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Gnáthamharc

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 21 Mar 2006

Vol. 616 No. 4

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.
Questions Nos. 9 to 58, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 59 to 65, inclusive, answered orally.

Proposed Legislation.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

66 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when the full charities Bill will be published; the reason he has failed to deal with the legal structures and status of charities under existing laws; his views on whether this may hinder the ability of the charity sector to comply with his proposed legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10771/06]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

75 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when the full charities Bill will be published; the feedback he has received from the sector regarding the heads of the Bill, which were published recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10772/06]

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

99 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when it is intended that the heads of the proposed charities Bill will be converted into a fully fledged Bill; and when such a Bill will be published and debated in the Houses of the Oireachtas. [10781/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66, 75 and 99 together.

Two weeks ago, I was pleased to announce Government approval of the general scheme for the Charities Regulation Bill 2006 and its publication on my Department's website, www.pobail.ie. The Government also determined that the general scheme should be sent to the Office of the Attorney General for priority drafting. Deputies will have noted that the general scheme is a large and complex document, comprising 148 heads and four Schedules. However, I hope that priority drafting should facilitate publication of the Charities Regulation Bill during 2006.

The matter of legal structures for charities does not constitute the purpose of the future Charities Regulation Bill, which is to regulate the charities sector for the first time since the foundation of the State. Under An Agreed Programme for Government, there is a commitment to ensure accountability of the charities sector and to protect against abuse of charitable status and fraud. That is the commitment on which the Charities Regulation Bill will deliver.

In the two weeks since publication of the general scheme for the Charities Regulation Bill, the feedback from the charities sector has been favourable. The general scheme has been called "a hugely positive step in the right direction". A welcome has also been given to our stated intention that the legal structure of those charities which are companies limited by guarantee under existing company law will not hinder compliance with the new legislation. The Charities Regulation Bill will ensure that dual registration and dual filing of annual returns, that is, with both the future charities regulator and the Companies Registration Office, will be avoided where corporate charities are concerned.

Fóram na Gaeilge.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

67 D'fhiafraigh Ms O’Sullivan den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cathain a bheidh an chéad chruinniú eile ag Fóram na Gaeilge, agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [10820/06]

Mary Upton

Ceist:

89 D'fhiafraigh Dr. Upton den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén fáth gur athraigh ról agus fócas Fhóram na Gaeilge de réir a chéile; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [10821/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

119 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Gilmore den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an aontaíonn sé go bhfuil an iomarca daoine ar Fhóram na Gaeilge; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [10818/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

120 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Gilmore den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén fáth nach dtuigeann cuid mhaith de bhaill Fhóram na Gaeilge cén ról díreach atá ag an bhFóram; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [10822/06]

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

124 D'fhiafraigh Mr. M. Higgins den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an aontaíonn sé go bhfuil an momentum caillte ag Fóram na Gaeilge, nach bhfuil aon dul chun cinn déanta; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [10819/06]

Tógfaidh mé Ceisteanna Uimh. 67, 89, 119, 120 agus 124 le chéile.

D'fhógair mé ar 30 Nollaig 2005 go raibh an coiste comhairleach a bhunaigh mé i 2002 chun comhairle a chur orm maidir le tuarascáil Choimisiún na Gaeltachta nasctha le Fóram na Gaeilge, a bunaíodh i mí Iúil 2004. Mar gheall air go bhfuil forbairt na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta fite fuaite agus go raibh comóntacht shuntasach ann i gcomhdhéanamh an fhóraim agus an choiste faoi seach, rinneadh an cinneadh ag cruinniú den fhóram i mí Aibreáin 2005 go ndéanfaí an dá ghrúpa a nascadh le chéile. Níl amhras ar bith orm ach go gcuirfidh an beart seo go mór le héifeacht an fhóraim trí chéile nuair a smaoinítear ach go háirithe go mbeidh ionadaíocht ag na páirtithe leasmhara cuí air, sa chomhthéacs náisiúnta agus Gaeltachta araon. Cuideoidh sé seo, i mo thuairim, le comhordú, comhoibriú agus comhpháirtíocht níos fearr a chothú i measc na bpáirtithe faoi leith atá páirteach san fhóram.

Bhí plé go dtí seo ag an bhfóram, i measc ábhair eile, ar inmholtacht plean straitéiseach 20 bliain don Ghaeilge. Mar atá mínithe agam don Teach cheana féin mar fhreagra ar cheisteanna eile faoin ábhar seo, tá an tsaincheist maidir lena thábhachtaí is a bheadh ráiteas soiléir ón Rialtas i ndáil le ról agus tábhacht na Gaeilge tar éis teacht chun cinn mar ábhar tosaíochta sa chomhthéacs sin. Tá bailchríoch á chur faoi láthair ar cháipéis chun na críche sin, a chuirfear os comhair an fhóraim ag an gcéad chruinniú eile. Tá súil agam nach fada go dtionólfar cruinniú dá leithéid.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Damien English

Ceist:

68 Mr. English asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason he does not support allowing emigrant groups representing Irish born citizens living overseas to apply for funding under the dormant account funds scheme; if he will reconsider his position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10763/06]

I dealt with this issue comprehensively during Priority Questions. The Government is fully committed to providing supports to vulnerable Irish communities living abroad. This commitment is clearly demonstrated by the allocation of significant funding directly from the Exchequer to support emigrant organisations. The figure in 2006 comes to over €12 million.

With regard to the dormant accounts fund, the Deputy will be aware that disbursements are designed to assist three broad categories of persons: those who are economically or socially disadvantaged, those who are educationally disadvantaged and persons with a disability. In light of the significant funding for emigrant organisations as outlined above, it is my intention that allocations from dormant accounts in 2006 will remain focused on tackling disadvantage in Ireland. In this regard, the Deputy will be aware that following Government approval, I announced details on 4 January 2006 concerning the allocation of €24 million for the purpose of supporting programmes and projects tackling economic and social disadvantage.

National Drugs Strategy.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

69 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will undertake major initiatives to combat the crisis surrounding the use and abuse of illegal drugs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10792/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

94 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will increase the amount available through his Department to community based groups attempting to combat drug abuse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10778/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 69 and 94 together.

My Department has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the national drugs strategy 2001-08. This incorporates the work of the local and regional drugs task forces and the young people's facilities and services fund. Through these initiatives a broad range of community and voluntary groups are funded to tackle drug misuse.

To date, approximately €125 million has been allocated to implement in the region of 440 projects under two rounds of local drug task force, LDTF plans; approximately €99 million has been allocated under the young people's facilities and services fund to support in the region of 450 initiatives; and a further €13.66 million has been allocated to projects under the LDTF premises initiative which is designed to meet the accommodation needs of community based drugs projects. Expenditure on the implementation of the new action plans of the regional drugs task forces, which cover all areas not covered by a local drugs task force, commenced in 2005 and allocations totalling almost €5 million have been made to facilitate getting a range of projects up and running in the regions this year. Furthermore, funding of the regional drugs task forces will be increased incrementally over a number of years until full implementation of their plans is achieved.

A sum of €43 million has been allocated in my Department's Vote for the drugs initiative-young people's facilities and services fund in 2006. This represents an increase of 37% on the original 2005 allocation and a massive 61% increase on the 2004 figure. It will allow us to consolidate and build on previous investment and continue to tackle the drug problem in a comprehensive way.

All of the projects and programmes funded through the national drugs strategy have been devised through a partnership process involving consultation and discussion with the relevant Departments and agencies as well as the community and voluntary sectors. I am satisfied that the range of activities and initiatives currently being funded represents a comprehensive approach to tackling the problems of drugs misuse.

Departmental Programmes.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

70 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the establishment of a community development unit for older people within his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10809/06]

I have no plans at present to establish a community development unit for older people. Older people benefit under a number of my Department's programmes and schemes, including the local development social inclusion programme, the scheme of community supports for older people and the community development programme. This is in addition to the supports for older people provided by the Government across a range of Departments.

A number of groups focusing on the needs of older people also receive funding from my Department, including the Federation of Active Retirement Association, the Older Women's Network and the Senior Citizen's Parliament. I do not believe that the establishment of a dedicated community development unit for older people would necessarily improve service to this important group. Indeed, the focus at the moment is on promoting linkages, cohesion and sharing resources between existing local and community agencies to improve service delivery generally.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

71 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the assistance that will be available from his Department for the newly established national advisory group on independent living. [10788/06]

My Department does not have primary responsibility for supporting the disabled. However, as I have recently indicated, an additional €5 million has been allocated to the community services programme in 2006 to fund new projects. It is my intention to expressly include services for people with disabilities in the eligibility criteria for new project funding. My Department is engaged in discussions with the Federation of People with Disability and with the Department of Health and Children to determine how best to complement existing services.

Responsibility for the social economy programme transferred to my Department on 1 January 2006. It has been renamed the "community services programme" to reflect the fact that I intend to change the nature of the programme from a labour market training scheme to a scheme which supports essential community services. In addition, disbursements of dormant accounts have a particular emphasis on disability. The Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board approved 109 projects under the heading of disability, totalling almost €18.4 million.

Rural Development.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

72 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress that has been made to date in regard to the implementation of the future vision and policy agenda contained in Ensure the Future — A Strategy for Rural Development in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10811/06]

The strategic goal of my Department in rural development is to promote and maintain living and working populations in rural areas by helping to foster sustainable and culturally vibrant communities. The White Paper on Rural Development defines Government policy in this regard and provides a context for realising these goals.

In view of the time that has elapsed since the publication of the White Paper, Brendan Kearney and Associates were engaged in June 2005 to prepare a background report on changes in factors affecting rural development since the publication of the White Paper on Rural Development 1999. A copy of this report has been forwarded to the Deputy for his information.

At present, my Department together with the Department of Agriculture and Food are jointly engaged in the preparation of a national strategy for rural development for 2007-13 as required by the new European Council regulation on rural development. A detailed national programme will be prepared following completion of the national strategy. This will be submitted to the European Commission with a view to its agreement by the end of 2006 to enable commencement of the new programme in January 2007. The report prepared by Brendan Kearney and Associates will be used in this context.

John Gormley

Ceist:

73 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on his recent speech to the annual general meeting of the Irish Farmhouse Holidays organisation. [10787/06]

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

78 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he is proposing to introduce a system whereby farmers are compensated for allowing hill walkers to cross their land; if he has received representations from farmers or farming organisations on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10796/06]

Joan Burton

Ceist:

91 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will expand on recent comments he made regarding access to land for rural walkers; the way in which he proposes to deal with the issue of farmers refusing access to their land to hill walkers; if he proposes to issue guidelines on the issue of hill walking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10795/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 73, 78 and 91 together.

I refer the Deputies to my answer to Question No. 116 on 8 February 2006 where I made my views on issues of access to the countryside clear. On that occasion and in my speech to the Irish Farmhouse Holidays Association I stated that a local community based approach is the way forward where issues of access to the countryside arise. Where it is not possible to reach agreement, in a particular location, alternative routes should be explored and developed so that landowners' rights over access to their lands are not interfered with. In addition, I must again restate my view that any proposal for direct Exchequer payment for access would not be acceptable.

The issue of access to land and the development of walkways is one that can only be solved by the active participation and support not just of farmers and recreational users of the countryside but also the wider rural community, who stand to benefit a great deal from the development of activity based rural tourism, including walking. For many years in rural Ireland, communities have adapted and used their heritage, music and archaeology to promote their areas to tourists. I firmly believe, however, that the area of activity based holidays is important but has so far been left relatively underdeveloped in rural Ireland.

The issue of access to land is fundamental to this question and it was in this context that, in February 2004, I established Comhairle na Tuaithe to address the three priority issues of access to the countryside, developing a countryside code and developing a countryside recreation strategy. Comhairle na Tuaithe comprises representatives of the farming organisations, recreational users of the countryside and State bodies with an interest in the countryside. It has approached its work in a spirit of co-operation and through working groups, which progress components of these aims.

Comhairle na Tuaithe has identified and reviewed a set of access parameters in the countryside, which it believes will serve as a basis for conflict prevention and integrate a variety of needs and responsibilities. It has also agreed the key features necessary for countryside code development, with a focus on the potential application of the internationally recognised Leave No Trace initiative. Details of the access parameters and the countryside code are available in a booklet, which I launched in September of last year and on my Department's website at www.pobal.ie.

Comhairle na Tuaithe is currently working on the development of a national countryside recreation strategy. The first phase in the development of the strategy involved consultation with interested parties. In this regard, it invited submissions from interested individuals and groups. The three main farming organisations, that is, the IFA, the ICMSA and the ICSA, made submissions to Comhairle na Tuaithe following the call and each of the organisations listed has a representative on Comhairle na Tuaithe and is actively involved in the development of the strategy. I have also met with representatives of the farming organisations to discuss their views on the matter of access to the countryside in particular and countryside recreation in general.

I look forward to receiving the draft strategy from Comhairle na Tuaithe following its consideration of the issues arising. I will, of course, carefully consider any proposals which Comhairle na Tuaithe makes regarding countryside recreation which will help inform policy decision in the wider rural development domain.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

74 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount that has been paid from the dormant accounts fund since January 2006; the projects that have received money from the fund since that date; if further allocations are to be made in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10800/06]

Decisions on the disbursements of funds from dormant accounts under the initial round of funding were a matter for the Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board, an independent body established under the Dormant Accounts Acts. Under this round, the board approved 521 projects for funding totalling over €60 million. While to date approximately €13 million of this amount has been drawn down by successful applicants, the amount drawn down from 1 January 2006 was over €2.5 million. Full details of these draw downs, including the names of the relevant organisations and the amounts involved, are in Table 1.

The Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Act 2005 provided for significant changes in decision making on disbursements from dormant accounts. Following the commencement of the Act on 1 September 2005, the Government now makes decisions on disbursements in line with the process set out in the legislation. In this regard, the Deputy will be aware that the Government approved the allocation of a further €60 million from the fund in 2006. A breakdown of this figure shows that €24 million will be allocated towards projects tackling economic and social disadvantage, €18 million towards projects tackling educational disadvantage and €18 million towards projects assisting persons with a disability.

After consulting the appropriate Ministers and having obtained the approval of Government, I announced details on 4 January 2006 concerning the allocation of €24 million for the purpose of supporting programmes and types of projects tackling social and economic disadvantage. Details of the announcement are available on the website of my Department at www.pobal.ie and in Table 2.

With regard to the other two categories, educational disadvantage and persons with a disability, the consultation process required under the legislation has now been completed. Proposals which provide for funding of €18 million under each of these categories are in the process of being submitted to the Minister and will be brought to Government very shortly for approval.

Table 1

Details of amounts paid from Dormant Accounts Fund between 1 January 2006 and 13 March 2006

Name of Group

Amount Paid

Avondhu Development Group

9,338.00

RosEqual Ltd

21,067.00

St. Brendan’s The Glen Senior Citizens

10,000.00

Cork YMCA Ltd

8,182.00

Community Addiction Programme

14,975.00

Waterford LEDC Ltd

102,720.00

Cahir Development Association

21,000.00

North & West Connemara Rural Project

32,277.00

Loreto Centre

8,463.00

Avondhu Development Group

5,467.00

St. Teresa’s Football Club

5,000.00

Vita House Family Centre

19,256.00

Adrigole Family Resource Centre

720.00

Castlecomer Community Project

35,402.00

Kerry Adolescent Counselling Services

5,180.00

Aspire Asperger Syndrome Association

3,700.00

Bray Adult Learning Centre

20,810.00

Crosscare Aftercare Support Unit

24,708.00

Ability Enterprises

1,590.00

The Intercom Initiative

11,200.00

Cheshire Ireland

50,000.00

St. Paul’s Youth Club

25,000.00

Dóchas Family Centre

20,000.00

Duniry Community Pitch & Putt Dev. Cmtte.

9,080.00

Threshold Ltd.

58,918.00

Franciscan Social Justice Initiative

15,780.00

Scouting Ireland

6,149.00

Second Chance Education for Women

19,835.00

Ballinasloe Community Resources Ltd.

15,900.00

Aware

31,935.00

Tralee Town Council

52,500.00

The Web Project

4,800.00

Mulhuddart Lifestart

11,220.00

Glengarrif Playground Development Group

5,855.00

Inishowen Partnership

10,027.00

Waterford Area Partnership

14,799.00

Camphill Communities of Ireland

35,000.00

Roscommon Enter Initiative

31,485.00

Hope House

40,000.00

Foxford Sports & Leisure

62,873.00

Donegal Youth Services

14,603.00

DCU Educational Trust

19,167.00

Sligo Northside Partnership

26,089.00

Community Womens Education Initiative

8,242.00

Duneske Leisure Ltd.

31,347.00

St. Mary’s Community Adult Education Committee

22,604.00

Killinarden Drug Primary Prevention Group

8,184.00

Merchants Quay Project

28,004.00

Barnardos — Carlow

9,389.00

Ballyfermot Travellers Action Project

9,040.00

Clondalkin Community Health Initiative

26,695.00

Mary Queen of Angels

50,995.00

Ballypheane/Togher CDP

19,930.00

Leitrim Gaels

36,700.00

Millennium Holiday Homes Project

8,750.00

Knockanrawley FRC

19,116.00

Dublin Simon Community

26,358.00

West Cork Support Group

14,561.00

Smashing Times Theatre Co. Ltd.

23,962.00

West Tallaght Resource Centre

18,845.00

Brothers of Charity National Secretariat

36,740.00

Rahoon Family Centre

2,438.00

Order of Malta Ambulance Corps

143,046.00

Duhallow Carers Network

855.00

Vantastic

129,420.00

After Care Recovery Group

14,326.00

Loughboy Area Resource Centre

14,001.00

Kilrush Family Resource Centre

5,461.00

County Leitrim Partnership

15,752.00

County Wexford Community Workshop

34,500.00

Walkinstown Association

25,000.00

Comhlámh

3,950.00

Collinstown Park School Completion Programme

39,090.00

Faranree FRC

9,923.00

Kilcannon Industries Ltd.

114,833.00

Easi Cab Travel Club

10,803.00

Little Bray FRC

10,286.00

Little Bray FRC

10,629.00

Ballymun Job Centre

17,480.00

The Common Ground

6,511.00

Sligo County Council

19,417.00

South West Mayo Development Company

12,500.00

Galway Refugee Support Group

13,408.00

Samaritans

14,024.00

CANDO

6,000.00

Ferns Diocesan Youth Service

16,667.00

Cherry Orchard Equine Centre

35,347.00

Walkinstown Association

7,767.00

Pathways Through Education

31,504.00

Catherine McAuley Centre

9,534.00

Cahir Development Association Ltd.

21,000.00

Kilbarrack Community Development Project

4,500.00

Clondalkin Partnership — Local Employment Services

8,225.00

Churchfield Community Trust

51,756.00

L’Arche Community

32,571.00

Migraine Association of Ireland

6,850.00

Traveller Visibility Group

930.00

An Síol

34,200.00

St. Peter the Apostle

4,095.00

B.A.N.D. — Borrisokane

7,059.00

Disability Federation of Ireland

20,473.00

Drumcollogher & District Respite Centre

21,167.00

Adrigole Family Resource Centre

6,480.00

Carrick On Shannon Active Age Group

588.00

Swinford National School

3,372.00

Bedford Row Family Project

13,616.00

Waterford LEDC

147,319.00

Waterford Befriending Project

7,434.00

Drogheda Northside Community Partnership

8,283.00

Total

2,505,927.00

Table 2

Programmes and Types of Projects Recommended by Social & Economic Disadvantage Committee

Programme Heading

Programme Description

Target Group / Area

Application Process

Additionality Demonstrated

1. Additionality under RAPID Programme.€11.5 million

Funding ring-fenced for the purpose of supporting priority projects within RAPID areas.

Strand 1 and Strand 2 RAPID areas.

RAPID AITs invited to apply

Yes. The ring-fencing of funding for RAPID areas will ensure that funding for priority projects is front-loaded in 2006

2. Specific Priority Measures:

€7.5 million

Youth Disadvantage Initiatives

—Supports for youth groups.

Once-off small scale equipment grants for youth groups with a particular focus on disadvantaged and marginal groups.

Young people.

Public invitation to youth groups

Yes. Existing Local Youth Club Grant scheme does not include any element of capital funding for equipment

—Supports to provide enhanced access to recreational & personal development opportunities for disadvantaged young people.

Grants to fund participation in recreational pursuits and personal development activities which are not normally available to disadvantaged children and disadvantaged young people.

Disadvantaged children and disadvantaged young people.

Invitation to Partnership companies

Yes. No specific funding stream to provide such services

—Supports for sports which have traditional appeal to youth in disadvantaged areas (e.g. boxing; wrestling; martial arts; weight-lifting etc.).

Grants to fund purchase of essential equipment / hire of halls etc. not funded under Sports Capital Programme.

Young people in disadvantaged areas.

Invitation to specified sports

Yes. Funding under Sports Capital Programme not provided for personal equipment

—IT initiatives for disadvantaged young people.

Projects supporting disadvantaged young people to adapt to information technology with a particular focus on early school leavers.

Disadvantaged young people.

Targeted public invitation to groups active in this area

Yes. No specific funding stream for this measure.

Older People Initiatives

Enhanced interventions and supports to assist older people living in their own homes and in the community.

Supports for community based care services for older people such as improved access to services including transport and mobility.

Local Community and voluntary groups supporting older people.

Public invitation to groups active in this area

Yes. No specific funding stream for local community and voluntary groups supporting older people

Programme Heading

Programme Description

Target Group / Area

Application Process

Additionality Demonstrated

Social Disadvantage Measures:

Supports for offenders / ex-offenders.

Projects providing addiction counselling for prisoners / ex-prisoners.

Prisoners / ex-prisoners.

Targeted public invitation to groups active in this area

Yes. No specific funding stream for such services.

Projects providing employment supports for prisoners / ex-prisoners.

Prisoners / ex-prisoners.

Targeted public invitation to groups active in this area

Yes. No specific funding stream for such services.

—Supports for vulnerable immigrants.

Supports for immigrant families who have been granted refugee status or granted leave to remain in the State.

Immigrant families.

Public invitation to Partnership companies.

Yes. No specific targeted funding stream for such services.

—Suicide prevention.

Measures tackling suicide prevention with a particular focus on ·supports to strengthen community based suicide prevention; ·young men under 35.

At risk individuals.

Public invitation to community and voluntary groups active in this area.

Yes. No specific funding stream to provide funding for community groups.

—Projects tackling alcohol misuse.

Supports for community based responses addressing problems associated with alcohol misuse.

At risk individuals.

Public invitation to community and voluntary groups active in this area.

Yes. No specific funding stream to provide funding for such services.

3. Flagship Projects Jointly Funded:

€5 million

Innovative initiatives addressing issues of social and economic disadvantage.

Innovative initiatives addressing matters of major public concern and/or headline policy interventions for which funding from private/philanthropic or community sources can be levered.

Socially and economically disadvantaged.

Public invitation to groups who have substantial guaranteed funding from private, philanthropic or community sources for innovative projects

Yes. Objective is to encourage innovative projects which can lever significant funding from private, philanthropic or community sources.

Question No. 75 answered with QuestionNo. 66.

National Drugs Strategy.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

76 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he is satisfied that the response by his Department to the huge increase in the use of cocaine is adequate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10766/06]

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

80 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on whether cocaine abuse is spiralling out of control; his further views on the need for a more coherent policy on tackling the rapid increase in the rise of cocaine use across the Twenty-six Counties; and if so, the measures which have been devised to tackle this epidemic. [10773/06]

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

93 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has had discussions with the Department of Health and Children in regard to the anticipated increase in cocaine users presenting for treatment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10814/06]

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

109 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on whether the four pilot projects to deal with the spread of cocaine use here is sufficient to deal with the problem; his further views on introducing additional measures to tackle this serious problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10767/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

111 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on how serious and prevalent the use of cocaine is throughout the Twenty-six Counties; and what he intends to do to combat this worrying trend. [10777/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 76, 80, 93, 109 and 111 together.

While anecdotal evidence suggests that there has been a growth in the use of cocaine, we are not in a position to quantify the level of any increase. The 2002-03 national drug prevalence survey provides comprehensive baseline information on cocaine use in this country. This study, which surveyed 8,442 people aged 15-64 in Ireland and Northern Ireland between October 2002 and April 2003, reported that 3% of the population had used cocaine at some time, 1.1% had used it in the previous 12 months and 0.3% had used it in the previous month. I understand that these figures put us at roughly average at that time in terms of cocaine use in other European countries where similar comprehensive population surveys were undertaken.

It is intended that a second comprehensive drug prevalence study will be carried out from late 2006 to mid-2007. Preliminary analysis will be done in the months following that, with a first report of national prevalence figures and trends expected late in 2007. At that stage we will be much better placed to measure effectively changes in the level of cocaine use in Ireland.

I am confident that through the implementation of the actions in the national drugs strategy and the projects and initiatives operated through the local and regional drugs task forces, the problem of cocaine use can be addressed. Each of the drugs task forces has in place an action plan to tackle drug use in their area based on their own identified priorities and they continue to have ongoing contact with their local communities.

There is no substitution treatment drug for cocaine and existing services, such as counselling and behavioural therapy, are the best treatments available. In this context, the Health Service Executive has recruited additional counsellors and outreach workers in recent years. Furthermore, in 2005 I launched four pilot cocaine treatment projects to examine different methods of treatment for cocaine use, as well as a training initiative focusing on frontline workers. Funding of almost €400,000 was provided by me to support these initiatives. The four projects deal with the following cohorts of cocaine users: intravenous cocaine users; poly-drug users using cocaine; problematic intranasal cocaine users; and problematic female cocaine users.

The evaluation of these pilot projects has commenced and it is expected that a preliminary report will be available in the coming months. The main thrust of the evaluation will be to analyse, in a systematic manner, what is being achieved by the projects and to report on the lessons to be learned as a result. It is hoped that the results of this evaluation will aid the formulation of effective actions aimed at tackling cocaine misuse. If they prove to be effective, I will roll similar projects out on a national basis, where necessary.

All schools now have substance misuse prevention programmes. In addition, the national drugs awareness campaign focused specifically on cocaine use in 2004-05. This well received campaign sought to dispel the image that cocaine was a clean and safe drug with few detrimental consequences. Moreover, I have established a rehabilitation working group to examine the current provision of services for drug misusers, including those who abuse cocaine. This group includes representatives from a range of Departments and agencies involved in delivering rehabilitation services as well as the national drugs strategy team, NDST, the national advisory committee on drugs, NACD, and representatives from the community and voluntary sectors. The report of the working group will be available in the coming months.

I assure the Deputies that I am in ongoing contact with all those involved in the provision of treatment, including the Minister for Health and Children. While the problems of cocaine use must not be underestimated, I believe progress is being made and I will continue to respond in a flexible and focused way as the situation evolves.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

77 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the steps he has taken to discuss and deal with the problems, as expressed by representatives of the community sector, with the implementation of the national drugs strategy; if he has met with community representatives regarding their concerns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10768/06]

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

81 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the steps he has taken to address the concerns raised by the community sector regarding the national drugs strategy team since the resignation of a person (details supplied). [10776/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 77 and 81 together.

Representatives of the community sector remain fully engaged in all aspects of the national drugs strategy. This includes the continuation of their input to the work of the national drugs strategy team, NDST, in partnership with other members. The community sector representative on the NDST has recently resigned and I have asked the NDST to liaise with the community sector representatives on the local and regional drugs task forces with a view to recommending a replacement representative. Meanwhile, the community sector representatives also continue to play a full part in the work of the local and regional drugs task forces. There is similar full engagement with the national assessment committee of the young people's facilities and services fund and the interdepartmental group on drugs.

I believe that the significant steps being taken, both by my Department and other agencies involved in the implementation of the strategy, including the substantially increased funding for this year, will help allay concerns community representatives might have about progress and our sustained commitment. At the same time, there are encouraging signs of progress in recent years — be it in the areas of drug seizures, the expansion of treatment services or in prevention programmes in schools. The landscape has changed significantly and, while there is certainly no room for complacency, it is also important to acknowledge our achievements.

All of us who are involved in tackling the problems of drugs misuse share the same aims. I am sure that we will continue to address and overcome any issues that arise from time to time so that we can jointly tackle the misuse of drugs in the most effective way possible into the future.

Question No. 78 answered with QuestionNo. 73.

Rural Development.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

79 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position with the development of a national strategy on rural development; the reason the proposed consultation forum on this issue has yet to take place; when an outcome from this process can be expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10770/06]

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

110 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when it is expected that the joint national strategy for rural development will be formally agreed, adopted and published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10806/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 and 110 together.

My Department and the Department of Agriculture and Food are jointly engaged in the preparation of a national strategy for rural development as required by the new European Council regulation on rural development. This task is being carried out in association with the European Commission. In October 2005, advertisements were placed in the national newspapers inviting representative organisations with an interest in rural development to indicate if they wished to be consulted on the preparation of the national strategy. In December 2005, a consultation document — draft — Ireland Rural Development National Strategy Plan, NSP, 2007-2013 — issued to the interested representative organisations which were invited to make submissions by 27 January 2006. Some 70 submissions have been received to date and are being considered by both Departments.

The public consultation process on the national strategy culminated with a seminar, organised by the two Departments, on 14 March 2006 in Tullamore. Over 70 representative organisations participated and approximately 170 people attended the seminar. The views elicited will be considered in finalising the national strategy, which I expect to be agreed with the European Commission in the coming months. A detailed national programme/s will be prepared following completion of the national strategy. This will be submitted to the Commission with a view to its agreement by the end of 2006 to enable commencement of the new programme/s in January 2007.

Indicative funding for rural development programming was agreed at the December 2005 European Council. Its distribution between member states will be agreed at a forthcoming meeting of the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers.

Question No. 80 answered with QuestionNo. 76.
Question No. 81 answered with QuestionNo. 77.

National Drugs Strategy.

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

82 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on extending the drugs task force area; the position regarding the work of the drugs task force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10804/06]

My Department oversees the work of the 14 local drugs task forces, 12 of which are in Dublin with the others in Cork and Bray, which were established in the areas experiencing the highest levels of drugs misuse, as well as the ten regional drugs task forces in the areas not covered by local drugs task forces. Thus, all parts of the country are serviced by a drugs task force.

Local drugs task forces, LDTFs, are well established and have been operating for almost ten years. The LDTFs have prepared two rounds of local action plans and these include a range of measures relating to treatment, rehabilitation, education, prevention and curbing local drug supply. The LDTFs are currently implementing the second round of those plans at an annual cost of approximately €16 million. In addition, the LDTFs provide a mechanism for the co-ordination of services in these areas, while at the same time allowing local communities and voluntary organisations to participate in the planning, design and delivery of services. They are designed to complement, and add value to, the extensive range of interventions being delivered through the State agencies.

Additionally, progress has been made by the regional drugs task forces, RDTFs, which were established in 2003, in the development of their action plans. A sum of €5 million has been allocated to the ten RDTFs to progress implementation of those plans for 2006. I envisage that funding will be increased on an incremental basis over the coming years to achieve the full roll out of these action plans, which are estimated to have a full cost in the region of €12.2 million per annum.

Rural Transport Services.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

83 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has had discussions with Pobal regarding the rural transport initiative; the content and issues raised during those discussions; his priority issues in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10810/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

537 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the extent to which he has assisted in the provision of free travel facilities in areas lacking public transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11092/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83 and 537 together.

As the Deputies will be aware, the rural transport initiative, RTI, is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen, and questions about it should be addressed to him.

Irish Language.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

84 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of Irish language schemes approved by him since 8 February 2006 under the Official Languages Act 2003; the number of schemes commenced under the Act since that date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10815/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 112 of 8 February 2006 in which I indicated that a total of 22 language schemes prepared by public bodies have been confirmed by me and published and that my Department was in discussion with in excess of 70 additional public bodies about completion or commencement of the process of drafting a scheme. In this context, public bodies have a period of six months to prepare and submit draft language schemes to me for confirmation. My Department officials have then to examine the draft schemes and in many instances this requires further discussion or clarification with public bodies before schemes are forwarded to me for final confirmation.

Although the number of schemes approved are small, they include agencies and Departments either with a strategic importance nationally, a large customer base nationally or a functional area with a Gaeltacht in it with a large customer base.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

85 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the consultations his Department has had with the Garda Commissioner and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform regarding the requirement for Irish language training for recruits to the Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10807/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 139 of 8 February 2006 in which I indicated that an interdepartmental working group had been established to recommend an appropriate approach to Irish language training for recruits to the Garda Síochána. The group was established in the context of a review of the requirements for recruitment to the force, which was carried out to ensure opportunities for recruitment for representatives of communities newly established in Ireland in recent years.

There are ongoing discussions between my Department, the Garda authorities and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in that regard. I understand that details of the revised Irish language training arrangements for recruit gardaí will be announced in due course by the Garda Commissioner.

Departmental Programmes.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

86 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he proposes changes to the CLÁR areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10445/06]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

92 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his plans to review the CLÁR areas; if he will include the town of Castlerea in County Roscommon in the CLÁR area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10444/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 86 and 92 together.

I refer the Deputy to my previous answer of 16 February 2006 on this issue. The results of the review commissioned are currently being analysed and until such time as the analysis is complete, I cannot say what, if any, changes may be made to the CLÁR areas.

Interdepartmental Committees.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

87 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the level of interaction which is taking place between his Department and the task force on active citizenship. [10784/06]

The Taoiseach announced his intention to establish a task force on active citizenship last year and recently announced that Mary Davis will chair the task force. A secretariat has been set up in Taoiseach's Department to review current trends in civic participation in Ireland and consider the latest national and international research in this policy area. Officials from my Department have been liaising with the secretariat on relevant matters and will continue to input into the work of the task force where appropriate.

Community Development.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

88 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the full extent of the funding made available by his Department and through various bodies under his aegis to various community based groups to deal with social or economic deprivation in 2005; the extent to which he expects to increase such funding in the current year under the various headings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10779/06]

My Department provides funding, either directly or through bodies under its aegis, to various community based groups to deal with social or economic deprivation. The descriptions of these schemes are available on my Department's website at www.pobal.ie. It is the practice of both my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern, and myself to make details of all announcements relating to grant approvals and other expenditure related decisions under these programmes available on the Department’s website.

Provisional expenditure outruns for 2005 and estimated outruns for 2006 for my Department are included in the recently published Revised Estimates Volume 2006. Expenditure across the main programme areas, including administration, for 2005 and Estimates for 2006 are given in the table.

2005 (Provisional Outturn)

2006 estimate

€m

€m

An Ghaeilge agus an Ghaeltacht

88.393

103.318

Community Affairs

146.593

207.769

Rural Affairs

73.893

99.101

Other Services

30.054

48.8

Administration

15.571

19.482

If the Deputy would like information on a particular scheme, I would be glad to provide details to him.

Question No. 89 answered with QuestionNo. 67.

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

90 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his Department will process the information regarding voluntary activity that will come from the census 2006 data; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10782/06]

As I have indicated, my Department will review the experience of the package of volunteering measures that I initiated around this time last year as we develop a national policy on volunteering for the future. In this context, my Department will endeavor to take all relevant information into account.

Question No. 91 answered with QuestionNo. 73.
Question No. 92 answered with QuestionNo. 86.
Question No. 93 answered with QuestionNo. 76.
Question No. 94 answered with QuestionNo. 69.

Official Engagements.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

95 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will report on his recent meeting in Belfast with Mr. David Hanson, Northern Ireland Office Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure; the issues that were discussed at this meeting; the areas in which he hopes to develop more North-South co-operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10794/06]

Minister Hanson and I held meetings on 6 March 2006 with the chairs and chief executives of Foras na Gaeilge and the Ulster-Scots Agency and with the chief executive of Waterways Ireland, to discuss matters which fall within the remit of these cross-Border Implementation Bodies. The discussions focused on a range of corporate governance issues and work priorities and goals for 2006, as part of our regular review of the work of these bodies.

With regard to An Foras Teanga-Tha Boord o Leid, Minister Hanson and I reaffirmed the two Governments' commitment and support for language and cultural diversity across the island and commended both the Ulster-Scots Agency and Foras na Gaeilge on their achievements to date. We agreed in principle, subject to the approval of the North-South Ministerial Council, that 30 Foras na Gaeilge staff posts should be located in Gaoth Dobhair and that the board of foras should now bring forward firm proposals on the phases of locating this staff complement to Gaoth Dobhair, and a decision on the precise sections and functions to be located there.

With regard to Waterways Ireland, Minister Hanson and I welcomed the publication of a socio-economic summary report for the north-east and south-west sections of the Ulster Canal and a feasibility study into the Re-opening of the Ulster Canal, which Waterways Ireland had commissioned at our request. We noted the potential these reports give for the canal to be developed and for boosting its social and economic potential and we were pleased to acknowledge the assistance provided by the Blackwater Partnership to Waterways Ireland in the production of these reports. Minister Hanson and I, and our respective Departments, will now consider the reports.

We also noted with satisfaction the achievements made by Waterways Ireland against 2005 business plan objectives and its steady progress on the main targets for 2006. We expressed support for the ongoing work of developing and promoting the inland waterways network on this island and commended Waterways Ireland for its progressive approach to identifying the issues facing staff in a cross-Border context, bringing together existing and new staff from different backgrounds and cultures and putting in place a positive action plan to take the organisation forward. I have arranged for a copy of the joint statement that was issued following the meeting to be forwarded to the Deputy.

Departmental Programmes.

John Gormley

Ceist:

96 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if the evaluation of the RAPID programme being carried out by a company (details supplied) will be made available to the public upon its completion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10786/06]

Pobal co-ordinates the RAPID programme on behalf of the Government. The evaluation in question was commissioned by Pobal. I understand Pobal intends to make it available to the public.

Rural Development.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

97 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when there will be a national country walkway strategy; his views on the loss of tourism revenue which is resulting from this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10764/06]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

112 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position regarding the work of Comhairle na Tuáithe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10799/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 112 together.

The issue of rural tourism in the context of the opportunities presented by the development of walkways is one, I believe, which can only be solved by the active participation and support of not just farmers and walkers but also the wider rural community, who stand to benefit a great deal from the development of activity based rural tourism, including walking tours. The issue of access to land and walkways is fundamental to this question and it was in this context that, in February 2004, I established Comhairle na Tuaithe to address the three priority issues of access, developing a countryside code and developing a countryside recreation strategy.

Comhairle na Tuaithe comprises representatives of the farming organisations, recreational users of the countryside and State bodies with an interest in the countryside. As well as having identified and reviewed a set of access parameters in the countryside, Comhairle na Tuaithe has also considered the key features necessary for countryside code development, with a focus on the potential application of the internationally recognised Leave No Trace initiative.

Comhairle na Tuaithe is currently working on the development of a national countryside recreation strategy. The objective of the strategy is to put in place an accepted and agreed vision for countryside recreation and a blueprint for action and implementation of that strategy going forward. A total of 190 submissions were received in answer to a call in national and provincial papers and by letter to stakeholder organisations. These submissions are currently being examined and the work of drafting the countryside recreation strategy is proceeding.

I look forward to receiving the draft strategy from Comhairle na Tuaithe following its consideration of the issues arising. It is also intended to use the rural social scheme to develop and maintain walkways.

I am aware that recent Fáilte Ireland figures indicate that the number of visitors to Ireland continued to increase during 2005 but that the trend towards short urban based breaks continued, which draws the overseas leisure visitors away from rural areas. It should be noted that my Department is working in close partnership with the Department of Agriculture and Food on the new rural development programme/s 2007-13. Under axis 3 of this programme — The Wider Rural Economy — the overarching objective is one of creating employment opportunities. The range of measures available under this axis will be used to promote the development of rural communities and also to ensure that rural areas remain attractive for future generations. To meet these priorities, the EU strategic guidelines and Council regulation identify key actions, among which is encouraging the development of rural tourism.

Community Development.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

98 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his proposals to develop structures, including a centralised unit, to drive and co-ordinate social inclusion policies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10793/06]

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

100 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress he has made in regard to the streamlining and co-ordination of service delivery in the community and voluntary sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10802/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 and 100 together.

Arising from the review process which I initiated, in conjunction with my colleagues, the Ministers for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Justice, Equality and Law Reform, in January 2004, the Government agreed a series of measures designed to improve delivery of services on the ground, improve arrangements under which community and local development initiatives are delivered and improve cohesion and focus across various measures. In line with that decision, local and community development agencies were requested to advance improvements in linkages, cohesion and sharing resources. City and county development boards were given the role of overseeing and co-ordinating the cohesion process. Cohesion Funding of €3,248,600 was allocated during 2004 to support specific measures arising from that process.

The core objective of the 2005-06 round is the alignment of local, community and rural development organisations to achieve full area coverage. The major advantage of such an approach is that the State will be able to deliver programmes such as the local development social inclusion programme and the rural social scheme through these new unified structures because they will have all-area cover. My preference is for unified overarching structures based around county boundaries where practicable. However, I am prepared to consider variations across county boundaries on their merits.

The intention is that from 2007 there will be one company delivering services in any given area and fewer companies overall in the country. This will lead to improved co-ordination of service delivery and maximise the impact of social inclusion measures at a local level. To date, I have been able to support a number of proposals for integration of Leader and partnership companies. Further proposals are being developed by the relevant agencies. I will consider these proposals in due course.

A total of €4,836,927 was awarded in respect of cohesion initiatives during 2005, including €1,463,400 for promotion of volunteering. I have approved a further €760,600 from the cohesion fund since the beginning of the year.

Question No. 99 answered with QuestionNo. 66.
Question No. 100 answered with QuestionNo. 98.

Rural Development.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

101 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the individual projects being sanctioned as part of the €55,000 grant from the rural development fund which he recently made available to the Irish Rural Tourism Federation. [10785/06]

The Irish Rural Tourism Federation, IRTF, applied to my Department for funding under the rural development fund, RDF, for a project to: establish the nature and spatial distribution of the rural tourism product; establish current and predict future market trends for the sector; develop a communications strategy for the IRTF and the Irish rural tourism sector. The federation has been allocated €55,000 from the RDF to assist it in carrying out this work.

National Drugs Strategy.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

102 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when the next drugs prevalence survey will be published; the timeframe of this survey; if a special study will be conducted into the use of crack cocaine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10797/06]

The national advisory committee on drugs and the drug and alcohol information and research unit, Northern Ireland, commissioned the first drug prevalence survey, the purpose of which was to establish the population prevalence of drug use on the island of Ireland in 2002/03. This study surveyed over 8,000 people aged 15-64 in Ireland and Northern Ireland between October 2002 and April 2003 and examined the prevalence of a number of drugs. The survey collected data relating to both cocaine powder and crack on a lifetime — ever used — basis; last year — recent use — basis; and last month — current use — basis.

Expressions of interest from potential tenderers have been sought for a second population drug prevalence survey. With the baseline information in place from the first survey, the findings of this survey should prove very informative, giving valuable information on trends, including those relating to crack cocaine, that can feed into drugs policy formulation for the future. It is intended that the drug prevalence study fieldwork will be carried out from late 2006 to mid-2007. Preliminary analysis will be in the months following, with a first report of national prevalence figures and trends expected in late 2007.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

103 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason increases in spending on the national drugs strategy since 2002 have not been accompanied by a decrease in the availability or usage of illegal drugs. [10780/06]

I am pleased with the increasing levels of funding being made available to tackle the problems of drugs misuse. An allocation of €43 million has been made to my Department's Vote for the drugs initiative-young people's facilities and services fund in 2006. This represents an increase of 37% on the original 2005 allocation and a massive 61% increase on the 2004 figure. It will allow us to consolidate and build on previous investment and to continue to tackle the drug problem in a comprehensive way. I remain hopeful that through this sizeable programme of investment we will continue to impact in a serious way on the availability and usage of illegal drugs.

With respect to the availability or usage of illegal drugs, although there is anecdotal evidence of a growth in the use of some illegal drugs, albeit from a relatively low base, we are not in a position to quantify the level of any increase. At the same time, the rate of success of the gardaí and the customs service is significant, with seizures of approximately €49 million in 2002, increasing in 2003 and 2004 to €100 million and €132 million respectively. Overall, there are encouraging signs of progress in recent years, be it in the areas of drug seizures, the decline in the number of new cases of problematic opiate misuse in Dublin, the expansion of treatment services or in prevention programmes in schools.

It is intended that the field work for the second drug prevalence study will be carried out from late 2006 to mid-2007. Preliminary analysis will be done in the months following, with a first report of national prevalence figures and trends expected in late 2007. At that stage, we will be much better placed to measure effectively current drug use in Ireland.

Irish Language.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

104 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has had discussions with relevant agencies and the Department of Education and Science regarding the provision of Irish language translators and interpreters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10816/06]

Foras na Gaeilge, at my request, is introducing an accreditation system for private sector Irish language translators, which will be the first such system of its kind in this country. Details on the introduction of the accreditation system have been agreed with Foras na Gaeilge and were announced in December 2005. It is intended to arrange the first examination in April 2006, with a view to having a panel of accredited translators in place for both public and private sectors by May 2006. When operational, this will be a significant resource for public bodies in their implementation of the Official Languages Act.

I am currently considering how additional measures could be put in place to increase the output of qualified translators and I hope to be in a position to make an announcement in this regard before too long.

National Drugs Strategy.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

105 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the discussions he has had with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Health and Children, regarding the worsening situation and prevalence of illegal drugs here; his views on the need for a more co-ordinated Government response to the national drugs crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10801/06]

The officials of my Department and I are in ongoing contact with all those involved in disrupting the use of illegal drugs in this country. A comprehensive framework for a co-ordinated Government response to the issue of drug misuse is already in place. The national drugs strategy 2001-08 addresses the problem of drug misuse across a number of pillars — supply reduction, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research. Implementation of the strategy across a range of Departments and agencies, and directly involving the community and voluntary sector, is co-ordinated by my Department. Moreover, although there is anecdotal evidence of a growth in the use of some illegal drugs, albeit from a relatively low base, we are not in a position to quantify the level of any increase.

It is intended that the field work for the second drug prevalence study will be carried out from late 2006 to mid-2007. Preliminary analysis will be in the months following, with a first report of national prevalence figures and trends expected in late 2007. At that stage we will be much better placed to measure effectively the level of growth of drug misuse in Ireland.

The report of the mid-term review of the national drugs strategy, which was published in June 2005, found that the current aims and objectives of the drugs strategy are fundamentally sound and that there were encouraging signs of progress in its implementation. Officials of the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Education and Science and Health and Children sit on the regional and local drugs task forces, the national drugs strategy team and the interdepartmental group on drugs, illustrating the degree of co-ordination involved between our Departments under the national drugs strategy. I am confident that the general consensus on the direction and implementation of the strategy will continue.

Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

106 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Sargent den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cad é an dul chun cinn atá déanta ó thaobh chur i bhfeidhm alt 7 Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla. [10824/06]

Tiocfaidh alt 7 d'Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla i bhfeidhm go uathoibríoch ar 13 Iúil 2006 i gcomhréir le halt 1 den Acht féin. Tuigtear dom gur ceist í do Chléireach na Dála, faoi Bhuan-Ordaithe na Dála, an réamh-ullmhúchán cuí a dhéanamh chun na críche sin.

Decentralisation Programme.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

107 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will provide a report on the various decentralisation projects relating to his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10805/06]

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

121 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position regarding the staff within his Department who do not wish to decentralise; if they will move to other Departments or continue to be employed by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10769/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 107 and 121 together.

The Deputy will be aware that my Department's Dublin based operations are decentralising in full. The headquarters will relocate to Knock Airport while some 13 posts will transfer to Na Forbacha in Galway. The move to Knock Airport is scheduled for completion by the end of 2007. It is, however, planned to relocate up to 70 posts in advance of the main move to temporary accommodation in the general Knock area. This advance move is planned to take place from mid-2006. A further small number of posts may be relocated there in early 2007. Of the 13 Na Forbacha posts mentioned, seven have now transferred to our offices there and it is expected that the remainder will be in place by the end of this year.

As my Department will be decentralising in full, staff who are not relocating with it will move to other Departments, either by way of bilateral transfers with officers transferring into this Department or under the arrangements agreed centrally for redeployment of staff remaining in Dublin.

At a meeting with my counterpart, Mr. David Hanson MP, Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, in Belfast on 6 March 2006, we agreed in principle, subject to completion of the formal North-South Ministerial Council approval process, that 30 Foras na Gaeilge staff posts should be located in Gaoth Dobhair. The formal approval process is being taken forward at official level. The board of foras will be asked to bring forward firm proposals on the phases of locating this staff complement to Gaoth Dobhair and a decision on the precise sections and functions to be located there.

Pobal, formerly ADM, will transfer some 40 posts to Clifden, County Galway. The first phase of this programme, the transfer of the management of the rural social scheme, RSS, involving ten posts, has been completed, while a second phase involving a similar number of staff will be completed in May-June of this year. Temporary accommodation has been acquired in Clifden for these staff. The OPW has identified a local authority site for Pobal's permanent Clifden office. Negotiations are at an advanced stage and it is anticipated that contractual procedures for the acquisition of the site should be finalised shortly. Indications from the OPW are that if everything proceeds according to plan, the offices would be available for occupation in late 2007 or early 2008.

National Drugs Strategy.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

108 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the discussions he has had with the Department of Education and Science regarding drug use among undergraduate students in full-time third level education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10813/06]

I have had no specific discussions with the Minister for Education and Science on drug use among undergraduate students in full-time third level education but I am in ongoing contact with all those involved in efforts to disrupt the distribution and consumption of illegal drugs throughout society, including the Minister for Education and Science.

The primary focus of the 108 actions of the national drugs strategy is on the illegal drugs that do the most harm and on the most vulnerable drug misusers as well as their families and communities. The main focus of the strategy with respect to the education sector is on preventative strategies targeting the primary and secondary levels and the informal education sector, including youth services. Arising from this, all such schools now have substance misuse prevention programmes included on their curricula. A consequence of this strategy should be to arm undergraduate students with the knowledge about the dangers of drug misuse before they enter college.

The strategy also includes a national awareness campaign, managed by the Department of Health and Children and aimed at promoting greater awareness and understanding of the causes and consequences of drug misuse throughout society. Aspects of this campaign were specifically targeted at the young adult population.

It is very difficult to quantify drug use by socio-economic group. The drug prevalence survey carried out for the national advisory committee on drugs and the drug and alcohol information and research unit, Northern Ireland, which is recognised as the most comprehensive baseline data we have for prevalence rates in this country, identified usage in the past 12 months by young adults — 15 to 34 years — as 8.6% for cannabis and 2.3% for ecstasy. That survey covered 8,442 people, aged between 15 and 64, on the island of Ireland.

The college lifestyle and attitudinal national — CLAN — survey, which was jointly carried out by the health promotion unit of the Department of Health and Children and NUI Galway in the academic year 2002-03, dealt with a sample of 3,259 students from universities and other third level institutions across Ireland. Drug use was one of the many areas under focus. The focus and methodology of the survey differed from the 2002-03 drug prevalence survey. Therefore, the results of the two surveys are not directly comparable and they do not throw up the same figures. However, the findings are nonetheless valuable in improving our understanding of drug misuse by university students in Ireland.

Established research suggests that this cohort is more likely to experiment with drug use than are other sections of society and the CLAN survey reflected this. In the CLAN survey, 37% reported having used cannabis and 8% indicated that they had used ecstasy in the previous 12 months. It would be expected that these figures would include many who experimented once, or at least very few times, rather than reflecting more problematic long-term or regular use, which is the main focus of the national drugs strategy.

Question No. 109 answered with QuestionNo. 76.
Question No. 110 answered with QuestionNo. 79.
Question No. 111 answered with QuestionNo. 76.
Question No. 112 answered with QuestionNo. 97.

Official Engagements.

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

113 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will report on his official visit to New Zealand for St. Patrick’s Day festivities; the length of his visit; the events attended; and the number of officials and others accompanying him and the estimated cost. [10783/06]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Question 149 on 9 March 2006. I travelled to New Zealand for the St. Patrick's Day celebrations there and was accompanied by my wife, the Secretary General of my Department, the private secretary and the media adviser. As we arrived in New Zealand on 10 March and departed on 18 March it is not practical to provide an accurate indication of costs involved at this juncture.

I attach a comprehensive itinerary for information and the Deputy may wish to note the wide range of Irish groups and interests met with during the trip across New Zealand in Auckland, TaranguaTauranga, Christchurch and Wellington; meetings with Ministers of the New Zealand Government about rural tourism, including walkways, and with the chairman of the Maori Language Commission on language issues; my formal presentation to the New Zealand Parliament; breadth of contacts with both local and national representatives throughout New Zealand; key representational work undertaken for St. Patrick's Day, commencing with the parade in Auckland on 11 March and continuing daily throughout the visit; attendance at consular reception in Auckland on 17 March, attended by Minister Clayton Cosgrove MP on behalf of the Prime Minister, Members of Parliament, and representatives of the diplomatic corps, public and business life; extensive media coverage, including interviews on national television.

There is great potential to enhance economic and cultural ties between us — total trade with New Zealand in 2004 was valued at €83 million and substantial numbers in the New Zealand population claim Irish ancestry. Also of the order of 26,000 visitors from New Zealand visited Ireland in 2005 and their stays tend to be above average in duration, and encompass visits to the regions, as well as Dublin. Against this background, and matters of common interest which we share, I believe that the visit was immensely worthwhile and will help reap considerable benefits for the State.

2006 St. Patrick’s Festival Visit — New Zealand

Éamon O Cuív TD, Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and his wife, Secretary General of the Department, media adviser to Minister, private secretary to the Minister

Final Itinerary

As at 16 March 2006

Friday 10th March

10.50Deputy Éamon O Cuív, Minister of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and his wife and party arrive Auckland International Airport

Met by Honorary Consul General, Rodney HC Walshe along with representative of distinguished visitors division of internal affairs, Frances Reynolds.

11.30Depart airport for hotel

PMRest

Saturday 11th March

11.30Depart hotel for St. Patrick's festival parade meeting point

12.00Participate in St. Patrick's festival parade

12.30Parade concludes and music festival commences at Aotea Square

13.00Join Mayor of Auckland City, His Worship Dick Hubbard, in the opening of the St. Patrick's Music Festival at Aotea Square, draw a prize for tickets to the U2 concert the following week.

14.00 Return to hotel and on the way visit Waterford display at Smith & Caughey Department Store, 253-261 Queen St., Auckland.

19.00Depart hotel for Langham Hotel Auckland, 83 Symonds Street, Auckland,

19.15 Attend the St. Patrick's Festival Banquet at the Langham Hotel Auckland. Lynne Pillay, MP for Waitakere, Auckland will be representing the New Zealand Prime Minister. Maurice Maxwell, Chargé d'Affaires, Delegation of the European Commission, will also be in attendance as will His Worship Garry Moore, Mayor of Christchurch, and four of Auckland Region's mayors; His Worship Dick Hubbard, Mayor of Auckland City, His Worship, Bob Harvey, Mayor of Waitakere City, His Worship Sir Barry Curtis, Mayor of Manukau City and His Worship George Wood, Mayor of North Shore City along with Mike Lee, Chairman, Auckland Regional Council. Minister to respond to the Toast to St. Patrick proposed by the Prime Minister's representative with a toast to "The Irish and the Friends of the Irish in New Zealand"

Midnight — Return to hotel.

Sunday 12th March

09.30Depart hotel for Auckland Domestic Airport

10.45Domestic flight Tauranga

11.20Arrive Tauranga Airport and transported to Hotel

12.00Attend Irish Fair Day at the Tauranga Race Course Reserve.

14.00Tauranga Port tour accompanied by the Mayor of Tauranga.

15.00Transported to Hotel.

17.30Reception hosted by Tony Fahy and attended by His Worship Mayor Stuart Crosby at Fahy's Motor Inn, 1237 Cameron Road, Tauranga.

19.00Dinner at venue to be confirmed

22.00Return to hotel.

Monday 13th March

09.00Depart hotel for Tauranga Domestic Airport

10.15Domestic flight to Wellington

11.30Arrive Wellington Airport, transported to hotel

12.30-14.00Transfer to the Maori Language Commission, Level 14, Investment Centre, Corner Featherston & Balance Streets, Wellington, Ph: 04 471-0244, Fax: 04 471-2768, tereo@tetaurawhiri.govt.nz for lunch meeting with the chairman and chief executive officer, Mr. Haami Piripi, to discuss preservation and development of languages.

14.15Walk to next meetings. Minister Ó Cuív returns to hotel.

16.45Attend function at Department of Social Development

17.45Return to hotel

18.00Dinner with CEO Maori Language Commission

19.45Transported to the Wellington Irish Society Clubrooms for function hosted by the Wellington Irish Society

20.00Irish Society Function, 10 Fifeshire Avenue, Wellington City, PH: 64 4 384-8535, Web: www.irish. wellington.net.nz/

22.0022.00 — Return to Hotel

Tuesday 14th March

09.15Transfer to Beehive from hotel.

09.30Hon Damien O'Connor, Minister of Tourism at the Beehive, 5th Floor to discuss New Zealand's experiences in visitor access to rural land and to sea and lake shore.

10.30Transfer from Beehive to Hotel

13.00Lunch at a venue to be confirmed

13.45Transfer to Beehive for presentation to Parliament.

14.00Hon. Damian O'Connor, Minister of Tourism presents Minister Ó Cuív to Parliament

14.30Beehive tour

15.00Return to hotel

15.45Transfer to Beehive for meeting with Minister of Conservation, Housing and Ethnic Affairs.

16.00Meeting with the Honourable Mr. Chris Carter, Minister for Conservation, Housing and Ethnic Affairs, on Walkways and Rural Tourism issues

18.00Return to hotel

18.30Dinner at hotel

19.15Transported to the Hutt Valley Irish Society for Supper at the Hutt Valley Irish Society Clubrooms, 12 Raroa Rd, Lower Hutt.

22.00Return to Hotel.

Wednesday 15th March

09.15Depart hotel for Wellington Domestic Airport

10.20Domestic flight to Christchurch

11.15Arrive Christchurch Airport, transferred to Hotel

14.00Briefing on Christchurch walkways with Kay Holder from Christchurch City Council, and visit to Walkways.

17.00Transported to the Christchurch Irish Society for function attended by Mayor of Christchurch, His Worship Garry Moore, 31 Domain Terrace, Spreydon, Christchurch

19.30Transferred to Hotel

20.00Dinner hosted by Mayor of Christchurch

Interviewed by Oliver Lee for Local Community Radio.

Thursday 16th March

09.00Depart hotel for Christchurch Domestic Airport

10.30Domestic Flight to Auckland

11.50Arrive Auckland Domestic Airport and transported to Hotel

14.10 Meet Julia Hart, Department of Conservation who is an expert on the DOC track network, she will discuss the network and the DOC perspective on access issues.

14.20Board ferry to be transported to Devonport.

14.45Arrive Devonport and met by Bill Trusewich and another DOC Officer who will transfer the group from Devonport Wharf to North Head.

15.00Arrive at North Head, the group will be met by Senior DOC archaeologist Dave Veart and Geoff Chapple from the Te Araroa Trust. Dave Veart will give an overview of DOC's work in the Auckland area especially at North Head. Geoff Chapple will talk of his experience in setting up a Walkway of New Zealand — including issues of gaining access across the front of residential properties in Devonport.

17.15Ferry back to Auckland — 5:15pm or 5:45pm.

Friday 17th March

06.00Leave hotel for Auckland Harbour Bridge, Transit Services Area under southern end.

06.20Climb Auckland Harbour Bridge and raise the Irish Flag on top of bridge.

07.45Transported to TVNZ studio, TVNZ Television Centre, 100 Victoria Street West, Auckland.

08.00Interviewed by Paul Henry on Breakfast show operated by TV New Zealand.

08.45Minister transported from TVNZ to Claddagh Irish Bar, Newmarket to attend Starship Hospital Charity Breakfast

08.45Remainder of Party transfer from Hotel to Claddagh Irish Bar, Newmarket

10.10Transferred to Eden Rugby Club, Gribblehust Park, Sandringham Road to attend Auckland Irish Society function.

10.30Attend Youth Mass and Auckland Irish Society function followed by lunch.

13.30Transferred to Consulate General of Ireland office, Level 7, Citibank Building, 23 Customs Street East, Auckland.

16.00Interviewed Auckland Community Radio

16.45Leave for the Auckland Club, 34 Shortland Street, Auckland

17.00Attend the Irish Consulate General cocktail reception to be held at the Auckland Club, 34 Shortland Street, Auckland

20.00Dinner at venue to be arranged.

TBCReturn to Hotel.

Saturday 18th March

07.50Transported from Hotel to TVNZ for interview with Lisa Owens from TV New Zealand.

15.30Delegation depart on International Flight.

Rural Social Scheme.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

114 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when his proposals for reform of the rural social scheme will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10765/06]

Following the recent review of the rural social scheme a small number of changes to the scheme, particularly relating to eligibility, are being finalised. In this regard, the Department is consulting the Department of Social and Family Affairs on how best to implement some of the changes. In this context, it is worth noting that following the agreement of that Department it has already been agreed that children and siblings of qualifying herd/flock owners, subject to certain restrictions, are now eligible to participate on the scheme.

Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

115 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Sargent den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an nglacann sé leis gur maith an smaoineamh é múnla a chur ar fáil a chabhróidh le foilsitheoirí freastal ar chuspóirí Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla agus a chinnteoidh go mbeidh an dá theanga nasctha le chéile taobh le taobh mar a bhíonn amhlaidh i gcáipéisí Bwrdd Yr Iaith Gymraeg / Bord Teanga na Breatnaise agus an nglacfaidh sé leis go gcuireann múnla mar sin le foghlaim an dá theanga agus le laghdú chostas na clódóireachta. [10823/06]

Dírím aird an Teachta ar an bhfreagra a thug mé ar Cheist Uimh. 113 den 8 Feabhra 2006 faoin ábhar seo. Mar a thug mé le fios sa bhfreagra sin, leagann na treoirlínte faoi alt 12 d'Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003, a foilsíodh i mí Mheán Fómhair 2004, gur chóir do chomhlachtaí polasaí soiléir a chruthú dán-eagraíochtaí féin maidir le soláthar sheirbhísí dhátheangacha i gcomhthéacs scéim teanga faoi alt 11 a ullmhú.

Mar atá ráite agam roimhe seo, cé go bhfuil buntáistí láidre don chustaiméir go mbeadh an Béarla agus an Ghaeilge taobh le taobh ar leathanaigh, is ceist í do gach comhlacht ar leith polasaí a chruthú dá eagraíocht féin a oireann dá chustaiméirí ó thaobh sheirbhísí dhátheangacha a sholáthar, ag tógáil san áireamh nithe a bhaineann le costais agus modhanna chun doiciméid agus foirmeacha a sheachadadh.

Oideachas Lán-Ghaeilge.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

116 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Costello den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cad iad na cainteanna a bhí aige leis an Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta, maidir le haonad oideachais lán-Ghaeilge Bhaile Bhuirne; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [10817/06]

Bhí cruinnithe agam leis an Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta ar ócáidí éagsúla maidir leis an gceist atá luaite ag an Teachta. Bhí an cheist mar ábhar plé freisin ag cruinnithe éagsúla idir oifigigh mo Roinne-se agus oifigigh na Roinne Oideachais agus Eolaíochta. Cé go bhfuil an próiseas plé sin fós ar siúl, tuigfidh an Teachta gur ceist í seo a bhaineann go príomha leis an Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta.

Community Development.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

117 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date in regard to the development of community and social connection in Irish society since the establishment of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10808/06]

When announcing the decision to establish this new Department in 2002, the Taoiseach stressed the need for Government to address issues of regional and social balance in a more effective way as well as securing economic development. He explained that the new Department was being set up to produce a more co-ordinated engagement by the State with communities around the country as they pursue their own development. It is now acknowledged that the setting up of the Department marked a new focus on the importance of community and social connections in Irish society.

In the period since, the key principle underlying the Department's activities has been the provision of support that enables communities themselves to identify and address issues in their own areas. That support takes the form of programmes and measures which, individually and collectively, focus on communities, particularly those that are vulnerable or under threat. Those communities may be in rural or inner city settings, grappling with difficulties caused by a range of factors, including declining populations, unemployment, language issues, social disadvantage or drug misuse. As well as communities that can be defined in terms of geographic location, the Department also supports communities that are defined on the basis of a common focus on a particular issue.

My Department's purpose is to provide support to communities in the most appropriate way as they work to shape their own futures, address their common goals and achieve their full potential. To be effective in this vital work, the Department has sought to provide a co-ordinated approach not only across the range of programmes and measures for which it has direct responsibility but also with other Departments and State agencies.

In the relatively short period since 2002, significant progress has been made and is recorded in the Department's annual reports. We have adapted and improved some of the programmes we inherited, we have introduced new programmes, we have taken steps to ensure cohesion between programmes and we have secured more resources for investment in key areas such as community development, rural development, supports for volunteering and for the formation of social capital and tackling the problem of drugs misuse. The results of that can be seen in communities right around the country. We have also taken a series of measures to ensure that what we invest is targeted on areas of real need.

The new approach taken in 2002 is working and is delivering results and it is my intention that we will continue with that approach.

Tourism Industry.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

118 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the action his Department is taking to support business opportunities for farmers and SMEs in agri-tourism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5932/06]

My Department funds, through the Leader companies, the area based rural development initiative, a sub-measure of the regional operational programmes aimed at providing support for the development of the rural/agri-tourism sector. The initiative, in so far as it supports the latter sector, has a budget of €30 million for the period 2000-06 and provides support for the development of the rural/agri-tourism product, including the provision of amenities, accommodation and marketing. This support is provided for eligible projects in rural areas generally.

My Department also funds the western development tourism programme, WDTP, through the rural development fund, RDF. The WDTP was established to develop a strategic approach to tourism initiatives in underdeveloped areas within the western region. It has been awarded €405,000 from the RDF for the period April 2003 to December 2006. In addition, €192,500 has been allocated from the RDF for Galway East Tourism Marketing Limited for the period 2003 to the end of 2006. This project aims to promote and develop the potential for rural tourism in east Galway.

Funding of €55,000 has recently been approved from the RDF for the Irish Rural Tourism Federation to assist it in developing a communications strategy. Údarás na Gaeltachta and the islands section of my Department also support rural tourism in various ways.

Questions Nos. 119 and 120 answered with Question No. 67.
Question No. 121 answered with QuestionNo. 107.

Rural Development.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

122 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the input he will have on the formulation of Agri-Vision 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10798/06]

The Agri-Vision 2015 committee was established in January 2004 by the Minister for Agriculture and Food and reported in November 2004. Significant work has been done since the publication of the report in response to its recommendations to improve the competitiveness of the agri-food sector and to contribute to a healthy and vibrant rural economy. The result is the Agri-Vision 2015 action plan which will be launched tomorrow, 22 March, by my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Coughlan. Many of the key recommendations contained in the report will be reflected in the next national rural development programme which will encompass EU priorities for the next generation of rural development policy.

National Drugs Strategy.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

123 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress that has been made to date with the emerging needs fund in the work of drugs task forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10803/06

The emerging needs fund was devised to address an evolving situation in regard to the misuse of drugs on a flexible basis, in the light of new needs. To date I have allocated almost €850,000 under the emerging needs fund to 14 projects.

In the light of the substantially increased level of funding allocated in the Revised Estimates figures for drugs initiatives under my Department, I will shortly make further allocations under the fund. The total allocation to projects under the fund is likely to be in excess of €3 million. I look forward to successful outcomes from the initiatives that are allocated moneys under this fund.

Question No. 124 answered with QuestionNo. 67.

Irish Language.

Damien English

Ceist:

125 Mr. English asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when work on the development of a strategy for the Irish language will be sanctioned; his views on whether the language is suffering due to the lack of a long-term vision for it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10762/06]

As I have already indicated in response to similar questions, the matter of the advisability of a 20 year strategic plan for the Irish language has been amongst the issues which have been considered in general terms by Fóram na Gaeilge in its deliberations thus far. In that context, the need for the development of a clear statement on the part of the Government regarding the Irish language and its importance as a whole has emerged as a key issue and considerable work is in hand on this matter. I hope to be able to advance the matter at a meeting of the fóram in the near future.

Substantial progress is being made to foster the language and to further underpin its viability since the publication of the Gaeltacht Commission's report in 2002. The Official Languages Act is benefiting both the Irish language and the Irish language community, and substantial progress has also been made regarding the status of Irish in the European Union. A number of new initiatives have been introduced in Gaeltacht areas, including the language planning initiative, the scheme for language assistants, the expansion and development of the summer camps scheme as well as the development of public awareness measures aimed at the Gaeltacht community in particular.

All of these practical measures will assist in consolidating the viability of the language. The Deputy will also appreciate that significant resources continue to be made available to support the work of Foras na Gaeilge in promoting Irish on an all-island basis.

National Drugs Strategy.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

126 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when a decision will be made on the funding application by a group (details supplied) in Dublin 7 for its drug rehabilitation project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10975/06]

Machine Imports.

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

127 Mr. Haughey asked the Taoiseach the number of petrol chainsaws, electric chainsaws, walk-behind petrol lawn mowers, lawn tractor mowers with rear engine and lawn tractor mowers with front mounted engine imported in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10262/06]

The goods classification of the European Union — the combined nomenclature CN — does not distinguish various types of lawn mowers and chainsaws in the manner requested by the Deputy. However, Table 1 as follows gives the descriptions of these goods that are currently available at CN level, while Table 2 identifies the units of each of these commodity types imported during 2005. For comparative purposes data for 2004 are also provided.

Table 1

Mowers for lawns, parks or sports grounds

CN Code

Powered, with the cutting device rotating in a horizontal plane:

84331110

Electric

Other:

Self -propelled

84331151

With a seat

84331159

Other

84331190

Other

Other:

With motor:

84331910

Electric

Other:

Self-propelled:

84331951

With a seat

84331959

Other

84331970

Other

84331990

Without motor

Other mowers, including cutter bars for tractor mounting:

84332010

With motor

Other:

Designed to be carried on or hauled by a tractor:

84332051

With the cutting device rotating in a horizontal plane

84332059

Other

84332090

Other

Saws:

with self-contained electric motor:

84672210

Chainsaws

84672230

Circular saws

84672290

Other

84678100

Other chainsaws, including those operated by petrol motor

Table 2

CN code

2004

2005

Units

Units

84331110

14,645

19,705

84331151

20,154

28,323

84331159

6,966

10,342

84331190

10,486

18,324

84331910

3,487

8,247

84331951

4,147

5,541

84331959

386

279

84331970

1,663

1,026

84331990

1,031

634

84332010

6,420

948

84332051

2,416

1,797

84332059

3,850

881

84332090

482

91

84672210

4,996

13,585

84672230

28,262

35,603

84672290

50,398

49,917

84678100

14,279

17,616

Industrial Disputes.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

128 Mr. Morgan asked the Taoiseach the number of strikes related to union recognition in each of the past ten years; and the average duration of such strikes in each of those years. [10909/06]

Statistics on industrial disputes are compiled from details supplied by the monitoring unit of the industrial relations section within the employment rights and industrial relations division of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and from information collected directly from other sources by the Central Statistics Office. The details requested by the Deputy are set out in the table.

Number of Industrial Disputes relating to Union Recognition, 1995 to 2005

Year

Disputes

Firms

Duration

Average Duration

1995 Total

0

0

0

1996 Total

1

1

7

1997 Total

1

1

114

1998 Total

3

3

6

1999 Total

0

0

0

2000 Total

1

1

1

2001 Total

1

1

1

2002 Total

3

3

19

2003 Total

1

1

56

2004 Total

1

1

22

2005 Total1

0

0

0

1 2005 figures relate to published data to the third quarter only.

Firms — Number of firms involved in each dispute.

Average Duration— is given only where there is more than one dispute in a given year.

Source: Industrial Disputes, Central Statistics Office.

Computerisation Programme.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

129 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if the development of the e-Cabinet project is complete; if not, the reason therefor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10094/06]

With the completion of the first phase, e-Cabinet became operational in June 2004. Since then, it has hosted some 25,000 electronic transactions a year and has virtually eliminated manual dissemination of Cabinet papers. Further phases, adding functionality and improving user experience, have been deployed since then. Over 5,500 users are registered to the system.

The final planned phase of the e-Cabinet project was delivered to my Department at the end of 2005. Testing of that final phase to ensure operational stability and performance, which is technically complex, is nearing completion. The software is expected to be deployed and become fully operational during March-April. Deployment will be accompanied by familiarisation briefing for key users across all Departments. The software developers are working under the terms of a fixed price contract and final payment to them is contingent upon satisfactory testing and operation of the software in my Department.

The e-Cabinet system is one of the most complex and innovative ICT projects undertaken in the public sector to date and has won a number of prestigious awards. It has involved designing and building a system that incorporates all Departments, with different internal working practices and technical infrastructures and configurations. Although the impending deployment of the final phase of the e-Cabinet project marks the project's completion, as with any live system, it is our intention to continually seek to improve the benefits and efficiencies that the system brings.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

130 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach the progress to date in implementing the e-payments strategy; when same will be fully implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10098/06]

In December 2004, the Government approved a memorandum dealing with increasing the use of e-payments by Departments and in the public sector. It was decided that by the end of 2005, where possible, all Departments and offices would use electronic funds transfer, EFT, to make payments. In the case of my Department, EFT has been implemented as a payment method and is used to make payment to all suppliers who have provided the necessary authorisation details. Continual efforts are being made to increase the number of payments by EFT with a view to eventually making all payments by this method.

Work is also progressing at a European level where the European Payments Council, an industry body, is leading an initiative aimed at creating a single European payment area, SEPA. This initiative has the objective of eliminating any effective distinction between a cross border payment and a domestic payment within the eurozone. The intention is that as early as 2008, European banks should be offering SEPA compliant products to their customers.

This initiative is supported by the European Commission and the European Central Bank. Ireland is participating with other member states in Council negotiations on a proposed directive setting out a legal framework for payment services in the EU. This directive will provide the necessary legislative backing for SEPA. However, neither SEPA nor the directive apply to cheques, which will remain a purely domestic payment instrument.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

131 Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach if he received formal confirmation from any political party in Northern Ireland that that party accepted the December 2004 comprehensive agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10387/06]

Intense efforts were made by both Governments in the latter half of 2004 to broker an agreement on the key issues to be resolved to finally and definitively assure peace and political stability in Northern Ireland. The Governments communicated their final proposals for a comprehensive agreement, addressing these key issues, to the DUP and Sinn Féin in early December 2004. I received a letter on 7 December from Sinn Féin in which it indicated that it could agree to the political package contained in the proposals of the two Governments.

Food Safety.

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

132 Mr. Boyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the complaints made against the Safefood agency regarding contracts. [10014/06]

The Food Safety Promotion Board — Safefood — is a North-South Implementation Body established under the Good Friday Agreement; its remit is to promote awareness and knowledge of food safety issues on an all-island basis. I am not aware of complaints relating to contracts. However, I am advised that one unsuccessful software tenderer has raised a concern with Safefood regarding its participation in a recent tender for a laboratory information management system which was tendered and awarded using the EU restricted tendering procedure.

Responding to this concern, Safefood held a debriefing meeting with the company in accordance with the European Union remedies directive. Safefood further addressed the same concern through freedom of information, FOI, procedures under the FOI code of practice for North-South Bodies and Tourism Ireland Limited. Safefood has informed my Department that it considers that it has fully and fairly discharged its duties regarding the unsuccessful tenderer's concern.

Special Educational Needs.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

133 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if improved psychiatric, speech and language, physiotherapy and occupational therapy services will be provided to schools to enable them to meet their responsibilities under the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10105/06]

An integral part of the national disability strategy is the implementation of the provisions of the two major legislative measures which have been enacted recently, the Disability Act 2005 and the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004, both of which have significant implications for the planning and delivery of health and personal social services for people with disabilities. Additional funding of €155 million has been allocated to services for people with disabilities in 2006. Of this funding, €59 million is being provided to meet costs associated with the various elements of this programme.

The bulk of the balance of the €41 million revenue provided in 2006 is being used to enhance the multi-disciplinary support services for people with disabilities, in line with the Government's commitment to build capacity within the health services to deliver on the various legislative provisions contained in the national disability strategy, with a priority in 2006 on enhancing the assessment and support services for children with disabilities. As outlined in the multi-annual investment programme 2006-09, additional capital funding amounting to €55 million is also being provided in 2006 to support these developments.

General Register Office.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

134 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a birth, death or marriage certificate can be applied for on-line; if not, the reason this service is not available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10118/06]

The administration of the civil registration system in Ireland, which includes the provision of certificates of life events on payment of the appropriate fees, rests with an tArd-Chláraitheoir or Registrar General for births, deaths and marriages. I have made inquiries of an tArd-Chláraitheoir and he advises me that his office, in consultation with the public services e-broker, REACH, is in the final stages of the development of an on-line application system for certificates of life events. It is anticipated that the service will be operational by the end of June 2006.

Child Care Payments.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

135 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the arrangements being put in place for the payment of the new child care payment announced in budget 2006; the criteria for payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10236/06]

The Office of the Minister for Children, OMC, has been given responsibility for the early child care supplement which is being introduced with effect from 1 April 2006. The payment, which is non-taxable, will amount to €1,000 per annum and will be made to parents of all eligible children aged less than six years, in quarterly instalments of €250. The supplement will be paid where a child is eligible for any part of a quarter.

The OMC is putting arrangements in place with the Department of Social and Family Affairs to administer the supplement on its behalf on an agency basis. These arrangements will provide for the supplement to be made to parents in the same way as they receive their child benefit payments. The OMC expects the first payment, which would be due in July 2006, to be made in August with the subsequent quarterly payments this year expected to be made in October and December.

The criteria governing eligibility for child benefit will be applied to the early child care supplement. As a result, parents in receipt of child benefit and with children aged under six years will automatically receive the supplement. Over 350,000 children under the age of six are expected to benefit from the Supplement at an estimated cost in 2006 of €265 million rising to over €350 million in a full year.

The OMC will be in contact with parents of eligible children shortly with details of the supplement and how it will be paid to them in the coming months.

Child Care Services.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

136 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the funding which is available for the building of a crèche child care centre; the way in which a person can apply for the funding; the criteria which must be met; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10538/06]

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

137 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if child care funding for building crèches has been put on hold; the reason for same; when they will be open to application again; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10552/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 136 and 137 together.

The Government's commitment to a major investment in child care services is reflected in the fact that it has introduced a new €575 million national child care investment programme 2006-10 in advance of the completion of its predecessor, the €499 million EU co-funded equal opportunities child care programme, EOCP, 2000-06, which will continue to operate until the end of 2007. Consequently, while grant applications under the EOCP continue to be processed, new grant schemes under the national child care investment programme 2006-10 may be applied for.

Responsibility for both the EOCP and the new child care investment programme have been assigned to the new Office of the Minister for Children, OMC, under the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan. The establishment of the OMC is an important development for children's services as responsibility for key policy areas affecting children, including child welfare and protection, early years education, youth justice, the national children's strategy and the child care strategy, have been brought together in a single office under one Minister.

With regard to the national childcare investment programme 2006-10, the necessary arrangements to implement the new programme are now in place and new applications are being processed. A key objective of the new programme is to ensure the development of quality child care supports and services in a proactive way which takes account of identified local child care needs. As a result, arrangements have been put in place to enable the initial developmental stage of grant applications to be facilitated at local level by the city and county child care committees, CCCs.

Applications may be made by completing expression of interest forms and returning them to the relevant local CCC. The expression of interest forms are available from the CCCs and also from Pobal, www.pobal.ie, and the OMC, www.omc.gov.ie. Full contact details for the CCCs are available on the OMC website. Following completion of the developmental and technical stages of the assessment process, the applications will be forwarded to the OMC for final appraisal and decision.

As in the case of the EOCP, different levels of large scale capital grants are available to private and community-not for profit sector child care providers under the new programme. Private sector child care providers may apply for grant assistance of up to €100,000 towards the capital cost of developing a child care services in a catchment area where there is a demonstrated child care need. An applicant may apply for more than one grant provided the subsequent child care facilities are in different catchment areas and subject to an overall ceiling of €500,000. In each case, an applicant must provide at least 25% of the total cost of the project. Community-not for profit child care providers may apply for grant assistance up to a maximum of €1 million per project.

Eligibility for grants under the national child care programme 2006-10 will be determined having regard to an applicant's rating across a range of criteria each of which is intended to contribute to the overall objectives of the programme. These include the service being located in an area of identified need for the type of service proposed, its resulting in an increased provision of child care places for particular child care services, including pre-school places aimed at three to four year olds and school age child care, a focus on the needs and development of the child and compliance with regulatory and other legal obligations.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

138 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if home help can be provided in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10836/06]

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.

Child Care Services.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

139 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the way in which she intends to physically pay the early child care supplement to parents; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10903/06]

While the Office of the Minister for Children, OMC, is responsible for the early child care supplement, the administrative arrangements for the payment will be dealt with by the Department of Social and Family Affairs, acting on an agency basis on behalf of the OMC.

I understand that the Department of Social and Family Affairs is taking the necessary steps to put these arrangements in place and that they are at an advanced stage and will operate in a way which enables parents to receive the early child care supplement in the same way as they currently receive their child benefit payment. For example, a parent receiving child benefit by means of an EFT transfer to his or her bank account will receive the supplement, which will be paid on a quarterly basis, by this means also.

I understand that full details of the arrangements for the payment will be sent to parents of eligible children in the coming weeks.

Health Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

140 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the medical treatment received by a person (details supplied) in County Louth will be investigated by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10028/06]

Under the Medical Practitioners Act 1978, the Medical Council was established as the body with the responsibility for the registration of medical practitioners and the regulation of their activities. The Medical Council conducted an inquiry into the medical practitioner referred to by the Deputy and by order of the High Court dated 2 September 2003 the medical practitioner's name was struck off the general register of registered medical practitioners. Accordingly, the Medical Council has completed its statutory function and has no further role in relation to this medical practitioner as he is no longer on the register.

As you may be aware, the Government, at its meeting on 6 April 2004, gave its approval to the terms of reference for a non-statutory inquiry relating to certain events at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital by Judge Maureen Harding Clark. Following the recent publication of the Lourdes Hospital inquiry report, I have asked Judge Harding Clark to advise the Government on an appropriate scheme of redress arising from the findings of her report. Judge Harding Clark will also advise on the cost of such a scheme and on a mechanism for ensuring the maximum recoupment of such costs from wrongdoers and indemnifiers.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

141 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she received a letter from a group (details supplied); her views on their request for retrospective diagnosis from their consultant hepatologist stating that they had post viral syndrome; and the action she will take with regard to the points raised in their letter. [10029/06]

The issue of an extension of the Health (Amendment) Act 1996 to provide free health care for the women referred to by the Deputy has been carefully examined and advice taken from a number of relevant experts.

While I am sympathetic to the women in question, I cannot support an extension to the current eligibility requirements. This position was signalled to the support group representing the women at a meeting that I had with them in February 2005. Following further analysis of the matter I confirmed my decision to the support group in September last.

Hospital Services.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

142 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps which have been taken at St. Colmcille's Hospital, Loughlinstown, County Dublin, to combat the problems of lack of hygiene; if a hygiene nurse has been appointed; and if there is provision of cleaning staff after 5 p.m. in the day. [10030/06]

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:

143 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether it is in order for a €45 charge to be applied to a medical card holder for an eye test in order that they can replace broken glasses; if so, the statutory basis for same; the procedures currently in place between her Department and opticians to ensure that such charges do not fall on the medical card holder; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10039/06]

The ophthalmic scheme operated by the Health Service Executive entitles adult medical card holders and their adult dependants to a sight test and spectacles, free of charge, once every two years. The scheme also provides for the replacement of lost or broken spectacles, again at no cost to the client.

As this question appears to relate to a particular individual and 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, the Deputy may wish to raise the matter directly with the HSE.

Health Service Staff.

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

144 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive will be directed to treat home helps on a par with all other health service employees by granting them written terms of employment, eliminating zero hour contracts and by granting both patients and home helps enough hours to ensure a proper service prevails. [10048/06]

Pat Carey

Ceist:

185 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will establish with the Health Service Executive when it proposes to give effect to the agreement with SIPTU in April 2005 on the issue of contracts to home helps where written contracts were to be issued based on historic hours worked; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10366/06]

Niall Blaney

Ceist:

210 Mr. Blaney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that despite Health Service Employers Agency concluding an agreement with SIPTU in April 2005 to end zero hour contracts and to issue home helps with written contracts based on historic hours worked, the Health Service Employers Agency has still not delivered and continues to be in breach of the Terms of Employment Information Act 1994 and subsequently 2001 and the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997; the action she intends to take to have this matter rectified; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10437/06]

Michael Ring

Ceist:

214 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if agreements and legal obligations to the home help service and to the members who provide that service will be honoured; and when the agreement reached in April 2005 to end zero hour contracts and issue home helps with written contracts based on historic hours worked will be honoured. [10454/06]

Paddy McHugh

Ceist:

228 Mr. McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will liaise with the Health Service Executive in order that agreements and legal obligations of the Health Service Executive in relation to the home help service are honoured; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10585/06]

Paddy McHugh

Ceist:

229 Mr. McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the home health service and the agreement entered into with SIPTU in relation to zero hour contracts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10586/06]

Paddy McHugh

Ceist:

230 Mr. McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the agreement entered into with SIPTU in relation to zero hour contracts will be implemented in full; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10587/06]

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

234 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that home help workers continue to be employed on zero hour contracts in breach of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997; and if she has taken initiatives to bring this situation to an end which is in breach of the Government’s own policies. [10609/06]

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

248 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will take steps to ensure that the home help service is properly funded and in particular that the home helps who provide the necessary service on the ground are afforded fair and reasonable treatment; and if she will take steps to instruct the Health Service Executive authority to honour it’s agreement and legal obligation without further delay to stop treating the care of the elderly as an optional extra; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10690/06]

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

250 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to address the concerns of home help workers (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10707/06]

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

251 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a proper contract of employment will be given to home helps which would include provision for a pension scheme and the elimination of zero hour contracts in view of the fact that it was assumed that negotiations regarding those issues would have concluded by December 2004. [10711/06]

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

254 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when home helps will be provided with written contracts by the Health Service Executive agency as required by the Terms of Employment Information Act 1994 and the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10721/06]

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

266 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on correspondence (details supplied); the steps she will take to remedy the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10846/06]

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

267 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to enhance the home help service; if she will instruct the HSEA to implement the April 2005 agreement to issue written contracts based on historic hours worked; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10847/06]

John Cregan

Ceist:

274 Mr. Cregan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the Health Service Executive will be issuing written contracts to home helps based on their hours worked as agreed in April 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10898/06]

David Stanton

Ceist:

278 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the situation regarding zero hour contracts where home helps are concerned; her plans to end zero hour contracts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10917/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 144, 185, 210, 214, 228, 229, 230, 234, 248, 250, 251, 254, 266, 267, 274 and 278 together.

The Deputies' 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 has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have replies issued directly to the Deputies.

I am, however, aware that a high level group has been established, with representatives from the Health Service Executive and staff representatives from SIPTU and IMPACT, to address issues pertaining to the standardisation of home help services. This group is due to have its first meeting on 23 March 2006.

An additional €33 million full year cost was allocated to the home help programme in budget 2006, €30 million of which will be for 2006 with the remaining €3 million in 2007, which will enable the Health Service Executive to provide an additional 1.75 million hours nationally in 2006. The additional resource will further enhance the service and facilitate the expressed wish of many more older people to continue to live in their own homes for as long as possible.

Hospital Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

145 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied). [10057/06]

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.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

146 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress being made on the setting up of a regional acute unit for the National Rehabilitation Centre which was promised several years ago to be located at St. Mary’s Orthopaedic Hospital, Gurranbraher, Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10063/06]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

147 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she will take to have a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath immediately admitted to St. James’s Hospital, Dublin, for urgent medical treatment which is necessitated by their medical condition; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10072/06]

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.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

148 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the necessity for a national cancer screening programme; if she proposes to introduce such a programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10108/06]

National population based screening programmes for cancer are considered where clear evidence exists of benefit to the health of the whole population to be screened. There is evidence in relation to some specific cancers which show that population based screening can improve population health in terms of survival, morbidity and quality of life. Population based screening programmes for two specific cancers, breast and cervical, have demonstrated their efficacy and planning is underway for the national roll out of these two programmes to all regions in the country.

I received a strategy for cancer control in Ireland 2006 from the chairman of the National Cancer Forum in January this year. As part of this work, the forum developed a framework for evidence based decision making in relation to the introduction of population based screening programmes. I am examining the strategy with a view to bringing proposals to Government. I expect to have the strategy published shortly.

Hospital Staff.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

149 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to increase the number of neurologists per capita; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10112/06]

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

176 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has satisfied herself with the adequacy of neurological services here; her views on whether the service could be enhanced or improved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10310/06]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

263 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she is taking to improve neurology services here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10843/06]

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

295 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether the ratio of neurologists to patients here at one for 250,000 people, or 16 overall, is the worst in Europe; if she appreciates that one for 100,000 persons is an optimum minimum requirement for a basic neurological service in view of the fact that the norm in Europe is one per 40,000 people; the steps she proposes to increase the number of neurologists to a realistic level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11115/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 149, 176, 263 and 295 together.

As part of the Estimates for health services in 2006, additional funding of €3 million was allocated specifically for the further development of neurology and neurophysiology services. This funding was provided to allow the Health Service Executive to further progress the implementation of the recommendations made by the former Comhairle na nOspidéal in respect of these services. The comhairle report, which has been published, recommended significant enhancement of services, including the appointment of additional consultants. While reaching the full complement of consultant posts as recommended will take some time, major improvements in patient care can be achieved in the shorter term through a combination of additional consultant posts and the appointment of a number of clinical nurse specialists and allied health professionals.

My Department is advised by the executive that the development of three new neurology units will commence during 2006, one in the mid west, one in the north west and one in the south east, with the appointment of multidisciplinary teams comprising consultant neurologists and support staff.

The HSE will also be investing in neurophysiology services in 2006, with the development of an innovative teleneurophysiology link between Sligo General Hospital and Beaumont Hospital. This initiative is designed to reduce waiting times for diagnostic testing.

Medical Cards.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

150 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons covered by medical cards in each year since 2000; the percentage of the total population this represents; the numbers who have availed of the doctor only medical card in 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10113/06]

Information supplied to my Department by the Health Service Executive's, HSE, shared services primary care reimbursement service indicates that the following number of persons held a medical card in December of the relevant years. The national population figures for 2003, 2004 and 2005 are as estimated by the Central Statistics Office:

Year

No. of persons covered by a medical card

Population

% of population

2000

1,148,055

3,786,900

30.32

2001

1,199,454

3,838,900

31.24

2002

1,168,745

3,917,336

29.84

2003

1,158,143

3,978,900

29.11

2004

1,148,914

4,043,800

28.41

2005

1,159,397

4,130,700

28.07

The HSE has advised that on 1 December 2005, some 2,824 people held a GP visit card. The executive has also indicated that, as of 14 March 2006, some 11,177 people hold a GP visit card.

Changes in the number of medical cards can largely be explained by a number of factors including the introduction of automatic eligibility to medical cards for people aged 70 and over in 2001. Other factors which have contributed to the changes include the increased number of people in employment and the improved economic situation nationally with people on higher wages. Also the ongoing management and review of medical card databases has been a factor which has improved data quality in the HSE's databases. For example a cleansing exercise undertaken by the former health boards in 2003 resulted in the removal of approximately 104,000 cards. Most of these cards would have been considered by the health boards to be normal deletions due to death, change in eligibility status or persons moving from one board area to another with a certain proportion removed due to being duplicates or expired records.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

151 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a drug (details supplied) is no longer available; if her Department has plans to reintroduce this drug; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10130/06]

The common list of reimbursable medicines for the general medical services and drug payment schemes is reviewed and amended monthly, as new products become available and deletions are notified. For an item to be included on the list, it must comply with published criteria, including authorisation status as appropriate, price and, in certain cases, the intended use of the product. In addition, the product should ordinarily be supplied to the public only by medical prescription and should not be advertised or promoted to the public.

My Department was advised by the manufacturers in 2003 that the product referred to by the Deputy had been discontinued and that it should be removed from the common list. This was a commercial decision taken by the company concerned as it considered that the product was no longer viable. The Irish Medicines Board indicated at the time that newer and more efficient products were available.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

152 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there are means by which a pharmacist trained outside the EEA, Australia or New Zealand may register to practise here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10138/06]

To be eligible to register as a pharmacist in Ireland, a candidate must have completed a recognised degree in pharmacy and have undergone a year's training in practice. The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, PSI, is the professional organisation for pharmacy in Ireland. All practising pharmacists in Ireland must be registered with the PSI.

Pharmacists from outside the EU/EEA, Australia or New Zealand are registered under the adjudication route of the society. However, the PSI has experienced difficulties in the operation of this route of registration. In order to address these difficulties, the PSI submitted a proposal for amended regulations to the Minister at that time. However, the PSI's proposals for amended regulations are not possible under current legislation and an amendment to the Pharmacy Act is required. The PSI has suspended the adjudicating route of registration and are unable, at this time, to consider any application for registration under this route.

A Government decision was taken in June 2005 to introduce new pharmacy legislation. The legislation will take the form of a bill which will remove the ‘derogation' on EU-EEA qualified pharmacists, introduce fitness to practice regulations and give an appropriate statutory basis for the PSI. It will also address the problems with adjudication route of registration. My Department is at an advanced stage in drawing up the heads and general scheme of a pharmacy fitness to practice Bill and I intend to take a memorandum to Government in the very near future, seeking approval for the draft heads and general scheme and requesting that the legislation be referred to the parliamentary counsel's office for formal drafting of the Bill.

Hospital Services.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

153 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) was on a trolley at Beaumont Hospital and was treated in such a manner; and if this practice will be ended immediately. [10143/06]

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.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

154 Mr. Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if respite care has been provided to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [10147/06]

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 Service Staff.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

155 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her policy in relation to working beyond the age of 65; if the Health Service Executive facilitates working beyond 65; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10155/06]

The Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004 removed the compulsory retirement age of 65 for new entrant public servants recruited after 1 April 2004. For existing employees, defined in the Act as non new entrant public servants, the maximum retirement age remains 65.

However, public health service employees who have retired are sometimes re-employed on contract for various periods and have a very useful contribution to make. This generally occurs where vacancies have arisen in particular sectors due to a shortage of skilled personnel. My Department issued a circular last October which changed the method of calculation of pension abatement in these cases. In general, this means that where it is necessary to re-employ pensioners this can be done on the basis that they can earn, in effect, up to half what they would have earned in their previous position before their pension is reduced.

Hospital Services.

James Breen

Ceist:

156 Mr. J. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the ongoing serious overcrowding at Ennis General Hospital; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that the front door of the hospital was closed last week due to patients lying on trolleys in the reception area; if health and safety standards were breached on this occasion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10168/06]

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.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

157 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason no facilities exist within the Republic of Ireland where patients with a known latex allergy or a suspected latex allergy can receive even routine dental treatment; if she will confirm that patients with such allergy or suspected allergy are being transferred to Great Britain for treatment; if this happens due to the fact that currently no intensive care unit facilities or latex free environments are available in which patients can be treated here; her views on whether this situation is acceptable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10204/06]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

158 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that despite requests to the Health Service Executive, southern region, on 26 July 2004, 17 November 2004 and 6 December 2005 for the occupational therapist to visit a person (details supplied) in County Cork who had applied to Cork County Council for a disabled persons grant, the occupational therapist has not yet called; and if she will arrange for the occupational therapist to call without further delay. [10207/06]

Having made inquiries regarding this matter I have been informed by the Health Services Executive that the person (details supplied) was assessed by the occupational therapist for disabled person's grant on 17 December 2004 and a report was forwarded to Cork County Council on 17 January 2005.

Health Expenditure.

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

159 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the original financial allocation for 2003, 2004, and 2005 in respect of Cork University Hospital, South Infirmary-Victoria Hospital, Mercy Hospital, and Mallow General Hospital; the number of inpatients treated at each hospital during the same period; the average duration of stay; the number of inpatient days; the estimated daily cost per inpatient; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10217/06]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

160 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be provided with a bed in a hospital in Galway. [10233/06]

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.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

161 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the length of time a person (details supplied) in County Wexford will be waiting for an appointment to see the specialist; the efforts being made to reduce waiting times; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10234/06]

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.

Child Care Services.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

162 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the Government policy regarding child protection and family support in respect of asylum seeking families; if a case worker is appointed where issues of child protection arise; if that case officer continues to deal with the case if the family is separated to different parts of the country; if such a separation has a fixed review date; if there are clear protocols for dealing with requests for family reunification when it is appropriate to do so; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10243/06]

The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, through the Reception and Integration Agency, is responsible for providing accommodation and services to asylum seeking families. Where a child protection issue arises within these arrangements, the Child Protection Policy for Accommodation Centres, which I launched in October of last year, is implemented and a referral is made to the Health Service Executive. Under the provisions of the Child Care Act 1991 the Health Service Executive is responsible for promoting the welfare of children who are not receiving adequate care and protection and, if necessary, the placing of these children in the care of the State.

Accordingly, my Department has transferred the Deputy's question to the parliamentary affairs division of the executive and has asked it to issue the Deputy with a detailed reply to the specific matters he has raised which are of an operational matter.

Medicinal Products.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

163 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to facilitate patients who are prescribed vitamin B12 injections for pernicious anaemia and who can no longer find the product; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10247/06]

The vitamin B12 products concerned, Cytamen/Neo-cytamen, were removed from the common list of reimbursable drugs and medicines when the manufacturer advised my Department that, because of problems in the manufacturing process, they had become temporarily unavailable both in Ireland and the UK. The manufacturer has informed my Department that the problems with one of the products, Cytamen, have now been resolved and it will now be restored to the common list. Neo-cytamen is still unavailable.

An alternative product, Cobalin H, is available in community pharmacies for people who have been prescribed the original product. Cobalin H is reimbursable under the drug payment scheme. It is a matter for the relevant area of the Health Service Executive to make arrangements for its reimbursement when prescribed for and dispensed to medical cardholders.

Medical Cards.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

164 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of applications that were received by her Department for medical cards over the past five years that were not granted; the number of medical cards that were not renewed or extended over the same period; and the percentage of new medical cards granted since 2002 which were for families with children. [10253/06]

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

Hospital Services.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

165 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the x-ray unit at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Athy, County Kildare, is not in operation; when the problems will be resolved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10269/06]

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.

Mental Health Services.

David Stanton

Ceist:

166 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the structure of the child and adolescent psychiatric services in each Health Service Executive area as described in Question No. 233 of 31 January 2006; the number awaiting services in each respective area; the number awaiting assessment in each respective area; her plans to further expand the services available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10271/06]

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

Hospital Services.

David Stanton

Ceist:

167 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of hospital beds in each Health Service Executive area dedicated exclusively to adolescents at present; her plans and timescale for same to increase this number; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10272/06]

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.

Medical Cards.

Seán Ardagh

Ceist:

168 Mr. Ardagh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason people in Ballyfermot who are on medical cards are finding it increasingly difficult to have their dentures looked after by dentists (details supplied). [10276/06]

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

Hospital Services.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

169 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7. [10277/06]

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.

Child Care Services.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

170 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the financial assistance that can be given to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 for the full-time care of their three grandchildren; if an allowance similar to a fostering allowance is payable in addition to the normal children’s allowance; if not, the steps this person must take to foster the children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10282/06]

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.

The foster care allowance can only be paid in respect of children who are taken into the care of the Health Service Executive under the Child Care Act 1991 and placed in foster care or relative care in accordance with the Child Care Regulations 1995.

The issue of relative care was dealt with in detail in the 2001 report of the working group entitled Foster Care — A Child Centred Partnership. The report sets out a number of basic principles that should guide placements with relatives. These are: that the best interests of the child are paramount; that the child should be placed only in an appropriate, safe, healthy and stable environment; that the standard of care must be equivalent to that provided in a traditional foster care arrangement; that relative placements should only be made where a secure attachment exists or has the potential to develop between the child and the relative concerned; that a partnership approach should be used in developing skills and supports for relatives providing foster care; and that placements should not be made as a means to provide income support.

The working group considered the possibility that some children are placed in the care of the health boards in order to provide income support for the family in relation to the child. The group was strongly of the view that such a practice would be highly inappropriate. Income support is a matter for the Department of Social and Family Affairs and those in need of such support should contact that Department. The working group stated that children should only be brought into the care of the health boards if they meet the criteria regarding the need for care and protection set out in the Child Care Act. In addition, the choice of placement of any child in the care system should be based on the particular child's individual best interests.

Under the current legislation, the Health Service Executive must assess the needs of a child placed in care and the suitability of the prospective foster or relative carers, and draw up a child care plan. The implementation of the child care plan places significant responsibilities and duties on foster carers, whether relatives or non-relatives. The foster care allowance is paid in recognition of these additional responsibilities and the additional costs of looking after foster children.

Hospital Services.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

171 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be allocated an appointment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10286/06]

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.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

172 Mr. McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her Department’s plans in relation to cancer services at Letterkenny General Hospital and the appointment of a breast care surgeon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10288/06]

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 Insurance.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

173 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the term of office of the first Health Insurance Authority has expired; if not, when she expects it to expire; when she proposes to announce the composition of a new authority; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10289/06]

The term of office of the first Health Insurance Authority expired on 31 January 2006. I appointed the following as members of the new authority from 1 February 2006: Mr. Jimmy Joyce, chairman; Ms Mary Doyle; Ms Anne Maher and Mr. Aidan O'Donnell. Arrangements are in train for the appointment of a fifth member.

Health Services.

Beverley Flynn

Ceist:

174 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person diagnosed with Down’s syndrome will qualify for a mobility allowance; and if not, the criteria they fail to meet. [10296/06]

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.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

175 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will meet with public representatives and a committee lobbying for the 14-bed extension to Kenmare Community Hospital in County Kerry at the earliest opportunity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10297/06]

I advise the Deputy that the planning and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive in the first instance. This includes identifying priorities for the development of a capital programme for the health system. Accordingly, it is more appropriate for discussions to be held with the HSE with regard to this proposal.

Question No. 176 answered with QuestionNo. 149.

Health Service Staff.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

177 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of speech and language therapists employed in the various regions of the Health Service Executive; her views on whether this number is adequate in view of lengthening waiting lists here; her proposals to increase the number of therapists through recruitment or training; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10311/06]

Additional investment in speech and language therapy services in recent years, coupled with enhancements in the professional training, career development and remuneration of these therapists, have led to significant improvements in staffing levels. These developments are in line with the recommendations made by the expert group on various health professions which included new pay scales and enhanced career structures.

In general, developments such as pay increases, improvements in career structure and enhanced opportunities for professional and career development have all supported increased staffing levels for key health and social care professions, including speech and language therapists. The implementation of the pay recommendations of the public service benchmarking body made a further important contribution to recruitment and improved retention. The continued implementation of the action plan for people management, a key action under the health strategy, has a crucial role in improving retention and reducing turnover of skilled staff.

The success of the intensive efforts to improve staffing levels in speech and language therapy in the public health service has contributed to an increase of 266, or 95%, speech and language therapists over the number employed at the end of December 1997, and reflects significant increases in the numbers employed in promotional grades. At the end of September 2005, 548 whole-time equivalent speech and language therapists were employed in the public health service In addition, three new speech and language therapy courses commenced in the 2003-04 academic year in UCC, NUIG and UL. In total, these courses provide an additional 75 training places in speech and language therapy. This expansion in training numbers was identified in the Bacon report as sufficient to meet the long-term demand-supply balance for speech and language therapists in Ireland. The first graduates from the two year masters course in UL completed their studies in June, 2005. The first graduates from the BSc courses in UCC and NUIG will graduate in 2007.

Essential to the successful roll-out of these additional training places is the provision of sufficient quality clinical placements in speech and language therapy. The funding I provided this year, along with that allocated in the past two years, will enable the Health Service Executive, working with my Department, to put in place the enhanced structures necessary to ensure that students will have access to a sustainable, high-quality clinical training model. The number of speech and language therapists employed in the various regions of the Health Service Executive is set out in the following table.

Speech and Language Therapists employed in the Public Health Service

Former Health Board Area

End 1997

End September 2005

Change 1997 to end September 2005

% change 1997 to end September 2005

Eastern

117

211

93

79.76

Midland

22

46

25

114.56

Mid-Western

24

24

10

41.08

North-Eastern

17

39

22

134.20

North-Western

19

28

10

51.89

South-Eastern

32

56

24

76.88

Southern

28

84

56

200.29

Western

24

50

26

108.49

Total

282

548

266

94.56

Source: Health Service Personnel Census at 31 December

Note: All figures are expressed as wholetime equivalents.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Michael Collins

Ceist:

178 Mr. Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a complete schedule of all national disability groups here; and also a schedule of the recognised group or groups which represent the individual groups for each form of disability. [10324/06]

I am unable to provide the Deputy with the information requested as my Department does not have a complete schedule of all national groups, recognised groups or groups who represents all individual groups for each form of disability. However, the information the Deputy seeks may be available in the Comhairle "Directory of National Voluntary Organisations and other Agencies". As this is a matter for the Health Service Executive, 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.

National Emergency Plan.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

179 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the state of preparedness of hospitals to cope with major disasters, for example train or air crashes, where multiple casualties would result, in view of the overcrowded and overstretched state of accident and emergency departments of the hospitals here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10325/06]

As part of the health reform programme, a national office of emergency planning was established within the Health Service Executive, HSE. Acute hospitals have emergency plans designed to cope with a surge in capacity requirement arising from a major emergency. The plans involve calling in off-duty doctors, nurses and other staff, opening additional areas to receive and treat casualties, cancelling admissions and discharging patients to free capacity.

The Government framework for a co-ordinated response to major emergencies was recently reviewed by an interdepartmental group, chaired by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. This group also included representation from the Departments of Health and Children and Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The revised framework will be presented to the Government shortly.

Health Services.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

180 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if palliative care services will be developed in each Health Service Executive region; her proposals in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10326/06]

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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

181 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she will approve the Health Service Executive capital plan for 2006 to enable projects such as the new Dingle Community Hospital to go to tender; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10340/06]

I recently received the HSE Capital Plan 2006, including further information subsequently sought by my Department on certain aspects of this. The plan, which includes the proposed development at Dingle Community Hospital, is being considered by my Department, in conjunction with the Department of Finance. I expect to be in a position to revert to the HSE in the near future on agreement on the plan, including a decision on progressing this project.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

182 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will increase the subvention being awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will expedite a response. [10351/06]

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.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

183 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will be approved for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [10352/06]

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.

Planning Issues.

Barry Andrews

Ceist:

184 Mr. Andrews asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to planning difficulties experienced by applicants who wish to set up multi-disciplinary health practices in residential areas; if she has communicated with planning authorities to improve the roll-out of improved primary care facilities; and if steps are being taken to ensure that such facilities operate at unsocial hours to take pressure off accident and emergency departments. [10365/06]

I have not been informed of particular difficulties in this matter and I have not had contact with the planning authorities on the provision of primary care facilities. Health services must be available at times which enable the needs of their users to be met and this is true of services within the community as well as those provided within institutional settings. I am also anxious to ensure that in the context of supporting adequate health service provision, particularly in areas of new housing development or where suitable facilities are limited or non-existent, provision is made for the development of appropriate primary care facilities. The Deputy is aware that planning legislation and regulations are the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in the first instance.

Question No. 185 answered with QuestionNo. 144.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

186 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if home help attendant hours will be provided for persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [10374/06]

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.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

187 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if home help or home care attendant hours will be granted in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if a response will be expedited. [10375/06]

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.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

188 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the Health Service Executive local offices will receive the extra funding to implement the Government’s decision to provide for more home help care packages for senior citizens; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10376/06]

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.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

189 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of a grant application made to the Health Service Executive south east region by a council (details supplied) in County Kilkenny for funding to offset the cost of the meals on wheels scheme serving the local rural community; and if a response will be expedited. [10380/06]

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.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

190 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in providing tender documents for the delivery of renal dialysis services in the Health Service Executive south east region; if she will confirm a timeframe for the provision of documents and the acceptance of a successful tender; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10381/06]

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 have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

191 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason it is taking such a long time for the Health Service Executive south east region to obtain Garda clearance for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if the Health Service Executive will expedite the matter. [10382/06]

As this is a matter for the Health Service Executive, 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.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

192 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason home support hours were cut and then discontinued in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if the proper level of support will be approved and provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10383/06]

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.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

193 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite a decision in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny regarding her appeal for a discretionary payment in addition to nursing home subvention for her mother; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10384/06]

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.

Clinical Trials.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

194 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of clinical trials which were conducted on psychiatric patients over the past three years. [10389/06]

The Irish Medicines Board has been asked to compile the information sought and it will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Health Services.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

195 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the waiting time for psychiatric assessment for children. [10390/06]

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.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

196 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of children who are on a waiting list for an initial psychiatric assessment. [10391/06]

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.

Health Contribution Levy.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

197 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to abolish payment of the 2% health levy by people over 65 years of age. [10393/06]

The health contribution was introduced by virtue of the Health Contributions Act 1979 and came into effect on 6 April of that year. The contributions are levied on income at a percentage rate set in pursuance of the Health Contributions Act and are paid over to the Minister for Health and Children in respect of the Vote for the Health Service Executive. The current rate of contribution is 2% of gross income and, subject to exemptions, is applicable to all persons over the age of 16 with reckonable income, earnings or emoluments.

The exemptions, as outlined in section 11 of the Act, are those whose income does not exceed €440 per week, those who are fully eligible for health services as set out in section 45 of the Health Act 1970, such as medical cardholders in this State, including those workers covered under EC Regulation 1408/71, recipients of a social welfare widow's or widower's pension, one-parent family payment or deserted wife's benefit or allowance, as well as those in receipt of a widow's or widower's pension acquired under the social security legislation of an EU member state.

When the primary legislation was enacted, no upper age limit applied to the health contribution. However, as the Deputy is aware, following the announcement in budget 2001, full eligibility for health services under section 45 of the Health Act was granted to those aged 70 and over, effectively placing an upper age limit of 69 years on liability to pay health contributions. There are no proposals to alter any of these exemptions or to provide an exemption from paying health contributions to those aged between 65 and 69.

Medical Cards.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

198 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the medical card does not cover full chiropody cost for older people; and if she proposes to address this issue. [10394/06]

There is no statutory obligation on the Health Service Executive, HSE, to provide chiropody services to general medical services, GMS, patients. However, in practice arrangements are made to provide these services. Prior to 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 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 provide services on behalf of the HSE to charge patients a top-up fee, and I have conveyed this view formally to the HSE. My Department 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 recently advised me that it has initiated a review of chiropody services.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

199 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to extend BreastCheck for women over 65. [10398/06]

BreastCheck, the national breast screening programme, is available to women in the 50 to 64 age group in the eastern, north eastern, south eastern and midland regions. Approximately 160,000 women are in the target age group in these regions and since the programme commenced more than 1,600 cancers have been detected.

Planning is under way for the roll-out of the programme to the remaining regions in the country. Approximately 130,000 women are in the target population for screening in the southern and western regions. BreastCheck is confident that the target date of next year for the commencement of the roll-out will be met. On full roll-out, women in the 50 to 64 age group in every county will have access to breast screening and follow-up treatment where appropriate.

When the national roll-out of the programme is sufficiently developed and it is assured that a quality service is being delivered at national level, consideration will be given to including older women and thereby continuing the screening of women in the programme who have reached 65 years of age.

Health Service Staff.

Niall Blaney

Ceist:

200 Mr. Blaney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a reply will issue to Question No. 179 of 29 November 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10411/06]

Having made inquiries regarding this matter I have been informed by the Health Service Executive that a reply issued to the Deputy on 24 February 2006.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

201 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if ongoing financial assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if she will be considered for domiciliary care allowance; if both matters will be investigated and an outcome expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10414/06]

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.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

202 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny has been refused treatment by a consultant specialist at Waterford Regional Hospital under the National Treatment Purchase Fund; the further reason he was not given an explanation by the consultant when he requested same; if he will be referred elsewhere for treatment; if some consultants or specialists have an issue with treating public patients under the National Treatment Purchase Fund; if so, the action being taken to resolve the issues; if she will make a statement on the overall issue and expedite an early response to the case. [10415/06]

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. In the circumstances as outlined by the Deputy, my Department has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to investigate the matter and to arrange for a reply to issue directly to the Deputy.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

203 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a permanent place will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny at St. Columba’s Hospital, Thomastown, County Kilkenny in view of the fact that she cannot be cared for in her home; and if she will expedite a response. [10416/06]

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.

Community Development.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

204 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Question No. 118 of 24 November 2005, if she will request the Health Service Executive to issue a comprehensive response. [10422/06]

The Deputy's question of 24 November 2005 referred to matters of estate management which fall within the remit of my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government who I requested to respond directly to the Deputy. I understand from my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government that a response has issued to the Deputy on the matter.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

205 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Question No. 111 of 1 December 2005, if the Health Service Executive will be requested to issue a response. [10423/06]

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. The Health Service Executive has informed my office that a response to this question has issued to the Deputy.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

206 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the catchment area for the district hospitals at Rathdrum, Wicklow town and Baltinglass, County Wicklow; and the population breakdown of these areas. [10428/06]

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.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

207 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if Rathdrum Hospital takes patients for respite care and long stay; if there is an embargo on this facility; and if so, the reason for same. [10429/06]

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

Hospital Accommodation.

Niall Blaney

Ceist:

208 Mr. Blaney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a reply will issue to Question No. 225 of 7 February 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10430/06]

I understand the Health Service Executive issued a reply to the Deputy dated 24 February 2006.

Health Services.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

209 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in view of both the strain on provision of beds in hospitals and the inequitable situation whereby women who live within the ambit of one division of the Health Service Executive may not be entitled to receive a home birth grant, whereas women living across the road, but within the jurisdiction of another division of the Health Service Executive are, she will consider introducing an obligation on all health boards to provide such grants to women who wish to avail of them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10433/06]

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.

Question No. 210 answered with QuestionNo. 144.

Niall Blaney

Ceist:

211 Mr. Blaney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the latest statistics available show a reduction in home help hours of 730,000 between 2002 and 2004 in view of the long waiting lists for home help and applications for increase in hours; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10438/06]

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.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

212 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, further to previous parliamentary questions, a full medical card or a doctor-only card will be issued to persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [10439/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services which, under the Health Act 2004, is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. However, I understand the Health Service Executive has written to the Deputy indicating its decision in this case and has given advice on the manner in which the persons in question should proceed if their circumstances change in the future.

Ambulance Service.

Seamus Kirk

Ceist:

213 Mr. Kirk asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has satisfied herself that the helicopter landing facility in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, County Louth is adequate to cater for any emergency needs which may arise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10440/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services which, under the Health Act 2004, is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. However, I understand the Health Service Executive has written to the Deputy indicating its decision in this case and has given advice on the manner in which the persons in question should proceed if their circumstances change in the future.

Question No. 214 answered with QuestionNo. 144.

Health Service Staff.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

215 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to the outstanding pension entitlement of former staff of the National Rehabilitation Board (details supplied), when this matter will be resolved fully; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10462/06]

The Deputy's question relates to human resource management issues within the Health Service Executive. As this 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 this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Damien English

Ceist:

216 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the waiting time for a hearing test at the county clinic in Navan; the measures which will be put in place to reduce this time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10463/06]

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

Nursing Home Subventions.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

217 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an increased level of subvention will be awarded on appeal to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will expedite a response. [10475/06]

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.

Long-Term Illness Scheme.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

218 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and if this person should have been charged for his stay in hospital in view of the fact that he is a PAYE worker paying PRSI. [10491/06]

The statutory hospital in-patient charge of €60 per night applies to everyone receiving treatment in a public hospital with the exception of people with full eligibility, that is, those entitled to a medical card, women receiving services in respect of motherhood, children up to the age of six weeks and children suffering from prescribed long-term diseases.

Persons suffering from epilepsy have the same eligibility for services as all other persons. In addition, under the long-term illness scheme they are entitled to obtain drugs and medicines necessary for the treatment of the condition free of charge.

The management and delivery of health and personal social services is 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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

219 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the current usage and future plans for the Health Service Executive property (details supplied) in Dublin 5; the structural condition of this building; when the site will be cleaned and the derelict containers removed; if her attention has been drawn to reports of rodent and pigeon infestation in and around the building; and if she will have this matter investigated. [10492/06]

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. This includes responsibility for considering new capital proposals or progressing those in the health capital programme.

Accordingly, my Department is requesting the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Long-Term Illness Scheme.

Beverley Flynn

Ceist:

220 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on including patients who have undergone illeostomy procedures in the long-term illness scheme. [10520/06]

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

227 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether it is fair that a person suffering from Crohn’s disease, who has to attend hospital regularly and who returns to work, will lose their medical card and hence be in a worse off financial position due to the fact that this disease, which can be long-term, is not recognised as such by the State; her views on whether this is unfair; when she will reform the long-term illness scheme to enable people suffering from unrecognised long-term illnesses to retain their much needed medical cards; and her further views on whether it should not be decided on name of disease but rather on the severity and expected duration of illness based on a doctor’s examination. [10559/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 220 and 227 together.

Under the 1970 Health Act, the Health Service Executive may arrange for the supply, without charge, of drugs, medicines and medical and surgical appliances to people with a specified condition, for the treatment of that condition, through the long-term illness scheme. The scheme does not cover GP fees or hospital co-payments. The conditions are: mental handicap, mental illness, for people under 16 only, phenylketonuria, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus, haemophilia, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophies, parkinsonism, conditions arising from thalidomide and acute leukaemia. There are no plans to extend the list of eligible conditions.

Products necessary for the management of the specified illness are available to patients on the scheme. Other products are available according to the patient's eligibility. People who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. In the assessment process the Health Service Executive can take into account medical costs incurred by an individual or a family. The Deputy will be pleased to know that people in receipt of payments from the Department of Social and Family Affairs may retain the medical card for a specified period of time following return to work or participating in an approved scheme.

In November 2004, I introduced a new graduated benefit — the GP visit card to extend free GP care and treatment to individuals and families on low incomes. In June last year, I simplified the means test for both medical and GP visit cards. It is now based on an applicant's and spouse's income after income tax and PRSI, and takes account of reasonable expenses incurred in respect of rent or mortgage payments, child care and travel to work. In October, I announced that the income guidelines for both medical and GP visit cards would be increased by an additional 20%. This means the income guidelines are now 29% higher than they were this time last year. These improvements have also made the assessment process much fairer and ensure that those on low to moderate incomes can qualify for free GP care. Non-medical card holders can use the drug payment scheme, which protects against excessive medicines costs. Under this scheme, no individual or family unit pays more than €85 per calendar month, or approximately €20 per week, towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The scheme is easy to use and significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines. In addition, non-reimbursed medical expenses above a set threshold may be offset against tax.

Health Services.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

221 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action she will take following her Department receiving a letter from a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; if she will give the correspondence her personal attention to ensure that this service is put back in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10542/06]

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

Nursing Home Subventions.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

222 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Wexford is entitled to more subvention; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that it is difficult for the family to pay the nursing home fees; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10543/06]

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.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

223 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department funds a group (details supplied) in County Wexford; if so, the amount of funding received; the person who is responsible for this group or organisation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10544/06]

My Department has not provided funding to the organisation referred to by the Deputy. However, I am informed that there has been contact between the Health Service Executive and the organisation. 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.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

224 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of suicide counselling agencies which are registered with her Department; the name of each agency and the funding they receive from her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10545/06]

There is no requirement for counselling services to register with my Department. Under the Health Act 2004, the provision of funding for suicide protection measures, including support for suicide counselling agencies, is primarily a matter for the Health Service Executive. 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 to the directly to the Deputy.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

225 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Wexford will receive a test for a hearing aid; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10546/06]

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.

Hospital Accommodation.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

226 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position concerning the provision of additional accommodation relating to the phase 2B element of the General Hospital, Mullingar; the commencement date and date when the additional accommodation and facilities will be ready for use and occupation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10547/06]

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.

Question No. 227 answered with QuestionNo. 220.
Questions Nos. 228 to 230, inclusive, answered with Question No. 144.

Nursing Home Charges.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

231 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when an application for a refund under the nursing home fees repayment scheme will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Cork who applied in 2005 for a repayment and has received no payment to date. [10592/06]

As the Health Service Executive, HSE, has responsibility for administering the national repayment scheme, inquiries relating to individual cases are referred to the parliamentary affairs division of the executive. My Department has asked the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Crisis Pregnancy Prevention.

Paddy McHugh

Ceist:

232 Mr. McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the need for reform of the Crisis Pregnancy Agency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10593/06]

The Crisis Pregnancy Agency was established on 2 October 2001, under the Health (Corporate Bodies) Act 1961. Its main role is to facilitate co-ordination of efforts of all groups in the area of crisis pregnancy prevention. The agency reports that over the past three years it has increased the amount of crisis pregnancy counselling available in the country by more than 50%. Last year, the agency allocated more than €3.5 million towards supports and services within crisis pregnancy. I have no plans at present to change either the status or the remit of the Crisis Pregnancy Agency.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

233 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive an appointment date for a clinic at Tallaght Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10597/06]

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.

Question No. 234 answered with QuestionNo. 144.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

235 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when arrears of the home base subvention grant will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who has been paying for these services out of their pension entitlements since January 2006; if she will ensure that this payment is awarded in time and on a regular basis to the person to eliminate such a situation recurring; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10610/06]

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.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

236 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if this parliamentary question can be taken by way of an appeal to refuse a medical card in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10611/06]

All decisions on applications for assessment of eligibility to medical cards are statutorily a matter for the Health Service Executive, HSE. In cases where an application for a medical card has been refused an appeal can be made to the HSE. Such appeals should be made directly to the HSE.

I understand from the HSE that it is investigating an appeal made by the person who is the subject of the Deputy's question. Furthermore, the HSE has advised that it advised the Deputy of this by letter of 15 March 2006.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

237 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the allocation of funding in respect of enhanced nursing home subvention will be made available to the Southern Health Board Executive; and if her attention has been drawn to the severe hardship being imposed on families who are unable to meet the shortfall in nursing home costs and who have an entitlement to enhanced subvention. [10628/06]

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, HSE, 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.

The HSE has discretion to pay more than the maximum rate of subvention in a case, for example, where personal funds are exhausted. The application of this provision 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.

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

238 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will receive speech therapy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10666/06]

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.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

239 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if counselling will be arranged for a person (details supplied) in County Dublin whose parent died in Leas Cross Nursing Home. [10667/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and direct 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.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

240 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the expected date by which BreastCheck will be available in North Tipperary by units other than mobile units; the reason for the delay in reaching North Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10668/06]

BreastCheck is preparing for the national expansion of the breast screening programme to the remaining regions of the country. My Department has requested the director of BreastCheck to examine the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

241 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of beds contracted to the Health Service Executive in County Tipperary in private nursing homes. [10669/06]

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.

Nursing Home Subventions.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

242 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will review the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny, who has been refused subvention, with a view to granting subvention at an appropriate rate; if his application for long-term care at St. Columba’s hospital, Thomastown, County Kilkenny, will be considered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10670/06]

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.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

243 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress regarding the issues raised at meetings between the Health Service Executive and Irish Autism Action held in 2005 and 2006; if commitments given in 2005 by the Health Service Executive will be acted upon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10671/06]

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.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

244 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will reverse the decision not to reimburse the current market price of deltacortril tablets under the drugs payment scheme. [10672/06]

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

245 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason her Department has advised pharmacists to refer persons with prescriptions for deltacortril and prednisolone qualifying for the drugs payment scheme back to their general practitioners to have another tablet prescribed instead. [10673/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 244 and 245 together.

An agreement is in place between the Department of Health and Children, the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association and the Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of Ireland, which sets out the supply terms and prices of medicines supplied to the health services. The agreement covers all reimbursable prescription medicines in the general medical services and community drug schemes, and all medicines supplied to hospitals and the Health Service Executive. A price freeze is in place for products supplied under the terms of the agreement.

There is a common list of reimbursable medicines for the general medical services and drug payment schemes. This list is reviewed and amended monthly, as new products become available and deletions are notified. Deltacortril, the product referred to by the Deputy, was not deleted from the list. The original manufacturers divested ownership to another company. The new owner subsequently increased the price to pharmacies, without prior consultation with my Department and in breach of the pricing agreement. Following negotiations with the company concerned, agreement was reached on a revised reimbursement price, which came into effect on 1 March. Deltacortril has been available in the usual manner from that date.

Health Services.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

246 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when provision will be made for occupational therapy to be provided on a regular basis to enable a person (details supplied) in County Wexford to continue in mainstream education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10674/06]

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.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

247 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of grants in respect of top-ups to local authority disabled persons’ grants made to applicants from Dublin and in particular from community care areas six and seven of the Health Service Executive northern area in each of the past five years; the average grant paid in each case; and the number of maximum grants which were made in each case. [10689/06]

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 reply directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 248 answered with QuestionNo. 144.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

249 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for an appointment. [10705/06]

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 case investigated and reply directly to the Deputy.

Questions Nos. 250 and 251 answered with Question No. 144.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

252 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to provide funding for high level diagnostic equipment for Connolly Hospital at Blanchardstown; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that patients who require an angiogram and diagnosis have to go to the Mater Hospital or to Beaumont Hospital necessitating a huge amount of time and inconvenience; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10713/06]

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 reply directly to the Deputy.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

253 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she will issue a reply to correspondence (details supplied); the reason for the delay in same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10720/06]

As I indicated in my reply to the Deputy, dated 8 March, the correspondence he refers to 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, at that time, my Department requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and reply directly to the Deputy. The HSE has advised my Department it will be in a position to issue a reply this week.

Question No. 254 answered with QuestionNo. 144.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

255 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the provision being made to relieve staff shortages in County Clare dental services in order that targeted classes for routine preventive and treatment services in the Ennis area and the remaining parts of County Clare could again be senior infants, 2nd, 4th and 6th classes in line with the dental health action plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10722/06]

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 reply directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Homes.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

256 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she expects the report on the deaths at Leas Cross (details supplied). [10729/06]

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

257 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will contact the families of those who died in Leas Cross before the investigations (details supplied) are finalised. [10737/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 256 and 257 together.

The Health Service Executive has informed the Department that a draft copy of the report was received by the HSE Dublin north area on the evening of Thursday 9 February 2006. It is understood from the HSE that this draft is currently being reviewed and the final report cannot be prepared until this process is completed. The HSE expects the process to be finalised by mid-April 2006. The Tánaiste, at this time, has no arrangements made to make contact with the families.

Health Statistics.

Liam Twomey

Ceist:

258 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason her Department has not published a complete health statistics report since 2002; the contact details and the person who is responsible for this exercise; if it is the Health Service Executive or her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10751/06]

The report on health statistics is published at three-yearly intervals. The report for 2002 was made available in February 2003 and the report for 2005 is now due for publication. This report is now in the final stages of preparation and will be published in the next few weeks. A number of updated tables are available on the Department's website and further statistical data can be obtained directly from the information unit in my Department. My Department holds responsibility for the production of the health statistics report but this is currently under review in the context of the implementation of the health service reform programme.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

259 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an application under the housing aid for the elderly scheme will be expedited for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and the timeframe involved in approving and awarding the grant. [10752/06]

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. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to have this matter investigated and reply directly to the Deputy.

Avian Flu.

Seamus Kirk

Ceist:

260 Mr. Kirk asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the emergency arrangements in place to deal with a possible bird flu epidemic; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10753/06]

For the sake of clarity, avian flu or H5N1 is primarily a disease of birds. To date, there have been a very small number of human cases of H5N1 infection documented, in situations where there has been very close contact with infected birds. There is no evidence of human to human transmission.

The Department of Agriculture and Food is responsible for controlling avian flu in birds and mammals other than humans and has put in place a range of measures aimed at maintaining Ireland's avian flu-free status. The health sector's role in relation to avian flu relates to the human health implications that would arise were there to be an outbreak of avian flu in this country. My Department is working very closely with the Department of Agriculture and Food in this context.

The Department of Agriculture and Food is an active participant in my Department's influenza pandemic expert group. A subgroup of the expert group has developed guidance documents for use in the event of an avian influenza outbreak in animals in Ireland. Guidance on the investigation and management of suspected human cases of avian influenza has also been developed and circulated within the health system. These guidance documents are available on the HSE health protection surveillance centre website, www.hpsc.ie.

The overall aims of influenza pandemic planning are to reduce mortality and morbidity and minimise the resulting disruption to society. In line with information and evidence available internationally, my Department has consistently stated that the consequences of a global pandemic are likely to be serious. Pandemic planning can only mitigate the effects. There is a very clear distinction between the current avian flu outbreak and the possibility of a future pandemic influenza in the human population. Experts advise that such a pandemic may arise as a result of the current H5N1 avian flu situation, but this is by no means inevitable.

My Department and the Health Service Executive are working closely together on pandemic planning. This work is ongoing on a number of fronts. The influenza pandemic expert group is updating expert guidance and the pandemic influenza operational response plan is being updated in line with the most up to date expert advice. This work is being progressed through working/implementation groups established by the HSE to address actions within the functional areas of surveillance, health services, public health measures, vaccines/antivirals etc., communications, laboratories and materials management. My Department has established a standing interdepartmental committee to consider issues which go beyond the health aspects of an influenza pandemic and arrangements have been made to procure a stockpile of H5N1 vaccine for key health care workers and other essential workers. My Department is also actively pursuing an advanced purchase order for a pandemic strain vaccine and we are stockpiling a million treatment packs of the antiviral drug, Tamiflu, 600,000 packs of which have already been delivered. The remaining 400,000 packs will be delivered this year. Arrangements have also been made to purchase a supply of the active pharmaceutical ingredient, oseltamivir phosphate powder, to treat children aged between one to five years of age. Arrangements are also being finalised for the stockpiling of additional supplies of the other suitable antiviral drug, Relenza.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

261 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Question No. 259 of 14 February 2006. [10841/06]

I have made inquiries and have been informed by the Health Service Executive that an answer issued to the Deputy on 2 March 2006.

Organ Donation.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

262 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will make it compulsory for all chemist shops to display organ donor cards; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10842/06]

The annual organ donor awareness campaign organised by the Irish donor network and administered by the Irish Kidney Association, highlights the necessity for organ donation generally. The campaign, which is supported by my Department, highlights the need for organ donors by promoting the carrying of an organ donor card. I will launch the 2006 donor awareness campaign on 28 March.

In the context of increasing the number of donor organs available for transplant, the Health Service Executive was asked by the Department to undertake a review and analysis of the factors that impact on organ procurement and retrieval rates in hospitals around the country. This review has commenced. My Department is advised by the Health Service Executive that arrangements have recently been put in place to facilitate the distribution of organ donor cards throughout the community pharmacy network. The Irish Pharmaceutical Union has arranged with the Irish Kidney Association on behalf of the Irish donor network for pharmacies to stock organ donor cards.

Question No. 263 answered with QuestionNo. 149.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

264 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a GMS doctor has not been appointed and medical card restored in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the fact that this issue was the subject matter of a previous parliamentary question; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10844/06]

I have been informed by the Health Service Executive that the person who is the subject of the Deputy's question has been assigned to the patient panel of a general medical services scheme-contracted general practitioner and that the HSE advised the Deputy to this effect by letter on 13 March 2006.

Vaccination Programme.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

265 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that in 1982 a Government-appointed team found that 14 children here who were brain damaged following receipt of the three in one vaccine injection had a reasonable probability of being adversely affected by the vaccine used; her plans to set up a tribunal to investigate the matter as promised; and the options which are open to the parents in question in terms of obtaining further compensation and an apology from the state for wrongdoing and negligence. [10845/06]

In November 1977 the then Minister for Health established the expert medical group on whooping cough vaccination to examine persons who, it claimed, had been permanently damaged by whooping cough vaccination, to review the medical information available in relation to them and to indicate whether, in its opinion, the damage was attributable to the vaccination.

There were 93 cases presented to the expert group, which found that there was a reasonable probability that the vaccine was responsible for damage in 16 of these cases. Where there was a reasonable doubt in any case, the group gave the benefit of that doubt to that person. In 1982, an offer of an ex-gratia payment of £10,000 was made in 14 cases with a further two offers in 1984, on condition that no claim would be made on the child’s behalf in respect of the whooping cough vaccination. There was no acceptance of liability on the part of the State or any public authority. Award of the ex-gratia payment was on condition that the persons concerned waived any further liability against the State or any public authority. The expert group reviewed all the cases that came before it and is no longer sitting.

I presume the Deputy's reference to a tribunal relates to the introduction of a no-fault compensation scheme as recommended by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children in its report on childhood immunisation. The feasibility of introducing a vaccine damage compensation scheme is currently under examination in my Department. The process is at an advanced stage and will be given priority in the Department's 2006 business plan.

Questions Nos. 266 and 267 answered with Question No. 144.

Health Services.

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

268 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for a reduction of almost 750,000 in home help hours between 2002 and 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10848/06]

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 reply directly to the Deputy.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

269 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Question No. 112 of 16 February 2006, the reason for the delay in a reply issuing to same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10893/06]

Having made inquiries regarding this matter, my Department understands that the Health Service Executive has already replied to the Deputy.

Vaccination Programme.

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

270 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an investigation will be ordered into the circumstances whereby a baby (details supplied) became profoundly mentally and physically handicapped subsequent to the administration of the three in one vaccine in 1985. [10894/06]

In 2001 the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children in its report on childhood immunisation recommended that legislation be drawn up to provide for a national vaccine injury compensation scheme. The feasibility of introducing such a scheme is currently under examination in my Department. This process is at an advanced stage and will be given priority in 2006. Cases such as the one referred to by the Deputy could be considered in the light of the possible establishment of such a scheme.

Health Services.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

271 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the necessary service for assessment and initiation of methadone treatment will be provided; the follow-up treatment services for drug users in the former Southern Health Board area where patients have to travel into Cork to get this service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10895/06]

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 have this matter investigated and to reply directly to the Deputy.

James Breen

Ceist:

272 Mr. J. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of cancellations due to overcrowding which have taken place on a daily basis since Christmas 2005 at St. James’s Hospital for patients waiting for elective surgery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10896/06]

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 have this matter investigated and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

273 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when home help will be restored to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who has been without same since January 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10897/06]

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 have this matter investigated and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 274 answered with QuestionNo. 144.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

275 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of respite beds available for disabled-handicapped people in the Cavan-Monaghan region; her views on whether there are at least 70 families needing this type of service; her further views on whether there is a great need to help such families in every way possible; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10899/06]

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 have this matter investigated and reply directly to the Deputy.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

276 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. [10915/06]

The Deputy's question relates to correspondence addressed to the chief executive officer of the Health Service Executive. My Department has been informed by the HSE that a reply has now issued.

David Stanton

Ceist:

277 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the situation pertaining in the different Health Service Executive areas regarding refunds or payments of travel expenses in cases where older people are unable to use or avail of public transport and where they are obliged to attend for medical appointments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10916/06]

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 have this matter investigated and reply directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 278 answered with QuestionNo. 144.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

279 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will publish the data relating to the number of patients awaiting admission to Dún Laoghaire Rehabilitation Hospital; the length of time each patient is waiting; the number of staff working there; the breakdown of various staff involved; her plans to increase the facilities at the hospital; if she has satisfied herself that only one such facility exists here; and her plans to change same. [10918/06]

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 have this matter investigated and reply directly to the Deputy.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

280 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that an application lodged with the southern area of the Health Service Executive in 2003 for funding for treatment abroad in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork who is suffering from a very rare disease, has not been approved; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that despite several requests from the persons medical team, no progress has been made in this application; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that everyday without treatment causes further deterioration to this person’s medical condition and overall well being; and if she will address this matter with the priority and seriousness which it deserves. [10968/06]

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 reply directly to the Deputy.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

281 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange for a copy of medical records of a person (details supplied) in County Cork to be made available to them. [10971/06]

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 reply directly to the Deputy.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

282 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of a contract for nursing home beds with the Southern Health Service Executive (details supplied) in relation to two nursing homes in Cork. [10972/06]

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 have this matter investigated and reply directly to the Deputy.

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

283 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of long-term beds in a hospital (details supplied) in County Tipperary; the number that are occupied on a long-term basis; the average number of vacancies each week; the number of vacancies each week since 1 January 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11019/06]

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 have this matter investigated and reply directly to the Deputy.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

284 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a service which was working satisfactorily, namely, the mobile hospital service in Carbury, County Kildare, was allowed to cease; the further reason the service cannot now provide doctors, nurses or physiotherapists when they were previously available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11058/06]

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 Service Staff.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

285 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to the letter from the Health Service Executive of 9 March 2006 in response to Question No. 480 of 25 January 2006, when the Health Service Executive last advertised for recruitment of speech and language therapists in the Kildare and west Wicklow areas; and if internal transfers have been offered for therapists who may wish to transfer to the areas from other parts of the country. [11063/06]

The Deputy's question relates to human resource management issues within the Health Service Executive. As this 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 this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

286 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason she has not approved the phase 3C development of Naas General Hospital, which is included in the 2006 capital plan approved by Health Service Executive management team and board. [11064/06]

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. The progression of phase 3C at Naas General Hospital is included in the proposed Health Service Executive capital plan for 2006, which is being considered by my Department in conjunction with the Department of Finance. I expect to be in a position shortly to revert to the Health Service Executive in relation to agreement on the plan overall, including a decision in relation to this particular project.

Health Services.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

287 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in a response issuing in respect of Question No. 113 of 16 February 2006 from the Health Service Executive. [11067/06]

As I indicated in my response on 16 February, 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, at that time, my Department 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. I understand the HSE has now issued that reply.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

288 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in providing the information sought under Questions Nos. 140 of 15 December 2005 and 474 of 25 January 2006. [11068/06]

BreastCheck in conjunction with my Department is preparing an estimate of the costs of extending the breast screening programme nationally to women over the age of 64. I expect to be in a position in a matter of weeks to forward to the Deputy the information requested.

Care of the Elderly.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

289 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in issuing a response to Questions Nos. 114 of 16 February 2006 and 477 of 25 January 2006 from the Health Service Executive. [11069/06]

The parliamentary affairs division of the Health Service Executive has informed the Department that as the previous parliamentary questions raised a national issue, replies were sought from all Health Service Executive regions. To date the parliamentary affairs division has received responses from three Health Service Executive areas and is actively pursuing the outstanding information with a view to reverting to the Deputy at the earliest possible date.

Health Services.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

290 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in issuing a response to Questions Nos. 479 of 25 January 2006 and 116 of 16 February 2006 from the Health Service Executive. [11070/06]

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. The Health Service Executive has advised that it issued a reply to the Deputy on 17 February 2006 in respect of the questions to which the Deputy refers.

Health Service Staff.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

291 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if nurses working in Dingle Hospital, which is in a Gaeltacht area of Kerry, will be granted an extra allowance for speaking Irish in the workplace similar to their counterparts in Carraroe in the Connemara Gaeltacht; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11080/06]

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.

Health Services.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

292 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the policy in respect of the provision of post-operative physiotherapy for patients suffering from dementia; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11101/06]

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 have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

293 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the policy in respect of charges for inpatient services in nursing homes in respect of patients in public nursing homes and patients in contract beds in private nursing homes; the mechanism for levying and collecting these charges in respect of patients who are in receipt of social welfare pensions and those who are adult dependants on their spouse’s social welfare pension; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11102/06]

The charging for long-stay care under the Health (Amendment) Act 2005 is being implemented by way of the Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) Regulations 2005. These regulations were signed on 14 June 2005 and reinstated charges for inpatient services and provided for the levying of a charge in respect of the maintenance of persons in receipt of inpatient services. The regulations were prepared following extensive consultation with the Health Service Executive and others.

Section 53 of the Health Act 1970, as amended by the Health (Amendment) Act 2005, provides, inter alia, for the levying of a charge where inpatient services have been provided for a period of not less than 30 days or for periods aggregating not less than 30 days within the previous 12 months. In this regard, charging of patients in long-term care commenced on 14 July 2005, which was after the expiration of 30 days after the regulations were signed.

The regulations, in keeping with section 53 of the Health Act 1970, as amended, have provided for two different classes of persons on whom charges can be levied. Class one refers to people in receipt of inpatient services on premises where nursing care is provided on a 24-hour basis on those premises. In this case, a weekly charge can be levied of €120 or the weekly income of that person less €35, whichever is the lesser. Class two refers to people in receipt of inpatient services on premises where nursing care is not provided on a 24-hour basis on those premises. In this situation, a weekly charge can be levied of €90, or the weekly income of that person less €55 or 60% of the weekly income of that person, whichever is the lesser.

These regulations provide for the maximum charge to be levied on either class of person. The Health Service Executive has the power to reduce or waive a charge on the grounds of undue hardship. Under section 1(b) of the Health (Amendment) Act 2005, the Health Service Executive can examine a person’s overall financial situation in view of the person’s reasonable expenditure in relation to himself or herself or his or her dependants, if any.

The mechanism for levying and collecting charges in respect of patients in receipt of social welfare pensions and also in respect of patients who are adult dependants on the social welfare pension of their spouse, is an operational matter for the Health Service Executive. The Health Service Executive has informed me that the patient has a choice of two mechanisms to pay the charge. The patient can ask the Health Service Executive to become an agent on his or her pension. The Health Service Executive would then cash the pension on a weekly basis and either give the balance of the pension to the patient on the ward or lodge the balance to the patient private property account. The alternative option available to the patient is to receive an invoice from the Health Service Executive on a monthly basis for the charge due. Normally the next of kin would arrange payment of this invoice directly to the Health Service Executive. The mechanisms outlined above can be chosen by the patient in all cases whether the patient has his or her own pension book or where a joint pension book exists in the case of a spouse and adult dependant.

The position in regard to the mechanism for levying the charge in respect of patients who are in receipt of social welfare pensions and those who are adult dependants on their spouse's social welfare is as follows. Section 1(b) of the Health (Amendment) Act 2005 states that the Health Service Executive shall have regard to the person’s overall financial situation, including the means of the spouse, if any, of that person in addition to the person's own means, in view of the person’s reasonable expenditure in relation to himself or herself and his or her dependants, if any. It is a matter for the Health Service Executive, based on its own legal advice and taking into account the individual circumstances as well as the service being provided, to make a decision on any charges levied.

Health Service Inspections.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

294 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will provide details of all inspections carried out by the social services inspectorate and other agencies in relation to compliance under legislation, including under the Child Care Act 1991, of a facility (details supplied) in Dublin 9 over the past five years. [11103/06]

I understand from my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin, that the service in question is a special school and is the responsibility of the Department of Education and Science. It does not come within the remit of the inspection of children's residential centres by the Health Service Executive provided for in the Child Care Act of 1991. Neither does it come within the remit of the social services inspectorate which inspects residential child care services operated by the Health Service Executive. However, I understand from Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin, that an inspection of the school to which the Deputy refers was conducted in the school year 2001-02 as part of the regular programme of school inspections conducted during that year.

The social services inspectorate has been in operation on an administrative basis since 1999. During this time it has inspected all children's residential centres which are operated by the Health Service Executive, former health boards, and piloted some inspections of foster care services against national standards. Its programme of inspection is ongoing.

As the Deputy may be aware, there are commitments in Sustaining Progress, the social partnership agreement 2003-05, An Agreed Programme for Government, June 2002, and the health strategy, Quality and Fairness, in regard to the establishment of the social services inspectorate on a statutory basis and the extension of its remit to other social services including residential services for people with disabilities and older people. It is the intention to include the necessary legislative provision for the establishment of the functions of the social services inspectorate on a statutory basis and the extension of these functions in the Bill, which will also establish the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA.

The Tánaiste announced on 7 March 2006 that the Government had agreed to the undertaking of a public consultation process on the draft general scheme of the Bill providing for the establishment of the HIQA. The draft heads of the Bill provide for, inter alia, the establishment within HIQA of the office of the chief inspector of social services and the establishment of a registration system for residential services for children in need of care and protection, for persons with disabilities and for older people. The public consultation will commence within the next few weeks.

Question No. 295 answered with QuestionNo. 149.

Schools Building Projects.

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

296 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the circumstances at a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary; if a school building project at a school will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10023/06]

The asbestos roof sheeting on the gym of the school referred to, which was damaged and leaking, was replaced by the Commissioners of Public Works on behalf of the Department of Education and Science as part of the asbestos management programme in schools. The additional works requested, namely, the replacement of the gym flooring, are not directly related to the asbestos removal works and are not included in the programme.

Disabled Drivers.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

297 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance when the appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Kerry for vehicle registration tax exemption will be considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10165/06]

I understand that the appeal referred to by the Deputy is an appeal to the disabled drivers medical board of appeal in connection with a refusal of a primary medical certificate, necessary for qualification for the tax exemptions under the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) scheme. The medical board of appeal is independent in its functions. Queries in respect of the appeal should be addressed by the person concerned to the secretary to the board, Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal, c/o National Rehabilitation Hospital, Rochestown Avenue, Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin, tel. no. 2355279.

Flood Relief.

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

298 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the Fermoy flood relief scheme; if a contract for the scheme has been selected; when work on the scheme will commence; the length of time this work will take; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10218/06]

The Office of Public Works will shortly seek approval from the Department of Finance to commence detailed design of the Munster Blackwater — Fermoy North — drainage scheme. Once approval to proceed is obtained, the detailed design along with any necessary site investigations will occur and will be followed by the procurement process for a works contractor. It is anticipated that construction of the first of three schemes within the overall Fermoy project would commence early in 2007. Construction of the three schemes is likely to take five years.

Regional Development.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

299 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Finance what have the group of western Ministers called together to overview the spending and drawdown for the Border, midland, western region of the national development plan fund; the emergency plan the Government has in place for the Border, midland, western region; the disbursement plans of national development plan funds which are in place for the west; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10362/06]

I take it that the group of Ministers to which the Deputy is referring is the group which was established in 1997 by the previous Government to perform a specific task. It was established to facilitate regular contact between the then Minister of State with special responsibility for rural development and ministerial colleagues from the west on matters of concern to the Western Development Commission in its work towards promoting the economic and social development of the western region. In regard to the second element in the Deputy's question, there is in fact no such plan.

Regarding disbursements, the national development plan is delivered through a number of operational programmes in the BMW region. These are directly managed and implemented by Departments, the BMW regional assembly and other agencies. Investments in the BMW region will continue under the national development plan until the end of 2006 with respect to Exchequer only funded projects and to the end of 2008 for projects co-funded by the Structural Funds. I draw the Deputy's attention to my reply to Question No. 105 of 9 March 2005 in which I outlined my Department's responsibility with respect to resources for the national development plan. Departments have been asked to ensure that the investment objectives for the BMW region are prioritised.

Table 1 sets out the indicative expenditure profiles and the estimated expenditure incurred under each operational programme in the Border, midland and western, BMW, region.

Table 1 — Total Profiled and Estimated Expenditure in BMW Region, January 2000 to end June 2005

Operational Programme

Profile

Expenditure

Expenditure versus Profile

€m

€m

%

Economic and Social Infrastructure

5,319

4,514

85

Employment and Human Resources Development

3,378

3,156

93

Productive Sector

2,030

692

34

Border, Midlands and Western Regional

3,168

1,946

61

PEACE II and Technical Assistance

145

86

59

Total Expenditure

14,040

10,390

74

Profiles and Expenditure data includes all NDP sources of funding: Exchequer, EU and private.

As the vast bulk of NDP spending is financed by the Exchequer, table 2 sets out the indicative expenditure profiles and estimated expenditure by the Exchequer for the same period in the BMW region for the operational programmes.

Table 2 — Profiled and Estimated Exchequer Expenditure in BMW Region January 2000 to end June 2005

Operational Programme

Profile

Expenditure

Expenditure versus Profile

€m

€m

%

Economic and Social Infrastructure

3,756

3,633

97

Employment and Human Resources Development

3,238

2,903

90

Productive Sector

1,663

514

31

Border, Midlands and Western Regional Programme

2,542

1,557

61

PEACE II and Technical Assistance

248

111

45

Total Exchequer Expenditure

11,447

8,717

76

The expenditure data presented in the tables relate to the period from January 2000 to the end of June 2005, the latest data reported to the operational programme monitoring committees. The 2005 annual expenditure profiles have been reduced by half in calculating the profile. However, the Deputy will be aware that significant expenditure, particularly Exchequer expenditure, takes place in the latter half of the year. The position will become clearer when expenditure data to the end of December 2005 become available in April prior to the spring meetings of the monitoring committees.

The Deputy will note from the data presented in table 2 that the Exchequer contribution to the BMW region under the key economic and social infrastructure operational programme, ESIOP, is very near to profile. Performance of the employment and human resource operational programme, EHROP, is also on course. Both programmes are likely to achieve the NDP targets for Exchequer expenditure.

The performances of the productive sector and the BMW regional operational programmes remain disappointing due a number of factors such as poor demand for a number of schemes, particularly in the agricultural sector. Spending on research and development has also been less than profile owing to initial excess optimism in relation to the timing of expenditure in the region. There has also been poorer than expected private sector involvement in these programmes. The underspend in the BMW regional operational programme is also a feature of the equivalent operational programme in the southern and eastern region. These operational programmes and the PEACE programme are unlikely to achieve their end 2006 targets. However, it should be noted that considerable EU co-funded expenditure will continue on these programmes until the end of 2008.

Mobile Telephony.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

300 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance in regard to the mobile phone transmitters which are placed on Howth Garda station, the plans which exist to put further transmitters at this location; his views on same in view of the presence of a cluster of three transmitters at Howth yacht club which is some distance from residences, schools and so on and as a location is therefore more in line with the precautionary principle; and in further view of the fact that it is stated Government policy to encourage co-location of mobile phone transmitters, would it not be more appropriate to use this alternative location rather than one immediately surrounded by houses. [10489/06]

One mobile phone company has telecommunications equipment installed on the mast at Howth Garda station under a licence agreement dating from 1997. The Commissioners of Public Works have recently issued a further licence to upgrade its equipment on this site to provide 3G services. Two other companies have applied to co-locate on the mast and their licences are being finalised.

The OPW encourages co-location where possible in line with Government policy. It is our understanding that more than one site for antennae is necessary in Howth because usage is approaching antenna capacity limits for a single location.

Flexible Work Practices.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

301 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance his views on amending the regulations for term time working to include shorter breaks of four or six weeks; the merits and drawbacks of such a proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10584/06]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the term time arrangements that apply in the Civil Service and in certain parts of the public service. In replying, I will refer to the arrangements in the Civil Service for which I have direct responsibility.

In December 2000, term time was introduced as a pilot scheme for all civil servants covered by the conciliation and arbitration scheme and provided for ten weeks or 13 weeks' special unpaid leave for parents or primary carers. At present, an eight-week term time scheme is being piloted.

The merits and drawbacks of a proposal for other periods of leave in the Civil Service term time scheme have to be carefully assessed in the context of work-life balance policies and the business requirements of the Civil Service. I understand that the issue is being discussed with the Civil Service unions at present and I do not want to anticipate these at this stage.

However, as well as term time, the Civil Service has a wide range of family friendly and work-life balance schemes in operation, including, inter alia, flexi-time, work sharing, career breaks, leave for domestic reasons, paternity leave, bereavement leave and marriage leave. These various options are in addition to the general statutory entitlements such as maternity leave, adoptive leave, parental leave and so on and, together with family friendly and work-life balance schemes, represent good employment arrangements for staff.

Garda Stations.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

302 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance the reason the gardaí in Carbury, County Kildare, have not moved to their new Garda station in Derrinturn, County Kildare; and the action being taken to resolve the matter. [10760/06]

A new lightning protection specification has been introduced in respect of all communications masts on Garda stations. It was necessary to structurally design and manufacture a stayed pole that would integrate with this system for Cabury-Derrinturn Garda station. The building will be handed over in early April.

Site Acquisitions.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

303 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance further to the meeting between the Office of Public Works and officials from Kildare County Council on 8 February 2006, if there has been any progress in the identification and purchase of a site for the new national school for Kill in County Kildare. [11048/06]

The Commissioners of Public Works act as agents for the Department of Education and Science in the acquisition of sites for primary schools. Following the meeting with Kildare County Council on 8 February 2006 negotiations to acquire a suitable site for Kill national school have reached an advanced stage. However, it would be inappropriate to reveal the precise details at this point as it would likely prejudice future negotiations.

Oileáin Amach ón gCósta.

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

304 D'fhiafraigh Mr. J. Higgins den Aire Airgeadais an dtabharfaidh sé tuairisc maidir leis an mBlascaod Mór a oscailt don phobal. [10962/06]

Tá Oifig na nOibreacha Poiblí ag plé le húinéirí talún an oileáin faoi láthair maidir le maoin an oileáin a cheannach. Beidh ant-oileán lán-oscailte don phobal nuair a bheidh ceannach na maoine críochnaithe, agus tar éis do ché nua a thógáil ar an oileán, uasghrádú a dhéanamh ar na háiseanna ag Dún Chaoin agus socruithe a dhéanamh maidir le caomhnú na hoidhreachta tógtha agus nádúrtha.

Tax Collection.

Pat Carey

Ceist:

305 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 should be paying income tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10047/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the person has not paid any income tax on his pensions because his income has been below the relevant exemption limits. He has consequently not been in contact with Revenue for many years. However, deposit interest retention tax was deducted from interest which he and his wife received on their investment income. Owing to their age and income level, they are entitled to a refund of deposit interest retention tax amounting to €3,769.18 for the past four years. A cheque will issue shortly.

The Revenue Commissioners have been in contact with the person concerned and advised him that he may be due further refunds in respect of deposit interest retention tax. On receipt of the relevant details from the financial institutions, any further refund due will be dealt with without delay.

Motor Vehicle Registration.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

306 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the way in which number plate providers are regulated here; his plans to introduce registration and monitoring of such providers to allow for the greater enforcement of road traffic law and to curb crime. [10064/06]

With regard to car registration regulations, the Revenue Commissioners are the vehicle registration authority in the State. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the owner-driver of a vehicle is responsible for ensuring that his-her vehicle registration plates comply with the law and it is an offence under section 139(1) (b) of the Finance Act 1992 to be in possession of a vehicle displaying a vehicle registration plate in a format other than as prescribed. The format, dimensions and technical specifications of identification marks of vehicle registration plates to be displayed on vehicles in the State are set out in SI 318/92 as amended by SI 432/99. These regulations are well known and widely understood by the motor trade.

The Deputy may wish to note that Revenue mobile units and the Garda Síochána are actively engaged in the detection of vehicles displaying non-conforming registration plates and that the Department of Transport, which has responsibility for the provision of the national car test, rates such display as a fail in its test. There are no plans to impose further regulatory control in this area, such as by regulating the providers of the number plates.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

307 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if it is correct that a VAT rate of 21% is applied to the bill for a social alarm monitoring service; if a VAT exemption applies to the purchasing of such a service by a person with disabilities or a visually impaired person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10068/06]

The position is that the VAT rating of goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. Member states are only able to apply the reduced VAT rate to those goods and services which are listed under annex H of the EU Sixth VAT Directive. As the service referred to by the Deputy is not listed under annex H, it would not be possible to apply the reduced VAT rate to monitoring fees charged by service providers for socially monitored alarms. The monitoring of home security systems are, therefore, subject to the standard VAT rate of 21%.

In regard to the issue of allowing a VAT exemption on the purchase of such a service by a person with disabilities or a visually impaired person, the position is that the rate of VAT which applies to a particular good or service is determined by the nature of the good or service, and not by the status of the consumer. There is no provision in European VAT law that would allow for the introduction of a VAT exemption on the purchase of such services by consumers with disabilities or a visually impaired person. However, under the Value Added Tax (Refund of Tax) (No. 15) Order 1981, it is possible to obtain a VAT refund in respect of the purchase of a pendant alarm system as it is considered a medical device for the purpose of this refund order. Applicants should contact the Revenue Commissioners, VAT Repayments (Unregistered Section), Kilrush Road, Ennis, County Clare. VAT on monitoring and maintenance fees are not recoverable.

In addition, the Deputy may be aware of the community support for older people scheme which is operated by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The purpose of the scheme is to encourage and assist the community's support for older people by means of a community-based grant scheme to improve the security of its older members. Funding under the scheme can be provided for small-scale security equipment designed to strengthen points of entry to the dwelling, including security lighting, smoke alarms and for the once-off cost of installing socially monitored personal alarm systems. Annual monitoring fees or maintenance fees associated with socially monitored alarm systems are not provided for under the scheme. The VAT refund for the purchase of a personal security alarm by or on behalf of a disabled or elderly person combined with the community support for older people scheme outlined above are important measures that go towards ensuring that those who are most in need of security systems can avail of them.

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

308 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a comprehensive and up-to-date list held by the Revenue Commissioners of all licensed premises in Cork city and county. [10070/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the comprehensive and up-to-date list of all premises licensed to sell intoxicating liquor by retail in Cork City and County, as held by the Revenue Commissioners on 9 March 2006, comprises a total of 1,782 licences. A copy of the list, which exceeds 90 pages, is being forwarded to the Deputy.

Motor Vehicle Registration.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

309 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to whether the Revenue Commissioners can provide on-line vehicle registration tax for motor vehicle dealers and on-line form and electronic publishing of tax clearance status; if not, the reason this service is not available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10082/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that an on-line vehicle registration tax system is available since November 2002. Using the Revenue on-line service, ROS, motor dealers can register new vehicles on-line in their own time seven days a week. More than 94% of all new vehicles are registered via ROS.

As regards payment of VRT, motor dealers also arrange payment of the VRT due when registering the new owner of the vehicle in ROS by nominating whether the payment is to be made from their FACT or deferred account. FACT, flexible accounting of cash transactions, accounts are held by Revenue and motor dealers lodge money to these accounts for payment of VRT when due. Deferred accounts are, in effect, guaranteed bank accounts which the motor dealer arranges with their bank to guarantee payment of VRT. Motor dealers can also use ROS to look up their VRT account balances. This secure electronic service is of benefit to the motor dealer, particularly during the peak vehicle registration months at the beginning of each year when they need to ensure that sufficient funds are available in these accounts to pay the tax due. Used vehicles continue to be registered at vehicle registration offices and still require to be examined by Revenue officers. However, since September 2004, there is an on-line vehicle inquiry system where customers can calculate in advance the vehicle registration tax payable on used vehicles being imported into this country. This facility is available to the public and has been very successful with more than 1.1 million inquiries made to-date.

The Revenue Commissioners already provide an on-line application form for applicants for tax clearance certificates on their website, www.revenue.ie, and will shortly launch an on-line verification facility that will enable verification of tax clearance status. The verification system will be available to self-employed and corporate customers of Revenue. Applicants for tax clearance certificates will have the option, in the process of completing their tax clearance application, to make their tax clearance status visible to their customers. Public bodies and others can then view the current tax clearance status on line, with the permission of the applicant, through the use of a tax number and PIN number supplied by Revenue to the applicant. Revenue is finalising the details relating to the implementation of this initiative and will make a formal announcement shortly.

Electronic Projects.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

310 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if the e-Estimates project has been completed; if not, the reason therefore; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10095/06]

The e-Estimates project was completed according to specification early in 2005. It went into live implementation in April 2005 and was fully operational for the 2006 Estimates cycle.

Environmental Policy.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

311 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Finance if it is proposed to introduce a carbon tax in the foreseeable future; his views and best estimate of its implications for carbon emission levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10106/06]

The climate change strategy says that from 2002 onwards taxes will begin to take into account the amounts of greenhouse gases produced in any activity. It is Government policy to take greenhouse gas emissions into account when formulating or developing tax policy in any particular area.

In September 2004, the Government decided not to introduce a specific carbon tax, following a thorough examination of the issues involved, including how a carbon tax would be implemented and the associated environmental, economic and social impacts. In addition, my Department carried out an extensive consultation process in which 117 written submissions were received. Following this examination, the Government decided that a carbon tax was not an appropriate policy option and that, instead, it would intensify action on the other measures under the national climate change strategy. The Government concluded that the environmental benefits of a carbon tax would not justify the difficulties that would arise, particularly for households, from the introduction of such a tax. In this respect, the carbon energy tax would have imposed price increases on many products already suffering sharp increases, particularly as a result of increases in international oil prices. While a carbon tax would have involved a range of compensatory measures, these would not fully address the adverse economic and social effects arising. Moreover, a carbon tax would apply to products which are in the main already subject to excise duties and where a new tax is not specifically necessary to increase tax rates.

The carbon energy tax was just one possible element of the Government's approach to meeting Ireland's commitments under the Kyoto Protocol to which the Government remains fully committed. Taxation can play a part in attaining environmental objectives. However, as Minister for Finance, I am concerned to ensure that in developing policy on tax measures, we take into account any effects on Ireland's international competitiveness, particularly in regard to non-EU countries which compete with us and which may have low taxes on energy. I am also concerned in framing policy about the effect that the imposition of such taxes may have on the consumer price index and how they could impact on the less well off members of our community.

Apart from the carbon tax, the national climate change strategy envisages other initiatives in the tax area with one such example being tax reliefs for green initiatives. This approach uses the tax system to provide incentives for certain behaviour. In this regard, I would refer the Deputy to the significant biofuels excise relief scheme which I announced in the budget and for which provision has been made in the Finance Bill 2006. The Bill also contains a complementary provision which provides for VRT relief, in 2006 and 2007, for cars which are manufactured to use either biofuels or conventional fuel, flexible fuel vehicles.

Decentralisation Programme.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

312 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Finance the state of the decentralisation process; the percentages in the various Departments and agencies who have applied to move; if promotional opportunities have been made contingent on willingness to decentralise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10107/06]

I am satisfied that good progress continues to be made on this ambitious programme. I am particularly pleased with the continuing popularity of the programme among civil and public servants. There are approximately 10,600 applications on the central applications facility.

I would like to refer the Deputy to the decentralisation implementation group's report of June 2005 which identified progress on property, implementation planning, numbers of applicants, human resources issues and industrial relations issues. In line with the group's approach to phasing, the report provided indicative construction start and completion dates for the procurement of office accommodation in the new locations. The full contents of this report can be accessed at www.decentralisation.gov.ie. The final construction dates can only be confirmed when the tender process has been completed in respect of each location and are contingent on the level and quality of market interest in respect of sites, successful negotiation of contracts, receipt of acceptable planning permissions, timely completion of briefs and successful acquisition of suitable sites. I understand that the OPW is updating the position on the property aspects of the programme in light of experience to date.

Discussions have progressed with the Civil Service general service unions on a number of human resource and industrial relations issues. Actual movement of staff within and between Departments and offices is now under way with more than 1,200 staff already assigned to posts which will decentralise. Discussions are continuing with the professional and technical staff representatives in respect of arrangements for staff in those grades.

In regard to the State agencies, the decentralisation implementation group took the view that it would not seek to dictate every step in the process to the management of the State agencies. Although the group proposed a group of State agencies for early mover status, it did not include specific timeframes in recognition of this approach and also of the fact that it is the responsibility of the board and senior management of each agency to implement Government policy. The group stated in its June 2005 report that each agency included in the programme should have a successful relocation as a high level strategic objective and should prepare the next and deeper iteration of its implementation plan. I understand that agencies are preparing these plans at present. In the meantime, the OPW is continuing to seek property solutions in respect of any agency that requires it.

In regard to promotional opportunities, it has been clear from the announcement of the programme that promotion policies in the Civil and public service must take account of the reality of the decentralisation programme. Discussions with the unions representing general service grades in the Civil Service are at an advanced stage. Under these arrangements, a proportion of all promotion posts are linked to decentralisation. Discussions with the unions representing professional and technical personnel are also ongoing. As part of their planning process, the State agencies are also taking account of how recruitment and promotion opportunities may facilitate the early achievement of the decentralisation targets in an efficient manner.

The following tables provide information on the number of applicants for each Civil Service Department-office going to a new location, broken down into internal and external applicants, and the number of applicants for each State agency going to a new location, broken down into internal and external applicants. The data in both tables relate to position at May 2005. My Department will have an update of this data shortly and can provide it to the Deputy in due course.

Internal/External Breakdown of CAF Applicants for Civil Service Departments/Offices in new locations up to May 2005

External Applicants

Internal Applicants

Internal Applicants as % of Posts

CAF Posts

Total

%

%

Athlone — Education & Science

107.5

70

24

94

22

Athy — Revenue Commissioners

250

53

88

141

35

Buncrana — Social & Family Affairs

118

23

20

43

17

Carlow — Enterprise, Trade & Employment

312

187

61

248

20

Carrickmacross — Social and Family Affairs

0

45

40

85

N/A

Carrick-on-Shannon — Social & Family Affairs

220

92

197

289

90

Cavan — Communications, Marine & Natural Resources

378

157

19

176

5

Claremorris — Office of Public Works

142

174

12

186

8

Clonakilty — Communications, Marine & Natural Resources

90

129

23

152

26

Donegal — Social & Family Affairs

258

68

41

109

16

Drogheda — Communications, Marine & NR

47

65

23

88

49

Drogheda — REACH

11

9

1

10

9

Drogheda — Social & Family Affairs

556

351

327

678

59

Fermoy — Agriculture & Food

100

47

42

89

42

Furbo — Community, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs

12.5

13

1

14

8

Kanturk — Office of Public Works

88

79

11

90

13

Kildare — Department of Finance (CMOD)

33

29

13

42

39

Kildare — Revenue Commissioners

379.1

42

88

130

23

Kilkenny — Environment, Heritage & LG

62

70

7

77

11

Killarney — Arts, Sport & Tourism

137

189

13

202

9

Kilrush — Revenue Commissioners

50

38

42

80

84

Knock Airport — Community, Rural & GA

159.9

178

9

187

6

Limerick — Development Co-operation Ireland

124

181

36

217

29

Listowel — Revenue Commissioners

50

30

34

64

68

Longford — Prison Service HQ

158

141

44

185

28

Loughrea — Transport

40

80

20

100

50

Macroom — Agriculture & Food

100

47

46

93

46

Mullingar — Education & Science

292

184

73

257

25

Navan — Probation & Welfare Service

102

136

3

139

3

New Ross — Environment, Heritage & LG

50

79

4

83

8

Newbridge — Defence

125

357

79

436

63

Newcastle West — Revenue Commissioners

199

26

87

113

44

Portarlington — Data Protection Commissioner

21

20

1

21

5

Portarlington — Equality Tribunal

28.5

21

1

22

4

Portlaoise — Agriculture & Food

583

152

91

243

16

Roscommon — Land Registry

230

149

20

169

9

Roscrea — Equality Authority

53

44

0

44

0

Roscrea — Garda Síochána Complaints Board

23

22

0

22

0

Sligo — Social & Family Affairs

88

64

29

93

33

Thurles — Garda HQ (Part)

114

153

18

171

16

Tipperary — Justice, Equality & Law Reform

186

128

6

134

3

Trim — Office of Public Works

328

350

103

453

31

Tullamore — Finance

134

121

20

141

15

Waterford — Environment, Heritage & LG

225

109

11

120

5

Wexford — Environment, Heritage & LG

249

233

21

254

8

Youghal — Public Appointments Service

100

88

2

90

2

Youghal — Valuation Office

99

25

3

28

3

Totals

7212.5

5,452

1,854

6,902

The balance of applications on the CAF are made up of roughly 1,100 applications for public service organisations (State Agencies) in new locations, and approximately 1800 applications for existing provincial offices.

This analysis also excludes new applications received since May 2005.

Internal/External Breakdown of CAF Applicants for State Agencies up to May 2005

CAF Posts

External Applicants

Internal Applicants

Total

Internal Applicants as a % of Posts

%

Arklow — NSAI

132

117

11

128

8

Athlone — Higher Education Authority

53

23

3

26

6

Ballinasloe — National Roads Authority

89

65

1

66

1

Birr — FAS

383

63

9

72

2

Carrick-on-Shannon — Central Fisheries Board

62

44

2

46

3

Clifden — Pobal

42

10

1

11

2

Clonakilty — BIM

93

41

0

41

0

Drogheda — Comhairle

47

11

12

23

26

Drogheda — Local Government Computer Services Board

91

31

35

66

38

Dundalk — Sustainable Energy Ireland

39

39

25

64

64

Dungarvan — OSI

199

51

14

65

7

Edenderry — FETAC

44

41

3

44

7

Edenderry — HETAC

32

5

2

7

6

Edenderry — NQAI

13

5

3

8

23

Enniscorthy — Bord Bia

64

46

18

64

28

Kilkenny — Arts Council

44

42

0

42

0

Killarney — Sports Council

23

11

0

11

0

Loughrea — National Safety Council*

11

29

0

29

0

Mallow — Fáilte Ireland

178

94

0

94

0

Mitchelstown — Bus Éireann

81

13

0

13

0

Monaghan — Combat Poverty Agency

25

36

1

37

4

Portarlington — National Educational Welfare Board

10

12

2

14

20

Portarlington — NCCA

27

5

21

26

78

Shannon — Enterprise Ireland

292

31

15

46

5

Shannon — Irish Aviation Authority

102

11

2

13

2

Thomastown — H.S.A

110

45

9

54

8

Wexford — NBA

48

2

4

6

8

2,334

923

193

1,116

* The National Safety Council will form part of the new Road Safety Authority in Loughrea.

The balance of applications on the CAF are made up of roughly 6,900 applications for civil service organisations in new locations, and approximately 1800 applications for existing provincial offices.

This analysis also excludes new applications received since May 2005.

Fiscal Policy.

Paudge Connolly

Ceist:

313 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Finance the principal features of the Exchequer figures for January-February 2006; the way in which revenue and spending compare with budget 2006 projections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10110/06]

As the Deputy may be aware, the monthly Exchequer returns are available on my Department's website as are my Department's receipts, expenditure and debt service profiles for 2006. The results for the first two months of 2006 confirm that the public finances remain sound. There was an Exchequer surplus of €2.415 billion at the end of February. Tax receipts to the end of February, at €7.310 billion, were up 19.4% on the same period last year and were €77 million or 1.1% ahead of profile. The main excesses over profile were on capital taxes, €131 million, corporation tax, €91 million, and stamp duty, €40 million, while VAT, income tax and excise were €163 million, €30 million and €12 million below profile, respectively.

Overall Exchequer issues for net voted spending were €5.385 billion at the end of February compared to €5.161 billion for the same period last year, an increase of €224 million or 4.3%. This was €147 million or 2.7% below profile due to lower than expected issues for current spending. Debt service is in line with expectations.

Tax Collection.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

314 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Revenue Commissioners have developed enhanced management services for customers since 2000; if they can facilitate on-line banking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10128/06]

I am aware that in recent years the Revenue Commissioners have taken advantage of developments in technology to deliver more and enhanced facilities for customers. There are three main areas where Revenue has developed services with a strong customer focus, the Revenue on-line service, ROS, the Revenue website and their telephony service.

The Revenue on-line service offers customers or their agents the facility to make returns and payments for a range of taxes and duties including corporation tax, employer's PAYE-PRSI and income tax for self-employed customers. Further services offered to customers registered for ROS include the facility to view details of payments made, returns filed or due, information provided in the original registration for tax with Revenue and details of all debts due to Revenue. ROS can also be used to request statements of account.

Future plans for ROS will see the following services being made available to PAYE customers during 2006: view-amend tax credits, view-request balancing statements, make a claim for health expenses and up-date personal information such as address details. Revenue allows payment by debit instruction and laser card through its on-line facility. There is an on-line banking payment facility for self-employed customers paying income tax and for customers paying capital gains tax. To use this facility, a ROS registered customer, or their tax agent, details the amount of their payment and choice of payment method on-line with ROS. A separate transaction is then undertaken on the relevant banking on-line website, to authorise the payment to Revenue. Only after these actions are completed will the customer's bank account be debited by Revenue, so the customer controls how much and when payment is made at all times.

In addition to ROS, Revenue has also developed its website, www.revenue.ie, to offer a range of facilities to customers. The website is a useful source of information relating to taxes and duties and is tailored to suit the needs of business and the individual. It allows the customers to order forms, apply for tax clearance and claim tax credits. The site is continually updated to ensure relevance.

The third area where Revenue has made significant improvements is in its telephony service. Over the past 12 months, Revenue has substantially improved its telephone service to PAYE customers. Customers have available to them self-service options to request the most popular PAYE forms and leaflets and to claim for certain tax credits rather than waiting to speak to an operator. A PAYE text messaging service is also available. It enables the customer to request certain PAYE forms and leaflets and to claim certain PAYE tax credits using their mobile phone. In 2005, more than 100,000 transactions were successfully completed using the available self-service options. Future plans for telephone self-service in 2006 include the ability to monitor progress of correspondence submitted to Revenue.

I am satisfied that Revenue has been, and continues to be, progressive in delivering enhanced facilities to its customers.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

315 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to arrangements whereby a developer can enter an agreement to build under licence on land owned by another party and the houses can then be sold exempt of stamp duty on the site that would arise if the developer purchased the land; and if this loophole has been closed. [10139/06]

Stamp duty is a charge on documents, which are mostly legal documents, used in the transfer of property. Where a property is purchased or swapped, stamp duty is charged on the conveyance or transfer effecting change of legal ownership of the property concerned.

Under the stamp duty code, a developer can obtain a licence from a vendor to build on land owned by the vendor without incurring a stamp duty charge at that stage of the venture. Once the buildings, whether commercial or residential, are completed, the conveyances or transfers of such properties to purchasers are chargeable to stamp duty in the normal manner unless specific exemptions are available to such purchasers. A similar stamp duty treatment would also arise in a situation where a builder or developer contracts to purchase land from a vendor without taking legal title to the land. The developer might complete the contract and not take a conveyance but rather, under a power of attorney given by the vendor, have the power to convey completed buildings to the ultimate purchasers. The normal stamp duty charge will arise on conveyances or transfers of the newly built properties to sub-purchasers subject to any exemptions applying. In such cases, the stamp duty, if any, is paid but at a later stage.

Certain developments structured in the manner outlined above have come to the notice of the Revenue Commissioners and the situation is being kept under review. I have asked Revenue to let me know the outcome of their review and I will decide what action, if any, is required, bearing in mind the effect on the housing market and the cost to the Exchequer.

Decentralisation Programme.

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

316 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the progress which is being made to advance the decentralisation of the Office of Public Works to Kanturk, County Cork; and if sufficient staff are available to relocate to Kanturk. [10140/06]

The Office of Public Works is in the negotiation phase on the acquisition of a suitable site in Kanturk. The indicative timeframe for the completion of the construction of the new building in Kanturk is towards the end of 2008. There are 84 applications on the central applications facility, CAF, in respect of the 88 posts scheduled on CAF for Kanturk.

State Airports.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

317 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the number of flights that arrived at Dublin Airport, Shannon Airport and Cork Airport at times when they have no customs officers rostered for duty in respect of each year since 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10227/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they do not have information on the numbers of flight movements into and out of Cork, Dublin or Shannon airports going back to 2002. Such information is the property of the airport authority. It has not been possible to get the same level of detail on flight movements from the relevant authority for each airport, with the result that some numbers in the response are estimated.

Since 1993, citizens of EU countries have had the right of free movement within the EU. Customs authorities are not permitted to impose systematic checks on travellers whose point of origin is within the EU. In effect, intra-Community flights have been regarded as domestic since 1993. Customs authorities can impose selective checks for prohibited or restricted goods, but only on the basis of reasonable grounds for suspicion. Flights from non-EU countries are subject to checking at the discretion of customs. Customs experience is that for the purposes of detecting smuggling flights and types of passenger can be risk-rated quite accurately and checking is now mainly risk-driven. In addition to such risk-driven checks, random checks are sometimes performed to validate risk assessment. Checks are carried out by rostered staff or by on-call non-rostered staff depending on the availability of rostered staff, and on the number of officers required.

Throughout the period in question, Revenue has had, and continues to have, officers rostered on a 24 hour, seven-day week basis in Dublin Airport. In regard to Shannon Airport, up to the end of 2004, staff were rostered on a 24-hour basis and all flights were attended. A review of the risk associated with late-night flights prompted a change in 2005. During 2005, there were 17 flights per week outside of hours when rostered staff were on duty. Fourteen of these originated in the USA. Two flights per week originated in London Heathrow. The final regular flight outside rostered hours is a winter holiday flight from North Africa. These flights are monitored and checked as appropriate. Overall, the majority of Shannon flights outside rostered hours were attended and checked in 2005. All scheduled flights to Cork originate within the EU. In summer, there are occasional unscheduled charter flights from holiday destinations such as Turkey, Morocco, etc. They are monitored and attended by non-rostered officers as required. There are 15 scheduled flights per week, Monday to Friday, three per day on each of five days, that arrive during hours that officers are not rostered. Ten of these originate in the UK, two per day, and five in Dublin, one per day. These 15 flights are regarded as domestic flights. They are monitored and attended by non-rostered officers on a risk-management basis. Officers are rostered at weekends for a total of 16 rostered hours. The officers are rostered to attend at the times of highest risk. It is estimated that approximately 40 flights per weekend arrive during hours that officers are not rostered for attendance. As with all flights, these are profiled and a proportion attended by non-rostered officers.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joe Walsh

Ceist:

318 Mr. Walsh asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works will arrange interim accommodation for the 200 staff from the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and Bord Iascaigh Mhara who have volunteered to transfer to Clonakilty, County Cork, and who are waiting for a decision on suitable accommodation for more than two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10255/06]

The Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources has requested office accommodation in Clonakilty, to accommodate an advance party of 45 staff immediately and a further 45 by the end of 2006. The estimated completion date of the permanent accommodation in Clonakilty is summer 2008. In this regard, when the business case has been evaluated and agreed by the Department of Finance, the Office of Public Works will proceed.

Road Network.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

319 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance if the Commissioners of Public Works have carried out maintenance works on a road (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10258/06]

The maintenance works on the channel in question, which forms part of the Coonagh embankment, were largely completed by the Office of Public Works in November 2005. The remaining works will be completed in April 2006.

Tax Collection.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

320 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding correspondence (details supplied). [10385/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer concerned has made an unprompted voluntary disclosure to them in respect of previously undeclared income for the years 1988-89, 1989-90 and 1990-91. The Revenue Commissioners will review the taxpayer's affairs in light of the disclosure and take appropriate action regarding additional tax, interest and penalties due.

Tax Code.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

321 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the reason that a VAT rate of 21% applies to a magazine (details supplied) since 1 January 2006 when prior to this date it was zero rated. [10401/06]

There were no changes to VAT rates in the 2006 budget. Periodical publications such as magazines and newspapers are generally liable to VAT at the reduced rate of 13.5%. On the other hand, part-works, that is, component parts of large works that are published over a limited and pre-determined period and which include a related binder supplied free of charge, are treated differently for VAT. Such part works are not regarded as periodical, but rather are treated as a book or booklet and attract a zero rate of VAT.

Section 11(3) of the Value-Added Tax Act 1972 provides a special rule, commonly referred to as the package rule, for the VAT treatment of goods that are packaged for sale as a unit. To guard against abuse of the VAT system, such packaged goods are made liable to VAT by reference to the highest rate appropriate to any of the goods in the package, which can be the 21% if goods, such as toys, make-up, etc, are supplied with a magazine or newspaper. However, excluded from the package rule are goods the total VAT-exclusive value of which does not exceed 50% of the total VAT-exclusive price of the package or 40 cent, whichever is the lesser.

Moreover, the rule is not applied in the case of goods which are genuinely supplied free as part of the sale of a package. For example, a newspaper that is sold with a free CD remains liable to VAT at the 13.5% rate and does not fall into the 21% rate. Also, in certain limited circumstances, Revenue has agreed to set aside the package rule and accept an apportionment of the total price of the packaged goods by reference to the individual goods that make up the package and have permitted traders to account for VAT at the appropriate rate for each of the individual goods.

During 2005, as part of its normal operations, Revenue had dealings with a number of suppliers of magazines and, in the context of giving guidance on the practical application of the rules and regularising the VAT treatment of certain magazines, etc., agreed an approach with the suppliers which was to be used with effect from 1 January 2006. In the light of the issues now raised, Revenue will contact the suppliers in question to ascertain the precise circumstances under which the supplies in question were made with a view to providing any further guidance necessary on the correct application of VAT law.

The Finance Bill 2006 contains proposals for replacing the current rules in this regard with different methods of arriving at the correct VAT liability on the supply of goods or services that are sold in conjunction with each other for a single price. Under the proposed new rules, when a separate good, for example, a toy, CD, etc. is supplied with a magazine, the relative value of each element of the supply will be taken into account in determining the VAT liability. The Revenue Commissioners will be issuing new guidelines on the practical application of the new rules in due course.

Freedom of Information.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

322 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Finance if it is legitimate to make verbal requests under the Freedom of Information Act 1997; and, if this is the case, the process whereby the fees are paid and the query recorded. [10403/06]

The Freedom of Information Act provides that a request for a record must be made in writing or in such other form as may be determined by the Minister for Finance having had appropriate regard to the needs of requesters. The needs of individuals who may be unable to comply with the requirement to make a written Freedom of Information request is recognised in this context.

Guidelines have been prepared under section 6(3) of the Freedom of Information Act, which provides that the Minister for Finance shall, following consultation with whatever other Minister(s) he or she considers appropriate, introduce guidelines on the provision of reasonable assistance to persons with a disability in exercising their rights under the Act, and that public bodies shall have regard to such guidelines. These guidelines recommend acceptance of oral requests from requesters who are unable to read, print and-or write due to their disability. In receiving oral requests, the appropriate officer should make a verbatim record of the request, to be read back to and agreed by the requester. This would make such requests consistent with section 7(1) of the Act, which requires that freedom of information requests are in writing. The usual fee arrangements apply in such cases.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

323 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if the Revenue Commissioners consider appeals for tax repayment beyond the four-year deadline, where there are grounds of ill health for people to make a claim. [10436/06]

The question of taxpayers' entitlement to repayment of tax and interest was examined in the context of Finance Bill 2003 with a view to introducing, in so far as practicable, a uniform scheme which was fair and reasonable for taxpayers, and which also took into account the position of the Exchequer. On foot of that review, a new provision was introduced in the Finance Act 2003, section 17, which gives taxpayers a general right to repayment of tax overpaid subject to a four-year claim limitation period. A corollary to the restriction to four years of the taxpayer's right to a repayment is a new restriction on the Revenue Commissioners going back more than four years to assess taxpayers, where fraud or neglect is not a feature of the case.

The four-year time limit came into effect from 31 October 2003 with transitional measures applying initially. Since 1 January 2005 all claims for repayment — for whatever year — are subject to the four-year time limit on claims. This is the general time limit that provides the necessary protection for the Exchequer against claims for repayment going back over many years.

The legislation referred to above precludes the Revenue Commissioners from allowing a claim for repayment outside these limits. Where a person is aggrieved by a decision of the Revenue Commissioners on a claim for repayment, the normal appeal provisions apply.

State Property.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

324 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if assistance will be given to a local authority in finalising the transfer of a site which has been developed into a playground (details supplied) to the local authority; and if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this playground has had to be closed which is causing hardship to families who avail of the facility. [10446/06]

The property in question appears to be vested in the Minister for Finance under the State Property Act 1954. The Commissioners of Public Works will recommend to the Minister to waive his interest in the property on receipt of the appropriate application from the local authority.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

325 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if there are difficulties in the Revenue computer system in automatically picking up instances which trigger a refund, for example, a person becoming widowed or a person losing their job and experiencing a lapse of time before a new job is found; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10452/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there is no automatic procedure in Revenue's computer systems for activating a tax refund where a person becomes unemployed for a period or has a change in personal circumstances, such as becoming widowed. In the case of a gap in employment, a refund of PAYE will be made by Revenue on receipt of a claim for an unemployment repayment. If an unemployment repayment tax refund claim is not made to Revenue and the employee takes up a new employment, then the new employer will deal with any refund due, calculated by reference to the unclaimed tax credits during the gap period and the particulars of pay and tax on the P45.

In the case of a person becoming widowed, Revenue will amend tax credits due as soon as they are notified of the death of a spouse. In the case of a PAYE taxpayer, the employer or pension provider will make any tax adjustment automatically once the amended tax credit certificate is received; where a self-employed person notifies Revenue of a change in personal circumstances, this will be reflected in the notice of assessment.

I am advised that Revenue is planning to introduce an on-line service for PAYE taxpayers later this year to make it easier to self-amend tax credit certificates to reflect any change in personal circumstances, and to claim tax refunds.

Alcohol Data.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

326 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if the Revenue Commissioners have published or retained data for the volume of beer, cider, wine and spirits between 1980 and 1987; and if that information will be supplied or the areas in which same may be accessed. [10453/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the data mentioned by the Deputy in respect of the volumes of beer, cider, wine and spirits were published in various annual reports of the Revenue Commissioners. The following table sets out the specific tables references in which the information is located in the relevant reports.

Data on volumes of beer, cider, wine and spirits: 1980 to 1987

Annual Report for year

Data included for years

Table references for Beer

Table references for Spirits

Table references for Wine

Table references for Cider

1985

1980 — 1985

Table 6

Table 15

Tables 32-34

Table 35

1987

1982 — 1987

Table 5