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 15, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 16 to 104, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 105 to 112, inclusive, answered orally.

Driving Tests.

David Stanton

Ceist:

113 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Transport when he expects to clear the driving test backlog, in view of the fact that the number of provisional licence holders rose by almost 25,000 in 2005; his views on whether this backlog is compromising road safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3311/06]

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

133 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Transport if and when he intends to begin temporary outsourcing of driving tests in order to address the issue of the driving test backlog; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3293/06]

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

207 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if all plans to outsource elements of the driver testing system have been abandoned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3348/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 113, 133 and 207 together.

As I have indicated to this House previously, the delay in providing driving tests is a matter of regret to me. It not only represents a poor service to the public but it is also hampering the development of initiatives which I wish to pursue and which will contribute further to road safety. The driving test and those who deliver it are a key element in the road safety strategy.

It is my objective to eliminate the backlog of driving tests by mid-2007 and my Department has developed a package of measures in consultation with staff interests to achieve this.

I am pleased to acknowledge that a very high number of the existing driver testers have indicated that they will participate in a bonus scheme which will make a significant contribution to the reduction of the backlog over the coming 18 months. Furthermore, in a unique cross-departmental and cross-union agreement, a further eight civil servants from the Department of Agriculture and Food have successfully passed interviews and tests and will shortly be trained as driver testers and start working in April to reduce the backlog. Later in the year they will be augmented by another ten new recruits on two-year contracts. This increased volume of testing is putting administrative staff in Ballina under considerable pressure and I want to publicly recognise the contribution they are making to resolving a difficult situation. They are often the first point of contact between the public and the Department in difficult times and they have responded admirably.

However, despite all these efforts I am convinced that more needs to be done in the short term and that the temporary use of outsourcing has to be an option to which I have recourse. Outsourcing not only provides access to additional staff resources but also to training options and infrastructure and facilities that are needed to overcome the problems we face in the coming months. I believe Sustaining Progress provides that option but there is union disagreement on this. I accept that this disagreement reflects a genuinely held difference of opinion on the meaning of clauses in Sustaining Progress. Departmental and union officials have worked hard together to reach solutions and although good progress has been made I do not think it is sufficient to overcome the overriding need to eliminate the backlog as quickly as possible and allow those same staff concentrate on developing and implementing a road safety regime and services which are part of this Government's programme. Therefore, I intend to progress the outsourcing option.

I understand that this decision is likely to be tested under the arbitration provisions of Sustaining Progress. If so, that will give both sides a binding decision. Meanwhile, I have mandated my Department to progress outsourcing. I strongly believe that this is a prudent decision which it is necessary to take in the interests of road safety and to avoid any unnecessary subsequent delays in eliminating the backlog.

I want to be unequivocally clear to the staff in the Department that I appreciate the level of service and commitment they have given and continue to give to the delivery of a driver testing service. They will continue to be the backbone of the service into the future. While I believe that outsourcing is needed now in exceptional circumstances to augment their work I can give them an assurance that it is a temporary measure and not intended to replace their work. I can also assure them that if outsourcing points to deficiencies in the infrastructure or systems which are available in the public service, I intend to continue to secure and provide the resources needed to improve the public service infrastructure. In tandem with eliminating the backlog I am determined to support a better public service delivery of the driving test to the benefit of both customers and staff. Along with eliminating the backlog I intend to deliver a service in which existing staff will be proud to work.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

114 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport the number of additional driving testers which will be recruited in 2006; the way in which he proposes to recruit same; the provision and timescale for training such testers; and the number of tests which will be conducted in 2006. [3143/06]

My Department proposes to temporarily redeploy staff from the Department of Agriculture and Food who have been identified as being surplus to that Department's organisational requirements and who are based in various regional locations around the country. Following interviews and tests, eight successful candidates will now commence a six week training course late February and, subject to passing this course, it is envisaged that these staff will commence testing in April 2006.

My Department also proposes to recruit ten driver testers through an open recruitment competition organised by the Public Appointments Service. This process began in December 2005 with a psychometric exam. Stage two of the competition, which is an assessment of driving competence, will take place next week. The third stage, an interview, will take place in March. Successful candidates will commence their six week training course in April and it is envisaged that they will commence testing in June 2006.

It is not possible to give a definitive number on the number of tests that will be conducted during the year as there is a large number of variables involved such as the actual number of new testers who commence work and in particular the amount of training of the new recruits which must be done from within our own resources. The average number of tests conducted over the last five years was approximately 150,000 per annum.

In light of the above, coupled with a bonus scheme which has been taken up by a high number of testers and the use of outsourcing, I would expect that this figure will be substantially exceeded in 2006.

Traffic Management.

Shane McEntee

Ceist:

115 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Transport the interim measures he is taking to deal with traffic congestion in the greater Dublin area pending the full implementation of Transport 21; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3358/06]

Transport 21 makes provision for a major phased investment in public transport in the greater Dublin area, which will provide a real alternative to private car commuting. A significant expansion in rail capacity occurred in 2005 including the entry into service of eight car DART trains.

As I have said previously, the bus will continue to play a crucial role in the capital's public transport system. It is not a question of bus or rail but of using both modes to complement each other effectively to maximise the passenger carrying capacity and availability of public transport. Buses, in particular, will be used to meet the immediate and short-term requirements for additional public transport in Dublin while other infrastructure is being put in place.

Dublin Bus has already submitted an application to me for additional fleet requirements. I also expect to receive the company's report on its bus network review shortly. I will make a decision when my Department's assessment has been completed.

Meanwhile, planning and the statutory processes for the expansion of the Luas to Cherrywood and Docklands is under way. The business case has been approved for a 40% increase in capacity on the Tallaght Luas line and a railway order public inquiry has recently begun for the Kildare route project.

The full Transport 21 programme will take ten years to deliver and this is reasonable given the extent of the infrastructure development involved. However, I would stress that elements of the programme will come on steam incrementally, including from this year, the first year of the programme. Each element of the programme will contribute to easing congestion in a particular part of the city.

In addition, traffic management will continue to be an important part of the solution to congestion. Programmes such as the traffic management grants scheme administered by the Dublin Transportation Office will ensure continued and enhanced funding to local authorities for investment in traffic management schemes throughout the greater Dublin area. The main objective of this scheme is to improve operating conditions of buses in the greater Dublin area. Transport 21 provides for the doubling of the quality bus network to improve the quality, reliability and efficiency of the bus service.

Port Development.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

116 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport if, in relation to the proposal by a company (details supplied) to make available to a company without going through a tendering process a site in order to facilitate the development of the national conference centre, he has received the further advice from the Attorney General referred to in his Dáil reply of 12 October 2005, and the reply which was given by him to the company’s letter of 18 May 2005 requesting ministerial approval on this matter. [1794/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

142 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport the outcome of the request for ministerial approval in May 2005 by a company (details supplied) of the arrangement it had entered into with a company without going through the normal tendering process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1793/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 116 and 142 together.

The advice referred to in the Dáil reply from the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources of 12 October 2005 was received from the Attorney General on 21 October 2005. In addition, further advice relevant to this matter was received from the Attorney General in January of this year.

Following approval by the Government, the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy John O'Donoghue, announced on 16 November 2005 that Spencer Dock International Conference Centre Consortium was being invited to become the provisional preferred tenderer for the provision of a national conference centre in Dublin. This decision was taken by the National Conference Centre Steering Group following a detailed assessment and evaluation of tenders received, against award criteria set out in the invitation to negotiate document.

In relation to the company's letter of 18 May 2005 referred to by the Deputy, I am currently considering this matter in light of both the latest advice from the Attorney General of 6 January 2006 and the announcement by the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism.

Public Transport.

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

117 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Transport the measures he will introduce in 2006 to increase the number, range and frequency of bus services which will be available to Dublin commuters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3340/06]

Michael Noonan

Ceist:

175 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Transport if he has agreed to fund additional buses for Dublin’s transport services in view of commitments made in Transport 21 and the national development plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3361/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 117 and 175 together.

In launching Transport 21 in November last, I indicated that the bus will continue to play a crucial role in Dublin's public transport system and, in particular, will be used to meet immediate and short-term requirements for additional public transport while other infrastructure is being put in place.

In early 2005, I asked Dublin Bus to carry out a review of its network with a view to deciding on future fleet requirements and how services can best be configured to meet the changing needs of the market. I understand the company is currently finalising this network review.

Dublin Bus has recently submitted an application for funding to me for additional fleet requirements, which has due regard to the emerging findings of the network review. I will make a decision when the assessment of this application has been completed.

Shipping Register.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

118 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on developments on the Irish Shipping register and the Irish Maritime Development Office during 2005; the number of ships that were registered under the Irish flag in January 2005 and the number of ships registered under the Irish flag; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3133/06]

With regard to the Irish ship register, the maritime safety directorate of my Department is at present reviewing Ireland's policy on the registration of vessels on the Irish flag.

In September 2005, a consultation paper was published by the directorate, which outlined the current position in relation to ship registration in Ireland, and invited submissions from interested parties in relation to the issues raised in the paper. The consultation process ended on 16 December 2005, and work is now progressing on developing proposals for the modernisation of Irish ship registration legislation.

Based on the information supplied to my Department by the registrars of ships at the 13 ports of registry around the coast, on 1 January 2005 there were 58 merchant ships on the register and on 31 December 2005 there were 52 merchant ships.

The Irish Maritime Development Office, IMDO, is the development and promotional agency for the shipping and shipping services sector and is based in the Marine Institute. Late last year, the IMDO was asked to carry out a thorough evaluation of the results of existing strategies to promote the Irish maritime sector, including the successes achieved to date and the issues to be addressed going forward. Terms of reference are currently being formalised in consultation with my Department and the IMDO hopes to complete the requested evaluation later this year.

EU Directives.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

119 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the delay in transposing EU Directive 2003/20/EC requiring seat belts to be worn where they are fitted; and when same will happen. [3114/06]

Member states have until 8 May 2006 to bring into force the laws necessary to comply with Directive 2003/20/EC. It is my intention to make the necessary regulations to implement the directive by the due date.

Traffic Management.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

120 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the way in which it is expected to achieve a free flow of heavy goods vehicles from the N11, N7 and N9 which are likely to converge on the M50 toll plaza in the event of the opening of the port tunnel; if steps will be taken by Government in the interim which might have an alleviating impact; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3264/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

278 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the way in which it is expected to route the anticipated volume of heavy goods vehicles from the N11, N8, N7 and N9 through the M50 to the port tunnel without creating traffic chaos; if adequate thought was given to this part of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3544/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120 and 278 together.

Traffic management in general is a matter for the appropriate local authority and the traffic management and control arrangements that will apply following the opening of the Dublin Port tunnel are a matter for Dublin City Council.

In parallel with the opening to traffic of the Dublin Port tunnel, Dublin City Council will be introducing a heavy goods vehicle traffic management strategy to ensure that maximum traffic benefits are secured from the Dublin Port tunnel.

My Department's formal role will be to put in place the necessary regulatory framework relating to traffic and parking management and road signage to support the strategy. In addition, my Department will continue to liaise with Dublin City Council as the strategy is finalised so that I may be assured that the primary objective of the Dublin Port tunnel — to provide a high quality access route to Dublin Port for heavy goods vehicles — is achieved in a manner which maximises the overall traffic benefit of the tunnel.

The improvement of traffic flow on the M50 requires the implementation of the M50 upgrade project, including the installation of barrier free tolling, phase 1 of which is now getting under way.

Road Safety.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

121 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the long delay in publishing an up-to-date rules of the road booklet; when the new booklet will be published; the measures he intends taking to ensure that same is regularly updated in line with changes to road traffic legislation. [3140/06]

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

181 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport when the revised Rules of the Road will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3347/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 121 and 181 together.

My Department is currently engaged in a comprehensive review of the Rules of the Road booklet. It is the intention that a draft of the new booklet will shortly be published on the Department's website and that comments and submissions will be invited from the public and interested parties. The new booklet will be finalised following consideration of any submissions received and it is intended that the booklet will be made available for sale shortly thereafter.

The new booklet will also be available on-line and this will ensure that in future the booklet will provide up-to-date information on an ongoing basis.

Public Transport.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

122 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the key proposals contained in the legislation to create a public transport commission; the functions of this body; the way in which this body will interact with the proposed Dublin transport authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3345/06]

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

151 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Transport the members of the establishment team tasked with the delivery of Transport 21; if he has received the report of this group; the recommendations contained therein; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3343/06]

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

174 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the reason no funding was provided in the 2006 Estimates for the proposed Dublin transportation authority. [3107/06]

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

183 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Transport the progress being made with regard to the establishment of the Dublin transport authority; if this authority will be fully operational during 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3339/06]

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

264 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the progress which has been made in regard to the establishment of a Dublin transport authority; his views on whether this authority will be established during 2006; if he will oversee the delivery of Transport 21; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3568/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 122, 151, 174, 183 and 264 together.

At the launch of Transport 21 on 1 November, I said that I was convinced that we need a new approach to transport in the greater Dublin area, delivered through a single authority with the power to ensure joined-up thinking and delivery across all transport modes.

In pursuit of that objective, I appointed a team last November to finalise the remit, structures and human resource requirements of the proposed authority. The chairperson of the team is Professor Margaret O'Mahony of Trinity College. The other members are John Lumsden and Pat Mangan, assistant secretaries at my Department, and Colin Hunt who is my special adviser.

I asked the team, when considering the remit of the authority, to have regard to the importance of timely and effective implementation of the Transport 21 investment programme in the greater Dublin area, delivering an integrated transport system and of ensuring effective inter-agency co-operation and co-ordination. I also asked the team to make recommendations on interim arrangements to be put in place, pending enactment of legislation to establish the new authority.

I expect to receive the team's report in the near future and I intend to bring proposals to the Government for decision as soon as I have had an opportunity to consider the report. The funding requirements and timetable for establishment of the proposed authority will be considered by the Government at that time. The Government will also consider the interim arrangements to be implemented at that stage with a view to maintaining momentum pending enactment of the necessary legislation. In the meantime I do not propose to pre-empt the outcome of the team's deliberations and any future Government decisions.

It had been my intention that the proposed public transport commission would allocate Exchequer subvention through public service contracts for public transport bus and rail services, license commercial bus services and regulate fares on all bus and rail services, including Luas. Clearly, it is important that proposals for modernising the regulatory framework governing public transport should be coherent with the institutional arrangements for transport in the greater Dublin area. Accordingly, I have already indicated that I will review how best to proceed in respect of the public transport commission after Professor O'Mahony's team has reported and the Government has made decisions on the proposed transport authority for the greater Dublin area.

With regard to the delivery of Transport 21, I have already established a dedicated division in my Department to oversee the implementation of all aspects of Transport 21. In addition, I will shortly establish a high-level monitoring group to be chaired by my Department and comprising representatives of relevant Departments and the State agencies with responsibility for implementing the projects in Transport 21.

Taxi Regulations.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

123 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport if he has satisfied himself with the level of availability of wheelchair accessible taxis within the main cities; and the proposed measures and timetable to increase such accessibility. [3291/06]

The operation and licensing of wheelchair accessible taxis and their drivers is currently controlled through the Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) Regulations 1963 to 2002. The Commission for Taxi Regulation is responsible for the development and maintenance of a new regulatory framework for the control and operation of small public service vehicles and their drivers.

In 2005 the Commission initiated a national review to assess the extent and quality of services currently provided by small public service vehicles and subsequently published Roadmap — Towards a new national code of regulation for taxis, hackneys and limousines in Ireland, which set out the areas where change is required along with the commission's proposed solutions. Submissions were invited on the roadmap by 26 September 2005 following which the preparation of new regulations commenced.

It is understood that the commission intends to improve accessibility through new regulations facilitating improved standards of vehicle accessibility and increased availability of accessible vehicles, as well as measures to improve driver awareness and training and improved information and infrastructure provision. The commission will shortly publish its action plan outlining changes that will be put in place from 2006 on a phased basis.

State Airports.

Damien English

Ceist:

124 Mr. English asked the Minister for Transport the progress to date in 2006 in the development of a second terminal at Dublin Airport; if this project can be operational by 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3337/06]

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

150 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the cost to develop pier D at Dublin Airport; if the authority has sought an increase over that which has been sanctioned for this project; his views on the need for this increase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3336/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 124 and 150 together.

Under the Dublin Airport Authority's, DAA, medium term plan for new infrastructural provision at Dublin Airport published last autumn, a new terminal and associated pier facilities, pier E, will be provided to the south of the existing terminal. These facilities are due to come on stream in 2009. The plan also provided for other capacity enhancements including the provision of temporary pier facilities in 2006 and a permanent new pier, pier D, to be in place by late 2007. These new pier facilities will deliver significant additional aircraft contact stands for fast turnaround operations.

In relation to Terminal 2, I understand that the DAA has progressed with the procurement of the project management and design teams for the project and that the authority will shortly announce the outcome of the bidding process. Work will commence immediately on the planning application and in this regard, preliminary consultation with Fingal County Council has already taken place. The DAA is working to the Government decision to have the terminal operational by 2009.

The specification and cost of Terminal 2 will be independently verified by experts on behalf of the Government. Also, at the appropriate time, an independent body will manage an open tender competition to select an operator for the new terminal. The cost of developing pier D at Dublin Airport is an operational matter for the DAA. The final tender costs will not be fully known until the authority is in a position to place the procurement contract. I understand that the authority is currently actively engaged in the procurement process for pier D and expect that the process will be completed and a contract awarded within a matter of weeks. It is the intention of the DAA, that the new facility will be operational by late 2007.

Driving Tests.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

125 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport his proposals to reduce the level of variation in relation to the level of pass and fail rates nationally among drivers sitting the driving test; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3349/06]

The driving test in Ireland is designed in accordance with the requirements of the European directives on driving licences, which set out the skills that a driver must demonstrate during a driving test. As in other EU countries there is a variation in the pass rate among test centres.

The pass rate may be influenced by a number of factors including the number of lessons taken by the candidate, the standard of instruction available and demographic factors. Our pass rate is consistent with the experience in other countries.

In relation to consistency in the standard of the driving test, my Department undertook a comprehensive training programme for all driver testers in 2002 covering procedures for carrying out the test, guidelines to assess faults and training to enhance customer service in the delivery of the driving test. The work of all testers is monitored on an ongoing basis by supervisory driver testers to ensure that a uniform standard of test is maintained.

Question No. 126 answered with QuestionNo. 112.

Public Transport.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

127 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport the discussions he has had with the National Roads Authority regarding the serious flooding in the port tunnel; if he can give an assurance that the tunnel will be safe from flooding when opened; the projected cost of the tunnel; and when the project will be completed and operational. [3122/06]

Dan Neville

Ceist:

170 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Transport if he has satisfied himself with the situation whereby the Dublin Port tunnel is significantly delayed and over cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3333/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 and 170 together.

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.

Good progress continues to be made on the construction of the tunnel. I am informed that the civil engineering work within the tunnels has now been largely completed and that the main focus of work has shifted to the installation of the mechanical and electrical systems which make up the safety and control features of the project. I understand from the NRA that the tunnel is expected to be open to traffic in summer 2006 following the testing and commissioning of the tunnels' operational and safety features. I understand from the NRA that the estimated cost of the Dublin Port tunnel remains at €751 million.

The tunnel's construction work has been monitored in detail since the project commenced in 2001. Design and construction is monitored by construction supervisors appointed by Dublin City Council. When problems arise, as they inevitably do with projects of this size, Dublin City Council and their construction supervisors ensure that they are detected and rectified.

I understand from Dublin City Council that recent leaks are part and parcel of the issues that arise on large engineering projects such as the tunnel. If remedial measures are called for at any stage the contractor is required to implement them at their own expense. I also understand that contrary to the impression that may have been created, the tunnels are safe and stable.

Decentralisation Programme.

Damien English

Ceist:

128 Mr. English asked the Minister for Transport the progress being made in relation to the decentralisation of staff in the transport sector; the number from each agency allocated to each town; the number from each agency which have expressed an interest in decentralising; the measures which will be pursued in the event that all proposed decentralising staff choose not to decentralise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3355/06]

The decentralisation of transport staff to Loughrea is among the priority moves in the Government's decentralisation programme. A total of 50 posts are due to transfer to Loughrea.

A suitable site has been identified in Loughrea and the Office of Public Works is currently in discussion with the county council in relation to the preparation necessary for lodging an application to obtain planning permission for the site. We are working to ensure that the posts are transferred to Loughrea by 2007 as required. In view of the timescale involved the possibility of temporary accommodation in Loughrea has also been actively pursued in consultation with OPW and a possible site has now been identified.

The overall numbers and location for decentralisation in the transport sector are outlined are in the following table. The decision to set up a road safety authority effectively means that the figures under the Department of Transport and the National Safety Council can be merged to provide for 50 transport posts in Loughrea. Many of the grades transferring to Loughrea are oversubscribed. Although there are risks associated with the establishment of the RSA, I remain confident of meeting the target of 50 transport posts in Loughrea by 2007.

Agency/Section

No. of Posts to decentralise

CAF Applicants

Civil Servants

Public Servants

Department of Transport Road Haulage Division (Loughrea)

40

69 (external) 18 (internal)

3 (external)

National Safety Council (Loughrea)

10 (13)

24 (external)

5 (external)

National Roads Authority (Ballinasloe)

90

59 (external)

6 (external) 1 (internal)

Irish Aviation Authority (Shannon)

100

10 (external)

1 (external) 2 (internal)

Railway Safety Commission (Ballinasloe)

20

4 (external)

2 (external)

Bus Éireann (Mitchelstown)

200

10 (external)

3 (external)

The position in relation to Ballinasloe — National Roads Authority and Railway Safety Commission, Mitchelstown — Bus Éireann — and Shannon — Irish Aviation Authority — is less advanced. These have not been identified by the Decentralisation Implementation Group as early movers. Recent statements in relation to implementation plans have been received and these are currently being examined by my Department.

Light Rail Project.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

129 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the likely level of disruption on Luas services due to repair work on the bonding material applied on a certain section of the track; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3308/06]

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

158 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport the person who will bear the cost of replacing or otherwise repairing the defective tracks on the Luas. [3321/06]

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

172 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport the reason up to 5% of the Luas tracks will have to be replaced; and the person who is responsible for this mistake. [3320/06]

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

179 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Transport the length of time he has been aware of the problems with the Luas tracks; and the efforts which have been made to find out what went wrong. [3323/06]

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

190 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport the discussions he has had with the Railway Procurement Agency regarding the large number of faults found in the foundation of the Luas line; the anticipated disruption to services as a result of the repair of these foundations; the contingency plans he is preparing to offset the anticipated disruption; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3121/06]

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

200 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Transport his plans to recoup the cost of replacing or otherwise repairing the defective Luas tracks from persons responsible for this debacle. [3322/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

280 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if the shock absorbent blocks under the Luas rail link have been incorrectly fitted or if the blocks themselves were faulty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3546/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 129, 158, 172, 179, 190, 200 and 280 together.

In summary, about 5% of the overall Luas track will require remedial work which will be carried out with minimal interference to the travelling public. There is currently no threat to passenger safety and the remedial work will be carried out at no expense to the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, or the taxpayer.

Approximately one third of the track on the Luas system uses ‘Edilon Block' rail supports. This represents 7.7 km of twin track on both Luas lines, out of a total track length of 24 km. The system comprises a concrete rail support block which is supported in a precast concrete tray by an ‘Edilon' polymer. The benefit of such a system is that it reduces noise and vibration generated by trams. I am informed that Edilon is a reputable manufacturer of various polymers for track systems, having supplied similar products to systems such as Madrid and Bilbao.

In April 2004, prior to the start of Luas passenger services in June of that year, quality control procedures within the RPA revealed that the extent of bonding between the polymer material and adjoining concrete was not as per specification. This was notified by the RPA to the Luas Monitoring Committee, chaired by my Department, in May 2004. At that time, the extent of the problem had not been fully determined but the RPA assured the Department that a track monitoring process had been put in place. The monitoring committee's professional railway consultants, Parsons Brinckerhoff, drew no particular attention in their reports to this issue at that time. In addition, the then Interim Railway Safety Commission, which operated on a functionally independent basis pending its recent establishment on a statutory footing on 1 January 2006, was aware of the issue and it gave rise to no material safety concerns.

There is currently no threat to passenger safety arising from the polymer bonding issue. The newly established, statutory, Railway Safety Commission has recently confirmed this. Two of the world's leading track experts reported on the issue to the RPA and to the main Luas contractor in autumn last year. Both carried out extensive on-site and laboratory tests and have confirmed that the system is safe. However, they do recommend ongoing monitoring of the situation and appropriate remedial works in due course.

While the exact cause of the problem has not yet been established, this issue is a contractual matter between the RPA and the relevant contractor and my Department has no role in this matter. The necessary remedial works will fall to be dealt with by the contractor and will be carried out at no expense to RPA or the taxpayer.

No more than about 5% of the overall Luas track will require modification to bring it up to full specification and I understand from the RPA that this work will begin around April-May of this year with minimal interference to the travelling public. The intention is to do most of the necessary work within maintenance engineering hours.

The media have also reported about other faults on the Luas network. These refer to the normal snag list to be rectified by the contractor. The RPA is satisfied that none of the items on the snag list have any negative impact on the safe and efficient operation of the Luas. These will also be rectified by the contractor at no cost to the RPA or to the taxpayer.

Road Safety.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

130 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which he has sought or received information relating to fatal road deaths; if such actions have been caused by substance abuse, poor roads, speeding or otherwise; if as a result of such studies he has taken steps to address the issue with particular reference to the appalling increase of death on the roads; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3265/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

277 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the primary and secondary cause of all fatal motoring accidents here in the past 12 months; his plans to deal with the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3542/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 130 and 277 together.

Statistics relating to road accidents, based on information provided by the Garda Síochána, are published by the National Roads Authority, NRA, in its annual Road Accident Facts reports. The most recent report, now entitled Road Collision Facts, relates to 2004 and is available on the NRA website. Reports relating to previous years are available in the Oireachtas Library. The report refers in particular to the various contributory factors to collisions where such data is available.

In that context the report in respect of 2004 notes that driver error accounted for 88% of all contributory factors in respect of all collisions where such were identified. Pedestrian error was the next most listed factor at 8%, with road factors accounting for 2% of all of those listed. The remaining factors listed related to vehicle and environmental factors.

The report does not address a ranking order for contributory factors to collisions on a specific or general basis. However, the report notes that during the hours of the day most strongly associated with drinking and driving, some 26% of fatalities were recorded.

The annual road collision reports provide a significant degree of knowledge that supports and informs the deployment of road safety measures, which are pursued within the planning framework of the multi-annual road safety strategies.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

131 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Transport the progress he has made in persuading industry on the retrofitting of blind spot mirrors on older heavy goods vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3360/06]

Directive 2003/97 lays down new standards for the type approval of certain categories of vehicles, particularly lorries, in relation to the field of vision of drivers and requires that all new vehicles meet the new standards from 26 January 2007.

In April 2005, the Irish Road Haulage Association, IRHA, the Society of the Irish Motor Industry, SIMI, and the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, IBEC, were requested to consider advising their members to retrofit vehicles with blind spot mirrors or indirect vision devices. SIMI was also asked that, in advance of the 26 January 2007 deadline for new vehicles, all new HGVs being put on the market meet the higher standards required by Directive 2003/97/EC.

The IRHA responded positively indicating that for the past number of years it has actively encouraged its members to fit convex mirrors to their vehicles and to request these when acquiring new vehicles. SIMI has informed me that it has received a very positive response from vehicle distributors to the request for early implementation of Directive 2003/97/EC and it anticipates that by the end of March 2006 up to 80% of new vehicles of the relevant categories will meet the requirements of the directive. It is my intention to have the necessary directive transposed into law before the deadline of January 2007.

Road Network.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

132 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Transport the directions he has given to the National Roads Authority in relation to its discussions with National Toll Roads regarding the early provision of open-road tolling on the M50; the length of time the National Roads Authority and National Toll Roads discussions have been ongoing; and when an outcome is expected. [3138/06]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

204 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport the role his Department has in the development of a demand management system for the M50 which is due to be introduced within three years of the completion of the first phase of the upgrade of the road; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3305/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 132 and 204 together.

The statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, make toll bye-laws and enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads is vested in the National Roads Authority, NRA, under Part V of the Roads Act 1993, as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000.

I have given no directions to the NRA under section 41 of the Roads Act in relation to its negotiations with National Toll Roads, NTR, regarding the upgrade of that section of the M50 operated by NTR. The position in relation to the negotiations is that the NRA has decided with my agreement to terminate discussions with NTR relating to the upgrade of the West-Link toll facility and to commence a tender process for the design, building and operation of a barrier free toll regime on the M50. In this context, the NRA is undertaking a comprehensive traffic study as a basis for designing the new tolling arrangements for the M50. The detailed proposals emerging from this study will be submitted for the approval of the Government.

I understand from the NRA that they expect to have free flow tolling in operation on the upgraded section of the M50 in summer 2008.

Question No. 133 answered with QuestionNo. 113.

Road Traffic Offences.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

134 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport his plans to introduce legislation to allow for the provision and court sanctioning of an interlock system on certain vehicles to curb drink driving; if legal advice has been sought on providing same in legislation; if so, when; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3129/06]

A matter that is relevant to vehicle-based technologies is that the regulatory framework for vehicle standards is set at European level through a harmonised system of motor vehicle type-approval. Standards for new passenger cars in the EU are specified in a range of EU type-approval directives that are incorporated into a system known as EU whole vehicle type approval, WVTA. WVTA facilitates the achievement of a single market for cars through harmonised safety and environmental standards. New cars must have WVTA in order to be placed on the market in the EU. Once a car has WVTA, it must be given access to the EU market and it is not open to a member state to unilaterally require additional equipment to be fitted in a car.

The inclusion in motor vehicles of technology of the type outlined by the Deputy is not required under the EU motor vehicle type-approval system. Accordingly, it would not be open to Ireland to require the installation of such equipment in motor vehicles.

Road Safety.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

135 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport when he intends to change the licensing regime for learner drivers. [3116/06]

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

169 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the delay in introducing regulations requiring motorcyclists with provisional licences to display L-plates. [3115/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135 and 169 together.

In line with commitments given in the Road Safety Strategy 2004-2006 it is my intention that a requirement that motorcyclists with provisional licences must display L-plates will be introduced, and that driver licensing regulations will be amended to discourage long-term reliance on provisional licences.

The necessary regulatory provisions are currently under consideration having regard to the need for amendments to the Road Traffic Acts and a recent Supreme Court decision which found that primary legislation underpinning regulations to transpose EU directives must, notwithstanding any powers already contained in the legislation, contain a power to make regulations for the purpose of transposing EU directives.

Road Traffic Offences.

Michael Noonan

Ceist:

136 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Transport if random breath testing can be successfully implemented in view of earlier advice received from the Attorney General that this proposal could be susceptible to constitutional challenges before the courts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3362/06]

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

146 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Transport if the recommendation to introduce random breath testing contained in his Department’s national road safety strategy has been abandoned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3335/06]

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

168 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Transport when he intends to bring a proposal to Government to amend the Constitution to allow the introduction of random breath testing; and the way in which he intends to legislate for same. [3119/06]

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

180 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the reason there is no legislation contained in the Government’s legislative programme to allow for the introduction of random breath testing and the privatisation of speed cameras; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3346/06]

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

203 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Transport the circumstances which changed in 2005 when the introduction of random breath testing of drivers was ruled out due to constitutional difficulties and the announcement on 25 January 2006 that the legal advice was that such testing would be possible. [3292/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 136, 146, 168, 180 and 203 together.

The Road Safety Strategy 2004-2006 contains a commitment that random preliminary roadside testing of drivers for the presence of alcohol would be introduced before the end of 2006.

Against the background of that commitment I have pursued a very detailed examination of the possible approaches that could be adopted to allow for the introduction of a scheme of random breath testing. That examination was pursued in close consultation with the Attorney General so that a system of random breath testing could be identified that would establish a balance between the legitimate expectations of society as a whole that the level of road deaths and injuries must be radically reduced and on the other hand the rights of citizens generally.

The Attorney General has now provided advice that will allow for the development of a scheme for the operation of random breath testing in a targeted manner, as I indicated in response to today's priority question on this subject.

I will bring forward legislation during the current Dáil session for this purpose and also to provide a statutory basis for the engagement of private sector interests in the operation of a speed camera programme under the direct control and guidance of the gardaí.

Road Signage.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

137 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Transport the progress he has made in updating the traffic signs manual; his plans to amend legislation to ensure compliance with same at roadworks; his proposals to otherwise introduce statutory standards and guidelines at roadworks and to generally improve safety at roadworks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3141/06]

The Traffic Signs Manual sets out directions and advice given to road authorities by the Minister for Transport pursuant to section 95(16) of the Road Traffic Act 1961 regarding the provision and use of warning and information traffic signs. A copy of the manual is available in the Oireachtas Library.

Since late 2004 my Department has been engaged in a comprehensive review of the Traffic Signs Manual. This task is being undertaken in association with the National Roads Authority, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the consultants who have been engaged to prepare a new manual. It is intended that the use of the manual by road authorities will ensure a high quality of signposting in the State through uniformity of practice and the creation of a consistent approach to signing, including at road works.

A draft of a new chapter eight of the manual which relates to traffic signs at roadworks is currently the subject of a consultation process involving all road authorities and other interested parties. This chapter will be finalised following consideration of submissions received in response to that consultation process and it is proposed that it will be published by mid-year. Work on the remaining chapters is progressing and it is hoped that drafts will be made available for consultation with local authorities and other interested parties by the end of the year.

Responsibility for the provision, positioning, maintenance and monitoring of traffic signs on non-national roads is a matter for each individual road authority and in the case of national roads, the National Road Authority.

Road Traffic Offences.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

138 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport the progress which has been made in preparing legislation for the curtailment of the use of mobile phones by drivers; when this matter was first referred to the Attorney General’s Office; and when he expects to introduce legislation in this regard. [3104/06]

The issue of the use of mobile phones by drivers was first referred to the Attorney General's office for advice in July 2002. Meanwhile, there have been significant developments in in-vehicle information and communication technologies. The necessary preparations have now been made to provide for the regulation of in-vehicle information and communications technologies. It is my intention to include the provision in the next appropriate road traffic Bill.

Rail Services.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

139 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Transport the progress made in facilitating private sector players in the freight market here. [3109/06]

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

152 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Transport if his Department has had communications with rail operators interested in becoming involved in the rail freight business here; the action which has been taken to advance such proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3351/06]

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

178 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport the way in which his Department intends to meet its obligations as of 1 January 2006 under EU directive to open rail freight markets to competition; and if any private interest in the rail freight industry has been received. [3303/06]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

201 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport the details of all national rail freight closures in the past year; and if his attention has been drawn to further closures intended by Iarnród Éireann. [3304/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 139, 152, 178 and 201 together.

I have recently introduced regulations, SI 780 of 2005, the European Communities (Access to Railway Infrastructure) (Amendment) Regulations, 2005, transposing Directive 2004/51/EC on the development of the Community's railways. These regulations allow for the opening of the freight market to competition from 1 January 2006, in the case of international freight, and from 1 January 2007 for domestic freight operations.

While no formal applications have yet been received for a railway undertaking licence or for track access, my Department has received a communication from an operator stating their intention to establish themselves as a freight operator. My Department has been in touch with the operator, but no formal application has been received to date.

In relation to Iarnród Éireann's freight business, it is its goal to return this business to profitability. Significant progress has been made recently in this regard; in fact, the business is forecast to turn the freight operating deficit of €10 million in 2003 into a break-even position by 2007. To help achieve this turnaround, the company withdrew from loss-making single container movements on common user liner trains between Dublin and the provincial railheads in Ballina, Cork and Limerick on 29 July last year. This business continued to lose substantial moneys despite significant rationalisation of the cost base. I understand Iarnród Éireann is continuing to explore the expansion of its rail freight business where there are viable trainload business opportunities.

Marine Safety.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

140 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Transport if, in view of the recent series of maritime disasters, he has made a decision to provide an emergency towing vessel to provide extra protection for mariners and the Irish coast in general; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3135/06]

The importance of providing emergency towing vessel facilities, ETV, to protect our coasts has been recognised, including the possibility of sharing such services with the UK in relation to the east coast. However, the very significant costs involved has meant that, in the context of other marine emergency response priorities, it has not been possible to date to put permanent ETV arrangements in place. I have therefore asked the Coast Guard to look again at this issue and advise me on suitable options having regard to associated costs and benefits.

Road Safety.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

141 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport when legislation will be published to facilitate the roll-out of speed cameras nationwide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3350/06]

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

149 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the long delay in publishing legislation on the privatisation of speed cameras. [3112/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 141 and 149 together.

The Government is pursuing the commitment given in the road safety strategy to introduce a network of privatised speed cameras. A working group, chaired by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and representing my Department, the Garda Síochána and other relevant agencies, has carried out an in-depth examination into the issue of the engagement of private sector interests in the operation of speed cameras. The group's report, which has been presented to the Government, makes a series of recommendations, which include proposals that will require the introduction of changes to the current Road Traffic Acts. Legislative proposals to provide statutory support for the initiative will be brought forward during the current Dáil session.

Question No. 142 answered with QuestionNo. 116.

Marine Accidents.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

143 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if, during the recent disaster of the sinking of the Rising Sun off the Wexford coast and the subsequent rescue operation, which resulted in the tragic deaths of fishermen and a diver, representations were made to remove the temporary exclusion zone around the ship during the rescue operation; if so, the reason this lifting of the temporary exclusion zone was permitted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3136/06]

At the outset I wish to extend my sympathies to the families of those who tragically lost their lives as a result of the sinking of the Rising Sun fishing vessel.

An investigator from the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, MCIB, commenced an investigation into the incident on Wednesday, 30 November 2005. To facilitate that inquiry and in view of health and safety concerns arising particularly as a result of oil pollution emanating from the sunken vessel, the Coast Guard informed all parties, including shipping, fishing and local diving clubs, not to visit the site. When the MCIB investigator indicated on 1 December 2005 that he did not require an exclusion zone to be maintained around the sunken vessel for the purposes of his investigation, the temporary exclusion direction was lifted. The pollution threat had also receded by that time.

Local diving interests indicated to the Coast Guard that they wanted to dive on the site. However, although the exclusion direction was lifted, the Coast Guard, in consultation with the Navy, requested all divers in the area not to dive on the vessel in view of the dangerous site conditions, water depths, undercurrents and poor weather conditions.

In responding to marine emergencies the Coast Guard generally welcomes the assistance of local people, particularly in search and recovery operations. However, in every situation the Coast Guard expects such volunteers to operate under its guidance and instructions, which are provided by the Coast Guard on-scene incident co-ordinator.

The request not to dive was ignored and tragically a local diver died that day. The cause of his death is not yet known. When it became clear that the request would continue to be ignored, particularly over the weekend when sports divers from around the country announced that they planned to dive on the site, it was decided to issue a formal notice on Friday, 2 December re-establishing an exclusion zone.

Public Transport.

John Gormley

Ceist:

144 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Transport the status of the A Platform for Change transport plan for Dublin in view of the introduction of the Transport 21 plan by the Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3306/06]

The Dublin Transport Authority's A Platform for Change, which provides a long-term framework for the development of the transport network of the greater Dublin area, GDA, was published in November 2001. That report continues to provide a broad strategic framework for transport planning in the GDA and was taken into account, along with other strategic studies, in the preparation of Transport 21.

State Airports.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

145 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Transport his preferred position with regard to the debt burden of Cork Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3327/06]

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

160 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Transport if a final decision has been made as to the future of the Great Southern Hotels; when this plan will be put into action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3328/06]

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

205 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the delay in the implementation of the break-up of Aer Rianta; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3326/06]

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

209 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Transport his views with regard to the proposed redundancies at Shannon Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3329/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 145, 160, 205 and 209 together.

The State Airports Act 2004 provides for the establishment of the three State airports at Dublin, Shannon and Cork as fully independent and autonomous authorities under State ownership. The Act provides a framework to allow for an orderly approach to the distribution of the assets of Shannon and Cork airports in conformity with the capital maintenance and other provisions of the Companies Act. New boards were appointed at all three airports in 2004.

The boards of Cork and Shannon Airports are now charged with making preparations to assume responsibility for the ownership and development of the airports. They are also empowered to undertake certain management and operational functions, on an agreed basis with Dublin Airport Authority, during the interim period.

Under the Act, before any assets can transfer to either the Shannon or Cork Airport Authorities, the Ministers for Transport and Finance will have to be satisfied as to the financial and operational readiness of the airport authorities. Accordingly, each airport authority is required to prepare a comprehensive business plan and obtain the Ministers' approval for these plans before any assets can be transferred.

The three State airport authorities are continuing to work on the preparation of their business plans with the Dublin Airport Authority, DAA, co-ordinating the process. In this context there is a range of issues, including the unsustainable cost base at Shannon Airport, the recent airport charges determination for Dublin Airport by the Commission for Aviation Regulation and the optimum mechanisms for the financing of the new terminal in Cork, that need to be carefully considered. These are complex issues that the airport authorities must consider carefully and, as I have indicated previously, I have not imposed any artificial deadlines for the completion of the business planning process.

As regards Cork Airport, a major new terminal development project is currently being completed. The new terminal will deliver an annual passenger capacity of three million people with the facility to expand to five million, when needed.

There was an indication at an early stage in the airport restructuring process that the intention was that both the independent Cork and Shannon Airports would commence on a debt-free basis. However, this was always going to be subject to determining the optimum mechanisms for allocating airport assets among the three airports in compliance with the capital maintenance rules and other provisions of the Companies Acts.

The position with regard to the transfer of assets to Cork Airport Authority was set out in the course of the passing of the State Airports Act 2005. Because of the tightness of DAA's distributable reserves a phased approach to restructuring was outlined at the time. The option was mentioned of the negotiation of a finance lease covering a portion of Cork Airport's assets to facilitate the earlier establishment of Cork as a fully independent airport. The Deputy can be assured that Cork's ability to operate on a completely commercial basis will be fully assessed as part of the business planning process and will be factored into the decisions made.

The need to address the cost base of Shannon Airport is not related to the restructuring of the State airports as this has long been identified as a pre-existing challenge. It is expected that any necessary staff reductions that may arise will be achieved by voluntary early retirement or voluntary severance schemes to be negotiated with the trade unions.

The Shannon Airport Authority is currently engaged with trade union representatives on its rationalisation proposals. The proposals are being discussed under the chairmanship of the Labour Relations Commission. I understand that in the last number of days the Shannon restructuring plan has been jointly referred to the Labour Court.

In relation to the Great Southern Hotels Group, GSH, I understand that its parent company, the Dublin Airport Authority, is currently considering how to achieve the optimum outcome for the future of the hotels, having regard to their financial position. I understand that proposals on the future of GSH are to be submitted to my Department shortly, following consideration by the boards of GSH and the DAA.

Question No. 146 answered with QuestionNo. 136.

Road Traffic Offences.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

147 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport the progress made in reaching an agreement on the mutual recognition of penalty points with the Northern Ireland authorities; and the number of Ministerial Transport Councils that have been held to discuss such issues since the inception of the British-Irish Council. [3110/06]

I refer the Deputy to my replies to Question No. 150 on 19 October 2005 and Question No. 160 on 24 November 2005.

The North-South work programme, which was agreed by the North-South Ministerial Council, included a commitment to examine the mutual recognition of penalty points between the Republic of Ireland and the North. However, in addition to the fact that separate penalty point systems operate in the two jurisdictions on this island, the system that operates in Northern Ireland differs from that applying in Great Britain. For that reason, it was agreed that it would be more appropriate to pursue the question of mutual recognition of penalty points on the basis of the operation of the three systems and that it would also be more appropriate that it would be dealt with under the auspices of the British-Irish Council. As Northern Ireland has the lead role for transport matters in the BIC, the authorities in that jurisdiction are taking the lead in considering this issue.

The development of a system of mutual recognition of penalty points presents complex legal questions and will require the negotiation of a bilateral agreement between the two Governments and probably the passage of primary legislation to support such an agreement. For that reason, my Department has sought and obtained the advice of the Attorney General's office in relation to this issue which will inform future consideration of the issue.

Under the structures of the British-Irish Council, Northern Ireland is the lead administration for the organisation and co-ordination of all BIC transport sectoral issues. There has not been a BIC transport ministerial meeting since these road safety issues were adopted onto the BIC work programme in November 2004.

Mutual recognition of driving disqualifications and driving offences will be discussed by Ministers at the forthcoming BIC Transport Ministerial meeting scheduled for 9 February 2006.

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

148 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport the reason he has not provided for increased penalties under section 22 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 to meet the cost of investigating and analysing samples from drink and drug drivers. [3130/06]

Section 22 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 provides that where a person is convicted of a drink driving offence, the court shall, unless it is satisfied that there are special and substantial reasons for not so doing, order that person to pay a prescribed amount to the court as a contribution to the costs and expenses of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety. The prescribed amount, which was established in 1994 at £75, is €95.23.

The Road Safety Strategy 2004-2006 provides for the implementation of a range of linked measures relating to drinking and driving including the adoption of a system of random roadside preliminary breath testing. These proposals include a specific measure for an increase in the charge imposed by the courts under section 22 of the Road Traffic Act 1994. The initiative will be pursued in association with the proposals for the development of a legislative basis for the adoption of a scheme for the operation of random breath testing in a targeted and sustainable manner.

Question No. 149 answered with QuestionNo. 141.
Question No. 150 answered with QuestionNo. 124.
Question No. 151 answered with QuestionNo. 122.
Question No. 152 answered with QuestionNo. 139.

Public Transport.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

153 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport when a fully integrated ticketing system will be operational in Dublin. [3128/06]

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

173 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Transport the progress which has been made in relation to introducing integrated ticketing for public transport in the greater Dublin area; if the system will be fully operational during 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3344/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 153 and 173 together.

The Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, is the statutory body responsible for the delivery of a multi-operator system of integrated public transport ticketing using smartcard technology. The proposed system is, in line with international experience, being introduced on a phased basis, initially in the Dublin area.

As part of the phased introduction of smartcard-based integrated ticketing, in April 2004, Morton's Coaches, in conjunction with the RPA and as a ‘proof of concept', successfully launched smartcards on its services. Last March, another step was taken with the launch of smartcards on Luas services. To date, approximately 11,000 smartcards have been purchased for use on Luas services. The Luas smartcard deployment is helping to obtain important feedback from passengers and provide operational experience for the next stage of integrated ticketing.

Following an inconclusive procurement procedure in 2005, the RPA is finalising proposals for a revised implementation plan. The RPA is currently discussing these proposals with transport operators and the outcome will determine a revised target implementation process and timescale for the phased rollout of integrated ticketing. I understand from the RPA that it is unlikely that the full integrated system will be in place by the end of 2006.

I expect the ongoing discussions to conclude shortly, after which a revised implementation plan and timescale will be presented to my Department.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

154 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Transport if he has received the review of Dublin Bus routes from Dublin Bus; the level of public consultation that has been engaged in while considering this review; the plans for consultation with the public following its outcome; the number of buses which will be provided to the company in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3123/06]

Dublin Bus commissioned transport consultants Martin Voorhees Associates, MVA, to carry out a strategic bus network review in summer 2005.

I have been advised by Dublin Bus that MVA has consulted with a range of stakeholders such as the four local authorities in Dublin, the Dublin Transportation Office and the Rail Procurement Agency during the course of its work. It is the intention of Dublin Bus to hold a public consultation exercise on the review.

On 20 January, Dublin Bus submitted to my Department an application for funding for additional buses, which has due regard to the emerging findings of the network review. I will make a decision on the number of buses to be provided in 2006 when my Department's assessment has been completed.

Road Safety.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

155 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Transport when he intends to introduce initial compulsory training for motorcyclists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3353/06]

The Road Safety Strategy 2004-2006 stated that compulsory initial practical training for motorcyclists would be introduced. A working group comprising of motorcycle interests has been considering the appropriate standards that will apply in this area and the standards that instructors must comply with. Overseeing the introduction of such training will be the responsibility of the proposed Road Safety Authority.

Primary legislation is necessary to facilitate the introduction of compulsory initial practical training for motorcyclists and the necessary amendment to the Road Traffic Acts 1961 to 2004 will be brought forward as soon as practicable.

Public Transport.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

156 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Transport when Dublin bus users will have real time information on all bus services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3359/06]

Following the submission to my Department of the report of the Dublin Transportation Office, DTO, Committee on real time passenger information, A Strategy for Integrated Public Transport Information including Real Time Passenger Information, my Department has consulted with both the DTO and the Railway Procurement Agency on how best to progress the matter. My officials have also had meetings of an exploratory nature with Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann. In the interim, transport operators are proceeding with their own pilot initiatives.

In addition to investment proposals, the report recommended structural change namely the establishment of a public transport information office and system.

I have established a team, chaired by Professor Margaret O'Mahony, which is charged with making recommendations in the remit, structure and resourcing of the proposed Dublin Transport Authority. I will decide on the future approach to be taken to a real time information system for public transport in the Dublin area in the light of the team's recommendations.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

157 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Transport when he expects to increase bus licence fees; and the reason he has not done so in view of the huge commercial value of same. [3108/06]

The legal basis for the fees charged by the bus licensing division of my Department for passenger licences issued under the Road Transport Act 1932 is the regulations made under the Act, that is, the Road Transport Regulations 1932 (No. 26 of 1932), as amended by regulations in 1955 — No. 68 of 1955. My Department is currently reviewing the level of these fees and will be proposing revised charges in due course.

Question No. 158 answered with QuestionNo. 129.

Road Safety.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

159 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Transport if he will ensure that the special derogation for coach tourism contained in Regulation EEC 3820/85 Article 6(1) be retained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2386/06]

On 6 December 2005, the European Parliament and the Council reached agreement, through the conciliation process, on a new EU regulation designed to improve driving times and rest periods for professional drivers. The new EU regulation includes a number of changes to the existing rules, designed specifically to minimise the risks of driver fatigue and ensure safety for drivers and other road users. This includes the removal of the existing provision that allows drivers of passenger vehicles involved in non-regular services to drive for up to 12 continuous days before taking a weekly rest period.

As the provisions of the new regulation have already been agreed at EU level, there is no scope for making changes at this stage. These new rules will replace the existing drivers' hours rules which have not been updated since 1985. It is expected that the legal text of the new regulation will be formally adopted shortly and will come into effect throughout the European Union as soon as it is published in the EU Official Journal. After that, member states will have 12 months to implement the new drivers' hours rules.

Question No. 160 answered with QuestionNo. 145.

Light Rail Project.

John Gormley

Ceist:

161 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Transport the timetable for the development of the extension of Luas line A from Sandyford to Cherrywood and from St Stephen’s Green to O’Connell Street. [3307/06]

Transport 21 provides for the completion of the joining of the existing Red and Green lines in the city centre and the Luas extension to Cherrywood in 2008 and 2010 respectively, subject to compliance with the relevant statutory procedures, etc.

I have already received an application from the RPA for a railway order in respect of the proposed Luas extension to Cherrywood and I have appointed an inspector to conduct the public inquiry in relation to that project.

With regard to the proposed linking in the city centre of the existing two Luas lines, the RPA is currently engaged in a public consultation process in relation to the route options and following this process the agency will announce a preferred route option. The RPA will, in due course, apply for a railway order and a public inquiry will be held.

Road Network.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

162 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport if agreement has been reached to allow motorists to pass free of charge through the West-Link toll plaza at certain times of the day to ease traffic congestion on the M50 when the Dublin Port tunnel opens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3330/06]

The statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, make toll by-laws and enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads is vested in the National Roads Authority, NRA, under Part V of the Roads Act 1993, as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000.

I am aware of no agreement between the NRA and NTR which would allow motorists to pass free of charge through the West Link toll plaza at certain times of the day to ease traffic congestion on the M50 when the Dublin Port tunnel opens.

State Airports.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

163 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Transport if the partial sale of Aer Lingus will be completed during 2006; the progress made to achieve such a target; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3334/06]

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

195 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport his plans in respect of the sale of the State share in Aer Lingus. [3139/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 163 and 195 together.

As the Deputies will be aware, in its decision of 18 May the Government agreed to the State disposing of a majority shareholding in Aer Lingus and retaining a stake of at least 25% to protect strategic interests provided that both the Minister for Finance and I are satisfied that this level of disposal is warranted on foot of the analysis prepared by the Departments' advisers for the transaction.

Following a competitive tender process, UBS and AIB Capital Markets were appointed to provide financial advice and assistance to both myself and the Minister for Finance in relation to an Aer Lingus sale-investment transaction. William Fry and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer were appointed as legal advisers for the assignment.

The first phase of the advisers' work was to recommend the most appropriate transaction mechanism and advise on the size and timing of a transaction. The advisers commenced their work in September and they submitted their report to both myself and the Minister for Finance in December 2005.

Late last year, Aer Lingus appointed financial advisers to advise the company on the investment process. The Aer Lingus trade unions and the ESOT have also appointed their own advisers and a number of meetings have taken place between their advisers and the advisers to the Ministers.

The Minister for Finance and myself are currently considering the report prepared by our advisers. Our Departments have also engaged with the company with a view to finalising the terms on which a transaction can be initiated as soon as possible. The Aer Lingus ESOT and trade unions will be fully consulted on the proposed approach.

Rail Network.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

164 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether a much quicker timeframe is necessary for the western rail corridor; if, in view of the fact that a complete transport over view is needed in the west and most especially in County Mayo, the western rail corridor and a proper road network would progress investment in the west; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3363/06]

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

196 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the timescale for the commencement of work on and the full completion of the western rail corridor. [3365/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 164 and 196 together.

The McCann report recommended a phased approach to the construction of the western rail corridor. Following the launch of Transport 21, I asked Iarnród Éireann to commence the design and planning stages of the western rail corridor from Ennis to Claremorris. The line between Ennis and Athenry will be the first section to be developed. The indicative timescale for development of the corridor is Ennis to Athenry to be completed in 2008, Athenry to Tuam in 2011 and Tuam to Claremorris in 2014. The necessary steps to preserve the section of line between Claremorris and Collooney will be taken this year. I await specific proposals from Iarnród Éireann in relation to the development of the first phase.

This phased approach to reopening the western rail corridor, as well as being consistent with the McCann recommendations, also allows for the management of the construction programme in the context of Iarnród Éireann's overall resource requirements under Transport 21 and makes sense from the perspective of the effective management of the overall capital envelope.

Following completion, in 2010, of the inter-urban motorways programme linking Dublin and the provincial cities, the roads element of Transport 21 will focus on the substantial upgrading of the remainder of the national primary road network. This includes the Atlantic corridor linking the gateways of Letterkenny, Sligo, Galway, Limerick, Cork and Waterford, elements of which will be developed between now and 2010. The Atlantic corridor and the western rail corridor will be key projects in remedying the infrastructural deficit of the west.

Road Safety.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

165 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the delay in reintroducing height restrictions for large vehicles; and when the change will be introduced. [3127/06]

I am currently considering whether to reintroduce a statutory height restriction for vehicles and I hope to take a decision in the matter shortly.

In the event that it is decided to reintroduce a statutory height restriction for vehicles, it will be necessary to submit the draft regulations to the European Commission for consideration and for referral to other member states in accordance with the technical standards and regulations directive, Directive 98/34.

Port Development.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

166 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on future strategy for Dublin Port; if the recent policy announcement by the Progressive Democrats of the removal of Dublin Port is official Government policy; his plans for the looming deficit in capacity at Irish ports; the position regarding the development of the new Bremore Port and the impact this will have on jobs and capacity in other ports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3132/06]

In January 2005, when responsibility for ports policy was in the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, the Minister of State with responsibility for the marine launched the Government's ports policy statement. The policy statement aims to better equip the port sector and its stakeholders to meet national and regional capacity and service needs. One of the key challenges that lies ahead is the provision of adequate in-time port capacity, particularly for unitised trade. The policy statement sets out a framework to ensure that capacity needs are identified, planned and progressed in a coordinated manner.

As an initial step in this process, the Department consulted with the commercial ports handling unitised trade, to determine their view of port capacity and how they intended to deal with the projected capacity requirement. Both Dublin Port Company and Drogheda Port Company responded in this regard with information on their project proposals.

In addition, in September 2005, the Department appointed a firm of consultants expert in this field, Fisher Associates, to, inter alia, invite detailed project submissions from the commercial ports and evaluate those submissions with a view to the Department’s recommendations to Government. As part of this process the Department expects submissions from both Dublin Port Company and Drogheda Port Company with regard to their capacity plans.

The purpose of this process is to satisfy the Government that the anticipated capacity requirement to 2014 and beyond can be efficiently and adequately met through the successful advancement and implementation by the port sector of some combination of the key projects referred to above. The Government expects that market forces will decide which projects or combination of projects are completed.

Drogheda Port Company has a well publicised proposal to develop a new port facility at Bremore in north County Dublin. Drogheda Port Company updated my officials on the progress of this project at meetings in December 2005 and January 2006.

In addition, I am informed that, on Friday last, 27 January 2006, Drogheda Port Company published a notice in the national and international press seeking joint venture partners in the project. The company is aware that any such joint venture would require my consent, in line with the requirements of the Department of Finance code of practice for the governance of State bodies.

On 15 December last, the Progressive Democrats launched a discussion document entitled, A New Heart for Dublin. According to the document it is intended to fuel debate and it invites submissions from interested parties.

Road Network.

Shane McEntee

Ceist:

167 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Transport the progress which has been made by his Department to introduce open road tolling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3357/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

171 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the long delay in introducing legislation for open road tolling; and when he expects to introduce such legislation. [3105/06]

Pat Breen

Ceist:

193 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport when the Roads (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, to allow for electronic tolling, will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3331/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 167, 171 and 193 together.

My Department is working on proposals for legislative amendments to the Roads Act 1993 to strengthen the enforcement provisions relating to non-payment of tolls in a barrier free tolling environment. I anticipate, subject to the other priorities on the legislative programme, that the draft legislation will be introduced by mid-2006.

Question No. 168 answered with QuestionNo. 136.
Question No. 169 answered with QuestionNo. 135.
Question No. 170 answered with QuestionNo. 127.
Question No. 171 answered with QuestionNo. 167.
Question No. 172 answered with QuestionNo. 129.
Question No. 173 answered with QuestionNo. 153.
Question No. 174 answered with QuestionNo. 122.
Question No. 175 answered with QuestionNo. 117.

Light Rail Project.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

176 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Transport the discussions he has had with the Railway Procurement Agency on the possibility of running part of the metro north route on stilts; and the latest proposal in this regard. [3120/06]

The Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, is at present preparing a detailed implementation plan for the metro north line. This will include public consultation which is expected to commence shortly and this consultation will outline the RPA's proposals for surface, underground and elevated alignments. The final alignment will be defined through this public consultation and the statutory approval process which will follow.

Proposed Legislation.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

177 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the continued concerns of Irish business to some of the provisions of the Eurocontrol Bill; and the way in which he proposes to address these concerns. [3125/06]

The main purpose of the Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) Bill 2005 is to give effect to the international convention on co-operation for the safety of air navigation. The convention is the result of negotiations on a revision of the original convention signed in 1960 to take into account developments since then relating to the provision of air navigation services.

I am aware of the concerns of some aircraft leasing companies about the provisions in the revised Eurocontrol convention concerning attaching debts to Eurocontrol as a lien on the aircraft and making the operator and owner jointly and severally liable for such debts. These provisions are not included in the published Bill.

Under the convention, Ireland is under no compulsion to legislate for the creation of liens or joint and several liability. Rather, it is at the discretion of each contracting party to introduce domestic law to implement this element of the convention. I can therefore assure the Deputy that the passage of this Bill in its current form will not increase our current powers concerning the detention and sale of aircraft for unpaid charges. These provisions have been in place since 1988.

The leasing companies have also voiced concerns about the powers contained in earlier Acts dating from 1988 and they have asked that they be modified in the Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) Bill 2005. As a result, I consulted with the Office of the Attorney General and other interested parties, namely, the Irish Aviation Authority, the Dublin Airport Authority and Eurocontrol. All argued against the removal or dilution of the existing powers of detention and sale.

Following consideration of all the views expressed on both sides, I have decided not to make any changes to the existing powers at this point. The Bill will come before the House in the coming days and I will deal with these issues in more detail at that point.

Question No. 178 answered with QuestionNo. 139.
Question No. 179 answered with QuestionNo. 129.
Question No. 180 answered with QuestionNo. 136.
Question No. 181 answered with QuestionNo. 121.

Road Safety.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

182 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Transport if consideration has been given to requiring pedestrians to wear reflective armbands after dusk, in his efforts to cut down on road fatalities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3316/06]

The consensus of public authorities concerned with road safety has been that the wearing of reflective armbands is best promoted on a voluntary basis by way of educational and publicity campaigns such as those undertaken by the National Safety Council, rather than through legislation. The safety of all road users is generally a matter of personal responsibility. In that context, the Rules of the Road include a strong recommendation supporting the use at night by pedestrians of reflective armbands outside urban areas.

However, I have asked my officials to consider, in consultation with the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Finance, the question of supplying all school children with reflective armbands, and to report to me on the matter.

Question No. 183 answered with QuestionNo. 122.

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

184 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport if all the necessary resources are in place to allow the targets set out in the national road safety strategy to be met before its end in December 2006; if not, the measures he intends to enact to meet such targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3338/06]

The Government's Road Safety Strategy 2004-06 sets a primary target of a 25% reduction in road collision fatalities by the end of 2006 over the average annual number of fatalities in the 1998-2003 period. Achievement of the target would result in no more than 300 deaths per annum by the end of the period of the strategy. This is an ambitious target and one which will require the continued commitment to a strategic, integrated approach by all of the road safety agencies.

Progress depends in the first instance on a continued emphasis on the approach that underpins the strategy. A major independent review of the previous strategy confirms that basing the primary target on the achievement of progress in the areas of speeding, drink driving and use of seat belts remains the correct approach. These remain the key areas of the new strategy.

The increase in road deaths recorded over the past number of months places the challenge of meeting the targets set out in the strategy in stark focus. I am satisfied that all of the agencies involved in the delivery of the strategy are fully committed to the achievement of the goals that underpin it, and that they have the resources available to them to support those commitments.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

185 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the delay in meeting the commitment in the road safety strategy to set a target for the reduction in serious injuries from road traffic accidents; and when same will be ready. [3113/06]

The Road Safety Strategy 2004-06 acknowledges that there are significant difficulties in establishing a benchmark from which to set a target for the achievement of a reduction in the number of serious injuries. For that reason, the central target established for the strategy was focused on the realisation of a reduction in the number of road deaths.

The strategy included a commitment to the pursuit of a programme aimed at establishing a more robust basis for determining injury data based on the information flow from the Garda Síochána to the National Roads Authority, allied to information from hospital admission data and insurance claims.

This exercise is still being pursued by a number of organisations that are represented on the road safety high level group under the general direction of the National Roads Authority, which is tasked with the publication of national road collision data.

As the planning horizon for the current strategy is completed at the end of this year, the establishment of a meaningful target for the achievement of reductions in injuries would be of limited value. The results of the examination of this issue will, however, inform decisions on the establishment of targets for the next road safety strategy.

Driving Tests.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

186 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Transport the discussions he has had with the driving instructor sector to inform them of his plans for the regulation of that sector. [3118/06]

Proposals developed by my Department for the regulation and quality assurance of driving instruction will involve a test of the competence of individual instructors. A working group comprising representatives of my Department and of instruction interests has formulated the design of the standards that a driving instructor must meet. The standard will set out criteria for entry to the driving instructor profession and the three-part exam comprising a written exam, a practical driving test and a test of instructional capability that instructors will have to pass in order to be registered.

Responsibility for implementing the standard of driving instruction and establishing a register of driving instructors will be with the proposed Road Safety Authority. I am considering what arrangements will be put in place to oversee implementation of the standard in the context of the establishment of the authority. As part of this process the standard referred to above will form the basis for a consultation document to be issued in the next few months, which will set out the requirements that driving instructors will have to comply with in order to be registered.

Road Traffic Offences.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

187 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the role his Department has with regard to the enforcement of the 31 new penalty points offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3290/06]

The enforcement of offences established under the Road Traffic Acts generally, including those that attract penalty points, is the responsibility of the Garda Síochána. My Department has no direct role in the enforcement of the offences.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

188 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport the action he is taking in conjunction with the MBRS, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Síochána to improve the detection of drug-driving; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3126/06]

The Road Traffic Act 1994 provides that a member of the Garda Síochána may, where he or she is of the opinion that a person in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place is under the influence of a drug or drugs to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of that vehicle, require that person to go to a Garda station and further require that person to submit to a blood test or to provide a urine sample which will then be subject to analysis by the medical bureau of road safety.

The medical bureau of road safety continues to analyse blood and urine specimens received from the Garda Síochána under the Road Traffic Acts for the presence of a drug or drugs where the level of alcohol determined is under the legal limit of 80mg-100ml in blood and 107mg-100ml in urine, or when a specific request for drug analysis has been received from the Garda Síochána when the alcohol result is above the legal limit. The provisional number received in 2005 was 750, which is 32% higher than in 2004.

In September 2004, the director of the medical bureau of road safety and head of forensic medicine at University College Dublin commenced teaching a postgraduate course in the higher diploma in forensic medicine at the university's faculty of medicine. This course includes teaching on drugs, alcohol and driving, including drug recognition. The first cohort of graduates graduated in December 2005 and another course has commenced.

Preliminary discussions were also held in 2005 between the Garda national traffic bureau, the medical bureau of road safety and the department of forensic medicine at UCD with a view to training gardaí in the recognition of driving under the influence of drugs.

Park and Ride Facilities.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

189 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport his proposals for the development of park and ride facilities nationwide in 2006; the financial supports which will be available to develop such facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3341/06]

Provision of park and ride facilities has been incorporated in Transport 21, as one of the ways of attracting more people onto public transport. In the case of the greater Dublin area, my Department last year approved the Dublin Transportation Office's strategy for rail-based park and ride facilities in that area, while plans in other cities, such as the Cork area strategic plan, also incorporate the provision of park and ride facilities as part of their vision for the future of transport.

The DTO and local authorities in regional cities have been informed that capital grants will be provided, in appropriate circumstances, for the development of park and ride facilities.

In 2006, funding of €5 million is being allocated specifically for park and ride facilities in the greater Dublin area. Funding of €11.5 million has been allocated for bus priority measures, including park and ride facilities, in the regional cities in 2006 on foot of applications received from the relevant local authorities. However, no specific proposals have, as yet, been received by my Department for implementation of park and ride facilities during 2006.

Allocation of funding to park and ride proposals will be decided on a case-by-case basis. Proposals will be assessed on their merits, by my Department, based on a rigorous capital appraisal.

Question No. 190 answered with QuestionNo. 129.

Road Safety.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

191 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the delay in bringing forward amendments to the Driver Testing and Standards Authority Bill to provide for a road safety authority and the funding that has been provided in the 2006 Estimates for the authority. [3106/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Priority Question No. 3 on 24 November 2005.

The Driver Testing and Standards Authority Bill 2004 has completed Second Stage in the Dáil. Amendments to the Bill are being drafted to give effect to the wider functions being assigned to the authority. I understand Committee Stage is to be scheduled in the coming weeks and I will introduce those amendments to the House at that time. Funding for road safety activities will be carried in a number of subheads of my Department's Vote pending the establishment of the Road Safety Authority when separate specific provision will be made.

Traffic Management.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

192 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to a recent survey by Dublin Bus where it was found that traffic congestion is costing the company €49 million per year and that average speed had decreased to 12.7 kilometres per hour; the way in which he intends to assist Dublin Bus deal with this problem in the short term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3124/06]

I am aware that consultants have carried out a study of the cost of congestion for Dublin Bus. The impact of congestion and other factors on the cost base of Dublin Bus are the subject of ongoing discussions between my Department and the company. In this context, I have recently granted Dublin Bus an average 4% increase in bus fares, together with an increase of 5% in Exchequer subvention for 2006. This is in addition to the significant Exchequer investment in bus priority measures in recent years and the planned further investment in such measures contained in Transport 21.

Question No. 193 answered with QuestionNo. 167.

Road Traffic Offences.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

194 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport the progress made in reaching an agreement on the mutual recognition of driver disqualification with authorities in Northern Ireland; and if he will announce such an agreement at the ministerial transport council meeting this month. [3111/06]

I refer the Deputy to my replies to Question No. 193 on 3 November 2005 and Question No. 96 on 24 November 2005.

The framework for the mutual recognition of driving disqualifications imposed in Great Britain or Northern Ireland and this State is contained in the European Union Convention on Driving Disqualifications. Legislation to support the application of the convention is contained in the Road Traffic Act 2002. The convention relates to disqualifications arising from a range of specified traffic offences including drink-driving, speeding and dangerous driving. Arrangements for the mutual recognition of driving disqualifications are being considered in the context of the British-Irish Council and the matter is being progressed. It is anticipated that there will be progress at the forthcoming ministerial meeting of the British-Irish Council dealing with transport matters.

Question No. 195 answered with QuestionNo. 163.
Question No. 196 answered with QuestionNo. 164.

Public Transport.

David Stanton

Ceist:

197 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Transport if he has received communication from CIE-Iarnród Éireann regarding the possible refurbishment of Kent Station, Cork; if so, the position regarding the contents of the communication; the action he will take as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3312/06]

In August 2005, my Department received a submission from Iarnród Éireann for Exchequer funding to carry out planning and design work for the redesign of Kent Station. An allocation of €170,000 was approved to allow the detailed planning and design to be undertaken.

Iarnród Éireann has informed my Department that the scheme will substantially upgrade and extend the passenger concourse area to provide a quality environment for its customers. The development of Kent Station is an operational matter for Iarnród Éireann which will be funded exclusively from CIE's own resources.

Taxi Regulations.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

198 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the delay in commencing section 36 of the Taxi Regulation Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3117/06]

Section 36 of the Taxi Regulation Act 2003, as amended by section 36 of the Road Traffic Act 2004, provides for a system of automatic disqualification from applying for or holding a small public service vehicle driver licence 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 them to apply for a licence in certain restricted circumstances.

The commencement of section 36 requires further consultation with licensing authorities, the Garda Síochána, and the Courts Service, among others, to ensure that the appropriate arrangements for implementation are in place. Specific legal advice on a number of issues surrounding the practical application of the section has been sought from the Office of the Attorney General. It will be necessary to give an appropriate period of advance notice of the proposed commencement of the section to allow persons who may be affected by the provisions, in particular existing licence holders, to clarify their position with the courts. Commencement of the section will be considered, in consultation with the Commission for Taxi Regulation, when the legal and administrative issues have been resolved.

Industrial Disputes.

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

199 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport if he will report to Dáil Éireann on the recent resolution of the industrial dispute at Irish Ferries; the progress which has been made at EU level by the Government on advancing the EU ferries directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3131/06]

The Labour Relations Commission brokered the registered agreement that resolved the recent Irish Ferries dispute referred to by the Deputy. As responsibility for the commission rests with my colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Martin, I do not consider it appropriate for me to report to the Dáil on the resolution of an industrial dispute entered into under the auspices of the commission.

There is no EU directive on the manning of regular passenger and ferry services operating in and between member states, in force or being considered at present by member states. If the commission were to initiate such a proposal, I would give it very careful consideration.

At the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council, held in Brussels on 5 December 2005, the Minister of State with responsibility for the marine at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Gallagher, raised the issue of the Irish Ferries dispute and requested the European Commission to consider revisiting its former proposal on the manning conditions on ferries operating between member states.

The Commission responded by indicating that its priorities were to continue to encourage dialogue between the European social partners on the manning of ferries issue; to pursue the implementation of International Labour Organisation standards in Community law, and to study all possible solutions to safeguard employment in the maritime sector.

Question No. 200 answered with QuestionNo. 129.
Question No. 201 answered with QuestionNo. 139.
Question No. 202 answered with QuestionNo. 111.
Question No. 203 answered with QuestionNo. 136.
Question No. 204 answered with QuestionNo. 132.
Question No. 205 answered with QuestionNo. 145.
Question No. 206 answered with QuestionNo. 111.
Question No. 207 answered with QuestionNo. 113.

Public Transport.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

208 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Transport his input regarding the implementation of Transport 21; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3315/06]

Immediately following the launch of Transport 21 on 1 November last I met the chairmen and chief executives of all the implementing agencies and mandated them to proceed with the implementation of the investment programme in accordance with the targets set in Transport 21.

Significant progress has been made to date. Applications for railway orders for the Luas extension to Cherrywood and Docklands have been made. I have approved funding for a 10 m extension of the trams used on the Tallaght line, increasing passenger capacity by 40%, and for the purchase of an additional 30 mainline railcars, bringing the total to 150. The NRA recently announced its 2006 investment programme which will see work start on 15 new projects and the completion of 13 projects, meaning that more than 400 km of national road will be started or completed this year.

I have already established a dedicated division in my Department to oversee the implementation of all aspects of Transport 21. In addition, I will establish a high-level monitoring group shortly to be chaired by my Department and comprising representatives of relevant Departments and the State agencies with responsibility for implementing the projects in Transport 21. The main role of the group will be to monitor implementation of Transport 21, ensure adequate appraisal procedures are in place and review prioritisation of projects to ensure optimum effectiveness of the implementation programme.

I am also on record as saying that we need a new approach to transport in the greater Dublin area, specifically for the delivery of Transport 21. I have proposed the establishment of a Dublin transport authority with the power to ensure joined-up thinking and delivery across all transport modes. I have appointed a team chaired by Professor Margaret O'Mahony to finalise the remit, structures and human resource requirements of the proposed authority and I expect to receive the team's report in the near future. I intend to bring proposals to the Government for decision as soon as I have considered the report of the team.

Question No. 209 answered with QuestionNo. 145.

Consultancy Contracts.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

210 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Taoiseach the public relations contracts continuing, completed and initiated during 2005; the project involved in each of these contracts; the name and address of the company involved; and the value of these contracts. [3583/06]

My Department did not engage public relations consultants during 2005 on behalf of either myself or my Department. Three contracts were engaged by bodies under the aegis of my Department. Two contracts were engaged by the National Centre for Partnership and Performance and one by the National Forum on Europe, the details of which are set out as follows.

Caden Communications, 4 York Terrace, Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin, was engaged for a project completed in 2005. The project was to develop and implement a comprehensive communications strategy for the National Centre for Partnership and Performance and media relations. The total cost for 2005 was €19,392.

Limetree Consultants, Enterprise House, 27 Leinster Lawn, Clonskeagh, Dublin 14, were engaged for a project initiated in November 2005 by the National Centre for Partnership and Performance. This project is to develop a comprehensive advertisement and communications strategy in which to disseminate the key messages contained in the national workplace strategy. The total cost for 2005 was €4,936.

Caroline Erskine is the media relations officer in the National Forum on Europe. The total amount paid to Ms Erskine for 2005 was €75,068. Her contract is continuing. Conor Joyce was also on contract as media relations officer with the forum and the total amount paid to him for 2005 was €4,800.

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

211 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway did not receive a bed for two weeks under the winter initiative scheme for the elderly when they required full time care and attention. [3400/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Ambulance Service.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

212 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if funding is available to a person, who, due to the unavailability of an ambulance service, must use alternative transport to attend hospital (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3547/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Education.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

213 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the time it takes to complete registration with An Bord Altranais, relative to applicants from other European countries; if the timeframe in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny is typical; the reason their case has not been approved in view of the fact that they applied in January 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3422/06]

An Bord Altranais has statutory responsibility for the registration of nurses under the Nurses Act 1985.

I am sure that the Deputy will appreciate that An Bord Altranais must process each application thoroughly to ensure that all those entered on the register of nurses are deemed professionally qualified and competent for such registration. The protection of the public underpins this process. I am satisfied that the board discharges its functions in a professional manner.

In 2005, some 3,576 newly registered qualifications were entered on the register. I am informed that decisions are normally issued to individual applicants within six weeks. However, errors or omissions in information supplied to the board can cause delays. It may be that reasons such as these have contributed to any delay in processing the application referred to by the Deputy.

Given the statutory functions of the board it would not be appropriate for the Minister to intervene in individual applications for registration.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

214 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount of funding provided to redevelop the Meath Hospital, Dublin 8; the amount of this money which has been spent to date in 2006; the way in which it has been spent; and the planned future for the Meath Hospital site. [3429/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Accommodation.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

215 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the closure of 12 beds in St Mary’s, Rathmines, Dublin 6; and the locations where the residents have been accommodated. [3430/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Complementary Therapies.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

216 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the recognition of homoeopathic medicine; her plans to introduce measures to give effect to recognition. [3437/06]

I understand the Deputy is referring to the recognition of the practitioners of homoeopathic medicine.

I am conscious that complementary therapy, including homoeopathy, is of increasing interest to the public and that more people are now attending complementary therapists. However, while the practice of conventional medicine and health care in this country is controlled and regulated, complementary health care, including the practice of homoeopathy, has not been subject to the same level of oversight. Standards of education, professional qualifications and experience required are not as well established and the level of qualification and length of training among complementary therapists can vary. Moreover, the practice of some complementary therapies has sometimes been carried out on an informal basis.

A national working group on the regulation of complementary therapists was established by my predecessor in May 2003 to advise on future measures for strengthening the regulatory environment for complementary therapists. The national working group's report has been submitted to my Department and I will carefully consider the group's recommendations on this matter.

Hospital Services.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

217 Mr. McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the ongoing crisis in Letterkenny Hospital where cancellations of day services and other procedures are a regular occurrence due to shortage of beds and inadequate accident and emergency facilities; and her plans to address these difficulties. [3438/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

218 Mr. McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if negotiations are being conducted with the Northern Ireland authorities to provide radiotherapy for Donegal patients; when a panel will be in place to facilitate the patients in need of this therapy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3439/06]

Discussions have taken place between representatives of my Department, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and of Belfast City Hospital, BCH. Arising from these discussions, the Health Service Executive is now preparing a needs assessment in respect of cancer patients in Donegal who may require radiotherapy at BCH. This is an essential preparatory step in delivering on this important cross-Border initiative in cancer care.

Grant Payments.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

219 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason persons in certain Health Service Executive areas (details supplied) are no longer entitled to a home birth grant. [3445/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

220 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will review the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 for their entitlement to a home birth grant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3446/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Appointments.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

221 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the firms used as recruitment agencies for the provision of full-time or temporary staff and the amounts paid to each in respect of fees or other payments regarding the former Western Health Board area and for the years 2003, 2004 and 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3452/06]

As this is a matter for the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004, my Department has asked the executive to provide the information sought by the Deputy. I will communicate again with the Deputy in this matter as soon as I receive the information.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

222 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when tenders will be invited for the new hospital at Dingle, County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3454/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Cardiac Services.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

223 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the report of the national task force on sudden cardiac death syndrome will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3477/06]

In September 2004 a national task force on sudden cardiac death was established to address the problem of sudden cardiac death in Ireland. The task force, chaired by Dr. Brian Maurer, will make recommendations on the prevention of sudden cardiac death and on the detection of those at high risk. The task force will also advise on equipment and training programmes to improve the outcome for those suffering from sudden cardiac collapse and on the establishment of appropriate surveillance systems. I understand that the report is with the printer, and I intend to have it published very shortly.

Health Services.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

224 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the number of children with diabetes being treated by the paediatric diabetes unit at the Cork University Hospital has risen from 120 patients in 2002 to a current level of 207; the extra resources which have been given to the unit to cope with that extra demand; her views on whether there is a need to have a dedicated medical person appointed to the unit to give advice to parents on all aspects of their children’s health; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3479/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

225 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the entitlements of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12. [3482/06]

An individual living in Ireland for at least one year is considered by the Health Service Executive, HSE, to be ordinarily resident and is entitled to either full eligibility, category 1, that is, medical card holders or limited eligibility, category 2, for health services. Dependants of an ordinarily resident person who have not been in Ireland for a period of one year themselves must declare themselves to be the dependants of that person to the HSE and seek to satisfy the HSE that they intend to remain in Ireland for a period of at least one year.

Individuals who have not been resident in Ireland for at least one year must satisfy the HSE that it is their intention to remain for a minimum of one year to establish their entitlements to health services. Dependants of such individuals must also contact the HSE in that regard.

Persons in category 1 are medical card holders, and they are entitled to a full range of services, including general practitioner services, prescribed drugs and medicines, all in-patient public hospital services in public wards, including consultants' services, all out-patient public hospital services, including consultants' services, dental, ophthalmic and aural services and appliances and a maternity and infant care service. Determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. Medical cards are issued to persons who, in the opinion of the Health Service Executive, are unable to provide general practitioner, medical or surgical services for themselves and their dependants without undue hardship. Persons over the age of 70 years are automatically entitled to a medical card.

Persons not entitled to a medical card but with an income below a certain threshold, 25% above the medical card income guidelines, may be entitled to a GP visit card. A GP visit card entitles the holder to free GP services. For those who do not qualify for a medical card, a number of schemes exist which provide assistance towards the cost of medication. Under the drug payment scheme, a person and his or her dependants need not pay more than €85 in any calendar month for approved prescribed drugs, medicines or appliances.

Persons in category 2, non-medical card holders, are entitled, subject to certain charges, to all in-patient public hospital services in public wards, including consultant services, and out-patient public hospital services, including consultant services. The current public hospital statutory in-patient charge is €60 per night, up to a maximum of €600 in any 12 consecutive months. Attendance at accident and emergency departments is subject to a charge of €60 where the patient does not have a referral note from his or her doctor. A maternity and infant care service is provided during pregnancy and up to six weeks after birth.

Further information on eligibility for health services can be obtained from the HSE national information line on 1850 24 1850, which operates from Monday to Saturday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

226 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason 400 people are still on trolleys in accident and emergency units. [3521/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

227 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the Health Service Executive has been unable to supply a special type of bicycle to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this person had an old bicycle which is worn out and is useless; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that the medical evidence shows that the special type of bicycle sought would be of immense importance to this person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3537/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Consultancy Contracts.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

228 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the public relations contracts continuing, completed and initiated during 2005; the project involved in each of those contracts; the name and address of the company involved; and the value of those contracts. [3584/06]

The information requested is being collated by my Department and will be forwarded directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

229 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress made on phase 2B of Mullingar General Hospital; the funds available for capital works in 2006 at that hospital; the works to be carried out with that money; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3600/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Ambulance Service.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

230 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the figures for ambulance response times in each of the Health Service Executive areas for 2004 and 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3617/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Tax Code.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

231 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if the vehicle registration tax relief of 50% for new bio-fuel vehicles announced in budget 2006 extends to a used vehicle being imported into the country and registered for the first time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3404/06]

The measure that I announced in the budget regarding the introduction of a 50% remission or repayment of vehicle registration tax on the registration of flexible-fuel vehicles, FFVs, in the State is intended to include both vehicles purchased new in Ireland or elsewhere and used vehicles imported into the State. However, such vehicles, to qualify for the relief, will be required to be series production vehicles, that is, manufactured as flexible-fuel vehicles. The relief will not extend to vehicles modified or converted after manufacture.

Further details of the measure will be included in the forthcoming Finance Bill, to be published on 2 February.

Regional Airports.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

232 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the number of planned checks and spot checks that were carried out at Weston Aerodrome by customs officers of the Revenue Commissioners in 2004 and 2005; the results of those checks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3434/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that during 2004 officers attached to their Dublin enforcement district carried out 12 planned and six unplanned visits to Weston Aerodrome. During 2005, ten planned and six unplanned visits were made by officers to Weston Aerodrome. During 2004 and 2005 no instance of smuggling or fraudulent activity regarding aircraft or passengers arriving at Weston Aerodrome was discovered.

Decentralisation Programme.

John Deasy

Ceist:

233 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Finance the number of staff of the Ordnance Survey of Ireland who have agreed to move to Dungarvan; the number of civil servants outside the OSI who have applied to transfer to Dungarvan; the length of time it will take to train people to undertake the skilled work required in the OSI; when the OSI will be in a position to transfer to Dungarvan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3473/06]

The latest data from the central applications facility indicates that, while there are 15 staff of Ordnance Survey Ireland, OSI, who wish to decentralise with the organisation and 42 expressions of interest in decentralising with the OSI by civil servants, there are a further ten staff who have been assigned to the OSI for decentralisation to Dungarvan.

The length of time it will take to train people to undertake the skilled work required in the OSI will depend on the skills and competencies staff have when they arrive in the organisation. Training times will vary for administrative and technical functions from a minimum of three months to a maximum of 24 months.

While the OSI is not included in the initial group of early movers, in accordance with the requirements of the decentralisation implementation group the OSI has completed a deeper iteration of its original decentralisation implementation plan, and consideration is being given to establishing an office in Dungarvan on an interim basis.

John Deasy

Ceist:

234 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Finance if the contracts between the Office of Public Works and the developer have been signed regarding the provision of offices for the Ordnance Survey of Ireland in Dungarvan; if the contracts have not been signed when they will be; when the offices will be completed and available to the OSI; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3474/06]

I am pleased to confirm that contracts for the purchase of a suitable site for the proposed decentralisation of Ordnance Survey Ireland, OSI, to Dungarvan have recently been signed by the Office of Public Works, OPW.

The OPW is now in a position to advance the procurement stage of the project. In that regard, it will proceed immediately to finalise a detailed brief of requirements with OSI, following which expressions of interest will be sought from developers with a view to inviting tenders for construction at the earliest possible date.

Consultancy Contracts.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

235 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the public relations contracts continuing, completed and initiated during 2005; the project involved in each of those contracts; the name and address of the company involved; and the value of those contracts. [3585/06]

My Department had two public relations, PR, contracts which continued into 2005. No such contracts were initiated in 2005, and none was completed in that year.

The following table sets out the year of the awarding of each contract, a description of the purpose of the contract, the name and address of the organisation with which my Department contracted, the total value of the contract and some additional information.

Year of award of contract

Description of PR contract, including the project involved

Name and address of the PR service-provider

Total value of PR contract

Additional information

2004

Part of a marketing contract for the etenders website, www.etenders.gov.ie, awarded to a consortium and including an element of PR provided by one of the parties.

The Media Group 43 Mount Merrion Avenue Blackrock County Dublin

€80,000 (estimated for the Media Group’s role in the consortium).

The PR service provided is an element of a larger marketing contract with a consortium that includes the Media Group, PR, Ogilvy and Mather, print and broadcast advertising, and Elucidate, on-line advertising and production of an electronic magazine. The total value of the two-year marketing contract for 2004-06 is €363,000.

2003

Provision of publicity services for the NDP-CSF information office.

Grayling 3-4 Merrion Place Dublin 2

409,000

The total value of the contract is the estimated total cost to the end of the contract in April 2006. The figure does not include third-party costs for advertising, photography etc., which amount to €193,000 to date.

Offshore Exploration.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

236 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the marine environmental monitoring protocols that are required to be implemented by oil exploration companies drilling in Irish waters. [3386/06]

As a member state of the EU and a signatory to the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, OSPAR, Ireland expects all operators and licensees to carry out activities in accordance with the directives, decisions and recommendations of both organisations as stipulated for offshore exploration operations and including management of their environmental impacts. Exploration drilling offshore from Ireland is governed by the rules and procedures for offshore petroleum exploration operations. This document sets out the detailed requirements for drilling, and other operations in the Irish offshore. It incorporates, inter alia, the relevant decisions and recommendations of OSPAR.

OSPAR's decisions and recommendations deal with the following: a mandatory control system for the use and reduction of the discharge of offshore chemicals, OSPAR decision 2000/2; the use of organic-phase drilling fluids, OPF, and the discharge of OPF contaminated cuttings, OSPAR decision 2000/3; a harmonised pre-screening scheme for offshore chemicals, OSPAR recommendation 2000/4; and the harmonised offshore chemical notification format, OSPAR recommendation 2000/5, in addition to a permit scheme to use or discharge added chemicals. The rules and procedures also prescribe that drilling applications include an environmental area assessment. My Department is putting in place a process to ensure full compliance by companies with the environmental requirements of the rules and procedures for offshore petroleum exploration operations.

Fisheries Protection.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

237 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the provision his Department is making for the recovery of deep sea gill nets which have recently been banned under European Union common fishery policy regulations. [3388/06]

The ban on the use of deep water gill nets is set down in the 2006 total allowable catch and quota regulation. The regulation requires the removal of such nets from the areas covered by the ban by 1 February 2006. The Naval Service will be responsible for policing the ban within the Irish exclusive fisheries zone, EFZ, and will monitor fishing activity in this zone to ensure that the banned gear is not deployed. New EU rules came into force on 1 January 2006 which require that gill nets must be marked with the identification of the vessel to which they belong. These will facilitate the work of the Naval Service in this regard. In EU waters outside the Irish EFZ, it will be the responsibility of the control authorities of each member state to monitor waters within their own EFZ, which are covered by the ban and, in international waters, it will be a matter for the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission.

While I understand that the current ban is regarded by the EU Commission as a short-term emergency measure and that the Commission will be bringing forward long-term measures during the course of 2006, I will be at the forefront in pushing for the continuation of the current ban unless strong and effective alternative measures are brought forward by the Commission.

With regard to abandoned gear, work has already been carried out by Bord Iascaigh Mhara and UK Government agencies during 2005 to remove nets that have been discarded at sea. The results of this work underlined the scale of the problem. I will be pressing for an EU co-ordinated campaign to build upon this excellent work, as I believe it requires the co-operation of all member states to send out a strong message against what is a totally unacceptable practice.

Postal Services.

John Perry

Ceist:

238 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of post offices or sub-post offices in Counties Sligo and Leitrim that have been closed down or downgraded in the years 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3512/06]

The closure of individual post offices is a matter for the board and management of An Post. According to that company, the following is the information requested.

County

Post Offices Closed or Converted

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006 (to date)

Sligo

post offices closed

0

1

3

0

0

0

post offices converted to agency

0

8

5

1

2

1

Leitrim

post offices closed

2

1

0

0

1

0

post offices converted to agency

0

9

3

1

0

0

Departmental Contracts.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

239 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the public relations contracts continuing, completed and initiated during 2005; the project involved in each of these contracts; the name and address of the company involved; and the value of these contracts. [3586/06]

There were no public relations contracts continuing, completed or initiated by my Department during 2005. The communications firm Fleishman-Hillard-Saunders, of 15 Fitzwilliam Quay, Dublin 4, were contracted on Friday, 11 November to provide advice and support to the Department on the re-structuring of the inland fisheries sector. The contract, which is ongoing, carries a maximum possible cost of €29,000, exclusive of administrative costs and VAT.

Visa Applications.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

240 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the statistical information his Department keeps on applicants for visitor visas. [3384/06]

Statistical information on visas issued by Irish missions abroad, the majority of which are issued under a delegated sanction arrangement with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, is limited to the number of such visas issued by each mission. I would also refer the Deputy to the reply to a parliamentary question on this issue which the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform gave to the Deputy on 25 January.

Undocumented Irish Emigrants.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

241 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he met the group of US Congressmen on their recent visit here; the discussions he had with them; if the situation regarding undocumented young Irish in the US was discussed; the way in which he envisages a solution to the problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3423/06]

A US congressional delegation, led by Congressman James Walsh, chairman of the friends of Ireland group in Congress, visited Ireland last month. I was pleased to meet with the delegation, which included Congressmen Brian Higgins and Tim Murphy, in Carlingford on 17 January.

Our discussions covered bilateral issues of mutual interest. I took the opportunity to thank the delegation for the continued bipartisan support of the United States for the peace process in Northern Ireland. I briefed the delegation on current developments in Northern Ireland and on the Government's determination to ensure the earliest practicable restoration of the devolved institutions. I stressed that 2006 will be a decisive year and underlined the continued importance of close US engagement with the peace process.

I also raised the issue of the undocumented Irish in the United States. As the Deputy is aware, various legislative proposals are under consideration in the US at present, of which the Bills sponsored, respectively, by Senators Kennedy and McCain and by Senators Kyl and Cornyn, remain the most comprehensive and politically significant. I briefed the Congressmen on the strong support by the Government and the Oireachtas, as expressed in last October's all-party motion, for the approach proposed by Senators Kennedy and McCain. This, if adopted, would offer the undocumented a path to permanent residency. However, it is clear that the legislative situation is fluid and that achieving the necessary compromise on this sensitive issue remains a formidable challenge.

International Agreements.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

242 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the relevant legal agreement and other arrangements entered into by the State or its agents for the accommodation of US military personnel stopping overnight in the mid-west; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3451/06]

As a rule, flights carrying members of the US military through Shannon Airport stop only for a brief period before continuing onward. In exceptional cases, however, exigencies may arise, such as technical failure or medical emergency, which require an overnight stay. In situations where it is desired that uniformed US military personnel be transferred from the airport, the permission of the Minister for Foreign Affairs is sought, in accordance with the requirements of the Defence Act 1954. An expedited procedure exists to enable requests for the granting of such permission to be considered at short notice, in appropriate consultation with other Departments.

Nobel Peace Prize.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

243 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government has nominated or intends to nominate a person for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3480/06]

Nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize can be put forward by those persons eligible to nominate candidates, including members of national assemblies, Governments and international courts of law, university chancellors and former Nobel Peace Prize laureates.

The statutes of the Nobel Foundation restrict disclosure of information about nominations for a period of 50 years, with the restriction applying to nominees and nominators, as well as investigations and internal consultations concerning the awarding of a prize. Moreover, the Nobel Committee strongly requests that nominators not publish details of their proposals.

The Deputy will understand that the Government would wish to respect the Nobel Committee's request and that it would not be appropriate, therefore, to indicate its position on the specific question asked.

Consultancy Contracts.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

244 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the public relations contracts continuing, completed and initiated during 2005; the project involved in each of these contracts; the name and address of the company involved; and the value of these contracts. [3587/06]

No public relations contracts were continued, completed or initiated by the Department of Foreign Affairs during 2005. However, in the interest of completeness, the Deputy may wish to note the following: In November 2004, following an open tender process, Development Co-operation Ireland employed Real Event Solutions to design, organise and manage a primary school competition around the theme of international development and the UN Millennium development goals. The competition, which was completed in 2005, had a public relations aspect aimed at encouraging school participation, both at a regional and national level and cost €17,204, including VAT. The Department of Foreign Affairs, through the Communicating Europe initiative, provided funding in 2005 to allow the Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Affairs to engage a public relations officer to publicise its work and, in particular, the role of the Oireachtas sub-committee on European Scrutiny in reviewing draft EU legislation. Two consultants were engaged by the joint committee during 2005: Jack Murray Media was paid €5,193 for work undertaken during from January to March 2005 and Rachel Dalton Communications was paid €4,350.89 for work undertaken in October and November 2005.

International Agreements.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

245 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if there are specific agreements with the US, UK, France, Germany and Italy on combating terrorism, possibly providing for these countries to have bases on this State’s territory or even to carry out policing operations independently. [3606/06]

Ireland has not concluded any bilateral agreements on combating terrorism with the US, UK, France, Germany and Italy. It has, however, entered into a range of agreements, particularly in the context of the Council of Europe and the European Union, relating to the combating of terrorism or whose provisions may be used for counter-terrorism purposes.

Examples of such agreements include the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, the framework decision on the European arrest warrant and the framework decision on joint investigation teams.

Ireland also has a bilateral extradition treaty in force with the United States of America since 1983, which applies to all offences having a penalty of more than one year's imprisonment or where a sentence of four months or more remains to be served.

In addition, Ireland, Italy, France, Germany, UK and US are all party to the following 12 multilateral terrorism conventions: the convention on the prevention and punishment of crimes against internationally protected persons, including diplomatic agents, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 14 December 1973; the international convention against the taking of hostages, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 17 December 1979; the international convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 15 December 1997; the international convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 9 December 1999; the convention on offences and certain other acts committed on board aircraft, signed at Tokyo on 14 September 1963; the convention for the suppression of unlawful seizure of aircraft, signed at the Hague on 16 December 1970; the convention for the suppression of unlawful acts against the safety of civil aviation, signed at Montreal on 23 September 1971; the convention on the physical protection of nuclear material, signed at Vienna on 3 March 1980; the protocol on the suppression of unlawful acts of violence at airports serving international civil aviation, supplementary to the convention for the suppression of unlawful acts against the safety of civil aviation, signed at Montreal on 24 February 1988; the convention for the suppression of unlawful acts against the safety of maritime navigation, agreed in Rome on 10 March 1988; the protocol for the suppression of unlawful acts against the safety of fixed platforms located on the continental shelf, agreed in Rome on 10 March 1988; and the convention on the marking of plastic explosives for the purpose of detection, signed at Montreal on 1 March 1991.

None of the above agreements or conventions provide for any of the state parties having bases on this State's territory or carrying out policing operations independently here.

Landing Rights.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

246 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government knows of any flights to, from or over the State’s territory by aircraft chartered by the CIA or related agencies; if so, since when and the frequency of same; if permission was requested from the Government or the competent authorities for the flights and overflights in question; and if so, their response to same. [3608/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

247 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the information which must be provided in support of a request for flights or overflights from the CIA or related agencies; and if this information includes a list of passengers names, weapons, personal firearms and the type of cargo on board. [3610/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

248 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the implications the NATO accords or other similar agreements have for the procedures for requesting permission for flights or overflights from the CIA or related agencies; and if these procedures only apply to miliary flights or can be extended to civilian flights. [3612/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

249 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government knows of, or if it has tolerated by adopting a passive attitude, the illegal transportation of prisoners on flights or over flights passing through the State’s territory; and if so, when this has been the case. [3614/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 246 to 249, inclusive, together.

The Government, as I have assured the House on numerous occasions, is utterly opposed to the practice of so-called extraordinary rendition. Any suggestion that the Government would tolerate such a practice is completely without foundation.

I am aware of media reports that a number of civil aircraft alleged to be operated on behalf of the CIA have transited through several European countries and in his reply of 13 December 2005, my colleague, the Minister for Transport, furnished details regarding the movements of certain such aircraft. However, none of these reports has included any concrete evidence or specific allegations that prisoners have been transported through Irish airports as part of a so-called extraordinary rendition operation. In addition, the Government has sought and received categoric assurances from the US authorities in this regard.

Civil aircraft, including civil aircraft chartered by the CIA, are not required, in accordance with the 1944 Chicago convention on international civil aviation, to seek permission to land here unless they are engaged in commercial operations in this country.

State aircraft, on the other hand, are required to apply for permission before landing in Ireland. In the event that the US authorities were to request such permission for a State aircraft operating for the CIA, the Department of Foreign Affairs would require, in keeping with standard practice, an undertaking from the US Embassy that the aircraft would be unarmed, would not be carrying arms, ammunition or explosives, would not be engaged in intelligence gathering and was not taking part in military exercises or operations. These conditions are not legal requirements but are policy stipulations which are applied at the direction of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Other data sought would include the type and registration number of the aircraft, its call sign, the purpose of the flight, the nature of any cargo, its destination and point of departure and the estimated times of arrival and departure.

Consultancy Contracts.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

250 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the public relations contracts continuing, completed and initiated during 2005; the project involved in each of these contracts; the name and address of the company involved; and the value of these contracts. [3588/06]

The information sought by the Deputy about the Department is set out hereunder:

Consultancy

Purpose

Value (VAT Included)

Completed/Ongoing

Mahon O’Neill, 33 Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin 2

PR work — National media campaign across print and broadcast media in relation to the 1901/1911 Digitisation Project at the National Archives

6,331.32

Initiated and completed in 2005

Murray Consultants

Provision of a Public Relations and Media service to the Department

89,250.17 (to end of December 2005)

Initiated in December 2004, continuing in 2005.

Stem Cell Research.

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

251 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on stem cell research; the position taken by Ireland at EU level regarding this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3399/06]

Stem cell research is an area which holds considerable promise in the treatment of various diseases, including neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, and spinal cord injury. Research is under way in Ireland on therapies using stem cells derived from adult tissues.

As regards ethical issues pertaining to stem cells derived from embryonic sources, the current sixth framework programme, FP6, explicitly forbids EU funding for research that involves human reproductive cloning, the creation of human embryos for research and research that would change the genetic heritage. FP6, 2002-06, does allow EU funding of projects involving the derivation and use of human embryonic stem cells derived from supernumerary embryos in countries where such research is permitted.

Under FP6 the funding of ethically sensitive projects is dealt with through a process of ethical review. In summary, all such projects are submitted to a rigorous four-stage process before being funded: national ethical review, European scientific review, European ethical review and consideration by a committee of member states. EU research programmes never fund in a member state, under any circumstances, anything that is not legal or is deemed unethical in that particular member state.

The seventh framework programme, FP7, is due to commence at the beginning of 2007 and is scheduled to run until 2013. In presenting its proposals for FP7, the Commission has stated that it has adopted a no change policy with regard to the respect of fundamental ethical principles in research activity. This explicitly respects the positions of those member states whose legal and ethical regimes forbid such research.

The detailed technical examination of the Commission's proposals is under way and I am currently consulting with the Minister for Health and Children on the position to be adopted by Ireland on the ethical issues that arise in these proposals.

Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

252 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a report on the prevalence of MRSA in private nursing homes, geriatric institutions and public hospitals for older people has been carried out by the Health and Safety Authority; the findings of same and the actions taken by his Department as a result; if such reports and advice received on same will be published in full; if such reports have been given to the Health Service Executive or Department of Health and Children or any other Department or agency; if not, the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3401/06]

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

253 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, further to Parliamentary Question No. 293 of 25 January 2006, if his Department has received complaints regarding the prevalence of MRSA in private nursing homes, geriatric hospitals or other institutions caring for the elderly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3402/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 252 and 253 together.

The role of the Health and Safety Authority under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 relates to the protection of workers in all sectors. I am advised by the Health and Safety Authority that no report on the prevalence of MRSA in private nursing homes, geriatric institutions and public hospitals for older people has been produced or is contemplated. However, in line with its programme of work for 2006, the authority is continuing work relating to the potential exposure of workers in hospitals to biohazards that might adversely affect their safety, health or welfare.

In this regard, the authority is focusing on the existence and implementation of comprehensive infection control policies as part of the overall safety management system of workplaces where there may be a risk of workers' exposure to biological agents. Such infection control policies must take account of all biological agents that may be present and, in particular, focus on those organisms that are of primary concern, including methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, MRSA, legionella, hepatitis B, HIV, mycobacterium tuberculosis, TB, and streptococcus pyrogenes.

I am also advised by the Health and Safety Authority that, as part of this work, it recently requested the Health Service Executive to identify those hospitals, if any, under the control of the executive that are not in possession of a written site-specific risk assessment for exposure to biological agents at work and the associated safety management system, including prevention and control measures. Any hospitals that are so identified will be subject to inspection by the authority's inspectorate and, where necessary, consideration will be given to appropriate enforcement action. In hospitals that the Health Service Executive considers compliant, a sample will also be subject to inspection in line with the authority's policy of dealing with this prioritised area.

With regard to the question of complaints regarding the prevalence of MRSA in private nursing homes, geriatric hospitals or other institutions caring for the elderly, the Department has no record of such complaints. However, the Health and Safety Authority has received correspondence relating to hospital patients and MRSA but the matters raised do not fall within the role of the authority in relation to those who are not at work on the basis that there must be a clear, direct and explicit connection between a current work activity and its effect on persons other than workers before the authority gets involved.

Job Losses.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

254 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of IDA assisted jobs that have been lost in County Donegal each year since 2000; and ifhe will make a statement on the matter. [3442/06]

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

255 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs created in Donegal by the IDA each year since 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3443/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 254 and 255 together.

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland and its regions. The Forfás annual employment survey records jobs gained and lost in companies supported by the industrial development agencies. Data are compiled on an annualised basis but data on a county basis for 2005 in respect of IDA client companies are not yet available from the agency. However, at the end of 2004 there were 13 IDA supported companies operating in County Donegal employing 2,206 people. The number of jobs lost and gained in County Donegal in each of the years from 2000 to 2004 is set out in the following table showing the number of jobs lost and created in IDA supported companies in Donegal in each of the years from 2000 to 2004.

Donegal

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

Jobs created

308

353

179

141

136

Jobs lost

341

518

113

494

217

Consultancy Contracts.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

256 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the public relations contracts continuing, completed and initiated during 2005; the project involved in each of these contracts; the name and address of the company involved; and the value of these contracts. [3589/06]

Particulars of contracts continuing, completed and initiated directly by my Department are set out below:

Company — QMP Publicis, Sir John Rogerson's Quay, Dublin 2 — delivered also through Media Vest, Sir John Rogerson's Quay and Brindley Advertising, Upper Mount Street, Dublin 2. Project description — TV, press and radio advertisement to publicise the increase in the National Minimum Wage during 2005.

Value: (a) QMP Publicis — production. This contract was initiated during 2005 and is now completed. The total value of the contract was €33,387.53, all of which has been paid; (b) Media Vest — broadcasting. This contract was initiated during 2005 and is now completed. The total value of the contract was €71,614.62, all of which has been paid; and (c) Brindley Advertising — press. This contract was initiated during 2005and is now completed. The total value of the contract was €24,369.06, all of which has beenpaid.

In addition leaflets to the value of €3,109.05 publicising the increase in the national minimum wage in 2005 were printed by Mullen Print, Blanchardstown, Dublin 11.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

257 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he has satisfied himself that additional payment of €5.50 for contributory widows over and above the most basic rate of social welfare payment is sufficient recognition of the contributions to social insurance over many years to obtain widows cover; his views on introducing a supplement on contributory widow’s pension where widows do not have secondary sources of income in excess of some specified figure; and the likely cost of such a supplement. [3397/06]

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

258 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the cost of extending the free scheme to all widows who do not have an income in excess of €50 per week from secondary sources. [3398/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 257 and 258 together.

To qualify for a social insurance payment a person must satisfy contribution conditions which vary from scheme to scheme. In the case of widow's or widower's entitlement to a contributory pension this may be based on the social insurance record of either the widowed person or the late spouse. As few as three years' contributions may be required with an annual average of 39 weeks contributions paid or credited over the three or five tax years, whichever is more beneficial, before reaching pension age or before the spouse died, if earlier. This gives entitlement to a maximum rate pension.

These contribution requirements are one of the least stringent applying to long-term pension schemes. In addition, recipients over 66 years of age receive the same payment as those qualifying for the old age contributory pension, while those under 66 years of age receive more than other welfare recipients. Payment is unaffected by earnings or other income.

The adequacy of payments for widowed people and welfare recipients in general is kept under review and, where appropriate, increases are granted in annual budgets. In budget 2006 widowed people received increases of between €14 and €17 per week or between 9.5% and11%. In certain circumstances, they also have access to a range of other schemes including household benefits. The household benefits package, which comprises the electricity-gas allowance, telephone allowance and television licence schemes, is generally available to people living permanently in the State, aged 66 years or over, who are in receipt of a social welfare type payment or satisfy a means test. People aged over 70 years of age can qualify regardless of their income or household composition. Widows and widowers aged from 60 to 65 whose late spouses had been in receipt of the household benefits package retain that entitlement to ensure households do not suffer a loss of entitlements following the death of a spouse.

Information relating to the secondary income of all widows and widowers is not available. Accordingly, it is not possible to estimate the cost of the Deputy's proposal. A range of proposals have been made to extend the coverage of the household benefits package of free schemes. These proposals are kept under review in the context of the objectives of the scheme and budgetary resources.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

259 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason the one parent family allowance was refused in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3460/06]

The requirement to be habitually resident in Ireland was introduced as a qualifying condition for certain social assistance schemes and child benefit with effect from 1 May 2004. The basis for the restriction contained in the new rules is the applicant's habitual residence. The restriction is not based on citizenship, nationality, immigration status or any other factor. The question of what is a person's habitual residence is decided in accordance with the criteria set out in European Court of Justice case law. Each case received for a determination on the habitual residence condition is dealt with in its own right and a decision is based on application of the guidelines to the particular individual circumstances of each case.

The person concerned made an application for one-parent family payment in November 2005. Her case was referred to the habitual residence unit of my Department for a determination on her habitual residence in the State. A deciding officer has determined that the person concerned did not satisfy the habitual residence condition as she had not resided in the State or common travel area continuously for the past two years or more, has had no stable pattern of employment in the State and does not intend to remain here long term. The person concerned was informed of her right to have her case reviewed by the deciding officer and of her right to appeal the decision within 21 days.

Consultancy Contracts.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

260 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the public relations contracts continuing, completed and initiated during 2005; the project involved in each of these contracts; the name and address of the company involved; and the value of these contracts. [3590/06]

The Department of Social and Family Affairs has not initiated, continued or completed any contracts for public relations projects in 2005.

Pension Provisions.

David Stanton

Ceist:

261 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason PRSI contributions from self-employed people are not considered when assessing eligibility with regard to the retirement pension; his views on whether this discriminates against self-employed people; if he has considered or will consider altering the eligibility criteria to include PRSI contributions from self-employed people; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3598/06]

The retirement pension was introduced in 1970 and was intended to provide income support for people who had to retire aged 65 years until they became eligible for the normal social welfare pension, which at the time was payable from 70 years of age. The qualifying age for old age pension was subsequently reduced over time to 66 years of age which means the requirement to retire before receiving a retirement pension now only has effect for one year. The self-employed are not subject to compulsory retirement in the same way as employees and it was therefore considered unnecessary to provide them with social insurance cover for that contingency when compulsory social insurance was introduced for them in 1988.

The self-employed are covered for a range of social welfare benefits, including the old age contributory pension, which represents very good value for the level of contributions made. Any proposal to extend the benefits would necessarily involve an assessment of the additional costs that would arise and the level of social insurance contributions payable by the self-employed.

Decentralisation Programme.

David Stanton

Ceist:

262 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if the decentralisation process has been completed with regard to the decentralisation of the OPFP processing and payment system to local social welfare offices; if he will report on the improvements that the decentralisation of the OPFP has brought about, in particular with regard to the speed of the application and assessment process; the number of OPFP applications currently awaiting assessment; the average time a claim takes to be processed and decided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3599/06]

The processing of one-parent family claims has heretofore been carried out in the social welfare services office in Sligo. Following a review of the arrangements for administering the scheme, it was decided that services should in future be provided through my Department's local offices. The primary aim of providing services at local level is to improve customer service by reducing claim processing times through closer linkage with the local investigative officer network, and by providing more direct local contact for lone parents with the Department's employment support services.

My Department currently processes new applications for one-parent family payment, OPFP, at 36 social welfare local offices. Plans are in place to move claims, already in payment, which are currently administered in Sligo, to social welfare local offices during 2006 and for this move to be finalised early in 2007.

The time taken to process individual new claims varies significantly having regard to the necessity to establish the circumstances in each case. There is an onus on claimants to make a claim in the prescribed manner, furnish all necessary documentation, including birth and-or marriage certificates, details of earnings, etc. and co-operate with investigating officers during the processing of the claim.

Some 17,000 claims for one-parent family payment are received each year, equivalent to 330 per week on average. There are currently 3,608 one-parent family payment applications awaiting final decision. In addition to processing new claims, there is significant ongoing interaction with existing clients. Generally, recipients of one-parent family payment are in a relatively young age bracket and are likely to move in and out of employment, education or training on a regular basis or to have other changes in their family or household circumstances during the course of their entitlement to payment. Approximately 70,000 existing cases — an average of 1,300 per week — are reviewed for these reasons each year.

Before my Department commenced the process of administering one-parent family payment applications at local level, the average processing time was 16 weeks. At present the average processing time for an application for the one-parent family payment is seven weeks. Every effort is made to process applications as quickly as possible and minimise the time during which applicants have to rely on alternative forms of support. However, the time needed to decide on claims to one-parent family payment does not result in any loss of payment to the people concerned as entitlements are backdated to the date of initial claim receipt.

Road Traffic Offences.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

263 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if the loophole in law which prohibits the Garda Síochána from impounding imported vehicles will end; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3385/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 427 of Tuesday, 31 January 2006 which indicated the position on impounding foreign registered vehicles. Section 41 of the 1994 Road Traffic Act and the Road Traffic Act, section 41, Regulations 1995 set out the law relating to the detention of vehicles by the Garda Síochána. Subsection (1)(b) states that vehicles “registered in the State” can be detained if a policy of insurance is not in place for the vehicle. Subsection (1)(c) states that vehicles “registered in the State” can be detained where motor tax has not been paid in respect of a continuous period of three months or more immediately prior to use. These subsections are being examined by my Department with a view to broadening their scope in a forthcoming Road Safety Bill so as to enable all vehicles regardless of their country of registration to be detained.

All victims of uninsured driving, whether the driver of the uninsured vehicle is Irish or a non-national, are entitled to compensation through the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland which is funded through our motor insurance premia.

Question No. 264 answered with QuestionNo. 122.
Question No. 265 answered with QuestionNo. 111.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

266 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport his plans to introduce legislation that would allow the Garda Síochána to impound the cars of uninsured foreign drivers in view of the fact that the Garda Commissioner has stated to the Joint Committee on Transport that he is powerless to tackle this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3395/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to a parliamentary question, reference No. 3286/06, of Tuesday, 31 January 2006 which indicated the situation on impounding foreign registered vehicles as follows.

Section 41 of the 1994 Road Traffic Act and the Road Traffic Act, section 41, Regulations 1995 set out the law relating to the detention of vehicles by the Garda Síochána. Subsection (1)(b) states that vehicles "registered in the State" can be detained if a policy of insurance is not in place for the vehicle. Subsection (1)(c) states that vehicles "registered in the State" can be detained where motor tax has not been paid in respect of a continuous period of three months or more immediately prior to use. These subsections are being examined by my Department with a view to broadening their scope in a forthcoming road safety Bill so as to enable all vehicles regardless of their country of registration to be detained.

I would like to point out that all victims of uninsured driving, whether the driver of the uninsured vehicle is Irish or a non-national, are entitled to compensation through the Motor Insurer's Bureau of Ireland which is funded through our motor insurance premia.

Driving Tests.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

267 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport his plans to find a permanent base for Kilrush driving test centre; the length of time it is intended to operate the leasing arrangement with Kilrush Golf Club; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3431/06]

It is proposed to continue using the golf club in Kilrush as a driving test centre for the foreseeable future.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

268 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport his plans to reduce the number of driving test centres from the current number; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3432/06]

I have no plans to reduce the number of driving test centres from the current number.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

269 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport the driving test centres in Clare he intends to close; if there are proposed new centres in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3433/06]

I have no plans to reduce or increase the number of driving test centres in County Clare.

Rail Network.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

270 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Transport his proposals to extend the Belfast-Derry rail line to Letterkenny and other parts of County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3441/06]

I have no proposals to extend the Belfast-Derry rail line to Letterkenny or other parts of Donegal.

Public Transport.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

271 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the number of passengers carried, the fare revenue and the value of the Exchequer subvention in respect of mainline rail, suburban rail, Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann and Luas for the years 1998, 2002 and the latest estimate for 2005. [3484/06]

The information requested by the Deputy has been obtained from the relevant companies and is as follows:

Passengers Carried

Fare Revenue

Exchequer Subvention

million

€ million

€ million

1998

Irish Rail

32

101

117.5

Dublin Bus

137

132.4

11.29

*Bus Éireann

37.5

81.1

7.1

Luas

N/A

N/A

N/A

2002

Irish Rail

35

150

155.5

Dublin Bus

147

157

56.1

*Bus Éireann

46

111.5

21.8

Luas

N/A

N/A

N/A

2005

Irish Rail

37

151

180

Dublin Bus

145.7

176.7

64.9

*Bus Éireann

49

130.4

25.2

Luas

22.2

27.3

0

* Exclusive of school services.

The Exchequer subvention paid to Irish Rail is not separated by the company by suburban and mainline rail.

Driving Tests.

John Perry

Ceist:

272 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Transport the reason a person (details supplied) in County Sligo has not been called for their driving test; when same will be scheduled as it is required for employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3486/06]

A driving test will be arranged in due course for the person concerned.

Road Network.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

273 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport when he expects the port tunnel to be fully drained, sealed and ready for operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3538/06]

The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects, including the Dublin Port tunnel, is a matter for the National Roads Authority and the local authorities concerned. I understand from Dublin City Council that leaks are part and parcel of the issues that arise on large engineering projects such as the tunnel. If remedial measures are called for at any stage the contractor is required to implement them at its own expense. Contrary to the impression that may have been created, the tunnels are safe and stable. I have been informed by the NRA that the tunnel is expected to be open to traffic by summer 2006 following the testing and commissioning of the tunnel's operational and safety features.

Air Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

274 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the development of air transport, both internationally and here; his anticipated role for Aer Lingus and the various airports in this context; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3539/06]

The objective of aviation policy is to facilitate and encourage as wide a range as possible of reliable, regular and competitive commercial air services for Irish tourism, trade and industry. This Government has made a number of key strategic decisions on the future of aviation policy and a number of initiatives have been taken to achieve our principal policy objectives. Last May I brought a comprehensive package of measures before the Government with the aim of helping the State airports to realise their full potential in delivering international air access and positioning Aer Lingus for growth.

The Government decision cleared the way for the planning and provision by the DAA of new terminal and pier capacity to cater for continued growth in passenger traffic at Dublin Airport. Subject to the safeguards of consultation, verification and regulation, the DAA will provide a second passenger terminal in 2009 while a new pier for aircraft, Pier D, will be provided in 2007. An extension to the existing terminal building will also be completed in 2008. The restructuring of the State airports, as provided for under the State Airports Act 2004, will facilitate each of the three airports in maximising its own potential by bringing a fresh approach to addressing the challenges of meeting the changing needs of airlines in a growing but very competitive market. The role of the State airports is complemented by the six regional airports which contribute to balanced regional development.

The Government also agreed that Aer Lingus had an immediate need for access to equity capital to enable it to compete effectively and to fund growth. It therefore agreed to the State disposing of a majority shareholding in Aer Lingus, while retaining a significant stake of at least 25% to protect key strategic interests, provided that myself and the Minister for Finance are satisfied that this level of disposal is warranted on foot of the analysis prepared by the Department's advisors for the investment transaction. The Government also authorised myself and the Minister for Finance to commence arrangements immediately to facilitate an investment transaction.

The advisers appointed jointly by myself and the Minister for Finance have completed the first phase of their work, that is, recommending the most appropriate transaction mechanism and advising on the size and timing of a transaction. The Minister for Finance and myself are currently considering the report prepared by our advisers. Our Departments have also engaged with the company with a view to finalising the terms on which a transaction can be initiated as soon as possible. The Aer Lingus ESOT and trade unions will continue to be fully consulted on the proposed approach.

A further significant development in 2005 was the negotiation of transitional arrangements for Shannon in the context of an EU-US open-skies agreement. The text of the EU-US agreement is finalised, and pending US clarification on new US rules on ownership and control issues, the agreement will come before the Transport Council in March or June 2006 for approval.

The key features of the transitional arrangements for Shannon, reached after intensive negotiations with the US authorities, are as follows: there will be no change in the Shannon stop arrangements, that is, 1:1 ratio for Dublin and Shannon flights, for a further 12 months to November 2006; the transitional period commencing winter season 2006 and finishing beginning of the summer season in April 2008, which gives two and a half years of Shannon stop arrangements from now; during the transition period, the ratio of Dublin and Shannon flights will move from 1:1 to 3:1 so that for every one flight to and from Shannon, a carrier can provide three flights to and from Dublin. This ratio can be averaged out over the period of the transition; Irish airlines will have access to three additional destinations in the US from November 2006, over and above the four destinations currently being served; and there will be full open skies between Ireland and the US from April 2008 in the context of an EU-US agreement.

When full open skies comes in after April 2008, Irish, EU and US airlines will have full unrestricted access from all airports in Ireland that can physically receive transatlantic flights to all points in the US. The aviation industry in Europe, particularly in Ireland, has benefited greatly from the liberalisation of the European aviation market in 1992 and it is expected that open skies will have a similar positive impact on Irish tourism and business. In consultation with the Ministers for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Arts, Sport and Tourism, I am currently working on the development of a tourism and economic development plan for Shannon to ensure that the airport can maximise the benefits of open skies and sustain and grow transatlantic air services.

A further development which will grow air traffic to and from Ireland is the negotiation of three new bilateral air transport agreements during 2005. My Department negotiated new agreements with Australia, Bahrain and Qatar in 2005, bringing to 23 the number of agreements which have been negotiated with non-EU-EEA states. This has already resulted in 2005 in a new service by Gulf Air between Dublin and Bahrain, and other services may follow. In addition, Aer Lingus plans to start a new service between Dublin and Dubai from the summer of 2006. Following my recent meetings with the Minister for Transport of Singapore and Thailand, the development of direct flights between Ireland and Singapore and Bangkok is being pursued by my Department and the Dublin Airport Authority.

Road Network.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

275 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he has had discussions with his EU colleagues in regard to the banning of access for super-trucks to the port tunnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3540/06]

I am considering a departmental report on whether to reintroduce a statutory height restriction for vehicles. In the event that it is decided to reintroduce a statutory height restriction for vehicles it will be necessary to submit the draft regulations to the European Commission for consideration and for referral to other member states in accordance with the technical standards and regulations directive, Directive 98/34. The Dublin Port tunnel when completed will have an operational height of 4.65 metres. The issue of routing vehicles unable to use the tunnel through the city will be addressed in the context of the heavy goods vehicle management strategy currently being prepared by Dublin City Council.

Road Traffic Offences.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

276 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the full extent of motoring offences to be covered by his proposed extension of the penalty points; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3541/06]

As I announced on 26 January, a major extension of the application of the penalty points system will be introduced in April. The extension will result in the system being applied in respect of 31 new offences, bringing the total to 36. The emphasis of this extension is on offences that relate to driver behaviour which is the greatest single contributory factor in road collisions. A list of the new offences and the level of penalty points to be applied either on conviction or an the payment of a fixed charge, where appropriate, is set out in the following table.

Road Traffic Act 1961

Penalty Points

Section

Description of Offence

On Payment of a Fixed Charge

On Conviction

51A (inserted by section 49 of Act of 1968)

Driving a vehicle without reasonable consideration

2

4

96 (as amended by section 6 of Act of 1968)

Failure to stop a vehicle for school warden sign

1

4

109 (as amended by section 6 of Act of 1968)

Failure to stop a vehicle when so required by member of Garda Síochána

2

5

48

Driving vehicle when unfit

Not applicable

3

55

Parking vehicle in dangerous position

Not applicable

5

106

Breach of duties on occurrence of accident

Not applicable

5

Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997 (S.I. No. 182 of 1997)

Penalty Points

Article

Description of Contravention

On Payment of a Fixed Charge

On Conviction

7

Contravention of general obligation regarding speed

2

4

8

Failure by driver of a vehicle to yield right of way

2

4

10

Offence by driver of a vehicle relating to Overtaking

2

5

19

Driver of a vehicle failing to act in accordance with Garda signal

1

3

20

Failure to stop a vehicle before stop sign/stop line

2

4

21

Failure of a vehicle to yield right of way at a yield sign/line

2

4

25

Crossing continuous white line/ broken white line by a vehicle

2

4

26

Entry by a vehicle into hatched marked area of roadway

1

3

30

Failure by a vehicle to obey traffic lights

2

5

31

Failure by a vehicle to obey traffic lights/ entering yellow box at railway level crossing

2

5

33

Contravention of rules relating to driving a vehicle on motorways: sub-article (1) (a)

2

4

33

Contravention of rules relating to driving a vehicle on motorways: sub-article (1) (b)

1

3

33

Contravention of rules relating to driving a vehicle on motorways: sub-article (1) (d)

1

3

9

Failure by driver of a mechanically propelled vehicle to drive on the left hand side of the roadway

1

3

11

Contravention by driver of a vehicle of requirements at junctions

1

3

12

Contravention of requirements regarding reversing of vehicles

1

3

13

Contravention of restrictions on driving a vehicle on or across footway

1

3

14(5)(a) (inserted by article 6 of S.I. No. 274 of 1998)

Contravention of restrictions on driving a vehicle on or across cycle track

1

3

15

Contravention of requirement to turn a vehicle left onto a roundabout

1

3

16

Contravention of prohibition of driving a vehicle along or across median strip

1

3

22

Failure of a vehicle to comply with mandatory traffic signs

1

3

23

Failure of a vehicle to comply with prohibitory traffic signs

1

3

24

Failure by driver of a vehicle to comply with certain mandatory signs

1

3

27

Failure by a mechanically propelled vehicle to comply with traffic lane markings

1

3

28

Failure by a vehicle to comply with traffic sign signifying that a roadway not be entered

1

3

Question No. 277 answered with QuestionNo. 130.
Question 278 answered with QuestionNo. 120.

Road Network.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

279 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the anticipated revenue from toll roads, bridges including the M50 for 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3545/06]

The statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll bye-laws, and to enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads is vested in the National Roads Authority, NRA, under Part V of the Roads Act 1993 as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000. The NRA has been asked to forward the information sought to the Deputy.

Question No. 280 answered with QuestionNo. 129.

Rail Network.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

281 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the further scope which exists to increase the daily throughput of commuters from such rail stations as Enfield, Kilcock, Maynooth, Leixlip and Confey having particular regard to the need to encourage and cater for greater numbers wishing to use rail transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3548/06]

A significant increase in rail capacity has been provided in recent years in the areas referred to by the Deputy and Transport 21 identifies projects that will further enhance services on these lines.

Irish Rail will shortly begin the construction of a new railway station in the Dublin docklands, which will facilitate a further increase in services on the Maynooth line. The company also proposes to expand its suburban rolling stock to meet the demands on all routes into Dublin. Transport 21 also provides for the electrification of the Maynooth line, which will result in the provision of DART-type services along the route.

Rail Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

282 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the timetables for the upgrading of the Newbridge, Sallins, Hazelhatch commuter rail services; if same falls entirely within Transport 21 or otherwise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3549/06]

Transport 21 provides the funding for the implementation of the Kildare route project. The project involves the quadrupling of a critical section of the Kildare line between Cherry Orchard and Hazelhatch. The project will allow separation of long distance and commuter services and improve speed and capacity for commuter, regional and intercity services.

Having completed detailed planning and design, CIE applied for a railway order in October 2005 and I understand that the public inquiry commenced last week. Subject to the outcome of the railway order process, construction work on the project will begin towards the end of 2006 and is due for completion at the end of 2010.

The company also proposes to expand its suburban rolling stock to meet the demands on all routes into Dublin.

Consultancy Contracts.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

283 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the public relations contracts continuing, completed and initiated during 2005; the project involved in each of these contracts; the name and address of the company involved; and the value of these contracts. [3591/06]

There were no public relations contracts initiated, ongoing or completed during 2005 by my Department.

Rural Social Scheme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

284 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo is not allowed to go back on the rural social scheme. [3472/06]

The conditions of eligibility, which need to be fulfilled in order to participate in the RSS are as follows: applicants must be in receipt of farm assist, or have been allocated a valid herd or flock number from the Department of Agriculture and Food, and be in receipt of one of the following allowances from the Department of Social and Family Affairs, unemployment assistance, unemployment benefit if previously on CE or disability allowance; or applicants are self-employed fisherpersons on a fishing boat which has been entered in the register of fishing boats or have been issued with a fishing licence for fishing for salmon at sea, from the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, and are in receipt of one of the following allowances from the Department of Social and Family Affairs — unemployment assistance, unemployment benefit if previously on CE or disability allowance.

The person in question, prior to commencement on this scheme, was signing for credited social insurance contributions, credits, with the Department of Social and Family Affairs. Credited contributions are notional social insurance contributions, which are awarded to an insured person without a PRSI payment being received from the insured person.

My Department has established, following legal advice, that a person signing for credits has no underlying entitlement to participate on the scheme. The person concerned spent one year on the scheme but following the legal clarification was informed that he could not continue to participate for a further period on the basis of credited social insurance contributions. To be eligible for the future, a person must meet the criteria set out above.

Consultancy Contracts.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

285 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the public relations contracts continuing, completed and initiated during 2005; the project involved in each of these contracts; the name and address of the company involved; and the value of these contracts. [3592/06]

My Department had one public relations contract which was extended into 2005 and paid on a per event basis. The contract was awarded to Montague Communications, Prospect House, 3 Prospect Road, Glasnevin, Dublin 9, in September 2002 for €139,150. The contract was for provision of public relations and event management services to the national advisory committee on drugs, NACD, and was put in place at its request. Payments in 2005 on foot of this contract amounted to €12,817.11.

Compensation Payments.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

286 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if copies of documentation from her Department proving the payment of £17,050 to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6 in May 1978 by way of compensation for reactors being removed from their herd in 1977 can be made available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3381/06]

Notwithstanding the absence of precise documentary proof relating to this payment, my Department is satisfied that, based on other records dating from shortly after the payment was made, a payment of £17,050 issued to the person concerned in May 1978. Considering that the events to which the payment related occurred almost 30 years ago, it is not unreasonable for the Department to have disposed of such records.

Grant Payments.

John Perry

Ceist:

287 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) has not received the single payment; if she will ensure that all outstanding issues are resolved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3485/06]

The person named submitted an application under the single payment scheme on 11 May 2005. He also applied to have his entitlements consolidated under the consolidation measure of the scheme. This application has been fully processed and payment amounting to €13,611.98 will issue shortly.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

288 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive the single farm payment. [3513/06]

An application for the 2005 single payment scheme was received from the herd owner on 6 May 2005. An official from my Department has been in direct contact with the person named and has advised her that further documentation requires to be completed to allow the transfer of entitlements under the single payment scheme to take place. Upon receipt of the duly completed documentation, the transfer will be processed immediately, thereby allowing processing of the application under the single payment scheme.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

289 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway has not received their single payment; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that they leased ten acres of land some years ago to their brother which has now reverted to them and for the three reference years; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that this person is the full registered owner of all the land and as such is entitled to the single payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3532/06]

As the herd number in question was in the joint names of the person named and his brother during the reference years, a duly completed application form is required to allow the transfer of the entitlements established to the person named. An official of my Department has been in direct contact with the person named in this regard and the application will be processed on receipt of the required form.

The person named applied to have entitlements consolidated under the single payment scheme. This application will be processed as soon as the transfer of entitlements is completed.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

290 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason the single payment has not been awarded to persons (details supplied) in County Galway; the reason the single payment is so low; if there is enough land owned by the herdowners to have the full entitlement paid on the land in question; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3534/06]

The first person named submitted an application under the single payment scheme on 12 May 2005 and also applied to have his entitlements consolidated under the scheme. The provisions governing the consolidation of entitlements provide that an applicant must declare a number of eligible hectares at least equalling 50% of the number of entitlements granted to him or her.

The first person named declared a total forage area of 13.83 hectares on the 2005 single payment application. Included in the declared area was a parcel of land that was also claimed by another herd owner. Both applicants were contacted by my Department and as the first person named did not have entitlement to the parcel of land in question, a penalty was incurred. As a result of the application of this penalty, the 2005 single payment application was processed fully using the penalised forage area of 10.83 hectares.

Having processed the application for consolidation of entitlements, the person first named was notified by my Department that his application was unsuccessful as the eligible hectares declared on his 2005 single payment application were less than 50% of his entitlements. He may re-apply for consolidation of entitlements under the 2006 single payment scheme, providing he is eligible under the terms and conditions governing the consolidation measure of the scheme.

Payment in respect of 10.83 single payment entitlements amounting to €2,184.75 issued to the first person named on 29 December 2005.

Consultancy Contracts.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

291 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the public relations contracts continuing, completed and initiated during 2005; the project involved in each of these contracts; the name and address of the company involved; and the value of these contracts. [3593/06]

My Department has no public relations contract in place at present nor was any contract initiated nor completed during 2005.

Garda Vetting Procedures.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

292 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people given clearance by the Garda Síochána arising from his decision to vet people working in the education service; the number of people vetted by the Garda Síochána for whom clearance to work with children has been refused; the number of people vetted; the number for County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3453/06]

The Garda central vetting unit, GCVU, was established in 2002 and, in the education sector, currently processes vetting requests in respect of bus escorts, special needs assistants and staff for children in detention schools. In the time available, it has not been possible to compile information on the number of persons so vetted since 2002 in the education sector.

Last year, an inter-agency working group on Garda vetting reported with a clear and focused strategy for enhancing national vetting arrangements from a child protection perspective. This strategy provides for an expansion of the GCVU's vetting service to all organisations which recruit persons having substantial, unsupervised access to children, including to the primary and post-primary education sectors.

The implementation strategy is being overseen by an implementation group on Garda vetting comprising key stakeholders, including the Department of Education and Science. Preparations are at an advanced stage for the extension of vetting services and, to facilitate this, an additional 17 staff have been provided to the GCVU to more than double its numbers from 13 to 30.

The GCVU has recently been successfully decentralised to new, custom-designed office accommodation in Thurles, County Tipperary, from where it will soon commence expansion of its vetting service.

National Security.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

293 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Government is systematically informed of activities of foreign secret services, in particular the CIA, on territory here. [3602/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

294 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way in which the Government supervises the receipt and exchange of information between Ireland and the secret services of other countries; the legislation or treaty which governs the exchange of such information and co-operation; and if the Government has turned a blind eye to illegal activities by foreign secret services on the State’s territory by adopting a passive attitude. [3604/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 293 and 294 together.

The Garda Síochána is the organisation responsible for providing policing and security services for the State. In this context, I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda Síochána has established contacts, both multilateral and bilateral, with police and security services worldwide, touching on areas of mutual responsibility and interest. These contacts are in addition to any information exchanges which may be mandated by law, such as mutual assistance matters governed by the Criminal Justice Act 1994.

I should also mention that section 28 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which will be brought into effect shortly, provides that, with the consent of the Government, the Garda Commissioner may, on behalf of the Garda Síochána, enter into an agreement with a police service or other law enforcement agency outside the State covering the co-operation of the parties involved or the exchange of information or such other matters as the Garda Commissioner thinks fit. The Government is apprised of developments relating to the security of the State by the Garda Commissioner on an ongoing basis.

I categorically reject any suggestion that the Government has or would turn a blind eye in any manner whatsoever to any alleged unlawful activity by any person or organisation.

Garda Investigations.

Beverley Flynn

Ceist:

295 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the motion submitted to him in June 2005 by Donegal County Council calling for a full independent public inquiry into the murder of a person (details supplied) in County Donegal has been considered; if his attention has been drawn to the deep public concern over the circumstances of this person’s death and the failure to bring their killers to justice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3380/06]

The murder of the person in question has been the subject of correspondence by and on behalf of the family of the deceased, to which I have given full consideration.

In response to concerns expressed on the matter, the Garda Commissioner established a review team to conduct a thorough and concise investigation into all matters of concern, which involved the taking of more than 150 statements and the interview of more than 120 people.

The Garda review was substantively completed in March 2005, at which time I received an interim report. Outstanding matters relate to a mutual assistance request and police-to-police inquiries made of the British and Northern Ireland authorities.

Nothing has emerged in consequence of the Garda review which would justify the establishment of a public inquiry into the murder. However, I will continue to keep the matter under review in the context of the additional information being sought.

I should add that the Garda investigation into the murder remains open, and I can assure the Deputy that any further lines of inquiry arising from new information from any quarter will be actively pursued by the Garda Síochána.

Child Care Services.

Liam Aylward

Ceist:

296 Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress to date in 2006 on the payment of a child care grant under the EOCP to persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [3390/06]

As the Deputy may be aware, responsibility for the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 has been assigned to the Department of Health and Children as part of the establishment of the new Office of the Minister for Children, under the Minister with responsibility for children, Deputy Brian Lenihan.

With regard to the approval of capital grant assistance of €50,790 to the private provider in question under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006, I understand from inquires I have made that the first payment of this grant was made in December 2005. The remainder of the grant will be paid as per the contractual agreement between Pobal, formerly known as ADM Ltd., and the private provider.

Garda Reserve Force.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

297 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he still intends to proceed with his plan for the creation of a Garda Reserve Force with members having the same powers, immunities, privileges and duties as fully trained gardaí including power of arrest; and his views on whether a comprehensive training programme is necessary in order that the public will have confidence in such a force. [3420/06]

I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 1148 on Wednesday, 25 January 2006.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

298 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position on the use of closed circuit television cameras by private individuals; the position on the use of closed circuit televisions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3427/06]

Section 38 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 provides a legislative basis for the operation of CCTV systems in public places for the purposes of crime prevention and crime detection by the Garda Síochána and community based groups. It does not apply to persons operating CCTV cameras on their premises for the purposes of protecting persons or property on the premises or environs.

Officials of my Department are examining a possible amendment to the Non-Fatal Offences Act 1997 to make it an offence to video record or photograph persons without their knowledge in any place that a person could reasonably expect privacy. I will bring any proposals in this regard to the Government in the normal way.

Departmental Staff.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

299 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the situation in the forensic science laboratory with regard to its annual budget and staffing levels; if, in view of recent announcements regarding the establishment of a DNA database, it is intended to increase the staffing levels at the forensic science laboratory; the number, grades and timeframe of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3428/06]

A provision of €5.11 million is included in my Department's Estimates for 2006 in respect of the forensic science laboratory — an 8% increase on the 2005 budget — and the number of authorised posts is 69.5. The staffing and other resource implications arising from the establishment of a DNA database are currently being examined by my Department in conjunction with the forensic science laboratory. As the Deputy may also be aware, a new building is to be provided for the laboratory and my Department is in discussions with the Office of Public Works regarding the planning of this facility.

Computerisation Programme.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

300 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the PULSE system is fully integrated with the computer systems of the Courts Service and the national driver file; if not, when same will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3449/06]

My Department, the Courts Service and the Garda Síochána are currently engaged with the Reach agency in a pilot project to exchange summons and court outcome information electronically, by implementing the Reach inter-agency messaging service. On successful completion of this pilot project, which is expected in spring 2007, other exchanges of information between these agencies and others in the sector will be revisited, potentially leading to fuller integration between the two systems, depending on the business benefits to be identified.

The Garda Síochána already receives data from the national driver file and this data is incorporated into PULSE.

Garda Deployment.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

301 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if additional gardaí will be assigned to the Tallaght area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3457/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of Garda resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of Tallaght Garda station as at 1 February 2006 was 167 — all ranks. The strength of Tallaght Garda station as at 31 December 1997 is 133 — all ranks. This represents an increase of 34, or 25.6%, since that date.

I am further informed that local Garda management is satisfied that the resources currently allocated to Tallaght Garda station are adequate to meet the present policing needs of the area.

Garda personnel assignments throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are constantly monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

The timescale for achieving the target strength of 14,000 members of the Garda Síochána in line with the commitment in the agreed programme for Government remains as when I announced, in October 2004, Government approval for my proposals to achieve this objective. The phased increase in the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 will lead to a combined strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of this year. As part of the accelerated recruitment campaign to facilitate this process, 1,125 Garda recruits were inducted to the Garda College during 2005. The college will induct 1,100 recruits this year and a further 1,100 in 2007, by way of intakes to the Garda College of approximately 275 recruits every quarter. This project is fully on target and will be achieved.

Asylum Applications.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

302 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of asylum seekers whose cases are not yet disposed of; and the number here on 31 December 2005. [3462/06]

The total number of cases on hands in the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, ORAC, and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, RAT, on 31 December 2005 was 2,436 as compared to some 6,930 cases in January 2004 and 3,629 in January 2005.

The overall number of cases in the above asylum agencies for over six months was 433 at the end of December 2005 compared to some 1,057 in January 2005 and some 6,500 in September 2001.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

303 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will reconsider on humanitarian or other grounds his previous decision to deport a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3463/06]

The person concerned, along with her child, arrived in the State on 7 September 2000 and applied for asylum. Her husband arrived in the State on 8 December 1999 and applied for asylum. Their application was refused following consideration of their case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Office of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

The person referred to by the Deputy was informed by letter dated 19 February 2002, as was her husband, that the Minister proposed to make deportation orders in respect of them and afforded them three options under section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, namely, to make representations to the Minister setting out the reasons they should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State; to leave the State voluntarily; or to consent to the making of deportation orders.

Their case was examined under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, prohibition of refoulement, including consideration of representations for temporary leave to remain in the State lodged on her behalf by her legal representative. On 23 December 2002, deportation orders were signed in respect of the family. Notice of the deportation orders was served by registered post requiring the family to present itself to the Garda in Naas on Friday 31 January 2003 in order to make arrangements for their deportation from the State. The family presented as required and were given further presentation dates throughout 2003. On 11 February 2004, the family failed to present themselves as required and were classified as “evaders.” The father subsequently came to the notice of the Garda and was deported on 15 December 2004. He subsequently returned to the State on 16 July 2005 contrary to the provisions of his deportation order.

Following consideration of late representations on behalf of the mother for revocation of the deportation order and for leave to remain in the State on medical grounds, the deportation orders were affirmed. The legal representative of the person concerned was notified of this by letter dated 27 April 2005.

The mother gave birth to a child in the State on 3 February 2005. Thereafter she applied for leave to remain in the State under the provisions of the Irish-born child 2005 scheme. She was notified of the refusal of her application for residency in the State under the revised arrangements for the processing of such claims by letter dated 4 August 2005. Following consideration of yet further representations for temporary leave to remain in the State, the deportation orders were reaffirmed by me on 17 January 2006. This decision was made known to the legal representative by letter of the same date.

In addition to the 11 factors contained in section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, I must also have regard to section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, prohibition of refoulement, before making a deportation order. The safety of returning a person, or refoulement as it is referred to, is fully considered in every case when deciding whether or not to make a deportation order. This means that a person shall not be expelled from the State or returned in any manner whatsoever to a state where, in my opinion, the life or freedom of that person would be threatened on account of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. My Department uses extensive country of origin information drawn from different independent sources, including UNHCR, in evaluating the safety of making returns to Moldova and other third countries.

I am satisfied that applications for asylum and leave to remain in the State of the family concerned, together with all refoulement issues, were comprehensively and fairly considered and, as such, their deportation should proceed. To this end, I urge the family concerned to come forward and present themselves to the GNIB as soon as possible. The enforcement of the deportation orders is now an operational matter for the GNIB.

Road Traffic Offences.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

304 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, when gardaí seize quad bikes, mopeds and so on from underage persons with no licence, tax or insurance, steps can be taken to enable the Garda Síochána to refuse to return such impounded vehicles unless the persons can supply tax and insurance details and so on. [3464/06]

The Road Traffic Act 1961 defines a mechanically propelled vehicle as a vehicle intended or adapted for propulsion by mechanical means. Quadricycles and motorcycles, including micro-motorcycles, come within this definition.

In order to use a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place, a range of requirements must be satisfied in relation to both the vehicle and the driver. Specifically, a mechanically propelled vehicle when in use in a public place must comply with the requirements of the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 1963 to 2002 and the Road Traffic (Lighting of Vehicles) Regulations 1963 to 1996. The driver must also have third party insurance cover in accordance with section 56 of the Road Traffic Act 1961. In addition, a driving licence is required to drive a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place under section 38 of the Road Traffic Act 1961. The minimum age for holding a driving licence is 16 years for a moped and small motorcycle and 17 years for a quadricycle.

The Road Traffic Act 1994, section 41, Regulations 1995 — SI 89 of 1995 — provides for the detention of vehicles by the Garda Síochána for driving without a driving licence, insurance or motor tax.

The Garda Síochána does not have any legislative powers to retain a seized vehicle where the person concerned produces satisfactory evidence of ownership and has paid the charge concerned. All members of the Garda Síochána fully enforce the legislation regarding the seizure, storage cost, release and disposal of these vehicles when they are observed in use in a public place.

Sentencing Policy.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

305 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the length of sentence received by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1 for serious drug offences; the length of sentence served to date in 2006; and the reason this person received temporary release over the past three weekends. [3465/06]

The person to whom the Deputy is referring was sentenced to five years' imprisonment, with the final year suspended, in the Dublin Circuit Court on 12 February 2004. The offence was possession of a controlled drug with a market value of €13,000 or more, for the purpose of selling or otherwise unlawfully supplying it to another. The court also ordered that he gain credit for 114 days already served and his remission date was calculated as 20 October 2006.

Following successful completion of the drug detoxification programme in Mountjoy Prison, this person was transferred to the training unit place of detention. In early January 2006, he was approved for an accompanied outing to visit his partner in hospital. This outing took place, without incident, on 7 January 2006. The prisoner was accompanied by one prison officer on this occasion. The prisoner subsequently made an application for compassionate temporary release on 11 January 2006 and the decision was made to grant him two separate short periods of day release for the same purpose. He was granted the first period of day release on 13 January 2006 and returned to custody as required. He was granted his second period of release on 20 January 2006 but he failed to return to custody at the appointed time and has been declared unlawfully at large. The Garda has been informed of his situation.

Prisoner Transfers.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

306 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a request has been received from a person (details supplied) to serve the remainder of their sentence in a prison here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3466/06]

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department has not received a formal application for a transfer to this country in respect of this person from the United States authorities. An expression of interest for transfer to a prison in this country from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in my Department on 23 August 2004. In line with the convention, my Department wrote to the US Department of Justice on 24 August 2004 requesting that they commence processing this individual's application.

The Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons requires extensive documentation to be exchanged between both jurisdictions in order to allow an application to be fully considered. A three-way consent is also required to enable any transfer to take place, that is, from the authorities of both jurisdictions and from the person concerned. In this regard, the US authorities informed my Department in May, 2005, that they were not inclined to act favourably on the transfer request at that time. As such, it was not possible for my Department to process this individual's application any further.

Deportation Orders.

Máire Hoctor

Ceist:

307 Ms Hoctor asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the proposed deportation of persons (details supplied) to Nigeria; and if the plans for their proposed repatriation will go ahead. [3467/06]

The person referred to by the Deputy and her two children entered the State in January 2005 and applied for declarations of refugee status. Following consideration of their claims by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, they were refused refugee status and deportation orders were signed in respect of them on 23 November 2005. Judicial review proceedings challenging the deportation orders were instituted on 13 January 2006 and accordingly, as the matter is sub judice, I do not propose to comment further on the matter.

Coroners Service.

Shane McEntee

Ceist:

308 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the average time for the results of post mortem to be available in each of the Health Service Executive areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3490/06]

I can inform the Deputy that, in so far as the question of post mortem reports requested by a coroner are concerned, it is not possible to indicate an average timeframe as a number of factors can influence this, including whether toxicological or other specialist reports are required as part of the post mortem process.

Prison Building Programme.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

309 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his proposal to build a prison on the site at Thornton Hall, County Dublin will be reconsidered. [3517/06]

The decision to develop a much needed modern prison facility at Thornton Hall is being implemented and will not be reconsidered.

Crime Levels.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

310 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will respond to the huge increase in crime particularly in relation to murder, rape and drugs seizures; and his strategy to deal with this crisis. [3518/06]

Since I commenced the publication of crime statistics on a quarterly basis at the beginning of 2003, I have consistently emphasised that care must be taken in interpreting the statistics, especially when considering short-term fluctuations and extrapolating trends over short periods. The level of headline crime in 2005 is lower than that for 2003 by 1.6% and is lower than that for 2002 by 4.4%. Furthermore in 1995, with a population of almost 3.6 million people, there were 29 crimes per 1,000 of the population, while in 2005, with a population of over 4.1 million, there were 24.6 crimes per 1,000 of the population.

Nevertheless, while there have been significant reductions in 2005 in the incidence of manslaughter — down 50% — aggravated sexual assault — down 43% — robbery of cash and goods in transit — down 27% — robbery from the person — down 23% — and theft from the person — down 18% — the overall increase and the increases in particular categories are disappointing.

I welcome the significant decrease of 27% in the number of incidents of robbery of cash and goods in transit — down from 62 in 2004 to 45 in 2005 — and that this trend improved in the fourth quarter with a decrease of 47%. Operation Delivery, an initiative undertaken by the Garda Síochána to counteract the increase in cash in transit robberies which emerged in 2004, has contributed significantly to this welcome decrease. Furthermore, the new code of practice now being operated by the major institutions and companies involved in the cash in transit industry, which has raised the standards in operation and which I pushed for, has made a significant contribution to this decrease. These developments have been underpinned by the establishment of the Private Security Authority.

I also welcome the increase in the number of detections for possession of drugs for sale or supply — up 20% — and possession of firearms — up 16% — which are offences which in the main become known as a result of police detection work. This trend continued in the fourth quarter and, in the case of possession of firearms, improved, with an increase of 24%.

Operation Anvil, which the Commissioner introduced last May and for which I obtained substantial additional resources made a significant contribution to this level of detection. Operation Anvil will continue as long as it is deemed necessary in operational and policing terms. At my request, the Commissioner has extended Operation Anvil to Garda divisions outside Dublin.

Our legislative package for tackling crime especially serious and organised crime is already widely viewed as being one of the toughest in Europe. However, there are legislative proposals to enhance our legal framework in this area. The Criminal Justice Bill 2004, which is currently before the Houses of the Oireachtas, provides a comprehensive package of anti-crime measures which will enhance the powers of gardaí in the investigation and prosecution of offences. It contains an essential updating of our law to ensure that criminal offences can be investigated and prosecuted in a way which is efficient and fair and which meets the needs of modern society.

The Garda Síochána this year has the highest level of resources in its history at €1,290 million, which is an increase of €146 million or 13% on 2005. The provision for Garda overtime in 2006 is €83.5 million, an increase of €23 million on the allocation for 2005. This increase will greatly assist the planned deployment of a visible policing service in a flexible, effective and targeted response to criminal activity and to crime prevention. The €83.5 million in overtime will yield 2.725 million extra hours of policing by uniformed and by special units throughout the State.

I take great satisfaction in the Government's decision of October 2004 to approve the recruitment of 2,000 additional gardaí to increase the strength of the force to 14,000. As a result there will be a combined organisational strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training of 14,000 in 2006. One thing I have already promised is that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties but will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing.

The Garda Síochána policing plan for 2006, recently published by the Commissioner, includes a targeted reduction in the incidence of crime by 2% and an increase in detection rates by 2%. It also reflects the Government's priorities in the fight against crime and the actions which it wishes to be taken, for which significant additional resources have been provided.

While it is the case that a number of the increases in headline crime statistics reflect increased enforcement activity on the part of the Garda Síochána, the overall picture indicates that there is no room for complacency and validates the Government's decision to continue to devote unprecedented resources to the fight against crime. I can assure the Deputy that I am in regular contact with the Garda Commissioner in order to keep the measures and resources for tackling crime under continuing review.

Consultancy Contracts.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

311 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the public relations contracts continuing, completed and initiated during 2005; the project involved in each of these contracts; the name and address of the company involved; and the value of these contracts. [3594/06]

The information as requested by the Deputy, insofar as it relates to projects funded from my Department's own Vote is as follows. As can be seen from the details supplied, these projects relate to awareness raising in respect of important public policy issues rather than the provision of public relations advice to myself in any personal capacity.

Public Relations Contract Continuing/Completed or Initiated in 2005

Project involved

Name and Address of Company

Value of Contract

Completed in 2005

Q4PR — PR services for European Week Against Racism

Q4 Public Relations, 88 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2.

11,070

2005-Ongoing to end of 2006

Q4PR — General Public Relations concerning the National Action Plan Against Racism

Q4 Public Relations, 88 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2.

31,877 (to end 2005) Based on project to project basis rather than retainer basis. Contract rolls forward for 2006.

Completed in 2005

Consultation on National Disability Strategy

Carr Communications, Booterstown Avenue, Blackrock, Co. Dublin

12,000

Continuing

General Public Relations for the National Disability Authority.

Fleishman Hillard Saunders 15 Fitzwilliam Quay, Dublin 4.

77,930

Sectoral Plan under National Disability Strategy

136,366

European Year of People with Disabilities

1,577

School Transport.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

312 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans for the provision of school bus shelters in Rathmullan and Ramelton, County Donegal where there are approximately 50-60 students at each stop; and the timeframe in place for the completion of work. [3424/06]

My Department does not provide funding for school bus shelters. The provision of bus shelters is a matter for the relevant local authority.

Schools Building Projects.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

313 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to the proposed extension to a school, details supplied; and the progress which will be made in 2006 beyond that which is being considered under the schools building and modernisation programme 2005-2009. [3425/06]

My Department is in receipt of an application for capital funding towards the provision of an extension at the school referred to by the Deputy. The school's application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria and is being considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme 2006-2010.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

314 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to an application from a school, details supplied, in County Wicklow for extra accommodation; if, in view of the present circumstances in this school their application will be sanctioned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3426/06]

The school planning section of my Department has received an application for major capital funding from the management authority of the school to which the Deputy refers. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects. Progress on the proposed works is being considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme from 2006 onwards.

Schools Refurbishment.

James Breen

Ceist:

315 Mr. J. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Parliamentary Question No. 540 of 22 November 2004, if this school will receive funding for essential repairs in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3436/06]

I recently announced details of 740 schools which will receive funding to improve facilities under the summer works scheme 2006. Funding of €78 million is being provided to complete essential small scale projects under the scheme. The school referred to by the Deputy has been successful in its application for funding for roof works under this scheme. All schools covered by the initiative will be contacted directly by the building unit with details of the grant aid being provided and instructions on how to proceed.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

316 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to a school, details supplied, in County Wexford; if officials of her Department have received a letter of 23 January 2006 from the chairman of the board of management of the school; her views on whether the contents of this letter have serious implications for the safety of pupils and staff at the school; if she will intervene to ensure that the resources required will be put in place in order that urgently required roof repairs will be carried out at the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3468/06]

The management of the school referred to by the Deputy contacted the school building section of my Department by telephone on 23 January 2006 concerning leaks in the roof. An application form in respect of an emergency works grant was issued to the school the same day. As soon as the completed application form is returned, it will be considered as a matter of urgency and the outcome will be notified to the school authorities without delay.

School Management.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

317 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the best advice for parents on a matter, details supplied; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3519/06]

Section 23 of the Education Act 1998 clearly defines the role of the principal in providing guidance, direction and leadership to teachers. This requirement embraces the pedagogical and classroom management role of a teacher. Instructional leadership is a core responsibility of all principals and the Education Act also expects a principal to promote the professional development of his or her teachers.

In circumstances where a parent has concerns about a teacher, the parent should raise the matter directly with the school authorities in the first instance. Currently, most schools use complaints procedures that have been arrived at through national agreements negotiated between management authorities and teacher unions. Under the CPSMA-INTO and the ASTI-JMB procedures that are in common usage in primary schools and voluntary secondary schools respectively, the board of management may invite the complainant to address a meeting of the board. In general, similar procedures are followed by post-primary schools in the VEC and community and comprehensive sectors. If, following the completion of the complaints procedure and the issuing of a finding by the board of management of the school, the complainant remains dissatisfied, he or she may appeal the matter to my Department.

School Discipline.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

318 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the situation regarding the suspension and expulsion of pupils from primary and secondary level schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3520/06]

The Education (Welfare) Act 2000 established the National Educational Welfare Board, NEWB, as the single national body with responsibility for school attendance. The Act provides a comprehensive framework promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. The general functions of the board are to ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education.

Under section 23 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, schools are required to have in place a code of behaviour detailing the circumstances under which the penalties of suspension and expulsion may be incurred. The Act requires that each board of management formulates a code of behaviour in consultation with teachers, parents and the NEWB.

My Department's guidelines assist boards of management in discharging their obligations in the area of school discipline. They were drawn up following consultation with representatives of management, teachers and parents and are sufficiently flexible to allow each school authority to adapt them to suit the particular needs of the school. Each board of management is responsible for formulating a fair and efficient code of behaviour while ensuring that the individuality of each child is accommodated and acknowledging the right of each child to education in a relatively disruption-free environment. The code should also include provision for dealing with serious breaches of discipline and continuously disruptive pupils.

In January 2005, the NEWB issued guidelines to the management authorities of all primary and post primary schools on reporting student absences and expulsions. These guidelines advise that the board of management must report its decision to expel a student to the NEWB. Under section 24(4) of the Act, the decision to expel a student cannot take effect until 20 school days have elapsed following the receipt of the notification by the educational welfare officer, thus facilitating an opportunity for appropriate intervention. However, this requirement is without prejudice to the right of the board of management of a school to take such other reasonable measures as it considers appropriate to ensure that good order and discipline are maintained in the school and that the safety of students is secured. The guidelines also outline the necessity to report where a student has been suspended for six days or more cumulatively.

Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 provides for an appeal to the Secretary General of my Department where a board of management or a person acting on behalf of the board refuses to enrol a student, suspends a student for a cumulative total of more than 20 days in an academic year or expels a student from the school. Provision also exists under section 29 for the NEWB to make a submission at the hearing of an appeal brought by a parent or student against expulsion. The NEWB may, itself, take an appeal under Section 29 of the Education Act 1998. However, the NEWB does not exercise a decision-making function in respect of determining an appeal under section 29 of the Education Act 1998.

Consultancy Contracts.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

319 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the public relations contracts continuing, completed and initiated during 2005; the project involved in each of these contracts; the name and address of the company involved; and the value of these contracts. [3595/06]

Late in 2005, my Department initiated a PR promotional campaign aimed at increasing the number of males choosing primary teaching as a career. The work involves the design and management of the men as teachers and educators campaign and the company is QMP Publicis, 16 Sir John Rogerson's Quay, Dublin 2. It is estimated that the final cost of the project will be in the order of €100,000 to €120,000.

Fisheries Protection.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

320 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Defence the capability of Irish naval vessels to haul, inspect and store fishing nets from the open sea; and the provision the Navy has made for the recovery of deep sea gill nets which have recently been banned under European Union common fisheries policy. [3387/06]

The main day to day role of the Naval Service is to provide a fishery protection service in accordance with the State's obligations as a member of the European Union. The service is tasked with patrolling all Irish waters from the shoreline to the outer limits of the exclusive fishery limit, which covers 132,000 square miles.

Where a fishing vessel is encountered which is suspected of being in contravention of fisheries regulations or legislation, particularly with regard to the fishing gear in use, then the master of such vessel is instructed to haul its gear for inspection prior to being escorted to the nearest convenient port by the inspecting naval vessel. In port, custody of the fishing vessel and its gear is handed over to the appropriate civil authorities for action.

It is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Communication, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Noel Dempsey, in the first instance, to make provisions for the recovery of deep sea gill nets. He has informed me that the recovery of banned gill nets can be undertaken by hiring commercial boats, as was done by Bord Iascaigh Mhara, the Irish Sea Fisheries Board, and also by the UK authorities in 2005. Taking into account the heavy control and enforcement demands on the Naval Service to police Ireland's exclusive fishery limit, it would not the best use of Naval Service resources to undertake this work when it can be undertaken effectively by other means. In addition, it should be noted that Naval Service vessels are not equipped to carry out this task.

Consultancy Contracts.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

321 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Defence the public relations contracts continuing, completed and initiated during 2005; the project involved in each of these contracts; the name and address of the company involved; and the value of these contracts. [3596/06]

No public relations contracts were initiated, ongoing or completed in my Department during 2005.

Waste Management.

John Deasy

Ceist:

322 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a substantial proportion of the recent increase in old age pension payments will be used up in County Waterford by the introduction of a fixed waste services charge of €130 per household in Dungarvan and €150 per household in the rest of the county; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Waterford County Council has no waiver system in place for waste service charges; if he will make a statement on the considerable hardship this will cause to those on low incomes, particularly old age pensioners. [3471/06]

John Deasy

Ceist:

327 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the fact that Waterford County Council has no waiver system in place for waste service charges; his further views on the fact that the introduction of charges of €130 per household in Dungarvan town and €150 per household in the rest of the county will cause real hardship to low income families, particularly old age pensioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3455/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 322 and 327 together.

As the Deputy is aware, the determination of waste management charges, and any associated waiver scheme, is a matter for the relevant local authority, where it acts as the service provider. My Department understands that the annual standing charge introduced by both Dungarvan Town Council and Waterford County Council of €130 and €150 per annum is seen as necessary to cover the fixed costs, for example, staff costs, truck, maintenance, insurance, transport to nearest landfill etc. associated with providing the collection service to each customer. These fixed costs of providing a regular household service are incurred by the collector whether or not a bin is presented for emptying. In order to assist lower income households, the councils have arranged for payment of the standing charge by way of instalments.

My Department has been advised that the county council operates a comprehensive waiver scheme in respect of waste charges. Those eligible to apply for a waiver are old age pensioners and other social welfare recipients. A similar arrangement is operated by Dungarvan Town Council in respect of certain persons in receipt of old age pensions.

Local Authority Funding.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

323 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason a reply was not given by him when a simple question (details supplied) was asked on 25 January 2006; if he will now provide a breakdown of what was paid to each county and each county council in 2005 in relation to performance awards for the local government sector; and if it is taxpayers’ money that is used to pay those people. [3396/06]

The committee for performance awards in the local government sector was established to deal with the assessment of performance awards for senior managers in local authorities. The committee's mandate is to make an independent determination and scrutiny of awards in accordance with a scheme formulated by my Department with the approval of the Department of Finance and which is consistent with principles recommended by report No. 38 of the review body on remuneration in the public sector.

The committee's reports for 2003 and 2004, which are available in the Oireachtas Library, include details of the distribution of awards as a percentage of pay, the range of monetary value of awards and the number of recipients. I understand that the committee has not yet approved awards for 2005 and that it is considering including also in its report for 2005 details of total awards by local authority. In accordance with advice provided by the Information Commissioner regarding the corresponding Civil Service scheme, information naming officials and individual amounts paid to them is deemed a personal record and consequently is not made publicly available. Performance awards in the local government sector are financed from general local authority funds.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

James Breen

Ceist:

324 Mr. J. Breen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of the Mullagh, Quilty and Scariff sewerage schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3435/06]

The Feakle, Scariff and Quilty, including Mullagh, sewerage scheme is approved as a scheme for construction under my Department's water services investment programme for 2005 to 2007.

Following consideration of Clare County Council's contract documents, water services pricing policy report and economic assessment, my Department requested the council in December 2005 to re-examine the scheme with a view to developing more cost effective proposals. A response to this request, together with a certificate of completion of planning, is awaited from the council.

Joe Callanan

Ceist:

325 Mr. Callanan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the water schemes that Galway County Council has applied for; when the schemes were applied for; the stage they are at; and when same will go to tender. [3447/06]

Joe Callanan

Ceist:

326 Mr. Callanan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the sewerage schemes that Galway County Council has applied for; when these schemes were applied for; the stage they are at; and when same will go to tender. [3448/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 325 and 326 together.

I am forwarding details to the Deputy of the water and sewerage schemes identified by Galway County Council in response to my Department's request to local authorities in 2003 to produce updated assessments of the needs for capital works in their areas and to prioritise their proposals on the basis of the assessments. The 2003 assessment is Galway County Council's most up to date and complete statement to my Department of its water and sewerage infrastructure proposals. It was taken into account in the framing of subsequent phases of my Department's water services investment programme, including the most recently published programme for 2005 to 2007, which is available in the Oireachtas Library and sets out details of all currently approved schemes.

I envisage that local authorities will be afforded an opportunity in 2006 to undertake fresh assessments of their needs and priorities which will be then taken into account in future phases of the programme.

Question No. 327 answered with QuestionNo. 322.

Housing Schemes.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

328 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to introduce legislation to deal with developers who fail to complete housing schemes to taking-in-charge standard within a reasonable period; the view of communities in the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3456/06]

Planning authorities have extensive powers under the Planning and Development Act 2000 to take enforcement action against developers who fail to comply with planning permission. My Department issued Circular PD 1/06 on 25 January 2006 reminding local authorities of their obligations under section 180 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 on the taking in charge of estates. Each local authority has been directed to establish a policy on the taking in charge of housing estates which will be agreed by the members of the authority, and reported on to those members on a regular basis and at least once annually. The circular directs that the local policy must include provision for when an estate is not completed within the appropriate period. In that case, enforcement action against the developer must be pursued vigorously and promptly to ensure that the developer completes the estate. All available legal remedies should be used to enable that to be done, including, where appropriate, the application of the security bond.

Electronic Management System.

John Deasy

Ceist:

329 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of the security and risk assessment of all aspects of the electronic voting system; the cost per day of the consultants carrying out the security and risk assessment; the additional hardware and software which will be required to address the issues raised by the Commission on Electronic Voting; the cost of such additional hardware and software; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3470/06]

As part of a programme of further assessment, testing and validation of the electronic voting and counting system, my Department appointed consultants in July 2005, following an open tender competition, to undertake a security and risk assessment of all aspects of the chosen system and to devise a comprehensive programme of additional testing. This work is intended to address issues raised by the Commission on Electronic Voting and to demonstrate that the system operates reliably, securely and accurately.

The consultancy was commissioned on a fixed-price basis and the total cost of the work is €92,300, excluding VAT. The consultants' work is well under way and will be completed as soon as possible. Pending completion of the work and consideration of the outcome, it is not possible to quantify additional costs that may arise in this regard.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

John Perry

Ceist:

330 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the directive he has issued on the upgrading of Tubbercurry sewerage scheme, County Sligo; the negotiations that have taken place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3487/06]

John Perry

Ceist:

331 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the directive he has issued on the upgrading of Strandhill sewerage scheme, County Sligo; the negotiations that have taken place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3488/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 330 and 331 together.

The Tubbercurry and Strandhill sewerage schemes have been approved for funding in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme, 2005-2007, under the serviced land initiative. The schemes are being procured as a grouped project that also includes the Grange sewerage scheme.

Sligo County Council's preliminary reports for these schemes are under examination in my Department and are being dealt with as quickly as possible. Once the preliminary reports have been approved the council will be in a position to prepare contract documents.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

332 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the Loughrea regional water supply scheme submitted by Galway County Council to his Department on 30 June 2005; if the parish of Kilrickle will be included in that particular scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3533/06]

The Loughrea regional water supply scheme is included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme, 2005-2007, as a scheme to commence construction in 2007.

Galway County Council's revised preliminary report for the scheme, which would also serve Kilrickle, is being examined in my Department and is being dealt with as quickly as possible. Once the preliminary report has been approved the council will be in a position to prepare contract documents.

Consultancy Contracts.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

333 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the public relations contracts continuing, completed and initiated during 2005; the project involved in each of these contracts; the name and address of the company involved; and the value of these contracts. [3597/06]

The relevant communications contracts joined by my Department are set out in the following table.

Consultancy

Consultant

Address

Contract amount

Date initiated

Date completed

Race Against Waste awareness campaign — PR element

Consortium led by Lyle Bailie International

31 Bruce Street, Belfast

810,216

July 2003

July 2006

National Inventory of Architectural Heritage Awareness campaign

Hunter Redcell

9 Upper Pembroke Street, Dublin 2

301,895

June 2003

December 2005

Communications consultancy

Monica Leech communications

17 Otteran Place, South Parade, Waterford

278,784

February 2003

February 2005

Media support for the official launch of Burren LIFE project

Anne Jones

Holly Cottage, Mullaghmore, Kilnaboy, County Clare

423

July 2005

July 2005