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Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 8 Jul 2004

Vol. 588 No. 7

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 9, inclusive, answered orally.

Proposed Legislation.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

10 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the proposed Irish Nationality and Citizenship Bill 2004, arising from the recent constitutional amendment, and which was published in draft form, will be formally published; when he expects that it will be enacted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20714/04]

I have asked the Irish Human Rights Commission for its observations on the draft Bill published last April as part of the document, Citizenship Referendum: the Government's proposals, and I await those. I am also at present engaging in consultations with the SDLP as regards aspects of the proposed legislation raised by that Party. I intend to finalise the text of the Bill with parliamentary counsel to the Government, based on the published draft and incorporating whatever modifications are appropriate arising out of these ongoing consultations, with a view to obtaining Government approval to circulate the Bill in time for parliamentary debate on it during the Autumn session.

The Bill as initiated will also include provision to address the question of putting investment-based naturalisation schemes beyond possibility, in accordance with the commitment in that regard already given by me on behalf of the Government. Should any Deputy or other interested person have any observations to make at this stage, I would be delighted to take them into account in the process of finalising the text.

Prison Accommodation.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

11 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects to receive the report of the expert group established to consider potential sites for the location of a new prison to replace Mountjoy Prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20700/04]

The Office of Public Works was asked earlier this year to assist in the identification of possible sites for a complex to replace the current prison facilities centred around Mountjoy Prison. The Office of Public Works subsequently made inquiries, which included the placing of advertisements in the national press, and arising from this process approximately 30 potential sites have been submitted for consideration.

In view of the importance of identifying the most appropriate site, and in the light of the large number of potential sites, I have established an expert group, chaired by my Department with input from the Office of Public Works and the Irish Prison Service, to examine the potential sites on the basis of comprehensive and objective criteria and to report back to me. I propose to await the results of the deliberations of this group before proceeding further. I would not expect to receive this group's report before the end of July.

Departmental Appointments.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

12 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the details of the criteria used in the nomination and appointment of members of the Judiciary; and if he has plans to review the present system. [20814/04]

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

18 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has plans to improve the vetting procedures in regard to persons who apply for appointment as judges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20727/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 12 and 18 together. I refer the Deputies to my reply to Priority Question No. 3 of today.

Decentralisation Programme.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

13 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in regard to his recent announcement of the transfer of the headquarters of the Irish Prison Service from Dublin to Longford, a survey has been undertaken to establish the number of staff willing to transfer; the breakdown by grade of the number who have indicated their willingness to transfer; the plans there are for staff who are not willing to relocate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20699/04]

The position in relation to the matters raised by the Deputy was set out in my replies to Parliamentary Questions No. 29 of 5 May 2004 and No. 93 of 1 June 2004. As stated previously the central application facility, CAF, was launched by the Civil Service Commission in May 2004 and civil servants have been invited to indicate their preferred decentralisation locations by 8 July 2004. The staff who apply by this date will have priority over those who apply after that date.

However, following agreement with the civil service unions, it has been decided to extend the initial period for priority applications until 7 September 2004. When the information is to hand on the initial CAF interest in decentralisation options, it is intended to conduct a survey in which the relevant prison service staff would be asked to indicate definitively whether or not they wish to remain with the Irish Prison Service and transfer to Longford. The Deputy may be interested to know that, prior to the establishment of the CAF, the Irish Prison Service had received unsolicited applications from 72 persons in other Civil Service bodies who wish to transfer to Longford.

The Deputy will be aware that the Irish Prison Service has, along with all other Departments and agencies due to decentralise, prepared and submitted an implementation plan to the decentralisation implementation committee. Part of this plan outlines the possible risks associated with decentralisation, as well as presenting strategies for mitigating these risks. The Flynn committee will be submitting its second report to Government at the end of this month.

With regard to staff who do not propose to decentralise to Longford, my colleague, the Minister for Finance, has recently indicated in the national press that a central application facility for civil servants who wish to remain in Dublin will be established shortly.

Cory Report.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

14 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the promised tribunal of inquiry arising from the Cory report will be established; the form it will take; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20697/04]

In accordance with the recommendation of Mr. Justice Peter Cory, I secured Government approval in December last for the establishment of a public inquiry into the murders in 1989 of RUC Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and RUC Superintendent Bob Buchanan. The public inquiry will take the form of a tribunal of inquiry pursuant to the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts 1921 to 2002. I anticipate that the tribunal will be established in the early autumn.

Asylum Applications.

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

15 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will reconsider the policy of placing pregnant asylum seekers together, in view of the outbreak of chickenpox at a centre (details supplied) in Dublin. [20812/04]

The Reception and Integration Agency, RIA, which operates under the aegis of my Department, is responsible, among other things, for meeting the accommodation and ancillary needs of asylum seekers. The RIA currently operates 69 accommodation centres in 24 counties throughout the country together with three reception centres in the Dublin area.

Having made application for refugee status to the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, ORAC, asylum seekers are accommodated in a reception centre in Dublin, including Balseskin reception centre which caters, in the main, for families and single females, for approximately ten days where their needs are assessed before transfer to an accommodation centre outside Dublin, if appropriate.

Health screening is available on site in all three reception centres on a voluntary and strictly confidential basis. In addition, an ante-natal clinic which is staffed by Rotunda Hospital medical, midwifery and administrative personnel, operates two mornings each week at Balseskin. It enables identification of healthy pregnancies where women may be transferred to direct provision centres and receive maternity services outside Dublin. Difficult pregnancy cases are either retained in Dublin or referred to other specialist centres, for example, Cork as appropriate.

The accommodation of newly arrived pregnant asylum seekers in Balseskin facilitates women in early attendance at a fully co-ordinated health service which includes health screening, an ante-natal clinic, GP, psychological and psychiatric services on site, if required. Crèche facilities are also available in the centre for all adults who have children so as to facilitate attendance at medical appointments.

Following extensive discussions between representatives of the Eastern Regional Health Authority, the Northern Area Health Board, the Rotunda Hospital and the RIA, agreement was reached on a protocol to be implemented at Balseskin reception centre should an outbreak of chickenpox occur. The protocol was devised to protect the non-immune pregnant women from chickenpox by ensuring their immediate identification and removal from the centre while, at the same time, minimising the impact on day to day operation of the centre.

Under the provisions of the protocol, pregnant women who are accommodated in the centre when a chickenpox outbreak occurs are tested for immunity. Those who are non-immune to chickenpox are removed to a dedicated isolated centre where they can be monitored by the medical professionals for a 28 day period — period of incubation — and arrangements are put in place to provide a separate ante-natal clinic at Balseskin for the duration of the incubation period. Those who are immune are transferred to suitable accommodation centres outside Dublin.

Having regard to the comprehensive nature of the services available to pregnant women at the centre and the steps taken in the event of an outbreak of chickenpox, the RIA has advised me that it has no plans, at this stage, to alter its policy on the placement of pregnant women there.

Personal Injuries Litigation.

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

16 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he intends to act on the recommendations made by the Committee on Court Procedure and Practice for major changes in the way in which personal injuries litigation is handled in the courts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20726/04]

The 29th report of the Committee on Court Practice and Procedure entitled, Inquiry to Examine all Aspects of Practice and Procedure relating to Personal Injuries Litigation, was presented to me on 22 June last. In the report, the committee makes a considerable number of recommendations for changes to court practice and procedures and related matters with a view to streamlining and reducing the cost and complexity of litigation.

It is my firm belief that those who seek redress before the courts should be facilitated by modern systems, rules and practices which protect them from lengthy delays and excessive costs. It was with this purpose in mind that I introduced the Civil Liability and Courts Bill 2004, which today has passed all stages in both Houses. That Bill has presaged some of the recommendations made in the committee's report. I am, however, having the 29th report examined in my Department to see what further steps should be taken which would further simplify procedures and reduce costs.

Social Partnership.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

17 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the details of the membership of the partnership committee established under Sustaining Progress to examine child care for working parents; and the efforts his Department has made to encourage employers to allow employees extended career breaks to look after their very young children. [18129/04]

As the Deputy may be aware, the subject of child care for working parents, with particular emphasis on the feasibility of establishing workplace child care arrangements, is presently under consideration by a partnership sub-committee which has been established under Sustaining Progress.

The purpose of the sub-committee is to consider how to improve the availability of quality child care for working parents and how the supply of pre-school and after-school child care places can be accelerated. In particular, the sub-committee will examine and make recommendations on the feasibility of establishing workplace child care arrangements such as the following: provision of specific supports to facilitate employers and unions to work together to both design and implement a range of child care supports appropriate at the level of the enterprise; greater targeting of resources towards the active participation of employers in developing and providing child care initiatives, in consultation with the unions.

My Department has facilitated a number of meetings and provides executive support to this committee. The committee first met on 10 June 2003 and comprises Ms Sylda Langford, chair, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Ms Pauline Moreau, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Ms Maria Cronin, IBEC; Ms Heidi Lougheed, IBEC; Mr. David Joyce, ICTU; Ms Rosheen Callendar, ICTU; and Ms Denise Fleming, Secretary, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

The child care requirements of parents can vary significantly depending on their personal circumstances and work patterns and it is likely that individual organisations would need to tailor their policies according to the needs of their employees. As such, my Department is not directly involved in actively encouraging employers to allow employees extended career breaks to address their child care needs and would consider such matters more appropriate to individual organisations and employers concerned.

However, my Department does have responsibility for the Parental Leave Act 1998 which provides for unpaid leave for parents to care for their young children. The Act, which transposed the Parental Leave Directive (96/34/EC) into Irish law, came into force on 3 December 1998. The Act provides an individual and non-transferable entitlement to parents to avail of 14 weeks per child unpaid leave from work to take care of young children. This leave must be taken before the child reaches his or her five birthday, except in very limited circumstances in the case of an adopted child. A review of the Parental Leave Act was conducted in 2001 by a working group comprising the social partners, relevant Departments and the Equality Authority and the report of the working group on the review of the Parental Leave Act 1998 was published in April 2002.

The Government is committed, as part of the Sustaining Progress partnership agreement, to improving the parental leave provisions and work is currently at an advanced stage in my Department on the heads of Bill to implement the agreed recommendations of the working group. It is hoped that the Bill will be published later this year.

Question No. 18 answered with QuestionNo. 12.

Proposed Legislation.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

19 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects that the promised Disability Bill will be published; the discussions he has had with disability groups regarding the terms of the Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20702/04]

David Stanton

Ceist:

59 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reasons the publication of the Disability Bill is being delayed for so long; when he expects to be able to publish the Disability Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20824/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 19 and 59 together.

I wish to advise the Deputies that it is my intention, in accordance with the commitment given in the Agreed Programme for Government, to circulate the Disability Bill at the earliest possible date. The Government is conscious of the complexity and cross-cutting nature of the issues involved and, to support ministerial engagement throughout the process, referred oversight of the Bill to the Cabinet Sub-committee on Social Inclusion. Work is continuing in relation to the Bill and it will be published when the work is completed. The Disability Bill is a key part of the framework being put in place by the Government to underpin equal participation by people with disabilities in Irish society. The framework includes: the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Bill, 2003 which is currently on Report stage in the Seanad; the Comhairle (Amendment) Bill which is being prepared in the Department of Social and Family Affairs in relation to the provision of advocacy; six sectoral plans for key public services which will each be published at the same time as the Disability Bill; and equality legislation, amended by the Equality Bill 2004, which has just completed report and final stage in the Dáil report and final stage in Seanad scheduled for 7 July.

As the Deputies will be aware, the Government has facilitated extensive consultation nationally in relation to disability legislation, giving disability groups and the disability legislation consultation group, DLCG, in particular an opportunity to present their proposals for a Disability Bill. Many Deputies will know that the DLCG is a group representative of people with disabilities, their families, carers and service providers which was brought together by the National Disability Authority, NDA, to facilitate dialogue at national level, both within the sector and with the expert consultation team appointed by the Government. Broad ranging consultations took place in 2002 and early 2003 following which the DLCG presented the document, Equal Citizens — Proposals for Core Elements of Disability Legislation, in February 2003.

Last year, the DLCG had meetings with a number of members of the Government, including the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea, and the Minister of State, Deputy Tim O'Malley. The discussions at these meetings covered such matters as assessment of need; standards; service provision; the need to build capacity in key sectors of the public service so as to allow provision of disability accessible services in a cost effective way; and workable redress mechanisms.

Earlier this year, meetings took place between officials and the DLCG at which it was given an outline of the proposals for legislation. Its views about these proposals were discussed and noted for consideration by the Cabinet Sub-committee on Social Inclusion. On 19 May last, the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea, met the group and outlined to them developments in Government thinking and issues still under discussion arising from meetings with officials in the early part of the year. He reassured them of the Government's continued commitment to publish a Bill at the earliest possible date.

Statutory Press Council.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

20 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding his consideration of the recommendations of the legal advisory group on the defamation law, particularly in regard to the proposals for the establishment of a statutory press council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20701/04]

I indicated previously, in response to Questions No. 31 and 145 of 5 May 2004, that I intended to study carefully the responses received during the public consultation process which I had initiated after the publication of the report of the legal advisory group on defamation in June 2003. That consultation period ended on 31 January 2003 and my Department received over 30 responses from concerned organisations and private individuals. These are posted on my Department's website.

As well as inviting written submissions on the report, I held a major conference on 1 December 2003 to facilitate an exchange of views from a cross-section of interested parties. The conference was well attended and thought provoking. I had made it clear when I brought the report to Government in June 2003 that it was the group's report; it is not a report by me to Government or indeed a report of the Government and the Government has made no decision in respect of the substance of the contents of the report.

Aside from the recommendations on a press council, there were other important recommendations in the report on defamation which will require consideration. For example, the proposed new defence of reasonable publication; the suggested re-balancing of the role which judge and jury have at present in defamation actions which are commenced in the High Court; the Circuit Court to have jurisdiction in all defamation cases where the amount of the damages claimed does not exceed €50,000; a suggested one-year limitation period for defamation actions and the enshrinement in legislation of a defence to be known as the defence of innocent publication which would be available, among others, to broadcasters, distributors, printers and internet service providers.

However, it would be fair to say, that a majority of the responses received during the public consultation process, addressed the recommendation put forward by the legal advisory group with regard to the establishment of a statutory press council.

This recommendation came on foot of one of the more specific of the legal advisory group's terms of reference, which was to consider the nature and extent of any statutory intervention which might attach to the establishment of any entity concerned with the regulation of the press. This is a subject where there is some divergence of views as to the optimum approach to be followed.

On the one hand, there is a need to achieve a form of regulation which is effective and in which the public can have confidence. On the other hand, care must be had to ensure that any regulatory framework does not trespass needlessly upon the traditional freedoms which the press enjoys in all democratic societies. The group, having carefully weighed up the options, recommended the establishment of a statutory press council with functions which would include the preparation of a press code of conduct and the investigation of complaints concerning alleged breaches of that code. The report set out, in some detail, the main features of such a council, including matters pertaining to its operation and structure. The draft general scheme for a new defamation Bill, set out in the group's report, contains a template for the legislative intervention which would be required were such an entity to be established.

At their request, I met representatives of the steering committee of the press industry on 26 April, to receive their draft proposals for a press Ombudsman and a press council. The broad content of these proposals have been subsequently reported in the media. I promised the steering committee that I would give careful consideration to their proposals, which I understand may be further developed. I will also be giving the same consideration to the comments submitted by others on the issue of a press council.

I have expressed the view on a number of occasions, that the particular model examined by the advisory group is by no means the only, or, for that matter, the most obvious model for a press council. There could be a body chaired by, say a judge and composed of nominees of a variety of groups to reflect the different interests involved. Appropriate statutory recognition could be given to such a press council. Other models have been suggested during the consultation process as to how a press council could be composed and these will be given careful consideration by me before bringing a proposal to Government.

I am satisfied that the public consultation process that I have engaged in is assisting towards the formation of a reasonable consensus on this issue. I look forward to bringing proposals to Government later this year.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

21 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the claim made by a person (details supplied) that Ireland has the worst record in the EU for bringing rapists to justice; his views on this assessment; the steps he intends to take to deal with it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20684/04]

As I previously outlined to the House on 15 May 2004, there is a high attrition rate in rape cases in Ireland and a large number of cases reported to the gardaí do not reach prosecution stage for a variety of reasons. As the Deputy is only too well aware, the Director of Public Prosecutions is independent in his function and it would, therefore, be inappropriate for me to comment on his decisions.

I understand from the Garda authorities that the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána, in keeping with the annual policing plan, has commenced a research project on sexual offences. It is envisaged that this research will provide an insight into the attrition rates in sexual offences.

I have also recently provided funding to the department of law at the National University of Ireland, Galway, and the Rape Crisis Network Ireland, for comprehensive research into attrition rates in rape cases. Following from this research, it is hoped that we will have a greater understanding as to why some victims chose not to report cases to the gardaí, what we can do with regard to underreporting and why, of the cases reported, only a relatively small percentage result in a court hearing.

Child Care Services.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

22 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of the 28,400 child care places being set up under the equal opportunities child care programme which are available on a full time basis; the number which provide part time or drop in child care services; and the amount of the overall €256 million budget for this programme which is spent on supporting child care services in disadvantaged areas. [18130/04]

The Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 has an equal opportunities and social inclusion perspective and facilitates the further development and expansion of child care facilities to address the needs of parents, particularly women, in reconciling their child care needs with their participation in employment, training and education. The programme provides capital grant assistance to create and enhance new and existing child care facilities and staffing grant assistance to community based-not for profit organisations whose child care services have a strong focus on the support of the child care needs of disadvantaged families, wishing to avail of employment, training or education.

The total amount of funding available under the programme exceeds €449 million. To date over € 261 million has been committed to child care projects in both the community based sector and to private providers. This funding will, when fully drawn down, lead to the creation of approximately 29,000 new child care places and will support over 27,142 existing child care places. Of the funding committed to date almost €119 million has been approved towards capital projects, with a further €99 million towards staffing grant assistance. The €99 million staffing grant is targeted solely at disadvantaged areas and families.

The funding committed to date includes the provision of over €44.3 million to child care services operating in RAPID areas, which are specially designated for urban regeneration. In addition, over €23.2 million has been approved for projects located in CLÁR areas, which are specially designated for rural regeneration.

Of the 29,000 new child care places receiving support under the programme it is estimated that over 11,400 are provided on a full-time basis and 17,567 places on a part time basis. A further 27,142 existing places are receiving support under the programme, of which 5,825 places are on a full time basis and over 21,000 are on a part time basis.

Garda Investigations.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

23 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date in regard to his consultations with the Attorney General on whether to establish an inquiry into events surrounding the murder of persons (details supplied) and subsequent Garda investigation, as sought by relatives of one of the persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20718/04]

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

54 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he will make a decision on requests that he initiate an inquiry into the Grangegorman murders in Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20811/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the investigation into the Grangegorman murders is ongoing and is currently focused on advances made in the forensic science since the offences were committed. Further to this, I can inform the Deputies that I have recently received advice from the Attorney General in relation to this matter and this advice is currently under consideration.

European Court Case.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

24 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received advice from the Attorney General in regard to the implications of the preliminary opinion of the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice in a case (details supplied) in regard to powers to deport families with Irish-born children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20693/04]

The current legal position in relation to the deportation of non-national persons who wish to reside in the State on the sole basis that they are the parents of Irish born children is set out in the Supreme Court decision in the case of L and O. No decision has yet been made by the European Court of Justice on the Chen case, notwithstanding Advocate General's opinion. That opinion does not have legal effect. It is only the decision of the European Court of Justice that has legal effect. The Attorney General and I have discussed the Advocate General's opinion and will assess the legal implications of the ECJ's decision when it gives its decision.

Road Safety.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

25 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether, in view of the current level of checks by the gardaí, motorists can expect to be stopped for speeding once every 28 years and can expect to be breathalysed every 140 years; and if he will take steps to ensure that traffic laws are applied in a meaningful fashion. [20815/04]

Since the introduction of the Government's first road safety strategy in 1998, the number of people killed and injured on Irish roads has declined by over 26% from 458 in 1998, to 337 in 2003 despite increases in car ownership over the period. Under the strategy, the gardaí concentrated their enforcement efforts on the offences identified as the main contributors to road fatalities and injuries, that is, speeding, driving while intoxicated and seat-belt offences.

The new road safety strategy, which is due to be published shortly by my colleague the Minister for Transport, will build further on the good start made and set ambitious targets for road safety. I recognise the importance of enforcement in the area of road safety and the Garda contribution to the success of the new strategy will be enhanced through the provision of modern IT support systems, additional legislative provisions such as the introduction of random breath testing and, where appropriate, the outsourcing of administrative tasks. However, it must also be recognised that drivers have a personal responsibility to themselves and to other road users to obey the law of the land. As the Deputy will be no doubt aware, the main objective of Garda activity in the area of road safety is to change road user behaviour, through enforcement and surveillance, ultimately resulting in a reduction of the number killed and injured on our roads annually. I am satisfied that the innovations I have mentioned will considerably reduce the administrative burden on operational gardaí and facilitate an increased focus on prevention and detection of road traffic offences.

Drugs Offences.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

26 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a person who has been charged on four occasions by the north central drug unit based in Store Street, Garda Station, Dublin 1, is not in custodial care and is still involved in drug dealing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20810/04]

As this matter is currently before the courts it would be inappropriate for me to comment.

Garda Recruitment.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

27 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of recruits who have graduated from the Garda Training College as full Garda members since 6 June, 2002; the number of Gardaí who have retired, resigned or otherwise left the force since 6 June, 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20690/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of recruits who have graduated from the Garda college since 6 June 2002 is 950. In the above regard, that the figure of 950 refers to those who have successfully completed the fifth and final phase of the student-probationer education-training programme. The figure of 950 does not equate to the number of gardaí who have been attested to the force since 6 June 2002 as attestation to the Force occurs upon completion of phase 3 of the student-probationer education-training programme. Since 6 June 2002, a total of 1,222 persons have been attested to the force. The number of members — all ranks — who have resigned, retired from or otherwise left Garda Síochána in the above period is 883.

Prison Accommodation.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

28 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects that all prisons here will have in-cell sanitation; if his attention has been drawn to reports that legal action seeking financial compensation is being planned on behalf of prisoners who have had to endure slopping out; if such actions have been lodged; his views on this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20692/04]

The majority of prisoners in custody now have 24 hour access to in cell sanitation thanks to substantial investment in the prison estate since 1997. The current prisons capital programme is aimed at the provision of full modern in-cell sanitation in all prison accommodation. I would expect that the remaining cells that do not have this facility at Portlaoise, Limerick, Cork and Mountjoy prisons will be refurbished or replaced within the next four years.

I am aware of newspaper reports regarding a recent decision of the Scottish courts to award damages to a prisoner who claimed that his rights had been violated due to the existence of the practice known as slopping out. These reports seemed to suggest that the damages related to the prisoner having to slop out, which is not the case. There were specific conditions of detention in the case in Scotland which would not apply to the Irish situation. It appears to me that the effect of these newspaper reports has been to encourage or prompt prisoners and former prisoners in Ireland to initiate legal action against the State.

Approximately 200 letters have been received in my Department from solicitors representing former and serving prison inmates in the State alleging that their clients' human rights have been violated due to the practice of slopping out. The majority of these cases relate to inmates imprisoned in Cork, Limerick and Portlaoise Prisons.

I am awaiting legal advice from the Attorney General in the matter and cannot comment further, other than to say that it is my intention to vigorously contest these claims.

Garda Deployment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

29 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way in which he proposes to enhance Garda presence, visibility and policing levels in Dublin and the greater Dublin area if it is intended to close down a number of strategic Garda stations, having particular regard to rising levels of crime throughout the region generally and with specific reference to the alarming growth in organised crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20808/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of the Dublin metropolitan region, including the area office and traffic division, as at 6 July 2004 was 3,854 — all ranks. I have been informed by the Garda authorities that at the present time there are no plans to either close Garda stations in Dublin metropolitan region or to reduce their opening hours.

The optimum use of Garda stations was considered as part of the major review of the Garda organisation structures under the strategic management initiative programme of modernisation which looked in detail at a range of areas within the organisation. The Garda SMI implementation steering group's final report, which is available on my Department's website, does not refer to the closure of any specific Garda station, but rather makes recommendations to assist policy making in relation to the management and use of all available resources, including Garda stations.

This report is currently under examination within my Department and I will give careful consideration to all of the steering group's recommendations, including any implications they may have for the opening hours of Garda stations.

Juvenile Liaison Officers.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

30 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of juvenile liaison officers in the gardaí at the latest date for which figures are available; if he has plans to extend the scheme in view of the proven success of it in dealing with juvenile offenders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20716/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that as of 2 July 2004 there were 85 juvenile liaison gardaí and eight juvenile liaison officer sergeants working in the various divisions throughout the country. In addition to this the national juvenile office have a staff of one superintendent, two inspectors and two sergeants. I am further informed that an additional juvenile liaison officer has been authorised for the Limerick division.

The Children Act 2001 came into law in May 2002 and it was at this point that the Garda diversion programme began operating on a statutory basis. This Act introduced the concept of restorative justice and family conferencing into the criminal justice system and these provisions are currently being put into effect by the Garda Síochána.

The Garda diversion programme is delivered throughout the country by specially trained gardaí. Resource implications are constantly under review and applications for additional resources are made on a case by case basis when and where necessary.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

31 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention was drawn to the call from the National Disability Authority for improved quality in services for persons with disabilities, greater accessibility to public services and a national survey of needs of the disabled; and if he intends to act on these suggestions. [20734/04]

The NDA is a statutory agency established under the aegis of my Department in June 2000. Section 8 of the National Disability Authority Act 1999 established the NDA. The Act specified its functions to include: assisting in the development of statistical information appropriate for the planning, delivery and monitoring of programmes and services for persons with disabilities, section 8(b); advising the Minister on appropriate standards for programmes and services provided to persons with disabilities and to act as an advisory body with regard to the development of general and specific standards in relation to such programmes and services, section 8(c); monitoring the implementation of standards and codes of practice in programmes and services provided to persons with disabilities, section 8(d); liaising with other bodies involved in the provision of services to persons with disabilities and facilitate and support the development and implementation of appropriate standards for programmes and services for persons with disabilities, section 8(e); and recognising the achievement of good standards and quality in the provision of programmes and services to persons with disabilities I am aware that, in pursuance of its statutory remit, the NDA is working on its own initiative and with service providers to do the following: improve the quality of services provided for people with disabilities; provide greater accessibility to public services; and to develop a statistical analysis of the needs of people with disabilities.

The NDA, in supporting service provision to people with disabilities in the context of mainstreaming, is involved with a wide programme of measures to increase awareness and improve service delivery. Such work is being carried out on a partnership basis with all those concerned. My Department and I continue to fund and support the NDA's endeavours in adopting this approach.

Details of some of the related initiatives, and work in progress, are set out in the following table:

Initiative

Work in Progress

The work of the NDA in improving quality of services for people with disabilities

Current work in relation to the improvement of quality of services for people with disabilities includes: the development of National Standards for Disability Services; the development of guidelines for accessibility to public services; and research with regard to the needs of people with disabilities.

National Standards for Disability Services

This project was initiated in June 2002 with the Department of Health and Children. The standards will apply to disability services for children and adults with autism, intellectual, physical and/or sensory disability, funded by the Department of Health and Children. Over the past two years, these Standards have been developed in consultation with people with disabilities, their families, carers, service providers and other stakeholders. A pilot of these standards was undertaken in the final quarter of 2003. The NDA and the Department of Health and Children are currently finalising amendments to these standards on foot of feedback from this pilot and further consultations and intend to finalise this process later this year.

National survey of needs of the disabled

During 2003 the NDA commissioned the ESRI to pilot the WHO International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health on a sample survey to establish the prevalence of disability and its impact on participation and functioning by individuals with disabilities in Ireland. The results of the study are set out in a report available on the NDA website. The NDA have proposed that a full national disability post census survey should be undertaken.

Accessibility of public services

The Programme for Prosperity and Fairness 2000 contains a commitment from Government in relation to improving the accessibility of public services. Under the commitment, the NDA has been given the task in conjunction with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to develop guidelines on improving accessibility to public services and to monitor progress in achieving improved access. The NDA has recruited a team of experts In order to carry out this task. This team are currently promoting the NDA’s existing guidelines but are also developing a new set of accessibility guidelines specifically related to public services in consultation with Government departments, state agencies, the voluntary sector and the general public. An audit tool and associated assessment tool are in preparation. Lastly, as part of this commitment the NDA are in the process of commissioning an accessibility symbol to award to public services that comply with these accessibility guidelines.

Prison Location.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

32 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether moving the prison facility provided at Mountjoy to a location adjacent to the M50 may result in significant hardship to visitors, in view of the fact that such a location will be a considerable distance away from the city, may will not be accessible by public transport, and will lead to further gentrification within Dublin city centre. [20820/04]

The Office of Public Works was asked earlier this year to assist in the identification of possible sites for a complex to replace the current prison facilities centred around Mountjoy Prison. The OPW subsequently made inquiries, that included the placing of advertisements in the national press, and arising from this process approximately 30 potential sites have been submitted for consideration.

In view of the importance of identifying the most appropriate site, and in the light of the large number of potential sites, I have established an expert group. It shall be chaired by my Department with input from the OPW and the Irish Prison Service. It shall examine the potential sites on the basis of comprehensive and objective criteria and to report back to me. I propose to await the results of the deliberations of this group before proceeding further.

I do not accept the Deputy's assertions that a new location for the Mountjoy complex will result in significant hardship to visitors. Obviously any change in location may inconvenience visitors who reside in the immediate proximity of the current site but equally a new site may prove more convenient for visitors from other areas. One of the factors that will be taken into consideration in selecting a new site will be its accessibility, including public transport links.

I do not propose to comment on the Deputy's assertion that the relocation of the Mountjoy complex will lead to further gentrification within Dublin city centre. My primary concern is the future health and welfare of those persons held in the Mountjoy complex. The total Mountjoy complex occupies circa 16 acres most of which is covered by buildings. Open space is at a premium and the sanitary arrangements do not meet modern standards. I have been advised that it is only on a new, much larger site that the 1,000 or so prisoners held in the Mountjoy complex can be detained in facilities appropriate to modern day standards.

Legal Costs.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

33 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the membership and terms of reference of the group to inquire into the way in which legal costs are calculated has been finalised; and when the work of the group is likely to be completed. [20696/04]

I intend to make an announcement shortly on the group's membership and terms of reference. It is my intention that the group report within a short timeframe.

Legal Aid Board.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

34 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps being taken to address unacceptably long waiting lists for appointments at Legal Aid centres; the average waiting time for an appointment with a solicitor at the centres; the longest waiting time at any particular centre; his views on whether such waiting times are acceptable; and the additional funding which has been provided to reduce waiting times. [20721/04]

The Legal Aid Board does not routinely collect information relating to an average waiting time for people seeking its services. It records the length of time the person longest on the waiting list has waited.

The board operates a procedure whereby priority is accorded for certain categories of cases over other cases, for example, domestic violence, child care and cases where there are time limits. These cases are dealt with immediately. In 2003 approximately 1,500 of priority appointments were offered by law centres. It is 22% of the total number of appointments offered to new clients during the year. The board continually monitors the operation of its law centre network. It seeks to utilise its resources in such a way as to reduce waiting times at centres where they are particularly long.

With regard to the position of additional funding, the grant-in-aid allocation for the board in 2004 is €18.388 million, an increase of almost 5% over the 2003 allocation of €17.539 million. The level of resources provided to the board has increased significantly in recent years. For example, in 1997 the grant-in-aid available to it was €10.656 million. The figure for 2004 represents an increase of almost 73% during the period.

The following tabular statement includes the length of time the person longest on the waiting list has waited for legal services as of May by law centre:

Law Centre

Maximum Waiting Time — May 2004

Cavan

2

Clare

9.75

Cork

— Popes Quay

6.75

—South Mall

11.00

Donegal

8.50

Dublin

— Blanchardstown

9.00

—Brunswick Street

12.00

—Clondalkin

2.75

—Finglas

12.25

—Gardiner Street

4.25

—Ormond Quay

3

—Tallaght

9.75

Galway

8

Kerry

4.75

Kildare

13

Kilkenny

9.25

Laois

17.75

Limerick

4.25

Longford

0

Louth

4.75

Mayo

2.50

Meath

11.75

Monaghan

3.50

Offaly

2

Sligo

3.50

Tipperary

4.25

Waterford

4.25

Westmeath

2.25

Wexford

4.25

Wicklow

9.75

Child Care Services.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

35 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the main points of his address on 24 May to a conference on Employer Supported Child Care: Exploring the Benefits to Business; if he is satisfied that employers are taking sufficient steps to provide child care for employees especially in view of the recent report from the Calpol child health care and development programme showing that the shortage of child care facilities was among the biggest worries facing working parents. [18052/04]

Child care provision has been at the forefront of the Government's social agenda.

Recently my colleague, Deputy Harney, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment addressed a seminar entitled Employer Supported Child Care: Exploring the Benefits to Business. It was organised by Mayo County child care committee. Her address outlined the main elements of the Government's efforts to address the need for a work-life balance, especially in relation to child care provision, and I have included the main points of the address for the Deputy's information: in response to the issue of increased demand for quality child care, the Government has provided, with EU assistance, significant funding to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to support child care for parents in employment education or training through the Equal Opportunities Child Care Programme 2000-2006; the subject of child care for working parents is being considered by a partnership sub-committee which has been established under Sustaining Progress; and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is actively involved in furthering the work-life balance agenda at the level of the enterprise. The Department chairs the national framework committee for work-life balance policies that comprises representatives from IBEC, ICTU, the Equality Authority and a number of Departments. The role of the committee is to support and facilitate family friendly-work-life balance policies through the development of a package of practical measures that can be applied at the level of the enterprise. The committee published research on this subject last year.

The child care requirements of parents can vary significantly depending on their personal circumstances and work patterns. It is unlikely that workplace based child care arrangements alone would meet the needs of parents. In a recent quarterly national household survey parents did not express an overwhelming preference for a particular alternative to their present arrangements although the most popular alternative chosen was a centre based service both for the pre school and the primary school child.

The child care sector is the focus of significant investment under the Equal Opportunities Child Care Programme 2000-2006. It is a core element of the Government's child care strategy.

The programme aims to address the child care needs of parents who are working or who are engaged in training and education activities by increasing the number of quality child care places available throughout Ireland. It provides capital grant assistance to community-not for profit organisations and to private child care providers to increase the supply of child care places or enhance the quality of existing places and staffing grant assistance grants to community based-not for profit organisations which have a focus on meeting the child care needs of disadvantaged families.

To date €218 million in funding was allocated to child care facilities in the form of capital grants to private providers and capital and staffing support grants for community based-not for profit groups. It is estimated that it will provide for the creation of an estimated 29,000 new child care places and will support over 27,000 existing child care places.

Further measures on child care are being provided in a number of different ways. I have outlined a few examples for the Deputy's information. In 2001 the Department of Finance allocated €12.7 million capital expenditure for the provision of up to 15 Civil Service crèches for the children of parents who work in Departments. Four crèches are already in operation with a further two due to open in late 2004. Proposals for additional crèche are being considered.

In March 2001 the IDA launched a scheme to provide for the creation of high quality, workplace child care facilities in IDA Ireland business parks around the country. In October 2003 the Tánaiste announced the provision of five new high quality child care facilities in selected IDA business parks. Two of the facilities have opened with the remaining three due to open later this year. It is intended that these facilities will cater for over 450 children.

Since the start of 2002 the city and county enterprise boards have approved funding of over €1.3 million to 130 child care enterprises across the country. The funding comprises mainly staffing grants with a small number of capital grants available. In addition, my colleague, the Minister for Finance has made available a number of tax reliefs for child care facilities. Their purpose is to help increase the supply of affordable child care places. Capital allowances are available for capital expenditure on the construction, extension and refurbishment of a building, or part of a building — or the conversion of an existing building — that is used for the purpose of providing a pre-school service, day care or other child care facility. The premises must not include any part of a building in use as, or as part of, a dwelling. There is also an exemption to the usual benefit-in-kind provisions for employees who enjoy free or subsidised child care facilities provided by their employers. In such circumstances, the employer must be wholly or partly responsible for both financing and managing the child care facility.

The subject of child care for working parents, with particular emphasis on the feasibility of establishing workplace child care arrangements, is being considered by a partnership sub-committee that was established under Sustaining Progress. The purpose of the sub-committee is to consider how to improve the availability of quality child care for working parents and how the supply of pre-school and after-school child care places can be accelerated. Officials of my Department have already had meetings with IBEC and ICTU to consider these issues.

With reference to the recent survey of parents conducted by the manufacturers of Calpol, less than 14% of respondents to the survey identified the cost or lack of child care facilities as an important issue.

The programme for Government and the progress of my Department's equal opportunities child care programme are confirmation of the Government's commitment to developing and reviewing child care services and to keeping child care at the forefront of its social agenda. The outcomes of the present programme will be monitored closely to inform the forward planning process in order to support the twin needs of quality child care provision and labour market supports.

Citizenship Laws.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

36 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if any of her European Union ministerial counterparts have made a request that Irish citizenship laws be altered. [17729/04]

No formal representations have been made to me by my EU ministerial counterparts concerning our citizenship laws.

The Deputy shall be aware of the Chen case referred to the European Court of Justice by the UK Immigration Appellate Authority. In the course of its proceedings the UK Government disputed the court's jurisdiction to give a ruling on the matters that had been submitted to it. In that context, it argued that the only element of the case that was not internal to the UK was the child's Irish nationality. Its view was that her nationality was acquired as "the result of subterfuge resorted to by Mr. and Mrs. Chen, which should be seen as an abuse of law." The advocate general, in his opinion, stated:

The fact is that the problem, if problem there be, lies in the criterion used by the Irish legislation for granting nationality, the jus soli, which lends itself to the emergence of situations like the one at issue in this case. In order to avoid such situations, the criterion could have been moderated by the addition of a condition of settled residence of the parent within the territory of the island of Ireland.

Garda Stations.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

37 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the report of the implementation steering group’s review of the Garda Síochána structures; his views on the reports recommendations with regard to the closure of some Garda stations and the reduction in opening hours for others; and the stations proposed for closure or reduced opening hours; if his attention was drawn to serious concerns expressed by senior members of the force at the proposals for greater centralisation and shorter opening hours. [20685/04]

The optimum use of Garda stations was considered as part of the major review of the Garda organisation structures under the strategic management initiative programme of modernisation which looked in detail at a range of areas within the organisation. The Garda SMI implementation steering group's final report is available on my Department's website. It does not refer to the closure of any specific Garda station. It makes recommendations to assist policy making on the management and use of all available resources, including Garda stations. In this and many other aspects of the report, the Garda Commissioner will, under the provisions of the Garda Síochána Bill, have enhanced responsibilities in preparing proposals for organisational reform. The report will be of considerable assistance to him in that task.

Garda Investigations.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

38 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date in the Garda investigation into the murder of a person (details supplied); if the Garda investigation has been completed; and if a file has been sent to the DPP. [20698/04]

The Garda authorities have informed me that the investigation into the murder of the person concerned is still ongoing.

The Deputy will appreciate that the investigation of this matter is an operational matter for the Garda and it would be inappropriate for me to comment further.

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

39 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals for amendments to the licensing laws; if it is intended to provide for the deregulation of small pub and liquor licences. [20723/04]

On 26 April the Government's legislation programme was published. It makes provision for the publication of an Intoxicating Liquor Bill later this year.

The purpose of the Bill will be to codify licensing law by repealing the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2003 and replacing them with updated provisions. It will represent a significant contribution to the process of regulatory reform to which the Government committed itself in the regulating better White Paper earlier this year.

Details of the proposed legislation will be announced in the normal way in due course.

Sentencing Policy.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

40 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he intends to act on the recommendation of the Law Reform Commission that the DPP should be empowered to appeal unduly lenient sentences imposed by the District Court. [20724/04]

I have noted with interest the Law Reform Commission's consultation paper on prosecution appeals from unduly lenient sentences in the District Court. It provisionally recommends that a procedure for appealing against such sentences imposed in the District Court should be introduced into Irish law. I look forward to hearing the views and opinions of those who will take part in the consultation process that will follow. I also look forward to examining the commission's final recommendations on the subject as soon as they become available. When the commission's final report is published I will examine it with a view, if necessary, to bringing forward legislative proposals.

Garda Stations.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

41 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will give priority to the provision of a new Garda station at Castleisland, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20591/04]

It is intended to build a new Garda station in Castleisland, as soon as is practicable, to replace the old station that was damaged by fire.

The Office of Public Works is responsible for acquiring property on behalf of the State and it was requested to provide a suitable site in the town. It is continuing negotiations to acquire an acceptable site and it expects to acquire one in the near future.

I cannot say at this point when the project will commence. However, I can assure the Deputy that the matter will be progressed as quickly as overall priorities within the Garda building programme and the availability of financial and other resources allow.

Garda Retirement.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

42 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will extend the Garda retirement age to 65 in view of the serious lack of Garda personnel. [20588/04]

I have no plans to increase the retirement age for members of the Garda Síochána who were recruited prior to 1 April.

The changes in the retirement age for members of the Garda Síochána, outlined in the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004, will apply only to new entrants who are recruited after 1 April.

Crime Prevention.

David Stanton

Ceist:

43 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the measures in place or planned to divert young persons away from crime; and the effectiveness of these measures. [20823/04]

There are a wide range of measures in place designed to divert children away from crime. I understand from the Garda authorities that the Garda primary schools programme was first introduced in 1991. It involves specially trained gardaí calling to 5th and 6th class primary school children and delivering a programme that includes such topics as personal safety, vandalism and the role of the Garda, as well as road and cycle safety.

The Garda secondary schools programme forms part of the Department of Education and Science's social, personal health and education programme that is being introduced on a nationwide basis. Specially trained gardaí are available to deliver SPHE modules on substance abuse and personal safety. Both school programmes seek to provide guidance and assistance in helping young people advance their appreciation of the need to abide by the law within their own communities.

The Garda juvenile diversion programme is an effective crime prevention programme. It was first introduced in 1963 and was placed on a statutory basis in May 2002 following the commencement of Part 4 of the Children Act 2001. The programme is administered by the Garda national juvenile office and delivered locally by juvenile liaison officers who are based throughout the country. I am delighted to report that research has also shown that three out of four children who are included in the programme do not re-offend over a three year follow-up period.

There are 64 Garda youth diversion projects throughout the country. They are aimed at children who are aged between 12 and 18 years of age and who have offended or may be at risk of offending. These projects endeavour to engage the children in a range of activities designed to meet their specific requirements with a view to giving the child sufficient skills to allow them feel part of their community, school or place of employment. Various evaluations of the projects have concluded that they are a worthwhile and effective means of diverting children away from crime.

The Garda national juvenile office has introduced a restorative justice programme for children who offend. Under the programme, victims of child offending are given the opportunity to meet the offender in order to discuss how the offence has affected the person as an individual. The Garda authorities state that early indications show this process to have significant potential for changing the behaviour of offenders.

In addition to these national programmes, the Garda are involved in a number of local projects such as night time tours and splash week in Dublin south inner city and the youth achievement awards that take place throughout the country.

Garda Overtime.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

44 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of overtime hours expected to be worked by members of the Garda during 2004 and the cost of the overtime; his views on whether this is the best use of Garda resources; and if he plans to reduce the level of overtime worked by, for instance, the recruitment of additional personnel. [20686/04]

The 2004 Estimates included a provision of €58.359 million for routine overtime duties and an additional sum of €7.519 million for overtime arising from EU Presidency policing duties. The total amount provided in 2004 amounts to €65.878 million and equates to approximately 2.62 million overtime hours.

The nature of policing duties is such that Garda management are obliged to immediately respond to all manner of emergencies. The most efficient and cost effective way to respond to these short-term demands for instantaneous additional Garda resources is through overtime working. Similarly the most cost effective way to respond to the additional demands placed upon the Garda Síochána as a result of the EU Presidency was through overtime working.

The recruitment of additional gardaí will have an impact on the number of overtime hours worked by individual gardaí. Given the nature of policing duties a certain amount of overtime will continue to be required.

The provision of overtime budgets gives Garda management the ability to respond to particular situations in a flexible, efficient and cost effective manner.

Garda Investigations.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

45 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the recent annual report of the Garda Complaints Board; if his attention was drawn to complaints in the report of unacceptable delays by some Garda officers in completing investigations referred to them; the action he intends to take to ensure that such investigations are completed promptly; and when he expects that the proposed Garda ombudsman’s office will be operational. [20687/04]

The Garda Síochána Complaints Board submitted its 2003 annual report to me and I laid it before the Houses of Oireachtas and warmly welcomed its publication.

The board considers that the vast majority of investigative reports are carried out to the highest standard of both efficiency and detail but in a small minority of cases delays in completing investigations have given rise to concern, a concern I share. The board, in co-operation with the Garda Commissioner, has drawn up guidelines for dealing with future investigations.

Provision is made in the Garda Síochána Bill 2004 for the establishment of an independent body to be known as the Garda Síochána ombudsman commission. On 11 March the Bill completed Second Stage in Seanad Éireann and is awaiting Committee Stage. The issue of delays by investigating Garda officers will be addressed in the Bill. The ombudsman commission will be empowered to set time limits for the submission of interim and final reports by Garda officers appointed by the commissioner to carry out investigations.

The Government intends that the ombudsman commission will be established as soon as possible following the enactment of the Bill.

Equality Legislation.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

46 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention was drawn to the suggestion made by the chief executive of the Equality Authority that the public and private sectors should have stronger equality provisions to help prevent discrimination and promote equal treatment of workers; and if he intends to act on the suggestion. [20735/04]

The Employment Equality Act 1998 came into operation on 18 October 1999. It already contains comprehensive anti-discrimination workplace provisions directed at all employers in the public and private sectors. The 1998 Act contains detailed provisions aimed at promoting equality and combating discrimination and is based on the principle of equal treatment and non-discrimination in the workplace. The Act will be further enhanced by the enactment of the Equality Bill 2004 that transposes the following EU equality directives: the Race Directive 2000/43/EC; the Framework Employment Directive 2000/78/EC; and the Gender Equal Treatment in Employment Directive 2002/73/EC.

The 1998 Act prohibits discrimination in relation to employment on nine grounds, namely, gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race and membership of the Traveller community. The Act is comprehensive and deals with all areas relevant to employment including access to employment, conditions of employment, remuneration, promotion and vocational training. It also applies to certain vocational bodies namely organisations of workers or employers and organisations that control entry to or the carrying on of a profession, vocation or occupation.

The Employment Equality Act 1998 also provides for the establishment of the Equality Authority, which replaced the Employment Equality Agency. The authority's remit is to work towards the elimination of discrimination and the promotion of equality of opportunity. Since the enactment of the Equal Status Act 2000 the remit was extended beyond the employment area to cover the provision of goods and services. The authority also provides information to the public on the Employment Equality Act 1998; the Equal Status Act 2000; the Maternity Protection Act 1994; the Adoptive Leave Act 1995 and the Parental Leave Act 1998.

The Equality Authority has broad powers to tackle discrimination and to promote equal treatment in the workplace. This includes its power under section 67 of the Employment Equality Act 1998, in cases which it considers to be of important principle, to assist a person in taking a case under the Employment Equality Act. The Equality Authority is also empowered under section 69 of the Employment Equality Act 1998 to invite a business, group of businesses or industrial sector to carry out an equality review and-or prepare and implement an equality action plan and may itself carry out a review and prepare an action plan for that particular business, group of businesses or industrial sector. It is also empowered under section 85 of the Employment Equality Act to act in referring a case to the equality tribunal where it considers: discrimination or victimisation is being generally practised; discrimination or victimisation has occurred but the individual concerned has not referred the case; there is a failure to comply with an equal remuneration term or an equality clause either generally or in a particular case; an advertisement for employment is published or displayed which indicates or might reasonably be understood to indicate an intention to discriminate; a person has procured or attempted to procure another to do anything constituting discrimination or victimisation; and a person has procured or attempted to procure another to break an equal remuneration term or an equality clause.

Recently the CEO of the Equality Authority suggested, at the launch of its 2003 annual report, that a statutory duty be placed on public bodies with a view to mainstreaming equality. The suggestion was considered in the context of preparation of the Equality Bill 2004. Regard was also given to section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 that creates a statutory obligation on public authorities in Northern Ireland to carry out their functions with due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity in relation to religion and political opinion; gender; race; age; martial status; dependants; and sexual orientation. The Northern Ireland authorities commissioned an independent review of the implementation of section 75 focusing on how public bodies responded. The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland is obliged to carry out a review of the effectiveness of section 75 next year. It would be wise to await the outcome of these reviews before further considering the creation of a similar legal obligation in this State.

Courts System Reform.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

47 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform , further to the commitment in the Programme for Government to effect a general reform of the courts system, including the reorganisation of the High Court into specialist divisions, and to merge the criminal jurisdiction of the Circuit Court and High Courts, when this change will be implemented. [20595/04]

I am committed to enhancing and improving the capability of the courts system to respond to the many challenges faced by it. Earlier this year I signed new rules of court to facilitate the operation of the High Court's commercial list. The new rules provide for proceedings, where the claim or counter claim is not less than €1 million, to be entered in a commercial list. The pre-trial procedure provides that a judge may fix time limits for the conduct of proceedings entered in the commercial list. He or she may also give initial directions to facilitate the determination of the hearing, including the holding of a case management conference to ensure that proceedings are prepared for trial in a manner that is expeditious and likely to minimise the costs of proceedings.

In response to the increase in volume and complexity of the case load in the judicial review area, the president of the High Court assigned judges, on a dedicated basis, to deal with the judicial review lists. The president has also allocated judges time out of court to prepare the reserved judgments that are increasingly required in such cases. In assigning judicial personnel on a long-term basis to the judicial review lists it was necessary to give consideration to the competing needs of other areas of the High Court's jurisdiction, in particular the need to secure, as a matter of priority, a substantial reduction of delay in trial of criminal cases before the Central Criminal Court.

The object of the arrangements made by the president of the High Court, apart from ensuring the disposal of applications for judicial review with greater expedition, is to enable the Judiciary to identify accurately over a sustained period the sources of delay in disposal of judicial review applications. Another aim is to arrive at distinct case management approaches appropriate to the various categories of judicial review application. It is intended that at the end of the current legal year an evaluation of the experience of the judges assigned to the lists will be carried out with a view to formulating the most appropriate procedural solutions, and determining the appropriate level of judicial resources that should be allocated to disposal of cases.

The Deputy will also be aware of the considerable reform being made in the area of personal injury litigation in the Civil Liability and Courts Bill that passed all stages in Dáil Éireann. Also, the establishment by my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. It represents a radical new approach to the determination of personal injury claims. Provision is also being made in the Civil Liability and Courts Bill for the appointment of eight additional judges to improve services and reduce delays.

The issue of merging the criminal jurisdiction of the Circuit Court and the Central Criminal Court was examined by the working group on the jurisdiction of the courts established by the Courts Service after the Fennelly report. It recommended the retention of the Central Criminal Court and the Circuit Criminal Court as separate jurisdictions. The report contains many other recommendations aimed at streamlining and improving the processing of criminal business before the courts. I am examining them with a view to implementation, where feasible.

Asylum Applications.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

48 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the significant reduction in the number of applications for political asylum over the past year; the projected number of applications for 2004, based on applications received to date; and if he plans a review of policy in view of the steady decline. [20715/04]

In 2003 as many as 7,900 asylum applications were received. It represented a fall of 32% compared to 2002 when 11,634 asylum applications were received.

At 30 June a total of 2,360 applications had been received in 2004, as compared with 4,089 received in the same period last year. It represents a decrease of approximately 50%. If these trends are maintained the projected level of applications for 2004 should be in the region of 4,500.

It is not possible to be absolutely certain of all of the factors involved in the reduction in asylum numbers in 2003. However, it is possible to say that the fall in applications was influenced by a combination of factors and strategies.

The Government now has in place a comprehensive strategy for dealing with asylum claims. For example, there is a strengthened infrastructural and statutory framework for processing applications fairly and within shorter timescales to ensure that those in need of refugee protection receive it more speedily.

The infrastructural framework is made up of two independent agencies, the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Both were highly resourced over recent years with a result that applications were processed faster. At present 50% of applications are prioritised under the Refugee Act 1996 and those cases receive a first instance decision within six weeks of application. It is a well known fact that slow decision-making in a refugee determination process often gives rise to high numbers of unfounded applications being received. Enhancing the processing capacity of our refugee determination process so as to speed up decision-making without compromising fairness had an important impact on the number of unfounded claims.

The strengthening of processing and the shortening of timescales for decisions was supported by the enhancement of the legislative base for dealing with asylum applications in the form, for example, of amendments to the Refugee Act 1996 by the Immigration Act 2003, that came into effect on 15 September 2003. These amendments were, inter alia, aimed at ensuring that asylum applicants participate more actively in the determination process and failure, for example, to co-operate with the asylum process can result in the rejection of an application. The Immigration Act 2003 also contains provisions for the accelerated processing of asylum applications, including prioritisation of certain claims; strengthened credibility provisions; greater use of appeals on the papers alone; designation of States as safe countries of origin and streamlined operation of the Dublin Convention and safe third country processes. All of the relevant amendments in the 2003 Act were based on the experience of operating the Refugee Act 1996 over the past few years.

Central to the integrity of any asylum process is the ability to return persons found not to be in need of refugee protection, and who have no other protection needs, to their countries of origin. In this regard we are continuing to maintain the number of deportations being effected, with some 590 persons deported in 2003 and some 762 voluntary returns also taking place during this period. Up to end of June 2004 there have been 321 deportations effected and 358 voluntary returns. In the region of 90% of asylum applications received in the State are rejected on the basis that they do not meet the criteria for the award of refugee status as contained in section 2 of the Refugee Act 1996 and in the 1951 Geneva Convention.

I am also of the view that the Supreme Court judgment in January 2003 in the case of Lobe and Osayande had an impact on the number of unfounded asylum applications being received in the State. The case dealt with the residency status of parents of an Irish born child.

There is clear evidence to show that our asylum determination process is being abused by criminal elements whose activities have clear implications for the security and authority of the State and the general economic welfare of its citizens. These activities also have implications for the preservation of the integrity and effectiveness of the asylum system as it operates in Ireland for those that are genuinely in need of protection. For the purpose of dealing with illegal immigration the Government provided increased resources to the Garda National Immigration Bureau. The bureau has also strengthened its international liaison arrangements with immigration authorities in the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, and France, that are major transit points for illegal immigration into the State, with a particular focus on trafficking activity.

Amendments contained in the Immigration Act 2003 designed to strengthen our immigration procedures have also provided an enhanced legislative framework for the Garda to carry out more effective immigration controls. The 2003 Act makes provision for the introduction of carrier liability that obliges carriers bringing non-nationals into Ireland to satisfy themselves that the passengers whom they take on board at the point of departure have the correct documentation to allow them to disembark here. The provision operates in respect of traffic coming from outside the common travel area. It is having a major deterrent effect on illegal immigration.

As with all policy areas for which I have responsibility, I will continue to review our approach to the asylum area. I am sure that the Deputy will agree that with an estimated €353 million spent on asylum and immigration functions in 2003 alone, across a number of Departments, with €120 million spent by my Department, it is incumbent on me to do so. Any changes that might be introduced in the future must ensure that our achievements in this important policy area are consolidated. The State must also continue to meet its obligations to genuine asylum seekers under the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and continue to respond in a fair but firm manner to abusive asylum claims.

Compensation Payments.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

49 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount paid in respect of court awards or out of court settlements for claims taken against members of the Garda in respect of assault, unlawful arrest, or other breach of a citizen’s right in respect of 2001, 2002, 2003, and to date in 2004; the number of cases in which awards were made by the courts and the number of cases that were settled out of court; and the number of such cases pending. [20691/04]

The information requested by the Deputy on court awards and out of court settlements in actions taken against members of the Garda Síochána in respect of assault, unlawful arrest or other breaches of citizens' rights is set out in the table being circulated with this answer.

As of 31 December 2003 there were approximately 750 civil actions taken against members of the Garda Síochána on hand. A detailed breakdown of these actions in the form of the number of allegations of assault, unlawful arrest and other breaches of citizens' rights is not readily available. A database introduced in 2002 for the purposes of recording civil actions taken against members of An Garda Síochána, indicates that in 2003 — the first complete year for which a detailed breakdown is available — of the 142 actions initiated or received in that year by my Department, there were 34 cases of alleged assault recorded and 38 cases of alleged unlawful arrest recorded. The remaining 70 cases recorded included allegations of defamation and harassment. In the year to date, 60 actions were initiated-received. They include 21 cases of alleged assault and 15 cases of alleged unlawful arrest.

Civil actions may be taken by the general public against members of the Garda Síochána for compensation for alleged wrongs and personal injuries inflicted on them by Garda members in the performance of their duties. The highest percentage of these types of civil actions against the Garda Síochána is in relation to assault and unlawful arrest. The majority of these cases were settled for less than €25,500. Settlement of cases takes place on the advice of the Chief State Solicitor, the Attorney General and State Counsel.

The Garda Commissioner has informed me that incidents which result in successful claims against the State in respect of the actions of gardaí are examined with a view to identifying and implementing operational strategies to eliminate or reduce similar claims in the future. The Garda Commissioner has also informed me that the Garda Síochána (Discipline) Regulations 1989 are invoked in appropriate cases where the actions of individual Garda members come into question. One of the principal aims of the Garda Síochána Bill 2004 is the establishment of a new mechanism for dealing with complaints against members of the Garda Síochána that will secure public confidence and that will address the acknowledged shortcomings in the existing law and procedures on complaints.

Year (Total Amount)

Assault

Unlawful Arrest

Other

2001 €1,619,746.83

Awards

1,904.61 (1)

20,950.68 (2)

22,220.42 (1)

Settlements

123,164.59 (5)

33,965.49 (3)

162,782.25 (9)

Costs

244,665.35

123,199.41

886,894.03

Total

369,734.55

178,115.58

1,071,896.70

2002 €1,240,388.40

Awards

1,270 (1)

3,809.21 (1)

56,500 (2)

Settlements

166,924.48 (6)

106,835.58(10)

185,078.82(11)

Costs

230,769.67

148,714.19

340,486.45

Total

398,964.15

259,358.98

582,065.27

2003 (Provisional)

Awards

11,000 (1)

10,000 (2)

4,870 (2)

€1,276,127.55

Settlements

75,000 (4)

303,011 (5)

112,814.84 (4)

Costs

145,561.70

71,794.28

542,075.73

Total

231,561.70

384,805.28

659,760.57

2004 (Provisional) (as

Awards

15,000 (1)

0

0

of 6/7/04) €472,674.60

Settlements

10,000 (1)

184,007 (5)

27,500(1)

Costs

60,186.05

61,465.15

114,516.40

Total

85,186.05

245,472.15

142,016.40

The number of cases in which awards were made by the courts and the number of cases that were settled out of court are shown in brackets in each case.

Witness Security Programme.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

50 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date in the review of the witness security programme; and if he is considering additional measures to support witnesses who may be giving evidence in court cases involving serious charges, but who may not wish to enter the protection programme. [20694/04]

Following a judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeal, the Garda authorities instituted a review of the procedures of the witness security programme operated under the direct control and administration of the Garda Commissioner. I am advised by the Garda authorities that the review report is not yet completed.

The review includes consideration of: the relevant judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeal; the measures to support witnesses in court cases who may not wish to enter the programme; and current best practice from an international perspective. Any recommendations will be given full and careful consideration when the report is received.

Juvenile Justice System.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

51 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention was drawn to the findings of a study undertaken by a person (details supplied) which concludes that the juvenile justice system is in chaos despite the introduction of the Children Act 2001; and the steps he intends to take to address the deficiencies identified in the report. [20733/04]

I am not in a position to comment on the study as the research findings in question have not been published and have not been made available to me.

Court Fees.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

52 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he plans to simplify and reduce the system of court fees. [20816/04]

Proposals for a restructuring of court fees was received from the Courts Service. My Department and the Department of Finance are considered them. One of the objectives of the proposed restructuring is to have a more streamlined and consistent system of court fees across the court jurisdictions.

Gender Pay Gap.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

53 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention was drawn to a recent conference in Dublin organised by ICTU that heard that a gender pay gap still exists here, 30 years after equal pay legislation came into effect; and if his attention was drawn to the fact that a significant pay gap exists between single and married persons. [17711/04]

Under the equality for women measure, my Department provided funding of €380,000 for the ICTU project entitled Negotiating for Equality — Gender and Pay. It culminated in the recent conference held in Dublin Castle.

The most up to date figures on wage levels here shows that, on average, men earn approximately 15% per hour more than women. The data was compiled by the Economic and Social Research Institute from the Living in Ireland Survey and encompasses overtime earnings, pensions and fringe benefits as well as regular wages. According to the ESRI, the main cause of the gender pay gap is the time lost from the labour market by women for child rearing. For example, by age 45, women on average have nine years less experience than men. Women's over representation in low paid positions and their under representation in senior positions are also significant factors.

As regards the pay gap between single and married people, this is explained by the fact that on average married people are older than single people and thus have longer labour market experience with resultant higher wages.

My Department chaired a consultative group, set up under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness, to report to Government on actions required to address the gender pay gap. In November 2003 the group's report was finalised and formally presented to Government. It contains a number of recommendations addressing a wide range of Government policies including taxation, statutory minimum wages, education and training and the development of family friendly policies. In addition, my Department has commissioned to ESRI to research the gender pay gap among graduates. The report is due to be finalised at the end of 2004.

Question No. 54 answered with QuestionNo. 23.

Prisoner Accommodation.

John Gormley

Ceist:

55 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to ensure that juvenile prisoners are separated from adult prisoners. [20818/04]

Under the provisions of the Children Act 2001, that is being implemented on a phased basis over a number of years, separate, dedicated secure detention centres will be required for the accommodation of 16 and 17 year old offenders. These secure detention centres will operate under their own unique regime that will cater specifically for the needs of juvenile offenders. The plans for the new Mountjoy and Spike Island Prison complexes include separate sections for male and female detainees aged 16 to 17 years.

Prison Doctors’ Dispute.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

56 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to industrial disputes within the Prison Service; the action he intends to take to seek a solution to the industrial dispute involving prison doctors that has led to the virtual withdrawal of medical services for prisoners; the medical resources currently available to the Prison Service to carry out medical assessments of prisoners; if all persons whom the courts recommended for psychiatric treatment or assessment have received it; and the position in regard to negotiations with the Irish Prison Officers Association regarding the overtime dispute. [20683/04]

Strike action by prison doctors represented by the Irish Medical Organisation began on 4 May and is now in its tenth week. The action involves the complete withdrawal of medical officer services for prisoners and is in clear breach of Sustaining Progress. It is also contrary to the Irish Medical Council guidelines on emergency services and continuing care responsibilities in the context of a collective withdrawal of medical services.

The strike has resulted in significant, unnecessary pain and suffering to prisoners. Since the outset of the strike prison nurses and medical orderlies have assisted prisoners, however possible, in these difficult and distressing circumstances. In addition, visiting psychiatric and dental services continue to be available. Where necessary prisoners are brought to the accident and emergency units of local hospitals.

In view of the considerable suffering and risk posed to prisoners by the strike action, particularly in light of the inadequate emergency services provided by the striking doctors, a decision was made to seek the assistance of Army doctors to alleviate the worst effects in a small number of prisons. Both I and the Irish Prison Service greatly appreciate the assistance. It was sought solely to alleviate the unnecessary suffering of prisoners and not as an attempt to undermine the trade union rights of the striking doctors.

The latest industrial relations efforts to resolve the prison doctors dispute have involved contacts between the Irish Prison Service and the IMO under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. The latest contacts involved three meetings and correspondence between the parties over the past week. Last night they reached an impasse and no date has been set for a further meeting at the LRC.

My primary concern is the ever increasing risk to the health and well-being of prisoners arising from the continuing widespread absence of general practitioner services for prisoners who are among the most vulnerable of patient groups. In light of the latest impasse, I have requested the director general of the Irish Prison Service to provide a full assessment of the current situation in the dispute and to indicate what possible further industrial relations options are available to assist in bringing the strike to a conclusion.

The provision of psychiatric services to prisoners was not directly affected by the dispute. All possible steps to comply with any psychiatric intervention recommended by the courts have been maintained. Discussions with the POA at the Labour Relations Commission are ongoing. It is hoped to conclude these discussions in the near future.

Asylum Applications.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

57 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications for asylum received during 2002, 2003 and to date in 2004; the number of applications upheld by the Refugee Appeals Commission; the number of appeals submitted to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the number of such appeals upheld; the number of applications for leave to remain and the number of such applications granted; and the number of deportation orders made and the number of such deportations carried out. [20703/04]

The information requested is contained in following tabular statements, a copy of which is being circulated to Deputies:

Table 1: Number of asylum applications received and the number of recommendations by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner to grant Refugee Status, at first instance, 2002, 2003 and 2004*.

2002

2003

2004*

No. of applications received

11,634

7,900

2,036

No. of recommendations to grant refugee status (at first instance)

893

345

182

* as at 31/05/04
**It is assumed that the reference in the Deputy's Question to "Refugee Appeals Commission" refers to the office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner.
Table 2: Number of appeals submitted to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and the number upheld, at appeal stage, in 2002, 2003 and 2004*.

2002

2003

2004*

No. of appeals received

5,159

5,014

2,154

No. of appeals upheld (granted refugee status)**

1,099

831

376

* as at 31/05/04
** Substantive and accelerated cases
Table 3: Number of Deportation Orders Signed and Number Effected in 2002, 2003 and 2004*.

2002

2003

2004*

No. of Deportation Orders signed

2,430

2,411

922**

No. of Deportation Orders effected

521

590

306***

* as at 31/05/04
**In addition to the 916 deportation orders signed, there have also been 113 Dublin II Regulation Transfer Orders Signed.
***In addition to the 304 deportation orders effected, there have also been 11 Dublin II Regulation Transfers Effected.
Table 4: Number of Applications for Leave to Remain received from current or former asylum applicants

2002

2003

2004*

No. of applications received

6,887

1,272

138

* as at 31/05/04
Table 5: Number of Applications granted for Leave to Remain by category

2002

2003

2004*

Parentage of Irish Born Child

3,113

172

0

Marriage to an Irish National

86

132

39

Dependant of EU Citizen

138

77

18

Humanitarian Grounds

159

83

12

Total

3,496

464

69

* as at 31/05/04.

Judicial Appointments.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

58 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will correct the record of Dáil Éireann in respect of the conflicting information given in the reply Parliamentary Question No. 179 of 3 June as compared with the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 537 of 15 June and its accompanying side letter; the position regarding the person’s nomination, appointment or otherwise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20594/04]

I do not accept that conflicting replies were given to the two parliamentary questions. It was never my intention to give less than full answers to them.

The first question on 3 June asked if a particular person had, prior to his appointment as a judge, "been previously appointed as a member of any State agency, board, committee, or similar posts." I answered that the person had been appointed by my predecessor as a member of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal on 3 August 2001.

When I answered that question it had not been drawn to my attention that my predecessor had also nominated the person to a panel from which the Garda Commissioner can appoint a chairperson of a board to hear an appeal in a Garda disciplinary matter. If I had been made aware of that nomination I would have mentioned it in my reply even though the person concerned was never appointed as a chairperson of a disciplinary appeal board.

When the Deputy asked a further question on 15 June, inquiring whether the person concerned had been appointed as a member of a Garda Síochána Complaints Appeal Board, the information on the previous nomination came to light and was brought to my attention. I immediately wrote to the Deputy, in advance of my reply to this question, to give him the information, whether or not it was technically comprehended by the previous question. I did this in the interest of full disclosure and with the objective of addressing the spirit and not simply the letter of parliamentary questions.

As to the details of the nomination of this person to the panel in question, and As I explained both in my letter to the Deputy and my reply to the question on 15 June, the person was not appointed chairman of any appeal board. He automatically ceased to be on the panel when he was appointed a judge in November 2001.

Question No. 59 answered with QuestionNo. 19.

Courts Service.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

60 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress which has been made in implementing the report of the working group on the coroner service published in December 2000 [20695/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 21 answered on 5 May 2004 on this matter. The position remains unchanged.

Child Care Services.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

61 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the fact that parents in this State pay approximately 20% of their earnings on child care compared to the EU average of 8%; and the measures he intends to introduce to bring the figure for this State in line with the EU average. [17950/04]

I am assuming that the figures referred to by the Deputy in his question are from a report published in 1998 by the European observatory on national family policies called A Synthesis of National Family Policies 1996. Since the publication of that report, the Government has funded a wide range of initiatives in order to develop and increase the number of child care places available in the State and has also increased the amount of child benefit available to all parents.

Child care has been identified as an investment priority under the National Development Plan 2000-2006. This was in direct response to the recommendations of the expert working group on child care which was established under Partnership 2000 to develop a strategy for the development and delivery of child care to support parents in employment, education and training. The report of the expert working group contained a series of recommendations in relation to the development of quality child care services to meet the increasing demand by parents for child care places.

My Department was designated as the lead Department for the development of child care and introduced the Equal Opportunities Child care Programme 2000-2006, EOCP, which provides EU and Exchequer funding and aims, inter alia, to increase the number of centre based child care places by 50% before the end of the programme. Total funding available under the programme exceeds €449 million. The programme provides capital grant assistance to create and enhance new and existing child care facilities; staffing grant assistance to community based and not for profit organisations whose child care services have a strong focus on supporting the child care needs of disadvantaged families and funding for quality improvement.

To date, €218 million in funding has been allocated under the programme to child care facilities, in capital grants to private providers and in capital and staffing support grants for community based and not for profit groups. It is estimated that this will provide for the creation of an estimated 29,000 new child care places and will support over 27,000 existing child care places. I am happy to inform the Deputy that, by the end of 2003, almost 18,000 additional child care places had come on stream thanks to the support of the EOCP. The Deputy may be aware that the programme target is 28,000 new places by end 2006, so the progress to date is very satisfying.

Government policy in the area of child support aims to provide assistance which will offer real choice to parents and which will benefit all children. In that context, it has been decided that, as a matter of policy, child benefit will be the main fiscal instrument through which support will be provided to parents with dependent children. In addition, unlike tax relief, it provides support to parents irrespective of income status. The monthly rates of child benefit since 1997 have increased by €93.51 at the lower rate and €115.78 at the higher rate, increases of 246% and 234% respectively, compared with inflation of 26.9%. This level of increase is unprecedented and delivers on the Government's objective of providing support for children generally while offering real choice to all parents. It is hoped that the increases in child benefit in conjunction with the substantial investment in child care under the EOCP will significantly increase the availability of quality child care

Penalty Points System.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

62 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to concerns expressed that some motorists may be avoiding penalty points due to design and wording problems with tickets issued by the gardaí; the steps being taken to address these problems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20412/04]

I am aware of newspaper reports on this subject which appeared to relate mainly to an earlier version of the fixed charge notice than the notice currently in use which is prescribed in Road Traffic Act 1961 (Section 103) (Offences) Regulations 2003. However, I have had enquiries made with the gardaí and I am informed that the current notice has been referred to the law officers for advice. The design and wording of the notice will be considered further if necessary following receipt of that advice.

Garda Equipment.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

63 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he intends outsourcing some of the current functions of the gardaí in the administration of the fixed charge system. [20513/04]

As part of the development of the fixed charge processing system, or FCPS, a contract has been placed for the provision of services such as the printing and posting of fixed charge notices and other documents. In addition, a tender process has been also completed for the provision of payment facilities which will be brought on stream following the enactment of the necessary enabling legislation by the Oireachtas. The Deputy may be aware that an interdepartmental working group is also currently considering the scope for the provision, monitoring and processing of the output of speed detection cameras by the private sector. I am satisfied that these innovations, together with the FCPS, will considerably reduce the administrative burden on operational gardaí and facilitate an increased Garda focus on the prevention and detection of road traffic offences.

Penalty Points System.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

64 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date with regard to computerisation of the system for the penalty points system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20411/04]

As I previously informed the House the gardaí are working in partnership with Fujitsu Consulting to develop and implement the fixed charge processing system, which provides for the computerisation of the Garda element of penalty points processing. It also provides for integration with the Courts Service and Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government systems. This project is being closely managed and is kept under constant review. I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the planned live pilot of the system commenced on target at the end of June and that full implementation will follow on successful completion of the pilot.

Community Employment Schemes.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

65 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she intends to remove the 156 weeks cap on persons who are currently on community employment schemes; and the number of persons in 2004 who will not be allowed to continue on a community employment scheme due to the three year cap rule. [20890/04]

As part of the Government's decision in 1999 to restructure community employment, or CE, future participation in CE by an individual was capped at 3 years, effective from April 2000. All time worked on CE after this date is taken into account by FÁS when determining an individual's eligibility for the programme. This change was introduced to discourage repeated participation in CE and to encourage unemployed persons to avail of training-education options where possible, which are shown to have more successful progression outcomes for individuals. At present there are 20,114 persons registered on CE schemes. Over the period 1 June 2004 to 31 May 2005 approximately 3,478 of these participants will have reached the three year limit on completion of their current contracts.

The three year cap was amended in August 2001 to allow particularly disadvantaged persons to remain on the programme for a further period. Participants are considered for such an extension if on reaching the end of their normal entitlements on CE they are likely to experience difficulty in getting employment. A number of CE participants have difficulty in progressing to open labour market employment due to their age, literacy or numeracy problems or a lack of suitable jobs available locally.

Certain aspects of the focus and the terms of participation on CE are under continuing examination including further consultation with the social partners. The outcome of this process will inform any future adjustments in the structure and the terms and conditions of participation on the CE programme.

Departmental Staff.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

66 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of public servants employed in her Department who are paid by cheque; and the number who are paid electronically; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21040/04]

A figure of 97 staff members are currently paid by cheque while 1103 are paid electronically. Following a Department of Finance instruction to all Departments to pay the salaries of new entrants to the Civil Service by electronic means from 1 October 2003, new recruits to my Department no longer have the option to be paid by cheque.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

67 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the major factors which led to the particular decentralised location chosen, and the criteria used for selection in respect of each decentralisation move in her Department outlined in the Budget 2004 statement. [21054/04]

As part of the decentralisation programme, it was decided that a minimum of 250 of my Department's core staff would decentralise to Carlow. It was also decided that four of my Department's agencies, FÁS, National Standards Authority of Ireland, Health and Safety Authority and Enterprise Ireland, would decentralise to Birr, Arklow, Thomastown and Shannon respectively. The decentralisation to these locations was taken in the context of the wider decentralisation programme announced by my colleague, the Minister for Finance, in the Budget. In selecting locations, a wide range of factors was taken into account. The main factors and criteria considered by Government included the need to achieve a fit with the national spatial strategy in terms of the gateways, hubs and their respective catchments; the location of existing decentralised offices, the desirability of clustering a Department's decentralised units within one region, the importance of respecting the scale and character of locations in terms of their capacity to absorb the number of new jobs involved, the general infrastructural capacity in the areas selected, including the existence of good transport links by road, rail and air.

International Standard Book Numbering.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

68 D’fhiafraigh Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Tánaiste agus Aire Fiontar, Trádála agus Fostaíochta an bhfuil a fhios aici go bhfuil an córas International Standard Book Numbering, ISBN, bunaithe ar dheich n-uimhir atá ceangailte i dtrí ghrúpa uimhreacha. Léiríonn an chéad ghrúpa uimhreacha an tír nó an teanga as a dtagann sé, léiríonn an dara grúpa cad is uimhir don fhoilsitheoir agus an tríú grúpa uimhir don leabhar, agus an eol di nach bhfuil bac ar bith ar Éirinn iarratas a dhéanamh chun a huimhreacha aitheantais ISBN féin a lorg, agus a úsáid agus a phoibliú. [21069/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

69 D’fhiafraigh Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Tánaiste agus Aire Fiontar, Trádála agus Fostaíochta ó tá uimhir International Standard Book Numbering, ISBN, dá gcuid féin ar fáil ag foilsitheoirí, leabhar ina dtíortha éagsúla, Catar, Málta, an Laitvia san áireamh, agus go bhfuil dhá uimhir ISBN ag cuid eile, Andóra mar shampla, cathain atá sé i gceist ag an Roinn an uirlis tráchtála luachmhar seo a chur ar fáil d’fhoilsitheoirí na hÉireann, seachas an gá atá faoi láthair ortha brath ar International Standard Book Numbering, ISBN, Shasana, agus an gnó acu a cheangal dá réir le gnó foilsitheoireachta Shasana. [21070/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

70 D’fhiafraigh Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Tánaiste agus Aire Fiontar, Trádála agus Fostaíochta an eol di nach ann don tír seo nó don Ghaeilge i liosta idirnáisiúnta International Standard Book Numbering, ISBN — liosta iniata — agus go n-úsáideann foilsitheoirí na hÉireann córas ’O’ Bhéarla Shasana, na Stát Aontaithe, na hAstráile agus Cheanada. [21071/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

71 D’fhiafraigh Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Tánaiste agus Aire Fiontar, Trádála agus Fostaíochta an bhfuil sé i gceist aici treoir a thabhairt dá Roinn córas International Standard Book Numbering, ISBN, náisiúnta a chur sa siúl cosúil le córais náisiúnta dá shórt atá i bhformhór thíortha eile an Aontais Eorpaigh. [21073/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

72 D’fhiafraigh Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Tánaiste agus Aire Fiontar, Trádála agus Fostaíochta cén fáth gur féidir uimhir International Standard Serial Number, ISSN, Éireannach a chur ar fáil do thréimhseacháin Éireannacha agus nach féídir International Standard Book Numbering, ISBN, Éireannach a chur ar fáil do leabhair. [21074/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

73 D’fhiafraigh Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Tánaiste agus Aire Fiontar, Trádála agus Fostaíochta An eol di gur ceist achrannach i measc fhoilsitheoirí na hÉireann í nach bhfuil córas International Standard Book Numbering, ISBN, náisiúnta ar fáil dóibh agus cad iad na céímeanna atá an tAire chun a ghlacadh chun a chinntiú go mbeidh córas dá leithéid ar fáil acu sar i bhfad, seachasa bheith ag brath ar chóras Shasana. [21075/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

74 D’fhiafraigh Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Tánaiste agus Aire Fiontar, Trádála agus Fostaíochta an raibh aon phlé ag an Roinn le grúpaí foilsitheoirí nó le soláthróirí chóras International Standard Book Numbering, ISBN, le cúig bliana anuas, nó roimhe sin, maidir le córas ISBN Éireannach a chur ar fáil d’fhoilsitheoirí Éireannacha. [21076/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

75 D’fhiafraigh Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Tánaiste agus Aire Fiontar, Trádála agus Fostaíochta an bhfuil a fhios aici nach bhfuil freagracht ar bith ag Bord na Leabhar Gaeilge, ag an Áisínteacht Dáileacháin Leabhar, ag an Leabharlann Náisiúnta nó ag aon dream eile atá maoinithe ag an Stát agus atá bainteach le foilsiú leabhar maidir le féídearthachtaín chóras International Standard Book Numbering, ISBN, náisiúnta a fhiosrú nó a riar. [21077/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 68 to 75, inclusive, together. The matter raised by the Deputy is not one for which I have ministerial responsibility.

Work Permits.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

76 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a work permit will be granted to an employer for a person from the Philippines in a situation (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21115/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

78 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a person is unable to source a suitable live-in child minder here, the EU or the accession states, having advertised with FÁS, if they are entitled to a work permit for a suitable person outside these areas. [21117/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 76 and 78 together.

Arising from EU enlargement on 1 May 2004, Ireland's dependence on non-EEA labour changed fundamentally. On that date, Ireland lifted all work permit requirements in respect of workers from the ten new member states and it was decided that in future, most of Ireland's overseas labour needs and all of its needs for low and unskilled workers should be met from within the enlarged EEA. The EEA consists of the EU together with Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

Applications for work permits are now being considered by reference to the following criteria. The job requires explicitly identified skills. The onus is on the employer to provide job and person specifications which show such requirements. Such skills cannot be sourced within the enlarged EEA, after a genuine effort and at a realistic wage; The Department will continue to refer employers to local FÁS offices and will develop, in consultation with relevant agencies, clear guidelines on testing the EU labour market and appropriate ranges of pay; training and upskilling of Irish and EU workers is not an option, for stated reasons; and the identified candidate can be shown to possess the required qualifications and skills. The employer will be required to demonstrate that this is so.

My Department, informed by its experience of supply and demand, proposes that for the time being, it will continue with its current policy that has proven to be successful in reducing dependence on unskilled low-paid non-EU labour. This consists of using the current list of ineligible occupations as well as referring all applications for work permits, which do not meet with the criteria above, back to the applicant with the recommendation that EU workers are recruited instead. Work permits are not granted in respect of job categories on the ineligible list including child minding in domestic circumstances.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

77 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the options available to a non-national working here with a work permit and not receiving the minimum wage; the options which are open to them if they decide to leave their current employer as a result of not receiving the minimum wage; if there are circumstances in which they would be granted another work permit to remain here with a new employer if they were to leave as a result of not receiving the minimum wage; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21116/04]

Work permits are only granted where there is compliance with minimum wages legislation. When an employer applies for a work permit in order to employ a non-EEA national, the Department requires a statement outlining the main functions of the job, the salary, any deductions, other than statutory, other benefits and hours to be worked per week. Both the proposed employer and the proposed employee must sign this statement. If there is evidence that a particular employer is exploiting workers for whom work permits are held I would ask that it be brought to the attention of the labour inspectorate of my Department for investigation and further action and to the work permit section.

The main option open to an employee on a current work permit who finds that they are let go and without a job is to find a new employer who is prepared to apply for a work permit to employ them. In such circumstances, my Department is prepared to facilitate sympathetic and flexible consideration of a new work permit application in respect of that employee.

Question No. 78 answered with QuestionNo. 76.

Court of Inquiry.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

79 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 264, 265 and 266 of 27 January 2004, if the officer is responsible for complying with paragraphs B and C of training circular 03/77; if he has satisfied himself that on the night in question these paragraphs were complied with; if he has not satisfied himself that these two paragraphs were complied with, the charges that were preferred against the officers responsible for not complying with these paragraphs; the reason an exercise director was not appointed in this instance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20896/04]

As I outlined in reply to a related question by the Deputy yesterday where an incident involves injury to a member of the Defence Forces, a formal court of inquiry is convened to take evidence and to make recommendations on the matters referred to it. In this case, the court of inquiry has not been convened as the incident is currently the subject of a civil action in the courts. I am advised that, once the matter has been disposed of by the courts, a court of inquiry will be convened. As the matter is the subject of an action by the individual involved and as the matter is still before the courts, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the matter at this time. I can assure the Deputy that, following the conclusion of the civil case, a court of inquiry will be held which will undertake a comprehensive examination of all aspects of this case.

Departmental Staff.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

80 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Defence the number of public servants employed in his Department who are paid by cheque; and the number who are paid electronically; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21041/04]

Smith): The number of public servants in my Department who are paid by cheque and the number that are paid electronically is as follows.

Electronic

Cheque

Civil Servant

488

20

State Industrials

668

256

Defence Forces

10,223

138

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

81 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Defence the major factors which led to the particular decentralised location chosen, and the criteria used for selection in respect of each decentralisation move in his Department outlined in the Budget 2004 statement. [21055/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government decision on decentralisation announced by the Minister for Finance in the Budget 2004 statement provides for the transfer of my Department's Dublin based Civil Service staff to Newbridge and the transfer of Defence Forces headquarters staff to the Curragh. A wide range of factors were taken into account and balanced in selecting locations, including the need to achieve a fit with the National Spatial Strategy, in terms of the gateways, hubs and their respective catchments; the location of existing decentralised offices; the desirability of clustering a Department's decentralised units within a region; the importance of respecting the scale and character of locations in terms of their capacity to absorb the number of new jobs involved and the existence of good transport links, by road, rail and air, and the general infrastructural capacity in the areas selected.

Military Investigation.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

82 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 57 and 110 of 16 June 2004, if he has received a report from the Chief of Staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21175/04]

As I have outlined in previous replies the Chief of Staff received a submission from a retired army officer who served at Jadotville seeking a review of the events of September 1961. The Chief of Staff arranged for the submission to be examined by a board of military officers. The Chief of Staff received a report from the board of officers in mid-June and subsequently sought clarification on a number of matters arising. This clarification, which involved research of archival material, has been received by the Chief of Staff within the last few days and the full report is under examination. Pending the outcome of the examination, it would not be appropriate for me to comment. I will carefully consider any recommendations that the Chief of Staff may make on the issue.

Grant Payments.

Seamus Kirk

Ceist:

83 Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when moneys due under headings for 2003 will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20880/04]

The person named submitted nine applications under the 2003 special beef premium scheme and also had 51 animals eligible under the 2003 slaughter premium scheme. Advance payment at the rate of 80% of premium has issued in respect of the first four applications under the special beef premium scheme and in respect of 32 animals under the slaughter premium scheme. The person named applied for premium on eight animals under the 2003 suckler cow premium scheme. The 80% advance instalment amounting to €1434.56 issued on 17 October 2003.

Further payments under these schemes cannot be processed pending the completion investigations into identification and registration issues in relation to bovine animals on the holding of the person named. He also applied for 2003 extensification premium but payment of premium cannot be considered until the above investigations are finalised. My Department will be writing to the person named in this matter shortly.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

84 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason his Department continues to penalise a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath in respect of overpayment of premiums; if, in this context an oral hearing will be afforded to them to fully and comprehensively explain the situation that pertained and to indicate their position adopted at all times; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20978/04]

In 1998, the person named included lands in his area aid application which were already included in another person's REPS plan. The person named was himself also in REPS. In these circumstances my Department had no option but to consider all the lands to be one single farming unit, which was eligible for only one REPS payment.

Both parties were informed directly of this position. They were invited to submit a joint application for REPS including all the lands. They did not avail of this invitation and so my Department had to seek full recovery of all the REPS payments that both had received. Recovery of the REPS payments received by the person named is continuing by way of withholding payments for which he is eligible under other EU-funded schemes. These cases have been reviewed in my Department, and the foregoing is my Department's decision based on all the information available. It is open to the person named and the other party to seek to include all the lands in a new single application for REPS, subject to satisfactory arrangements for full recovery of the outstanding debts in both cases.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

85 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when he intends to make a decision on an application by a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon for consideration of exceptional circumstances under EU Council Regulation EC1782/2003; if this application will be granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20979/04]

The person named submitted an application form for consideration of force majeure on 4 February 2004 and was not successful.

The person named has appealed the decision to the single payment appeals committee. Following consideration of that appeal, the applicant will be notified.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

86 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when he intends to make a decision on an application by a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon for consideration of exceptional circumstances under EU Council Regulation EC1782/2003; if this application will be granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20980/04]

The person named has been notified that the circumstances outlined in his single payment scheme application did not satisfy the criteria for force majeure under Article 40 of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1782/2003. The person named can appeal my Department’s decision to the single payment appeals committee if he so wishes.

Residue Testing Programme.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

87 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the levels of antibiotics and other drugs banned from human consumption found by his Department’s residue testing programme in each of the past five years; and if he will report on the effect of each chemical banned, including nitrofurans, furazolidone and malachite green. [20981/04]

The following are details of banned antibiotics and other banned drugs detected under the programme referred to in the years 1998-2003:

Year

No. of positives

Substance

Species

1998

12

Steroids

Bovine

15

Beta — agonists

Bovine

1

Nitrofurans

Bovine

1

Nitrofurans

Ovine

1

Carbadox

Porcine

1999

15

Beta-agonists

Bovine

1

Nitrofurans

Bovine

4

Carbadox

Bovine

2000

10

Steroids

Bovine

5

Leuco Malachite Green

Aquaculture The testing programme and follow up actions are managed by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

2001

6

Steroids

Bovine

1

Carbadox

Porcine

2002

32

Malachite Green/Leuco MG

Aquaculture

2003

10

Malachite Green/Leuco MG

Aquaculture

11

Nitrofurans

Bovine

Use of the substances referred to above is not authorised at EU level because of the risks they pose to the health of consumers. Relevant EU scientific papers are publicly available and I will arrange for these to be forwarded to the Deputy. My Department publishes annually the results of the national residue testing programme.

Grant Payments.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

88 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a REP scheme payment for a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will be awarded for 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20982/04]

Payment issued to the person named on 17 May 2004.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

89 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the outcome of the application under force majeure and exceptional circumstances in relation to the establishment of entitlements under the Council Regulation 1782/2002 for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [21001/04]

The person named has been notified that that the circumstances outlined in his single payment scheme application did not satisfy the criteria for force majeure or exceptional circumstances under Article 40 of Council Regulation EC/1782/2003. The person named can appeal my Department’s decision to the single payment appeals committee if he so wishes.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

90 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when full area aid payment will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [21003/04]

The person named submitted his 2003 area aid application on 11 April 2003. The closing date for receipt of applications for 2003 was 7 April 2003 and consequently a 2% late penalty was applied to his application. The person named has now submitted supporting documentation and the 2% penalty has been removed. Any payments due as a result of this amendment will issue in due course.

Under EU regulations, 2003 extensification premium may only be paid where the stocking density of a holding does not exceed 1.80 livestock units per hectare. Since the stocking density of the holding in this case amounted to 2.1518 livestock units per hectare, the person named does not qualify for payment. He was advised of the position by letter within the last ten days.

Animal Diseases.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

91 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if his attention has been drawn to the high level of a specific disease in the southern part of the country and that the owners of infected animals are the dominant suppliers of milk to a very large dairy bottle plant; and if he will have the herds who supply the dairy immediately investigated and the farms who are found to be infected immediately exempted from supplying milk for domestic purposes; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that milk from infected animals is being pasteurised at an extraordinary high temperature to kill the infection, thus seriously damaging nutrients of the milk; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that this disease has been found to be related to Crohn’s disease in humans; and if he will make a statement on this matter due to the major implications for public health. [21017/04]

The Deputy is referring to Johne's disease, cases of which have occurred in the national herd over at least the past half-century and which has been a notifiable disease in this country since 1955. The disease is widespread in other EU member states and worldwide. It is a chronic infectious disease of cattle which gives rise to gradual wasting, loss of condition and, in the case of dairy cattle, significant losses in milk yield. It is caused by infection with the bacterium Mycobacterium avium, subspecies paratuberculosis, known as MAP.

Until early 2003, my Department's approach to notified cases of the disease was to slaughter the affected animals and pay compensation. On the basis of an assessment of the number of cases arising and from research data on a test and cull strategy, it became apparent that this approach was not effective in arresting and reversing the increasing prevalence of the disease. Consequently, such an approach has been dispensed with and a strategic review of our approach to tackling the disease was undertaken by my Department. It is clear that nothing less than a fully integrated strategy involving all of the relevant stakeholders and with each playing a defined role will be effective. My Department alone cannot eliminate the disease from the national herd. Accordingly, the strategic review has involved consultation with all the relevant interests. This process has indicated a common recognition of the problem, an acceptance that only a fully integrated and sustained strategy will be effective and a willingness on the part of stakeholders to play active roles in implementing such a strategy. The process also generated a number of very useful proposals of a practical nature.

By virtue of the nature of the disease it will take a number of years of sustained commitment to effectively tackle it. The strategy will therefore involve elements which can be put into effect in the short term and others which will be implemented over a longer period. My Department, in conjunction with other interests, has been working on finalising a number of the short-term elements and will shortly be passing on the relevant information to stakeholders. Once this has been done, it is my intention that all elements of the new national Johne's disease strategy will be quickly drawn together in conjunction with all the stakeholders, announced, promoted vigorously by all concerned and implemented. Apart from any other considerations, the success of the new strategy is important if Irish livestock farmers are to be protected against the significant production and income losses associated with the disease.

As far as any putative public health dimension is concerned, there are concerns in some quarters that MAP may be associated with Crohn's disease in humans. It is most important to accurately reflect the essence of current scientific thinking and research in the matter. While MAP organisms have been recovered from many Crohn's patients, and notwithstanding the fact that the matter has been subject to much research internationally, it is important to recognise that a cause-effect link has not to date been proven and to note that there remains significant divergence in scientific opinion on the matter. It should also be noted that in 2000, the scientific committee on animal health and welfare of the European Commission concluded that there was insufficient evidence to draw any firm conclusion about the suggested link between these two diseases. Furthermore, when consulted by my Department in the matter, the scientific committee of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland advised that there is insufficient evidence to confirm a link between Johne's disease and Crohn's disease. As with all such matters, my Department will continue to monitor further scientific developments and thinking in this area.

Departmental Staff.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

92 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of public servants employed in his Department who are paid by cheque; and the number who are paid electronically; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21042/04]

On my Department's payroll, 885 employees — 17.42% — are paid their salaries by cheque and 4,195 employees — 82.58% — are paid electronically. These numbers include part-time and temporary staff.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

93 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the major factors which led to the particular decentralised location chosen, and the criteria used for selection in respect of each decentralisation move in his Department outlined in the 2004 budget statement. [21056/04]

In his budget statement for 2004 the Minister for Finance listed the wide range of factors that were taken into account in selecting Departments and agencies for decentralisation and the locations for the new decentralised offices. These factors include, in selecting Departments and agencies for decentralisation: the imperative that customer service standards are not adversely affected by decentralisation; the core business and nature of the relevant Departments and agencies; the location of the customer base; and the need to ensure that the units involved are large enough to provide career opportunities for staff either within their own Department or in another Department within a reasonable distance; and, in selecting locations for decentralised offices: the need to achieve a fit with the national spatial strategy in terms of the gateways and hubs and their respective catchments; the location of existing decentralised offices; the desirability of clustering a Department's decentralised units within a region; the importance of respecting the scale and character of locations in terms of their capacity to absorb the number of new jobs involved; the existence of good transport links by road, rail or air and the general infrastructural capacity in the areas selected.

My Department is already heavily decentralised and has a significant number of staff in Portlaoise which will be the location of its headquarters.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

94 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of the positions moved and the number of these filled on promotion in respect of the most recent decentralisation undertaken by his Department; and the number of follow-on moves which were triggered by the decentralisation. [21086/04]

The most recent decentralisation undertaken by my Department took place in 1998 to Johnstown Castle, Wexford. To obtain the requisite number of persons moving, 51 officers were relocated, 119 officers were transferred in from other Departments and 123 officers were directly recruited. No specific promotion competition was held in respect of this decentralisation.

Agriculture Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

95 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the extent to which assistance is available to new entrants to farming with particular reference to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21149/04]

One of my main objectives is to ensure a policy framework which will allow agriculture and the agri-food sector to develop to its full potential. The recent reform of the CAP will lead to the development of a sustainable and competitive sector. This in turn will ensure that agriculture will remain an attractive career option for young people.

In addition, there are a number of specific measures aimed at encouraging young persons into farming. The principal mechanism is the installation aid scheme, which was established pursuant to the National Development Plan 2000-2006, and the early retirement scheme. Under the installation scheme, a grant of €9,523 is available to farmers under the age of 35 who became established in farming for the first time on or after 1 January 2000. I understand that the person referred to received the full amount available under the scheme in February 2003. In addition, top-up grants are available to young farmers under both the dairy hygiene scheme and the farm waste management scheme.

Under the early retirement scheme, older farmers are encouraged to retire early from farming in order to qualify for a pension which is jointly funded by the EU and by the national Exchequer, thereby encouraging their replacement by younger farmers able to improve, where necessary, the economic viability of agricultural holdings. The changes I introduced to the milk quota regime in Ireland in 2000 have been very successful in achieving the overall objective of putting quota definitively in the hands of active committed producers, at the lowest possible cost. The milk quota restructuring scheme is now the principal means by which additional milk quota is acquired by producers. Under the scheme, priority in the allocation of quota is given to specific categories of producers and in particular to new and recent entrants to dairying.

In 2000, I put in place a scheme for the allocation of 5 million gallons of the additional quota negotiated under Agenda 2000 to young milk producers who satisfied certain defined criteria. The 3,099 eligible applicants each received an allocation of 1,700 gallons. Furthermore, in 2001, an additional 4.5 million gallons was allocated to young farmers and 3,442 applicants each received an extra 1,300 gallons under that scheme.

I have also provided for milk production partnerships within the quota system in order to allow for flexibility in farming practice by combining two enterprises and quotas. Standard milk production partnerships were provided for in 2002. Following a review of the first year of the operation of the partnerships, I introduced new regulations to provide for the registration of new entrant-parent milk production partnerships. These arrangements allow a qualified young farmer to be part of a milk production enterprise in partnership with his or her parent without having to establish separate facilities. Such partnerships provide an opportunity for trained young farmers to get established in the industry and have access to quota, as a priority category, under a milk quota restructuring scheme. In light of experience, I have introduced some further flexibility into the partnership arrangements. In the new milk quota regulations which I signed in the last few weeks, I have made a number of amendments designed to help prospective partners.

Partnership arrangements within the milk quota system have a very useful role to play in providing for the type of flexibility necessary to respond to the demands on today's milk producers. The uptake for the new entrant-parent partnerships has been particularly encouraging. I will continue to keep the arrangement under review to ensure it is best suited to the needs of the sector.

There are also a number of tax incentives available to encourage young persons into farming, which include 100% stock relief for young trained farmers for four years after transfer; 100% stamp duty relief on transfers of agricultural land and buildings to young trained farmers; 90% agricultural relief on capital acquisitions tax; income tax exemptions for land leased by farmers over 40 to non-connected persons; and retirement relief on capital gains tax for farmers over 55.

Teagasc devotes a considerable amount of time and resources into the promotion of farming as a career. National advertising campaigns are conducted twice each year promoting the full range of their education and training courses. A total of €140,000 was spent in 2003 on advertising campaigns in this area. In addition, career events are held at all eight colleges twice each year. The purpose of the open days is promote the courses at the colleges and careers in agriculture and horticulture. Invitations are issued to all second level schools and to more than 900 guidance counsellors to attend these events and they are advertised in the national newspapers. In addition, parents and Teagasc clients are invited to attend.

A detailed course prospectus is produced each year outlining the full range of Teagasc courses and these are also sent to every second level school and guidance counsellor. Teagasc aims to have a presence at all career guidance seminars and events. In addition, education officers and college teachers visit as many second-level schools as possible to promote agricultural education and training. Details of all Teagasc careers events and the full text of the Teagasc prospectus are available for downloading from the Qualifax website. In addition, full details regarding courses and colleges are available on the Teagasc public website, www.teagasc.ie.

National Monuments.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

96 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Finance if works carried out on a monument (details supplied) in County Donegal were in keeping with the dry stone masonry style that exists in the rest of the structure; if the concrete wall that was constructed is considered to be a permanent job in view of the fact that the scaffolding and danger signs are still in place; when it is expected that works will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20902/04]

A scheme has been devised to prevent structural collapses at this monument. This involves the dismantling of sections which have collapsed or are liable to collapse and the construction of an embedded concrete wall in these areas. Reconstruction of the dry stone walls enveloping the concrete wall will take place as individual sections of the concrete wall are completed. Work commenced in 2003 and will continue until 2005.

Task Force on Flooding.

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

97 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance the terms of reference of and progress made by the task force on flooding. [21183/04]

On 27 November 2002, I announced that a major review of national flooding policy would be carried out. The full published terms of reference of the review were to examine the causes and extent of the flooding, the impact of the flooding on different sections of society, e.g. farmers, householders and businesses, and how the State should respond the different categories of flooding and recommend which agencies should have responsibility in each case; to develop criteria for the prioritisation of expenditure between response programmes and within programmes where appropriate; to examine the extent and adequacy of existing powers and process and recommend any changes and any new or additional powers considered necessary; to identify strategies to manage any increase in the present extent of areas at risk of flooding, with particular reference to current predictions regarding the effects of climate change; and to examine criteria for initiation of any future humanitarian aid schemes.

A review group was established comprising representatives of the Office of Public Works, the Department of Finance, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, the Department of Agriculture and Food, the County and City Managers' Association, IBEC and the Irish Farmers Association. The group has met on nine occasions. At its first meeting in January 2003 the group agreed to undertake a public consultation process. Submissions were invited from the public through advertisements in the media on 24 January 2003. A total of 71 written submissions were received from all sectors of society. Following the closing date for receipt of submissions members of the review groups also held meeting with 14 key agencies and groups to facilitate discussions on particular issues.

Following a number of drafts, a copy of the review group's final draft report was circulated to all Departments for comments earlier this year. On receipt of comments the final draft report was forwarded to the Department of Finance for consideration and submission to Government in March 2004.

Garda Stations.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

98 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the dangerous condition of the boundary wall of a Garda station (details supplied) in Dublin 4; if he has reports on the condition of the wall; if he will have a survey undertaken to ascertain the stability of the wall; the action he proposes to take to secure this piece of State property in the interests of the safety of the Garda and the community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20886/04]

The wall in question has been affected by the growth of a tree adjacent to the wall. The Commissioners of Public Works have arranged for a contractor to dismantle and rebuild the wall at this location to ensure its stability.

Flood Relief.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

99 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance his Department’s plans for further works to protect the Tolka river from flooding; the works completed to date downstream of Drumcondra Bridge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20913/04]

The Deputy will be aware that Dublin County Council exhibited a schedule of works in February of this year, as required under Part 8 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001, which comprises the next phase of works to be undertaken on the River Tolka in the city area. The OPW has agreed to undertake a number of these works on behalf of the council and these include the construction of walls and embankments on the Northern bank downstream of Drumcondra Bridge and the lowering of Distillery Weir. Further works, which include the replacement of Distillery Road Bridge and the widening of some parts of the river around the bridge are the subject of negotiations between the council and property owners and developers as part of a proposed development in that area.

The OPW mobilised on-site in early June and works have commenced on an earthen embankment immediately downstream of Tolka Park at the rear of Richmond Road. The lowering of Distillery Weir has almost been completed at this stage. Further works, including the construction of walls on the northern bank, will be commenced when the final design has been received from the council. In addition to these works, the OPW is completing top-soiling of the area around the new Woodville Road footbridge at present. Works completed in phase 1 last year downstream of Drumcondra Bridge included the repair of the river wall along 112-114 Tolka Road and the general cleaning of the channel to Luke Kelly Bridge. The OPW and the city council are committed to completing all aspects of phase 2 in the current year.

Insurance Industry.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

100 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he has received complaints about the restrictions on insurance cover or the refund of insurance cover in respect of homes affected by the Tolka flooding; and if he will make a statement on the outcome of meetings which he has had with the insurance industry on this matter. [20914/04]

As the Deputy is aware, I am conscious that some people in the Drumcondra area have been experiencing difficulties securing adequate insurance cover against flooding. The Deputy is further aware that at a meeting with the Irish Insurance Federation I indicated that the State would play its part in flood risk reduction and that in turn, the insurance industry would be expected to act in a reasonable manner. At my invitation the IIF made a submission to the flood policy review group and subsequently met with OPW officials. This meeting clarified aspects of its submission and provided an opportunity for the IIF to be briefed on the State's overall strategy on flood management, including the OPW's proposals for developing flooding hazard maps.

Government Securities.

John Perry

Ceist:

101 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance if the moneys of a person (details supplied) will be released; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20989/04]

This question relates to a national savings bond. The Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland, Dame Street, Dublin 2, is responsible for maintaining the register of such Irish Government securities. In the particular circumstances of this case I understand that certain documentation will be required before any moneys can be released and that therefore the query would be best addressed directly to the payments and securities settlements section of the bank, which will assist in finalising the matter.

Departmental Offices.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

102 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance when it is planned to complete the construction of the new Government offices in Roscommon town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20996/04]

The contract for the erection of the new Government offices in Roscommon town is on target for completion by the end of this year.

Departmental Staff.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

103 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the number of public servants employed in his Department who are paid by cheque; and the number who are paid electronically; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21043/04]

Of the 646 public servants employed in my Department, 625 are paid by electronic funds transfer, EFT, and 21 by cheque, i.e. payable order. My Department negotiated an agreement with the Civil Service unions at General Council in July 2003, which provided that all new staff taking up duty in Departments and offices on or after 1 October 2003 would have their salary paid by EFT. In addition, it was agreed that serving staff would be actively encouraged to move to having their salary paid by EFT where they were not currently doing so.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

104 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the major factors which led to the particular decentralised location chosen and the criteria used for selection in respect of each decentralisation move in his Department outlined in the budget 2004 statement. [21057/04]

As I indicated in my budget speech, a wide range of factors were taken into account and balanced against each other in selecting departments and agencies for decentralisation and locations for the new decentralised offices. These factors are set out on page B.25 of Budget 2004.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

105 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the details of the decentralisation of the Office of the Collector General, indicating the period over which it occurred; the number of staff transferred; the number of staff who took a direct move at the same position; the number moved on transfer for other offices within the Revenue Commissioners and from outside the Revenue Commissioners; the number of positions filled by fresh recruitment; and the number of positions which were filled on promotion. [21084/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the movement of staff as a direct result of the relocation of the Collector General's office to Limerick commenced in 1993 and was completed by 1996. A total of 550 posts were transferred under the decentralisation programme to the office in Limerick. Over the three-year period approximately 290 staff took a direct move at the same grade. Of these 268 transferred into Revenue from other Departments for Limerick and approximately 22 Revenue staff transferred at their current grade. A total of 294 staff were promoted for Limerick — 150 Revenue staff and 144 staff from other Departments. Approximately 140 staff were recruited at clerical assistant grade for the Collector General's office in Limerick.

The decentralisation of the Collector General's office to Limerick coincided with decentralisation to Nenagh and Ennis and resulted in approximately 134 staff moving to other offices within Revenue which were not decentralising. A total of 24 staff moved out of Revenue to other Departments. Over the three-year period, there was natural movement of staff into and out of the Collector General's office.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

106 D’fhiafraigh Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Airgeadais an bhfuil sé fíor nach bhfuil aon bhealach dóibh siúd i rothchathaoireacha chun na dtaispeántas ar an gCéad Urlár d’ArdMhsaeúm na hÉireann i Sráid Chill Dara, Baile Átha Cliath. [21090/04]

Tá Oifig na nOibreacha Poiblí tar éis a dheimhniú nach bhfuil rochtain ar fáil do dhaoine i gcathaoir rothaí chun breathnú ar na taispeántais ar an gcéad úrlár de Mhúsaem Náisiúnta na hÉireann, Sráid Chill Dara, Baile Átha Cliath 2. Faoi láthair tá OOP ag déanamh Socruithe chun Plean Forbartha Stiúrtha a ullmhú don áitreamh i Sráid Chill Dara agus is tosaíocht é do OOP ullmhú plean dá léithéid. Beidh scrúdú ar rochtain uilíoch sa áireamh agus mar rún ag OOP í a chur ar fáil tá sí indéanta.

Grant Payments.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

107 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if the Revenue Commissioners will review the decision not to allow incapacitated child credit in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21138/04]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they are unable, at present, to grant the incapacitated child tax credit in relation to the person concerned. The criteria for granting the incapacitated child credit are set out in section 465(2)(a) of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. Essentially, the incapacitated child tax credit is due only if there is a reasonable expectation that the child, if he was over the age of 18, would be incapable of maintaining himself.

I understand that if a medical report, or an elaboration of the medical report already submitted, is received by the Revenue Commissioners confirming that the child fulfils the necessary criteria, it will grant the credit. Finally, I should mention that the fact that the carer's allowance is being paid by the Department of Social and Family Affairs in this case is not relevant as the allowance in question is awarded by reference to a different set of qualifying criteria.

Garda Stations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

108 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the progress in each of the past five years in relation to the provision of the promised new Garda station for Leixlip, County Kildare; when he expects the station to become operational. [21167/04]

An annualised schedule of developments in the provision of a new Garda Station at Leixlip is as follows: 2000, procurement phase of a development site; 2001, procurement phase of a development site; 2002, procurement of development site finalised; 2003, design team appointment — sketch scheme drawn up; and 2004, revised brief received from the Garda Síochána — revised sketch scheme in preparation.

The provision of a new station facility will be contingent on the receipt of design approval, planning permission and a funding provision. At present the Garda station at Leixlip is placed at No. 17 on the priority list for the Garda building programme.

Oil Smuggling.

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

109 Mr. B. Smith asked the Minister for Finance if he has satisfied himself that there are adequate measures in place to combat oil smuggling and illegal oil laundering; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21199/04]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that tackling oil smuggling and oil laundering is a priority area for Revenue enforcement officers. By way of illustrating the priority given to combating illegality in this area, during the period from 1 July 2003 to 30 June 2004, eight oil laundries were detected and 134,000 litres of laundered oil were seized, along with associated plant and equipment. Four offenders have been prosecuted and convicted of oil laundering offences, and a further eight cases are pending. On average, each of the laundries detected was capable of processing up to 50,000 litres of oil per week. This could have resulted in sizeable losses to the Exchequer if left undetected.

In addition to the focus on oil laundries, checks are also carried out at filling stations throughout the country and in the past 12 months these have resulted in 17 detections being made and more than 237,000 litres of laundered oil being seized. Prosecutions are pending in 13 of these cases. In the case of oil smuggling, 23 seizures, amounting to 208,000 litres of oil, mainly kerosene, have been made during the 12 months ending 30 June 2004. In addition, six offenders have been successfully prosecuted and a further five cases are pending. The Revenue Commissioners also advise me that combating this illegal trade involves close interaction with other agencies and in particular with the Criminal Assets Bureau and with customs officers from Northern Ireland.

Finally, the legislation and powers necessary for tackling oil fraud are kept under continuous review. Most recently, legislative amendments were introduced in the Finance Act 2003 to facilitate the prosecution of cases involving the use or sale of laundered oil.

Consular Issues.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

110 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the assistance his Department can offer to a person (details supplied). [20908/04]

The person to whom the Deputy refers is currently detained in HMP Bronzefield, Woodthorpe Road, Ashford, Middlesex TW15 3J2. This case is being closely monitored by my Department and by the Embassy of Ireland in London. Arrangements have been made for a diplomatic officer from the embassy in London to visit this person tomorrow, 9 July 2004. My Department and the embassy will continue to provide all possible consular assistance to the person concerned.

Foreign Conflicts.

John Gormley

Ceist:

111 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the credence which was placed on a dossier (details supplied) by the Government; the way in which Ireland’s behaviour as a member of the UN Security Council was affected by this; and the reason the Government continued, realising the baseless and biased nature of the allegations contained in that dossier, to use that material to promote a patently lawless attack against the Republic of Iraq. [20945/04]

The contents of the British dossier in question had no bearing on the Government's position in relation to the threat posed by Iraq or on Ireland's behaviour as a member of the United Nations Security Council. The Government did not rely on UK or US intelligence sources.

In arriving at a position on the threat posed by Iraq, the Government, like most governments around the world, was guided by a number of factors. First, the hard evidence that Iraq had at one time been in possession of chemical weapons and had used them both in its war with Iran and against its own people. Second, that it had sought to develop nuclear weapons capability. Third, that it had persistently defied the demands of the Security Council that it verifiably dismantle its WMD capabilities. Fourth, that it refused to co-operate fully with UN weapons inspectors. Finally, that the UN inspectors were not satisfied that Iraq had accounted for its stocks of WMD. I reiterate that the Government did not base its position on intelligence provided by the either the US or the UK.

At the time when Security Council Resolution 1441 was unanimously adopted, the Security Council was acting in the belief that Iraq did possess weapons of mass destruction. This belief was very widely shared in the international community. The General Affairs Council of the EU at its meeting of 18-19 November 2002 stated three times in the clearest terms its belief that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. This was despite the fact that there was disagreement among many member states about how to deal with the situation. In his report of 6 March to the Security Council, Dr. Blix, head of Unmovic, the arms inspection team mandated to investigate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, said that many questions relating to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction remained unanswered. The fact remains that, whether or not these weapons still existed at the time, Iraq was in material breach of its disarmament obligations through its failure to co-operate fully with the arms inspectors in carrying out their mandate of verifying that Iraq no longer held weapons of mass destruction. War could have been averted if Saddam Hussein had co-operated fully with the arms inspectors mandated by the UN Security Council. Saddam Hussein was manifestly unwilling to do this. He began to offer minimal, but still thoroughly unsatisfactory, co-operation only when military pressure started to mount.

I totally reject any assertion that the Government promoted an attack against the Republic of Iraq. We in fact worked at the Security Council to avert it. We also decided that Ireland would not participate in the coalition's proposed military action against Iraq. A motion to endorse the Government's approach was approved by this House on 20 March 2003.

Departmental Staff.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

112 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of public servants employed in his Department who are paid by cheque; and the number who are paid electronically; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21044/04]

A total of 1430 public servants are currently on the Department's payroll. Of this number, 1,372 are paid electronically while the remaining 58 are paid by payable order. Under the terms of General Council Report 1429, the salaries of all staff taking up duty for the first time on or after 1 October 2003 are paid electronically.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

113 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the major factors which led to the particular decentralised location chosen, and the criteria used for selection in respect of each decentralisation move in his Department outlined in the budget 2004 statement. [21058/04]

In December 1999 the Minister for Finance announced in his budget speech that the Government intended to proceed with a new, more radical programme of decentralisation, involving up to 10,000 civil and public servants. That intention was also signalled in An Agreed Programme for Government 2002-2007. Subsequent to his original announcement, the Minister for Finance and his Department had extensive consultations about the issue with interested parties, including other Departments, civil service staff unions and associations and the Strategic Management Initiative implementation group of Secretaries General. The Minister also received submissions, representations and inquiries from or on behalf of a large number of centres throughout the country seeking to be included in the new programme.

In proposing to the Government on 3 December 2003 the Departments, divisions of Departments and offices to be included in the decentralisation programme, the Minister for Finance had particular regard to their nature and core business and to the location of their customer bases as well as to the need to ensure a fit with the National Spatial Strategy. Other issues considered by the Minister and by the Government included the desirability of clustering a decentralised Department's units within a region, the scope for clustering of cross-departmental functions, staff retention and career opportunities and the ability of particular locations to absorb the numbers of new residents involved. Under the programme approved by the Government, the development co-operation directorate of the Department of Foreign Affairs will be transferred to Limerick. The Department is now working with the Office of Public Works in order to secure suitable premises in Limerick for the directorate.

Consular Issues.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

114 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether the treatment given to a person (details supplied) in County Cork is acceptable; and if he will be seeking an explanation and an apology for this incident. [21133/04]

On my instructions, the Consulate General in Boston has contacted the Logan Airport authorities, who are investigating the incident. In the short time available it has not yet been possible to establish the full facts of this case. I will communicate with the Deputy when I receive a report from the Consulate General.

Human Rights Issues.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

115 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he, on behalf of the Government and during his term as President of the European Union Foreign Affairs Council of Ministers, has issued a complaint to the Government of Israel on the continuing restrictions on the movement of a person (details supplied) since their unjustifiable prison term. [21150/04]

The restrictions placed on the person named are currently the subject of proceedings before the Israeli courts. Outside interference in this case would not be helpful or appropriate while those proceedings are in train.

Visa Applications.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

116 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if a person can re-apply for a visa on behalf of a person (details supplied). [21187/04]

Visa applicants are normally required to submit their visa application to the embassy or consulate in their country of permanent residence. If there is no Irish mission in the country of residence the application can be submitted to any Irish embassy or directly to the visa office, Department of Foreign Affairs, 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2. Visa applications can be submitted by post. A person may submit an application on behalf of another person provided the person applying for a visa has actually completed and signed the visa application form himself.

In this case, the visa application was initially refused by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and this decision was upheld following an appeal by the applicant. Therefore, a new visa application must now be submitted. The new application can be submitted to the visa office in Dublin by the person detailed on behalf of the applicant provided the applicant has completed and signed the visa application form herself.

Indemnity Agreement.

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

117 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the lands within the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council area which are the subject of the settlement with the religious orders. [21177/04]

The indemnity agreement provided that the property contribution of the congregations was to be divided into two separate and distinct schedules of properties. The first is the properties to be transferred from the congregations to the State, State agencies and local authorities after the date of the signing of the indemnity agreement on 5 June 2002. The total value of these property transfers for the purposes of the indemnity agreement was to be €36.54 million. I can confirm that agreement in principle has been reached with the religious congregations on the transfer of properties to that amount.

The second category consists of properties transferred from the congregations to the State, State agencies, local authorities or voluntary organisations between 11 May 1999 and the date of the signing of the indemnity agreement on 5 June 2002. The total value of these property transfers for the purposes of the indemnity agreement was to be €40.32 million. At this stage, transfers of properties to the value of approximately €27 million have been agreed in principle. A number of other properties have been identified which have the potential to finalise this schedule in the near future. I do not intend to give details regarding the identity of individual properties at this point. However, I hope to be in a position to publish the full list of properties in the very near future.

Summer Works Scheme.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

118 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will allocate the required €31,000 to a school (details supplied) in Dublin 3 for the purposes of refurbishing the school’s toilets. [20856/04]

The scope of works required at the school is appropriate for consideration under the summer works scheme. This scheme was launched in December 2003 and it replaced all existing small-scale building project schemes. The school's management authority did not apply for funding under the scheme for 2004. It is open to the authority to apply for the key priority works required at the school as part of the summer works scheme for 2005, details of which will be announced later this year.

Special Educational Needs.

John Bruton

Ceist:

119 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will allocate financial resources to a school (details supplied) to provide sufficient resource or support teachers for the school; if a support teacher will be financed for the school for a person (details supplied) in County Meath to allow them to learn satisfactorily when they return to this school after having been taught for the past two years in St. Rose’s national school in Tallaght which assists children with dyslexia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20859/04]

My Department has received applications from the school referred to by the Deputy for special education resources, SER. It is my intention that all applications for SER received by 30 June 2004, including the application for the pupil in question, will be responded to before the commencement of the 2004-05 school year.

The teacher allocations involved will be made in the context of a new weighted system which I announced recently. An additional 350 teacher posts are being provided to facilitate the introduction of the new system. The new system will involve a general weighted allocation for all primary schools to cater for pupils with higher-incidence special educational needs; for example, those with borderline mild and mild general learning disability, specific learning disability, and also those with learning support needs. It will also allow for individual allocations in respect of pupils with lower-incidence special educational needs.

The weighted allocation will be made as follows: in the most disadvantaged schools, as per the urban dimension of Giving Children an Even Break, a teacher of pupils with special educational needs will be allocated for every 80 pupils to cater for the subset of pupils with higher incidence special needs; in all-boys schools, the ratio will be one teacher for every 140 pupils; in mixed schools, or all-girls schools with an enrolment of greater than 30% boys, one for every 150 pupils; and in all-girls schools including schools with mixed junior classes but with 30% or less boys overall, one for every 200 pupils. It is intended that the details of the new model will be set out in a comprehensive circular to issue to schools for the commencement of the new school year. The weighted allocation will enable teaching support to be provided to pupils with higher-incidence special educational needs and this will obviate the need for schools to submit individual applications for pupils in the higher-incidence categories. Schools may continue to apply for specific teacher allocations in respect of pupils with lower-incidence disabilities.

My Department now proposes to devise clusters in respect of allocations to be made under the weighted model. Sanction for the filling of posts will be considered in the context of these clusters and the weighted arrangements. The Department will communicate with schools in this regard before the commencement of the coming school year.

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

120 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the situation when a person (details supplied) in County Cork resumes school in September 2004; if they will be allocated a classroom assistant; and the reason the school had to re-submit the application recently. [20883/04]

My Department has received an application for an increase in special needs assistant support for the pupil referred to by the Deputy. Special needs assistants may be approved to support a pupil who has a significant medical need for such assistance or 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 my Department's Circular 07/02. This circular may be accessed on my Department's website under "Children with Special Needs".

My Department continues to review existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. The basic purpose of the review is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs. Since 1998, the number of special needs assistants in primary schools has grown from about 300 to more than 5,500 full-time and part-time posts. I assure the Deputy that special needs assistants posts will be retained in schools where there is a continuing care need in accordance with Circular 07/02.

Account is being taken of existing levels of special needs assistant support allocation in schools. In cases where a reduction in the level of special needs assistant support is proposed, there will be provision for schools to appeal, having regard to the care needs of the pupils concerned. Details of the appeals mechanism will be set out in a communication to schools.

I refer the Deputy to Circular SP ED 09/04 which may be accessed on my Department's website, www.education.ie, under “Children with special needs”. The circular advises schools that have applied for special needs assistant support that they will be notified of the outcome of their applications as soon as possible in advance of the next school year. This includes the application for the pupil referred to by the Deputy.

School Transport.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

121 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Education and Science if the CIE school bus service serving a school (details supplied) in County Mayo will be made available to children from the Carrowkilleen area of Crossmolina attending same. [20884/04]

A report on this case has been requested from Bus Éireann. The Deputy will be advised of the position when the report has been received and assessed.

School Accommodation.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

122 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will report on the need for additional accommodation at a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; and the timescale for the provision of same. [20894/04]

The school referred to by the Deputy applied for an additional temporary classroom for September 2004. In the context of the available funding and the number of applications for that funding, it was not possible to approve all applications for temporary accommodation this year and only those schools with an absolute and demonstrated need for additional accommodation were approved. All other schools, including the school referred to by the Deputy, are required as an interim measure to maximise the use of existing accommodation until my Department is in a position to make extra accommodation available.

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. I expect to be in a position to make further announcements on this matter in the course of the year. The application for additional accommodation from the school referred to by the Deputy will be considered in this regard.

Special Educational Needs.

John Bruton

Ceist:

123 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if home tuition will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Meath; if funding will be made available to allow this person home tuition to continue for the next school year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20895/04]

The home tuition scheme is intended to provide compensatory instruction for students who have a medical ailment that is likely to cause major disruption of their attendance at school. My Department provides home tuition grants to pupils who cannot attend school at all or are absent for a significant proportion of the school year. I understand that the pupil in question had an 85% attendance record at school for the past school year and consequently does not qualify for home tuition. I understand also that this information was conveyed to the pupil's parents in recent days.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

124 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to having an educational psychologist appointed to an area (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20897/04]

The development plan drawn up by the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, envisages that there should ultimately be seven educational psychologists in County Donegal. It has, however, proved difficult to recruit suitably qualified personnel to serve in the NEPS north-western region.

At present, NEPS is in a position to assign 2.4 whole-time equivalent psychologists to the county. This allows for the provision of a psychological service to approximately 50% of all school pupils in the county but unfortunately this does not yet include the area mentioned by the Deputy. The north-western region has been identified as one of the priority regions for assignment of psychologists to be appointed in the future and every effort will be made to encourage new recruits to work in the region. From within NEPS, a new appointment has recently been made of a NEPS regional director for the north-western region and a senior psychologist has asked to transfer to the region. They are both in the process of moving from Dublin to the north-west.

It is hoped that this will allow for an increase in the level of service being offered to County Donegal during the next school year. At present, schools that do not yet have a service from NEPS may avail of the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments. Details of this scheme have been circulated to all schools and are also published on my Department's website.

John Bruton

Ceist:

125 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the funding he has allocated to the Meath Dyslexia Association, in particular to the Kilcock Dyslexia Association; if these figures are not available, the amount he has allocated to Dyslexia Ireland from 2000 to the present time; the initiatives his Department has implemented to assist parents of children with dyslexia to obtain placement and support for their children to allow them to reach their full educational potential; if his Department has had meetings with the Department of Finance to discuss possible funding assistance for parents of children with dyslexia; the funds his Department has allocated to mainstream schools who teach children with dyslexia; and the further funds he hopes to make available in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20909/04]

My Department has provided annual funding of €63,500 to the Dyslexia Association of Ireland since 1999. This funding has helped the association to operate an information service for members and the public. In addition, this funding has assisted in meeting the costs associated with the attendance of some children from disadvantaged backgrounds at workshops and programmes organised by the association. Children with dyslexia have, up to now, generally been catered for on an integrated basis in ordinary primary schools where they can be supported by the learning support teacher service or the resource teacher service. At present, there are approximately 2,600 resource teachers and 1,531 learning support teachers in the primary system. The total cost of these services is in the region of €180 million annually.

Where the condition of a pupil with dyslexia is of a more serious nature, provision can be made in one of the four special schools or 23 special classes attached to ordinary primary schools and dedicated to the needs of children with dyslexia. All special schools and special classes for such children operate at a reduced pupil-teacher ratio of 9:1. My Department also provides funding to schools for the purchase of specialised equipment such as computers to assist children with special needs with their education, including children with dyslexia, where recommended by relevant professionals.

The Deputy may be aware that my Department has recently developed a new weighted system of allocation of teaching supports for special needs pupils. An additional 350 teaching posts are being allocated to facilitate the introduction of the new system. The new arrangements will involve a general weighted allocation for all primary schools to cater for pupils with higher-incidence special educational needs, such as borderline mild and mild general learning disability and dyslexia, and those with learning support needs. It will also allow for individual allocations in respect of pupils with lower-incidence special educational needs. Further details of the new model will be set out in a comprehensive circular to issue to schools for the commencement of the new school year. My Department has not had meetings with the Department of Finance to discuss possible funding assistance for parents of children with dyslexia.

Benchmarking Awards.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

126 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science when the benchmarking award will be made to primary school secretaries employed under the 1978 scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20912/04]

The terms of Sustaining Progress provide that the final two phases of the benchmarking increase and the general round increases is dependent, in the case of each grade, sector and organisation, on verification of co-operation with flexibility and change, satisfactory implementation of the agenda for modernisation, maintenance of stable industrial relations and absence of industrial action on matters covered by the agreement. The agreement also provides for arrangements to be put in place to verify that the conditions for the payment of these increases have been met.

The trade union representing the school secretaries issued an instruction to their members not to make any supervision or substitution payments to teachers in respect of absences now covered by the revised supervision or substitution scheme. This action was regarded as industrial action which offended the stable industrial relations clause of Sustaining Progress and was only recently resolved in the context of agreeing a modernisation agenda for school secretaries in May 2004.

My Department is currently consulting with the managerial authorities of schools to verify satisfactory progress on implementation of the modernisation agenda and to ensure that the conditions necessary for payment of the benchmarking awards have been met. This approach has been approved by the Education Sector Performance Verification Group. This consultation process will be concluded shortly, which will allow the Secretary General of my Department to make his assessment of the progress achieved. If, following his assessment, the level of progress achieved warrants payment of the relevant pay increases, the necessary arrangements for payment will be made as soon as possible thereafter.

Schools Building Projects.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

127 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the lack of facilities at a school (details supplied) in County Laois; if he will provide funding to the school for the provision of toilet facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20932/04]

The school to which the Deputy refers is included in section 8 of the 2004 school building programme. All projects that did not proceed to construction as part of the 2004 programme are currently under review with the view to including them as part of a multi-annual programme from 2005, details of which will be announced later this year.

However, it is open to the school's management authority to apply for the key priority works required at the school as part of the 2005 summer works scheme, details of which will be posted on my Department's website, www.education.ie, later this year. In the interim the school authorities should use funding under the grant scheme for minor works to deal with any urgent works that are required at the school.

Special Educational Needs.

Liam Aylward

Ceist:

128 Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Education and Science when resource teaching will be approved for a school (detail supplied); and the reason for the delay in deciding on the application. [20933/04]

My Department received an application for special education resources, SER, for the school referred to by the Deputy.

It is my intention that all applications for special educational resources received after 31 August 2003 and by 30 June 2004, which includes applications from the school in question, will be responded to before the commencement of the 2004-05 school year. Applications for resource teacher support that were received between 15 February and 31 August 2003 for which a response is outstanding have been considered and schools have now been notified of the outcome. This outcome indicates to schools the resources that may be put in place immediately.

The teacher allocations involved will be made in the context of a new weighted system which I announced recently. An additional 350 teacher posts are being provided to facilitate the introduction of the new system. The new system will involve a general weighted allocation for all primary schools to cater for pupils with higher-incidence special educational needs — for example, those with borderline mild and mild general learning disability and specific learning disability, and also those with learning support needs. It will also allow for individual allocations in respect of pupils with lower-incidence special educational needs.

The weighted allocation will be made as follows: in the most disadvantaged schools as per the urban dimension of Giving Children an Even Break, a teacher of pupils with special educational needs will be allocated for every 80 pupils to cater for the subset of pupils with higher incidence special needs; in all-boys schools, the ratio will be one teacher for every 140 pupils; in mixed schools or all-girls schools with an enrolment of greater than 30% boys, one for every 150 pupils; and in all-girls schools, including schools with mixed junior classes but with 30% or less boys overall, one for every 200 pupils. It is intended that the details of the new model will be set out in a comprehensive circular to issue to schools for the commencement of the new school year.

The weighted allocation will enable teaching support to be provided to pupils with higher-incidence special educational needs and this will obviate the need for schools to submit individual applications for pupils in the higher-incidence categories. Schools may continue to apply for specific teacher allocations in respect of pupils with lower-incidence disabilities.

My Department now proposes to devise clusters in respect of allocations to be made under the weighted model. Sanction for the filling of posts will be considered in the context of these clusters and the weighted arrangements. The Department will communicate with schools in this regard before the commencement of the coming school year.

Schools Building Projects.

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

129 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science when approval will be given to a school (details supplied) in County Cork for additional classroom accommodation. [20959/04]

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 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 accommodation needs of the school referred to will be dealt with in this review.

School Enrolments.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

130 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children who have completed primary level education in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20960/04]

The current annual primary census records enrolment at school level on a census date of 30 September in each school year. Data for the current school year are currently being finalised within my Department. Pending final confirmation of these data, the number of students enrolled in the final year of primary level education in 2003-04 was 54,530.

The current primary census also records the overall number of students that left primary-level education in the 12 months preceding each census date, but this information is not broken down by standard. Therefore, at present, it is not possible to determine the number of children who have completed primary-level education.

This is one of the main reasons my Department is developing an individualised primary database to replace the current census of primary schools. This new primary database will allow us to track the progress of students through primary education and to monitor the transition from primary to second-level education.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

131 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children who are due to begin second level education in September 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20961/04]

The post-primary pupil database records actual enrolments in each second-level school as of 30 September in each school year. My Department does not request information from schools on their expected numbers of new entrants in the future. However, the overall number of children expected to begin second-level education in September 2004 is 55,000.

School Curriculum.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

132 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of recommendations of the task force on physical sciences which have been acted upon to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20962/04]

There were 39 recommendations in the report of the task force on the physical sciences, with costed proposals totalling €244 million extra, of which €66.3 million is a recurring annual cost. Funds are not available at present to progress the strategy on the scale recommended in the report. Of the 39 recommendations, 4 are not for the education sector. Of the remainder, progress has been made on 25 of the recommendations.

In particular, important progress is being made in the following areas: curricular reform and in-service support — with new syllabuses already implemented in leaving certificate biology and physics and chemistry; revised syllabuses in primary science and junior certificate science beginning in schools in 2003-04; and work under way on a new leaving certificate physical sciences syllabus to replace the physics and chemistry combined syllabus. All of these developments are being or have been supported by national in-service programmes for teachers: resourcing — with substantial grants issued to schools at primary level in 1999, 2001 and 2002; an additional per capita grant for physics and chemistry at leaving certificate; a capital grants programme for senior cycle science ICT and science equipment; allied with the announcement in 2003 of a once-off grant scheme, likely to cost of the order of €12 million, to support the implementation of the new junior certificate science syllabus. To date some 614 schools in the free education scheme have opted to provide the revised junior certificate science syllabus from 2003-04, and grants of€10.1 million were issued to these schools this year.

The revised junior certificate science syllabus provides for a more investigative approach to science education, with some 30 experiments and investigations which have to be carried out over the period of the programme.

This hands-on approach is seen as critically important to enhance the attractiveness of the subject and encourage more students to choose the physical sciences at senior cycle. ICT integration projects in teaching and learning under the schools IT initiative and the new TV Scope programme in partnership with RTE, NCCA and the National Centre for Technology in Education. Provision of materials and publications to schools to promote the attractiveness and relevance of science for students as a subject option and career path. Reviews of mathematics, grading of subjects in the leaving certificate, gender equity issues in science, and initial reports on teacher training undertaken. Awareness measures supported by industry and third-level colleges linking with schools. The launch of the new Discover Science and Engineering programme in October 2003, bringing together all the existing awareness activities in a unified strategy.

The announcement by the Tánaiste in December 2003 of plans for Ireland's first interactive learning centre for children and adults, designed to give visitors a hands-on experience and understanding of science and to be an education and outreach centre for teachers and pupils. The exploration station is due to open in 2006 and will be sited in the OPW Heuston Gate development in Kilmainham, Dublin.

This work continues to be progressed and enhanced as resources permit in collaboration and consultation with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Forfás and industry. My Department is fully committed to strengthening the quality of science teaching and learning, promoting increased scientific literacy and encouraging more students to choose science subjects at senior cycle and progress to third level options in this critical area as a vitally important part of the national strategy to support competitiveness and employment.

Early School Leavers.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

133 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the figures for second level school completion; the percentage of students at second level who completed the leaving certificate examination for the most recent year for which statistics are available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20963/04]

The most recently published analysis by my Department of retention rates at second level was released in August 2003. The report indicates that for the 1994 cohort of students the adjusted senior cycle retention rate is 81.8%.

My Department's commitment to the retention of young people who are at risk of early school leaving is reflected in the national anti-poverty strategy, the National Action Plan against Poverty and Social Exclusion 2003-2005, and the latest social partnership agreement, Sustaining Progress, which contains the Special Initiative on Tackling Educational Disadvantage: Literacy, Numeracy and Early School Leavers.

My Department's approach to addressing the issue of retention rates in schools comprises legislative and curricular reforms as well as interventions to prevent early school leaving. The Education (Welfare) Act, which was fully commenced on 5 July 2002, established the National Educational Welfare Board as the single national body with responsibility for school attendance. The Act provides a comprehensive framework promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. The general functions of the board are to ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education. To discharge its responsibilities, the board is developing a nationwide service that is accessible to schools, parents and guardians and others concerned with the welfare of young people.

My Department operates a number of programmes which provide additional supports for children in primary and post primary schools from disadvantaged backgrounds who are most at risk of educational disadvantage and early school leaving. The Department's main programme for tackling early school leaving is the school completion programme, which was launched in 2002. This programme incorporates the learning experience and best practice derived from previous early school leaving initiatives and assimilates the eight to 15 early school leaver initiative and the stay-in-school retention initiative at second level. It is a key component of my Department's strategy to discriminate positively in favour of children and young people who are at risk of early school leaving.

The programme is based on an integrated cross-community approach to tackling early school leaving. There are currently 405 schools, 295 primary and 110 post-primary, participating in the school completion programme.

With regard to curriculum reform, my Department's strategies have included widening the educational experience available to students. These strategies aim to achieve a greater level of inclusiveness in curricular provision through such programmes as the junior certificate schools programme, the leaving certificate vocational programme, vocational preparation and training and the leaving certificate applied.

School Staffing.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

134 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if he intends to introduce a system of vetting for teachers and all other staff at schools for the academic year 2004-05; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20964/04]

At present, the central vetting unit of the Garda Síochána processes requests for clearance from my Department for bus escorts and special needs assistants and to staff working in children's detention schools. However, other employees and volunteers working in the education sector are not covered and I am aware that schools have experienced difficulties having other prospective employees vetted.

A cross-governmental working group was established to consider proposals for reform of vetting by the central vetting unit. Its terms of reference included defining the type of organisation which should come within the ambit of the vetting process. The group was chaired by a chief superintendent and included officials from the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Health and Children, and Education and Science and the Office of the Attorney General. The working group has submitted its final report to the Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Commissioner and I have been informed that it is being given full and careful consideration with a view to early implementation.

Considerable work has been done by my Department on the preparation of a draft discussion paper. I intend to use this as the basis for discussion with the education partners once the working group's report becomes available. The issues involved do not relate only to my own Department and continuing co-operation between the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Health and Children and Education and Science will be required in bringing forward reforms.

Special Educational Needs.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

135 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of applications for special educational resources that have been received by his Department to date since February 2003; the number of these applications in respect of which he has sanctioned resources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20965/04]

In all, more than 5,000 applications for special educational resources were received between 15 February and 31 August 2003. 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 2003-04 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 and a response has issued to schools with the outcome of their request for teaching support. It is my intention that schools which have applied for special needs assistant support will be advised of the outcome of their applications as soon as possible in advance of the next school year.

The teacher allocations involved will be made in the context of a new weighted system which I announced recently. An additional 350 teacher posts are being provided to facilitate the introduction of the new system. The new system will involve a general weighted allocation for all primary schools to cater for pupils with higher-incidence special educational needs — for example, those with borderline mild and mild general learning disability and specific learning disability — and also those with learning support needs. It will also allow for individual allocations in respect of pupils with lower-incidence special educational needs.

My Department now proposes to devise clusters in respect of allocations to be made under the weighted model. Sanction for the filling of posts will be considered in the context of these clusters and the weighted arrangements. The Department will communicate with schools in this regard before the commencement of the coming school year.

Approximately 3,000 applications in respect of pupils in low-incidence disability categories were received in the period 1 September 2003 to 30 June 2004. These are currently being examined by the NEPS and a response will issue to schools before the commencement of the new school year.

Bullying in Schools.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

136 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has made progress with regard to the introduction of a national anti-bullying programme in all schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20966/04]

Individual school management authorities are responsible for implementing effective policies to counter bullying in their schools. My Department has issued guidelines on countering bullying behaviour to all primary and post-primary schools to assist schools in devising school-based measures to prevent and deal with instances of bullying behaviour and to increase awareness of the problem among school management authorities, staff, pupils and parents.

Each school authority is responsible for formulating a written code of behaviour and discipline, which should include specific measures to counter bullying behaviour. The education of students in both primary and post-primary schools in relation to anti-bullying behaviour is also a central part of the social, personal and health education curriculum.

Special Educational Needs.

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

137 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in view of the fact that he has decided to allocate special needs teachers to schools rather than to pupils, he also intends to allocate special needs assistants to schools rather than to pupils; and if so, when he intends this to come into effect. [20967/04]

Future teacher allocations for pupils with special needs will be made in the context of the new weighted system which I announced recently. An additional 350 teacher posts are being provided to facilitate the introduction of the new system. The new system will involve a general weighted allocation for all primary schools to cater for pupils with higher-incidence special educational needs — for example, those with borderline mild and mild general learning disability and specific learning disability — and also those with learning support needs. It will also allow for individual allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence special educational needs.

Special needs assistants may be approved to support 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 the Department's circular 07/02 which may be accessed on my Department's website, www.education.ie, under “Children with Special Needs”.

My Department continues to review existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. The basic purpose of the review is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs. Since 1998, the number of special needs assistants in primary schools has grown from about 300 to in excess of 5,500 full-time and part-time posts. I wish to assure the Deputy that special needs assistants posts will be retained in schools where there is a continuing care need in accordance with Circular 07/02.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

138 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science when the assessment of the visiting teaching service for visually impaired children provided by his Department will be complete; when the vacant position in County Mayo will be filled; if the position will be advertised externally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20968/04]

The matter of the visiting teacher service for the visually impaired is currently under consideration. It is hoped that a decision will be made in the near future regarding appointments.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

139 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the application for extra co-operation hours for a school (details supplied) in County Louth. [20969/04]

My Department allocates teaching hours to VECs to support the delivery of education programmes in a range of facilities, including special schools. Such allocations are made under the heading of co-operation hours with other institutions. Allocations are made in response to specific applications which are submitted by VECs in advance of the commencement of the school year to which they relate. To date no application for the support referred to by the Deputy has been received in my Department.

School Transport.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

140 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science if school transport will be provided for a person (detailed supplied) in County Limerick to attend primary school. [21002/04]

To be eligible for school transport under the primary school transport scheme, a pupil must be residing two miles or more from his or her nearest national school.

My Department has been informed by Bus Éireann, which operates the school transport service on my Department's behalf, that the pupil referred to in the details supplied is residing 1.7 miles from his nearest national school, which is referred to in the details supplied. The pupil is therefore not eligible for free school transport. The pupil may avail of concessionary fare-paying transport to his nearest national school, subject to no extra State cost being incurred by way of extending or altering the route of service and on condition that spare seats exist after all children who are fully eligible for school transport have been accommodated.

Special Educational Needs.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

141 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress which has been made on the provision of a visiting teaching service for visually impaired children in County Mayo since this question was last asked. [21008/04]

It is hoped that a decision regarding the matter raised by the Deputy will be made in the near future.

School Transport.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

142 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science if transport will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo when they commence secondary school. [21009/04]

A report on this case has been requested from the relevant transport liaison officer. The Deputy will be advised of the position as soon as the report has been received and assessed.

Education Welfare Officers.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

143 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of education welfare officers in place; the number during the rest of 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21022/04]

The Education (Welfare) Act was fully commenced on 5 July 2002. Under the Act, the National Educational Welfare Board was established to ensure that every child attends school regularly or otherwise receives an education.

To discharge its responsibilities, the board is developing a nationwide service to provide welfare-focused services to children, families and schools. For this purpose, educational welfare officers, EWOs, have been appointed and deployed throughout the country to provide a welfare-focused service to support regular school attendance and discharge the board's functions locally. It has appointed a chief executive officer, directors of corporate and educational services and the necessary support and delivery staff. The overall staffing complement is 84, comprising 16 HQ and support staff, five regional managers, 11 senior educational welfare officers and 52 educational welfare officers.

To date, 80 staff have been appointed by the board, including four regional managers, ten senior educational welfare officers and 52 educational welfare officers. I understand that the board is arranging to fill the vacancies at regional manager and senior educational welfare officer level in the near future.

As provided for under section 10 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, I have arranged for officials of my Department to work with the board to ensure that any opportunities for integrated working between educational welfare officers and staff on other educational disadvantage programmes whose work involves a school attendance element are exploited to the maximum. I consider the implementation of protocols for such integrated working on attendance matters to be between the NEWB and, in particular, the home-school-community liaison scheme, the school completion programme and the visiting teacher service for Travellers to be very important. When in place, these will assist the NEWB in carrying out its remit and ensure that all available existing resources are utilised to the full. As I have stated previously, I consider it essential that the board should focus on ways in which it can deliver the service with the personnel it has the moment and with the help of other people involved in the area. When this has been achieved, I will consider the position again taking into account the available resources.

At this stage of its development, the aim of the board is to provide a service to the most disadvantaged areas and most at-risk groups. Five regional teams have now been established with bases in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford and staff have been deployed since early December in areas of greatest disadvantage and in areas designated under the Government's RAPID programme. Thirteen towns with significant school-going populations, 12 of which are designated under the Government's RAPID programme, also now have an EWO allocated to them. These towns are Dundalk, Drogheda, Navan, Athlone, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Bray, Clonmel, Tralee, Ennis, Sligo and Letterkenny. In addition, the board will follow up on urgent cases nationally where children are not currently receiving an education.

Psychological Service.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

144 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of NEPS psychologists in place; the number to be recruited during the rest of 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21023/04]

Since the beginning of 2004, my Department has been engaged in the process of recruiting five additional psychologists to the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. Four of the five started on 19 April 2004, and a fifth is expected to join shortly. Two vacancies arising from resignations are also being filled.

There are 127 psychologists currently employed in NEPS, including the four new entrants, plus three on career break. Further recruitment of psychologists to NEPS will depend on the availability of resources and must also take account of Government policy on public sector numbers.

Pending NEPS reaching its full staffing complement, I have allocated funds to allow schools to commission psychological assessments from private practitioners. The scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, SCPA, is an interim measure, aimed at providing an assessment service to schools that do not yet have access to the full educational psychological service provided by NEPS.

Child Care Services.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

145 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the funding available to vocational educational committees to provide child care services for the 2004-05 academic year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21024/04]

My Department provides funding to VECs to assist towards the child care expenses of participants in VTOS, Youthreach and senior Traveller centre programmes. The financial provision for child care assistance for participants in these programmes for 2004, January-December, is €4.8 million. Child care funding for 2005 will be decided in light of the overall budget allocation for my Department in 2005.

Schools Insurance.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

146 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the cost of insurance for primary and secondary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21026/04]

Responsibility for arranging insurance cover on school property and against public liability is a matter for the managerial authorities of primary and secondary schools, which are privately owned. It would not be reasonable to expect the State to meet the full insurance costs of privately owned buildings.

Funding is provided to primary and secondary schools by way of per capita grants, which affords schools considerable flexibility in the use of these resources to cater for the needs of their pupils. This is in my view, in general, a preferable approach to putting in place grants for specific cost items such as insurance. I have previously made known my view that moving to a position where the Government covers the insurance costs of secondary schools may encourage the insurance sector to keep increasing premia on the basis that the State would meet the cost. Such an approach would also reduce the incentive for school management to reduce risks.

I am committed to improving the funding position of secondary schools in the light of available resources. At a time of increased financial constraints, the recent announcement of further significant increases in the funding of primary and secondary schools is a clear demonstration of my commitment to prioritise available resources to address the needs of schools.

In the case of primary schools the standard rate of capitation grant has been increased from €57 in 1997 to €121.58 per pupil from 1 January last, an increase of almost 113%. In the case of secondary schools, the standard per capita grant now amounts to €274 from 1 January last as against the rate of €224.74 that applied in 1997. In the case of disadvantaged schools this increase has brought the total per capita grant to €312. In addition, the support grant that was introduced under the school services support initiative, was also increased from 1 January last and now stands at €131 per pupil. This increase is in addition to the range of equalisation grants of up to €15,554 per school per annum that was approved in December 2001. A measure of the increase in overall funding for secondary schools is that by comparison with 1997, a secondary school with 500 pupils now receives extra annual funding of up to €108,000 per annum.

Tackling the difficulties that are being caused by high insurance premiums is a clear priority for the Government and for my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. A key concern to which the Tánaiste is giving priority is the cost and availability of liability insurance. In this context, the Tánaiste has announced a comprehensive set of inter-related measures designed to improve the functioning of the Irish insurance market. Key initiatives in the reform programme include the establishment of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, the undertaking of a joint study into insurance in conjunction with the Competition Authority and other initiatives in association with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Youthreach Programme.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

147 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if the Youthreach programme will be extended in the academic year 2004-05; if he will provide an update on the locations where the programme is available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21027/04]

Youthreach is an inter-departmental initiative between the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment for young people who left school early without qualifications or with incomplete qualifications. The programme is delivered in 90 Youthreach centres managed by the VECs and 48 community training workshops supported by FÁS. In all over 7,000 young people are provided with specialised training and work experience to help them develop their skills and employment opportunities.

Having regard to the number of places currently available on the programme, together with the strategies in place to promote school completion and address the needs of young people at risk of early school leaving, my Department has no plans at present to extend the VEC Youthreach programme. I will arrange to have a list of VEC Youthreach centres forwarded to the Deputy.

National Council for Special Education.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

148 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will advise on the work to date of the National Council for Special Education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21028/04]

The National Council for Special Education has been established as an independent statutory body with responsibilities as set out in the National Council for Special Education (Establishment) order, 2003). The order requires the council to undertake its full range of functions with effect from 1 October 2004.

The process of agreeing protocols for the transfer of specific functions and future operating procedures to the council is continuing between my Department and the council. I know that the council is in the process of establishing its headquarters and arranging the employment of special education needs organisers and other staff.

The Education for Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2003 includes provision for a National Council for Special Education, which will supersede the existing council. It also provides that a wider and more specific range of functions be assigned to that council. While both the order and the Bill make formal provision for the council to report to the Minister for Education and Science on its activities, questions relating to specific operations should be directed to the council itself.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

149 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if further institutions will be added to the list of those covered by the Residential Institutions Redress Board; if he will provide an update on the work of the board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21029/04]

At present 128 institutions are listed on the Schedule to the Residential Institutions Redress Act. Section 4 of the Act enables additional institutions that are identified as reformatory schools, industrial schools, orphanages, children's homes and special schools, in which children were placed and resident and in respect of which a public body had a regulatory or inspection function, to be added to the Schedule.

While inquiries have not yet been completed in respect of all institutions that have been notified to my Department as being potentially eligible for inclusion in a revised Schedule, I am considering proposals which will enable progress to be made on those institutions in respect of which the enquiries have been completed and these proposals are at an advanced stage.

On the basis of the most recent information available from the Residential Institutions Redress Board, the board has received 3,945 applications. To date, the board has made offers to 1,370 individual applicants. The average award is approximately €77,000.

The board provides regular updates as to the number of claims received on its website, www.rirb.ie. The redress board has recently finalised its first annual report which covers the period 16 December 2002 to 31 December 2003. The report has been laid before each of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

School Curriculum.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

150 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary schools that will be offering the SPHE programme to all students from September 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21030/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

151 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of secondary schools that will be offering the SPHE programme from September 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21031/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 150 and 151 together.

The course in social, personal and health education, SPHE, at junior cycle was introduced to schools on a phased basis over three years with effect from September 2000. All second level schools must have SPHE as part of the junior cycle core curriculum from September 2003. An SPHE syllabus for use at senior cycle level is in preparation by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

From September 2003, all primary schools began implementing SPHE, in accordance with the primary curriculum, 1999, implementation programme. The primary curriculum support service, which organises in-service for teachers to support the implementation of the 1999 curriculum, has provided comprehensive in-career development programmes for all teachers in SPHE.

Home-School Liaison Service.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

152 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will be bringing forward changes to the home-school liaison service in the 2004-05 academic year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21032/04]

I am currently finalising a detailed review of all education disadvantage schemes, with a view to ensuring a fully integrated and cohesive strategy is adopted in this area for the future. I hope to announce the outcome of this review shortly.

Early Start Programme.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

153 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if the early start programme will be expanded or extended during the 2004/2005 academic year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21033/04]

I am currently finalising a detailed review of all education disadvantage schemes, with a view to ensuring a fully integrated and cohesive strategy is adopted in this area for the future. Any decision to expand or extend any of the initiatives aimed at tackling educational disadvantage is being considered in the context of this review, the outcome of which I hope to announce shortly.

Community Resources.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

154 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has considered the benefits of promoting the use of certain buildings for child care purposes out of school hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21034/04]

I take it that the Deputy is referring to school buildings. I am anxious that spare accommodation in schools would be available for community use including use for child care purposes, where this is feasible and that any such accommodation would be made available to the local community.

Ultimately it is a matter for the school authorities to determine the usage of school facilities outside of school hours by community groups subject to the terms of any existing lease on the property. Before permitting usage of the property, school authorities should be satisfied that adequate insurance is in place to cover the activities in question, and should ensure that the usage of the facilities does not interfere in any way with the delivery of education in the school.

Educational Projects.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

155 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans he has to expand the role of his Department in the development of workplace education programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21035/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

159 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if his Department has had any recent discussions with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment regarding the use of the budget for training held by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21039/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 155 and 159 together.

The adult literacy service is organised by and delivered through the vocational education committees throughout the country. The service is resourced and managed by the VECs, with funding from my Department.

Funding for adult literacy has increased in recent years from just under €1million in 1997 to over €19 million in 2004. Client numbers rose in the same period from 5,000 to 30,000 per year. The increase in funding has also enabled the introduction of special programmes targeted at groups with particular literacy needs. Such programmes include family literacy, literacy for deaf people and workplace literacy.

In the area of workplace literacy, joint initiatives have been developed at local level through co-operation between the vocational education committees, FÁS, the National Adult Literacy Agency, NALA, and local employers.

Funding has been provided for a course in workplace basic skills training for experienced group literacy tutors in the VEC service. The course is designed to familiarise the tutors with key issues in basic skills training in the workplace and also identifies strategies for the introduction and implementation of programmes in this context.

Programmes under way at national level include the return to education programme, which is a joint initiative between FÁS, VECs and NALA, which provides an intensive literacy programme for community employment workers on FÁS community employment schemes. In addition, a focused workplace literacy programme, jointly funded by my Department and the local authority national partnership group, is available nationwide for local authority outdoor staff.

The commitment and support of employers is a fundamental requirement for the successful implementation of workplace literacy programmes. In seeking to support and encourage employers to participate in such programmes, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has approved a project proposal from NALA to design and deliver a workplace basic education programme for SMEs.

A pilot programme for the development of a certificate in workplace skills has also been approved by that Department under the ESF-aided in-company training measure of the human resources development operational programme. My Department has been involved in regular consultations with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment on the development of the programmes in the sector.

Applied Leaving Certificate Programme.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

156 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the uptake of the applied leaving certificate programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21036/04]

The leaving certificate applied is one of the options of the senior cycle structure. The programme has been introduced on a phased basis since 1995, when it was initially offered to 1,200 students in 50 schools or centres. There are currently over 8,000 students studying under the programme in more than 300 schools or centres.

Institiúid Teangeolaíochta Éireann.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

157 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the situation at the Linguistics Institute of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21037/04]

At an extraordinary general meeting of ITÉ, held on 18 July 2003, the company agreed to initiate a process of voluntary liquidation. This decision was a matter for the members in accordance with their memorandum and articles of association and relevant company law and was not related to financial considerations.

A meeting of the executive committee of ITÉ, on 5 December 2003, agreed a timetable for the appointment of a liquidator, who was subsequently appointed on 9 January 2004, and agreed to issue redundancy notices to staff in advance of this. I understand from the liquidator that he has extended the period of notice of redundancy for the staff in line with interim operational requirements and to allow for redeployment options to be pursued.

My Department has given a commitment to provide every assistance to the company in giving effect to its decision, in partnership with the staff of the institute, and is working closely with the liquidator in this regard. This includes exploring possible arrangements for the continuation of certain research activities previously carried out by the institute and, in the interests of assisting with an orderly wind-up, facilitating appropriate redeployment or other appropriate arrangements for staff in line with general public service policy in these matters and subject to agreement with the Department of Finance.

In line with this, the redeployment of ITÉ staff is now in progress and staff are kept apprised as developments occur. The entitlements of those employees for whom appropriate redeployment arrangements are not made will be determined in accordance with the terms of their contracts.

PLC Courses.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

158 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if places at colleges of further education and VEC’s and on PLC courses will be held at 2002 levels for the coming academic year 2004-05; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21038/04]

In dealing with the question of PLC numbers, the Department is not in a position to approve all the PLC places applied for in any particular academic year.

For example, a total of 40,733 places were sought nationwide for 2003-04 from a planned pool of approximately 28,500 places. Similarly, for the 2004-05 academic year, VECs and schools sought approval for some 39,994 places from a planned pool of 28,500 places.

It should be recognised that uncapped growth of the scale featured in the applications for PLC places may not be supported. There is a continuing requirement to plan and control numbers, to manage expenditure and provide for future investment and growth, within the context of overall educational policy and provision.

Letters conveying notice of approval of PLC places in respect of the 2004-05 academic year have been issued to VECs and schools this week.

Question No. 159 answered with QuestionNo. 155.

Departmental Staff.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

160 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of public servants employed in his Department who are paid by cheque; and the number who are paid electronically; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21045/04]

My Department pays directly Department staff, teachers in some categories of schools, some non-teaching staff, and pensions to former teachers and non-teachers in the education sector numbering 68,792. Of that number 57,568 are paid by electronic fund transfer and 11,224 by cheque.

Part-time resource and learning-support teachers are paid by school authorities on foot of a grant issued by my Department. My Department does not have information on how precisely they receive payment, however, these grants issue to schools by electronic fund transfer.

All staff employed by the vocational education committees are paid directly by the vocational education committees.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

161 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the major factors which led to the particular decentralised location chosen, and the criteria used for selection in respect of each decentralisation move in his Department outlined in the Budget 2004 statement. [21059/04]

As the Deputy will be aware from the Budget Statement of the Minister for Finance in December 2003, the following factors were used in selecting locations for decentralised offices: the need to achieve a fit with the national spatial strategy in terms of gateways, hubs and their respective catchments; the location of existing decentralised offices; the desirability of clustering a Department's decentralised units within a region; the importance of respecting the scale and character of locations in terms of their capacity to absorb the number of new jobs involved; and the existence of good transport links and the general infrastructural capacity in the selected areas.

The headquarters of my Department will transfer from Dublin to Mullingar, reflecting the Athlone-Mullingar-Tullamore gateway in the national spatial strategy and the fact that my Department already has substantial staff in Athlone and Tullamore. In addition, approximately 100 posts will also be transferred to Athlone from Dublin. Similar considerations influenced the choice of Athlone, Edenderry and Portarlington as the new locations for a number of bodies under the aegis of my Department.

Special Educational Needs.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

162 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that, under present arrangements, although special needs assistants have contracts specific to the children, if the child moves school neither the contract nor the special needs assistant moves with them; the steps he will take to change this system and assign SNAs to the schools themselves, especially in areas of greatest disadvantage (details supplied) or to schools with a large percentage of pupils from such areas. [21100/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

164 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the effect of ending the special needs assistance to schools will lead to principals screening applicant pupils and large classes of up to 40 pupils will become unteachable if they have a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder whose needs are not being catered for within the classroom on a full-time basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21102/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

169 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the distress being caused to school principals, special needs assistants, special needs pupils and their parents by his decision not to indicate whether the special needs assistants’ contracts will be renewed. [21123/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 162, 164 and 169 together.

It is my intention that schools which have applied for special needs assistant, SNA, support will be advised of the outcome of their applications as soon as possible in advance of the next school year.

Account is being taken of existing levels of SNA support allocation in schools. In cases where a reduction in the level of special needs assistant support is proposed, there will be provision for schools to appeal, having regard to the care needs of the pupils concerned. Details of the appeals mechanism will be set out in a communication to schools.

SNAs may be approved to support pupils who have 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 my Department's circular 07/02, which may be accessed on my Department's website www.education.ie under the heading Children with Special Needs.

My Department continues to review the existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. The basic purpose of the review is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

I am anxious to ensure that special education support services are properly targeted at the children who require them and that the substantially increased resources which are being made available in the special educational area have the desired effect of ensuring that all children assessed as having special needs receive the support they require.

Since 1998, the number of special needs assistants in primary schools has grown from about 300 to in excess of 5,500 full-time and part-time posts. I wish to assure the Deputy that special needs assistants posts will be retained in schools where there is a continuing care need in accordance with circular 07/02.

I want also to say that my Department recognises the difficulties some schools and parents have been experiencing while awaiting the outcome of applications for special educational resources and the introduction of the weighted model of teacher allocation. The process has been complex and time-consuming and I am endeavouring to have all aspects completed as quickly as possible. I also wish to acknowledge the co-operation and support of schools in this regard.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

163 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of special needs assistants employed in schools here; if they are full or part-time; and the future of SNAs in view of changes being introduced in special needs teaching. [21101/04]

There are currently 4,370 full-time and 1,188 part-time special needs assistants at primary level being paid salary on my Department's payroll. To date, my Department has allocated a total of 465.93 whole-time equivalent special needs assistants at post-primary level.

Special needs assistants may be approved to support pupils who have 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 the Department's circular 07/02 which may be accessed on my Department's website www.education.ie under the heading Children with Special Needs.

I wish to refer the Deputy to circular SP ED 09/04 which may also be accessed on my Department's website. The circular advises schools that have applied for special needs assistant support that they will be advised of the outcome of their applications as soon as possible in advance of the next school year.

Question No. 164 answered with QuestionNo. 162.

Schools Refurbishment.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

165 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the conditions of a school (details supplied), that a portion of the school has been closed for a number of years due to fire and that some of the remaining portion is now damaged due to water leaking; if he will provide emergency funding to repair the roof prior to the school re-opening in September 2004; if he will provide funding to allow the portion damaged in the fire to be re-opened; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21103/04]

An application has been received from the management authority of the school to which the Deputy refers for the replacement of the roof of the school. While my Department has been in contact with the school authority regarding possible emergency repairs, the substantial works are appropriate for consideration under the summer works scheme. It is open to the school's management authority to apply for the key priority works required at the school as part of the 2005 summer works scheme, details of which will be announced later this year.

Schools Building Projects.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

166 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of an application for school premises by a school (details supplied) in County Offaly; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the school is partially operating from a series of prefabs on a temporary basis since the 1980s; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21104/04]

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 that 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 onwards and I expect to be in a position to make further announcements on this matter in the course of the year.

Apprentice Training Opportunities.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

167 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will report on the unacceptable delay for a certain category of apprentices in securing access to training colleges as part of their apprenticeships; the reasons for same; and if the necessary additional courses will be provided in September 2004 to deal with this backlog. [21118/04]

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

168 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will report on the delay experienced by a person (details supplied) in County Dublin in securing access to a training college to complete year two of their apprenticeship; and if a position will be made available for this person at an appropriate college for autumn 2004. [21119/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 167 and 168 together as I understand that they both concern the trade of vehicle body repair.

My Department keeps the overall provision of apprentice places in the institutes of technology under ongoing review. Based on statistics provided by FÁS, I understand that the numbers of apprentices recruited to the trade of vehicle body repair was relatively constant during the years 1996 to 1998 but that a surge in recruitment occurred during the three-year period from 1999 to 2001. In 2002 and 2003 recruitment declined again to its former level and statistics available to date indicate a likely continued decline in numbers registering in this trade in 2004.

Apprentices in the vehicle body repair trade receive phases four and six of their apprenticeship training in the Dublin Institute of Technology, DIT. At the request of my Department DIT increased provision in this trade in the 2003-04 academic year in order to meet the increase in demand for training places arising from the surge in registrations outlined above. My Department is currently engaged in discussions with DIT with regard to the possibility of a further temporary increase in provision in the 2004-05 academic year with a view to eliminating the current backlog of apprentices awaiting training places.

As regards the case of the individual to whom the Deputy referred, the position is that the selection and scheduling of individual apprentices for release to particular block release courses is a matter for an Foras Áiseanna Saothair, FÁS. My Department has no role in the scheduling of apprentices and it would not therefore be appropriate for me to comment on such matters.

Question No. 169 answered with QuestionNo. 162.

Psychological Service.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

170 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science the funds which have been allocated to a school (details supplied) in Dublin 12 to ensure that children with special needs are assessed and have appropriate educational supports assigned to meet their needs. [21124/04]

The school named by the Deputy has access to the psychological service provided by the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. Schools served by NEPS do not have funds assigned to them in respect of the psychological service. They are offered a level of service that is decided by a number of factors, such as disadvantaged status and incidence of special needs. In this instance, the school is recognised by NEPS as having many needs and is therefore offered as high a level of service as possible, given time constraints.

The Deputy may be aware that my Department has developed a new weighted system for the allocation of teaching supports to pupils with special needs. An additional 350 teacher posts are being provided to facilitate the introduction of the new system. The new system will involve a general weighted allocation for all primary schools to cater for pupils with higher incidence special educational needs, for example, those with borderline mild and mild general learning disability, specific learning disability, and also those with learning support needs. It will also allow for individual allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence, more serious, special educational needs.

Special needs assistants may also be approved to support pupils with significant medical needs, significant impairment of physical or sensory function or whose 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 the Department's circular 07/02 which may be accessed on my Department's website www.education.ie under the heading Children with Special Needs.

My Department continues to review existing arrangements for the allocation of special educational supports to primary schools. The basic purpose of the review is to ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs.

Schools Refurbishment.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

171 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the application by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 12 for window replacement under the summer works project was unsuccessful; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the windows of this school have not been replaced since the school was built over 61 years ago, and that they have become a health and safety hazard; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that the frames are so old and warped that the glass has fallen out in places and that the broken windows are causing draughts in the classrooms and major heat loss in winter; if an inspection has been carried out in this matter; and if consideration will be given in this case. [21125/04]

The management authority of the school to which the Deputy refers applied for replacement windows under the summer works scheme in 2004. The application was not approved because window replacement fell under category E of the published prioritisation criteria for the summer works scheme. It was only possible to fund projects in categories A, B and C this year.

It is open to the school's management authorities to re-apply for funding under the 2005 summer works scheme details of which will be announced later this year. In the meantime, funding provided to the school from the grant scheme for minor works and the maintenance portion of the capitation grant should be used to address immediate health and safety concerns at the school.

Psychological Service.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

172 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; and the steps he will take to ensure that this person’s family is not forced to have a private assessment done again. [21126/04]

The school attended by this person has access to the psychological service provided by the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. Schools served by NEPS do not have funds assigned to them in respect of this service.

The amount of time offered to each school depends on a number of factors, such as level of disadvantage and incidence of special needs. At the beginning of each academic year, the NEPS psychologist assigned to the school meets the principal to discuss the general needs of the school for psychological support.

In this case, the principal and the psychologist agreed on a programme of work for 2003-04 that included five full individual psychological assessments and support for the teachers working with those children.

The person named by the Deputy was discussed during the planning meeting. As she had already been assessed and as my Department had assigned additional resource hours to her, it was agreed that priority should be given to other children who had never previously been assessed. There proved to be insufficient time during the school year for this pupil's case to be reviewed.

However, the psychologist assigned to the school intends to discuss the pupil during her meeting with the school principal early next term and to decide on the appropriate course of action. There will be no need for the parents to pay for a private assessment.

Student Support Schemes.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

173 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Education and Science if restrictions exist on mature students transferring from one further education course to another without affecting grant entitlements. [21134/04]

Under the terms of the maintenance grants scheme for students attending post leaving certificate courses, PLCs, grants may not be paid in respect of a second period of attendance at the same level for a course approved for the purposes of this scheme, irrespective of whether or not a grant was paid previously. The vocational education committee will have discretion to waive this provision in exceptional circumstances such as certified serious illness.

Under the terms of my Departments' higher education grants scheme and the vocational education committees' scholarship scheme candidates who have previously pursued an undergraduate course approved for the purposes of any of the third-level grant schemes are not eligible to be considered for grant assistance until they have completed an equivalent period of study at undergraduate level. The awarding bodies, the local authorities and the vocational education committees have discretion to waive this provision in exceptional circumstances, such as certified serious illness.

However, under the terms of my Department's third-level maintenance grant for trainees, TLT, scheme, a candidate may in general only receive funding for the approved duration of one TLT course, subject to a maximum of four years in all. Funding may be extended where a grant-holder who having passed, failed or not completed the first year of a course, wishes to transfer to a different course. Such a grant-holder is eligible for a grant in respect of the normal duration of attendance on the new course.

Psychological Service.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

174 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 has never been assessed by NEPS; if an assessment will be arranged to determine their eligibility for further special education support; the reason this person did not meet the criteria for a resource teacher; and the impact which the new weighting system for the allocation of SETs will have on the level of support for this person and their school. [21139/04]

The school attended by the named person has access to the service provided by the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS. As the person had already been assessed by psychologists and other professionals in the health sector, it was not considered necessary for NEPS to carry out a further assessment.

The information contained in the professional reports that were initially supplied to my Department did not comply with the stringent requirements for eligibility for resource teaching. As a result of concerns about safety, however, NEPS made an interim recommendation for support from a special needs assistant, which was sanctioned.

I understand that additional information that was later supplied to my Department confirmed the eligibility of the person for resource teaching hours. A recommendation has now been made to my Department's special education section which has allocated resource hours to the person and has so notified the school.

The new system of resource allocation to which the Deputy refers will involve a general weighted allocation for all primary schools to cater for pupils with higher incidence special educational needs, for example, those with borderline mild and mild general learning disability, specific learning disability, and also those with learning support needs.

The new system will also allow for individual allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence special educational needs. The person named is eligible for such an individual allocation and the new system will not affect this provision.

Special Educational Needs.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

175 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools in each county which have had their hours increased, whose hours remain the same and which have had their hours decreased in relation to learning support and resource teaching in his recent circular to schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21140/04]

It is not possible to provide the Deputy with the specific data for schools in each county. However, I can confirm that in order to ensure that the transition to the weighted system occurs with the minimum disruption, the Department has decided not to place additional teachers on redeployment panels during the 2003-2004 school year as a result of the implementation of the new weighted model.

My Department now proposes to devise clusters in respect of allocations to be made under the weighted model. Sanction for the filling of posts will be considered in the context of these clusters and the weighted arrangements. The Department will communicate with schools in this regard before the commencement of the coming school year.

Physical Education Facilities.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

176 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of physical education halls built at primary level in the past seven years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21141/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

177 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of physical education halls built at post-primary level in the past seven years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21142/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

178 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary schools that have physical education halls; the number of these which are shared with the community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21143/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

179 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of second level schools that have physical education halls; the number of these which are shared with the community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21144/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 176 to 179, inclusive, together.

The provision of multi-purpose space-PE halls for primary and post-primary schools respectively, is generally considered within the design brief for new schools and-or renovation-extension school building projects. With regard to the recently introduced pilot devolved initiatives at primary level, my Department is not prescriptive in terms of the exact accommodation to be delivered with the grants from my Department. This matter is devolved to the schools themselves and it is up to them to prioritise their accommodation requirements.

The type of statistical information requested by the Deputy is not therefore readily available in my Department. However, if the Deputy wishes to query the position on individual named schools, my Department will facilitate her with the relevant information.

School Curriculum.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

180 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of hours of physical education per week which is mandatory in primary schools; if he has assessed whether this is being provided; if he has received reports that it cannot be provided due to a lack of facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21145/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

181 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of hours of physical education per week which is mandatory in second level schools; if he has assessed whether this is being provided; if he has received reports that it cannot be provided due to a lack of facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21146/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 180 and 181 together.

At primary level, physical education is one of the seven curriculum areas within the primary school curriculum which was revised in 1999. A minimum of one hour of physical education per week is recommended for all primary school pupils. The curriculum has been structured so as to allow individual schools a high degree of flexibility and choice in the planning of a broad and balanced physical education programme for pupils.

At second level, while physical education is not a mandatory subject, it should form part of the curriculum. The programme that each school plans and delivers should be based on the Department's approved syllabuses and the teaching hours should be registered on the school timetable. The time recommended for physical education is two hours per week.

As regards facilities, the syllabuses both at primary and second level have been developed on the understanding that facilities available in schools vary. Consequently, they offer flexibility regarding the physical activities undertaken so that each individual school can design a programme that can be delivered using the resources and supports available to the school.

It is my belief that a well planned physical education programme has a vitally important role to play in a broad and balanced curriculum for our primary and second level students. Physical education in primary schools, as an integral part of the total curriculum, provides vital opportunities for the physical, social, emotional and intellectual development of the child. To assist teachers in planning and delivering the revised curriculum an extensive in-service support programme will commence in September 2004.

Within second level schools, the physical education programme can contribute significantly to raising educational standards, cultivating social responsibility and citizenship, nurturing socialisation skills and ultimately, helping students to realise their individual potential. Goal setting, within the second level physical education curriculum, focuses on individual improvement and not on winning. A revised syllabus for physical education for junior cycle, as a non-examination subject, was introduced in 112 schools in September 2003 and a national support team was put in place to assist in its implementation. In September 2004, a further phase of 110 schools will begin to provide the revised syllabus. In the senior cycle, physical education is an integral part of the leaving certificate applied, LCA, programme. All LCA students must take two modules — Leisure Studies and Health Related Fitness, and there are four additional modules from which they can choose.

Teacher Training.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

182 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of hours of physical education training provided to persons training to become primary teachers; if the same amount of tuition is provided on all courses, including private and on-line courses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21147/04]

Physical education is included in the programme of pre-service education for all teachers in each college of education. A number of teachers also take additional elective courses in various aspects of physical education, such as aquatics and games. All college of education graduates are therefore fully qualified to teach the physical education curriculum in primary schools.

The Deputy should however address the question of the number of hours spent on physical education in pre-service education to the management authorities of the colleges in question. It is the management authorities of the individual colleges of education who are responsible for the delivery of physical education programmes to students.

The position on the on-line course provided by the Hibernia College is that it is a privately run course. It has been accredited by the higher education and training awards council, HETAC, and, subject to adherence by Hibernia College to the conditions set out in the HETAC certificate and to any further conditions set by HETAC, will be recognised by my Department for the purposes of primary teaching. I have no role with regard to the specific elements of this course.

School Staffing.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

183 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the case of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 11 which has been notified by his officials that it will lose a concessionary teacher from September 2004; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that this will result in a number of very large class sizes and a number of split classes including fourth, fifth and sixth classes being taken by two teachers; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that this concessionary teacher was awarded on the basis of avoiding this scenario; the way in which this school can fulfil its requirements of pupil-teacher ratio required under the giving children an even break initiative in these circumstances; and if a review of the staff allocation in this case will be undertaken. [21148/04]

The staffing of a primary school for a particular school year is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year. This is in accordance with guidelines agreed between my Department and the education partners. The staffing schedule is structured to ensure that all primary schools will operate to an average mainstream class size of 29 pupils. School authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and the smallest classes is kept to a minimum.

The school referred to by the Deputy has had a staffing of a principal plus ten mainstream class teachers since the 2000-02 school year. It also has the service of two learning support teachers, one special class teacher, two resource teachers, one home school liaison teacher and one early start teacher. There are no proposed changes to these posts for the coming school year.

The enrolment on 30 September 2003 entitles the school to a staffing of a principal plus nine mainstream class teachers for the 2004-05 school year. However, on the basis of the projected enrolment for 30 September 2004, provisional sanction to retain the tenth mainstream post under developing school status was given by my Department to the board of management on 20 May 2004, subject to the projected enrolment being achieved on 30 September 2004.

To ensure openness and transparency in the system, an independent appeals board is now in place to decide on any appeals on mainstream staffing. Details of the appeals procedure are outlined in Department circular 03/04.

The school was prioritised under the urban dimension of Giving Children an Even Break, GCEB, which was introduced in 2001. Schools prioritised under GCEB are in receipt of a range of additional supports including teacher posts and other non-teaching supports to be targeted at disadvantaged pupils. The types of additional supports provided reflect the level of concentration of pupils from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds in each school invited to participate.

The school in question is not eligible for additional teaching staff, based on the level of concentration of at risk pupils in the school. However, the school benefits from the allocation of supplementary grant aid towards providing additional educational supports for the children concerned.

My Department is currently finalising a review of educational disadvantage schemes, which will impact on existing schemes. I will be making an announcement in this regard once it has been completed.

Special Educational Needs.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

184 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will extend the closing date for the submission of reports for additional resources and learning support for schools from 30 June 2004. [21172/04]

My Department has no plans to extend the closing date of 30 June 2004 for the receipt of applications for special education resources, SER. This closing date covers SER applications received in my Department during the period 1 September 2003 to 30 June 2004.

Applications received within the above timeframe are currently being processed and the outcome will be notified to schools before the commencement of the 2004-05 school year. The teacher support element of applications will be made in the context of a new weighted system which I announced recently. An additional 350 teacher posts are being provided to facilitate the introduction of the new system. The new system will involve a general weighted allocation for all primary schools to cater for pupils with higher incidence special educational needs, for example, those with borderline mild and mild general learning disability, specific learning disability, and also those with learning support needs. It will also allow for individual allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence special educational needs.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

185 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the procedures which will be put in place following the recent circular allocating resource and learning support in schools to ensure that pupils requiring learning support are not given a lower priority by the schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21173/04]

I am satisfied that the new weighted model of teacher allocation for pupils with special educational and learning support needs will significantly improve the level of service provided for such pupils. To facilitate the introduction of the new system, an additional 350 posts are being made available. This will bring the total number of such posts for pupils with low achievement and special educational needs to almost 4,500.

The new system will involve a general weighted allocation for all primary schools to cater for pupils with higher incidence special educational needs, for example, those with borderline mild and mild general learning disability, specific learning disability, and also those with learning support needs. It will also allow for individual allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence special educational needs.

The weighted allocation will be made as follows: in the most disadvantaged schools as per the urban dimension of Giving Children an Even Break, a teacher of pupils with special educational needs will be allocated for every 80 pupils to cater for the subset of pupils with higher incidence special needs; in all boys schools, the ratio will be one teacher for every 140 pupils; in mixed schools, or all girls schools with an enrolment of greater than 30% boys, one for every 150 pupils; and in all girls schools including schools with mixed junior classes but with 30% or less boys overall, one for every 200 pupils.

It is intended that the details of the new model will be set out in a comprehensive circular to issue to schools for the commencement of the new school year.

The weighted allocation will enable teaching support to be provided to pupils with higher incidence special educational needs and this will obviate the need for schools to submit individual applications for pupils in the higher incidence categories. Schools may continue to apply for specific teacher allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence disabilities.

My Department now proposes to devise clusters in respect of allocations to be made under the weighted model. Sanction for the filling of posts will be considered in the context of these clusters and the weighted arrangements. The Department will communicate with schools in this regard before the commencement of the coming school year.

Schools Building Projects.

Mary Wallace

Ceist:

186 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans which the planning unit of his Department has to provide a third primary school in Ratoath, County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21176/04]

At present Ratoath is served by a single co-educational primary school. However, the construction of a new 16-classroom school on the site of the existing school is included in the 2004 school building programme. The need for a third primary school in Ratoath is currently under consideration within the school planning section.

Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

187 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the standing of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21229/04]

The position on the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse is that the confidential committee and the investigation committee are both fully operational. The confidential committee continues to hear the stories of those persons who have applied to it and I understand that it has heard some 866 cases at this stage.

With regard to the investigation committee, it is currently conducting a series of public hearings into the emergence of child abuse in Ireland. The details of the public hearings are posted on the commission's website www.childabusecommission.ie.

The chairperson has stated that he intends to recommend further amendments to the commission legislation and, upon receipt, these amendments will be brought to Government for its consideration without delay. In the meantime the commission is satisfied that the investigation committee can continue its work and has indicated that it intends to commence hearings on St. Joseph's, Ferryhouse, Clonmel in September of this year.

Pension Provisions.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

188 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the fact that persons receiving a pension from Bord na Móna have not been awarded a cost of living increase for the past two years; if he will raise this matter with the company and its pension scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20990/04]

Under the terms of the Bord na Móna regular works employees superannuation scheme, the payment of pension increases is primarily a matter for the trustees of the pension fund and Bord na Móna plc. In the absence of a proposal from them, I have no role in the matter.

Fishing Vessel Licences.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

189 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position on a shell fish licence for a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20911/04]

The processing of sea-fishing boat licence applications had to be suspended by the Licensing Authority for much of last year pending the finalisation of a new EU fleet policy and the consequent introduction of a new national licensing policy. In the course of working through a backlog of licence applications the Licensing Authority has since found it necessary to review the position with regard to the licensing of certain vessels engaged in aquaculture activities, including the vessel to which the Deputy refers, mainly in view of the new policy regime. In the light of this review, and further information recently obtained from the licence applicant concerned with regard to his proposed aquaculture activities, the Licensing Authority expects to shortly be in a position to advise the applicant of the licensing requirements in respect of his vessel. Consideration is also currently being given as to whether the applicant actually requires a sea-fishing boat licence for the particular activities in which he proposes to engage.

Foreshore Licences.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

190 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the progress which has been made in the assessment of the EIS from Dublin Port for the filling in of 52 acres in Dublin Bay, when a decision on the EIS will be issued; and the exact sequence of decision making in respect of foreshore licences and planning permission for such a proposal. [20919/04]

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

191 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has obtained clarification from the Chief State Solicitor’s office on the ownership of the foreshore where Dublin Port have sought 52 acres infill. [20921/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 190 and 191 together.

Dublin Port Company claims ownership of certain areas of foreshore in Dublin Bay, including the area in which the company proposes to reclaim some 21 hectares. Evidence of ownership of the area in question provided by the port company has been examined for my Department by the Office of the Chief State Solicitor, and it is expected that consideration of this matter will be finalised in the near future.

If it is established that the foreshore in question is in the ownership of the port company, the proposed reclamation would fall to be considered under section 10, as amended, of the Foreshore Act, 1933. Reclamation of State owned foreshore, on the other hand, requires authorisation by way of a foreshore lease granted under section 2 of that Act.

In either event, consideration of the port company's application will involve a process of public consultation in which interested persons and organisations will have an opportunity to make submissions on relevant issues.

The EIS prepared by the port company in respect of the proposed reclamation would be made available as part of any public consultation on the proposal. Certain matters relating to that document are under consideration at present. The port company will also have to apply for planning permission for the proposed reclamation.

Gas Supplies.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

192 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the projected demand for gas over the next decade; and the way in which it is envisaged to meet the demand. [20929/04]

Under section 19 of the Gas (Interim) (Regulation) Act, 2002, the Commission for Energy Regulation, CER, is required to prepare and publish an annual forecast of capacity, flows and customer demand on Ireland's natural gas system over a seven year period. The 2004 capacity statement will be published in the coming months and will include a range of possible demand scenarios that may be expected to arise over the coming years.

In recent times, Ireland has developed a high standard of security of gas supply, through robust interconnection with the UK, to ensure sufficient importation capacity from external sources. We now have two gas interconnectors, with the second — IC2 — ensuring security of gas supply to 2025 and beyond by bringing Ireland's security of supply status on par with countries such as France, Italy, Sweden and Denmark, all of which have duplicated sub-sea pipelines to ensure the availability of alternative routes of natural gas supply.

Ireland continues to monitor developments in the UK market closely and this will inform the further development of security of supply policy. The Kinsale field continues to provide Ireland with an indigenous supply of gas and with potential supplies coming from the Corrib and Seven Heads fields, Ireland's import demands may be reduced in the coming years.

I am conscious that Ireland's demand for natural gas is growing, particularly for new power generation. My Department will be keeping this under review, including the question of liquefied natural gas, LNG, in the context of ensuring that we continue to have a prudent mix of fuels and supply sources that will enable the needs of the economy to be met without compromising energy competitiveness or security of supply.

Renewable Energy Programme.

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

193 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason the ESB did not co-operate with his renewal energy policy targets by not putting adequate grid resources in place. [20952/04]

Upgrades to the electricity network generally are matters for the network operators in consultation with the Commission for Energy Regulation.

Grid upgrade requirements for the connection of wind farms are specific to the location and capacity of the proposed wind farms and interaction with other proposed wind farms in close proximity. As a general rule to date, even where wind farms secure planning permission, they proceed to the construction phase only after the award of a power purchase agreement — primarily under my Department's alternative energy requirement programme. Grid capacity demand cannot therefore be predicted even by reference to wind farm projects with planning permission. Furthermore, capacity demand cannot be identified in advance of formal applications for connections by wind farm developers. In these circumstances, it would not be cost effective to require the network operator to make significant investment in grid upgrades which might or might not subsequently be sought by wind farm developers.

Commission for Energy Regulation.

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

194 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he will appoint two new commissioners for energy. [20953/04]

I wish to inform the Deputy that, with the agreement of the Minister for Finance, I have decided to appoint Mr. Michael Tutty, formerly second Secretary General at the Department of Finance in charge of budget and economic matters, and currently vice president of the European Investment Bank, as a member of the Commission for Energy Regulation.

The second additional position of member of the commission will be filled by way of a competition to be hosted by the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission shortly. It is expected that the two new commissioners will be appointed in the autumn.

Renewable Energy Programme.

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

195 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on an assessment (details supplied) that wind energy will cost up to 25% extra to the end user; and if he has taken action to have this prediction independently assessed. [20954/04]

The establishment of future targets and support mechanisms and the associated additional costs to increase the production of electricity from renewable energy sources is a matter for Government on my recommendation. As part of that process my Department, in consultation with Sustainable Energy Ireland, will advise on costs. My view is that until future targets and support options are settled the associated costs cannot be stated beyond very general assumptions.

At end 2003 I invited public comment on future targets and support mechanisms for renewable energy technologies in electricity production. Respondents were also requested to cost all proposals. The emphasis on costs calculations is to protect the consumer interest. I interpret the Eirgrid views on additional costs as a contribution to the consultation process.

The submissions received by my Department under the consultation process, including the submission received from Eirgrid, are currently being analysed with the technical assistance of Sustainable Energy Ireland. I have not subjected any of these to independent assessment and have no proposals to do so at this time.

Sustainable Energy Ireland.

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

196 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the way in which the board of SEI is constituted; if he will provide details of the experience of board members; and the duration of their term of office. [20955/04]

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

197 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to nominate a representative from the Irish Wind Energy Association to the board of SEI. [20956/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 196 and 197 together.

The Sustainable Energy Act 2002 formally established Sustainable Energy Ireland as the statutory independent agency with responsibility for promoting the development of sustainable and renewable energy in Ireland.

The board of Sustainable Energy Ireland was constituted with effect from 1 May 2002, when the authority was formally established. There are 12 members on the board, including the chairman and chief executive. Section 10 (9) of the Sustainable Energy Act 2002 provides that on the third anniversary of the establishment day, 1 May 2002, and thereafter, on each anniversary of the establishment day, three of the members of the board shall retire from office. The first retirements from the board are therefore scheduled for 2005. The term of office for the chairman is five years from 2002 and the chief executive serves as an ex officio member of the board. The Department’s representative on the board was appointed in December 2003, following his assignment to the renewable and sustainable energy division. His appointment is for a period of three years.

There are no vacancies at present on the board of Sustainable Energy Ireland. The current board members and their experience are as follows: Frank Convery, chairman, is heritage trust professor of environmental studies, University College, Dublin. He was previously research professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute, Dublin, and associate professor of natural resource economics at Duke University North Carolina; John Buckley is a property developer, auctioneer and surveyor, with 25 years business experience. He is a board member of John Buckley Auctioneers, Killarney Race Company and the advisory committee of the Environmental Protection Agency; Gerry Cahill is managing director of Gerry Cahill Architects and co-director of Urban Projects Limited. He has been involved since the 1980s in the design of urban renewal and social housing projects in Dublin city and county. Prior to joining the board of SEI he was a director of Energy Action Limited. He has taught design and technology at the School of Architecture UCD since 1979; Bill Flood is a safety and environmental consultant, and was previously manager of Irish Fertiliser Industries in Arklow, where he worked for 17 years. He has considerable experience of energy intensive process manufacturing, and has special interest in performance auditing, benchmarking and negotiated agreements; Vicky Heslop has been involved in promoting sustainable development since 1986. She has been the managing director of Methan O Gen Limited, a specialist biogas consultancy and development company, since 1994. She is vice president and a founder member of the Irish Bioenergy Association; Martin Finucane is principal officer in the sustainable energy division of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. His responsibilities include climate change issues in the energy sector, the promotion of renewable energy and end-use energy efficiency policy. He previously worked in the social security area of the public service; John McMullan is the executive director of the Northern Ireland Charity Bryson House, where his responsibilities include financial management, strategic planning and business development. His positions also include vice-chairman of the environmental bodies' council, ebco, and vice-chairman of the Belfast healthy cities project; David Naughton is the national industrial officer with the Technical, Engineering and Electrical Union. David has national responsibility for the ESB and the national joint industrial council for the electrical contracting industry. He has additional responsibility for the Dublin No. 3 and Limerick No. 2 branches; Michael Nicholson is director of environmental services with Wicklow County Council. He previously worked with Meath and Leitrim County Councils, Cork Corporation, and with Trim and Arklow town councils. He was also previously a director of the mid-east regional authority; Claire O'Connor is the director of the National Disability Authority. She is a director of West LB Covered Bond Bank, and was for 12 years a director of ICC Bank and chair of the ICC audit committee. She is a past CEO of the American Chamber of Commerce and was previously head of corporate finance at Irish Life plc; Pat O'Malley is a civil engineer with extensive experience in property development and project management. He has also served as a special adviser to the Minister for Energy, 1989-1992, and is a former opposition spokesperson for energy, transport, and communications, Dáil Éireann 1987-89; David Taylor is chief executive of SEI and an ex officio member of the board. Prior to his appointment, he was the director of the Irish Energy Centre. He qualified as a chemical engineer and holds an MSc in management from Trinity College Dublin. He is active in European energy matters and is a member of the IEA committee on energy research and technology.

Fishing Vessel Licences.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

198 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason for the delay in the issuing of a licence for the boat of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20957/04]

The programme for Government included a commitment to set up an independent licensing authority for sea-fishing boats. This promise was fulfilled with the establishment of the Licensing Authority on 1 July 2003, under the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2003, and is headed up by the registrar general of fishing boats, a senior Department official.

The Licensing Authority has informed me that there are two main issues involved in the licensing of the fishing vessel concerned. The first concerns the person to whom the vessel is proposed to be licensed. The Licensing Authority issued a letter of licence offer to the applicant, the son of the previously licensed owner, on 5 February 2003. The conditions contained therein were not complied with by the applicant before the letter of offer expired on 5 February 2004. The applicant's father subsequently advised the Licensing Authority that it was now proposed to continue to have the vessel licensed in his name.

The second issue relates to tonnage remeasurement of the vessel. In accordance with EU regulations all fishing vessels over 15 metres in overall length were required to have their tonnage converted from gross registered tonnage units to gross tonnage units by 31 December 2003. In order to facilitate this tonnage remeasurement, relevant drawings of the vessel were required to be submitted to this Department's marine survey office, MSO, in advance of that date. Drawings in respect of the vessel are understood to have been first received by the MSO on 23 February 2004. The drawings were found to be incomplete and were therefore returned. The drawings were re-submitted to the MSO last month and are currently being assessed.

The Licensing Authority has advised that it will be in a position to issue a licence to the previously licensed owner as soon as the remeasurement issue has been satisfactorily resolved, and subject to confirmation that the vessel is still owned by him. In the event that his son wishes to have the vessel licensed in his name, he would be required to submit a new licence application to the Licensing Authority and to fully comply with the terms of any licence offer subsequently issued.

Departmental Staff.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

199 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of public servants employed in his Department who are paid by cheque; and the number who are paid electronically; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21046/04]

In my Department 141 members of staff are paid by cheque and 716 are paid electronically. Since 1 October 2003, all new entrants to the Department are paid electronically and all staff have been consistently supported and encouraged to move to electronic funds transfer where their personal circumstances allow.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

200 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the major factors which led to the particular decentralised location chosen, and the criteria used for selection in respect of each decentralisation move in his Department outlined in the budget 2004 statement. [21060/04]

I refer the Deputy to the December 2003 Budget Statement of my colleague, the Minister for Finance, on the Governments decentralisation programme. The Budget Statement set out the wide range of factors taken into account and balanced against each other in making the overall selection of locations. These factors included: the need to achieve a fit with the national spatial strategy, in terms of the gateways, hubs and their respective catchments; the location of existing decentralised offices; the desirability of clustering a Department's decentralised units within a region; the importance of respecting the scale and character of locations in terms of their capacity to absorb the number of new jobs involved and, the existence of good transport links, by road, rail and-or air, and the general infrastructural capacity in the areas selected.

The subsequent decision to relocate the seafood and coastal zone divisions of the Department to Clonakilty was based on capitalising on the synergies of co-locating with an Bord Iascaigh Mhara to enhance overall service to the seafood and aquaculture sectors from a coastal location. The ensuing decision on relocation of the marine safety directorate followed analysis by the Department of a number of east coast locations. As a result of this analysis, Drogheda was recommended as the most suitable HQ location from which the directorate could deliver its broad range of services.

Gas Pipeline Project.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

201 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on the fact that the international design codes being used in the proposed onshore pipeline leading to a gas terminal building in Bellanaboy, County Mayo terminal do not cater for threats to ground stability for such a pipeline in view of the statement, in the evironmental impact assessment, that the recent bog slides that occurred in the same area are unique to Ireland. [21093/04]

There are no international design codes that deal with gas pipelines in peat bogs. The developers have used a well recognised international design code for the pipeline. In addition the developers have carried out excavation in peat bogs and pipeline installations and using that information and have come up with the proposed pipeline design. The pipeline route selected by the developers has no evidence of instability.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

202 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the proximity which the bog slides that occurred in the land surrounding Stuwaddaccon Bay in County Mayo in 2003 were to the proposed onshore gas pipeline leading from the Corrib gas field to the proposed onshore pipeline at Bellanaboy. [21094/04]

The proposed pipeline route from the landfall in Dooncarton and Glengad is approximately 500m from the toe of the slope of Barnacuille Hill. The proposed pipeline route is located in the floodplain of the Glenamoy River and will be unaffected by any potential instability on the slopes of Barnachuille Hill at Pollathomas The onshore pipeline itself will be buried in the ground to a minimum depth of 1.2m along the full length of the route. A map showing the proposed route of the pipeline is attached. The map is for illustrative purposes only.

Corrib Gas Field.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

203 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the procedures and timetable that would apply for the issuing of consent to install, in view of the comments made by the Minister of State, Deputy Browne, in Dáil Éireann on 29 June 2004 that the consent issued in April 2002 for the Corrib gas field onshore pipeline was essentially permission in principle to proceed with the design and that this is to be followed at the installation stage by the issue, by the petroleum affairs division, of the consent to install for the various phases of pipe laying. [21095/04]

It is not possible at this juncture to say what the timetable will be for the issuing of consent to install. The commencement of works is a matter for the developers. When an application is received by me it will be appropriately assessed prior to any decision being taken for any work to commence.

Fisheries Protection.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

204 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his proposals to return to nylon nets as distinct from monofilament nets for salmon fishing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21129/04]

The use of monofilament netting for drift net fishing in the salmon fishery was legalised as one of a number of measures, including a reduction in the season, the number of days per week and hours per day for fishing and so on introduced by my Department in 1997 aimed at reducing effort in the fishery.

Since then the wild salmon and sea trout tagging scheme regulations have been introduced, which, inter alia, limit the total allowable commercial catch, TAC, of salmon for the season for all fishery districts. The TAC has been set on the advice of the National Salmon Commission and the regional fisheries boards’ managers, consistent with the strategy aimed at reaching the scientific advice on precautionary catch limits by 2005.

My Department has not received any proposals from the central or regional fisheries boards' managers to end the use of monofilament nets for salmon fishing. Any proposal for changes in the management of the fishery, including the type of gear permitted, would be considered by my Department if it is supported by scientific advice that the fishing gear used is in any way adversely effecting the conservation of stocks, evidence that all the relevant stakeholders and interested parties were consulted and had an opportunity to have their views taken into account on the matter, and the endorsement of the National Salmon Commission.

Tourism Industry.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

205 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if there are grants or other assistance available for persons who wish to commence in the restaurant business, with particular emphasis on providing facilities for tourists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20931/04]

The main source of funding available to support the development of tourism capital projects is the tourism product development scheme. This scheme, which is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund under the National Development Plan 2000-2006, is operated by Fáilte Ireland. Expenditure on restaurant facilities is not eligible for support under the scheme.

Departmental Staff.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

206 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of public servants employed in his Department who are paid by cheque; and the number who are paid electronically; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21047/04]

A total of 399 staff members at my Department are paid electronically, while 91 staff members are paid by cheque. However, the salaries section in my Department is currently in the process of contacting all staff paid by cheque in order to highlight the benefits of receiving their salary payments electronically and encouraging all staff who do not currently avail of this facility to consider doing so.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

207 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the major factors which led to the particular decentralised location chosen, and the criteria used for selection in respect of each decentralisation move in his Department outlined in the Budget 2004 statement. [21061/04]

The Government decided on the locations in its programme of decentralisation announced in budget 2004, following consideration of a wide range of factors. These included the need to achieve a fit with the national spatial strategy, in terms of the gateways, hubs and their respective catchments; the location of existing decentralised offices; the desirability of clustering a Department's decentralised units within a region; the importance of respecting the scale and character of locations in terms of their capacity to absorb the number of new jobs involved; the existence of good transport links, by road, rail and-or air and the general infrastructural capacity in the areas selected.

I am satisfied that the relevant criteria are met in the case of Killarney, Mallow and Kilkenny, the locations to which it is proposed to move my Department and three of my Department's agencies, the Irish Sports Council, Fáilte Ireland and the Arts Council respectively.

Sports Capital Programme.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

208 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the reason an organisation (details supplied) in County Westmeath was refused a grant under the capital allocation scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21080/04]

The national lottery funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country.

All applications under the 2004 sports capital programme were evaluated by my Department in accordance with the assessment criteria for the programme published in the guidelines, terms and conditions document which accompanied the application form for the programme. Following completion of the evaluation of the applications received by my Department under the programme, I announced the local provisional grant allocations on 7 May last. The application in question was unsuccessful and a letter was issued to the organisation advising it accordingly together with a copy of the assessment carried out on the application, including any specific reason for the application being unsuccessful.

It is open to the organisation, should it wish to do so and should it have a project which satisfies the terms and conditions of the programme, to submit an application to the 2005 sports capital programme when that scheme is publicly advertised.

Health Board Allowances.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

209 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the domiciliary care allowance and respite cease at the age of 16 when the respite grant is needed for the rest of a person’s life; and if his attention has been drawn to the views of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow. [20871/04]

Domiciliary care allowance, DCA, is a monthly allowance administered by health boards and may be paid in respect of eligible children from birth to the age of 16 who have a severe disability requiring continual or continuous care and attention which is substantially in excess of that normally required by a child of the same age. The condition must be likely to last for one year.

When the child is approaching the age of 16 he or she should be advised to apply for disability allowance, DA, which is administered by the Department of Social and Family Affairs. The boards should notify the parent(s) of the child at least six months prior to the child's 16th birthday. DA is a weekly payment for persons with a disability and generally someone who satisfied the medical conditions for DCA will satisfy the medical conditions for DA. However, the claimant must also satisfy a means test. Entitlement to DCA ceases on the child's 16th birthday.

In this regard, as DCA is paid to recipients up to the age of 16, the respite care grant cannot be paid by the health board after the child reaches 16. To be eligible for the grant at this stage from the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the applicant must be in receipt of the carers allowance or the carers benefit. My Department's attention has been drawn to the views expressed. However, these issues are a matter for the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

210 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children his proposals to reduce the three year delay on the routine ENT waiting list for a consultation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20873/04]

David Stanton

Ceist:

213 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will consider expanding the remit of the National Treatment Purchase Fund to enable persons who are waiting to enter onto in-patient lists to apply to be seen by consultants in a shorter time, especially in cases in which waiting lists are very long; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20893/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 210 and 213 together.

In accordance with health strategy objectives, the Government's immediate focus is on the reduction of waiting lists and waiting times for in-patient and day case treatments in acute hospitals. This is being particularly facilitated by the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF. It is anticipated that reductions in such waiting lists will also lead to consequent improvements in access to consultations with consultants.

Care of the Elderly.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

211 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 244 of 1 June 2004 the progress which has been made on a matter (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20874/04]

I have nothing to add to the reply which I gave to Parliamentary Question No. 244 of 1 June 2004.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

212 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo who has applied for heating under the special housing aid for the elderly scheme, can expect a person to call to assess their needs; and when heating will be installed in their house. [20875/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the housing aid scheme for the elderly in the Mayo area is operated by the Western Health Board on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply direct to him as a matter of urgency.

Question No. 213 answered with QuestionNo. 210.

Hospital Services.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

214 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children the length of time persons in a town (details supplied) in County Donegal are currently awaiting on smear test results; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20903/04]

The provision of health services for people living in County Donegal is a matter for the North Western Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the board to examine the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply directly to her.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

215 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children the current position in relation to having a smear test result for a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20904/04]

The provision of health services for people living in County Donegal is a matter for the North Western Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the board to examine the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply directly to her.

Hospital Staff.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

216 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has plans to have a lymthotrama nurse appointed to a hospital (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20905/04]

Responsibility for the provision of services at Letterkenny General Hospital rests with the North Western Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to her directly.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

217 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans there are to introduce dictdonestic genetic testing for persons who have a pre disposition to a specific cancer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20906/04]

Diagnostic genetic testing for people with inherited pre-disposition to breast, ovarian and colorectal cancer is available for patients on a national basis at the National Centre for Medical Genetics at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Dublin. Since 2002, a cumulative sum of €1.8 million has been allocated to the National Centre for Medical Genetics, of which €1.4 million was from National Cancer Strategy funding.

In recognition of the need to further develop cancer services, the National Cancer Strategy 2004 is currently being developed by the National Cancer Forum in conjunction with my Department. A sub-group of the National Cancer Forum on Genetics is currently examining the specific areas of inherited familial pre-disposition to cancer, cancer risk profiling of persons without inherited mutations and molecular diagnostics and molecular therapeutics. The work of this sub-group will inform the development of the strategy, which is due to be completed by the end of the year.

Health Board Services.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

218 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason there is such a long delay in funding for a care centre (details supplied) in County Cork; and when funding will be sanctioned for its construction. [20910/04]

The provision of health services in Cork is a matter for the Southern Health Board, in the first instance. The board has advised my Department that it purchased a site from Cork City Council for the construction of a new day care centre for older people. My Department has received stage 2 documentation from the board in relation to this project and this submission is currently under consideration by my officials.

My Department, in association with the Department of Finance, is at present examining the health capital programme for 2004 and beyond to ascertain what new projects can be progressed through either planning or construction stages, taking account of existing commitments and overall funding resources available. It is in this context that my Department will continue to liaise with the Southern Health Board regarding the proposed development in Mayfield in the light of the board's overall capital funding priorities.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

219 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if there are on-line sources for information about waiting lists of patients in respect of different hospitals; and if he has plans to make more regular information available to the public and to referring doctors by speciality and by consultant so more informed decisions will be made about the selection of consultant and hospital. [20916/04]

Information on waiting lists has previously been made available on my Department's website. Responsibility for the collection and collation of data on waiting lists and waiting times now rests with the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF. The NTPF is working closely with health boards and individual hospitals to obtain information on patients and the specific surgical procedure required in each case. Currently, the information collected by the NTPF is collected by hospital and specialty rather than by individual consultant. The issue of what information should be publicly available will be kept under review in the light of health strategy commitments.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

220 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of procedures by speciality which have been carried out per quarter over the past two years by the National Treatment Purchase Fund; the percentage of those which have come from the waiting list of each of the Dublin hospitals; and if there are difficulties in particular specialities or particular hospitals in respect of the use of the fund. [20917/04]

My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the National Treatment Purchase Fund to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the specific information requested.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

221 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if tenders have been approved in respect of capital works at Beaumont Hospital, which include the long awaited provision of a proper entrance and footpaths from the back of the hospital; and if he will make a statement on when approval to undertake the works will issue. [20920/04]

My Department has approved an extensive re-equipping and refurbishment programme for Beaumont Hospital. This comprehensive programme is comprised of a number of different capital components, each of which is progressed separately. A significant portion of the overall programme has been implemented to-date. The two proposals raised by the Deputy, namely works on an entrance and footpaths, form part of the overall programme for the hospital. My Department is at present awaiting from the hospital, through the Eastern Regional Health Authority, completed tenders in respect of these proposals. On receipt of these, my Department will then be in a position to progress these specific issues.

EU Directives.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

222 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if comprehensive audits of night-time cover rotas in acute hospitals have been carried out in the context of the implementation of the European Working Time Directive. [20925/04]

The European Working Time Directive, EWTD, requires a reduction in the average weekly working hours of non-consultant hospital doctors, NCHD, to 58 hours by 1 August next, and ultimately to 48 hours by 2009. My priority is to maintain safe, high quality services to patients while continuing to maximise compliance, currently without the co-operation or agreement of the Irish Medical Organisation. I do not under-estimate the challenges faced in this regard, some of which have been highlighted in my Department's submission to the ongoing review by the European Commission on the working time directive.

Management representatives have been ready and willing to participate in local working groups, representative of key stakeholders, to implement the directive's requirements. These groups would inter alia monitor progress in relation to the reduction in NCHD hours, examine skill-mix issues and undertake the type of research-audits on duties-services being provided by NCHD’s on-site and off-site on-call during day and night-time periods, as referred to by the Deputy.

The Irish Medical Organisation has refused to agree to the establishment of these groups. This position, coupled with their failure to substantively engage on the industrial relations issues has severely limited progress on implementation and prevented an agreed solution being reached. Notwithstanding the lack of co-operation by the IMO, every effort will be made, subject to maintaining safe patient care, to press ahead with implementation of the directive from 1 August.

Hospital Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

223 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps he proposes to take following the publication of the NEHB-commissioned report into the circumstances pertaining to the death of a person (details supplied); his views on whether the backdrop of the suspended consultants and the subsequent RCSI withdrawal of recognition of Cavan General Hospital as an accredited site for surgical training were contributory factors in the tragedy; his further views on whether under-staffing at the hospital was a factor; his further views on whether that the allocation of one consultant in emergency medicine at the hospital instead of the recommended three was also a factor; if he views as serious the matter of the missing records in the persons case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20926/04]

The Deputy will be aware that responsibility for the provision of services at Cavan General Hospital rests with the North Eastern Health Board. Following the publication of the report into the circumstances surrounding the death of the person in question, I met with the chief executive officer of the board last week. The report contains 22 recommendations, eight of which are classified as high priority and 14 as medium priority. The board has advised me that most of the high priority recommendations have already been put in place and that it is working to ensure compliance with all of the recommendations.

I have instructed the board to take steps to implement all recommendations as a matter of urgency. In view of the ongoing Garda investigation, I am not in a position to make any further comment on this case.

Medical Cards.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

224 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason persons (details supplied) in County Clare did not qualify for the medical card; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20938/04]

Responsibility for the provision of a medical card is, by legislation, a matter for the chief executive officer of the relevant health board-authority. My Department has therefore asked the chief executive officer of the Mid Western Health Board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Health Board Allowances.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

225 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if an application for domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath will be immediately dealt with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20939/04]

The assessment of entitlement to and payment of the domiciliary care allowance in any individual case is a matter for the relevant health board. Accordingly, a copy of the Deputy's question has been forwarded to the chief executive officer, Midland Health Board with a request that he examine the case and reply directly to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Hospital Services.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

226 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of sexual assault unit at Waterford Regional Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20949/04]

The provision of services at Waterford Regional Hospital is a matter for the South Eastern Health Board. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive officer of the board to reply directly to the Deputy on the matter.

Departmental Funding.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

227 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will provide core funding to a centre (details supplied) in Dublin in order to prevent its imminent closure in view of the impact such a closure would have on the Coeliac Society of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20970/04]

My Department has asked the Eastern Regional Health Authority to make a grant of €150,000 available to alleviate the immediate needs which have been outlined by the Board of the Carmichael Centre. Representatives of the centre have now confirmed to my Department that it will remain open.

Departmental Correspondence.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

228 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will publish the report of the independent clinical review and audit regarding the care and treatment of a person (details supplied). [20971/04]

The report referred to by the Deputy was received by the Mid-Western Health Board on 28 June 2004. I have asked the Mid-Western Health Board for a copy of the report and, upon receipt, I will consider what further steps are necessary.

Departmental Investigations.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

229 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when he will publish the report from the review panel as announced on 23 July 2003 on the independent review into the circumstances of the death of a person (details supplied). [20972/04]

On 23 July last, I announced that I had convened a review panel to conduct an independent review of the events surrounding the tragic death of the person concerned. The members of the panel are: David Hanly, management consultant; Ms Kay O'Sullivan, director of nursing at Cork University Hospital; Dr. Shakeel A. Qureshi, paediatric cardiologist at Guy's and Thomas's Hospital, London. The terms of reference of the panel are: to consider the report of the ERHA in relation to the events of 30 June 2003 at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Dublin and to make such further inquiries and conduct such interviews as the panel considers necessary; to address the questions raised by the family; to examine protocols and procedures relevant to this incident having regard to prevailing standards of best practice, and to examine their application in this case; to report to the Minister and to make such recommendations as it sees fit.

Following the review, both reports will be made available. The work of the review panel is ongoing and I am not in a position to say when the report will become available.

Decentralisation Programme.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

230 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children when he plans to complete the decentralisation of the GRO to Roscommon town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20997/04]

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

235 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the major factors which led to the particular decentralised location chosen, and the criteria used for selection in respect of each decentralisation move in his Department outlined in the budget 2004 statement. [21062/04]

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

236 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of the positions moved and the number of these filled on promotion in respect of the most recent decentralisation undertaken by his Department; and the number of follow-on moves which were triggered by the decentralisation. [21087/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 230, 235 and 236 together.

While preliminary work has been taking place on decentralisation, my Department is awaiting a final decision by Government on the location of the headquarters of the health service executive and associated agencies. This decision is expected shortly.

The decentralisation of the GRO to Roscommon town will be finalised by early 2005, subject to the completion and fitting out of the new office premises, work on which is at an advanced stage at present. The number of posts moved to Roscommon to date are as follows. There are now 40 staff employed in the Roscommon office. Of this number seven staff transferred from my Department, two staff were directly recruited and the balance of 31 transferred from other Departments over a number of years. None of these posts were filled on promotion at the time of assignment. There are a small number of additional staff moves, approximately 15, scheduled to happen between now and the end of the year to complete the decentralisation of the GRO to Roscommon. These moves will not involve promotions and will each trigger one and possibly two follow on moves by way of filling the Dublin based vacancies arising as part of the exercise.

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

231 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason Parliamentary Question No. 167 of 16 June 2004 has still not been responded to by the Western Health Board. [21012/04]

The Western Health Board has informed me that a reply has issued to the Deputy.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

232 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for orthodontic treatment; when this person was first placed on the treatment list; and when they can expect treatment to commence. [21013/04]

Responsibility for the provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons in County Mayo rests with the Western Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

233 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Galway will be called for a hip operation. [21014/04]

The provision of hospital services for people living in County Galway is a matter for the Western Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the position in relation to this case and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Staff.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

234 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of public servants employed in his Department who are paid by cheque; and the number who are paid electronically; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21048/04]

The number of public servants employed is 743 in total, of which 730 are paid electronically and 13 are paid by cheque.

Questions Nos. 235 and 236 answered with Question No. 230.

Health Board Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

237 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if consideration has been given to supply the Ballyfermot Mental Health Centre with a minibus to transport users of the centre to recreational activities pending the building of a new centre. [21105/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

238 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children when the new Ballyfermot Mental Health Centre will be built; the location at which it will be built; if the money received from the sale of the lands at St. Loman’s Hospital will be used for this development; and if there has been consultation with the users, carers, and staff of the centre regarding their future needs in the centre. [21106/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

239 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the conditions for staff and users of Ballyfermot Mental Health Centre have deteriorated in 2003, and that questions of health and safety are being raised with regard to the dilapidated state of the building. [21107/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

241 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the range of services available in the new Ballyfermot Mental Health Centre; and if there has been consideration of a smaller sub-unit located in Lucan to cater for the daily needs of some of the users of the facility. [21109/04]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

242 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if the design team for the new Ballyfermot Mental Health Centre has sought international advice in relation to best practice in the design of such a centre. [21110/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 237 to 239, inclusive and 241 and 242 together.

Responsibility for the provision of the services referred to by the Deputy rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive to investigate the matters raised by the Deputy and reply to him directly.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

240 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Health and Children if he intends to proceed with the provision of the long overdue two new complexes on the campus of a hospital (details supplied) in County Dublin to cater for persons with an intellectual disability who are residents in the hospital; and if so, when work will commence. [21108/04]

The detailed design for this project has been completed. The project is at present being considered by my Department in the context of determining capital priorities to be progressed under the Health Capital Investment Framework 2004-08, in line with overall funding resources available. My Department will continue to liaise closely with the Eastern Regional Health Authority in relation to this particular project.

Questions Nos. 241 and 242 answered with Question No. 237.

Mental Health Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

243 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps he has taken or will take to increase spending on mental health services from the 6% of Budget 2004 to at least the previous level of 11% of Budget 2002. [21111/04]

The estimate for mental health expenditure in 2004 is €661.35 million or 6.7% of the total health budget while in 2002 expenditure on mental health was 6.9% of the total health expenditure. When evaluating these figures, it must be borne in mind that in-patient care has always been the most expensive element of the mental health service and with the consistent reduction in psychiatric bed numbers and the ongoing transfer of intellectually disabled and elderly patients to other settings, it is to be expected that expenditure relative to other services would fall.

Since 1997, approximately €90 million additional revenue funding has been invested in the mental health services. In the main, this funding is being used to provide additional medical and health professional staff for expanding community mental health services, to increase child and adolescent services, to expand the later-life psychiatric services, to provide liaison psychiatric services in general hospitals and to enhance the support provided to voluntary agencies.

Substantial progress has been made in recent years in ensuring that those in need of mental health services receive care and treatment in the most appropriate setting. I am committed to the provision of quality care in the area of mental health and I will be endeavouring to secure additional funding for this sector in the coming years. The further development of our mental health services will be considered in the context of the estimates process for 2005 and subsequent years.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

244 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures he has taken to expand the number of psychiatric beds in Tallaght Hospital; and the waiting list for the existing beds. [21112/04]

Responsibility for the provision of the services referred to by the Deputy rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has therefore asked the regional chief executive to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply to him directly.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

245 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called to Galway for cataract surgery. [21113/04]

The provision of hospital services for people living in County Mayo is a matter for the Western Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the position in relation to this case and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Board Services.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

246 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is a consultant in the Western Health Board area to deal with cataract surgery. [21114/04]

There are three consultant ophthalmologists based at Galway Regional Hospital who provide cataract surgery in the Western Health Board area.

Hospital Services.

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

247 Mr. B. Smith asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the increased demand for renal dialysis services at Cavan General Hospital, additional resources will be made available to enable all dialysis patients in the hospital’s catchment area to avail of services in Cavan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21131/04]

The Deputy will be aware that responsibility for the provision of hospital services, including renal dialysis services, at Cavan General Hospital rests with the North Eastern Health Board.

In recognition of increasing patient demand, my Department this year allocated an additional €5 million for the development of renal services, of which €350,000 was allocated to the North Eastern Health Board.

The board has advised my Department that a new permanent post of consultant nephrologist, eight sessions in the Cavan-Monaghan hospital group and three sessions in Beaumont, is expected to be filled at the end of this year. The post is currently held by a locum consultant.

My Department is further advised that when this post is filled on a permanent basis, the board intends to review all aspects of renal care in the region, including hospital dialysis, out-patient services and will also consider the provision of continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis.

Adoption Laws.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

248 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Health and Children if the restriction on adoptive parents being 40 years or younger is an absolute policy; and the circumstances which apply when this policy is not in operation. [21135/04]

Assessments for intercountry and domestic adoptions are carried out by health boards or by adoption societies registered with the adoption board. The purpose of the assessment process is to determine whether applicants are suitable to adopt a child. While there are no legal provisions in relation to upper age limits for either domestic or intercountry adoption, an applicant's age may be taken into consideration in the context of the assessment as one of a number of factors determining the applicant's capacity to look after the child throughout his or her childhood and to maintain an ongoing and meaningful relationship with their child.

Care of the Elderly.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

249 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons who have had smoke alarms installed under the initiative announced by former Minister of State Moffatt to reduce the fire hazard in the homes of older persons; the agents used for the disbursement of these moneys; and if the instalment of alarms has been accompanied by an advice service to older persons in respect of fire hazards. [21137/04]

Primary responsibility for the provision of smoke alarms for the elderly rests with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The initiative to which the Deputy refers was announced in January 2002. However following consideration of the issue by the Departments of Health and Children and Environment, Heritage and Local Government in association with the National Safety Council, it emerged that there were legal difficulties associated with the initiative as proposed. In the circumstances it was considered prudent not to proceed with the initiative.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

250 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the hospitals he expects are likely to provide the services for tuberculosis and respiratory patients currently available at Peamount Hospital; if proposals are proceeded with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21151/04]

Services at Peamount Hospital are provided under an agreement with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

251 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the full extent of services and facilities at Naas Hospital which are either decommissioned, closed down or otherwise under-utilised, for staff shortage reasons; when he expects all services to become fully operational; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21152/04]

Responsibility for the provision of services at Naas General Hospital rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has received a request from the authority for additional revenue funding to complete the commissioning of additional services at the hospital. The request is the subject of consideration by my Department. My Department has asked the regional chief executive of the authority to reply directly to the Deputy on the other issues raised.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

252 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in issuing a medical card in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21153/04]

Responsibility for the provision of a medical card is, by legislation, a matter for the chief executive officer of the relevant health board-authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive of the Eastern Regional Health Authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and to reply to him directly.

Health Board Allowances.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

253 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if an enhanced nursing home subvention will be offered in the case of a person (details supplied) in Count Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21154/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of health services in the Kildare area is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the South Western Area Health Board acting under the aegis of the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the authority to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply directly to him as a matter of urgency.

Hospital Charges.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

254 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if Beaumont Hospital is correct in charging a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 for six days’ stay in the hospital. [21168/04]

Services at Beaumont Hospital are provided under an arrangement with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive of the authority to examine the issue raised and to reply to the Deputy directly.

Hospital Services.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

255 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 143 of 27 January 2004 and 79 of 22 June 2004, if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the €13.8 million provided to the ERHA to facilitate the discharge of patients from the acute system has only facilitated 63 patients in the past five months; if he has satisfied himself with this level of progress; if his attention has been drawn to a report (details supplied) which says that 75 patients in the Beaumont Hospital and 53 in the Mater were ready for discharge but were retained in the hospitals due to the fact that no step-down facilities were available; his views on this report; the period for which the €13.8 million covers; if he will make further funding available to alleviate the congestion in these hospitals and the enormous pressure on accident and emergency services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21169/04]

To help alleviate service pressures, I provided €8.8 million to the Eastern Regional Health Authority at the end of 2003 to facilitate the discharge of 286 patients from the acute system to a more appropriate setting thereby freeing up acute beds. An additional €5 million was provided recently and it is anticipated that over 180 patients will benefit from this further funding. The ERHA have informed my Department that it is continuing to monitor the situation and work with hospitals and the area health boards to ensure that the number of delayed discharges are being minimised in acute hospitals.

I have placed a high priority on dealing with the pressures in emergency medicine departments, particularly in the eastern region and, in this context, I have met with the management of the major hospitals over the last week. Further to discussions which have taken place between my Department and the ERHA, a number of new initiatives proposed by the ERHA have recently been approved at a total cost of €2.4 million.

Hospital Charges.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

256 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person attending an acute hospital who has been referred by a general practitioner does not have to pay for an x-ray but if referred by a consultant is billed for the procedure; the plans he has to review this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21174/04]

Under the Health Act 1970, the determination of eligibility for health services is based on residency and means and is the responsibility of the chief executive officer of the appropriate health board.

Persons in category 1 are medical card holders and they are entitled to a full range of services including general practitioner services, prescribed drugs and medicines, all in-patient public hospital services in public wards including consultants services, all out-patient public hospital services including consultants services, dental, ophthalmic and aural services and appliances and a maternity and infant care service.

Persons in category 2 — non-medical card holders — are entitled, subject to certain charges, to all in-patient public hospital services in public wards including consultants services and out-patient public hospital services including consultants services. The current public hospital statutory in-patient charge is €45 per night, up to a maximum of €450 in any 12 consecutive months. Attendance at accident and emergency departments is subject to a charge of €45 where the patient does not have a referral note from his or her doctor. This charge applies only to the first visit in any episode of care.

A person in category I or category II who is referred by a general practitioner or a consultant to a public hospital for an X-ray as a public patient is not liable to be charged for this service by the hospital. However if a patient is being referred for out-patient services, for example, tests, X-rays, arising from a private out-patient consultation, he or she is automatically private to the consultants providing the service in the hospital and is liable to be charged.

The Health (Amendment) Act 1991 and the Health Services (Out-Patient) Regulations 1993 clarify the eligibility status of consultant's private patients. The regulations state clearly that a person availing of out-patient consultant services as a private patient of a consultant is the private patient of all consultants providing out-patient services in relation to that particular consultation.

The position regarding consultants fees for private patients is that the level of the fees is a private matter between the consultants concerned and those persons in receipt of their services. Under the health insurance regulations, the payment of hospital charges and consultants fees by health insurers, for example, BUPA, VHI, for out-patient services provided by hospitals to members is a matter for these insurers. It should be noted that my Department is committed to the preparation of new legislation to update and codify the whole legal framework for eligibility and entitlements in regard to health services.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

257 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of days in each of the past two years on which the accident and emergency departments of the Mater and Beaumont Hospitals went off-call for part of or for a whole day, with a breakdown for both; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21188/04]

My Department does not routinely collect the information requested by the Deputy. My Department has, therefore, asked the Chief Executive Officer of the Eastern Regional Health Authority to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the specific information requested.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

David Stanton

Ceist:

258 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of applications received in each of the years 2000-2004 inclusive in respect of the housing aid for the elderly scheme administered by the health boards; the amount expended by each health board in each of the respective years; the number of applications approved in each year; the length of waiting lists and waiting times in respect of assessment in each health board area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21197/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, the housing aid scheme for the elderly is operated by the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. My Department has therefore asked the chief executive officers of the authority and the boards to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply direct to him as a matter of urgency.

Ambulance Service.

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

259 Mr. B. Smith asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the proposal to provide an air ambulance service throughout Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21200/04]

My Department and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Belfast, DHSSPS, commissioned a feasibility study and report on the costs and benefits associated with the introduction of a dedicated helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) for the island of Ireland. The decision to commission the study followed a recommendation by a cross-Border working group on pre-hospital emergency care, one of a number of groups established under the North-South Ministerial Council to examine areas of North-South co-operation in the health field.

The report of the consultants appointed to undertake the study was published on 30 April 2004 and is available on my Department's website. The study identifies possible roles for a helicopter emergency medical service as follows:

"Primary Response" — travelling directly to the scene of an incident to take the patient to hospital. "Inter-hospital Response" — the planned, rapid transfer between hospital of patients requiring specialist care, escorted by skilled professionals.

The study concludes that an inter-hospital transfer service would be the most appropriate in an all-island context. The study indicates that this would involve significant capital investment and annual operating costs. The estimated cost is €12 million capital and €4 million annual operating costs for a single helicopter. Additional helicopters could be added with an additional annual cost for each aircraft of over €3 million.

An air ambulance service is currently provided to the health boards by the Air Corps on a request and availability basis. The Air Corps provides this service subject to the nature of the mission, available aircraft and other operational commitments. Air Corps helicopters operate from airports and, where available and deemed safe, hospital helipads. Most transfers are airport to airport with onward transfer by land ambulance. The service is well regarded and appreciated by those in the health service who avail of it.

My Department is exploring options in relation to HEMS development in the light of the recent study. As part of this exercise, it has initiated discussions with the Department of Defence and the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Irish Coast Guard).

Hospital Accommodation.

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

260 Mr. B. Smith asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the development control plan for Cavan General Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21204/04]

An outline planning brief has been completed for Cavan General Hospital, reflecting the work of the hospital project team. In April, my Department approved an application from the North Eastern Health Board to appoint a design team to formulate an outline development control plan for the hospital in accordance with the briefing document. The board is currently in the process of formally appointing the selected design team and it is expected that work on the preparation of the plan will commence shortly.

Freight Carrier Licences.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

261 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport if he will investigate the case of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [20887/04]

The person referred to already holds a national road freight carrier's licence in his own name which issued to him on 26 April 2001 and does not expire until 25 April 2006. No correspondence has been received from the person in question, and therefore, no refusal of an application in his name has issued. However, as he already holds a national road freight carrier's licence, he is not required to apply again until the licence expires, or unless he wishes to obtain an international road freight carrier's licence.

Passenger Licences.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

262 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport if an application for a passenger licence to enable a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath to operate a day tour service will be dealt with immediately; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20888/04]

The application referred to in the Deputy's question is one of nearly 200 applications received by my Department since 1 January 2004. The application in question is currently being processed and my Department expects to be in contact with the applicant within the next week.

Road Safety.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

263 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Transport if he will provide the data concerning road fatalities (details supplied) for 2003; and if he intends to set up an independent agency toanalyse data in relation to road fatalities. [20891/04]

Statistics relating to road accidents, based on information provided by the Garda Síochána are published by the National Roads Authority in their annual road accident facts reports. The most recent report is in respect of 2002 and that report, along with reports relating to previous years, are available in the Oireachtas library. The total number of road deaths in 2003 was 337. The 2003 statistical report will be published by the NRA when the figures relating to both deaths and injuries are fully analysed and authenticated.

These reports present an overview of the data relating to road collisions and provide analysis of that data. I have no proposals at present to change the current arrangements relating to the collation and publication of road collision data which is monitored on a general basis by the high level group on road safety.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

264 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Transport the position in relation to a national car test centre in Inishowen further to a meeting in Donegal in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20900/04]

As the Deputy is aware in December 2003, I and officials from my Department and the National Car Test Service, NCTS, met with local representatives in Donegal to discuss the possibility of setting up a car test centre in Inishowen. At this meeting it was agreed that efforts would be made by local representatives to identify possible suitable premises. I understand that the NCTS is awaiting further contact from local representatives in this matter.

I have checked with my Department and with the NCTS and they are not aware of a significant increase in demand arising since our meeting. Car testing needs in Donegal are currently met at the test centres in Derrybeg, Donegal town and Letterkenny.

Rail Services.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

265 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Transport the plans he has to discuss Dublin-Derry train service with his counterparts in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20901/04]

Rail services between Dublin and Derry involve an interchange at Central Station Belfast. While Iarnród Éireann jointly operate and market Dublin-Belfast services, Belfast-Derry services are the responsibility of Translink-Northern Ireland Railways. There are eight services daily between Dublin and Belfast and seven services between Belfast and Derry. Iarnród Éireann has no immediate plans to run through services from Dublin to Derry which is served several times a day on a direct bus route from Dublin. In addition, the Department supports two air services a day between Dublin and Derry, with a journey time of 50 minutes.

Vehicle Height Restrictions.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

266 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the exact basis in which he will issue a ban on HGVs using city streets once the Port Tunnel is open; and the way in which the HGV whose size does not permit them to use the Port Tunnel will be regulated. [20918/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 102 of 7 July 2004.

Driving Tests.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

267 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport if driving examiners are provided with a record of driving test candidates’ previous driving test record; and if so, if the driving instructor can inform the candidate that his attention has been drawn to the candidate’s record either prior to or following a driving examination. [20943/04]

My Department provides the name, address, date of birth, licence category and reference number of each candidate to the driver tester assigned to test the candidate. No information relating to previous tests, if any, is supplied to the driver tester in respect of the candidate presenting for test. The driver tester is precluded from discussing aspects of the test or related matters with the candidate.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

268 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport if there is a procedure to make a complaint regarding the conduct of a driving examiner by the driving test candidate. [20944/04]

Under section 33 of the Road Traffic Act 1961, a person aggrieved by the decision of a driver tester may appeal the decision to the District Court. If the court finds that the test was not properly conducted, my Department may be directed to arrange a further test, free of charge, for the person concerned.

In addition, my Department has a complaints procedure in place, of which candidates can avail. Details of the procedure are outlined in the customer complaints procedure leaflet, available at test centres and on the driving test website at www.drivingtest.ie. All complaints received in my Department are examined and necessary action taken as appropriate.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

269 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Transport when the compulsory registration of driving schools will be in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20987/04]

Proposals being developed by my Department for the regulation and quality assurance of driving instruction will involve a test of the competence of individual instructors. A working group comprising representatives of my Department and of instruction interests has formulated the design of the standards that a driving instructor must meet. I am considering what arrangements will be put in place to oversee implementation of the standard in the context of the establishment of the Driver Testing and Standards Authority. The Driver Testing and Standards Authority Bill 2004, which provides for the establishment of the authority, was published on 6 July 2004.

Departmental Staff.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

270 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Transport the number of public servants employed in his Department who are paid by cheque; and the number who are paid electronically; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21049/04]

The Department of Transport currently has a total of 562 employees on its payroll. Of these 39 are paid by cheque and 523 are paid electronically.

Decentralisation Policy.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

271 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the major factors which led to the particular decentralised location chosen, and the criteria used for selection in respect of each decentralisation move in his Department outlined in the 2204 Budget Statement. [21063/04]

According to the Minister for Finance's Budget Statement in December 2003 a wide range of factors were taken into account and balanced in selecting the new decentralised locations. These factors included the need to achieve a fit with the national spatial strategy, in terms of the gateways, hubs and their respective catchments; the location of existing decentralised offices; the desirability of clustering a Department's decentralised units within a region; the importance of respecting the scale and character of locations in terms of their capacity to absorb the number of new jobs involved; the existence of good transport links by road, rail and air; and the general infrastructural capacity in the areas selected.

Light Rail Project.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

272 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the total cost of the provision of the service in respect of each of the Luas lines; the number of rolling stock; their total capacity; the projected daily passenger carryings; the projected peak-hour carryings; the projected annual carryings; and the projected annual collection of fares and the way in which this compares with the operating cost of the lines and the full financial cost of the service. [21082/04]

The Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, has assured me that the Sandyford — Green — Luas line and Tallaght — Red — Luas line will be completed within the €775 million budget and risk provision, as notified to the Government in December 2002. The agency has allocated 14 40 metre long trams which will accommodate 315 persons per tram, to the Green line and 26 30 metre long trams which will accommodate 235 persons per tram, to the Red line. Based on trams running at five minute intervals at peak times, the Green line will have a carrying capacity of 3,780 persons per direction per hour, while the capacity of the Red line will some 2,820 passengers per hour per direction.

Current Railway Procurement Agency's RPA estimates of patronage on the total system suggest that after a ramp-up period of approximately 18 months, there will be an annual patronage of approximately 20 million passengers on the network in a fully operational year. This translates as a daily Luas patronage of approximately 60,000 passengers per day. There is scope for increasing frequency of service and the capacity of trams substantially beyond these initial numbers, to meet growing demand.

Based on estimates of revenue from fare box, and projected operations and maintenance cost for Luas, determined prior to operations commencing, the agency expects that the Luas will operate at approximately break-even from 2006 onwards. However, these estimates will be revised over the coming months as a pattern of demand for the services emerges from actual operations.

Public Transport.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

273 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the plans for the development of the number and capacity of the bus fleet of Dublin Bus; the projected passenger carryings of each of the elements of the Dublin suburban rail for the next five years; the projected annual collection of fares from each; and the way in which this compares with operating cost and the full financial cost of the respective services. [21083/04]

At the request of my Department, the DTO is currently undertaking a review of the bus market in the greater Dublin area so as to provide a strategic framework for the development of the bus market over the coming years. This study will take account, inter alia, of planned land use and other developments arising from the recently adopted strategic planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area, entitled the Platform for Change and the developments in public transport since that strategy was adopted.

I am informed by Irish Rail that the company carries approximately 21.6 million passengers annually on the DART and 2.7 million on the outer suburban services in the Dublin Area. In 2003, the company earned €26.8 million from DART operations and €5.9 million from outer suburban operations.

I am informed by the company that, in normal circumstances, it would expect traffic to grow on these lines at a rate broadly in line with the rate of economic growth, with stronger growth occurring at peak times. However, the current interruption to services arising from the DART upgrade project is affecting patronage. Furthermore, the outcome of the current review of the bus market will also influence future growth.

Revenue is expected to grow broadly in line with economic growth, provided fares are increased in line with general inflation. Operating costs will also grow due to inflation and market expansion, while subvention needs are also expected to increase on a commensurate basis. However, the company has in place a cost reduction programme which is having an overall downward pressure on costs. It is the overall objective of the company to achieve break-even at operating level.

Taxi Regulations.

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

274 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport if there is an obligation on the drivers of taxis and hackneys to carry accompanied children of any age; and if he intends to introduce regulations to ensure that such vehicles carry a baby seat or child seat or other restraint device suitable for children, such as the child seat-belt in use on aircraft. [21178/04]

Under the public service vehicles regulations, whenever a person requests the driver of a vehicle used as a taxi standing for hire in a taximeter area to drive him or her to a specified place in that area, the driver must comply with the request unless, inter alia, the person making the request fails to tender the lawful fare or the driver has other reasonable excuse for refusing or failing to comply with the request.

Other regulatory provisions require the driver to take all reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of persons in, on, entering or alighting from the vehicle. Interpretation of the regulations and of any other statutory provisions in any particular case is ultimately a matter for the courts. In general, each occupant of a passenger car is required to wear a safety belt or an appropriate child restraint, as the case may be. The driver of a vehicle is obliged to ensure that an occupant of the vehicle who is under 17 years of age is either restrained by an appropriate child restraint or, provided she or he is four years old and upwards, is wearing a safety belt.

The requirement to wear a safety belt does not apply in respect of the use of a vehicle in which the fitment of safety belts is not mandatory. However, cars registered on or after 1 January 1992 are required to have safety belts fitted to all forward facing seats. Fitment of an appropriate child restraint is not mandatory in vehicles. Accordingly, the duty of the driver to ensure that a restraint is worn is subject to the availability of such a restraint in a vehicle.

The regulations which deal with the fitment and wearing of safety belts and restraint systems, the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 1991 — S.I. No. 359 of 1991 — define an appropriate child restraint as an approved child restraint which is appropriate to the user by virtue of the weight range indicated on the restraint. The regulations specify approval authorities and approval marks.

There appears to be gaps in the regulations, which have given rise to some confusion, particularly regarding the status under the regulations of the law regarding the carrying of children under four years of age. As the safety of children in this age category is paramount it is my intention to tidy up the regulations and to close the gaps.

Light Rail Project.

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

275 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport if he has plans to join the dots and link up the two new light rail lines in Dublin city centre; and the predicted usage that was provided in consultancy reports for the two separate lines and for the joined-up lines. [21179/04]

Integration of public transport services in the greater Dublin area is being pursued within the broad policy framework established by the Dublin transportation office's "platform for change". Provision of a link between O'Connell Street and St. Stephen's Green to connect the Tallaght and Sandyford Luas lines is being considered in the context of the first phase of the metro project from the city centre to the airport, as distinct from an overground Luas connection. I expect the Government to consider proposals on the metro soon.

Public Transport.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

276 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the details of the circumstances surrounding the issue of bus services to Citywest; if, further to the Taoiseach’s comments of 15 June 2004, he will provide all details of contacts with Dublin Bus and of the occasion on which it is alleged to have refused to provide services; when the private bus company applied for licences to operate these routes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21186/04]

On 18 September 2003 my Department received two applications from a private bus operator for designated bus services into the Citywest business campus. The applications were for limited morning and evening services between the business campus and Sydney Parade DART station on the one hand, and between the business campus and Westmoreland Street on the other.

My Department is required under section 11(3)(a) of the 1932 Act to apply a public interest test to applications for licences. It must consider whether the service proposed is in the public interest having regard to the passenger road services and other forms of passenger transport available to the public on or in the neighbourhood of the route of the proposed service. It concluded following a thorough examination, that it was in the "public interest" to grant the applications. The critical considerations which led to this decision were: Citywest business campus has over 100 companies employing several thousand people; Citywest management confirmed to my Department that it had approached Dublin Bus about the provision of dedicated bus services for workers in the business campus, but Dublin Bus did not take up the request; Citywest management then approached the private operator in question to provide the services concerned to cater for commuting workers employed in the business campus; the Department had no other prior proposal for a bus service to the Citywest business campus service.

In the light of the foregoing, my Department concluded that it would be in the public interest to grant the applications from the private operator concerned and on 2 June 2004 the Department proceeded with the issue of two licences to the private operator to operate the proposed services. Both licences are for the carriage of passengers to and from the business campus only and provide for a limited number of services, namely, two morning services from Westmoreland Street with three return services in the evening; one morning service from Sydney Parade DART station with two return services in the evening. My Department operates due process and fair procedure in the administration of the bus licensing and authorisation system. Dublin Bus effectively remains the monopoly provider of bus services in the Dublin metropolitan area. The company has the same opportunity as private operators to propose the introduction of additional or new services to meet specific or growing customer demand. In this case, Dublin Bus did not take up the request from the business campus and the private operator was duly awarded licences following due consideration by my Department.

Traffic Calming Measures.

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

277 Mr. B. Smith asked the Minister for Transport if he proposes to vary the speed limits on the main arterial routes and minor and country roads; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21201/04]

A review of the present speed limit structure was carried out in 2003 against the background of the requirement to changeover to metric units of measurement for speed by end 2004. The broadly based working group who carried out the review recommended that maximum speed limits should range from a high of 120 kilometres per hour — equivalent to 74.580 miles per hour — on motorways to 50 kilometres per hour — equivalent to 31.075 miles per hour in built-up areas. The working group also recommended that a special limit of 30 kilometresper hour — equivalent to 18.645 miles per hour — should be applied on a very restrictive basis in residential areas where traffic calming measures have been provided. Within that range, the working group recommended that the speed limit for national roads should be 100 kilometres per hour — equivalent to 62.150 miles per hour — and that the speed limit on non-urban regional and local roads should be 80 kilometres per hour — equivalent to 49.790 miles per hour. The latter represents a significant decrease on the speed limit of 60 miles per hour that applies to what is the vast majority of the rural road network.

The Road Traffic Bill 2004, published on 11 June, proposes legislative measures to provide for a new metricated speed limit structure based on the recommendations made by the working group. The Bill is awaiting a timetable for its passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Registration of Title.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

278 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to a land registry application for persons (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20860/04]

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that the details supplied by the Deputy refer to an application for transmission of part — post 59 — which was lodged on 6 October 2003, and an application under section 49 namely, acquisition of title by virtue of long possession of the Registration of Title Act 1964 which was lodged on 3 March, 2004. Dealing numbers D2003WS009387E and D2004WS002605V refer. I am further informed that dealing number 2003WS009387E was completed on 25 February, 2004. With regard to dealing number D2004WS002605V, due to their complicated nature, applications under section 49, which require detailed examination of claims for registration as owners, can take some time to process. Accordingly, it is not possible to estimate a completion date at this stage. However, this application is receiving attention in the land registry.

Citizenship Applications.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

279 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to a citizenship application for a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20898/04]

An application for naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy was received on 27 June 2003, one of over 5,700 such applications received in the citizenship section of my Department since the beginning of 2003. Applications for naturalisation take approximately 18 months to process. Consequently, it is likely that the application of the person concerned will be finalised near the end of 2004. As soon as I have reached a decision on the matter, I will inform the applicant and the Deputy of the outcome.

EU Presidency.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

280 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide an estimate of the policing cost incurred as a result of the May Day weekend 2004, the Presidency of the European Union and the recent visit of President Bush; the amount of additional costs incurred in respect of these events as compared with the estimates for 2004; the impact these additional costs will have on Garda activities for the remainder of 2004, including its impact on the amount available for Garda overtime for the remainder of 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20907/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the complete cost of the policing and security workload associated with our hosting of the EU Presidency this year, including the EU ceremony on enlargement during the May Day weekend and the EU-US summit is not yet available. A full costing will be made in respect of these security operations when all expenditure returns are received and collated.

Garda Investigations.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

281 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made in the Garda investigation into the Neary case, in view of the fact that since the Medical Council files were referred to the Garda in August 2003 there has been no apparent follow-up inquiry with any of the victims named therein; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20928/04]

I understand from the Garda authorities that inquiries are currently being conducted by the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation into these matters. The Garda Síochána has met the Irish Medical Council and solicitors representing interested parties and advice has been sought from the law officers. The Deputy will appreciate that I have no role in the investigation or prosecution of cases and it would be inappropriate for me to comment any further.

Residency Permits.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

282 Mr. Penrose