past three years from €267 million in 2001 to €283 million in 2003. It is expected that output from the sector will continue to increase to meet the changing demands of the market place and consumer preferences.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

238 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his views on whether the reduction in research and development into fruit production by Teagasc has impaired the ability of domestic producers to compete with the high level of imports. [11658/04]

Research and development work in Teagasc has provided the knowledge to allow growers extend the season of production using protective structures with appropriate cultivars. From this work, together with input from the Teagasc advisory service, the nature of the industry has changed from outdoor field production, subject to the vagaries of the weather, to indoor production which is much more sustainable in our climate. Soft fruit can now be grown from April to November in this country and the volume and value of strawberries, the most important fruit crop, have more than doubled during the last four years. Imports occur mainly at times of the year when Irish fruit is not available. There is also consumer demand for more exotic products which are not grown in Ireland for climatic and economic reasons.

While the Teagasc soft fruit research centre at Clonroche was closed in September 2003, research work is continuing at other centres and Teagasc is fully committed to continue providing the vital technology services to underpin a competitive Irish soft fruit production sector.

Grant Payments.

John Perry

Ceist:

239 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will ensure that a person (details supplied) receives the ten month special beef premium on this animal in view of the fact that they contacted the Department on 16 April 2004 and if he will give this case serious consideration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11713/04]

Under EU regulations governing the special beef premium scheme, applicants are required to hold all animals applied on for a two month retention period, beginning on the date after receipt of the application by my Department.

In circumstances where an individual fails to comply fully with the provisions of governing regulations, my Department conducts a review in order to establish the circumstances involved. My Department will be writing to the person named in order to establish the precise circumstances of the case before arriving at a final decision.

Milk Quota.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

240 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will intervene in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary who has applied for additional quota under the hardship scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11746/04]

Allocations of milk quota from the national reserve are granted on the basis of recommendations from the Milk Quota Appeals Tribunal. The tribunal is a body established to consider and advise on applications for additional quota from individual producers who have suffered severe hardship in the context of the milk quota system.

The named person submitted an application for additional quota on the grounds of hardship in the 2003-04 milk quota year. However, there was insufficient quota available in the 2003-04 year to enable the tribunal to deal with all applications received and some, including that from the named individual, have been held over for consideration in the 2004-05 quota year. The tribunal will begin dealing with these cases in the autumn and it will not be necessary for the person to make a fresh application.

The tribunal also considers applications from producers whose herds have been restricted by animal disease, TB or brucellosis, during the quota year. There is no record of the person named having submitted an application on the grounds of animal disease in the 2003-04 year. However, if his herd is restricted in the current 2004-05 quota year he may apply under the animal disease scheme when the forms become available in the autumn.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

241 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the proposed changes he intends to introduce in relation to funding of the REP scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11760/04]

I have provided €260 million funding for the REP scheme for 2004. This is a 43% increase over the outturn for 2003. It will allow me to accommodate increased numbers of farmers in the scheme and to pay them the higher rates agreed in Sustaining Progress, once the European Commission has given its approval to proposals for amendments to the scheme which it is currently considering. The payment rates agreed in Sustaining Progress, which will represent an average increase of 28% to farmers, are €200 per hectare annually on the first 20 hectares, €175 on the next 20 hectares, and €70 on a further 15. At present, the basic rate is €165 per hectare on farms under 20 hectares; on farms up to 40 hectares the rate is €151 per hectare and there is no payment on areas over 40 hectares.

Regional Laboratories.

David Stanton

Ceist:

242 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the plans he has concerning the regional veterinary laboratory, the dairy science laboratory and the brucellosis laboratory located on Model Farm Road in Cork; if it is his intention to move these facilities to other locations and if so to indicate where; the number of staff employed in each laboratory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11803/04]

As I announced on 22 April it has been decided to establish, in Macroom, a new regional laboratory complex for Munster. Accordingly the three laboratories at Model Farm Road will be relocated there. There are 14 staff employed in the regional veterinary laboratory, 11 staff in the dairy science laboratory and 55 staff in the brucellosis laboratory on the Model Farm Road.

David Stanton

Ceist:

243 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the amount spent in the past five years in refurbishment and upgrading the Department of Agriculture and Food laboratories located in Model Farm Road, Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11804/04]

My Department spent some €350,000 over the past five years on the maintenance, refurbishment and upgrading of the laboratories at Model Farm Road, Cork City.

Decentralisation Programme.

David Stanton

Ceist:

244 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he has made changes to his plans to relocate the Department of Agricultural staff from the premises in the South Mall in Cork to Macroom; if so, the nature of these changes; the time scale of any such movement of staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11805/04]

The Government has decided to further develop my Department's decentralisation programme for Cork and the Munster region. It has been decided to establish a new regional laboratory headquarters for Munster in Macroom. This will involve the amalgamation of the three existing laboratories at present located in the Model Farm Road, Cork, and the two laboratories in Limerick into a modern laboratory facility in Macroom employing up to 100 staff.

It has been decided to relocate the Department's local office from the South Mall, Cork City to Fermoy. These relocations will be included as part of the Government's overall decentralisation plan as outlined in the report of the decentralisation implementation group of 31 March last.

Horticultural Exports.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

245 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the proportion of imports and exports of fruit and vegetables in 2002 which came from or went to the Six Counties. [11806/04]

According to the CSO, a total amount of 30,732 tonnes of fruit and vegetables were imported from Northern Ireland in 2002. This represented 4.7% of total imports of fruit and vegetables for 2002.

CSO figures for exports show that 34,707 tonnes of fruit and vegetables were exported to Northern Ireland in 2002. This represented 23.5% of total exports of fruit and vegetables for 2002.

Grant Payments.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

246 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Clare can expect to receive payment of a grant regarding a bulk tank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11817/04]

The above named person is an applicant under the dairy hygiene scheme. A payment of €4,063.20 issued to the person concerned on 15 April 2004.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

247 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if he will consider bringing all farmers who joined the ERS prior to 2000, up to the same level of pension received by those farmers who joined the scheme after that date. [11818/04]

The rate of pension payable under the 1994 scheme of early retirement from farming is the maximum provided for in the EU Council regulation under which the scheme was introduced. The regulation did not provide for any increase in the rate of payment.

Single Payment Scheme.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

248 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his views on the loss of quota by a person (details supplied) in County Offaly in the farm retirement scheme in light of the fact that one of the reasons they joined the early retirement scheme was to protect their quotas for their child who is studying agriculture; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11819/04]

Under the European Council regulation introducing the single payment scheme, a farmer may have access to the scheme if he or she was an active farmer during the reference years of 2000, 2001 and 2002 and if he or she received payments under the livestock premia and/or arable aid schemes. In addition, farmers for whom entitlements will be established must activate the entitlements in 2005 by continuing to farm and by submitting an area aid declaration in that year. In general, farmers must also have an eligible hectare of land for each payment entitlement.

The person referred to in the question joined the scheme of early retirement from farming in September 1999. Farmers in her situation, who had leased their holdings during the entire reference period and were not farming, will not have any entitlements established for them under the single payment scheme. Persons who were leasing their lands and were active farmers in the reference period will have entitlements established for them. It should be noted that entitlements are attached to the farmer who was actively farming during the reference period and are not attached to the land.

During the Council negotiations last year I secured agreement that farmers, including the offspring of farmers who retired before the reference period, who take over the holding that was leased out during the reference period at some date in the future will be able to apply to the national reserve for payment entitlements under the single payment scheme.

Animal Medicines.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

249 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food, further to Parliamentary Question No. 154 of 18 October 2003, his plans for intramammary medicines; if he has received the report of the Irish Medicines Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11957/04]

On 16 February 2004 I announced that my Department had finalised its review of the national veterinary medicines control regime. I said then that it is appropriate to make a number of changes to the 1996 animal remedies regulations to accommodate not only the IMB report, but also to take account of a range of developments since the legislation was put in place and prospective developments, including at EU level. Developments include amendments to the rules governing prescribing by veterinary surgeons which,inter alia, will enable intramammaries to be brought under a workable and effective prescription control regime, thus giving effect to the key recommendation of the IMB report. It is important to recall that the IMB report on this issue was founded on public health concerns relating to the use of antibiotics and the growth in the human population of anti-microbial resistance, which has implications for health management and the treatment of illnesses.

My Department has conducted a round of briefing sessions with stakeholders to outline the proposed changes. Consideration is being given to submissions which have been received, following which the animal remedies consultative committee will be convened as required by the relevant legislation to consider the proposed changes. I intend to implement the relevant changes at an early date.

Departmental Offices.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

250 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food further to Parliamentary Question No. 62 of 5 February 2004, the situation regarding temporary accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11962/04]

Some 25 of the Department's local office staff in Roscommon moved to new temporary accommodation at Circular Road, Roscommon, on 22 March last.

Proposed Legislation.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

251 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the plans he has to review section 29A of the Diseases of Animals Act 1966 and the associated 45 holding period for dealers; when he intends to publish the animal health Bill 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11968/04]

Having received the necessary Government approval, my Department is working on drafting an animal health Bill to consolidate and update the Diseases of Animals Act 1966 and sequential legislation. When this work has been brought to an advanced stage the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel will be involved in concluding the drafting of the Bill.

The Department of Agriculture and Food is considering all existing provisions of the Diseases of Animals Act 1966 to determine whether and to what extent they need to be changed. I intend to bring forward legislation that can serve the country well in the years ahead and that will strengthen the means available to the Government to protect and enhance the health status of our herds, flocks, etc. Not only will this entail having the most effective possible legislative means of dealing with real or potential animal disease threats which may emerge, but it also involves providing a modern legislative environment within which good practice in agriculture, livestock farming, animal husbandry, bio-security trading, marketing, etc. can be promoted and supported. Notwithstanding the fact that the provisions of the 1966 Act are being reviewed in the course of drafting the animal health Bill, it will continue to be important to maintain a distinction between dealers and others involved with livestock. I expect to be in a position to publish the animal health Bill early in 2005.

Agenda 2000.

Michael Noonan

Ceist:

252 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a decision will be made in connection with force majeure and exceptional circumstances in respect of the establishment of entitlements under the mid-term review of the Agenda 2000 single payment scheme Council Regulation EC 1782-2003 (details supplied). [12008/04]

The person named submitted an application form for consideration offorce majeure and exceptional circumstances on 20 January 2004 in respect of the single payment scheme. He requested that the earlier reference years of 1997, 1998 and 1999 be applied in regard to his particular circumstance. A formal notification of the decision in this case has been issued to the person named. If the application is unsuccessful, the person in question can, if he wishes, appeal the outcome of the decision in his case to the single payment appeals committee.

Michael Noonan

Ceist:

253 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a decision will be made in connection with the force majeure and exceptional circumstances in relation to the establishment of entitlements under the mid-term review of the Agenda 2000 single payment scheme Council Regulation EC 1782-2003 (details supplied). [12009/04]

The person named submitted an application for consideration offorce majeure and exceptional circumstances on 14 January 2004 in respect of the single payment scheme. Processing of in excess of 14,000 applications is ongoing and the person named will be notified of my Department’s decision in his case very shortly.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

John Perry

Ceist:

254 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a favourable decision will be made on the REP of a person (details supplied) in view of the circumstances outlines on the enclosed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12010/04]

An appeal by the person named against a REPS penalty was lodged with my Department's local office for consideration. The appeal has been examined and my Department is in direct contact on the matter with the person named.

Question No. 255 withdrawn.

Animal Identification Scheme.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

256 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow who has incurred a penalty as some of the tags on their animals were the old steel ones; if this decision can be re-examined in view of the fact that they were unwell; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12141/04]

Under EU regulations governing the special beef premium scheme, applicants are required to ensure that all animals on a farm are properly tagged and properly recorded on the CMMS database to ensure compliance with traceability requirements. When the case in question was selected for inspection, it was found that the animals presented had brass tags. The person named, who was advised of regulatory penalties on 31 December 2003, has not appealed the decision as is his right if he wishes. Any appeal request should clearly set out the circumstances involved and be supported by appropriate documentation. When a penalty of any kind is applied to a payment due to a herd owner under the special beef premium and/or suckler cow premium schemes, a penalty in the same proportion must also be applied to any payment due under the extensification premium, in accordance with EU rules.

Tuberculosis Incidence.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

257 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if this can be awarded as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12143/04]

Two TB reactor animals were valued on 30 March and slaughtered on 15 April 2004. The net differential valuation payment can be processed as soon as the required documentation is received by the district veterinary office, including the factory invoice which must be forwarded by the person concerned.

Tax Code.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

258 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Finance his views on the payment of VAT by second level schools; if his attention has been drawn to the significant reduction this has in the grant for the science lab which he has paid to schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11829/04]

In accordance with the sixth EU VAT directive and Irish VAT law, primary and secondary level schools and other educational institutions, are exempt from VAT. This means they do not charge VAT on the services they supply, but cannot recover VAT on the goods and services they purchase. Only VAT registered businesses which charge VAT are able to recover VAT, essentially. It is normal for State funded services, such as schools or hospitals, to bear VAT on their purchases. However, Exchequer funding for such services, including primary and secondary schools, takes account of VAT when allocations are being made by the Government. I understand from my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Noel Dempsey, that the proposed expenditure on science laboratory refurbishment for this year includes €2 million for immediate urgent refurbishment works and €10.5 million for equipment for junior science technology.

Disabled Drivers.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

259 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the situation pertaining to the blind in relation to their entitlements to VRT, etc., on the purchase of a car; if their entitlements are the same as those for disabled persons in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11144/04]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) scheme. The scheme provides a range of tax reliefs in connection with the purchase and use of vehicles by drivers, passengers and organisations. It is a fundamental requirement for the relief that the applicant must meet the medical criteria specified in the regulations and be in possession of a primary medical certificate to that effect issued by the appropriate senior area medical officer, who is an official of the local health board. It should be noted that the medical criteria relate, essentially, to disabilities that affect the physical mobility of the person. If the issue of the required certificate is refused, an appeal can be made to the disabled drivers' medical board of appeal, an independent body whose decision is final.

The medical criteria for the purposes of the tax concession under this scheme are set out in the 1994 disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) regulations. A qualifying person must satisfy one or more of the six types of disablement listed under the regulations. The six types of disablement are persons who are wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs; persons who are wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs; persons without both hands or without both arms; persons without one or both legs; persons wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg; and persons having the medical condition of dwarfism and has serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

An individual who qualifies under the medical criteria I have outlined is issued with a primary medical certificate. Possession of such a certificate provides for remission or repayment of VRT and a repayment of VAT on the purchase of the vehicle and on the cost of adapting the vehicle. Repayment of the excise duty on fuel used in the motor vehicle and exemption from annual road tax to local authorities are also provided for. The Revenue Commissioners are unable to consider an application for the relief without the issue of a valid primary medical certificate.

As I have indicated in replies to previous questions on this issue, an interdepartmental review group has examined the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) scheme. I have received the group's report, which is being considered. Any recommendations contained in the report in respect of the medical criteria and other conditions of the scheme will receive full consideration. I am not aware of any scheme that entitles the blind to relief of VRT on the purchase of a car. Schemes run by the Department of Health and Children, such as the mobility allowance scheme and the motorised transport grant may be of interest to the Deputy.

National Pensions Reserve Fund.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

260 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider giving direction to the National Treasury Management Agency to divest the estimated €47 million shareholding in ExxonMobil corporation which is held within the National Pensions Reserve Fund and to reinvest the same money in renewable energy companies; and if the Government shares the concern of environmental groups about the refusal of the ExxonMobil corporation to accept the science of climate change, their failure to invest in new renewable energy technologies or to pay the €7 billion fines for the Exxon Valdez oil disaster which occurred in 1989. [11177/04]

The National Pensions Reserve Fund is managed by commissioners who are independent of the Government. They control and manage the fund with discretionary authority to determine and implement an investment strategy for the fund. The strategy is based on a commercial investment mandate with the objective of securing the optimal return over the long term having regard to the purpose of the fund, as set out in section 18(1) of the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000, and the payment requirements of the fund as provided for under section 20 of the Act, provided the level of risk to the moneys held or invested is acceptable to the commission.

The features of the Act are similar to trustee arrangements which exist in private pension funds. Along with the statutory prohibition on draw-downs from the fund prior to 2025, they insulate the fund from day-to-day pressures on Government and enable the commission to take a long-term view. This is essential if the purpose for which the fund was established, to meet as much as possible of the cost to the Exchequer of pension payments from 2025 until 2055, at least, is to be achieved.

Section 19 of the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000 provides that in investing fund moneys the commission will seek to optimise total financial return provided the level of risk is acceptable to the commission. Therefore, the commission is required to adopt a standard commercial investment policy and it does not have the discretion to choose not to invest in particular sectors or companies for anything other than commercial reasons.

In determining the investment policy of the fund during the drafting of the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act, I considered whether the policy should be strictly commercial or whether it should be qualified by ethical, environment and other public policy criteria. A major difficulty in deciding on an ethical investment policy is where to draw the line, given that there will inevitably be different opinions and intense debate on what constitutes ethical and socially responsible investments. There is unlikely to be broad consensus on any ethical investment policy. I have no plans to revisit this aspect of the matter.

Under the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act, the chairperson of the commission is required to appear before the Committee of Public Accounts at that committee's request. Furthermore, the commission's annual report must be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and is required to include a detailed list of the fund's assets at the end of the year. The commission's report for 2002 was published on 23 July 2003. The commission is specifically required to include in its report information on the investment strategy followed, a report on the investment return achieved by the fund and a valuation of the net assets of the fund at the end of the year. These requirements are designed to ensure that detailed information concerning the fund is made available to the public at the appropriate time.

Tax Clearance Certificates.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

261 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance if an application for a C2 certificate by a person (details supplied) in County Meath is expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11200/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that an application for a C2 certificate from the person in question was processed on 5 April 2004. The taxpayer will receive a notification advising when the certificate is printed and ready for collection. I am further advised that the process of producing a certificate, which is a laminated card complete with photographic identity, generally takes three to four weeks.

National Monuments.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

262 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance the cost of cleaning and refurbishment of the statue of Albert Saxe-Coburg-Gotha on Leinster Lawn. [11254/04]

The total cost of cleaning and refurbishing the statue of Albert Saxe-Coburg-Gotha on Leinster Lawn is €9,080. When a survey of the condition of the statue was undertaken, it was established that conservation work was necessary. The statue is by Dublin born sculptor John Henry Foley, 1818-1874, who is considered one of Ireland's most eminent sculptors of the 19th century. The bronze figure of Albert is flanked on its pedestal by the bronze figures of four youths who represent agriculture, art, industry and science. The refurbishment of the four figures was included in the total cost.

Pension Provisions.

Barry Andrews

Ceist:

263 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Finance if he will ensure coherence in Government policy by matching his expressed desire to keep persons in the workforce for longer by ensuring that pension contributions after the 40th year of public service employment is matched by increases in pension entitlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11255/04]

It is long-standing practice in public service pension schemes for maximum benefits to be based on 40 years' service, with service beyond 40 years conferring no additional benefits. Based on a standard accrual rate of one eightieth per year of service, this allows retiring public servants who have 40 years' service to qualify for a lump sum of one and a half times their salary and a pension benefit equivalent to half salary. Most public service pension schemes, whether contributory or non-contributory, are financed by the Exchequer on a pay-as-you-go basis. In defined benefit contributory schemes, this means that members' contributions do not determine the final salary benefits they can expect to receive on retirement. In such cases the employee contribution represents only a small part of the total cost to the employer of a public service defined benefit occupational pension. These benefits compare favourably with provision in the private sector and international public service arrangements. I do not intend to improve them for persons whose service exceeds 40 years.

The Deputy's question makes reference to the issue of persons remaining longer in the workforce. In this connection, I consider the recent enactment of the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004 to be an important measure, in that the requirement to retire on age grounds will not apply to most new entrants to the public service from 1 April 2004. There is no lack of coherence, therefore, between the policy for new entrants to the service contained in the Act and the maximum accrual of 40 years, in view of the excellent pension benefits available to public servants.

Flood Relief.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

264 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if the OPW will provide the necessary works on a river at Cloonferth, Ballyheane, Castlebar to prevent the flooding of the land of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [11292/04]

An official from the Office of Public Works recently visited the person referred to in the question. The channel for which the OPW is responsible is in good condition and does not require maintenance works at present. Drainage works required to other channels in the vicinity are a matter for the relevant landowners.

Question No. 265 withdrawn.

Tax Code.

Sean Fleming

Ceist:

266 Mr. Fleming asked the Minister for Finance if tax relief can be claimed on expenditure on in vitro fertilisation as part of the medical expenses claimable by a PAYE taxpayer. [11334/04]

In accordance with the provisions of section 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, tax relief may be claimed on certain unreimbursed medical expenses incurred by a taxpayer and his or her qualifying dependants. For the purposes of the relief,in vitro fertilisation is regarded as treatment in respect of infertility and tax relief may be claimed on expenses incurred in respect of such treatment provided it is obtained in a hospital approved for the purposes of the tax relief. Where such treatment is obtainable only outside the State, reasonable expenses of travelling and accommodation for the patient may be allowed. A full list of approved hospitals is available on the Revenue Commissioners website, www.revenue.ie, as is a full explanatory leaflet on the tax relief relating to health expenses.

Mayo Landslide.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

267 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if the OPW have plans to accommodate the late applicants for funding after the landslides of September 2003 in Pullathomas, Ballina, County Mayo; and if so, when funding will be granted to them. [11335/04]

Michael Ring

Ceist:

273 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if the OPW has given funding to Mayo County Council for the erection of protective barriers on Dooncarton mountain in north Mayo to prevent landslides such as those of September 2003. [11556/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 267 and 273 together.

There are no plans to provide additional funds by way of humanitarian aid for those affected by the landslides at Pullathomas, Ballina, County Mayo. The funding of protective barriers is not a matter for the Office of Public Works. The question of State funding, if any, is more appropriate to the local authority and/or the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Departmental Staff.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

268 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance if he will allocate extra staff to the RCT section of the Revenue Commissioners in Limerick which are under staffed and unable to deal with customer queries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11392/04]

Matters relating to the administration of the tax system, including the deployment of resources, are a matter in the first instance for the Revenue Commissioners. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the RCT section of its Limerick office is adequately staffed and that customer queries are handled in a timely fashion, within the parameters of the Revenue Commissioners published customer service standards. The Revenue Commissioners have advised me that they will be happy to examine any specific case that may give rise to a particular concern if the details of any such case are made available to them.

Garda Stations.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

269 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Finance the consultations he has had in respect of the redevelopment of the Tallaght Garda station site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11417/04]

A meeting between officials of the Office of Public Works, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and local Garda management was held at Tallaght Garda station on 7 April 2004. The meeting was held to discuss the proposals OPW has formulated for the redevelopment of Tallaght Garda station. It was agreed that a revised brief for the Garda station will be drawn up by the Garda. The brief will be forwarded through the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to the OPW to enable a sketch scheme to be prepared.

Departmental Appointments.

Mae Sexton

Ceist:

270 Ms Sexton asked the Minister for Finance if the only avenue to become an established civil servant is through the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission; and if he has the power in certain circumstances to appoint without recourse to the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission. [11435/04]

Under section 13(1) of the Civil Service Commissioners Act 1956, no person shall be appointed to an established position in the Civil Service unless the commissioners, after holding a competition under section 15 of the Act, have, under Section 17, selected him or her for appointment to that position. The Local Appointments Commissioners have no role in this regard. Section 13(1) of the Act does not apply to an appointment to an established position where the Minister, or the appropriate authority with the consent of the Minister, recommends an appointment to an established position and the Government, having considered such recommendation, decides that such an appointment would be in the public interest. This provision has not been used in the past 20 years. The Deputy might wish to note that political appointments such as special advisers and personal assistants are appointed to unestablished positions and are co-terminus with the Minister's term of office.

Tax Code.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

271 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if a refund of income tax is due in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11475/04]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the person concerned has not yet submitted a claim for a refund of tax. An official from the Revenue Commissioners has contacted the person concerned by telephone and established the query was of a general nature. However, if the individual wishes to claim a refund of income tax, details of the claim, together with any relevant documentation, should be addressed to Mr. Don McNally, Inspector of Taxes, Kildare PAYE, Grattan House, Lower Mount Street, Dublin 2, at telephone number 01 647 4441.

Garda Stations.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

272 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance if a decision has been made on the site for the new Garda station in Castleisland, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11504/04]

The Commissioners of Public Works are considering a number of sites in Castleisland for a new Garda station on behalf of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The acquisition of a suitably serviced site will depend on an acceptable price being reached with the vendor, and the priority accorded to Castleisland by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Question No. 273 answered with QuestionNo. 267.

Mayo Landslide.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

274 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if a working group has been established to discuss the problems of people in north Mayo affected by the landslides of 2003; if so, the chair of this group; and if the persons concerned will be part of the group. [11558/04]

The Mayo County Manager established an implementation working group to examine issues arising from the landslides at Pullathomas and Glengad, County Mayo and asked that Office of Public Works be represented on the group. The group also includes representatives from the Departments of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The group is chaired by an official of Mayo County Council. The question of representation on the group is a matter for Mayo County Council.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

275 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the manner in which the professional requirements of posts being decentralised will be handled under the proposed central applications facility in order that only persons with requisite skills will be assigned to specialist roles in the decentralised bodies. [11585/04]

The intention of the central applications facility is to allow staff, in all participating organisations, apply for transfer to locations in the decentralisation programme. The exact terms and conditions which will allow access from one sector to another and across professional streams are the subject of on-going detailed discussions with the trade unions. In the interim, all staff may apply indicating an expression of interest in a particular post.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

276 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the present accommodation of offices proposed to be decentralised, indicating the square footage, the form of lease, the rental, the termination date of the lease and the penalty for early termination; and the proposed new accommodation, indicating the square footage, the proposed form of lease and the rental of similar properties in the area. [11586/04]

The State rents some 200,000 sq. m. of office space in the Dublin area at a cost in the region of €70 million per annum. In addition, the State uses some 230,000 sq. m. of State-owned office accommodation in Dublin. Under the decentralisation programme in excess of 200,000 sq. m. of office accommodation will be required in the regions for staff moving out of Dublin. A broadly equivalent amount of space will, as a consequence, be no longer required in the Dublin area.

The issues surrounding the disposal of surplus Dublin space, both owned and leased, are being addressed. In this context, the specific circumstances associated with each building including location, quality and design, tenure, office area and whether its leasehold or freehold will be taken into account. The relocation of Departments and offices within the Dublin portfolio with a view to the optimum consolidation of Dublin office space will also be taken into account. The timing of property disposals and the market value of a building can be greatly affected by prevailing market conditions including a significant influx of properties to the market is another factor for consideration. The question of whether the new accommodation in the regions will be leased, newly built by the State or purchased, depends on the circumstances in each particular case. In general, rental levels in the regions tend to be lower than those applying in the Dublin area.

Pension Provisions.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

277 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Finance the date on which the Government decided, in accordance with section 5 of the Civil Service Regulation Act 1956, to abolish the office of a person (details supplied) in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11646/04]

Mary Upton

Ceist:

278 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Finance the reason for the decision to withhold a special severance gratuity payable under section 7 of the Superannuation and Pensions Act 1963 from a person (details supplied) in his Department whose office was abolished under section 5 of the Civil Service Regulation Act 1956; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11647/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 277 and 278 together.

While to date, normal provisions for employment of civil servants provided for retirement after 40 years of service, provision is made for early retirement on grounds of abolition of office under section (6) of the Superannuation and Pensions Act 1963. The person named in the details supplied retired from the Civil Service on 18 August 1993 and received added years of service under the terms of section 6 of the Superannuation and Pensions Act 1963. This was considered, in light of all the information available, and following protracted correspondence with the person concerned, and their legal advisors, to be the most appropriate in the circumstances. No payment was made under section 7 of the Superannuation and Pensions Act 1963.

Archaeological Sites.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

279 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance if the flood lighting system at Jerpoint Abbey, Kilkenny is fully operational; if wheelchair access throughout the site will be provided; and if ramps will be provided as soon as possible. [11687/04]

The floodlighting system at Jerpoint Abbey is fully operational. However, one of the floodlights has a faulty bulb. A replacement bulb has been ordered and delivery is awaited. Wheelchair access is already provided to all ground floor areas of the site.

Tax Collection.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

280 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Finance if he will review the tax liability of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6W; and if this person is paying the appropriate level of tax. [11688/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a capital gains tax return for the year 2002 was received from the taxpayer on 7 November 2003 together with a capital gains tax computation setting out a liability of €4,515 on a capital distribution received from Scottish Provident in 2002. A bank draft for €4,515 was also received.

A notice of assessment to capital gains tax was issued on 30 December 2003 setting out the liability to capital gains tax at €4,740.75 to include a 5% surcharge of €225.75. The surcharge was applied as the return was not submitted on time on 31 October 2003. The taxpayer paid the surcharge of €225.75 on 13 January 2004.

On examination of the covering letter, dated 5 November 2003, submitted with the return, the taxpayer indicated that the delay in submitting the return was due to the fact that as her post was being redirected to her sisters she did not receive a letter from Scottish Provident advising her of her obligations until after the return filing date.

In the circumstances, the Revenue Commissioners are prepared to waive the surcharge of €225.75 and have arranged for the issue of an amended notice of assessment to capital gains tax for 2002 together with a repayment of €225.75.

Disabled Drivers.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

281 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 86 of 7 April 2004, if he will immediately publish the interdepartmental report of the review group on the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions scheme in order to speed up the decision making process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11793/04]

As I have said in a reply to a previous Parliamentary Question, the interdepartmental report of the review group on the disabled drivers' and disabled passengers' tax concessions scheme is under consideration in my Department. The report is a substantive one and needs to be studied carefully. On completion of this process, I envisage that the report will be made available publicly. In the Dáil debate on the Finance Bill 2004, I stated that I intended that the report would go to Government and would be published this year.

Decentralisation Programme.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

282 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if he will take steps to ensure that all staff in all Departments are informed of their jobs decentralised location prior to the trawl for applicants which is due to commence shortly. [11794/04]

Arrangements are being made to provide staff with final details of the work units, grades and numbers to be decentralised to each of the published locations in advance of the launch of the central applications facility. This information will also be made available to the trade unions.

Tax Code.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

283 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if an individual wishes to sell part of their yard attached to their commercial premises that is also their main residence will have to pay capital gains tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11854/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a disposal of a yard which is attached to a commercial premises and where the premises is also a principal private residence, will give rise to a chargeable gain subject to capital gains tax.

The sale of the yard will constitute a part-disposal of the entire property and a calculation of capital gain will be made. It will then be necessary to apportion the gain between commercial and private use. To the extent that the yard had a use as part of a principal private residence and the yard was not development land, the part of gain referable to that principal private residence use will be exempted. The part of the gain referable to commercial use will be charged to capital gains tax.

However, if the yard is development land where the proceeds represent more than current use value, then a calculation of overall gain will be made and capital gains tax will apply as follows. The increase in current use value will be chargeable and indexation relief will be available only in respect of years to 2002. The increase in development value will be chargeable and indexation relief will not be available. If the gain referable is to principal private residential use then the increase in current use value will be exempt. The increase in development value will be chargeable and indexation relief will not be available.

Section 604 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 is the main governing provision but the calculation in the circumstances described are a little complex. It is, therefore, suggested that the individual in question should contact the relevant inspector of taxes in the Revenue Commissioners to discuss this particular case in detail.

Non-Resident Accounts.

John Deasy

Ceist:

284 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Finance the process of notification utilised by the Revenue Commissioners and financial institutions when contacting holders of bogus non-resident accounts and offshore account holders in the investigation into tax avoidance and tax evasion. [11887/04]

In the case of the investigation into bogus non-resident accounts, the Revenue Commissioners conducted on site DIRT look-back audits on 37 financial institutions during 1999 and 2000. The focus of these audits was the DIRT position of the financial institutions concerned. In the course of this audit programme, many bogus non-resident deposit accounts that belonged to taxpayers were identified.

The Revenue Commissioners issued a statement of practice, SP-Gen 1/01, in May 2001, which set out a voluntary disclosure incentive scheme for taxpayers who held bogus non-resident deposit accounts and who wished to disclose and pay all their outstanding tax liabilities by 15 November 2001. This approach to the bogus non-resident account problem was extensively publicised at the time. Many taxpayers took the opportunity that was offered and payments of €227 million were made under the disclosure scheme.

Inquiry work commenced on 16 November 2001 to identify taxpayers who chose not to avail of the voluntary disclosure scheme. Eighteen applications for High Court orders under Section 908, Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 were obtained. These High Court orders required the relevant financial institutions to supply names, addresses and other relevant information concerning the identities of account holders who held non-resident deposit accounts. This information was the principal basis for identifying holders of bogus non-resident accounts.

Subsequently, inquiry letters were issued by the Revenue Commissioners to those taxpayers who were identified by this process. The inquiry letters sought disclosures and payment of outstanding liabilities within 60 days of the dates of issue. Some, of course, would have no liability. Since 15 November 2001, payments of €285 million have been made to the Revenue Commissioners by taxpayers who held bogus non-resident deposit accounts and who chose not to avail of the voluntary disclosure scheme.

In the case of the investigation into holders of offshore accounts, the Revenue Commissioners advised the relevant financial institutions that an investigation would be initiated from a specified date and that the normal benefits of a qualifying disclosure, as outlined in the code of practice for Revenue auditors, would be available to those who chose to come forward before that date. After the specified date the holders of offshore accounts would no longer be able to make a qualifying disclosure to the Revenue Commissioners and, therefore, benefit from reduced penalties, non-publication and non-prosecution. The financial institutions wrote to the account holders in question advising them of the forthcoming investigation and of the benefits of making a qualifying disclosure. The Revenue Commissioners also publicly advertised the details of the voluntary disclosure scheme and produced a publication to assist people in understanding whether they might have a liability. The deadline to submit a notice of intention to make a qualifying disclosure was 29 March 2004. Some 15,000 individuals have indicated to the Revenue Commissioners that they will be making a disclosure. The people concerned have until 28 May 2004, to submit a statement of disclosure which should contain a tax computation, a payment and a declaration.

The Revenue Commissioners have informed me that where they discover a person to have held an offshore account and has a non-discharged tax liability but has failed to make a voluntary disclosure within the timeframe, that person will be vigorously pursued for unpaid liabilities. Such an individual can expect to receive an inquiry letter from the Revenue Commissioners along the lines of those issued in connection with the investigation into bogus non-resident accounts.

John Deasy

Ceist:

285 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Finance if a deal was struck between the Revenue Commissioners and financial institutions to absolve or indemnify bank officials who may have acted improperly in setting up bogus non-resident accounts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11888/04]

The Revenue Commissioners conducted on site DIRT look-back audits on 37 financial institutions during 1999 and 2000. The focus of these audits was the DIRT position of the financial institutions concerned. In the course of this audit programme, many bogus non-resident deposit accounts that belonged to taxpayers were identified. At its conclusion, financial institutions made payments totalling €220 million to the Revenue Commissioners. These payments represented the DIRT, which should have been deducted together with the related interest and penalties. The Revenue Commissioners made a report on the matter to the Committee of Public Accounts which commented on the outcome of these audits in the final report on the DIRT inquiry, finalised on 3 April 2001.

The Revenue Commissioners have informed me that no evidence was seen in the course of the DIRT look-back audit programme that would support an investigation of an official of a financial institution with a view to prosecution. The Revenue Commissioners also informed me that no deal was struck between them and the financial institutions to absolve or indemnify bank officials who may have acted improperly in setting up bogus non-resident accounts.

With regard to the prosecution of officials from financial institutions who may have assisted in placing funds in bogus non-resident accounts, the primary responsibility for ensuring that a tax return is correct rests with the individual making that return. There is a statutory offence in the tax code of knowingly aiding or abetting another person to make an incorrect tax return. However, generally in the case of third parties, it is difficult to meet the standard of evidence required to incriminate an alleged wrongdoing by a taxpayer who has failed to declare correct income or gains. I understand from the Revenue Commissioners that while, in their experience, aiding and abetting offences are notoriously difficult to prosecute, it would be their general policy to pursue such cases if sufficient evidence becomes available.

Disabled Drivers.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

286 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Finance the reason his Department does not waive vehicle registration tax on motor vehicles for visually impaired persons and their spouses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11896/04]

I assume that the Deputy is referring to the disabled drivers' and disabled passengers' tax concessions scheme under which relief from vehicle registration tax may be given to those who meet the medical criteria of the scheme.

As indicated in replies to previous questions on this issue, an interdepartmental review group has examined the disabled drivers' and disabled passengers' tax concessions scheme. I have received the report of the group and it is being considered. Any recommendations contained in this report on the medical criteria and other conditions of the scheme will receive full consideration. The report is a substantive one and needs to be studied carefully. On completion of this process, I envisage that the report will be made available publicly.

Schools Buildings Projects.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

287 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the proposed acquisition of a site of approximately three acres for a new school for Mell national school in Drogheda, County Louth. [12028/04]

The Commissioners of Public Works act as agents for the Department of Education and Science in the acquisition of sites for primary schools. An advertisement was placed in the local newspapers in March 2004 requesting landowners to forward details of sites suitable for meeting the requirements of Mell national school. However, no response was received. The Commissioners of Public Works are currently evaluating a site identified to them by the school's board of management. This process is expected to be completed by the end of May 2004.

House Prices.

John Bruton

Ceist:

288 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he has asked his services to analyse the methodology and evidence in the reports, UK House Prices: A Critical Assessment, and The UK Housing Market: Bubbles and Buyers, which show a high risk of a housing price bubble in Britain; the similarities and dissimilarities of the content of these reports to the Irish housing market situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter and on evasive action that can be taken to mitigate the risks involved. [12029/04]

I am aware of views expressed by different commentators in this area but the evidence of well-supported demand and continued strong supply would seem to suggest the prospect of an orderly price evolution in the housing market. I noted the April 2004 comprehensive analysis of the housing market by AIB, The Irish Housing Market, that concluded:

Housing supply is at very high levels. However, the market is well underpinned on the demand side, not only by demographic factors but also by investor demand, the strength of demand for second homes and by the level of unsatisfied pent-up demand. Thus, prices are unlikely to crash and the risk of negative equity on any meaningful or material scale is small.

I also noted that the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer is reported as having disputed various negative assessments of the UK housing market.

Garda Stations.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

289 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 125 of 7 November 2002, when works on a Garda station will commence (details supplied); the reasons for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12100/04]

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

290 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 125 of 7 November 2002, when works on a Garda station development will commence (details supplied); the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12101/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 289 and 290 together.

I am advised by the Commissioners of Public Works that, due to financial constraints and the heavy demands being placed on the Garda minor works programme, it was agreed with the Garda Authorities and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform not to proceed with this project in 2003. It is, however, included in the agreed programme of works for 2004. The planning process for the refurbishment scheme is now complete and tender documents are being finalised for issue within the next two weeks. It is anticipated that a contract will be placed in mid-June 2004 and works should commence on site in early July 2004.

With regards to Buncrana, to ensure that there remains operational cell accommodation on the Inishowen peninsula, it was agreed between the Garda authorities and the Commissioners of Public Works to complete cell refurbishment to Burnfoot Garda station before the large scale works at Buncrana commence. In view of the later commencement date of the Burnfoot project, works to Buncrana Garda station will begin upon completion of the cell refurbishment at Burnfoot.

Commonage Areas.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

291 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the position of the Great Heath of Maryborough, County Laois which is subject to common of pasture and is managed by the Office of Public Works; the permissions that have been granted in 2004 to cut and remove from the above area, to deposit spoil on the above area, to enlarge structures on the above area and to lay tarmacadam on the above area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12140/04]

The Office of Public Works cut and removed furze as part of their management of the heath in February this year. During maintenance on an existing hard-core gravel roadway within the confines of the golf course, the Heath golf club removed some spoil and replaced it with a tarmacadam roadway. Rather than dumping this spoil it is being used to change one of the existing tee boxes on the golf course.

Tax Collection.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

292 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance the reason for the delay in issuing a refund of tax paid to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if he will arrange for same to issue without further delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12147/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the person's tax affairs are being dealt with in the Kildare-Meath-Wicklow customer services district in Grattan House, Lower Mount Street, Dublin 2 — phone number 01-6474000 — and her tax details are held there.

A return of income for 2002 was received from the taxpayer on 27 August 2003. On 12 September 2003 a notice of assessment was issued. The taxpayer immediately made contact with the office advising that the figure for her foreign pension on the return of income had been understated. An amended assessment was issued on the 25 September 2003 and this should have led to the automatic issuing of the appropriate refund of €500 to the taxpayer. Regrettably, this did not happen. I am further advised that the Revenue Commissioners have now dealt with the refund manually and a repayment of €500 together with interest due will issue within the next ten days.

Overseas Development Aid.

Barry Andrews

Ceist:

293 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will avail of the opportunity provided by the General Affairs and External Relations Council meeting at the end of April 2004 to agree that the European Commission should focus on EU countries fulfilment of millennium development goal eight as others are monitored by the United Nations Development Programme. [11160/04]

Barry Andrews

Ceist:

294 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will use the General Affairs and External Relations Council meeting at the end of April 2004 to push the idea of having one commissioner for development co-operation with full voting power to ensure effective aid delivery. [11161/04]

Barry Andrews

Ceist:

295 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the General Affairs and External Relations Council meeting at the end of April 2004 will be used to agree a timeframe for EU member states to reach the UN goal of 0.7% overseas development aid; and his views on the fact that any such increases will be poverty focused and not a consequence of broadened OECD/ODA criteria or counter-terrorism clauses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11162/04]

Joan Burton

Ceist:

300 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, at the meeting of EU Foreign Ministers on 26 and 27 April 2004 under the Irish Presidency, he will agree that the appropriate role for the European Commission in stocktaking the millennium development goals is on the way in which EU countries and the EU itself are fulfilling millennium development goal eight in view of the fact that this goal concerning coherence is not being adequately monitored elsewhere, whereas millennium development goals one to seven are being monitored by the United Nations Development Programme. [11479/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 293 to 295, inclusive, and 300 together.

The General Affairs and External Relations Council is discussing a cluster of development co-operation issues at today's meeting in Luxembourg. These issues include the follow up to the commitments given by the EU at the 2002 Monterrey International Conference on Financing for Development; the preparation of the EU's contribution for the United Nations high level event in 2005 to review progress towards the achievement of the millennium development goals; and a debate on the reform of European Commission external assistance. Ireland, since assuming the European Union Presidency, has given priority to advancing EU action in all of these areas.

The eighth millennium development goal provides for the development of a global partnership for development. While the other seven millennium development goals are primarily focused on developing countries, the eighth goal provides a role for donors in facilitating the achievement of the millennium development goals through a strengthened partnership with developing countries. The eighth goal has subsequently been elaborated by the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme to embrace issues such as greater policy coherence, particularly in trade, debt relief and increased overseas development assistance.

In January 2004, the first General Affairs and External Relations Council under Ireland's Presidency agreed conclusions which said that Ministers would consider, at the April General Affairs and External Relations Council, inviting the Commission to take on a role in monitoring the EU's contribution to the achievement of the millennium development goals. Ministers also stated that they believed that the EU's commitment to the achievement of the millennium development goals should be reflected across the range of the Union's policies and in its decisions on financial allocations.

The Commission recently issued a paper outlining how a stocktaking of EU member states' contributions to the achievement of the millennium development goals, including the eighth goal, could be undertaken. At today's General Affairs and External Relations Council meeting, the Presidency is pressing member states to give the Commission a formal mandate to embark on this work. The result of this stocktaking exercise, which will include an analysis of the extent to which member states have internalised the millennium development goals in their national development co-operation policies, will be an important element in the EU's contribution to the major UN review of progress towards the millennium development goals in 2005.

The Presidency has proposed that the draft Council conclusions on this issue should highlight the importance of the seventh goal, which deals with the environment, and the eighth goal, as they are of most relevance to donors. The template for the national millennium development goal reports, proposed by the Commission, includes 15 indicators for monitoring the efforts of the member states on these two goals.

A debate on the reform of EC external assistance, which is managed by the Commission, is also being held at today's meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council. Commissioner Nielson is to provide Ministers with an update on the reform process. The Presidency, with the support of member states, is anxious to ensure that the achievements registered so far in reforming the efficiency and effectiveness of EC aid are maintained and strengthened. It will be important that later this year the new Commission should have the necessary structures to achieve this. Ireland would like to see a dedicated portfolio responsibility for this critical area of policy in this Commission later this year.

The question of reaching the UN goal of spending 0.7% of gross national income on overseas development aid relates to the first of the eight commitments which the EU undertook at the Barcelona Council on 14 March 2002, as its contribution to the Monterrey International Conference on Financing for Development. At Barcelona, those EU member states that had not reached the UN 0.7% target committed themselves, as a first step, individually to increase their overseas development aid in 2003-2006 so that collectively an EU average of 0.39% overseas development aid/gross national income is reached by 2006. All EU member states will also strive to reach, within their respective budget allocation processes, at least 0.33% overseas development aid/gross national income by 2006.

At today's General Affairs and External Relations Council, Ministers are discussing the second annual monitoring exercise by the Commission on the progress achieved in meeting the Monterrey commitments, including that in relation to the volume of overseas development aid. The second Commission report indicates that this commitment is now well on track. In 2002, the EU member states collectively increased their overseas development aid by 2.8% and provided 0.34% of their gross national income to overseas development aid. The Commission estimates that if all current overseas development aid commitments are met, then the EU will exceed the Barcelona commitment to reach an average EU overseas development aid of 0.39% of gross national income by 2006 and will instead reach 0.43% of gross national income.

All the EU member states are committed to reaching the UN target of 0.7%. Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden have already reached or exceeded the target. Belgium and Ireland have indicated timeframes by which they might reach the target. While decisions on establishing national timeframes for reaching the UN target are the responsibility of EU member states' governments, the monitoring exercise undertaken by the Commission, on foot of the Barcelona commitments, is playing a key role in encouraging member states to increase their overseas development aid on the way to meeting the UN 0.7% target.

Article 177 of the European Union Consolidated Treaties states,inter alia, that Community policy in the sphere of development co-operation, which shall be complementary to the policies pursued by member states, shall foster “the campaign against poverty in the developing countries”. Poverty reduction is, therefore, already anchored in the existing treaties. Last year, together with six of my EU ministerial colleagues, in a joint position paper to the Convention on the Future of Europe, I helped to have a reference to poverty reduction inserted as the objective of EU development co-operation in the text of the draft EU Constitutional Treaty.

There is nothing in the EU declaration on combating terrorism, adopted at the European Council on 25 March 2004, which states that receipt of EU development assistance will be directly linked to developing states' efforts in containing terrorism. Section 12 of the declaration, which deals with international co-operation, commits the European Union to ensuring effective and practical co-operation with third countries through the "development of technical assistance strategies, to facilitate vulnerable third countries in enhancing their counter-terrorism capability, and by addressing counter-terrorism concerns into all relevant assistance programmes to promote good governance and the rule of law". There is no implication in this to suggest that receipt of EU development assistance would in any way be linked to states' efforts to combat terrorism.

Research Funding.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

296 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the Action From Ireland report finding that Irish universities are becoming increasingly involved in arms trade-sponsored research; if in his view Irish involvement in the arms trade is consistent with the principle of military neutrality and policy commitments to conflict prevention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11179/04]

I am aware that Action From Ireland, Afri, launched a report, Death from a Distance: the Ongoing Militarisation of Ireland, on 2 April, a copy of which my Department has received. I understand, however, that the three universities referred to in the report in question have reportedly denied allegations that EU-funded research conducted by them has any links with the defence industry. I also understand that some of the technologies concerned, including those associated with the aerospace sectors, may have a dual use — that is, they can have a military as well as a civilian application. Indeed, the potential for dual use application is often a feature of these and some other high-technology sectors.

More generally, I emphasise that all exports of military goods from Ireland must conform to the EU code of conduct on arms exports, which establishes criteria to control the export of military goods. Ireland was involved in the establishment of this code, which was adopted by the EU General Affairs Council in June 1998. The code lists the factors to be taken into account when deciding whether to allow the exportation of military goods. These factors include respect for human rights and the internal situation in the country of final destination, as well as the preservation of regional peace, security and stability. Furthermore, any export of legally controlled dual use goods must only take place in conformity with Council Regulation (EC) 1334/2000 (as amended) of 22 June 2000. Ireland's commitment to and participation in these systems underscores our position that any illegal movement and trade in armaments and military goods is totally unacceptable. I am satisfied that the manufacture of military goods and the development of technology in this country has no implications for our traditional policy of military neutrality.

With regard to conflict prevention, the Deputy will be interested to know that from 31 March to 2 April, in the context of the EU Presidency, the Government hosted an international conference in Dublin Castle on conflict prevention whose theme was the role of NGOs and civil society in the prevention of armed conflict. I draw the attention of the Deputy to my keynote address to this event, a copy of which is available on the Irish Presidency website.

Human Rights Issues.

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

297 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he intends to call for the reform of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights during Ireland’s Presidency of the EU in view of the fact that 25 of the 53 member countries of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights have not ratified all the conventions and agreements that this body is called on to enforce; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11256/04]

Ireland has always been committed to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and has played a distinctive role in the area of human rights, which has long been a central concern of our foreign policy. Accordingly, the Government attaches great importance to the role and work of the Commission on Human Rights, which has proved itself an essential forum for the promotion and protection of human rights around the world.

The question of calling for the establishment of membership criteria for the Commission on Human Rights has been considered by Ireland, in conjunction with our EU partners and other like minded countries, in a variety of forums, including the Human Security Network. However, the Government concurs with the widely held view that the promotion and protection of human rights is best achieved via a broad consensus among a clear majority of states. The exclusion of parts of the international community from elaborating new standards and from addressing violations is not in the best interests of furthering human rights.

The Government believes none the less that membership of the commission imposes special responsibilities. It offers states a unique opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to human rights instruments and to the discharge of human rights obligations. Members have the opportunity to play a leadership role in vindicating human rights worldwide. Furthermore, Ireland believes that the members of the commission have a responsibility themselves to uphold the standards of the UN human rights programme and to enhance the credibility and relevance of the commission.

Ireland encourages all candidates to membership of the commission to demonstrate their commitment to the international human rights protection system,inter alia , by ratifying the core human rights treaties and by co-operating with the special procedures of the Commission on Human Rights. We will continue to work with other like-minded countries to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the UN Commission on Human Rights.

Euro-Arab Meeting.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

298 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government will be represented at the Euro-Arab parliamentary dialogue meeting in Tunisia in April 2004; and the form and composition of the representation. [11257/04]

The Government has not received an invitation to participate in this meeting. I understand, however, that the Oireachtas was invited to participate and a decision was taken by the relevant committees of the Oireachtas to do so. However, the latest information is that this meeting has now been postponed from its planned date of 27-28 April and that a new date has not yet been arranged. The Government of course welcomes any meeting which enhances dialogue between Europe and the Arab world, and hopes that the meeting will go ahead as soon as possible.

Irish Citizenship.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

299 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the procedure for children and grandchildren of Irish citizens residing in South Africa who wish to apply for an Irish passport; if his attention has been drawn to delays in the processing of these applications in the Irish embassy in Pretoria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11391/04]

The procedures for citizenship and passport applications for residents in South Africa are the same as for applicants elsewhere. Only Irish citizens may be issued with Irish passports. A person who was born abroad, one of whose parents was born in Ireland, is automatically an Irish citizen from birth. A person in South Africa who wishes to become an Irish citizen by descent from a parent who, although not born in Ireland, was an Irish citizen at the time of the person's birth, must first apply to the Irish embassy in Pretoria for Irish citizenship through entry in the foreign births register. Each applicant for foreign births registration is required to produce sufficient documentation including birth and marriage certificates and other relevant records for himself and his parent and grandparent, if relevant, through whom citizenship is claimed to confirm the applicant's entitlement to Irish citizenship. When that entitlement is established, the details are entered in the foreign births entry book in the embassy and a certificate confirming the details of the entry is issued. This certificate must be produced with any subsequent passport application.

In recent years, the volume of consular work handled by the embassy in South Africa, which is also accredited to a number of other countries, including Zimbabwe, on a non-resident basis, has increased very considerably. As a result, there have been delays in the processing by the embassy of applications for foreign birth registration and consequent delays in issuing passports to those people. Last year, this backlog was reduced considerably. The embassy is currently taking about three months to process applications for foreign birth registration when full documentation is presented and is seeking to reduce this period further while facilitating urgent cases. If there are ongoing problems in particular cases concerning residents in South Africa, the ambassador and his staff are always available to assist applicants.

Question No. 300 answered with QuestionNo. 293.

Human Rights Issues.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

301 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to reports, including a report from Amnesty International, concerning the murder and sexual assault of and violence against women in the state of Chihuahua and the city of Juárez in Mexico; if he will make representations to the Mexican authorities regarding the reports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11567/04]

I am aware of reports from a number of sources, including Amnesty International, of crimes against women in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. The Amnesty International report, Intolerable Killings: Ten years of abductions and murders of women in Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua, published on 11 August 2003, focuses on the horrific violence against women in Chihuahua state. According to the report, in the last ten years approximately 370 women have been murdered in Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua, of which at least 137 were sexually assaulted prior to their death. Some NGOs believe the figures may even be higher. The report expresses concern about the Government's failure to address the murder of the young women, stating that "the authorities, both within the state of Chihuahua and at the federal level, have been unwilling to recognise the extent of the pattern of violence against women and to implement effective policies for dealing with it."

A report of February 2003 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, IACHR, also addressed the right of women in Ciudad Juárez "to be free from violence and discrimination." This followed a visit at the invitation of the Mexican Government by IACHR special rapporteur on the rights of women, Ms Marta Altolaguirre, to Ciudad Juárez and Mexico city. A series of meetings have since been held between the IACHR and the Mexican Government to follow up on the report.

Ciudad Juárez is a city which experiences serious violence and criminality. Its proximity to the border with the United States and the availability of work in its assembly plants attract a highly transient population, complicating the compilation of accurate data. It has become a major centre for drug trafficking and organised crime. Motives have not been established for many of the murders in Ciudad Juárez, although some share common characteristics. The Mexican authorities estimate that approximately one third of the victims were sexually assaulted prior to their deaths, with the remaining having been victims of intra-familial or other violence.

Mexican and international NGOs have expressed concern about the necessity to protect the women of Ciudad Juárez and to investigate the murders, stating that the authorities in Chihuahua and at a federal level have failed to recognise the extent of the pattern of violence against women and to implement effective policies for dealing with it. International observers such as representatives of the United Nations and of the IACHR have visited Chihuahua and expressed serious concerns about the investigations to date.

The question of the respective competencies at federal and the local level has complicated matters. While steps aimed at improving efficiency had been taken by the local authorities, concerned observers had argued for some time that there was a need for the federal authorities to take a greater direct role in the matter. In the past year the federal authorities have become more engaged, having established grounds for federal intervention on the basis that some of the crimes may be federal offences. In June 2003, the interior ministry announced a 40-point plan to improve public security, criminal investigations, social advancement and women's rights in Ciudad Juárez. This approach involves various Government agencies. On 11 August 2003 the Government announced the creation of a joint investigating and prosecuting agency, made up of the office of the attorney general and the Chihuahua state prosecutor's office.

The Secretary General of Amnesty International, Ms Irene Khan, visited Mexico in August 2003 to present the Amnesty report on the Ciudad Juárez killings, and met with the President, Mr. Fox, who made a commitment to ensuring that the federal Government played its full role in endeavouring to put a stop to the murders and abductions. On 17 October 2003, he announced the appointment of Ms Guadalupe Morfin Otero as federal commissioner for the cases in Ciudad Juárez. Her role involves co-ordinating the activities of the inter-agency committee established to facilitate an integrated approach to the full range of the problems which impact negatively on women in the state of Chihuahua. Ms Morfin has a distinguished record as a defender and promoter of human rights.

Ireland and our EU partners hold regular dialogue with Mexico on matters of mutual interest, including human rights. In November 2003, the question of human rights and the specific situation of violence against women in Ciudad Juárez was raised at a meeting in Brussels of the EU-Mexico joint committee. The Mexican representative acknowledged that the rule of law had malfunctioned over a period of time in that frontier area and outlined the measures being adopted by the Mexican federal and state authorities to strengthen the institutions of law and order with a view to putting an end to what he described as this "cancerous phenomenon." In a move welcomed by the Mexican National Human Rights Commission, the federal attorney general decided in January 2004 to appoint a special prosecutor to deal with those Ciudad Juárez killing which have a federal dimension.

When Ireland took over the EU Presidency in January, the Irish ambassador in Mexico City arranged for Ms Morfin Otero to meet with EU heads of mission in order to advance the EU's ongoing dialogue about the grave situation in Ciudad Juárez. EU missions in Mexico city will continue to monitor the situation there and maintain contact with the Mexican authorities concerning the measures taken to address it.

Passport Applications.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

302 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will address the concerns of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11749/04]

An application for a three-year passport for the child concerned was received in the passport office on 7 April 2004. Under the customer action plan of the passport office, this passport was due for issue on 21 April 2004. The normal procedure when issuing a passport to a minor is that the checking officer must contact the named witness on the parental consent form which accompanies the application in order to confirm that both parents have consented in writing to the issue of a passport to the child. This is an essential procedure to protect the safety and the travel rights of the child concerned.

In this case no witness contact phone number was given. After searching for the school phone number, which was not entered on the application form, the checking officer was still unable to make contact with the witness due to the school mid-term break which covered the period from 8 April to 16 April inclusive. The checking officer realised that 19 April would be the next available date to contact the witness and that there was a danger that the passport express deadline for issue would be missed. For this reason, the application form was returned immediately to the applicant, requesting that a new parental consent form be completed in the presence of a witness who could be contacted by the passport office. Instead of meeting this request, the parent of the child applicant sent back the original papers. On 19 April the passport office was able to make contact with the witness to confirm the parents' signatures of permission to issue a passport and the passport was issued on 20 April.

The inclusion of school principals or vice-principals on the list of acceptable witnesses to parental signatures on the parental consent form was decided following careful consideration. The passport office regards these people as particularly appropriate for this purpose as they would normally know the parents of the child and thereby help to ensure that only the legal parents or guardians complete the parental consent form. However, in cases where the issue of a passport is required as a matter of urgency, the responsibility lies with the applicant to ensure that the witnesses chosen can be contacted in sufficient time.

The Deputy will be aware that the passport office provides a fine service and makes every effort to facilitate applicants provided, in the case of children, their rights are fully protected. In this case, I believe the passport office acted correctly in seeking confirmation of the witness's consent and I am pleased that, notwithstanding the additional work required as a result of this, the passport was issued within the ten-working-day period for processing Passport Express applications.

Human Rights Issues.

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

303 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps he has taken to raise with the Chinese Government the serious persecution experienced by followers of Falun Gong in China; and if he has taken any action to raise the cases of Feng Liu and Fang Yang, former students of Dún Laoghaire College of Further Education and Dún Laoghaire Senior College respectively. [12133/04]

As I have stated previously, the Government takes seriously concerns about human rights in China, including those of Falun Dafa members. The issue of the treatment in China of followers of Falun Dafa has been raised both bilaterally and through the formal framework of the EU-China human rights dialogue, which was established in 1996. Through the dialogue, the EU shares with China its experience in the field of human rights protection and promotion and urges China to take clear steps to improve the human rights situation generally and, specifically, with respect to the freedoms of expression, religion and belief, which have a particular impact on individual practitioners of Falun Dafa.

The last session of the EU-China human rights dialogue took place in Dublin on 26-27 February 2004. Ireland, as holder of the Presidency of the EU, discussed with China a wide range of human rights issues of concern, including individual cases of alleged human rights abuses. Among the cases raised were those of the individuals of concern to the Deputy. A response was subsequently received from the Chinese authorities. This stated that one of the individuals had been sentenced to re-education through labour for two years, but had been relatively quickly released on bail so he could seek medical attention. We understand that he is now in hospital receiving treatment. As regards the second individual, we were informed that the authorities had no record of the person being admitted to a labour institute.

It should be noted that the specific cases to which the Deputy refers involve Chinese citizens. They are subject to Chinese law while in their own country and as they are not Irish citizens, we have no consular function in this matter. However, because of our concerns about the human rights situation in China, we were prepared to raise the cases.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

304 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the name of the tribunal to which a person (details supplied) in County Cork has made a claim. [11469/04]

As the Deputy refers to a claim in his question, I assume he is referring to the Residential Institutions Redress Board, which was established on the 16 December 2002 in order to award financial redress to adults who as children were subjected to abuse while in residential institutions for which the State had a regulatory or inspection function. The redress board is independent of my Department and as such I do not have access to the details of an individual's application. However, an applicant is entitled to contact the board directly or through their legal representative to inquire about his or her application.

Special Educational Needs.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

305 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the position of an application for resource hours for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and when a decision will be made on the application. [11124/04]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

306 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science when a decision will be made on an application for resource and SNA hours for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the fact that the application was made prior to September 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11125/04]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

318 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science when a decision will be made on an application for a person (details supplied) for resource hours in view of the concern of their parents in relation to his matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11183/04]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

319 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the position of an application for resource teaching hours for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; the position of the application for SNA hours; when a decision will be made on the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11184/04]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

323 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science when a decision will be made on resource hours and SNA hours in view of the fact the application is with his Department since September 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11188/04]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

324 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science when a decision will be made on resource hours and SNA hours for a person (details supplied) in view of the fact that the application was submitted before September 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11189/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 305, 306, 318, 319, 323 and 324 together.

The school referred to by the Deputy currently has the services of two full-time resource teachers, two full-time learning support teachers — one shared with another school — 16 full-time special needs assistants and four part-time special needs assistants, of which two full-time and two part-time special needs assistants are assigned to individual special needs pupils in mainstream classes. The remainder of the special needs assistants are deployed to cater for special needs pupils attached to special classes at the school.

I can confirm that my Department has received applications for additional special educational resources, SER, from the school on behalf of the pupils in question. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003, including those made by this school, are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the national educational psychological service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the nationwide census of SER provision.

My Department is at present reviewing existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In that context, my officials have been involved in on-going discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support with representative interests. At this stage, it would be premature to anticipate the outcome for the schools referred to by the Deputy. However, the basic purpose of the new system is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

This process is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to Circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

307 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will provide a personal assistant on a full-time basis for a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11131/04]

My Department received an application for special educational needs supports for the pupil referred to by the Deputy. The application is being considered at present and a response will issue to the school authorities as quickly as possible.

School Transport.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

308 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science with whom the responsibility lies for the well-being of children who are forced to stand on a public footpath or road while waiting on a school bus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11132/04]

Responsibility in any particular case will be determined by the circumstances of that case. However, in general, I am advised that where the operation of a school transport service according to timetable involves children being brought to school in the morning before normal time of commencement of school business or children waiting at school in the afternoon after conclusion of school business the board of management may be held liable in the event of an accident to pupils during the period intervening. A board may also be held liable if an accident occurs as a result of the board undertaking supervision of children while they are walking from the vehicle to the school orvice versa.

School Placement.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

309 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the procedures to be followed by the parent of a child of primary school starting age who lives in Mullingar town and who cannot find a place in any primary school closer than 12 miles from Mullingar town; and if a school place closer to their place of residence can be found. [11133/04]

The compulsory school starting age in a national school is six years of age and rule 64(1) of the rules for national schools provides that a child must be at least four years of age before he or she may be enrolled in a national school. Children of compulsory school-going age must have a place in a national school and overall there are more than enough places available.

Enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools and my Department does not seek to intervene in decisions made by schools in such matters. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. This may result, however, in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice. It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of schools that are not in a position to admit all pupils seeking entry to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act 1998. In this regard a board of management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a particular area or a particular age group or, occasionally, on the basis of some other criterion.

Where a board of management refuses to enrol a student in a school the parent of the student or, where the student has reached 18 years of age, the student himself, following the conclusion of any appeal procedures at school level, has a statutory entitlement under section 29 of the Education Act 1998 to appeal that decision to the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Science. Under the appeal process, a committee is established to hear the appeal. Oral hearings are conducted with a minimum of formality. In most cases appeals must be dealt within 30 days. Where appropriate, the Secretary General may give whatever directions to the board of management that are considered necessary to remedy the matter complained of.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

310 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will indicate to the parents of a pupil if a place can be found at a second level school in Mullingar or its environs, in view of the fact that each of the second level schools in this area have indicated that they are full. [11134/04]

Responsibility for ensuring that a child progresses from primary to post-primary education rests in the main with the child's parents. Under section 17 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, parents are responsible for ensuring that their children attend a recognised school or otherwise receive an appropriate minimum education. The education welfare board is required to assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in ensuring that their children attend school regularly and will also assist schools in fulfilling their role under the Act. Through its educational welfare officers the board provides a welfare-focused service that is accessible to parents, school and others concerned with the welfare of young people.

The selection and enrolment of pupils in second level schools is the responsibility of the management authorities. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking second level places in an area. This may result, however, 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. Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 provides parents with an appeal process where a board of management of a school or a person acting on behalf of the board refuses enrolment of a student. Where an appeal under section 29 is upheld, the Secretary General of my Department may direct a school to enrol a pupil.

Standardisation of School Year.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

311 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science if all schools now have uniform annual leave; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11135/04]

In line with the requirements of Sustaining Progress agreement has been reached between the parties to the teachers' conciliation council on the standardisation of the breaks at Christmas, Easter and mid-term in the first and second terms.

The agreement reached covers the arrangements that will apply in all schools from the start of the 2004-05 school year and covers four school years. The parties will review the operation of the arrangements not later than spring of 2007 for the purpose of agreeing the arrangements that will apply subsequently and have agreed that in the event that any unforeseen difficulty arises in relation to the operation of the arrangements now agreed the matter can be raised at the teachers' conciliation council.

The arrangements are agreed without prejudice to closure on specific days within the overall requirement of 167 days at post-primary level and 183 days at primary level dictated by religious observance that is required in school under the patronage of different denominations or faiths. Details of the agreed arrangements are outlined in circular letter 21/04, which is available on my Department's website.

Special Educational Needs.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

312 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science when he intends to make public and act on the long-awaited new weighted system for assessing and providing for the requirements of children with special needs in primary schools. [11136/04]

Applications for special educational resources, SER, received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year. The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the national educational psychological service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the nationwide census of SER provision.

My Department is at present reviewing existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In that context, my officials have been involved in ongoing discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support with representative interests. At this stage, it would be premature to anticipate the outcome of this process. However, the basic purpose of the new system is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

This process is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to Circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school. The arrangements for processing applications received after 31 August 2003 will also be considered in the context of the proposed new weighted system of allocation. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

313 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the fact that there is a growing problem in the special needs sector of education, which is reflected in the increase in resource demand on the school transport budget. [11167/04]

I am aware of the increasing level of applications for special educational supports, including an increase in the demand for school transport services for special needs pupils being made to my Department. In view of the rapidly escalating cost of providing the school transport service, which has more than doubled since 1997, my Department is in the process of finalising a review.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

314 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the fact that as various people working in the disability sector have highlighted, appropriate resources are not being allocated to special needs education, bearing in mind the huge backlog in the provision of assessments for special needs children in this State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11168/04]

Children with serious disabilities that are of low incidence, for example, physical and sensory disabilities, moderate, severe or profound learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorder and specific speech and language disability are normally assessed by the clinical services of the relevant health board before entering school. The issue of any backlog of assessments in that sector is a matter for the health boards. Where such serious disabilities are suspected in a schoolgoing child, the national educational psychological service prioritises these assessments to ensure that there is not a long waiting time. If the child attends a school that is not yet served by NEPS, an assessment may be arranged under the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments. Principals of schools that avail of the scheme prioritise the more serious cases for early assessment.

It is the case that there has been a substantial number of children awaiting assessment where a less serious disability of high incidence is suspected, for example, mild general learning disability or specific learning disability. From September 2004, my Department is introducing a weighted system of resource allocation to schools. This will allow resources to be speedily allocated to children with disabilities on the basis of school-based assessment, pending full psychological or other professional assessment.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

315 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo with special needs will be placed in the education system; and the education that has been offered to him to date. [11170/04]

My Department sanctioned resource teaching and special needs assistant support to facilitate the child's attendance at a local school in August 2003. However, it appears that the child concerned was not enrolled in the school. I understand that the option of a placement in a special school in the area has also been offered to the child's family through a local service provider. My Department's inspectorate will contact the family shortly to clarify the position.

School Closures.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

316 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if a report on the threatened closure of Greendale community school, Kilbarrack, Dublin 5, will issue. [11171/04]

The management authorities of Greendale community school have written to my Department indicating their intention to close the school. Given the extent of enrolment decline at the school in recent years, the decision was not entirely unexpected.

My Department's main role in a school closure is to ensure that the best interests of pupils are looked after in the period up to the closure and that alternative provision is available to accommodate pupils who would otherwise have attended the school. Given the extent of surplus capacity among other providers in the general area, my Department does not envisage difficulties in this matter.

School Planning.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

317 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will initiate a comprehensive and holistic study on the future educational needs of the Dublin north-east area. [11172/04]

As I recently announced, over the remainder of this school year, a new school planning model involving published area development plans will be piloted in five areas. Included in the pilot scheme is the north Dublin and south Louth region.

The purpose of this new approach to school planning is to ensure that in future, the provision of school infrastructure will be decided only after a transparent consultation process. In this regard, parents, trustees, sponsors of prospective new schools and all interested parties from a locality will have the opportunity to have their voices heard in the process. Following the consultation process, individual plans will set out the blueprint for school development in an area, covering a period of up to ten years.

Questions Nos. 318 and 319 answered with Question No. 305.

Special Educational Needs.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

320 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science when a decision will be made on an application for SNA hours for a person (details supplied) in view of the fact that the person had such hours in their previous school; the reason these hours or the SNA was not transferred to the new school that they are now attending. [11185/04]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

321 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare, transferred from another school has not had their SNA hours transferred in view of the fact that the person had full hours at their previous school; the reasons the allocated hours and the SNA hours are not transferred; when a decision will be made on the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11186/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 320 and 321 together.

The pupils referred to are enrolled in a special class for children with autism at the school in question. The staffing for special classes for children with autism, as outlined in the relevant Department circulars, is one teacher at a pupil teacher ratio of 6:1 together with two full-time special needs assistants. The school in question has four classes for children on the autistic spectrum with a total enrolment of 11 pupils in the four classes. These classes currently enjoy significant staffing resources. There are four teachers, 11 special needs assistants, nine full-time and two part-time deployed to cater for the pupils attached to these special classes.

The pupils in question previously attended a mainstream school with a significantly greater pupil-teacher ratio, hence the need for a greater level of individual resource hours and special needs assistant support in that setting. The question of transferring resources arises only where it is considered that there are insufficient resources in the recipient school to cater for a pupil's special educational needs.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

322 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the reasons a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has not had his resource hours transferred from his previous school to his new school given that his family has moved to a new home approximately 30 miles from the original school; if he will review his application in regard to SNA hours which did not transfer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11187/04]

The pupil referred to by the Deputy transferred to the school in question in September 2003. My Department received an application for the transfer of special educational needs, SEN, resources with the pupil. As the Deputy will be aware, my Department's inspectorate reviewed the level of SEN resources in the school as part of a sample survey carried out in a number of schools nationally. The National Educational Psychological Service is carrying out a further review of SEN supports required in the school. When this has been completed, a response will issue to the school in respect of the pupil in question and other special needs pupils.

Questions Nos. 323 and 324 answered with Question No. 305.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

325 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will report on how he proposes to meet the special education requirements of a school (details supplied); if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there are six children on the waiting list for special education at the school; and will he approve an additional class for September 2004 for the children involved as they have been assessed as severely dyslexic. [11190/04]

My Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy. The school has the services of one full-time resource teacher, one part-time resource teacher and one full-time learning support teacher.

SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003, including those made by this school, are being considered. More than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority has been given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources allocated for special educational needs within the school.

The arrangements for processing applications received after the 31 August 2003, including those made by this school, will be considered in the context of the outcome of discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard. I have made arrangements for my officials to investigate the need for an additional special class at the school.

Standardisation of School Year.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

326 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if schools have requested a derogation from his Department in respect of the new arrangements to standardise the school year; if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties being experienced by some boarding schools in respect of this standardisation; if he has made a decision regarding requests for derogations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11191/04]

The arrangements for the standardisation of breaks at Christmas and Easter and mid-terms were agreed at the Teachers Conciliation Council. The council comprises representatives of the managerial authorities of schools, the teacher unions and the Departments of Education and Science and Finance. The issue of a derogation for certain schools, including boarding schools, was discussed at the council following representations from those schools. There was no agreement at the council to grant such a derogation.

The purpose of the discussions at the council was to implement a specific requirement in the national agreement Sustaining Progress. Sustaining Progress set the achievement of a standard school year as a requirement for all primary and post primary schools. In encompassing all schools in both sectors it was designed to bring certainty and clarity on a countrywide basis to the arrangements for the vacation periods covered by the agreement. The agreed arrangements achieve that purpose and will have general application. Schools continue to have discretion regarding the start and end of the school year which are not covered by the Sustaining Progress requirement.

Schools Building Projects.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

327 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason an application for Coralstown national school, Mullingar, County Westmeath, for funding under the summer works scheme grant, was refused, in view of the fact that this grant to reslate the existing roof, install new windows and doors and paint the exterior of the school which requires a grant in the sum of €26,000; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that same is urgently required in view of the current state of the roof, in that slates blow off during windy weather; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11209/04]

The board of management of Coralstown national school, Mullingar, County Westmeath, stated the replacement of roof slates was its priority number one project in its application under the summer works scheme. The application was not approved as works of this nature are deemed to be a maintenance issue and should be dealt with by the school using funds from its annual grant for minor works. Likewise, the replacement of doors and painting of the school are also considered to be maintenance issues. Window replacement was assessed as a category E project in accordance with the published criteria for the summer works scheme. It was only possible to fund priority one projects in categories A, B and C this year. Coralstown national school is included in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme for a replacement school. Projects listed in section 8 will be authorised to proceed to advance architectural planning, that is, pre-tender stage.

School Staffing.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

328 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will take steps to confirm the appointment of a third mainstream assistant and the full approval of the rental of a prefab and sanction of a teacher for Coralstown national school, Mullingar, County Westmeath as same is urgently required, as on 30 September 2003 there were 85 pupils on the roll, which entitles the said school to this appointment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11210/04]

The staffing of a primary school for a school year is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year. The staffing schedule governing the appointment and retention of mainstream class teachers is finalised for a particular year following discussions between officials from my Department and the education partners. The staffing schedule for the 2004-05 school year was issued to school authorities recently.

Special Educational Needs.

Paddy McHugh

Ceist:

329 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will review the learning support service provided to five schools in County Galway (details supplied) with a view to increasing the level of service provided and to providing a learning support teacher to serve one of those schools solely. [11232/04]

My Department is reviewing existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In that context, my officials have been involved in ongoing discussions on a weighted system of allocation with representative interests. It would be premature to anticipate the outcome for the schools in question. I can confirm, however that the basic purpose of that review is to ensure each school has the resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

Third Level Programmes.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

330 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science the position with regard to his consideration of proposals to have a medical faculty at the University of Limerick. [11243/04]

I am aware of the proposal by the University of Limerick for the development of a postgraduate medical education programme. As the Deputy will be aware, a working group on undergraduate medical education has been established under the chairmanship of Professor Patrick Fottrell to examine a range of issues in regard to medical education and training. The working group is addressing its task with a view to reporting later this year. In this context, a copy of the University of Limerick proposal has been forwarded to the working group as part of its consideration of the options for moving forward.

Schools Building Projects.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

331 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the acquisition of a site for a new primary school at Mell, Drogheda, County Louth. [11244/04]

The property management section of the OPW, which acts on behalf of my Department in relation to site acquisitions generally, is currently exploring the possibility of acquiring a site to cater for the primary educational needs of children in the Mell area of Drogheda, County Louth.

Special Educational Needs.

John Bruton

Ceist:

332 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will confirm that funds will be provided to St. Peter’s school in Dunboyne for the provision of a special needs classroom, together with the funding to provide a special needs teacher for the students who require it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11245/04]

My Department allocates additional resources to second level schools and vocational educational committees to cater for students with special educational needs. Applications for such support are made to my Department by the relevant school authority or VEC. Each application is considered on the basis of the assessed needs of the pupils involved and the nature and level of support provided is determined on the advice of the psychological service. An application was received in my Department for extra resources for a number of pupils on 19 March 2004. This application has been referred to the psychological service for investigation and the relevant VEC authorities will be notified of the decision as soon as the report and recommendations of the psychological service have been received and considered. My Department has not received an application by the relevant VEC authorities to provided funds for the provision of a special needs classroom for St. Peter's school, Dunboyne.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

333 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will provide a full-time learning support teacher for a school (details supplied) in County Galway; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the present clustered arrangement with four other schools is not providing the learning support needed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11246/04]

My Department is reviewing existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In that context, my officials have been involved in ongoing discussions on a weighted system of allocation with representative interests. It would be premature to anticipate the outcome for the school in question. I can confirm, however that the basic purpose of the review is to ensure each school has the resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

334 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will provide funding to extend the hours of a resource teacher at Carrigeen national school, Carrigeen, County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11247/04]

My Department has received an application for special educational resources, SER from the school referred to by the Deputy. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003, including those made by this school, are being considered. More than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority has been given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the nationwide census of SER provision.

My Department is reviewing existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In that context, my officials have been involved in ongoing discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support with representative interests. It would be premature to anticipate the outcome for the school referred to by the Deputy. However, the basic purpose of the new system is to ensure each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

This process is a complex and time consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources allocated for special educational needs within the school. The arrangements for processing applications received after 31 August 2003 will be also be considered in the context of the proposed new weighted system of allocation. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

Schools Building Projects.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

335 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the position of a submission that was forwarded to his Department (details supplied) on behalf of a school in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11248/04]

The position regarding the school to which the Deputy refers is that an application for grant-aid towards improved accommodation has been received from the management authority. When publishing the 2004 school building programme, I outlined that my strategy going forward will be grounded in capital investment based on multiannual allocations. My officials are reviewing all projects which were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme, with a view to including them as part of a multiannual school building programme from 2005, and I expect to make further announcements on this matter during the year. The application from the school referred to will be considered in this context.

Departmental Assistance.

Seán Ardagh

Ceist:

336 Mr. Ardagh asked the Minister for Education and Science the assistance that can be given to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12. [11284/04]

The issue raised by the Deputy is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs.

Special Educational Needs.

Seamus Kirk

Ceist:

337 Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for Education and Science the criteria applicable for applications for resource teachers at second level schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11286/04]

My Department allocates additional resources to second level schools and vocational educational committees to cater for students with special educational needs. Applications for such support are made to my Department by the relevant school authority or VEC. Each application is considered on the basis of the assessed needs of the pupils involved and the nature and level of support provided is determined on the advice of the psychological service.

Teachers’ Remuneration.

Seamus Kirk

Ceist:

338 Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for Education and Science the pay structure for part-time primary school teachers; if changes in the structure are proposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11287/04]

Replacement teachers for persons absent on certified sick leave, paid maternity leave and other approved absences in primary schools are paid on my Department's payroll on a fortnightly basis. New rates of pay agreed at the Teachers Conciliation Council for those replacement teachers generally referred to as substitutes having regard to the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001 and were implemented with effect from 2 March 2004. Arrangements are being made to pay arrears due for the period 1 September 2003 to 2 March 2004. Teachers employed in a part-time capacity to provide additional teaching hours in primary schools are paid by the managerial authorities of the schools. New rates of pay are being negotiated and the managerial authorities of primary schools will be notified as soon as the rates are agreed.

School Accommodation.

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

339 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps his Department is taking to come to an agreement with Fingal County Council regarding securing an extra classroom for Castleknock Educate Together national school (details supplied) at Beechpark, Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11294/04]

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

340 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps his Department is taking to come to an agreement with Fingal County Council regarding securing a permanent site for Castleknock Educate Together national school at Beechpark, Dublin 15 at which a temporary school building is currently housed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11295/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 339 and 340 together.

A planning application will be submitted to Fingal County Council shortly for the provision of a new 16 classroom school and autistic unit on a Department owned site at Beechpark, Dublin 15 for Castleknock Educate Together national school. With regard to the provision of a temporary classroom at the school for September 2004, a planning application has been submitted to Fingal County Council and a decision is expected shortly.

Schools Building Projects.

Sean Fleming

Ceist:

341 Mr. Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the application for improvement works to be carried out at Maryborough national school, Portlaoise; and when these works can take place. [11302/04]

An application for grant-aid for additional accommodation has been received from the management authority of Maryborough national school. The application is being assessed in the school planning section of my Department. As soon as the assessment is complete, contact will be made directly with the management authority of the school in the matter.

School Transport.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

342 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans to provide another minibus for SOS Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11315/04]

The issue raised by the Deputy is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Health and Children.

Special Educational Needs.

Pat Carey

Ceist:

343 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science when the application by a school (details supplied) for one to one tuition for a student will be decided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11317/04]

An application for resource teaching support for the pupil in question was received and examined in my Department. The outcome was that the pupil did not meet the criteria for specific learning disability as outlined in the relevant Department circular. The school was informed of this decision in correspondence dated 29 April 2003.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

344 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the delay in opening the Saplings school for autistic children at Sancta Maria House, Rathfarnham; when it is expected to be opened; and the number of children that will be catered for. [11318/04]

There is no delay in processing the application for the provision of the facility to which the Deputy refers. The process is well advanced but not yet completed. As a result of investigations to date, my Department has concluded that, on a demographic basis, the provision of additional autism-specific provision in the south Dublin area is warranted and I am committed to developing such provision. The Saplings application is being examined in the context of that commitment. In addition, my Department has completed its examination of assessment reports for the individual children proposed for the facility. The results of this examination will be conveyed to the parents by the National Educational Psychological Service within the next few days. In addition, a member of my Department's technical staff has inspected the proposed accommodation at Sancta Maria House and a report is in preparation. My officials will be in further contact with the applicants as soon as this report is received and considered. My objective is to ensure the processing of this application is completed as quickly and as thoroughly as possible, to be able to provide early clarification of the outcome to the applicants.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

345 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be offered a school place at the new unit to open at North Kildare Educate Together school, Celbridge, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11319/04]

The enrolment of a pupil in a primary school is a matter for the school's board of management. In this regard, the parents of the child referred to by the Deputy may wish to make direct contact with the school. My Department is liaising with the school management with a view to the establishment of a special unit for children with autism at an early date.

Special Educational Needs.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

346 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when the new unit at North Kildare Educate Together school, Celbridge, County Kildare, will open; the delay in this regard taking into account the urgent need for the services this unit can provide; when same will become fully staffed, equipped and operational; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11320/04]

My Department is liaising with the management of the school in question concerning the establishment of a special unit for children with autism at an early date.

Schools of Music.

Barry Andrews

Ceist:

347 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on whether the Educational Endowments (Ireland) Act 1885, which regulates the business of the Royal Irish Academy of Music, requires modernisation or at least consolidation with recent developments. [11368/04]

I understand from the Royal Irish Academy of Music that the academy's operation under the Act does not impinge on its effective day-to-day functioning in the context of modern demands. In this regard, recent developments in the public sector such as employment legislation, partnership, modernisation and flexibility initiatives under Sustaining Progress have all been implemented within the academy.

Educational Welfare Service.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

348 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the present state of development of the education welfare service, indicating the most recent levels of staffing, activity levels, performance indicators and so on; the plans he has to develop the service further so that it can offer a comprehensive service; and the target goals for the next five years which he has agreed with the service. [11374/04]

I can confirm that an application for resource teaching support for the pupil in question was received and examined in my Department. The outcome was that the pupil did not meet the criteria for specific learning disability as outlined in the relevant Department circular. The school was informed of this decision in correspondence dated 29 April 2003.

Teaching Qualifications.

Pat Carey

Ceist:

349 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science the avenues, other than studying for the graduate diploma in education (technology) programme at the University of Limerick are open to a person (details supplied) so that they can qualify to teach metalwork and engineering in a post primary school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11378/04]

In addition to an acceptable training-in-teaching qualification, such as the higher diploma in education, a teacher is required to have an acceptable primary degree which will enable him/her to teach one or more subjects from the post-primary curriculum. The person in question does not hold a suitable qualification to degree level in the subject area of engineering. He may wish to explore with the registrar of a third level institution the exemptions, if any, which the studies already undertaken may attract for the purpose of completing a recognised programme of study leading to a degree of bachelor of engineering or equivalent.

Special Educational Needs.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

350 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the waiting time in the Galway area for an assessment for children with learning and behavioural difficulties. [11395/04]

If a teacher or parent has concerns about a child's learning and/or behavioural difficulties, the school can arrange an immediate educational assessment, administered by teaching staff. This will result in the drafting of a plan for extra help within the normal classroom setting in the relevant areas of learning and/or behavioural management. The success of the plan should be reviewed on a regular basis, with appropriate parental involvement. Teachers in schools that have access to the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, may consult their area psychologist informally about their proposed learning or behavioural management plan. This consultation can usually be organised within a matter of weeks.

In the case of children with marked behavioural difficulties, where the class teacher's plan fails to achieve the desired outcome, then the child should, with parental permission, be referred to the clinical services of the Western Health Board. The length of waiting time for clinical assessment is a matter for the health board and voluntary bodies under its aegis.

In the case of children with learning difficulties, where the class teacher's plan fails to achieve the desired outcome, then the child should be referred to the school's learning support teacher for further diagnostic testing. If this diagnostic assessment indicates that supplementary teaching would be beneficial, then this should be arranged by the school. Learning support teachers in schools that have access to NEPS may consult their area psychologist about diagnostic test results and about their proposed educational plans. This further in-school assessment can take place within a matter of a few weeks, if not days.

School staff and parents should regularly review the progress of each child receiving supplementary teaching. If significant concerns remain after a reasonable period, then it may be necessary for the school to make a formal request for a consultation and assessment of need from a specialist from outside the school. Such specialist advice may be sought from psychologists, paediatricians, speech and language therapists, audiologists etc. With the exception of educational psychologists, these specialists are employed by the Western Health Board or by voluntary bodies under their aegis and, as stated earlier, the length of waiting times is a matter for the health board.

Provision of individual educational psychological assessments is part of the work of the educational psychologists in NEPS. Where the NEPS service is not yet available, the school may commission an assessment from a private practitioner under the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, funded by my Department.

NEPS psychologists do not keep waiting lists of children requiring assessment in the sense of lists of names that are dealt with in chronological order. Each psychologist is responsible for a number of named schools, and visits each on a regular basis. The school authorities provide names of children who are giving cause for concern and discuss the relative urgency of each case during the psychologist's visits. This allows the psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and such children will be seen or referred on in a matter of weeks, if not days. Where cases are less urgent, the psychologist will, as already described, act as a consultant to teachers and parents and offer advice about educational and behavioural plans. If the Deputy has particular cases in mind where waiting times for educational psychological assessment have seemed too long, then NEPS management will be glad to discuss these with the relevant schools and/or parents.

School League Tables.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

351 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the consultations he has had in regard to changes he is considering proposing to the ban on publishing school league tables. [11397/04]

It is desirable that parents have information about schools that is meaningful, fair and fully rounded. I do not support the form of league table, which has come into being in the absence of a well-constructed alternative. We are all aware that league tables based solely on academic results are a flawed measure of the effectiveness and quality of schools.

It is not enough to say what we are against. We must also discuss what we want. To this end I propose to initiate a debate on the issue. To start and inform the process I have asked the OECD directorate of education to provide me with comparative materials from other countries on this issue. This will provide examples of practice. As well as the comparative analysis, I envisage that appropriate consultations on this issue will take place at a later date.

Special Educational Needs.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

352 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of the application for a special needs assistant for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if the application will be processed before the person starts school in order that arrangements can be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11405/04]

I can confirm that my Department has received an application for special educational resources SER for the pupil referred to by the Deputy. SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September, and all these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the nationwide census of SER provision.

I can confirm that my Department is at present reviewing existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. My officials have been involved in on-going discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support with representative interests. At this stage, it would be premature to anticipate the outcome for the school referred to by the Deputy. However, the basic purpose of the new system is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

This process is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

The arrangements for processing applications received after the 31 August 2003, including the one for the pupil in question, will be also be considered in the context of the proposed new weighted system of allocation. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

353 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the difficulty for many children with special needs in gaining access to specialist back-up services which are supplied only through health funded agencies; if his attention has been further drawn to the difficulty of the Beechpark service in meeting the demands on its resources; and if he has proposals to develop a more integrated service for delivering health board based and education based services to children who need them. [11413/04]

I expect that any difficulties arising for children in accessing services such as those described by the Deputy would be brought to the attention of the relevant health board in the first instance. It would be inappropriate for me to comment on how those authorities manage their resources. I am fully committed to continuing the provision of teaching and special needs assistant support for children who have been assessed as having special educational needs. In line with that commitment, part of the remit of the national educational psychological service is to work in close collaboration with the health boards and liaison mechanisms at national, regional and local level.

A key focus of my Department has been on advancing the fundamental structural measures which are necessary to underpin the development and delivery of services for children with special educational needs. To that end, a number of meetings have taken place between senior officials in my Department and their counterparts in the Department of Health and Children in relation to the drafting of the Education for Persons with Disabilities Bill 2003 and the establishment of the National Council for Special Education.

The Bill, when enacted, will provide a clear and enforceable statement in law of the rights of children from birth to 18 years who, because of disabilities, have special educational needs. Provision will be made in the Bill for a statutory structure which will guarantee the educational rights of these children, and also for a formal appeals mechanism. My objective is to secure the passage of this legislation through the Oireachtas as quickly as possible.

The National Council for Special Education is formally established and the recruitment process for the new grade of special education needs organisers, SENOs, is almost complete. Up to 80 SENOs will be engaged ultimately by the council. This will facilitate the provision of a range of services at local and national level in order that the educational needs of children with disabilities are identified and provided for. As part of its remit, the council will liaise with the health boards in relation to the co-ordination and consistency of their respective functions.

Schools Building Projects.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

354 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science when a school (details supplied) will be ready to go to the next stage on the schools building programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11414/04]

The large-scale building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. This project is at stage 4/5, detail design-bill of quantities, of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band 2 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

Indicative timescales have been included for large-scale projects proceeding to tender in 2004. The budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multiannual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing to tender in this year's programme including the school referred to by the Deputy. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

355 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will report further on his Department’s contacts with St. Killian’s national schools, Castleview, Dublin 24; if his attention has been drawn to the need for action in respect of the building problems at the schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11416/04]

The proposed large-scale building project for St. Killian's national school is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. This proposed project is at stage 4-5, detail design-bill of quantities, of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band 3 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

The stage 4-5 documentation for this project is currently being examined by my Department's staff and following their review the school will be notified of outcome. However, indicative timescales have been included for large-scale projects proceeding to tender in 2004. The budget announcement regarding multiannual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme including St. Killian's national school. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

In the meantime, the school should, as appropriate, use its devolved grant to deal with any urgent health and safety works.

School Accommodation.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

356 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science when a school (details supplied) will be supplied with a temporary classroom in view of the fact that the school’s contribution was made on 11 September 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11476/04]

An application has been received from the management authority of the school to which the Deputy refers for grant-aid for the provision of a temporary classroom. Officials in the school planning section of my Department are currently assessing and prioritising applications for temporary accommodation. I intend to shortly publish details of all temporary accommodation projects that will proceed in 2004.

Special Educational Needs.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

357 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the provision of a resource teacher has been denied to a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath despite the fact that an application has been approved by his Department; when this person will have the benefit of a resource teacher; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11477/04]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

359 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if an application was received from a school in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath for special needs resources; the date on which this application was received; if it has been acknowledged; and when it is expected that additional resources will be provided to this school to enable it to help this person reach their potential. [11490/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 357 and 359 together.

I can confirm that my Department received an application for special educational needs — SEN — supports for the pupil referred to by the Deputies.

SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003, including the one made by this school, are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year. The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the nationwide census of SER provision.

I can confirm that my Department is at present reviewing existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In that context, my officials have been involved in on-going discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support with representative interests. At this stage, it would be premature to anticipate the outcome for the school referred to by the Deputies. However, the basic purpose of the new system is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

This process is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September, 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

School Placement.

Michael Noonan

Ceist:

358 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that 54 sixth class primary school pupils in Limerick are to date without a secondary school place for September 2004; if his attention has been further drawn to the damage being done to these children and the hurt being experienced by them and their families; if he will take immediate action to resolve the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11478/04]

I am aware of the difficulties experienced by some families in Limerick city in securing second level places for their children. Responsibility for ensuring that a child progresses from primary to post-primary education rests in the main with the child's parents. Under section 17 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, parents are responsible for ensuring that their children attend a recognised school or otherwise receive an appropriate minimum education.

The education welfare board is required to assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in ensuring that their children attend school regularly, and will also assist schools in fulfilling their role under the Act. Through its educational welfare officers, the board provides a welfare-focused service that is accessible to parents, school and others concerned with the welfare of young people.

The selection and enrolment of pupils in second-level schools is the responsibility of the management authorities. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking second level places in an area. This may result, however, 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.

There are 15 post primary schools in the Limerick city area. I am satisfied that there is sufficient capacity overall in these schools to meet the demand arising from pupils leaving primary schools and requiring second level education.

Officials from the regional office of my Department and the National Educational Welfare Board met with schools in the Limerick area concerning enrolment difficulties. Section 29 of the Education Act 1998, provides parents with an appeal process to the Secretary General of my Department, where a board of management of a school or a person acting on behalf of the board refuses enrolment of a student. Where an appeal under section 29 is upheld, the Secretary General of my Department may direct a school to enrol a pupil.

A substantial number of appeals under section 29 of the Education Act 1998 have been lodged with my Department in respect of refusal to enrol in post-primary schools in the Limerick area for the school year 2004-2005. Each appeal will be processed under the procedures for hearing and determining appeals, as published by my Department.

I am sure that the Deputy will understand that I have no role, as Minister, regarding the operation of the section 29 procedures. I cannot intervene in or exert any influence on an appeal which is in progress as this would be to act beyond my legal power and authority. Once these appeals have been completed, my Department will be working with the National Educational Welfare Board and the relevant school authorities to address the underlying enrolment difficulties in second level schools in Limerick.

Question No. 359 answered with QuestionNo. 357.

John Perry

Ceist:

360 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties encountered by a person (details supplied) in County Sligo; the avenues open to them to ensure that they are offered a placement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11491/04]

Admission to the bachelor of education (home economics) in St. Angela's College is through the Central Applications Office. The Central Applications Office is a company limited by guarantee, which was established in 1976 to accept applications for admission to undergraduate courses in higher education institutions in Ireland. It is an organisation representative of higher education interests and is controlled entirely and jointly by them. I have no function in relation to the operation of the CAO.

Special Educational Needs.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

361 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the help or resources available from his Department to pre-school children with special needs to prepare them for entry to primary school. [11492/04]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the primary responsibility for service provision for pre-school age children rests with the appropriate health authority. However, my Department has established eight pre-school classes for children with autism, four in Dublin and four in Cork. In addition, my Department may sanction home tuition grants for children with autism who are of pre-school age and for whom a home educational programme is considered appropriate. Similar provision is made for children of school-going age who are awaiting an appropriate educational placement. My Department has also sanctioned a pre-school run by the model school for the deaf project on a pilot basis for five years to June 2007. This service caters for up to six pupils and is based in Cabra, Dublin.

Last July, I published the Education for Persons with Disabilities Bill 2003. This Bill, when enacted, will provide a clear and enforceable statement in law of the rights of children from birth to 18 years who, because of disabilities, including autism, have special educational needs. Provision will be made in the Bill for a statutory structure which will guarantee the educational rights of these children, and also for a formal appeals mechanism. My objective is to secure the passage of this legislation through the Oireachtas as quickly as possible.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

362 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department makes decisions on the provision of special needs assistants, additional resource teaching and resource materials to children with special needs in primary schools without a child having been assessed or interviewed or examined by personnel from his Department or by persons acting on his Department’s behalf; and the reason such additional help is refused in many cases despite the fact that the professional reports on many children recommend the appointment of a special needs assistant. [11493/04]

Eligibility for additional resources is established by means of psychological, or other professional assessment. My Department's circular letters 7/02 and 8/02 define stringent criteria for identifying each category of disability and quantify the level of resources to be allocated in respect of each. A survey conducted by my Department's inspectorate in 2002 indicated a significant number of anomalies in the applications for extra resources. My Department has therefore decided to review new applications and to check the data in the supporting professional reports to see if they comply with the criteria in the circular letters.

The assessment findings are not in dispute but it has been found in a significant number of cases that recommendations had been made for the allocation of extra resources, although the assessment data did not conform to the specific criteria outlined in circular letters 7/02 and 8/02. It is the responsibility of all professionals who conduct assessments to clarify in their reports to schools the eligibility for additional resources of the children assessed.

From September 2004, my Department is introducing a weighted system of resource allocation to schools. This will allow resources to be speedily allocated to pupils with disabilities on the basis of school based assessment, pending full psychological, or other professional assessment.

School Drug Tests.

Seamus Kirk

Ceist:

363 Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in view of the recent ASTI survey which indicated difficulties with students under the influence of drink and drugs, he will consider introducing random drug testing in schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11509/04]

I have no plans to introduce random drug testing in schools. My Department is aware of the many concerns which have been raised about young people's behaviour in relation to the misuse of substances. While education has a role in addressing the problem, effecting change in this area also depends on consistent support from the drinks industry, parents and society as a whole. A responsible attitude to the promotion of alcohol, especially in targeting young people, and ensuring rigorous implementation of the law on legal age limits regarding the sale of alcohol, are an essential part of this approach. Parents also have a responsibility in helping children and young people to adopt sensible and responsible attitudes and behaviours.

In general the community as a whole needs to reflect on the general attitude to the misuse of substances. Schools can play an active role in addressing the problems and consequences of the misuse of substances through the SPHE — social, personal and health education — curriculum which focuses on developing an informed and sensible attitude to substances. Through the SPHE curriculum, students are enabled to develop a framework for responsible and informed decision-making about their health, personal lives and social development. In particular, the substance use module of the SPHE curriculum focuses on the issues relating to the use and misuse of a range of substances. While most young people are aware of the implications and consequences of misusing substances, the SPHE curriculum actively seeks to promote healthy and responsible choices by students in relation to their lives.

All post-primary schools were required to implement the SPHE curriculum as part of the junior cycle core curriculum from September 2003. Ongoing support in the implementation of SPHE continues to be provided to schools through the post-primary SPHE support service, a partnership between the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Health and Children and the health boards.

Supports are also being provided through the SPHE support service to enable schools to develop their substance use policies. Guidelines for developing a school substance use policy were prepared by my Department together with the Department of Health and Children and the health boards and circulated to schools in 2002. The central objective of a school substance use policy is the welfare, care, protection and education of every young person. The school policy can ensure schools have a coherent framework for providing appropriate education and managing issues relating to substance misuse in a planned and considered way.

Special Educational Needs.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

364 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science when the last survey was conducted on the resources available to special needs schools. [11510/04]

The most recent survey of special needs provision in primary schools was undertaken towards the end of 2003.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

365 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if he intends to make funding available for employing special needs assistants in schools. [11511/04]

Special needs assistants may be approved to assist a pupil who has a significant medical need for such assistance, a significant impairment of physical or sensory function or where their behaviour is such that they are a danger to themselves or other pupils. The criteria used for the assessment of the need for special needs assistant support is outlined in circular 07/02. The circular may be accessed in my Department's website under "Children with Special Needs". Any application received will be considered in the context of the criteria set out in the circular and the existing level of special needs assistant provision in the school.

Since October 1998 the number of special needs assistants has grown from approximately 300 to the current number of 4,319 full-time and 1,353 part-time posts at primary level. The budget for the provision of special needs assistants is allocated on a financial year basis. I can confirm the allocation for primary level for the financial years 2002, 2003 and 2004 as follows:

2002: €50.416 million

2003: €103.611 million

2004: €119.897 million

My Department is at present reviewing existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In that context, my officials have been involved in ongoing discussions on the matter with representative interests. At this stage it would be premature to anticipate the outcome. The basic purpose of that review is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

Further Education.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

366 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if he is considering lifting the cap on PLC student numbers for the 2004-05 year. [11512/04]

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

371 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Education and Science if a decision has been made on the appeals from VECs, schools and colleges for the purposes of teacher allocations and grants based on the basis of all those enrolled for PLC courses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11524/04]

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

385 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will review the decision in relation to funding for PLC courses at O’Fiaich College, Dundalk. [11583/04]

I propose to take questions 366, 371, 385 together.

Most colleges offering PLC courses are operated under the management of the vocational education committees and funding is provided for pay and non-pay costs on the basis of the approved number of places on approved courses run by the colleges. In the current academic year the enrolments on PLC courses in certain schools and colleges have exceeded the number of places approved by my Department. Teacher allocations for 2004-05 and capitation grants have been allocated on the basis of the approved number of places.

In the 2003-04 academic year, nearly 28,700 places were approved by my Department. My Department is currently considering appeals from the VECs, schools and colleges, including O'Fiach College, Dundalk, for the recognition of the excess numbers enrolled for the purposes of teacher allocations and grants. A decision in the matter will be taken shortly in the light of the totality of demands for teaching resources across the system.

School Transport.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

367 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if he intends allocating more funding to school transport. [11513/04]

The allocation for school transport has more than doubled since 1997 and this year's allocation is €110.471 million. The cost of providing school transport will be kept under review in the context of next year's estimates.

School Staffing.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

368 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school (details supplied) in County Westmeath, which has sufficient numbers to warrant an additional teacher, will have a teacher approved for September 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11514/04]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

369 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school (details supplied) in County Westmeath, which will need an additional classroom in September 2004 will have sanction provided by his Department for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11515/04]

I propose to take Question Nos. 368 and 369 together.

The staffing of a primary school for a school year is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year. The staffing schedule governing the appointment and retention of mainstream class teachers is finalised for a particular year following discussions between officials from my Department and the education partners. The staffing schedule for the 2004-05 school year was issued to school authorities recently.

According to my Department's records, the school referred to by the Deputy had an enrolment of 83 pupils on 30 September 2003. On the basis of this enrolment, the appointment of an additional permanent teacher in the school is warranted. Formal approval for the rental of temporary accommodation to cater for the additional teacher has been issued to the authorities of the school.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

370 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of the accommodation requirements for Gael Scoil Lios Tuathail, County Kerry, for September 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11523/04]

An application has been received from the school management authority of Gael Scoil Lios Tuathail for temporary accommodation on an alternative site. Officials in the school planning section of my Department are currently in discussion with Gael Scoil Lios Tuathail in relation to their accommodation requirements.

Question No. 371 answered with QuestionNo. 366.

Schools Building Projects.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

372 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science if attention will be given to the application by Kilmurry national school, Sixmilebridge, County Clare, for a school extension which is needed for the future growth in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11525/04]

When publishing the 2004 school building programme I outlined that my strategy going forward will be grounded in capital investment based on multi-annual allocations. My officials are reviewing all projects which were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual school building programme from 2005, and I expect to be in a position to make further announcements on this matter in the course of the year.

The application from Kilmurray national school, Sixmilebridge, County Clare will be considered in this regard.

Special Educational Needs.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

373 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason resource hours have not yet been arranged for a person (details supplied) in County Offaly in view of the fact that she was assessed over one year ago and granted two and a half resource hours a week; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11526/04]

My Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy, including an application for the pupil in question.

SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the nationwide census of SER provision.

My Department is currently reviewing existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In that context, my officials have been involved in ongoing discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support with representative interests. At this stage, it would be premature to anticipate the outcome for the school referred to by the Deputy. However, the basic purpose of the new system is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

This process is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to Circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

The arrangements for processing applications received after 31 August 2003, including those made by this school, will also be considered in the context of the proposed new weighted system of allocation. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

Institutes of Technology.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

374 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if he intends to reverse the funding cuts applied to institutes of technology. [11527/04]

The 2004 provision for recurrent funding for the technological sector is €410.231 million. This is an increase of 4.5% over the 2003 out-turn. It compares with €192.7 million in 1997, an increase of 113% in seven years.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

375 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if he proposes addressing the problem of the very low teacher to pupil ratio in schools. [11528/04]

The pupil-teacher ratio at second level has improved significantly in recent years.

The ratio fell from 16.0:1 in the 1996-97 school year to 13.6:1 in the 2002-03 school year and 13.48:1 for the 2003-04 school year. My Department will continue to seek further reductions in the pupil teacher ratio as resources permit.

Schools Inspectorate.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

376 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if he intends addressing the challenge to introduce uniform practice in the function of the school inspectorate. [11529/04]

The professional code of practice on evaluation and reporting for the inspectorate has been developed and published. This code sets out the general principles and guidelines under which members of the inspectorate engage in the process of evaluation and reporting.

When inspectors are recruited, they complete an intensive induction and training programme which includes periods working with experienced inspectors in schools and centres for education. In addition, all inspectors participate in regular training programmes and seminars to ensure they are kept up-to-date with best modern practice in inspection work.

The inspectorate also engages in ongoing development of the inspection tools it uses. The refinement of observation schedules and reporting templates ensures that inspection reflects changing curricula and methodologies in schools. These documents enable inspectors to evaluate the work of schools and teachers to the highest standards. For example, standard inspection frameworks, standard forms for collecting evidence and standardised reporting templates are used during whole-school evaluation in primary and second level schools and in subject inspection in second level schools.

The inspectorate publishes information on the evaluation criteria it uses. Most recently, the inspectorate has published Guide to Subject Inspection at Second Level, which describes the inspection of subject teaching at second level. The themes and frameworks for use in whole-school evaluation — by inspectors conducting external evaluations or school communities engaging in school self-review — have been published under the titles, Looking at Our School-Primary and Looking at Our Schools-Second Level.

I should note that if a teacher or school affected by an inspection report believes the inspectorate has not conducted its work in accordance with its code of practice, the school or teacher may seek a review of the matter. The standardised procedure for such a review has been published as Procedure for Review of Inspections on Schools and Teachers under section 13(9) of the Education Act 1998.

Education Schemes.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

377 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will expand the early start programme for three and four year olds in disadvantaged areas. [11530/04]

Any decision to expand or extend the Early Start pre-school pilot project is being considered in the context of a broad review of all initiatives to tackle educational disadvantage which is currently under way in my Department, the outcome of which is expected shortly.

School Discipline.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

378 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if he intends devising a programme of work which will address the problem of student indiscipline in schools. [11531/04]

My Department has issued guidelines to boards of management to assist them in discharging their obligations in the area of school discipline. These guidelines were drawn up following consultation with representatives of management, teachers and parents, and are sufficiently flexible to allow each school authority to adapt them to suit the needs of the school. These guidelines lay considerable stress on the use of suspensions and expulsions only as a last resort.

Each board of management is responsible for formulating, in consultation with parents, a fair and efficient code of behaviour. This code should ensure that the individuality of each child is accommodated while acknowledging the right of each child to education in a relatively disruption-free environment. The code should also include provision for dealing with serious breaches of discipline and continuously disruptive pupils. Social attitudes and parental approaches to discipline vary from one school community to another, and it would be inappropriate for me as Minister to set out a formal and detailed code of behaviour for all schools.

Pension Provisions.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

379 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if he intends to proceed with the proposal to restrict teachers’ pensions. [11532/04]

I take it the Deputy is referring to the question of the minimum age at which pension should become payable to teachers. This issue, including the minimum age at which pension should become payable to public servants generally, has been the subject of a Government decision which was announced in the budget and has been explained to the public service unions. The decision reached, with which I am in full agreement, is that the minimum age at which pension should become payable to the generality of new entrants to the public service from 1 April 2004, including teachers, be set at 65. This decision, together with the decision that the upper age limit for retirement be abolished in the case of new entrants, has been included in the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2004 which was enacted on 25 March last.

I emphasise that the Act applies to new entrants and that teachers already in service on 31 March 2004 and whose service in public service employment from that date is uninterrupted, or is interrupted by a period not exceeding 26 weeks, may continue to avail of the provisions for retirement which were in place on 31 March 2004.

Special Educational Needs.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

380 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the evaluation by his Department of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 for whom the Mater child development unit has issued a recommendation for resource teaching and special needs assistance; and his views on whether a school (details supplied) in Dublin 9 can provide that level of support for the full six year primary education cycle. [11552/04]

My Department has received an application for special educational resources, SER, for the pupil referred to by the Deputy.

SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003, including the application to which the Deputy refers to, are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all of these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the nationwide census of SER provision.

My Department is currently reviewing existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In that context, my officials have been involved in ongoing discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support with representative interests. At this stage, it would be premature to anticipate the outcome for the school referred to by the Deputy. However, the basic purpose of the new system is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

This process is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to Circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

The allocation of special education supports for any pupil with special needs is subject to ongoing review to determine the appropriateness of such provision.

School Transport.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

381 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the estimated cost of the school transport service in each of the past five years; the estimated number of passengers carried in each of the past five years; the estimated number of total passenger miles in each of the past five years; and his views on the trends. [11553/04]

The cost of school transport for each of the past five years is as follows: 1999, €57.9 million; 2000, €65.0 million; 2001, €77.0 million; 2002, €95.9 million; and 2003, €101.7 million.

The number of pupils carried on services operated by Bus Éireann during the same period is estimated as follows: 1999, 145,000; 2000, 139,000, 2001, 140,000; 2002, 136,000; and 2003, 138,000.

The Deputy will appreciate that the number of pupils carried may vary from month to month. In addition, the figures outlined do not include pupils whose parents-guardian are in receipt of grants to arrange private transport for their children as statistics are not currently available in this regard.

The information requested by the Deputy on the estimated number of passenger miles is being collated by my Department, and will be forwarded to him as soon as possible.

Schools Building Projects.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

382 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science when his Department will issue tender authorisation to Bridgetown Vocational College, Bridgetown, County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11562/04]

The large scale building project for Bridgetown Vocational College, Bridgetown, County Wexford is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. This project is at stage 4-5 — detail design-bills of quantities — of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band 2 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large scale projects.

Indicative time scales have been included for large scale projects proceeding to tender in 2004. The budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing to tender in this year's programme including Bridgetown Vocational College. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

School Transport.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

383 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science if school transport or a bus pass will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Carlow. [11563/04]

My Department has requested a report on the matter from Bus Éireann.

It is not possible to say what the position is until the report has been received and assessed.

Schools Building Projects.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

384 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the provision of an extension to Christ the Saviour national school, Ballingarry, County Limerick. [11582/04]

When publishing the 2004 school building programme I outlined that my strategy going forward will be grounded in capital investment based on multi-annual allocations. My officials are reviewing all projects which were not authorised to proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme, with a view to including them as part of a multi-annual school building programme from 2005 and I expect to be in a position to make further announcements on this matter in the course of the year.

The application from Christ the Saviour national school, Ballingarry, County Limerick will be considered in this regard.

Question No. 385 answered with QuestionNo. 366.

Departmental Correspondence.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

386 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will review his correspondence and the decision he has made therein based on the points made by persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11597/04]

The application referred to by the Deputy has been reviewed by my Department. The position is that my Department considers that satisfactory education facilities exist in the State to meet the person's educational needs. In the circumstances, funding will not be made available by my Department for the person in question to attend school abroad.

Schools Building Projects.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

387 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if the offer of financial assistance made to the board of management of a school (details supplied) in County Cork has a precedent in his Department in view of the fact that the funding offered is neither adequate for reconstruction to his Department’s standards or to build a new school. [11598/04]

The school referred to by the Deputy was listed in section 4 of the 2003 school building programme which was published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. It was planned that this project would be authorised to proceed to construction during 2003 subject to significant cost savings and a review of the enrolment levels later in the year.

The school enrolment had declined significantly in recent years. Accordingly, the Department's schools' inspector visited the school to ascertain the enrolment intake in September 2003. The enrolment at September 2003 had fallen to 25 pupils.

My Department's school building unit operates a devolved schools initiative which allows boards of management to address its own accommodation and building priorities with a guaranteed amount of funding and minimum involvement from my Department.

Under this initiative the amount of the grant varies depending on the pupil enrolment and the size of the school.

Special Educational Needs.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

388 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 will receive a resource teacher and a full-time special needs assistant; and if he will make this a priority case. [11599/04]

My Department has received an application for special educational resources, SER, for the pupil referred to by the Deputy.

SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003, including the application to which the Deputy refers are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all of these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the national educational psychological service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the nationwide census of SER provision.

My Department is currently reviewing existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In that context, my officials have been involved in ongoing discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support with representative interests. At this stage, it would be premature to anticipate the outcome for the school referred to by the Deputy. However, the basic purpose of the new system is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

This process is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to Circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

School Transport.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

389 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if Bus Éireann will drop off 25 children at a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11604/04]

My Department has asked Bus Éireann to investigate the possibility of re-routing the service to the school referred to in the details supplied.

It is not possible to say what the outcome will be until Bus Éireann reports back on the matter.

Special Educational Needs.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

390 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science if an application for a special needs assistant for a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath has been received by his Department; the assistance which has been given in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11606/04]

The provision of a personal assistant to enable the child in question to attend a Montessori school is a matter for the relevant health board.

School Transport.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

391 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason there is only one concessionary fare paying ticket available to a family (details supplied) in County Westmeath who have more than one child who wish to avail of the school transport service; if he will take steps to ensure that the said service is available to all of the members of the family who wish to use same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11610/04]

My Department is not aware of the case to which the Deputy refers. However, on receipt of the name and address of the school concerned, the matter can then be investigated.

The position generally is that concessionary fare-paying transport may be offered to children who are basically ineligible for transport, subject to there being room available on a service after all fully eligible children have been accommodated, and provided no additional cost is involved. Transport is offered on a first come first served basis.

State Examinations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

392 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare can repeat second and third year to enable them re-sit their junior certificate examinations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11617/04]

The Deputy will be aware from my reply to Question No. 80 of 1 April 2004 that the guidelines on the repeat of a year at post-primary level are outlined in circular M2/95.

The standard maximum period of second level education is six years. Except in very exceptional circumstances, a pupil will not be permitted to repeat more than one year of the post-primary cycle prior to first sitting the leaving certificate examination.

In certain instances, delegated authority within defined limits has been given to schools to permit students to repeat a year. An official from my Department has been in contact with the school authorities at Scoil Mhuire and has been informed that the person referred to by the Deputy successfully completed his junior certificate in 2003 and is no longer enrolled there. If he wishes to repeat a year he should first apply for enrolment in one of the schools referred to by the Deputy.

Exceptional cases are examined on an individual basis, whereby, the school authorities submit a written request in relation to the particular pupil, together with supporting documentation. The case is then referred to my Department's inspectorate for their advice and recommendation. The school authority is informed of this decision.

Special Educational Needs.

Paddy McHugh

Ceist:

393 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will review the learning support service provided to four schools (details supplied) in County Galway with a view to increasing the level of service provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11638/04]

My Department is currently reviewing existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In that context, my officials have been involved in ongoing discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support with representative interests. At this stage, it would be premature to anticipate the outcome for the schools referred to by the Deputy. However, the basic purpose of the new system is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special education.

Teaching Qualifications.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

394 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason he did not respond to the students’ union at St. Patrick’s College of Education, Drumcondra, on the Hibernia courses issue; and his views on the de-professionalisation of teaching. [11639/04]

My office cannot trace any record of a letter from the students' union in St. Patrick's College of Education, Drumcondra, in relation to the on-line course provided by Hibernia College.

I do not accept that my decision to recognise the course in question for the purpose of employment as a primary teacher undermines the profession of teaching.

Special Educational Needs.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

395 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science if a special needs assistant will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Kerry which has been sought since September 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11640/04]

Pat Carey

Ceist:

404 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will examine the application for a classroom assistant at a school (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11681/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 395 and 404 together.

The school referred to by the Deputy currently has the services of one shared learning support post — based — and one shared resource teaching post — based.

My Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy, including an application for the pupil in question.

SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003, including those made by this school, are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the nationwide census of SER provision.

My Department is reviewing existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In that context, my officials have been involved in ongoing discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support with representative interests. At this stage, it would be premature to anticipate the outcome for the school referred to by the Deputy. However, the basic purpose of the new system is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

This process is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to Circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

The arrangements for processing applications received after the 31 August 2003 will also be considered in the context of the proposed new weighted system of allocation. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

Departmental Correspondence.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

396 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to a request by the Committee of Public Accounts on 18 March 1992 for a report on the industrial and reformatory school system; the date on which his Department provided the report to the PAC; if he will make this report available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11648/04]

My officials have been unable to trace a request from the Committee of Public Accounts for a report on the industrial and reformatory school system on 18 March 1992. The secretariat to the Committee of Public Accounts has confirmed to my Department that it has no record of such a request being made.

Teachers’ Remuneration.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

397 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science the reasons for the delay in paying a lump sum to special needs assistants which was due in January 2004 under the national agreement; when the amount will be paid; the other payments which are due to that group in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11674/04]

The payment of the second phase of the increases recommended by the public service benchmarking body and the 3% increase are dependent, in the case of each organisation and grade, on verification of co-operation with flexibility and ongoing change, satisfactory implementation of the agenda for modernisation, maintenance of stable industrial relations and absence of industrial action in respect of any matters covered by the Sustaining Progress agreement.

A modernisation agenda for the grade of special needs assistants was agreed earlier this year under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. An assessment of progress on the modernisation agenda is now being made by the Secretary General of my Department in consultation with the managerial authorities of first and second level schools and, subject to a favourable assessment, payment of the increases due with effect from 1 January 2004 will be executed.

The Deputy will be advised of the payment date as soon as the arrangements are finalised. A further increase of 2% is due with effect from 1 July 2004.

School Placement.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

398 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school place has been found for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in the Kilkenny VEC area; if an extra teacher will be allocated to the school at Ballyhale, County Kilkenny in order that the person can be accommodated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11675/04]

The selection and enrolment of pupils in second level schools is the responsibility of the management authorities. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking second level places in an area. That may result, however, 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.

Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 provides parents with an appeal process to the Secretary General of my Department where a board of management of a school or a person acting on behalf of the board refuses enrolment of a student. Where an appeal under section 29 is upheld, the Secretary General of my Department may direct a school to enrol a pupil.

The education welfare board is required to assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in ensuring that their children attend school regularly and will also assist schools in fulfilling their role under the Act. Through its educational welfare officers, the board provides a welfare-focused service accessible to parents, school and others concerned with the welfare of young people.

I understand that an application to enrol the student referred to by the Deputy has been made to Scoil Aireagail, Ballyhale. However, no decision has been made on that application. I further understand that an educational welfare officer has met the child's family and will be maintaining contact with them.

My Department allocates resource teaching support and special needs assistant support to second level schools and vocational education committees to cater for students with special educational needs. Applications for such support are made to my Department by the relevant school authority or VEC. Each application is considered on the basis of the assessed needs of the pupil or pupils involved, and the nature and level of the support provided is determined on the advice of the psychological service.

To date, my Department has not received an application for additional resources from the school in respect of the student in question.

School Staffing.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

399 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a resource teacher can be appointed to Kenmare national school or Kenmare community college to accommodate a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11676/04]

My Department has no record of having received an application for special education supports for the pupil referred to by the Deputy from either of the schools in question.

However, arrangements are being made to have my Department's inspectorate investigate the matter further.

Schools Building Projects.

Seán Power

Ceist:

400 Mr. S. Power asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the application by Scoil Bhríde, Nurney, County Kildare, for a new school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11677/04]

A large-scale building project for Scoil Bhríde, Nurney, County Kildare, is listed in section 9 of the 2004 school building programme, which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. That project is at early stages of architectural planning. It has been assigned a band 2 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

It is planned to progress this project to the next stage of architectural planning during 2004.

The budget announcement regarding multiannual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multiannual framework for the school building programme, which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing to tender in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Special Educational Needs.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

401 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a resource teacher will be made available to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in view of the fact that the person has been assessed as requiring such a teacher under his Department’s guidelines; when such an appointment will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11678/04]

I can confirm that an application for resource teaching support was received and processed for the pupil in question. However, the application did not meet the criteria for resource teaching support as outlined in the relevant Department circular. The school was informed of that in correspondence dated 4 February 2003.

School Transport.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

402 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will extend the school transport service to Piltown national school in respect of children who have recently requested this service from the Fiddown village area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11679/04]

A school transport service to a primary school may be established where there are seven or more eligible pupils offering for transport from a distinct locality to their appropriate school.

In order to be eligible for free transport, children must live at least two miles from their nearest school, and be attending that school. Children who live in a closed school area, that is, where the closed school would have been their nearest school had it remained open, may be deemed eligible for transport to the school of amalgamation only.

As the minimum number of eligible children required has not been met in this case, I regret that it is not open to my Department to establish a school transport service.

Schools Building Projects.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

403 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science when approval will be given for the construction of a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11680/04]

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that a site for the school in question has been identified. The matter of the transfer of ownership is currently being addressed.

Regarding the proposed large-scale building project for the school, it is listed in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme, which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. The project has been assigned a band 1 rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects.

It is planned to progress the project to advanced architectural planning during 2004, and that process will commence when the site issues have been addressed.

Indicative time scales have been included for large-scale projects proceeding to tender in 2004. The budget announcement regarding multiannual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multiannual framework for the school building programme, which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing in this year's programme including the Holy Spirit primary school. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Question No. 404 answered with QuestionNo. 395.

School Transport.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

405 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science if Bus Éireann has completed its report regarding Question No. 300 of 17 February 2004 on a school bus service for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11682/04]

An extension to the bus service to the school concerned has now been sanctioned for the person referred to in the details supplied.

Special Educational Needs.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

406 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science if his review of special needs assistance in schools has been completed; if so, the findings of same; the steps he is taking to increase the availability of special needs assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11686/04]

Special needs assistants may be approved to assist a pupil who has a significant medical need for such assistance, a significant impairment of physical or sensory function, or where his or her behaviour is a danger to the pupil or other pupils. The criteria used for the assessment of the need for special needs assistant support is outlined in circular 07/02. The circular may be accessed in my Department's website under "Children with Special Needs". Any application received will be considered in the context of the criteria set out in the circular and the existing level of special needs assistant provision in the school.

Applications for special educational resources, or SER, received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September, and all those cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the national educational psychological service, or NEPS. Those applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the nation-wide census of SER provision.

I can confirm that my Department is at present reviewing existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In that context, my officials have been involved in on-going discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support with representative interests. At this stage, it would be premature to anticipate the outcome. However, the basic purpose of the new system is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

This process is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have it completed as quickly as possible, and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which was issued in September 2003. That circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

Higher Education Grants.

John Perry

Ceist:

407 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans he has in place to grant an increase in funding to third level institutes for the provision of library services, tutorials and academic support; the funding that has been granted in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11709/04]

The sum of €630.5 million has been provided in the 2004 Estimates for universities and HEA-designated institutions. I have no plans to provide additional funding to the sector this year.

From 1997 to 2004, there was an increase of almost €300 million in the recurrent provision to the university sector. That represents an increase of approximately 90% over the period. Overall funding, capital and current, for the wider higher education sector will stand at €1.48 billion in 2004. That is up €631 million, or 74%, on 1997 levels.

I am aware that the universities will be challenged in the short term by the constraints on recurrent Exchequer funding placed on them in 2004, having regard to overall cost pressures. I appreciate that individual institutions are required to find economies and to become more streamlined in some of their operations in order to reconcile available budgets with pre-existing demands and commitments. That must be viewed, however, in the context of overall increases in investment in higher education over recent years and the Government's longer-term strategic objective for excellence in the sector.

The funding provided in 2001, 2003 and 2003 for universities and HEA-designated institutions was as follows: 2001, €538.0 million; 2002, €592.3 million; 2003, €628.8 million.

Third Level Fees.

John Perry

Ceist:

408 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans he has in place to increase the grant available in view of the fact that college registration fees increased from €670 to €750 over the past two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11710/04]

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

410 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Education and Science if the registration fees which were increased from €670 to €750 in 2004 will not be further increased in 2005 in view of the fact that there has been an increase of more than 90% over the past two years; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this is causing undue hardship to students at third level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11761/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 408 and 410 together.

The student charge is levied by third level institutions to defray the costs of examinations, registration and students services. Those costs continue to be incurred by the third level institutions. On 13 November 2003 I announced, as part of the 2004 Estimates for my Department, that the student charge would increase from €670 to a proposed level of €750. No decision has been made regarding the level of the charge for the 2005-06 academic year.

Students eligible for means-tested student support have the student charge paid on their behalf by the local authorities or the vocational education committees in addition to any grant to which they are entitled. No student whose family income is at or less than €40,000 will pay this charge.

Higher Education Grants.

John Perry

Ceist:

409 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science when funding will be released with regard to the recent announcement on the funding for colleges under the programme for research in third level institutes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11711/04]

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

412 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Education and Science when the release of funding recently announced for colleges under the programme for research and third level education will be made to colleges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11763/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 409 and 412 together.

I take it that the Deputies are referring to my announcement regarding the capital funding for cycle 3 of the programme for research in third level institutions, or PRTLI.

Exchequer funding of €25 million has been provided in the 2004 Estimates for the advancement of cycle 3 of PRTLI. The key administrative procedures for the PRTLI have been devolved to the Higher Education Authority, or HEA.

I understand that the institutions were advised by the HEA of their allocations for 2004 in early March and that the HEA is putting arrangements in place to release that capital funding shortly to those institutions that have provided the necessary information to it.

Question No. 410 answered with QuestionNo. 408.

Third Level Fees.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

411 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has plans for the reintroduction of college fees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11762/04]

There are no proposals at present for the abolition of the free fees scheme.

Question No. 412 answered with QuestionNo. 409.

Higher Education Grants.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

413 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will make a statement on his Department’s decision to claw back significant provisions in the postgraduate funding of the back to education allowance. [11764/04]

The issue raised by the Deputy is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs.

Education Schemes.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

414 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will review his position regarding the capping of PLC courses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11783/04]

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

416 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science , further to Question No. 73 of April 2004, when a decision will be conveyed to the VEC in question regarding its appeal for recognition of the excess numbers enrolled for the purposes of teacher allocations and grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11786/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 414 and 416 together.

In the current academic year the enrolments on PLC courses in certain schools and colleges have exceeded the number of places approved by my Department. Teacher allocations for 2004-05 and capitation grants have been allocated based on the approved number of places.

In the 2003-04 academic year, the Department approved nearly 28,700 places.

The Department has commenced a review of appeals from VECs, colleges and schools for the recognition of the excess numbers enrolled for the purposes of teacher allocations and grants. The review is continuing at present and is expected to be finalised shortly.

When concluded, a decision in the matter will be taken in the light of the totality of demands for teaching resources across the system. The outcome of the appeals process will be conveyed directly to the VECs and schools concerned.

Higher Education Grants.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

415 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if funding will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11785/04]

Under the terms of the higher education grant scheme, administered by the local authorities under the aegis of the Department of Education and Science, a student is not eligible for grant assistance in respect of a second period of study at the same level, irrespective of whether a grant was paid previously. The scheme also provides that grants may not be paid to candidates who already hold a postgraduate qualification and are pursuing a second postgraduate qualification.

However, clause 7.7 of the HEG scheme 2003 provides financial assistance to eligible candidates who already hold a postgraduate qualification and who wish to enter a further postgraduate course at a higher level which represents progression from the level at which the first qualification was attained.

Notwithstanding the provision for progression at undergraduate and postgraduate level, the objective of the schemes of student support is to assist as many students as possible in obtaining at least one undergraduate and one postgraduate degree.

Regarding students who hold a master's in law and are pursuing the professional practice course 1 and 2, considering that the master's held in such cases is in the discipline of law, and that the students concerned are continuing to study law full-time, and must complete the PPC 1 and 2 in order to practice as a solicitor, candidates may be considered under the HEG scheme subject to the usual terms and conditions of funding.

Section 21 of the Finance Act 2000 provided for the introduction of tax relief for postgraduate fees paid in publicly funded colleges here and in other EU member states, as well as in private colleges in the state. That tax relief is applied at the standard rate of tax and will be available to full-time and part-time postgraduate students. Further details and conditions regarding that tax relief are available from local tax offices.

Question No. 416 answered with QuestionNo. 414.

Teachers’ Remuneration.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

417 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science if funding will be provided to remunerate part-time substitute teachers for supervision in 2001-02; and the reason that those teachers were not paid for their supervision duties. [11820/04]

The payment for supervision and substitution duties undertaken by substitute or part-time teachers in voluntary secondary schools and community and comprehensive schools is made by means of a grant payment to each school.

This grant payment is the balance between the number of hours paid to teachers on the Department payroll and the total allocation due to the school as determined by reference to the number of whole-time equivalent teachers for each school.

Teachers on the Department payroll who opted in 2001-02 school year to perform substitution or supervision under the terms of the scheme were paid in two instalments — in December and August. Where those teachers did not take up the total hours allocated to schools for supervision or substitution, the balance could be offered to substitute teachers who were subsequently paid by the school management from the grant referred to above.

The grants for the 2001-02 school year have been paid to schools. Payments under the agreed scheme for substitution and supervision for the 2001-02 school year have been finalised.

School Staffing.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

418 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will provide a copy of the draft circular pertaining to resource teachers. [11821/04]

A circular relating to the proposed weighted system of resource allocation is at an early stage of preparation and is not yet ready for circulation. A copy will be issued to all primary schools as soon as it is finalised. It will also be published in my Department's website under "Children with Special Needs".

School Accommodation.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

419 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding a premises bought at a third level institution (details supplied); if there are plans in the near future to use the building; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11822/04]

In 2001 my Department funded the purchase of the premises referred to by the Deputy. Some minor refurbishment has already been carried out on the building to enable its partial use by the institute.

The Deputy is aware that I announced a pause in all capital developments in the third level sector, including capital projects under cycle 3 of the programme for research in third level institutions, or PRTLI, in November 2002. Funding has been provided in the 2004 Estimates to commence cycle 3 of the PRTLI.

At my request, the Higher Education Authority, or HEA, is undertaking a review of the entire set of demands in the third level sector, excluding PRTLI, to establish prioritisation and agree re-phasing for future years.

Each institution has met the review group, made a presentation of its institutional strategy and set the capital development proposals in a strategic context.

Plans by the institute concerned for the major refurbishment and development of the premises formed part of its submission to the review group.

The work of the group is at a very advanced stage, and it is the intention of the group to have a report submitted to the Higher Education Authority very shortly. The authority will advise me of its views.

Decisions on capital projects at third level institutions, including the refurbishment of the premises in question, will be taken in the context of the outcome of the review and within the parameters of the capital envelope of funding available to me.

Special Educational Needs.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

420 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason extra resource hours have not been sanctioned to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11823/04]

I can confirm that my Department has received applications for special educational resources, or SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy, including an application for the pupil in question.

SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003, including those made by this school, are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September, and all those cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service, or NEPS. Those applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the nation-wide census of SER provision.

I can confirm that my Department is at present reviewing existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In that context, my officials have been involved in ongoing discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support with representative interests. At this stage, it would be premature to anticipate the outcome for the school referred to by the Deputy. However, the basic purpose of the new system is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

This process is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have it completed as quickly as possible, and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which was issued in September 2003. That circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs in the school.

Student Numbers.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

421 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will meet the Dún Laoghaire Branch of TUI to discuss the capping of student numbers in the further education sector and the delay in implementing the recommendations of the McIver report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11824/04]

I have no plans to meet individual branches of the TUI on these issues. The matters have been discussed between officials of my Department and representatives of the TUI at national level.

In the current academic year the enrolments on PLC courses in certain schools and colleges have exceeded the number of places approved. Teacher allocations for 2004-05 and capitation grants have been allocated on the basis of the approved number of places or the numbers enrolled.

In the 2003-04 academic year nearly 28,700 places were approved. My Department is currently considering appeals from the VECs, schools and colleges for recognition of the excess numbers enrolled for the purposes of teacher allocations and grants and a decision in the matter will be taken shortly in the light of the totality of demands for teaching resources across the system.

The post-leaving certificate review was commissioned to examine the sector and make recommendations as necessary regarding the organisational, support, development, technical and administrative structures and resources required in schools with largescale post-leaving certificate provision. The final report was completed in April, 2003.

The recommendations of the report are wide-ranging and encompass proposals that extend beyond PLC provision. The report poses considerable challenges in relation to the shaping of structures for the delivery of further and adult education into the future.

The McIver report included a recommendation that organisations involved in the further education sector should form a council of further education colleges with the specific composition of that body to be discussed further. As an initial step, the Minister of State, Deputy Síle de Valera will address a meeting of the stakeholders in the PLC sector, including a nominee of the TUI, on Tuesday 4 May with a view to having them agree proposals for submission to the Department about the composition and remit of the council.

Having regard to the number and scope of the recommendations in the report, further consultations with all the relevant interests with regard to prioritisation of the recommendations will be necessary during 2004.

School Staffing.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

422 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science when extra resource hours will be allocated to a person (details supplied) in County Offaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11825/04]

My Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy, including an application for the pupil in question.

SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003, are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the national educational psychological service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the nationwide census of SER provision.

My Department is reviewing existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In that context, my officials have been involved in on-going discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support with representative interests. At this stage, it would be premature to anticipate the outcome for the school referred to by the Deputy. However, the basic purpose of the new system is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

This process is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

The arrangements for processing applications received after 31 August 2003, including those made by this school, will be also be considered in the context of the proposed new weighted system of allocation. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

School Transport.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

423 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason members of a family (details supplied) in County Laois have been refused free school transport to Camross National School, Camross, Mountrath, County Laois despite the fact that school transport is unavailable to the school in the catchment area where the Department state they are entitled to school transport; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the difference in distance is one mile; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11826/04]

Under the terms of the primary school transport scheme, only eligible children qualify for free transport. To be eligible, children must live at least two miles from, and be attending their nearest national school.

The family referred to by the Deputy in the details supplied reside 2.7 miles from their nearest national school and 2.9 miles from Camross national school, and is therefore not basically eligible for free transport.

As there is no school transport service available to their nearest school the family members have been offered concessionary fare paying transport on a service to Camross national school which passes their home.

Schools Building Projects.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

424 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding Scoil Bhríde national school, Nurney, County Kildare; if he will confirm the time scale in which the new extension will be constructed; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that through local effort and fundraising a site has been purchased; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11827/04]

A large scale building project for Scoil Bhríde, Nurney, County Kildare, is listed in section 9 of the 2004 school building programme which is published on my Department's website atwww.education.ie. This project is at early stages of architectural planning. It has been assigned a “band 2” rating by my Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large scale projects.

It is planned to progress this project to the next stage of architectural planning during 2004.

The budget announcement regarding multi-annual capital envelopes will enable me to adopt a multi-annual framework for the school building programme which in turn will give greater clarity regarding projects that are not progressing to tender in this year's programme. I will make a further announcement in that regard during the year.

Educational Projects.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

425 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has plans to assist in providing a new engineering school at NUI, Galway; if his attention has been drawn to the increased number of students opting to take engineering at NUI Galway in recent years and of the significance of this to the BMW region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11828/04]

I acknowledge the importance of the NUIG engineering faculty for economic growth nationally but more particularly for the BMW region.

However, the Deputy is aware that I announced a pause with regard to all capital developments in the third level sector including capital projects under cycle 3 of the programme for research in third level institutions, PRTLI, in November 2002. Funding has been provided in the 2004 Estimates to commence cycle 3 of the PRTLI.

At my request the Higher Education Authority is undertaking a review of the entire set of demands in the third level sector — excluding PRTLI — to establish prioritisation and agree re-phasing for future years.

Each institution has met the review group and made a presentation of its institutional strategy and set the capital development proposals in a strategic context. Plans by NUI Galway for the proposed new engineering school formed part of its submission to the review group.

The work of the group is at a very advanced stage and it is the intention to have a report submitted to the HEA shortly. The authority will then advise me of its views.

Decisions as regards capital projects at third level institutions, including the proposed new engineering school at NUI Galway, will be taken in the context of the outcome of the review and within the parameters of the capital envelope of funds available to me.

Decentralisation Programme.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

426 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if a survey of staff at present based in his Department’s headquarters has been undertaken to establish the willingness of those personnel to be relocated to Mullingar under the Government’s decentralisation programme; if he will give details of this survey; and if he will report on progress made on the relocation of this office. [11851/04]

A staff survey on decentralisation was undertaken earlier this year and I will arrange to forward details to the Deputy.

It is intended to put in place an integrated central applications facility to allow staff to apply for transfer to decentralised locations and to rank their preferences for different locations. This facility will be operated by the Civil Service Commission. Issues relating to accommodation will be dealt with centrally by the Office of Public Works.

The report of the decentralisation implementation group, dated 31 March 2004, provides more detailed information on how the overall programme will proceed. This report is available on the Department of Finance website atwww.finance.gov.ie.

Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme.

Pat Carey

Ceist:

427 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in view of the circumstances of the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11, he will allow payment of the VTOS allowance to this person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11864/04]

The terms of the vocational training opportunities scheme do not allow for the payment of a training allowance to the student in question. I have written to the Deputy about the matter.

School Curriculum.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

428 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has met secondary schools, who operate a seven day boarding with a six day teaching week, who have concerns about the impact of a standardised school year on the needs of their parents; and if he will make arrangements to grant a derogation in this situation. [11865/04]

The arrangements for the standardisation of breaks at Christmas and Easter and mid-terms were agreed at the teachers' conciliation council. The council comprises representatives of the managerial authorities of schools, the teacher unions and the Departments of Education and Science and Finance. The issue of a derogation for boarding schools which operate a six day teaching week was discussed at the council following representations from those schools. There was no agreement at the council to grant such a derogation.

The purpose of the discussions at the council was to implement a specific requirement in the national agreement Sustaining Progress. Sustaining Progress set the achievement of a standard school year as a requirement for all primary and post-primary schools. In encompassing all schools in both sectors it was designed to bring certainty and clarity on a country wide basis to the arrangements for the vacation periods covered by the agreement. The agreed arrangements achieve that purpose and will have general application. Schools continue to have discretion in relation to the start and end of the school year which are not covered by the Sustaining Progress requirement.

Youth Services.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

429 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will set out the process under which a youth club in need of support can apply under the young people’s facilities funds, or through any other procedure, to have a youth leader funded (details supplied). [11866/04]

The young people's facilities and services fund, YPFSF, is, with the exception of one element, administered by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The only element of the YPFSF administered by my Department is that which relates to YPFSF projects which have already been mainstreamed, that is, are in receipt of regular funding having been assessed by the national assessment committee of the YPFSF. Information on all other elements of the YPFSF may be obtained by contacting the secretary of the YPFSF at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs directly at (01) 6473000.

The local drugs task force scheme, LDTF, fund is managed by my Department. This provides grant-in-aid support for mainstreamed projects which have been assessed by a committee of the national drugs strategy team, NDST. The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs is the lead Department in the NDST and therefore applications for support are made through that Department.

The special projects for youth scheme is administered by the youth affairs section of my Department. Under this scheme, grants are allocated to organisations and groups for specific out-of-school projects that address the needs of young people who are disadvantaged due to a combination of factors, including social exclusion, substance abuse and inadequate take-up of ordinary educational opportunities. I will arrange to forward full details of the special projects for youth scheme to the Deputy.

The City of Dublin youth services board, CDYSB, operating under the City of Dublin VEC, is part funded by my Department. CDYSB may provide funding but, in the main, it is only for projects that have been approved under one of the schemes mentioned.

Area Development Management Ltd., ADM, also provides grants from the Dormant Accounts Subvention Fund. Further information may be obtained by contacting the organisation directly by telephone at (01) 2400700 or at the following address: Area Development Management Ltd., Holbrook House, Holles Street, Dublin 2.

Special Educational Needs.

David Stanton

Ceist:

430 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has received an application for a resource teaching assistant for a person (details supplied); the date on which the application was received; if and when he will make such teaching support available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11867/04]

David Stanton

Ceist:

431 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has received a request for resource teaching assistance for a person (details supplied); the date when the application was received in his office; if and when he will make such resource teacher support available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11868/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 430 and 431 together.

My Department has received applications for special educational resources, SER, from the school referred to by the Deputy including two applications for the pupils in question.

SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003, including those made by this school, are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all of these cases were responded to before or soon after the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the national educational psychological service. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the recent nationwide census of SER provision.

The processing of the applications is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September, 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

My Department is reviewing existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In that context, my officials have initiated discussions on the matter with representative interests. At this stage, it would be premature to anticipate the outcome. However the basic purpose of that review is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs. A further communication will be sent to schools shortly.

Graduate Numbers.

David Stanton

Ceist:

432 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of bachelor of technology (education) materials and construction technology and bachelor of technology (education) materials and engineering technology teachers that have graduated from the University of Limerick in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003; the number expected to graduate in 2004; the number of these that have taken up positions as teachers in each year respectively in the State; the number that have permanent positions respectively; his plans to increase the number of these teachers in training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11878/04]

For the Deputy's information, following is a table showing the numbers that have graduated from the two bachelor of technology courses in the University of Limerick from 1999 to 2002 and estimated numbers for 2003 and 2004 based on enrolments in the final year of study. Details of the numbers that have taken up teaching positions is also included.

A detailed study of supply and demand issues in the second level sector, which has been carried out by the Higher Education Authority in conjunction with my Department, has identified a range of subject areas where supply and demand issues arise. The outcome of this study is currently being considered by my Department with a view to determining the measures which need to be put in place to address these issues.

No. Graduating

No. Respondents

Response Rate

Teaching Postitions in the State

Permanent Teaching Postitions

%

N

%

N

%

B. Tech (Education) Materials & Construction Technology

1999

25

25

100

15

60

2

8

2000

41

38

92

27

71

6

16

2001

24

24

100

19

79

9

38

2002

35

32

91

24

75

8

25

(est) 2003

34

(est) 2004

29

B. Tech (Education) Materials & Engineering Technology

1999

25

25

100

18

72

1

4

2000

20

20

100

13

65

2

10

2001

33

33

100

24

73

5

15

2002

31

29

94

21

72

7

24

(est) 2003

28

(est) 2004

26

Notes:

Estimates based on enrolments in final year of study.

Information not yet available. Graduates of 2003 are currently being surveyed for FDR 2003.

School Accommodation.

David Stanton

Ceist:

433 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary schools in the State; the number of these primary schools which are wheelchair accessible; the actions he is taking to ensure that all primary schools in the State are wheelchair accessible; the procedures to be followed if a person who is a wheelchair user wishes to attend a primary school which is not wheelchair accessible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11879/04]

There are currently 3,292 recognised primary schools in the State. My Department does not have exact figures as to how many of these schools are wheelchair accessible since many school authorities use their annual minor works grants to provide access for all to their schools.

It is the policy of my Department to provide all new schools with access for all facilities and special toilets for disabled teachers and students. In addition, new schools with two or more storeys are provided with lifts. My Department advises school authorities and their design teams of accessibility requirements during the architectural planning process of projects.

Concerning access for all to existing school buildings my Department will respond as promptly as possible to a request from a school authority for funding for adaptations necessary to allow any person with mobility problems access the building.

Redress Matters.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

434 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if the maximum support will be given to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11880/04]

While I am concerned for the health and wellbeing of the person referred to by the Deputy it is important to stress that the residential institutions redress board and the residential institutions review committee are independent in the performance of their functions in accordance with the terms of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002. My Department is not a party to the redress process and it is not open to me to make any comment on any individual awards that the redress board makes or to attempt to intervene with the process.

Officials from my Department have met the person in question and have outlined my Department's position on the matter.

In the event that any individual is not satisfied with an offer made by the redress board or the review committee, he or she is still entitled to proceed with his or her case through the courts.

International Education Matters.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

435 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 88 of 5 February 2004 if the working group has yet reported to him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11956/04]

The interdepartmental working group established to consider the internationalisation of education services is in the process of drafting its report and recommendations based on submissions received and discussions held. I propose to bring it to Government when it is finalised.

Special Educational Needs.

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

436 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will appoint more resource teachers and special needs assistants; the reason there is a delay in processing applications for these posts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11984/04]

SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the national educational psychological service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the nationwide census of SER provision.

My Department is at present reviewing existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In that context, my officials have been involved in on-going discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support with representative interests. At this stage, it would be premature to anticipate the outcome of these discussions. However, the basic purpose of the new system is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

This process is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September, 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

The arrangements for processing applications received after the 31 August 2003 will also be considered in the context of the proposed new weighted system of allocation. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

437 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has received an application for a special needs teacher from a school in order to assist a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; when this application will be dealt with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11985/04]

My Department has no record of having received an application for special education resources, SER, for the pupil referred to by the Deputy.

Any application received will be considered in the context of the criteria set out in the relevant Department circulars and the existing level of SER provision in the school.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

438 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the evaluation of special educational resource applications received between 15 February and 21 August 2003; if decisions have been made with regard to these applications; and the position with regard to completion of the evaluation. [11986/04]

SER applications received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 are being considered at present. In all, more than 5,000 such applications were received. Priority was given to cases involving children starting school last September and all these cases were responded to at or before the commencement of the current school year.

The balance of more than 4,000 applications has been reviewed by a dedicated team comprising members of my Department's inspectorate and the national educational psychological service, NEPS. These applications are being further considered in the context of the outcome of surveys of SER provision conducted over the past year or so. Account is also being taken of the data submitted by schools as part of the nationwide census of SER provision.

My Department is at present reviewing existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. In that context, my officials have been involved in on-going discussions on a weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support with representative interests. At this stage, it would be premature to anticipate the outcome. However, the basic purpose of the new system is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

This process is a complex and time-consuming operation. However, my Department is endeavouring to have this completed as quickly as possible and my officials will then respond to all applicant schools. Pending a response, schools are advised to refer to circular 24/03, which issued in September, 2003. This circular contains practical advice on how to achieve the most effective deployment of resources already allocated for special educational needs within the school.

The arrangements for processing applications received after the 31 August 2003 will also be considered in the context of the proposed new weighted system of allocation. A further communication will be sent to schools in this regard.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

439 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science the procedure for recruiting special needs assistants. [11987/04]

The procedures for the recruitment of special needs assistants in primary schools are outlined in circular SNA 3/03. The title of the circular is "Appointment Procedures for Special Needs Assistants".

The circular is on my Department's website,www.education.ie. It may be accessed by entering the website then entering “Education Personnel” and “Special Needs Assistants”.

I will arrange for a copy of the circular to be forwarded to the Deputy.

School Services Staff.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

440 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of administrative VEC staff not including school clerical staff who were based in Drogheda in the former Drogheda VEC offices compared to the number who are presently working in Drogheda and employed by the County Louth VEC. [11990/04]