Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 11, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 12 to 54, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 55 to 62, inclusive, answered orally.

EU Enlargement.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

63 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position with regard to the negotiations taking place between Turkey and the EU regarding Union membership; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19565/06]

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

148 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position with regard to the future entry of Croatia to the European Union; when accession is likely to take place; the outstanding issues for resolution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19564/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 63 and 148 together.

Accession negotiations were opened with both Turkey and Croatia on 3 October 2005. An extensive screening process is currently underway, in which experts from the Commission explain EU rules to the two countries and examine their strategies for adopting and implementing them. It is expected to take until autumn 2006 to complete the screening process for the required 33 chapters.

After each chapter has been screened the EU can decide, on the basis of a proposal from the Commission, whether the negotiations in that sector can be opened. To date, the Commission has presented its reports to the Council on four negotiating chapters, although formal negotiations have not yet been opened on any of these. The fact that this screening process with both countries is currently running in parallel does not mean that the pace of their progress towards membership is linked. Both countries will be judged on their own merits. At this stage, it is not possible to set a timeframe for the completion of the negotiations with either country.

Careful preparation of the Union's most recent enlargement has been a key factor in its success. With regard to the accession negotiations with Turkey and Croatia, the EU has confirmed that it will be firm in demanding that they fulfil all the requirements of membership. It is not an automatic process, but one where conditionality is the key.

Both countries will be expected to maintain their commitment to the full implementation of human rights and other reforms.

The Union's capacity to absorb new members will also be an important consideration. If EU membership is to be further extended, the Union will need to ensure that it has the economic, political and institutional capacity to make this possible. As Turkey's accession could have substantial financial consequences, it is accepted that its negotiations can only be concluded after the establishment of the Union's financial framework for the period beyond 2013.

Ireland has always been supportive of the process of EU enlargement from which we have consistently benefited. It has been our policy to consider each candidate on the basis of its own merits and this principle will continue to underpin our approach to the negotiations with both Turkey and Croatia. Both countries benefit from the Department of Foreign Affairs' Bilateral Assistance Programme, which provides support for candidate countries as they prepare for the considerable challenges of EU membership.

Decentralisation Programme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

64 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of development specialists, currently working with Irish Aid, volunteering to decentralise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19576/06]

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

134 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of senior development specialists, currently working with Irish Aid, volunteering to decentralise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19575/06]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

146 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of principal development specialists, currently working with Irish Aid, volunteering to decentralise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19574/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 64, 134 and 146 together.

There are 3 categories of Specialists employed by Irish Aid: Principal Development Specialists, Senior Development Specialists, and Development Specialists.

Three Principal Development Specialists serve in Irish Aid headquarters in Dublin. None of the three has applied to decentralise to Limerick.

There are twelve Senior Development Specialists in Irish Aid headquarters. None of the twelve has applied to decentralise to Limerick. Two Senior Development Specialists originally applied to decentralise to Limerick, but subsequently withdrew their applications.

Finally, there are nine Development Specialist posts in headquarters. Five Development Specialists are scheduled to decentralise. Of these, four commenced employment since the announcement of the decentralisation programme in December 2003, and one applied via the Central Applications Facility.

Discussions are ongoing with representatives of the Specialists, with their union IMPACT, and with the Department of Finance about the issues involved in decentralisation which also, of course, have a wider Civil Service dimension. It would be my hope that a greater number of Specialists will, in time, volunteer to decentralise to Limerick.

Overseas Development Aid.

John Perry

Ceist:

65 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the likelihood of achieving the millennium development goals, within the envisioned timescale; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19553/06]

Ireland attaches the highest importance to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were adopted by the United Nations in 2000. We have incorporated them as the overarching framework of the Irish Aid programme. The Goals, which include halving the proportion of people in extreme poverty and reducing child mortality by two-thirds by the year 2015, correspond to our focus on reducing poverty and supporting the provision of basic services to the world's poorest people.

Deputies will be aware that the United Nations Summit meeting last September conducted the first major review of progress towards the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. The review concluded that some progress is being made, particularly in Asia. However, concern was expressed at the uneven progress in Africa.

The Summit unanimously acknowledged the MDGs as the international framework for development, together with the Monterrey Consensus and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. The Summit's recognition of the need to accelerate progress towards the MDGs and to make progress on aid effectiveness and on debt relief was encouraging. I was particularly pleased by the acknowledgement of the special needs of Africa, which has long been the main focus of Ireland's aid programme.

Ireland worked in the lead-up to the September meeting to build the necessary support among fellow donor countries and to restore momentum both towards the achievement of the MDGs and towards strengthening the United Nations system.

Deputies will recall that during the meeting the Taoiseach announced that Ireland has pledged to increase our Official Development Assistance so as to reach the target of 0.7% of GNP by 2012, three years earlier than the agreed EU deadline of 2015. The timetable we have set ourselves places Ireland in the forefront of donors worldwide.

I believe that, if the other major donors make equivalent commitments, and the developing countries themselves play their part, the Millennium Development Goals are indeed achievable within the timescale envisaged. I can assure the Dáil that Ireland will continue to play its part in this regard.

Democratisation Process.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

66 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has had contact with his Ethiopian counterpart with regard to the political situation in that country, following elections held there in summer 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19548/06]

Dan Neville

Ceist:

162 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the political and security situation in Ethiopia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19546/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66 and 162 together.

The deterioration in the political and human rights situation in Ethiopia since the May 2005 general election remains a matter of serious concern. Ireland, along with our EU partners, continues to emphasise to the Government of Ethiopia the need to respect human rights and the rule of law; to strengthen the democratisation process by opening a non-conditional dialogue with all opposition parties and allowing those parties and civil society organisations to operate freely; and to allow the private media operate without restrictions.

Steps have been taken within Ethiopia towards addressing the situation. These include an independent investigation commission to examine the June and November 2005 violence set up by the Ethiopian Parliament in late November and which is expected to report shortly. An initiative to reform parliamentary rules of procedure and strengthen the role of the opposition has also been undertaken. It is understood that a majority of opposition MPs have now entered parliament. Dialogue is under way between the Government and two opposition political parties, not including the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) whose leaders are currently on trial. The majority of detainees arrested during the unrest last November have been released.

While these positive developments should be welcomed, with our EU and international partners we continue to communicate our concerns to the Government of Ethiopia, at both the political and official levels. I wrote to Prime Minister Meles on 15 February to express his concerns and, in particular, to raise the ongoing detention of opposition political leaders. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, led by Dr Michael Woods, T.D., visited Ethiopia from 1-5 May. The delegation met with Prime Minister Meles as well as with opposition leaders including imprisoned CUD leaders, members of civil society and human rights organisations. I understand that a report on the visit is being prepared. Furthermore, it is likely that the Minister for Foreign Affairs will visit Ethiopia in July.

The trial of 129 individuals including the elected leaders of the CUD, journalists, and civil society leaders began on 23 February 2006. They have been charged as a group with treason, genocide and inciting violence. On 22 March 2006, all charges were withdrawn against 18 of the detainees, including 9 being tried in absentia, and the prosecutor was instructed by the court to amend the genocide charge.

The EU has underlined to the Ethiopian Prime Minister the need for the trial to be conducted in a transparent, fair and speedy manner in accordance with international standards. We also called for the release of the detainees on bail as a confidence building measure and for better access to detainees by families, lawyers and the international community. The Prime Minister agreed to an EU request for international observation of the trial and a distinguished international lawyer is observing the trial on behalf of the EU, as are EU Embassies in Addis Ababa, including Ireland. While bail has not been approved, the Prime Minister has indicated that the Ethiopian authorities will do everything they can to ensure the expeditious completion of the trial and that he expects it to be completed within a year.

As regards security, Addis Ababa has experienced a number of bomb attacks in recent months, the most recent of which earlier this month resulted in four fatalities. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Embassy in Addis Ababa is liaising closely with Irish citizens in Ethiopia and has advised them to exercise caution and keep a low profile at present.

Foreign Conflicts.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

67 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the Government’s view of recent developments in relation to Kashmir. [19701/06]

India and Pakistan have made significant progress over the last few years to improve their relations and I welcome the progress that has been achieved. The ongoing talks within the Composite Dialogue Framework to move forward the peace process are significant, although clearly differences remain between the two sides. I hope that both countries will continue to work together towards a peaceful, negotiated final settlement.

One of the most visible signs of cooperation has been the opening of crossing points along what is referred to as the "Line of Control" and the re-establishment of a number of transport links. On 7 April 2005, for the first time in sixty years, a bus service operated between Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir State and Muzaffarabad in Kashmir.

President Musharraf undertook a successful visit to India from 16 to 18 April 2005. In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the Pakistan and Indian Prime Ministers determined that the peace process was "irreversible". Significantly, both sides agreed to continue discussions on Kashmir "in a sincere and purposeful and forward-looking manner for a final settlement". They expressed their determination to work together to carry forward the process and to bring the benefit of peace to their people. They also pledged they would not allow terrorism to impede the peace process.

The earthquake on 8 October last had a devastating effect on the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. The efforts made by both Governments to reach agreement on opening crossing points along the Line of Control to enable aid to reach survivors and to reunite families were obviously positive.

In January 2006, the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan met in New Delhi to begin the third round of talks under the Composite Dialogue framework. Their discussions focused on peace and security, including a detailed exchange on the Kashmir issue. Both sides reiterated their resolve to carry forward the peace process and maintain its momentum.

While progress is for India and Pakistan to make between them, Ireland and other members of the international community would, of course, be willing to offer any assistance or advice they might jointly request.

Nuclear Programmes.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

68 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether offers from Russia to Iran, in respect of uranium enrichment, could constitute a potential resolution to some of the outstanding international concerns regarding nuclear development in that country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19569/06]

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

74 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his Department is in full agreement with the EU3 in respect of their negotiations on behalf of the Union with Iran regarding nuclear development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19567/06]

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

97 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on recent meetings between the European Union and Iran; the discussions which may have been had at these meetings; the progress made with particular reference to the ongoing dispute over uranium enrichment in that country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19733/06]

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

122 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has communicated a position to the EU3, on behalf of Ireland, in respect of their negotiations with Iran regarding nuclear development in that country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19568/06]

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

130 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when he last received a briefing from the EU3 in respect of their negotiations with Iran regarding nuclear development in that country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19566/06]

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

218 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the most recent contacts which he has made with his counterparts among the EU3 to advise them of Ireland’s position with regard to the development of nuclear capabilities by Iran; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19810/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 68, 74, 97, 122, 130 and 218 together.

The question of Iran's nuclear programme is kept under constant review within the European Union at official level and is also the subject of regular discussions at Ministerial level, most recently at the General Affairs and External Relations Council meeting on 15 May. The meeting received a briefing from the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom (collectively known as the EU3) and High Representative Solana. The meeting was informed that discussions were continuing at the UN Security Council in New York, with a view to formulating a resolution in light of the most recent report on the Iranian nuclear programme by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General on 28 April last.

The last meeting between the European Union and Iran took place in Brussels on 20 February when Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki met the Commissioner for External Relations, Mrs Benita Ferrero-Walder, and High Representative Solana. The talks covered a broad agenda including the nuclear issue, human rights, cartoon caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, as well as the Middle East, terrorism and Iraq. This was the first meeting since Iran's unilateral declaration on 3 January that it would recommence its enrichment related activities. The meeting discussed this decision as well as the Russian proposal on nuclear cooperation. However, there was no concrete outcome and there are currently no plans for a further meeting.

The Council meeting regretted the failure of the Iranian authorities to take the steps deemed essential by the IAEA Board and the Security Council and called on the Iranian authorities to cooperate fully with the IAEA, suspend all enrichment related and reprocessing activities and the construction of a reactor moderated by heavy water, in order to create conditions in which negotiations might resume. The EU reaffirmed the right of Iran to the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in conformity with its obligations under the NPT. The Council indicated that the EU would be prepared to support Iran's development of a safe, sustainable and proliferation-proof civilian nuclear programme, if international concerns were fully addressed and confidence in Iran's intentions established.

The proposal put forward by Russia some time ago envisaged establishing a uranium enrichment facility in Russia that would provide enriched uranium to Iran. Despite mixed messages from Iran on the merits of the proposal, a number of meetings took place between the two countries to discuss the details of the proposal. No agreement was reached on the main stumbling block of whether Iran could carry out enrichment, even in a limited form, on its own soil. Although no meetings have taken place in recent months on the proposal, the Russian Foreign Minister has recently confirmed that the offer remains open for discussion. The EU has welcomed the Russian efforts to seek a way forward involving the offer to Iran on nuclear cooperation. Whether this proposal could constitute a potential resolution of the matter depends to a large extent on Iran's willingness to suspend its enrichment activities.

The Government's position on the Iranian nuclear programme is a matter of public record. Ireland remains strongly committed to a diplomatic solution to this issue. I have made clear on several occasions my full support for the EU3. The initiative of the EU3 has also been endorsed by most countries on the IAEA Board of Governors. It is essential for Iran to respond to the calls by the Security Council and to implement the confidence building measures called for by the IAEA Board of Governors. This includes the suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.

Overseas Development Aid.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

69 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the level of aid being directed to Ethiopia for 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19547/06]

Ireland's total aid to Ethiopia in 2006 is expected to amount to approximately €35 million. Of this total, it is anticipated that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in Ethiopia, including Concern, GOAL, Self Help Development International, Trócaire and others will receive financial support of approximately €7 million. The remainder will be delivered through the Irish Aid programme administered by the Embassy in Addis Ababa.

With a population now exceeding 70 million people, Ethiopia is Ireland's largest Programme Country. It is also one of the poorest, with over 30 per cent of the population living on less than $1 a day and 76 per cent on less than $2 dollars a day. It is ranked 170th out of 177 on the UN Human Development Index (HDI). This index measures the well-being of the population across a wide range of indicators.

In 2006, the aid programme in Ethiopia will continue to focus on supporting basic service delivery to the rural poor especially in the areas of health, education, good governance, and HIV/AIDS. Another important component of Ireland's programme in Ethiopia is our support to the UN monitored Social Safety Nets Fund, which provides some 7 million of the poorest Ethiopians with cash or food in exchange for labour. This innovative fund, which was established with assistance and expertise from Ireland, is perceived as an invaluable instrument in preventing up to 7 million people from facing starvation each year.

Question No. 70 answered with QuestionNo. 60.

Human Rights Issues.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

71 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his Department has raised with the Chinese authorities the concerns which exist with regard to the treatment of Falun Gong members in China; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19538/06]

Human rights issues are a constant and important point of dialogue with the Chinese Authorities at both bilateral and European Union levels.

On a bilateral level, I met with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing on 12 May during my recent visit to Beijing. During our meeting, I had the opportunity to raise human rights issues and concerns, including the importance we attach to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. I expressed the hope that the new UN Human Rights Council (HRC), to which China has been elected as a member, will give the international community the chance to develop a more productive way of working together to improve standards everywhere. It is important to Ireland that the HRC is a success and we look forward to the constructive engagement of all its members. FM Li referred in particular to China's commitment to the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue and was hopeful that a decision would be taken to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as soon as possible.

At EU level, the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue is the agreed formal framework through which the EU raises its concerns with China about individual human rights cases, and more general issues such as freedom of expression and the abolition of the death penalty.

At the latest round of the Human Rights Dialogue, held in Beijing on 24 October 2005, the EU raised, inter alia, the right to freedom of religion and the need for reform of the administrative detention system, including the associated Re-education Through Labour (RTL) camps. The EU expressed particular concern in this regard for Falun Gong members and stated that reform of the RTL system is an issue of fundamental importance for the EU in the Human Rights Dialogue.

The next round of the Dialogue will take place in Vienna later this week, from 25-26 May. A number of Falun Gong cases are included on the EU's list of individual cases of concern which has been submitted to the Chinese Authorities in the context of the Dialogue. EU concerns regarding use of the death penalty, the right to freedom of religion and the need for reform of the administrative detention system will be among the issues raised with the Chinese side during the Dialogue.

I am aware of reports which circulated in recent months alleging the harvesting of live organs from Falun Gong practitioners jailed in Shenyang in Northeast China. I asked my Department to make enquiries about these allegations, including within the EU and UN frameworks. We do not have any information, at this point, to support these specific allegations. In this regard, I would note a U.S. Department of State statement last month that its Embassy and Consular officials visited the specific site mentioned on two separate occasions, were allowed to tour the entire facility and grounds and found no evidence that the site is being used for any function other than as a normal public hospital.

EU Enlargement.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

72 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the discussions being held at European Union level as to the further expansion of the EU25; the position in relation to the admittance of new entrants, with reference, particularly, to Romania and Bulgaria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19716/06]

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

128 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position with regard to the entry of Bulgaria to the European Union; when accession is likely to take place; the outstanding issues for resolution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19562/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

138 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position with regard to the entry of Romania to the European Union; when accession is likely to take place; the outstanding issues for resolution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19563/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 72, 128 and 138 together.

The forthcoming accession of Bulgaria and Romania will mark the completion of the Union's 5th enlargement — increasing its membership from 15 to 27 Member States.

This has been by far its biggest, most ambitious and most important enlargement to date. A further expansion of such magnitude is not on the horizon, although the EU does have accession negotiations underway with Turkey and Croatia and has made commitments to the countries of the Western Balkans, which gives them a prospect of eventual membership.

Ireland participated in the first enlargement of the EU in 1973 and the benefits we have derived from membership are beyond doubt. Similarly, each successive enlargement has proved its worth, both for the existing and new Member States. The fact that so many other countries now wish to join testifies to the success of the enlarged Union.

Nevertheless, an important debate is underway with the Union with regard to future enlargement strategy. If EU membership is to be further extended, the Union will need to ensure that it has the economic, political and institutional capacity to make this possible. It will be important to listen to the concerns of EU citizens and offer them a clear and realistic strategy for future enlargement.

The immediate priority should be to make a success of the enlarged Union of 25. The Union's objective is to welcome Bulgaria and Romania as members on 1 January 2007. The EU could, however, postpone the accession of either or both countries for up to one year if the Commission considers that either country would be unprepared to meet the requirements of membership in 2007.

On 16 May 2006, Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn presented the Commission's Comprehensive Monitoring Report on Bulgaria and Romania to the European Parliament. He confirmed that their accession on 1 January 2007 remains an achievable goal for both countries. They need to make progress in addressing the outstanding issues highlighted in the monitoring report and the Commission and the Member States will continue to monitor their progress in the coming months. A final decision on the date of accession will be taken in light of the Commission's next monitoring report in October.

Since the Commission's previous monitoring report in October 2005, both countries have significantly reduced the number of issues that need to be addressed before accession. Some of the problem areas that remain are common to both countries, particularly in relation to putting in place the necessary arrangement for the disbursement of EU funds. In the agricultural area, both countries need to set up a proper, integrated administration and control system.

While both countries need to sustain their efforts in reforming the judiciary and fighting corruption, Bulgaria has been urged to devote special attention to this area. According to the Commission, Bulgaria needs to show tangible results in investigating and prosecuting organised crime networks, in the more efficient and systematic implementation of laws for the fight against fraud and corruption and in the enforcement of anti-money laundering provisions.

Ireland believes that both Bulgaria and Romania need to make full use of the time available to address the remaining issues so that they can join the Union, as planned, on 1 January 2007. Both countries benefit from the Department of Foreign Affairs' Bilateral Assistance Programme, which provides support for new Member States, acceding and candidate countries in coping with the considerable challenges of EU membership. Ireland very much looks forward to working with both countries as partners in a successful Union of 27 Member States.

State Visits.

David Stanton

Ceist:

73 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the visit of the Australian Prime Minister to Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19533/06]

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

157 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the reasons underpinning the visit of the Australian Prime Minister to Ireland; the further reason he has been invited to address Dáil Éireann; if his attention has been drawn to the widespread condemnation among the Irish population and beyond to Mr. Howard’s support of, and involvement in, the invasion of Iraq among other issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19727/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 73 and No. 157 together.

The Prime Minister of Australia, the Right Honourable Mr. John Howard, began his official programme to Ireland on Monday, 22 May with a wreath laying ceremony at Kilmainham. He later met students from the Australian Studies Centre at University College Dublin and a civic reception was held for him at the Mansion House. A business lunch hosted by Minister Michael Martin, in cooperation with the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, IBEC and Enterprise Ireland, provided the Prime Minister with an opportunity to meet Irish and Australian business interests. The Taoiseach and I held official talks with the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach hosted an official dinner for him at Farmleigh. On Tuesday 23 May, the Prime Minister was received by President McAleese, a lunch for the Prime Minister was hosted by the Ceann Comhairle and he met with the leaders of the Opposition parties.

With its agreement, the Prime Minister was invited to address the Dáil in the afternoon of Tuesday 23 May. The Government proposed that Prime Minister Howard should be invited to address the Dáil as this courtesy is one the Dáil has extended to Heads of Government from countries with which Ireland has particularly close ties. Ireland's links with Australia go back to its very foundation. Since then continuous waves of Irish people have made Australia their home. They have been warmly welcomed there and given the opportunity not only to integrate into Australian society but to help mould, shape and develop it. Prime Minister Howard's predecessors, Mr. Hawke and Mr. Keating, had been invited to address the Dáil during their visits to Ireland. The Government considered it appropriate that the Dáil should continue with this tradition and extend this courtesy to Prime Minister Howard.

The key objectives for the Prime Minister's visit were to build on the close and developing relationship between Australia and Ireland. The official talks held with the Prime Minister enabled a detailed exchange of views on a wide range of bilateral, regional and international issues and provided the opportunity to further pursue our mutual interests in expanding trade and investment, people-to-people links and practical cooperation in areas such as research and development, information technology and education.

I took the opportunity of my official talks with Prime Minister Howard to discuss the situation in Iraq. My focus was on hearing his assessment of the situation and, in particular, the prospects for progress under the new Iraqi Government.

Question No. 74 answered with QuestionNo. 68.

Middle East Peace Process.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

75 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will increase the State’s overall assistance to the Palestinian Authority in view of the decision by others to withdraw funding and to prevent the further impoverishment of Palestinian people. [19644/06]

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

79 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the representations that he has made to his EU member state counterparts to convince the Council to take concrete steps to persuade the Israeli authorities to genuinely renounce violence, recognise Palestine’s right to exist and accept previous agreements and obligations to bring about a just and lasting peace. [19646/06]

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

101 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps he is taking to persuade the Israeli authorities to genuinely renounce violence, recognise Palestine’s right to exist and accept previous agreements and obligations to bring about a just and lasting peace. [19645/06]

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

110 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the latest representations made on behalf of the Government to the Israeli Government regarding the building of the security wall; his views on whether it is unacceptable that the wall encroaches into the West Bank taking in Israeli settlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19739/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

125 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether the decision of the EU to withdraw funding from the Palestinian National Authority is hypocritical in view of the continuation of preferential trading with Israel. [19643/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

131 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the actions being taken by his Department to ensure that the vision of two viable states of Israel and Palestine is being progressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19536/06]

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

145 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the status of peace talks in the Middle East; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19554/06]

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

155 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has raised the issue of the withholding of tax revenues due to the Palestinian Authority by Israel with his Israeli counterpart; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19537/06]

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

217 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position of Ireland in relation to the expansion of settlements in the illegally occupied West Bank; the threat of unilateral action in this regard outside of the framework of the roadmap for peace; the statements which have been made in recent times by either the Government or the European Union in relation to such illegality; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19804/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 75, 79, 101, 110, 125, 131, 145, 155 and 217 together.

I refer to the replies to Priority Questions Numbers 55 and 59.

The Government has been consistently active in promoting a lasting and peaceful settlement of the Israeli — Palestinian conflict. Together with our EU partners, we remain convinced that the only way forward is through negotiations between the parties, based on the principles outlined in the Quartet Roadmap and leading to a mutually acceptable and viable two-State solution. Within the Union we strongly advocate policy positions stemming from this basic approach.

I share the concerns which have been expressed about the increasingly difficult situation facing the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza. The EU has been the strongest supporter of the Palestinian people internationally. It is also the largest donor to Palestine, providing an average of €500 million annually in humanitarian assistance and in support of Palestinian institutions and civil society. Since the Palestinian elections in January, the EU and the international Quartet have made it clear that the new Hamas Government of the Palestinian Authority must commit to the peace process. It must renounce violence, recognise Israel's right to exist and adhere to agreements already negotiated by the Authority and the PLO.

In February, the Council approved the urgent disbursement by the Commission of €121 million in humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians. In early April, the Commission temporarily suspended direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority. The EU is reviewing its assistance against the Government's commitment to the principles set out by the Council and the Quartet.

There is full agreement among the Member States that it would be unreasonable to expect the EU to continue its capacity-building support for the Hamas Government irrespective of its willingness to respect the basic rules of the peace process. However, the Government believes that the Palestinian people should not have to face the prospect of a humanitarian crisis because of the reluctance of their Government to meet its responsibilities. The EU is committed to continuing necessary assistance to meet the basic needs of the Palestinian population, and Ireland has argued strongly for the widest possible definition of these basic needs.

On 15 May, following the Quartet meeting on 9 May, the Council undertook the work of developing a temporary international mechanism to channel assistance directly to the Palestinian people. The Council stated that, as a matter of priority, the mechanism will aim to provide for basic needs, including health services. The political and technical aspects of the development of the mechanism are being pursued urgently. It will be essential that all international donors cooperate to ensure the effectiveness of the new temporary structures.

The EU has already called on the Israeli Government to resume the transfer of withheld Palestinian tax and customs revenues, which are essential in averting a crisis in the Occupied Territories. I hope that a decision to resume the transfers can be taken without delay, if possible through the new international mechanism. Equally, it is important that both the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority take concrete steps to implement their obligations under the Agreement on Movement and Access, which was brokered by the US and the EU in November 2005 and which provides for the movement of people and goods between Gaza and the outside world. I do not accept that there is any inconsistency between the EU's approach to the provision of assistance to the Palestinian people and the issue of preferential trading arrangements with Israel, which are identical to those accorded to Palestine.

I have given a commitment that the Government will maintain the level of Ireland's bilateral assistance to the Palestinians, which amounted to over €4 million in 2005. In February, following the Palestinian elections, the Government allocated €1.5 million in humanitarian assistance through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). I expect to make further allocations in the near future.

The current difficulties in the peace process emphasise the importance of sustained engagement by the European Union, on the basis of a clear and balanced message to the parties. Israel and the Palestinian Authority must face up their obligations under the Quartet Roadmap, and under international law. The EU has consistently urged the Israeli Government to cease all activities in the Occupied Territories, including settlement building, the construction of the separation barrier on occupied land and the demolition of Palestinian homes, which are contrary to international law and which threaten to make any solution based on the co-existence of two viable States physically impossible.

Human Rights Issues.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

76 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to a Guantanamo Bay-like detention site at Bagram in Afghanistan where prisoners are being held in primitive conditions, indefinitely and without charge in contravention of international law as part of the United States led Operation Enduring Freedom; if he has raised objections with the US Administration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19648/06]

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

112 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the situation in Afghanistan. [19647/06]

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

115 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the political and security situation in Afghanistan; the travel advice issued by his Department for Irish citizens in that country or intending to travel to that country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19530/06]

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

140 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the state of Afghanistan; his further views on whether the Taliban has re-emerged as a force in many areas of the country; if he is satisfied regarding the rate of progress in relation to human rights reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19740/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 76, 112, 115 and 140 together.

It is important to recognise that in any country, developing the democratic structures, institutions and administrative systems necessary to provide essential public services and ensure a secure environment for all is a process that takes time. Although Afghanistan still faces considerable challenges, the significant progress that has been achieved there over the past four years should be acknowledged. A democratic Constitution, a representative national Parliament and a legitimate elected Government are all now in place. Efforts are ongoing to consolidate the progress that has been made and reforms are underway, with the assistance of the international community, across all sectors, including the police service, the Afghan National Army and the judicial system.

As I informed the Dáil on 4 April in response to questions, the security situation remains a cause of serious concern and continues to undermine reconstruction efforts outside the cities. The conflict is complex and is influenced not just by Taliban insurgency but also by a number of other factors including ethnic and tribal tensions, narcotics and crime. Taliban insurgents are still active in parts of the southern and eastern regions.

On 16 November 2005, the EU and Afghanistan issued a Joint Declaration. The Declaration reaffirmed the commitment of the Government of Afghanistan to safeguarding freedoms under the Constitution, to developing a pluralistic and democratic society, and ensuring respect for human rights. The Declaration further states that the Afghan Government supports the recommendations of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and shall implement a process of transitional justice to address human rights violations of the past. The EU shares these objectives and shall continue to provide assistance to seek to ensure progress in this area. Improvements in the human rights situation have undoubtedly been made in Afghanistan since 2001 although clearly the situation is still far from ideal.

An Afghanistan Compact was launched at the International Conference on Afghanistan in London on 31 January/1 February and was endorsed by the United Nations Security Council in Resolution 1659 (2006) on 15 February. The Compact will guide the joint efforts of the Afghan Government and the international community in meeting outstanding challenges across three pillars of activity: security; governance; rule of law and human rights, and economic and social development. The Compact notes that Afghanistan's transition to peace and stability is not yet assured and that strong international engagement will be required to address remaining challenges.

I am pleased that Ireland was in a position to pledge €5 million at the launch of the Compact. This new pledge, which will be expended over the next two years, reflects Ireland's continuing commitment to supporting the reconstruction and reform process underway in Afghanistan. Including this new pledge, Ireland has contributed a total of €22 million to reconstruction and recovery programmes in Afghanistan since January 2002.

The Department of Foreign Affairs provides travel advice to Irish people planning a trip overseas. This is available athttp://foreignaffairs. gov.ie/services/traveladvice/ and, in the case of Afghanistan, inter alia, advises Irish citizens against all non-essential travel to Kabul and against all travel to other parts of Afghanistan.

Ireland holds the view that those detained at the Bagram detention centre must be treated in accordance with the requirements of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. I have not had any recent discussions with the U.S. administration specifically regarding the situation in Afghanistan, but our approach to human rights issues is extremely well known, including to the US Authorities.

Overseas Development Aid.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

77 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the proposals which have been put forward by the Government to the European Union for the replacement of the cattle stocks of the African drylands, home to 268 million people, 40% of the continent’s population. [19702/06]

The current drought in the drylands of East Africa is affecting Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Tanzania. In Kenya, the Government has declared a state of emergency. Countless livestock have died as a result of severe drought in most of north eastern Kenya and other sections of the country. Further south towards the Tanzanian border, the Masaai herdsmen have lost most, if not all, of their cattle. Even though the rains have come in parts of Kenya, for most Masaai, it is too late. They have no income because they have no milk or cows to sell. A similar situation exists in southern Ethiopia. The drought has brought about emergency conditions in which people are at risk and are losing most of their livestock and thus their livelihoods.

Within the European Union, the lead role in dealing with the situation referred to by the Deputy is being taken by the European Commission. The Commission has already provided €78 million in aid to respond to the drought problem in the region. This covers both emergency response and the putting in place of contingency systems for the medium term. Further funding of €40 million will soon be disbursed, bringing the total to about €118 million.

The problem of drought and food insecurity in the region is structural, brought about by a range of complex factors: climate change; desertification; over-grazing; poverty; the structure of agricultural markets. For example, there is a bumper harvest in the west of Kenya at the same time as the north-east of the country is suffering a food crisis.

The Commission has developed a regional strategy for the area which seeks to address inter alia the problem of drought on a long-term basis, and to put in place a drought prevention/ preparation strategy. A Drought Contingency Plan will be supported by the 10th European Development Fund, aimed at providing a sustainable economic livelihood for the population of the region.

Ireland strongly supports the work of the Commission in the region and is maintaining contact with the Commission in relation to this. Moreover, in the context of the European Union's work to prepare a renewed sustainable development strategy, for adoption at the European Council next month, Ireland, in a written paper circulated to all our EU partners, highlighted the suffering in East Africa wrought by the negative effects of climate change, which affects weaker regions and poorer people to a disproportionate extent.

Ireland is deeply conscious of the challenges and is endeavouring to assist the populations affected in a number of ways. In 2005, Ireland provided over €3 million to the Consultative Group on International Agriculture (CGIAR), which supports agricultural research focused on poverty reduction in some of the world's poorest countries. As part of Ireland's support for CGIAR, €750,000 in funding was provided to the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Ireland is also supporting the drought relief effort in the affected regions. For example, in the Borena district of southern Ethiopia Ireland is supporting a project which is being carried out by Christian Aid in collaboration with the local authorities and a local church organization. Ireland is also providing funding to Trócaire in Kenya for an emergency response programme that includes restocking.

Question No. 78 answered with QuestionNo. 62.
Question No. 79 answered with QuestionNo. 75.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

80 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which the combined aid of the international community is achieving success on the African continent, with particular reference to peace-keeping, peace-enforcement, alleviation of starvation, drought, human rights abuses, famine, HIV and Aids; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19658/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

225 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the countries on the African continent most seriously suffering from famine, war or human rights abuses; if he is satisfied regarding the adequacy and the effective targeting of international aid to these locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20020/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

231 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the 10 countries on the African continent deemed by the international community to be most vulnerable in terms of starvation, war, human rights abuse, HIV and AIDS; the extent to which aid or peacekeeping is succeeding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20026/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80, 225 and 231 together.

Africa's enormous needs are due to a complex combination of factors including food insecurity, poverty, environmental degradation, weak policies, unequal trading relationships, conflict, severe infrastructural deficits, poor governance, debt and the effects of HIV/AIDS.

In response to such needs in Africa and elsewhere, the United Nations have developed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which represent the key measurable development targets that must be reached if the challenge of reducing poverty, hunger, disease and lack of development is to be met by 2015. The eight MDGs cover the eradication of poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child and maternal mortality, combating HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development. While these goals are undoubtedly ambitious, they can be attained if the international community, including Ireland, plays its part in ensuring that Africa receives the assistance needed to reach them.

There is no internationally recognised system for ranking either the severity of humanitarian crisis situations around the world or countries deemed guilty of the greatest deficiencies in the administration of democracy and the observance of human rights. However, it is clear that there is a strong interrelationship between conflict, the abuse of human rights, food insecurity and poverty and that all these factors impact disastrously on levels of human development.

Africa is at the heart of Ireland's programme of official development assistance and our approach has a number of distinct but complementary elements. Our humanitarian budget responds to both complex and sudden-onset emergencies. Our recovery and long-term development programmes seek to assist countries emerging from natural and man-made emergencies and also address the fundamental causes of poverty in all its manifestations.

The core of our aid programme in Africa concerns development and in particular, building strong partnerships with six countries in sub-Saharan Africa, namely Ethiopia, Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. In addition, we work in many other African countries, either directly or through our partnerships with the United Nations and NGOs such as Concern, Goal, Trócaire and others. In the context of an increasing Irish Aid budget as we approach the UN target of 0.7% of GNP by 2012, we will be able to enhance our humanitarian, recovery and development interventions in Africa.

As regards issues of conflict, Ireland is contributing to the security and stability of Liberia through its deployment of troops with UNMIL, the UN Mission in Liberia, since 2003. Ireland has also provided assistance to the African Union (AU) for its mission in Sudan (AMIS), as part of the EU's joint actions to foster peace and security in Darfur. Ireland works with and seeks to enhance the effectiveness of, the multilateral framework provided by the UN. We have pledged support to the UN's Peace Building Fund and support the establishment of the UN's Peace Building Commission. We are actively seeking ways to support regional organizations in Africa, particularly the AU which represents an important strategic partner for the European Union and the international community generally.

The need for tangible success has been acknowledged by the international community. That is why we have committed to the Millennium Development Goals and set a target date of 2015. The Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, developed in the context of the MDGs' target date, is a new tool to ensure results-driven strategies and interventions. The degree to which we meet the MDGs by 2015 will measure the success or otherwise of our collective efforts to assist Africa to meet its development challenges.

Foreign Conflicts.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

81 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has raised the concerns of the Government at the United Nations in respect of the misappropriation of moneys set aside for the rebuilding effort in Iraq; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19557/06]

The allegations of the misappropriation of funds which were intended for reconstruction and for the provision of basic services in Iraq are very disturbing. I agree fully that it would be disgraceful if funds for the relief of the Iraqi people have been misused.

The allegations relate both to Iraqi funds controlled by the UN and to US funds. They refer primarily to the period of the Coalition Provisional Authority in 2003/2004. I know that some individuals and companies have already paid substantial fines following proceedings in US courts.

As I stated in reply to a Question on this matter on 4 April 2006, the Government has no independent information regarding the allegations. Nor has it any means of assessing accurately the basis of the allegations which have been made. Responsibility for investigating such allegations rests primarily with the United Nations Security Council, and with the International Advisory and Monitoring Board which it established to oversee and audit the use of funds paid into the Development Fund for Iraq. The Iraqi Government and the US Administration clearly also have their own responsibilities in this regard.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

82 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps the Government is taking in order to try to support peace moves in Darfur; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19541/06]

John Perry

Ceist:

95 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position adopted by Ireland in respect of the recent resolution at the United Nations regarding the situation in Darfur, Sudan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19580/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

228 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in Darfur; the extent to which international aid and support is achieving its objectives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20023/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 82, 95 and 228 together.

It is clear that only a political solution will provide a lasting resolution of the crisis in Darfur. In that regard, I welcomed the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement by the Government of Sudan and the Minni faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) on 5 May and expressed the hope that it would be signed by the remaining rebel groups. The final Agreement was achieved through the concerted effort of a number of international actors including the current Chairman of the African Union (AU), President Dennis Sassou-Ngeusso of Congo-Brazzaville, President Obasanjo of Nigeria, the EU Special Representative Pekka Haavisto and US Deputy Secretary of State, Robert Zoellick. It is a matter of concern that neither the Abdelwahid faction of the SLA nor the Justice and Equality Movement chose to sign the Agreement. However, the AU has extended the deadline for signature of the Agreement until 31 May. Efforts are ongoing to secure further signatures before the new deadline. Elements within both non-signatory groups have already expressed their support for the Agreement. In a statement by its representative to the UN on 9 May, the Government of Sudan indicated its intention to fully implement the Agreement.

Ireland welcomed the robust conclusions adopted by the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 15 May. The Council expressed its support for the Agreement, its implementation and for reconstruction and development in Darfur. The Council called on the parties to implement all their obligations urgently, commended the work of AMIS and reiterated its support for the transition of AMIS to a UN mission. The Council also stated that full normalisation of relations with Sudan depends on progress towards peace and democratisation throughout the country. The Government particularly welcomed the reference to improving access for humanitarian organisations, which was included at Ireland's initiative.

On 15 May, the African Union Peace and Security Council (AU PSC) met in Addis Ababa to endorse the Darfur Peace Agreement, and decided that its implementation should begin on 16 May. The meeting also decided that concrete steps should be taken to effect the transition of the AU Monitoring Mission in Sudan (AMIS) to a UN peacekeeping operation at the earliest possible moment.

On 16 May the UN Security Council voted unanimously in favour of resolution 1679 (2006) which, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, mandated a joint technical assessment mission from the African Union and the UN to travel to Darfur within a week. The resolution requested UN Secretary General Annan to submit recommendations on the transition to the Security Council one week after the return of the mission.

The Government fully supports the decisions of the AU PSC and the UN Security Council as steps towards the achievement of a lasting resolution to the dire humanitarian and security situation in Darfur, which remains a matter of grave concern.

For its part, Ireland provided €6.38 million and €3.98 million to Darfur in 2004 and 2005 respectively. In April 2005, Ireland pledged a further €15 million for Sudan for 2005-2006. So far €14 million of this has been delivered. Further funding of €6 million to project activities in Sudan, including Darfur, in 2006 will be pledged at the pledging conference for Sudan due to take place in June. Ireland works closely with key humanitarian partners in Darfur including the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN World Food Programme (WFP), and the Irish NGOs Concern, Goal and Trócaire. The situation remains very difficult and it is essential that all sides fully comply with the terms of the peace agreement and allow all necessary humanitarian aid to be delivered. I would particularly call upon the Sudanese Government to respect fully its obligations under international humanitarian law and remove immediately all obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian assistance to those in need.

Funding of €1.5 million has also been provided to assist AMIS in the recruitment of humanitarian and human rights officers and to assist in the building of police stations so that protection may be provided to vulnerable populations, either in IDP camps or in their own villages. Three members of the Permanent Defence Forces are currently serving with AMIS and another officer served in 2004-5.

Overseas Development Aid.

Damien English

Ceist:

83 Mr. English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position with regard to the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa; the level of assistance being granted by the State towards humanitarian support; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19552/06]

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

166 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the proposals made by Mr. David Andrews, Chairman of the Irish Red Cross, as a result of his recent visit to the drought-stricken regions of East Africa. [19704/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83 and 166 together.

Years of poor rainfall in the countries of the Horn of Africa combined with weak infrastructure, under-development, asset erosion, population growth and widespread dependence on pastoralism have had a cumulative and devastating impact on the people of this region. With highly weakened coping mechanisms, some 15 million people have faced extreme vulnerability to drought, food insecurity and hunger over recent months. Pastoral communities in particular have been particularly seriously affected by the drought and loss of livestock has had a devastating impact on their livelihoods.

In Kenya alone, some five million people have been in receipt of food aid in recent months. In addition, over two and a half million Ethiopians and over two million Somalis were directly affected by water shortages, as well as populations in parts of Burundi, Djibouti and Eritrea.

In recent weeks, the drought hit areas of Ethiopia and Kenya have been receiving adequate and in some cases heavy rains. In some areas, the rain has increased the risk of disease due to flooding, water pollution and lack of sanitation facilities. The humanitarian situation has also been exacerbated, by the heavy rains threatening weakened livestock and making access to people in need extremely difficult. However, pasture and food availability is expected to improve. Some agencies involved in emergency water trucking are already scaling down their operations.

Ireland responded promptly to the crisis and to date has committed emergency humanitarian funding of €7 million to agencies working at both regional and national levels. Of this, over €2 million has been provided to the UN World Food Programme and to the Irish NGOs Concern and Trócaire for emergency programmes specifically in Kenya. Funding of €1.3 million has been provided to the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for their regional response and work in Somalia respectively.

Former Minister, Mr. David Andrews, visited the Horn of Africa in his capacity as Chairman of the Irish Red Cross last month. I asked him to provide the Government with a report of the findings of his visit including his assessment of the situation and response in the affected countries. Mr. Andrews encouraged the Government to maintain its focus on the Horn of Africa, including by ensuring that resources continue to be provided to emergency and recovery activities across the region. Mr. Andrews indicated that "while climatic and environmental conditions are major contributory factors [to the situation] ultimately the lack of sustained development investment and the apparent reluctance by governments to effectively engage with these unique communities are the primary reasons for endemic poverty".

I fully support that conclusion. Ireland has an ongoing commitment to assist the people of the Horn of Africa in combating the causes of poverty and food insecurity. Ireland provided over €3 million in funding in 2005 to Non-Governmental Organisations working on longer term development issues in Kenya alone, including Concern, Self-Help Development International, Goal, Trócaire, Oxfam and Concern Universal. Ireland also contributes to the social safety-nets programme in Ethiopia which assists poor communities to withstand the dips into crisis which we have seen affecting the north of that country so far this year. I can assure the Deputies that we continue to keep the situation under close review, including the effect of the most recent floods on vulnerable communities across the region.

Foreign Conflicts.

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

84 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the political and security situation in Iraq; the travel advice issued by his Department for Irish citizens in that country or intending to travel to that country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19582/06]

Despite the continuing violence in Iraq, there have been hopeful political developments in recent weeks. On 23 April, the Parliament provisionally agreed the nomination of Mr. Nouri al-Maliki, Deputy Leader of the Shi'a Dawa party, as Prime Minister designate of the new Iraqi Government. Following further negotiations on the filling of Cabinet positions in a Government of National Unity, the appointments of Prime Minister al-Maliki and his Government were approved by the Iraqi Parliament on 21 May. This is a very welcome and significant step forward. It has been warmly welcomed by the European Union. Iraq now has a fully sovereign and democratic Government and parliament, mandated for four years. The political transition process as set out in United Nations Security Council Resolutions has now been completed.

It would of course have been desirable for a Government to have been formed shortly after the elections held last December. However, it is important that we recognise the major achievement of recent weeks, which has required the engagement of all the major political parties in Iraq. The new Government is very broadly based, and includes the main parties representing the Sunni community. The General Affairs and External Relations Council on 15 May looked forward to this important development and repeated the EU's commitment that it will engageactively with the new Government to achieve a secure, stable and democratic Iraq.

The violence which forms the background to this political progress remains a matter of grave concern. Iraqi citizens continue to be targeted in openly sectarian bomb attacks, and casualties have been high. Despite their refusal to be provoked into large scale civil strife, sectarian retaliation and violence have been rising steadily. It appears that, in some areas, minority communities are reacting by moving to areas where they feel more secure. The new Government therefore faces very serious challenges in ensuring the security and unity of the State.

In view of the circumstances on the ground, my Department continues to advise Irish citizens against all travel to Iraq.

Overseas Development Aid.

Michael Noonan

Ceist:

85 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the timescale for meeting the UN target on overseas development aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19545/06]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

156 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the level of funding allocated to Irish Aid for 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19544/06]

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

161 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether Ireland will reach the target of 0.7 per cent of GNP for international aid within the specified time-table outlined by him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19745/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 85, 156 and 161 together.

The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, announced at the UN Millennium Review Summit in New York on 14 September 2005 that the Government will reach the target of spending 0.7% of GNP on Official Development Assistance by 2012.

We have agreed a number of steps along the way to achieving the target. Firstly, we have an interim target of 0.5% of GNP in 2007. Secondly, aid spending is expected to reach 0.6% in 2010. In fact, Ireland is likely to reach the interim 0.5% target earlier than expected. The allocation by the Minister for Finance, Brian Cowen, in the Estimates for the Vote for International Cooperation (Vote 29) in 2006 amounts to €600 million. Coupled with amounts paid by other Government Departments and with a special contribution of €59million to the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative of the International Development Association, total ODA this year will amount to approximately €734 million. On current estimates of GNP growth, our total ODA this year is therefore likely to reach 0.5%.

These figures clearly demonstrate the Government's commitment to overseas development and to achieving the UN target in 2012.

International Agreements.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

86 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of present signatories to the charter of the International Criminal Court; the position of Ireland with regard to the non-signatory status of a number of countries, including the United States of America; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19584/06]

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court entered into force on 1 July 2002 and to date has been ratified or acceded to by 100 states. An additional 43 states have signed the Statute, subject to ratification.

The Government are committed to the effective functioning of the Court and support efforts to ensure the widest possible ratification and implementation of its Statute.

Together with our partners in the European Union, Ireland has been a consistent and strong supporter of the ICC, recognising it as an essential means to combating impunity for the most serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. This position has been recognised in the EU Common Position last updated in June 2003.

The 2003 Common Position commits the Union and its Member States to support the effective functioning of the Court, and to advance universal support for it by promoting the widest possible participation in the Rome Statute. In February 2004 a detailed Action Plan on the implementation of the 2003 Common Position was adopted under the auspices of the Irish Presidency of the EU.

In addition to their efforts to promote ratifications, the EU and its Member States have been generous supporters of initiatives to promote the Court in third states, as well as to strengthen the capacity of states to cooperate with the Court. For example, in February of this year, Ireland co-sponsored a three-day conference aimed at promoting ratification of the ICC among Arab states. The conference, held in Amman, Jordan, was attended by representatives from Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Yemen, all of which have yet to ratify the Rome Statute.

The United States objects to the ICC principally on the basis that the independence of the ICC Prosecutor endangers US citizens, and particularly US military forces, to politically motivated prosecutions before the Court. While recognising its concerns, neither Ireland, nor our EU partners, share the United States' view toward the Court.

A number of approaches have been made to the US on behalf of the EU, outlining the EU position on the Court and urging US support for it. Most recently, a démarche on behalf of the EU took place in December 2005, at which the EU's strong political support for the ICC was underlined and a number of matters related to the Court were discussed.

Such discussions are in line with the EU Council Conclusions on the ICC of 30 September 2002, which recall the shared objective of the EU and the US of individual accountability for the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, and call for a broader dialogue between the EU and US on all matters relating to the ICC.

Departmental Appointments.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

87 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of Irish nominees to United Nations institutions and other international institutions; the names of such institutions to which nominations were made; and the names and backgrounds of those nominated. [19706/06]

At present, the following Irish nominees hold positions in UN and other international institutions on foot of nominations for election made by me, or by my Department: Judge Maureen Harding Clark, elected in February 2003 to a nine year term as a Judge of the International Criminal Court; Judge Clark's Curriculum Vitae is atwww.icc-cpi.int/chambers/judges/ClarkMaureenHarding.html.

Mr. Michael O'Flaherty, elected in September 2004 to a four year term as a member of the Human Rights Committee, the UN Treaty Monitoring Body for the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights; Mr O'Flaherty's Curriculum Vitae is atwww.ohchr.org/english/bodies/ hrc/membersCVs/oflaherty.htm.

Mr. Peter Croker, re-elected in April 2002 for a second five year term as a member of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, which facilitates the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in respect of the establishment of theouter limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured; Mr. Croker's CV is at:www.un.org/Depts/los/ clcsnew/memberscurriculumvitae/CrokerCV.pdf.

Democratisation Process.

Liam Twomey

Ceist:

88 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the support allocated by Irish Aid towards elections in the Congo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19551/06]

Presidential and parliamentary elections will take place in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on 30 July next. They will be the first multi-party elections in the country since it gained independence in 1960. Successfully conducted elections are critical to the consolidation of peace and security in the DRC and in the Great Lakes region as a whole.

Aware of the strategic significance of these elections, Ireland has allocated €1.3 million to support their organisation and oversight. This funding has been provided in two tranches. Some €500,000 was provided in October 2005 to the special Trust Fund established and administered by the United Nations Development Programme to help meet the costs of the elections. Earlier this month, I announced further funding of €800,000, which will be used to support the South African Independent Electoral Commission which is assisting in the organisation and oversight of the elections.

Ireland is determined to play its part in helping the people of the DRC to move away from the past and onto the path of stability and development. We have provided over €11 million for emergency and recovery activities in the DRC since 2002, almost €5 million of which has been provided to date in 2006. The humanitarian and development needs are enormous. Some 1,200 people die daily from preventable conflict-related causes, as many victims every six months as those of the Asian tsunami. Approximately 70% of the population has no access to even the most basic healthcare system. More than 20% of children die before their fifth birthday. Governance and the provision of basic public services are generally weak and non-existent in parts.

The successful completion of these historic elections is an essential step to creating stability in the DRC and the wider region. Ireland will continue to do its part over the coming years to support the people and leadership of the DRC to deal with the profound post-conflict and development challenges that lie ahead.

Undocumented Emigrants.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

89 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he is satisfied that the latest legislative proposals discussed in the United States will deal adequately with the undocumented Irish in the United States; the representations he has made on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19747/06]

Pat Breen

Ceist:

102 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps being taken by the Government to support the Kennedy McCain immigration proposals in the United States of America; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19559/06]

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

114 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position with regard to the regularisation of undocumented immigrants in the United States, with reference to President Bush’s unprecedented step of addressing the US people on national television; the discussions which his Department has held with officials of the US administration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19717/06]

David Stanton

Ceist:

126 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the recent contacts that he has had with his US counterpart with regard to the undocumented Irish in the United States; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19560/06]

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

132 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has had any recent contact with his US counterpart with regard to proposals for the regularisation of citizenship for people resident illegally in the United States; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19581/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

224 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress in regard to discussions he may have had with the US authorities on the regularisation of undocumented Irish in the US; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20019/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89, 102, 114, 126, 132 and 224 together.

The welfare of the undocumented Irish in the United States continues to be a matter of the highest priority for the Government. In all of my dealings with contacts on Capitol Hill and in the US Administration, including with Secretary of State Rice, I emphasise our strong support for measures that would enable the undocumented to regularise their status and have open to them a path to permanent residency. As Deputies are aware, the legislative debate in the US is at a critical stage. In view of this, I am travelling again to Washington D.C. this week to meet with key legislators to emphasise directly the importance that we attach to an early resolution of this issue.

Over the St. Patrick's Day period, the Taoiseach and I availed fully of our valuable meetings with President Bush and Members of Congress to reiterate to them our views on this matter.

During our meeting with President Bush, the President assured us of his support for a comprehensive approach to immigration which advances reforms, as well as addresses enforcement issues. This is an approach which he endorsed strongly in a significant televised address on immigration on 15th May in which he called for concerted efforts to work towards consensus on this critical issue. I warmly welcome the President's personal engagement in this issue and, in particular, his view that most of those who are undocumented should be able to apply for citizenship once qualifying conditions are met.

The current stage of the legislative debate is that Senators are debating a compromise bill proposed by Senators Hagel and Martinez. This positive bill provides for measures that would enable the vast majority of the undocumented to regularise their status and have open to them a path to permanent residency. In this way, it contains the key elements of the bill tabled last year by Senators Kennedy and McCain. Significantly, the Hagel/Martinez bill enjoys the support of Senator Kennedy and Senator McCain, both of whom are active in encouraging its passage through the Senate. It is also supported by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform which, as Deputies will be aware, is proving most effective in giving expression to the views of many members of our community in the US on immigration reform.

While it remains clear that reaching consensus on this sensitive and divisive issue presents considerable challenges, I am greatly encouraged by the very constructive and positive tone of the discussions in the Senate. These discussions represent a very significant phase in the debate. Should the Senate pass a bill, the legislative process will move to a Conference Committee composed of representatives of the House of Representatives and the Senate convened to reconcile differences between the Senate bill and the Sensenbrenner/King bill passed in the House last December.

During this crucially important period in the Senate, the Deputies can be assured that our efforts on behalf of the undocumented Irish are being maximised to the greatest degree possible.

Human Trafficking.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

90 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps he has taken to date and intends to take to work with other countries in order to combat human trafficking and to support the victims of human trafficking. [19652/06]

The Government is fully committed to the active promotion of full observance of universal human rights standards, and opposes, and seeks the elimination of, the practice of human trafficking.

The importance of addressing trafficking in persons has been recognised by Ireland and our EU partners. Article 5 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights prohibits trafficking in human beings.

In 2004 the EU adopted a Council framework decision on combating trafficking in persons. I understand that my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, is currently preparing legislation which will criminalise trafficking in human beings for the purpose of their sexual and labour exploitation, as provided for in the Framework Decision.

The Council of Europe last year concluded negotiations on a Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. This Convention, which was opened for signature at the Third Summit of the Council of Europe in Warsaw on 16 May 2005, aims to prevent and combat trafficking in people in all its forms, national or international, whether or not it is linked with organised crime. The Convention is currently under consideration by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, which has responsibility for policy in this area. Legislation being prepared by that Department will also take account of the Council of Europe Convention.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), at its Ministerial Meeting in December 2003 in Maastricht, endorsed an Action Plan against Trafficking in Human Beings, and subsequently appointed an OSCE Special Representative, Helga Konrad, to assist in putting this Plan into practice. While the Special Representative's mandate recently expired, the work of the OSCE on trafficking continues including through its anti-trafficking assistance unit.

Europol and the European Police College, CEPOL, organise courses on an EU-wide basis for police forces dealing with investigations into the trafficking of human beings. I understand from my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform that Garda Officers working in the Garda National Immigration Bureau investigating the trafficking of human beings have attended such courses.

Ireland is also a signatory to the UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime and its two accompanying protocols on prevention, suppression and punishment of trafficking in persons, especially women and children and smuggling of migrants by land, air or sea. The protocol on trafficking not only provides for measures to suppress trafficking, but also measures to protect the victims of trafficking.

Through its participation at international fora such as the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Council of Europe and the OSCE, Ireland has raised its concerns in cooperation with like-minded countries regarding these issues. As a member of the EU, Ireland coordinates with the other EU Member States in these fora. At the meeting of the CHR in Geneva in 2005, Ireland made a national statement condemning the trafficking of people and welcoming the appointment in 2004 of a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons. Ireland will continue to support initiatives in this area in the new Human Rights Council which has replaced the Commission on Human Rights.

In addition, my Department has provided over €1.7 million in funding for ILO and NGO anti-trafficking projects through Irish Aid.

Arms Trade.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

91 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position of his Department with regard to calls to introduce greater controls on arms and arms production; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19550/06]

The promotion and support of international efforts to secure appropriate safeguards on the control of arms is a key priority of Irish foreign policy. There is a need to end destabilising accumulations of arms that can increase the potential for violence in areas of tension. There are too many examples of conflicts which are fuelled by the proliferation of conventional weapons. This is especially an issue of concern in Africa, where the proliferation in particular of small arms and light weapons continues to bring much suffering to societies throughout that continent.

The European Council adopted a Joint Action on the European Union's Contribution to combating the Destabilising Accumulation and Uncontrolled Spread of Small Arms and Light Weapons in July 2002. This Joint Action is concerned primarily with enhancing efforts by EU Member States to build consensus in the relevant regional and international fora (such as the UN and OSCE) to prevent the further accumulation of small arms and to ensure that the EU's arms controls are as effective as possible.

More recently, the European Union adopted a common position on arms brokering, in June 2003, requiring Member States to introduce ad hoc legislation to effectively control the activities of brokers. Moreover, the European Council last December endorsed a strategy to combat the illicit accumulation and trafficking of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition. The text contains an Action Plan which will be regularly reviewed and updated every six months.

Ireland continues to fully participate in UN meetings dealing with small arms and light weapons issues. Ireland welcomes the fact that an instrument on the marking and tracing of small arms and light weapons was adopted last June. A review conference on the UN Programme of Action on small arms is also scheduled to take place at the United Nations in New York at the end of next month. One of the issues to be discussed at the meeting is the question of agreeing global standards for the transfer of small arms and light weapons, an outcome which Ireland, together with our EU partners, strongly supports.

Ireland has also been active in other fora, such as the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). The terms of the Convention and its protocols restrict or prohibit specific types of weapons used in armed conflict. Ireland has also ratified the Anti-Personnel Landmine Convention (also known as the Ottawa Convention), which prohibits the production, sale, transfer and use of such landmines.

Ireland also fully and strongly supports the negotiation of an arms trade treaty. At a small arms conference in New York last January, the Austrian Presidency, on behalf of all EU Member States, confirmed the Union's support for such a treaty. We will continue to participate actively within the UN and at other international fora to advance this objective and, more generally, to promote the strengthening of arms controls globally.

Diplomatic Representation.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

92 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government has established diplomatic relations with the new Government in Iraq; his plans to establish an embassy in Baghdad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19742/06]

The Government approved the establishment of non-resident diplomatic relations with Iraq in 1979 and Ireland subsequently opened an Embassy in Baghdad in 1986.

In the crisis leading up to the 1991 Gulf War, the Embassy of Ireland was moved from Baghdad to Amman in Jordan, and subsequently closed in August 1992. The Iraqi Embassy in London, from where the Iraqi Ambassador was also accredited to Ireland, closed in February 1991.

Diplomatic relations between Ireland and Iraq were never broken off but effectively went into abeyance. Therefore, the question of formally establishing or re-establishing such relations with the new Iraqi Government did not arise. Following the reopening of the Iraqi Embassy in London in 2003, my Department dealt with it as representing the newly established Iraqi Government. Active relations were fully restored when Ambassador Salah Al-Shaikhly presented his credentials to President McAleese on 21 March 2006.

Ireland has a small diplomatic service and accordingly, as I believe the Deputy will appreciate, any expansion of our resident diplomatic network must be approached on a phased basis, having regard to clear priorities. The opening of further resident Missions abroad is considered by the Government on an ongoing basis.

Human Rights Issues.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

93 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has received literature from the Bahá’i community here expressing their concern at the treatment of their co-religionists in Iran; the discussions which have been held between members of his Department and members of the Baha’i faith in this regard; the progress being made at United Nations level with respect to this issue and the actions which Ireland has taken in this matter. [19713/06]

Extensive literature concerning the situation of the Bahá'í community in Iran has been received over recent months, including the statement made on 20 March by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Asma Jahangir. This statement is the latest in a series of reports which raise serious concerns about this matter.

The Department of Foreign Affairs maintains close contacts with the Bahá'í community in Ireland about the situation of their co-religionists on the ground. In its contacts with the Iranian Embassy in Dublin the Department regularly conveys the Government's concerns.

Ireland has also frequently raised the situation of the Bahá'í in Iran at EU level and the EU's concerns about the treatment of the Bahá'í have in turn been brought to the attention of the Iranian authorities on many occasions. Ireland and its EU partners have also supported resolutions on Iran at the UN General Assembly and at the UN Commission on Human Rights. These initiatives have brought specific attention to the plight of the Bahá'í in Iran.

The situation of the Bahá'í community has also been raised during the formal EU-Iran Human Rights Dialogues, the last session of which took place during the Irish Presidency of the EU in 2004. Iran has been reluctant to agree dates for a renewed session of the Human Rights Dialogue and the Dialogue has been in abeyance since that time, though consultations on the next session are ongoing.

The General Affairs and External Relations Council on 10 April 2006 underlined the EU's continuing concern about human rights in Iran, in particular the treatment of the Bahá'í and other religious minorities. These concerns were reiterated on 15 May 2006. In addition, the EU Presidency raised a number of human rights concerns directly with the Iranian Government on 11 April 2006, including the problems alluded to in the Special Rapporteur's statement.

Ireland and the EU will remain actively engaged on this issue and will continue to raise it in all appropriate fora.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

94 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the recent killing of 15 year old Michael McIlveen in Ballymena; his further views on the need to make tackling sectarianism the number one priority for all parties in Northern Ireland and for the two Governments; his further views on the Shared Future initiative in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19725/06]

On 8 May last, I wholeheartedly condemned the appalling sectarian attack on Michael McIlveen which led to his death. My thoughts continue to be with his family and friends who have shown such courage and dignity in the face of this tragedy.

This incident was a truly shocking reminder of the evil of sectarianism, and that sectarian hatred and violence still plague communities across Northern Ireland. As the Taoiseach said in the immediate aftermath of Michael's death, those responsible for this brutal crime stand condemned in the eyes of all decent people who yearn for a peaceful society in Northern Ireland. They must face the full rigours of the law as speedily as possible.

I welcome the fact that this sectarian killing has been condemned by the entire community in Northern Ireland. It is vitally important that all incidents of sectarianism be condemned consistently, unequivocally and unambiguously by every political party in Northern Ireland, and that leadership be shown in reducing tensions and promoting reconciliation between the communities. In this regard, I welcome moves by the Loyal Orders locally to voluntarily re-route a forthcoming parade away from the site of the attack on Michael McIlveen, as well as the decision not to proceed with a recent Hunger Strike commemoration in the town. I hope that this tragic death can, at the very least, lead to further instances of community sensitivity and local accommodation aimed at reducing tensions and avoiding further violence.

At the time of Michael's death, I called on all those in positions of influence and leadership to work unstintingly to combat all manifestations of sectarian hatred in their communities. I renew that call today.

Following the disturbing pattern of sectarian violence last summer, I held a number of meetings with victims of sectarian violence and local political representatives from the Antrim area, Belfast, and elsewhere. Officials of my Department also continue to meet on a regular basis with local community and political representatives in the areas most affected. We will continue to monitor the situation closely with regard to all instances of sectarian intimidation and violence as we approach this year's marching season.

The Shared Future initiative lays out a comprehensive approach to the promotion of good relations between all communities in Northern Ireland. The policy includes important initiatives to eliminate sectarianism and racism, steps to tackle inappropriate and aggressive displays of flags and emblems, initiatives to reduce tension at interface areas, and measures to promote opportunities for increased sharing in education.

I raised the future direction of the Shared Future initiative with Secretary of State Peter Hain at the most recent meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference on 2 May 2006. We agreed that active implementation on the ground will be key to ensure that the strategy's positive vision of a shared future for all is made a reality. It will be vital that the work now commenced via the recently launched Action Plan reaches into all aspects of life in Northern Ireland in order for progress to be made in promoting good community relations and in tackling the scourge of sectarianism once and for all.

Question No. 95 answered with QuestionNo. 82.

Diplomatic Representation.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

96 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of Irish people for whom the Department of Foreign Affairs has paid a court-imposed bond since 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19540/06]

As I outlined in my reply of 4 April 2006 to a parliamentary question on this issue, consular assistance is provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs in a wide variety of circumstances, with each situation being assessed on a case by case basis, having regard to all the factors involved.

Since 1997, an advancement of the funds by the Department in a court bond context occurred in the case of three Irish citizens in Columbia. In this particular consular case, the court judgment permitted the three citizens to be released from prison on payment of a bond. My Department, at the request of the Defence team, and given the on-going consular concerns about the safety of the persons concerned, advanced the funds to facilitate the payment of this bond on the basis of a firm undertaking to repay the sum involved. The funds were repaid in full. The decision to advance funds was taken by the Department in pursuit of its consular responsibilities, and was neither discussed nor taken at political level.

Question No. 97 answered with QuestionNo. 68.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

98 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the timetable for the re-establishment of all the institutions created under the Good Friday Agreement in view of the recall of the Northern Ireland Assembly; when new negotiations between the political parties in Northern Ireland and the British and Irish Governments will begin; the location of these talks; the length of time they are expected to last; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19724/06]

On 6 April in Armagh, the Taoiseach and Prime Minister Blair set out the Governments' joint strategy to achieve restoration of the devolved institutions of the Good Friday Agreement this year. The joint strategy established a clear timetable, commencing with the recall of the Assembly on 15 May. Members have been given an initial period of six weeks to elect a First and Deputy First Minister and form an Executive. Should that not prove possible, the parties will be allowed some additional but limited time — until 24 November — for the express purpose of implementing the Agreement and establishing the Executive.

The two Governments firmly believe that the recall of the Assembly brings with it a precious opportunity to foster real political progress, and to chart the way for important decisions affecting the lives of every section of the community to be taken by locally elected politicians. As we have done throughout the process, the Government is maintaining close contact with the parties and, together with the British Government, will engage as and when necessary with the parties to facilitate a positive outcome.

Foreign Disputes.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

99 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if Australian use of oil fields off the coast of East Timor, over which ownership is disputed, was discussed by him or any member of his Department with the Australian Prime Minister or member of his delegation during his recent visit to Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19534/06]

Timor Leste, or East Timor as it was formerly known, and Australia make overlapping claims to parts of the continental shelf in the Timor Sea, an area understood to contain large reserves of oil and gas. I understand that there has not been any adjudication under international law with regard to the disputed oil fields.

Under the terms of a bilateral Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea, signed by the Foreign Ministers of Australia and Timor Leste in January of this year, the two sides agreed to set aside their maritime boundary negotiations for fifty years and to share the resources of what is referred to as the Greater Sunrise field (formerly known as the Sunrise and Troubadour fields which had also been previously claimed by both countries) on a 50:50 basis. The agreement, which has yet to be ratified by the Parliaments in both countries, would also allow Australia to continue to conduct activities in relation to petroleum or other resources of the seabed and subsoil in respect of a number of contested oil fields. Prior to this agreement, Australia and Timor Leste concluded the Timor Sea Treaty in May 2002, which accords to Timor Leste 90% of the revenue from a Joint Petroleum Development Area in the Timor Sea. This Treaty came into force on 2 April 2003.

It would not have been appropriate for this issue to have been raised with the Australian Prime Minister, the Honorable John Howard MP, or by officials of my Department with his delegation, during my official talks held on Monday with the Prime Minister. However, Timor Leste was on the agenda for our meeting and we had an exchange of views on the situation in Timor Leste during which I referred to Ireland's long-standing commitment to the country's political and socio-economic development.

International Agreements.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

100 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when Ireland will ratify and implement the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. [19712/06]

The Convention was opened for signature on 9 December 2003 and was signed by Ireland on that date. It entered into force on 14 December, 2005. In April of 2005 the European Commission advised that, as parts of the Convention are matters of exclusive Community competence, Member States could not ratify it until the Community had done so. The European Community signed the Convention on 15 September 2005.

My colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who has lead responsibility in this area, has instructed his officials to examine the Convention with a view to identifying the necessary legislation which will be required to allow Ireland to ratify it. This examination involves consultation also with the Attorney General's Office. It is envisaged that this exercise will be completed in the near future and that drafting of the necessary legislation will commence thereafter.

Question No. 101 answered with QuestionNo. 75.
Question No. 102 answered with QuestionNo. 89.

State Airports.

John Gormley

Ceist:

103 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Israeli war planes recently landed in Shannon Airport; if this action is compatible with Irish foreign policy in relation to the occupation of Palestine; if permission was sought for this landing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19736/06]

I would refer the Deputy my reply to Questions Nos. 254 and 260 of 16 May 2006. At the outset, I would point out that the two aircraft in question-both Boeing 707s-are not warplanes. On 28 April 2006, the Department of Foreign Affairs having, in accordance with standard practice, consulted with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, gave permission for two Boeing 707 aircraft operated by the Israeli Air Force to land at Shannon Airport on 5 May.

The landing permission for these two aircraft was granted subject to the normal conditions that apply to landings at Irish airports by foreign military aircraft; namely that the aircraft would be unarmed, would carry no arms, ammunition or explosives, would not engage in intelligence gathering, and that the flights in question would not form any part of military exercises or operations. The practice of permitting landings by foreign military aircraft at Irish airports, subject to such conditions, has been in place for more than fifty years.

The search for a lasting and peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has long been a central concern of Irish foreign policy, under successive Governments. The Government and its partners in the EU firmly believe that the only route to a just and lasting settlement is through the negotiation of a mutually acceptable two-state solution. This must lead to the coexistence of two viable, sovereign and independent states with agreed international borders. We will continue to work to promote an environment for negotiation, despite the obstacles which are so obvious at this point.

Official Engagements.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

104 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the contact he has had with the recently elected President of Chile; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19711/06]

I have not yet had an opportunity to meet with President Michelle Bachelet of Chile. Minister of State Tom Kitt attended her inauguration on 11 March 2006 in Valparaíso and had an opportunity to convey the best wishes of the Government to both President Bachelet and outgoing President Ricardo Lagos. In addition, the Taoiseach and Minister of State Noel Treacy attended the IV EU-Latin America and Caribbean Summit in Vienna on 11-12 May, in which President Bachelet also participated.

Emigrant Support Services.

Damien English

Ceist:

105 Mr. English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the level of funding allocated to supporting groups working with Irish emigrants in the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19579/06]

The strong commitment of the Government to support our community abroad is reflected in the unprecedented level of funding secured for emigrant services. This year, €12 million is available for this purpose which represents an increase of 45% on 2005 and is twelve-times greater than the 1997 allocation.

The needs of the Irish community in Britain are a particular priority for the Government. In 2005, groups in Britain received grants from my Department amounting to €7.06 million. The very significant increase in funding and the rise in the number of grant recipients reflect, in the clearest possible way, the strength of the Government's firm and sustained commitment to our community in Britain.

While the primary emphasis of funding continues to be on supporting frontline welfare services, I am pleased that additional funding has also made it possible to support a number of capital projects as well as projects which support our community in Britain in their wish to express their Irish identity. With regard to funding this year, applications from groups in Britain are currently under consideration and I look forward to making an announcement in due course.

Nuclear Disarmament Initiative.

John Deasy

Ceist:

106 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps being taken to pursue the issue of nuclear disarmament by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19570/06]

The only multilateral legally binding obligation in respect of nuclear disarmament is enshrined in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which came into existence following an initiative taken by the late Frank Aiken. His pioneering efforts were duly recognised when Ireland was invited in 1968 to be the first country to sign the Treaty after it had been negotiated. Since then, support for the Treaty has been our highest priority in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation.

Ireland is committed to the full implementation of the NPT and, in particular, believes that the 13 practical steps outlined in the Outcome Document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference set out a clear road by which the objective of nuclear disarmament can be achieved. Regrettably, the most recent such Conference, in May of last year, failed to build on this outcome and to agree any substantive recommendations or conclusions. The next scheduled Review Conference of the NPT will not take place until 2010. It will be preceded by a series of preparatory meetings beginning in 2007. Ireland will in the meantime continue to work with like-minded countries in identifying areas where implementation of the Treaty can be strengthened, including in the area of nuclear disarmament.

In Geneva last March, the Permanent Representative of Ireland to the Conference on Disarmament reiterated the Irish position with regard to the NPT and emphasised the need for greater transparency on the part of the Nuclear Weapons States in their respective nuclear disarmament processes. Ireland will also continue to work within the forum of the Conference of Disarmament to identify possible areas of convergence on the way forward on nuclear disarmament.

Ireland is a founding member of the New Agenda Coalition (NAC), a grouping that seeks to promote a new momentum into multilateral consideration of nuclear disarmament. Ireland, together with our partners in the NAC, submitted a resolution on the NPT to the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly last October, which, inter alia, reaffirmed the outcome of the 2000 NPT Review Conference as the framework for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament and called for universalisation of the Treaty and the fulfilment by all NPT States Parties of their respective nuclear disarmament obligations. The resolution attracted widespread support.

Most recently, Ireland has committed itself to co-funding a seminar on NPT issues organised by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR). The seminar is taking place in Geneva this week and will examine such issues as compliance, nuclear disarmament measures and possible ways to strengthen the NPT. Ireland also intends to participate in a seminar in Canada next September that will examine the issue of nuclear disarmament obligations, as set out in Article VI of the Treaty, with a view to identifying further ways to make progress on this vital question.

Diplomatic Representation.

Liam Twomey

Ceist:

107 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of Irish Embassies in place in South America; if an expansion of the network is planned. [19578/06]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

158 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when it is proposed to establish an Embassy in Chile as understood at the time of the visit of the former President of Chile, Mr Ricardo Lagos. [19707/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 107 and 158 together. There are currently two Irish Embassies in South America — in Argentina and Brazil. Our Embassy in Argentina is also accredited to Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay on a non-resident basis. In addition, the Irish Embassy in Mexico is accredited to a number of countries in South and Central America on a non-resident basis — Colombia, El Salvador, Peru and Venezuela.

The Government has appointed Honorary Consuls in Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. In Central America, we maintain Honorary Consuls in El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama.

Ireland has a small diplomatic service and accordingly, as I believe the Deputies will appreciate, any expansion of our resident diplomatic network must be approached on a phased basis, having regard to clear priorities. The opening of further resident Missions abroad, including in Chile, is considered by the Government on an ongoing basis

Overseas Development Aid.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

108 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the level of humanitarian aid allocated to the Palestinian Authority in 2005; the current levels of aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19558/06]

The core objective of Ireland's assistance to Palestine has been to alleviate the material consequences of the ongoing conflict by enhancing the capacity of Ireland's partners in Palestine to respond to the crisis and to begin, where possible, to meet the future development needs of the Palestinian people.

In 2005, Ireland delivered in excess of €4 million in humanitarian and development assistance to Palestine. Humanitarian assistance has been channelled through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which remains our key partner in the provision of basic services to the Palestinian people. In response to UNRWA's appeal for funding, Ireland provided early funding of €1.5 million to UNRWA in 2006. This was un-earmarked core funding which allows UNRWA to respond flexibly to the emerging challenges. Ireland will continue to respond to changing humanitarian needs in Palestine.

Our development funding has been focused on support for basic education, strengthening local government through local rural development programmes, and support for key United Nations' agencies. We also provide significant support for civil society organisations in Palestine which work to promote human rights and democratisation and to facilitate community rehabilitation.

The Government is extremely conscious of the need to continue assistance to Palestine in the current difficult political climate. Ireland's programme of assistance in 2006 will include continued support for partner UN Agencies, NGOs and Bethlehem University. We have made clear that we are determined to maintain the overall volume of our assistance to Palestine.

We do not believe that the Palestinian people should face the risk of a humanitarian crisis because of the reluctance of their new Government to respect the peace process. However, there is agreement among all the Member States that the EU cannot maintain its capacity-building support for the Hamas Government under the Oslo process, given that the Government has not committed to the conditions set out by the Quartet and the EU.

Following the meeting of the Quartet on 9 May, the EU is taking the lead in developing a temporary international mechanism to channel donor assistance directly to the Palestinian people. At its meeting on 15 May, the Council agreed that, as a matter of priority, the mechanism will aim to provide for basic needs, including health services. Ireland has been to the fore in the EU in arguing for the widest possible definition of the basic needs to be covered.

I can assure the Deputy that Ireland will, both nationally and in the multilateral framework, do all that is within our capacity to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people and to pursue our development interventions to the extent possible, while being cognisant of the wider political realities.

Decentralisation Programme.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

109 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has received notification regarding the sourcing of a premises to accommodate the decentralisation of Irish Aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19583/06]

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

149 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of staff, working with Irish Aid, volunteering to decentralise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19577/06]

Dan Neville

Ceist:

167 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the timescale for the decentralisation of divisions within his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19573/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109, 149 and 167 together.

Under the Government's decentralisation programme, the Development Cooperation Directorate of the Department of Foreign Affairs, currently based in Dublin, will decentralise to Limerick. This is scheduled to take place during the first half of 2007 and will involve the relocation to Limerick of 124 posts. The Office of Public Works has identified a suitable location on Henry Street in Limerick city centre and has advised my Department that lease terms have been agreed with the developer. The building is scheduled to be ready for occupation by June 2007.

Already, a total of 35 posts in the Directorate, including that of Director General, are filled by officers who have signalled their intention to decentralise to Limerick. Sixteen officers serving elsewhere in the Department, mostly abroad, have also expressed an interest in doing so. This total of 51 represents some 41% of the posts being transferred to Limerick. The aim is that, by the second half of 2006, most posts in the Directorate will be filled by staff who will decentralise to Limerick.

Question No. 110 answered with QuestionNo. 75.

EU Constitution.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

111 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his preferred options for the future development of the European Union with particular reference to the way in which it is intended to ratify the Constitution; the extent to which he has conveyed his opinion in this regard to his colleagues at EU level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19657/06]

Gerard Murphy

Ceist:

154 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the most realistic timescale for the ratification of the EU Constitution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19535/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 111 and 154 together.

Following last year's French and Dutch referendum results, EU leaders initiated a period of reflection in order to allow time for national debates about the future of Europe. Next month's European Council is due to review this process. EU Foreign Ministers have already begun the task of preparing this review and will meet informally in Austria at the weekend. There will be a further discussion of the Constitution and the Future of Europe at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 12 and 13 June. At this stage, it is clear that the time is not yet right for resolving the issues impeding the ratification of the Constitution and that it will be necessary to extend the period of reflection into next year. The Member States need to continue to work together to create conditions conducive to the Constitution's ultimate entry into force.

At this point, it is not feasible to set a firm timetable for the ratification of the Constitution. It is important to note, however, that a majority of Member States have now ratified the Constitution. On 9 May, Estonia became the 15th Member State to do so. Finland is expected to ratify in the near future.

While there are inevitably varying views about the European Union's future direction, Ireland continues to be a firm supporter of the European Constitution. We see the Constitution as the best-available blueprint for the further development of the Union. Its entry into force would create a more efficient and effective Union, capable of meeting the challenges of a rapidly changing world. I have outlined our position of support for the Constitution at every opportunity and will continue to do so. In the wake of the French and Dutch results, we have witnessed a lively debate about the Future of Europe, but no-one has put forward a convincing alternative to the Constitution.

Question No. 112 answered with QuestionNo. 76.

John Gormley

Ceist:

113 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the need to establish a convention for the future of Europe to draw up a new EU constitution following the rejection by France and the Netherlands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19737/06]

Dan Boyle

Ceist:

139 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether a new EU constitution should be put to EU member states on the same day by way of a Europe-wide referendum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19738/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

222 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent of discussions taking place at EU level with the object of amending, ratifying or replacing the EU Constitution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20017/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 113, 139 and 222 together.

While the time is not yet right to complete the ratification of the EU Constitution, I can see no grounds at present for embarking on any renegotiation of what was agreed in 2004. There have been some proposals for selective implementation of the Constitution, but the widely held view is that the Constitution, which has already been ratified by 15 Member States, needs to be kept intact.

Agreement on the Constitution was arrived at following a long and complex set of negotiations, beginning with the work of the Convention and concluding during Ireland's EU Presidency. It is unlikely that a new Convention, or a fresh Inter-Governmental negotiation, would produce a significantly different outcome acceptable to all Member States.

Member States must ratify EU Treaties in accordance with their own constitutional requirements and in a timeframe that suits their individual national circumstances. It remains our view that the Constitution can and should be brought into force once the conditions are right. We hope that significant progress in this direction will be possible in 2007 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome.

Question No. 114 answered with QuestionNo. 89.
Question No. 115 answered with QuestionNo. 76.

Human Rights Issues.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

116 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on his most recent contact with the US Administration with regard to the practice of rendition flights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19542/06]

My most recent contact with the US administration on the matter of extraordinary rendition took place on St Patrick's Day, during the Taoiseach's meeting with President Bush in the White House. As Deputies will be aware, on that occasion the Taoiseach raised with President Bush Ireland's well-known concerns with respect to this practice. The Taoiseach also raised the possibility of improving information sharing in relation to the passage of CIA flights through Irish airspace.

Contacts on this matter continue at official level. The US side have emphasised that the vast majority of CIA flights worldwide are in no way connected with extraordinary rendition, and re-iterated their categoric assurances, as confirmed by Secretary of State Rice to me in December, that prisoners have not been transferred through Irish territory, nor would they be, without our permission.

Human Trafficking.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

117 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will request further meetings with his counterparts from countries other than Poland, Latvia and Lithuania including, for example, Romania and Belarus to discuss tackling human trafficking and supporting the victims of human trafficking. [19651/06]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

141 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when the meetings he has requested between himself and his counterparts from Poland, Latvia and Lithuania are to take place; the proposals he will discuss with them relating to the need to tackle human trafficking and to support victims of human trafficking. [19649/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 117 and 141 together.

I met with the newly appointed Foreign Minister of Poland on Monday, 22 May. The Foreign Ministers of Lithuania and Latvia have also been invited to visit Ireland, and it is hoped that dates for these visits will be agreed in the coming weeks.

The invitations to the Ministers were issued in order to offer them the opportunity to meet with members of their communities in Ireland, to discuss bilateral relations and matters on the agenda of the European Union. The presence here of such large communities from these countries offers an excellent opportunity to strengthen our bilateral relations with them to our mutual benefit. In the light of the sizeable Polish community in Ireland, we agreed that there may be a need for an increase in exchanges between our respective Ministries of Justice and police forces to ensure that any problems arising are dealt with speedily.

I can confirm that among the many issues discussed with the Polish Foreign Minister, human trafficking within the European Union was raised. This is a subject to which the Government attaches high priority. Other issues included the Constitutional Treaty, the EU Services Directive, UN reform, the Middle East Peace Process and aspects of Polish migration to Ireland. Human trafficking is an issue of concern to all member States, and I have arranged to send a report of the discussion to my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, as An Garda Síochána has responsibility for enforcing the law in this area.

Corruption Levels.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

118 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the concerns raised by a person (details supplied) in relation to the corruption of some African Governments and the inadvisability of giving money to such Governments; his plans to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19743/06]

I am aware of the concerns of the person referred to by the Deputy, particularly in relation to Ethiopia and Uganda. No Irish Aid funding goes directly to the Government of Ethiopia via direct or general budget support. International donors who previously provided funds for direct budget support in Ethiopia are redirecting those funds to a new multi-donor trust fund monitored by the UN. Ireland contributed significantly to the design of this new mechanism.

In the case of Uganda, Irish Aid redirected its funds from general budget support in 2002 to a ring-fenced mechanism, the Poverty Action Fund (PAF) supporting health, education, rural roads and agriculture.

Building good governance in the African countries assisted by Ireland, including tackling corruption, is a key priority of our aid programme. This includes assistance for building democratic systems of government that are underpinned by free and fair elections, strengthening the rule of law, enhancing respect for human rights, improving transparency and accountability through initiatives to enhance public financial management and building the capacity of civil society to influence and monitor public policy decisions.

Irish Aid gives the highest priority to ensuring that Irish tax-payers' money is spent efficiently and effectively for the benefit of the poor in all our programme countries.

UN Human Rights Council.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

119 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the manner in which members will be elected to the new UN Human Rights Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19531/06]

Pat Breen

Ceist:

153 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the safeguards in place to ensure that countries with a poor human rights record will not be able to take up positions on the new UN Human Rights Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19532/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 and 153 together.

The elections to the new UN Human Rights Council took place on 9 May 2006. A total of 47 seats were contested, with each regional group being allocated a certain number.

The General Assembly Resolution establishing the Council included a number of provisions aimed at addressing concerns relating to the human rights records of its members. Whereas election to the former Commission on Human Rights was by a simple majority of States present and voting in the General Assembly, members of the Human Rights Council have to receive the support of an absolute majority of the General Assembly. In addition, States are elected by secret ballot.

Prospective members of the Council are also obliged to commit themselves to upholding the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, and will be the first to be scrutinised under the new universal periodic review mechanism which will examine the extent to which international human rights standards are respected on the domestic level. Ireland, together with our EU partners, will seek to shape the periodic review mechanism so that it provides a credible and effective oversight process.

A mechanism has also been established to allow for the expulsion of a member of the Council if it is deemed by a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly to be responsible for gross and systematic violations of human rights. Ireland and our European Union partners have also undertaken not to vote for any State that is subject to Security Council sanctions for human rights related reasons.

I am confident that when the Human Rights Council meets for the first time on 19 June, it will represent a fresh start for the human rights machinery of the UN.

Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

120 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position with regard to developments in the sphere of European common defence and security; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19549/06]

The European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) is an integral part of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and serves the Union's general objectives of peace and stability. These objectives and the provisions governing ESDP are set out in the Treaties of Amsterdam and of Nice, which were approved by referendum. In this context, the European Union is increasing its ability to contribute to both the civilian and military dimensions of crisis management.

It is important to distinguish between ESDP and the possibility of a common defence. Any move to a common defence would be for decision by the European Council acting unanimously and in accordance with Member States' constitutional requirements. At present, there are no proposals for such a move. In any event, Ireland's position is clear. The amendment to Article 29 of Bunreacht na hÉireann in October 2002 precludes Ireland from participating in a common defence. As a consequence, the Irish people would have to amend Bunreacht na hÉireann before Ireland could take part in a common defence.

The Union is continuing to develop its capabilities for crisis management under ESDP, both military and civilian. The objectives which it has set itself are clearly set out in the (military) Headline Goal 2010 and the Civilian Headline Goal 2008. There are eleven ESDP crisis management missions currently underway, nine of which are civilian and two of which are military. The civilian missions range from police and rule of law advisory and training missions, assistance to security sector reform, border monitoring missions and ceasefire monitoring missions. The two military missions are the peace stabilisation mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina (EUFOR Althea) and the EU support to the African Union's mission in Darfur, Sudan (AMIS).

In addition, the EU is due to launch a military crisis management mission in the DRC at the request of the UN to provide support for the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) during the electoral period in the DRC. An EU Planning Team is also due to be deployed to Kosovo within the next month, in order to prepare for a possible rule of law advisory mission in that country.

Ireland participates in five of the ongoing eleven missions and has also offered up to ten military personnel for the forthcoming military crisis management mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Human Rights Issues.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

121 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position with respect to the ongoing difficulties being experienced by the Kurdish community in Turkey; if he is in receipt of submissions from Kurdish groups here seeking aid and assistance in this regard; if such offers of assistance have been made by the Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19714/06]

I am very aware of the ongoing difficulties being experienced by the Kurdish community, including in relation to the escalation of violence in Southeast Turkey, particularly in recent weeks. This has led to frequent clashes between the security forces and armed groups and has resulted, tragically, in a substantial number of casualties, including mortalities. Very regrettably there have also been a number of civilian deaths. This has occurred since the resumption of violence by the PKK, an organisation which appears on the EU list of terrorist organisations.

The Government's concerns about the human rights situation in Turkey, including the situation of some 15 million people of Kurdish origin, are raised on a regular basis in our contacts with the Turkish Government and its representatives. Together with our EU partners, and the European Commission, we continue to monitor the situation closely, including in the context of the ongoing Turkey-EU accession negotiations.

In recent years Turkey has made significant progress in the adoption of wide-ranging political and legal reforms. Legislation has been enacted aimed at strengthening the cultural rights of all citizens, including those of Kurdish origin. In this context we welcome developments currently under way to provide broadcasting in the Kurdish language.

I am not aware of an approach for assistance from Kurdish groups based in Ireland. However, a London-based Kurdish group has recently been in contact with officials from my Department seeking support for a number of projects, including in relation to research, training, and public awareness. This request is currently under consideration.

Question No. 122 answered with QuestionNo. 68.

Overseas Development Aid.

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

123 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether the AIDS epidemic is one of the most serious issues facing Africa; the views of the Government in relation to this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19744/06]

HIV/AIDS continues to be the single biggest obstacle to reducing poverty and to attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Current statistics from the United Nations Joint Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) indicate that in 2005 almost 40 million people were living with the HIV virus.

Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the worst affected region in the world and is now home to over 25 million adults and children living with HIV. Over 3 million new infections occurred there in 2005, while the epidemic claimed the lives of over 2 million adults and children in the same year. Women outnumber men among people living with the disease. Women and girls make up almost 57% of adults living with HIV in Africa and 11 million children in this region have lost one or both parents to AIDS.

Ireland has a very strong commitment to addressing HIV/AIDS. It is a key priority for Irish Aid's policies and programmes. We were one of the first donors to develop a HIV/AIDS strategy which has served us well in guiding our response to this crisis. We have continually worked to ensure that the issue is high on the agenda of the EU and UN's Funds and Programmes.

At a global level, Ireland is supporting a number of multilateral organisations and initiatives, including UNAIDS, the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and the International Partnership on Microbicides. The Government is also working with the Clinton Foundation to assist in the preparation of integrated HIV and AIDS treatment, care and prevention programmes. We are also supporting a regional HIV/AIDS programme for Southern and Eastern Africa. Our development programme is working to strengthen government capacity to respond to HIV/AIDS in all our Programme Countries and in South Africa. It is also supporting Non-Governmental and Faith-Based Organisations in their work to deliver home-based care and support children orphaned as a result of the pandemic.

I will ensure that the fight against HIV and AIDS and other communicable diseases will remain a top priority for the expanding aid programme. Following o n the commitment given by the Taoiseach at the High Level Meeting at the United Nations last September to provide additional funding to tackle HIV/AIDS and other global communicable diseases, I have increased the budget for tackling these diseases to €100 million this year. We will use these additional funds to build on existing partnerships at international and regional level. We will also increase support to our bilateral country partners in Africa as they scale up to provide increased access to HIV prevention, treatment and care services.

Next month, I will accompany the Taoiseach to the review of the United Nations Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS in New York. The presence of the Taoiseach at this event indicates the importance which the Government affords to the global fight against HIV/AIDS and its determination to remain at the forefront of the international response.

Nuclear Disarmament Initiative.

Michael Noonan

Ceist:

124 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has communicated the concerns of Ireland regarding nuclear proliferation to those countries which have refused to become a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19572/06]

Ireland has a long-standing policy of support for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), going back to Frank Aiken's initiative almost fifty years ago, and attaches the utmost importance to its universalisation. India, Pakistan and Israel are the only three countries that have not acceded to the NPT.

At the NPT Review Conference in New York last May, I stated that it was a matter of serious concern that India, Israel and Pakistan continue to remain outside the NPT regime and I urged them to accede to the Treaty unconditionally and at an early date. Such a call has also been made in recent statements by the European Union.

In addition, Ireland, with our partners in the New Agenda Coalition, introduced a resolution on the NPT to the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly last October. A paragraph in the resolution that urged India, Israel and Pakistan to accede to the Treaty was supported by 148 countries. Last December, when the issue was taken up in the Plenary of the General Assembly, some 158 UN Member States endorsed this call. Pakistan voted against that paragraph of the resolution at the First Committee but abstained during the Plenary while India and Israel voted against the resolution on both occasions.

Ireland will continue to avail of every opportunity nationally, within the EU, within the New Agenda Coalition (NAC) and at the United Nations to call for the adherence of these countries to the Treaty.

Question No. 125 answered with QuestionNo. 75.
Question No. 126 answered with QuestionNo. 89.

Diplomatic Representation.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

127 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the contact as he has had with the recently elected Government of Bolivia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19710/06]

I have not personally had contacts with President Morales or with members of his Administration since his and the MAS party's successes in the presidential and legislative elections held in Bolivia in December 2005. Ireland's Ambassador to Argentina attended the inauguration of President Morales in La Paz on 22 January 2006 and conveyed to him the best wishes of the Government.

In addition, the Taoiseach and Minister of State Noel Treacy attended the IV EU-Latin America and Caribbean Summit in Vienna on 11-12 May, in which President Morales also participated.

Question No. 128 answered with QuestionNo. 72.

European Council Meetings.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

129 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the most recent EU Council of Ministers meeting; the contribution which Ireland made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19715/06]

Ireland was represented at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 15 May by my colleagues Mr Noel Treacy, T.D. Minister for European Affairs and Mr Willie O'Dea T.D., Minister for Defence.

The Council had a preliminary discussion on the draft annotated agenda for the June European Council. This Council will focus on the Future of Europe. Ireland broadly welcomed the Presidency's approach to the Council. Draft conclusions have now been issued by the Presidency and these will form the basis of discussion by officials between now and the next GAERC on 12 June.

The external affairs agenda included discussions on issues relating to the European Security and Defence Policy and was therefore attended, as is normal practice, by Defence Ministers as well as Foreign Ministers. The joint session of Foreign and Defence Ministers adopted Conclusions on the issues of Civil Military coordination, Security Sector Reform in the Western Balkans and Emergency and Crisis Response. Ministers heard a presentation from the former French Foreign Minister and European Commissioner, Michel Barnier on options for further developing EU capabilities to respond to large-scale natural disasters. In addition, Defence Ministers also met separately to discuss a number of issues including the forthcoming EU military crisis management mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the European Defence Agency.

The Council also held discussions on the Western Balkans, focusing in particular on Serbia and Montenegro as well as the recent political developments in Nepal and preparations for the EU-Russia Summit. A broad-ranging discussion took place on African issues and Conclusions were adopted on Sudan, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Côte d'Ivoire.

Over lunch, the Council discussed the Middle East Peace Process, Iraq and Iran. On Iraq, the Council warmly welcomed progress made towards forming a government of national unity and expressed readiness to engage actively with the new government in order to achieve a secure, prosperous and democratic Iraq. On the Middle East, Ministers adopted Conclusions committing the EU to a lead role in the creation of the Temporary International Mechanism to channel international assistance directly to the Palestinian people. The Council also called on Iran to cooperate fully with the IAEA and expressed full support for the UN Security Council's efforts. Ministers reaffirmed that the EU would be prepared to support Iran's development of a safe, sustainable and proliferation-proof civilian nuclear programme, if international concerns were fully addressed and confidence in Iran's intentions established. Over lunch, the Council discussed the Middle East Peace Process, Iraq and Iran. On Iraq, the Council warmly welcomed progress made towards forming a government of national unity and expressed readiness to engage actively with the new government in order to achieve a secure, prosperous and democratic Iraq. On the Middle East, Ministers adopted Conclusions committing the EU to a lead role in the creation of the Temporary International Mechanism to channel international assistance directly to the Palestinian people. The Council also called on Iran to cooperate fully with the IAEA and expressed full support for the UN Security Council's efforts. Ministers reaffirmed that the EU would be prepared to support Iran's development of a safe, sustainable and proliferation-proof civilian nuclear programme, if international concerns were fully addressed and confidence in Iran's intentions established.

Question No. 130 answered with QuestionNo. 68.
Question No. 131 answered with QuestionNo. 75.
Question No. 132 answered with QuestionNo. 89.

State Airports.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

133 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the fact that many of the latest reports confirm that flights which have stopped in Shannon have also been used for rendition purposes; and his further views on whether this represents a breach of International law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19746/06]

The Government is satisfied that it is fully in compliance with its obligations under international law in regard to the issue of extraordinary renditions.

In relation to the landing at Shannon airport of aircraft alleged to have been used for extraordinary rendition purposes, I would point out that these allegations are based on the retrospective imposition of a pattern of movement on flight data some considerable time after the fact. They do not involve any claim of illegal activity on Irish territory. In this regard, as I have repeatedly stated in the House, the Government has received categorical and unambiguous assurances from the US authorities that prisoners have not been transferred through Irish territory, and would not be, without our permission.

Question No. 134 answered with QuestionNo. 64.

International Agreements.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

135 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Ireland’s position in relation to the statement by the United States of America that it proposes to institute sanctions against the Government of Venezuela. [19709/06]

The decision by the US Government to impose sanctions banning sales of and licences for the export of their defence equipment and services to Venezuela is a bilateral issue between these two countries.

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

136 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, on foot of his undertaking given on 25 January 2006 that Irish signature and ratification of the 1990 United Nations International Convention on the Protection of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families would be kept under review, the Government is in a position to indicate when it will sign and ratify the Convention. [19735/06]

As I have indicated to the House, most recently on 25 April 2006, the case for ratification of this Convention has been examined by my Department in conjunction with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, which has lead responsibility on the issue.

As previously indicated, the rights of migrant workers and their families are already protected under existing national legislation and under the Irish Constitution, as well as under EU law. In addition, the rights of migrant workers and their families are also addressed by Ireland's commitments under international human rights instruments to which the State is already a party. These international instruments include, for example, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The Convention referred to in the Deputy's question was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1990, and it entered into force on 1 July 2003, following ratification by the requisite number of States (20). The Convention has been open for signature and ratification since December 1990. However, to date only 34 States have ratified it. No European Union Member State has as yet signed or ratified the Convention, nor has any indicated an intention to do so.

The position essentially is that, in order for Ireland to ratify the Convention, significant changes would have to be made across a wide range of existing legislation, including legislation addressing employment, social welfare provision, education, taxation and electoral law. These changes would also have implications for our EU commitments. The operation of the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK might also possibly be affected.

There are therefore no plans at present to sign or ratify the Convention, although the situation will continue to be kept under review.

Overseas Recruitment.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

137 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the policy of Ireland in relation to the poaching of African health care workers by western governments from the national health service of such countries as Malawi and Zambia which have less that one health worker per thousand of population. [19705/06]

Many developing countries, especially in Africa, are experiencing an acute shortage of health workers. They have insufficient health workers to provide even the most basic services to their citizens.

There is clear evidence today that a low density of health workers results in poor health outcomes. Without a strong health workforce, advances in health care cannot reach and benefit the people who need them. Unless the situation is addressed in these countries, they have little prospect of controlling diseases such as HIV/AIDS or TB, or improving the health of women and children.

In Africa, the health worker shortage is a result of a number of factors, including insufficient investment in training of health workers, poor conditions of service and loss of health workers from AIDS. The problem is compounded by migration of health workers to western countries which need to recruit internationally to meet their own workforce shortage.

The Government is opposed to poaching of health workers by active recruitment measures in countries where this would undermine the provision of essential health services. We are responding in a way that takes account of the rights of health workers to travel and seek employment in other countries. Our main approach to address this issue is through good recruitment practices — managing international recruitment of health workers in a way that does not compound the workforce problem in the poorest countries.

The Government has already developed some measures for good recruitment practice. In 2001, the Department of Health and Children developed a document on Guidance for Best Practice on the Recruitment of Overseas Nurses and Midwives. This includes recruitment from non-EU countries.

On World Health Day this year, the 7th April, the Government joined with the EU Member States in expressing its commitment to act in solidarity with those developing countries hardest hit by shortages of nurses, doctors and other health workers. The Government will work with other States to develop an EU Action Plan which will include the development and implementation of an EU Code of Conduct for ethical recruitment of health workers.

Question No. 138 answered with QuestionNo. 72.
Question No. 139 answered with QuestionNo. 113.
Question No. 140 answered with QuestionNo. 76.
Question No. 141 answered with QuestionNo. 117.

Overseas Missions.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

142 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position with regard to Irish participation in new EU battle group formations; the Irish commitment to be given to the Nordic battle group formation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19561/06]

The ambition of the EU to be able to respond quickly to emerging crises has, and continues to be, a key objective of the development of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). An important aspect of ESDP is the development of a standby military rapid response capacity, in the form of Battlegroups. Almost all EU Member States have already made a commitment to contribute to a specific battlegroup formation. Apart from Ireland, the only countries which have not done so are Denmark, which is in a special position due to its opt-out in this area, and Malta. Ireland has indicated to its EU partners a positive disposition to taking part in battlegroups.

As I have previously reported to the House, a delegation consisting of representatives from the Departments of Defence and Foreign Affairs and the Defence Forces met with their Swedish counterparts in Stockholm on 10 March to discuss possible participation by the Defence Forces in the Nordic battlegroup, which is due to be on standby during the first half of 2008. Our representatives outlined Ireland's position in relation to battlegroup participation and international peacekeeping generally and gave a presentation on the capabilities which Ireland could make available to a battlegroup.

This offer is still being formally considered by Sweden, which is the Framework Nation for the Nordic battlegroup, and its partners. However, I understand from my colleague the Minister for Defence, that the feedback from Sweden's consultations with its partners on the possibility of Irish participation in the Nordic battlegroup was positive and that discussions are intensifying at official level with a view to an early and positive conclusion. Any decision on a specific contribution to the Nordic, or any other, battlegroup would be subject to formal Government approval.

Nuclear Disarmament Initiative.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

143 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps being taken to promote the updating of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty at international level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19571/06]

Ireland has a particularly close association with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which came into existence following an initiative taken by the late Frank Aiken. His pioneering efforts were duly recognised when Ireland was invited in 1968 to be the first country to sign the Treaty after it had been negotiated. Since then, support for the Treaty has been our highest priority in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation.

At the Review Conference last May, there were a number of specific proposals on actions that States Parties might take to meet the challenges confronting the Treaty. Regrettably, the Conference ended without agreement on substantive conclusions and recommendations on how to strengthen the non-proliferation regime.

The next scheduled Review Conference of the NPT will not take place until 2010. It will be preceded by a series of preparatory meetings beginning in 2007. Ireland will in the meantime continue to work with like-minded countries in identifying areas where implementation of the Treaty can be strengthened. I made clear, including in my address to the United Nations General Assembly last September, the Government's deep disappointment at this outcome. This was a missed opportunity for the international community to tackle some key threats to global peace and security and to agree an effective collective response. We are firmly of the view that the NPT is now more than ever of tremendous importance to the achievement of international peace and security. Action to strengthen the Treaty, and ensure full respect for all its provisions, remains essential and we will spare no effort in pursuit of this objective.

Ireland is committed to the full implementation of the NPT and, in particular, believes that the 13 practical steps outlined in the Outcome Document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference set out a clear road by which the objective of nuclear disarmament can be achieved. In Geneva last March, the Permanent Representative of Ireland to the Conference on Disarmament reiterated the Irish position with regard to the NPT and emphasised the need for greater transparency on the part of the Nuclear Weapons States in their respective nuclear disarmament processes.

Most recently, we have committed ourselves to co-funding a seminar on NPT issues organised by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR). The seminar is taking place in Geneva on 23-24 May and will examine such issues as compliance, nuclear disarmament measures and possible ways to strengthen the Treaty. We also intend to participate in a discussion of nuclear disarmament obligations, set out in Article VI of the Treaty, in a seminar organised by non-governmental organisations scheduled to take place in Canada next September.

Rapid Response Initiative.

John Deasy

Ceist:

144 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress with regard to the establishment of a voluntary humanitarian corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19555/06]

The Rapid Response Initiative is designed to strengthen Ireland's operational response to humanitarian crises. In the context of the overwhelming public response to the Tsunami of December 2004, I believe that Ireland can and should do more to help in responding operationally to sudden-onset emergencies.

The Rapid Response Initiative will have three main components: the pre-positioning and transportation of humanitarian supplies to disaster areas; the availability of a roster of highly skilled and experienced individuals for deployment at short notice; and enhancing our support for international humanitarian response agencies and mechanisms.

With particular reference to the rapid response register, discussions in this regard have taken place over the last number of weeks with a number of United Nations agencies, including United Nations Volunteers (UNV), the World Food Programme, the UN Joint Logistics Centre (UNJLC), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

These organisations all use, to varying degrees, stand-by arrangements within their own and other organisations to enable them to take on extra staff capacity in the event of a sudden on-set humanitarian emergency. Ireland will seek to complement these arrangements with the provision of experts from our own roster. I am conscious that if the register is to be successful in the longer term, it will need to be carefully and professionally managed.

Our Rapid Response Register will comprise a range of experts of a profile typically required to meet surge requirements such as experts on logistics and transport, ICT, refugee camp management and engineering. They will have the flexibility to deploy quickly and the ability to work in the complex and demanding environment of humanitarian crises with UN agencies and NGOs. The profile of such experts is being developed on the basis of consultation with our key partner agencies and NGOs. Proposals on the recommended course of action with regard to the rapid response register will be brought forward shortly.

As part of the initiative, my Department is also, obviously, in close contact with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) working in emergencies. I believe there is an important opportunity for this Rapid Response Initiative to enable an ever stronger collaboration between Government and NGOs in providing a distinctly Irish response to emergencies that includes the full range of assistance required — funding, experts and humanitarian supplies.

Question No. 145 answered with QuestionNo. 75.
Question No. 146 answered with QuestionNo. 64.
Question No. 147 answered with QuestionNo. 60.
Question No. 148 answered with QuestionNo. 63.
Question No. 149 answered with QuestionNo. 109.
Question No. 150 answered with QuestionNo. 60.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

151 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has raised the question of the Kyoto Protocol and global warming in discussions with his counterparts from other countries; when and the context in which he raised these issues; his views on whether this is the biggest challenge facing humanity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19741/06]

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol fall under the remit of my colleague Dick Roche T.D., Minister for the Environment and Local Government. However, I am happy to make a statement on the issue from the perspective of our development co-operation programme and the potential impact of climate change on developing countries.

I believe that climate change is probably the greatest environmental challenge facing humanity in the coming years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment Report is due out next year, and we must await its findings to obtain the most up-to-date assessment of the risks posed by climate change.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is primarily the responsibility of developed countries. The challenge for developing countries is to adapt to these inevitable changes in climate. They will impact on human health, nutrition and food security as well as physical infrastructure. Poor countries and especially their poorest people, are most vulnerable to its effects. In this regard, sub-Saharan Africa is likely to suffer significantly.

The Least Developed Country Fund of the UNFCCC, to which Ireland was one of the first contributors, has financed the preparation of National Adaptation Programmes of Action in Least Developed Countries, and the process of their preparation has increased awareness of climate change amongst key officials.

Our approach to the challenge of climate change in developing countries will be outlined in the forthcoming White Paper on Development Co-operation. Our strategy will be to assist developing countries to prepare for, and adapt to, changing environmental conditions and to promote knowledge about the impact of climate change and its integration into all development planning.

At present, Ireland supports the UN Climate Change Capacity Development Programme, which builds the capacity of decision-makers in developing countries to plan for climate change.

Other examples of climate change actions we support, in collaboration with the Department of the Environment and Local Government include: €1.7 million each year starting in 2005 for the Least Developed Countries Fund, used to address the most urgent adaptation issues highlighted in National Adaptation Plans of Action; €500,000 a year from 2005 which we contribute to the Special Climate Change Fund to support adaptation activities in developing countries and to facilitate transfer of environmentally sound technologies; support for the participation of developing country representatives in the climate change negotiations and support for the Least Developed Countries Expert Group, which advises Least Developed Countries on planning for climate change.

Official Engagements.

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

152 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on his recent visit to Japan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19543/06]

Accompanied by an official delegation, I made a working visit to Japan on 9 and 10 May. The key objectives for the visit were to take forward the Ireland-Japan bilateral agenda, including on political, economic and regulatory issues and to promote business links between the two countries. The visit also afforded a valuable opportunity for an exchange of views on the range of current international issues of interest to both countries.

The central element of the visit was my meeting and working dinner with Foreign Minister Aso. Minister Aso was accompanied by Junior Minister Yamanaka, who has responsibility for Europe. Our talks covered a wide range of issues, including political and economic relations, East Asian Regional issues, UN and current international issues. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Ireland and Japan, and we agreed that both sides should work on proposals to mark this important occasion.

During our talks I briefed Minister Aso on recent developments in the Irish economy and the prospects for further developing the growing business links between Ireland and Japan. We both welcomed the progress being made towards finalisation of a bilateral Working Holiday Visa Programme, which will boost two-way youth exchange, and the re-introduction of the Intra-company transfer scheme to help facilitate Japanese business transfers. I raised the issue of market access to Japan for Irish beef and oysters.

On regional and international issues, we discussed Japan's relations with China, the Six-Party Talks process in the Korean peninsula, the Iran Nuclear issue, the proposed US-India Agreement on civilian nuclear technology and the situation in Burma/Myanmar. We also discussed UN issues. The opportunity to hear at first hand the Japanese viewpoint on current issues and challenges was most useful.

I also addressed the Japan Ireland Economic Association, where I met over 100 prominent business people and highlighted Ireland as a place to do business and the promotion of Irish Foreign Direct Investment into Japan. I availed of this occasion to make a presentation on behalf of the Taoiseach to Mr. Toshiro Shimoyama, former Chairman of Olympus Corporation, for his personal contribution to Japan-Ireland relations and for the investment in Ireland by Olympus, which has operated a life sciences facility in County Clare since 1982. A most useful meeting during my visit was with 13 members of the Japanese Diet, including former Justice Minister Ms Moriyama, who is the founder of the Japan-Ireland Parliamentary Friendship League.

Question No. 153 answered with QuestionNo. 119.
Question No. 154 answered with QuestionNo. 111.
Question No. 155 answered with QuestionNo. 75.
Question No. 156 answered with QuestionNo. 85.
Question No. 157 answered with QuestionNo. 73.
Question No. 158 answered with QuestionNo. 107.

Democratisation Process.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

159 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the significance of the boycotting by the main opposition parties of the elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo on the grounds of lack of progress in relation to demilitarisation and the requirements of adequate voter registration procedures. [19703/06]

Presidential and parliamentary elections are now scheduled to take place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on 30 July 2006. These will be the first multi-party elections in the DRC since it gained independence in 1960. A total of 33 candidates will contest the presidency, while some 260 political parties and over 9,300 candidates will compete for the 500 legislative seats in the new parliament. Over 25 million people out of an estimated potential electorate of 28 million have registered to vote.

Successfully conducted elections are absolutely critical to the consolidation of peace and security in the DRC and in the Great Lakes region as a whole. The General Affairs and External Relations Council, at its meeting in Brussels on 15 May 2006, welcomed the decision to proceed with the elections on 30 July and reiterated the importance of as inclusive an electoral process as possible, as the best guarantee of future political stability. The Council also made clear that, in its estimation, the conditions have now been created to enable all those who wish to participate fully in the election to do so.

In this light, it is disappointing that the Union Pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social (UDPS) and its leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, have decided not to participate in the elections. It is essential that all parties in the DRC should respect the verdict of the Congolese people, when delivered on 30 July, and work together subsequently to further national reconciliation and build a more stable and prosperous country. Greater progress in both disarming any remaining unlawful militias in eastern DRC and the building of properly integrated national army and police forces will, in particular, continue to be major priorities for the newly elected President and Government.

The international community, including Ireland and its EU partners, is investing heavily in ensuring that the forthcoming elections are successful, given the major organisational challenge that they represent for a country the size of western Europe with extremely poor basic infrastructure and ongoing security problems. The EU and its Member States are contributing some €235 million towards the overall cost of the elections, which are estimated at well over $300 million. Ireland is allocating some €1.3 million in funding support for the electoral process, including €800,000 to support the role of the South African Independent Electoral Commission in the organisation of the elections. The European Commission has also decided in principle to deploy a 250-strong electoral observation mission, provided security conditions permit. The EU is also deploying, at UN request, the EUFOR RDC mission to provide support, if required, to the UN MONUC peace-keeping mission during the electoral period. The Government has decided to provide up to ten Permanent Defence Force personnel to serve with the EUFOR mission, in addition to the three Irish military personnel already serving with MONUC.

Nuclear Plants.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

160 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on recent media reports that Prime Minister Blair has endorsed a new generation of nuclear power plants in the United Kingdom; if he and his Department have expressed their reaction and concern to the British Government; if the possible locations of new power plants has been divulged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19728/06]

As the House will be aware, the Government are strongly opposed to nuclear power. We consider that the industry carries serious environmental, health and safety risks. Our position is informed by our experience of Sellafield, where there is a long history of low safety standards.

The proposal for a new generation of nuclear power plants in the United Kingdom is being considered in the context of the British Government's energy review, which is expected to be published in mid-year. We are aware also of Prime Minister Blair's recent comments on the matter. My colleague the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dick Roche, T.D. has made a contribution to the UK energy review in which the strong concerns of the Government were outlined clearly.

While no decision has been made as to where any new nuclear power plants might be built, I addressed this matter at a recent meeting with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr. Peter Hain. I reiterated our opposition to nuclear power, and I stressed that the Irish Government would be completely opposed to the building of any nuclear plants on the island of Ireland. The Northern Secretary acknowledged that there was no support, North or South, for the siting of a nuclear reactor on the island of Ireland.

Both Minister Roche and I will be attending a summit meeting of the British Irish Council in London on 2 June. While the main topic of the summit will be Climate Change, we also intend to raise the issue of cooperation on nuclear safety and emergency planning.

Question No. 161 answered with QuestionNo. 85.
Question No. 162 answered with QuestionNo. 66.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

163 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs further to his interview in a newspaper (details supplied) 9 May 2006 if he will clarify his views on IRA criminality; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19723/06]

My position on the IRA is widely-known and consistent. The IRA campaign caused needless death, helped to perpetuate partition and severely damaged the economies of northern and border counties of our island. It was conducted against the will of the Irish people.

In the interview to which the Deputy refers, I made clear that the available security advice indicated that the IRA was no longer a security threat to the State and that it was committed to the political path. This concurs with the latest report of the Independent Monitoring Commission in which it reiterated "its absolutely clear view" that the IRA leadership had committed itself to following a peaceful path. It confirmed that "the IRA leadership continues to work to ensure full compliance" with its statement of 25 July 2005. The report also indicated that there had been a complete absence of terrorist or violent activity on the part of the IRA in the period under review. Although there were indications that some IRA members might still be involved in crime, the IMC drew a clear distinction between individuals and the organisation itself. The IMC reported its view that the IRA leadership "continues to seek to stop criminal activity by their members and to prevent them from engaging in it". Criminality by members of paramilitary groups will continue to be tackled robustly and without hesitation in this jurisdiction by An Garda Síochána and the Criminal Assets Bureau.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

164 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the most recent report of the Independent Monitoring Commission; his further views on the fact that while IRA paramilitary activity has decreased in recent months, loyalist paramilitaries are still engaged in serious crime and murder; the latest efforts the Government has made to address loyalist paramilitarism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19726/06]

I welcome the findings of the Independent Monitoring Commission in its 10th Report that there has been a continuing downward trend in the level of paramilitary violence, as well as its positive overall assessment in relation to the Provisional IRA. Particularly welcome is the confirmation that there has been a complete absence of terrorist or violent activity on the part of the IRA in this period, with the IMC not aware of any "terrorist, paramilitary or violent activity sanctioned by the leadership". It also reiterates its "absolutely clear view" that the IRA leadership has committed itself to following a peaceful path and that "the IRA leadership continues to work to ensure full compliance" with its statement of July 25th. While overall levels of violence were the lowest for any six month period since the IMC began its monitoring, the violent activities of the loyalist paramilitary groups and dissident republican groups continue to cause real concern. With regard to overall levels of violence, loyalists were responsible for 95% of the casualties of shootings and 76% of the assaults. Most cases of exiling were also carried out by loyalist paramilitaries. The two Governments have been absolutely clear on the need for loyalist paramilitary groups to move away definitively from violence and criminality and to engage with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning with a view to putting arms beyond use.

At the last meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference on 2 May, we again called on all those with influence in this regard to use it to this end. At that meeting, we also discussed the need to support those representatives of the loyalist community who were genuinely committed to positive transformation and leaving paramilitarism behind. We agreed that the Governments had a duty to reach out to all deprived communities in Northern Ireland. In this regard, I welcomed the recent package of measures announced by the British Government to address social and economic deprivation affecting loyalist communities, while also stressing that the allocation of resources should continue to be made on the basis of objective need.

Question No. 165 answered with QuestionNo. 62.
Question No. 166 answered with QuestionNo. 83.
Question No. 167 answered with QuestionNo. 109.

Overseas Missions.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

168 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has received a request for Irish troops to participate in a UN mission to Darfur in the Sudan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19447/06]

As the Deputy may be aware, on 16 May the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1679, which paves the way for a UN force in Darfur and for the transition of the present UN-authorised African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) to UN command. Three Irish military officers are currently serving with the EU support team to AMIS.

The UN Secretary-General has stated that he intends to dispatch, as quickly as possible, a joint UN/AU Technical Assessment Team to Darfur, and is in consultation with the Government of National Unity of Sudan towards that end. While the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations cannot finalise its plans until the Technical Assessment Team reports back, it has been engaged for some time in planning and identifying the military capabilities that may be required, and has commenced consultations with member states, including Ireland, to accelerate the sourcing of these capabilities. A request for Irish participation has not yet, however, been received.

If a request were received from the UN, it would be considered in the first instance by my colleague the Minister for Defence, who would make a recommendation to the Government, taking account, inter alia, of the numbers of Permanent Defence Force personnel available for overseas service at that time. There are currently 765 troops serving overseas, of which 733 are serving in UN-led or UN-authorised missions, out of a total of 850 maintained under the UN Standby Arrangements System (UNSAS). The remainder are serving in representational and staff posts, and in monitoring missions.

Members of the Permanent Defence Force are currently serving overseas in seven UN missions, in Liberia (current total 422), Côte d'Ivoire, Western Sahara, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, and the Middle East, as well as in multi-national forces authorized by the Security Council in Kosovo (213), Bosnia and Herzegovina (60) and Afghanistan (7).

As indicated by the Minister for Defence in a speech on 4 May, the UN Secretary-General has written to the Taoiseach requesting that Ireland consider postponing the withdrawal of its troops from the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) for a period of at least six months beyond the planned withdrawal date of November 2006, because of the importance of the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) of which our troops form the chief component, and of the difficulty of finding a suitable replacement.

The request from Secretary-General Annan received the most serious consideration and I can confirm that the Taoiseach has replied indicating that the Government will give positive consideration to extending the presence of our troops in Liberia to May 2007. In his reply, the Taoiseach also assured the Secretary-General that Ireland remains committed to Peace Support Operations under a UN flag, including in Africa.

Foreign Conflicts.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

169 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in relation to the recognition of the independence of the Sahara-Arab Democratic Republic as envisaged by UN Resolutions in 1974 and subsequent years; if the Government has changed its position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19708/06]

The Government has consistently supported the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination. Ireland played a prominent role in seeking a solution to the Western Sahara issue during its term on the UN Security Council, and remains closely engaged with the issue. There has been no change in the position of the Government as regards recognition. Successive Governments have taken the view that a Saharan state that meets the internationally recognised criteria for recognition has not yet come into being. The question of recognition by Ireland does not therefore arise. In addition, any announcement of recognition in these circumstances would prejudge the outcome of an exercise of self-determination. It could undermine the UN efforts to bring about a solution, which the Government strongly supports.

Community Development.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

170 Mr. O’Shea asked the Taoiseach the additional funding spent in the targeted areas of disadvantage in the State under the RAPID programme on projects not outlined in the National Development Plan by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19914/06]

My Department does not fund any projects under the RAPID programme.

Health Services.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

171 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals in regard to a public private partnership for the provision of radiotherapy services on the grounds of Waterford Regional Hospital (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19775/06]

The Government's plan is for a national network of radiation oncology services to be put in place by 2011. The network will consist of four large centres in Dublin, Cork and Galway and two integrated satellite centres at Waterford Regional Hospital and Limerick Regional Hospital, conditional on their conformity to certain quality assurance arrangements.

The Health Service Executive in association with the National Development Finance Agency and my Department is currently developing the output specifications for the delivery of this network through a public private partnership. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to advise the Deputy in relation to progress on the provision of radiotherapy at Waterford Regional Hospital.

Proposed Legislation.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

172 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on correspondence (details supplied); the action or meetings her Department has had or proposes to have in regard to addressing the matter; the number of meetings she or her officials have had with the group; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20058/06]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

173 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views in regard to correspondence (details supplied); the action or meetings her Department has had or proposes in regard to addressing the matter; the meetings with the group that she or her officials have had; the action or proposed action of such meetings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20059/06]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

181 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on correspondence (details attached); the action she is taking to address the matter; the meetings she or her Department have had with the group; the results of such meetings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19935/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

187 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has received correspondence from a group (details supplied) in Dublin 2; her plans to address the issue at an early date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20027/06]

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

189 Ms Harkin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the proposed Insurance Bill for persons infected with HIV or hepatitis C through provision of contaminated blood or blood products by the State will be enacted. [20036/06]

Liam Twomey

Ceist:

191 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the legislation for the insurance scheme for persons infected with hepatitis C or HIV through provision of contaminated blood or blood products by the State will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20041/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 172, 173, 181, 187, 189 and 191 together.

I wish to assure the Deputies that I am committed to ensuring that an insurance scheme for persons infected with Hepatitis C and HIV through the administration of blood and blood products within the State is established on a statutory basis as soon as possible. The legislation is included as a priority in the Government's Legislative Programme for the current session and it is my firm intention that the enabling legislation will be enacted before the summer recess.

The process of drafting the legislation, which is both complex and innovative, is almost complete. As soon as I receive the final agreed text from my legal advisors I will submit it to the Government for approval and will publish it as soon as Government approval is received.

My officials have worked closely on the provisions of the insurance scheme with the groups representing persons infected with Hepatitis C and HIV, and I have also met the groups on this and other matters. In relation to the enquiries from the Deputies regarding further meetings, I will set a date to meet the representative groups as soon as I have the final text of the legislation.

Youth Services.

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

174 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the future of six community based youth projects in Donegal comprising of approximately 4,000 young people and up to 1,000 adult volunteers, is at serious risk due to the lack of mainstream funding; and the timeframe for the roll-out of the Youth Act 2001 in Donegal and the other Border counties. [19778/06]

The Youth Act 2001 is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science. Clarification was sought from the Deputy's office and I understand that the various projects referred to in the question have been in receipt of funding from a number of different organisations/bodies including the Health Service Executive. As such 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 in respect of the funding supplied by the HSE.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

175 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry who is currently awaiting an appointment for treatment under the treatment abroad scheme can expect a response from the Health Service Executive. [19779/06]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Liam Aylward

Ceist:

176 Mr. Aylward asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the long delay in having children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder assessed by the autism team in the south eastern Health Service Executive area where the services are inadequate for people with the disorder; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19780/06]

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.

Mental Health Services.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

177 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a great need for the provision of psychiatrists and psychologists in prisons here due to the high number of young males currently in prisons here and the fact that when they are released there has been no rehabilitation carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19781/06]

The Central Mental Hospital (CMH), Dundrum, Co Dublin provides a forensic service for the entire country. The CMH, as national forensic psychiatric hospital, admits patients from the criminal justice system (mainly from prisons) and from the psychiatric services under the provisions of the Mental Treatment Act, 1945. In addition to in-patient care, the hospital provides a consultative assessment service for hospitals throughout the country and for the criminal justice system. The service is funded and administered by the Health Service Executive.

The CMH admits approximately 80 involuntary patients per year, the majority from the prison system. This constitutes 0.7 per cent of all committals to prison (11,620 per annum). In addition to in-patient services based at the CMH, consultant-led liaison services and outpatient clinics are provided on a regular basis to prisons in Dublin and the midlands.

Additional forensic psychiatric posts were approved for the CMH in recent years with a view to providing in-reach services within the prisons so that only those with severe mental illness and in need of appropriate hospital care would be transferred to the CMH. The number of Consultant Forensic Psychiatric posts in the CMH has increased from 2 to 5 since 2002.

The provision of in-reach services to the prisons by the CMH has facilitated patient access to services at local level for those in prison custody. These services now employ 20 staff to provide this service (5 Social Workers, 7 Occupational Therapists, 3 Psychologists and 5 Forensic Community Psychiatric Nurses).

The HSE works in collaboration with the prison authorities in Cork where a consultant forensic psychiatrist is available to prisoners and in July of this year a new consultant psychiatrist will be appointed with dedicated sessions to meet the mental health needs of prisoners at Limerick.

For prisoners in Mountjoy, Cloverhill and Wheatfield prisons who have a history of addiction, the HSE also makes available the specialist services of consultant psychiatrists with a special interest in substance misuse.

Consultancy Contracts.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

178 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will furnish a reply to Parliamentary Question No. 389 of 25 January 2006; the reason for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19793/06]

The information, requested in Question 389 of 25 January 2006, relates to a range of service areas over an extended period. My Department is finalising the collation of the information requested by the Deputy with a view to furnishing a reply to the Deputy as soon as possible.

National Development Plan.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

179 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the additional funding spent in the targeted areas of disadvantage in the State under the RAPID programme on projects not outlined in the National Development Plan by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19915/06]

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 Service Reform.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

180 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of redundancies that occurred within the Health Service Executive system as a result of the changes from the health board system to the Health Service Executive; the cost to her Department or Exchequer as a result of the redundancies; the positions held within the health board by those made redundant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19934/06]

The Deputy's question relates to human resource management issues within the Health Service Executive. As these are matters for the Executive under the Health Act 2004, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have them investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 181 answered with QuestionNo. 172.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

182 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Carlow will receive an appointment for an operation under the national treatment purchase scheme or in a public sector hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19936/06]

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 Services.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

183 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will increase the level of funding being made available to a service (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in view of the financial pressure the service is now under; the amount of funding allocated to the project over the past four years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19937/06]

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.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

184 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in arranging an appointment with the ENT team at Waterford Regional Hospital in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will expedite a response. [19938/06]

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 Services.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

185 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress to date in providing an extension to a health centre (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if the land is available; if planning permission has been granted; if the funds are available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19996/06]

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.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

186 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a waiting list of four months for an eye test in County Mayo; the reason for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19997/06]

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. 187 answered with QuestionNo. 172.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

188 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to streamline and make more patient-friendly the procedures surrounding private nursing home subventions and enhanced subventions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20035/06]

The Nursing Home (Subvention) Regulations 1993 are administered by the Health Service Executive. There are currently three rates of subvention payable, i.e. €114.30, €152.40 and €190.50 for the three levels of dependency which are medium, high and maximum. There are no plans to increase the subvention rates at present. Additional funding of €20 million was provided for the administration of the Nursing Home Subvention Scheme in 2006, bringing the total available budget to €161 million. The €20 million is to support more basic nursing home subventions and reduce waiting lists for enhanced subventions: it is also to bring more consistency to subventions support throughout the country. The recently published Health (Nursing Homes) (Amendment) Bill 2006 is designed to ensure that the existing subvention scheme for private nursing home care is grounded in primary legislation and to help the HSE to implement the scheme on a standardised basis across the country. The Report of the Long-Term Care Working Group discussed issues relating to the future policy direction of long term care for older people and it is presently being considered by the Government. Any future scheme relating to long term care should be as straightforward as possible and avoid unnecessary complexities.

Question No. 189 answered with QuestionNo. 172.

Health Service Allowances.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

190 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare was refused the disabled persons grant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20040/06]

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. 191 answered with QuestionNo. 172.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

192 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that for all the major fatal diseases, the incidence of premature death among the lower socio-economic groups was far higher than those of the higher-economic groups; and the action she will take in relation to the national health policy. [20044/06]

The Deputy will be aware that the National Health Strategy ‘Quality and Fairness: A Health System for You' and various reports of the Chief Medical Officer, have underlined the links between poverty and ill health, which exist both in an Irish context and internationally.

The National Anti-Poverty Strategy (NAPS) encompasses key elements of the Government's response to the problems of poverty and social exclusion. The Government's 2002 Review of the NAPS Building an Inclusive Society included for the first time targets to reduce health inequalities. These targets are being addressed through a range of policy measures and actions set out in the National Health Strategy and associated strategies. Because of the wide range of factors, commonly referred to as the social determinants of health, which affect health status and health inequalities, the National Health Strategy recognises the need for a greater focus on multi-sectoral work and co-ordinated work across Government Departments.

The National Action Plan against Poverty and Social Exclusion for 2003-2005 and an Implementation and Update Report on the Plan published in June 2005 by the Office for Social Inclusion in the Department of Social and Family Affairs, outline some of the policy measures and actions being taken across government departments, including the Department of Health and Children, to improve the position of lower socioeconomic groups and others at risk of social exclusion. The Department is currently working closely with the Office for Social Inclusion in the development of the National Action Plan against Poverty and Social Exclusion 2006-2008.

As part of the restructuring of the Department in the context of the health reform programme, a Social Inclusion Unit was established in October 2005 which has brought together aspects of the Department's co-ordination work on health inequalities and its remit in relation to a number of vulnerable groups. This is facilitating a focused and co-ordinated approach to social inclusion and health inequality issues.

Medical Cards.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

193 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the spouse of a person (details supplied) will be included on their medical card in November 2006; and if she will give maximum support on this matter. [20045/06]

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 Services.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

194 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the estimated number of cases here of women suffering from osteitis pubis; the services available by way of support for such women; if there are consultants with a specialised knowledge of this condition; and if there is anybody within her Department or at Health Service Executive level available to advise women suffering from this condition on the support services available. [20046/06]

Osteitis Pubis is an inflammatory condition often causing pain of the pubic bones of the pelvis. There are a number of causes which give rise to this condition, including sports related injury or overuse, pelvic trauma or surgery and other inflammatory joint conditions. In view of the varied causes of this condition, and that many mild cases go unreported, reliable data on its frequency are not available.

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive to arrange to have the particular issues raised by the Deputy examined, and to have a reply issued directly to him.

Seán Ardagh

Ceist:

195 Mr. Ardagh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there is progress on the provision of occupational therapy services to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 following the matters outlined in correspondence attached. [20047/06]

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.

Special Educational Needs.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

196 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the plans being put in place for young adults with autism in a school (details supplied) in County Wexford, who are now over 18 years of age, to continue with their education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20048/06]

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.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

197 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the accident and emergency services at Mallow General Hospital, Mallow, County Cork are among the 35 designated units within the health services. [20060/06]

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.

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

198 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the expenditure incurred to date within the accident and emergency department at Cork University Hospital, Wilton, Cork; and the proposal for future expenditure. [20061/06]

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 Services.

Joe Sherlock

Ceist:

199 Mr. Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether without a 24 hour acute medical, surgical, accident and emergency consultant cover at Mallow General Hospital, some patients would be up to two hours from acute trauma or medical care which is unacceptable by international standards. [20062/06]

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.

Garda Stations.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

200 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if a new site has been found for the Garda station in Buncrana, County Donegal. [19783/06]

A brief of requirements for the proposed new Garda Station in Buncrana was received from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on 29th March, 2006. An Architectural Report is being prepared to determine if the brief of requirements can be accommodated on a portion of the decentralisation site for the Department of Social and Family Affairs. This report is virtually completed.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

201 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if he will ensure that the residents of lower Main Street, Buncrana, County Donegal will retain their right of way when the Garda station is sold. [19784/06]

I have been informed by the Commissioners of Public Works that there are no plans, at present, to sell the existing Garda Station in Buncrana.

Currently, no "right of way" exists on the State owned property at Buncrana Garda Station. The Commissioners understand that a local arrangement was given, by the local Garda Síochána, from time to time as a "gesture of goodwill" to the local residents.

Environmental Policy.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

202 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 235 of 16 May 2006 the range and nature of possible environmental impacts he refers to in the event of removing weeds from the lake in question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19798/06]

Since no work is currently planned in the lake the environmental constraints if any that would affect the removal of weeds have not been assessed. However, experience has shown that removal of vegetation in the course of maintenance work is becoming increasingly environmentally sensitive and such work is only undertaken to the extent that is considered essential.

Community Development.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

203 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Finance the additional funding spent in the targeted areas of disadvantage in the State under the RAPID programme on projects not outlined in the national development plan by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19916/06]

As the Deputy will appreciate, in view of my Department's functions, funding for RAPID is not provided through my Department's Vote.

National Development Plan.

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

204 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Finance the profile, actual expenditure, and expenditure versus profile in the Border midlands western region in the national development plan to date in 2006. [20050/06]

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

205 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Finance the amounts of extra expenditure above that committed in the national development plan spent in the Border midlands western region during the lifetime of the current NDP. [20051/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 204 and 205 together.

The most recent expenditure data on the National Development Plan relates to the period to the end of December 2005. This data is set out in Tables 1 and 2. Data for first six months of 2006 will be available at the Autumn 2006 meetings of the Operational Programme Monitoring Committees.

The National Development Plan (NDP) provides an indicative expenditure profile for each of the seven Operational Programmes for the Border, Midland and Western (BMW) and Southern and Eastern (S&E) Regions for each year 2000 to 2006. These Operational Programmes are: Economic and Social Infrastructure, Employment and Human Resources Development, Productive Sector, Border, Midlands and Western, Southern and Eastern, Technical Assistance and the Peace Programme.

The profiles for spending under each Operational Programme were set in 2000 when the Programmes were being prepared and to ensure consistency of reporting, have remained at that level.

Table 1 sets out the indicative total expenditure profiles and the estimated total expenditure incurred under each Operational Programme in the Border, Midland and Western (BMW) Region for the period January 2000 to December 2005.

Table 1 — Total Profiled and Estimated Expenditure in BMW Region

January 2000 to end December 2005

Operational Programme

Original Profile

Estimated Expenditure

Expenditure versus Profile

€m

€m

%

Economic and Social Infrastructure

5,863

5,435

92

Employment & Human Resources Development

3,653

3,449

94

Productive Sector

2,663

786

29

Border, Midlands & Western Regional

3,519

2,273

64

PEACE II & Technical Assistance

146

109

74

Total Expenditure

15,844

12,052

76

Profiles and Expenditure data includes all NDP sources of funding; Exchequer, EU and Private.

I wish to point out that expenditure for the Productive Sector Operational Programme is lower, achieving 29% in the BMW region. There are a number of reasons for this including:

The slowdown in economic activity in the early years of the Programme meant that businesses were not in a position to put forward investment plans to avail of funding;

The ability of industry in the BMW region to absorb funding for Research and Development projects. Also, Research and Development projects usually have a long lead in time between inception and funding requests.

The nature and extent of Third Level infrastructure in place in the BMW region. While there is one University and a number of Institutes of Technology, the ability of the region to carry out Research and Development projects is constrained.

There were delays in getting State Aid clearance resulting in the late start to funding some schemes.

The Exchequer profile and estimated Exchequer expenditure incurred under each operational programme in the BMW Region for the period January 2000 to December 2005 is set out in Table 2.

Table 2 — Profiled and Estimated Exchequer Expenditure in BMW Region

January 2000 to end December 2005

Operational Programme

Original Profile

Estimated Expenditure

Expenditure versus Profile

€m

€m

%

Economic and Social Infrastructure

4,054

4,570

113

Employment & Human Resources Development

3,654

3,495

96

Productive Sector

1,741

600

34

Border, Midlands & Western Regional

2,566

1,920

75

PEACE II & Technical Assistance

146

109

74

Total Expenditure

12,161

10,694

88

It can be seen by the data presented in Table 2 that the Exchequer contribution to the BMW Region under the Economic and Social Infrastructure Operational Programme (ESIOP) has exceeded its original target by €516 million to the end of 2005.

However, a complete picture of extra expenditure in the region, over that committed in the lifetime of the NDP, will not be available until the full year expenditure data for 2006 are analysed and reported at the Spring 2007 meetings of the Operational Programme Monitoring Committees.

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

206 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Finance the profile, actual expenditure and expenditure versus profile in the southern and eastern region in the national development plan to date in 2006. [20052/06]

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

207 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Finance the amounts of extra expenditure above that committed in the National Development Plan spent in the southern and eastern region during the lifetime of the current NDP. [20053/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 206 and 207 together.

The most recent expenditure data on the National Development Plan relates to the period to the end of December 2005. This data is set out in Tables 1 and 2. Data for the first six months of 2006 will be available at the Autumn 2006 meetings of the Operational Programme Monitoring Committees.

The National Development Plan (NDP) provides an indicative expenditure profile for each of the seven Operational Programmes for the Border, Midland and Western (BMW) and Southern and Eastern (S&E) Regions for each year 2000 to 2006. These Operational Programmes are: Economic and Social Infrastructure, Employment and Human Resources Development, Productive Sector, Border, Midlands and Western, Southern and Eastern, Technical Assistance and the Peace Programme.

The profiles for spending under each Operational Programme were set in 2000 when the Programmes were being prepared and to ensure consistency of reporting, have remained at that level.

Table 1 sets out the indicative total expenditure profiles and the estimated total expenditure incurred under each Operational Programme in the Southern and Eastern (S&E) Region for the period January 2000 to December 2005.

Table 1 — Total Profiled and Estimated Expenditure in S&E Region

January 2000 to end December 2005

Operational Programme

Original Profile

Estimated Expenditure

Expenditure versus Profile

€m

€m

%

Economic and Social Infrastructure

16,078

18,266

113

Employment & Human Resources Development

8,568

8,755

102

Productive Sector

4,627

2,405

52

Southern and Eastern Regional

4,694

3,376

72

Technical Assistance

7

6

85

Total

33,967

32,808

96

Profiles and Expenditure data includes all NDP sources of funding; Exchequer, EU and Private.

The Exchequer profile and estimated Exchequer expenditure incurred under each operational programme in the S&E Region for the period January 2000 to December 2005 is set out in Table 2.

Table 2 — Profiled and Estimated Exchequer Expenditure in S&E Region

January 2000 to end December 2005

Operational Programme

Original Profile

Estimated Expenditure

Expenditure versus Profile

€m

€m

%

Economic and Social Infrastructure

10,639

14,434

135

Employment & Human Resources Development

8,568

8,490

99

Productive Sector

3,133

2,072

66

Southern and Eastern Regional

3,388

2,987

88

Technical Assistance

7

7

100

Total

25,735

27,990

108

The data presented in Table 2 shows that the Exchequer contribution to the S&E Region under the NDP has exceeded its original target by €2.25 billion to the end of 2005.

However, a complete picture of extra expenditure in the region, over that committed in the lifetime of the NDP, will not be available until the full year expenditure data for 2006 are analysed and reported at the Spring 2007 meetings of the Operational Programme Monitoring Committees.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

208 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason the renewable energy grants allocated by his Department for home heating projects do not cover wheat burning stoves; if he will expand the remit of the scheme to allow grants for wheat burners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19773/06]

One of the drivers of the Greener Homes scheme is to demonstrate to the consumer that wood fuels can be considered as a realistic alternative to oil and gas in terms of convenience and comfort which has resulted in this focus on wood energy. The wood heating technologies currently eligible under the scheme are those that burn wood pellets or wood chips and meet all relevant EU standards in relation to performance and emissions.

In the case of grain burning boilers and stoves there are additional factors which would need to be taken into consideration including types of specific air pollutants and levels of emission from individual crops.

Community Development.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

209 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the additional funding spent in the targeted areas of disadvantage in the State under the RAPID programme on projects not outlined in the National Development Plan by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19917/06]

The Deputy will be aware that small-scale proposals from communities under the RAPID Programme are responded to through a range of dedicated RAPID funds, which resource projects such as playground developments, small-scale housing estate enhancements, small-scale community health initiatives, equality for women measures and traffic safety measures. My Department has not had any involvement to date in such funding.

Larger scale local proposals under the RAPID Programme are responded to through Government prioritisation of RAPID areas in the use of mainstream departmental resources and in the allocation of funds such as Dormant Accounts. In the former case, projects which are prioritised under the RAPID Programme and which are the subject of applications under NDP schemes administered by my Department would be eligible for any funding for such schemes provided within my Department's budget.

While to date no RAPID projects have been funded under programmes administered by my Department or by its agencies a significant amount of investment has taken place and/or is planned under communications infrastructure, seafood development, fishery harbour infrastructure and coast protection programmes in RAPID designated areas.

Finally, the 2006 Estimate for my Department provides an allocation of €1m, from the Dormant Accounts Fund, for the purpose of supporting programmes and projects tackling social and economic disadvantage. This funding will be allocated by my Department under the Youth Disadvantage Initiatives Measure in respect of IT initiatives for disadvantaged young people. My Department is currently progressing the terms of this scheme.

Fisheries Protection.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

210 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of licences issued for the capture of salmon in Dublin Bay in 2005; the number of recorded salmon killed in 2005 by these methods in the stated area; the number of salmon recorded as caught and tagged by anglers on the River Liffey in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19931/06]

I would refer the Deputy to my answer to his question No. 231 of 22 February 2006.

Electricity Generation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

211 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has received correspondence from a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; if he intends to respond to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19985/06]

I can confirm to the Deputy that I have received the correspondence in question concerning East/West electricity interconnection. It is my policy to respond to all correspondence as soon as possible. A key provision of the Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill proposes to remove a legislative constraint to facilitate regulated electricity interconnection not owned by Electricity Supply Board. Such an interconnection would not be part of the transmission system other than for the purpose of charges for use of the transmission system. The Bill further provides that the construction of an interconnector requires an authorisation granted by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER). The CER may, with my consent, secure the construction of the interconnector by specified means, including by competitive tender, by authorisation granted without a prior competitive tender, or directly by requesting the transmission system operator as part of its development plan. Additionally, the Bill provides that an interconnector operator shall offer access to the interconnector on the basis of published non-discriminatory terms under the oversight and approval of the CER. A dispute appeals mechanism is also provided for.

Fishing Vessel Licences.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

212 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will have their application for a polyvalent licence dealt with. [19986/06]

The Licensing Authority for Sea-Fishing Boats has informed me that they received an application for a Sea Fishing Boat Licence from the person named on 3 May 2006. It is the practice of the Authority to issue a licence offer subject to conditions within 15 working days of receipt of an application which means the licence offer will be issued today at the latest.

Energy Resources.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

213 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the degree of dependence for electricity generation on oil, gas, nuclear or various forms of renewables in each of the EU States in the context of a pan-European electricity grid; the extent to which each country is redefining its energy policy; if the availability of adequate power here will be affected by future developments in Europe with particular reference to economic and environmental needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20012/06]

The information sought by the Deputy in relation to each of the EU Member States is published by the EU Commission in a document entitled Energy and Transport in Figures 2005 and is available from the EU Commission's website. Energy policy across all EU countries is developed taking account of domestic and local influencing factors and is a matter for individual decision by the countries themselves. At an EU-wide level, the development of the EU Energy Green Paper is very much focused on security of supply and long-term sustainability, taking account of rising import dependence and the need to invest in infrastructure. As an island nation on the periphery of Europe, Ireland has an acute interest in these aspects of energy policy. In the longer term, enhanced interconnection with other EU markets will deliver improved security of supply and greater consumer choice. In this context the development of the All-island Energy market and the development of interconnection both North/South and East/West with the UK are important steps in this regard.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

214 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if all wind farm projects in respect of which planning permission and business plans have been submitted and are in order are likely to be included in the current round of approvals announced by his Department in respect of renewable energy; if he has taken into account in the determination of his energy plans the availability of various forms of renewable energy, seeking or awaiting approval and funding; when he expects all such projects to be regularised; if he intends to issue instructions to the Regulator in accordance with legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20013/06]

On the first of this month I launched the next market support mechanism for renewables known as the Renewable Energy Feed In Tariff (REFIT). This new mechanism is a change from the previous programme in that it is a fixed feed in tariff mechanism rather than competitive tendering. REFIT will support the construction of at least a further 400 megawatts of new renewable energy powered electricity generating plant by 2010. Applicants in REFIT must have planning permission and a grid connection offer for their projects and they will be able to contract with any licensed electricity supplier up to the notified fixed prices. The full terms and conditions of REFIT are available on my Department's website,www.dcmnr.ie. The processing of applications for grid connections is a matter for the appropriate grid operator and the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER). I have no statutory function in that process.

Energy Resources.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

215 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources further to Question No. 179 of 29 March 2006, if the information requested has been made available in respect of electricity generation at the plant at Tynagh, County Galway; [20055/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply of 29 March 2006 and subsequent correspondence from my Department of 6 April 2006. My Department checked all records in relation to conditions, costs and other issues relating to the generation, supply or purchase of electricity from the Tynagh Energy plant in County Galway. The completed check disclosed no communication from the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) with me in the matter.

Energy Market Regulation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

216 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if in the context of recent investigations by the European Commission into alleged competition abuses in the electricity and gas sectors, there are implications for the energy industry here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20056/06]

Pending the completion of the European Commission investigations in question it is premature to comment on possible implications, if any, of the outcome of these investigations for the Irish energy industry. A key priority identified by the European Commission is the achievement of a properly functioning internal market for gas and electricity for the benefit of all citizens. Strong competition in energy markets is essential in view of Europe's growing dependency on energy supplies from third countries, rising fuel costs and consolidation among energy companies. Ireland is participating fully in discussions at EU level on a refocused energy policy both to protect our national interests and to ensure market competitiveness is maximised. In this context, Ireland supports the approach being adopted by the Commission and the investigations initiated into alleged competition abuses in the electricity and gas sectors.

Question No. 217 answered with QuestionNo. 75.
Question No. 218 answered with QuestionNo. 68.

Community Development.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

219 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the additional funding spent in the targeted areas of disadvantage in the State under the RAPID programme on projects not outlined in the national development plan by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19918/06]

The RAPID (Revitalising Areas through Planning, Investment and Development) programme is a focused initiative by Government to front-load National Development Plan funding and improve the delivery of services in the most disadvantaged areas in the country. As no proposals from the areas in question have fallen within the remit of the Department of Foreign Affairs, there have been no funding implications for my Department.

Foreign Conflicts.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

220 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if it remains the Government’s position, as published in the travel advice section of his Department’s website on 3 May 2006, that travel to Afghanistan should be avoided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19994/06]

The Department of Foreign Affairs provides travel advice to Irish citizens. This reflects a considered assessment of the risks involved for our citizens travelling to individual countries. The current advice is atwww.foreignaffairs.gov.ie/ services/traveladvice. As stated there, Irish citizens are advised against all non-essential travel to Kabul, and against all travel to other parts of Afghanistan.

Asylum Applications.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

221 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has received a request under section 11 of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended, from a person or body connected with decision making on asylum applications to make inquiries or to furnish information as to the situation in Afghanistan in terms of security, stability of governance and respect for human rights, both generally and with regard to particular parts of the country and sections of the population; and if so, the information furnished in response. [19995/06]

The Department does not have any record of a request to the Minister for Foreign Affairs regarding Afghanistan under section 11 of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended.

Question No. 222 answered with QuestionNo. 113.

EU Integration.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

223 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if in the context of discussions he has had with his EU colleagues or applicant countries, there has appeared an indication of re-nationalisation in terms of the future commitment of the European concept; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20018/06]

It is true to say that the referendum results in France and the Netherlands have given rise to a degree of uncertainty about the future direction of the European Union. As always, there are those who are fundamentally opposed to the very principle of European integration. From my discussions with EU Ministerial colleagues, however, I have found no evidence of any loss of confidence in the European Union. Indeed, there continues to be a widely held belief that the challenges facing Europe are best confronted through concerted action under the auspices of the European Union.

What we need to do is to find ways of making the Union function more effectively and deliver better results for our citizens. European policies such as the CAP, the Structural Funds and the Internal Market, to name but a few, have served Ireland particularly well. The idea of renationalising such conspicuously successful policies lacks credibility and holds no attraction for Ireland or for the other Member States.

Question No. 224 answered with QuestionNo. 89.
Question No. 225 answered with QuestionNo. 80.

Foreign Conflicts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

226 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he and the international community can report progress on matters in Sierra Leone; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20021/06]

Since the civil war ended in 2002, significant progress in the restoration of peace and security has been made in Sierra Leone. Overall, the situation is now stable with presidential and parliamentary elections planned for 2007. The Government of Sierra Leone still faces real challenges in addressing the root causes of the conflict, such as poverty, weak governance and corruption. The political situations in Guinea, Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire are also fragile and have the potential to adversely affect the development of Sierra Leone.

In January 2006, the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) was established to assist the Government to develop and implement a strategy to address the root causes of conflict and to seek to make progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. UNIOSIL is also working to build capacity within the National Electoral Commission with a view to the elections in 2007, and is supporting work on the security sector. The withdrawal of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in December 2005 was a key test as the army and police force of Sierra Leone assumed responsibility for security in the country. The overall situation has been calm since then.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) was established in 2002 to bring to trial ‘those who bear greatest responsibility' for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sierra Leone after 30 November 1996. Ireland has been a strong supporter of the Court since its establishment in 2002 and has contributed nearly €1.5 million to it. This includes €600,000 for 2006. The SCSL has indicted eleven persons associated with all of the civil war factions and ten of these are in the Court's custody. Former president of Liberia, Charles Taylor, was indicted for his support of rebels in Sierra Leone.

In February 2005 an Irish office, accredited from the Embassy in Abuja, was opened to oversee programmes funded in both Sierra Leone and Liberia. It is staffed by a development specialist.

Minister of State for Development and Human Rights, Conor Lenihan TD, attended the Sierra Leone Investment Forum in Freetown on 28-31 March 2006. Since 2000, Ireland has allocated approximately €18 million to Sierra Leone, including almost €3.7 million to date in 2006. This funding has been allocated to activities with a focus on emergency and recovery and has been channelled through NGO partners, UN agencies and to the Sierra Leone Special Court. The programme is currently moving beyond short term initiatives to responding to medium and longer-term recovery needs, in line with the country's Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) and in the context of transition and peace consolidation.

Human Rights Issues.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

227 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which the international community is satisfied in regard to the restoration of peace and observation of human rights in Nigeria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20022/06]

The EU welcomed the peaceful conduct of the last elections in Nigeria, held in 2003, and expressed confidence in the Nigerian Government's commitment to continue improving the quality of democracy and accountability in Nigeria. The next elections are due in 2007.

During the first week of May 2006, the Nigerian National Assembly debated the recommendations of the Conference on Political Reform. An amendment seeking to extend the period of time a person could hold presidential office was defeated. President Obasanjo has accepted the National Assembly's decision and stated that his party will prepare for next year's election on the basis of the constitution.

As part of the reform process being pursued by the current government, a census of population was conducted in April. The data collected in the previous census, in 1991, was widely held to be inaccurate and skewed to favour some regions over others. Preliminary results are expected in June.

Following the return to civilian rule in 1999, a Human Rights Violations Investigation Panel, known as the Oputa Panel, was set up to investigate all gross human rights violations from 1966 until 1999. The Panel concluded its hearings in 2001 and published its 30,000 page report in May 2002. The Government has also established the National Action Plan for Human Rights Steering Committee and Coordinating Committee to assess, report on and make recommendations in relation to human rights in Nigeria.

Since 1999, Nigeria has played a leadership role in advancing the cause of peace both regionally in West Africa and in Africa as a whole. Most recently, President Obasanjo had a close personal involvement in the successful conclusion of the Darfur Peace talks which were hosted by his government in Abuja.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has claimed responsibility for serious incidents in the Niger Delta, including car bomb attacks against security forces and the kidnapping of expatriate oil workers. Federal and State authorities are seeking to address the problems of the Niger Delta through putting in place a long-term development plan for the region. On 18 April, President Obasanjo inaugurated the Presidential Committee on Socio-Economic Development of the Niger Delta which brings together a panel of high level officials to recommend to him specific projects for rapid development of the region in the near future. The President promised that thousands of new jobs will be created in the oil industry, the military and the police, and that a US$1.8 billion motorway will be built. The campaign waged by MEND has contributed to a reduction of at least 20 per cent in Nigerian oil production since the start of the year.

Question No. 228 answered with QuestionNo. 82.

Overseas Development Aid.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

229 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the degree to which international aid and support is achieving its objectives in Chad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20024/06]

The humanitarian situation in eastern Chad, where 350,000 people are dependent on the assistance of aid agencies, is a source of ongoing concern. Approximately 200,000 refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan, which borders Chad, are living in eastern Chad since 2003. Host communities in this region are themselves highly vulnerable to humanitarian crisis. The refugee population is also vulnerable to skirmishes which are ongoing on the Chad-Sudan boarder.

Insecurity is a major problem along the 1,000 kilometre desert border between Chad and Sudan, which have very strained relations due to the destabilising effects of the Darfur conflict. Jan Egeland, the UN's Emergency Relief Coordinator, has warned that unless the security situation improves drastically, aid agencies will be forced to withdraw.

To date in 2006, Ireland has provided funding of €750,000 towards the UN Consolidated Appeal for Chad. This has included €500,000 to UNHCR, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, for assistance to Sudanese refugees in Chad and a further €250,000 to UNOCHA, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, for its activities in Chad designed to assist with early warning, planning and preparation for emergency relief. This support recognises the regional vulnerabilities which have arisen due to the spill-over of the crisis in Darfur into neighbouring countries. We hope that in time and with widespread local support and effective implementation, the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement will bring with it peace and security to the region. I can assure the Deputy that, in the interim, I continue to closely monitor the humanitarian situation in Chad and surrounding countries.

Foreign Conflicts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

230 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the degree to which stability is being restored in Liberia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20025/06]

Liberia has made remarkable progress since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of August 2003. The parliamentary and presidential elections held in October 2005 marked the return of democracy to the country after 14 years of civil war. However, like other countries in the Mano River region, Liberia's stability remains fragile and could be adversely affected by political developments in neighbouring Sierra Leone, Guinea or Côte d'Ivoire.

Minister of State for Development and Human Rights, Conor Lenihan T.D., met with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in Monrovia on 30 March 2006. President Johnson-Sirleaf has pledged to root out corruption, a key destabilising factor in Liberia, and indicated her full support for the Governance Economic Management Assistance Programme (GEMAP). Under this programme, international assistance is offered in monitoring key ministries and state organs, including all state expenditure for the next three years.

The UN mission in Liberia (UNMIL) plays a crucial role in ensuring the security and stability of Liberia. Ireland has participated in UNMIL since November 2003, contributing two-thirds of a Quick Reaction Force (QRF), the other third being provided by Sweden. The Irish contingent comprises a motorized infantry battalion of some 426 personnel, together with a small number of additional personnel deployed at Force Headquarters. The UN Secretary-General has written to the Taoiseach requesting that Ireland consider postponing the withdrawal of its troops from the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) for a period of at least six months beyond the planned withdrawal date of November 2006. The Taoiseach has replied indicating that the Government will give positive consideration to extending the presence of our troops in Liberia to May 2007.

In 2005, Ireland provided some €2.5 million in funding for projects in areas such as health care, education, the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse, disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and rehabilitation projects for ex-soldiers, and electoral assistance. Support to Liberia in 2006 continues to focus on basic recovery programmes reflecting the substantial humanitarian and recovery needs. Funding to date in 2006 is €4 million.

The arrest and trial of the former president of Liberia, Charles Taylor, will also contribute to the long-term stability of Sierra Leone. On 29 March, Taylor was arrested by Nigerian border guards while trying to flee from exile in Nigeria. He was immediately transferred by air to Liberia and onwards to Freetown, Sierra Leone where he was given into the custody of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) by Irish members of UNMIL, in line with their mandate. On 3 April he appeared before the Court and entered a not guilty plea in response to the 11 charges against him. The Court has requested that the trial be held in the Netherlands amidst concerns about the regional instability Taylor's presence in Freetown could cause. The trial will take place in any case under the jurisdiction of the SCSL. In 2005-2006, Ireland has provided nearly €1.5 million in support to the SCSL.

Question No. 231 answered with QuestionNo. 80.

Community Development.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

232 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the additional funding spent in the targeted areas of disadvantage in the State under the RAPID programme on projects not outlined in the National Development Plan by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19919/06]

There is no specific funding available through my Department for distribution under the RAPID programme, which is the responsibility of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

Areas targeted under the RAPID programme are, however, prioritised for investment and development under the national lottery-funded Sport Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department. This programme allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country towards the provision of sport and recreational facilities, and one of its stated objectives is the prioritisation of the needs of disadvantaged areas in the provision of facilities.

Applications located in RAPID areas are given higher priority in the assessment process, provided that they meet the basic eligibility criteria for the programme as highlighted in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. Those applications from RAPID areas that are also endorsed by their local Area Implementation Team (AIT) receive the highest priority.

Since the formation of my Department, the amounts allocated under the Sports Capital Programme to projects located in RAPID areas are set out in the table below.

Sports Capital Programme

Funding allocated

No of Projects

€ million

2003

7.6

71

2004

10.5

100

2005

10.15

87

Total

28.25

258

In addition, since 2004 those projects allocated grants in RAPID areas that are also endorsed by their AIT have been allocated additional ‘top-up' funding by my colleague the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Éamon Ó Cuív. To date, this top-up funding has amounted to more than €4.5 million.

Applications for funding under the 2006 Sports Capital Programme were invited through advertisements in the Press on November 27th and 28th last. The closing date for receipt of applications was January 20th 2006. A total of 1,338 applications for projects costing €670 million and seeking funding of €312 million were received. All of these applications, including those located in RAPID areas, are currently being evaluated against the programme's detailed assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Finally, under the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme, which is also administered by my Department, the funding allocated to swimming pool projects located in RAPID areas since the formation of my Department is set out in the table below.

Project

Allocation

Ballymun, Dublin

3,809,214

Churchfield, Cork City

3,809,214

Clondalkin, Dublin

3,809,214

Clonmel, County Tipperary

1,641,934

Drogheda, County Louth

3,809,214

Finglas, Dublin

3,809,214

Jobstown, Dublin

3,809,214

Longford, County Longford

3,809,214

Tralee Aquadome, County Kerry

86,400

Tralee Sports Centre, County Kerry

3,809,214

Tuam, County Galway

3,809,214

Youghal, County Cork

3,809,214

Total allocated to date

39,820,474

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

233 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the additional funding spent in the targeted areas of disadvantage in the State under the RAPID programme on projects not outlined in the National Development Plan by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19920/06]

It has not been possible in the time available to compile the information requested by the Deputy. I shall communicate the information to the Deputy when it becomes available.

Employment Support Services.

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

234 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the planned support unit in Enterprise Ireland would replace in part or in full the role of the county enterprise board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19943/06]

One of the main recommendations of the 2004 Fitzpatricks Report was that the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) should be integrated into the mainstream enterprise development system by establishing a CEB Central Co-ordination Unit within Enterprise Ireland. This recommendation was subsequently endorsed by the Enterprise Strategy Group and approved by Government in 2005.

The role of the new Unit will be to provide a range of strategic, administrative, financial and technical supports to the CEBs with the ultimate objectives of enhancing the effectiveness, efficiency and impact of the CEBs on the development of micro-enterprises in Ireland and of contributing to a greater level of consistency and best practice across the CEB network as a whole. The Unit will not replace in part or in full the role of the County Enterprise Boards.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

235 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare was refused rent supplement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19777/06]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes rent supplement, is administered on my behalf by the Community Welfare division of the Health Service Executive. Neither I nor my Department has any function in relation to decisions on individual claims.

The Health Service Executive has advised that it has no record of a formal application for rent supplement from the person concerned. The person concerned should submit an application for rent supplement to the community welfare officer in her area so that the Executive can make a formal decision on the matter.

Social Welfare Code.

David Stanton

Ceist:

236 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the action that he has taken as a result of the report from the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute on the cost of healthy eating and specialised diets here which he received in January 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20009/06]

The report referred to by the deputy is the Examination of the Cost of Healthy Eating and Specialised Diets undertaken on behalf of my Department by the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI) which was published in January 2006.

The report is the most comprehensive review of specialised diets and foods costs that has been carried out in Ireland in the past decade. It has brought an up to date focus on the varying costs of healthy foods and also contains proposals for specialised diets based on the latest dietary and medical views. In undertaking this study, INDI designed an example of a nutritionally balanced, healthy eating diet and also examples of various specialised diets. A survey was carried out to find out the cost of those diets at a range of shop types. The report examined the special diets prescribed in legislation for which assistance is available through the diet supplement scheme and considered the appropriate level of assistance required to cater for any additional costs involved in providing for necessary special diets, relative to the cost of a normal healthy eating diet.

The study recommended, following its detailed research, a new framework for classifying the various diets under which the former prescribed diets would fall into one of four categories:

—Gluten Free Diet

—Low Lactose Milk Free Diet

—High Protein High Calorie Diet

—Liquidised Altered Consistency Diet.

My Department has now finalised a revised diet supplemented scheme, and regulations came into operation on 3 April 2006 that give effect to the findings and recommendations of the study. The level of diet supplement payable is based on the cost of food in convenience stores (i.e. the highest cost) in recognition of the fact that some people will not be in a position to do their shopping at the cheapest shops due to age or lack of transport.

As with previous Diet Supplement arrangements, any person who is receiving a social welfare or health service executive payment, who has been prescribed a special diet as a result of a specified medical condition, and who is unable to provide for his or her food needs from within his or her own resources, may qualify for a diet supplement under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. The amount of supplement payable depends on which category of diet has been prescribed by the applicant's medical advisor, as well as the income of the individual and his/her dependants.

State Property.

Michael Noonan

Ceist:

237 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Transport if he has given consent to the Shannon Foynes Port Authority for the sale of a portion of Limerick docks; if he will provide assurances that Limerick docks will remain operational and that a viable service will be provided to existing port users; the reason a tunnel rather than a bridge is being constructed downstream from the docks if the dockland is to be closed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19930/06]

Shannon Foynes port is a State-owned company established under the Harbours Act 1996. The Act provides that the principal objects of the company include the provision of such facilities, services and lands in its harbour for ships, goods and passengers, as it considers necessary. The company is required to take all proper measures for the management, control, operation and development of its harbour. Decisions regarding the use of the land within the port estate are primarily a matter for the port company and its board.

On 15 March last, Shannon Foynes Port Company announced that it is conducting a strategic review of its property portfolio, which could result in a major expansion and upgrade of its facilities in the Shannon Estuary at a cost of over €100 million. The company has recently sought expressions of interest with regard to the Limerick Docklands and is seeking tenders for two sites within the docklands. There are currently six different port installations in the Shannon Estuary that fall within the jurisdiction of Shannon Foynes Port Company. The company projects significant increases in its volume of trade over the coming years and states that investment in new modern facilities that can handle bigger ships is required to accommodate this growth in trade.

The Government's Ports Policy Statement published in January 2005 outlines that the disposal of non-core assets is a potential source of funding for new port developments. Whatever the conclusions of the strategic review, the company has said it will continue to work in partnership with other stakeholders in the region, including the company's customers that are currently using the Limerick docks.

Regarding the road being constructed downstream from the docks, the overall responsibility for the planning, design and implementation of National Road Projects is a matter for the NRA and the relevant local authority.

Rail Network.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

238 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the date on which he received a report from Irish Rail on the western rail corridor; when he will reach a decision in relation to this project; the amount of funding he will allocate to this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19788/06]

Transport 21 provides for the reinstatement of the Western Rail Corridor on a phased basis, with the Ennis to Athenry section to be completed in 2008, the Athenry to Tuam sections to be completed in 2011 and the Tuam to Claremorris section to be completed in 2014.

Iarnród Éireann has submitted proposals to my Department relating to Phase 1 (the reopening of the Ennis to Athenry section) on 21 February 2006 and Phase 2 (re-opening of the Athenry to Tuam section) on 26 March 2006. These are currently being examined and I expect to make a decision in the matter shortly.

Road Openings.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

239 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the exact date in which the Dublin Port tunnel will be opened; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19789/06]

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

I understand that the civil engineering work within the tunnels has now been largely completed and that the main focus of work has shifted to the installation of the mechanical and electrical systems which make up the safety and control features of the project. I understand from Dublin City Council and the NRA that the main construction and installation work in the Tunnel is expected to be completed in June, with the Tunnel opening to traffic in September. However, the exact opening date will be contingent on satisfactory completion of the testing and commissioning of the tunnels' operational and safety features, including the training of operational and emergency staff.

Community Development.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

240 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport the additional funding spent in the targeted areas of disadvantage in the State under the RAPID programme on projects not outlined in the National Development Plan by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19922/06]

There is no specific separate funding allocated to transport projects under the RAPID Programme. They form part of the National Development Plan, and the question of additional funding is dealt with in the context of overall National Development Plan funding.

Rail Network.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

241 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if the Irish Rail freight facility at North Esk remain connected to the rail system after development works related to the reopening of the Midleton line; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19941/06]

I am informed by Iarnród Éireann that the works planned on the Cork-Midleton line will have no impact on the North Esk freight facility and the freight yard will remain connected to the rail system.

School Transport.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

242 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Transport the public service vehicle standards that currently apply to the school bus fleet; if those standards are deemed adequate; the means by which they are enforced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20067/06]

An extensive range of requirements must be satisfied to use a bus (including a school bus) in a public place, with the vehicle, the driver and the operator each subject to regulation. In the case of the vehicle, it must meet the requirements specified in a series of regulations relating to the construction, equipment and use of vehicles. Safety standards applied under these regulations relate to, among others, brakes, steering, tyres, suspension, lighting, doors, emergency exits, access to exits and maximum passenger accommodation. Regulations made last December extended the requirement for speed limiters to be fitted to every bus first registered since October 2001. Single deck buses are subject to maximum speed limits of 80 km/h, with double deck buses subject to a maximum speed limit of 65 km/h. Buses engaged on private hire are licensed by the Garda Síochána. Buses over one year old are subject annually to comprehensive roadworthiness testing by testers authorised by city and county councils. Enforcement of road traffic law is a matter for the Garda Síochána.

An independent review is currently being carried out within Bus Éireann of the arrangements and systems in place for the management, operation and maintenance of the fleet, both owned and contracted by Bus Éireann, to ensure ongoing safety and roadworthiness. I have requested that the review be completed as soon as possible. Separately, I have requested the Chief Executive designate of the proposed Road Safety Authority to undertake a fundamental review of the arrangements for the compulsory periodic roadworthiness testing of goods vehicles and buses.

Road Traffic Offences.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

243 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the number of applications which his Department has received from drivers seeking the removal of penalty points from their licence in situations whereby an application is made by a Chief Superintendent to have the points removed; if all such applications were granted; if not, the reason therefor; the main categories or circumstances of errors for which the points have been removed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20069/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available and will be forwarded to the Deputy when it is available.

Community Development.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

244 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the additional funding spent in the targeted areas of disadvantage in the State under the RAPID programme on projects not outlined in the national development plan by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19923/06]

My Department, with the support of Pobal, has overall responsibility for the co-ordination of the RAPID programme. It is a matter for each Department to report on progress of RAPID projects that fall to them to implement.

As I have set out in this House previously, the RAPID programme is not something that is additional to the NDP. What the programme seeks to achieve is the prioritisation of action in the 45 designated areas. The idea is that RAPID areas are considered for investment before non-RAPID areas and therefore favoured by prioritising and concentrating investment.

The RAPID programme fulfils the commitment given under Framework III of the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness to tackle the spatial concentration of disadvantage in the 25 most deprived communities in the State. The original list of 25 urban areas was later expanded to include an additional 20 provincial urban centres.

The Deputy will also be aware that the National Development Plan (NDP) is an economic programme that sets out the Government's broad strategic response to the State's economic and social development needs for the seven-year period ending December 2006.

The NDP does not set out specific project commitments. The RAPID programme is not mentioned in the NDP. Accordingly, all spending on the RAPID Programme, details of which I have given to the House — in particular my reply to question number 59 on 21 March 2006 — comes within the category sought by the Deputy.

In overall terms, at this stage, commitments of €349.6m have been entered into by Departments and reported to POBAL. These commitments are by Departments to projects proposed by individual RAPID Area Implementation Teams. In addition, some €32m has been committed to RAPID areas under the Dormant Account Fund.

Grant Payments.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

245 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Louth has not been issued with a top up payment under the single farm payment from the national envelope as per a letter of 15 April 2005 from her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19791/06]

All eligible farmers who experienced depopulation due to the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001 on the Cooley peninsula have been granted Force Majeure and have had the reference year 2002 excluded from the calculation of their Single Farm Payment. These farmers will also receive the National Envelope top-up on the number of ewes on which ewe premium was paid during the reference period. The person named is an eligible farmer as outlined above and is due payment of the top-up. An enhancement is required to the Single Payment Scheme payment system to enable these top-up payments. This development is ongoing and payments will issue on completion of same.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

246 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food further to Parliamentary Question No. 391 of 3 May 2006 her proposals, in the context of a review of the energy crops scheme, to make the scheme more attractive for farmers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19796/06]

Article 92 of Council Regulation (EC) 1782/2003 of 29 September 2003 provides for a review of the Energy Crops Scheme. By 31 December 2006, the Commission shall submit a report to the Council on the implementation of the Scheme, accompanied, where appropriate, by proposals taking into account the implementation of the EU biofuels initiative. As part of this process, I will be seeking to have the Scheme made more attractive for farmers.

Grant Payments.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

247 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food further to Parliamentary Question No. 239 of 17 May 2006, if there is anything in the regulations prohibiting the payment of a national top-up; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19828/06]

Member States may only grant State aid where authorized to do so by the EU. The Council Regulation governing the restructuring aid does not provide such authority.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

248 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if her Department charges interest on outstanding repayments due to her Department; the interest rate charged in such circumstances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19829/06]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

249 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if her Department applies interest on outstanding payments due to farmers, where there has been an underpayment caused by a departmental error; the interest rate charged in such circumstances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19830/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 248 and 249 together.

In the exercise of its functions as an agency for the payment of EU funds, my Department is bound by rules laid down at EU level. The EU regulations dealing with schemes funded by the EAGGF Guarantee Fund require member states to charge interest at a rate determined in accordance with national legislation. These EU regulations are directly applicable and binding in their entirety in all member states. The rate of interest currently provided for in national legislation is 3%. Systems either are in place, or are being in put in place to comply with these requirements in relevant schemes. The question of interest does not arise in the case of an overpayment resulting from a Departmental error, and interest can be avoided altogether through the prompt payment of the relevant debts. No provision is made in the relevant regulations for the payment of interest by the paying agency. In addition, my Department fully applies the provisions of the Prompt Payments of Accounts Act 1997, as amended by the European Communities (Late Payment in Commercial Transactions) Regulations 2002.

Community Development.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

250 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the additional funding spent in the targeted areas of disadvantage in the State under the RAPID programme on projects not outlined in the national development plan by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19924/06]

My Department has not incurred expenditure under the RAPID programme.

Grant Payments.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

251 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of applications awaiting approval on a county basis under farm pollution grant schemes; the number of applications submitted on a county basis since the announcement of the new farm waste management grants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19957/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is available in respect of each Department local office only. The following table sets out the up-to-date position in regard to the number of applications received and approvals issued under the new Farm Waste Management Scheme. As the issue of Department approval to proceed with works under the Scheme involves, in most cases, an on-farm visit by a Department inspector, the costing of the proposed investment and verification of the eligibility of the application, approval normally issues some weeks after the receipt of a valid application.

Office

Applications Received

Approvals Issued

Ballina

22

4

Carlow

16

5

Castlebar

32

0

Cavan East

68

16

Cavan West

32

2

Clare North

67

7

Clare South

75

13

Claremorris

85

7

Clonakilty

93

29

Cork City

70

38

Donegal North

83

25

Donegal South

71

9

Galway West

9

0

Loughrea

42

12

Galway South

31

9

Kerry North

104

70

Kerry South

63

23

Kildare/Dublin

14

7

Kilkenny/Waterford

77

33

Kilkenny North

122

17

Laois

66

25

Leitrim

47

5

Limerick

138

25

Longford

42

14

Louth/Monaghan East

56

18

Mallow

72

33

Meath

60

7

Monaghan North

77

13

Offaly

47

19

Roscommon North

40

7

Roscommon South

43

10

Sligo

33

12

Tipperary North

63

17

Tipperary South

78

19

Tuam

117

20

Waterford West

36

24

Westmeath

42

23

Wexford

40

10

Wicklow

26

2

Total

2,299

629

Bovine Disease Controls.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

252 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of herd numbers in use in each county; the corresponding figure for the year 2000; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19958/06]

The number of herd numbers registered for the purposes of the TB and Brucellosis Eradication Schemes on a county basis at present and in 2000 is set out in the table below. The reduction in the number of herd numbers between 2000 and 2006 reflects the gradual decline in the number of farmers during this period.

County

13/5/2006

31/12/2000

Carlow

1,448

1,576

Cavan

5,169

5,464

Clare

6,391

6,748

Cork

12,829

13,743

Donegal

5,862

6,629

Dublin

445

559

Galway

12,592

13,819

Kerry

7,289

7,876

Kildare

2,046

2,258

Kilkenny

3,326

3,536

Laois

3,015

3,141

Leitrim

3,341

3,640

Limerick

5,907

6,374

Longford

2,538

2,730

Louth

1,272

1,424

Mayo

10,674

11,746

Meath

4,029

4,346

Monaghan

4,383

4,520

Offaly

3,291

3,436

Roscommon

5,887

6,436

Sligo

4,000

4,390

Tipperary

7,087

7,648

Waterford

2,372

2,577

Westmeath

3,135

3,352

Wexford

3,315

3,669

Wicklow

1,748

1,905

Totals

123,391

133,542

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

253 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the funds collected under the disease levy and dairy inspection levy in 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19959/06]

Bovine disease levies are collected under the Bovine Disease (Levies) Act, 1979 and are specifically intended to ensure that farmers share the cost of compensation under the TB and Brucellosis Schemes. Revenue from bovine disease levies in 2005 amounted to €11.39m but this is expected to fall to approximately €10m this year. Expenditure on compensation to farmers under the Disease Eradication schemes amounted to €21.37m in 2005 when total Exchequer expenditure on these schemes was €53.33m. The Dairy Inspection Levy is payable under the Milk (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1979 and levied on the basis of every litre of milk acquired for manufacturing purposes. The amount of the fee is €0.001 per litre and last year some €5,083,959.30 was collected.

Grant Payments.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

254 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will accept a late application for an allocation of payment entitlements for the 2005 national reserve from a person (details supplied) in County Clare due to special circumstances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19982/06]

The Department sought applications for the 2005 National Reserve in December 2004. The closing date for receipt of completed applications was extended to 16 May 2005 to coincide with the closing date for the 2005 Single Payment Scheme applications. The National Reserve Scheme was widely advertised at that time. If the person named has extenuating circumstances that prevented him from submitting a timely application for an allocation under the 2005 National Reserve, such details should be submitted to my Department for consideration.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

255 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when she will issue a decision to a person (details supplied) in County Longford under the national reserve; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19983/06]

The person named submitted an application to the National Reserve under category B. Category B caters for farmers who, between 1 January 2000 and 19 October 2003, made an investment in production capacity in a farming sector for which a direct payment under Livestock Premia and/or Arable Aid schemes would have been payable during the reference period 2000-2002. Investments can include purchase or long term lease of land, purchase of suckler and/or ewe quota or other investments. The Regulations governing the Single Payment Scheme provide that the Member State must ensure that an allocation from the National Reserve to an applicant who has already benefited under other measures associated with the Single Payment Scheme (for example, Force Majeure/New Entrant during the reference period) does not result in double benefit to the applicant. In such circumstances the applicant will benefit from the measure that is most beneficial. The person named has already benefited from another measure i.e. Force Majeure during the reference period and therefore his National Reserve application will now be assessed to establish whether the provisions precluding double benefit should be applied. Following this examination the person named will be notified of the outcome and should he be dissatisfied with my Department's decision, he has the opportunity to appeal this decision to the Independent Payment Appeals Committee. An appeals application form is available from any of my Department's offices or on the Department website atwww.agriculture.gov.ie.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

256 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a successful applicant under force majeure cannot gain a single farm payment allocation under the national reserve; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19984/06]

In general, the Single Payment established for farmers is based on the three-year average number of animals (hectares in the case of Arable Aid) that attracted premium payments in the years 2000, 2001 and 2002. The Regulations governing the Single Payment Scheme provide that the Member State must ensure that an allocation from the National Reserve to an applicant who has already benefited under other measures associated with the Single Payment Scheme (Force Majeure/New Entrant during the reference period) does not result in double benefit to the applicant. For example, a farmer may already have had the years 2000 and 2001 omitted from his Single Payment calculation on the grounds that he commenced farming in 2002. His Single Payment is based on the total premium payment in respect of the year 2002 only. The same farmer may also have purchased Suckler Cow Quota in respect of the 2002 scheme year and applied to the National Reserve under category B(ii). In such a case the full benefit of the premium arising from the investment in Suckler Cow quota is already fully reflected in the Single Payment established for that farmer under the New Entrant measure. An allocation from the National Reserve in respect of the investment in Suckler Cow Quota would therefore result in double benefit. Each case where an applicant to the National Reserve has already benefited from the other measures (Force Majeure/New Entrant) and is also accepted under the National Reserve, will have to be examined to see which measure is the most beneficial. In such circumstances the applicant will benefit from the measure that is most beneficial.

Prison Medical Service.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

257 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a great need for the provision of psychiatrists and psychologists in prisons here due to the high number of young males currently in prisons here and the fact that when they are released there is no rehabilitation carried out. [19782/06]

Where a prisoner is assessed as having a specific health related problem, steps are taken to provide assistance to address such problems while in prison. All prisoners have access to a range of therapeutic services, including psychiatric and psychology services. Referral to any particular service is on the basis of assessed need. While every effort is made within the resources available to address identified problems within prison, this obviously requires the active cooperation of the prisoner involved. The Irish Prison Service is currently in the process of recruiting extra psychologists to work in the prison system, including involvement in the rehabilitation of young male prisoners.

Community Development.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

258 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the additional funding spent in the targeted areas of disadvantage in the State under the RAPID programme on projects not outlined in the national development plan by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19925/06]

The RAPID (Revitalising Areas by Planning, Investment and Development) programme targets the most concentrated areas of disadvantage in the State by ensuring that priority attention is given to these areas by Government Departments and State Agencies dealing with disadvantage and local development in the widest sense.

The RAPID programme designated 45 areas for priority investment and frontloading of funding under the National Development Plan 2000-2006 (NDP). The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Síochána are represented on the RAPID National Monitoring Committee. At a local level the Garda Síochána and the Probation and Welfare Service are represented on RAPID Area Implementation Teams and facilitate the co-ordinated and service integrated delivery of the RAPID programme.

In November 2005 the Garda Síochána held a seminar for all the Garda representatives on Area Implementation Teams with the aim of further developing and enhancing the role and participation of Gardaí in the RAPID programme. In line with the Government policing priorities for 2006, which are contained in the Garda Síochána Policing Plan 2006, the Garda Commissioner has agreed to review local policing arrangements in communities in the RAPID programme areas where local residents are seeking to have issues such as persistent vandalism, low and high level intimidation and other anti-social behaviour more effectively addressed. In addition, the Garda Síochána have implemented proposals received through the RAPID programme.

My Department decides on approving funding for RAPID proposals within the context of existing allocations across Votes under my Department's remit. Particular priority is given to RAPID proposals which fall within the functional areas financed by the National Development Plan (NDP). Information on the funding provided by my Department under the RAPID programme is as follows: Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 under the NDP and the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010. Responsibility for the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme (EOCP) 2000-2006 (which is part of the NDP) and the National Childcare Investment Programme (NCIP) 2006 -2010 has been assigned, from 1 April 2006, to the Department of Health and Children as part of the establishment of the new Office of the Minister for Children under the Minister for Children, Mr. Brian Lenihan, T.D.

Although the EOCP is not solely focused on RAPID areas it has contributed significantly to the provision of child care in RAPID areas. I understand from enquiries made with Pobal, which administers the grants on the Government's behalf, that funding committed up to the end of March 2006 under the EOCP includes the provision of almost €112 million of funding to child care services operating in RAPID areas (of which almost €35 million is in respect of proposals submitted under the RAPID programme). The total amount includes a mix of projects which came forward in the first instance under RAPID area regeneration plans, and projects which applied directly for funding to the EOCP and which are located in RAPID areas. The allocations under the EOCP include support for the development of new child care places and support towards the staffing costs of services. Allocations have also been made under the EOCP to organisations which support the promotion of quality in Irish child care, which would positively impact on many services located in RAPID areas.

With regard to the NCIP (which is not part of the NDP), I understand that one capital grant, to the value of €100,000, has been approved in a RAPID area up to the end of March 2006. Funding of €3.3 million, under the NDP, has been allocated by my Department under Phase 1 of the Equality for Women measure to 18 projects located in or adjacent to RAPID areas. Phase II of the measure specifically targets economically disadvantaged women in RAPID areas. In March 2005 I approved grants amounting to €7million to fund the development of 58 projects located in RAPID areas throughout the country which support equality for women.

Since the commencement of the RAPID programme funding of €2.834 million has been allocated by my Department through the Probation and Welfare Service in respect of proposals submitted under the RAPID programme in respect of five Probation and Welfare Service projects. In addition, my Department, in conjunction with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs co-funded the provision of capital items for Probation and Welfare Service projects in RAPID areas to the amount of €60,000 in 2004 and €123,000 in 2005.

Garda youth diversion projects are community based, multi-agency crime prevention initiatives which seek to divert young people from becoming involved (or further involved) in anti-social and/or criminal behaviour by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development, promote civic responsibility and improve prospects of employability. My Department currently funds 64 Garda youth diversion projects and 7 mainstreamed Local Drugs Task Force projects. The funding allocation for the projects for 2006 is €6.6 million. It is my intention to expand the scheme to 100 Garda youth diversion projects nationwide by the end of 2007. I have received from the Garda Commissioner a short-list of ten proposals for consideration, which I hope to have established before the end of June this year. Seven of the ten proposals to establish new projects are for RAPID areas. A total of 51 of the projects currently operating are located in 32 of the 45 RAPID areas. Expenditure on the projects in 2005 in RAPID areas amounted to almost €4 million (of which €1.323 million was NDP funded). Expenditure to date in 2005 is €2.5 million (of which €940,000 is NDP funded). In addition, in 2005 my Department, in conjunction with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, co-funded to the amount of €199,000 the provision of capital items (such as community buses and IT equipment) for Garda youth diversion projects in RAPID areas.

I launched the Community Based CCTV Scheme last year in response to a demonstrated demand from local communities across Ireland for the provision of CCTV systems. The purpose of the Scheme is to support local communities who wish to install and maintain CCTV security systems in their area, with the aim of increasing public safety and reducing the risk of anti-social and criminal activity. Under this Scheme, communities could apply for grant aid funding of up to €100,000 from the Department to install a CCTV system in their area. In addition, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs gave a commitment to provide successful applicants from RAPID areas with a further grant to a maximum of €100,000 subject to the total grant aid from both Departments not exceeding €200,000 or 100% of the capital costs of the project, whichever is the lesser.

The Community Based CCTV Scheme offered two stages or options that were designed to meet the requirements of communities in both of these situations. Stage 1 offered pre-development supports and possible funding for organisations/ groups who were not yet ready to develop their proposals fully or utilise funds. The stage 2 process offered a direct application process to access funds to those organisations who could demonstrate an ability to develop and deliver a CCTV programme immediately.

Over €1 million in grant aid has already been allocated by my Department to 37 communities under the Scheme, of which over €900,000 has been allocated to 30 RAPID areas under both the stage 1 pre-development (18) and stage 2 operational (12) application process. Many of these areas could see their CCTV systems in operation before the end of the year.

I plan to make a further call for proposals under the Scheme in the coming months.

Visa Applications.

Michael Noonan

Ceist:

259 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an application for a holiday visa by a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19939/06]

The application referred to by the Deputy was received in the Visa Office on 25 April 2006. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the visa application in question was approved on 22 May 2006.

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

260 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there are plans in place to introduce new types of alcohol licences within the lifetime of this Government. [19945/06]

The Government Legislation Programme provides for publication of the Sale of Alcohol Bill later this year. This Bill will repeal the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2004, as well as the Registration of Clubs Acts 1904 to 2004, and replace them with provisions more suited to modern conditions. The Bill will have regard to the reform recommendations of the Commission on Liquor Licensing and will update and streamline provisions relating to the licensing of different categories of licensed premises.

Disability Support Service.

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

261 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the timetable for the introduction of the innovation fund for disability related projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19946/06]

The closing date for submitting applications under Phase II of the Enhancing Disability Services Project Funding for 2007-2008 is 14 July 2006. The appraisal of the project proposals will be undertaken by Pobal on behalf of my Department and it is expected that Pobal will make their recommendations to the Enhancing Disability Services Expert Group by November of this year. I hope to be in a position to make an announcement about the projects which will be funded by the end of the year. This provisional timetable is of course subject to change depending on the number of applications submitted for funding.

Registration of Title.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

262 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when applications for a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19999/06]

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

Citizenship Applications.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

263 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the need for the completion of the application for naturalisation of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; if his attention has been further drawn to the difficulties which will be created for them travelling and studying abroad if their application for naturalisation is not completed now; and if he will have the matter investigated and as an exceptional measure ensure that there is no further delay in the completion of this application. [20063/06]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation by the person referred to by the Deputy was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in August 2005. It has been assigned reference no. 68/3030/05. Officials in Citizenship Section are currently processing applications received in the first quarter of 2004 and, at the present time, there are just over 6,000 applications awaiting processing before that of the person in question. I will give consideration to the matters raised by the Deputy and will respond to him directly.

Road Traffic Offences.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

264 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedures which will allow a motorist who feels they have been wrongly awarded penalty points on the roadside to subsequently appeal to the local Garda chief superintendent to have these points removed from their licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20064/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that penalty points are not awarded on the roadside. Where a person is issued with a fixed charge notice for a penalty point offence, the notice sets out the amount of the fixed charge and the penalty points applicable to the offence. The person has an option to pay the fixed charge and as part of the payment process completes a declaration that he/she is aware of the contents of the notice. Where a payment is made An Garda Síochána notifies the Minister for Transport who is responsible for the endorsement of penalty points on the entry in the licence record relating to the person. Where the person named in the notice opts not to pay the fixed charge then a prosecution is taken and where a person is convicted the Courts Service is responsible for notifying the Minister for Transport, as in all cases the decision of the District Court may be appealed.

I am further informed that an individual may write to the Garda Síochána Fixed Charge Processing Office at 89-94 Capel Street, Dublin 1 and request the removal of penalty points where: the individual named on the notification from An Garda Síochána to the Minister for Transport was not the person who committed the offence; the alleged offence had no legal status; two notifications from An Garda Síochána to the Minister for Transport issued in respect of the same offence; and the individual named on the notification from An Garda Síochána to the Minister for Transport was admitted to the Juvenile Diversion Programme (Part 4 of the Children Act 2001) for the alleged offence.

Disability Support Service.

Seán Ardagh

Ceist:

265 Mr. Ardagh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there are proposals to extend the age for parents of disabled children to be able to take parental leave after the child is 17 and above, to facilitate persons (details supplied) in Dublin 12. [20065/06]

The situation of parents of children with disabilities was considered in the context of the review of the Parental Leave Act 1998 conducted by a Working Group chaired by my Department. The Working Group, which comprised the social partners, relevant Government Departments and the Equality Authority, recommended raising the age of eligibility in respect of a child with a disability to 16 years in its Report published in 2002. Section 2 (2)(c) of the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2006, which was enacted on 18 May 2006, implements a commitment made in Sustaining Progress to increase the age limit to 16 years in the case of a child with a disability in accordance with the recommendation of the Working Group.

Vocational Education Committees.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

266 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has received a report from FÁS on the special programme for return to education implemented in conjunction with the vocational educational committee for persons emerging from community employment schemes; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that cutbacks have been implemented in the number of days available for the education package form three days to two days; the reason this has occurred; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19797/06]

Participants on the Community Employment Scheme operated by FÁS can be released half-time from their work experience programmes to avail themselves of intensive literacy tuition organised by the Vocational Education Committees under the Return to Education Initiative. This arrangement enables them to combine work experience and 10 hours per week literacy tuition. Each VEC, subject to its budget, decides the nature and extent of the further education service to be provided in its area.

In relation to the issue raised the following explanation was received by my Department from the Irish Vocational Education Association (IVEA), the representative body for the 33 VECs in Ireland. The FÁS/VEC Return to Education Initiative has been delivered in VECs over the past five years. The course has been successful in achieving its overall objective of providing literacy support. Nationally however, there has been some variation in the organisational arrangements of the Return to Education Initiative programme. As a result, IVEA, on behalf of its member VECs, and FÁS undertook a review of current practices in order to explore and improve on areas of concern. These discussions concluded in a new interim agreement in September 2005.

The current Return to Education Initiative programme schedules 200 hours that can be delivered in a flexible manner by the provider. At the conclusion of the 200-hour programme, providers may request additional hours where it is felt that students require further support, which will be provided in agreement with FÁS. Therefore providers now have the opportunity, in certain situations to have in excess of the original 270 hours, which is a significant improvement.

IVEA and FÁS agree that these new proposals provide a greater flexibility in the delivery of the Return to Education Initiative. IVEA views this agreement as increasing, rather than decreasing, support to those who have specific needs around basic education. However, this is an interim agreement between FÁS and IVEA, it will be subject to change and development according to regular monitoring and evaluation.

School Accommodation.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

267 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the future of a school (details supplied) in County Kerry. [19774/06]

In recent years a new planning model was introduced for educational infrastructure to ensure that, in future, school provision is decided after a transparent consultation process. In this regard, trustees, parents, sponsors of prospective schools and all interested parties from a locality have the opportunity to have their voices heard in the process.

A draft area development plan for North Kerry, up to 2011, was published by my Department in April 2006. The Commission on School Accommodation is currently engaged in a public consultation process to which all interested parties can make submissions. The closing date for receipt of submissions relating to the North Kerry Plan is 24 May 2006. All of these submissions are considered by the Commission and are also published for public information. This process will culminate in the publication of a Final Area Development Plan which will provide a blueprint for educational provision in the area for the next decade, against which all capital funding decisions including the application for capital investment in the school referred to, will be made over the coming years.

Disadvantaged Status.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

268 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason an application for DEIS by a school (details supplied) in County Clare has been excluded by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19776/06]

I wish to assure the Deputy that no school has been told that they are going to lose any of the resources that they have been receiving under existing schemes for tackling disadvantage as a result of the introduction of the new DEIS initiative. On the contrary, the new School Support Programme is aimed at providing even more extra resources for the most disadvantaged schools in the country. Schools that did not qualify for the new programme will keep the extra resources they are getting under existing schemes for the 2006/07 school year and after that they will continue to get support in line with the level of disadvantage among their pupils.

I am sure the Deputy would agree that it is important to make sure that schools serving the most disadvantaged communities get all the extra support possible and will welcome the extra resources that DEIS will provide for schools in Clare. It is precisely with this goal in mind that DEIS was designed. For example, over the years, no less than 8 separate schemes for disadvantaged primary schools have been put in place. Some schools were benefiting from just one or two of these and others were benefiting from more. The DEIS initiative is designed to ensure that the most disadvantaged schools benefit from a comprehensive package of supports, while ensuring that others continue to get support in line with the level of disadvantage among their pupils.

I can assure the Deputy that there is no reason for schools that have not been identified for the new programme to worry as they will continue to get support in line with the level of disadvantage among their pupils. No school has been told that they will lose any resources as a result of DEIS.

A review mechanism has been put in place to address the concerns of schools that did not qualify for inclusion in the School Support Programme but regard themselves as having a level of disadvantage which is of a scale sufficient to warrant their inclusion in the Programme. This mechanism will operate under the direction of an independent person, charged with ensuring that all relevant identification processes and procedures were properly followed in the case of schools applying for a review. The school referred to by the Deputy has submitted a review application. It is intended that the review process will be completed by the end of the current school year.

Consultancy Contracts.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

269 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will furnish a reply to Parliamentary Question No. 1292 of 25 January 2006; the reason for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19794/06]

The information requested by the Deputy has now been finalised and is set out in the tabular statement below. This provides a full listing of all contracts in the years concerned together with the relevant details. The information in respect of 2006 is based on financial provision for the respective projects. Because of the scope and detailed nature of the information sought, it was necessary to undertake a comprehensive trawl of all units of my Department. A considerable amount of cross-checking and co-ordination was also necessary. The overall process took longer than anticipated and the delay involved is regretted.

Year 1997

Consultants, Experts, Advisers

Purpose

Cost

Reports

Implemented

£

Anne Colgan

Interview Board (Asst Chief Inspector)

363

N/A

N/A

C.D.U. Crumlin

Database for Chemicals in Schools

6,003

N/A

N/A

Commission on Points System

Examination of Points System

108,709

Yes

Partial

Coopers & Lybrand

Review of Financial Guidelines, Accounting & Auditing Practices in Primary & Voluntary Secondary Schools

22,796

Yes

Yes

Dermot Rochford

Review of functions and administrative staffing/organisational structures in amalgamating vocational education committees

10,229

Yes

Yes

Dr. Maurice Bric

Humanities and Social Sciences Research: A Case for a Research Council

4,500

Yes

Yes

Formscan

Exams Branch: Scanning of markings

5,510

N/A

N/A

Hay Management

Preparation of Competency Model for Director, National Centre for Technology in Education

1,815

Yes

Yes

M.S. Breathnach

Facilitator — Amalgamation of VEC’s

13,416

N/A

N/A

Noel Recruitment

Organisation of Recruitment of Employee Assistance Officers for the Employee Assistance Scheme

19,791

N/A

N/A

Oliver Freaney

Accountancy Services

27,300

N/A

N/A

Quest Computing

Leaving Cert Applied Validation Programme Post — Primary Teachers Personnel System

10,527

N/A

N/A

The Learning Organisation

Schools IT 2000 Project

14,228

Yes

Yes

Thomas McCarthy

Facilitation Deed of Trust

920

N/A

N/A

West Dublin Education Centre

Report on the future development of Primary Education in Mallow

2,929

Yes

Yes

Total

249,036

Note: The totals for 1997-2000 inclusive are given in Irish Punts £.

Year 1998

Consultant, Experts, Advisers

Purpose

Cost

Reports

Implemented

£

Ad-hoc Advisory Group

Report on Task Force on the Supply of Technicians

254,640

Yes

Yes

ARCLINE

Archival Work — EDP & An Gúm

26,620

Yes

Yes

CIRCA Group

Implementation of Public Services Mngt Act, 1997

20,631

Yes

Yes

Dermot Morris

Interview Boards — Psychologists

1,000

N/A

N/A

Dermot Rochford

KVEC Amalgamation

9,190

Yes

Yes

Dr. Peter Renshaw

Irish Academy for the Performing Arts

4,115

N/A

N/A

Dr. Séamus Ó hUallacháin

Expenditure Review of Institúid Teangeolaíochta Éireann

2,500

Yes

In Liquidation

Frank Bannister

Year 2000 Seminar

1,200

N/A

N/A

Frank Pignatelli

Schools Points Based System of Priority

23,782.60

Yes

Yes

McBains Cooper

Health & Safety Manual

9,925

No

No

NUI — Maynooth

Adult Education — Green Paper

34,000

Yes

N/A

Oliver Freaney & Co.

Accountancy Services

54,600

N/A

N/A

PA Consulting Group

Monitoring of Progress in achieving Year 2000 & EURO Compliance by Public Bodies under the aegis of the Department

19,612

N/A

N/A

Price Waterhouse

Value for Money Assignment

6,504

Yes

Yes

Prospectus

Business Planning Process

6,045

Yes

Yes

Sean Nolan

Irish Academy for the Performing Arts

2,500

Yes

Yes

Sequel Technology

Conversion Consultancy — Year 2000

102,598

N/A

N/A

Software Paths

Extraction of data from ORACLE database

908

N/A

N/A

Sunglen Consulting

Monitoring of Progress in achieving Year 2000 Compliance by Public Bodies under the aegis of the Department

8,555

N/A

N/A

WRC Social & Economic Consultants

Women’s Education Initiative

20,100

Yes

N/A

Total

609,025.60

Year 1999

Consultants, Experts, Advisers

Purpose

Cost

Report

Implemented

£

ARCLINE

Archival Records — EDP & An Gúm

70,210

Yes

Yes

Building Design Partnership Ltd

Report on Provision of Electrical Supply to Specialist

3,700

N/A

N/A

Deloitte & Touche

Organisational Review of the Department

25,477

Yes

Partially

Economics Dept € UCD

To assess both quantitatively and qualitatively the social and economic contribution of the proposals contained in the Department of Education & Science’s initial outline of priority needs for the National Development Plan and Community Support Framework for the period 2000-2006

4,750

Yes

N/A

Ernst & Young

Review of Structures in the Building Unit

10,605

Yes

Yes

Hay Management

Interview — Psychologists

2,904

No

No

Oliver Freaney & Co.

Accountancy Services

54,599

N/A

N/A

Prospectus

Business Planning — Review of Special Education Unit

69,824

Yes

Yes

WRC Social & Economic Consultants

Review of VTOS

17,480

Yes

Partially

WRC Social & Economic Consultants

Women’s Education Initiative

20,100

Yes

N/A

Total

279,649

Year 2000

Consultants, Experts, Advisers

Purpose

Cost

Report

Implemented

£

C. Sheffield

Employee Assistance Service Review

4,090

Yes

N/A

CRC, Trinity College

Evaluation of Early School Leavers Initiative

52,810.89

Yes

Yes

CRC, Trinity College

Preparation of National Youth Work Development Plan

54,300

Yes

Yes

Crowleys — DFK

ESF verification report

70,654.81

Yes

Yes

Deloitte & Touche

Organisational review

35,214

Yes

Yes

Dennehy Associates

PR Consultancy

19,360

N/A

N/A

Dermot Rochford

Review of the Pilot Employee Assistance Scheme

8,894

N/A

N/A

Dermot Rochford

Staffing resource and organisational needs of NQAI, HETAC and FETAC

14,336.08

Yes

Yes

Dermot Rochford

Staffing needs of admin office in Tourism College, Killybegs

4,089.90

Yes

Yes

Eileen Costello

Consultancy — Inventory System

1,625

Yes

Project Specific

ERC, St. Pat’s Drumcondra

Research on 8-15 Early School Leaver Initiative

111,117

Yes

Yes

Ernst & Young

Review of Work in the Building Unit DES

15,137

Yes

Yes

Eustace Patterson Ltd

Review of Gaisce

15,157

Yes

Partially

Farrell Grant Sparks

Report on Tralee IT under Section 20 of RTC Act 1992

32,017.18

Yes

Partially

Farrell Grant Sparks

PPP Project Launch

18,297.79

No

N/A

Farrell Grant Sparks/ A & L Goodbody

Pilot PPP Education Projects (Five PPP Schools and Cork School of Music)

103,665.99

Yes

Yes

Inishowen Technology

School information and communication technology

15,695

N/A

N/A

Lesley Dee

Orchard Cope Foundation

5,075

Yes

No

Noel Lindsay

Saving & loan fund for adult & continuing education

2,000

Yes

No

NUI — Maynooth

Adult Education — Green & White Papers

35,000

Yes

Yes

Oliver Freaney & Co

3rd Level Finance accountancy

19,950

Yes

Yes

Philip Lee Solicitors

Consultancy — Vet School

2,934.25

Yes

Project Specific

Prospectus

Business Planning and Partnership in DES

17,949

Yes

Yes

Prospectus

Review of Special Education

26,645

Yes

Yes

Prospectus

Staff survey on internal communications

23,262

Yes

Yes

Séamus Ó hUallacháin

Interim Review of Institutes of Technology

1,100

N/A

N/A

Sean Cromien

Review of Department of Education operations & structures

16500

Yes

Ongoing

Todd Architects

Masterplan — Portlaoise

59,508

Yes

Yes

Tony Bromwell

Review of Safety Procedures in Lisnagry, Co.Limerick

3,534

Yes

Yes

WRC Social & Economic Consultants

Review of VTOS

11,654

Yes

Yes

WRC Social & Economic Consultants

Women’s Education Initiative

20,100

Yes

N/A

WRC Social & Economic Consultants

Improving Effectiveness of VTOS

29,140

Yes

Partially

Total

850,812.89

Note: The totals for 2001-2006 inclusive are given in Euro €

Year 2001

Consultants, Experts, Advisers

Purpose

Total Cost

Report

Implemented

Anne Colgan

DES Task Force on Autism

€10,000.00

Yes

Yes

Conor Galvin/ Bryn Holmes

Research Consultancy on ICT Usage in Schools

5,078.95

Yes

Yes

Deloitte & Touche

Business Analysis & Development of the Financial Management Function

88,854.00

Yes

Yes

Deloitte & Touche

Specification and selection of FMS System

42,418.00

Yes

Yes

Deloitte & Touche /A & L Goodbody

Pilot PPP Education Projects (National Maritime College)

336,480.00

Yes

Yes

Dennehy Associates

PR Consultancy

126,338.94

N/A

N/A

Dermot Rochford

VEC staffing study

85,982.85

Yes

Yes

Dominic McCanny

Investigation for Personnel Unit (DES)

2,618.75

N/A

N/A

Educational Research Centre

Evaluation of the sole use of the answer questions in Apprentice Tests

47,989.78

Yes

Ongoing

Elizabeth Waters

Lifelong Learning Consultation

13,500.00

Yes

N/A

Eustace Patterson Ltd

Contribution to study of FIT

8,853.71

Yes

Partially

Farrell Grant Sparks

Financial advice re: European Investment Bank refinancing of PP Projects

63,000.00

Yes

Yes

Farrell Grant Sparks / A & L Goodbody

Report on the Strategic Development Site for education & health purposes

120,625.12

Yes

Yes

Farrell Grant Sparks / A & L Goodbody

Five PPP Schools & Cork School of Music

164,537.10

Yes

Yes

Gartner Group

Research Advisory Services

33,065.13

N/A

N/A

Institute of Leisure & Amenity (ILAM)

PE Halls

1,061.74

N/A

N/A

Jonathan Williams

Editing of reports

886.73

N/A

N/A

Jordan Akustik

Cork School of Music

7,102.91

Yes

N/A

Kevin Leonard

Management Consultancy NEPS Administration

5,325.64

Yes

Yes

McCann Fitzgerald

Seminar on Public Procurement

4,207.38

No

N/A

McIver Consulting

Review of PLC Sector

88,722.00

Yes

Ongoing

Michael Collins and Associates

Architectural advice

32,886.22

No

No

National Women’s Council

Technical support for education equality initiative

106,072.15

N/A

N/A

Niall Fitsimons & Co.

Site Report on St. Finbarr’s, Farranferris

5,561.45

Yes

Project Specific

Price Waterhouse Coopers

Review of financial guidelines

11,995.03

Yes

Yes

Prospectus

Internal Customer Action Plan and Business Planning

7,618.43

Yes

N/A

Seán Ó Fiachra

OECD INES network C — developing a new governing structure for ERC

10,270.89

N/A

N/A

Tony Bromwell

Review of Safety Procedures in Lisnagry, Co. Limerick

2,441.71

Yes

Yes

WRC Social & Economic Consultants

Women’s Education Initiative

10,801.98

Yes

N/A

WRC Social & Economic Consultants

Independent assessment of the young people’s facilities and services fund

29,010.98

Yes

Yes

Total

1,473,307.57

Year 2002

Consultants, Experts, Advisers

Purpose

Total Cost

Report

Implemented

A & L Goodbody

PPP Projects

3,840.79

N/A

N/A

AHEAD

Review of disability needs in further education

38,000.00

Yes

Yes

Áine Hyland

Preparation of Eurydice Dossier

3,174.00

Yes

N/A

Anne Tuffy

Report on European Schools

7,180.86

Yes

N/A

Cynthia Deane

Educational Disadvantage Forum

5,050.00

Yes

Yes

Deloitte & Touche / A & L Goodbody

Pilot PPP Education Project (National Maritime College)

98,500.00

Yes

Yes

Deloitte & Touche

Verification Programme for ESF-aided Programmes 2000-2001 VEC sector

21,454.51

Yes

Yes

Dennehy Associates

PR Consultancy

38,443.65

N/A

N/A

Dermot Rochford

Study of VEC staffing structure & job evaluation of librarian (St Catherines)

4,830.00

Yes

Yes

Dominic McCanny

Investigation for Personnel Unit DES

523.75

Yes

N/A

Eustace Patterson Ltd

Contribution to study of FIT

7,682.00

Yes

Partially

Helen Leonard

Survey to evaluate pay of library staff in St. Catherine’s

3,807.36

Yes

Yes

Irish Project Supervisors Ltd

Report: Health & Safety Spec & Risk Assessment for window cleaning

3,810.05

Yes

Yes

John Coolahan

Preparation of Eurydice Dossier

8,583.00

Yes

N/A

John Coolahan

OECD Report on Teachers

6,300.00

Yes

Yes

Mazars Consulting

Corepay support

22,997.18

N/A

N/A

Mazars McIver

Assessment of staffing requirement of National Adult Learning Council

4,695.00

Yes

Ongoing

McIver Consulting

Review of PLC sector

48,164.00

Yes

Ongoing

National Women’s Council

Technical support for education equality initiative

87,000.00

Yes

N/A

Occupational Health Consultants

Asbestos lecture

751.73

N/A

N/A

Professor Iseult McCarthy

Art Teachers Diploma Review

7,503.82

N/A

N/A

Professor Thomas Mitchell

Work for the Irish Academy for the Performing Arts

3,900.00

N/A

N/A

Project Management Limited

Pilot Schools Inventory Project

1,092,749.00

Yes

N/A

Sean Glenane

OECD INES Project

2,933.14

N/A

N/A

University Limerick (Frank McGourty)

Research on Laboratory Design & Equipment

104,055.00

Yes

N/A

Vivian Cassells

Report on European Schools

7,180.86

No

N/A

Total

1,633,109.70

Year 2003

Consultants, Experts, Advisers

Purpose

Total Cost

Report

Implemented

Accenture

Advice & Assistance in the implementation of a Financial Mngt System

99,950.00

No

No

Ashby Food Safety Associates Ltd

Tendering process for light restaurant equipment

1,452.00

N/A

N/A

Bruce Shaw Safety Management

Health & Safety Revised Procedures

2,178.00

Yes

Yes

Cooney Carey

Study of schools’ transitional difficulties following phasing out of CE Schemes

37,401.00

No

No

Datanet Ltd

Feasibility Study on Providing Broadband Connectivity to Schools

78,794.74

Yes

Yes

Deloitte & Touche / A & L Goodbody

Pilot PPP Education Project (National Maritime College)

60,218.00

Yes

Yes

Dr. Jane Pillinger

For Work on Equality/Diversity booklet

2,904.00

Yes

Guidelines

Dr. Joe McHugh

Reports on Cork Northside centre for Higher Education

6,348.69

Yes

Project Specific

Dr. Maeve Martin

Desk study on Montessori teacher qualifications

6,300.00

Yes

Ongoing

Eoghan Boyle

Europe at School

833.05

No

N/A

Fitzpatrick Associates

Impact Assessment of EU Youth Programme

58,322.00

Yes

Yes

Giant Accountancy Services

Reading Recovery Study

850.00

Yes

Yes

Indecon Consultants

Interim evaluation of Socrates Programme

96,300.00

Yes

N/A

IPA

Providing quality service/ Implementation of devolved control

13,705.00

N/A

N/A

Iseult Mc Carthy

Europe at School

819.35

No

N/A

JJ Dwyer & Associates

Review of Partnership in the Department

9,740.50

Yes

Yes

John Coolahan

Compilation of National Dossier for Eurydice

8,583.00

Yes

N/A

Josephine O Donnell

Provision of Career Guidance Services to the European Schools

760.00

No

N/A

Karen Bacon

Provision of Career Guidance Services to the European Schools

190.00

No

N/A

Mazars McIvor

Assessment of staffing requirement of National Adult Learning Council

42,253.00

Yes

No

Michael Collins and Associates

Architectural advice

28,059.97

N/A

N/A

OECD

Review of Higher Education in Ireland

100,000.00

Yes

Yes

Precision Marketing Information Ltd

Census of schools — set up and data capture costs

6,087.51

N/A

N/A

Precision Marketing Information Ltd

Reports from census

9,666.69

Yes

N/A

Price Waterhouse Cooper

Audit of enrolments and release time scheme in primary schools

57,000.00

Yes

N/A

Talbot Associates Ltd

Review of supply teacher scheme

114,300.00

Yes

No

Valarie Considine

Accountant in DES

650.00

N/A

N/A

Total

843,666.50

Year 2004

Consultants, Experts, Advisers

Purpose

Total Cost

Report

Implemented

Advanced Organisation & Management Development.

Colloquium on Higher Education

7,275.13

Yes

N/A

Ashby Food Safety Associates Ltd

Catering Services Audit

2,178.00

N/A

N/A

Butler Group

Evaluation of Project Proposal

22,136.21

Yes

N/A

Butler Group UK

Ptinum Subscription Service

11,676.56

Yes

N/A

C. Moore & Associates Ltd

Advice re expenditure review initiative on school buildings

2,400.00

Yes

N/A

Cahill’s Sport Emporium

Preparation of speech material

900.00

N/A

N/A

Carr Communications

Facilitation at official function

1,900.00

Yes

Yes

Carr Communications

Advice, support & assistance for Your Education System (Y.E.S.) process

114,578.31

Yes

N/A

Clare Cunningham, Rockfinch Ltd

Council of Europe Report — Language Educ. Policy Country Profile

5,232.00

Yes

Yes

Cloncar Consulting International

Election of Teaching Council Members

7,250.00

N/A

N/A

Coady Partnership Architects

Department of Education & Science Furniture Review

49,542.39

Yes

Yes

Cynthia Deane — Options Consulting

Preparation of Strategy Statement for NEPS

10,011.30

N/A

N/A

Datanet Ltd

Assistance to Schools Broadband Steering Group

252,855.00

Yes

Yes

Dundalk Institute of Technology

Review of the operation of the 2004 Schools Building Programme

17,500.00

Yes

Ongoing

Expert Report OECD Study

Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers

18,725.60

N/A

N/A

Farrell Grant Sparks / A & L Goodbody

Consultancy Services to achieve contractual and financial close to Cork School of Music PPP Project

114,950.00

Yes

Ongoing

Farrell Grant Sparks / A & L Goodbody

Value for money assessment for Cork School of Music revised output spec.

95,000.00

Yes

Yes

Gartner

Evaluation of Project Proposal

49,178.03

Yes

No

Gearóid Ó Riain

Contracted as External person by the Joint Working Group for the Traveller Education Strategy to assist in drafting the strategy

30,000.00

Yes

In progress

IPA

Providing quality service/ Implementation of devolved control

12,705.00

N/A

N/A

John Coolahan

Eurydice Dossier

5,151.60

Yes

N/A

John Coolahan

OECD Report

6,994.90

Yes

N/A

Mazars

Finance Unit support

7,461.40

N/A

N/A

McIver Consultants/Steering Committee

Re-expenditure of ICT Undergraduate Skills Programme

35,438.75

Yes

N/A

MRBI

Qualitative Depths

8,712.00

Yes

Yes

MRBI

Postal Survey

10,073.25

N/A

N/A

MRBI

Customer Service Survey

10,073.25

N/A

N/A

Polaris Human Resources

Review of Gender Mainstreaming in DES

11,090.33

Yes

Yes

Precision Marketing Information Ltd

Reports from Census

4,635.51

N/A

N/A

Softex

Consultancy on Quality Customer Service (QCS) targets

2,420.00

N/A

N/A

Torlach Ó Connor

European Year of Education through Sport

5,000.00

Yes

Yes

Valarie Considine

Accountant in DES

48,425.00

N/A

N/A

Total

981,469.52

Year 2005

Consultants, Experts, Advisers

Purpose

Total Cost

Report

Implemented

A & L Goodbody

Youth Information Provision Review

57,626.25

Yes

N/A

Advanced Organisation & Management Development

Colloquium on Higher Education

1,936.00

Yes

N/A

AMAS

Advice & Guidelines on writing for the web on a restricted website

19,979.04

Yes

Yes

Archives Consultancy Services Ltd

Record Management Workshops

4,840.00

N/A

N/A

Barrister-at-Law

Barrister to advise Department

63,305.00

N/A

N/A

Brid McGrath

Report on the development of a library service in NEPS

6,175.00

N/A

N/A

Caroline Hussey

Adjudication Panel of Courses

3,500.00

No

N/A

Clare Cunningham, Rockfinch Ltd

Council of Europe Report — Language Educ. Policy Country Profile

6,684.00

Yes

Yes

Cloncar Consulting International

Election of Teaching Council Members

14,211.94

N/A

N/A

Columb Collins

Adjudication Panel of Courses

5,260.78

No

N/A

Cynthia Deane — Options Consulting

Preparation of Strategy Statement for NEPS

12,219.13

N/A

N/A

Cynthia Deane — Options Consulting

Contracted by the statutory Educational Disadvantage Committee to assist in preparation of its final report

13,600.00

Yes

Yes

Datanet Ltd

Support & Advice to Schools Broadband Steering Group

107,769.00

Yes

Yes

Denis Healy

Adjudication Panel of Courses

7,382.64

No

N/A

Dr. Richard Boyle

External Quality Assessor — Expenditure review Initiative

2,904.00

Yes

Yes

Dundalk Institute of Technology

Review of Primary/Post Primary Schools Building Programme 2004

17,500.00

Yes

N/A

Farrell Grant Sparks / A & L Goodbody

Consultancy Service to achieve contractual and financial close to Cork School of Music PPP Project

447,700.00

Yes

N/A

Insight Statistical Consulting Ltd

Survey Analysis for Primary Inspectorate

6,050.00

Yes

N/A

Insight Statistical Consulting Ltd

Evaluation of the Impact of ICT on Teaching and Learning in First and Second Level Schools

19,211.98

Yes

Ongoing

John Coolahan

UNESCO 11EP Study Visit

310.00

No

N/A

Year 2005—continued

Consultants, Experts, Advisers

Purpose

Total Cost

Report

Implemented

John Hayden

Adjudication Panel of Courses

4,266.90

No

N/A

Knowledge Works

Technical Writers to produce Section 15 Reference Manuals

4,840.00

N/A

N/A

Laurence Ó Ciaráin

NEPS/School Protocol in Grievance Cases

1,650.00

N/A

N/A

Mazars

Finance Unit Support

4,065.00

Yes

Ongoing

Michael Beirne BL

Local Inquiry under Section 105 of VEC Act 1930

20,033.29

Yes

Yes

McCann Fitzgerald Solicitors

Form of Building Contract for use on Design & Build projects

21,175.00

Yes

Yes

McIver Consultants

Funding Review of the Youth Sector

71,683.76

Draft Stage

N/A

McIver Consultants

Market Research for report of Expenditure Review of ICT Undergraduate Skills Programme

35,438.75

Yes

Yes

MORI Ireland

Customer Survey on behalf of the DES Inspectorate

10,317.67

Yes

Yes

Price Waterhouse Cooper

Examination of the application of state funding to MIE for the purpose of Teacher Education and related activities

84,700.00

Yes

Yes

Theta Eta Advisors Ltd

DES Accounting Review

4,598.00

N/A

N/A

Torlach O’Connor

Future Objectives National Report

10,400.00

Yes

N/A

Torlach O’Connor

Local Inquiry under Section 105 of VEC Act 1930

23,208.76

Yes

Yes

Valarie Considine

Accountant in DES

105,300.00

See 2006

N/A

Total

1,219,841.89

Year 2006

Consultants, Experts, Advisers

Propesed Consultancies

Total Cost

Report

Implemented

A & L Goodbody, Solicitors

Youth Information Provision Review

6,503.75

Draft Stage

N/A

Barrister-at-Law

Barrister to advise Department

69,473.00

N/A

N/A

Insight Statistical Consulting Ltd

Evaluation of ICT Uses in Schools

38,424.00

Yes

Ongoing

Mazars

CorePay Payroll System

6,000.00

Yes

Ongoing

McIver Consultants

Funding Review of the Youth Sector

17,342.00

Draft Stage

N/A

Not Known yet

Expenditure re: Survivors of Institutional Abuse

10,000.00

Not Known yet

Adjudication of Panel for Registration of Courses

20,000.00

Not Known yet

Review of Bus Éireann Overhead Charges

20,000.00

Not Known yet

Children Detention Schools

21,000.00

Not Known yet

Website architecture/Records Management

50,000.00

Not Known yet

CEO for proposed centre for Autism

37,500.00

Not Known yet

Psychological Consultancy in Specialised Areas

40,000.00

Not Known yet

Programme Evaluation

200,000.00

Not Known yet

Males into Primary Teaching

75,000.00

Not Known yet

Employee Assistance Service for teachers

Not Known yet

Not Known yet

Local Inquiry under Section 105 of VEC Act

Not Known yet

Valarie Considine

Employment of an Accountant

120,000.00

N/A

N/A

Total

731,242.75

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

270 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the name of the company awarded and the contract price agreed by her Department in regard to the translation of a report (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19799/06]

The contract for the translation of the Harris report — Irish in Primary Schools: Long-term National trends in Achievement was awarded to Europus Teoranta, An Cheathrú Rua, Co. na Gaillimhe. The contract price agreed was €160.00 per 1000 words. The total estimated cost for translating the report which contains 80778 words in total and including VAT at 21% will amount to €15,638.62.

Community Development.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

271 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science the additional funding spent in the targeted areas of disadvantage in the State under the RAPID programme on projects not outlined in the national development plan by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19926/06]

The RAPID programme is designed to harness the opportunities and resources of the national development plan through the front loading and prioritisation of investment in the 45 disadvantaged communities (25 urban areas and 20 provincial towns) identified in the programme.

In accordance with the aims of the RAPID programme, my Department endeavours, where possible, to frontload resources to support proposals relating to RAPID areas.

While my Department's response to the RAPID programme is co-ordinated by the Regional Offices Service, which acts as a point of contact between the RAPID Area Implementation Teams and my Department, any expenditure on proposals relating to RAPID are incorporated into the existing budgets of the Department. As a consequence, it is not always possible to identify the exact spend on RAPID to date.

However, my Department's new action plan for educational inclusion — DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) aims to ensure that the educational needs of children and young people, from pre-school to completion of upper second-level education (3 to 18 years) from disadvantaged communities are prioritised and effectively addressed. The new plan will involve an annual investment of some additional €40m on full implementation in 640 primary schools, comprising of 320 urban/town schools and 320 rural schools, and 200 second-level schools.

These will be included in a new School Support Programme (SSP). The SSP will bring together, and build upon, a number of existing interventions for schools and school clusters/ communities with a concentrated level of educational disadvantage. A substantial number of schools selected for the programme are either in, or serving, RAPID communities.

School Staffing.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

272 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science the percentage of post-primary teachers who are in promotional posts; the breakdown of those percentages according to age-bracket, gender and type of school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19932/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is being compiled at present. I will arrange for the information to be forwarded directly to the Deputy.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

273 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the fact that from the 1 September 2006 a school (details supplied) in County Galway will lose a teacher despite the fact that on that day, this school will begin usage of their four newly constructed classrooms and that it will be reduced to a three teacher school; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that the pupil intake at the school this year indicates that a teacher will be made available again in September 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19973/06]

The mainstream staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30th September of the previous school year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule which is issued to all primary schools each year.

According to data submitted to my Department by the Board of Management of the school referred to by the Deputy, the enrolment in the school on 30th September 2005 was 76 pupils. In accordance with the staffing schedule (Circular 0023/2006), which has issued to all primary schools and is also available on my Department's website atwww.education.ie, the mainstream staffing in the school for the 2006/07 school year will be a Principal and 2 Mainstream Class Teachers.

To ensure openness and transparency in the system an independent Appeal Board is now in place to decide on any appeals. The criteria under which an appeal can be made are set out in Department Primary Circular 24/06.

The Board of Management of the school referred to by the Deputy, has submitted an appeal to the Staffing Appeal Board. The appeal will be considered by the Appeal Board at a meeting which is scheduled to take place on Thursday 25th May 2006. The Board of Management will be notified of the outcome of the appeal as soon as possible thereafter.

The Appeal Board operates independently of the Minister and my Department and its decision is final.

I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to intervene in the operation of the independent Appeal Board.

School Accommodation.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

274 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason members of the staff of her building unit at Tullamore, County Offaly will not meet the board of management and parents representatives of a school (details supplied) in County Galway, in view of the fact that there is overcrowding in the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19974/06]

An application for capital funding towards the provision of an extension to provide additional classroom and ancillary accommodation has been received from the school. The project, as will all other applications for school development work, is assessed in accordance with the prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects which, as the Deputy will be aware, was published following consultation with the Education Partners.

My Department is currently examining enrolment and demographic trends in the area in order to determine the long-term projected staffing figure on which the school's long-term accommodation needs will be based. When this examination is complete a decision will be taken on how best to meet the school's long-term needs and any building project required will be progressed in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme 2006-2010.

My officials have recently received a request for a meeting from the Board of Management. Upon completion of the aforementioned assessment process my Department will be in further contact with the school authorities in relation to their application and their request for a meeting.

I would also like to take this opportunity to advise the Deputy that this school also applied under the Additional Accommodation Scheme 2006. The school authority were notified in March 2006 that my Department was prepared to approve the rental of two mainstream classrooms as the school authority were using their General Purpose room to accommodate these classes. The Form of Acceptance from the school is currently awaited in my Department.

Higher Education Grants.

Seán Ardagh

Ceist:

275 Mr. Ardagh asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 will receive funding for the second and subsequent years for a course. [19975/06]

My Department funds three means tested maintenance grant schemes for third level education students in respect of attendance on approved courses in approved third level institutions and one grant scheme in respect of Post Leaving Certificate courses (a) The Higher Education Grants Scheme; (b) The Vocational Education Committees' Scholarship Scheme; (c) The Third Level Maintenance Grants Scheme For Trainees; (d) Maintenance Grants Scheme for Students attending Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) Courses.

The decision on eligibility for third level grants is a matter for the relevant Local Authority or VEC. These bodies do not refer individual applications to my Department except, in exceptional cases, where, for example, advice or instruction regarding a particular clause in the relevant scheme is desired. It appears that no such advice or instruction has, to date, been sought in the case of the student, referred to by the Deputy.

Officials of my Department have contacted both City and County Dublin VEC and they have no record of receiving an application from the candidate in question. The candidate should therefore apply to the relevant awarding body in the first instance.

If an individual applicant considers that he/she has been unjustly refused a maintenance grant, or that the rate of grant awarded is not the correct one, he/she may appeal to the relevant Local Authority or VEC.

Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down, in writing, by the relevant Local Authority or VEC, and remains of the view that the body has not interpreted the schemes correctly in his case, a letter outlining the position may be sent to my Department. Alternatively, as already indicated, the Local Authority or VEC may, itself, in exceptional circumstances, seek clarification on issues from my Department.

However, it is not open to me, or my Department, to depart from the terms of the maintenance grants schemes in individual cases.

Apart from the funding provided through the Student Support Maintenance Grant Schemes, financial assistance is also available from my Department through the Student Assistance Fund. The objective of the Fund is to assist students, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise, due to their financial circumstances, be unable to continue their third level studies. Further information on this fund is available from the Student Access Officer at the College being attended.

Special Educational Needs.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

276 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans which are being put in place for young adults with autism currently in a school (details supplied) in County Wexford who are now over 18 years of age to continue with their education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19976/06]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the Health Service Executive (HSE) has direct responsibility for provision for young adults over eighteen years of age with special needs. The Deputy will be aware that part 2 of the Disability Act 2005 provides a statute-based right to an assessment of disability-related health, personal social service and education needs.

My Department is unaware of any specific issue relating to the matter raised by the Deputy. However, my officials will make early contact with the school concerned to clarify the matter.

School Transport.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

277 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will ensure that school bus transport is provided for persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; the reason the service was discontinued in each case; if she will expedite a response; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19987/06]

Bus Éireann, which operates the School Transport Service on behalf of my Department, has advised that a number of pupils attending the school referred to in the details supplied were availing of concessionary transport.

I should point out that concessionary transport is not guaranteed. Pupils availing of such transport may only do so if spare seats are available on school buses and this is determined on a term-to-term basis by reference to those who are fully eligible for transport under the terms of the school transport scheme.

The introduction of one-for-one seating arrangements on school transport services does not necessarily mean that concessionary transport will be discontinued. However, parents of pupils should check in advance of the school year to ascertain the position regarding the availability of concessionary transport on school buses.

Significant investment has been made by the Government to address capacity shortfalls arising from the phasing out of the three for two seating arrangement on school buses. A programme for Bus Éireann to acquire a number of new and modern second-hand buses is well advanced. In addition, Bus Éireann has hired-in over 220 additional vehicles from the private sector and the situation is being kept under review.

Schools Building Projects.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

278 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of an application for an extension to a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if she will expedite the application. [19988/06]

The School Planning Section of my Department is in receipt of an application for major capital works from the management authority of the school to which the Deputy refers. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale projects and has been assigned a Band 2 rating. Progress on the proposed works is being considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme from 2006 onwards.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

279 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 494 of 4 April 2006, if a decision has been reached regarding an application for a resource room for a school (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19990/06]

The Deputy will be pleased to learn that the school referred to has been allocated funding under the Permanent Accommodation Scheme 2006 to provide a resource room at the school. This is in addition to the funding already approved under the Scheme for the provision of an additional mainstream classroom.

School Staffing.

Jerry Cowley

Ceist:

280 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a school (details supplied) in County Mayo is to lose the equivalent of two teachers and many other essential school activities due to the withdrawal of funding; her views on whether this is a severe blow to this school which is in a deprived area; the reason same is happening; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19991/06]

I want to state emphatically that no school has been told that they are going to lose any of the resources that they have been receiving under existing schemes for tackling disadvantage as a result of the introduction of the new DEIS initiative. On the contrary, the new School Support Programme is aimed at providing even more extra resources for the most disadvantaged schools in the country.

Schools that did not qualify for the new programme will keep the extra resources they are getting under existing schemes for the 2006/07 school year and after that they will continue to get support in line with the level of disadvantage among their pupils.

The new DEIS programme will be of huge benefit to schools in Mayo. 4 urban/town primary schools, 59 rural primary schools and 6 second level schools in Mayo have been invited to benefit from all the resources available from the new programme. Indeed, nearly 20% of all the rural schools invited to benefit from the new programme nationally are in Mayo.

I am sure the Deputy would agree that it is important to make sure that schools serving the most disadvantaged communities get all the extra support possible and will welcome the extra resources that DEIS will provide for Mayo schools.

It is precisely with this goal in mind that DEIS was designed. For example, over the years, no less than 8 separate schemes for disadvantaged primary schools have been put in place. Some schools were benefiting from just one or two of these and others were benefiting from more. The DEIS initiative is designed to ensure that the most disadvantaged schools benefit from a comprehensive package of supports, while ensuring that others continue to get support in line with the level of disadvantage among their pupils.

I can assure the Deputy that there is no reason for schools that haven't been identified for the new programme to worry as they will continue to get support in line with the level of disadvantage among their pupils. No school in Mayo has been told that they will lose any resources as a result of DEIS.

A review mechanism has been put in place to address the concerns of schools that did not qualify for inclusion in the School Support Programme but regard themselves as having a level of disadvantage which is of a scale sufficient to warrant their inclusion in the Programme. This mechanism will operate under the direction of an independent person, charged with ensuring that all relevant identification processes and procedures were properly followed in the case of schools applying for a review. The school referred to by the Deputy has submitted a review application.

It is intended that the review process will be completed by the end of the current school year.

Schools Building Projects.

Trevor Sargent

Ceist:

281 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress which has been made with regard to establishing primary and secondary level schools in Donabate, County Dublin; if a date for commencement of construction has been set; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19992/06]

A new 1,000 pupil post primary school is being provided for Donabate. This will be delivered by way of a Public Private Partnership.

Site issues and the management model for the new school are currently being worked on in my Department. When these matters have been finalised, the school will be included in a PPP bundle for delivery.

The project has already been assigned a Band 1 Priority rating under the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects. This is the highest band rating possible which is a clear indication of the priority which my Department attaches to this project.

With regard to primary provision, an application for a new school building for Donabate Portrane Educate Together National School is being processed. Given its location, this project also attracts a band 1 priority rating. Progress on the project is currently being considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme from 2006 onwards.

Grant Payments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

282 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when field trip grant will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20015/06]

My Department contacted Kildare County Council, the awarding body in this case, and was advised that they are awaiting documentation from the college before they can finalise their decision regarding eligibility for funding in respect of a field trip. The candidate will be advised of the outcome of the decision by Kildare County Council as soon as it is reached.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

283 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science when the reports on pupil-teacher ratio, the task force on physical sciences and the task force on discipline will be implemented. [20032/06]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that since the McGuinness report was published, significant improvements have been made in the actual pupil teacher ratio at post primary. The ratio has fallen from 15.1:1 in the 1999/00 school year to 13.4:1 in the 2004/05 school year. The reduction in the pupil teacher ratio since 1997 was achieved through the creation of almost 1,800 new posts and the retention of over 2,000 posts that would otherwise have been lost due to falling enrolments.

Significant progress has also been made in the whole area of the physical sciences, since the Task Force on the Physical Sciences reported. A new science curriculum has been introduced at primary level and a revised syllabus in Junior Certificate Science was introduced in 2003 and will be examined for the first time in June 2006. Revised syllabi in Leaving Certificate Physics, Chemistry and Biology have also been introduced and examined within the last five years. Work on the revision of the two remaining Leaving Certificate subjects — Agricultural Science and Physics and Chemistry (combined) — is well advanced. The introduction of each of the revised syllabi has been supported by comprehensive in-service programmes for teachers. Additional equipment grants have been provided to schools, and laboratories continue to be refurbished as part of the ongoing school building programme. A review of mathematics at post-primary level is also being undertaken by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).

In launching "School Matters" the final Report of the Task Force on Student Behaviour in Second Level Schools, on the 14th March, I outlined a package of measures to tackle student behaviour issues. In my view, implementation of the report must be approached in a prioritised and carefully structured way. The measures I have announced include: a review of existing legislation; the putting in place of a Behaviour Support Team; the establishment of up to 30 behaviour support classrooms on a trial basis; appropriate and focused expansion of the Junior Certificate Schools Programme; and a review of existing alternative provision, from which a comprehensive plan for out of school provision will be prepared.

The report's recommendations require action and engagement from a wide range of participants in our education system. For my part, as Minister, I have given a clear statement of my commitment to sustained and considered action in dealing with the issue of student behaviour.

School Transport.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

284 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Science the number and age profile of the school bus fleet in each county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20068/06]

The number and age profile of the school bus fleet is not available on a county basis. The number of vehicles operating under the school transport scheme is over 3,300, including taxis. The average age of the Bus Éireann school bus fleet is 15.1 years. The average age of the entire school bus fleet, including contractors' vehicles, is 11 years.

Commemorative Events.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

285 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence if, as part of the commemorative activities leading up to the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, he will make available from the commemoration budget financial support for the making of the feature film currently being produced on James Connolly, which deals particularly with Connolly’s role in the 1916 Rising and will be the first feature film dealing specifically with one of the leaders of the Rising; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19787/06]

As the Deputy is aware, the Government has entered into an all-party consultation process in the Oireachtas with regard to an appropriate commemorative programme for the centenary of the Easter Rising. I intend to convene the next meeting of the consultation group shortly. The Group will be invited to reflect on a broad range of possibilities, which could include a special framework to provide official support for initiatives in diverse sectors with specific relevance to the period of the Rising. Before responding on any particular project, I would like the Group to address the appropriate time frame, scale and scope of such a programme. However, without prejudice to the deliberations of the all-party group, I welcome the initiative to make a film of the life of James Connolly and I have no doubt that such a film could assist in developing an enhanced understanding of his achievements and times.

Community Development.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

286 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Defence the additional funding spent in the targeted areas of disadvantage in the State under the RAPID programme on projects not outlined in the national development plan by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19927/06]

No expenditure is made by my Department under the RAPID programme.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

287 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the additional funding spent in the targeted areas of disadvantage in the State under the RAPID programme on projects not outlined in the national development plan by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19928/06]

The information as sought in the Question is not available in my Department. However, details of funding approved or paid to projects under the RAPID programme by my Department, which include expenditure both under the National Development Plan and additional to the Plan, are set out in the following table. A number of other RAPID projects are also under active consideration by my Department or local authorities, as appropriate. My Department has also met the salary costs of the local co-ordinators for each RAPID area. A total of €9.796m has been expended to date in this regard. In addition to RAPID projects, public agencies, including local authorities, are already providing a wide range of services in all RAPID areas.

RAPID Area (Strand I)

Project No.

Subject

Report / Position

Cork — Blackpool/The Glen/ Mayfield

CKBG008

Waste & Recycling-Bring Facilities

Approved for grant assistance under the Waste Management Capital Grants Scheme — total allocation (incl. CKFG053) of €107,000.

Cork — Blackpool/The Glen/ Mayfield

CKBG011 CKFG 17 CKKC16c CKTM 28

Estate Management Mediation Service

Combined funding of €42,500 approved for projects.

Cork — Blackpool / The Glen / Mayfield

CKBG017CKFG018

Provision of Kurzweil Machine

Combined total grant aid of €5,631 for Optical Scanning facilities in Central Library, Mayfield Library and Tory Top Library.

Cork — Blackpool/The Glen/Mayfield

CKBG035

Glen Regeneration Phase 2 & 3

€18.2 million approved for phase 1. Work complete in phase 1. Phase 2 — contractors on site.

Cork — Blackpool/The Glen/Mayfield

CKBG036

Environmental Enhancement — Cushing Road / Place

Approval to proceed to tender, February 2006. Budget Cost €7.7m

Cork — Fairhill/Gurranebraher/Farranree

CKFG051

Civic Amenity Site — northside

Funding of €365,000 approved for a site in Blackpool to service north Cork City area, under the Waste Management Capital Grants Scheme.

Cork — Fairhill/Gurranebraher/Farranree

CKFG053

Improved availability of Bring Site

Approved for grant assistance under the Waste Management Capital Grants Scheme — total allocation (incl. CKFG 08) of €107,000.

Cork — Fairhill/Gurranebraher/Farranree

CKFG055

Farranree Housing Project for the Elderly

€6,757,213 paid. Additional €219,350 approved for communal facility grant.

Cork — Knocknaheeney/ Churchfield

CKKC007c

Cork CC Area Housing Office

Office fully staffed and opened for business 02/10/02 — approved funding of €177,763 paid

Cork — Knocknaheeney/ Churchfield

CKKC018d

Knocknaheeny Regeneration Plan

Funding of €2.05 million provided under Remedial works scheme for window/door replacement in Blocks A, B and C. Approval of tender for Block D issued June 2005 at a cost of €21m.

Cork — Knocknaheeney/ Churchfield

CKKC019d

Knocknaheeny Regeneration Block D

Cork — Togher/ Mahon

CKTM004

Togher Community Services Centre

Centre is completed. The approved budget (April 2006) is €600,000 (awaiting final accounts.)

Ballymun

DUBBALSOC/01

Social Supports Initiative

Funding of €65,047 approved.

Finglas

DUBFING011

Traveller Community Centre at Avila Park

Approved as part of 6 house scheme Avila Park Phase iv. The Community Centre is part of an overall scheme to provide additional housing at Avila Park. Approved budget €530,922.

Northeast Inner City

DUBNEIC001

Improvements flat complexes

D/EHLG is currently funding redevelopment work to a number of flat complexes in the inner city involving part demolition, new build and regeneration. Overall cost €150m (2003 prices). €73m expended to December 2005.

South West Inner City (Canals)

DUBSW027

Supporting the Regeneration process in St. Michael’s Estate

Demolition works approved at an estimated cost of €764,000.

South West Inner City (Canals)

DUBSW028

Supporting the Regeneration process in Fatima Mansions

Demolition works approved at an estimated cost of €670,000.

RAPID Area (Strand I)

Project No.

Subject

Report / Position

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown

DRDUNL034

Redevelop the housing stock at Laurel Avenue

Funding of €13.41 million approved.

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown

DRDUNLO41

Major Environmental Improvement Works

€100,000 provided from RAPID Leverage Funding Environmental Enhancing Scheme. Redevelopment of Laurel Avenue, Ballybrack, €16m, budget cost approved.

Blanchardstown

DUBBLA012

Community Facilities at Parslickstown / Tyrrelstown as part of proposed NABCO housing Development

Pre tender approval was given by the Department to Fingal County Council in September ’05, for the provision of 156 dwellings and a community facility at a budget cost of €28,121,101.

Limerick — Kings Island

LIMKI 048

Establishment Anti-social unit

€21,376 paid.

Limerick — Southside

LKS029

Phase II and III O’ Malley Park Remedial work Scheme

The estimated cost for phase 1 & 2 is €17.5m. Phase 1 completed. Plans for phase 2 under examination.

Clondalkin

SDCLON017

Environmental Improvements Prog — Establish and maintain a Recycling Centre (6 bottle & can banks)

Provision of 13 Bring Centres in South Dublin County Council area approved under the Waste Management Capital Grants Scheme — total allocation €48,000.

Clondalkin

SDCLON019

To implement the Traveller Accommodation Programme in Kishogue

Approved budget €5,131,310.

Clondalkin

SDCLON020

To implement the Traveller Accommodation Programme in Lynche’s Lane

Approved budget €500,000.

Clondalkin

SDCLON023

In-fill housing prog — increase housing availability & decrease sites of anti-social behaviour

Refurbishment of 113 units at a cost of €3.126m.

Clondalkin

SDCLON025

To enhance the funding available for the LA housing refurbishment programme in Shancastle & Greenfort

First phase — 100 houses in Shancastle / Greenfort under Remedial Works Scheme. Estimated cost of almost €2.8 million.

Clondalkin

SDCLON026

To enhance the funding available for the LA housing refurbishment programme in Moorfield

Revised Budget Cost of €4,171,657 issued in November 2005 — €3,487,426 paid to date.

Tallaght

SDTALL030

Refurbishment of Cushlawn Est. Killinarden

First phase — 100 houses in Cushlawn under Remedial Works Scheme. Estimated cost of almost €2.8 million.

Tallaght

SDTALL032

Provision of Traveller Accommodation — Killinardin

Work started June 2005, approved budget €5,147,008.

Tallaght

SDTALL033

Provision of Traveller Accommodation — Kiltipper

Completed June 2004. Approved Budget €1,120,000

Tallaght

SDTALL034

Provision of Traveller Accommodation — Fortunstown

Work started in December 2005. Approved Budget €3,422,890.

Tallaght

SDTALL035

Provision of Traveller Accommodation — Belgard

Completed. Total cost €2,869,631.

Tallaght

SDTALL036

Extend existing Traveller Accommodation in Brookfield

Approved budget €1,414,703.

RAPID Area (Strand I)

Project No.

Subject

Report / Position

Tallaght

SDTALL040 SDTALL046 SDTALL048

Environmental Awareness Campaign, Killinarden, Jobstown and Fettercairn.

€20,000 was allocated from the Department together with €5,000 matching funding from South Dublin County Council to a scaled down environmental awareness programme incorporating the three designated areas of Killinarden, Jobstown and Fettercairn.

Drogheda

LTHDRO008

Estate Management Training (residents), Home management training (homemakers), Environmental Awareness Involving schools/youth and community, House Maintenance Course

€32,576 paid.

Drogheda

LTHDRO18

Remedial Housing works scheme

Refurbishment of a third phase of 50 houses is currently under way and will cost around €2 million.

Drogheda

LTHDRO19

Provision of Heating Scheme

€237,461 paid under the Central Heating Programme.

Dundalk

LTHDUN004 LTHDUN007 LTHDUN025 LTHDUN027 LTHDUN036

Development of facilities, Remedial Works Scheme, Community Park — Cox’s Demense & Muirheavnamor

To date, the Department agreed to a contribution of €300,000 towards the provision of childcare facilities at Muirheavnamore.

Waterford

Refurbishment scheme at Clonard Park, Ballybeg

Refurbishment scheme at Ballybeg involves the general refurbishment of some 215 dwellings. Phase 1 & 2 with a total budget cost of €5.3 million (subject to final accounts) involving some 80 units have been completed. Phase 3 involving 63 units at an estimated cost of €3.58 m is due to start in May 06.

Waterford

_

Development of an integrated action plan for Larchfield/Lisduggan

€28,021 funding provided for the appointment of an Estates Officer with responsibility for the development of an integrated action plan for Larchfield/Lisduggan.

Waterford

WATFC033

Community Facilities — Manor St. John.

The Department has indicated its commitment to providing funding of €0.5 million for the refurbishment of the Community Facility at Manor St. John.

Waterford

_

Provision for Water and Drainage Infrastructure — Kilbarry Development Area

The current (April 2006) estimated cost of the scheme stands at €1,251,394, with the Department providing funding of €413,094.

Waterford

_

Link Road to centre of Ballybeg

€1,007,858 paid up to end 2005. €55,142 allocated for 2006.

Waterford

WATFC035

Larchville/Lisduggan Area Plan

Manor St. John — New Housing The Department has funded the construction of 47 houses for Manor St. John and the Scheme was completed in 2003 at a cost of over €5 million. Infill Housing and Environmental Upgrade The Council has submitted proposals to the Department for 5 infill houses at Cental Avenue, Lisduggan. Tender approval for the scheme issued Aug 2005 at a cost of approx €1.2m (Budget cost under examination).

RAPID Area (Strand I)

Project No.

Subject

Report / Position

Bray

WKBRAY003

Estate Management Development Officer for Bray

Funding of €38,700 approved. Project is now completed.

Bray

WKBRAY004 WKBRAY005

Audit of Housing Stock in RAPID Area

€25,000 paid. Project is now completed.

Carlow

CW CRLW O14

Housing Management Initiative

Funding up to €45,330 approved.

Cavan

CN CAVN 001

Remedial Housing at Tullac Mongan

Work Commenced June 2005. Budget approved €1.518m

Cavan

CN CAVN 002

Construction of Social Housing — Fair Green

Final Account issued for €2,187,571 in respect of 16 units — €2,138,472 paid against project to date (May 2006).

Cavan

CN CAVN 003

Construction of Social Housing — Tullacmongan

Construction of 18 houses was completed in July, 2004 at a cost of €1,918,690.

Cavan

CN CAVN 004

Construction of Social Housing — Ard na Gréine

The Department gave approval to the Council in November 2004 to purchase 4 houses at a cost of €495,850 — €471,058 paid to date (May 2006)

Cavan

CN CAVN 007

Construction of Central Library and Heritage Centre

€4,563,185 paid to date (May 2006). Outstanding balance €366,192.

Cavan

CN CAVN 008

Construction of Housing at Mount St. Francis — Stage II

Under Construction. Approved budget €1,470,165.

Mallow

CK MALL 014

Estate Management — Powerscourt

€23,000 paid.

Mallow

CK MALL 043

Provision of Central Heating

€99,520 paid.

Youghal

CK YOUG 008

Remedial Works Scheme — Raheen Park

Works have been approved under the Remedial Works Scheme Approval of Tender and Budget cost of €137,087 issued March 04.

Youghal

CK YOUG 029

Estate Management — Greencloyne & Chestnut Drive

€46,000 paid.

Mallow

CK MALL 038

Gouldshill/Town Council Local Agenda Environment Partnership Fund.

This project received €1,250 from the Department’s Local Agenda 21 Environmental Partnership Fund in 2003 (€2,500 with local authority co-financing). A further grant of €7,680 was awarded on 10.03.04.

Youghal

CK YOUG 046

Local Agenda 21 Partnership Fund -Reduce Youghal’s Waste Initiative

This project received €1,250 from the Department’s Local Agenda 21 Environmental Partnership Fund in 2003 (€2,500 with local authority co-financing). A further grant of €5,000 was awarded on 11.12.03

Galway

GY GLWY 012

Refurbishment of Walter Macken Flats (96 no. dwellings)

Construction work on the refurbishment works to 96 dwellings at Walter Macken Flats, Galway has been completed. Funding of €6,750,560 was approved and has been paid.

Galway

GY GLWY 013

Refurbishment of 44 no. maisonettes at Mervue

Refurbishment completed 2004. Funding of €1,496,413 paid.

Galway

GY GLWY 014

Housing Development at Merlin Park, Ballybane; construction of 114 houses

The estimated cost of the scheme is €11.27m.

RAPID Area (Strand II)

Project No.

Subject

Report / Position

Galway

GY GLWY 015

Proposed construction of 268 new dwellings at Merlin Park

The estimated cost of the scheme is €6.2m.

Galway

GY GLWY 016

Ballybane Neighbourhood Centre

The Department provided funding of €250,000 to Galway City Council under the One Stop Shop Programme.

Galway

GY GLWY 017

Refurbishment of 24 no. local authority houses at St. Finbarr’s Tce, Bohermore

Approved as a remedial works scheme. Revised budget cost issued Feb 05 for €3,981,144. €2,734,323 paid to date.

Galway

GY GLWY 018

Housing Management Initiative Grant, Ballinfoile

€30,600 paid.

Galway

GY GLWY 019

Construction of 236 no. units at Bóthar na gCóiste, Ballinfoile

This scheme includes local authority, voluntary and affordable houses — all 126 local authority units are now completed. The total estimated cost of the scheme is €34.5m. A final account in respect of the social units issued for €18,344,781 has been paid.

Galway

GY GLWY 020

Construction of 19 no. social housing scheme for elderly people and people with disabilities at Sandyvale, Ballinfoile

This scheme was completed in 2003 at a cost of €2.3m.

Galway

GY GLWY 021

Westside Housing Inclusion Project

€28,639 paid.

Galway

GY GLWY 022

Westside Bris Project

€8,800 paid.

Galway

GY GLWY 025

Library at Westside

€2,030,114 paid to date (May 2006). Outstanding balance €55,636.

Galway

GY GLWY 028

Construction of three group units at Bóthar na gCóiste

This scheme was completed at a cost of €560,000.

Tralee

KY TRAL 016

Earth Education Project

€19,020 paid.

Tralee

KY TRAL 062

Earth Education Project

Continuation of KYTRAL 016. €15,000 paid.

Athy

KE ATHY 008

Remedial Works Scheme at Townspark and Carbury Park

€100,000 initially allocated in 2004. Tenders received by council for refurbishment works to 37 houses (2006).

Athy

KE ATHY 009

Employment of Tenant Liaison Officer

€28,800 paid.

Kilkenny

KY KLKY 011

Traveller Accommodation

Under Construction. Approved budget €1,258,990.

Kilkenny

KY KLKY 027

Ossory Park Remedial Scheme

The estimated cost of the pilot phase is €1.2m. Work on nineteen houses has been completed. Borough Council are finalising proposals for the next phase of the refurbishment which involves the redevelopment of part of Ossory Park known as Lower Street.

RAPID Area (Strand II)

Project No.

Subject

Report / Position

Longford

LDLGFD 026

Housing Management Initiative

€16,000 paid.

Clonmel

ST CLON 005

Estate Management Initiative

€30,600 paid.

Tipperary

ST TIPP 001

Housing Management Initiative, Tipperary Town

€7,500 paid.

Carrick-on-Suir

ST CKSR 010

Ballylynch Renewal Programme

The estimated cost of the pilot phase and phase 1a is €2m. Phase 1A to be split into 2 tenders. Central heating tender approved June 2005 and windows and doors tender approved October 05. Phase 1A is almost complete.

Athlone

WM ATHL 003

Provision of Social Housing

This proposal relates to the construction of 30 houses in the Monksland area of Athlone. A budget cost of €3,171,038 was approved — €2,561,866 paid to date (May 2006).

Athlone

WM ATHL 006

Athlone Civic Amenity Facility

Grant approval €860,703. Amount paid to date and claim on hand €770,078. Final estimated draw-down of grant is €800,000.

New Ross

WD NEWR 007

Tenant Participation Officer

€41,400 approved (€31,400 salary, €10,000 support costs).

New Ross

WD NEWR 017

Construction of a Waste Water Treatment Plant and interceptor sewer

The estimated cost of the scheme is €13.8m and construction is expected to commence in 2006.

Wexford

WD WEXF 026

Tenant Liaison Officer

€36,663 paid 04/05. Funding of €41,731 approved in June 2005 for the employment of a Tenant Liaison Officer for a further year.

Wexford

WD WEXF 028

Local Agenda 21

€12,500 paid.

Local Authority Housing.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

288 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that local authorities are stating that tenants are deemed to have surrendered the tenancy of their council house on being committed to prison and councils are threatening families with legal proceedings to take possession under these circumstances. [19978/06]

My Department has no role in relation to individual tenancy agreements, which are a matter for each housing authority. Tenancy agreements must comply with statutory provisions and Regulations, notably article 83 of the Housing Regulations 1980. Agreements provide the legal framework for the relationship between the housing authority and its tenants, and generally contain provisions in relation to behaviour by tenants. Failure to comply with these agreements may result in a housing authority seeking surrender of the dwelling. My Department is not aware of any case of the kind referred to in the Question.

Road Network.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

289 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding a project (details supplied) in County Mayo; the funding in place for this project; if this funding been drawn down by the local authority; when work will commence on this project. [19979/06]

The provision of non-national roads and bridges in County Mayo is a matter for Mayo County Council to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State grants provided by my Department. Accordingly, progress with the advancement of the Achill Sound Bridge project is a matter for the Council. Under the 2005 EU Co-Financed Specific Improvements Grant Scheme, Mayo County Council was allocated a grant of €450,000 towards the Achill Sound Bridge. A sum of €90,666 was drawn down by the Council in 2005 in respect of this project. Under the 2006 EU Co-Financed Specific Improvements Grant Scheme, Mayo County Council has been allocated a grant of €200,000 for design works on the Achill Sound Bridge. A sum of €568 has been claimed to date by the Council this year for this project.

Private Rented Accommodation.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

290 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a two month backlog in the processing of registration applications by the Residential Tenancies Board; the actions he intends to take to redress this situation. [19980/06]

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

291 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Private Residential Tenancies Board public office and telephone line is now only open from 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. Monday to Friday; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that the PRTB state that this temporary limitation of service is due to the volume of correspondence received; and if in view of the difficulties this limitation of service is causing for tenants in the private rented sector he will make additional resources and staff available to the PRTB to meet with its obligations under the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. [19981/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 290 and 291 together.

These matters are responsibilities of the Private Residential Tenancies Board, which is an independent statutory body established under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. It is a matter for the Board to determine how its statutory functions can most effectively be performed and to deploy resources having regard to demands and priorities. Substantial resources are being provided to the PRTB to meet the high level of demands on its services. There is currently a total of 42.5 staff working in the PRTB, which also receives ongoing support from my Department. The PRTB has also engaged a panel of 175 mediators and adjudicators to assist with its dispute resolution functions. An increased provision of €3.707 million is available to fund the PRTB's administration and services in 2006, compared with an outturn of €1.737 million in 2005.

Waste Management.

David Stanton

Ceist:

292 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount collected to date under the Waste Electronic Electrical Equipment Directive; if he is satisfied regarding the way the directive is being implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19993/06]

The Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) scheme has now been operating for nine months and its real benefits both for consumers and for the environment are now very apparent. WEEE is now being collected from over 180 collection points nationwide and very significant quantities are being returned for recycling. From 13 August 2005 to the end of February 2006, 14,587 tonnes were collected nationally. This is the equivalent of an annual collection rate of 6.7Kg per person and is particularly impressive against our national target under the WEEE Directive to reach 4Kg per person by 2008. This figure also compares very favourably with the 5,510 tonnes of this waste type that was recovered in the whole of 2004 and indicates widespread public support for the implementation of the Directive.

Natural Heritage Areas.

Marian Harkin

Ceist:

293 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of hectares per county designated NHA, SAC or SPC; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20039/06]

The following table lists the hectares per county for all nature conservation sites i.e. Natural Heritage Areas (NHA), Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) or Special Protection Areas (SPA) currently protected under the Wildlife Acts 1976-2000 and the European Union (Natural Habitats) Regulations, SI No. 94/1997 as amended.

County

Designated Areas (Hectares)

Carlow

6,561

Cavan

18,523

Clare

97,838

Cork

66,928

Donegal

137,865

County

Designated Areas (Hectares)

Dublin

22,136

Galway

202,490

Kerry

218,708

Kildare

6,397

Kilkenny

7,139

Laois

10,433

Leitrim

22,566

Limerick

14,193

Longford

9,384

Louth

18,830

Mayo

190,434

Meath

7,363

Monaghan

3,305

Offaly

10,418

Roscommon

21,895

Sligo

41,272

Tipperary

29,479

Waterford

18,135

Westmeath

15,795

Wexford

66,399

Wicklow

43,105

Total

1,307,591

The sites included in these areas were publicly advertised in local media and notified to individual landowners/users where known. While these sites enjoy legal protection from the date of advertisement, the formal designation of these sites is not complete until I have signed an Order under the relevant legislation for each. This is an ongoing process following consideration and determination of any objections from those affected.