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Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 7 Dec 2004

Vol. 594 No. 3

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 17, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 18 to 45, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 46 to 55, inclusive, answered orally.

Air Services.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

56 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport whether there is a conflict of interest in the recent decision taken by Dublin Airport Authority workers to make formal approaches to some of the private investors who have expressed an interest in developing a second terminal at Dublin Airport with a view to establishing a partnership arrangement between DAA workers and the operator of a second terminal at the airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32040/04]

With regard to the commitment in the programme for Government to examine proposals for a new independent terminal, my Department is currently consulting with the new board of the Dublin Airport Authority and it is my intention to bring proposals on the matter to the Government very shortly.

I am aware of media reports that some workers at Dublin Airport have made contact with parties who submitted "expressions of interest" to my Department regarding the concept of an independent terminal at the airport. However, until I have completed my own examination of the options, including taking account of the views of the new Dublin Airport Authority, and the Government has taken a decision in the matter, any approaches of the kind referred to by the Deputy that may be taking place can only be speculative.

Regional Infrastructure.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

57 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport his plans to improve infrastructure in the southern region (details supplied). [28471/04]

The southern regions of the country are benefiting from the major transport infrastructure investment programmes currently being implemented. Major national roads projects completed in recent years include: the N8 Watergrasshill bypass; N7 Limerick southern ring road, phase 1; N8 Cashel bypass; N25 Youghal bypass and N22 Ballincollig bypass. Projects in construction include: the N8 Fermoy-Watergrasshill, N18 Ennis bypass and N21 Castleisland-Abbeyfeale route. The beneficial impact of the high level of investment in upgrading the national roads network is increasingly evident in the southern region and throughout the country.

As regards public transport, the entire intercity rail network in this region has now been upgraded to continuous welded rail, providing more comfort and higher speeds for Irish Rail customers. Work is now well advanced on providing state of the art signalling on all intercity routes as well. The Waterford to Dublin line was completed earlier this year. Work on the Tralee to Mallow line is underway and completion is expected in 2005. The Cork to Dublin line already benefited from this technology in the past. Irish Rail is complementing this work by purchasing new fleets of railway rolling stock. In 2005, Irish Rail will introduce 67 new carriages on the Cork to Dublin route, with increased connections to Limerick.

In the Cork area, Irish Rail is developing the old Midleton to Glounthane railway line to provide a commuter service to the people and the industries of this rapidly expanding area. This project is being developed in co-operation with Cork city and county councils under the CASP — Cork area strategic plan.

To coincide with the European Capital of Culture 2005, Bus Éireann is undertaking a major redevelopment of its existing station at Parnell Place in Cork city, including improved access for the mobility impaired, to be completed shortly. In addition, new bus priority measures are being introduced.

Road Safety.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

58 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to recent findings from the National Roads Authority that the majority of motorists are still recklessly breaking the speed limit and ignoring the risk of penalty points; his views on whether absence of fear of Garda enforcement means motorists are driving above speed limits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32308/04]

The National Roads Authority, NRA, has published the results of national speed surveys which have been carried out in 1997, 1999, 2002 and 2003. The most recent results relate to the 2003 survey. The results indicate that the proportion of cars exceeding the speed limit on urban arterial and residential roads fell sharply between summer 2002 and summer 2003. The fall in the percentage of free speeding cars exceeding the speed limit was most dramatic in urban residential areas. The percentage of cars violating posted 30 mph limits on these roads fell by 25% in 2003. These reductions followed the introduction of penalty points for speeding in October 2002. The free speeding rural survey also showed sizeable improvements in car speeding compliance rates on dual carriageways and two lane national primary roads.

The significant improvements to which I have referred related to speeding rates within the 30 and 40 mph zones. Despite the improvements outlined in the report, the percentage of cars speeding in 30 and 40 mph zones, particularly when entering these zones, is still worryingly high. The recently published Road Safety Strategy 2004-2006 includes measures targeted at the key areas relating to road collisions, including speeding. The strategy also sets out specific targets regarding reductions in the incidence of speeding which will be monitored over the lifetime of the strategy. In recognition of the importance of enforcement in the strategy, the Garda has established commitments to the achievement of specific levels of enforcement across the three key areas of seat belt wearing, speed limits and drink driving.

The effectiveness of the penalty points system can be judged primarily on the basis of the contribution it has made to road safety since its introduction. In the two years since the introduction of the system in October 2002 the number of deaths as a result of road collisions has fallen by 116 in comparison with the previous two years. Penalty points now operate in respect of speeding, seat belt wearing, driving without insurance and careless driving. Since the introduction of the system over 191,000 drivers have incurred penalty points. In overall terms, the introduction of penalty points has had a positive effect on road safety and I am confident that the full roll out of the system will further enhance that effect.

Indications from the Garda Síochána in respect of the operation of the system to date show that, with no reduction in enforcement efforts, there has been a significant drop in the number of detections for speeding offences. As recently announced by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and me, the creation of a dedicated traffic corps is being progressed with the deployment of additional gardaí to traffic duties over the next three years. In this context, the numbers of gardaí allocated to traffic duties will be significantly increased from approximately 530 now to 1,200 by 2008.

Rail Network.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

59 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Transport if consideration will be given to reopening the rail line between Charleville and Patrick’s Well. [32393/04]

Irish Rail has no plans, at present, to reopen the former railway line between Charleville and Patrick's Well. The company has informed me that there is already a frequent service between Cork and Limerick via Limerick Junction, with a change of trains. Late next year, the company plan to introduce an hourly service on the Dublin to Cork line, which will add to the service frequency. The Charleville to Patrick's Well route was not identified in the strategic rail review as a potential line for re-opening and Irish Rail states that the railway alignment does not serve any significant centres of population, either existing or planned.

Road Safety.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

60 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Transport the guidelines he provides to local authorities on the standard of pedestrian crossing facilities; his views on the fact that certain pedestrian crossing signals in Dublin city have a four minute waiting time between the pressing of the pedestrian crossing button and a resulting change in the lights and that the average maximum waiting time for pedestrian lights to turn green is close to two minutes; and the standards which apply with regard to the distances that pedestrians have to travel from recognised bus stops on roads such as the N11 before having a safe facility to cross the road. [32400/04]

Part V of the Road Traffic (Signs) Regulations 1997, SI 181 of 1997, contains the regulatory provisions relating to the provision of pedestrian crossings and the associated signals. Ministerial directions and general guidance to local authorities regarding the provision and use of regulatory and non-regulatory traffic signs are set out in the comprehensive Traffic Signs Manual that was published in 1996. Guidance and advice about pedestrian signals are laid down in paragraph 7 of chapter 9 of the manual, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas Library. Local authorities are advised that the pedestrian phase of the signals "is best activated by demand from push buttons but can be activated automatically if the circumstances justify it (for example, to prevent phases getting out of step with adjacent signals on linked signal systems)".

Precise standards are not prescribed in either the road traffic regulations or in the manual regarding the time interval that should apply prior to the activation of the pedestrian cycle. The decision regarding the activation of the operative cycle for any particular set of traffic lights is a matter for the relevant local authority in the context of its policy for the management of all road users at the location. In this regard, a set of Traffic Management Guidelines that were jointly published by my Department in May 2003 sets out further guidance and advice to local authorities about pedestrian crossings. A copy of this publication is available in the Oireachtas Library.

The guidelines, at chapter 10.7, advise that delays to pedestrians should be minimised and that overall cycle times be kept as short as possible. The guidelines expressly recognise the reality that pedestrians are sensitive to the time they have to wait at the kerbside and that if the waiting time is too long pedestrians will cross the road without waiting for a green signal. The guidelines also state: "In the climate of encouraging walking as part of sustainable transport, justification for pedestrian facilities should be considered more in terms of the needs of pedestrians (in particular the delays and difficulties experienced in crossing a road) than in always maximising traffic flows."

Guidance has been provided for local authorities on the provision of pedestrian signals generally but, ultimately, decisions on their provision, their proximity to bus stops, traffic management controls and the control of pedestrians and traffic at any particular location are matters for determination by the relevant local authority.

Air Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

61 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport the position with regard to the Shannon stopover; the further position with regard to the timeframe for agreement between the EU and US on the open skies policy; the discussions he has had in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32353/04]

As I indicated in my reply to a similar question from the Deputy on 2 November 2004, at a number of recent Transport Councils, the Irish position has been that while we are in favour of an open skies agreement between the EU and the US, Ireland's support would be contingent on an acceptable arrangement on Shannon being agreed between Ireland and the US and that arrangement being reflected in the EU-US agreement.

Negotiations between the EU and the US on an open skies agreement will recommence in early 2005, when the new US Administration is in place. Both EU and US officials have maintained contact over the summer but no negotiations have taken place since last June. Detailed negotiations took place up to June 2004, with the objective of reaching an agreement in time for the EU-US summit in Ireland at the end of that month. However, when the proposed agreement, which would have brought in open skies between all EU member states and the US, was discussed at the Transport Council in June 2004, Transport Ministers felt that the deal on offer was unbalanced in favour of the US.

In the lead up to June 2004 and in line with Ireland's position as outlined at the beginning of this reply, in May 2004 Department of Transport officials travelled to Washington to discuss this issue with the US. An official from the European Commission also attended those discussions. While the Irish delegation was not authorised to conclude any agreement with the US, good exploratory discussions were held. Had an EU-US deal emerged from the Transport Council, a suitable phasing in over a period of years of open skies between Ireland and the US would have been agreed for inclusion in the EU-US deal that would have been signed at the summit at the end of June 2004.

Currently, there are no EU-US negotiations taking place. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that an EU-US open skies agreement is inevitable once a properly balanced agreement is reached. My officials have maintained contact with the US side to keep open all options for progress on this issue.

It is difficult to estimate the time frame in which an EU-US agreement might be reached. I have now familiarised myself with the positions of the various Irish stakeholders involved. I am conscious of the fact that the new board of Shannon Airport is now required to produce a business plan for the airport and that clarity on the open skies issue would be helpful to that business planning process. I am also conscious that Irish airlines are currently restricted in the routes they can serve under the existing bilateral arrangement and that expanding scheduled services across the Atlantic is of great importance to the growth of Irish airlines and Irish tourism.

For the reasons I have outlined above, officials from my Department will shortly travel to Washington to explore with the US authorities what adjustments to the current Ireland-US arrangements are possible.

Public Transport.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

62 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Transport when the new smart card, allowing passengers to use a single ticket on all forms of public transport, will be introduced; when the equipment necessary to validate the cards will be installed on buses, trains and the Luas; the types of public transport on which these cards will be able to be used in the first instance; when the cards will be able to be used on all forms of public transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32339/04]

The contactless, smart card based, integrated ticketing system, which will enable a passenger to use a single ticket on one or more scheduled public transport services, by road and by rail, irrespective of the transport operator involved, is being developed by the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, and will be introduced on a phased basis, initially in the Dublin area.

A first step was the launch in April of this year, in conjunction with the RPA, of smart cards by a private operator, Morton's Coaches, on its services. Another important step will be the launch of smart cards on Luas services in spring 2005. In addition, the RPA projects that Dublin Bus and some additional private operators will follow with smart cards on its services during 2005, with the DART expected to follow in 2006.

Full integration of the back office systems of Dublin Bus and Luas is expected to take place in early 2006. Once this is completed, there will be one smart card for customers which will be operable on both bus and Luas services, with integration with other operators to follow. In the meantime, the RPA is also proceeding with the procurement of an extensive sales network which will be used by customers for topping up the value on smart cards.

The system is being designed with the involvement of all public transport operators, as well as consultation with members of the public. Discussions are ongoing between the RPA and the operators with regard to implementing the system. Such discussions include the timing of the installation of card validation equipment.

Air Services.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

63 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the reason consideration of State funding was ruled out in the mandate given to consultants with regard to a report (details supplied) on Aer Lingus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32367/04]

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

83 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport his views on the recent resignations of persons (details supplied) from the board of Aer Lingus; if he has met them to discuss the reasons for their resignations; his further views on the implications these resignations will have for the future of the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32361/04]

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

85 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport his views on a report (details supplied) on the future of Aer Lingus; the action he intends to take in view of the report’s recommendations; if he will proceed with the privatisation of the company through an IPO; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32358/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

112 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport his preferred options in respect of the future of Aer Lingus with particular reference to structures, management, staff participation and the need to meet customer requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32385/04]

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

117 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport when he expects final decisions to be taken on the future of Aer Lingus. [32528/04]

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

199 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if a decision will be made on the future of Aer Lingus before the Christmas 2004 recess; when he expects that a new management team will be put in place; when a successor to the outgoing chairman of the board of Aer Lingus will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32533/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

225 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the position in regard to discussions he has had with management or staff in Aer Lingus, with particular reference to the future structures of the company and its role in the issue of air transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32549/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 63, 83, 85, 112, 117, 199 and 225 together.

The Government decided on 6 July 2004 to establish a Cabinet sub-committee to examine all the issues relating to the future of Aer Lingus and report back to Government as soon as possible. The committee first met on 14 July 2004 to review the position and decided that work on future options continue with advisers as necessary and that the result of that work would be considered by the committee. Goldman Sachs was then engaged by my Department to provide advice and assistance regarding the future of Aer Lingus. This report, which was received on 6 October 2004, was considered by the Cabinet sub-committee at its meeting on 22 November following its review by relevant Ministers and Departments.

The Goldman Sachs report was published by my Department on Tuesday last, 23 November 2004, with copies of the report laid in the Oireachtas Library as well as being made available on my Department's website. The report summarises the global aviation market, the regulatory environment and Aer Lingus' history and current operation. It then moves on to Aer Lingus' funding requirement and capital structure. It identifies as a key issue the availability of capital to enable the airline compete on an equal footing, pursue expansion plans and withstand external shocks. Moreover, Goldman Sachs states that given the cyclical nature of the industry, access to equity capital is an important mitigant of financial risk.

The report goes on to review the status quo, the implications of change with regard to strategic issues and the various ownership structure alternatives under complete or partial divestment. The question of State investment was neither ruled in nor ruled out in the mandate given to Goldman Sachs since this is a matter for the Government to decide for the future. Goldman Sachs refers to successive Governments’ policy on investment in Aer Lingus and goes on to deal with this issue in the chapter on the status quo in the report.

The issue of funding for future growth is a major factor for consideration in any decision on ownership. As already mentioned, this is clear from the Goldman Sachs report. A major issue for any airline is the upgrading and replacement of aircraft. Aer Lingus is funding the upgrade of its short haul fleet from within existing resources but this is based on meeting performance and profit targets as set out in the business plan. In addition, the airline is currently examining its long haul fleet requirements and expects to complete a proposal in the coming months which will have to be approved by my Department and the Department of Finance. Pending the outcome, the company has confirmed to the Department that the airline will require equity funding to replace the existing long haul fleet and to support future growth.

At its meeting on 22 November 2004, the Cabinet sub-committee recognised that decisions on the future ownership should be made before Christmas in the interest of the airline and all its stakeholders. A further meeting of the committee is scheduled to take place on 9 December 2004.

With regard to the resignation of the three senior managers in Aer Lingus — the chief executive, chief operations officer and chief financial officer — their resignations will take effect from May 2005. I have placed on record my thanks to the three executives, Mr. Walsh, Mr. Kearney and Mr. Dunne for their work and commitment over the past three years in conjunction with the board and staff. That work has resulted in the profitable and successful airline we see today. I met the three executives on Tuesday, 16 November 2004, and at that meeting they explained their position and the reasons for their resignations. I do not propose to go into the detail of that meeting as it is a matter for the executives themselves to decide whether they wish to provide such information publicly.

Of course, the chairman and board of Aer Lingus are charged with ensuring the ongoing orderly management of the business and I have every confidence in them fulfilling this role, notwithstanding these resignations. Resignation of top management is nothing new in business nor is it the first time to happen in Aer Lingus. Clearly, the board will ensure that replacements for the top management team are recruited as quickly as possible. It would be preferable if such replacements could take office before next May. I met the acting chairman, Mr. John Sharman, on 18 November 2004 to discuss this matter and clarify the arrangements for the replacement of the three senior executives.

The recruitment of the chief executive officer is solely a matter for the board of Aer Lingus and I have no function in this regard. In that context, the board of Aer Lingus, at its meeting on Monday last, 29 November 2004, decided to commence the process of recruiting a new chief executive by establishing a sub-committee, comprising the chairman and two other non-executive directors, which is charged with identifying and recommending to the board the appointment of a replacement chief executive. In addition, all three resigning executives confirmed to the board their full commitment to working with the airline to ensure a smooth transition to their replacements.

In addition to commencing the recruitment process for a new chief executive, the board reiterated the need for the complete and early implementation of the business plan to address competitive pressures and build on progress to date. Implementation of the plan is crucial so that the airline can position itself to respond in a timely manner to changing market conditions and to take advantage of future growth opportunities so as to ensure its viability in the future.

Road Network.

David Stanton

Ceist:

64 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Transport if he has been in communication with or intends to communicate with the National Roads Authority and local authorities to discuss the need to ensure that roads and footpaths are accessible for those with mobility and sensory impairments; his further plans in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32386/04]

The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority, NRA, and the relevant local authority.

National roads are predominantly outside built up areas and, accordingly, the need to ensure that roads and footpaths are accessible for the mobility and sensory impaired does not normally arise in such circumstances. The NRA's design manual for roads and bridges also includes guidelines for national roads within urban areas. These require that particular attention be given to the needs of mobility and sensory impaired persons in the planning and construction of road works generally and, in particular, where pedestrian crossing facilities are being provided.

The guidelines require local authorities to take special care so as to avoid steep or irregular gradients or sharp changes in the alignment of footpaths, which might prove deceptive to visually impaired persons. Local authorities are also required to ensure that "dished" kerbs are provided and that wheelchair ramps, constructed of non-slip material, are provided at pedestrian crossing points, where possible. In addition, local authorities have been asked to consider reserving on-street car parking spaces for mobility impaired drivers.

National Car Test.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

65 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Transport the terms and remit of the review of the national car testing scheme to begin in early 2005; if his attention has been drawn to certain criticisms of the car testing scheme that it is merely a money-making exercise; the elements of the test which will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32332/04]

The car testing contract between the Minister and National Car Testing Service Limited, NCTS, provides for a mid-term review by the Minister after the mid-point of the contract, which will occur in January 2005. The review will be carried out by the Department in conjunction with the supervision services contractor, which monitors the performance of NCTS on behalf of the Minister.

The detailed terms of the review are not yet finalised. However, it will involve a review of the performance of NCTS and will address a range of strategic issues, including the content of the test, the quality of service provided and the location and number of test centres. An important element of the review will be a public consultation process whereby motorists and the public will be able to raise any matter relating to the service for consideration in the review.

State Airports.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

66 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport the proposals which have been made for the future of the Great Southern Hotel Group in the context of the break-up of Aer Rianta; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32357/04]

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

78 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport the position with regard to the break up of Aer Rianta and the operation of the three new airport authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32355/04]

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

93 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Transport the estimated cost of the redevelopment of Cork Airport; if his attention has been drawn to the current cost estimate of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32037/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66, 78 and 93 together.

In keeping with the provisions of the State Airports Act 2004, the newly appointed board of the Dublin Airport Authority has a statutory mandate to do everything necessary to give effect to the restructuring of the State airports. The new Shannon and Cork airport authorities have also been incorporated and, in line with the framework provided by the State Airports Act 2004, these two new authorities will, in due course, own and operate their respective airports once sufficient distributable reserves are available to transfer the relevant assets.

Prior to the assets of Shannon and Cork airports being vested in their respective authorities, their boards are charged with preparing to assume full responsibility for the management and development of their airports. They are also empowered to undertake functions delegated to them, on an agreed basis, by the Dublin Airport Authority and the three airport authorities are currently discussing the scope and scale of such delegated functions. Each of the airport authorities is also required to prepare a comprehensive business plan for their airport for consideration by myself and the Minister for Finance.

In accordance with the 2004 Act, the transfer of assets to Shannon and Cork airport authorities cannot take place earlier than 30 April 2005 and, thereafter, a phased approach will allow one of the new airport authorities to be vested first, that is, Shannon Airport, while Cork Airport will be vested once sufficient distributable reserves have been built up within the Dublin Airport Authority. Both I and the Minister for Finance must be satisfied as to the state of operational and financial readiness of the Shannon and Cork airport authorities before the assets of the airports are vested in those authorities. The formulation over the next few months of comprehensive business plans by the new boards will be a key aspect of achieving operational and financial readiness.

In furtherance of Dublin Airport Authority's new role, the position of its principal subsidiaries, including the Great Southern Hotels Group, must be considered by the authority itself in the first instance and then by me. I expect, therefore, that the business plan of the Dublin Airport Authority will indicate the board's proposals for the future of the hotels group.

I am confident that the new boards of the three airport authorities will successfully meet the challenges ahead. Through more focused commercial operation, all three airports can play a greater role in stimulating and supporting regional and national economic activity to the benefit of their customers, both airlines and passengers, and of Irish tourism, trade and industry. In this regard, I again pay tribute to the board of the new Shannon Airport Authority and the staff at the airport for their recent success in securing Ryanair's 12th European base at Shannon Airport. This is a major economic boost for the region and a vote of confidence for the future.

As regards Cork Airport, work is proceeding on the major new terminal development and associated infrastructure which will position the airport to cater for continued growth in air services and passengers. I am informed by the airport authorities that the contract price for this major development amounts to approximately €153 million with provision for variations. The Dublin Airport Authority, the Cork Airport Authority, the project managers and the contractor have a framework in place for monitoring the project and the Dublin and Cork airport authorities are reviewing the estimated costs to completion.

Finally, in all these matters the boards and management of the three State airports will continue to engage constructively with the staff of the airports and their trade unions.

Road Safety.

John Gormley

Ceist:

67 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Transport if he has plans to legislate for the mandatory use of daytime running lights outside built-up areas in view of the experience in other countries in which this measure has yielded a significant reduction in certain types of accident. [32399/04]

The European Commission is currently considering how best to implement daytime running lights, DRL, following the comprehensive study of the matter carried out on its behalf by the Dutch SWOV and TNO and the Norwegian institute for traffic studies. I will await the outcome of the Commission's consideration of the matter before making any decision regarding DRL in Ireland.

Driving Tests.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

68 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if he intends to give additional funding to that granted in the 2005 Estimates for driver testing, in view of the anticipated establishment of the Driver Testing and Standards Authority in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32030/04]

The Driver Testing and Standards Authority Bill 2004, which provides for the establishment of the Driver Testing and Standards Authority, has commenced Second Stage in the Dáil. The process of appointing a chief executive officer has commenced and I anticipate that an appointment will be made early in 2005. The establishment of the authority will be based, in the first instance, on the current staffing structure having regard to Government policy on staff numbers. Additional costs arising from the appointment of the CEO have been provided for.

My officials will consult in due course with the Department of Finance about the appropriate annual budget for the authority to enable it to meet its objectives when it is established on a statutory basis.

Road Safety.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

69 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Transport if he has considered issuing national guidelines (details supplied) to ensure that major national routes do not remain closed for up to ten hours as was the case following a recent accident; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32043/04]

The management of traffic following accidents on national roads is a matter for the Garda and the relevant local authority. I have no plans to issue guidelines for the management of traffic following accidents on national roads.

Air Services.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

70 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport his plans to encourage or promote air links between Ireland and Asia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32041/04]

My Department has negotiated and signed a number of air transport agreements with countries in Asia and the Middle East. In the coming year my officials will hold negotiations with officials from Bahrain and are confident that these will lead to the signing of an agreement. These agreements provide the regulatory framework within which air services can be provided.

While the decision as to whether to operate on a particular route is a commercial one for the airlines concerned, my Department takes every opportunity in its contacts with airlines to encourage the commencement of new international services.

Driving Tests.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

71 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport the reason driving testers no longer have to examine tax discs on car windscreens to see if they are valid; his views on whether such a measure allows learner drivers to escape paying relevant motor tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32325/04]

Under the Road Traffic Acts the role of a driver tester is to assess the driving competency of candidates presenting for a driving test. A driver tester has no enforcement function regarding the validity of motor tax discs and is not empowered to refuse to conduct a test on the basis of an invalid tax disc. This position has been confirmed by legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General. The enforcement of motor tax law is a matter for the Garda Síochána.

Light Rail Project.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

72 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Transport, with regard to the linking of the two Luas lines, when he will bring forward proposals to the Cabinet on this issue; the discussions he has had with Dublin Bus in this regard; the proposed route; the estimated cost; when work on the new line will commence if the proposals are agreed; the likely completion date for the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32306/04]

The board of the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, has considered a preliminary analysis of the feasibility and cost of linking the red and green Luas lines in the city centre. A more detailed proposal will now be prepared for consideration by the board. I look forward to the outcome of the board's deliberations on the matter. As the RPA has not yet identified a preferred route option, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further as regards any particular aspect of the proposal.

Road Network.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

73 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Transport the role he has in the allocation of funding for road projects; if he issues policy directions to the NRA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32390/04]

While I, as Minister, have responsibility for overall policy and funding for the national roads programme, the allocation of funding for individual projects is a matter for the NRA in accordance with its responsibility, under section 17 of the Roads Act 1993, for the construction and maintenance of national roads and within the strategic framework established by the Government in the national development plan for the upgrade of the national road network. I have not issued directions or guidelines under section 41 of the Roads Act 1993 to the NRA.

Ministerial Appointments.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

74 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the names and functions of new special advisers appointed by him to work with him since he took up his role in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32305/04]

Following my appointment to the Department of Transport, I have appointed Colin Hunt as a special adviser in accordance with section 11 of the Public Service Management Act 1997. Mr. Hunt's role includes the provision of advice to me and monitoring, facilitating and securing the achievement of Government objectives that relate to my Department.

Road Safety.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

75 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport his views on new statistics showing that while young men are among the most likely to pass the driving test, those aged between 17 and 25 years are the most likely to be involved in fatal car crashes; his views on whether the driving test compares favourably with European standards; the efforts he is making to promote safer driving among young males; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32350/04]

Statistics relating to road accidents, based on information provided by the Garda Síochána, are published by the National Roads Authority in its 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 statistics give details of road casualties classified by age and sex, where this information is specified. In 2002, the number of males between 18 and 24 years of age killed in road collisions was 61 compared to 17 females from the same age group. The highest proportion of road deaths exists among 25 to 34 year old males. In 2002, 67 males within this age group were killed on the roads compared to 12 females.

The primary target of the new Government strategy on road safety is to realise a 25% reduction in road collision fatalities by the end of 2006 over the average annual number of fatalities in the 1998 to 2003 period. Achievement of the target will result in no more than 300 deaths per annum by the end of the period of the strategy. The strategy proposes a range of measures in the enforcement, engineering, education and legislation areas to target further reductions in deaths and injuries. An integrated strategic approach will ensure that the road safety agencies work together to achieve the targets set out in the new strategy.

The driving test in Ireland is carried out in accordance with the standard laid down by EU directives on driving licences which applies to all EU countries. The work of driver testers is monitored to ensure the consistent application of this standard.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

76 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport if he intends requesting the NRA to introduce new safety measures for the M50, specifically, and the State’s other motorways in general, in view of the number of serious road accidents that have taken place in recent weeks; if these new measures will include the installation of median barriers on the M50; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32327/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 47 and 48.

The provision of median barriers on national roads is a matter for the National Roads Authority, NRA, having regard to best practice in road safety and EU standard for safety barriers of this type. The position generally in regard to the provision of median barriers on national roads is that median barriers are currently being provided on all new motorways and dual carriageways, irrespective of the median width, and median barriers are being retrofitted on all existing inter-urban motorways and dual carriageways, irrespective of median width, and this work is expected to be completed by mid-2005, with the exception of the M50.

In the case of the M50, it had been intended by the NRA that median barriers would be provided in the context of the upgrade project which is due to get underway, subject to An Bord Pleanála approval, on a phased basis in late 2005 for phase 1 and in 2006 for phase 2. However, in light of the recent crossover accident on the M50, in which a young woman tragically lost her life, the NRA is now considering the options for providing median barriers in advance of the M50 upgrade. The NRA has been asked to inform my Department of the outcome of its considerations on this matter as soon as possible.

Driving Tests.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

77 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport the current waiting time for driver tests at each centre in the State; the steps being taken to reduce the long waiting times; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32366/04]

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

202 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the long delay in receiving appointments for a driving test, which often exceed the duration of a provisional driving licence; and the plans he has to overcome this problem. [32136/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 77 and 202 together.

The average waiting time for a driving test for each driving test centre at 29 November 2004 will be tabulated and forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible. My Department is in communication with the Department of Finance regarding measures to reduce the backlog of driving test applicants, including the recruitment of additional driver testers.

Question No. 78 answered with QuestionNo. 66.

Regional Airports.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

79 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Transport his position regarding the recent expansion proposals submitted by management at Knock Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32036/04]

The programme for Government provides for the continued support of the six regional airports and my Department provides a range of financial mechanisms in support of this objective. Knock Airport benefits considerably through a range of direct and indirect support mechanisms, namely, capital grant assistance towards essential infrastructural improvements under the BMW regional operational programme of the national development plan, NDP; the allocation of assistance towards marketing, safety and security related expenditure incurred by the airport and scheduled flights supported by the PSO programme.

Under the NDP capital measure, my Department has provided €2.337 million in grant aid towards essential infrastructural improvements at the airport since December 2001. The primary purpose of the NDP measure is to provide grant assistance to facilitate the continued safe and viable operations at the airport. As to the recent expansion plans submitted by the airport company, I will evaluate those in light of the existing approach to grant assistance to regional airports. I am currently considering a further round of projects under the measure and I hope to be in a position to announce allocations shortly.

In recognition of the role that the airport can play in stimulating more balanced economic development for the north west, my Department will continue to assist Knock Airport as it develops into the future. However, any capital expenditure allocation of Exchequer funding to Knock and the other regional airports will be in line with the existing policy of prioritising those projects that are required for safety and security reasons.

Question No. 80 answered with QuestionNo. 54.

Public Private Partnerships.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

81 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Transport his proposals to deal with the problem identified by the Construction Industry Federation which the federation views as a barrier to its effective participation in public private partnerships; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32032/04]

I am aware of the review carried out by Mr. Cormac O'Rourke, on behalf of the Construction Industry Federation, regarding public private partnerships, PPPs, in Ireland. Consideration of the findings and recommendations of the review is a matter for the Minister for Finance in the context of overall PPP policy and practice.

Road Safety.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

82 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if he has plans to introduce legislation requiring that large trucks be fitted with extra mirrors to allow drivers see the area immediately in front and below them; his views on whether such a requirement would give drivers a better view of pedestrians and cyclists approaching from the sides of these vehicles and thus reduce accidents and fatalities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32303/04]

Developments at EU level will result in new heavy goods vehicles, HGVs, having to comply with higher standards regarding the fields of vision of drivers. In November 2003, the EU adopted Directive 2003/97/EC, which provides for an extension of the field of vision so as to address the issue of blind spots. The directive harmonises the rules relating to the type-approval of devices for indirect vision, including mirrors and camera monitors, on motor vehicles and of vehicles equipped with these devices. These enhanced requirements should lead to a reduction in fatalities and serious injuries involving pedestrians and cyclists due to the driver's inadequate field of vision.

The directive requires all new HGVs entering into service from 26 January 2007 to meet the revised standards for field of vision set in the directive. Subject to practical engineering constraints and the agreement of the European Commission, it is my intention to also require existing vehicles of the types covered by the directive to be retrofitted with the necessary mirrors and/or cameras and monitors.

Question No. 83 answered with QuestionNo. 63.

Traffic Management.

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

84 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport the consideration he has given to the establishment of a traffic warden or police service in Dublin city for the purpose of ensuring the free flow of traffic; his views on whether this would be most appropriately provided by non-Garda personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32370/04]

The primary enforcement role under road traffic legislation is vested in the Garda Síochána. In addition to the gardaí, traffic wardens appointed under the Local Authorities (Traffic Wardens) Act 1975 can exercise powers for the enforcement of parking offences and the detection of out of date motor tax discs on parked vehicles. Local authorities may also engage authorised persons, such as the providers of vehicle clamping and vehicle tow away services, to enforce parking regulations.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Minister for Transport recently announced the establishment of a new Garda traffic corps, with the deployment of 1,200 gardaí to traffic duties over the next three years. The corps will have responsibility for both enforcement and dealing with traffic congestion. Establishment of the traffic corps will be facilitated by the recent Government decision to authorise the recruitment of 2,000 extra gardaí over the next three years.

Over the last two years we have looked at policing in other countries to determine how best to progress the proposal to create a traffic corps. That process has involved the consideration of issues relating to the role and make up of a proposed corps, as well as an examination of the situation in other states. The question of the involvement of civilians was considered. In a small number of countries, civilians or "non-executives" get special training to assist in enforcement. However, their powers are limited and only police officers have the power to stop an alleged offender. It is, therefore, considered that the best option is to establish a Garda traffic corps with full Garda powers.

Furthermore, Operation Freeflow, which runs until Friday, 7 January 2005, was officially launched last week. Operation Freeflow involves the Garda Síochána and the Dublin Transportation Office in close co-operation with local authorities and transportation service providers. Under Operation Freeflow, an additional 150 gardaí will be redeployed to the Dublin region to boost traffic resources. More than 100 traffic black spots have been identified throughout the city and will be targeted for attention.

Question No. 85 answered with QuestionNo. 63.

Rail Network.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

86 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Transport the position with regard to proposals for a rail link to Dublin Airport; if both a metro and a DART spur off the Howth line are under consideration; when a decision is likely to be made on an airport rail link; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32329/04]

The programme for Government contains a number of commitments for the further development of the rail network and includes a specific commitment to develop a metro for Dublin, with a link to Dublin Airport.

Arising from the programme, the Railway Procurement Agency has submitted to my Department a detailed business case for a metro from the city centre to Dublin Airport while Iarnród Éireann submitted to my Department in July last proposals for an integrated rail network in the greater Dublin area. These proposals include the electrification of the Kildare and Maynooth lines, an interconnector tunnel linking Heuston Station to the docklands to enable greater integration of rail services and a DART spur off the northern DART line to the airport.

I expect the Government to consider these various proposals shortly, in the context of the developing needs of public transport in the greater Dublin area, the framework outlined in the Dublin Transportation Office, Platform for Change, and the extended ten year multi-annual capital investment envelope for transport announced by the Minister for Finance in his Budget Statement.

Road Safety.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

87 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport when he expects to have introduced the long-promised road safety measures. [32127/04]

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

91 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport the number of persons killed and injured in road traffic accidents to date in 2004; the way in which this compares with 2003; the steps he intends to take to cut road fatalities and injuries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32365/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 87 and 91 together.

Statistics relating to road accidents, based on information provided by the Garda Síochána, are published by the National Roads Authority in its annual road accident facts reports. The most recent report is in respect of 2002 and that report, along with reports relating to previous years, is available in the Oireachtas Library.

Provisional figures for the number of road deaths to the end of November 2004 show that there were 344 fatalities compared with 315 — an increase of 29 — for the same period last year. Last year saw the lowest number of road deaths in 40 years with 336 deaths. Unfortunately, we have now surpassed the number of road users killed in 2003 and there are still another four weeks before year end.

The number of injuries resulting from road traffic collisions in 2003 have not yet been fully analysed and authenticated and will be available when the road accident facts 2003 is published. Over the lifetime of the first road safety strategy 1998 — 2002, the number of injuries decreased considerably with the 20% reduction target significantly surpassed by the end of 2002. It is worth noting that, despite the increase in road deaths this year compared to last year, the number of road deaths in the first 11 months of this year is the second lowest figure since 1998, which was the first full year of the first road safety strategy.

The Government strongly pursued the implementation of its first strategy for road safety 1998 — 2002. The strategy prioritised a systematic and co-ordinated set of measures for preventing and reducing road accidents. The road safety strategy also provided for the implementation of a penalty points system in support of road safety enforcement. Penalty points have been introduced for speeding offences since the end of October 2002 and have since been introduced for not wearing a seat, driving without insurance and careless driving.

By the end of the period of the first strategy almost all of the measures set out were either fully or partially implemented. During the intervening period between the completion of the first strategy and the introduction of the new strategy, my Department and all the agencies concerned with the implementation of road safety measures ensured that the successful measures brought forward under the road to safety continued to be implemented.

The primary target of the new Government strategy on road safety is to realise a 25% reduction in road collision fatalities by the end of 2006 over the average annual number of fatalities in the 1998 to 2003 period. Achievement of the target will result in no more than 300 deaths per annum by the end of the period of the strategy and will assist in the achievement of the longer term EU target of a 50% reduction in road deaths across the EU by 2010.

To support the development of the new strategy, a major independent review of the previous strategy was carried out by an international expert on road safety. His report, which has been used to inform the development of the new road safety strategy, confirms that basing the primary targets on the achievement of progress in the areas of speeding, drink-driving and seat belt wearing, was the correct approach. For that reason, these remain the key areas of the new strategy. It proposes a range of measures in the enforcement, engineering, education and legislation areas to target further reductions in deaths and injuries. An integrated strategic approach will ensure that the road safety agencies work together to achieve the targets set out in the new strategy.

In addition, initiatives will be pursued that will progress measures identified in the previous strategy in respect of which full implementation was not realised. This is particularly the case in respect of the achievement of the roll out of the penalty points system and the supporting fixed charge system. That will be facilitated by the early passage of the Road Traffic Bill 2004, which is due to be debated further in the House today.

Traffic Management.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

88 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport the proposals he has to tackle the gridlocks on roads here, particularly coming up to the Christmas season. [32128/04]

The major investment being undertaken in the upgrade of the national road network is having a major beneficial impact on traffic flows throughout the country. A key objective of the upgrade programme is the elimination of bottlenecks through the provision of new routes bypassing towns and villages. Major projects completed in recent years, and which have contributed significantly to better traffic flow, include the upgrade of the M1, Kildare, Monasterevin, Cashel, Watergrasshill and Limerick Southern Ring Road bypasses on the N7/N8, Youghal bypass on the N25, Ballincollig bypass on the N22 and so forth.

In the greater Dublin area, a comprehensive plan has been put in place to manage and control the increase in traffic during the Christmas period. Operation Freeflow, which is now in its ninth year, was officially launched on Monday, 29 November 2004. The plan, which runs until Friday, 7 January 2005, was put together under the auspices of the Garda Síochána and the Dublin Transportation Office, in close co-operation with the local authorities and transportation service providers. This year's Operation Freeflow has been improved and extended to better manage the 10% increase in traffic volume that Dublin experiences throughout Christmas and the early part of the new year. It will ensure that traffic is managed in the most practical and efficient way possible during what is the busiest time of the year for businesses and shoppers alike.

State Airports.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

89 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Transport the reason the Government exempted US military aircraft from fees which apply to commercial flights for the use of Shannon Airport over the past two years; the amount the Government will pay to the Irish Aviation Authority in reimbursements following this exemption; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32337/04]

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

92 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport if he has considered the implications for Irish foreign policy of allowing and subsidising the traffic of combatants through Shannon Airport for passage to, as described by the United Nations General Secretary, Mr. Kofi Annan, an illegal war; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30074/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 92 together.

The use of Shannon Airport by US military forces is a longstanding practice which has been in place for several decades, a period which has covered many crises and military confrontations, several of which involved the US taking military action without specific UN endorsement, for example, Kosovo. We have never withdrawn or suspended those facilities. Foreign military aircraft using the State airports pay the appropriate airport charge to each airport authority.

The Irish Aviation Authority, IAA, provides air traffic control and communications services to aircraft which pass through Irish controlled airspace, en route, and aircraft landing and taking off from Irish Airports, terminal. Only a small proportion of military flights through Irish administered airspace actually pass through Irish sovereign airspace. Irish administered airspace covers 135,000 square miles, of which 32,000 square miles is sovereign airspace.

Under a Eurocontrol — European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation — multilateral agreement to which Ireland is a party, various categories of flights, that is, flights under visual flight rules, flights performed by small aircraft, flights performed for the transport of heads of state and search and rescue flights, are exempt from paying en route charges. In the case of other categories, that is, military flights, training flights, flights performed to test air navigation equipment and circular flights, states have the option to exempt such flights from payment of the en route charge. In common with most Eurocontrol member states, Ireland exempts all such flights, including military flights of member states of Eurocontrol, United States and Canada, from payment of the en route charge and this arrangement has applied since Ireland joined the Eurocontrol en route charging scheme in the early 1970s. Due to this arrangement, the IAA costs relating to military flights are met from my Department’s Vote.

From information received from Eurocontrol, it is understood that Austria, Finland, Switzerland and Moldova do not at present grant exempted status to US military flights. However, my Department understands that invoices issued by the above states to the US authorities in respect of military flights have not been paid.

Ireland also exempts military aircraft flights from payment of the communications charge and the IAA costs relating to those charges are also met from my Department's Vote. Efforts to collect this charge in the early 1990s were unsuccessful and, following advice from the Attorney General, debts then outstanding were written off with the agreement of the Department of Finance and a decision taken to cease charging the communications fee to military aircraft.

A total of €6.1 million, not including VAT, has been paid to the IAA between January 2003 and September 2004 for both en route and communications charges in respect of all exempted traffic. US military flights account for approximately 90% of the total, amounting to €5.5 million.

With regard to the terminal charge for air traffic control services for military aircraft, this is a matter for the Irish Aviation Authority. The United States and Canadian military authorities have refused to pay the authority and other air navigation service providers of Eurocontrol member states as they contend that the 1944 Chicago Convention is applicable only to civil aircraft and that this automatically implies an exemption for state and military aircraft from air navigation fees.

Road Safety.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

90 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Transport if he has plans to follow the Australian example and publish details of the makes and models of cars involved in serious and fatal accidents in order that consumers can make informed choices when buying a new car. [32392/04]

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

119 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Transport if he has any classification of national roads based on a comparative level of danger; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32407/04]

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

195 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the number of fatalities and serious injuries which have resulted from road traffic accidents on motorways and dual carriageways, respectively, caused by vehicles crossing over the centre median and crashing into oncoming traffic. [32050/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 90, 119 and 195 together.

Statistics relating to road accidents, based on information provided by the Garda Síochána, are published by the National Roads Authority in its annual road accident facts reports. The most recent report is in respect of 2002 and that report, along with reports relating to previous years, is available in the Oireachtas Library. Data relating to the makes and models of cars involved in serious and fatal accidents are not included in the reports.

Analysis of factors contributing to accidents in 2002 indicates that behaviour of drivers, 86%, and pedestrians, 9.7%, are the key contributory factors, whereas vehicle defects were identified as contributory factors in only 0.3% of fatal and serious injuries accidents. The contribution of vehicle defects to road accidents has significantly reduced on foot of design improvements and the introduction of the national car test in 2000. The road accident reports include data relating to the number of fatalities and serious injuries on each of the national routes and motorways. The 2002 report shows that 72% of fatal accidents occurred on rural roads and 28% occurred on urban roads. A total of 43% of all fatal accidents in 2002 occurred on national roads.

Analysis of road accident data clearly establishes that the risk of being involved in a road accident is much lower on motorways than on either dual carriageways or single carriageways. The risk of being involved in a fatal accident on a single carriageway road is approximately seven times greater than on a motorway. The NRA has confirmed that median barriers are provided on all new motorway and dual carriageway roads. In addition, median barriers are being retrofitted on all existing motorway and dual carriageway roads and this work is expected to be completed by mid-2005.

In the case of the M50, it had been intended by the NRA that median barriers would be provided in the context of the upgrade project which is due to get underway, subject to An Bord Pleanála approval, on a phased basis in late 2005 for phase 1 and in 2006 for phase 2. However, in light of the recent crossover accident on the M50, in which a young woman tragically lost her life, the NRA is now considering the options for providing median barriers in advance of the M50 upgrade. The NRA has been asked to inform my Department of the outcome of its considerations on this matter as soon as possible.

Question No. 91 answered with QuestionNo. 87.
Question No. 92 answered with QuestionNo. 89.
Question No. 93 answered with QuestionNo. 66.

Driving Licences.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

94 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport the number of provisional driving licence holders driving on roads here at the latest date for which figures are available; the efforts he is making to reduce the number of provisional driving licence holders who are driving on the roads; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32352/04]

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, which holds and administers the national driver file on which driving licence records are held, has advised that there were 380,991 provisional licences current at 30 September 2004.

The Government's strategy for road safety 2004 to 2006 identified speed, seat belt wearing, driving while intoxicated, engineering measures and vulnerable road users as being the key priority areas to be addressed over the coming years in terms of yielding road safety benefits. As regards legal changes to enhance road safety, the strategy states that driver licensing regulations will be amended to discourage long-term reliance on provisional licences. I will consider what amendments should be made in this regard.

Departmental Reports.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

95 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Transport the involvement he has taken in the preparation of the report of the national task force on obesity, due to be published in January 2005; and his views on the notion that policy should be obesity proofed to ensure that decisions taken by separate Departments do not contribute to weight problems in society. [32401/04]

The Department of Health and Children has policy responsibility for this matter. It consulted with my Department in the normal manner earlier this year and requested a submission. In response to its request, my Department provided it with material on a range of relevant transport issues.

Road Safety.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

96 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to recent statistics from the National Roads Authority that more than half of all children being driven to school are not wearing seat belts; if he has plans to address this situation, which contributes to fatalities in road accidents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32324/04]

The 2003 survey was the first time that the wearing of seat belts by children was specifically measured in the NRA surveys on seat belt wearing. The survey found that front seat belt wearing rates averaged 68% for primary school children and 62% for those attending secondary school. The figures for rear seat belt wearing by primary and secondary school children were 48% and 44% respectively. This report provides a useful baseline to measure the effectiveness of a number of initiatives designed to increase seat belt wearing.

Under road traffic law, the driver of a vehicle is obliged to ensure that every passenger under 17 years of age is restrained by a seat belt or child restraint, as appropriate. A driver failing to comply with this requirement faces a fine up to €800 and up to four penalty points. The road safety strategy 2004 to 2005 provides that the gardaí will address the question of wearing of seat belts when they have an interaction with a driver.

On the educational side, the National Safety Council recently published a guide to child safety in cars, which provides vital information to parents and all those charged with the responsibility of transporting children safely in motor vehicles.

Rail Network.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

97 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport the details of the proposed new rail service for Dublin’s docklands; the estimated total cost of the line and station; the contribution which will be made by the private sector; when construction of a new rail service will commence; the completion date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32344/04]

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

101 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Transport if he is considering extending the DART line to Maynooth and Dunboyne; when a decision will be made on such proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32331/04]

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

104 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to recent claims from Iarnród Éireann that its network will become clogged within eight years unless a tunnel linking Connolly and Heuston Stations is built; if he has completed his consideration of this proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32328/04]

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

113 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Transport if further funding for station construction and track upgrades will be provided within the remaining three years of the five years’ capital funding envelope granted to Iarnród Éireann in view of the fact that €5 million has been provided in the 2005 Estimates for the design work on a new train station to be located in the Dublin docklands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32031/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

215 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the expansion of the commuter rail network in County Kildare with particular reference to increased demand due to population expansion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32538/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

220 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport his priorities for the expansion of the commuter rail network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32544/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97, 101, 104, 113, 215 and 220 together.

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 50 which I answered earlier. To provide an integrated rail network in the greater Dublin area, Iarnród Éireann submitted proposals to my Department in July 2004 for a €3.5 billion investment for the following: to four-track the Kildare line; electrification of the Kildare and Maynooth lines; an interconnector tunnel linking Heuston to the docklands; a spur off the Maynooth line to Dunboyne; expanding the capacity of the DART. The Iarnród Éireann proposals are being assessed by my Department at present, although in the case of the DART the capacity of the system is being increased.

In addition, the Railway Procurement Agency has submitted to my Department a detailed business case for a metro from the city centre to Dublin Airport and is advancing plans for extension of the Luas to the docklands and Cherrywood. The Department is awaiting business plans from the RPA to assist in its evaluation of both Luas extensions. The RPA has also considered a preliminary analysis of the feasibility and cost of linking both Luas lines in the city centre and a more detailed proposal is now being prepared for consideration by the RPA board before its submission to my Department.

Overall, the various proposals are being considered in the context of the developing needs of public transport in the greater Dublin area, the framework outlined on the Dublin Transportation Office, Platform for Change, the recently adopted regional planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area and the extended ten year multi-annual capital investment envelope for transport announced by the Minister for Finance in his Budget Statement.

Road Safety.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

98 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport the steps he intends to take to encourage compliance with speed limits by drivers of articulated vehicles, in view of a recent report by the NRA, Free Speeds Urban and Rural and Seat Belt Wearing Rates 2003, which highlighted this as a significant problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32034/04]

The recently published road safety strategy 2004 — 2006 highlights excessive speed as one of the main contributory factors in road collisions. The strategy sets specific targets for reductions in the incidence of speeding and incorporates commitments by the Garda for the achievement of specific levels of enforcement for speeding.

The National Roads Authority, NRA, has published the results of national speed surveys which have been carried out in 1997, 1999, 2002 and 2003. The most recent results relate to the 2003 survey. The 2003 report, which presents data relating to heavy goods vehicles generally, shows that while the incidence of articulated vehicles exceeding speed limits has increased in respect of certain road types and locations, it has reduced in respect of others. A speed limit of 50 miles per hour, mph, applies in respect of all goods vehicles having a design gross weight exceeding 3,500 kilograms, subject to the requirement that such vehicles must comply with lower road speed limits, that is, 30 mph or 40 mph, where these limits apply. Thus, the speed limit of 50 mph represents the maximum speed at which the vehicles in question may be driven. The offence of breaching a speed limit attracts four penalty points on conviction or two penalty points where a fixed charge is paid.

Other regulatory measures that apply or are due to be introduced shortly focus on the speed of goods vehicles. At present, in accordance with the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) (Amendment) Regulations 1993, which gives effect to Directive 92/6/EEC relating to speed limiters in vehicles, goods vehicles having a design gross vehicle weight over 12,000 kilograms are required to be fitted with speed limiters so that their speed cannot exceed 90 kilometres per hour. This is equivalent to 55.935 miles per hour.

In accordance with Directive 2002/85/EC, the requirement to have speed limiters fitted is being extended to further categories of vehicles. All goods vehicles having a design gross vehicle weight over 3,500 kilograms, which are registered on or after 1 January 2005, will require speed limiters so that their speed cannot exceed 90 kilometres per hour. I expect to be in a position to give effect to the directive's requirements shortly through the making of regulations under the Road Traffic Act 1961. The annual roadworthiness test for vehicles requiring speed limiters includes a check to establish whether such a device is fitted and functioning correctly.

The 1993 regulations provide that it is an offence to use a vehicle not equipped with speed limitation device, an offence to use a vehicle equipped with speed limitation device not complying with specified requirements and that it is an offence to use a vehicle equipped with speed limitation device not sealed in compliance with specified regulations. The offences relating to speed limitation devices will be the subject of fixed charges and penalty points.

The enforcement of road traffic legislation, including speed limits and regulations relating to the fitment and operation of speed limiters, is a matter for the Garda Síochána. The Deputy will be aware that my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, and I recently announced the establishment of a dedicated traffic corps which will involve significantly increasing the numbers of gardaí allocated to traffic duties, from approximately 530 now to 1,200 by 2008.

Road Traffic Offences.

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

99 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport the proposed schedule for the addition of the remaining traffic offences to the penalty points system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32369/04]

The penalty points system applies in respect of the offences of breaching a speed limit, motor insurance, the failure of a driver to wear a seat belt or to ensure that a passenger under 17 years of age are appropriately restrained in a mechanically propelled vehicle, and careless driving. The full application of the penalty points system will be achieved when the relevant IT systems being developed by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda are completed.

Road Network.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

100 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport if he has plans to alter the procedures for planning appeals for the construction of major roads projects; his views on the opinion of the National Roads Authority that the authority should have more discretion on these appeals; if he has plans to reduce the public’s right to appeal against planning decisions facilitating the construction of major roads; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27330/04]

The statutory procedures applying to the approval of motorway orders and environmental impact assessments required for major national road improvement projects are set out in the Roads Act 1993. I have no plans to alter these procedures or to alter the public's rights to object to motorway schemes or compulsory purchase orders or to make submissions on environmental impact statements to An Bord Pleanála.

Question No. 101 answered with QuestionNo. 97.

Regional Infrastructure.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

102 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if, in view of the recent announcement of the opening of a new container traffic route from Rotherham to Foynes port, he will increase funding to the transport networks into and out of the port; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32029/04]

The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects, including the allocation of funding, is a matter for the National Roads Authority, NRA, and the local authorities concerned — in this case Limerick County Council. The local authorities, in their role as statutory road authorities, undertake the detailed planning of individual road projects, taking account of the overall policy on the national roads programme, local development plans and environmental impacts. The recent significant investment in pavement improvement on the N69 route will continue in future years and the Limerick southern ring road phase 2 incorporates an interchange for the N69 which will benefit the Port of Foynes.

The provision of a rail service to or from Foynes is a matter for Iarnród Éireann to consider. At present, the rail line between Limerick and Foynes is being maintained on a care and maintenance basis and no services have run on it for some time due to the absence of traffic. Iarnród Éireann has indicated that this new shipping service between Foynes and Rotterdam may result in the loss of some rail traffic that would be transported via another Irish port and have not identified, so far, any additional traffic offering for transport by rail.

Road Network.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

103 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport the anticipated date for the completion and the commissioning of the Dublin Port tunnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32300/04]

The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects, including the Dublin Port tunnel, is a matter for the National Roads Authority, NRA, and the local authorities concerned — in this case, Dublin City Council. However, I understand from the NRA and Dublin City Council that construction of the port tunnel is expected to be completed in December 2005 and the tunnel will be open to traffic six to eight weeks later, following commissioning of the tunnel's operations and safety features.

Question No. 104 answered with QuestionNo. 97.

Taxi Regulations.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

105 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the delay in establishing the office of the taxi regulator; if his attention has been drawn to public concern regarding safety in taxis in the absence of any quality control; when this office will be fully staffed and fully operational; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32368/04]

Following a competition for the post of Commissioner for Taxi Regulation in 2003, the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission was unable to recommend a candidate for appointment. A further recruitment competition on the basis of an enhanced salary for the position was held in 2004 and Mr. Ger Deering was recommended for appointment.

The Commission for Taxi Regulation was established as an independent public body under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003, with effect from 1 September 2004, and Mr. Deering took up his position as Commissioner for Taxi Regulation with effect from that date. In the immediate term, the commission has set about finding suitable office accommodation in Dublin, recruiting the requisite staff for the commission and putting in place an administrative system. The commission operates from temporary offices provided by my Department but it has identified suitable accommodation for its offices and the legal issues relating to the lease of this property are expected to be completed shortly.

The Commissioner for Taxi Regulation is supported by one staff member and it is hoped that a recruitment process for further support staff will be commenced in the near future. The commission is also at an advanced stage in the development of an information and communications strategy, procurement of a range of office technology, equipment and systems and the development of administrative procedures.

The principal function of the commission is the development and maintenance of a new regulatory framework for the control and operation of small public service vehicles and their drivers. The commission has already commenced a broad consultative process and, to inform its decisions and form a baseline for the development of key performance indicators for its work, the commission is initiating a review to assess the extent and quality of services currently provided by small public service vehicles and examine existing quality and safety regulations relating to small public service vehicles and their drivers. This review will include an examination of the current regulatory framework that applies to the licensing and operation of small public service vehicles.

Rail Services.

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

106 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport if he will consider introducing support mechanisms for rail freight transport such as exists in other European countries, for example, the direct subvention of rail freight or the provision of tax exemptions for every kilometre of road freight transport that is diverted to rail. [32395/04]

Iarnród Éireann has restructured its rail freight operations in recent times to refocus on the more profitable elements of rail freight and seek out new business in those areas where the rail mode is best suited to the traffic. I understand from the company that it has had some success in this regard and that its efforts are continuing. To date it has reduced the deficit on freight operations and has achieved this significant improvement by rationalising its network and handling costs as well as targeting the trainload business, such as pulpwood and point to point container traffic.

Iarnród Éireann receives significant funding annually from the Exchequer by way of capital grants and subvention towards operating expenditure. Such funding has been increasing annually in recent years and the company has succeeded in improving its overall financial performance.

The Irish Exporters Association and a number of interests involved in the freight sector have recently made representations to me suggesting the provision of subsidies to private sector business for using rail. While I have no additional funds at my disposal for the provision of subsidy for rail freight, I am considering these representations in the light of funding generally available for rail transport, the potential for the development of rail freight and taking into account EU requirements in the matter.

Rural Transport Initiative.

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

107 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport the budget for the rural transport initiative in 2004; and the projected budget for 2005. [32394/04]

In keeping with the funding allocation for previous years, €3 million was provided for the rural transport initiative, RTI, in 2004. Following a full appraisal of the initiative, which was completed in July this year, I recently extended the scheme for a further two years, to end 2006. This is in line with the principal recommendation of the appraisal.

I have increased the RTI allocation for 2005 to €3.45 million. This represents an increase of 15% over the 2004 total or more than 12% when account is taken of inflation effects. This increase will result in an overall funding commitment of more than €12 million for the RTI to end 2005, which is all the more impressive when it is borne in mind that a total of €4.4 million was provided for it when the initiative was first proposed in the national development plan.

While I am happy to allocate substantially increased funding to the rural transport initiative, I am keen to ensure that we get value for these financial resources. Accordingly, my officials will work with Area Development Management Limited, which administers the scheme, on ways in which the impact of this funding might be maximised in the light of the recent independent evaluation of the programme.

Road Safety.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

108 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Transport if he proposes introducing compulsory training for persons seeking a motorbike licence. [32130/04]

The Government's strategy for road safety 2004 to 2006 identified speed, seat belt wearing, driving while intoxicated, engineering measures and vulnerable road users as being the key priority areas to be addressed over the coming years in terms of yielding road safety benefits. As regards motorcyclists, the strategy states that it is the intention to introduce compulsory initial practical training for motorcyclists before they are permitted to drive alone on a public road.

Air Services.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

109 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport if it is his intention to open talks with Canada for the purpose of making a new bilateral air travel agreement to replace the current highly unsatisfactory agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32042/04]

The existing Ireland-Canada air transport agreement is quite restrictive regarding the destinations both in Ireland and in Canada that can be served. The Canadian authorities have not been willing to revise the agreement to bring it more into line with Ireland's other agreements, unless the Shannon stop element in the agreement was removed. However, my Department has agreed extra-bilateral arrangements with the Canadian authorities on a case-by-case basis to allow airlines to operate between destinations in Canada which are not included in the existing bilateral and Ireland, on the basis that they serve Shannon at least as often as they serve Dublin.

My Department will continue to apply a pragmatic approach in the interest of facilitating air services between the two countries and will seek to parallel in the Ireland-Canada market any regulatory developments that arise in the Ireland-US market.

Traffic Management.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

110 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Transport if he will give consideration to operating a charge on one direction only at the M50 toll bridge to allow free flow into the city during the morning hours and doubling the outward charge to ensure that the same overall funding is collected as part of a pilot scheme, to assist in cutting down on time delays due to stopping to make payment each time one passes through the bridge. [32389/04]

The tolling and operation of the M50 toll bridge, including the consideration of suggestions such as that proposed by the Deputy, are matters for the National Roads Authority, NRA, and the tolling operator. Tolling outbound traffic only as suggested by the Deputy would have fundamental implications for traffic management and toll revenue and would not, I am informed, be feasible under the current toll agreement.

In the context of the proposals for the upgrade of the M50, which will have a beneficial impact on traffic flows on and across the M50, the operation and location of toll booths and measures to optimise toll plaza performance are being considered, including the use of barrier free tolling. Legislative measures to support the introduction of barrier free road tolling are also under consideration within my Department.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

111 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to recent comments from the chief executive of the National Roads Authority that the operation of the West Link toll plaza is not satisfactory and that it should be converted to a fully free-flow electronic toll collection; if he plans to introduce legislation to facilitate this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32341/04]

The operation of the West Link toll plaza is a matter for the National Roads Authority, NRA, and the tolling operator. I am aware of the comments made by the NRA at the Joint Committee on Transport about the operation of the toll facilities at the West Link toll plaza, having regard to traffic volumes on the M50.

In the context of proposals for the upgrade of the M50, which will have a beneficial impact on traffic flows on and across the M50, a number of options relating to the operation and location of the toll booths and measures to optimise toll plaza performance are being considered including, in particular, the use of barrier free tolling. Legislative measures to support the introduction of barrier free road tolling are also currently under consideration within my Department.

Question No. 112 answered with QuestionNo. 63.
Question No. 113 answered with QuestionNo. 97.

Rail Network.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

114 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport if he will consider asking the National Roads Authority to investigate the possibility of incorporating a future new rail corridor running either alongside or in the central margin of the proposed new 15 road realignment between Sligo and Bunduff bridge. [32391/04]

The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority and the local authorities concerned. The provision of rail services is a matter for Iarnród Éireann to consider. The strategic rail review, however, foresaw no requirement for railway infrastructure north of Sligo. I understand from the NRA that the proposed road upgrade project from Sligo to Donegal county boundary is at route selection stage and public consultation to present the route options was held at various locations affected by the proposed routes in October 2004.

While the scheme is at an early stage of development, it is envisaged that the project will be constructed mainly as a 2+1 roadway. This roadway type consists of two lanes in one direction of travel and one lane in the opposite direction. The two lane section, which provides a safe overtaking zone, is alternated with a one-lane section at intervals of 2 km approximately. The traffic streams are separated by a safety barrier system which prevents overtaking manoeuvres on the one lane section. Right turning movements are catered for at controlled junctions along the route. I understand, it would neither be feasible nor practicable to incorporate a rail corridor running in the central margin or on either side of the proposed scheme.

Road Safety.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

115 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport if he intends reintroducing national height limits for supertrucks (details supplied); the new height limit he intends to introduce; when he will make this announcement; the number of trucks this will take off roads; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32297/04]

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

116 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Transport his position in relation to the imposition of height restrictions on trucks (details supplied) in view of recent comments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32035/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 115 and 116 together.

In reply to Questions Nos. 126, 132, 144, 163 and 178 of 2 November 2004, I indicated that I have deferred a decision about the introduction of a vehicle height until I have had the opportunity to consider the views of all parties with interests or concerns in the matter. In this regard, I will shortly publish a consultative paper that will outline the main issues concerning the introduction of a vehicle height limit and I will be inviting substantive observations in relation to these issues. The consultation process will be completely open and inclusive and is being undertaken without any predetermined outcome. For that reason, a proposed maximum vehicle height will not be specified in the paper. It is my intention to publish the consultative paper later this month.

Question No. 117 answered with QuestionNo. 63.

Road Network.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

118 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Transport if he, his officials or member of the gardaí, have discussions with the NRA with respect to the national roads which need to be upgraded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32406/04]

The strategic framework for the development of the national roads programme is set out in the National Development Plan 2000-06. The framework reflects inter alia the national roads needs study published by the National Roads Authority in 1998.

The NRA, together with the relevant local authorities, is responsible for the design, planning and implementation of individual road improvement projects having regard to the funding available. As part of this process, the NRA and local authorities take into account the views of gardaí in relation to accident blackspots.

Question No. 119 answered with QuestionNo. 90.

Health Board Services.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

120 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that training for health board psychologists include ASD-specific training, and that in-career training be provided for serving health board psychologists; if such a recommendation has been carried out; the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32161/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

121 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that, facilitated by the newly established post-holders for ASD co-ordination and as an interim measure until such time as the independent diagnostic services recommended by the task force have been agreed and implemented, the current health board arrangements for ASD services, including diagnosis, continue to operate; that assessment reports and other relevant diagnostic and intervention information be made available as required to assist the DES inspector and the multi-disciplinary team in the identification of appropriate interventions and supports for persons diagnosed with an ASD; if such a recommendation has been carried out; the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32182/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

122 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32242/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

123 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32246/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

124 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32249/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

125 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32250/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

126 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32256/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

127 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32257/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

128 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32258/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

129 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32259/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

130 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32260/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

131 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32261/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

132 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32262/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120 to 132, inclusive, together.

In line with the recommendations of the report of the task force on autism, my Department has liaised with the Department of Education and Science in relation to the provision of the relevant health related support services. Between 1998 and 2004, €16 million was invested in the early intervention, pre-school and multi-disciplinary support services to enhance access to those services by children with autism and those with intellectual disability.

My colleague, the Minister for Finance, in his 2005 budget speech allocated a sum of €40 million for services to persons with an intellectual disability and those with autism. This new funding will provide 270 additional residential places, put in place approximately 90 extra respite places, provide around 400 new day places, improve specialist support services for people with major challenging behaviour and provide €2 million to meet costs associated with moving individuals to more appropriate placements. In addition, the Minister for Finance also announced on budget day a special disability multi-annual funding package with a total cumulative value of close to €900 million over the years 2006 to 2009. This funding is being dedicated now for the period until 2009 so as to ensure the delivery of these high priority disability services.

This package includes guaranteed additional cumulative current spending of almost €600 million. The Government has also agreed to allocate €300 million out of the revised capital envelope to these high priority disability services. The bulk of the new funding package will go to the health sector where it will be invested in services for persons with an intellectual disability and those with autism, services for persons with physical or sensory disabilities and mental health services. It will focus, in particular, on the provision of extra residential, respite and day places, extra home support and personal assistance, and extra places in community based mental health facilities.

Furthermore, a strategic review of disability services is currently being conducted by my Department. The various recommendations in the report will be considered in the course of this review.

Ambulance Service.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

133 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if he will clarify the different system in place between the Dublin fire brigade service and the other non-Dublin fire services in relation to the ambulance service and the contract with the Eastern Health Board. [32318/04]

Responsibility for the provision of ambulance services in counties Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow rests 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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

134 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be given a hospital appointment. [32057/04]

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.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

135 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position with regard to trained members of the public using an automatic external defibrillator; if they are made wards of the relevant health board area; if they are to report the incident to the emergency services before commencing use of the defibrillator; if not, if the trained person is contacted by the emergency services and asked to use it; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32058/04]

My Department is aware of the potential to reduce the number of sudden cardiac deaths in the community. The provision of community-based cardiac defibrillators including their placement, the ongoing training of relevant personnel and community volunteers and related issues are being examined by the recently established task force on sudden cardiac death. The task force is due to report by May 2005. I am advised that the pre-hospital emergency care council are providing ongoing guidance in relation to these issues. There are complex issues such as those raised by the Deputy to be teased out in relation to public access defibrillator schemes. I look forward to receiving the guidance of the task force.

Care of the Elderly.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

136 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the needs of older persons suffering with terminal dementia requiring hospice type palliative care; the cost of long-term nursing home care which can be €1,200 per week; if she will give consideration to an index-linked financial allowance to enable or assist families sourcing appropriate nursing home care or the provision of an enhanced nursing home subvention to meet the increased cost of long-term care for old persons with terminal dementia; and if she will report on the matter. [32069/04]

The Department's policy on providing adequate services for patients suffering from dementia is as set out in the report, An Action Plan for Dementia, published by the National Council on Ageing and Older People in 1999. This commitment is endorsed in the 2001 health strategy.

A number of initiatives have been taken in relation to the improvement of services to those suffering from dementia. Significant additional funding has been made available for the express purpose of providing assistance to carers, including carers of Alzheimer-dementia sufferers. Additional funding has been made available to the Alzheimer's Society of Ireland for expansion of its services, particularly day care services. A number of new community nursing units of older people, which have been constructed in recent years, provide respite and day care for people with dementia.

As the Deputy will be aware, a working group, comprising of all stakeholders, has been established by my Department to review the Health (Nursing Homes) Act, 1990 and associated regulations. This follows on from the publication of Professor Eamon O'Shea's report, Review of the Nursing Home Subvention Scheme, and the Mercer report on the future financing of long term care in Ireland, which was commissioned by the Department of Social and Family Affairs. The review will also take into account issues arising from the interpretation of certain aspects of the 1990 Act and regulations which have arisen over the years and the ombudsman's report on the operation of the scheme.

Under the terms of section 22.3 and 22.4 of the Nursing Home (Subvention) Regulations, a health board may, at its discretion, pay more than the maximum rate of subvention in particular circumstances such as, for example, where an individual's personal funds are exhausted or where an individual is unable to meet the gap between the nursing home charge and the amount which he-she can contribute. The application of these provisions is a matter for the individual health board concerned in the context of meeting increasing demands for subvention within the board's revenue allocation as notified in the Letter of Determination. This is in keeping with the provisions of the Health (Amendment) (No 3) Act 1996.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

137 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there are other schemes in place besides the indicative drug target savings schemes and the GMS; the other payments from her Department or from the health boards that have been made to general practitioners over the past three years; and if she will provide a detailed breakdown of all payments made under all these other schemes that are available for general practitioners. [32072/04]

Payments have been made to general practitioners over the past three years in respect of Immunisation schemes, the maternity and infant care scheme and the methadone treatment scheme. With regard to the immunisation schemes and the maternity and infant care scheme, my Department has requested information on payments made under these schemes from the chief executive officers of the health boards and it will be forwarded to the Deputy when it is available.

The following amounts were paid to general practitioners involved in the methadone treatment scheme for the years 2001, 2002 and 2003:

Year

€ million

2001

2.1

2002

3.397

2003

2.497

Medicinal Products.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

138 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the US Food and Drug Administration proposed medication guide regarding the use of antidepressants in children or teenagers; if she will consider proposing such guidelines here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32108/04]

As the competent authority for the regulation of medicinal products in Ireland, the Irish Medicines Board assesses the quality, safety and efficacy of medicinal products. The matter raised by the Deputy is one which falls within the IMB's remit. I understand that the IMB is aware of the ongoing discussions at the US Food and Drug Administration concerning the introduction of a proposed medication guide regarding the use of antidepressants in children and adolescents. I am advised that all authorised medicinal products in Ireland include product specific information which acts as guidance for both healthcare professionals and patients. However, in the US such product specific information is not always provided and medication guides have only been developed in the case of a limited number of products, where specific communication to health care professionals is considered necessary.

The prescribing of antidepressants for children and adolescents has been under continuous review at both national and EU level for some time, with national regulatory action taken in respect of individual products, as considered warranted by the level of evidence available, on a product specific basis. These actions were notified to healthcare professions by the relevant companies. In addition, a "frequently asked questions" document relating to paroxetine, Seroxat, was placed on the IMB's website in June 2003.

A formal EU referral procedure was initiated in respect of paroxetine-containing products earlier this year and the required scientific opinion from the committee on proprietary medicinal products has been forwarded to the European Commission. The Commission decision is currently awaited and will be legally binding on all EU member states and will include guidance on appropriate use in children and adolescents. An EU expert working group, on which the IMB and other national experts from the EU member states are actively participating, is reviewing overall medication issues relating to children and adolescents. It is expected that this review will also offer appropriate guidance which will be communicated to healthcare professionals when available.

Hospital Charges.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

139 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the arrangements that are in place within hospital administrative systems to identify the patient with private health insurance who is undergoing day case procedures; the public-private mix of day case patients in each of the past five years; the amount of money that has been paid to consultants by private health insurers on behalf of patients who have undergone day case procedures in each of the past five years; and the number of payments that have been made in this regard. [32134/04]

There is a system in place in each individual hospital to identify and charge private patients being admitted for day treatment. The table below shows the number of day cases for each of the years from 1999 to 2003 based on hospital inpatient enquiry data received to end of October 2004:

Year

Day cases Public

Day cases Private

Total Day cases

1999

Number

193,425

54,041

247,466

%

78.16

21.84

2000

Number

210,247

63,038

273,285

%

76.93

23.07

2001

Number

233,735

81,245

314,980

%

74.21

25.79

2002

Number

267,714

85,323

353,037

%

75.83

24.17

2003

Number

296,514

92,231

388,745

%

76.27

23.73

Charges for private day case patients are a matter between the consultant and the patient. The information requested in relation to payments made to consultants for private treatment is not available to my Department.

Tobacco-Related Diseases.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

140 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (details supplied) will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas for formal ratification; the reasons for the delay in ratification; her views on whether the long delay in ratifying the convention detracts from the leading international role on tobacco control played by Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32168/04]

I intend to bring a motion before the Oireachtas shortly seeking approval for the ratification by Ireland of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The convention is an initiative of the World Health Organisation in response to the global epidemic of tobacco addiction. The treaty, which was adopted unanimously by the World Health Assembly in May 2003 and signed by Ireland in September 2003, provides an agreed approach to tobacco control at a global level. This will be the first binding international treaty that addresses all aspects of tobacco control — the traditional health interventions such as advertising and sponsorship bans, passive smoking and retail licensing. It also addresses economic and trade issues including taxation policy, international trade and smuggling. Other areas include product specification and issues of compensation and liability. Ireland is a strong advocate of effective tobacco control policies and of the framework convention on tobacco control and has consistently pressed these policies nationally and internationally to protect public health and reduce deaths from tobacco related illness.

To enable the treaty to come into force ratification by forty states is necessary and this figure was achieved recently. Ireland is committed to effective tobacco control policies. Our smoke-free workplace initiative which commenced earlier this year has drawn favourable comment from public health authorities around the world as an effective public health instrument in tackling the negative health effects of tobacco smoking. A number of other jurisdictions are using the Irish experience as a basis for similar type health interventions.

Health Board Services.

James Breen

Ceist:

141 Mr. J. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Question No. 262 of 6 October 2004, when this Deputy will receive a reply from the Mid-Western Health Board; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32175/04]

The provision of health related services, including speech and language therapy, is a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards in the first instance. Accordingly, a copy of the Deputy's question has been referred to the chief executive officer of the Mid-Western Health Board with a request that he examine the case and reply directly to the Deputy as a matter of urgency.

Disabled Drivers.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

142 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in entitled to have a primary certificate; her views on whether a case such as this deserves all the support and help that a State can provide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32330/04]

The medical assessment for the purpose of the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) scheme is carried out by the senior area medical officer in the relevant health board. This function is to assist the Department of Finance which has statutory responsibility for the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) scheme. Accordingly the Deputy may wish to contact the Department of Finance in this regard.

Health Board Services.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

143 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be called for orthodontic treatment in Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32345/04]

As the Deputy is aware, responsibility for the provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons in County Clare rests with the Mid-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.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

144 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 has still not received a response to their query of 23 September 2004 from the Mater Hospital, Dublin. [32382/04]

Responsibility for the provision of health services to persons residing in counties Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow rests with the Eastern Regional Health Authority. My Department has, therefore, asked the regional chief executive of the authority to investigate the issue raised and to reply to the Deputy directly.

Health Board Staff.

John Deasy

Ceist:

145 Mr. Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason an appointment has not been made by the South Eastern Health Board to the position of senior area medical officer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32420/04]

This is a matter for the South Eastern Health Board and has therefore been forwarded to the chief executive officer for direct reply.

Health Board Allowances.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

146 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when arrears of the blind welfare allowance (details supplied) will issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32421/04]

My Department has provided additional funding to the health boards for 2004 to cover the costs associated with the payment of arrears in respect of the blind welfare allowance circular 4/79.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Tony Dempsey

Ceist:

147 Mr. T. Dempsey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a builder will be appointed for a project (details supplied). [32422/04]

It is hoped to progress this development in the context of the health capital investment framework 2004-2008 in line with overall capital and revenue resources available under the framework.

Health Board Services.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

148 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will receive a hearing aid from the Mid-Western Health Board in Ennis, County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32443/04]

Responsibility for the provision of audiology services to eligible persons in County Clare rests with the Mid-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.

Hospital Services.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

149 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she intends to take to ensure that persons suffering from heart disease in the Kerry area will receive treatment. [32449/04]

In line with priorities identified in the Southern Health Board's regional cardiovascular health strategy, five year action plan, published in June 2000, Kerry General Hospital received €503,778 over the first three years of the strategy to develop cardiology related services in the hospital. This has resulted in the appointment of or approval to recruit 12.5 staff for the hospital under the strategy.

The strengthening of the infrastructure in the hospital has enabled Kerry General Hospital to develop a cardiac rehabilitation service, a cardiac non-invasive diagnostic service, extend its telemetry service in its coronary care unit, extend its resuscitation-training programme and provide for ongoing staff training. Additional funding of €500,000 was allocated to the Southern Health Board under the cardiovascular health strategy in April this year. The funding has allowed the board to begin establishing a consultant-led cardiology service for patients in Kerry. I am advised by the Southern Health Board that interviews to fill a consultant cardiologist post by way of a sessional partnership between Bon Secours Hospital Tralee and Kerry General Hospital have taken place recently and it is expected that an appointment will be made shortly.

The investment that the government has already made in the cardiology services together with the future establishment of a consultant cardiology service will help ensure that people suffering from heart disease in Kerry will be able to avail of the highest quality treatment locally.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

150 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the time period in which the promised new accident and emergency department at Kerry General Hospital will be completed. [32450/04]

The Southern Health Board proposes to provide improved infrastructure, including renovation and extension works, to the accident and emergency service at Kerry General Hospital.

The current position is that a draft development brief has been prepared by the board. My Department has recently given approval to the board to establish a project team, which includes representatives from the board and the Department. The project team will consider and approve the brief for the works. Once the brief is formally approved, the next stage would involve the appointment of a design team to allow the detailed planning stages to be undertaken. It is not possible at present to give a timeframe for the proposed development as this will, in the first instance, depend on the outcome of the work of the project team. This work will be progressed as quickly possible.

Health Board Allowances.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

151 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when an application for the domiciliary care allowance was first received by the Western Health Board for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; the length of time this matter has been dealt with; the steps taken to progress it; the length of time it usually takes for a domiciliary care allowance to be processed; and the length of time a domiciliary care allowance appeal usually takes to be finalised. [32451/04]

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

Medical Cards.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

152 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she proposes to publish income guidelines for the general practitioner only medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32478/04]

The CEOs of the health boards are responsible for the publication of the relevant income guidelines in relation to the doctor visit card and I understand that they intend to publish the necessary guidelines as soon as possible.

Organ Retention.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

153 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will report and make a statement on the retention of vital organs of the spouse of a person (details supplied) by Beaumont Hospital in 2002 without the permission of this person and their family; if she will further report on the progress of the non-statutory Dunne inquiry; and if she has plans to introduce legislation to remedy this matter. [32479/04]

The chairman of the post mortem inquiry has indicated that she will provide a report on paediatric hospitals in December 2004. There are ongoing consultations with the inquiry in relation to the other elements of its remit, having regard to the Government decision that the Inquiry should conclude by 31 March next.

The European Commission is considering the question of a directive in respect of organ transplantation, including the issue of consent, and proposed to conduct a thorough scientific evaluation of the situation. It will present a report on its analysis to the Council of the European Union as soon as possible. It is hoped that this will provide the framework for the development of legislation in this area. In the meantime, it is intended to establish an expert group to review organ donation, procurement and utilisation policy in Ireland. The work of this group will inform Ireland's contribution to the discussion in relation to the proposed directive on organs.

In relation to the specific case mentioned by the Deputy, the position is that 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.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

154 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when an MRI scan will be completed for a person (details supplied) at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital. [32505/04]

The provision of hospital services for people living in County Limerick is a matter for the Mid-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.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

155 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if consideration will be given to recruiting further occupational therapists in view of the fact that there are only three occupational therapists working in the Mid-Western Health Board in Ennis, County Clare; if funding will be provided for private occupational therapists to deal with the current crisis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32526/04]

The provision of health related services, including occupational therapy, for people with physical and/or sensory disabilities is a matter for the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards in the first instance. Accordingly, the Deputy's question has been referred to the chief executive officer of the Mid-Western Health Board with a request that he examine the matter and reply directly to the Deputy, as a matter of urgency.

David Stanton

Ceist:

156 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 107 of 25 November 2004, if the working group on carers’ needs assessment, which was established by her Department following the publication of the action programme for the millennium in November 1999, still exists; if so, the details of the current membership of the group; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32558/04]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to his Parliamentary Question No. 107 of 25 November last regarding the matters raised in his question. The work of the working group on carers was subsumed into a number of different areas and as such is no longer in existence.

Medical Cards.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

157 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if child care costs will be dealt with as an expense in the assessment of means for the purposes of medical card application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32575/04]

Entitlement to health services in Ireland is primarily based on residency and means. Under the Health Act 1970, determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the chief executive officer of the appropriate health board or authority other than for persons aged 70 years and over, who are automatically eligible for a medical card. Medical cards are issued to persons who, in the opinion of the chief executive officer, are unable to provide general practitioner medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants without undue hardship. Income guidelines are drawn up each year by the chief executive officers of the health boards or authorities to assist in the determination of a person's eligibility for a medical card and these are revised annually in line with the consumer price index, CPI. The last such increase was notified in January 2004.

Chief executive officers of the health boards or authorities have discretion regarding the issuing of medical cards and a range of income sources are excluded by the health boards when assessing medical card eligibility. Despite someone having an income that exceeds the guidelines, a medical card may still be awarded if the chief executive officer considers that a person's medical needs or other circumstances would justify this. It is open to all persons to apply to the chief executive officer of the appropriate health board for health services if they are unable to provide these services for themselves or their dependants without hardship.

Issues such as child care costs will be taken into account in considering whether or not "undue hardship" arises in any case including all child care costs necessarily incurred in providing family support and in taking up-continuing employment, education or training. The chief executive officers of the boards or authorities are currently reviewing numerous issues in relation to the administration of the medical card scheme under the auspices of the HeBE medical card schemes modernisation group. In line with the health strategy, 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.

Tax Code.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

158 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the amount of tax taken on the purchase of a house valued at €250,000; the breakdown of the amount by type of tax levied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32054/04]

The taxes directly relevant to the purchaser of such a house are stamp duty and VAT. The circumstances under which a purchaser may or may not be liable for those taxes would depend on whether they are a first-time buyer, an owner occupier other than a first time buyer or an investor. The seller of the house may be liable to income tax, corporation tax or capital gains tax, depending on whether it is a new or second-hand house. The details are set out as follows.

The stamp duty chargeable on a house costing €250,000 depends on three main factors: whether the purchaser is a first-time buyer, owner-occupier or investor; whether the house is new or second-hand; if the house is new, whether the total floor area is less than or greater than 125 sq.m.

For any legal instruments executed on or after 2 December 2004, a first-time buyer, who is an owner-occupier, will pay no stamp duty on the purchase of a new or a second-hand house worth €250,000. An owner-occupier who is not a first-time buyer will pay no stamp duty on a new house costing €250,000 unless the floor area exceeds 125 sq.m. and the site value is in excess of €127,000, but if the house is second-hand, she or he will pay €10,000. An investor will pay €10,000 in stamp duty on a new or a second-hand house costing €250,000.

The rate of VAT on the sale of a new house is 13.5%, so the VAT inclusive price of €250,000 will include VAT of €29,735. In general VAT is not chargeable on the sale of second-hand houses.

A builder who is a sole trader would be chargeable to income tax on the taxable profit on the sale of a new house at the 20/42% rates, as applicable. If the builder were a company the rate of corporation tax on the taxable profit would be 12.5%. If the seller is not trading he would make a disposal for purposes of capital gains tax and the tax is 20% of any chargeable gain in the case of an investor. A seller of a house, which has been his only or main residence throughout his period of ownership, would have no CGT liability on such a disposal.

The Deputy may also wish to note that I dealt with the issue of the tax take from the price of a new house in a reply to a parliamentary question on 23 November 2004. Figures in excess of 40% have been attributed by the house building industry to the amount that the Government raises in tax from each new home. However, this figure is wrong. Based on the same industry figures, the cost of a new home that accrues directly to the Exchequer through taxation is more like 28%, based on both Dublin and national prices. This includes not just the taxes mentioned above, where applicable, but also the PAYE and PRSI on the wages of those who built the house. In this light, the tax take is not exceptional and is broadly in line with the tax take on the overall economy.

Urban Renewal Schemes.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

159 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance if a property that is designated for a refurbishment under the town renewal scheme is structurally unsound, and it is necessary to demolish it; if it still qualifies for tax relief; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32062/04]

The designation of sites and related tax incentives for the purposes of the town renewal scheme was determined following submission of town renewal plans prepared by local authorities in accordance with the Town Renewal Act 2000 and relevant guidelines issued by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. These plans contained, or were accompanied by, recommendations for such designations by the relevant county council. That the designation applied by a local authority to a particular building under the town renewal scheme determines the tax relief which can be claimed in respect of expenditure incurred on that building.

Disabled Drivers.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

160 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the reason no allowance is made for a person (details supplied) under the current criteria for the primary medical certificate, first schedule, when this is as much a disability as the listed criteria but not in the same order; the assistance now available for this person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32073/04]

The disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions scheme is open to people with disabilities who meet the specified criteria and have obtained a primary medical certificate to that effect. The senior area medical officer attached to the relevant local health board is responsible for both the medical assessment and the issue of the medical certificate.

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

An individual who qualifies under the medical criteria as set out above is issued with a primary medical certificate. Possession of a primary medical certificate qualifies the holder for remission or repayment of vehicle registration tax, VRT, a repayment of value added tax, VAT, on the purchase of the vehicle and a repayment of VAT on the cost of adaptation of the vehicle. Repayment of the excise duty on fuel used in the motor vehicle and exemption from annual road tax to local authorities are also allowed.

An interdepartmental review group was established to review the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions scheme. The group examined all aspects of the scheme, including the qualifying medical criteria. The report was published on my Department's website in early July and copies have been placed in the Oireachtas Library. The recommendations of the report will be considered on an ongoing basis by my Department. In respect of other schemes for which the individual may be eligible, I am aware that the Department of Health and Children has two schemes operated by the health boards, the mobility allowance scheme and the motorised transport grant which may be relevant.

Departmental Properties.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

161 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 176 of 13 February 2003, if it has since been established that the property in question is in the ownership of the OPW; if there are plans for the development or conversion of the property; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32477/04]

While there has been uncertainty about the ownership of this building, it must now be assumed that it is in the ownership of the Office of Public Works which would consider favourably any proposal for a suitable alternative use.

Public Service Contracts.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

162 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Finance the way in which a company (details supplied) was able to secure the contract for the Revenue Commissioners office at Nenagh and the tax office at Limerick in view of the fact it is not tax compliant. [32095/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the conditions governing the awarding of security and other contracts in any of their offices requires the successful tenderer to produce a current tax clearance certificate or, in the case of a non-resident tenderer, a statement of suitability, awarded by Revenue, before a contract is awarded. The Revenue Commissioners are satisfied that these conditions are complied with. With regard to the company referred to by the Deputy, the tax affairs of a company are confidential between the company and the Revenue Commissioners.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

163 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Finance the amount of money transferred in surplus dormant funds from financial institutions in County Monaghan to the dormant accounts fund for disbursement by the Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursement Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32096/04]

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

164 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Finance the amount of money transferred in surplus dormant funds from financial institutions in County Cavan to the dormant accounts fund for disbursement by the Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursement Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32097/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 163 and 164 together.

I regret to inform the Deputy that I cannot provide the information he requested. Under the Dormant Accounts Act 2001 and the Unclaimed Life Assurance Act 2003, credit institutions and insurance undertakings are required, each April, to transfer to the National Treasury Management Agency, all moneys falling dormant in the previous year. Each credit institution and insurance undertaking is also required under the legislation to keep a register of their dormant accounts or policies. However, there is no legal requirement or business reason for them to compile a breakdown on a county by county basis from the registers.

Superannuation Payments.

John Carty

Ceist:

165 Mr. Carty asked the Minister for Finance the additional superannuation benefits that are payable to a civil servant on modified social insurance whose Civil Service employment or office is abolished, other than benefits based on their actual service. [32125/04]

The superannuation provisions governing abolition of office are set out in the 1909 and 1963 Superannuation Acts. Sections 6 and 7 of the Superannuation Act 1963 provide the basis on which additional benefits may be determined.

Where an established officer retires or is removed from office in consequence of the abolition of his office there are two additional benefits that can be considered. The Minister for Finance, at his discretion, may direct that notional years be added to the period of actual service for the purposes of pension and lump sum calculation and-or that a special severance gratuity be paid to the officer concerned. The Minister makes his decision on a case by case basis, taking the particular circumstances into account. Where the Minister decides to award additional years the notional service is determined having regard to the actual service and age of the officer at the date of retirement-removal from office. The exact basis for calculating the added years and the restrictions which may apply in arriving at the appropriate figure are set out in section 6 of the Act.

Section 7 of the Act provides that the special severance gratuity, if granted, will be the lesser of half the officer's annual salary or the aggregate of the payments of salary which would have been paid to him had he remained in an established position until he reached 65 years of age or in certain cases within three months after his 65th birthday. Copies of the relevant sections of the 1963 Act are attached for the Deputy's information.

Tax Code.

Sean Fleming

Ceist:

166 Mr. Fleming asked the Minister for Finance the situation regarding capital gains tax in respect of land acquired under a compulsory purchase order for road construction; the circumstances under which retirement relief can be claimed resulting in reduced or no capital gains tax being payable; and the rules regarding indexation and any other reliefs that are available to landowners to reduce their capital gains tax bill in these circumstances. [32336/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the present position regarding capital gains tax and the compulsory purchase of land depends on a number of variables, including the date, whether the land was used for farming and the age of the land owner. The following sets out the general position, but if the Deputy has a specific case in mind, or would like further details he should contact the Revenue Commissioners.

The chargeable gain on land sold under a compulsory purchase order is the difference between the compensation received, net of the incidental costs of disposal, and the aggregate of the cost, or deemed cost, of acquisition of the land, including the incidental costs of acquisition, and enhancement expenditure after adjusting these costs for inflation as appropriate. The first €1,270 of an individual's annual gains is exempt and the balance is chargeable at 20%.

Where the disposal is for the purposes of road-building or widening and the person making the disposal is engaged in farming and, immediately before the disposal, the land was used for the purposes of farming, the capital gains tax liability will not arise in respect of such a disposal until the year of assessment in which the compensation is received.

In general, allowable expenditure incurred before 1 January 2003 may be adjusted for inflation. In the case of development land this relief is restricted to the current use value of the land at the date of acquisition together with the costs of acquisition applicable to that value. Gains on the disposal of "qualifying assets" under section 598 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 by individuals aged 55 years and over are exempt from capital gains tax, subject to certain conditions. One of these conditions is that the aggregate consideration for the disposal of such assets does not exceed €500,000. In ascertaining whether this threshold applies to a particular disposal the consideration received on the disposal of all "qualifying assets" must be aggregated. Marginal relief may apply where the consideration does not greatly exceed this amount.

In certain circumstances, a person who disposed of land before 4 December 2002 to enable an authority construct, widen or extend a road or for connected purposes, and who re-invests the proceeds in replacement assets, may be entitled to defer payment of capital gains tax. Reinvestment must be made within a specified time frame. Partial relief may be due where less than the full proceeds are re-invested. It is important to note that this relief does not apply for disposals on or after 4 December 2002 except where replacement assets were acquired before 4 December 2002 and the related original assets, which had not been disposed of under the compulsory purchase order before that date, were disposed of by 31 December 2003.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

167 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Finance when a tax clearance certificate will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [32362/04]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they have no record of receiving an application for a tax clearance certificate from the taxpayer. The appropriate application form was posted to the person concerned on 3 December 2004, for completion. On receipt of the completed application form, the application will be processed.

Commemorative Stamps.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

168 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has received a request to have a person (details supplied) commemorated with a stamp issued in their honour in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32338/04]

My Department has received a request in respect of a commemorative stamp for the founder of the Marist Brothers to be included in the 2007 commemorative stamp programme. The request has been forwarded to An Post for consideration by the philatelic committee which is responsible for making recommendations to Government on the stamp programme. It is expected that the committee will come forward with recommendations to Government in the new year.

Communications Masts.

John Curran

Ceist:

169 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to any health risks or implications associated with the use of very high frequency omni directional range radar as is being installed at Weston Aerodrome, Lucan, County Dublin. [32340/04]

My Department has been contacted by local residents making inquiries about this facility. My officials have sought information about the precise specification of the equipment being installed at Weston Aerodrome in Lucan. When this has been obtained and studied by my officials I shall be in a position to reply to the Deputy.

Postal Services.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

170 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the plans he has to make grant aid available for rural post offices to ensure their computerisation, including the provision of Internet availability to the public; his views on whether this would help address the information divide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32375/04]

The Government is committed to a viable and sustainable nationwide rural post office network providing a range of services to meet consumer needs. The Government has made an equity injection of €12.7 million into the network in 2003 to facilitate modernisation measures. Furthermore, the Government has strongly supported An Post initiatives such as the channelling of new utility and banking services through the network. I am exploring with An Post the bringing forward of further initiatives to continue underpinning our network of rural post offices. In this regard, the company is actively pursuing a number of options in both the public and private sectors.

To date, An Post has introduced new service delivery models in order to improve access to post office services. There are 1000 automated post offices, 475 non- automated post offices, 160 postal agencies and An Post has established 3,000 postpoint outlets in retail premises of which 600 can be used for bill payment. The automated network accounts for over 95% of An Post's counter business. This means that the 1,000 automated offices transact 95% of counter business while 475 non-automated offices undertake 5% of business. This figure clearly illustrates the level of business transacted by individual non-automated offices. The current level of automated coverage is considered by An Post to be extremely comprehensive by any objective standard and this level of coverage makes it difficult to justify on either customer-service or economic ground the extension of automation to all offices, regardless of their location or business volumes.

Automation of the post office network was completed in 1997. It is therefore only in very exceptional circumstances, such as an existing automated office closing and its equipment being transferred to a suitable neighbouring location which transacts significant volumes of welfare business, that offices are automated today. There are no plans by An Post to provide Internet access to the public through the rural post office network. However, with the roll-out of e-Government services, the automated element of the post office network is ideally placed to capitalise on opportunities arising in this space, especially in the area of e-payments. A core objective for An Post continues to be the retention of access to post office services in as many locations as possible, in the manner which best meets consumer needs, whether services are provided via post offices, postal agencies or the postpoint network.

Water Quality.

Pat Carey

Ceist:

171 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he receives regular reports on the implementation of the River Tolka water quality management plan; if he receives reports of any spillages into this river; the way in which these are investigated and matters such as restocking of the fish life are dealt with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32476/04]

Under the Fisheries Acts, primary responsibility for the conservation, protection and development of inland fisheries rests with the regional fisheries board, in this case the Eastern Regional Fisheries Board. I am advised by the chief executive officer of the board that responsibility for the implementation of the Tolka water quality management plan rests with Fingal County Council. I understand however that the council undertakes this responsibility in consultation with a number of bodies, including the Eastern Regional Fisheries Board. According to the chief executive officer, however, the plan does not include any requirements for reports on its implementation to be produced.

The chief executive officer advises me that the fisheries board itself receives reports from anglers, the public and also the county council on spillages and pollution incidents. These are investigated by the professional staff of the board whose policy it is to initiate a prosecution where sufficient evidence of pollution is found. According to the chief executive officer, polluters have paid substantial compensation in the past, which has contributed to rehabilitation and restocking.

The chief executive officer further advises me that the Tolka has suffered a number of pollution incidents in the last decade and the board, together with the Tolka anglers, have restocked the river on numerous occasions. In this regard I am advised that the board generally tries to stock fingerlings so that the fish have a better chance of acclimatising to the river whereas the Tolka anglers generally stock catchable size fish.

I am assured by the chief executive officer that the Eastern Regional Fisheries Board makes every effort to ensure that fishery concerns are placed high on the agenda when works impacting on the Tolka are proposed to take place.

Telecommunications Services.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

172 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when the necessary investment package will be available to allow broadband to be supplied to the towns of Clones, Ballybay and Castleblayney in County Monaghan; his views on whether broadband is essential if these towns are to attract inward investment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32813/04]

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully liberalised market, regulated by ComReg, the Commission for Communications Regulation. Unfortunately the market has been slow to invest in the necessary infrastructure that will enable the provision of services in all areas. The importance of broadband cannot be understated, and the widespread availability of broadband infrastructure and services is a significant aim of the Government and my Department.

To help in achieving this aim, a number of initiatives have been put in place for infrastructure investments that will facilitate the provision of services by the sector. Under the National Development Plan 2000-2006 an indicative €200 million of Government and ERDF funding is being invested, in association with the local and regional authorities, in the creation of high-speed broadband networks and fibre trunks. These facilities will remain in State ownership while allowing the service providers open access at competitive costs.

The first phase of my Department's regional broadband programme, in which metropolitan area networks, MANs, are being built in 26 towns and cities, including Carrickmacross and Monaghan town, is now nearing completion. In the second phase of the programme MANs will be built in a further 92 towns of 1,500 population and over, in association with the local authorities. Calls for proposals have issued to the local authorities in respect of the first group of these towns, including Clones and Castleblayney, and the proposals are now being assessed.

For rural communities and smaller towns such as Ballybay, my Department's group broadband scheme offers funding assistance for community groups to come together with the service providers and obtain broadband connectivity for their area using the most appropriate delivery system, such as satellite, wireless, DSL or cable. Up to 55% funding is available towards capital costs under the scheme. Full details of the regional broadband programme and the group broadband scheme are on my Department's websites www.dcmnr.gov.ie and www.gbs.gov.ie .

Overseas Development Aid.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

173 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government will set a new date for reaching 0.7% of GNP with a multi-annual spending plan to achieve it, and enshrine this in legislation to restore public and international confidence in Ireland’s commitment. [32107/04]

The Book of Estimates provides for an increase of €60 million in Government spending on official development assistance in 2005. This will bring total Government aid to the developing world next year to approximately €535 million. In addition, the Government has agreed to make further increases of €65 million in each of the years 2006 and 2007. These substantial increases will help to move us closer to the UN target of 0.7% of GNP.

I welcome in particular also the return to a multi-annual commitment as it ensures predictability for my Department and for our NGO partners. The combination of a three-year multi-annual commitment, incorporating very substantial annual increases, gives us a sound basis to carry forward the long-term planning which is so important for development work. In the light of these increases, and also in the context of the promised White Paper on ODA, the Government will keep under active and ongoing review the progress being achieved to reach the target of 0.7% of GNP. We do not consider, however, that giving a legislative base for the target is a desirable way forward.

Nuclear Plants.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

174 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has discussed the issue of the Sellafield nuclear plant with his counterparts in Britain recently; and his plans to discuss this matter. [32063/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, has primary responsibility for this matter. In so far as my Department is concerned, the embassy in London, in conjunction with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, participates in meetings of the Ireland-UK contact group on radioactivity at which Sellafield and related issues are discussed. I intend to have a bilateral meeting with my British counterpart, Secretary of State Jack Straw, early in the new year and expect that this issue will be on the agenda.

Human Rights Issues.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

175 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding persons (details supplied); and if he will raise this miscarriage of justice at UN and EU level. [32083/04]

The case raised by the Deputy relates to five Cuban citizens who were convicted in the US in 2001 on charges ranging from espionage to conspiracy to murder, and whose appeal was heard in March of this year. The court's decision is awaited. As the Deputy has been informed in previous answers to questions on this issue, the Irish Government has no standing in this matter which is a bilateral consular question between the Cuban and US authorities.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

176 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the State repression of unregistered house churches in China and to China’s intolerance of religious freedom in general; if he has raised the matter with the Chinese authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32437/04]

As has been consistently stated, the Government takes concerns about human rights in China, including religious freedom, very seriously. These matters are regularly, and on an ongoing basis, raised with the Chinese Government. Most recently, the Tánaiste, Deputy Harney and I held official talks with the Chinese Vice-Premier, Mr Huang Ju, in Dublin Castle, on 16 November 2004, during which we again raised our concerns about human rights with the Vice-Premier. The Chinese Vice-Premier, in response, informed us of the measures his Government is taking in the field of human rights, including the addition of an express provision on human rights to China's constitution earlier this year.

The Taoiseach also raised the issue of human rights with the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, during his visit to Ireland in May 2004. During his discussions, he outlined Ireland's strong commitment to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Both sides agreed on the importance of co-operation and dialogue in working together to bring about respect for international obligations. In his capacity as President of the European Council, my predecessor also raised human rights concerns during the EU Foreign Ministers troika meeting with China on 18 April 2004.

The EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, established in 1996, is the agreed formal framework through which the EU raises its concerns about individual human rights cases and more general issues, such as the protection of freedom of religion and expression. The most recent round of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue took place in Beijing on 24 September 2004. During the Irish Presidency, and in conjunction with our EU partners, we organised the first EU-China seminar on the ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ICCPR, which took place in Beijing on 30 June and 1 July 2004. The purpose of the seminar was to provide technical assistance to China in preparation for their ratification of the ICCPR. Article 18 of the ICCPR guarantees that "everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching". A subsequent EU-China seminar on the ratification of the ICCPR took place in The Hague on 8 and 9 November 2004.

Ireland, together with our EU partners, will continue to encourage the Chinese authorities to respect fully freedom of religion and expression and human rights. There will be further discussion of these matters during the EU-China summit, scheduled to take place in The Hague on 8 December 2004.

Barry Andrews

Ceist:

177 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make contact with the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba about the case of a person (details supplied). [32470/04]

Mr. Adolfo Fernandez Sainz, a journalist, is one of 75 members of the peaceful opposition in Cuba, including other journalists, writers and doctors who were arrested in March and April 2003 and sentenced to prison terms of up to 28 years after a summary legal process that did not meet internationally accepted standards. As I stated in my reply of 23 November 2004 to Question No. 260, a copy of which will be forwarded to the Deputy, the Government's concern regarding the detention and sentencing of these dissidents, including Mr. Sainz, was conveyed at the time to the Cuban chargé d'affaires at a meeting in the Department of Foreign Affairs and this concern has been repeated on a number of occasions since in contacts with the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba.

Ireland and its partners in the European Union responded to the grave violation of international human rights standards involved in the imprisonment of these members of the peaceful opposition by a range of measures, including limiting bilateral high level governmental visits to Cuba, and these measures remain in force. On 14 June 2004, during the Irish Presidency of the European Union, the General Affairs and External Relations Council, GAERC, again called on the Cuban Government to release immediately all those, like Mr. Sainz, who have been detained for political reasons. The Cuban authorities have previously released a number of these prisoners on health grounds and in recent days it is reported that a further seven prisoners have been released and others moved to military hospital facilities. However, it would appear that Mr. Sainz remains in prison.

The most recent releases are encouraging and I would urge the Cuban authorities to move quickly to release all the other members of the peaceful opposition who are currently imprisoned. My Department has been in contact again with the Cuban chargé d'affaires to reiterate our concern about the remaining dissident prisoners and to enquire specifically about the position of Mr. Sainz. As I previously stated, the release of all such prisoners would make a significant contribution to the resumption of a full dialogue between the European Union and Cuba.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

178 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress to date on the proposed swimming pool for Thurles; if the necessary resources have been committed to this worthwhile project; when the project will be sanctioned and will go to tender; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32089/04]

Thurles Town Council applied for grant aid under the local authority swimming pool programme for the provision of a replacement swimming pool in Thurles. Its proposal is one of a number of projects that are under consideration in my Department at contract document stage of the programme.

Projects are considered on a case-by-case basis and consideration is given to such issues as to whether the area is classified as disadvantaged, the number and geographical spread of projects within and between counties, the viability of the project, particularly in relation to operational and maintenance issues, overall funding package for the project, technical details and the Department's annual Estimates provision for the programme.

Arts Funding.

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

179 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress that has been made to date on the proposed arts centre for Thurles, County Tipperary; if the necessary resources have been committed to this project; when the project will be sanctioned to go to tender; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32091/04]

Since 1997 my Department has provided total grant aid of €1.77 million, towards the provision of a cultural, entertainment, and interpretative centre in Tipperary town and this facility is now in operation. There is no application for additional capital grant aid for this centre currently under consideration in my Department.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

180 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will report on the evaluation report on Monaghan swimming pool; when he expects that the tender document will be signed and work will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32334/04]

Monaghan County Council submitted the tender documentation for the provision of a replacement swimming pool in Monaghan to my Department on 22 November 2004. This documentation was forwarded to my Department's technical advisors, the Office of Public Works, for its consideration and the proposal will be considered further when the OPW response is received.

Sports Funding.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

181 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the plans for the International Year of Sport and Physical Education in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32356/04]

As the Deputy is aware, 2005 has been designated by the United Nations as the International Year for Sport and Physical Education as a means to promote education, health, development and peace. It is intended that this initiative will be used to develop the legacy of the extremely successful European Year of Education through Sport, EYES 2004 which, as the Deputy is aware, was an important European Commission initiative in the area of education and sport. My Department, the Departments of Education and Science, and Health and Children as well as the Sports Council and other relevant bodies, which are represented on the national steering committee of the EYES 2004, have been exploring how to achieve a permanent legacy in the area of school sport-PE children's health arising from the EYES 2004 programme.

Public Service Contracts.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

182 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the way in which a company (details supplied) was able to secure contracts for public offices in view of the fact that it is not tax compliant. [32079/04]

My Department has no record of entering into contracts with the company concerned. The financial procedures of my Department specify that in the case of all public sector contracts to the value of €6,500 or more, inclusive of VAT, within any 12 month period, the contractor or agent as appropriate is required to produce a valid tax clearance certificate at the time the contract is placed and also at the time of payment, should the duration of the certificate not cover both. The finance unit of my Department does not make any payment unless a signed original of the tax clearance certificate has been produced by the supplier.

National Disability Strategy.

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

183 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason responsibility in the Disability Bill 2004 for personal advocacy services is given to Comhairle, while the Bill proposes that interpreting services be contracted out; if strict criteria will be attached to a service provider awarded the tender for interpreting services (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32053/04]

The introduction of a personal advocacy service aimed specifically at people with disabilities is provided for in the Comhairle (Amendment) Bill 2004 which was published last September in conjunction with the Disability Bill 2004 as part of the Government's national disability strategy. Comhairle has a statutory remit in supporting the provision of independent information, advice and advocacy services in relation to the broad range of social services. There is an important link between the provision of information and advocacy in that access to information and the options flowing from that information are two key aspects of empowerment. This is particularly relevant in the case of people with disabilities for whom Comhairle has a specific remit. I am very pleased that this new personal advocacy service will be administered by Comhairle and I look forward to the speedy passage of the Comhairle (Amendment) Bill through the Oireachtas.

The proposed sign language interpretation service is not provided for in the Comhairle (Amendment) Bill 2004. It was considered that the provision of a service of that nature by way of primary legislation would not be the most effective way of delivering a sign language interpretation service. Where the provision of such a service is being contracted out to an appropriate and suitable service provider, normal public tendering procedures will be adhered to and the relevant contract conditions will require the provision of the best possible service having regard to the needs of those who will avail of the service.

Social Welfare Benefits.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

184 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason it has taken so long to give financial assistance and support to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; the further reason the orphan’s allowance was refused; if supplementary allowance will be awarded; if an application for same will be expedited; if an immediate review of this person’s case will be carried out and financial and other supports put in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32044/04]

A claim for orphan's contributory allowance by the person concerned was refused by a deciding officer on 14 July 2004 on the grounds that the child, who currently resides with his father, is not an orphan within the meaning of the legislation. The objective of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered by the health boards, is to provide assistance to an eligible person whose means are insufficient to meet his or her basic needs and those of his or her dependants.

With the exception of those participating in approved schemes, such as back to work or community employment, people engaged in full-time remunerative employment are excluded in legislation from receipt of supplementary welfare allowance. The person concerned is in full-time employment and therefore does not satisfy the conditions for receipt of this allowance.

David Stanton

Ceist:

185 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of applications being considered for the family income supplement; the average time it takes to process an application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32068/04]

Family income supplement, FIS, is designed to provide cash support for employees on low earnings with families and thereby preserve the incentive to remain in employment in circumstances where the employee might only be marginally better off than if s/he were claiming other social welfare payments. There are currently 14,506 FIS recipients. The average weekly payment is €73.32. A total of 618 new claims are currently awaiting decision.

So far this year up to the end of November 2004, my Department has decided 6,759 new or first time applications and a further 13,250 applications for renewal of entitlement to FIS. In November 2004, 67% of new claims were awarded within three weeks. In October, 66% of new claims were awarded within three weeks while in September, 65% were awarded within three weeks.

My Department has introduced improvements in the way claims are processed. As a result, the proportion of claims decided within three weeks is rising despite the fact that the number of new application received so far this year is more than 13% higher than in the same period last year.

Social Insurance.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

186 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, when paid in a lump sum, backdated wage increases to public service workers under benchmarking and Sustaining Progress are subject to PRSI deduction in cases in which, even with benchmarking and Sustaining Progress enhancement, the weekly wage remains below the PRSI threshold; if, in view of the fact that there would be no PRSI deduction from the weekly wage of such workers had benchmarking and Sustaining Progress increases been paid from the due date of January 2004, deferred payment of entitlements will not result in financial disadvantage to low paid workers through deduction of PRSI for which they would not ordinarily be liable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32093/04]

PRSI contributions are paid by employees on a weekly basis. The main rates of employee contribution are 4% — ordinary — and 0.9% — modified, public service. There is a threshold of €287 below which social insurance employee contributions are not payable and there is a fixed ceiling on the amount of contributions an employee has to pay in any year. Contributors are also entitled to a non-cumulative PRSI-free allowance of €127 or €26 per week for standard and modified PRSI employees respectively, which reduces the "step effect" of the contribution threshold.

There is no provision within the present system for contribution liability to be evened out in the manner proposed. The system is designed to reflect the actual weekly earnings situation and the tiered contributions and allowances ensure that the system is largely progressive. It is recognised that the "bunching" of earnings in one week could have an impact on the aggregate amount of PRSI contributions in any year although the relatively low rate for modified PRSI employees coupled with the PRSI-free allowance could limit the amount of this effect for many public servants. The application to public servants of pay increases is primarily a matter for the Minister for Finance having regard to the relevant national wage agreement reached between the social partners.

It is recognised that the social insurance system is complex, catering as it does for varied sectors of employees with differing insurance coverage needs and different earnings levels, but that this is primarily the result of efforts to target reductions at low-earnings employees. The complexity of the system has been considered from time to time by my Department and has also been discussed in the tax strategy group and is kept under review. However, there are no proposals to substantially change the structure of the system at this point in time.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

187 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to or if he has statistics to suggest the take-up of the back to school clothing and footwear allowances; and the measures he has introduced to inform those eligible of their entitlements under this section. [32117/04]

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

188 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, through social welfare applicants’ PPS numbers, these persons can be identified and informed of their entitlements under the school clothing and footwear scheme; and if he will investigate the possibility of this approach to the non-take-up of entitlements in other areas of social welfare. [32291/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 187 and 188 together.

The back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme is administered by the health boards on behalf of my Department. Under the scheme, an allowance of €80 is payable in respect of qualified children aged two to 11 years while €150 is payable in respect of qualified children aged 12 to 22 years.

The number of children benefiting from the back to school clothing allowance has increased from 155,811 in 2002 to 172,123 in 2003. It is expected that an increased number of children will have benefited in 2004, when final figures are compiled by the Department from health board returns.

The Department is not in a position at present to identify eligible customers for the back to school clothing and footwear allowance, or other means-tested welfare schemes from its data base. The back to school clothing and footwear allowance scheme is promoted in a number of ways. Health boards advertise and promote the scheme by advertising in the local press and radio, by placing posters in all health centres, and by provision of information material and applications forms to citizens' information centres, social workers and to the money advice and budgeting service. The Department itself also promotes the scheme generally in publicity at the relevant time of year. The steady growth in the numbers of children benefiting under the scheme shows that there is increasing awareness of entitlements as a result of this publicity.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

189 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the outcome of an oral hearing for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo to finalise a farm assist appeal. [32432/04]

The person concerned made a claim for farm assist from 10 February 2004. The deciding officer disallowed the claim on the grounds that the person's means exceed the statutory limit for receipt of farm assist. The means were assessed at €413 weekly, derived from €404 capital and the remainder from land.

The person concerned appealed this decision to the social welfare appeals office. Following an oral hearing on 16 November 2004 the appeals officer disallowed the appeal. Under social welfare legislation, decisions on claims must be made by deciding officers and appeals officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

190 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a disability allowance appeal will be finalised for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [32433/04]

Following an examination by a medical assessor of the Department, the claim for disability benefit of the person concerned was disallowed by a deciding officer on the grounds that he did not satisfy the medical eligibility criteria. He appealed this decision to the social welfare appeals office and in the context of his appeal he was examined by another medical assessor on 22 October 2004, who was also of the opinion that he did not satisfy the relevant medical eligibility criteria.

In light of this the person was afforded the opportunity to furnish further evidence he wished in support of his appeal. He submitted further medical evidence which has been considered by the chief medical adviser of the Department who does not consider that it affords a sufficient basis to change the findings of the medical assessors. A submission from the deciding officer has now been requested and on receipt of this the case will be referred to the appeals officer for early consideration. Under social welfare legislation, decisions in relation to claims must be made by deciding officers and appeals officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

191 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if free travel will be granted for Irish senior citizens who are based in Britain, when they return here on visits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32434/04]

The free travel scheme is available to all people living in the State aged 66 years and over. It is also available to carers and to people with disabilities who are in receipt of certain social welfare payments. It applies to travel within the State and cross-Border journeys between here and Northern Ireland.

The Deputy's proposal to make free travel available to persons in receipt of Irish pensions but living abroad would have to be examined in a budgetary context taking account of the other demands for extension of the free travel scheme and the cost and administrative implications involved. Implications include the current examination of proposals for an all-Ireland travel pass which would apply to all eligible persons resident in both jurisdictions. I intend to keep under consideration the issue raised by the Deputy.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

192 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, further to Parliamentary Question No. 332 of 30 November 2004, if he has received legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General that the refusal of the application is consistent with and fully recognises Article 41 of the Constitution; if this application will be granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32484/04]

Rent supplements are available under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme which is administered on my behalf by the health boards. Neither I nor my Department has any role in decisions on individual claims.

With effect from 27 May 2003, rent supplement is no longer payable in respect of a person who is awaiting the outcome of his or her claim for asylum. The South Western Area Health Board has advised that the rent supplement application from the person concerned was refused on the grounds that his spouse was seeking asylum here subsequent to the change in rent supplement rules in May 2003. The person concerned was informed of his right of appeal against this decision but has not appealed.

Direct provision arrangements are available through the reception and integration agency to meet the accommodation and other needs of asylum seekers. It remains open to the family concerned to avail of this facility, pending a decision on their residency status. I am satisfied that the decision on rent supplement is in accordance with the legislation.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

193 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason the fuel allowance for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 was discontinued; the amount of subsidy involved in this group scheme run by Dublin City Council; if this allowance will be restored; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32578/04]

The person concerned is in receipt of an old age contributory pension with effect from 20 February 2004. She also receives an electricity allowance from my Department, credited on her ESB bills. The rules of the fuel allowance scheme preclude payment where a person has access to a subsidised heating service. The person concerned is provided with subsidised heating by Dublin City Council, through a service provided by the council to the complex where she resides and, consequently, is not entitled to a fuel allowance.

Road Safety.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

194 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the motorways and dual carriageways which do not have barriers to prevent vehicles crossing the centre median. [32049/04]

The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects, including the provision of safety barriers, is a matter for the National Roads Authority and the local authorities concerned.

However I understand from the NRA that median safety barriers are being installed on all new motorways and dual carriageways. The programme of retrofitting barriers to existing motorways and dual carriageways, is two-thirds complete. This work, other than the M50 Dublin C-ring, is expected to be completed by mid 2005 at a cost in excess of €15 million. Route sections remaining to be retrofitted include the M1 Cloghran-Lissenhall, 16 km N3-Clonee bypass, 6 km., N8 Watergrasshill-Glanmire, 16.5 km., N18 Bunratty bypass, 12 km., N25 Dunkettle-Midleton, 16 km. and the M50 orbital, 38 km.

The position in relation to the provision of median safety barriers on the M50 is set out in my reply to Question No. 48 dated 7 December 2004.

Question No. 195 answered with QuestionNo. 90.

Parking Regulations.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

196 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Transport if he will provide details of the rules and regulations regarding parking bays for disabled people and the way in which they should be located; and the person that makes the decision in relation to the location of them. [32333/04]

The regulatory provisions for disabled persons' parking bays are set out in article 44 of the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997, SI No, 182 of 1987 and in article 19 of the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997, SI No. 181 of 1997. The detail of the dimensions of the roadway markings to indicate disabled persons' parking bays are set out in section 2 in Schedule 7 to SI No. 181 of 1997.

Ultimately, decisions regarding the provision and location of disabled persons' parking bays are made by the individual local authorities in the context of their determination of parking policy for their area. Traffic management guidelines were published jointly in May 2003 by my Department, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Dublin Transportation Office. A copy of the guidelines is available in the Oireachtas Library. The advice given as regards parking policy and management stipulates the provision of parking for people with disabilities and that parking policy needs to consider, inter alia, road safety. In addition chapter 13 sets out guidelines and advice to local authorities on facilities for mobility-impaired people and addresses design, construction and maintenance access issues generally as regards footways, kerbs and street crossings.

Driving Licences.

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

197 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport the legal position for drivers stopped by gardaí who have sent their driving licence to the licensing authority either for renewal or addition of extra categories. [32363/04]

Section 40 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 as inserted by section 25 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 and amended by the Road Traffic Act 2002 provides that a member of the Garda Síochána may demand of a person driving in a public place a mechanically propelled vehicle or accompanying, pursuant to regulations under the Road Traffic Act, the holder of a provisional licence while such holder is driving in a public place a mechanically propelled vehicle, the production to him or her of a driving licence then having effect and licensing said person to drive the vehicle, and if the person refuses or fails to produce the licence there and then, he or she shall be guilty of an offence.

The section also provides that where a person of whom the production of a driving licence is demanded refuses and fails to produce the licence there and then, a member of the Garda Síochána may require the person to produce within ten days after the date of the said requirement the licence in person to a member of the Garda Síochána at a Garda Síochána station to be named by the person at the time of the requirement and, if the person refuses or fails so to produce the licence, he or she shall be guilty of an offence.

The implementation of the legislation is a matter for the Garda Síochána.

Taxi Regulations.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

198 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the action he will take to address public concern regarding safety in taxis in view of the high number of convicted felons who have been granted taxi licences. [32532/04]

Under existing provisions in the Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) Regulations 1963 to 2002 every applicant for a licence to drive small public service vehicles, that is, taxis, hackneys and limousines, must satisfy the Garda Commissioner that he or she is, inter alia, a fit and proper person to hold a licence. All applicants for such licences are vetted by the Garda for the purpose of establishing if applicants are fit and proper persons to hold such licences. The Garda Commissioner may at any time revoke a licence to drive a small public service vehicle if he considers that the holder of the licence is no longer a fit and proper person to hold such a licence. It is open to individual licence applicants to appeal Garda decisions to refuse or revoke a licence to the courts. Information regarding the number of convicted persons who have been granted a licence to drive small public service vehicles on appeal to the courts is not available in my Department.

Under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003, the principal function of the Commission for Taxi Regulation is the development and maintenance of a new regulatory framework for the control and operation of small public service vehicles and their drivers. This will include the overall development and application of new standards and requirements for drivers, licence holders and for vehicles.

Section 36 of the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 provides for a system of automatic disqualification from applying for or holding a small public service vehicle driver or vehicle licence in respect of persons who have been convicted of one of a range of very serious offences, including murder, manslaughter and various sexual, drug trafficking and other offences. A person who is affected by these provisions can request the courts to allow him or her to apply for a licence in certain restricted circumstances. In addition, where a person has been convicted of one of a number of other serious driving offences, he or she will be disqualified from applying for or continuing to hold a licence to drive a small public service vehicle for a period additional to any driving disqualification that is applied.

The Road Traffic Bill 2004, which is currently before the House for consideration, provides for the amendment to section 36 of the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 to clarify certain aspects of the section and to facilitate a more effective implementation process. The amendments do not affect the overall focus of the original section which aims to promote a safer environment for the users of small public service vehicles.

Since 2 August 2004, with the commencement of section 37(1) of the Taxi Regulation Act 2003, a taxi, wheelchair accessible taxi, hackney or limousine licence or a licence to drive such vehicles will not be granted or renewed unless the applicant produces to the licensing authority, that is, the local authority or the Garda, as appropriate, a tax clearance certificate issued by the Revenue Commissioners under section 1095 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997.

Question No. 199 answered with QuestionNo. 63.

Capital Spending.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

200 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the reason he has decided to replace the five year capital funding envelope for transport announced in budget 2004, in favour of a new plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32534/04]

The five-year capital envelope announced in budget 2004 is not being replaced but extended. This is a reflection of this Government's continuing commitment to sustained investment in transport infrastructure. It was a process that commenced with the first five-year multi-annual envelopes which were agreed in respect of public transport in 2001. This initiative was extended to all transport investment in 2004.

Budget 2005 announced two developments. First, as anticipated, the 2004-05 envelope was rolled forward for a further year providing more than €10 billion for the next five years to 2009. In addition, the Government has agreed to the development of a ten-year capital investment framework. This is being done in recognition of the long-term nature of major transport infrastructure investments. These require long lead times for consultation, planning and construction. Clarity on the financial envelope available will greatly benefit this process and enable us to transform the national transport network.

I will return to Government in the coming months to finalise the financial parameters and to outline the programme of investment.

Driving Tests.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

201 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport further to Question No. 172 of 24 November 2004, if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a letter setting out the reasons an early driving competency test was necessary for a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath was furnished to his Department by the person’s employer on 15 November 2004; if same will be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32098/04]

My Department has no record of having received a letter from the person's employer in connection with his driving test application.

A driving test has been arranged for the person concerned for 5 January, 2005. Notification of this test appointment issued to him on 26 November 2004.

Question No. 202 answered with QuestionNo. 77.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

203 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the obligations of driver testers in respect of giving detailed markings to persons who fail their test; and if it is sufficient to simply mark one box and provide no further information to the applicant. [32137/04]

The role of a driver tester is to assess the driving competency of candidates presenting for a driving test. A report outlining driving faults is given to each candidate at the conclusion of the test.

There is no provision in place at present that obliges a driver tester to give additional feedback to a candidate regarding the test result. From February 2005 motorcycle test candidates will receive a brief verbal feedback following the test. It is hoped to extend this facility to all candidates at a later date.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

204 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport if he has plans to change the operation and system of registration of driving instructors; if he proposes to change the position (details supplied) as set out on 14 December 1999; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32292/04]

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 the Department and of instruction interests has formulated the design of the standards that a driving instructor must meet.

The original proposals had envisaged that driving instructors who were members of driving instructor organisations recognised by the Department as meeting appropriate quality standards would be exempt from the test of competence. Assessment of the driving instructor organisations would have been based on the organisation seeking accreditation with the national accreditation board, which would have had regard to the procedures and personnel that the organisation had in place to assess driving instructors.

As already indicated in this House during the Second Stage debate on the Driver Testing and Standards Authority Bill 2004, it is now proposed that the Driver Testing and Standards Authority will be responsible for the registration of driving instructors. I am considering what arrangements will be put in place to oversee implementation of the driving instructor standard in the context of the establishment of the authority.

Pat Carey

Ceist:

205 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Transport the changes which have been made in the requirements for a C1 driving licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32293/04]

The provisions in relation to submission of medical reports have been recast. As regards licence category C1, a medical report in respect of medical fitness to drive category C1 vehicles must be submitted to a licensing authority when application is being made for a first driving licence unless such medical report has already been submitted within the previous five years and remains valid. Such medical report must also be submitted with an application for renewal of a category C1 driving licence.

Road Network.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

206 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Transport if he has considered the request by Monaghan County Council to have a road (details supplied) reclassified to regional road status; his views on whether the county council’s landfill and materials recovery facility is an asset to not only County Monaghan but to other counties and that the road is in urgent need of being reclassified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32294/04]

A comprehensive review of the national and regional road system was concluded in 1994 as set out in SI 209 of 1994: Roads Act 1993 (Declaration of National Roads) Order 1994 and SI 400 of 1994: Roads Act 1993 (Declaration of Regional Roads) Order 1994. This review was carried out in consultation with local authorities and took account of representations received from a wide range of local interests.

The update of these statutory instruments currently underway is designed to take account of road improvements and route changes since 1994. Nevertheless, the classification of the Cremartin-Castleblayney road, inter alia, will be reviewed in the update. It is anticipated that the update will be concluded at the end of this year.

Issues raised by the Deputy relating to the county council's landfill and materials recovery facility are a matter for my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Public Transport.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

207 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Transport further to Parliamentary Question No. 362 of 15 October 2002 the position on the matter. [32296/04]

Dublin Bus implemented mobile phone based text-messaging that provides next service information about its routes. I understand it has been very successful. Dublin Bus has plans for automatic vehicle location technology that will enable real time passenger information.

Earlier this year Irish Rail implemented a mobile phone based text service that provides next arrival information for DART services. This information in real time is also available through the Irish Rail website.

Real time passenger information is an integral part of the Luas system and has been available at Luas stops since its launch earlier this year.

Aviation Matters.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

208 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Transport the number of helicopters registered here; the plans of the Government to regulate the location at which helicopters land and take off, can be kept and so on; the regulations in place in relation to helicopters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32298/04]

The registration and safety regulation of helicopters is the responsibility of the Irish Aviation Authority, which would be happy to respond to any queries the Deputy may have.

John Curran

Ceist:

209 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Transport if he will provide a list of alleged breaches of the Irish Aviation Authority Rules of the Air Order that have occurred around Weston Aerodrome, Lucan, County Dublin over the past five years; and the appropriate action which has been taken by the Irish Aviation Authority upon investigation of alleged breaches. [32299/04]

The regulation of the operation of aircraft is a matter for the Irish Aviation Authority. Comprehensive regulations governing the operation of helicopters are administered and applied by the IAA. Helicopter operators must also comply with the requirements of planning law.

Planning Issues.

John Curran

Ceist:

210 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Transport if the Irish Aviation Authority can change the zoning of an area from agriculture to airport use or from green belt to airport use. [32301/04]

The zoning of land is a matter for the planning authorities.

Aviation Matters.

John Curran

Ceist:

211 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Transport the detailed technical specification of the very high frequency omni directional range radar equipment being installed at Weston Aerodrome, Lucan, County Dublin; and if there are any health risks or implications which may be associated with the use of such radar equipment. [32302/04]

The issue of flight safety equipment is a matter for the Irish Aviation Authority and not a matter in which I have a function.

Road Network.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

212 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which he is updated by the NRA on the progress being made on the road building programme under the NDP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32435/04]

My Department is in regular contact with the National Roads Authority with regard to the national roads programme. The NRA report to the Department regularly on the implementation of the programme including, on a quarterly basis, on the cost of major projects in construction. Progress on the implementation of the national road programme in the context of the national development plan is also reported by the NRA to the monitoring committee of the economic and social infrastructure operational programme, which is chaired by the Department. The committee meets at least twice a year. Progress reports to the monitoring committee are available on the Department's website.

The arrangements for reporting on implementation of the national roads programme are currently being adapted to take into account the reporting requirements arising in the context of the capital investment framework.

Driving Tests.

Pat Carey

Ceist:

213 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Transport if he intends to centralise plans for the testing of drivers for the Leinster area for driving licences for heavy goods vehicles at the Jamestown Road, Finglas test centre; if so, if he has taken into account the already unacceptably high volumes of such traffic in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32472/04]

A range of options in relation to off road driving test centres are currently under consideration in my Department in consultation with the Office of Public Works. While no final decisions have been made, it is anticipated that there will be a number of centres to test heavy goods vehicles located in the Leinster area.

Rail Network.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

214 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which commuter throughput can be increased on a daily basis at the rail stations throughout County Kildare with particular reference to areas of increased population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32537/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

226 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the current daily commuter throughput at rail stations in Kilcock, Maynooth, Leixlip, Confey, Hazelhatch, Sallins, Newbridge, Kildare, Monasterevin and Athy; the extent to which passenger numbers can be increased or encouraged with a view to alleviating road traffic congestion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32550/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 214 and 226 together.

Irish Rail has stated that a step change increase in commuter services was achieved along this line from December 2003 with the introduction of 80 new diesel railcars for use on such services and a timetable alteration. With the introduction of the new timetable in December 2004, all peak services on the Maynooth line will become eight-car trains, providing a further capacity enhancement along the route. Plans are currently in place to further increase capacity along the line with the deployment of new units of rolling stock to be introduced in late 2005.

The provision of additional car parking capacity at some of these stations is another key action that is being taken to encourage car users to switch to rail transport. This is being progressed by Irish Rail in conjunction with the Dublin Transportation Office.

Significant capacity was also added to the Kildare route in December 2003 when new railcars were introduced and new services added which almost doubled the commuter capacity. There are severe capacity limitations along this route because of the competing requirements of express Intercity services and slower commuter trains. Quadrupling a section of this line to provide additional commuter capacity is being proposed by Irish Rail and my Department is currently examining a draft business case from the company in that regard.

In addition, Irish Rail is examining possibilities for the construction of a new docklands station to accommodate services on the Maynooth line and help alleviate the capacity constraints at Connolly station.

The current daily boardings at rail stations on the Irish Rail network are a day-to-day matter for the company.

Question No. 215 answered with Question No. 97.

Road Network.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

216 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he has made contact with the various local authorities with a view to the elimination of unnecessary traffic congestion in various towns and villages throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32540/04]

Traffic management measures in towns and villages to deal with traffic congestion is a matter for local authorities.

However, the major investment being undertaken in the upgrade of the national road network is having a major beneficial impact on traffic flow throughout the country. A key objective of the upgrade programme is the elimination of bottlenecks through the provision of new routes by-passing towns and villages. Major projects completed in recent years and which have contributed significantly to better traffic flow include the upgrade of the M1, Kildare, Monasterevin, Cashel, Watergrasshill, and Limerick Southern Ring Road bypasses on the N7-N8, Youghal bypass on the N25, Ballincollig bypass on the N22 and so on.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

217 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which the various motorway projects identified in the National Development Plan 2000-2006 are to date on time and within cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32541/04]

The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority and the local authorities concerned The current position in relation to the upgrading of the major inter-urban routes is set out as follows. A number of projects in planning are at tender stage, for example Waterford City bypass and Dundalk-Border. It is expected that the remainder of the projects in planning will either be approved by or be before An Bord Pleanála by early 2005.

While the completions in full of the ambitious national roads upgrade programme provided for in the NDP will extend beyond 2006 and the cost of the programme will be in excess of the cost as estimated in 1999-2000, good progress is nevertheless being made in the upgrade of the national roads network. Since 2000 nearly 330 km. of road, 46 projects, have been upgraded and work is under way on more than 200 km.

A range of measures have been taken by the NRA to strengthen cost estimation and control and to secure greater certainty in out-turn cost. The beneficial impact of these measures is evident in the projects now being completed within budget and ahead of contracted completion dates such as Monasterevin and Cashel bypasses, Ballincollig bypass and Ashford-Rathnew bypass.

Route: Galway-Dublin Schemes Completed.

Route

Scheme

Length (km.)

Type of Road

N4

Lucan Bypass

8

High Quality Dual Carriageway

N4

Maynooth Bypass

16

High Quality Dual Carriageway

N4

Celbridge Interchange

Interchange Junction

N4

Enfield Relief Road

3

Single Carriageway

N4

Kinnegad Relief Road

1

Single Carriageway

N6

Athlone Bypass

7

High Quality Dual Carriageway

Schemes In Construction.

Route

Scheme

Length (km.)

Type of Road

N6

Kilcock/Kinnegad

33

Motorway

N6

Loughrea Bypass

4

Single Carriageway

Schemes In Planning.

Route

Scheme

Length (km.)

Type of Road

N4

Leixlip/M50 Junction

4

High Quality Dual Carriageway

N6

Kinnegad/Athlone Phase 1

28

High Quality Dual Carriageway

N6

Kinnegad/Athlone Phase 2

29

High Quality Dual Carriageway

N6

Ballinasloe/Athlone

19

High Quality Dual Carriageway

N6

Galway/Ballinasloe Bypass (PPP)

56

High Quality Dual Carriageway

N6

Galway Outer Bypass

21

16km. High Quality Dual Carriageway.5km. Single Carriageway

Route: Cork-Dublin.

Schemes Completed.

Route

Scheme

Length (km.)

Type of Road

N7

Naas Road Widening

12

High Quality Dual Carriageway

N7

Naas/Newbridge Bypass

18

Motorway

N7

Kildare Bypass

12

Motorway

N7

Monasterevin Bypass

20

Motorway

N7

Watergrasshill

9

High Quality Dual Carriageway

N8

Dunkettle/Glanmire

4

High Quality Dual Carriageway

N8

Cashel Bypass

7

High Quality Dual Carriageway

Schemes In Construction.

Route

Scheme

Length (km.)

Type of Road

N7

Naas Road Widening

15

High Quality Dual Carriageway

N8

Fermoy/Watergrasshill (PPP)

17

Motorway

Schemes In Planning.

Route

Scheme

Length (km.)

Type of Road

N8

Portlaoise/Cullahill (PPP)

30

High Quality Dual Carriageway

N8

Cullahill/Cashel

38

High Quality Dual Carriageway

N8

Cashel/Mitchelstown

32

High Quality Dual Carriageway

N8

Mitchelstown Relief Road

4

High Quality Dual Carriageway

N8

Mitchelstown/Fermoy

20

High Quality Dual Carriageway

Limerick-Dublin

Schemes Completed.

Route

Scheme

Length (km.)

Type of Road

N7

Naas Road Widening

12

High Quality Dual Carriageway

N7

Naas/Newbridge Bypass

18

Motorway

N7

Kildare Bypass

12

Motorway

N7

Monasterevin Bypass

20

Motorway

N7

Limerick Southern Ring Road 1

9

High Quality Dual Carriageway

Schemes In Construction.

Route

Scheme

Length (km.)

Type of Road

N7

Naas Road Widening

15

High Quality Dual Carriageway

Schemes In Planning.

Route

Scheme

Length (km.)

Type of Road

N7

Portlaoise/Cullahill (PPP)

27

High Quality Dual Carriageway

N7

Castletown/Nenagh

35

High Quality Dual Carriageway

N7

Nenagh/Limerick

37

High Quality Dual Carriageway

N7

Limerick Southern Ring Road 11

10

High Quality Dual CarriagewayRoute: Waterford-Dublin

Schemes Completed.

Route

Scheme

Length (km.)

Type of Road

N7

Naas/Newbridge Bypass & M9 Link

17

High Quality Dual Carriageway

N7

Naas Road Widening

12

High Quality Dual Carriageway

Schemes in Construction

Route

Scheme

Length (kms)

Type of Road

N7

Naas Road Widening

15

High Quality Dual Carriageway

Schemes In Planning.

Route

Scheme

Length (km.)

Type of Road

N9

Kilcullen/Waterford (Northern)

46

High Quality Dual Carriageway

N9

Kilcullen/Waterford (Southern)

64

High Quality Dual Carriageway

N9

Waterford City Bypass

18

High Quality Dual Carriageway

Dublin — Border.

Schemes Completed.

Route

Scheme

Length (km.)

Type of Road

M1

Dunleer/Dundalk

15

Motorway

M1

Dunleer Bypass

7

Motorway

M1

Drogheda Bypass

20

Motorway

M1

Balbriggan Bypass

9

Motorway

M1

Lissenhall/Balbriggan

10

Motorway

M1

Cloghran/Lissenhall

6

Motorway

Schemes In Construction.

Route

Scheme

Length (km.)

Type of Road

M1

Dundalk Western Bypass (PPP)

12

Motorway

Schemes In Planning.

Route

Scheme

Length (km.)

Type of Road

M1

NI Border/Dundalk

8

High Quality Dual Carriageway

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

218 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which the port tunnel development contract or contracts are within cost and on time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32542/04]

The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects, including the Dublin Port Tunnel project, is a matter for the National Roads Authority and the local authority concerned — in this case Dublin City Council.

However, I understand from the NRA and Dublin City Council that construction of the port tunnel is expected to be completed in December 2005 and it will be open to traffic six to eight weeks later, following commissioning of operations and safety features.

I am informed that the current estimated final out-turn cost, including price variation, to date is €715 million, at 2004 prices.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

219 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which he expects higher vehicles to be accommodated in the port tunnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32543/04]

It is the view of Dublin City Council and the National Roads Authority that the Dublin Port Tunnel will facilitate almost all of the truck traffic currently using Dublin port. Two vehicle height surveys of HGVs using Dublin port have been carried out, one by the Dublin Port Company and one by the National Institute of Transport Logistics. Their results are summarised as follows.

Dublin Port Company Survey

National Institute of Transport Logistics Survey

Period of study

Ongoing (data Oct 02 -July 03)

One week in May 2003

Measurement location

Tolka Quay Road Exit

Entry and exit points except Tolka Quay Road exit

Number of vehicles surveyed

785,580

Approx 53,000

Number over 4.65 m. (total)

4725

920

Number over 4.65 m. (percentage)

0.60%

1.74%

Number over 4.65 m. (average per day)

24

137

It is clear from the foregoing that a very limited proportion of HGVs using the port will not be able to use the Dublin Port Tunnel.

Provision for those HGVs not able to use the tunnel and the routing of overheight vehicles, greater than 4.65 m., through the city, will be addressed in the context of a HGV management strategy being prepared by Dublin City Council. I understand that the HGV management strategy, revised to take account of submissions received during a public consultation period, will be published shortly.

Question No. 220 answered with QuestionNo. 97.

Road Safety.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

221 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he has taken steps to improve the safety standards for commuters waiting at bus stops having particular regard to previous experiences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32545/04]

The Garda Síochána is the responsible authority for the location of bus stops in Dublin. Under section 85 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 the Garda Commissioner may issue a direction to a bus operator identifying the specific location of bus stops in respect of any bus route. The Garda engages in a consultation process with both the local authority and the bus service provider before issuing a direction under section 85.

The review of the location of bus stops following the Dublin Bus tragedy is ongoing by Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann. Dublin Bus has completed the development of a database to facilitate this review process. It is anticipated that this joint review will be completed by mid 2005.

Question No. 222 answered with QuestionNo. 55.

Light Rail Project.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

223 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which extra passengers other than bus passengers have used the Luas since its introduction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32547/04]

The Railway Procurement Agency and the Dublin Transportation Office are carrying out a comprehensive assessment of the effect of Luas on travel patterns. The "Before Luas" survey was carried out in the spring of 2004 and the "After Luas" survey will be carried out in 2005 by which time travel patterns should have become established after the introduction of the new service.

The RPA has also carried out less formal research on its customer base and has advised that the majority of Luas users are not transfers from other modes of public transport. Apart from car transfers, there also appears to be a significant number of new trips to the city centre for business and or recreation.

This view is shared by city centre businesses, which report substantial increase in business as a result of Luas.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

224 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport his future plans for rail transport in the greater Dublin area; if it is intended to expand or extend the Luas, the DART or introduce a metro service; his plans in regard to either; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32548/04]

The Irish Rail proposals are being assessed by my Department at present, though, in the case of the DART, the capacity of the system is currently being increased.

In addition, the Railway Procurement Agency has submitted to the Department a detailed business case for a metro from the city centre to Dublin Airport and is advancing plans for extension of the Luas to the docklands and Cherrywood. The Department is awaiting business plans from the RPA to assist in its evaluation of both Luas extensions. The RPA has also considered a preliminary analysis of the feasibility and cost of linking both Luas lines in the city centre and a more detailed proposal is now being prepared for consideration by the RPA board before its submission to the Department.

Overall, these various proposals are being considered in the context of the developing needs of public transport in the greater Dublin area, the framework outlined on the Dublin Transportation Office "Platform for Change", the recently adopted regional planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area, and the extended ten-year multi-annual capital investment envelope for transport announced by the Minister for Finance in his Budget Statement.

Question No. 225 answered with QuestionNo. 63.
Question No. 226 answered with QuestionNo. 214.

Public Transport.

David Stanton

Ceist:

227 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Transport his plans to establish an independent public transport procurement and regulatory body; the legislation that will be required; the timescale for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32557/04]

It remains my intention to establish an independent public transport procurement and regulatory body in the context of public transport reform.

As I have indicated previously, I am reviewing the developments which have taken place during talks between officials of my Department and the CIE unions and the technical work which has been undertaken by my Department on the reform programme. I am also consulting with key stakeholders.

When I have completed that review and my consultations, I will consider how best to proceed to give effect to the Government commitment to reform public transport.

Community Development.

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

228 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he plans to continue to expand the CLÁR programme; if he intends to launch a similar programme targeted at areas of rural population decline and socio-economic disadvantage; if so, the details of the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32085/04]

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

229 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will consider expanding the CLÁR programme to include addition rurally disadvantaged areas, particularly those identified as socioeconomically disadvantaged or suffering from rural population decline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32086/04]

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

230 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will consider areas (details supplied) for funding under the CLÁR programme or a similar initiative; if, in the case of areas already funded, he will provide additional funds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32087/04]

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

231 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will consider launching an initiative to target problems facing rural communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32088/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 228 to 231, inclusive, together.

I introduced the CLÁR programme in October 2001 to address depopulation as well as the decline and lack of services in rural areas. Areas in 18 counties, with a population of 362,000, have been selected under the programme including areas I announced in January 2003 in honouring the commitment to review in An Agreed Programme for Government in light of the 2002 population census data.

These areas suffered the greatest population decline from 1926 to 2002 with an average population loss of 50%. The exception is the Cooley peninsula which was included on the basis of the serious difficulties caused there by foot and mouth disease. There are no plans for any further review of the boundary of CLÁR areas. I can also confirm that no other significant areas fulfil the population criteria for inclusion in CLÁR.

Of the areas detailed by the Deputy, three are in DEDs already included in CLÁR in north Tipperary. These are Upperchurch in Upperchurch DED, Kilcommon in Foilnamon DED and Rearcross in Abbington DED.

The population changes in the eight north Tipperary areas listed, not in CLÁR, ranged from -34% to +26% in the period 1926-2002. Clearly, these areas could not be considered forinclusion.

Killoscully

Killoscully DED

- 20.91

Borrisokane

Borrisokane DED

+ 6.35

Aglish

Aglishcloghane DED

- 34.08

Lorrha

Lorrha West DED

- 20.00

Rathcabban

Rathcabban DED

- 33.93

Cloughjordan

Cloughjordan DED

- 27.26

Clonmore

Ballynaclough DED

+ 25.92

Ballingarry

Ballingarry DED

- 21.11

The remaining four areas mentioned are in south Tipperary and are not included in CLÁR for the same reason. The population changes in these areas ranged from -38% to +33% in the period 1926-2002.

Boherlahan

Nodstown DED

- 23.59

Dualla

Magorban DED

-16.73

The Commons

Farranrory DED

- 37.66

Killenaule

Killenaule DED

+ 33.46

CLÁR funds or co-funds, together with other Departments, State agencies and local authorities, investment in selected priority developments. These investments are made through a series of more than 20 measures, which support physical, economic and social infrastructure such as electricity conversion, roads, water and sewerage, village, housing and schools enhancement, health, broadband and sports and community projects. The measures reflect the priorities identified by the communities in the selected areas whom I consulted at the start of the programme.

The measures were agreed with and are operated in tandem with the lead Departments, State agencies or public utilities, as appropriate. This ensures efficiency and effectiveness and meets the needs of the people in the CLÁR areas. I intend to continue this practice for new measures I may introduce, depending on identified needs. Equally, I will keep the operation of existing measures under review.

The merits of this practice are reflected in the successful delivery of the programme. Expenditure amounted to €14.14 million in 2002 and €8.613 million in 2003 which, it is estimated, secured a further €21 million in related public and private expenditure in these areas, which otherwise would have been bottom of the list for infrastructure investment.

To date, nearly €21 million has been allocated to the counties in CLÁR under the various measures operating under the programme. From 2002 to date, more than €452,000 has been approved for developments in the CLÁR areas of north Tipperary with €357,000 expenditure drawn down over the same period.

CLÁR is not the only programme supporting rural communities. My Department is responsible for the implementation of the Leader programmes. Leader is the European Community initiative for rural development, which provides approved local action groups with public funding — EU and domestic — to implement multi-sectoral business plans for the development of their own areas. In accordance with the bottom-up philosophy of rural development, the local Leader group is the decision-making authority in relation to approving actions falling within its business plan. Leader is being delivered in two ways during the current structural fund period 2000-2006: the EU initiative, Leader+, and the area based rural development programme — Leader — funded under the Border, midland and west, BMW, and southern and eastern regional operational programmes. Public co-funding of these programmes, amounting to €150 million, has been allocated over the period to 2006.

My Department's responsibilities also include the rural development aspects of the cross Border programmes, PEACE and INTERREG as well as the farm relief services measure of the National Development Plan 2000-06.

Funding for the local development social inclusion programme is also provided by the Department. This programme aims to counter disadvantage and promote equality and social and economic inclusion through the provision of funding and support to local partnerships and community groups, including those in rural areas.

As promised in An Agreed Programme for Government, in May this year I introduced the rural social scheme on a phased basis through the Leader companies and Údarás na Gaeltachta and the scheme is now available throughout the country.

The Government's continuing support for rural communities in evident in the Estimates for 2005. Overall, the provisions for community affairs and rural affairs in the Estimates of my Department each show a 19% increase.

Inland Waterways.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

232 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if there are plans to open up the river-canal in County Cavan from the Erne waterways to Killykeen; his views on whether this waterway would be of extreme importance to the Belturbet, Killeshandra and Milltown areas; the position regarding the plans to have this vital extension to the waterway system brought into service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32326/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, Waterways Ireland is one of the six North-South implementation bodies established in 1999 under the British-Irish Agreement Act. It has responsibility for the management, maintenance and development of inland waterways, principally for recreational purposes.

The extension of the Erne waterways to Killykeen is not included in the National Development Plan 2000-2006 and Waterways Ireland advises me that it has no plans to extend this stretch of canal at present.

Animal Breeding Regulations.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

233 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will define flocks of high genetic merit as described as part of the EU ram genotyping programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32076/04]

Commission Decision 2003/100/EC of 13 February, 2003, required member states to introduce on a voluntary basis from 1 January 2004, a breeding programme to select for resistance to TSEs in sheep. However participation in such a programme becomes compulsory for flocks of high genetic merit from 1 April, 2005. My Department is currently considering the arrangements to be provided for in the programme to be applied from that date.

Dairy Premium.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

234 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Cavan will receive the dairy premium as promised by her Department some time ago; her views on whether a person who lost his herd through BSE and was subsequently provided with a different herd number should have to suffer further difficulties in having due payments granted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32111/04]

The person named was paid his full entitlement of €2,293.10 under the area based compensatory allowance scheme on 17 September 2004. The dairy premium issued to the person named on 29 November 2004 amounted to €1,540.43. Under the 2004 EU slaughter premium scheme, 35 animals have been deemed eligible for payment to the person named. A 60% advance payment totalling €1,680.00 was issued on 16 October 2004 for these animals. To date, no applications have been received under the 2004 special beef premium scheme for the person named. He is not an applicant under the suckler cow premium scheme.

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

235 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be allowed to attend an oral hearing to finalise his appeal for consideration of force majeure, under the single payment scheme in order that he can put his case across in person. [32113/04]

The person named applied for force majeure on the grounds of brucellosis depopulation of his herd during 2000. While epizootic disease is acceptable as force majeure it was decided not to apply force majeure in this case as the exclusion of 2000 from premium entitlements for the person named during the reference period 2000-2002 would have resulted in a lower single payment entitlement. The person named appealed this decision to the independent single payment appeals committee and the findings of the appeals committee were that the original decision taken by my Department should be upheld.

The independent single payment appeals committee was established to re-examine decisions taken by my Department in respect of the single farm payment scheme with which an applicant is unhappy. This committee consists of four appeals officers drawn from the agriculture appeals office and an independent chairman. However, single payment appeals do not fall under the remit of the agriculture appeals office and consequently there is no provision in such cases for an oral hearing of an appeal.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

236 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if special consideration will be given to a problem relating to the stocking density of a herd of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; her views on whether this herd had a clear test this person would have been eligible for top rate extensification payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32131/04]

The person named submitted an application under the 2004 extensification premium scheme. Payments under this scheme are not due to begin until June 2005. Prior to payment, the Department will carry out CMMS based checks for the purposes of determining eligibility for premium on stocking density grounds. Until this check is carried out against a fully updated CMMS database, the Department cannot determine with certainty the stocking density of the holding for 2004.

Under EU regulations, herd owners, whose holdings are totally restricted under veterinary regulations on a census date or within a period of 20 days immediately following a census date, can qualify for a concession whereby 80% of the value of the bovine livestock units present on the holding on the census date in question are taken into account in the calculation of the stocking density. In the case of the person named, the herd was totally restricted from 5 November 2004 and for this reason he will qualify for the granting of a concession applicable to the fifth census date only.

Poultry Industry.

Sean Fleming

Ceist:

237 Mr. Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the controls administered by her Department in respect of farmers who are small scale producers of free-range eggs for sale. [32320/04]

Under EU Council Regulation No. 1907/90 and Commission Regulation No. 2295/2003, free-range producers are required to be registered with my Department. Specific standards are detailed in these regulations, such as density, continuous daytime access to open-air runs and rotation of grazing. All egg producers are required to keep certain records on proper management practices. Inspections are undertaken by my Department to ensure that these standards are maintained.

Milk Quota.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

238 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding the force majeure appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32321/04]

Under the provisions of the EC milk quota regulations for 2000, SI 94 of 2000, a person who wishes to temporary lease all of his quota must first obtain a ministerial declaration under the provisions of Regulation 27 of the regulations mentioned. As the person named applied for and was not granted a declaration under Regulation 27, it is not possible to grant approval to temporary lease his quota in respect of the 2005 dairy premium. It is open to the person named to appeal the decision under Regulation 27 to the milk policy division of my Department.

Grant Aid.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

239 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the grant aid for new farm building is being increased from 40% to 60%; the criteria to qualify for this payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32322/04]

The recommendations of the Brosnan report on the implementation of the nitrates directive and on the question of increased funding for the farm waste management scheme are under consideration. An action programme for the implementation of the directive here has been submitted to the EU Commission and its response awaited.

Bovine Disease Controls.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

240 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will allow an appeal against a decision to have a cow and her weaning calf destroyed due to animal traceability issues; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the animals in question had been tested several times under the farmers own herd number (details supplied); if any other arrangement can be made, short of taking such radical steps; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32323/04]

Under EU rules on bovine animal identification, if a keeper of an animal cannot prove its identification within two working days, it must be destroyed without delay under the supervision of the veterinary authorities and without compensation from the competent authority. In this case, the person named has an animal in his herd identified with a tag number that is recorded on the database as having died in his herd in January 2002. Following an investigation and in accordance with the EU rules, he has been asked to provide information on the proper identification of this animal or risk slaughter and destruction of the animal.

The person named has now said that replacement tags, sought in respect of the animal now dead, were inserted by mistake in the animal under investigation. The notice to slaughter the animal will be withdrawn if this new information provides an acceptable identity for the animal now alive. If no alternative identity can be provided the animal must be slaughtered in accordance with EU and national regulations on traceability. On receipt of further information, which distinguishes between the two animals and correctly identifies the animal in question, the case will be reviewed.

Grant Payments.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

241 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of applications under the force majeure scheme for single farm payment which have been received to date from persons in County Tipperary; the number which have been successful, refused, appealed successfully or otherwise, respectively; the number still awaiting a decision; and if she will give an outline of the cases that have been decided under different subject areas. [32348/04]

Following is the up to date position regarding the processing of force majeure applications received from herd owners in County Tipperary under the single payment scheme during the earlier application period this year: No. of cases received, 1,498; no. of successful applicants, 238; no. of unsuccessful applicants, 919; no. awaiting decision, 341; no. of applicants who submitted an appeal to the independent single payment appeals committee, 151; no. of successful appeals, 9; no. of unsuccessful appeals, 102; and no. of applicants awaiting a decision, 40.

The breakdown of applications received under the different subject areas is as follows: force majeure applications by category: death of applicant, 89; incapacity, 285; disaster, 32; destruction, 11; disease in herd, 345 and other exceptional circumstance, 736.

My Department has also received in excess of 100force majeure applications under the second tranche of this measure, which closed on 29 October 2004. Processing of these applications is expected to begin in the next couple of weeks.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

242 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a decision will be made on the appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Kerry against the decision to reduce the special beef premium payment due to stocking density; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32360/04]

The person named submitted an appeal to the agriculture appeals office on 3 December 2004. That office, which is independent of my Department, has now requested that my Department conduct a review of this case. Following the conclusion of that review the agriculture appeals office will consider the appeal and inform the person named of the outcome in due course.

Animal Transport.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

243 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the new EU regulations which apply to the transportation of animals in cases in which the distance is less than 50 kilometres; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32371/04]

The EU regulation to which the Deputy refers has yet to be formally adopted by member states. Political agreement was reached by the Council of Ministers on 22 November and the regulation is scheduled for formal adoption on 21 December 2004. Farmers transporting their own animals for a distance of less than 50 km from their holding will be required to ensure animals are fit for the intended journey and are transported in a way that is not likely to cause injury or undue suffering to them. This condition includes minimising journey length where possible, providing suitable vehicles with sufficient floor area and height, offering water, feed and rest appropriate to animal species and size and ensuring that those handling the animals are competent for this purpose. The remainder of the regulation does not apply to such transport. A proportion of this transport will be subject to checks by the competent authority.

The proposed regulation will introduce a number of requirements vis-à-vis animal welfare during transport. However, it provides that persons transporting live animals up to a maximum of 65 kilometres will be exempted from the requirements to be authorised as transporters, to complete training and for drivers and attendants to have certificates of competence. Overall, this proposal is designed to improve the conditions under which animals are transported within Ireland and throughout the European Union.

Grant Payments.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

244 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the status of the EU proposals on restructuring of grant aid for forestry; her negotiating position on this proposal; the discussions she has had with her EU counterparts on the issue; and the details of their response; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32372/04]

The EU Commission has presented proposals for a new rural development regulation, covering the period 2007-13. This draft regulation covers a range of rural development measures, including measures in respect of less favoured areas, early retirement, on-farm investment and installation aid, and will also be the vehicle for channelling EU funding to forestry. The proposals have been examined at working group level, at the special agriculture committee and came before it for an initial discussion at the Council on 22 November. The proposals have serious implications for Irish forestry. The Commission has proposed a reduction in planting grants from 100% to 40%, a reduction in premiums and a reduction in the premium payment period from a maximum of 20 years to ten years. At all stages of the negotiations to date, Ireland has indicated the devastating effects of the proposals for Irish forestry. The draft regulation now returns to working group level for further negotiation. The Irish negotiators have engaged in an active campaign to raise awareness among their European colleagues of the potential impact of the proposals on Irish forestry. I will meet my Spanish counterpart in a few days time and this matter will be on the agenda as an item of mutual concern. Contact with other member states at ministerial level is planned. I have established a liaison group, on which all the various stakeholders are represented, for the purpose of examining these proposals, sharing information and identifying priorities. I formally acknowledge the significant contribution this liaison group has made to our analysis already.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

245 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when she intends to seek applications for the national reserve under the 2005 decoupled payments scheme; if she has considered the eligibility criteria under the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32373/04]

I hope to invite applications for the 2005 single payment national reserve. Full details of the eligibility criteria and terms and conditions governing the national reserve will be announced at the same time.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

246 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the status of a force majeure appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32376/04]

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 EU Council Regulation 1782/2003. Following this decision, the person named submitted an appeal to the independent single payment appeals committee and the case is included for examination with the list of appeals cases to be examined next week. Following a full review of the circumstances of the case, the person named will be notified of the outcome of the appeal.

Early Retirement Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

247 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will consider publishing guidelines to clearly set out objective procedures for the activation of a retired farmer’s entitlements by a young farmer under the ERS; if she will extend the time for claiming such entitlements beyond the currently proposed four months in cases in which a lease is due for renewal during the period in question; if she will lay down criteria whereby the lease must remain intact in cases in which such a lease is not due for renewal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32377/04]

The guidelines for the activation of entitlements by young farmers is set down in the Departments information booklet "The Single Payment Scheme, An Explanatory Guide", published in May 2004.

The reference to four months in the Deputy's question appears to refer to the time allowed by my Department to participants in the early retirement scheme to either renew a lease that has expired with their transferee, which is the young farmer who took over the holding, or to find a replacement transferee. Such a lease must be in place to ensure the continued payment of the pension. My Department notifies the participant in advance of the expiry of the lease of the need for a new lease and asks that the relevant documentation be supplied. If this documentation is not received after four months, the Department may suspend payment of pension until it is received. My Department endeavours to be as flexible as possible where difficulties arise for participants in sourcing a replacement transferee.

The lease is a legal agreement between the transferor and transferee. If either party does not meet commitments under the terms of the lease, it is open to the other party to take legal action to enforce the terms of the lease. A farmer can only consolidate entitlements on lands where the lease agreement has expired. This concession will not extend to farmers who terminate a lease before the agreed period.

Grant Payments.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

248 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the definition of a farmer under the forestry grant aid scheme; the plans she has to review this; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32378/04]

To qualify for the farmer rate of premium, applicants under the afforestation grant and premium scheme of my Department must: practice farming within the State; reside within 70 miles of the plantation; own, lease or be in joint management of at least three hectares of an agricultural holding; derive at least 25% of their income from farming in the State in one of the three years prior to completion of afforestation and provide documentary evidence of same. These conditions determining the granting of the farmer rate of premium are currently under review.

Bovine Diseases.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

249 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the projected 2004 outturn cost of the tuberculosis eradication scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32379/04]

As the majority of TB tests are undertaken simultaneously with the brucellosis tests, it is not possible to give a precise cost for the tuberculosis eradication scheme in 2004. The projected outturn for the two schemes for 2004 is €55 million compared with an allocation of €63.8 million. The reduction in expenditure is due largely to a significant improvement in the incidence of both diseases this year. In view of the reduction in the cost of these schemes, I announced last week that, subject to the approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas, I intend to reduce by one-third the disease levies paid by farmers from 1 January 2005.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

250 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the amount that has been spent in facilitating REP scheme training sessions in County Leitrim in 2004 with the loss of the facility at Ballinamore which was formerly used to host such events. [32425/04]

The choice of locations for REPS 20-hour training courses is a matter for individual planning agencies and the fee paid to them covers the cost of renting premises. Payments of €39,501were made to approved planning agencies in respect of 16 REPS 20 hour training courses held in County Leitrim in 2004.

Departmental Responsibilities.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

251 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the person to whom Coillte Teoranta is responsible for decisions made affecting its role as caretaker of State owned lands. [32426/04]

Coillte Teoranta reports to my Department on its corporate governance. With regard to lands, the company submits and agrees with the Department a programme of sales and acquisitions each year, in accordance with Section 14 of the 1988 Forestry Act.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

252 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the persons to whom Teagasc is responsible regarding decisions which it makes in line with the budget it receives from her Department. [32427/04]

Teagasc, the agriculture and food development authority, was established under the Agriculture (Research, Training and Advice) Act 1988. Its function under the Act is to provide research, training and advisory services for the agri-food sector. Teagasc is governed by an eleven member authority. The chairman and five ordinary members are appointed by the Minister and the remaining five members are appointed by the Minister following nominations from designated organisations: IFA, ICMSA, ICOS, Macra na Feirme and Teagasc unions. An annual Exchequer grant in aid is provided for the purpose of expenditure by Teagasc in the performance of its statutory functions. It is the responsibility of the Teagasc authority to allocate this funding in accordance with its priorities and to take whatever action it deems necessary to produce a balanced budget for the year.

The effective use by Teagasc of the public resources allocated to it is ensured by the fact that annual programme of activities proposed by Teagasc is subject to approval by the Minister and the Minister for Finance, that Teagasc is subject to audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General, that Teagasc is required to submit its annual report and accounts to the Minister who lays them before each House of the Oireachtas, and that Teagasc is required in the conduct of its operations to adhere to the code of practice for the governance of State bodies. In accordance with this code, the chairperson of Teagasc is required to furnish to the Minister an annual report affirming that all appropriate procedures for financial reports, internal audit, procurement and asset disposal are being carried out and including a report on its system of internal financial controls. Under this code, Teagasc is also required to submit annual rolling five year business and financial plans encompassing strategy, planned investment and financial targets. A copy of the plan is sent to the Minister and the Minister for Finance.

Under the strategic management initiative, Teagasc prepares a statement of strategy which sets out the overall mission, mandate and high level goals and objectives of Teagasc and the broad strategies to be implemented. Teagasc's current statement of strategy covers the period 2003-05.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Michael Mulcahy

Ceist:

253 Mr. Mulcahy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the genetically modified plants that are licensed to be grown here; the counties in which such genetically modified plants are currently being harvested; the genetically modified foodstuffs which are approved for use as animal feed here; and the food products, consumed by the general public, which contain genetically modified organisms. [32439/04]

I am not aware of any harvesting or cultivation of genetically modified plants in Ireland. Seeds of genetically modified agricultural plants cannot be marketed in Ireland unless the GM seed variety is listed in the national catalogue of agricultural plant varieties of Ireland or included in either the EU common catalogue of varieties of agricultural plant species or the EU vegetable common catalogue. To be listed in such a catalogue, the GM event contained in the variety must firstly be approved under EU Directive 2001/18/EC, its predecessor, EU Directive 90/220/EEC, or EU Regulation 1829/2003. It must then successfully complete tests in a member state for distinctiveness, uniformity and stability and for value, cultivation and use. Finally, it must be included in a member state's national catalogue.

There are no GM seed varieties listed in Ireland's national catalogue. There are 17 varieties of maize currently included in the GM seed varieties of the EU common catalogue, which were genetically modified to be resistant to the European corn borer insect. These varieties were initially listed only in the national catalogues of Spain and France. As a result, they could only be cultivated in those member states and were inserted into the EU common catalogue last October.

In theory all seed varieties, including GM seed varieties, listed in the EU common catalogue can be cultivated in any member state including Ireland. However, the reality of the situation is that cultivation of the GM maize varieties referred to is unlikely to take place in Ireland because the European corn borer insect is not a significant pest in Ireland and the varieties in question are unlikely to be suitable for Irish growing conditions. The other controlling mechanism for GM cultivation within member states are procedures for managing the co-existence of GM crops alongside non-GM crops. Member states are obliged to draw up strategies and best practices based on EU guidelines to provide for effective coexistence arrangements of GM crops with non-GM crops. An interdepartmental working group has been set up by my Department to examine this matter.

The following tables set out information published by the European Commission on 19 July 2004 regarding the approval of products under the various processes either for cultivation, animal feed or food use. The European Commission decided on 19 May 2004 to approve Bt-11 sweetcorn for food use, NK603 maize for import, animal feed use and processing and decided on 26 October 2004 to approved NK 603 maize for food use. The following tables and additional information are available on the following website: europa.eu.int/geninfo/query/engine/search/query.pl.

GMO products. Approved under directive 90/220/EEC as of March 2001.

Product

Notifier

Date of Commission Decision1/ Member State Consent2

1.

Vaccine against Aujeszky's disease

Vemie Veterinår Chemie GmbH

18.12.92

2.

Vaccine against rabies

Rhône-MêrieuxC/B/92/B28 & C/F/93/03-02

19.10.93

3.

Tobacco tolerant to bromoxynil

SEITAC/F/93/08-02

08.06.94

4.

Vaccine against Aujeszky's disease (further uses)3

Vemie Veterinår Chemie GmbHC/D/92/I-1

18.07.94

5.

Male sterile swede rape resistant to glufosinate ammonium (MS1, RF1)Uses: breeding activities

Plant Genetic SystemsC/UK/94/M1/1

06.02.96

6.

Soybeans tolerant to glyphosateUses: import and processing

MonsantoC/UK/94/M3/1

03.04.96

7.

Male sterile chicory tolerant to glufosinate ammoniumUses: breeding activities

Bejo-Zaden BVC/NL/94/25

20.05.96

8.

Bt-maize tolerant to glufosinate ammonium(Bt-176)

Ciba-GeigyC/F/94/11-03

23.01.97

9.

Male sterile swede rape tolerant to glufosinateammonium (MS1, RF1)4Uses: import and Processing

Plant Genetic SystemsC/F/95/05/01/A

06.06.97(not finally approved by F)

10.

Male sterile swede rape tolerant to glufosinate ammonium (MS1, RF2)5

Plant Genetic SystemsC/F/95/05/01/B

06.06.97(not finally approved by F)

11.

Test kit to detect antibiotic residues in milk

Valio OyC/F1/96-1NA

14.07.97

12.

Carnation lines with modified flower colour

FlorigeneC/NL/96/14

01.12.97(MS consent)

13.

Swede rape tolerant to glufosinate ammonium (Topas 19/2)Uses: import and processing

AgrEvoC/UK/95/M5/1

22.04.98

14.

Maize tolerant to glufosinate ammonium (T25)

AgrEvoC/F/95/12/07

22.04.98

15.

Maize expressing the Bt cryIA(b) gene (MON 810)

MonsantoC/F/95/12-02

22.04.98

16.

Maize tolerant to glufosinate ammonium and expressing the Bt cryIA(b) gene (Bt-11)Uses: import and processing

Novartis(formerly Northrup King)C/UK/96/M4/1

22.04.98

17.

Carnation lines with improved vase life

FlorigeneC/NL/97/12

20.10.98(MS consent)

18.

Carnation lines with modified flower colour

FlorigeneC/NL/97/13

20.10.98(MS consent)

1Where objections were raised by Member State authorities.

2In the absence of objections by Member State authorities.

3Linked to item 1 (same product, further uses).

4Linked to item 5 (same product, further uses).

5This product is the result of a different transformation event to that of No. 9.

Genetically Modified (GM) foods authorised in the European Union.

Event

Crop

Applicant

Trait

Potential Food Uses

Date

Legal Basis

1

GTS 40/3/2

Soybean

Monsanto

Insect protection and herbicide tolerance

Soy foods. Soy foods include soy beverages, tofu, soy oil, soy flour, lecithin.

03.04.1996

Dir. 90/220/EEC — Art. 13

2

Bt 176

Maize

Ciba-Geigy

Insect protection and herbicide tolerance

Maize foods. Maize foods include kernels, oil, maize flour, sugar, syrup.

23.01.1997

Dir. 90/220/EEC — Art. 13

3456

TOPAS 19/2MS1 / RF2MS1 / RF1GT 73

Oilseed rapeOilseed rapeOilseed rapeOilseed rape

AgrEvoPlant Genetic SystemsPlant Genetic SystemsMonsanto

Herbicide toleranceHerbicide toleranceHerbicide toleranceHerbicide tolerance

Rapeseed oil. Products made with rapeseed oil may include fried foods, baked products and snack foods.

24.06.199724.06.199724.06.199721.11.1997

Reg. (EC) 258/97 — Art. 5Reg. (EC) 258/97 — Art. 5Reg. (EC) 258/97 — Art. 5Reg. (EC) 258/97 — Art. 5

78910

MON 810T 25Bt 11MON 809

MaizeMaizeMaizeMaize

MonsantoAgrEvoNovartisPioneer

Insect protectionHerbicide toleranceInsect protectionInsect protection

Maize derivatives. These may include maize oil, maize flour, sugar and syrup. Products made with maize derivatives may include snack foods, baked foods, fried foods, confectionery and soft drinks.

06.02.199806.02.199806.02.199823.10.1998

Reg. (EC) 258/97 — Art. 5Reg. (EC) 258/97 — Art. 5Reg. (EC) 258/97 — Art. 5Reg. (EC) 258/97 — Art. 5

111213

Falcon GS 40/90Liberator L62MS8/RF3

Oilseed rapeOilseed rapeOilseed rape

Hoechst / AgrEvoHoechst / AgrEvoPlant Genetic Systems

Herbicide toleranceHerbicide toleranceHerbicide tolerance

Rapeseed oil. Products made with rapeseed oil may include fried foods, baked foods and snack foods.

08.11.199908.11.199926.04.2000

Reg. (EC) 258/97 — Art. 5Reg. (EC) 258/97 — Art. 5Reg. (EC) 258/97 — Art. 5

141516

1445531pRF69/pRF93

CottonCottonBacillus subtilis

MonsantoMonsantoF. Hoffmann-La Roche

Herbicide toleranceInsect protectionRiboflavin

Cottonseed oil. Products made with cottonseed oil may include fried foods, baked foods and snack foods.ËVitamin B2.

19.12.200219.12.200223.03.2000

Reg. (EC) 258/97 — Art. 5Reg. (EC) 258/97 — Art. 5Reg. (EC) 258/97 — Art. 5

Grant Payments.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

254 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of farmers yet to be informed of their entitlements under the single farm payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32444/04]

Approximately 10,000 farmers have yet to be informed of their provisional entitlements under the single payment scheme. Those that have yet to receive notification of their provisional entitlements include applicants under force majeure, new entrants, inheritance and other categories. Work is ongoing in processing these cases, with a view to issuing provisional entitlement statements as soon as possible.

John Ellis

Ceist:

255 Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if forestry premiums will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim. [32468/04]

There are no outstanding forestry premiums due to the person in question.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

256 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the entitlements under the single payment scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [32469/04]

As the case in question is quite complicated, I arranged for one of my officials to contact the person named directly. During these discussions, it was agreed that the Department would carry out a comprehensive review of the case. The object of this review is to specify the exact procedures that need to be followed by the person named in order that he can establish and activate the single payment entitlements.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

257 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when suckler cow premium will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [32504/04]

The person named applied for premium on 60 animals under the 2004 suckler cow premium scheme. Movement details of one of the animals were incorrectly recorded on CMMS and as this matter remained unresolved, the 60% advance entitlement was calculated in respect of 59 animals with payments of €7,934.91 issuing on 25 November 2004. The CMMS record has since been updated and the person named will be paid his full entitlement for this one animal at balancing payment stage along with the balance due in respect of 59 animals already paid. Balancing payments will be made in March or April 2005.

Land Registry Office.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

258 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a case for a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan will be dealt with through the Land Registry office; if this case will be expedited as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32071/04]

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that this is an application under section 49, the acquisition of title by virtue of long possession, of the Registration of Title Act 1964 and which was lodged on 26 March, 2001. The application refers to Dealing Number D2001CS002284G. 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, I can assure the Deputy that the application is receiving attention in the Land Registry and will be completed as soon as possible.

Judicial Appointments.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

259 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the application of pension abatement applies to retired judges who take on further roles, inquiries or reports; if the same terms apply to all such appointments; if not, if individual agreements are reached in such matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32094/04]

The statutory provisions on the remuneration and pensions of retired judges are set out in section 46 of the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act 1961. Section 46(6) of the Act deals with the situation where a judge in receipt of a pension is employed in a position remunerated out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas or out of the central fund. The effect is to prescribe, without exception, for certain abatement of pensions in such circumstances.

Garda Equipment.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

260 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects the full roll-out of speed cameras nationally will take place; his views on the outsourcing of all speed cameras to a private interest; the responsibilities which such a private operator would have in the operation of such a system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32438/04]

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

261 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the delay in the introduction of speed cameras; and if they will be placed on high risk areas of roads. [32403/04]

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

275 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the envisaged breakdown of responsibility and duties between the Garda and the private operator of speed cameras in the event of the private outsourcing of speed cameras; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32418/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 260, 261 and 275 together.

A working group on safety cameras chaired by my Department, and consisting of representatives of the Garda Síochána, the Department of Transport and the National Roads Authority is currently examining how the provision, operation and processing of the output of speed cameras would operate, including how camera sites will be chosen. Work is currently well advanced on preparing proposals on how the management of these arrangements will be structured and I expect to formulate proposals shortly. It is intended that the Garda Síochána will continue to play a central role with respect to the location of the cameras. The enactment of new legislative provisions will be necessary to enable these proposals to be implemented. Such legislation is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen.

The maximum number of gardaí should be involved in front line policing and not in back office administrative work. To achieve this, outsourcing of non-core Garda work is necessary. This will include outsourcing the provision, maintenance and operation of speed cameras. The Government's road safety strategy for 2004-06 was published some months ago by the Minister for Transport. It notes that successful jurisdictions, such as Victoria in Australia, have benefited from the engagement of private sector interests for the operation of camera and other detection equipment. The arrangements in place in Victoria greatly facilitate the determination of annual levels of checks for the entire fleet of vehicles. The strategy therefore proposes that the Garda Síochána will enter into arrangements for the engagement of a private sector concern for the purposes of the provision and operation of a nationwide programme for the detection of speeding offences. Outsourcing of the operation of camera equipment will also free up Garda resources for enforcement purposes. These arrangements may see the project being rolled out on a phased basis and, in addition to speeding offences, it may extend to other appropriate traffic offences.

Visa Applications.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

262 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the guidelines applicable regarding the reason for the granting or refusal of visas on the basis of finances; and if his attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32056/04]

The visa application to which the Deputy refers was to enable the child of a non-EEA national employed under the work permit scheme to reside with his mother in the State. A person employed under the work permit scheme can, after he or she has been in the State for one year and has been offered a contract for a further year, apply for his or her spouse and minor children to join him or her in the State. With regard to the refusal or granting of visas on the basis of finances, the worker must be able to fully support the family members in question without the need to recourse to public funds.

When assessing such an application, the visa officer will consider, amongst other things, whether the level of salary of the worker comes within the ambit of qualifying for payments from public funds. In this regard, the criteria set by the Department of Social and Family Affairs for eligibility for family income supplement payments are used. The criteria, which may change from time to time, are available on that Department's website www.welfare.ie/publications/sw22.html. If the level of the worker’s income as evidenced by his or her payslips or P60 would qualify him or her for FIS payments, the application seeking permission for a minor to join with the worker is generally refused as it is evident that the family can seek recourse to public funds.

Citizenship Applications.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

263 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a person (details supplied) in County Louth was refused a certificate of naturalisation, in view of the fact that he has refugee status in this State and has been resident here for almost four years; if a certificate of naturalisation will be issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32074/04]

Section 15 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, provides that an applicant for naturalisation must have a one year period of continuous residence in the State before the date of the application and a total of four years residence in the State in the eight years preceding that period.

Section 16(g) of that Act provides that I may, in my absolute discretion, waive the statutory conditions in certain circumstances, including where the applicant is a refugee within the meaning of the United Nations convention relating to the status of refugees. In considering applications under this provision, I am generally disposed to waive two years of the normal residency requirement, thereby requiring such applicants to have been resident in the State for three years at the time of application. The calculation of the three year period begins from the date the applicant arrived in the State to seek refugee status. An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in the citizenship section of my Department on 30 October 2002. The applicant arrived in the State on 5 February 2001. As there were no circumstances apparent in the application which would have lead me to depart from the general policy outlined, I decided to refuse application.

Garda Stations.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

264 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Garda Commissioner will have extra police resources made available to Cabra Garda station in view of the ongoing anti-social behaviour and intimidation targeted at businesses at a location (details supplied). [32075/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that there were 64 personnel of all ranks in Cabra Garda station on 3 December 2004. The centre referred to by the Deputy consists of seven units with parking spaces available to the public. Local Garda management is satisfied the area receives adequate attention through ongoing and regular patrols from Cabra Garda station.

I am very pleased to say that the Government has approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis, in line with the commitment in the agreed programme for Government. This is a key commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government and its implementation will significantly strengthen the operational capacity of the force. The Garda Commissioner will now draw up plans on how best to distribute and manage these resources. The additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences, but it will be possible to address other priorities as well, such as the need to very significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties as part of the new Garda traffic corps. The additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing and they will have a real impact.

For the next three years, there will be an annual intake of almost 1,100 new recruits. The advertisement campaign for this first tranche of 1,100 recruits was launched on Thursday 25 November 2004.

Dublin-Monaghan Bombings.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

265 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a person (details supplied), suspected of involvement in the Dublin bombings of 1974, is dead; if a death certificate was produced at the cremation in England; and if he will work with the Department of Foreign Affairs on this issue. [32081/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that, although it received no official notification, the Garda Síochána is aware that the person in question died on 10 June 2003. However, as the death occurred outside the jurisdiction, it is not known whether a death certificate was produced at the cremation. The Department of Foreign Affairs has been asked to try and obtain further information through the Embassy of Ireland.

Asylum Applications.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

266 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a decision has been made on the appeal being determined under section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32126/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 204 of 26 May 2004. One of the issues mentioned was refoulement and the situation in Afghanistan is still being monitored to determine the safety of returning persons there. There is also doubt about the stated nationality of the person concerned and further inquiries are being made in this regard. The person concerned will be informed of the outcome of these deliberations in due course.

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

267 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the consideration being given to allowing refugees, asylum seekers and illegal immigrants remain in the State on the basis that they have Irish born children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32304/04]

The separate procedure for considering residency applications based solely on the parentage of an Irish born child ceased on the 19 February 2003, following the Supreme Court decision in the case of L and O in January 2003. At that date a total of 11,493 applications on this basis were outstanding. I therefore assume the Deputy is referring to such outstanding applications. Applications for asylum, which are dealt with by the office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, are examined on a separate basis and criteria to these residency applications. With regard to outstanding claims to reside in the State on the basis of parentage of an Irish born child and future claims for leave to remain in the State from the non-national parents of Irish born children, the Government decided that every such case would be examined and decided individually. A notice to this effect was published on 18 July 2003.

The amendment to the Constitution following the June referendum has allowed the Oireachtas to deal with the issue of citizenship for children of non-national parents. The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Bill 2004 is currently before this House. Until that legislation is enacted, the situation on the ground is unchanged. Any person born in Ireland is still entitled to Irish citizenship. This continues to be an attraction to persons with no link to Ireland to seek to come to Ireland to acquire Irish and EU citizenship for their children. In these circumstances it is inappropriate for any change in procedures to be introduced in advance of the establishment of legislation as envisaged by the recent referendum.

Each case will be dealt with individually. I will make public my approach to the resolution of these issues in the near future.

Citizenship Applications.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

268 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an immigration card will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32307/04]

I understand the person in question has recently been issued with a certificate of registration by her local immigration officer.

Asylum Applications.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

269 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made in respect of an application by a person (details supplied) for asylum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32309/04]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 4 August 2002 and applied for asylum on the same day. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and on appeal by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Subsequently, in accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, he was informed by letter dated 3 December 2004, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. This person's case file, including all representations submitted, will be considered under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, which deals with the prohibition of refoulement. I expect the file to be passed to me for decision soon.

Courts Service.

Pat Carey

Ceist:

270 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has had an opportunity to examine the concept of community courts as outlined in a report (details supplied) for the Dublin City Centre Business Association; his views on whether this model will contribute to the better administration of justice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32310/04]

The concept of community courts is receiving ongoing consideration within my Department. Officials of my Department have met the director of the New York based center for court innovation, the body responsible for the development of the Midtown community court and which is the court referred to by the Dublin City Business Association in its report.

The concept has some similarities with the pilot drug court programme which was launched in the Dublin District Court in 2001. Dublin's north inner city was chosen as the location from which to operate the pilot drug court. The programme marked a major policy initiative in the criminal justice system and was designed as an alternative measure for dealing with less serious and non-violent drug offenders. The project was evaluated by consultants at the end of the 18 month period in July 2002. They recommended that the pilot project be extended and the catchment area be widened to include the Dublin 7 area for the period of the extended pilot project to focus on the research and development activity necessary to roll-out the drug court more widely.

I welcomed the recommendations in the consultancy report and supported the extension of the drug court to the Dublin 7 catchment area. This will allow time for further consideration, in consultation with the relevant Departments and agencies, of how the drug court concept should be further developed and resourced. A further evaluation of the operation of the court in the extended area is being carried out by the Courts Service, after which an informed decision can be taken on its further expansion.

Prisoner Releases.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

271 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on aspects of the Olden report which would specifically protect the community at large from persons convicted of more than one murder should these be released from prison; if his attention has been drawn to the tragic circumstances of a person (details supplied); his views on whether there are similarities between this case and the application to the parole board to have other persons released from prison despite their having served life sentences for brutal murders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32311/04]

I am well aware of the background to the tragic case referred to by the Deputy which gave rise to the Olden report. Sentences of all long-term prisoners are being managed in a manner consistent with the recommendations of the Olden report. Life sentence prisoners may have their cases reviewed by the interim parole board once they have served seven years in prison custody and the board has responsibility for advising me on the administration of such sentences.

The prisoners referred to by the Deputy, like any life sentence prisoners in the system, may have their cases reviewed by the board. Nevertheless, it can also be inferred from the length of sentence already served, 26 years, that their offences are viewed as most heinous and any decision to grant any form of concession in their cases would not be taken lightly. At this stage, I have received no recent recommendation from the interim parole board on these cases.

Garda Stations.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

272 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform which Garda stations in the Roscommon/east Galway and the Sligo/Leitrim divisions have a PULSE computer; the plans he has to extend access to the system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32380/04]

The information requested by the Deputy regarding the availability of PULSE in the Roscommon and east Galway division and the Sligo and Leitrim Division is as follows: Roscommon-east Galway: Roscommon, Ballinasloe, Boyle, Castlerea and Tuam. I am informed by the Garda authorities that it is planned to expand the PULSE system to Mountbellew Garda station as part of the next expansion of the PULSE system. Sligo-Leitrim: Sligo, Ballymote, Carrick-on-Shannon and Manorhamiltion. I am informed by the Garda authorities that it is planned to expand the PULSE system to Mohill Garda station as part of the next expansion of the PULSE system.

Further extensions to the PULSE system to additional Garda stations will be considered in the context of the Garda information and communications technology strategy currently under preparation by the Garda Síochána.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

273 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the Garda stations in the Roscommon and east Galway and Sligo and Leitrim divisions which are manned on a daily basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32381/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that there were 246 personnel of all ranks in the Roscommon and east Galway division on 6 December 2004. I am further informed that there are 37 Garda stations in the Roscommon and east Galway division. These are incorporated into five Garda districts. The district headquarters stations, which are at Roscommon, Ballinasloe, Boyle, Castlerea and Tuam, are manned on a 24 hour daily basis.

All remaining Garda stations are manned and opened at varying times on different days when personnel attached to those stations are on rostered working days. The only exception to this is Mountbellew Garda station, which forms part of a community policing initiative. The station is opened Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each week and on Saturdays and Sundays at times determined by personnel working arrangements.

With regard to the Sligo and Leitrim Division, there were 246 personnel of all ranks on 6 December 2004. There are 28 Garda stations in the Sligo and Leitrim division. These are incorporated into four Garda districts. The district headquarters stations, which are at Sligo, Ballymote, Manorhamilton and Carrick-On-Shannon are manned on a 24 hour daily basis. All remaining Garda stations within the division are manned and open normally from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on specified days.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that there were 64 personnel of all ranks in Cabra Garda station on 3 December 2004. The centre referred to by the Deputy consists of seven units with parking spaces available to the public. Local Garda management is satisfied that the area receives adequate attention through ongoing and regular patrols from Cabra Garda station.

I am very pleased to say that the Government has approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis, in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government. This is a key commitment in the programme for Government and its implementation will significantly strengthen the operational capacity of the force. The Garda Commissioner will now draw up plans on how best to distribute and manage these resources. The additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences, but it will be possible to address other priorities as well, such as the need to very significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties as part of the new Garda traffic corps. The additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing and they will have a real impact.

For the next three years, there will be an annual intake of almost 1,100 new recruits. The advertisement campaign for this first tranche of 1,100 recruits was launched on Thursday 25 November 2004.

Crime Prevention.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

274 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to deal with anti-social behaviour across the north side of Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32383/04]

I assure the Deputy that strong provisions have been put in place to combat the causes of public disorder and anti-social behaviour, not only on the north side of Dublin, but throughout the country. Reductions in violence and public order offences have followed the enactment in 2003 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003 and the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003, which give significant additional powers to the Garda to deal with public order and street crime. I particularly welcome the reduction in the number of assaults causing harm in the third quarter of 2004, by 2% since the third quarter of 2003.

The Intoxicating Liquor Act 2000 strengthened the provisions which existed in the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988 relating to the supply or sale of intoxicating liquor to under age persons. It increased fines for breaches of the law on under age drinking. Serious penalties, including the temporary closure of a licensed premises, can result if a licensee is convicted of selling intoxicating liquor to an under age person. The Garda can target a range of premises in which customers cause trouble. After warning the owner, the Garda can apply for a closure order. Convicted trouble makers can be served with exclusion orders prohibiting them from entering or being near specified premises. The law relating to conduct on licensed premises has been updated and made easier to enforce. Premises can be temporarily closed for supplying alcohol to persons who are drunk, for permitting drunkenness and for failing to preserve order.

The administration of the national age cards scheme by the Garda has facilitated the force, in co-operation with the licensed trade, in addressing and combating under age drinking. The age card scheme allows those who have reached the age of 18 to apply for an age card at a local Garda station to confirm that they have attained the legal age for purchasing intoxicating liquor. The Garda monitors the scheme continuously to ensure that it takes account of changing circumstances.

Garda youth diversion projects are part of a community-based, multi-agency crime prevention initiative which seeks to divert young persons from becoming involved, or further involved, in anti-social or criminal behaviour by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development, promote civic responsibility and improve long-term employability prospects. The projects contribute to improving the quality of life within communities and enhancing relations between the Garda and communities. I am committed to the continuing development of the projects, as well as their expansion, as resources permit. The number of projects has grown from 12 in 1997 to 64 at present, a process made possible in part by funding under the national development plan. The locations of the new projects were decided by the Garda authorities in conjunction with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. While legislative measures and initiatives such as the age card scheme help to curtail anti-social behaviour and under age drinking, they cannot be viewed as the only solution. All parties with an interest need to play a role in helping to address anti-social behaviour, with particular regard to young people.

The Garda authorities responded to public order problems with a public order initiative called Operation Encounter, which came into operation in February 2002. The initiative is focused on all public order issues in the community. Recent figures show that 179,815 crimes have been detected since its inception. Uniformed and plain clothes mobile units conduct regular patrols in areas considered by the Garda to be susceptible to anti-social behaviour. The Garda is aware of the problems associated with the anti-social behaviour experienced by certain communities, some of which have been assigned dedicated community gardaí. The community gardaí meet local residents regularly to offer advice and to try to address difficulties being experienced by them. The mountain bike unit provides high visibility in areas of high population density. Patrols are further augmented by the divisional crime task force, detective units, special resource units and, in particular, traffic units.

I am pleased that the Government has approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis, honouring the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government. The implementation of this key commitment will significantly strengthen the force's operational capacity. The Garda Commissioner will draw up plans on how best to distribute and manage the resources. It is clear that additional resources will be targeted at areas of greatest need, as envisaged in the programme for Government, which refers to such areas as being those with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences. It will be possible to address other priorities, such as the need to increase significantly the number of gardaí allocated to traffic law enforcement. I have promised that the extra gardaí will not be allocated administrative duties, but will be involved directly in front-line, operational and high visibility policing. There will be an intake of almost 1,100 new recruits in each of the next three years. The advertising campaign for the first tranche of 1,100 recruits was launched on Thursday 25 November 2004.

Question No. 275 answered with QuestionNo. 260.

Child Care Services.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

276 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he intends to make a decision on the application for funding under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme by a group (details supplied) in County Kerry and to take into account the fact that a site with full planning permission is available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32419/04]

Having made inquiries, I understand an application for capital grant assistance under the equal opportunities child care programme was submitted by the group in question to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform some time ago. The programme in question is a seven-year development programme, aimed at increasing the availability and quality of child care and supporting parents in employment, education and training. The progress of the programme was commented on favourably in the mid-term evaluations of the regional operational programmes and the national development plan. Additional funding of some €12 million was made available for the child care measures following the mid-term review, bringing the total funding available for the programme to €449.3 million, including an increased provision of €157 million for capital developments.

With the technical assistance of ADM Limited, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has processed and I have approved 1,271 applications for capital grant assistance of more than €118 million, as well as 1,015 applications for staffing grant assistance of €104 million, since 2000. Almost €44 million has been allocated for projects under the quality measure. Much of the remaining current funding is required for ongoing supports to groups providing child care services to disadvantaged families to enable them to participate in employment, education and training opportunities. The provision of an additional capital allocation of €90 million over five years for the development of child care facilities was made in the context of the recent budget. Therefore, I expect to be in a position to make an announcement on the allocation of the first tranche of funding in the next week or so, after which the Department will write to all applicants for capital grant assistance. In the interim, it would be premature of me to comment further on this capital grant application.

Control of Firearms.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

277 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on a petition (details supplied) to him regarding amendment to section 30 of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill 2004. [32436/04]

I am aware of the views of individuals and organisations on proposed changes in legislation relating to the control of firearms. A number of submissions have been received, particularly through a dedicated part of the website of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform that was set up to facilitate a consultation process. I am conscious of the overriding need to ensure that public safety and security are given priority in any review of policy and legislation on firearms. With this in mind, and taking into account a recent increase in violent crime involving firearms, I decided to introduce certain proposals for inclusion in the Criminal Justice Bill 2004. The Bill, as published, contains a proposal that provides for the secure custody of firearms. Other provisions will be introduced as Committee Stage amendments to the Bill. Any relevant recommendations arising from the tribunal of inquiry into the fatal shooting of Mr. John Carthy at Abbeylara, County Longford on 20 April 2000 — the Barr tribunal — will be considered. They will depend on the timing of the publication of the tribunal's conclusions.

I emphasise that the inclusion of such provisions in the Criminal Justice Bill should not be construed as equating legitimate sports people with criminals. The provision in the published Bill is in the form of an amendment to the Firearms Act 1925. Further provisions on the control of firearms to be introduced on Committee Stage will also be in the form of amendments to that Act. I am sure the Deputy will agree that this is the quickest way of ensuring that important amendments concerning the control of firearms are implemented.

Child Care Services.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

278 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision on the application for grant assistance for a capital project by a centre (details supplied) in County Monaghan will be determined; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32440/04]

Having made inquiries, I understand an application for capital grant assistance under the equal opportunities child care programme was submitted by the group in question to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in December 2003. The Deputy may be aware that the group has been approved €211,660 in staffing grant assistance under the programme.

The programme in question is a seven-year development programme, aimed at increasing the availability and quality of child care and supporting parents in employment, education and training. The progress of the programme was commented on favourably in the mid-term evaluations of the regional operational programmes and the national development plan. Additional funding of some €12 million was made available for the child care measures following the mid-term review, bringing the total funding available for the programme to €449.3 million, including an increased provision of €157 million for capital developments.

With the technical assistance of ADM Limited, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has processed and I have approved 1,271 applications for capital grant assistance of more than €118 million, as well as 1,015 applications for staffing grant assistance of €104 million, since 2000. Almost €44 million has been allocated for projects under the quality measure. Much of the remaining current funding is required for ongoing supports to groups providing child care services to disadvantaged families to enable them to participate in employment, education and training opportunities. The provision of an additional capital allocation of €90 million over five years for the development of child care facilities was made in the context of the recent budget. Therefore, I expect to be in a position to make an announcement on the allocation of the first tranche of funding in the next week or so, after which the Department will write to all applicants for capital grant assistance. In the interim, it would be premature of me to comment further on this capital grant application.

Visa Applications.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

279 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare has been refused a visa; the income which is required for a person to keep his or her family here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32442/04]

In the case of family members of an non-EEA national worker who require visas, the general rule is that after the worker may be joined by his or her family after he or she has been in the State for 12 months and has been offered employment for a further 12 months. The permission is subject to the worker being able to support the family without recourse to public funds. When assessing applications visa officers consider, inter alia, whether the worker’s salary comes within the ambit of qualifying for payments from public funds. The criteria set by the Department of Social and Family Affairs for eligibility for family income supplement payment are used. The criteria, which may change from time to time, are available on the Department’s website, www.welfare.ie/publications/sw22.html. If the worker qualifies for family income supplement payments, as evidenced by his or her payslips or P60, the application is generally refused as it is evident that his or her family can seek recourse to public funds.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

280 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a visa will be granted to a person (details supplied); when a decision will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32452/04]

I advise the Deputy that the visa application has been approved.

Refugee Status.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

281 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Question No. 328 of 11 May 2004, if persons (details supplied) in County Louth will be granted permission to remain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32453/04]

Details of the female applicant's case were given in my reply to Question No. 328 of 11 May 2004. I informed the House that the person in question was refused refugee status in the State following the consideration of her case by the office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, and on appeal by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. I further informed the House that a notification under section 3(3)(a) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, had been issued to the person on 27 April 2004, in which she was advised that the Minister had decided to refuse her a declaration as a refugee.

The notification set out the options open to the female applicant, which were to leave the State voluntarily before the Minister decided whether to make a deportation in respect of her, to consent to the making of a deportation order in respect of her, or to make written representations to the Minister setting out reasons she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have since been received setting out the reasons the person in question should not be deported. I will examine the case file in due course, having regard to section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended.

The applicant's husband, who is comprehended by the question, was refused refugee status by the office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and on appeal by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. He was further sent a notification under section 3(3)(a) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, on 25 November 2004, in which he was advised that the Minister had decided to refuse him a declaration as a refugee. The notification set out the options open to him in respect of voluntary repatriation or deportation. The male applicant has to respond within 15 working days of the date of the Minister’s letter. The cases will be dealt with together.

Registration of Title.

John Ellis

Ceist:

282 Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department will complete a dealing (details supplied). [32459/04]

I have been informed by the Registrar of Titles that an application for first registration in the case in question was lodged on 26 November 2004, to which dealing number D2004WS014390R refers. I understand that due to the complicated nature of such cases, which require examination of an applicant's entitlement to the property concerned, it is not possible to estimate a date of completion at this time. I assure the Deputy that the application is receiving attention in the Land Registry.

Child Care Services.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

283 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties being experienced by a community based child care facility (details supplied) in County Cork following a shortfall of €100,000 in his Department’s staffing grant; his proposals to assist this group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32471/04]

The Deputy may be aware that the community-based group in question was awarded a staffing grant of €170,000, over two years, in April 2004. The grant brought the amount of staffing assistance approved for the project to €235,000, over three years. The amount of staffing grant assistance was considered to be appropriate to the level of service being offered and the level of disadvantage in the area. The group was awarded capital grant assistance of €1,000,000 in December 2002.

The Deputy should note that support towards staffing costs under the equal opportunities child care programme is made available to projects which can demonstrate that they provide child care in areas of significant disadvantage and that they help disadvantaged parents to access employment, education or training. It is not intended that the programme will meet the full cost of running a service. The programme makes available staffing grant assistance for a period of time, usually three years, to enable projects to move towards self-sustainability, which is normally achieved when the service operates at capacity and has introduced an appropriate fee structure.

In a number of services, the levels of disadvantage among parents is such that the families are unable to pay economic fees. Therefore, a limited number of services are likely to require ongoing State support towards their staffing costs. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is reviewing the arrangements for the ongoing support of such services in very disadvantaged areas. It intends to introduce new arrangements to support very disadvantaged services which have already received three or more years of grant assistance, with effect from 1 September 2005.

Garda Stations.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

284 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on plans to provide a new Garda station to service the eastern environs of Kilkenny city; if he has plans to expand the force in Kilkenny; his views on the huge increase in the number of incidents of anti-social behaviour; his plans to combat same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32483/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of Kilkenny Garda station on 6 November, 2004 was 65, all ranks. I have also been informed by the Garda authorities that there are no plans to provide a new Garda station to service the eastern environs of Kilkenny city. The Garda authorities have further informed me that local Garda management is satisfied that public order issues are well addressed in Kilkenny and that extra patrols are put in place over weekends to cover peak times.

Provisional figures for the number of incidents of anti-social behaviour between 1 January and 31 October 2004 indicate a small increase on the same period in 2003. It should be noted that figures for 2004 are provisional and may be subject to change. There were 608 public order offences between 1 January and 31 October 2004, compared to 605 in the same period in 2003. There were 55 assaults under sections 2 and 3 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act between 1 January and 31 October 2004, of which 36 were detected, compared to 40 such assaults in the same period in 2003, of which 28 were detected.

I am pleased the Government has approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis, honouring the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government. The implementation of this key commitment will significantly strengthen the force's operational capacity. When he is drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage the resources, the Garda Commissioner will, inter alia, have regard to the policing needs of Kilkenny city. It is clear that additional resources will be targeted at areas of greatest need, as envisaged in the programme for Government, which refers to such areas as being those with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences. It will be possible to address other priorities, such as the need to increase significantly the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties as part of the new Garda traffic corps.

I have promised that the extra gardaí will not be allocated administrative duties, but will be involved directly in front-line, operational and high visibility policing. There will be an intake of almost 1,100 new recruits in each of the next three years. The advertising campaign for the first tranche of 1,100 recruits was launched on Thursday, 25 November 2004.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

285 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if consideration will be given to extending the opening times for Kill Garda station, in view of the fact that same closes at 5.30 p.m. and the nearest Garda station is at Clondalkin, not Naas, and in view of the increased population of the area and subsequent increase in crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32552/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of Kill Garda station on 6 December 2004 was three, all ranks. I have been further informed that when Kill Garda station is not open, public access call box and call diversion systems are in operation. The systems refer callers to the district headquarters at Naas Garda station, which is five miles away. I have been advised that the subdistrict of Kill is regularly patrolled by all mobile units attached to Naas Garda station. The area is also patrolled by the divisional traffic unit and the district detective unit. Local Garda management is satisfied that the current strength of Kill Garda station is adequate to meet the policing needs of the Kill subdistrict.

I am pleased that the Government has approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis, honouring the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government. The implementation of this key commitment will significantly strengthen the force's operational capacity. The Commissioner is drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage the resources. It is clear that additional resources will be targeted at areas of greatest need, as envisaged in the programme for Government, which refers to such areas as being those with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences. It will be possible to address other priorities, such as the need to increase significantly the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties as part of the new Garda traffic corps. I have promised that the extra gardaí will not be allocated administrative duties, but will be involved directly in front-line, operational and high visibility policing. There will be an intake of almost 1,100 new recruits in each of the next three years. The advertising campaign for the first tranche of 1,100 recruits was launched on Thursday, 25 November 2004.

Prisoner Releases.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

286 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position on the proposal for the early release of persons (details supplied); the legislative basis for any such motion as indicated by the Taoiseach in Dáil Éireann, in the event of any such decision by him in this request; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32589/04]

I refer the Deputy to the Taoiseach's comments in the Dáil on 1 and 2 December 2004. In addition, my statement in the Seanad on 19 May 2004 set out the position. The statutory basis upon which early releases can be effected is contained in the Offences against the State Act 1939 and the Criminal Justice Act1960.

Criminal Proceedings.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

287 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prosecutions to date under the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 against publicans for allowing persons in an intoxicated state to remain on their premises; the number of prosecutions to date under the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 against publicans for serving alcohol to intoxicated persons; the number of prosecutions to date under the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 in respect of persons who have been found to be in an intoxicated state on leaving a public house; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32590/04]

It has not been possible to compile the information requested by the Deputy in the time frame allowed. I will arrange for the information to be forwarded directly to the Deputy at the earliest possible opportunity.

Garda Transport.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

288 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason Garda vehicles are exempt from undergoing the NCT; if he is affirming this policy; if, in the interests of the health, safety and welfare of gardaí, he will give consideration to reversing this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32591/04]

The Road Traffic (National Car Test) (No. 3) Regulations 2001 exempt vehicles owned by the Defence Forces and the Garda Síochána from the national car test (NCT).

The Garda Commissioner has established a working group, which includes representatives of the GRA and AGSI, to report on the issue of the safety of Garda vehicles, the terms of which are as follows: "Examine and make recommendations taking into account cost factors and value for money, on the most suitable vehicle(s) for use in the force particularly as patrol cars, including the feasibility of obtaining ‘purpose built' or modified vehicles, having regard to the safety of Garda drivers and observers including others being conveyed in Garda vehicles and also other road users."

The working group is also looking at alternatives to the NCT with a view to ensuring the safety of vehicles used by the Garda.

Official Engagements.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

289 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Question No. 438 of 30 November 2004, if the amount referred to includes the cost and expenses in terms of Garda time for attending or participating in such events; if it includes the cost of the Garda helicopter; if not, the reason these costs have not been taken into account; if he will provide details of the actual costs as originally requested; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32592/04]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the recent launch of the Garda traffic corps. The question to which the Deputy refers related to costs of press events organised by my Department so it did not therefore take account of any costs relating to events organised by the Garda Síochána.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda payroll costs associated with the launch amounted to approximately €800. The approximate hourly operating cost of the Garda helicopter, including the salary of the crew, is €1,075. The only additional minor costs relateto the fuel costs associated with the Garda vehicles.

Garda Transport.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

290 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to the recent press conference announcing the intention to establish a Garda traffic corps, the precise location from which each motor vehicle on display was sourced; the reason the presence of such cars was necessary; the cost of availing of those cars in terms of Garda time, travelling and other expenses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32593/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the fleet of vehicles present during the press launch announcing the establishment of the traffic corps was composed of eight cars-jeeps, two motorbikes and one helicopter. The number of Garda drivers, motorcyclists and air crew involved in presenting this fleet amounted to 12 members.

As the members who participated in this presentation were on regular duty at the time, there were no incremental costs above the normal payroll costs associated with the duration of this event. It is estimated that the payroll cost of members present for the press launch of the traffic corps amounted to some €800. The fleet of vehicles present have already been paid for out of the Garda Vote and consequently the only cost would have been that for fuel in diverting these vehicles from existing duties to Garda headquarters.

The motor vehicles on display were sourced from the Garda stations in Blackrock, Naas, Mullingar, Fermoy, Ennis, Drogheda, Kells and Castlebar.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

291 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the flight cost per minute of each Garda helicopter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32594/04]

The operating cost for each Garda helicopter, excluding the air crew is approximately €1,000 per hour. This cost is in line with the internationally accepted operating costs for a helicopter operating in a policing environment.

The helicopter air crew generally consists of one air corps officer, one Garda sergeant and one garda. The approximate salary cost of the air crew amounts to €75 per hour. The total approximate hourly operating cost for a Garda helicopter is €1,075, which equates to €17.92 per minute.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

292 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the age, make and model of the oldest Garda car in each Garda divisional unit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32595/04]

In the time available for answering parliamentary questions, it has not been possible to compile the detailed information requested by the Deputy. The information requested is being compiled and I will forward it to the Deputy shortly.

Teaching Qualifications.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

293 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the criteria or standards used or qualifications required of persons wishing to be employed as classroom assistants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32060/04]

Approval for the post of special needs assistant is granted by my Department. However, the appointment of individual special needs assistants in primary and second level schools is a matter for each school authority. The procedures for the appointment of special needs assistants in primary schools are outlined in circular SNA 3/03. I will arrange for a copy of the circular to be forwarded directly to the Deputy.

Teachers’ Remuneration.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

294 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science if the deductions made from the pay increases of salary arrears for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford due to sick leave will be explained; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32061/04]

The person in question is employed as a primary school caretaker under the 1978-79 scheme. His terms of employment entitle him to 91 days sick leave in a 12-month period of service. Any sick leave in excess of this limit is unpaid and does not qualify for arrears in respect of salary.

Following an agreement with SIPTU, a gross pro rata arrears payment in respect of phase 1 of parallel benchmarking, effective from 1 December 2001, and the final phase of Programme for Prosperity and Fairness, effective from 1 October 2002, issued to caretakers employed under the 1978-79 scheme. The person in question had his actual salary arrears calculated up to and including 31 December 2003. They were adjusted to reflect his period of unpaid sick leave.

Schools Refurbishment.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

295 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if funding will be provided for much needed refurbishment at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24. [32070/04]

The application from the school to which the Deputy refers is being considered as part of a review of all projects which did not proceed to construction as part of the 2004 schools building programme. Under this review, all projects are being assessed against the published prioritisation criteria which were revised earlier this year following consultation with the education partners. Each project will be assigned a band rating and the progress of all projects will be considered in the context of the schools building programme from 2005 onwards details of which will be announced over the coming months.

Educational Disadvantage.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

296 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will respond to questions raised in correspondence (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32077/04]

The school to which the Deputy refers is currently included in the disadvantaged areas scheme, DAS, and Giving Children an Even Break, GCEB.

Under the disadvantaged areas scheme, the school benefits from the allocation of one concessionary teaching post, additional capitation grants of €38.09per capita, a refund of the television licence fee and eligibility for 95% building grants for building projects. Designated disadvantaged schools are included in the home-school-community liaison scheme and this school has the service of a shared home-school-community liaison co-ordinator.

Giving Children an Even Break subsumes the previous process of designation of schools that serve areas of educational disadvantage and my Department's approach is now refined to ensure that individual "at risk" pupils are targeted. Rather than the old method of designating additional schools, under this scheme my Department provides support that is commensurate with the levels of concentration in schools of pupils with characteristics that are associated with educational disadvantage and early school leaving.

Primary schools participating in Giving Children an Even Break are in receipt of a range of additional supports including teacher posts and other non-teaching supports to be targeted at disadvantaged pupils. The additional supports provided reflect the level of concentration of pupils from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds in each school invited to participate in the programme. Schools already in the disadvantaged areas scheme retain their existing entitlements.

Schools categorised as urban with the highest concentrations of at-risk pupils are being supported, where necessary, through staff allocations to implement a pupil-teacher ratio of 20:1 in the junior classes — infants through second class — and a pupil-teacher ratio of 27:1 in senior classes — third through sixth classes. The school to which the Deputy refers is among the schools considered for staffing. However, based on the enrolment of 30 September 2003, the school did not warrant the allocation of additional teaching posts for 2004-05.

My Department has been engaged in an overall review of its educational disadvantage programmes, with a view to building on what has been achieved to date, adopting a more systematic, targeted and integrated approach and strengthening the capacity of the system to meet the educational needs of disadvantaged children and young people. Any decision to expand or extend any of the initiatives aimed at addressing educational disadvantage is being considered in the context of this review, the outcome of which I hope to announce shortly.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

297 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a primary school (details supplied) in County Wexford has two junior infant classes that have had to be amalgamated, resulting in a pupil-teacher ratio of 37:1 at that level, that there is only one teacher for third and fourth class which, with a combined enrolment of 40 pupils, is far in excess of the prescribed limit for mixed classes with a single teacher and that three of the six classes in this school have more than 31 pupils, while the remaining three classes each have more than 20 pupils; the way in which she proposes to deal with the unsatisfactory pupil-teacher ratios in this school; if she will sanction an additional teaching post to ensure that junior infant pupils can receive a measure of individual attention; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32099/04]

The staffing of a primary school for a particular school year is determined by reference to the enrolment in 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 guidelines can only be deviated from where a school experiences rapid growth in its enrolment. In such cases, an additional post, referred to as a developing school post, may be sanctioned provisionally where the projected enrolment at 30 September of the school year in question equals or exceeds a specified figure. If the specified figure is not achieved on 30 September, sanction for the post is withdrawn.

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. I have requested my Department's inspectorate to monitor the deployment of staff and class sizes, and where necessary, to discuss with school authorities the basis on which school policy decisions in this regard have been made, and to report to my Department, where appropriate.

The enrolment of the school referred to by the Deputy on 30 September 2003 was 159 pupils, which warrants a principal plus five mainstream posts for the 2004-05 school year. On the basis of projected enrolments, a developing school post was approved provisionally in July 2004. However, the required enrolment figure at 30 September 2004 was not achieved and accordingly sanction for the post was withdrawn.

To ensure openness in the teacher allocation system at primary level, an independent appeals board is now in place to decide on any appeals on mainstream staffing. The staffing of this school for the 2004-05 school year was considered by the appeals board on 21 October 2004. The board, having considered the appeal with regard to the criteria outlined in Department circular 19/02, was satisfied that a departure from the staffing schedule was not warranted in this case. The board of management of the school was notified of the decision of the appeals board on 21 October 2004. I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to intervene in the operation of the independent appeals board.

Decentralisation Programme.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

298 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in the context of the proposed transfer of her Department headquarters to Mullingar under the decentralisation proposals, she will publish the report which was due to be available from March 2004 indicating the way in which property being acquired at regional level is matched as closely as possible, both in time and in cost terms, by disposal of property held in the Dublin region, whether held on lease or otherwise (details supplied); and if she will report progress on the way in which this relates to the existing Department headquarters at Marlborough Street. [32100/04]

The Office of Public Works is dealing with all matters relating to the acquisition and disposal of property for the decentralisation programme. However, I will arrange to forward for the information of the Deputy a copy of the decentralisation implementation group report on decentralised office accommodation procurement which was published on 19 November 2004.

Schools Building Projects.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

299 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the location of the site with respect to the new post-primary school announced for Dublin 15; if the purchase price of the site is agreed; if a board of management is in place; if it is to be run under the City of Dublin VEC; when construction is scheduled to commence; when classrooms will be available for first enrolment; and the catchment areas and enrolment criterion that will be for the new school. [32101/04]

A new post-primary school to serve emerging needs in the Dublin 15 area will be located at Phibblestown. Negotiations regarding the acquisition of the site are at an advanced stage. Plans for the delivery of the school building will be made when the site has been acquired. A management model for the new school has not yet been determined. When a management model has been put in place detailed arrangements concerning enrolment and catchment area will be decided.

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

300 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will review the state one report submitted by a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary to her Department in June 2001 with a view to making a serious investment in the school to allow staff and students work in modern conditions worthy of the school; if she will consider visiting the school to see the conditions for herself; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32102/04]

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an early stage of architectural planning. It has a band 2 rating. The introduction of a multi-annual funding process for school building projects requires a revised approach to how projects are scheduled through the design process and on to tender and construction. In order to maintain a smooth flow of projects and ensure that the optimum number of projects is ready to go to tender and construction at any given time, I will give priority to projects that are in the early design stages. I will provide further details of those projects and notify the schools concerned early in 2005. I want to create a sustained momentum in the schools building programme to match the Government's multi-annual funding commitment.

Special Educational Needs.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

301 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in County Galway with special needs will be given the opportunity to do a suitable course in the junior certificate at their own school; and if the family will be given the maximum support and advice. [32112/04]

Apart from meeting requirements for the provision of the core subjects, the curriculum offered in individual second level schools is a matter for the authorities of the school concerned. Each school management authority is required to organise its timetable and subject options having regard to pupils' needs within the limit of its approved teacher allocation. Where a pupil with special educational needs enrols in a post-primary school, it is open to the school to apply to my Department for additional teaching support and special needs assistant support for the pupil.

My Department allocates additional teaching support and special needs assistant support to second level schools and vocation education committees to cater for pupils with special educational needs. Each application is considered on the basis of the assessed needs of the pupils involved and having regard to a range of factors including the overall resources available to the school. My Department has sanctioned a total of 16 additional teaching hours per week and ten special needs assistant hours per week to the school in question to cater for the special educational needs of several pupils, including the pupil to whom the Deputy refers. Where a school authority is of the view that the level of needs within the school is such as to be incapable of being addressed from within its current allocation, my Department will consider these concerns.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

302 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will consider sanctioning a special needs assistant for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32114/04]

My Department has received an application for special needs assistant support from the school to which the Deputy refers. It will consider the application and convey a decision to the school at the earliest possible date.

Schools Refurbishment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

303 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if funding will be made available to repair the leaking roof and rainwater damaged classrooms in a school (details supplied) in County Cork. [32132/04]

The school in question has recently received notification of approval from my Department for the required roof works.

Special Educational Needs.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

304 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001, that schools actively support and involve parents of a child with autistic spectrum disorder in all aspects of the education of their child; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32141/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

308 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001, that differentiated provision be made available for various needs of pupils within the spectrum, irrespective of the timing of diagnosis, and sufficiently flexible to allow the child with an autistic spectrum disorder to avail, when necessary, of different placements; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32145/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

310 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001, that there be a range of differentiated models of provision for autistic spectrum disorder in respect of the two categories of classic autism and AS-high functioning autism; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32147/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

311 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001, that following the multi-disciplinary assessment to be carried out prior to the completion of the primary stage, the proposed special needs organiser or appropriate Department officer have the responsibility, with parental agreement, for identifying and securing an appropriate post-primary placement for students with autistic spectrum disorders; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32148/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

312 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001, that entitlements or supports attached to each child, subject to appropriate modification, be automatically transferred to the next educational setting; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32149/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

313 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001, that any additional resources allocated to a pupil with an autistic spectrum disorder be ring-fenced in respect of that pupil; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32150/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

314 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001, that support services be fully accessible to all pupils with autistic spectrum disorders, irrespective of whether their educational placement is in home-based, mainstream or special settings; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32151/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

315 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001, that she issue and circulate written guidelines outlining the necessity of regular home and school liaison in respect of students with autistic spectrum disorders; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32152/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

320 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that school level placement recommendations be based upon a least restricted environment philosophy and a presumption of local provision; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32157/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

322 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that the proposes visiting teacher service for autistic spectrum disorders continue to play an important function in supporting pupils with autistic spectrum disorders at second level; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32159/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

327 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that a national forum be established to facilitate communication between teachers and other personnel who are working in the field of autistic spectrum disorders; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32165/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

333 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that an interdepartmental autistic spectrum disorder working group with parental representation, be established as a sub-committee of the existing interdepartmental co-ordinating committee between her Department and that of Health and Children and that its general remit include the production of a service level agreement to indicate clearly the responsibility, including resources, of each Department, to secure and to implement education provision and support services for persons with autistic spectrum disorders; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32180/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

334 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that at regional level a regional autistic spectrum disorder educational planning and advisory service with parental representation, be created, under the authority of her Department and the National Council for Special Education, administered and managed by a regional special needs organiser, and supported by a multi-assessment planning team, to identify and secure effective provision for children with autistic spectrum disorders within a statutory statement of special educational need, that this regional autistic spectrum disorder educational planning and advisory service be established within each health board region, and work in formal collaboration with the health board autistic spectrum disorder intervention services facilitated by the health board autistic spectrum disorder co-ordinator, in order to ensure the automatic delivery of the necessary support services; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32181/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

335 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that her Department establish an independent review body, with parental representation, in keeping with the recommendations of the report of the planning group, A National Support Service for Special Education for Students with Disabilities of 2000, to intervene in cases when provision is disputed; that the appeals system endorse mediation as the preferred method of resolving disagreement or disputes between parents and statutory bodies and that, in the event of an appeal of a draft statement of need based on the multi-disciplinary assessment, the child remain in an interim placement pending the outcome of the appeal and that the model adopted by the Department of Education and Science be accessible, independent and speedy, operating within the maximum timeframes recommended in this report, that the members of the appeals board be independent and have the expertise in autistic spectrum disorder appropriate education; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32184/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

337 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32187/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

341 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001(details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32191/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

342 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001(details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32192/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

351 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001(details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32201/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

352 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32202/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

353 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32203/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

356 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32219/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

358 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32221/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

360 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001(details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32223/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

361 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32224/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

364 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001(details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32227/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 304, 308, 310 to 315, inclusive, 320, 322, 327, 333 to 335, inclusive, 337, 341, 342, 351 to 353, inclusive, 356, 358, 360, 361 and 364 together.

The Deputy has tabled numerous questions about individual recommendations in the report of the task force on autism. These recommendations provide an invaluable basis for the development of educational services and supports for persons with autism. However, in responding to the recommendations, my Department has had to give priority to a number of key areas before detailed individual recommendations can be addressed. These key areas involve the implementation of the core legislative and structural measures required to underpin service development and delivery. This approach is critical to the implementation of many of the individual recommendations of the task force, including those about assessment, parental involvement, service delivery, information dissemination, promotion of inclusion and co-ordination between health and education authorities.

The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 has been enacted and the National Council for Special Education has been established on a statutory basis. While these developments represent significant progress, considerable additional input is required before these measures can begin to have a positive impact on services for children with special educational needs, including those with autism. Over the coming months, significant progress will be made in this regard. Specifically, consideration will be given to the detailed measures required to enable the Act to be commenced. In addition, it is intended that the National Council for Special Education will assume operational status in the new year and a range of measures are in hands to ensure that this objective is realised.

These measures include comprehensive supported training for the council's special educational needs organisers and the drawing up of detailed work protocols for the various areas of work for which the council will assume responsibility. This work will be carefully planned and executed over the coming months. It will address many of the recommendations of the task force. Other recommendations will be addressed over time in consultation with the council and other interested parties.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

305 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001, that schools facilitate and encourage staff to undertake continuing in-career development in order to respond effectively to the needs of children with autistic spectrum disorders; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32142/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

328 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that all professionals working with persons with autistic spectrum disorders should receive on-going training in the distinctive disorders on the autistic spectrum, in general autistic spectrum disorder issues, and in the specific disciplines as related to autistic spectrum disorders; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32166/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

332 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that all staff working with children and families with autistic spectrum disorders receive autistic spectrum disorder specific training, that specialised training be given to educators, parents, siblings and home helps to maximise communicative environments for children, and to reinforce programmes being delivered by the schools and that this training be delivered with expertise in autistic spectrum disorders; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32179/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

340 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001(details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32190/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

390 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001(details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32264/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

391 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001(details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32265/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

393 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001(details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32267/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

395 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001(details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32269/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

397 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001(details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32271/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

398 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001(details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32272/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

399 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001(details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32273/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

400 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001(details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32274/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

401 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001(details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32275/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 305, 328, 332, 340, 390, 391, 393, 395 and 397 to 401, inclusive, together.

The task force on autism put forward a range of important recommendations, to which the Deputy refers, in the area of continuing professional development. My Department continues to addresses these recommendations, on a phased basis, through existing supports, through newly established structures and through specific interventions.

Provision for children of pre-school age with autistic spectrum disorders is generally made available through the relevant health authority. My Department's involvement in provision for such children is confined to a few special pre-school class units attached to primary schools. The existing pre-service teacher training courses contain appropriate elements to assist teachers in dealing with the full range of pupils, including those with special educational needs. Discussions with the various colleges of education and universities are ongoing in order to ensure that appropriate responses are made to the continuing needs for all trainee teachers to acquire knowledge of, and familiarity with, the needs of children with special educational needs, including children with autism.

My Department has developed a strategy designed to meet the continuing professional development needs of all school personnel working with children with special educational needs, including children with autistic spectrum disorder. Specifically, the strategy has produced a major expansion of the range of postgraduate professional training programmes; the introduction of a range of new training programmes to provide a mix of intensive induction training and more advanced training in specific areas; and the establishment of the new special education support service, established in September 2003. The increased training provision is specifically designed to address the complex range and variety of training needs in the special education needs area, including autism.

For teachers involved in teaching children with special educational needs, my Department provides annual support for 140 places on a postgraduate diploma programme in special educational needs; 20 places on a postgraduate programme in autism; 16 places on a further education — masters programme in special educational needs; and 160 on the postgraduate programme in learning support. This major increase in postgraduate training places will further increase the number of teachers who have developed their skills in previous years. The new diploma programmes also aim not only to provide development and support at individual teacher level, but also at whole school-staff level.

My Department also funded the development of an applied behaviour analysis training programme in Trinity College Dublin and funded the participation of 12 teachers on the course in 2003-04. The successful participants are now available to the Department, as classroom teachers and as a further training resource. Short-term induction programmes in special educational needs are provided annually by several teacher training colleges — usually two or three courses per college, catering for up to 120 teachers.

My Department put in place, in September 2003, the special education support service to manage, co-ordinate and develop a range of supports in response to identified training needs. This is hosted in Laois Education Centre and is funded by my Department. As part of its response to the growing demand from teachers for support and training, also reflected in the findings of the task force report, the special education support service is developing teams of trainers to deliver training in four specific areas: autism, challenging behaviour, dyslexia and inclusion at post-primary level. This training will be delivered locally across the State through the education centre network.

In addition, the service provides immediate responses to requests from schools for support in a variety of autism-related areas. The service also funds the provision of on-line training courses, including a course on autism, during July and August and during the autumn and spring terms. The service funds approved approaches to the teaching of children with autism such as picture exchange communication system and treatment and education of autistic and related communication handicapped children and the Hanen approach. All courses on autism deal with the application, in an eclectic and child-centred manner, of the range of approved approaches to the teaching of children with autism. One of the conditions of the provision of funding for all courses is that they are evaluated.

In September 2004, my Department, as a joint venture with the Department of Education Northern Ireland, launched the centre for autism, in Middletown, County Armagh. As a model of best practice, the centre will provide a lead for, and offer exemplars of, educational interventions, will provide training for professionals and parents, as well as a research facility and an out-reach support service which will complement developing service provision locally.

The special education needs organisers working under the remit of the National Council for Special Education will be a focal point of contact for schools and parents as well as processing individual applications for resources for special educational needs. However, the organisers have no central role in in-career development of teachers. Nevertheless, contact will be maintained between the council and the special education support service so that best practice and new developments in the special education area can be shared. The role of the newly established teaching council in training courses for teachers remains to be clarified but my officials are engaged on this work.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

306 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001, that enrolment in classes for children with Asperger’s syndrome or high functioning autism be based on average intellectual ability and cognitive functioning in accordance with DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s syndrome; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which, if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32143/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

336 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that statementing procedures have an in-built review process; if such a recommendation has been carried out; the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32185/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

355 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32218/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

381 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001(details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32245/04]

I propose to take Questions No. 306, 336, 355 and 381 together.

The Deputy has tabled these questions on individual recommendations in the report of the task force on autism. These recommendations provide a valuable basis for the development of educational services and supports for persons with autistic spectrum disorders. In responding to the report of the task force, my Department had to give priority to a number of key areas before detailed individual recommendations could be addressed. These key areas are the core legislative and structural measures that are required to underpin the development and delivery of services to people with autism.

The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 has been enacted and the National Council for Special Education has been established. Seventy special educational needs organisers are in post and I intend to launch the council on a statutory basis early next year. My department has also established a special education support service which is a service to teachers. The service has identified as a high priority support for teachers of children with autistic spectrum disorders.

These developments represent significant progress and will enable my Department to begin to address many of the individual recommendations of the task force. This work will be carefully planned and executed over the coming months, and will include those recommendations that relate to the definition of autism spectrum disorders, criteria for enrolment in special classes for children with Asperger's syndrome or high functioning autism, assessment, statements of needs and reviews of progress. Other recommendations will be addressed over time in conjunction with the National Council for Special Education and, where appropriate, with other bodies such as the Department of Health and Children.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

307 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001, that an information leaflet on transport entitlements for students with special needs across a range of educational settings be issued by her Department and that this leaflet be easily accessible and readily available to parents through the mainstream and special schools; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32144/04]

A booklet is available from my Department entitled School Transport for Children with Special Needs which provides information regarding the scheme. In addition, an information leaflet was launched early in 2003 and circulated to schools. The leaflet assists users of the school transport system, including parents of children with special needs, gain access to the appropriate source of information. This information is also available on my Department's website at www.education.ie.

Question No. 308 answered with QuestionNo. 304.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

309 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001, that there be a flexible continuum of educational options for pupils with autistic spectrum disorders at second level; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32146/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

318 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001, that she will produce and circulate guidelines on bullying to schools; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32155/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

319 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001, that the effectiveness of provision for students with autistic spectrum disorders in second level schools be regularly monitored and annually reported on by her Department's inspectorate; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32156/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

321 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that all post primary students with autistic spectrum disorders have access to the most appropriate curriculum and accreditation route to match their ability and direction; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32158/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

323 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that preparation and planning for post second level education be a basic component of a student’s individual education plan at second level; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32160/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

331 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that programmes specific to the disorders in the austic spectrum be established to qualify persons as classroom assistants in colleges and post-secondary training institutions, that there be access to funding for further education and development for classroom assistants and that accredited training courses be established for classroom assistants forming a accreditation ladder to career progression; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32178/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

362 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001(details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32225/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

363 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001(details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32226/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

367 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32230/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

369 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32232/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

371 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32234/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

377 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32240/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 309, 318, 319, 321, 323, 331, 362, 363, 367, 369, 371 and 377 together.

These questions relate to individual recommendations in the report of the task force on autism. These recommendations provide an invaluable basis for the development of educational services and supports for persons with autism. However, in responding to the recommendations, my Department has had to give priority to a number of key areas before detailed individual recommendations can be addressed. These key areas involve the implementation of the core legislative and structural measures required to underpin service development and delivery. This approach is critical to the implementation of many of the individual recommendations of the task force, including those relating to co-ordination between health and education authorities in regard to policy and service delivery, prioritisation in meeting needs, multi-disciplinary assessment, the formulation and review of transition plans, the implementation of support plans for students with Asperger's syndrome or high functioning autism who are completing second level education and moving to the next level.

The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 has been enacted and the National Council for Special Education has been established on a statutory basis and will soon be operational. A considerable amount of additional input is required before these measures can begin to have a positive impact on services for children with special educational needs, including those with autism. Over the coming months, I expect that significant progress will be made in this regard. Specifically, consideration will be given to the detailed measures required to enable the Act to be commenced. This work will be carefully planned and executed over the coming months. Together with the support of the council it will address many of the recommendations of the task force. Other recommendations will be addressed over time in consultation with the council and other interested parties.

Questions Nos. 310 to 315, inclusive, answered with Question No. 304.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

316 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001, that she urgently review the practice of attaching explanatory notes regarding special arrangements in examinations to a candidate’s certificate results; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32153/04]

On foot of a Government decision, the State Examinations Commission was established on 6 March 2003 to have statutory responsibility for the operation of the State certificate examinations.

The commission operates a scheme of reasonable accommodations for candidates with special needs in the certificate examinations. The range of accommodations available to candidates includes the use of readers, scribes, tape-recorders and the use of computer technology in certain cases, in addition to decisions at school level regarding rest periods, and use of low vision aids. It is also open to special needs students to apply to have a part of an examination waived and to be marked out of 100% on the balance. Where a student is granted exemption from a particular aspect of assessment, it is the practice to include a reference on the certificate to this effect, for example, "All elements of the examinations were assessed except" the element in question. This only applies where a candidate has been exempted from an element of the examination which is a core assessment element of the specific subject. For example, while issues of spelling and grammar would not be taken account of in subjects such as history or geography, they would form a core element of a language subject, and a certificate would be annotated where a candidate in a language subject was exempt from assessment in spelling. This is in keeping with examination practice in other jurisdictions.

The position was re-examined by my Department in 2002 following the publication of the 2001 report of the task force, but it was considered that the present system maintains an appropriate balance between maintaining a flexible response to the assessment needs of students and the integrity of the certification process for end users of the system. However, my Department will keep the matter under review in consultation with the State Examinations Commission in the light of emerging examinations and equality policies and international trends.

Psychological Service.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

317 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001, that there be a significant increase in projected NEPS staffing levels to enable the educational psychologists to have a meaningful role in working with pupils with ASDs; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32154/04]

In October 2001, there were 84 educational psychologists serving with the national educational psychological service, NEPS. At present, there are 130 psychologists in NEPS. Psychological services to children with ASDs should, of course, be provided by both clinical and educational psychological services. Recruitment of permanent staff to the Department, including educational psychologists, has, to date, been undertaken by the Office of the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commissioners. The last panel of 69 educational psychologists has recently been exhausted, and my Department has initiated the process to run a new recruitment competition.

Pending the expansion of NEPS to cover all schools, those that are not yet served may avail of the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, or SCPA. The SCPA is an interim measure and was specifically introduced to minimise delays for those children who need to be assessed. Under the scheme, individual psychological assessments may only be administered by psychologists whose names appear on a panel compiled by NEPS.

Questions Nos. 318 and 319 answered with Question No. 309.
Question No. 320 answered with QuestionNo. 304.
Question No. 321 answered with QuestionNo. 309.
Question No. 322 answered with QuestionNo. 304.
Question No. 323 answered with QuestionNo. 309.

Special Educational Needs.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

324 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that the universities be funded to develop or expand their clinical training programmes to include ASD training, at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels and that all clinicians be versed in the various major approaches to educating persons with an ASD; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which it has been carried out; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32162/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

325 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that funding by her Department via the Higher Education Authority be targeted to support professional programmes in educational psychology and that such programmes include ASD-specific training, in order to meet the needs of children and families with ASDs and other special educational needs; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which it has been carried out; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32163/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

326 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on the recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 that funding be increased and targeted via the Higher Education Authority for the education of increased numbers of speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and behaviour specialists and that pending the education of adequate numbers, such personnel be recruited internationally; if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which it has been carried out; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32164/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

347 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which it has been carried out; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32197/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

365 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which it has been carried out; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32228/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

366 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which it has been carried out; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32229/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

368 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which it has been carried out; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32231/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

370 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which it has been carried out; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32233/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

372 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which it has been carried out; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32235/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

373 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which it has been carried out; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32236/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

374 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which it has been carried out; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32237/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

378 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which it has been carried out; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32241/04]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

379 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has been made on a recommendation in the report of the task force on autism of October 2001 (details supplied); if such a recommendation has been carried out; if so, the extent to which it has been carried out; if not completed, when it will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32243/04]