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 8, inclusive, answered orally.

Asylum Applications.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

9 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 1081 of 25 January 2006, when the payments referred to were last increased; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3557/06]

The Reception and Integration Agency is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers through the policy of direct provision. Direct provision is the means by which the State discharges its obligations to provide for the basic requirements of asylum seekers. For the most part, this represents a cashless system with the State assuming responsibility for providing suitable accommodation on a full board basis.

Direct provision was introduced on 10 April 2000 and brought Ireland into line with best practice in other member states of the European Union, including the United Kingdom. It is widely accepted that a harmonised approach to asylum seekers is by far the best approach and I believe the system of direct provision represents a fair and effective means of meeting the needs of this group.

Asylum seekers in direct provision are paid €19.10 per adult and €9.60 per child per week. These payments were originally in the nature of a basic supplementary welfare allowance, SWA, payment, which was means tested to take into account assessment of any benefit and privilege including full board and lodging provided through direct provision arrangements. All accommodation costs, together with the costs of meals, heat, light, laundry and maintenance, are paid directly by the State.

On 1 May 2004, the then Minister for Social and Family Affairs introduced an habitual residency condition which prohibited the payment of social welfare payments, including supplementary welfare allowance, to asylum seekers. On foot of consultations between my Department and the Department of Social and Family Affairs, it was agreed that some allowance would remain in place for asylum seekers residing in direct provision accommodation. This has ensured that the payments previously made under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme have continued to be paid on a non-statutory basis.

The Reception and Integration Agency continues to work with the relevant service providers to ensure that supports of a high standard are made available in a sensitive, balanced and cost-effective way to all asylum seekers availing of direct provision accommodation. The payments referred to by the Deputy form a very small part of the overall level of service provided by the State to asylum seekers. There are no plans to alter the current amount.

Crime Levels.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

10 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of offences committed by those on bail and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3565/06]

In relation to bail in general, I would point out to the Deputy that during the term of office of the rainbow coalition the number of prisoners on temporary release reached an all-time high of 20% at one stage. As a result of the action of this Government, this so-called revolving door system operated by the rainbow coalition has been stopped and the percentage of the prison population on temporay release now is approximately 2.3%.

The Garda Commissioner has for the first time provided statistics on headline offences committed by persons on bail in his 2004 annual report. I welcome the provision of this information as a contribution to public discussion. I would point out that with the passage of time, as Garda investigations into crimes committed progress, these figures will change with respect to 2004 and subsequent years as they become available. This is the result of offenders being identified and their status at the time of the offence being ascertained, that is, whether they were on bail or not at the time of the commission of the offence. The most recent figures are set out in tabular form on a table which I am circulating with this reply. This shows that in 2004, 5,306 headline offences were committed by persons on bail; the figure was 5,456 for 2005.

These figures require further examination. I have therefore requested the Garda authorities to provide as a matter of urgency a detailed breakdown of the statistics given in the annual report and to provide additional information. Among the matters on which I have requested further information are data on the offences for which the offenders were on bail when they committed the subsequent offence and how many have been convicted of that subsequent offence. I expect to receive the information requested shortly, when it will be examined in my Department. Depending on the outcome of that examination, further research into the figures may be warranted with a view to seeing whether action is required. However, I can make a number of preliminary points.

First, the statistics in the Commissioner's report classify offences committed while on bail under the ten headline crime groups under which the report's statistics are categorised. It is important to note that all offences in, for example, the homicide group are not the homicide offences of murder and manslaughter. The homicide group of headline offences also includes the offences of attempted murder, murder threats, infanticide, abortion and procuring or assisting in an abortion.

Second, the statistics may include persons who have not been convicted of the offences they are alleged to have committed, and this is one of the matters on which I have requested information from the Garda Síochána. The Commissioner's report gives the number of offences in the homicide group committed by persons on bail as 15 offences. Because of the passage of time which I have just mentioned, this figure is currently 20, as will be seen from the figures which I set out below. These 20 offences are made up of nine murders, one manslaughter and ten threats of murder. There were 37 murders and eight manslaughters in 2004 — a total of 45 offences. These murder and manslaughter cases therefore represent 22% of the total number of murders and manslaughters in the year. While this figure requires further investigation, it is less than the 33% which the figures might appear to indicate at first sight. I would also point out that the figure of offences in the homicide group regarded as being committed by persons on bail in 2005 is also 20. However, 17 of these were murder threats, with the remaining three being murders. There were 58 murders and manslaughters in 2005. Consequently, these three murders represent 5% of that figure. I might also point out that the Garda rules for regarding an offence as having been detected do not necessarily require that a person has been convicted for the offence.

I would also point out that, while it is disturbing that offences are committed by persons on bail, that offence for which the person received bail may be a minor one.

Our legislative provisions for the granting of bail are very stringent. The Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution provides for the refusal of bail to a person charged with a serious offence where it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent the commission of a serious offence by that person. The Bail Act 1997 gave effect to the amendment and tightened up the bail regime generally. Furthermore, the Criminal Justice Act 1984 provides that any sentence of imprisonment passed on a person for an offence committed shall be consecutive on any sentence passed on him or her for a previous offence. The granting of bail in accordance with the Act, the amount of bail and sentencing are matters for the courts which are, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of their judicial functions.

Headline Offences Committed by Persons on Bail in Years 2004 and 2005

Group Type

2004

2005

Homicide

20

20

Assault

281

232

Sexual Offences

26

32

Arson

23

26

Drugs

317

430

Thefts

2,848

2,914

Burglary

1,170

1,171

Robbery

305

321

Fraud

224

205

Other

92

105

Total

5,306

5,456

Homicide Offences Committed by Persons on Bail in Years 2004 and 2005

2004

2005

Abortion

0

0

Infanticide

0

0

Manslaughter

1

0

Murder

9

3

Murder Attempt

0

0

Murder Threats

10

17

Procuring or Assisting in Abortion

0

0

20

20

Prisoner Rehabilitation Programmes.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

11 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether his failure to ensure the reinvestment of savings in spending on prison officers’ overtime directly into rehabilitation measures demonstrates his lack of commitment to rehabilitation programmes for prisoners. [3530/06]

I reject the Deputy's implication that there is any lack of commitment on my part to rehabilitation programmes for prisoners.

The thrust of the Deputy's question displays a complete lack of understanding of the change process which has been ongoing for some time now. I remind the House that, following protracted negotiations and an arbitration process, prison staff voted, by a substantial majority, to accept a revised Proposal for Organisational Change in the Irish Prison Service last August having rejected a similar proposal in April 2005. The agreement provides for implementation of the new working arrangements and the elimination of overtime working across the service within six months of the date of acceptance of the agreement, that is, by 18 February 2006. Savings in the order of €25 million per annum will be made as a result. Already my determination to tackle this unsustainable dependence on overtime to run our prisons has resulted in a reduction in the overtime bill of some €13.4 million in 2004 compared to 2003.

Despite the enormity of the challenge that implementation of such radical change presents for both management and staff, the implementation of the new system is on target. It has been rolled out in ten institutions to date and will be rolled out in the remaining institutions on 12 February 2006. The new Prison Service escorts corps has been established on a country wide basis and is already making a major contribution in terms of efficiency and effectiveness of the service. The functional restructuring of the stores and maintenance functions provided for in the agreement is also progressing and the recruitment of the new recruit prison officer provided for in the agreement is imminent.

As regards the rehabilitation of offenders, I can assure the Deputy that the new arrangements being put in place in the Prison Service are already producing resources for investment in prison programmes and services.

For many years the Prison Service had been constrained to direct investment expenditure to the overtime-pay area in order to stay within budget. Now that the change programme has begun to roll out, resources for the first time in decades are coming available to restore prisoner programmes and services and indeed to substantially enhance them.

A wide programme of education, training, health care and other prisoner focused measures are now being more fully resourced. The Prison Service has also begun to select staff for the enhanced training required to deliver such programmes and to expand the range of programmes available across prisons. In a number of prisons modern up to date workshops and other facilities are being commissioned. For example, in Limerick prison, new educational, medical and recreational facilities are under construction and will be completed later this year; in Wheatfield prison new workshops and a new laundry are completed and in operation; in Portlaoise, construction of new accommodation including educational and recreational facilities is under way; in St. Patrick's Institution, new workshops are nearing completion and will be in use in the coming weeks. In addition, plans are also well advanced for the introduction of a much needed professional clinical management structure which will greatly improve health care provision for prisoners across the prison system.

The Deputy will appreciate that the effective delivery of these welcome prisoner programme enhancements must follow the adoption of the revised working arrangements and the necessary preparatory measures to skill up staff etc. Notwithstanding that the roll-out of the new arrangements will not be finalised until late next week, staff have already begun to be selected to support these programmes.

I have made the point before that down the years all other expenditure priorities in the Prison Service budget were dwarfed by this overtime issue. Resources needed for training, capital programmes, rehabilitation programmes, education and modernisation were continuously being cannibalised to meet an insatiable demand for resources for overtime. Since we have started to achieve savings, we have been in a position to use the capital programme for the purpose for which it was intended. I have already outlined some of the initiatives in that regard. In addition to that, I am proceeding with the major programme to modernise prison facilities by replacing outdated prison estate at Mountjoy and Cork prisons. This programme will represent the single biggest investment commitment in improved prisoner facilities since the foundation of the State and will also greatly benefit from the savings being generated from the savings in spending on prison officers' overtime.

I would suggest that the level of change being undertaken in the Prison Service is unprecedented in the public service. It is a credit to the staff and management involved that the process has been nurtured successfully to this point and I am optimistic that it will be brought to successful completion over the coming months.

Human Rights Issues.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

12 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for his views of female genital mutilation as a cultural issue rather than a human rights issue; and the further reason he does not consider women fleeing female genital mutilation to meet the refugee status criteria of fearing persecution on the grounds of membership of a particular social group, in view of the fact that the Refugee Act 1996 specifies that women are to be considered a particular social group. [3525/06]

As the Deputy is aware, there is a statutory framework governing the asylum determination process in Ireland set out in the Refugee Act 1996 and it is not for me as Minister to determine who is or is not a refugee. The 1996 Act established two independent statutory offices to consider applications and appeals in respect of refugee status and to make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted. These offices are the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

The processing of applications within the framework of the 1996 Act in particular has due regard to the definition of a "refugee" in section 2 of that Act, which states that a "refugee" is " ... a person who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his or her nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his or her former habitual residence, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it".

Every asylum applicant is guaranteed an investigation and determination of his or her claim at first instance by the Refugee Applications Commissioner. Each application is assessed on the basis of the circumstances of the individual case and having regard to both the subjective elements — the applicant's own account or personal history — and objective elements — up-to-date information on the applicant's country or place of origin. This country of origin information comes from a wide variety of sources, including organisations such as the UNHCR, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the UK Home Office, the Canadian International Refugee Board, the US State Department and other EU member states as well as media and Internet sources.

ORAC and RAT also consider the well-foundedness of each applicant's claim, that is, whether there are sufficient facts to permit the finding that, if returned to his or her country of origin, the applicant would face a serious risk of persecution. Credibility is also central to assessing an application, and it falls to the ORAC and RAT to decide whether the applicant's account is credible and whether they have a well-founded fear of persecution. Issues of relevance in assessing credibility include: (a) contradictions-inconsistencies; (b) plausibility of the applicant; and (c) level of detail in the claim. A negative finding as to overall credibility will generally lead to a conclusion that the applicant does not qualify for protection.

There must also be a link between the persecution as alleged and one or more of the grounds set out in both the 1996 Act and the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees, namely, being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. The issue of the so-called "Internal Protection Alternative" is also relevant in many cases. If a person can find real and meaningful protection in any area in his or her own country, then clearly that person does not need international protection and the obligation to afford refugee status does not arise.

Our system also guarantees every asylum applicant a right of appeal to a statutorily independent and separate body — the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Every asylum applicant is also guaranteed access to legal assistance provided by the Refugee Legal Service. The Deputy should also be aware that the UNHCR is given full access to our refugee determination process and can examine any case at any time to ensure fair procedures and compliance with our Geneva Convention obligations.

I fully recognise that female genital mutilation is a practice which exists in a number of African countries. In the case of Nigeria, for example, country of origin information indicates that its prevalence varies widely from state to state within Nigeria. Indeed, a United Kingdom Home Office report on Nigeria, quoting another study, published in October 2005, indicates that the practice of FGM, which is described as a cultural tradition, has declined steadily over the past 15 years.

Country of origin information also indicates that: the Nigerian Government publicly opposes the practice of FGM. While there are no federal laws banning FGM throughout the country, the practice has been specifically prohibited in parts of Nigeria at State and local government level; there is evidence that the Government and NGOs have taken initiatives aimed at informing and educating people about the dangers of the practice. For example, the Ministry of Health, women's groups, and many NGOs sponsored public awareness projects to educate communities about the health hazards of FGM; according to BAOBAB, a Nigerian Women's NGO, as referenced in the Joint British Home Office-Danish Immigration Service fact-finding mission to Nigeria published in January 2005, the Government and prominent NGOs in Nigeria provide protection to women escaping FGM. BAOBAB was of the opinion that FGM in itself is not a genuine reason for applying for asylum abroad; a United Kingdom and Danish authorities report, which was published in early 2005, points out that there are groups working to stop the practice of FGM and should a girl desire to avoid FGM in spite of pressure from her family to do otherwise, she would have the option of complaining to the national police force or the Nigerian Human Rights Commission and may also seek the protection of NGO's; and women have the option of relocating to another part of the country if they fear FGM.

Numerous country of origin information reports from reliable sources which have looked at the applicability of the internal relocation concept in countries such as Nigeria, for example, have found that such relocation is not just possible, but happens in practice.

Rights of People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Ceist:

13 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the NDA report (details supplied) that people with disabilities suffer significant inequality compared to people without disabilities, across a wide rage of areas of life; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3552/06]

The National Disability Authority report entitled How far towards equality? Measuring how equally people with disabilities are included in Irish Society, brings together statistics from various sources and uses this information to document the extent to which people with disabilities participate fully and equally in Irish society.

The findings of the report derive from an analysis of available existing data, in particular from Census 2002. While the data have been in existence for some time, the report is nonetheless most welcome in that it provides a very useful compilation and statistical overview of the position of people with disabilities in all the important facets of their daily lives.

It was the circumstances of people with disabilities which the report presents that fully informed the development by the Government, in consultation with representative bodies in the disability sector, of the national disability strategy which was launched by the Government in September 2004. That strategy underpins the participation of people with disabilities in Irish society by building on existing policy and legislation.

The NDA report identifies a number of key areas to be addressed in the context of policy and service planning such as the accessibility of the environment, including the built environment, access to information and technology, the education needs of people with disabilities, their participation in employment and their income position. These, too, are key areas where improved provision and services have been identified as being central to the delivery of policy outcomes under the national disability strategy. A key provision of the Disability Act 2005, which is a cornerstone of the strategy, is the legal requirement of public bodies to make their services accessible to people with disabilities and sets out a timeframe whereby public bodies must make their buildings accessible.

The Act also provides the legal basis for the preparation and publication by six Ministers of sectoral plans in respect of services provided to persons with specified disabilities by their Departments and-or public bodies under the aegis of those Departments. These are the Departments of Health and Children; Social and Family Affairs; Transport; Communications, Marine and Natural Resources; the Environment, Heritage and Local Government; and Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

I fully anticipate that those Departments, in drawing up those sectoral plans, will have taken into account the circumstances of people with disabilities such as are highlighted in the NDA report in respect of transport services, health services, employment and training services, income maintenance and other services comprehended by the sectoral plans. I understand that those Departments are currently engaged in a comprehensive consultation process involving representative organisations and the NDA. These plans are to be laid before the Oireachtas as soon as possible but not later than one year after the commencement of the Act, that is by 28 July 2006. I can inform the Deputy that the NDA report, which was recently received in my Department, will be examined closely.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

14 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason possession of small quantities of cannabis was removed from the list of offences which will be covered by the adult caution system to be initiated by the Garda Síochána in the coming weeks; his plans to introduce a separate caution scheme for possession of small quantities of cannabis in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3578/06]

The adult cautioning scheme referred to by the Deputy is an initiative of the Garda authorities developed in conjunction with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. This initiative, for which the Garda authorities and the DPP are to be commended, is a response to a recommendation in the 1999 Nally Report on the Public Prosecution System that "as a measure to reduce the volume of cases prosecuted through the courts, a system should be introduced whereby offenders would, in certain circumstances specified from time to time by the Director of Public Prosecutions, be issued with warnings instead of being prosecuted".

The scheme makes provision for the administering of a caution by a senior Garda officer for certain minor offences, as an alternative to prosecution in the District Court, where prosecution is not required by the public interest and it is determined that a caution would be an effective response.

The schedule of offences to which the scheme applies covers certain offences under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1984, the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001, the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003, the Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 and the Criminal Damage Act 1991. It was initially proposed to include in the scheme offences under section 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977 to 1984 related to the possession of cannabis. However, the Garda Commissioner has indicated that he has decided to withdraw such offences from the scope of the scheme for the moment pending consultations within the Garda Síochána and with the DPP and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Any proposal to expand the scheme in the future is a matter, in the first instance, for the Garda authorities and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Deportation Orders.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

15 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to revoke the deportation order against a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3497/06]

I would refer the Deputy to the reply I gave to Dáil Question No. 1085 on Wednesday, 25 January 2006 in which I outlined the position.

The person concerned arrived in the State on 17 December 1999 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Office of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

The person concerned was informed by letter dated 31 December 2002 that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him and afforded him three options in accordance with section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, namely, to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of a deportation order or to submit, within 15 working days, representations to the Minister, in writing, setting out the reasons he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations were submitted on behalf of the person concerned by his legal representatives.

His case was examined under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 on the prohibition of refoulement. Consideration was given to all representations received on his behalf. On 9 November 2005, a deportation order was signed in respect of the person concerned. Notice of this order was served by registered post requiring him to present himself to the Garda National Immigration Bureau, GNIB, 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2, on 24 November 2005, in order to make arrangements for his deportation from the State. The person concerned presented as required and was given a further presentation date of 1 December 2005. He again presented as required and was given a final presentation date of 8 December 2005. The person concerned was deported from the State on a charter flight to Lagos on the night of 8-9 December 2005.

The person concerned was deported following a comprehensive examination of his asylum claim and of his application to remain temporarily in the State. Consequently, I do not intend to revoke the deportation order in this case.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

16 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a person (details supplied) who was detained in Mountjoy Prison and is facing deportation was not allowed a reprieve; the action he will take in this case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3573/06]

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

33 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the asylum application of a person (details supplied) will be reviewed with a view to rescinding the deportation order; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3506/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 16 and 33 together.

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.

The deportation orders were subsequently challenged by way of judicial review proceedings in the High Court. Arising from these proceedings the person concerned was released from prison on order from the High Court on conditional terms on 23 January 2006, pending the determination of the judicial review proceedings. These proceedings are ongoing. As the issues involved in the case are sub judice, it would be inappropriate to comment further on the matter at the present time.

State Airports.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

17 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has had or intends to have discussions with the Garda Commissioner regarding inspecting planes at Shannon Airport. [3531/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

18 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the discussions he has had with the Garda Commissioner regarding inspecting planes at Shannon Airport. [3523/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 17 and 18 together.

I have made it clear that the Garda authorities have informed me that any person with specific evidence that Shannon Airport or any other Irish airport is being used for any alleged unlawful purpose should share this information with the Garda Síochána, which would have responsibility for investigating such matters.

Such an investigation, which would be an operational matter for the Garda Síocána, could include, where appropriate, the inspection of an aircraft, subject to relevant international law.

Garda Investigations.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

19 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the search conducted by members of the Garda Síochána, without a search warrant, of the home of a respected member of the local community (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3494/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that arising from a complaint made to gardaí at Fitzgibbon Street a search warrant was issued under section 48, Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001 by the Dublin District Court for the premises referred to. The search was carried out on 30 December 2005. The reason for the search was explained to the occupants and they were shown a copy of the warrant at the time. A further meeting was held with the person referred to on 16 January.

I am also informed that it is standard practice for protective gloves to be worn by members of the Garda Síochána when conducting searches.

I understand an investigation file is currently being prepared by the Garda authorities and will be forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions in due course.

Garda Systems.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

20 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the proposed new automatic number plate recognition system reported in a newspaper (details supplied) of 31 December 2005; the consultations which will be carried out before a decision will be made on its introduction or if a decision has already been made; the consultations which were carried out before the decision was taken; if the Data Protection Commissioner has been consulted on this plan; if not, the reason for such a failure to consult; if there have been discussions within either his Department or the Garda Síochána to connect this system to closed circuit televisions other than those in police vehicles; if it has been proposed, discussed or considered to have the time and location details of all number plates recognised by the system stored in a database; if it has been so proposed, discussed or considered; the length of time it has been discussed, proposed or considered that these details should be retained; if the system as currently proposed will include an audit trail recording which looked up which number plate and when; if the system as currently proposed is subject to independent auditing on a systematic and regular basis; his views on whether the system as currently proposed will be in contravention with the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission in its Report on Privacy, Surveillance and the Interception of Communication; if so, the reason he believes this is necessary; if not, the reason for same; if he proposes bringing enabling legislation before the Houses of the Oireachtas to ground this project in law and allow for a full debate on its cost, resource and privacy implications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3498/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that they are currently carrying out an impact assessment in respect of the use of an automatic number plate recognition system by the Garda Síochána. This assessment includes the nature of the impact on current information technology systems within the force. I understand that a number of police services in Europe have already introduced automatic number plate recognition systems as an enhancement to basic in-car camera systems.

I can assure the Deputy that all relevant legislation, including data protection legislation, will be complied with in the event of a decision being made to acquire any such system.

I am further informed that consideration is not being given to connecting any such system to closed circuit television in non-police vehicles, nor has there been any consideration of whether to have the time and location details of all number plates recognised by the system stored in a database. It is envisaged that any such system would include an electronic audit trail recording the specific number plates identified through the system.

As part of their consideration of whether to procure such a system, I am informed by the Garda authorities that they will also consider the question of consultation with a range of interested parties and how such consultations would take place. Any proposal to procure such a system, when actually made by the Garda authorities, will be considered by my Department.

Road Safety.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

21 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, in terms of promoting road safety and in reducing road deaths and injuries, his views on the situation whereby the duties of the traffic corps are not ringfenced to road safety enforcement only; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35999/05]

I announced the establishment of the Garda traffic corps in November 2004. A strategic review of traffic policing was also published on that date. In line with the recommendations contained in that review, an assistant commissioner, traffic, was appointed on 22 February 2005.

Between now and 2008, the traffic corps will increase its numbers to a complement of 1,200 on the following phased basis: 2006, 805; 2007, 1,030; and 2008, 1,200.

The assistant commissioner, traffic, has been tasked with implementing the recommendation contained in the strategic review of traffic policing in line with the implementation plan contained in the report, which covers a three and a half to four year period.

Garda traffic corps personnel are engaged in achieving the strategic objectives contained in the strategic review which are to contribute to reducing road fatalities and casualties; improve traffic flow; enforce road traffic legislation effectively and consistently; enforce road transport and haulage legislation effectively and consistently using available technologies; provide appropriate policing support and response to the national development plan provisions relating to traffic and transport; and provide a systematic and structured road traffic collision service, and provide accurate, timely and sufficiently detailed information to key stakeholders.

While the members of the Garda Síochána assigned to the traffic corps are specifically dedicated to traffic duties, they remain full police officers and as such retain the general responsibility for preventing and detecting crime which all members of the Garda Síochána have. Similarly, members of the Garda Síochána not members of the traffic corps have the responsibility, inter alia, to deal with traffic duties when breaches of road traffic law occur. Gardaí spend two years training at the Garda College. The focus of such training is on all areas of policing. Garda management will not allow a situation to arise where the establishment of the traffic corps would lead to the gardaí who are members of it having no regard to other policing duties regardless of seriousness if and when they arise in the course of carrying out their duty, and similarly, gardaí who are not members not having regard to traffic policing duties. The allocation of Garda resources, including personnel, is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner.

Asylum Applications.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

22 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of outstanding applications by parents of Irish born children which remain to be processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3560/06]

On 15 January 2005 I announced revised arrangements for the processing of applications from the non-national parents of Irish born children born before 1 January 2005 for permission to remain in Ireland. The closing date for receipt of applications was 31 March 2005. A total of 17,907 applications were received. By 27 January 2006, permission to remain in Ireland had been granted to 16,696 applicants. Refusal decisions were made in respect of 1,128 cases leaving 83 applications to be processed to a conclusion. These cases are awaiting finalisation for a number of reasons including the provision of certain documents in line with the terms of the scheme; other cases are awaiting reports from the Garda National Immigration Bureau. Applications submitted after 31 March 2005 are not being considered as they were submitted after the deadline.

Garda Reserve Force.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

23 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the 24 hours’ training in the law and the Garda Síochána procedures are adequate for his proposed Garda reserve force in view of the fact that members of the reserve force will have the right to arrest for offences such as obstruction and public order offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3574/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

46 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals for a part-time Garda force; the form and length of training they are to receive; their likely duties, if alone or accompanied in any or all occasions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3536/06]

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

47 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals to proceed with his plans for a voluntary Garda reserve corps in view of Garda representative bodies reservations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3378/06]

Liz McManus

Ceist:

52 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the liability which pertains to the State if any member of the volunteer Garda force exceeds his or her authority while on duty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3555/06]

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

66 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he proposes to implement the volunteer Garda provision in the Garda Síochána Act 2006; the proposals he has received from the Garda Síochána on the subject; when he expects to have the regulations in place; the number of volunteer gardaí he expects to recruit in total and the number in 2006; if he will implement the provision against the wishes of the Garda representative bodies; if he will establish a pilot scheme to examine and assess the effectiveness of a volunteer force; if he will review the proposal to confer full powers of arrest on the volunteer gardaí; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3509/06]

Liz McManus

Ceist:

69 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress which has been made in recruiting a volunteer Garda reserve force; and if the Garda representative bodies have been consulted on the proposal. [3493/06]

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

70 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the measures he intends to take to assure the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors and the Garda Representative Association that his proposals for a reserve Garda force will not destroy morale within the full-time force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3575/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

184 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way in which he proposes to integrate his proposed Garda reserve force with the existing force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3761/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 23, 46, 47, 52, 66, 69, 70 and 184 together.

Section 15 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 provides for the establishment of a Garda reserve and the Deputies will recall that the measure won widespread support in the House during the passage of the Act.

The Act lays special emphasis on training for members of the Garda reserve. The Act provides that the power to appoint persons to the reserve may only be exercised if the Commissioner has submitted proposals to the Minister for Justice for the training of persons to be appointed and regulations have been made concerning their recruitment, training and terms and conditions. It also provides that a person may not be appointed to the reserve unless he or she has completed the prescribed training. It is also the case that the Garda Commissioner may determine the range of powers to be exercised and duties performed by reserve members. A reserve member will be bound by all the same legal, disciplinary and ethical obligations as a regular member.

In July 2005, the month the Garda Síochána Act was enacted, the Garda Commissioner wrote to me proposing a Garda reserve with a strength of 4,000 members. By way of response, and in the context of advising the Garda Commissioner of the Government's policing priorities for 2006, I set the objective of recruiting 900 reserve members by September of this year.

I understand the Commissioner is now finalising his proposals for the reserve, including specifically the training of members and their powers and duties, and I am sure that in doing this he will have looked to the successful experience of volunteer police in the UK and other jurisdictions. I will give careful consideration to the Commissioner's proposals when I receive them, which I expect will be very shortly, and I will then draw up the necessary regulations for the approval of Government under the Act. As part of that process I will fully consult with the Garda representative associations.

The Garda reserve will be a supplementary support and, emphatically, not a replacement for gardaí. Proof of this is the current increase in the strength of the force from 12,000 to 14,000 members. This programme is well under way and will lead to a combined strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of this year. The Garda budget is also at an all time high. This year's allocation of €1.29 billion represents an increase of 13% on the allocation for 2005. It includes provision of over €83.5 million for overtime, an increase of €23 million on last year's allocation, which will yield over 2.7 million hours of Garda overtime for frontline policing throughout the State.

The Garda reserve will be a valuable additional support for the Garda Síochána. It will enhance its capacity to respond to emerging policing challenges and will reinforce its links with local communities. At a time when gardaí increasingly do not live in the areas they police, the Garda reserve will be a valuable source of local strength and knowledge. It has the support of the Oireachtas and, I believe, the support of the public. I look forward to the Garda Commissioner's proposals on the recruitment, training, powers and duties of the members of the reserve. I have undertaken to consult constructively with the Garda representative associations on the proposals and I will be asking them, for their part, to undertake to respect the clear will of the Oireachtas in this matter and engage positively in those consultations.

Prisoner Transfers.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

24 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress which has been made in the application for repatriation for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3499/06]

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 it 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.

Firearms Regulation.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

25 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in view of the crime statistics 2005, a firearms amnesty system will be introduced in order to remove illegally held weapons from circulation here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3577/06]

I propose bringing forward a range of measures to strengthen the law governing the control of firearms in the Criminal Justice Bill 2004, which is currently before the House. These new measures include increases in fines and penalties generally for offences under the Firearms Acts and the creation of mandatory minimum sentences, of between five and ten years, for certain firearms offences, including possession of a firearm in suspicious circumstances, possession of firearm with criminal intent, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property, possession of a firearm while hijacking a vehicle, and use or production of a firearm to resist arrest.

In this context I also propose to introduce a statutory basis for an amnesty during which firearms may be surrendered to the Gárda Síochána before the proposed new penalties and minimum mandatory sentences are introduced. This will enable those in possession of firearms, who are not in compliance with the legal requirements, to regularise their position and thus enable the Gárda Síochána to concentrate on more serious offenders.

Garda Stations.

John Gormley

Ceist:

26 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he intends to take in view of reports that at least a quarter of all Garda stations are in need of full or significant refurbishment. [3580/06]

I have indicated previously that I regard the provision of adequate and proper accommodation for the Garda Síochána as a very important issue.

There are in excess of 700 Garda stations in the country. This figure does not include major complexes like Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park in Dublin, the Garda College in Templemore and other units of accommodation. The Deputy will appreciate that it is not a simple task to maintain and refurbish so many Garda buildings, and certainly not one that is amenable to a quick fix solution. However, this task is being tackled in a systematic and purposeful manner through the Garda building programme. Those stations most in need of attention have been identified and are being addressed in a prioritised way, with the co-operation of the Garda authorities, the main representative associations, the OPW and my own Department.

The Office of Public Works has indicated to me that it plans to spend of the order of €112 million in the period 2005 to the end of 2007 on a wide range of Garda projects including, for example, major projects in Ballymun, Finglas and Claremorris. In addition, the Office of Public Works is engaged in ongoing smaller projects involving refurbishment and maintenance related issues at Garda stations. That office has informed my Department that in 2005, €5.2 million was spent on 38 Garda stations on such works. This is additional to a budget in excess of €7 million for 2005 in the Garda Vote for maintenance of Garda premises.

The Office of Public Works is reviewing, in consultation with my Department and the Garda authorities, the equity exchange programme, which aims to replace inadequate small Garda stations with modern, purpose built, stations on an exchange of equity basis.

Prison Education Service.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

27 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he has taken and will take to get Cloverhill Prison’s educational facility up and running; and the discussions he has had with the prison service on the matter. [3524/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

56 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether it is acceptable that Cloverhill Prison’s educational facility has remained unused for two years; and the discussions he has had with the prison service on the matter. [3522/06]

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

64 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the fact that the prisoner transport escort corps have been operating out of Cloverhill Prison’s educational facility thereby preventing the facilities used by prisoners; and the discussions he has had with the prison service on the matter. [3526/06]

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

65 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether the failure to get Cloverhill Prison’s educational facility up and running demonstrates his lack of commitment to rehabilitation; and the discussions he has had with the prison service on the matter. [3528/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 27, 56, 64 and 65 together.

I am informed by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that construction of the Cloverhill education unit commenced in 2002 and was virtually completed in 2003. The unit comprises a physical education section and six classrooms — one for art-craft, an open learning centre, a computer classroom and three general classrooms to cater for literacy, numeracy, English for speakers of other languages, ESOL, and general subjects. An allocation of approximately eight wholetime-equivalent teachers to staff the new unit has also been arranged with the Department of Education and Science.

The physical education section of the new unit has been brought partially into operation and is used daily by prisoners up to the present. However, it was not possible to commission the general education section of the unit pending the outcome of negotiations with the Prison Officers' Association, POA, on revised working arrangements in the Prison Service. Agreement has since been reached with the POA on the change agenda and the new working arrangements are currently being rolled out across the prison system.

A key feature of the new working arrangements is the introduction of a new prisoner transport escort corps. Essentially, this is a dedicated corps of staff whose task is to escort prisoners to-from court in new cellular vehicles, thus eliminating the need to resort to overtime working as had been the practice heretofore. As a temporary measure, the prisoner transport escort corps is operating from a section of the unit pending the completion of new accommodation for the corps. It is currently envisaged that this new accommodation will be completed by the second quarter of this year at which time the general education section of the unit will be opened.

Missing Persons.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

28 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the helpline for missing persons was established; the operation of the helpline; when he intends to establish the helpline on a permanent basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3491/06]

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

36 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to reinstate the missing persons helpline which had provided invaluable advice and support for families of missing persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3570/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28 and 36 together.

Funding of €110,000 in respect of a national missing persons helpline made available by my Department in 2002 and 2003 was channelled through the Victim Support organisation, and was in addition to the ongoing funding that organisation received for the provision of services to victims of crime. This funding of €110,000 was provided subject to the conditions that no funding beyond the year 2003 should be implied, and audited accounts should be provided to my Department on a calendar year basis. To date, no audited accounts have been received in my Department. At the end of 2003, my Department commissioned a review of the helpline from the Department of Social Sciences, Dublin Institute of Technology, which recorded the number of phone calls to the helpline up to that time at approximately 100. While the Department is of the view that this service is a valuable one for the relatives of missing persons, it may be the case that the service could be provided on a more cost effective basis as an add on to an existing service.

The Victim Support organisation received financial support from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform from 1985 to 31 March 2005. Almost €5.5 million had been made available over the five years up to 2005.

In March 2005, I decided that continued funding of the Victim Support organisation could no longer be justified due to serious concerns in relation to governance, accountability for public funds and poor service levels, after a lengthy period of instability within the organisation.

The missing persons helpline was operated from the headquarters of Victim Support alongside Victim Support's own helpline for victims of crime. I understand that Victim Support Ltd closed down its headquarters operation during 2005 and a number of staff were made redundant, including the person employed to operate the missing persons helpline. My Department had no role in the decision of Victim Support Ltd to make a number of its staff redundant, other than to insist that statutory requirements — notice, holiday pay, etc. — be met and the interests of the staff protected.

Also, in March 2005, I established a new Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime to devise an appropriate support framework for victims of crime into the future and to disburse funding for victim support measures. The commission is entirely independent in its decision making and examines each application on its merits. In April 2005, the commission received an application from the Missing in Ireland Support Service for €71,000 to establish, staff and operate a helpline for missing persons. I am advised that in the course of follow-up discussions, the Missing in Ireland Support Service rejected an offer of funding of €25,000 from the commission and advised that it would accept the full amount sought or nothing. It should be borne in mind in this context that the commission is charged with funding support services for victims of crime, and that, while some persons who are missing are crime victims, most are not. I understand there was no further contact between the commission and Missing in Ireland Support Service until November 2005. At that time, the commission suggested to Missing in Ireland Support Service that it should contact my Department, which had provided funding for a helpline in 2002 and 2003, with a view to furthering its application for funding.

Other than the request to the independent commission for funding, no request for funding has been made by the Missing in Ireland Support Service to my Department as such. It remains open to the Missing in Ireland Support Service to make a new application to my Department for assistance if they so wish. Any such application will be carefully considered on its merits.

Juvenile Offenders.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

29 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he will provide separate detention facilities for 16 and 17 year old boys and girls who are committed to custody by the courts as he is obliged to do under the Children Act 2001. [3527/06]

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

61 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he has taken and will take to ensure the provision of separate detention facilities for 16 and 17 year old boys and girls who are committed to custody by the courts (details supplied). [3529/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 29 and 61 together.

In October 2004, the Government endorsed a joint proposal from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and from the Minister for children to examine the scope for rationalising and restructuring the delivery of the State's services in the area of youth justice in accordance with the Children Act 2001. To this end, the Minister established an internal project team charged with: conducting an overarching analytical review and scoping exercise, both nationally and internationally; consulting with stakeholders in the governmental and non-governmental sectors; and bringing forward recommendations for any necessary institutional reform.

The Report on the Youth Justice Review, a copy of which has been placed in the Oireachtas Library, was examined in the social inclusion institutional framework last June. The Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion, CCSI, approved the thrust of the recommendations at that time. The CCSI agreed also that proposals on the legal and structural amendments necessary to give effect to the recommendations should be brought to Government before the end of the year.

On 13 December last, the Government noted the youth justice report and approved its publication. The Government agreed also to implement the report's key findings, including the establishment on a non-statutory basis of a youth justice service as an executive office of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform under the strategic direction of the new Office of the Minister for Children.

In this report, the detention of 16 and 17 year olds was addressed within the wider context of detention for all children up to the age of 18, boys and girls, remanded or sentenced to custody by the courts. An expert group is to be set up shortly to examine the future requirements for secure accommodation for offending children under the age of 18, and to plan for the provision of the necessary facilities. The Government agreed to the appointment of a suitably experienced person to head up this group and to take responsibility for the area of children's detention.

The new measures require the transfer of legal and administrative responsibilities for the detention of offenders under 18 years from the Department of Education and Science and from the Irish Prison Service. However, the educational ethos of the children detention schools will be retained within the new structures with a greater emphasis on vocational training to cater for the broader age group.

Amendments to the Children Act 2001 are necessary to give effect to the proposals in respect of detention arising from the Report on the Youth Justice Review and other matters. The Government has approved the drafting of the official amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill 2004 to this effect. I have circulated the proposed amendments to the Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman for Children and the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights. These new developments will result in the removal of all children in detention under the age of 18 from the Irish Prison Service and adult prisons.

Crime Prevention.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

30 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to an obvious escalation in serious and often fatal gun crime; if extra resources will be allocated to combat organised crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3535/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

178 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of fatal shootings with particular reference to gangland incidents in 2005; his proposals to combat the problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3755/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

179 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he proposes to take to combat organised crime including robberies, shootings, witness intimidation, extortion, protection, racketeering or other similar activities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3756/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 30, 178 and 179 together.

The Garda Síochána employs a range of techniques in the fight against serious crime. The establishment of specialist Garda units, operating under an assistant commissioner in charge of national support services, has enabled the Garda Síochána to tackle organised crime effectively. The National Bureau of Criminal Investigation is the Garda specialist unit tasked with the role of tackling organised crime and it carries out this role by conducting intelligence-driven operations in close co-operation with other specialist units, including the Garda national drugs unit, the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the Criminal Assets Bureau.

In November 2005, the Garda Commissioner arranged for the allocation of an additional 50 officers to the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation to augment the effort to target groups involved in organised crime in the Dublin metropolitan region. The unit is headed by a detective chief superintendent and works closely with gardaí deployed on Operation Anvil and with other specialist units.

The Garda Síochána is now better resourced than at any time in its history. I am particularly pleased to have secured a €144 million increase, 13.2%, in the Garda Vote for this year. The Garda budget is now at an all-time historic high, having exceeded €1.2 billion for 2006. This enormous resource enables me to provide the Commissioner with funding for a visible policing package which, among other things, will facilitate additional funding for youth diversion schemes and hi-tech Garda vehicles and related equipment. I will also be providing further investment in technological equipment to assist the gardaí in their fight against crime. The most significant such investment will be that made in the national digital radio project to replace the existing analogue radio system.

The provision for Garda overtime is increased by over €22 million, bringing the total overtime provision to €83.5 million for 2006 and will facilitate, among other things, the continuation of specialist Garda operations such as Operation Anvil, Operation Clean Street, Operation Encounter and Operation Nightcap. These operations are targeted at the prevention and detection of crimes such as gangland murders, organised crime, racketeering and other criminal activity which gives rise to serious community concern.

The Deputy will be aware that in October 2004 the Government approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to a record 14,000 in line with the An Agreed Programme for Government commitment in this regard. The ongoing recruitment campaign will lead to a combined strength of both attested gardaí and recruits in training of 14,000 by the end of this year.

The Government's top policing priority for 2006 is to continue to target organised crime, including drug trafficking, and the gun culture associated with it through the use of specialist units and targeted operations such as Operation Anvil.

As a specific response to the problem of gun crime in Dublin, the Government decided to provide funding for Operation Anvil. This operation was undertaken not as the sole response to this problem but as a targeted response to augment the work which the gardaí were doing day in day out to address gun crime. It is an intelligence-led policing initiative which targets active criminals and their associates involved in serious crime by preventing and disrupting criminal activity through extensive additional overt patrolling, static checkpoints, uniformed mobile and foot patrols supported by armed plain-clothes patrols and, covert operations.

Operation Anvil has resulted in a number of very successful outcomes, including the seizure of 347 firearms. In addition, 23,654 checkpoints and 7,138 drugs searches have been carried out. The additional budgetary provision for 2006, which I referred to, will facilitate not just the continuation of this operation but also its geographical extension beyond the Dublin metropolitan region.

In addition to Operation Anvil, I am informed by the Garda authorities that Operation Delivery was set up to combat robberies of institutions and to target those involved in robberies of high value goods in transit. I am also informed that cases of witness intimidation are investigated on a case by case basis and, where the need arises, are dealt with by the Special Criminal Court on the directions of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

All extortion related complaints are investigated by the Garda Síochána and its anti-racketeering unit investigates reports and targets criminals suspected of this type of criminality.

Regarding the number of fatal "gangland" shootings in 2005, I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of murders recorded in 2005 in which firearms were used is 21. While the term "gangland killings" tends to be widely used in the media in referring to the nature of certain unlawful killings and speculation in this respect is understandable, this does not correspond to the manner in which the Garda Síochána classifies crime or particular offences. Caution is necessary in ascribing particular motives to any particular incident as, potentially, this might jeopardise the procedures which need to be followed for the proper investigation and prosecution of offences. All killings, regardless of the circumstances involved, are the subject of rigorous investigation by the Garda Síochána.

It is widely acknowledged that our legislative package for tackling serious and organised crime is already one of the toughest in Europe. The Criminal Justice Bill, which is currently before the Houses of the Oireachtas, provides a comprehensive package of anti-crime measures which will enhance the powers of the gardaí in the investigation and prosecution of offences. In November last year, I obtained Government approval to draft a range of amendments to the Bill, which I intend to bring forward during its passage through the Oireachtas. Proposed amendments include the creation of criminal offences in relation to participation in organised crime, the strengthening of existing provisions for the ten year mandatory minimum sentence for drug trafficking and a range of amendments to the Firearms Acts.

I can assure the House that I am in regular contact with the Garda Commissioner in order to keep the measures and resources for tackling serious crime under continuing review.

Sexual Offences.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

31 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners who are serving sentences for sexual offences; the number who are attending counselling or treatment; the prisons in which such prisoners are detained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3564/06]

As of 30 January 2006, there were 253 prisoners serving sentences for sexual offences. These prisoners were accommodated in the following institutions: Arbour Hill, 84; Castlerea Prison, 20; Cork Prison, five; Limerick Prison, four; Midlands Prison, 77; Mountjoy (female) Prison, one; Mountjoy (male) Prison, two; St. Patrick's Institution, five; and Wheatfield Prison, 55.

There are three forms of direct therapeutic intervention for sex offenders currently operating within the Irish prison system. These are as follows: individual counselling from the Irish Prison Service's psychology service and from the probation and welfare service; the sex offender programme which has been in operation since 1994; and one-to-one interventions by visiting psychiatrists who provide support to prisoners.

Every effort is made to assist sex offenders in custody who are willing to participate at any level in their personal rehabilitation and relapse prevention. While it is not possible to quantify with absolute accuracy participation in all forms of rehabilitation, many of those in custody for sex offences have availed of one or more of the forms of intervention referred to above.

The second intervention which I have specified in my reply is the intensive offence-focused group programme. The programme is managed and delivered by members of the Probation and Welfare Service and the Irish Prison Service's psychology service and caters for eight offenders at a time, taking 11 months to complete. In keeping with international best practice in this area, the programme is a structured, offence focused programme, employing a cognitive behavioural approach with a relapse prevention component. The aim of the programme is to reduce sexual victimisation in society. This is achieved through enabling offenders gain increased control over their offending behaviour and thereby reducing the probability of re-offending. A total of 114 sex offenders have completed the sex offender programme to date. A further eight men are currently undertaking the programme in Arbour Hill Prison. There is no waiting list in operation in respect of participation on the programme. The programme is voluntary and the practice is to invite all eligible sex offenders to apply for a place on the programme when a new group programme is being set up. The reasons applicants for the programme might be considered unsuitable include: the applicant's sentence is under appeal, current serious mental health problems would militate against effective participation in the programme, the applicant is not sufficiently prepared for the intensity of the programme, denial of offence etc.

The number of offenders undergoing one-to-one counselling in relation to their sexual offending is difficult to define because of the varied nature of individual counselling provided to sex offenders in prison. Some individuals engage with the therapeutic services initially to seek assistance in adjusting to imprisonment or to address their mental health needs. Following such interventions, offenders are often more open to looking at their sexual offending and a concentrated period of motivational work is conducted to help them address their offending behaviour. In response to such counselling many offenders, who initially might deny responsibility for their crime or deny any need for treatment, are motivated towards some process of change. For some offenders this results in them undertaking the sex offender programme, for others it results in sustained individual therapy around their offending or engagement in some other programme available in the prison system.

The number of suitably motivated offenders applying for participation on the sex offenders programme has declined in recent years and this is a matter of concern. The Irish Prison Service is currently examining this situation to determine what measures may be taken to increase the number of offenders participating on the programme. A number of additional psychologists have recently been appointed to the Irish Prison Service. These new psychologists will play an important role in working with offenders to address their offending behaviour, including work with sex offenders aimed at enhancing their preparedness for possible participation on the sex offender programme.

Prison Medical Service.

Michael Noonan

Ceist:

32 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has satisfied himself that a prisoner in Limerick Prison (details supplied) is receiving appropriate psychiatric care and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3377/06]

I am informed that the prisoner concerned has been seen on a frequent basis by the visiting psychiatric service to the prison, most recently on 6 January last. I also understand that he is scheduled to be further reviewed by the visiting psychiatric service in the future. In the circumstances, I am satisfied that he is currently receiving appropriate care within the prison system.

Question No. 33 answered with QuestionNo. 16.

Asylum Applications.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

34 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the delay in processing the residency application for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3503/06]

The person in question made an application for asylum on 18 October 1999. This application was refused on 17 August 2001 and appealed on 10 September 2001 to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. The appeal was refused on the 18 February 2002 and a notification of proposal to deport from the State under section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 together with the refusal to grant a declaration of refugee status issued on 15 March 2002.

Representations were received in relation to the proposal and were under consideration. However, before final considerations were made on the proposal the person in question made an application for permission to remain in the State based on his marriage to an Irish national. The marriage took place on 4 February 2003 and the application was received in March 2003. Before a final decision was made on the case he withdrew his application for residency based solely on his marriage to an Irish national on 7 September 2004 indicating that he was voluntarily repatriating to his country of origin. He did not pursue this option and on 15 December 2004 he reapplied for residency in the State based solely on his marriage to an Irish national.

Marriage to an Irish national does not grant any automatic right to enter or reside in the State solely on that basis. Applications of this type are dealt with on a strict chronological basis and, in fairness to all other applicants, are currently taking approximately 16 months to process. The resources allocated to process such applications are dependent on the prioritised work requirements of the immigration division of my Department at any one time, which is operating against a background of significant increases on demands for its services over a wide range of areas, including the type of application referred to by the Deputy. For example, there were 156 such cases in 2001 and at the end of December 2005 the number of application on hands had risen to 407.

In order to prevent abuses of the system, insofar as is possible and without unduly interfering with the Irish citizen's private circumstances, the immigration division will seek to establish various matters. These include the context in which the marriage took place, the validity of the marriage and whether the couple are residing in a family unit. This may involve requesting supporting documentation as evidence of the relationship and-or an interview by the immigration authorities of either or both parties. A decision on the residency application in question will be made after full consideration of all the circumstances particular to this case.

Civil Partnership.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

35 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the timetable for the introduction of his proposed legislative change to allow for civil partnership arrangements for same-sex couples; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3571/06]

As indicated by the Taoiseach on 24 January 2006 at the launch of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution Report on the Family, I am in the process of establishing a working group to prepare an options paper on civil partnership. The group will consider the categories of partnerships and relationships outside of marriage, including same-sex couples, to which legal recognition can be afforded, consistent with constitutional provisions. The report of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee as well as the deliberations of the Law Reform Commission will inform the work of the group. I am confident that the group will assist in the early formulation of legislative policy in this area. Its terms of reference and a timetable are being finalised.

Question No. 36 answered with QuestionNo. 28.

Garda Deployment.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

37 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason information promised in relation to the numbers and allocation of the Garda Síochána by December 2005 has not been provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3556/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, the information requested in December 2005 in relation to the number of gardaí serving in each Garda station in each county was not readily available in the detail sought at the time. The information requested has now been compiled by the Garda authorities and I have issued it to Deputy Costello.

Garda Recruitment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

38 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way in which his plan for civilianisation in the Garda Síochána has progressed; and the timescale for the full implementation of this plan. [3419/06]

I refer the Deputy to my response to Question No. 102 of 23 November 2005.

I would remind the Deputy that the civilianisation programme approved by Government in 2001 is to be implemented on a phased basis over a number of years. I am pleased to point out that significant progress has been made with the appointment of 113 civilian finance officers who are doing the district finance officer duties which were hitherto performed by gardaí. Moreover, the recent establishment of the Garda Information Service Centre, GISC, in Castlebar, and the pending transfer of civilian staff from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to the Garda Síochána as civil servants of the State are significant developments in the context of greater Garda civilianisation.

The establishment of the GISC alone will, when fully operational, allow for the equivalent of up to 300 gardaí to be freed up for frontline outdoor policing duties. While the immediate focus is on providing the necessary staffing, training and resources so that the GISC will be fully operational during 2006, it is also the case that my Department, on an ongoing basis, reviews the possibility of civilianising other posts where possible, and progress is being made in this regard. However, the civilianisation programme has to be implemented within the confines of the Government decision of 4 December 2002 which placed a cap on numbers across the civil and public service.

Having said that, I can assure the Deputy that I am committed to the ongoing implementation of the civilianisation programme. I am also determined that the additional gardaí being recruited under the current historic expansion of the force will be deployed to frontline, visible and effective policing duties.

National Drugs Strategy.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

39 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department funds the community policing forum here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3559/06]

Funding is made available through the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to several community policing fora which have arisen in the context of the Government's national drugs strategy.

Two such fora operate on a pilot basis under the aegis of the north inner city and Finglas-Cabra local drugs task forces respectively. The north inner city community policing forum was established in 1999 and operates in Dublin's north east inner city area. This project receives annual funding of €78,778 through the local drugs task force initiative. In addition, the north inner city task force initiated an additional pilot project in 2004 which involves extending the work of the original policing forum within the wider task force area. This project extension receives annual funding of €67,896. Dublin City Council acts as a channel of funding to the north inner city projects.

Similarly, a community policing forum under the aegis of the Finglas-Cabra local drugs task force was established as a pilot initiative in 2003. This project also receives annual funding of €51,584 through the local drugs task force initiative. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is the channel of funding for this initiative.

The community policing forum in Dublin's "A" Garda district, Kevin Street-Kilmainham, was established by the Commissioner in 2000 on a pilot basis following extensive consultations between the gardaí and community interests. No specific allocation of funding was made for this forum and the forum did not provide a funded co-ordinator on a similar basis to fora operating under the local drugs task force initiative. I outlined the position with regard to the non-funding of co-ordinators for these fora from Garda funds in reply to previous questions from Deputy Costello on 9 December 2003 and from Deputy Kenny on 23 November 2004. I should point out that, as an exceptional measure, the Garda Commissioner made a small contribution to the Rialto Forum towards an outstanding invoice early in 2005.

The establishment of community policing fora, in general, needs to be delivered in the context of an appropriate policy framework for what will be relatively new partnership structures involving the gardaí, local authorities and local communities to deal with a range of issues of mutual concern. Such a framework will ensure that community policing fora are developed in an appropriate, consistent and properly planned manner.

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 provides a statutory basis for enhanced co-operation between the gardaí and local authorities through the establishment of joint policing committees, in accordance with guidelines issued by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to local authorities and the Commissioner after consulting the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. A joint policing committee will be a forum for local authorities and the Garda Síochána to discuss matters affecting policing of the local authorities administrative areas. Work is under way, involving my Department, the Garda Síochána, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, on finalising draft guidelines for the joint policing committees. The guidelines will include provisions on resourcing the committees. It is anticipated that several joint policing committees will be established on a pilot basis and will begin to function this year. A sum of €100,000 has been made available in the Garda Vote to support the work of these committees in 2006.

The Act also provides that a joint policing committee may establish, in consultation with the local Garda superintendent, as the committee considers necessary within specific neighbourhoods, local policing fora. It is intended that supplemental guidelines for such policing fora will be made at a later date.

Garda Stations.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

40 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in view of the fact that the villages of Laytown, Bettystown and Mornington have a combined population of 8,000 people and growing, the local part-time Garda station will be upgraded to a full 24 hour permanent Garda station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3492/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of Garda resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of Laytown Garda station as at 31 January 2006 was eight — all ranks.

I am further advised that there are no plans to extend the opening hours of Laytown Garda station. The extension of the opening hours at the station would only serve to confine more personnel to indoor administrative duties. It is the view of the Garda authorities that such personnel can be utilised more effectively in providing a visible Garda presence on outdoor police duties.

The timescale for achieving the target strength of 14,000 members of the Garda Síochána in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government remains as when I announced the Government approval in October 2004 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.

The Garda Commissioner will draw up plans for the distribution of these additional resources and in this context the needs of the Laytown, Bettystown and Mornington areas will be fully considered.

Prison Accommodation.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

41 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether to transfer part of the Mountjoy Prison site to the Mater Hospital when same ceases to be a prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3558/06]

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

45 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way in which he proposes to dispose of the Mountjoy Prison site; if some of the land will be transferred to the Mater Hospital; if Dublin City Council officials will be allowed to enter onto the site to carry out their legal obligations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3496/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 41 and 45 together.

There is no plan to transfer part of the Mountjoy Prison site to the Mater Hospital.

I have asked the Office of Public Works to prepare a development plan for the site. When finalised, this plan will include detailed proposals for the utilisation and development of the site and will also take account of issues to include heritage and historical context as well as the proper and sustainable development of the area itself. It is too early at this stage to indicate when the site will be disposed of or the precise means of disposal. The process will provide for, and in due course include, consultations with the local authorities including Dublin City Council in line with the relevant statutory provisions.

Residency Permits.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

42 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the delay in processing the residency application for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3502/06]

The person in question made an application for permission to remain in the State on the basis of his marriage to an Irish national in September 2004. Marriage to an Irish national does not grant any automatic right to enter or reside in the State solely on that basis. Applications of this type are dealt with on a strict chronological basis and, in fairness to all other applicants, take approximately 16 months to process. In the case to which the Deputy refers two requests for further documentation have recently issued to the legal representatives of the person concerned in an effort to process the application further. To date no response has been received.

The resources allocated to process such applications depend on the prioritised work requirements of the immigration division of my Department at any one time, which operates against a background of significant increases on demands for its services over a wide range of areas, including the type of application to which the Deputy refers. For example, there were 156 such cases in 2001 and at the end of December 2005 the number of applications on hands had risen to 407.

The immigration division of my Department has growing experience of marriages being entered into for the sole purpose of enabling the non-national in question to gain entry to the State. In order to prevent abuses of the system, in so far as is possible, and without unduly interfering with the Irish citizen's private circumstances, the immigration division will seek to establish various matters. These include the context in which the marriage took place, the validity of the marriage and whether the couple resides in a family unit. This may involve requesting supporting documentation as evidence of the relationship and-or an interview of either or both parties by the immigration authorities. A decision on the residency application in question will be made on receipt of the information requested and after full consideration of all the circumstances particular to this case.

Garda Equipment.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

43 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of interview rooms in Wexford town Garda station that contained audio-visual equipment on 10 October 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3507/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that no rooms in Wexford Garda station were equipped with audio or video equipment on 10 October 2002. As I indicated in reply to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 532 of 8 November 2005 and 474 of 22 November 2005, the equipment was installed in Wexford Garda station on 16 October 2002.

Ministerial Responsibilities.

John Gormley

Ceist:

44 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he intends to take in view of recent lobbying on the part of a peace commissioner (details supplied) of elective representatives in an attempt to prevent the appointment of a public servant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3579/06]

It is open to any citizen to make representations to a public representative and it would be inappropriate for me to intervene in this matter.

Question No. 45 answered with QuestionNo. 41.
Questions Nos. 46 and 47 answered with Question No. 23.

Garda Investigations.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

48 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress which has been made in the internal Garda inquiry into the death of a person (details supplied); when the report will be finalised; when the contents will be communicated to the family; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3563/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that an investigation file on this tragic death was referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP. Having considered the matter, he issued directions that no prosecution should ensue. The legal representatives of the family of the person referred to have been informed of the DPP's directions. My Department has today been furnished with a copy of the report of that investigation, which will now be examined.

EU Directives.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

49 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his position on the EU data retention directive recently passed by the European Parliament; if he intends to take a legal challenge against the EU Commission and Parliament in respect of the directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3581/06]

The draft directive to which the Deputy refers has yet to be adopted. The question of any legal challenge that might be brought by Ireland in respect of this instrument would be determined on the basis of advice provided by the Attorney General and approval by the Government.

Legislative Programme.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

50 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects to publish the long-promised Coroners Court Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3508/06]

My proposals for a Bill to reform comprehensively the legislation relating to coroners and the organisation of the coroner service were approved for drafting by the Government at the end of 2005. The details of the proposals are available on my Department's website.

This legislation will radically overhaul and reform the coroner service. It will provide for a modernisation of the death investigation, post-mortem and inquest procedures to ensure a better service to society in general, and to the relatives of the deceased in particular, than is possible under the 1962 Coroners Act.

There are two critical elements involved in the reform of the service: development of optimum structures and administration for a modern coroner service and widening the scope of the inquest. The Bill provides for the establishment of a coroner service to be located in Navan, County Meath. On the establishment of the service, full responsibility for coroners, including financial responsibility, will rest with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the involvement of local authorities will cease.

The Bill proposes to widen the scope of the inquest from investigating the proximate medical cause of death to establishing in what circumstances the deceased met his or her death. The Act of 1962 and as interpreted by the courts, restricts the examination to "how" the person died.

The Government legislation programme announced by the Chief Whip on 25 January 2006 indicates that the Bill is expected to be published in mid-2006.

Garda Operations.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

51 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if DNA samples still have to be sent abroad for analysis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3554/06]

I can inform the Deputy that the DNA section of the Forensic Science Laboratory analyses samples in a range of case types and compares profiles from these samples with profiles from suspects or injured parties. In a very small proportion of cases samples are sent abroad for analysis using certain specialised techniques, where in view of the limited requirement for such techniques it would not be warranted to introduce such facilities in the laboratory.

Question No. 52 answered with QuestionNo. 23.

Legislative Programme.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

53 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress which he has made in implementing the new Garda Síochána Act 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3495/06]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the Garda Síochána Act 2005 and I shall answer the question accordingly. I have made significant progress in implementing the provisions of the Garda Síochána Act 2005. One of the key measures in the Act provides for the establishment of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. Last week the Dáil passed a resolution recommending three persons for appointment by the President to be the members of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. A similar resolution was also passed by Seanad Éireann last week. This followed the nomination of these three persons by the Government in accordance with the provisions of the Act. I understand that they will be appointed by the President on 10 February.

I can also tell the Deputy that progress has been made in establishing the Garda inspectorate, another important provision of the Act. The post of chief inspector has been advertised and it is hoped to make an appointment in the near future. The posts for the other two members of the inspectorate will be advertised shortly.

The preparation of guidelines providing for the establishment of joint policing committees is well advanced and I intend to issue these as soon as possible following consultation with my colleagues the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs as required by the Act.

Preparations are also in hand to make the Garda Commissioner the accounting officer for the force. The target date is 1 July 2006. Revised Garda discipline regulations are being prepared and these will be the subject of consultation with the Garda associations as required by the Garda industrial relations processes.

I am also keen to advance the establishment of a Garda reserve. The Garda Commissioner is drawing up proposals on the duties of reserve members, the powers they will exercise and the training they will receive. The Act provides for phased implementation. I have made two commencement orders, bringing several provisions of the Act into effect.

The first commencement order was made on 15 July 2005 and brought into effect from 1 August 2005, Part 1, other than section 4; and sections 7, 39, 40,41, 47, 48, 49, 60, 62, other than subsection (2)(b) and (c), 124, 130 and 131.

The second commencement order was made on 9 December, 2005. The provisions brought into effect from that date are sections 24, 63 to 66, 67(3), 67(4), 67(5), 68 to 72, 76 to 80, 121(b), Schedule 2, in so far as it relates to a person transferred under section 72 of the Act to the Ombudsman Commission and Schedule 4.

I made an establishment day order in respect of the Ombudsman Commission, on 12 December 2005 under section 63 of the Act. A third commencement order, which will provide for most of the remaining provisions of the Act to be brought into effect is being prepared. The necessity for different commencement dates arises because certain measures must be completed before particular provisions can become operative. Examples would be the finalisation of the new code of ethics for the force, the actual complaints, investigation and related provisions regarding the Ombudsman Commission, the establishment of the inspectorate, and the completion of the new disciplinary arrangements.

I have outlined briefly above the progress I have made in the implementation of a several key areas of the Act. Last year I established the Garda Síochána Act 2005 implementation review group, chaired by Senator Maurice Hayes, to oversee the process of implementing the Act. This group has recently concluded its work and reported to me. I am arranging for the publication of their report shortly. It sets out in greater detail the progress achieved in implementing the provisions of the Act.

EU Directives.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

54 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of EU directives within the competency of his Department that remain to be transposed into law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3505/06]

No directives falling under the remit of my Department are overdue for transposition. There are, however, nine directives which have yet to be transposed. Two of these have deadlines for transposition in 2006 and four have 2007 deadlines.

The three remaining directives are Schengen-related measures and, as such, the deadlines for transposition apply to Schengen member states only. Ireland has successfully applied to operate certain elements of the Schengen arrangements and the relevant directives will be transposed in this context.

Youth Diversion Projects.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

55 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if consideration will be given to an application supported by the community and the Garda Síochána in respect of a Garda diversion project for Tymon North, Tallaght, Dublin 24; the needs in this regard and the strong community support which the proposal enjoys; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3379/06]

There are currently 64 Garda youth diversion projects, three of which — KEY, JAY and YEW — are operating in the Tallaght area. In addition, one sergeant and four Garda juvenile liaison officers from Tallaght Garda station are directly associated with these projects.

I am committed to the continuing development and, as resources permit, the expansion of Garda youth diversion projects. A budget of €6.6 million has been provided for the Garda youth diversion projects and local drugs task force projects in 2006. This represents an increase of €1.2 million in the budget for youth diversion compared with 2005. It is my intention to ensure that 100 schemes will be established nationwide before the end of 2007. I have therefore asked the Garda Commissioner to bring forward proposals for further community-based initiatives in this area in light of the additional funding.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that an updated application for an additional project in the Tallaght area, the STAY project, was received by the Garda community relations section on 5 January 2006. The catchment area proposed by this project covers Tymon north. The application is currently being assessed by Garda community relations in accordance with the Garda youth diversion project guidelines. When the assessment has been completed, a recommendation will be forwarded to my Department for consideration.

Question No. 56 answered with QuestionNo. 27.

Residency Permits.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

57 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the difficulties experienced by a person (details supplied) in their application for renewal of their residency status which had been first granted ten years ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3500/06]

The person referred to by the Deputy arrived in the State on 18 October 1995 on a student visa. She had a child, born in the State, on 6 May 1996. She was granted residency in the State on the basis of her parentage of an Irish-born citizen child on 29 September 1997. She left Ireland in January 1998 and returned to Nigeria to be with her father-in-law who was ill at the time. He died in April 2002 after a long illness. Following his death the person concerned and her Irish citizen child returned to the State on 13 December 2002. On 4 February 2003, she applied to renew her residency on the basis of her parentage of an Irish-born citizen child.

On 19 August 2003, a notice of intention to deport letter issued from my Department. This letter informed her, inter alia, that the non-national parent of an Irish-born child no longer derived an automatic right to remain in the State by virtue of that fact alone. The letter also afforded her three options in accordance with section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended — namely, to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of a deportation order or to make written representations within 15 working days setting out reasons as to why she should not be deported.

Her case was examined further under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee (Prohibition of Refoulement) Act 1996. Consideration was given to her representations for temporary leave to remain in the State, which were lodged on her behalf by her legal representative by letter dated 29 August 2003.

A deportation order was made in respect of her on 28 June 2004. Notice of this order was served on her by registered post requiring her to present herself to the Garda National Immigration Bureau, GNIB, on 28 July 2004. She failed to present on that date and was recorded as evading her deportation on 9 August 2004.

On 22 February 2005, she was detained by the UK authorities at Heathrow Airport having arrived there on a flight from Nigeria. Contact was made with the GNIB and it was agreed that she should be returned to Nigeria on foot of her deportation order. She was recorded by GNIB as an enforced deportation order following her return from the UK.

She applied for permission to remain in the State on 23 March 2005, under the revised arrangements of the Irish-born child 2005 scheme, having again illegally re-entered the State. She was refused and notified by letter dated 16 August 2005.

On 11 August 2005, the person referred to by the Deputy applied for asylum in the State. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner.

The person concerned was informed by letter dated 12 October 2005 that the Minister proposed to make a new deportation order in respect of her and afforded her three options in accordance with section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended — namely, to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of a deportation order or to submit, within 15 working days, representations to the Minister, in writing, setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State.

Her case was re-examined under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee (Prohibition of Refoulement) Act 1996. Consideration was given to representations received on her behalf from the Refugee Legal Service for temporary leave to remain in the State. On 18 November 2005, I reaffirmed the original deportation order in respect of her. The person concerned and her legal representative have been informed of my decision and she has been requested to report to the GNIB on Thursday, 9 February 2006 to make arrangements for her removal from the State. Her removal from the State is now an operational matter for the GNIB.

Law Reform Commission.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

58 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the request for information that was sent to the Law Reform Commission to deal with the concept of good Samaritan legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3374/06]

Under the Law Reform Commission Act 1975 it is a function of the Attorney General to refer such matters to the Law Reform Commission for examination and recommendations. I have been in consultation with the Attorney General regarding the form in which the reference to the commission should take in the case referred to by the Deputy.

I can confirm that the reference has been made. It asks the commission to make such recommendations as it considers appropriate for reform of the law on the liability of voluntary rescuers, good Samaritans, as well as those who provide voluntary service.

Asylum Applications.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

59 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a person (details supplied) has been waiting ten years for his application for asylum to be finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3504/06]

The person concerned, a Romanian national, entered the State and claimed asylum on 7 October 1996. He withdrew his application for declaration of refugee status on 24 April 1998 and made an application for residency based on his parentage of an Irish-born child.

On 21 March 2002, a registered letter issued to the person concerned requesting documentation to support his application. This letter was returned marked "not called for". On 6 November 2002, my Department again wrote to the person concerned requesting the information and a response was received on 19 November 2002.

Following the decision of the Supreme Court in the cases of L&O, the separate procedure which then existed to enable persons to apply to reside in the State on the sole basis of parentage of an Irish-born child ended on 19 February 2003. The Government decided that the separate procedure would not apply to cases which were outstanding on that date. The application from the person concerned fell into this category.

On 10 November 2003, in accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, the person concerned was informed that it was proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him, as he did not have permission to remain in the State. He was given the following options: to make written representations within 15 working days to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform setting out reasons as to why he should be granted temporary leave to remain in the State, that is, why he should not be deported; to leave the State voluntarily; or to consent to the making of a deportation order in respect of him.

An application for leave to remain in the State was received from his legal representatives on 15 December 2003. It must also be noted that our records indicate that the person concerned, notwithstanding his earlier claim for residency based on his parentage of an Irish-born child, did not apply for leave to remain under the IBC 2005 scheme which recently ended.

In the circumstances and in order to clarify the exact circumstances of this individual, a letter recently issued to his legal representatives giving them the opportunity to make further representations on behalf of their client. Once these representations have been received, an assessment of his case as it currently stands can be made and it is expected that a decision will be reached shortly thereafter.

Garda Operations.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

60 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the length of time Operation Anvil is in existence; the number of Garda overtime hours involved; the cost of the operation to date in 2006; when it is intended to cease the operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3562/06]

Operation Anvil commenced in the Dublin metropolitan region on 17 May 2005 and is ongoing. At my request, Operation Anvil is being extended outside the Dublin metropolitan region during 2006, with a view to addressing the problem of serious crime.

Operation Anvil will continue as long as it is deemed necessary in operational and policing terms. It has contributed to encouraging outcomes. I am informed by the Garda authorities that, to date, there have been 1,522 arrests, which include 17 arrests for murder, 310 arrests for serious assault, 629 arrests for burglary and 280 arrests for robbery offences. Furthermore, the total number of firearms seized to date under Operation Anvil is 347 and property to the value of more than €5.5 million has been recovered.

The total number of overtime hours paid for the operation from its commencement up to 31 January 2006 is 260,996. The net incremental cost of the operation, from its commencement to 31 January 2006, is €9,683,206. This figure includes the cost of overtime, travel and subsistence, and other ancillary costs.

Question No. 61 answered with QuestionNo. 29.

Crime Levels.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

62 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether the crime statistics 2005 released by his Department on 26 January 2006 show an alarming growth in the incidence of violent crime, especially murder here; the steps he intends to take to tackle this growth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3576/06]

It is absurd to state that there has been a dramatic increase in headline crime for 2005 when the level of headline crime for 2005 is 4.4% lower than the level for 2002. I did not hear the Deputy state that there was a dramatic fall in headline crime when there was a decrease of 3% recorded for 2003 compared to 2002 and a further decrease in headline crime of 4% recorded for 2004 compared to 2003.

Since I took the decision to publish 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.

I would like to refer to long-term crime patterns. The level of headline crime in 2005 is actually lower than that for 2003 by 1.6% and 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.

Our headline crime rate continues to compare favourably with those of our nearest neighbours. In England and Wales, in the year April 2003 to March 2004, the most recent for which figures are available, 113 crimes were committed per 1,000 population. In 2004-05 in Scotland, there were 86.3 crimes per 1,000 population and in Northern Ireland 69 per 1,000 population compared with our rate of 24.6 per 1,000.

There have, moreover, been significant reductions in 2005 in the incidence of manslaughter, down 50%, aggravated sexual assault, down 43%, robbery of cash-goods in transit, down 27%, robbery from the person, down 23%, and theft from the person, down 18%. However, the overall increase in recorded crime and the increases in particular categories in the most recent figures I published are disappointing and I will not downplay my concerns in that respect.

However, I do welcome in particular the significant decrease of 27% in the number of incidents of robbery of cash-goods in transit — down from 62 in 2004 to 45 in 2005. 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 financial institutions and security companies involved in the cash-in-transit industry, has dramatically raised the standards in operation. I took a direct personal hand in dialogue with the leadership in the banking and security sectors in securing the adoption of this new code, which has made a significant contribution to the decrease. These developments have been underpinned by the establishment of the Private Security Authority, which has also taken place on my watch.

I also welcome the increase in the number of detections for possession of drugs for sale or supply, up 20%, and possession of firearms, up16%. In both cases these are offences which, in the main, become known as a result of active police detection work. This trend continued in the fourth quarter and, in the case of possession of firearms, improved, with an increase of 24%. These are statistical crime figure increases which we should welcome because they are detections flowing from increased Garda vigilance and a proactive approach.

Operation Anvil, which the Garda 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 the operation to Garda divisions outside Dublin. The most recent figures available to me show that Operation Anvil has contributed to encouraging outcomes, with a total number of arrests of 1,522, which include 17 arrests for murder, 310 arrests for serious assaults, 629 arrests for burglary and 280 arrests for robbery offences. Furthermore, the total number of firearms seized to date under Operation Anvil is 347, and property to the value of more than €5.5 million has been recovered.

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. The Government's decision to continue to devote unprecedented resources to the fight against crime is clearly justified, as is my insistence that those resources be deployed at the front line of policing in this State.

This year, the Garda Síochána has the highest level of resources in its history at €1,290 million, which represents 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 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, both of attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 in 2006 and 14,000 attested gardaí in two years' time. 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.

In addition to this increase in resources, I am also bringing forward proposals to strengthen significantly the legislative provisions available. The Criminal Justice Bill 2004, which is currently before the House, provides a comprehensive package of anti-crime measures, which will enhance the powers of the Garda Síochána 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. It addresses such matters as the preservation of crime scenes, increased periods of detention in the case of arrestable offences, search warrant powers for the Garda Síochána, amendments to the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence) Act 1990, provision for a fixed penalty procedure in respect of certain lesser public order offences, and the admissibility of statements by witnesses who subsequently refuse to testify or who retract their original statements.

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.

I can assure Deputies that I am in regular contact with the Garda Commissioner in order to keep the measures and resources for tackling crime under continuing review.

Garda Investigations.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

63 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the irregularities in the reporting of a fatal accident involving a person (details supplied); the further reason for the failure to preserve the scene of the accident, the interference with the scene of the accident and failure in the past to investigate the cause of the accident; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3572/06]

I have received representations regarding this matter and I have corresponded with the family in recent days.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the accident referred to had not been reported to the Garda Síochána but that the district patrol car came upon the scene of the accident. From inquiries made at the scene it was established that a person had been removed to hospital. Some preliminary measurements were taken at the scene by the Garda Síochána. There was no indication as to the seriousness of the accident and, as a consequence, the scene was not preserved. By the time it became apparent that the accident had resulted in a fatality, the scene had been contaminated by other vehicular traffic and onlookers.

An investigation file was completed and submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP. On 4 October 2001, the DPP directed that no prosecution take place in this case. I am further informed by the Garda authorities that a review of the investigation is being conducted and the issues raised by the Deputy will form part of the review.

Questions Nos. 64 and 65 answered with Question No. 27.
Question No. 66 answered with QuestionNo. 23.

Garda Accommodation.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

67 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the cost of accommodating recruit gardaí in local private accommodation in the Templemore area for 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3375/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the cost of accommodating recruit gardaí in local private accommodation in the Templemore area for 2005 amounted to €845,117.

The Deputy will be aware that a new accommodation centre was recently completed in the Garda college on time and within budget.

Asylum Applications.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

68 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the calls by the Catholic and Protestant Archbishops of Dublin to regularise the status of asylum seekers who have been five years or more in the asylum process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3561/06]

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

167 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the recent calls by both Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland Archbishops of Dublin for an amnesty for asylum seekers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3715/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 68 and 167 together.

I have noted the comments made in early January by Archbishop John Neill and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin on issues concerning immigrants and I appreciate the sincerity with which their comments were made. I do not, however, agree with the suggestion that, as the Deputy puts it, we should "regularise the status of asylum seekers who have been five years or more in the asylum process".

The proposal from the two archbishops would appear to be even wider in scope in that it refers to immigrants generally who are here longer than five years being permitted to remain in the State.

In the case of asylum applicants, I would point out to the Deputies that due to the comprehensive Government investment in staff and resources in the asylum determination agencies over recent years, there are now only 433 applicants in the asylum system for more than six months, with many of these being at an advanced stage of processing. This compares to some 6,500 cases over six months old, which were outstanding in September 2001.

"Regularising" the status of asylum seekers on the basis suggested would have a negative impact on asylum applications, which fell by some 40% in 2004 and a further 9% in 2005. Indeed, it would act as a pull factor in terms of the number of unfounded applications being received. Such a move would also impact negatively on the considerable progress which has been made in reducing timescales for processing applications and on our ability to accommodate the individuals concerned.

By way of illustration concerning pull factors, I would refer the Deputies to the fact that a considerable increase in asylum numbers was experienced in the aftermath of the July 1999 decision to allow asylum seekers access to the labour market. This led to a three-fold increase in the average number of applications per month, rising to 1,217 applications in December 1999 compared to an average of 364 per month for the period January to July 1999.

Our asylum processing agencies now operate accelerated processing arrangements for nationals of those states which are subject to ministerial prioritisation directions, namely, Nigeria, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and South Africa. Under these arrangements, applications are processed at the initial stage in ORAC in an average of 16 working days, and for appeal determinations in RAT in an average of 14 working days. These five nationalities currently account for almost 40% of all asylum applications.

All asylum applications are now allocated an interview date on the day on which they apply for refugee status to ORAC. This means that an interview is normally scheduled within 20 working days from the date of the initial application with cases in the prioritised caseload being interviewed within nine to 12 days.

The greatest service we can provide to those who should be recognised as refugees is to ensure that their claims are decided speedily, and that nothing is done which undermines this policy priority by attracting large numbers of non-genuine applicants to the detriment of genuine applicants. The structures currently in place provide the State with an asylum system that meets the highest international standards and fulfils our international obligations under the 1951 Geneva Convention on the status of refugees to those seeking asylum. Overloading the process with large numbers of new applicants would be totally contrary to these obligations and could completely negate the major investment in effort, time and resources which has gone into bringing our overall strategy to its current status.

As regards immigration generally, the Government has already responded generously through the Irish-born child scheme 2005, which has resulted so far in 16,696 applicants being granted leave to remain out of a total of 17,907 applications received. The IBC-05 scheme has also had an impact on other areas of the asylum and immigration processes as, for example, many of those successful applicants might otherwise have been considered for leave to remain in the context of the deportation system.

Following the ending of that scheme, an analysis is being carried out to determine the number and nature of the remaining cases and to establish a reasonable view of the number that are still in the State. This will facilitate the normal ongoing review of approaches taken to particular caseloads within the immigration system having regard to the reality of the circumstances which exist at the time.

This year, I will also be bringing forward legislation in the form of an immigration and residence Bill with a view to providing a comprehensive legislative base for such areas as visas, border controls, admissions of non-nationals and residence status, as well as action to address illegal immigration. A key part of the Bill will include proposals for a new streamlined removals system for persons not entitled or no longer entitled to be in the State. Legislation will also be brought forward to assist in tackling people trafficking and smuggling.

Questions Nos. 69 and 70 answered with Question No. 23.

Paternity Leave.

David Stanton

Ceist:

71 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to the recent findings of the survey of work-life balance (details supplied), his views on the fact that 86.1% of the people surveyed believed that paternity leave should be a legal entitlement and that approximately 60% felt that all paternity leave should be paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3551/06]

While there is no statutory entitlement to paternity leave, many employers in both the public and private sectors have arrangements in place providing short periods of paid paternity leave.

Paternity leave was considered in the context of a review of the Parental Leave Act 1998 conducted by a working group chaired by my Department. The working group comprised the social partners, relevant Departments and the Equality Authority. The report of the working group on the review of the Parental Leave Act 1998 was published on 29 April 2002.

Paternity leave was considered by the working group, taking into account the following issues: the reconciliation of work and family life and balanced participation of men and women in work and family life; the cost to employers; and the comparative situation in other EU member states.

While acknowledging that a statutory arrangement to provide an entitlement to time off for fathers at the time of childbirth would enhance arrangements for the reconciliation of work and family life, the working group could not reach consensus on the issue.

Subsequently, no agreement was reached on paternity leave by the social partners in the context of the negotiations on the Sustaining Progress partnership agreement. In the absence of a consensus among the social partners, the Government does not propose to provide for a statutory entitlement to paternity leave.

Garda Recruitment.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

72 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of non-nationals who applied to join the Garda Síochána in the recent recruitment drive; the number whose applications were successful and the countries of origin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3501/06]

The Public Appointments Service, PAS, is responsible for the administration of the application process as well as stage 1, aptitude testing, and stage 2, interview, of the Garda recruitment process. Information is not compiled on the nationality of persons who apply to join the Garda Síochána.

The PAS conducts two voluntary equality monitoring surveys, one at the application stage and a second at stage 1, aptitude test. Completion of those surveys is voluntary and is not linked in any way with the actual application form.

Of a total of 8,462 applicants, 6,890 of those, i.e. 81%, completed the survey at the application stage. The PAS has compiled statistical reports of the profile of applicants based on the information provided by those who completed the voluntary surveys. This is based on the described "ethnic category" of applicants. Data are not recorded based on country of origin.

The PAS has advised that, of the 6,890 applicants who completed the survey at application stage, 1,310 applicants indicated that they were in an ethnic category other than "white Irish" as set out in the following table:

Ethnic Category

No. who applied and completed equality monitoring survey

White — other

348

Black — African

124

Black — other

5

Asian — Chinese

602

Asian — other

153

Other

78

Total

1,310

The equivalent breakdown of applicants based on the results of the second PAS survey of applicants who went on to attend the Stage 1 aptitude tests is as set out in the table below:

Ethnic category

No. who sat test

White — other

146

Black — African

45

Black — other

4

Asian — Chinese

463

Asian — other

76

Other

123

Total

857

This survey at stage 1 is also voluntary but not anonymous. Accordingly, the PAS were able to identify the profile of those who succeeded in the aptitude test, as follows:

Ethnic category

No. who qualified

White — other

57

Black — African

2

Black — other

1

Asian — Chinese

101

Asian — other

10

Other

22

Total

193

The remaining stages of the recruitment from this competition will be completed by the Garda Commissioner in the coming months.

The participation from ethnic minorities in our police force will make a positive and lasting contribution to the ongoing change and modernisation in the Garda Síochána. I look forward to the day when trainees originating from all continents will graduate at the college and go on to achieve career distinction in the Garda Síochána. Planning for the policing service we want to have for this country in 20 years' time should begin now. We must be proactive, progressive and have a vision as to how the Garda Síochána can provide an effective policing service in a more diverse Ireland.

Medical Cards.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

73 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 who on changing from invalidity pension to the old age pension lost their medical card. [3619/06]

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.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

74 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 who has been denied the medical card on the grounds that their daughter, who is also on social welfare, lives with them. [3620/06]

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.

Asylum Support Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

75 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if confirmation will be given to correspondence (details supplied) which outlines deep concern regarding the plight of unaccompanied minor asylum seekers; her assessment of the scale of the problem; the number of these young people who arrived here in 2004 and 2005; the steps she and related agencies have taken to deal with the welfare issues which surround unaccompanied minor asylum-seekers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3712/06]

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 the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

However, I also wish to advise the Deputy that the Health Service Executive commissioned a review of services provided to separated children seeking asylum and unaccompanied minors in 2005. I have received a copy of that report, which is under examination in my office, and in that regard I have asked that an interdepartmental working group be established to consider the issues involved.

Furthermore, on 7 December 2005 my office met the Social Services Inspectorate and the HSE to discuss the issue of accommodation standards for unaccompanied minors. It was agreed at that meeting that the standards for children in residential care will apply to accommodation for unaccompanied minors of 16 years and under. Regarding accommodation for those in the 17 to 18 age group, the same standards will apply, subject to guidance notes being drafted by the SSI in consultation with the HSE.

Grant Payments.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

76 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare is unable to qualify for home care grant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3636/06]

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.

Water Fluoridation.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

77 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the extent of dental fluorosis here; her views on whether fluoridation of the public water supplies is a cause or the primary cause; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3640/06]

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

78 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the measures her Department is taking to regulate the overall intake of fluoride through the public water supplies and other sources; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3641/06]

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

79 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the first of many recommendations by the forum on fluoridation, namely, the lowering of the fluoride level in drinking water to a range of 0.6 to 0.8 parts per million, with a target of 0.7 parts per million, has been acted on by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3642/06]

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

80 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the growing health concerns regarding the whole fluoridation process, she will revisit the question of adding fluoride to the public drinking water supply; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3643/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 77 to 80, inclusive, together.

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Services Executive, HSE, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. That includes responsibility for fluoridation.

Fluoridation of public water supplies as a public health measure is accepted as being one of the most effective methods of ensuring against tooth decay. The World Health Organisation, WHO, recommends fluoridation of public water supplies and has stated that "fluoridation of water supplies, where possible, is the most effective public health measure for the prevention of dental decay." The WHO has also stated that "people of all ages, including the elderly, benefit from community water fluoridation".

The recently completed survey of oral health, covering the whole island, shows that fluoridation of public water supplies continues to be a highly effective public health measure. It has contributed significantly to a major reduction in the incidence of dental decay in the Republic of Ireland. That compares favourably with the incidence of dental decay in Northern Ireland, which has significantly higher rates of dental decay and which does not have fluoridated water supplies.

The oral health survey also shows that fluoridation of public water supplies has a significant impact on dental decay in disadvantaged areas. The gap in decay between non-disadvantaged and disadvantaged areas in the Republic of Ireland is significantly less than the gap between such areas in Northern Ireland.

The research carried out shows that, at the levels of usage of fluoride in the Republic of Ireland's public water supply, there is no risk to health. Fluoridation of the water supply in Ireland is limited to a maximum of one part per million. In that regard, the WHO and the European Union have identified that fluoridation levels below 1.5 parts per million are acceptable.

The Forum on Fluoridation recognised that there had been some increase in the incidence of mild dental fluorosis in Ireland. Most dental fluorosis is detectable only by dentists. The forum, while recommending that fluoridation of water supplies continue, recommended a reduction in the levels of fluoride used from between 0.8 parts per million and 1 part per million to between 0.6 parts per million and 0.8 parts per million.

The Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health was set up in 2004. The terms of reference for the expert body are: to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the Forum on Fluoridation; to advise the Minister and evaluate ongoing research — including emerging issues — on all aspects of fluoride and its delivery methods as an established health technology and as required; and to report to the Minister on matters of concern at his or her request or on its own initiative.

As part of its work in implementing the recommendations of the forum, the expert body examined the question of what amendments may be required to the regulations, under the Health (Fluoridation of Water Supplies) Act 1960, to give effect to the forum's recommendation to reduce the level of fluorides in the public water supplies. The expert body has reported its findings to my Department. My Department is currently taking the necessary steps to introduce a new regulation.

A research project on fluoride delivery systems, which includes an investigation into fluoride intake in the Irish population, was undertaken at the Oral Health Services Research Centre, OHSRC, in University College Cork on behalf of the Department.

As part of that project, the OHSRC developed methods to be used when measuring fluoride ingestion in the population. One of the areas of research pursued was the development of standardised methods for measuring fluoride content of samples of saliva, urine, serum, fingernail clippings and mineralised tissues. Those studies were undertaken in close collaboration with researchers in Europe and the US to make sure that the methods being used conform to international standards. The results of that research and proposals for any future research are a matter for consideration by the Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

81 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the maximum nursing home subvention rate payable in each of the Health Service Executive areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3649/06]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

82 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the maximum rate payable under the nursing home subvention regulations under the policy for dealing with hardship cases in each of the Health Service Executive areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3650/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 81 and 82 together.

The Nursing Home (Subvention) Regulations 1993 are administered by the Health Service Executive. There are currently three rates of subvention payable, i.e. €114.30, €152.40 and €190.50 for the three levels of dependency, which are medium, high and maximum. Included in those payments is an increase of 25% which came into effect in April 2001.

The HSE has discretion to pay more than the maximum rate of subvention relative to an individual's level of dependency in a case, for example, where personal funds are exhausted. The application of those provisions in an individual case is a matter for the HSE in the context of meeting increasing demands for subvention, subject to the provisions of the Health Act 2004. The average rate of subvention paid by the HSE generally exceeds the current approved basic rates. An additional €20 million has been provided for subvention payments this year, including addressing the variations in payments in different areas.

The broad policy questions relating to long-term care have been examined by an interdepartmental group on long-term care, which has now reported to Government. Among the issues that it has examined is the question of the appropriate level of State support for long-term residential care. The report has been submitted to the Government.

Departmental Correspondence.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

83 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a reply will be issued to correspondence (details supplied); the reason for the delay in same ; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3655/06]

As the Deputy's question relates to the availability of a reply to correspondence with the chief executive officer of the Health Service Executive, my Department has referred the matter to the parliamentary affairs division of the executive for attention.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

84 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the outstanding matters in a case (details supplied); and if this dispute will be resolved. [3664/06]

The Deputy's question relates to human resource management issues within the Health Service Executive. As that is a matter for the executive under the Health Act 2004, my 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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

85 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her Department’s views on providing the necessary financial support for a group (details supplied) to erect a new centre which would facilitate the services which are provided for that group; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3670/06]

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 a reply on this issue sent directly to the Deputy.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

86 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person undergoing a knee operation under the National Treatment Purchase Fund in a hospital in Galway is entitled to transport or a transport allowance while travelling to and from their home in County Carlow. [3692/06]

The Department is aware that the National Treatment Purchase Fund pays patients' travel costs in certain circumstances. The NTPF should be contacted directly regarding the specific case that the Deputy has in mind.

Special Educational Needs.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

87 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the ratio of speech and language therapists per 1,000 of the population; the comparison of this ratio with that prevailing in the UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Spain; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3693/06]

Current information on the number of speech and language therapists in the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain and consequently the ratios per 1,000 of the population as compared with this country, is not held by the Department of Health and Children. The report, Current and Future Supply and Demand Conditions in the Labour Market for Certain Professional Therapists, prepared by Peter Bacon and Associates and published in July 2001, stated that international data on the ratios of therapists, including speech and language therapists, to the population are rare. The report also highlighted that definitions and means of measurement differ and consequently reliable measurements are difficult to obtain. However, the report provided information on the ratio of therapists to population in England and Ireland at that time. This information determined that there were 9.6 speech and language therapists per 100,000 of population in England compared with 8.1 in Ireland.

There were 548 whole time equivalent speech and language therapists employed in the public health service at end September 2005. This represents an increase of 162 or 42% over the number employed at end December 2000 and reflects significant increases in numbers employed in promotional grades. This substantial improvement in employment levels, together with the quadrupling of the number of training places in speech and language therapy, from 25 to 100 places, arising from the implementation of the recommendations of the Bacon report, will continue to contribute to significant gains in population ratios for the speech and language therapy profession on an ongoing basis.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

88 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of patients awaiting hip replacement surgery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3694/06]

Responsibility for the collection and reporting of waiting lists and waiting times now falls within the remit of the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF. The Department of Health and Children has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the NTPF to reply to the Deputy directly with the information requested.

Health Services.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

89 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding orthodontic service provision in the Health Service Executive regions; the waiting lists for treatment and assessment in the respective regions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3695/06]

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 of Health and Children 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 Home Subventions.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

90 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the scale of nursing home subventions; her views on whether same are adequate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3696/06]

The Nursing Home (Subvention) Regulations 1993 are administered by the Health Service Executive. There are currently three rates of subvention payable, €114.30, €152.40 and €190.50 for the three levels of dependency which are medium, high and maximum. Included in these payments is an increase of 25% which came into effect in April 2001.

The HSE has discretion to pay more than the maximum rate of subvention relative to an individual's level of dependency in a case, for example, where personal funds are exhausted. The application of these provisions in an individual case is a matter for the HSE in the context of meeting increasing demands for subvention subject to the provisions of the Health Act 2004. The average rate of subvention paid by the HSE generally exceeds the current approved basic rates. An additional €20 million has been provided for subvention payments this year including addressing the variations in payments in different areas.

The broad policy questions relating to long-term care have been examined by an interdepartmental group on long term-care which has now reported to Government. Among the issues it has examined is the question of the appropriate level of State support for long-term residential care. The report has been submitted to Government.

Hospital Staff.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

91 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of nursing posts vacant in public and private hospitals at the end of 2005; the steps being taken to address the problem; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3699/06]

According to the most recent Health Service Executive — employers agency survey of nursing resources in the public health service, recruitment remains ahead of resignations and retirements. Employers reported that 1,131 vacancies existed at 30 September 2005, a vacancy rate of 3.24%. This figure includes vacancies in hospitals, intellectual disability services and community health. It does not include vacancies in the private health sector. The vacancy figure should be seen in the context of overall employment in the public health service which now stands at 34,878 whole time equivalent nurses and midwives, 41,655 individuals, which represents a 36% increase since 1997.

There will always be some level of movement due to resignations, retirements and nurses availing of opportunities to change employment and locations. There is an additional pressure this year due to the lack of domestic nursing graduates in autumn 2005 because of the move from a three-year diploma to a four-year degree programme to train nurses. The first graduates from the degree programme will be available for recruitment this coming autumn.

The HSE's nursing and midwifery recruitment and retention national project is monitoring the manpower situation on an ongoing basis. During 2005 the HSE conducted a successful recruitment drive in India and the Philippines and there will be a further international recruitment campaign this year. The HSE is also targeting inactive nurses for recruitment through an extensive advertising campaign. The financial arrangements for those undertaking back to nursing courses were improved last year. There was a 62% increase in attendance at back to nursing courses in 2005.

Psychological Service.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

92 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps taken to implement the recommendations of the report of the review group on psychological services within the health services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3700/06]

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 of Health and Children 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.

In response to a key recommendation of the joint review report relating to human resource planning, supply side initiatives funded by the Department of Health and Children in recent years have led to improvements in the numbers of training places available in clinical psychology. New post-graduate courses were established in NUIG and UL as a consequence providing a total of 22 additional training places.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

93 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when nursing home subvention will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3701/06]

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.

Health Services.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

94 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress in coming to an agreement with chiropodists in order that patients with medical cards are not charged for previously free services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3702/06]

While the Health Service Executive, HSE, has no statutory obligation to provide chiropody services to GMS patients, in practice arrangements are made to provide these services. Before the establishment of the HSE the nature of the arrangements for chiropody and the level of service provided was a matter for individual health boards and so a degree of variation in practice developed over time. Priority is usually given to certain groups of people, including people who are medical card holders aged 65 years and over. In several regions the service is provided by private chiropodists by arrangement with the HSE.

I consider it inappropriate for private chiropodists who are providing services on behalf of the HSE to charge patients a top-up fee and I have conveyed this view formally to the HSE. The Department of Health and Children requested the HSE to initiate a review of the fee arrangements in place for the provision of chiropody services, with a view to ensuring that such additional fees will no longer be levied on persons in receipt of this service. The HSE has recently advised me that it has initiated a review of chiropody services.

Care of the Elderly.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

95 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department has received complaints regarding the prevalence of MRSA in private nursing homes, geriatric hospitals or other institutions caring for the elderly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3703/06]

A number of concerns have been raised with the Department of Health and Children regarding the prevalence of MRSA in private nursing homes, geriatric hospitals or other institutions caring for older people. The HSE has been asked to pursue the issues raised and replies will issue directly to the relevant correspondents.

An interdivisional group has been established in the Department, comprising the office of the chief medical officer, community health, acute hospitals and services for older people. The purpose of this group is to engage formally with the HSE to oversee the implementation of a strategy to combat health care associated infection and anti-microbial resistance. The HSE has submitted its national service plan for 2006 to the group and this is under consideration. The Department is continuing to engage with the HSE to agree on a series of actions over the next period of time so that MRSA can be effectively dealt with so as to see a reduction in the incidence and effects of these infections.

Special Educational Needs.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

96 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the establishment of a multi-disciplinary team to serve the needs of students of a special class (details supplied); the staffing positions which constitute such a team; if a certain Health Service Executive provider will continue to provide services to the students in question; her plans to establish a new service provider or if the children will be required to move to their local community services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3704/06]

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

97 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a grant for the provision of support services to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will remain in place until a full multi-disciplinary team is appointed to serve the needs of pupils within a special class; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3705/06]

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

98 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the documentation and meetings held regarding the assessment of support service requirements and proposals for a service plan to be established for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in order to facilitate the transition of the child from primary to secondary school education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3706/06]

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

99 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a secondary school class (details supplied) in County Kildare is classified and regarded by her Department as an outreach class; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3707/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 96 to 99, inclusive, together.

The Deputy's questions relate 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 of Health and Children 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.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

100 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the breakdown in the costings for the planning relocation of Temple Street Children’s Hospital to the Mater site which the authorities at Temple Street estimate to be in the region of €80 million and not the €200 million referred to by her. [3723/06]

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 of Health and Children 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.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

101 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of children that have a form of disability and are on a waiting list for assessment and diagnosis in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3725/06]

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 of Health and Children has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have a reply on this issue sent directly to the Deputy.

Proposed Legislation.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

102 Mr. Boyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when legislation will be published allowing persons in long-term foster care to opt to become adopted by their long-term carers on reaching their 18th birthday. [3747/06]

The Adoption (Hague Convention, Adoption Authority and Miscellaneous) Bill is being drafted in the parliamentary counsel's office. It includes a provision enabling a person who is 18 years of age or more and who has been in long-term foster care to be adopted by their foster carer or carers. The intention is to publish the Bill later in 2006.

Consultancy Contracts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

103 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of occasions on which she has sought advice from public relations consultancy firms or individuals, media advisers or other non-established civil servants in the past three years; if such advisers are retained on a permanent or per diem basis or otherwise; if such persons have had previous experience with Government Departments or subsidiary bodies; the rate and basis of remuneration in each case; the departmental headings from which payments were made; the extent to which payments were made under the heading miscellaneous; if reference will be made to same in the case of each Minister of State in her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3776/06]

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

Decentralisation Programme.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

104 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 159 of 9 November 2005, the position regarding the progress of providing decentralisation to Carrickmacross town; whether or not this project will be going ahead as there are rumours that same has been cancelled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3668/06]

The decentralisation programme for Carrickmacross remains unchanged and shall proceed as scheduled.

The position in relation to the acquisition of suitable property in Carrickmacross is as outlined in my reply of 9 November 2005. The OPW is still in negotiations regarding a suitable site. To date there have been 95 applications to move to Carrickmacross.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

105 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 159 of 9 November 2005, the position regarding the progress of providing decentralisation to Monaghan town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3683/06]

The decentralisation programme for Monaghan town remains unchanged and shall proceed as scheduled. The process of sourcing a suitable property solution in Monaghan is continuing. To date, there have been 38 applications to move to Monaghan town.

National Pensions Reserve Fund.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

106 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Finance the performance levels for 2005 of the current equity investments of the national pension fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3684/06]

Preliminary 2005 performance figures for the national pensions reserve fund were published in the end-year press release issued by the National Treasury Management Agency, which is the manager of the fund, on 30 December 2005. The press release reported that the fund earned a return of €2,291 million or 19.2% in 2005, reflecting its heavy concentration in equities and the sustained growth in world equity markets. The results are preliminary as markets had not yet closed at the time of issue of the statement. The press release does not give returns on individual asset classes.

I understand that the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission, which controls and manages the fund, will be publishing its 2005 review shortly and that the review will contain more detailed information of the type requested by the Deputy.

Garda Stations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

107 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when all the arrangements for the provision of the proposed new Garda station at Leixlip, County Kildare will be completed with a view to identification of a start up date in respect of site works; if his attention has been drawn to the long drawn out nature and complete exacerbation of the public arising from the continued delays; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3771/06]

The final date for the receipt of submissions under the Part 9 consultation process is 2 February 2006.

Commencement of construction will depend on the outcome of the Part 9 consultation process, tendering process and the appointment of a suitable contractor. It is expected that construction work will commence on site by the end of the year.

Consultancy Contracts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

108 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the number of occasions on which he has sought advice from public relations consultancy firms or individuals, media advisers or other non-established civil servants in the past three years; if such advisers are retained on a permanent or per diem basis or otherwise; if such persons have had previous experience with Government Departments or subsidiary bodies; the rate and basis of remuneration in each case; the departmental headings from which payments were made; the extent to which payments were made under the heading miscellaneous; if reference will be made to same in the case of each Minister of State in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3777/06]

I take it that the Deputy is asking about arrangements in place in the years 2003 to 2005 between my Department, including my predecessor and myself, and PR consultancy firms and individuals, and media advisers. I also take it that his reference to "other non-established civil servants" relates to ministerial advisers employed as non-established civil servants and does not include other non-established civil servants whose functions, generally, are not related to the provision of advice in, for example, evaluators under the national development plan, NDP, and community support framework, CSF, or new entrants to the Civil Service serving the customary probationary period prior to becoming established.

On that basis, the details sought are as follows: my Department did not have contracts with media advisers or with non-established civil servants as ministerial advisers in the period. I would add that the staff in my Department's press and information office are all established civil servants.

The table below sets out, for all the contracts my Department had in the period from 1 January 2003 to 31 December 2005 with public relations consultancy firms, the year in which the contract was awarded, the year in which the contract was or will be completed, whether the firm had pervious experience with a Government Department or subsidiary body, the basis of remuneration for the contract, the amount of the remuneration and the subhead of Vote 6, Office of the Minister for Finance, from which the remuneration was paid. In no case was a miscellaneous subhead used.

PR Consultant

Description of the Service

Year of Award of Contract

Year of Termination of Contract

Experience with Government Departments/ Subsidiary bodies

Total Remuneration

Basis of remuneration

Vote 6 Subhead

Curtin Communications

Provision of publicity services for NDP/CSF

2001

2003

Yes

357,643

Contract for services

J1 — Structural Funds Technical Assistance

Curtin Communications (later merged with and became Grayling)

Provision of publicity services for NDP/CSF

2003

2006

Yes

408,555

Contract for services

J1 — Structural Funds Technical Assistance

Keating & Associates

NDP/CSF Communications Strategy Review Workshop

2003

2003

Yes

10,890

Contract for services

J1 — Structural Funds Technical Assistance

Q4

PR services for informal ECOFIN

2003

2004

Yes

83,500

Contract for services

A9 — European Presidency

The Media Group

Service provided as part of a consortium engaged in marketing the www.etenders.ie website.

2004

2006

No

80,000

Contract for services

R — Procurement Management Reform

Although the Office of Public Works is not funded directly or indirectly by my Department, my Department has asked that office to communicate to the Deputy any relevant information in relation to his question.

Energy Resources.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

109 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his Department’s view on the possibility of multinational companies controlling huge energy production resources here. [3657/06]

At present there is gas production in Ireland from: (a) the Kinsale Head and Ballycotton gas fields, in production since 1978 and now almost at depletion levels; and (b) the Seven Heads field which has experienced significant production difficulties. The Corrib Gas field has yet to commence production and is unlikely to do so before 2008. We are fortunate to have an ongoing exploration programme with licences held by a variety of companies, some of which are multinational.

The dilemma facing any Government with prospective territory is that unless it is prepared to engage in expensive and risky exploration itself, it needs to license willing private sector parties to do so. The corollary of this is that if exploration is successful, the successful explorer will be given production rights in accordance with terms known in advance. It is important, of course, that all relevant information is made available to the State. It is clear that all Governments since the mid-1970s have accepted this basic approach. Proven reserves today are modest rather than huge and it is overwhelmingly in the national interest that any additional resources are discovered and produced.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

110 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason for the delay in publishing the wind energy strategy document. [3658/06]

The renewable energy development group is chaired by my Department and comprises relevant experts from the administrative, industry and scientific sector including the Commission for Energy Regulation, CER, Sustainable Energy Ireland, SEI, ESB National Grid and the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, among others.

The work of the group has been informed by the renewable energy consultation process and the submissions made in response to our consultation document. Other inputs to the group came from: direct presentations to the group from industry representatives and their associations; analysis conducted by subgroups of the group itself; and the work of the CHP strategy group and the bioenergy strategy group. The group's report will form the basis of my future policy decisions on the increased penetration of renewable energy technologies in the electricity market and will seek to ensure that developers can make a reasonable rate of return on renewable energy projects while ensuring that the interests of national competitiveness and the ultimate burden of cost to the final consumer are all fully taken into consideration.

The target for renewables by 2020 will be determined in the context of the all-island electricity market. A joint North-South public consultation process on an all-island vision for renewable energy by 2020 and beyond has been undertaken and the aim is to develop a long-term strategy for renewable energy on the island as a whole. The individual responses and a synthesis paper have been posted on both Departments' websites since December last and work is ongoing between the two Departments to develop the process taking into account views of industry stakeholders.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

111 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans for the Government to publish a comprehensive alternative energy strategy. [3659/06]

I intend to publish an energy policy consultation paper in the first half of 2006 which will set out medium and long-term perspectives for national energy policy and which will take account of the considerable and complex challenges for Irish energy policy going forward. This paper will deal with all aspects of the energy sector, including alternative energy.

Decentralisation Programme.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

112 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources further to Parliamentary Question No. 322 of 2 November 2005 the position regarding the progress being made regarding decentralisation in Cavan; if the site has been procured; when he expects work to commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3718/06]

The Office of Public Works, OPW, deals with matters relating to the acquisition of sites and the procurement of property for decentralisation. The latest report from OPW indicated that negotiations on the purchase of a suitable site in Cavan are nearing conclusion. My Department has already provided an outline specification of our accommodation requirements to OPW and will provide a detailed brief as required by OPW.

The latest information from the Public Appointments Service is that 171 expressions of interest have been received for 378 Department posts in Cavan. The process of reassigning Department staff that made a CAF application to relocate with the Department to each of the decentralised locations is under way.

In line with the centrally agreed protocols, contact has been made by my Department with relevant Departments in relation to their staff who wish to move with the Department to these decentralised locations. In addition, a number of staff have been recruited recently and have signed up to decentralise to Cavan.

Consultancy Contracts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

113 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of occasions on which he has sought advice from public relations consultancy firms or individuals, media advisers or other non-established civil servants in the past three years; if such advisers are retained on a permanent or per diem basis or otherwise; if such persons have had previous experience with Government Departments or subsidiary bodies; the rate and basis of remuneration in each case; the Departmental headings from which payments were made; the extent to which payments were made under the heading miscellaneous; if reference will be made to same in the case of each Minister of State in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3778/06]

My Department sought advice and support on one occasion from a communications company in 2005. The communications firm Fleishman-Hillard-Saunders of 15 Fitzwilliam Quay, Dublin 4, were contracted in November to provide this advice and support in relation to the communications element of the restructuring of the inland fisheries sector. The contract, which is ongoing, carries a maximum possible cost of €29,000 exclusive of administrative costs and VAT.

I employ a media adviser on a full-time basis who is employed as a temporary unestablished civil servant and paid on the principal officer, modified, salary scale. I have regular ongoing consultations with the media adviser.

Harbours and Piers.

Joe Walsh

Ceist:

114 Mr. Walsh asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if a project (details supplied) will be forwarded for consideration for CLÁR funding to the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3798/06]

Garnish pier is owned by Cork County Council and responsibility for its repair and maintenance rests with the local authority in the first instance. Cork County Council submitted a proposal to the Department in 2003 for works at Garnish pier at an estimated cost of €750,000. Last year, under the small fishery harbours programme, I allocated funding of €45,000 to Cork County Council towards pier improvement works at Garnish pier costing a total of €60,000.

Garnish pier is in an area coming within the scope of the CLÁR programme. However, the current project cannot be considered for funding under the coastal development measure of that programme, which is co-funded between the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and this Department. One of the criteria for grant aid under this scheme is that only projects costing up to a maximum of €200,000 per project are funded. This project is under consideration at present under this Department's small fishery harbours programme for 2006.

Diplomatic Representation.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

115 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, prior to making the decision to advance the funds necessary to facilitate the payment of a bond as detailed in Parliamentary Question No. 3 of 19 May 2004, his attention was drawn to the fact that the persons affected by this bond were participating in the exchange of know-how in terrorism and explosives for massive amounts of cash apparently to be spent on distorting democratic processes here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3660/06]

The three individuals concerned were released from prison by a Colombian court under conditional freedom on payment of a bond. At the request of the defence team, and given in particular the on-going concern about the safety of the three people, the Department agreed to advance funds to cover the bond on the basis of a firm undertaking to repay the money involved. The decision was taken exclusively on consular grounds and was neither discussed nor taken at political level. The funds in question were repaid in full.

Passport Applications.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

116 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the way in which a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath can receive an Irish passport; the way in which he should proceed in order to obtain such a passport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3669/06]

Only Irish citizens may obtain an Irish passport. Documentary evidence must be provided to confirm an applicant's entitlement to Irish citizenship when first making an application for a passport. On the basis of the information provided by the Deputy, it is not clear on what precise basis the person in question is claiming citizenship. I will therefore outline the requirements which may apply in this case.

As I understand from the Deputy's correspondence, the person in question was born in the US. He would be automatically entitled to Irish citizenship if one of his parents was born in Ireland, as seems to be suggested. The passport office would require the birth certificate and marriage certificate of the parent to show that he-she was born in Ireland and that the person in question was, therefore, entitled to citizenship. Inquiries concerning birth registration in Ireland should be made to the General Register Office, Government Offices, Convent Road, Roscommon. Telephone LoCall: 1890 252076. If such inquiries have been made but have been unsuccessful in tracing his father's birth record, the person in question should contact the passport office to establish what alternative evidence of birth in Ireland might be acceptable.

However, if it is the case that the person in question and both of his parents were born outside of Ireland and that he is claiming citizenship through a grandparent born in Ireland, then he would be required to have his birth entered on the foreign births register held by my Department before he would be eligible to apply for a passport. Relevant birth and marriage certificates would be required in support of this.

It would be best if the Deputy would ask the person in question to make contact with the passport officer at telephone 01 6733046. We could then try to help clarify his claim to citizenship and also advise him on how best to proceed.

Human Rights Issues.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

117 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the legal basis allowing prisoners to be transported via the State’s territory by a third country; if the Government authorised this kind of transportation; and if so, the kind of assurances it can demand regarding the conditions under which these prisoners are held. [3731/06]

Irish law permits the transit through Irish territory of a person being detained by the authorities of another state in two circumstances.

Section 40(1) of the Extradition Act 1965 allows the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to permit the transit through the State of a person being conveyed from one country to another upon that person's surrender pursuant to an agreement in the nature of an extradition agreement. This is subject to any relevant extradition provisions and to such conditions, if any, that the Minister thinks proper.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform may also consent to the transfer of a sentenced prisoner through Irish territory pursuant to the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons 1983, when he is satisfied that Article 16 of that convention is applicable. The convention defines a sentence as a punishment involving deprivation of liberty ordered by a court on account of a criminal offence. As stated above, any authorisations in this area would be a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

118 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government knows of any landings on the State’s territory of aircraft which may have carried prisoners to Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3732/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

120 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government requested information from the American authorities regarding alleged flights to, from or over this State’s territory by aircraft chartered by the CIA which may have been used for the illegal transportation of prisoners; if so, the replies it has received to date in 2006. [3735/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 118 and 120 together.

I know of no landings on the State's territory of aircraft which have been illegally carrying prisoners transiting Ireland to Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere. I am aware of media and other reports concerning allegations that aircraft, which it is claimed may at some stage have been used in so-called extraordinary rendition operations between countries other than Ireland, might on different occasions have transited Shannon Airport. In his reply of 13 December 2005, my colleague the Minister for Transport furnished details in regard to the movements of a small number of aircraft cited in such reports. There is no authoritative basis on which to come to a view on the truth of the allegations which have been made regarding the activity of such aircraft outside our jurisdiction. Moreover, none of these reports have included any concrete evidence or specific allegations that prisoners have been transported through Irish airports or airspace as part of an extraordinary rendition operation. In the Government's contacts with the US authorities, on which I have reported to the House in considerable detail, most recently on 14 December 2005, we have been concerned above all to ensure that no extraordinary rendition of prisoners has occurred or is occurring through Ireland. The assurances that we have received from the US authorities that this is indeed the case have been categorical and unambiguous, and have been repeated as recently as last week. I should add that our complete opposition to the practice of extraordinary rendition has been made clear on numerous occasions.

Security Issues.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

119 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government knows of or has been passively or actively involved in the carrying out of abductions by foreign secret services on the State’s territory or that of other states. [3733/06]

I am aware of media reports that abductions have been carried out in other states by foreign secret services, and that criminal investigations have been initiated in two European jurisdictions into such abductions. The Government is completely opposed to such abductions and there is no question of any involvement on our part. I am not aware of any suggestion that such activities, which would be illegal under Irish law, might have been carried out on the State's territory. Questions relating to operational security issues within the State are a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Question No. 120 answered with QuestionNo. 118.

Consultancy Contracts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

121 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of occasions on which he has sought advice from public relations consultancy firms or individuals, media advisers or other non-established civil servants in the past three years; if such advisers are retained on a permanent or per diem basis or otherwise; if such persons have had previous experience with Government Departments or subsidiary bodies; the rate and basis of remuneration in each case; the departmental headings from which payments were made; the extent to which payments were made under the heading miscellaneous; if reference will be made to same in the case of each Minister of State in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3779/06]

No public relations consultants were engaged by the Department in the past three years. However, in the interest of completeness, the Deputy may wish to note the following. Following a tender process, Red Dog Design were employed by the Department, on behalf of the interdepartmental presidency administrative planning group, for work relating to the design and branding for the EU Presidency and the launch of the Presidency logo. The company was paid €43,461.37 in 2003 for this work. The same company was paid €23,466.74 in 2004 for a promotion campaign for the EU Presidency website. The greater part of this amount was for the purchasing of media advertising space in national newspapers and on local radio.

Red Dog Design Consultants were also employed, following a tendering process, by Development Co-operation Ireland, a division of the Department of Foreign Affairs. The company was paid €46,201.50 in 2003, €94,332.23 in 2004 and €61,497 in 2005 for work in relation to the design and printing of various information booklets and publications. 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 January-March 2005 and Rachel Dalton Communications was paid €4,350.89 for work undertaken in October and November 2005.

I appointed a full-time press adviser on 30 September 2004. The conditions under which the appointment was made were set by the Minister for Finance. The appointment was to a temporary, unestablished position in the Civil Service and carries no entitlement to established status, by way of limited competition or otherwise. The officer's appointment will terminate no later than the date on which I cease to hold this office. The salary currently payable, €91,382 per annum, is based on the first long-service increment point on the principal officer standard pay scale. A pension contribution based on 11% of salary is also payable by the Department. These costs are a charge on the Department's salaries subhead in the normal way. The person concerned was also my press adviser in the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

Neither of the two Ministers of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs has appointed a press or media adviser. One press office, which is headed by my press adviser, serves the whole of the Department. An information officer is attached to the Department's Development Co-operation directorate to manage Development Co-operation Ireland's public information policy and strategy. This includes responsibility for publications and for media communications. The officer concerned is employed on the basis of a fixed-term contract and is, therefore, unestablished. The officer has had no previous experience with Departments or subsidiary bodies. The current salary applicable in this case is €68,485 per annum, which is the fourth point on a salary scale ranging from €61,570 to €70,789. This cost is a charge against the salaries subhead under Vote 29, international co-operation. A consultancy contract also provides assistance to the directorate in the management of its public information policy and strategy. The contract value is €34,880 and covers the period August 2005-06. The consultant concerned worked as a stagiaire with the Department during the last Presidency. This cost is a charge against the consultancy services subhead under Vote 29, international co-operation.

A short-term contract to assist in the planning and design of a comprehensive communications strategy for Development Co-operation Ireland was recently advertised on the Government procurement website. The objective is to identify ways of making the aid programme better known to the public. Six companies have been short-listed and will be invited to submit tenders over the coming weeks.

Prisoner Status.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

122 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will raise with the Bulgarian Government the case of a person (details supplied) who qualifies for Irish citizenship through two Irish grandparents, who was convicted and jailed in Bulgaria for a crime committed on 30 May 2005 for which another person had admitted guilt; if he will report to this Deputy the results of his discussions with the Bulgarian Government; if he will continue to exert pressure on the Government of Bulgaria to address the serious problems of corruption in their judicial system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3790/06]

I understand that the person mentioned by the Deputy is a British citizen and that he has not sought to avail of his qualification for Irish citizenship. I also understand that he has sought consular assistance from the British authorities in Bulgaria. The position generally is that if one travels abroad using the passport of a particular country, one will be treated accordingly by the authorities of the country visited.

The British authorities have confirmed to this Department that they are in regular contact with the Bulgarian authorities on the person's behalf and that they will continue to provide all possible consular assistance to him. In the particular circumstances, as raised by the Deputy, I have asked that our embassy in Sofia convey the Deputy's interest in the case, which we share, to the British authorities. Notwithstanding our lack of a formal role in this case, I will also ask the embassy to communicate this interest to the Bulgarian authorities.

Consultancy Contracts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

123 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of occasions on which he has sought advice from public relations consultancy firms or individuals, media advisers or other non-established civil servants in the past three years; if such advisers are retained on a permanent or per diem basis or otherwise; if such persons have had previous experience with Departments or subsidiary bodies; the rate and basis of remuneration in each case; the departmental headings from which payments were made; the extent to which payments were made under the heading miscellaneous; if reference will be made to same in the case of each Minister of State in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3780/06]

The only public relations or media advice sought during the last three years has been provided by Murray Consultants Limited who are currently under contract by my Department to provide a public relations and media service. The first such contract was awarded in June 2003 following a competitive tendering process. Following a second competitive tendering process in November 2004 Murray Consultants Limited were then awarded another contract from December 2004, which is due to expire shortly. The current contract with Murray Consultants provides for a retainer fee of €4,500 per month payable in arrears plus reasonable vouched expenses towards costs incurred in carrying out the contract such as mileage, telephone and postage costs. Payment is made from my Department's consultancy subhead. No payments are made under the heading miscellaneous.

Murray Consultants Limited stated in its tender documentation that it has undertaken work for the Department of Health and Children, the Revenue Commissioners, Fáilte Ireland, the Enterprise Strategy Group, the Higher Education Authority, the national pensions reserve fund and the International Fund for Ireland. I am not in a position to say if that is an exhaustive list.

Semi-State Bodies.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

124 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding Obair offices in County Mayo; if same will remain as independent bodies or if they will be taken over by another organisation; the changes that are planned for same; his proposals in relation to the Obair offices. [3639/06]

I am informed by FÁS that it has no plans to change the status of Obair offices in County Mayo.

Employment Rights Legislation.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

125 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress being made in relation to bringing forward the introduction of an entitlement for people to choose to work beyond the current age of retirement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3637/06]

Employment rights legislation, with the exception of the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967 to 2003, does not impose a retirement age on employees. Such legislation describes an employee as "a person of any age who has entered into or works under (or, where the employment has ceased, entered into or worked under) a contract of employment". However, in some employments, a "normal retirement age" exists for that employment only.

In relation to redundancy, the redundancy review group report of 2002, which produced recommendations for the updating of statutory redundancy legislation, considered that increasing the upper age limit of 66 for redundancy qualification purposes would not be a priority in the short- term if resources were scarce. The group recognised however that the labour force is becoming older and that participation in the labour force by older people, if desired, should be facilitated. Accordingly, it was recommended that consideration should be given in the medium term to removing the age cap or raising the age cap in conjunction with similar changes to unfair dismissals, equality and social and family legislation as recommended by the Equality Authority. In this connection, the upper age limit of 66 for bringing claims under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2001 was removed by the Equality Act 2004. The effect of this amendment is that the Unfair Dismissals Acts will not apply to dismissed employees who, at the date of their dismissal, had reached the normal retirement age in that employment, that is, if it is the policy in an employment to retire employees at a certain age, an employee who has reached that age is excluded from taking a case under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2001.

Work Permits.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

126 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the situation in relation to the renewal of working permits for non-Irish nationals; his views on the non-renewal of persons work permits; when it is proposed to introduce the green card permit system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3687/06]

In general, an application for the renewal of a work permit is granted provided that the conditions of employment specified in the permit have been adhered to by the employer. I envisage that the new economic migration arrangements, which I announced on 12 October 2005, will be implemented after the legislation has been passed through the Oireachtas.

Consultancy Contracts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

127 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of occasions on which he has sought advice from public relations consultancy firms or individuals, media advisers or other non-established civil servants in the past three years; if such advisers are retained on a permanent or per diem basis or otherwise; if such persons have had previous experience with Departments or subsidiary bodies; the rate and basis of remuneration in each case; the departmental headings from which payments were made; the extent to which payments were made under the heading miscellaneous; if reference will be made to same in the case of each Minister of State in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3781/06]

Since my appointment as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment I have not sought advice from public relations consultancy firms or individuals. I have appointed Ms Caitriona Meehan as a press adviser on a full-time basis at an annual salary equivalent to the third point of the principal officer scale. Ms Meehan has experience with Departments and subsidiary bodies. The Ministers of State in the Department have not appointed any such advisers.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

128 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the appeal officers who attended on behalf of his Department in relation to an oral hearing that was held for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; the name of the person or persons who dealt with the appeal; the rank of that person or persons; and if a copy of any notes that were taken on that day in relation to this appeal will be provided. [3635/06]

The person concerned appealed a decision to disallow his claim for unemployment assistance. The case was referred to an appeals officer who, following an oral hearing and having considered all the evidence, including that adduced at the hearing, allowed the appeal. My Department has been advised of the decision and is making arrangements to put the claim into payment. Relevant notes of the appeal hearing will be provided to the appellant on request.

Under social welfare legislation, decisions in relation to claims must be made by deciding officers and appeals officers. Those officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions. If the Deputy has a complaint relating to the matter it will be dealt with. It would not be appropriate, however, in the context of this reply to provide the other information sought by the Deputy.

Pension Provisions.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

129 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs further to Question No. 742 of 28 September 2005 if this report has been completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3656/06]

The national pensions review was completed by the Pensions Board in November 2005 and published on 17 January 2006. In the context of the issues raised by the Deputy in Question No. 742, the Pensions Board has recommended that retirees should be offered the option of deferring drawing their social welfare pension in exchange for a larger pension starting at a later date. A very approximate calculation indicates that deferring a pension from age 65 to 70 could allow a pension from the later age that would be one third higher than the entitlement at 65, or a little over 6% for each year that payment is deferred. The Pensions Board has also raised the possibility of combining this with social insurance contributions made after 65/66 years of age to improve a person's basic pension entitlement.

In principle, I support allowing people to improve their social welfare pension entitlements through further employment or deferring payment. However, such arrangements do give rise to very practical issues in the operation of occupational defined benefit schemes, which are generally integrated with the social welfare pension. It is likely to be some time before the necessary infrastructure is in place to support a system on the lines suggested by the Pensions Board but I will be keeping the matter under review.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

130 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on extending free travel passes to deserted wives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3681/06]

The free travel scheme is available to all people living in the State aged 66 years or over, to all carers in receipt of carer's allowance and to carers of people in receipt of constant attendance or prescribed relative's allowance. It is also available to people under age 66 who are in receipt of certain disability type welfare payments, such as disability allowance, invalidity pension and blind person's pension. A range of proposals, including that referred to by the Deputy, has been made to extend the coverage of the free travel scheme. These proposals are kept under review in the context of the objectives of the scheme and budgetary resources.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

131 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has not been granted a rent subsidy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3796/06]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes rent supplement, is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. Neither I nor my Department has any function in relation to decisions on individual claims. The Dublin-mid-Leinster area of the Health Service Executive has advised that no decision has been made yet in relation to the rent supplement application from the person concerned. It has further advised that the person concerned first applied for a rent supplement on 16 January 2006 and the application is still under review. A decision on the matter is expected shortly.

Consultancy Contracts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

132 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of occasions on which he has sought advice from public relations consultancy firms or individuals, media advisers or other non-established civil servants in the past three years; if such advisers are retained on a permanent or per diem basis or otherwise; if such persons have had previous experience with Departments or subsidiary bodies; the rate and basis of remuneration in each case; the departmental headings from which payments were made; the extent to which payments were made under the heading miscellaneous; if reference will be made to same in the case of each Minister of State in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3782/06]

In my role as Minister for Social and Family Affairs, I have not sought advice from public relations consultancy firms or individuals. I have appointed a press adviser, who has previous experience in a Department, on a contract basis for my term of office. The salary for this position is €95,003 together with a private pension contribution of 10% of salary. In addition to his salary, the press adviser has been paid travel and subsistence and miscellaneous expenses in respect of the performance of his official duties. In relation to the latter, a financial system upgrade is currently under way and specific details of these payments are not readily available. I will make arrangements to have the information sought forwarded to the Deputy. There is no Minister of State attached to my Department.

Decentralisation Programme.

John Cregan

Ceist:

133 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Transport the progress that has been made to date in 2006 with regard to decentralisation for Mitchelstown, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3638/06]

Under the decentralisation programme, Bus Éireann headquarters posts are to be relocated to Mitchelstown. The company has identified 86 posts. However, no employee has indicated a wish to move, and this continues to be examined. Implementation issues, including the identification of accommodation, are being pursued by Bus Éireann.

Aviation Safety.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

134 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport if he will extend beyond the Chicago Convention regulations pertaining to non-commercial air traffic for code 1A aerodromes in congested areas such as is the case in the UK in view of the increased level of air traffic in this sector here and the need for further regulation to ensure public safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3716/06]

This is an operational matter for which neither I nor my Department has responsibility. The Irish Aviation Authority has informed my Department that the comparison with the UK is not sufficiently specific to enable it to form a response. A public licensed international aerodrome in Ireland is required to comply with the requirements of the Chicago Convention relating thereto, in the context of international air traffic.

Air Services.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

135 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport the air traffic safety restrictions which will be enforced at Weston Aerodrome during the Ryder Cup; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3717/06]

Neither I nor my Department have responsibility for air traffic restrictions at Weston Aerodrome which will be enforced during the Ryder Cup. The Irish Aviation Authority has informed my Department that it does not propose to place any air traffic restrictions on Weston Aerodrome during the period of the Ryder Cup. The authority is aware however that Weston Aerodrome intends to adjust its traffic management to suit local density and mix of air traffic at the aerodrome during the period concerned to maintain adequate levels of safety.

Driving Licences.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

136 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the number of provisional licences issued by each local authority in each of the past three years with a further breakdown by postal district in respect of the Dublin local authorities. [3773/06]

Provisional driving licences issued by licensing authorities are recorded on the national driver file, held and administered by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, which has advised that provisional licences as shown in the following table were current during the last three years but that a breakdown by postal district in respect of the Dublin local authorities is not available.

Licensing Authority / Údarás Ceadúnaithe

31.12.2003

31.12.2004

31.12.2005

County Councils / Comhairlí Contae

Carlow/Ceatharlach

5,919

6,359

6,387

Cavan/An Cabhán

5,484

5,792

6,078

Clare/An Clár

8,763

8,995

9,575

*Cork/*Corcaigh

38,900

40,320

42,804

Donegal/Dún na nGall

10,404

11,306

12,254

*Galway/ *Gaillimh

18,621

19,118

20,506

Kerry/Ciarraí

11,072

11,438

11,953

Kildare/Cill Dara

16,731

17,263

17,940

Kilkenny/Cill Chainnigh

8,174

8,283

8,324

Laois/Laois

5,975

6,070

6,528

Leitrim/Liatroim

2,254

2,266

2,485

Limerick/Luimneach

10,802

11,282

12,060

Longford/An Longfort

3,127

3,268

3,363

Louth/Lú

9,961

10,328

11,306

Mayo/Maigh Eo

10,604

10,463

10,748

Meath/An Mhí

13,438

14,000

15,025

Monaghan/Muineachán

4,660

4,877

5,075

Offaly/Uíbh Fhailí

6,497

6,778

7,290

Roscommon/Ros Comáin

4,900

4,842

5,035

Sligo/Sligeach

4,728

4,966

5,387

Tipperary North/Tiobraid Árann Thuaidh

6,066

6,306

6,603

Tipperary South/Tiobraid Árann Theas

8,688

8,973

9,390

Waterford/Port Láirge

5,280

5,360

5,554

Westmeath/An Iarmhí

6,713

6,875

7,419

Wexford/Loch Garman

12,873

13,038

13,731

Wicklow/Cill Mhantáin

11,605

12,177

13,209

City Councils / Comhairlí Cathrach

*Dublin / *Baile Átha Cliath

105,741

109,377

117,739

Limerick/ Luimneach

4,662

4,860

5,252

Waterford/Port Láirge

5,165

5,367

5,587

Total/Iomlán

367,807

380,347

404,607

* City and County / *Cathrach agus Contae

Road Traffic Offences.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

137 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the penalty point categories that will not yet incur points after the extension of the penalty points system in April 2006. [3775/06]

The focus of the roll-out of the penalty points system to date, as well the extension of the application of the system from next April that I announced on 26 January, is on offences that relate primarily to the behaviour of drivers. This reflects the fact that 86% of all road deaths can be attributed to driver behaviour in its broadest sense.

The remaining offences to which the penalty point system is to be applied, and which are set out in the first schedule to the Road Traffic Act 2002 as subsequently amended, relate primarily to offences in the categories relating to vehicles and their use, lighting of vehicles and the licensing of drivers.

Consultancy Contracts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

138 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the number of occasions on which he has sought advice from public relations consultancy firms or individuals, media advisers or other non-established civil servants in the past three years; if such advisers are retained on a permanent or per diem basis or otherwise; if such persons have had previous experience with Departments or subsidiary bodies; the rate and basis of remuneration in each case; the departmental headings from which payments were made; the extent to which payments were made under the heading miscellaneous; if reference will be made to same in the case of each Minister of State in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3783/06]

During my time as Minister for Transport, I have not sought such advice. I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 113, answered on 17 February 2005. The Department has, on limited occasions, employed outside professional public relations advice. Tony O'Brien Communications was employed in 2004 to assist the Department with media relations and was paid a fee of approximately €6,000. Laurie Cearr Associates was employed by the Department for the organisation and management of public relations activities and other work in 2002 and in 2004 and was paid approximately €15,000 in total.

Road Network.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

139 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport, further to his announcement on 27 January 2006 on the introduction of barrier-free tolling on the M50, the outcome of recent talks between the National Roads Authority and the National Toll Roads on barrier-free tolling; his plans in respect of the existing licensing agreement with the National Toll Roads and the financial consideration involved; the rationale for extending the tolling regime to the entire M50; the projected revenue which same will generate; his views on the likelihood of such a regime leading to traffic diverting from the M50 and rat-running through adjoining residential areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3799/06]

As announced by the National Roads Authority on 27 January, the NRA has, with my agreement, terminated its negotiations with National Toll Roads on the upgrade of the West Link section of the M50. The NRA now proposes to remove the West Link toll plaza in 2008 and to install a barrier free toll system on the M50. The move to free flow tolling on the M50 will require the completion by the NRA of a comprehensive traffic study and will be subject to the statutory procedures applicable to the making of a toll scheme. The NRA's specific proposals, following the completion of the traffic study, for the tolling of the M50 will be submitted for the approval of the Government.

In parallel with its work on the traffic study, the NRA will shortly initiate a public procurement process to select a free flow toll operator. Details of future tolling rates and other aspects of the toll regime will be determined on the basis of the outcome of the traffic study and this will include consideration of potential traffic diversion rates. The compensation payable to NTR will be a matter for negotiation in the first instance between the parties to the West Link toll agreement in accordance with the terms of that agreement.

Community Development.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

140 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if consideration is being given to the establishment of a national awards scheme for recognition of notable achievement and voluntary and community work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3690/06]

The establishment of a broad national awards scheme for recognition of notable achievement does not come within my Department's remit. The Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs report on volunteers and volunteering in Ireland advanced a number of proposals on this topic in its recommendations last year on volunteering. Subsequently, I launched a range of measures to support volunteering. While I have concerns to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy relating to an awards scheme recognising volunteering and community work, I am disposed to keep the matter under consideration for any further initiatives in support of volunteering.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

141 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his proposals to overcome the ongoing problem of depopulation in rural Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3691/06]

Through the CLÁR programme, my Department will continue in 2006 to address depopulation, as well as the decline and lack of services in rural areas. The programme covers areas in 18 counties, with a population of 362,000, including areas I announced in January 2003 in light of the 2002 population census data. The average population loss in the selected areas is 50%. The exception is the Cooley peninsula, which was included on the basis of the serious difficulties caused there by foot and mouth disease. CLÁR funds or co-funds, together with other Departments, State agencies and local authorities, investment in selected priority developments. These investments support physical, economic and social infrastructure across a wide range of measures and reflect the priorities identified by the communities in the selected areas whom I consulted at the start of the programme. This funding helps rural communities overcome local difficulties and achieve access to a range of essential services such as water supply, sewerage disposal, road access, broadband communication, community and economic infrastructure, etc. I intend to continue these procedures for any new measures I may introduce, depending on needs identified. Equally, I will keep under review the operation of existing measures.

Expenditure under the CLÁR programme amounted to over €48 million from 2002-05, which, it is estimated, leveraged out a further €53 million, approximately, in related public and private expenditure in those years. I am satisfied that the needs of the people in the CLÁR areas are being met through the efficient and effective delivery of the programme and that CLÁR is making a sustained and strong positive contribution to rural communities.

My Department also funds a range of other programmes such as the Leader programme, the rural social scheme, Gaeltacht and island schemes, etc. which address rural depopulation in a general way through key interventions and supports. Information on these programmes is available on my Department's website at www.pobail.ie.

Consultancy Contracts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

142 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of occasions on which he has sought advice from public relations consultancy firms or individuals, media advisers or other non-established civil servants in the past three years; if such advisers are retained on a permanent or per diem basis or otherwise; if such persons have had previous experience with Departments or subsidiarybodies; the rate and basis of remuneration in each case; the departmental headings from which payments were made; the extent to which payments were made under the heading miscellaneous; if reference will be made to same in the case of each Minister of State in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3784/06]

The services of the media adviser attached to my Department's press office are available to myself and my Minister of State. The media adviser has been retained on a temporary full time contract with my Department since it was established in June 2002. Previously this adviser worked as a media adviser with the then Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. The rate of pay is that sanctioned by the Department of Finance and is based on the standard principal officer scale in the Civil Service, currently €76,162 to €88,556. Salary payments are paid from my Department's administrative budget — A1 subhead.

Neither my Minister of State nor myself have sought advice from public relations consultancy firms or other individuals in the past three years.

Avian Influenza.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

143 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she has discussed with her EU counterparts the various precautionary measures undertaken by the EU member states to prevent the spread of avian influenza; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3698/06]

The subject of avian influenza has been an agenda item at all Agriculture Council meetings over the past number of months and I have participated fully in all discussions on the issue. I have also attended GAERC Council meetings when the matter has been discussed by EU Foreign Ministers.

In addition, my officials have been participating in a range of meetings at EU level on avian influenza, including very regular meetings of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, SCoFCAH, as well as meetings of chief veterinary officers. These meetings and the constant attention which avian 'flu is receiving have resulted in a wide range of precautionary and safeguard measures being taken at EU level and these complement various other measures which I and my Department have introduced at national level.

Furthermore, significant progress was made over the past six months or so, at both official and political level, in adopting a new EU avian influenza directive.

Grant Payments.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

144 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason for the delay in issuing the single farm payment to a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if arrangements for payment will be made. [3622/06]

An application under the single payment scheme was received from the person named on 11 May 2005.

Initial processing revealed that the supporting documentation submitted was incomplete and following correspondence with the person named the additional documentation was provided.

However, further processing showed that two of the land plots claimed by the person named were also the subject of a claim by another scheme applicant. Both applicants have been written to in order to establish who is entitled to claim the plots in question. When this issue is resolved, the application of the person named will be processed further.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

145 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will make a statement on the application by BASF to grow genetically modified potatoes at Summerhill, County Meath; and the dangers same would present to traditionally and organically grown potatoes. [3623/06]

I wish to inform the Deputy that the notification made by BASF to trial genetically modified potatoes at Summerhill, County Meath was made to the Environmental Protection Agency in accordance with EU Directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release of GMOs into the environment as transposed into Irish legislation by the Genetically Modified Organisms (Deliberate Release) Regulations 2003. Since I have no function in the determination of such notifications to carry out field trials of GMOs it would be inappropriate for me to comment.

EU Directives.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

146 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the flawed research data furnished by Teagasc in support of fertiliser restrictions and maximum legal limits in the nitrates action programme which would adversely impact on the pig and poultry industries, dairy and cattle farming will be removed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3685/06]

The implementation of the nitrates directive is a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in the first instance. The regulations to give legal effect to the nitrates action programme were signed by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in December 2005 and came into effect on 1 February 2006.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and my Department engaged in prolonged and difficult discussions with the European Commission on Ireland's proposals to implement the nitrates directive. During that process Teagasc was consulted on an ongoing basis on the content of the various drafts of the action programme, the regulations and the proposals for a derogation from the general limit for organic nitrogen.

The nitrates directive requires legal certainty in the implementation of the action programme. In that context the Commission indicated that the fertilisation standards, based on crop needs, must be expressed as legally binding standards. The critical tables on nitrogen and phosphorus fertilisation rates in the regulations are in line with good agricultural practice and the agronomic requirements of crops as defined by Teagasc.

The board of Teagasc indicated recently that it may be possible to review part of its previous advice as regards phosphorous limits in a way that could improve the effectiveness of the regulations. Subsequently the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government announced on 27 January 2006 that, in consultation with the European Commission, he has agreed to a short deferral of Part 3 of the regulations.

Both the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and I have made it clear that if revised phosphorus tables are brought forward by Teagasc and supported by robust underlying science, then the Government is prepared to make a case to the European Commission whose agreement is required for any revision to the current limits.

Grant Payments.

Joe Walsh

Ceist:

147 Mr. Walsh asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the single farm payment will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [3793/06]

The person named submitted an application under the single payment scheme on 5 May 2005. The established entitlements under the scheme were in her late husband's name and the person named did not submit an application form to have these entitlements transferred to her. An official from my Department has been in direct contact with the person named and the relevant documentation has been issued. On receipt of the completed documentation, the application will be processed as quickly as possible.

An application under the force majeure or exceptional circumstances measure of the single payment was submitted by the person named. The person named was successful under this measure with the year 2002 excluded from the calculation of the single payment.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

148 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will qualify for entitlements from the 2005 national reserve under the single payment scheme 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3797/06]

The person named submitted an application for an allocation of entitlements from the single payment scheme national reserve under categories A and D. Category A caters for farmers who inherited land or received land free of charge or for a nominal sum from a farmer who had retired or died by 16 May 2005 and who had leased out his-her holding to a third party during the reference period 2000-02. Category D caters for farmers who commenced farming after 31 December 2002 or who commenced farming in 2002 but who received no direct payments in respect of that scheme year. In addition, the farmer must have either purchased or inherited land.

It should be noted, however, that the rules governing the single payment scheme stipulate that an applicant who is found to be eligible under more than one category in the reserve may only receive an allocation of entitlements under whichever category is most beneficial to him-her.

The position is that over 23,000 applications for an allocation of entitlements from the national reserve were received when account is taken of farmers who applied under more than one category. Processing of these applications is continuing and the intention is to make allocations to successful applicants at the earliest opportunity. My Department will be in touch with the individual applicants as soon as their applications are fully processed and formal letters setting out my Department's decision will be issued in the near future.

John Perry

Ceist:

149 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the single payment entitlement for a person (details supplied) will be reviewed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3750/06]

Under EU legislation, in order to draw down his or her full single payment, an applicant must declare an eligible hectare to accompany each entitlement. This requirement was set out clearly in the documentation supplied to farmers on a number of occasions. While the person named had established 25.00 entitlements during the reference period, the application received from the person named on 11 May 2005 declared a total of 11.18 eligible hectares. Therefore, the payment, which issued to the person named on 1 December 2005, represented the full sum due, based on the application lodged.

If the person named declares sufficient land on his 2006 single payment application, he will be in a position to claim full entitlements.

Consultancy Contracts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

150 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of occasions on which she has sought advice from public relations consultancy firms or individuals, media advisers or other non-established civil servants in the past three years; if such advisers are retained on a permanent or per diem basis or otherwise; if such persons have had previous experience with Departments or subsidiary bodies; the rate and basis of remuneration in each case; the departmental headings from which payments were made; the extent to which payments were made under the heading miscellaneous; if reference will be made to same in the case of each Minister of State in her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3785/06]

In the past three years, neither I or my predecessor have engaged the services of public relations consultancy firms or individuals. However, I did retain the services of a media adviser from 30 September 2004 to 18 February 2005. He was employed on a contract basis and had previously worked with me in a similar capacity in the Department of Social and Family Affairs. His annual salary during his tenure in my Department was €82,066, the maximum level of the principal officer salary scale at that time. This was paid from my Department's administrative budget — wages and salaries. During the period in question no such advice was obtained by Ministers of State in my Department.

Grant Payments.

John Perry

Ceist:

151 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the single payment will be reviewed for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3792/06]

Under EU legislation, in order to draw down his or her full single payment, an applicant must declare an eligible hectare to accompany each entitlement. This requirement was set out clearly in the documentation supplied to farmers on a number of occasions.

While the person named had established 73.50 entitlements during the reference period, the application received from the person named on 5 May 2005 declared a total of 62.44 eligible hectares. Therefore, the payment, which issued to the person named on 1 December 2005, represented the full sum due, based on the application lodged. If the person named declares sufficient land on his 2006 single payment application, he will be in a position to claim full entitlements.

Maternity Leave.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

152 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he will take to amend the commencement date for the extension of maternity leave, which would bring same into line with the operative for the implementation of most budgetary measures which is 1 January; and in the alternative, if same is not possible or convenient, if mothers who are commencing maternity leave before 1 March 2006 will be permitted to apply for the additional four weeks paid leave retrospectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3682/06]

Orders implementing the maternity and adoptive leave increases announced in the context of budget 2006 were made yesterday, 1 February. The first phase of increases will take effect on 1 March 2006 and will apply to employees commencing their paid maternity or adoptive leave on or after that date. Similarly, any employee commencing their additional unpaid maternity or adoptive leave on or after 1 March 2006 will benefit from the increased entitlement this year. The second phase of increases will be effective from 1 March 2007. The implementation dates of these increases are consistent with the financial statement made by the Minister for Finance on 7 December last.

As regards the situation of mothers who are commencing maternity leave before 1 March 2006, I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 1056 and 1057 of Wednesday, 25 January 2006, and my detailed reply to Question No. 288 of Wednesday, 14 December 2005.

Garda Investigations.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

153 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there have been judicial investigations into cases of extraordinary rendition; if so, the results to date in 2006. [3734/06]

In any case where unlawful activity is suspected, the authority responsible for the investigation of such matters is the Garda Síochána.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that two formal complaints alleging breaches of domestic and international law were made in October and December 2004. I am further informed that both complaints were thoroughly investigated by the Garda Síochána and that extensive investigation files were submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP. In both instances, the DPP directed that no prosecutions be initiated, as no evidence was adduced of any unlawful activity.

I am also informed that a third complaint was made in general terms in November 2005. The complainant in the case was interviewed by the Garda Síochána. However, inquiries to date have not resulted in prima facie evidence of a criminal offence being established.

Garda Stations.

John Cregan

Ceist:

154 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a new Garda station will be provided for Kilfinane, County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3632/06]

Kilfinane was one of eight Garda stations in counties Limerick and Tipperary which were selected by the Office of Public Works, following consultation with my Department and the Garda authorities, for inclusion in that office's pilot equity exchange programme which was publicised in 2004.

The Office of Public Works considered that the level of interest expressed was not adequate to meet the requirements of the programme. However, further consideration is being given by the office to an alternative approach, in consultation with my Department and the Garda authorities. Accordingly, the Deputy will appreciate that it is not possible at this time to indicate when a new Garda station will be provided at Kilfinane.

Joyriding Offences.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

155 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if funding has been provided to community based initiatives to tackle joy-riding; if initiatives which involve engaging young people at risk in positive programmes with motor cars have proved successful; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3633/06]

The problem of joyriding is a complex one which, while requiring significant inputs from the criminal justice system, can only be tackled to lasting effect through a multifaceted and multi-agency response involving the community and relevant statutory bodies.

I have been informed that the Garda Síochána operates special foot and mobile patrols which target specific areas in response to identified local requirements. In co-operation with local authorities, good progress has been made in recent years in relation to estate management which is actively reducing the opportunities for so called joyriding. For example, physical changes, such as barriers and speed ramps, are being used to reduce access to areas frequented by youths engaged in these activities. Furthermore, gardaí are constantly in liaison with community groups, and a number of projects are operating which have proved valuable in dealing with offences.

My Department provides funding for 64 Garda youth diversion projects, GYDPs, which are in operation nationwide. GYDPs primarily target at-risk youths who have come to the notice of the gardaí for crime and antisocial behaviours including joyriding. Project participants are actively encouraged to develop and become positive contributors to society. Various methodologies are utilised to progress issues which challenge behaviours. One such initiative was organised by the Boyne GYDP in Drogheda and involved the participants in the production, direction and editing of a video entitled "Clutch It" which focused on joyriding as an antisocial behaviour which affected their environment. The production is currently being considered by other projects as a method of tackling joyriding issues.

This year, a budget of €6.6 million has been secured for the youth diversion programme, which represents an increase of €1.2 million on 2005. I am committed to the continuing development and, as resources permit, the expansion of GYDPs and I intend to ensure that 100 schemes will be established nationwide before the end of 2007. I have therefore asked the Garda Commissioner to bring forward proposals for further community based initiatives in this area in light of the additional funding.

My Department has also provided funding to the Priorswood taskforce on joyriding to tackle the causes of so-called joyriding in the areas of Darndale, Moatview and Belcamp. This strategy involves developing joint initiatives with local agencies and the community in order to prevent young people from joyriding. The taskforce engages with joyriders, including those in custody, to develop alternatives in education, training and leisure. Attention is also given to developing appropriate models of family support. The taskforce targets the physical improvement of the locality in order to discourage joyriding with the result that Dublin City Council have undertaken practical building works to assist in prevention. The taskforce gave a presentation to GYDP co-ordinators in Cork in May 2005, which raised the awareness of the issues around joyriding behaviour.

I also wish to advise the Deputy that my Department, through the probation and welfare service, provides funding to a community based initiative, the Cork auto-crime diversion project, which specifically tackles joyriding. The Cork auto-crime diversion project was established in 1995 as an initiative to combat the high level of auto-crime in the greater Cork area. This programme caters for 15-19 years old males and focuses, inter alia, on life skills, motor skills and personal development with a view to participants obtaining work experience and full-time employment. I have approved a grant of €200,000 for Cork auto-crime diversion project for 2006.

Management of the Probation and Welfare Service have advised that the initiative in Cork has proved successful in addressing the criminal attitudes and antisocial behaviour of young male offenders in the Cork area. Twenty-three young male clients of the probation and welfare service engaged with Cork auto-crime diversion project programmes during 2005. The programme has also achieved success in placing many of its participants on FÁS courses, work experience and permanent employment.

I am confident that the implementation of the various anti-joyriding strategies and initiatives which I have outlined will significantly contribute to reducing the incidence of this dangerous and illegal practice in communities.

Registration of Title.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

156 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason incorrect information was given by the Land Registry Office in response to a parliamentary question. [3634/06]

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that the information provided in response to Parliamentary Question No. 479 of 31 January 2006 was in fact correct.

I am further informed that subsequent to supplying the Deputy with this information, the Land Registry continued its work on the applications concerned and that both Dealing Number D2004SM006350T and Dealing Number D2005SM011496G are now completed.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

157 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding a person (details supplied); and if this serious allegation of corruption will be investigated. [3647/06]

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

160 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the disputed signature on deed of transfer (details supplied) on 8 August 1996 at the Land Registry Office, Dublin; if this reported fraud in 1998 was investigated properly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3663/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 157 and 160 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that an investigation file in this matter was referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions who instructed that no criminal proceedings be taken in the matter.

As I am sure the Deputy will appreciate, the Director of Public Prosecutions is independent in the performance of his functions and it is not open for me to comment or intervene in his decisions in any way.

Public Order Offences.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

158 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals to deal with noisy neighbours when the Garda Síochána refuse to intervene; and if he will work with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on this important antisocial behaviour matter. [3648/06]

The legislation on noise pollution is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. His Department has issued a leaflet entitled A Guide to the Noise Regulations which outlines the steps which can be taken where a person is experiencing nuisance caused by noise.

This is primarily a civil matter and as such is outside the remit of the Garda Síochána. However, when gardaí receive a complaint about neighbours causing noise, they can request them to lower the noise levels. The Garda powers in this regard relate to ensuring that a breach of the peace does not occur. Complainants may also be advised by gardaí of their civil entitlements under section 108 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992.

The Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 was enacted to make further and better provision for the protection of the environment and the control of pollution and to establish the Environmental Protection Agency.

A local authority, the agency or any person may complain to the District Court regarding any noise, which is so loud, so continuous, so repeated and of such duration or pitch or occurring at such a time, as to give reasonable cause for annoyance. The court may order the person or body making the noise to take the measures necessary to reduce the noise to a specified level or to take measures to limit or prevent the noise.

An authorised person, shall, for any purpose connected with the Act, be entitled, at all reasonable times, to enter any premises and to bring therein such other persons, including members of the Garda Síochána. An offence under the Act may be prosecuted summarily by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Question No. 159 answered with QuestionNo. 28.
Question No. 160 answered with QuestionNo. 157.

Garda Powers.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

161 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the powers of the Garda Síochána and others to check for papers of persons who are non-nationals here; the protocols which apply in terms of random stopping of persons; and if care is taken to ensure that these procedures are not intrusive in respect of people who have full entitlement to be here. [3667/06]

Section 12 of the Immigration Act 2004 provides for a member of the Garda Síochána and other persons who are immigration officers, to require a non-national to produce, on demand, at any time, a valid passport or equivalent document, with a view to establishing his or her identity. This will most frequently occur when non-nationals are landing in the State, and when such persons are fulfilling their obligations to register as non-nationals, in compliance with section 9 of the Immigration Act 2004.

In any circumstances where such a requirement is made of a non-national, he or she fulfils his or her obligation by producing a valid passport or other equivalent document, issued by or on behalf of an authority recognised by the Government which establishes his or her identity and nationality.

A request made by a member of the Garda Síochána to a non-national to produce such documentation must be made in a manner that complies with the relevant provisions of the Immigration Act 2004.

Refugee Status.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

162 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on a family reunification application for persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3708/06]

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

163 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the family reunification application of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be processed in a timely manner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3709/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 162 and 163 together.

The refugee in question made an application for family reunification in December 2004. The application was forwarded to the Refugee Applications Commissioner for investigation as required under section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. The commissioner submitted a report on the investigation to my Department in October 2005. Further clarification is being sought in connection with this case. On receipt of a response, a decision will be made in this case.

Departmental Offices.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

164 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the annual budget for the Refugee Appeals Tribunal; the number of permanent and temporary members of the tribunal; the individual remunerations of same; and the number of staff employed by the tribunal. [3710/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

165 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the annual budget for the Office of the Refugee Appeals Commissioner and the individual remuneration of the Refugee Appeals Commissioner. [3711/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 164 and 165 together.

The 2006 budget allocations in so far as non-pay is concerned for the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, RAT, and the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, ORAC, are €2,563,400 and €2,719,740, respectively. The budget allocations for the RAT and the ORAC form part of subhead D1 of my Department which funds the asylum, immigration and repatriation areas generally. The allocations for ORAC and RAT for 2006 will be kept under ongoing review to ensure adequate resources are available to enable them to undertake their important work in the asylum determination process.

The remuneration pay scales of both the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the chairperson of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal are equivalent to that for assistant secretary in the Civil Service, that is, €110,312 to €126,325.

There are currently 33 serving members in the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and one full-time chairperson. In accordance with the Second Schedule to the Refugee Act 1996, as amended, each member of the tribunal "shall be a part-time member". Remuneration in respect of RAT members is paid in accordance with the following fee structure per case completed: substantive cases, with oral hearing, €575; substantive cases, determined on the basis of the file, €300; accelerated appeals on papers, determined on the basis of the file, €300; Dublin regulation cases, determined on the basis of the file, €200; and cases where the case is withdrawn or the applicant fails to show, €165.

There are currently 122 staff employed in the RAT, which is equivalent to 110 full-time posts.

Domestic Violence.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

166 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a progress report will be provided on the work of the National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3714/06]

The National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency is a non-governmental organisation which has received funding from my Department to carry out a pilot project on domestic violence intervention in the Bray-Dún Laoghaire areas over a period of three years from 2003 to 2005. Total funding provided since 2002 to date amounts to €460,024. My Department has engaged consultants to undertake an evaluation of this pilot project and this will be completed shortly.

Question No. 167 answered with QuestionNo. 68.

Prison Staff.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

168 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason and the length of time prison officers have been used to guard the site at Thornton Hall. [3729/06]

Two prison officers were assigned to the site for safety and security reasons and to ensure that the terms of a High Court order were fully complied with. The two staff were assigned there on a temporary basis on the 16 January and completed the assignment on 25 January.

Age Identification Cards.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

169 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress whereby young people reaching their 18th birthday can obtain age identification cards; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that delays of many months are normal in the issue of the cards; and his plans to ensure that they are available on application without delay. [3730/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the application procedure for the age card is governed by the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1988 (Age Card) Regulations, 1999, made under the provisions of section 40 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988, and which provides for a voluntary age card scheme. Applicants who fail to meet the necessary application criteria may be refused an age card.

In summary, the relevant age card regulations — the full regulations are set out in SI 4 of 1999 — are as follows: applicants must have attained the age of 18 years and shall present his or her application in writing, on the designated application form, to the Garda station in the area in which he or she resides. The application form must be accompanied by the applicant's birth certificate, at least one other document confirming identity, two recent identical passport sized photographs and the prescribed fee of €6.

The current monthly average of age cards processed is 4,327. The period from receipt of a correct application to delivery of the card is now 21 days on average. A number of factors have in the past contributed to delays. The provision of additional staff has, in the main, addressed this problem.

The Garda authorities continuously monitor the scheme to ensure that it takes account of changing circumstances and is improved as necessary. With this aim in view, a tendering process for the development of a upgraded age card, with enhanced security features, is in train, in co-operation with the Government supplies agency. This will enable the national age card office to devote increased attention to quality assurance issues.

Garda Operations.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

170 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Questions Nos. 1112 and 1113 of 25 January 2006, when, to whom and the reason the Garda authorities make comments regarding the existence or otherwise of intelligence information that relates to the security of the State. [3744/06]

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

171 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason seeking information from Garda intelligence on a category of persons and the number of persons in such a category, without seeking information on specific individuals, would be deemed to be injurious to the security of the State. [3745/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 170 and 171 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the sharing of intelligence information held by the Garda Síochána in relation to matters concerning the security of the State is confined to legal obligation or necessity and then only to persons or organisations which have responsibilities in the area.

Issues of security relating to the holding of intelligence information arise not only from the content of such information but also from the extent to which lawful intelligence-gathering techniques may be operational against a readily identifiable group or sub-group of persons. Confirming that intelligence gathering by the Garda in relation to specific persons or groups is ongoing could in certain circumstances result in a lessening in the success of such work. This would be contrary to the public interest.

Deportation Orders.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

172 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way in which his Department is dealing with the case of a person, details supplied. [3746/06]

The person referred to by the Deputy was a dual asylum applicant. He applied for asylum in the State on two separate occasions, that is, 9 August 2000 and 7 November 2002. In each case, he used different identities. This came to light due to finger printing of the applicant in the second asylum application.

His first asylum application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, ORAC, and, on appeal, by the Office of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. The person concerned was informed by letter dated 15 February 2002 that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him and afforded him three options in accordance with section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, namely to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of a deportation order or to make written representations within 15 working days setting out reasons as to why he should not be deported.

His first case was examined further under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 — prohibition of refoulement. Consideration was given to his representations for temporary leave to remain in the State lodged on his behalf by the refugee legal service by letter dated 7 March 2002. A deportation order was made in respect of him on 21 August 2002. Notice of this order was served on him by registered post requiring him to present himself to the gardaí in Henry Street, Limerick on 13 September 2002. He presented as required and was given a further presentation date of 20 September 2002. He failed to present on that date and was classified as an evader.

In his second application, the person referred to by the Deputy attended ORAC on 3 April 2003 for interview. Following a fingerprint check by ORAC, it was discovered that the person concerned was a dual asylum applicant. The gardaí were contacted and the person concerned was detained on foot of the original deportation order for 55 days. He was released on 28 May 2003 and given a letter by the gardaí requiring him to present himself again at the Garda National Immigration Bureau, GNIB, on 13 June 2003 for the purposes of arranging his removal from the State. He failed to present and is now being sought by the GNIB for deportation.

It is clear that the person concerned intended to frustrate the system by making two asylum applications under different identities and failing to keep his appointments with the GNIB. I would urge him to come forward and present himself to the gardaí without delay. His removal from the State is now an operational matter for the GNIB.

Prison Staff.

John Perry

Ceist:

173 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if serious issues of bullying and harassment have been identified at Castlerea Prison; the reason no action has been taken since the consultancy firm ( details supplied) employed by his Department issued its findings on the 2 March 2005; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this independent investigation upheld 19 out of 21 complaints of bullying and harassment against a person but to date in 2006 no action has been taken against the perpetrator and they continue to work at Castlerea Prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3748/06]

The Deputy may be aware that this case was the subject of a comprehensive investigation which culminated in a number of findings. Contrary to what is suggested, action consistent with the findings in respect of the officer concerned has been taken by the Prison Service, which continues to reserve the right to take further such action as it considers necessary.

Registration of Title.

John Perry

Ceist:

174 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he will take with the Land Registry office regarding an application, details supplied; and if same will be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3751/06]

I wish to inform the Deputy that I have requested the Land Registry to contact him directly concerning the current position of the application in question. I understand that, in circumstances where the completion of an application in a particular case is urgent, the Land Registry will make every reasonable effort to facilitate such requests on receipt of a written explanation as to the reason underlying the urgency.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

175 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the case of a person, details supplied, will be reviewed in view of the clear evidence of violence if deported with their two children to their homeland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3752/06]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to his Dáil question of Wednesday, 1 February 2006 in respect of this case. My position is as outlined therein.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

176 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status or procedure to be followed to achieve same in the case of a person, details supplied, in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3753/06]

The residency status of the person in question is that she was originally granted permission to remain in the State on the basis of parentage of an Irish-born child on 30 September 2002. I understand from records available to my Department that she currently has residency status in the State up to 20 September 2007.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

177 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he proposes to take to combat the rising crime rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3754/06]

It is absurd to state that there has been a dramatic increase in headline crime for 2005 when the level of headline crime for 2005 is 4.4% lower than the level for 2002. I did not hear the Deputy opposite state that there was a dramatic fall in headline crime when there was a decrease of 3% recorded for 2003 compared to 2002 and a further decrease in headline crime of 4% recorded for 2004 compared to 2003. Since I took the decision to publish 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.

I wish to touch on long-term crime patterns. The level of headline crime in 2005 is actually lower than that for 2003 by 1.6% and 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. Our headline crime rate continues to compare very favourably with those of our nearest neighbours. In England and Wales in the year April 2003 to March 2004, the most recent for which figures are available, 113 crimes were committed per 1,000 population. In 2004 and 2005 in Scotland there were 86.3 crimes per 1,000 population and in Northern Ireland 69 per 1,000 population compared with our rate of 24.6 per 1,000.

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%. However, the overall increase in recorded crime and the increases in particular categories in the most recent figures I published are disappointing, and I will not downplay my concerns in that respect.

I welcome the significant decrease of 27% in the number of incidents of robbery of cash and goods in transit, which is down from 62 in 2004 to 45 in 2005. 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 very welcome decrease. Furthermore, the new code of practice now being operated by the major financial institutions and security companies involved in the cash in transit industry has dramatically raised the standards in operation. I took a direct personal hand in dialogue with the leadership in the banking and security sectors in securing adoption of this new code. It has made a significant contribution to this decrease. These developments have been underpinned by the establishment of the private security authority, which has also taken place "on my watch".

I also welcome the increase in the number of detections for possession of drugs for sale or supply, up 20%, and possession of firearms, up16%. In both cases these are offences which in the main become known as a result of active police detection work. This trend continued in the fourth quarter and, in the case of possession of firearms, improved, with an increase of 24%. These are statistical crime figure increases which we should welcome because they are detections flowing from increased police vigilance and a proactive approach.

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. The most recent figures available to me show that Operation Anvil has contributed to encouraging outcomes, with a total number of arrests of 1,522, which includes 17 arrests for murder, 310 arrests for serious assaults, 629 arrests for burglary and 280 arrests for robbery offences. Furthermore, the total number of firearms seized to date under Operation Anvil is 347, and property to the value of more than €5.5 million has been recovered.

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. The Government's decision to continue to devote unprecedented resources to the fight against crime is clearly justified, as is my insistence that those resources be deployed at the front line of policing in this State. The Garda Síochána this year has the highest level of resources in its history —€1,290 million — 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 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 and 14,000 attested Gardaí in two years' time. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties but will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing.

In addition to this increase in resources, I am also bringing forward proposals to strengthen significantly the legislative provisions available. The Criminal Justice Bill 2004, which is currently before the House, provides a comprehensive package of anti-crime measures which will enhance the powers of the 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. It addresses such matters as the preservation of crime scenes, increased periods of detention in the case of arrestable offences, search warrant powers for the Garda Síochána, amendments to the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence) Act 1990, provision for a fixed penalty procedure in respect of certain lesser public order offences and the admissibility of statements by witnesses who subsequently refuse to testify or who retract their original statements.

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. I can assure Deputies that I am in regular contact with the Garda Commissioner in order to keep the measures and resources for tackling crime under continuing review.

Questions Nos. 178 and 179 answered with Question No. 30.

Crime Prevention.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

180 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way in which he proposes to tackle the increase in headline crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3757/06]

It is absurd to state that there has been a dramatic increase in headline crime for 2005 when the level of headline crime for 2005 is 4.4% lower than the level for 2002. I did not hear the Deputy state that there was a dramatic fall in headline crime when there was a decrease of 3% recorded for 2003 compared to 2002 and a further decrease in headline crime of 4% recorded for 2004 compared to 2003. Since I took the decision to publish 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.

I wish to touch on long-term crime patterns. The level of headline crime in 2005 is actually lower than that for 2003 by 1.6% and 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. Our headline crime rate continues to compare very favourably with those of our nearest neighbours. In England and Wales in the year April 2003 to March 2004, the most recent for which figures are available, 113 crimes were committed per 1,000 population. In 2004 and 2005 in Scotland there were 86.3 crimes per 1,000 population and in Northern Ireland 69 per 1,000 population compared with our rate of 24.6 per 1,000.

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%. However, the overall increase in recorded crime and the increases in particular categories in the most recent figures I published are disappointing, and I will not downplay my concerns in that respect.

I welcome the significant decrease of 27% in the number of incidents of robbery of cash and goods in transit, which is down from 62 in 2004 to 45 in 2005. 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 very welcome decrease. Furthermore, the new code of practice now being operated by the major financial institutions and security companies involved in the cash in transit industry has dramatically raised the standards in operation. I took a direct personal hand in dialogue with the leadership in the banking and security sectors in securing adoption of this new code. It has made a significant contribution to this decrease. These developments have been underpinned by the establishment of the private security authority, which has also taken place "on my watch".

I also welcome the increase in the number of detections for possession of drugs for sale or supply, up 20%, and possession of firearms, up16%. In both cases these are offences which in the main become known as a result of active police detection work. This trend continued in the fourth quarter and, in the case of possession of firearms, improved, with an increase of 24%. These are statistical crime figure increases which we should welcome because they are detections flowing from increased police vigilance and a proactive approach.

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. The most recent figures available to me show that Operation Anvil has contributed to encouraging outcomes, with a total number of arrests of 1,808, which includes 17 arrests for murder, 310 arrests for serious assaults, 629 arrests for burglary and 280 arrests for robbery offences. Furthermore, the total number of firearms seized to date under Operation Anvil is 347, and property to the value of more than €5.5 million has been recovered.

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. The Government's decision to continue to devote unprecedented resources to the fight against crime is clearly justified, as is my insistence that those resources be deployed at the front line of policing in this State. The Garda Síochána this year has the highest level of resources in its history —€1,290 million — 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 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 and 14,000 attested gardaí in two years' time. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties but will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing.

In addition to this increase in resources, I am also bringing forward proposals to strengthen significantly the legislative provisions available. The Criminal Justice Bill 2004, which is currently before the House, provides a comprehensive package of anti-crime measures which will enhance the powers of the 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. It addresses such matters as the preservation of crime scenes, increased periods of detention in the case of arrestable offences, search warrant powers for the Garda Síochána, amendments to the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence) Act 1990, provision for a fixed penalty procedure in respect of certain lesser public order offences and the admissibility of statements by witnesses who subsequently refuse to testify or who retract their original statements.

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. I can assure 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.

Garda Strength.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

181 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which the strength of the Garda force has increased since he took up office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3758/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

183 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason the 2,000 extra gardaí promised, have not been delivered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3760/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 181 and 183 together.

On 31 December 1997 the personnel strength of the Garda Síochána stood at 10,968. Under this Government's first term in office, the strength of the force was increased steadily and when I took up office as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in June 2002, the strength of the Garda Síochána stood at 11,748.

After June 2002, and despite the cap on public service numbers announced in the budget of 2002, I proceeded with Government approval to increase the strength of the force to 12,200 by 2004, and I am pleased to say that target was achieved on time. On 31 December 2005 the strength of the force increased to 12,264. This represents an increase of 1,296, or 12%, in the strength of the Garda Síochána since 1997.

The timescale for achieving the target strength of 14,000 members of the Garda Síochána in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government remains as indicated when I announced the Government decision in October 2004 to proceed with this expansion of the organisation. Garda management advise me that the first incremental increase of attested gardaí due to the accelerated recruitment will take place next month, March 2006. As part of the accelerated recruitment campaign to facilitate this process, 1,125 Garda recruits were inducted to the Garda college between 1 January 2005 and 1 January 2006, as set out in the table below:

Intake

Recruits

Date

A

275

7/2/2005

B

275

3/5/2005

C

275

2/8/2005

D

300

7/11/2005

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. In this regard, the Garda authorities plan that intakes of 275 student gardaí will commence training in 2006 on the dates as set out hereunder:

Intake

Recruits

Date

A

275

6/2/2006

B

275

1/5/2006

C

275

7/8/2006

D

275

6/11/2006

The phased increase in the strength of the Garda Síochána will lead to a combined strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of this year. The project to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 is fully on target and will be achieved. The Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources. Clearly, the additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in the programme for Government.

The programme identifies particular areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences, but it will be possible to address other priorities as well, such as the need to very significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties as part of the new Garda traffic corps. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing. They will have a real impact.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

182 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the number of crimes committed by prisoners while on bail; the action he proposes to take in response; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3759/06]

It is absurd to state that there has been a dramatic increase in headline crime for 2005 when the level of headline crime for 2005 is 4.4% lower than the level for 2002. I did not hear the Deputies opposite state that there was a dramatic fall in headline crime when there was a decrease of 3% recorded for 2003 compared to 2002 and a further decrease in headline crime of 4% recorded for 2004 compared to 2003. Since I took the decision to publish 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.

I wish to touch on long-term crime patterns. The level of headline crime in 2005 is actually lower than that for 2003 by 1.6% and 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. Our headline crime rate continues to compare very favourably with those of our nearest neighbours. In England and Wales in the year April 2003 to March 2004, the most recent for which figures are available, 113 crimes were committed per 1,000 population. In 2004 and 2005 in Scotland there were 86.3 crimes per 1,000 population and in Northern Ireland 69 per 1,000 population compared with our rate of 24.6 per 1,000.

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%. However, the overall increase in recorded crime and the increases in particular categories in the most recent figures I published are disappointing, and I will not downplay my concerns in that respect.

I welcome the significant decrease of 27% in the number of incidents of robbery of cash and goods in transit, which is down from 62 in 2004 to 45 in 2005. 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 very welcome decrease. Furthermore, the new code of practice now being operated by the major financial institutions and security companies involved in the cash in transit industry has dramatically raised the standards in operation. I took a direct personal hand in dialogue with the leadership in the banking and security sectors in securing adoption of this new code. It has made a significant contribution to this decrease. These developments have been underpinned by the establishment of the private security authority, which has also taken place "on my watch".

I also welcome the increase in the number of detections for possession of drugs for sale or supply, up 20%, and possession of firearms, up16%. In both cases these are offences which in the main become known as a result of active police detection work. This trend continued in the fourth quarter and, in the case of possession of firearms, improved, with an increase of 24%. These are statistical crime figure increases which we should welcome because they are detections flowing from increased police vigilance and a proactive approach.

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. The most recent figures available to me show that Operation Anvil has contributed to encouraging outcomes, with a total number of arrests of 1,808, which includes 17 arrests for murder, 310 arrests for serious assaults, 629 arrests for burglary and 280 arrests for robbery offences. Furthermore, the total number of firearms seized to date under Operation Anvil is 347, and property to the value of more than €5.5 million has been recovered.

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. The Government's decision to continue to devote unprecedented resources to the fight against crime is clearly justified, as is my insistence that those resources be deployed at the front line of policing in this State. The Garda Síochána this year has the highest level of resources in its history —€1,290 million — 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 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 and 14,000 attested Gardaí in two years' time. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties but will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing.

In addition to this increase in resources, I am also bringing forward proposals to strengthen significantly the legislative provisions available. The Criminal Justice Bill 2004, which is currently before the House, provides a comprehensive package of anti-crime measures which will enhance the powers of the 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. It addresses such matters as the preservation of crime scenes,increased periods of detention in the case of arrestable offences, search warrant powers for the Garda Síochána, amendments to the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence) Act, 1990, provision for a fixed penalty procedure in respect of certain lesser public order offences and the admissibility of statements by witnesses who subsequently refuse to testify or who retract their original statements.

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. I can assure Deputies that I am in regular contact with the Garda Commissioner in order to keep the measures and resources for tackling crime under continuing review.

Question No. 183 answered with QuestionNo. 181.
Question No. 184 answered with QuestionNo. 23.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

185 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the estimated number of criminal gangs currently operating here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3762/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Irish organised criminal groupings can be divided into two general categories. The first category consists of individuals or groups that are well-established and tightly structured and are involved in drug trafficking, armed robbery and firearms offences. The second category involves groups whose activities are characterised by less cohesive group structures and criminal activities which are mainly confined to Ireland.

The Garda authorities estimate that there is a total of between 45 and 50 criminal gangs in these two categories currently operating within this jurisdiction. However, the Deputy will appreciate that the position of criminal gangs does not remain static. Such groups are volatile. Their composition changes frequently and their existence can be of variable duration. There is continuous networking and a certain level of co-operation in bringing together individuals with particular expertise to participate in specific crimes.

Estimation of the number of criminal gangs operating here remains an important part of the criminal intelligence analysis process, which is an ongoing exercise in the Garda Síochána.

Garda Stations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

186 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he proposes to increase the strength of the various Garda stations throughout County Kildare in line with the population increase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3763/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

187 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí available on a nightly basis in each of the towns throughout County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3764/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 186 and 187 together.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of the Garda Síochána as at 31 January 2006 was 12,228, all ranks. The personnel strength of the Carlow and Kildare division as at 31 December 1997 was 281, all ranks, and as at 31 January 2006 was 332, all ranks. This represents an increase of 51, or 18%, in the number of Garda personnel allocated to the Carlow and Kildare division in that period.

The allocation of Garda resources is a matter for the Garda Commissioner. In this regard the Commissioner takes into account a number of factors including population, crime trends and the operational policing needs of each division. Garda management further states that for security and operational reasons it is not Garda policy to disclose the number of gardaí working in any particular area at any specific time. I add that the timescale for achieving the target strength of 14,000 members of the Garda Síochána in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government remains as when I announced the Government approval in October 2004 for my proposals to achieve this objective.

Garda management advises me that the first incremental increase of attested gardaí from the accelerated recruitment will take place in March 2006. The phased increase in the strength of the Garda Síochána 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. In this regard, the Garda authorities plan that intakes of 275 student gardaí will commence training in 2006 on the dates set out hereunder:

Intake

Recruits

Date

A

275

6/2/2006

B

275

1/5/2006

C

275

7/8/2006

D

275

6/11/2006

The project to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 is fully on target and will be achieved.

The Commissioner is now drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources. Clearly, of course, the additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies particular areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences, but it will be possible to address other priorities as well, such as the need to very significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties as part of the new Garda traffic corps. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing. They will have a real impact.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

188 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if family reunification will be granted in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3765/06]

The person in question arrived in the State on 20 December 1999 and claimed asylum. He withdrew this application on 28 January 2001 and applied for permission to remain based solely on his parentage of an Irish-born child. He was granted residency in the State on this basis on 9 January 2002.

On 18 July 2003 the Government announced its policy on leave to remain for parents of Irish-born children. A feature of that policy was that there would be no presumption in favour of allowing parents granted permission to remain in the State on the basis of parentage of an Irish-born child to be joined in the State by other family members, including other children.

I am not aware of any special circumstances over and above those of others in a similar situation which would warrant a special concession in this case.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

189 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a review of an application for naturalisation will be offered to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3766/06]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in the citizenship section of my Department on 12 December 2005. The average processing time for applications for naturalisation for standard adults is approximately 24 months at present. However, I understand that the person concerned is a refugee. In accordance with the Government's obligations under the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees of 28 July 1951, every effort is made to ensure that applications from persons with refugee status are dealt with as quickly as possible, having regard to the general volume of applications on hands. It is likely that the application of the person concerned will be finalised in the early part of 2007. I will be in touch with both the Deputy and the applicant when the case is finalised.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

190 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a review of an application for naturalisation will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3767/06]

I informed the Deputy in my response to Parliamentary Question No. 149 on 26 January that the person concerned arrived in the State on 14 October 2005 and is the subject of a transfer order under the Dublin II regulations, Council Regulation (EC) No. 343/2003. Her transfer to Belgium, where she sought asylum in April 2005, is now an operational matter for the Garda national immigration bureau.

I have been informed by officials in the citizenship section of my Department that there is no record of an application for naturalisation being received from the person concerned. Since she has only been present in the State for a few months and does not belong to one of the categories of applicants for whom I am empowered to waive the residency requirement, refugee or stateless person, it appears unlikely that she is eligible to apply for naturalisation.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

191 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for refugee status in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3768/06]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 18 December 2000 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and on appeal by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, he was informed by a letter dated 26 November 2002 that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State, leaving the State before an order was made or consenting to the making of a deportation order. Representations have been received on behalf of person concerned. This person's case file, including all representations, will be considered under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 — prohibition of refoulement. I expect the file to be passed to me for decision in due course.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

192 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on foot of an appeal on humanitarian grounds to remain here in the case of persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3769/06]

The persons concerned arrived in the State on 4 May 2004 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 Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, they were informed by letters dated 17 January 2006 and 30 January 2006 that the Minister proposed to make deportation orders in respect of them. They were given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons they should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State, leaving the State before orders were made or consenting to the making of deportation orders. Their case file, including all representations submitted, will be considered under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 — prohibition of refoulement. I expect the file to be passed to me for decision in due course.

Garda Operations.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

193 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the fixed charge processing system commenced full operation in each of the Garda divisions in which it currently operates; and the number of charges imposed in respect of each fixed charge category for a road traffic offence, each Garda division and each year since its commencement. [3772/06]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the fixed charge processing system, currently processing the offences of speeding and non-wearing of seatbelts, is operational nationwide from today. The system was introduced on a pilot basis in Kells, Dundalk, Dunleer, Blanchardstown, Terenure and Dublin Castle on 30 June 2004. It was extended to the entire Dublin metropolitan region in November 2004 and further extended to Cork city from January 2005.

I regret that it has not been possible in the time available to compile the statistics requested by the Deputy. I will, of course, contact the Deputy again when the figures are to hand.

Consultancy Contracts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

194 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of occasions on which he has sought advice from public relations consultancy firms or individuals, media advisers or other non-established civil servants in the past three years; if such advisors are retained on a permanent or per diem basis; if such persons have had previous experience with Departments or subsidiary bodies; the rate and basis of remuneration in each case; the departmental headings from which payments were made; the extent to which payments were made under the heading miscellaneous; if reference will be made to same in the case of each Minister of State in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3786/06]

I can inform the Deputy that, while my Department has incurred expenditure in the area of public awareness associated with important issues of public policy under its aegis, I have not engaged any public relations firms or media advisers to provide me with such advice in a personal capacity since my appointment in June 2002. I understand that Minister of State, Deputy Fahey, applied part of his special secretarial allowance for research and communications purposes under a contract for services in accordance with SI 84 of 2005.

Schools Refurbishment.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

195 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the timescale involved in having an extension carried out to a school (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3624/06]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the school to which she refers is included in my recent announcement of 62 large scale building projects country wide which have been approved to progress under the school building and modernisation programme. These will be progressed by way of the appointment of a design team under my Department's capital programme for 2006.

The next step in the process is that a technical inspection of the school building will be undertaken by my Department and officials will be in contact with the school authorities in the near future in order to confirm a suitable date for this inspection. It is not possible at this point to indicate when the architectural planning process will be completed. There are five stages in this process and the timeframe for completing these stages is contingent on various factors including any unexpected issues that may arise, the period of time for the granting of planning permission, obtaining a fire certificate and so forth. Progression of projects to tender and construction stage is then considered on completion of the architectural planning process.

Cecilia Keaveney

Ceist:

196 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the timescale involved in having an extension carried out to a school (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3625/06]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the school to which she refers is included in my recent announcement of 62 large scale building projects country wide which have been approved to progress under the school building and modernisation programme. These will be progressed by way of the appointment of a design team under my Department's capital programme for 2006.

The next step in the process is that a technical inspection of the school building will be undertaken by my Department and officials will be in contact with the school authorities in the near future in order to confirm a suitable date for this inspection. It is not possible at this point to indicate when the architectural planning process will be completed. There are five stages in this process and the timeframe for completing these stages is contingent on various factors including any unexpected issues that may arise, the period of time for the granting of planning permission, obtaining a fire certificate and so forth. Progression of projects to tender and construction stage is then considered on completion of the architectural planning process.

Inquiry into Child Abuse.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

197 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a group (details supplied) has not been included in the institutions for redress in view of the fact that the Department of Health and Children did have an inspection role with regard to this institution. [3626/06]

Section 4 of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002 provides that the Minister for Education and Science may, by order, insert additional institutions in the Schedule to the Act. In order that an institution be considered under section 4, it must be an industrial school, a reformatory school, an orphanage, a children's home, a special school for children with a physical or intellectual disability or a hospital providing medical or psychiatric services to people with a physical or mental disability or mental illness. It must also be one in which children were placed and resident and in respect of which a public body had a regulatory or inspection function.

The case raised by the Deputy concerns the Regina Coeli Hostel which provided shelter for homeless women, mothers with young children and expectant mothers. However, as hostel facilities do not come within the scope of section 4 of the Act, it is not open to me to consider the inclusion of this institution in the Schedule. The question of including additional institutions has now been fully considered by my Department in consultation with relevant Departments and it is not proposed to add any further institutions to the Schedule.

Education Welfare Service.

Gay Mitchell

Ceist:

198 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Question No. 309 of 15 December 2005, the reason officials of her Department have not been in touch with the person in question (details supplied). [3631/06]

My officials have been advised by the National Educational Welfare Board that it wrote to the parent in question on 19 January 2006 requesting that the parent make contact with the local educational welfare officer to discuss the student's educational needs. The officer is awaiting contact from the parent.

Schools Building Projects.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

199 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the proximity of a school (details supplied) to the widened N7 and of the resulting concerns relating to potential accidents, noise, and air pollution for students and teachers; if she intends to provide interim solutions pending the relocation of the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3652/06]

The property management section of the Office of Public Works, which acts on behalf of my Department with regard to site acquisitions generally, has been requested to source a site for the provision of a new school building for Kill national school.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

200 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress which has been made in locating a site for a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3653/06]

The property management section of the Office of Public Works, which acts on behalf of my Department with regard to site acquisitions generally, has been requested to source a site for the provision of a new school building for Kill national school.

Special Educational Needs.

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

201 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the information on service requirements which has been forwarded to the Health Service Executive in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who will require a suitable secondary school place in September 2006; her views on the urgency with which such requirements must be notified to the Health Service Executive and put in place in view of this person’s autistic spectrum disorder diagnosis and the likelihood of a potential school place being dependent on the guarantee of the required services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3662/06]

From 1 January 2005, the National Council for Special Education has taken over key functions from the Department in special educational provision. The NCSE was formally established as an independent statutory body on 1 October 2005 under the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2005. The council acts under the broad policy direction of the Department but has the resources and the remit to play the leading role in the delivery of education services to children with disabilities-special needs.

The provision of speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and other health related supports is a matter for the Health Service Executive. However, the NCSE co-ordinates with the health services, schools and other relevant bodies regarding the provision of education and related support services to children with disabilities-special needs. The responsibilities of the NCSE include deciding on applications for additional teaching support in respect of children with disabilities with special educational needs at second level; deciding on applications for special needs assistant hours; processing applications for school placement in respect of children with disabilities with special educational needs.

Under the new arrangements, where a pupil with special educational needs enrols in a post primary school, it is open to the school to apply to the local special educational needs organiser for additional teaching support and-or special needs assistant support for the pupil. The SENO will process the relevant application for resources and inform the school of the outcome. It is important to note that in the case of decisions on additional teaching and SNA support, the SENO will outline the process to the school and parents, where appropriate, and will at the end of the process outline the basis on which the decision was made.

The precise model of provision made available will depend on the assessed needs of the pupils involved. Some students are capable of attending ordinary classes on an integrated basis with additional teacher and-or special needs assistant support. In other cases, placement in special dedicated classes or units attached to the school may be the more appropriate response. Such special classes operate at significantly reduced pupil-teacher ratios. Students attached to these special classes may be facilitated in attending ordinary subject classes on an integrated basis wherever possible. The organisation of such provision is a significant task of the National Council for Special Education.

The Department will continue to ensure that the necessary resources are made available for the education of children with special needs. The advent of the NCSE will prove of major benefit in ensuring that all children with special educational needs receive the support they require when and where they require it.

The Department has requested the NCSE to confirm the current position on any application for resources in respect of the pupil referred to by the Deputy. This information will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it received.

Schools Building Projects.

Shane McEntee

Ceist:

202 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans for the provision of a second level school for the Laytown, Mornington and Bettystown areas in County Meath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3665/06]

A new school planning model involving published area development plans is being piloted in five areas over the current school year. Laytown, Mornington and Bettystown in County Meath are included in the pilot scheme as part of an overall plan for the north Dublin-east Meath-south Louth area. The need for a new post-primary school in that area will be considered in this context.

The purpose of this new approach to school planning is to ensure that, in future, the provision of school infrastructure will be decided only after a transparent consultation process. In this regard, parents, trustees, sponsors of prospective new schools and all interested parties in the locality will have the opportunity to have their voices heard in the process.

Arising from this process, an individual plan will set out the blueprint for the future of educational provision in an area, which will be the basis against which all decisions in relation to capital investment will be made in the next decade.

The draft plan for the north Dublin-east Meath and south Louth area is close to completion in the school planning section of the Department and I hope to be in a position to publish it shortly.

National Drugs Strategy.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

203 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in view of the fact that a significant number of children are at risk from drug misuse here, the reason the dedicated service for the Walk Tall programme is not widely available to schools outside the LDTFAs; the steps she will take to ensure this service is expanded to areas outside Dublin and Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3674/06]

The mid-term review of the national drugs strategy recommended that the services provided to schools in local drugs task force areas by the Walk Tall support service should be expanded to other areas of disadvantage. In light of this recommendation, the Walk Tall support service is currently finalising proposals for the expansion of its services. When these proposals have been received, they will be examined by the Department.

School Transport.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

204 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps she will take to ensure that a person (details supplied) in County Longford is provided with transport to their school; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this problem has been going on for approximately three years or more; the further steps she will take to have the matter resolved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3675/06]

Under the primary school transport scheme, primary routes are planned so that no eligible pupil will have more than 2.4 km to travel to a pick-up point. The person to whom the Deputy refers resides 1.28 km from the bus route and therefore has a level of service which is within the Department's guidelines. In the circumstances, a re-routing of service at additional cost is not warranted. The family in question have been offered a payable extension and details of costs and terms and conditions have been explained to them.

Course Compliance.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

205 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Question No. 268 of 23 March 2004, at which time her predecessor stated that a further reply would issue, the reason no reply has been received by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 4; the position regarding this matter; if this course will be referred to the advisory committee; and her views on the issue at stake. [3688/06]

The Department has made inquiries regarding the matter raised by the person in question. It relates to whether a particular course undertaken outside of this jurisdiction was in keeping with the requirements of the architects directive EU Directive, 85/384/EEC. The Department has no function in the course in question. Matters relating to the directive come within the remit of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and I have referred the relevant papers to him for consideration.

Early School Leavers.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

206 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of pupils who left the education system with no formal qualifications in the most recent year for which statistics are available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3689/06]

From the latest information provided by the post-primary pupil database it is estimated that just over 3,000 pupils left full-time education without a junior certificate in second level schools aided by this Department between October 2003 and June 2004. It should be remembered that many of those who leave school without a formal qualification proceed to various other education and training programmes, including Youthreach, as well as to pursue educational opportunities outside the State in the case of students who emigrated with their families.

Data from the Central Statistics Office highlight the inadequacy of any assumption that considering only what qualifications young people get in the formal school system gives one a fair picture of their level of educational achievement.

CSO figures indicate that the number of persons aged 20 to 24 who had attained at least a leaving certificate or equivalent level of education or training increased between 1999 and 2004. This growth reflects the increasing numbers of students now participating in second chance further education and training programmes. The level of educational attainment of Irish young people is ahead of the EU average on that measure.

My Department has taken a number of initiatives in recent years to encourage more of our young people to finish school, including the setting up of the National Educational Welfare Board and the provision of extra supports for those at risk of dropping out through the school completion programme and home school community liaison scheme. Also, under the new action plan for educational inclusion, the DEIS initiative, which I launched last May, further resources are being provided to schools serving the most disadvantaged communities to help them to improve their retention rates.

The Government has pursued a dual strategy of both encouraging more young people to finish school and ensuring much greater second chance and further education opportunities for those who left school early. This kind of strategy seeks to ensure that young people can achieve their full potential, be that by sitting the State exams or by pursuing qualifications through other pathways such as FÁS apprenticeships which may be more appropriate to their individual interests.

Appointments to State Boards.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

207 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Education and Science when a chairperson will be appointed to the Grangegorman Development Agency. [3720/06]

I am giving active consideration to the appointment of the chairman and membership of the Grangegorman Development Agency and expect to be in a position to make an announcement shortly. A sum of €1 million is included in my Department's Estimates for this year to facilitate the establishment and operation of the agency.

Schools Building Projects.

Joe Walsh

Ceist:

208 Mr. Walsh asked the Minister for Education and Science if a decision will be made on an application for an extension to a school (details supplied) in County Cork. [3726/06]

An application for capital funding towards the provision of an extension at the school has been received from the school referred to by the Deputy. The long-term accommodation needs of the school are being examined. When this is completed the building project required to address the long-term accommodation needs of the school will be considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme 2006-10.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

209 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the need for an extension and improvement works at a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will now urgently approve sanction for this priority project. [3728/06]

The school referred to by the Deputy has made an application for capital funding towards the provision of additional accommodation. The 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 2006-10.

Ionad Náisiúnta Gaeilge.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

210 D'fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta cén toradh go sonrach atá ar na cainteanna (féach freagra an Aire dar dáta 8 Samhain 2005) a tharla idir a hoifigigh agus oifigigh shinsearacha ó pháirtithe leasmhara na n-eagras reachtúil Gaeilge maidir le forbairt chomhordaithe an Ionaid Náisiúnta Gaeilge (Baile Bhuirne) ar bhonn práinne i láthair chaiteachas na Roinne ar an togra go dtí seo agus i láthair fógraí iomadúla faoin togra ó cheathrar Aire Rialtais le sé bliana anuas. [3794/06]

Tá an cheist seo á plé faoi láthair i gcomhthéacs na moltaíón Roinn Gnóthaí Pobail Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Foras na Gaeilge agus an Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta. Ní mór machnamh breise a chaitheamh leis an raon leathan moltaí atá faoi mo bhráid agus go háirithe an aighneacht is déanaíón gComhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta sar ar féidir cinneadh cinnte a dhéanamh maidir leis an dtógra atá faoi chaibidil i mBaile Mhúirne.

School Accommodation.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

211 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the action she will take to ensure the repairs to a school (details supplied) in County Wexford are carried out to prevent further accidents occurring; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3742/06]

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.

Consultancy Contracts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

212 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of occasions on which she has sought advice from public relations consultancy firms or individuals, media advisers or other non-established civil servants in the past three years; if such advisers are retained on a permanent or per diem basis or otherwise; if such persons have had previous experience with Departments or subsidiary bodies; the rate and basis of remuneration in each case; the departmental headings from which payments were made; the extent to which payments were made under the heading “Miscellaneous”; if reference will be made to same in the case of each Minister of State in her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3787/06]

The position is that neither I nor the Ministers of State in my Department sought advice from public relations consultancy firms or individuals, media advisers or other non-established civil servants in the past three years.

School Staffing.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

213 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of teachers, at both primary and secondary level, currently suspended from teaching; if this information will be provided and itemised by length of suspension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3791/06]

Records held by my Department show that there are currently 15 primary teachers and nine second level teachers under suspension or administrative leave. These figures relate only to teachers paid through the centralised payroll system operated by my Department and do not therefore include any suspensions within the vocational education sector. The data in relation to length of absence involved is currently being compiled and will be forwarded directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Expenditure.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

214 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Defence the amount which has been awarded by his Department to a company (details supplied) since 1969 in respect of ground rent on land held at Ballincollig, County Cork. [3743/06]

My Department has made payments totalling €48,858 to the company concerned since 1969 in respect of ground rent payable under relevant leases. No other payments have been made to the company by my Department.

Consultancy Contracts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

215 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the number of occasions on which he has sought advice from public relations consultancy firms or individuals, media advisers or other non-established civil servants in the past three years; if such advisers are retained on a permanent or per diem basis or otherwise; if such persons have had previous experience with Departments or subsidiary bodies; the rate and basis of remuneration in each case; the departmental headings from which payments were made; the extent to which payments were made under the heading miscellaneous; if reference will be made to same in the case of each Minister of State in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3788/06]

Advice from public relations consultancy firms or individuals or external media advisers was not sought by myself, my predecessor, Deputy Michael Smith, or the Minister of State at my Department in the past three years. I have appointed a special adviser and a press adviser to provide me with relevant advice and press liaison services as necessary. Both have standard contracts of employment which were drawn up by the Department of Finance. These appointments are to temporary, unestablished positions in the Civil Service, and are on a full-time basis.

Environmental Policy.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

216 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the strategies in place to deal with noisy neighbours; the way in which people deal with this issue; and if he will work with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Dublin City Council on this matter. [3646/06]

A number of legislative measures are in place to address the issue of noise nuisance. Under the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 (Noise) Regulations 1994, a local authority or any person may seek an order in the District Court to have noise giving reasonable cause for annoyance abated. The procedures involved have been simplified to allow action to be taken without legal representation. A public information leaflet outlining the legal avenues available to persons experiencing noise nuisance is available from my Department and on the Department's website, www.environ.ie.

In the case of noise nuisance being caused by individuals in private rented accommodation, the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 imposes minimum statutory obligations on landlords and tenants of private residential tenancies. Tenant obligations under the Act include an obligation not to engage, or allow visitors to engage, in anti-social behaviour which is defined as including persistent noise that interferes with the peaceful occupation of other dwellings in the neighbourhood. The Act also imposes an obligation on landlords to enforce the tenant obligations. There is provision in the Act for third parties, adversely affected by a failure on the part of a landlord to enforce the tenant obligations, to refer a complaint to the Private Residential Tenancies Board in accordance with the procedures in the Act. However, it should be noted with regard to the board's dispute resolution service, that if an alternative legal remedy, such as the remedy provided for under the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 (Noise) Regulations 1994, is available and is pursued by a person, that person may not also refer the matter to the board.

Noise nuisance and other problems caused by local authority tenants are also covered under legislation. The tenancy agreement, which is the legal basis of the relationship between the local authority and its tenants, will generally contain provisions in relation to the type of behaviour that is acceptable and that which is not. The local authority is empowered under section 62 of the Housing Act 1966 to initiate proceedings to secure an eviction where a tenant has breached the conditions of the tenancy agreement. I am satisfied that adequate statutory provisions are in place to address neighbourhood noise nuisance. My Department consults and liaises with other Departments and local authorities on associated issues on an ongoing basis.

EU Directives.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

217 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of the implications and serious negative impact of the application of the nitrates regulations, he will take steps to defer the implementation of the same in order to ensure that a regulation, which would protect water quality and allow Irish farmers to remain competitive will be implemented; the steps he will take to examine the possibility of deleting tables 10 to 21 from the nitrates regulations and replace them with something that is more sensible in this context; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3671/06]

The European Communities (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) Regulations 2005 have been designed to protect waters against pollution from agricultural sources. The regulations give effect to the EU nitrates directive of 1991 and a number of other directives relating to water quality. They provide for compliance by Ireland with the terms of the judgment of the European Court of Justice delivered in March 2004 which held that Ireland was non-compliant with the nitrates directive. The regulations generally came into effect on 1 February 2006 with specific provisions coming into effect on a phased basis up to 2008.

Part 3 of the regulations deals with nutrient management planning and is based on long-standing Teagasc advice. Teagasc has recently indicated that it may be possible to review part of this advice on the application of phosphorus in a way which could improve the effectiveness of the regulations. The Government and the European Commission saw merit in allowing Teagasc to elaborate this new advice and, accordingly, I have announced a brief de facto deferral of the implementation of Part 3 of the regulations. Teagasc has been requested to provide, as a matter of urgency, the necessary scientific case to support any revision of the phosphorus tables in the regulations. My Department and the Department of Agriculture and Food will carefully consider any submission received from Teagasc having regard to the fact that any proposals for revision of the phosphorus tables must respect the environmental requirements associated with the nitrates directive and will require the agreement of the Commission.

Consultancy Contracts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

218 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of occasions on which he has sought advice from public relations consultancy firms or individuals, media advisers or other non-established civil servants in the past three years; if such advisers are retained on a permanent or per diem basis or otherwise; if such persons have had previous experience with Departments or subsidiary bodies; the rate and basis of remuneration in each case; the departmental headings from which payments were made; the extent to which payments were made under the heading miscellaneous; if reference will be made to same in the case of each Minister of State in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3789/06]

My Department has engaged consultancy assistance in relation to communications in seven cases in the period 2003 to 2005. In all but one case the contract was awarded on a fixed price basis. In one case where communications advice was part of a larger contract it was provided on a per diem rate. In all but one case the contractors had previous experience in working with Departments. Details are set out in the following table.

Consultancy

Consultant

Subhead

Government experience

Contractual basis

Amount paid to date

2003

2004

2005

Race Against Waste awareness campaign — Communications element

Consortium Led By Lyle Bailie International

Environment Fund

Has previous experience with Government Department

Communications element was on per diem rate of €1,250.

565,141

Nil

232,633

332,508

Management of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage Awareness Campaign

Hunter Redcell

Built Heritage

Has previous experience with Government Department

Fixed contract

295,845

102,291

126,631

66,921

Communications consultancy

Monica Leech communications

Administrative budget

Has previous experience with Government Department

Fixed contract

66,076

18,876

Nil

Nil

Communications consultancy

Monica Leech Communications

Administrative Budget

Has previous experience with Government Department

Fixed contract

278,784

116,160

139,392

23,232

Media support for the official launch of Burren life project

Anne Jones

National Parks and Wildlife

No

Fixed contract

423

Nil

Nil

423

Communications consultancy in relation to the national spatial strategy

Drury Communications

Planning & Development

Has previous experience with Government Department

Fixed contract

97,635

97,635

Nil

Nil

Electronic voting awareness campaign — Communications element

McConnells Advertising Service Ltd/Q4 Public Relations

Paid from Central Fund

Has previous experience with Government Department

Fixed contract

733,669

733,669

Nil

Nil