Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 10, inclusive, answered orally.

Crime Prevention.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

11 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Defence if he or the military authorities have received a request from the Gardaí for the possible use of army personnel to assist in combating serious armed crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27732/07]

The Primary responsibility for the maintenance of law and order rests with the Garda Síochána. The Defence Forces, pursuant to their role of rendering aid to the civil power, assist the Gardaí as required. Requests for aid to the civil power are normally made by a member of the Garda Síochána not below the rank of Inspector.

At present, the Defence Forces assist the Gardaí as required in duties, which include the provision of troops for cash escorts, prison escorts, hospital guards for high-risk prisoners and the provision of military guards at a number of vital installations. The Air Corps supports An Garda Síochána in the operation of two helicopters and a fixed wing aircraft which form the Garda Air Support Unit. The role of the Naval Service in the provision of aid to the Civil Power is primarily exercised through the Joint Task Force on Drugs. The Task Force enhances co-operation between An Garda Síochána, Revenue Commissioners and the Naval Service in enforcing the law in relation to drug trafficking.

The military authorities have not received a specific request for assistance from An Garda Síochána in relation to armed crime.

Decentralisation Programme.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

12 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Defence if he has been informed of a decision by the Office of Public Works in regard to the planning process for the building for the decentralisation of 200 members of his Department’s staff to Newbridge. [27718/07]

The Government decided in December 2003 that my Department's Dublin-based staff are to be decentralised to Newbridge, Co. Kildare. Kildare County Council has approved the sale of a site at Station Road in Newbridge to the Office of Public Works for the construction of the Department's new headquarters. The planning process has also been completed and a decision in that regard has issued by the OPW this week. The Office of Public Works has selected a Preferred Tenderer who will carry out the construction of the Department's new headquarters in Newbridge once a contract has been placed.

Question No. 13 answered with QuestionNo. 9.

Official Engagements.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

14 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Defence if he will make a statement on his speech to the annual conference of PDFORRA in Tralee on 10 October 2007. [27730/07]

On 10 October 2007, the Minister for Defence, addressed the Annual Delegate Conference of the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association (PDFORRA). The Minister's address was relevant, positive and informative and discussed topics of interest to the military delegates, their colleagues and to the wider community. Those topics included the Government's commitment to the continued development and modernisation of the Defence Forces as set out in the agreed Programme for Government, the Defence Forces continued participation in international peacekeeping, the continued investment in infrastructure and equipment, recruitment and promotional opportunities.

The Deputies interest in the Minister's speech is appreciated and it can be accessed from the Department of Defence website — www.defence.ie.

Question No. 15 answered with QuestionNo. 9.

Army Equitation School.

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

16 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Defence the plans he has to improve the quality of horses available to the Irish Army for competition purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27773/07]

The mission of the Army Equitation School, as assigned to it on its establishment in 1926, is to promote the Irish horse abroad through participation in international competitions. The school has discharged this task with considerable distinction down through the years and, through its participation and numerous successes in equitation events at home and abroad, it has successfully promoted the qualities of the Irish horse.

The Army Equitation School has in place a Horse Purchase Board consisting of the Officer Commanding the Equitation School, an official from the Department of Defence, the second Officer Commanding Equitation school and Col. E.V. Campion (Rtd.). The Equitation School actively encourages breeders and producers who feel that they have a suitable horse to contact the School to arrange for inspection and assessment with a view to purchase or lease.

In 2004, the Army Equitation School had 14 International wins at competitions throughout Europe, with 13 International wins in 2005 and a further 10 in 2006, including wins at Barcelona, Athens, Copenhagen and Zagreb. The Army Equitation School has had considerable success in 2007, notably Commandant Gerry Flynn's wins on Mo Chroí in the Dublin Grand Prix, the Lisbon Grand Prix, the Drammen Grand Prix and the Vimeiro Grand Prix. Captain Shane Carey holds this year's record for selection on the greatest number of Nations Cup teams — during 2007 he attended eight Nations Cup shows in total. It has recently been announced that Ireland's show jumping team will be promoted to the elite Samsung Super League in 2008, which is reserved for the best eight teams in the world. It has been recognised that Commandant Flynn's and Captain Carey's significant achievements in 2007 have assisted the Irish team in gaining re-entry to this league. Moreover, the success of the School over recent years is testament to the quality of the riders and of the horses at the School.

The Army Equitation School continues to source high quality horses for competition at home and abroad and the Minister intends to ensure that sufficient numbers of good quality horses will continue to be acquired by the school in order to maintain the proud tradition of that establishment.

Child Care Services.

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

17 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Defence if he has received the report from the Defence Forces Partnership Steering Group Sub-Committee on the feasibility of providing childcare facilities for members of the Defence Forces in the context of the Government’s policy on family friendly work places; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27764/07]

A request to provide crèche facilities for members of the Defence Forces has been made by the Defence Forces Representative Associations.

The Defence Forces Partnership Steering Group, which was established following on from Partnership 2000, has tasked a Partnership Sub-Committee with examining the issue of the provision of childcare facilities under a number of headings, including demand for places, location and cost.

As the Minister stated on the 4 October last, a report from the Sub-Committee on the feasibility of the project is awaited.

Defence Forces Reserve.

Rory O'Hanlon

Ceist:

18 Deputy Rory O’Hanlon asked the Minister for Defence the number and percentage of non Irish nationals enlisted and serving in the Reserve Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27619/07]

Rory O'Hanlon

Ceist:

46 Deputy Rory O’Hanlon asked the Minister for Defence the number of non-Irish nationals who, in the past three years have applied for enlistment to the Reserve Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27618/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 and 46 together.

Currently, there are eight non-Irish nationals serving in the Reserve Defence Force, equating to approximately point one percent ( .1%) of strength.

The number of non-Irish nationals who have applied for enlistment in the Reserve Defence Force during the past three years is fifty-four (54).

There has been a significant broadening of cultural and ethnic diversity in Ireland in recent years. It is the Minister's policy that the Defence Forces should be reflective of this diversity. The Defence Forces have clear strategies on equality that will ensure that cultural and ethnic diversity is respected and supported.

The Minister has asked the Chief of Staff to review recruitment into the Defence Forces at all levels and to implement changes that would facilitate recruitment from among cultural and ethnic minorities. I share the view that this can only enhance our Defence Forces.

Question No. 19 answered with QuestionNo. 6.

Overseas Missions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

20 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which the Army, Navy and Air Corps are currently represented in overseas deployments on UN missions; his proposals in this regard for the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27758/07]

Currently, a total of 460 members of the Permanent Defence Force are serving overseas, details of which are set out in the following tabular statement, which I propose to circulate with the Official Report.

Of the 460 currently serving overseas, 447 are Army personnel, 8 are Air Corps personnel and 5 are members of the Naval Service.

The 8 Air Corps personnel serve with the following missions: UNIFIL (2), EUFOR BOSNIA HERZEGOVINA (2) and KFOR (4).

The 5 Naval Service personnel serve with the following missions: UNIFIL (1), EUFOR BOSNIA HERZEGOVINA (1), KFOR (2) and ISAF (1).

The overall number of Defence Forces personnel serving overseas will substantially increase if the Government approves proposals, which the Minister for Defence expects to bring to Government shortly for possible Defence Forces participation in the EU operation in CHAD and the Central African Republic.

Members of the Permanent Defence Force Serving Overseas as of 05 November 2007

Number

1. UN Missions

(i) UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) HQ

7

UNIFIL 36th Inf Group

50

(ii) UNTSO (United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation) — Israel, Syria and Lebanon

14

(iii) MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara)

3

(iv) UNMIK (United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo)

4

(v) MONUC (United Nations Mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo)

3

(vi) UNOCI (United Nations Mission in Ivory Coast)

2

(vii) UNMIL (United Nations Mission in Liberia) FHQ

2

Total

85

UN Mandated Missions

(viii) EUFOR (EU-led Operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina)

41

(ix) EUFOR TCHAD/RCA (EU-led Operation in CHAD and the Central African Republic) HQ

11

(x) KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo) Framework Nation

57

KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo) HQ

11

KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo) 37th Inf Group

204

(xi) ISAF (International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan)

7

(xii) AMIS (EU support to UN authorised African Union Mission in Sudan)

3

Total number of personnel serving with UN missions

419

2. EU Missions

(i) European Union Monitor Mission (EUMM) to the former Yugoslavia

5

TOTAL NUMBER OF PERSONNEL SERVING WITH EU MISSIONS

5

3. Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

(i) OSCE Mission to Bosnia & Herzegovina

1

(ii) OSCE Mission in Montenegro

1

(iii) OSCE Presence in Albania

2

(iv) OSCE Mission in FRY

2

(v) Staff Officer, Higher Level Planning Group, Vienna

1

Total number of personnel serving OSCE

7

4. EU Military Staff

Brussels

7

New York

1

5. EU Nordic Battlegroup HQ

12

6. Military Representatives/Advisers/Staff

(i) Military Adviser, Permanent Mission to UN, New York

1

(ii) Military Adviser, Irish Delegation to OSCE, Vienna

1

(iii) Military Representatives to EU (Brussels)

4

(iv) Liaison Office of Ireland, NATO/PfP (Brussels)

2

(v) Military Representative to NATO/PfP Co-ordination Cell/Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), Mons, Belgium

1

Total Number Defence Forces Personnel Serving Overseas

460

Naval Service Personnel.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

21 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Defence the proposed review of the duties carried out by personnel on naval vessels in order to address morale problems among sailors who have to spend long periods at sea; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27734/07]

Pat Breen

Ceist:

31 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Defence his views on the recommendations of the Naval Service/PDFORRA working group regarding the effects of patrol duties on personnel of the Naval Service as outlined in the report A Voyage of Discovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27755/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 21 and 31 together.

The main day-to-day role of the Naval Service is to provide a fishery protection service in accordance with the State's obligations as a member of the European Union. The Service is tasked with patrolling all Irish waters from the shoreline to the outer limits of the Exclusive Fishery Limits.

In 2006 the Naval Service achieved an output of 1,658 patrol days, of which over 90% related to fishery protection. In the course of these patrols, a total of 1,897 vessels were boarded, 19 were detained and 148 warnings were issued. These outputs reveal a focused and committed Naval Service that is continuing to produce high levels of performance.

The reorganisation of the Naval Service was designed to ensure that, when fully implemented, all personnel would spend alternate periods of two years in a shore-based appointment followed by a ship-based appointment. While every effort is made to ensure that the two year rotation target is met, there are occasions when as a result of shortages of key skilled personnel it is necessary for personnel to carry out ship-based duties more frequently.

The impact of seagoing is well understood by Naval Personnel at all levels and the Naval Service endeavours to operate a planned approach to the sea/shore rotation of personnel.

Following on from the report A Voyage of Discovery, a Naval Service/PDFORRA working group was set up and has made a number of recommendations. As a result, a new patrol duty pattern has recently been introduced and work is also ongoing on examining solutions to shortages of skilled personnel in critical areas. Other recommendations from the Working Group are currently being considered.

It goes without saying that members of the Naval Service have to go to sea. At the same time both the Department and the Minister are committed to ensuring that the Naval Service and the Defence Forces as a whole provides a challenging and rewarding career and a supportive working environment.

Defence Forces Allowances.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

22 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Defence if agreement has been reached under the C and A scheme for an increase in overseas allowances for the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27756/07]

A claim for an increase in Overseas Allowance was received from the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association and the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers under the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme (C&A scheme) for members of the Permanent Defence Force. The claim has been the subject of correspondence between the Department and the Representative Associations. The Deputy will appreciate that as discussions under the C&A scheme are confidential to the parties involved it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the matter at this time other than to say that the claim will of course have to meet the terms of the Social Partnership Agreement — Towards 2016.

Defence Forces Strength.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

23 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Defence the total membership of the Defence Forces, broken down by rank, and the numbers in each case who are female; the plans he has to encourage the recruitment of a greater number of women; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27728/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

163 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he has plans to increase the strength of the Defence Forces at Army, Navy or Air-Corps levels in the foreseeable future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27984/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

164 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the degree to which the number of women members of the Defence Forces has increased in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27985/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 23, 163 and 164 together.

The strength of the Permanent Defence Force on 30 September 2007, the latest date for which detailed figures are available, as advised by the military authorities was 10,361. This comprises 8,444 in the Army, 849 in the Air Corps and 1,068 in the Naval Service. A detailed breakdown of the numbers in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps by rank and gender are in the form of a Tabular Statement which I propose to circulate in the Official Report.

The White Paper on Defence of February 2000 set out a figure of 10,500 personnel for the Permanent Defence Force, as the strength sufficient to meet all foreseeable military requirements for the period comprehended by the White Paper (i.e. up to 2010). This remains the position. It is intended to maintain the established Government policy of ongoing recruitment to the Defence Forces. This recruitment will continue to maintain the strength at the level set out in the White Paper.

To facilitate the Defence Forces in maintaining a strength of 10,500 the agreed Programme for Government provides for an additional provision of up to 350 troops to be in training, at any given time. The military authorities and the Department are considering the planning and resources necessary to meet this provision.

The Government is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for men and women throughout the Defence Forces and to the full participation by women in all aspects of Defence Forces activities. Female strength in the Permanent Defence Force has increased from 468 at the end of 2001 to 558 at the end of September 2007. In percentage of overall strength, this equates with a rise from 4.38% to 5.39% in the same period. A detailed breakdown of the numbers of females serving in the Permanent Defence Force, at year end over the last six years, is presented in the form of a Tabular Statement which I propose to circulate in the Official Report.

Unlike many other national armed forces, the Defence Forces have no restrictions as regards the assignment of men or women to the full range of operational and administrative duties. All promotions and career courses are open to both genders on merit.

Nevertheless, the Minister remains anxious to explore all avenues for increasing the numbers of women joining the Defence Forces.

In 2006, the Minister reduced the minimum height requirement from 5' 4" to 5' 2". This increases the potential recruitment pool of females from 60% to 90% of female population.

Earlier this year, the Minister received the report of a TNS/MRBI study that he had commissioned, titled "Retention and Recruitment of Women in The Defence Forces". This research was commissioned with a view to identifying areas where action can be taken to maximise the number of women applicants to the Defence Forces, hence increasing the number joining. The question of retention was also studied.

The results of the research were, on balance, positive. Three-quarters of serving females agreed that the Defence Forces are a good place to work. In addition there was a very high level of satisfaction (70% — 80%) expressed as regards the issues of job security, pay and benefits and the variety of work on offer.

The report is currently under active consideration within the Department and the challenges identified therein continue to be addressed.

Strength of Males in the Defence Forces

30 September, 2007

Lt. Gen

Maj Gen

Brig Den

Col

Lt Col

Comdt

Capt

Lt

Total Offrs

SM

BQMs

Cs

CQMs

Sgts

Cpls

Total NCOs

Ptes

Cadets

Total

Army

1

2

8

40

126

306

219

257

959

32

36

132

242

1,041

1,379

2,852

4,150

228

7,989

AirCorps

1

2

14

31

50

37

135

7

4

49

13

135

165

373

285

23

816

NavalService

1

2

11

43

39

46

142

6

7

75

15

215

170

488

357

11

998

Total

1

2

10

44

151

380

308

340

1,236

45

47

256

270

1,391

1,714

3,713

4,792

62

9,803

Rank titles are for Army ranks — Naval Service and Air Corps equivalent rank titles apply in the Naval Service and Air Corps respectively.

Strength of Females in the Defence Forces

30 September, 2007

Lt. Gen

Maj Gen

Brig Den

Col

Lt Col

Comdt

Capt

Lt

Total Offrs

SM

BQMs

Cs

CQMs

Sgts

Cpls

Total NCOs

Ptes

Cadets

Total

Army

1

15

47

40

103

3

1

21

103

128

217

7

455

AirCorps

3

2

5

1

1

11

13

14

1

33

NavalService

10

9

19

7

7

38

6

70

Total

1

15

60

51

127

4

1

22

121

148

269

14

558

Rank titles are for Army ranks — Naval Service and Air Corps equivalent rank titles apply in the Naval Service and Air Corps respectively.

Strength of the Defence Forces

30 September, 2007

Lt. Gen

Maj Gen

Brig Den

Col

Lt Col

Comdt

Capt

Lt

Total Offrs

SM

BQMs

Cs

CQMs

Sgts

Cpls

Total NCOs

Ptes

Cadets

Total

Army

1

2

8

40

127

321

266

297

1,062

32

36

125

243

1,062

1,482

2,980

4,367

35

8,444

AirCorps

1

2

14

31

53

39

140

7

4

50

13

136

176

386

299

24

849

NavalService

0

0

1

2

11

43

49

55

161

6

7

75

15

215

177

495

395

17

1,068

Total

1

2

10

44

152

395

368

391

1,363

45

47

250

271

1,413

1,835

3,861

5,061

76

10,361

Rank titles are for Army ranks — Naval Service and Air Corps equivalent rank titles apply in the Naval Service and Air Corps respectively.

Numbers of Females Serving in the Defence Forces

Strength

% of Strength

Year End

Male

Female

Male

Female

2001

10,207

468

95.62

4.38

2002

10,087

472

95.53

4.47

2003

10,015

483

95.40

4.60

2004

10,037

514

95.13

4.87

2005

9,919

527

94.96

5.04

2006

9,923

556

94.69

5.31

Sept. 2007

9,803

558

94.61

5.39

Defence Forces Property.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

24 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Defence the status of the Rockhill Army Base in County Donegal; if there are plans for the base; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27358/07]

Rockhill House, Donegal is a permanently occupied military post and there are no plans to change its status at this time.

Defence Forces Reserve.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

25 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Defence the number of personnel of the Reserve who have been assigned to the Integrated Reserve in each brigade; the average number of hours training carried out to date by those personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27766/07]

The White Paper on Defence 2000 and the Reserve Defence Force Review Implementation Plan (2002) set out the blueprint for the Reserve Defence Force (RDF) together with an Implementation Plan extending to 2009.

The Implementation Plan is being rolled-out on a phased basis up to 2009. There has been significant progress to date in implementing the detailed recommendations of the Plan e.g. a new organisation structure implemented with effect from October 2005, major improvements in clothing, equipment, training and resourcing. In addition, the RDF is now structured along similar lines to the PDF (3 Brigades and the RDF Training Centre).

The introduction of the integrated element of the Reserve is being addressed in the current year on a pilot basis across all 3 Brigades. The Director, Defence Forces Training, has issued a comprehensive range of syllabi providing for training of the Integrated Reserve.

During the Pilot Integration Schemes personnel are not assigned to the Integrated Reserve but are attached to their affiliated PDF unit for training purposes. A total of 180 personnel have completed the training to date. This comprises 41 personnel in 2 Eastern Brigade, 67 in 1 Southern Brigade, and 72 in 4 Western Brigade. Personnel complete a minimum of twenty-one days full time training.

While the numbers participating in the Integrated Reserve have been less than anticipated, I am satisfied that the pilot schemes mark a very significant step forward in implementing the Plan.

The outcome of the pilot schemes is currently being reviewed by the military authorities. This will provide the necessary information to plan for the future development of the Integrated Reserve.

Question No. 26 answered with QuestionNo. 9.

Defence Forces Medical Services.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

27 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Defence the progress that has been made in regard to developing a revised structure for the delivery of medical services for the Defence Forces. [27723/07]

As part of the Modernisation Agenda agreed under Sustaining Progress a review of the provision of Medical Services in the Defence Forces has been ongoing. This review, involving the Representative Associations, has dealt with, among other things, the level of service to be provided to members of the Defence Forces and the resources required for the delivery of that service.

The review which has been carried forward into the modernisation agenda agreed under the Towards 2016 Partnership Agreement has already delivered an agreed medical services patients charter. Work on developing a revised structure for the delivery of medical services for the Defence Forces is ongoing.

The key issue at this time is the acknowledged shortage of medical officers (Doctors) in the Medical Corps. Whereas the establishment for doctors provided for in the new organisation of the Defence Forces introduced on foot of the White Paper on Defence is forty seven (47), the current strength of Medical Officers serving in the Defence Forces is twenty three (23), one of whom is on leave of absence without pay. There has been recruitment of Medical Officers each year but the number attracted to work in Defence Forces has just served to address natural wastage.

The problems with recruitment of medical officers into the Defence Forces have endured for some time despite the concerted efforts of the Department and the Defence Forces to address the root causes. The pay and allowances of doctors and dentists were increased substantially recently, in consultation with the Minister for Finance. This linked their pay to public health doctors and dentists. In addition, the Defence Forces have recently undertaken an intensive recruitment campaign. The results of both of these initiatives have been disappointing. Currently civilian General Practitioners are regularly engaged to provide primary care where Medical officers are not available.

The development of the capacity of the Medical Corps also forms part of the agreed programme for Government. I am committed to providing a medical service to meet the needs of the Defence Forces both at home and abroad and I am currently reviewing progress on this issue to ensure that our commitments under the Programme for Government and the Towards 2016 modernisation agenda are met.

Defence Forces Review.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

28 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Defence when he expects that the review of the existing White Paper on Defence will be completed. [27727/07]

The Review of the Implementation of the White Paper on Defence 2000 was published in April 2007. The report is available on my Department's website.

Commemorative Events.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

29 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Defence if he proposes to reinstate the Committee for the 1916 100th anniversary commemoration. [27576/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

42 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence his proposals in relation to the 2008, 1916 commemoration and commemorations for the years leading up to 2016. [27575/07]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

51 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Defence when he will issue invitations to all party leaders to nominate spokespersons to serve on the All-Party Oireachtas Consultation Group in relation to an appropriate commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising in 2016; if he intends to ask the Group to place particular emphasis on a social objective as an appropriate memorial to the men and women of 1916; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27715/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 29, 42 and 51 together.

In relation to the commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising in 2008, a meeting of the relevant Inter-Departmental Committee will be held later this month to consider the appropriate arrangements that should be put in place for this commemoration. It is expected that the arrangements will be broadly similar to those put in place in 2007 and that the Committee should be able to finalise its recommendations by the end of the year.

When the Inter-Departmental Committee has finalised its recommendations, it is proposed to re-establish the All Party Oireachtas Consultation Group and to convene a meeting of the Group to brief them on those recommendations and to take on board any views that they may have in relation to them. Prior to that, the Minister for Defence will write to Party Leaders to ask them to nominate spokespersons to the Group.

With regard to the preparations for the centenary commemoration in 2016 and in the lead-up to that year, it is the Government's intention that the centenary commemoration programme, at national, regional and local level, would include a wide range of commemorative, cultural and artistic initiatives. Where appropriate, the commemoration programme could include an agreed social objective. It is the Minister's intention that this matter would be considered by the Consultation Group at its first meeting.

In the previous Dáil, the Group had agreed to the setting up of an Expert Working Group that would provide specialist and academic advice in relation to the historical events and appropriate commemoration initiatives. It is anticipated that the Group will wish, generally, to continue with this approach.

The first meeting of the Consultation Group is expected to take place early in 2008.

Defence Forces Strength.

James Bannon

Ceist:

30 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Defence the strength of the Army ranger wing as a percentage of its establishment; the measures that are being adopted to address the current shortfall; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27751/07]

The strength of the Army Ranger Wing (ARW) as a percentage of it's establishment is in the region of 90%. The strength is sufficient to meet anticipated operational requirements. The ARW actively pursues a policy of recruitment to maintain strength levels and the delivery of required military capabilities.

The unit recruits from all services with a continuous advertising campaign by means of:—

Road shows and seminars in Brigades/Corps, Naval Service and Air Corps conducted by ARW personnel;

Advertising in the Defence Forces Connect magazine and An Cosantoir journal.

Induction is by ARW selection courses run on an annual and bi-annual basis as required. Interest from Permanent Defence Force (PDF) personnel in joining the ARW remains at a very high level. All serving members of the PDF are entitled to apply, provided they are medically fit and have attained the rank of at least 3 Star Private (or equivalent). Successful passing of the selection course demands the highest levels of fitness, motivation and competency.

There is a continuous review of criteria for entry. However, it is critical that the high standards required for entry into the ARW are maintained in order to deliver the strategic capabilities and specialized response required by the Government.

Question No. 31 answered with QuestionNo. 21.

Defence Forces Reserve.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

32 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Defence the form that the Publicity and Recruitment Campaign for the Reserve Defence Forces which is to commence in early 2008 will take. [27721/07]

The publicity and awareness campaign is likely to include advertising in print and broadcast media and via the Internet. The extent of the campaign, the precise nature of the advertising and the selection of media to be used, will be determined at a later date.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

33 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence his views on whether, following on from his response of 4 October 2007, that the Israeli army has regularly used unmanned drones not merely for surveillance but also for the targeted assassination of Palestinian militants, and used them extensively in 2006 in the course of its war against Lebanon, it is inappropriate and insensitive for the Irish Defence Forces to source such drones from Israel and that coming so soon after the purchase of Israeli helmets by the Defence Forces this transaction could be seen as associating this State too closely with the militarism of the Israeli State. [27303/07]

In the Minister's reply to the Deputy's Question on 4 October, 2007, he outlined the background to the tender competition, which resulted in an order for two (2) man portable mini Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for the Defence Forces being placed with Aeronautics Defense Systems Limited based in Israel.

The principle of competitive tendering for Government contracts is used for the acquisition of defensive equipment for the Army. Central to those procedures is the requirement to allow fair competition between suppliers through the submission of tenders which are assessed on the basis of obtaining best value for money by the Department of Defence. The acquisition of the UAVs, scheduled for delivery by the end of this year, and the acquisition of helmets from companies in Israel followed on from such tender competitions.

I am advised that the UAV systems are required to enhance the capability of the Defence Forces to carry out surveillance and target acquisition for overseas Peace Support Operations. They will provide a low cost and low risk means to increase capabilities and enhance force protection by performing missions without requiring or risking the use of manned aircraft. The UAV's, are an information gathering asset and are unarmed.

Civil Defence.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

35 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Defence the progress that has been made in the matter of increasing the membership of Civil Defence by 2010. [27719/07]

While the recruitment of Civil Defence members is a local authority function, the Civil Defence Board both encourages and supports local authorities (through their Civil Defence Officers) to undertake recruitment campaigns. These local recruitment campaigns are targeted towards the Autumn, to coincide with the commencement of the training year. The Board supports these recruitment initiatives through the provision of additional publicity material and media training for Civil Defence Officers which helps to enhance the image of the Civil Defence organisation at local level.

In the Civil Defence Board's Strategic Plan, which covers the period 2007-2010, and which was launched by the Minister for Defence, Mr. Willie O'Dea, T.D., in September of this year, the Board identified the recruitment of new members as one of their main strategic objectives for the organisation. The Board will strive to meet that objective by using the following strategies:

Development of a strategic approach to recruitment

Marketing of Civil Defence as a multi-disciplined national emergency response agency

Encouragement of Local Authorities to become more proactive in developing Civil Defence within each local authority area

Present indications are very positive, with some counties reporting significant increases in new membership this year. The Civil Defence Board proposes to continue its support for local recruitment initiatives for the duration of the Strategic Plan.

Question No. 36 answered with QuestionNo. 9.

Defence Forces Recruitment.

Noel Coonan

Ceist:

37 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Defence the Governments view regarding the suggestion by PDFORRA that non-nationals be allowed to join the Irish Defence Forces and through membership of the Defence Forces earn citizenship; if there is international precedent in terms of the existence of such a system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27772/07]

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

52 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Defence the number of foreign nationals that have been recruited into the Defence Forces in each of the past five years. [27720/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 37 and 52 together.

The question of the recruitment of foreign-nationals to the Defence Forces is not a new one. Defence Force Regulations have always allowed for the recruitment of foreign-nationals to the Defence Forces.

As the Defence Forces do not categorise personnel by nationality there are no figures available of the numbers of foreign-nationals employed in the Defence Forces. However the system is currently being reviewed to ensure that this data can be captured in the future.

I know that people from diverse backgrounds have already been employed in the Defence Forces, but this has mainly been in certain specialised areas. This has worked well — albeit on a limited scale. Currently the emphasis of the Minister is on ensuring that there are no barriers to ethnic minorities or foreign nationals joining the Defence Forces.

Entry to the Permanent Defence Force is either through the Cadetship Competition, Apprenticeship Competition, General Service Enlistment or Direct Entry Competitions which are held to fill vacancies in specialist appointments. All applicants for each of these entry streams are required to meet qualifying criteria.

The Cadet Competition is the entry level for recruitment as an Officer of the Defence Forces. As you are aware, the Minister has made changes to the Cadet competition to broaden the entry criteria thereby making it easier for qualifying foreign nationals to apply for cadetships.

The Minister has asked the Chief of Staff to review recruitment into the Defence Forces at all levels and to implement changes that would facilitate recruitment from among cultural and ethnic minorities. I share the view that this can only enhance our Defence Forces.

The Military Authorities are equally committed to increasing the participation of people from ethnic and cultural communities in the Defence Forces. To achieve this, the Defence Forces are:

Developing a strategy for Cultural Diversity Management. A new Defence Forces advertising campaign will be launched to reflect its strategy for cultural diversity.

Establishing links with all ethical and cultural community groups based in Ireland, in order to brief the groups on the Defence Forces and its current entry requirements. The groups will be invited to forward submissions to the Defence Forces on their views of service in the Defence Forces and to highlight any barriers they deem unfavourable to recruitment that may exist.

There are generally more applicants for positions in the Defence Forces than places available. The Department and the Defence Forces are fully committed to ensuring that all suitably qualified candidates who wish to do so are given the opportunity to join the Defence Forces. The primary focus in recruitment is to attract people with the core competencies required by the Defence Forces.

The appropriateness of foreign-nationals being allowed to join the Defence Forces and through membership of the Defence Forces earn citizenship has not been considered. The granting of citizenship in any circumstances is primarily a matter for my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in the first instance.

Question No. 38 answered with QuestionNo. 9.

Departmental Expenditure.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

39 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Defence if his Department has been approached to sponsor, fund or accommodate in anyway a film called Connolly on the life of James Connolly. [27574/07]

The Department of Defence has not received a specific request in relation to a proposed film on the life of James Connolly. A proposal for a film on Connolly was received by the 1916 All-Party Oireachtas Group. Minister O'Dea met with some of the proposers of the project, in his capacity as Chairman of the 1916 All-Party Oireachtas Group when they made a presentation on the film to him in October 2006.

It is proposed to re-establish the All Party Oireachtas Consultation Group with a view to convening a meeting in early 2008. Minister O'Dea will be writing to Party Leaders to ask them to nominate spokespersons to serve on this Group.

In the previous Dáil, the Group had agreed to the setting up of an Expert Working Group that would provide specialist and academic advice in relation to the historical events and appropriate commemoration initiatives. It is envisaged that the proposal to support the making of a film on James Connolly will be examined in this forum and recommendations will be made to the All Party Oireachtas Group for a final decision.

Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

40 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the position in regard to participation in EU sponsored or inspired battlegroups or emergency response forces; if final agreement has been reached in regard to participation therein; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27759/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

158 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which Irish Defence Forces are going to be represented on individual EU or UN inspired battlegroups or rapid response forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27979/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 40 and 158 together.

Ireland is committed to participate in the Nordic Battlegroup which will be on standby from the 1st January-30th June 2008. On the 26th April 2007, I issued a letter of Accession to all participating members of the Battlegroup to join the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The Nordic Battlegroup Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is an agreement between the participants comprising the Nordic Battlegroup, namely Sweden, Norway, Finland and Estonia, which sets out principles in relation to the operation, deployment and management of the Nordic Battlegroup. The Operational Headquarters MoU defines the aim, principles and responsibilities for cooperation with regard to the establishment and operation of the EU OHQ in Northwood for the command and control of the Nordic Battlegroup.

As part of the initial familiarisation and training phase for the Nordic Battlegroup eleven (11) members of the Defence Forces are currently deployed to the Force Headquarters in Sweden and two (2) are currently deployed to the Operational Headquarters in the UK.

Ireland's contribution to the Battlegroup will amount to 100 personnel involving an Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Improvised Explosive Device Disposal (E.O.D./I.E.D.D.) team with its own security detail, together with staff posts at the Operational and Force headquarters. E.O.D. relates to normal type munitions whereas I.E.D.D. generally refers to devices devised by terrorist groups, such as car bombs etc. This level of operational commitment will only arise should the Battlegroup be called on to undertake an operation. The number of personnel involved operationally during the standby period, where the Battlegroup has not been mobilised to undertake an operation, will be of the order of 10 to 12 personnel. The on-call personnel for the contingent will be based in Ireland during the Standby period.

Ireland is committed in principle to participation in the Nordic Battlegroup in 2011. Very preliminary discussions have also been held regarding possible participation in the proposed Austrian/German Battlegroup in 2012.

Defence Forces Resources.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

41 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Defence if the proportion of resources allocated to the three branches of the permanent Defence Forces are equitable; and when it is intended to implement the recommendations of the TNS/MRBI Study Retention and Recruitment of Women in the Defence Forces. [27716/07]

The White Paper on Defence of February 2000 provided for a strength of 10,500 for the Permanent Defence Force, comprising some 8425 personnel in the Army, 930 in the Air Corps and 1,140 in the Naval Service, these figures being commensurate with the defined roles of the three branches.

The acquisition of new equipment for the Defence Forces, which has been a key focus for me since my appointment to the Defence portfolio, has seen, and will continue to see, significant investment in the Air Corps, Naval Service and the Army. Major equipment projects have involved substantial expenditure across all areas including trainer aircraft and helicopters for the Air Corps, new ships for the Naval Service and a total of 80 Mowag Armoured Personnel Carriers for the Army. In addition a new tender competition has recently being initiated to cover a ship replacement programme for the Naval Service for the next ten years.

I am satisfied that the Defence Forces are well equipped for their day-to-day roles at home and overseas and that the proportion of resources allocated to the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service is fair and well balanced across the three branches enabling them to fulfil their roles in an efficient and effective manner.

In relation to the TNS MRBI report on recruitment and retention of women, it should be remembered that, on balance, the results of the research are very positive. The report reveals that women serving in the Defence Forces have a positive attitude to their job with over 75% of respondents thinking that the Defence Forces is a good place to work and over 73% reporting that they enjoyed their job.

There are challenges in the report that we are continuing to address.

The Minister's commitment and that of the Chief of Staff to addressing issues around interpersonal contact is well known. The TNSMRBI research underlines the importance of this commitment into the future.

Work-life balance initiatives of term time and career breaks in addition to the statutory entitlements such as Parental Leave, Carer's Leave and Force Majeure Leave are available to all members of the Defence Forces.

The Minister is also committed to ensuring that other developments that emerge in the areas of family friendly policies generally will be reviewed positively to determine if they can be accommodated to the operational requirements of the Defence Forces.

Recruitment campaigns continue to emphasise the role of women in the Defence Forces as recommended by the Report. Focus groups looking at perceived barriers to career development and advancement of women in the Defence Forces have recently been set up.

I am determined that we should build on the positive issues arising from the report while continuing to address the challenges identified. The Defence Forces offers an interesting and challenging career to women as well as to men. The Government is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for men and women in the Defence Forces and to the full participation by women in all aspects of Defence Forces activities.

Question No. 42 answered with QuestionNo. 29.

Defence Forces Recruitment.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

43 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Defence the applications processed by his Department; the average waiting time to process each application; the steps he is taking to speed up the processing time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25150/07]

As a result of the broad nature of the question I have focused on the process of handling applications for entry into the Permanent Defence Forces as I imagine this is the main area of concern to the Deputy. I would be happy to supply material on other specific application material if requested.

Entry to the Permanent Defence Force is either through the Cadetship Competition, Apprenticeship Competition, General Service Enlistment or Direct Entry Competitions which are held to fill vacancies in specialist appointments.

The total number of applications received to date in 2007 for each of these entry streams was 3,862. Of this figure 1,231 were for the Cadetship Competition, 2,130 for General Service Enlistment, 454 for the Apprenticeships Competitions and a further 47 were for Direct Entry Specialist Competitions.

The Cadet Competition, which is the entry level for recruitment as an Officer of the Defence Forces is held on an annual basis. The average processing time from closing date for applications to the issuing of offers of cadetship is six months. It is not possible to speed up the processing time for this competition as the offers are dependent on Leaving Certificate and University results. In order to facilitate candidates, it is also necessary to hold the initial preliminary interviews over the Easter School/University break and to hold the final assessment phase until after the completion of the Leaving Certificate Examinations at the end of June.

General Service Recruitment applications are accepted on an ongoing basis. Applications are held until vacancies exist in an Army Brigade, Naval Service or Air Corps. The average processing time for applications from when vacancies exist is three months.

Apprenticeship Competitions are held on a regular basis. The average time from closing date for applications to issuing of offers to successful candidates is three months.

The average processing time for applications for Direct Entry Competition is at present approximately three months.

The processing of applications comprises a number of different components, including, in some instances psychometric tests, interviews, medical examination, physical fitness tests and security clearance. The Defence Forces periodically review the processes to ensure that technology and work practices are kept up to date thereby ensuring that the processing of applications is done as efficiently as possible.

Defence Forces Personnel.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

44 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Defence the number of homeless ex-service men and women who have been provided with accommodation through ONET in each of the past five years. [27722/07]

ONET (Óglaigh Náisúinta Na hÉireann Teoranta) is a limited company with charitable status that is dedicated to looking after the welfare of ex-service personnel of the Irish Defence Services. ONET is recognised by the Minister of Defence and the Military Authorities in Ireland as the official representative of such personnel.

As an organization, ONET is wholly independent of the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces. Consequently, I am not in a position to answer the Deputy's question directly. However, I have forwarded the question to ONET with a request that a response be provided directly to the Deputy.

I fully support the excellent work of ONET. In this regard, I would point out that a commitment to provide annual subventions to support and encourage the excellent work of the officially recognised veterans groups, ONET and IUNVA, is included in the agreed Programme for Government.

Defence Forces Promotions.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

45 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Defence when the review of the procedures for the promotion of non commissioned officers within the Defence Forces which commenced within the Conciliation and Arbitration Forum in April 2006 will be concluded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27714/07]

Discussions between the Department of Defence and the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association (PDFORRA) commenced in April 2006, on revised promotion arrangements for Non-Commissioned Officers.

The Action Plan agreed under the Pay Agreement and Modernisation Agenda for the Defence Forces, commits to a target date of December 2007, by which revised promotion arrangements for enlisted personnel will be agreed.

As the Minister has stated previously, the policy of the Department is to produce a merit based system of promotion that is gender neutral and should provide the best person for the job.

Question No. 46 answered with QuestionNo. 18.

Defence Forces Personnel.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

47 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to claims made by the representative organisation, PDFORRA, that its representatives have been victimised by the military authorities because of their involvement in the association; if he will have these claims investigated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27729/07]

I would like to assure the House that any allegations of victimisation in the Defence Forces are treated with the utmost seriousness and there are extensive and robust complaints and grievance procedures processes in place to protect the rights of all Defence Forces personnel, including PDFORRA officials.

In addition, on interpersonal relationships, the Defence Forces and the Department have taken a wide variety of initiatives and have devoted extensive resources to this issue, since Dr Eileen Doyle and the External Advisory Committee presented their original report "The Challenge of a Workplace" in March 2002.

The ongoing implementation of the recommendations of the Doyle report has been one of the highest priorities for the Defence Forces and the Department since its publication. I am satisfied that the military authorities are alert and vigilant to this issue and are committed to addressing the matter in a continuing and proactive manner through educational modules on interpersonal relationships which are now embedded in career courses for all ranks.

The Minister's commitment and that of the Chief of Staff to addressing issues around interpersonal contact is well known.

Civilianisation Programme.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

48 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Defence the progress that has been made in regard to the civilianisation of all outstanding posts in the Defence Forces. [27726/07]

There are currently no outstanding posts identified for civilianisation in the Defence Forces.

Civilianisation was addressed in the "Review of Implementation of the White Paper on Defence", published by the Minister in April 2007. The Review noted some areas where civilianisation of military posts had been successfully implemented in the past and recommended that further work be done in this area. Subsequent to the publication of the Review, civilianisation was incorporated into the "Pay Agreement and Modernisation Agenda" agreed with the Defence Forces Representative Associations in the context of the Towards 2016 Partnership Agreement.

The matter will be progressed by the Department and the military authorities on the basis of the above developments and of the Programme for Government.

Drug Seizures.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

49 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Defence the action he is taking to promote the maximum cooperation and knowledge sharing between the Navy and Air Corps, An Garda Síochána, the Custom Services and the Coast Guard in the matter of combating the importation of illegal drugs. [27717/07]

Responsibility for the prevention of drug trafficking rests primarily with the Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners. However, the White Paper on Defence provides for a security role for the Naval Service and the Air Corps to assist and support the civil authorities in this important work. Government measures to improve law enforcement in relation to drugs, including the establishment in 1993 of a Joint Task Force involving the Gardaí, the Customs Service and the Naval Service, have helped to maximise the effective use of Naval Service resources in combating drug trafficking.

The Air Corps provide air support and, on occasion, carry the Customs National Drugs Team in an observation capacity for the purpose of monitoring vessels suspected of drug trafficking or other such illegal activities.

There is close co-operation between the civil authorities — Garda and Customs — and the Naval Service and the Air Corps in discharging this important mission.

The Naval Service, An Garda Siochána, the Custom Services are represented on the National Maritime Security Committee, as is the Irish Coast Guard. This Committee provides a forum for the agencies represented to share their information and experiences in relation to marine surveillance.

I am satisfied that the extent of Naval Service and Air Corps reconnaissance, in conjunction with the Gardaí, the Customs Service and the Coast Guard, has had a major and beneficial impact in deterring drug trafficking or other such illegal activities.

Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

50 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on the recent joint exercise in Sweden by members of the Defence Forces with troops from other countries in Europe; the number of troops involved; if further such exercises are planned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27733/07]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

159 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which it is proposed that members of the Irish Defence Forces are expected to participate in training procedures in preparation for EU battlegroups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27980/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 50 and 159 together.

The military exercise in Sweden, to which the Deputy refers, is the Final Exercise (FINEX) being carried out by the Nordic Battlegroup (NBG). The exercise, which commenced on 21st October, will continue until the 12th November.

The total number of Irish Defence Force personnel participating in the exercise is 93 and includes the Improvised Explosive Device Disposal (IEDD), HQ staff and exercise assessor personnel.

The exercise is designed to test the interoperability and strategic movement of the NBG. The first phase of the exercise was conducted in the South of Sweden and included combined tactical operations based on EU approved scenarios.

The second part of the exercise involves a deployment by rail, sea and air to the North of Sweden and the subsequent conduct of tactical operations. The deployment exercise is designed to practice the NBG in the procedures and skills that are required for a real life deployment.

The Nordic Battlegroup consists of a combined total of approximately 2,610 personnel, depending on the components required. The contributing nations in this Battlegroup are Sweden, Finland, Norway, Ireland and Estonia. Sweden as the framework nation takes the lead role in the NBG formation and will contribute approximately 2,200 personnel. This includes the core of the unit, which consists of a light mechanised infantry battalion of some 1,500 soldiers. The infantry battalion can be reinforced with support resources such as engineering, logistics, anti-aircraft, intelligence, transport helicopter, medical or mine clearance units. Should the need arise, combat aircraft with an airbase unit or special forces can also be deployed.

The approximate contribution of personnel from the other nations to the Battlegroup are — Finland, 150, Norway, 100, Ireland, 100 and Estonia, 60. At present there are no further exercises of this nature planned for the NBG.

Question No. 51 answered with QuestionNo. 29.
Question No. 52 answered with QuestionNo. 37.

Road Traffic Accidents.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

53 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Defence if he has received the report carried out by the Defence Forces into the circumstances of the road accident at Granard, County Longford in June 2007. [27724/07]

An investigation into the circumstances of the road accident, involving a military vehicle, near Granard, County Longford, in June this year, has been completed by the Military Police. The report is currently being examined by the military authorities. In addition, the military have established a Study Group to examine the possible introduction of the use of Roll Over Protection Systems in Troop Carrying Vehicles. The group is due to present its findings in early December.

Tax Code.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

54 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on where an individual exceeds the threshold mainly because of income from harvesting of forestry, and only on very infrequent years, they could be exempt from the scheme totally, or alternatively an averaging of income to be allowed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27875/07]

The restrictions on the use of tax reliefs announced in Budget 2006 and provided for in Section 17 of Finance Act 2006, which took effect from 1 January 2007, were introduced to ensure equity in the tax system. Income from the harvesting of forestry was listed as one of the specified reliefs that would be affected by the measures. Relief not used in one tax year can be carried over to subsequent tax years to be offset against future income.

This restriction on the use of tax reliefs only applies in full to high income taxpayers earning over half a million Euro in a single tax year and on a sliding scale to those high income taxpayers earning between a quarter and half a million Euro a year. While it is accepted that forestry investment is a long term investment, this measure was introduced to counteract the situation whereby some high income individuals were able reduce their taxable income to nil or close to nil through the use of tax reliefs. The restriction will help, in the interests of equity, to increase the effective rate of tax paid by high income individuals towards a minimum 20%.

Michael Lowry

Ceist:

55 Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will confirm what a letter of consistency comprises of in relation to Section 23 Relief that is, the way this letter should be worded by the council in question; and the rules or guidelines the applicant would have to adhere to for both town and rural renewal schemes. [27849/07]

I take it the Deputy is referring to projects undertaken under the Town Renewal Scheme. Developers of projects wishing to avail of the tax reliefs provided for under the Town Renewal Scheme must obtain a letter of certification from the relevant local authority stating that the development is consistent with the objectives of the Town Renewal Plan. This requirement is provided for in section 7 of the Town Renewal Act 2000 and the guidelines issued under the Act by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. These guidelines provide that local authorities in considering whether to issue such a letter of certification should apply the following criteria in respect of developments for which tax relief is being claimed:

(i)the development has been completed,

(ii)the development has been carried out in support of the objectives of the town renewal plan,

(iii)the development complies with any specific conditions set out in the town renewal plan in relation to development in the area to which the plan relates or in relation to development in any part or parts of that area,

(iv)the use or uses proposed for the building, structure or house are consistent with the uses for which the area in which the building, structure or house is located, has been declared to be a qualifying area for the purposes of one or more sections of Chapter 10 or Chapter 11 of Part 10 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997, and

(v)the design of the building or structure takes account of the nature and character of the area in which it is located and complies with any other design standards set out in the town renewal plan,

Also all appropriate information as set out in the guidelines must be provided and the veracity of such information should be verified. The certification guidelines are set out in the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government's website and can be accessed athttp://www.environ.ie/en/DevelopmentandHousing/ PlanningDevelopment/UrbanandVillageRenewal/ TownRenewalScheme/. There is no such certification requirements under the Rural Renewal Scheme.

Budget Submissions.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

56 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the proposals he has to meet the concerns of the Cider Industry Council (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27861/07]

I have noted the issues raised by the Cider Industry Council and they will be considered in the context of the forthcoming Budget.

Tax Code.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

57 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on making changes to the capital gains tax liability in situations where joint ownerships of family farms are dissolved and the jointly owned assets are divided to the individual family owners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27879/07]

Section 30 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 deals with the treatment, for capital gains tax (CGT) purposes, of partnerships. It provides that, in the case of a business partnership, chargeable gains accruing to the partners on the disposal of partnership assets are assessed and charged on them separately and not on the partnership itself. In this case, the dissolution of a business partnerships might involve three forms of asset disposal, two of which incur a CGT liability. An asset that was brought into a partnership by a particular partner and is subsequently taken back by that same partner is not considered a disposal for CGT purposes and, as such, no CGT liability arises.

Where an asset was brought into a partnership by one partner and is subsequently disposed of to a different partner, the disposal is treated as a disposal from the partner who originally contributed the asset to the partner that subsequently receives the asset. In this case, the partner who contributed the asset is liable to CGT on any gain in its value. The third form of asset disposal which might arise on the dissolution of a business partnership relates to assets acquired by the partnership which are subsequently disposed of to its partners. In this situation, the assets concerned are taxable and the liability to tax is apportioned according to the apportioning of the assets between the partners concerned.

Relief from CGT is available for persons aged 55 or over who are retiring from farming where the assets being disposed of have been owned and used for ten years prior to disposal. Relief in this case is available on assets up to the value of €750,000. Where such assets are disposed of to a child of the individual, who undertakes to continue to run the business or farm, there is no limit to the value of assets that may be claimed under this relief.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

58 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on directing the new Commission on Taxation to examine the equity issue in relation to personal tax credits for farmers and other self employed sole traders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27880/07]

I will be bringing proposals to Government in the near future on matters relating to the establishment of the proposed Commission on Taxation including its membership and terms of reference. The Commission will be specifically charged with considering and making recommendations on the following:

examine the balance achieved between taxes collected on income, capital and spending and report on it;

review all tax expenditures with a view to recommending the discontinuation of those that are unjustifiable on cost/benefit grounds;

consider options for the future financing of local government;

in the context of maintaining a strong economy, investigate fiscal measures to protect and enhance the environment including the introduction of a carbon tax.

Pending consideration by the Government of these proposals, I am not in a position to elaborate further on matters pertaining to the Commission. In relation to the different tax treatment of farmers and other self-employed vis-à-vis PAYE workers, the PAYE allowance was introduced in 1980 to improve the tax progression of PAYE taxpayers and to take account of the fact that the self-employed generally then had the advantage of paying tax on a preceding year basis. The argument was also made at the time that the general scheme of allowances discriminated against employees and in favour of other taxpayers.

There have been changes since 1980 — the self-employed now pay tax on a current year basis, for example. However, the PAYE allowance has become a tax credit. Moreover, given that there can be significant timing advantages in the payment of tax for the self employed, the employee credit is still perceived as necessary to ensure a balance in the system.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

59 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on increases in stamp duty rate bands for farm land to take account of inflation in values over the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27881/07]

Stamp duty is a significant source of revenue for the Exchequer, raising over €3.6bn in 2006. For the first nine months of 2007 stamp duty yield has exceeded €2.9bn. This helps to fund public services and to broaden the tax base, while keeping the direct tax burden low thereby facilitating continued economic success. Any change made to the stamp duty code would need to reflect this position.

The stamp duty code provides for one set of bands and rates for all non-residential property. Introducing special rates and thresholds specifically in respect of farmland would not only complicate what is a concise and simple tax, but would also lead to calls for special treatment from other interested sectors, thereby leading to a greater loss of Exchequer revenues and further complicating the non-residential stamp duty code.

The stamp duty code already provides relief for farmers in a number of respects, including relief for young trained farmers; consanguinity relief, farm consolidation relief and family farm transfers.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

60 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on a targeted CGT farm consolidation relief whereby the proceeds from the sale of farmland by farmers can be used to acquire other land for the purpose of farm consolidation without charges to capital gains tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27882/07]

The Deputy's proposal is a form of re-introduction of rollover relief. It was announced in the 2003 Budget that no rollover relief would be allowed for any purpose on gains arising from disposals on or after 4 December 2002. This relief was introduced when CGT rates were much higher than current levels. The abolition of this relief was in accordance with the overall taxation policy of widening the tax base in order to keep direct tax rates low.

As the Deputy will be aware, there is already in place a generous package of reliefs that continue to be available exclusively to the farming sector.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

61 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on treating the diversification fund as capital rather than income; if he will clarify that the capital receipt is not arising from the disposal of an asset; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27883/07]

The tax treatment of diversification aid payments to former sugar beet growers is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. I am informed by the Commissioners that, based on the information available to them on the current proposals for the payment of such aid, the payments are regarded as income and will be subject to income tax. The payments are not, therefore, regarded as a capital receipt and the issue of whether an asset disposal takes place does not affect their tax treatment.

Niall Collins

Ceist:

62 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reliefs and allowances available to persons (details supplied). [27908/07]

I would draw to the Deputy's attention that the transfer of farmland can incur liability to tax under three separate headings, namely: stamp duty, capital gains tax (CGT) and capital acquisitions tax (CAT). CGT is payable by the person disposing of the land while CAT and stamp duty are payable by the person receiving the land. However, there are a number of generous reliefs and allowances to reduce the tax burden of farmers transferring farmland to the younger generation.

In relation to CGT, where an asset is disposed of, the chargeable gain is taxable at 20%. However, where a person is retiring from farming, there is a special relief in place to reduce the burden of CGT where the person is aged 55 or over and is disposing of land that has been owned and farmed for 10 years. The Finance Act 2007 introduced a provision to extend the relief in certain circumstances where the farmland had been leased prior to disposal. For disposals made on or after 2 April 2007, retirement relief applies where:

the land is let for a period of no more than 15 years, and

immediately before the time the land was first let in that 15-year period, the land was owned and used by the individual for the purposes of farming for a period of not less than 10 years ending with the time the land was first let, and

the disposal is to a child of the individual making the disposal (which includes a child of a deceased child).

Where the land is transferred to a child who will continue to farm the land for 6 years, there is no limit to the amount of relief that applies — otherwise, the relief is restricted to assets valued at up to €750,000. A child in this case also includes the child of a deceased child.

If the person covered by the Deputy's Question has been farming the land or had been farming the land prior to it being leased, she may qualify for retirement relief on the full value of the land being transferred.

With regard to CAT, a farmer who receives farmland by way of gift or inheritance is liable to CAT at 20%. However, qualifying farmers can avail of CAT Agricultural Relief which reduces liability to CAT by 90%. In order to qualify for Agricultural Relief, 80% of a farmer's assets, after having received the gift, must consist of qualifying agricultural assets. Although off-farm principal private residences are not considered agricultural assets for the purposes of the relief, the Finance Act 2007 provided that a farmer can off-set borrowings on an off-farm principal private residence against the property's value, for the purpose of the 80% test.

In conjunction with CAT agricultural relief, the CAT code includes group thresholds, below which no CAT is liable. The indexed group thresholds applying to a gift to a grand child for 2007 is €49,682 (Group B). Any other gifts/inheritance that might have been received within the same group by an individual since 5 December 1991 are also taken into account when applying the thresholds for the purposes of calculating CAT. If the total value of all inheritances and gifts received since this date is above the relevant threshold, then a 20% CAT will apply on the difference. In this respect, in the scenario outlined in the Deputy's Question, by utilising agricultural relief in conjunction with the group thresholds, each grandson could qualify for relief from CAT on farmland to the value of €496,824.

In the case of stamp duty, this is liable on the conveyance of any property by the person receiving the property. The transfer of farmland is liable to stamp duty at the rates applicable to non-residential property. However, there is an exemption from stamp duty for qualified young trained farmers receiving farming assets who declare that they will remain in farming. Farmers aged under 35 who have a specific agricultural qualification may apply for this relief. The Finance Act 2007 made changes to the relief to provide that the Advanced Certificate in Agriculture is the new minimum education standard for the relief and the refund procedures were revised to enable young farmers who receive land to undertake agricultural training following the transfer of land and claim a refund of stamp duty after achieving the relevant qualification.

From the details supplied with the Question, the two grandsons are of sufficient age to undertake agricultural training before or after receiving the land in question which would qualify for a stamp duty exemption or refund as necessary. However, where they choose not to use the young trained farmer relief, they would qualify for consanguinity relief, which applies to transfers of land between certain blood relatives, such as between a parent and child. This reduces the rate of stamp duty to one-half of the rate which would otherwise apply.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

63 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the tax incentives that are in place to encourage people to donate money to charity; and if this may include contributions to educational institutions or the establishment of a charitable board or body to carry out a specific project such as the building of a library, sports facility or community building. [27968/07]

A scheme of tax relief is available under section 848A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 for donations to approved bodies, including eligible charities.

The list of approved bodies is set out in Schedule 26A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 and includes eligible charities, schools, colleges and universities, bodies approved for education in the arts as well as a number of other specified organisations. Bodies such as libraries and community centres may also qualify by reason of being eligible charities. To qualify for tax relief under the terms of the scheme, the minimum donation in any single year that must be made to any one eligible charity or approved body is €250. There is no maximum qualifying donation amount but:

where there is an association between the donor and the eligible charity or approved body at the time the donation is made, the relief will be restricted to 10% of the total income of the individual for the relevant year of assessment; and

an overall restriction applies to the use of tax relief schemes by certain high-income individuals, as introduced by Section 17 of the Finance Act 2006.

The precise arrangements for allowing tax relief on donations, which is allowed at the taxpayer's marginal rate, varies depending on whether the donor is a PAYE taxpayer, a person who is subject to self assessment or a company. For a PAYE donor, the relief is given on a "grossed up" basis to the eligible charity or approved body, as the case may be, rather than by way of a separate claim to tax relief by the donor. Donors give their PPSN information to the eligible charity or approved body. The claim for refund is made by the charity/body and payment is made directly to them.

In the case of a self-assessed donor, that individual claims the relief as part of his/her annual tax return and there is no grossing up arrangement. In the case of a company, it will claim a deduction for the donation as if it were a trading expense. A full list of all individual bodies approved for the purpose of the Donation Scheme as well as the terms and conditions of the scheme and the relevant forms are available on the Revenue website atwww.revenue.ie.

Finally, I would point out that a separate scheme of tax relief for donations to certain sports bodies for the funding of capital projects is available under section 847A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. To be eligible for this relief, the project must be approved by the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

64 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if there is tax relief or exemption in place for bequests made in the will of a deceased person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27969/07]

I assume the Deputy is referring to reliefs available under the inheritance tax code.

For the purposes of capital acquisitions tax (gift and inheritance tax), the relationship between the person who provided the gift or inheritance (the disponer) and the person who received the gift or inheritance (the beneficiary), determines the maximum tax-free threshold known as the "Group threshold". There are three Group thresholds based on the relationship of the beneficiary to the disponer and these Group thresholds are indexed annually by reference to the Consumer Price Index.

The indexed Group thresholds for 2007 are as follows:

Group A: €496,824. This applies to gifts and inheritances received by a child, a step-child and a foster child from a parent. Group A also applies in certain circumstances to inheritances received by a parent from a child and by a grand-child from a grand-parent.

Group B: €49,682. This applies to gifts and inheritances received by brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces and grand-children

Group C: €24,841. This applies to gifts and inheritances received by a beneficiary who does not come under Group A or B.

Any other gifts and inheritances that might have been received by the beneficiary from within the same Group since 5 December 1991 are taken into account when applying the threshold for the purposes of calculating tax. If the total value of all gifts and inheritances received by the beneficiary since this date from within the same Group does not exceed the Group threshold, no Gift or Inheritance Tax will apply. If the Group threshold is exceeded, then a 20% rate of gift/inheritance tax will apply on the excess only over the threshold figure.

Apart from the tax-free Group thresholds available to a beneficiary, the Capital Acquisitions Tax code exempts certain gifts and inheritances completely from tax and also contains relieving provisions. The following are the main exemptions from gift and inheritance tax:

A gift or inheritance received from a spouse.

A gift or inheritance received for public or charitable purposes

A gift or inheritance of a dwelling house in certain circumstances

The first €3,000 of all gifts taken from each disponer in any one calendar year

Separately, where a gift or inheritance consists of agricultural or business property, the value of the agricultural or business property may be reduced by 90% for tax purposes provided certain conditions are met.

I have been informed by the Revenue Commissioners that if the Deputy requires specific information on any of the exemptions or reliefs available in relation to gift and inheritance tax, he can contact the Revenue Commissioners Stamping District in Dublin Castle on 6475000 who will provide the information required.

Tax Collection.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

65 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when a refund of income tax will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27971/07]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer's claims for refund of Relevant Contracts Tax deducted have been received. The accountants in this case requested that an amount of €402 be offset against the July/August 2007 VAT liability and that the balance be retained pending submission of the 2006 Income Tax Return and the finalisation of liability for that year. Any excess deducted over and above the balance due on finalisation of the 2006 liability and payment on account for 2007 will be refunded without delay.

Departmental Funding.

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

66 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Health and Children when an allocation of the €4.5 million funding announced by her to the violence against women sector in December 2006 will be made to centres (details supplied) who are currently in financial difficulty; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27859/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the funding, 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.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

67 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if all remaining restrictions on the entry into pharmacy by persons who have been qualified outside of Ireland have been lifted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27819/07]

The 2007 Pharmacy Act allows for the removal of the restriction on pharmacists educated in other EU or EEA countries owning, managing or supervising a pharmacy in Ireland that is less than three years old — the derogation under Article 2.2 of Council Directive 85/433/EEC. My motivation in providing for the removal of this derogation was to facilitate the many Irish pharmacy graduates who, because of the shortage of pharmacy undergraduate places available in the State, went abroad to train. On their return these graduates found that they were at a disadvantage to their Irish trained colleagues in not being able to establish a new pharmacy business, having instead to confine themselves to ones which had already been in operation for at least 3 years, a situation that was clearly unfair and unsustainable.

The Pharmacy Act will be commenced in 3 stages. The 1st Stage of the process has put in place the Council of the new Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, the 2nd Stage will put in place a new Registration regime for pharmacists and pharmacies, including offences and powers of investigation and the 3rd Stage will deal with complaints, inquiries and discipline (Fitness to Practice Provisions). A three stage process allows flexibility in implementation dates, given the complexity and number of new policies and procedures that the new PSI Council must have in place to accommodate each stage.

In relation to the removal of the derogation, new policies and procedures must be in place before the second stage of implementation of the Act, including the removal of the derogation, can proceed. The second stage of the implementation of the Act will deal with the new procedures for registration of pharmacists and pharmacy businesses under Part 4 of the Act, the conditions for conduct of a retail pharmacy business, including 3 years post-registration experience for supervising pharmacists, Part 7 of the Act on the investigation of alleged offences, breaches of codes or professional misconduct, regulations for supervision of the sale and supply of medicinal products and, in the interest of public safety, new conditions for registration of pharmacists in terms of forensic and linguistic competency.

Once these new policies and procedures and the new regulatory regime for pharmacists and pharmacy businesses are put in place by the Council, it will be possible to revoke the 1962 Pharmacy Act and remove the derogation.

Medicinal Products.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

68 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children her estimate of the percentage of prescribed medicines used under the various public drug payment schemes which are generic products; and if she will introduce a protocol whereby there would be a presumption that generic products would be used unless specific reasons were given to the contrary by the prescribing doctor. [27820/07]

My Department has requested the HSE to provide an estimate of the percentage of the total medicine items dispensed under the various public drug payment schemes which are generic products. Not all products are substitutable with generic alternatives. Where a generic substitutable is available, my Department has been informed by the HSE that for 2006, the latest year available, the percentages of generic medicines used in relation to medicinal products that have a generic comparator, for reimbursed items, are as follows:

GMS (medical card) Scheme — 58.7%

Drug Payment Scheme — 57.6%

Long Term Illness Scheme — 54.1%

European Economic Area Scheme — 58.1%

These percentages relate to non-proprietary products (branded and non-branded generics) which have generic alternatives, for each scheme. Because it deals with specific illnesses or conditions, the Long Term Illness (LTI) Scheme covers a more limited range of medicines than the other schemes.

The 2006 Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) Agreement, negotiated by the HSE and my Department with the manufacturing sector, provides for significant reductions in the price of patent-expired proprietary medicines. These reductions (20% in March this year and a further 15% in January 2009) will, on full implementation, largely remove the current premium paid for these products over many branded and non-branded generic equivalents. Accordingly, a system of compulsory generic substitution in the pharmacy, as used in some other jurisdictions, would have significantly less benefit in the Irish community schemes than in other countries but could, given the relative size of the Irish market, have an adverse effect on continuity and security of supply for Irish patients.

Generic drugs are widely available in the Irish market, particularly in the hospital sector. Use of a proprietary or a generic equivalent is a matter for the prescriber, in consultation with the patient. One of the objectives of the IPHA agreement is to enhance the ability of patients to have a greater say in the prescribing process with a view to choosing, in consultation with the prescriber, the medicine that best meets their needs and delivers best value for money.

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

69 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the person who will look after complications of chemotherapy if there will be no oncologist on site in relation to the proposed redirection of symptomatic breast services from a hospital (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27821/07]

Michael Ring

Ceist:

70 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange an audit of the oncology services that currently exist in a hospital (details supplied) in County Mayo. [27822/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 69 and 70 together.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular questions raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy in relation to the matters raised.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

71 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason smokers’ chewing gum and other treatments which assist people to give up smoking are not listed for the drugs refunds scheme; if she has plans to have them so listed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27824/07]

A common list of reimbursable medicines is in place for the General Medical Services and Drug Payment schemes to ensure equity in relation to the range of medicines paid for by the State under both schemes. In order for a product to be reimbursable under the two schemes, it must satisfy a number of criteria, including that it is ordinarily supplied to the public only by medical prescription and that it should not be advertised or promoted to the public. Nicotine replacement therapies belong to a category of products that would not normally satisfy these criteria, in that they are generally available over-the-counter, and may be advertised directly to the public.

Nicotine replacement therapies are available to medical card holders since April 2001 on foot of recommendations made by the Cardiovascular Health Strategy Group and the Advisory Forum established to support the Task Force in the implementation of the strategy. Evidence shows that lower socio-economic groups have a higher incidence of smoking, spend a higher proportion of disposable income on tobacco, and, in general, their health is worse.

Therefore, it was considered that this group is in greatest need of assistance in helping them to quit the habit. Accordingly, and in light of the recommendations that were made, it was decided, as an exceptional measure, to make the full range of nicotine replacement therapies available on prescription to medical card holders. There are no plans to extend this to the Drug Payment Scheme.

Nursing Home Accommodation.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

72 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason an application by a person (details supplied) in County Galway has not been processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27832/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. The Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

73 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the detail of the cervical cancer screening programme, scheduled for rollout throughout the State from January 2008, particularly with regard to eligibility, cost and screening intervals; if she is satisfied that this programme will fully comply with international best practice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27838/07]

The National Cancer Screening Service is planning to roll out the National Cervical Screening Programme on a national basis in early 2008. I have allocated additional revenue funding of €5 million to the Service this year for this purpose and an additional 30 posts have been approved. It is expected that approx. 240,000 women will be screened annually. Women aged 25 to 44 years old will be screened every 3 years. Women aged 45 to 60 will be screened every 5 years.

The Service is planning to have cervical screening managed as a national call/recall programme via effective governance structures that provide overall leadership and direction, in terms of quality assurance, accountability and value for money. All elements of the programme, call/recall, smear taking, laboratories, colposcopy and treatment services will be quality assured, organised and managed to deliver a single integrated national service.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

74 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the mechanism available to a medical card holder to obtain a DNA test to determine parenthood; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27840/07]

Under the General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme, medical card holders are entitled to general practitioner services from General Practitioners who hold a GMS contract with the Health Service Executive (HSE), and to a range of prescribed medicines free of charge. The GMS contract is a diagnosis and treatment contract and gives effect to the statutory requirement of the HSE to provide General Practitioner medical and surgical services without charge to eligible persons. DNA testing is not covered under the GMS Scheme and I have no plans for this procedure to be provided free of charge to GMS patients.

Departmental Funding.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

75 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will increase funding to a more realistic level for personal assistants at a centre (details supplied) in County Mayo in Budget 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27843/07]

The Government provided over €5 million in 2007 to provide an additional 250,000 hours of personal assistance/home supports to people with a disability. The Health Service Executive has indicated in its third quarter Monitoring Report that over 240,000 hours have been provided yearly to date.

Funding for personal assistants at the centre named by the Deputy is a matter for the Health Service Executive. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy. The Deputy will appreciate that I cannot, at this stage, comment on specific funding for any element of the health services in 2008 prior to the presentation of the Budget to the Oireachtas in December.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

76 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the failure of the Health Service Executive to contact this Deputy regarding a follow up to Parliamentary Question No. 219 of 2 October 2007, she will establish from the Health Service Executive directly the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork was refused a claim under the health repayment scheme. [27857/07]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Repayment Scheme and the information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive. The Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive has informed my Department that a reply has issued to the Deputy on 25th October 2007.

Hospital Staff.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

77 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will re-examine the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork regarding the reason her Department has refused to allow the Mercy University Hospital to make a higher payment to them; and the gratuity they would now be entitled to if they accepted one. [27858/07]

I am informed that the individual concerned had 14.3397 years service given over a 16.2575 year career that included 1.9178 years unpaid leave. A once off ex-gratia payment of €3,196.54 was authorised by the Department on the 07-11-2003 as the former employee was not a member of the superannuation scheme.

Under Circular 23/2005 — Public Service Pension Reform Revised Arrangements for part-time public health service employees, this former employee will now be offered the option of making her service pensionable. Under the provisions of this Circular she will be entitled to repay her ex-gratia payment and pay contributions on her service thereby making her eligible for a pension in lieu of the ex-gratia payment. I understand that the option to join the scheme will be extended to her in the coming weeks.

Health Services.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

78 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will introduce as a matter of urgency a screening programme for the earliest possible diagnosis of cystic fibrosis in new born children (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27862/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Ambulance Service.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

79 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children when a dedicated ambulance service will be made available for the Kilmallock area in County Limerick. [27867/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issue raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Accommodation.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

80 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if the 80 beds for child and adolescent psychiatric units will be available by the end of 2007 as promised. [27868/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The Executive, therefore, is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

81 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of child and adolescents on psychiatric waiting lists for 2006, 2007 and 2008. [27869/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The Executive, therefore, is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

82 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the proposals in place to work towards reaching the objectives and outcomes of the National Disability Strategy having regard to the vision and long term goals for people with disabilities as set out in Towards 2016; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27884/07]

As the Deputy may be aware "Towards 2016" is a ten year framework Partnership Agreement covering the period 2006-2016. This document provides an important and strategic framework for meeting the economic and social challenges ahead.

The vision for people with disabilities contained in this document is that of "an Ireland where people with disabilities are given the opportunity to live a full life with their families and as part of their local communities, free from discrimination". To achieve this vision it is necessary for the Government and the various parties involved in the agreement to work together over the 10 year lifespan of the Agreement to achieve its long-term goals with a view to continuing the improvements in the quality of life of people with disabilities.

A critical element of this process for my Department was the publication of its Sectoral Plan in July, 2006. While the Sectoral Plan was developed as part of my Department's responsibilities under the Disability Act, 2005, it nevertheless links into the requirements of "Towards 2016" and represents a commitment at all levels of the health service to access equity of service for people with disabilities. The Sectoral Plan document is only the first of a series of plans that will work towards achieving this goal.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the Sectoral Plan document is currently being reviewed by my Department, in consultation with stakeholders, and the revised document will be published shortly. The Government's commitment to the ongoing implementation of the National Disability Strategy is restated as the focus for policy over the lifetime of the "Towards 2016" agreement. The designation of a Minister of State with responsibility for Disabilities and Mental Health and the planned establishment of an Office for Disabilities and Mental health will facilitate cross departmental working in areas of mutual responsibility and concern.

The new Minister of State for Disabilities and Mental Health has cross departmental responsibilities in the Departments of Health and Children, Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Education and Science and Justice, Equality, and Law Reform. This cross departmental assignment is intended to reflect the Government's commitment to the mainstreaming agenda and to recognise that there are issues that are of particular relevance to people with disabilities which require a cross departmental response. This appointment is also in line with the sentiments contained in "Towards 2016".

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

83 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the proposals in place to identify the funding directed to disability specific services; if there are plans to separate the funding of disability specific services from mainstream services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27885/07]

As the Deputy may be aware, the Government under the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 has allocated, in the Budget of each year of the Programme, a specific sum of money for services to persons with disabilities. It is a matter for the Health Service Executive to monitor and evaluate this allocation and to decide how best these monies are spent. 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.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

84 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children her proposals to commit funding to the establishment of a resource support centre for voluntary disability organisations; her views on the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27886/07]

The allocation of funding to agencies in the health sector is a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) in line with Government priorities. Any decision to fund a centre as suggested by the Deputy would have to be examined in the context of (1) its potential to add value to the current HSE initiatives and (2) the work currently under way in the HSE in implementing the Comptroller and Auditor General's report No. 52 entitled "Provision of Disability Services by Non-profit Organisations".

Ambulance Service.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

85 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Health and Children the action being taken to ensure there is full ambulance cover for the Bray and south County Dublin area; the level of cover per day and per night the past five weeks; the number of posts vacant in this service and the length of time; the amount spent on private ambulances in that area for the past five weeks by the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27897/07]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular issues raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

86 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the staffing and other resources being put in place for a service (details supplied) in County Dublin; and when the promised full multidisciplinary team will begin work there. [27918/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal 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.

As the Deputy may be aware an additional sum of €75m for revenue purposes was provided to the Health Service Executive for Disability Services in the 2007 Budget. This amount incorporates the 2007 element of the Government's multi-annual investment programme for the National Disability Strategy. This Strategy is committed to enhancing, the level and range of multidisciplinary support services to adults and children with an intellectual, physical and sensory disability and those with autism, including therapy services.

Home Care Services.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

87 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the system of regulation and inspection for private home care nursing agencies which currently exist and in view of numerous complaints from the public if she has an intention to introduce new regulations or legislation for these agencies. [27919/07]

The provision of private home care services has increased in this country in recent times and this trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. At present, such services are either availed of on an individual basis, without the involvement of the State, or are arranged in certain cases by the Health Service Executive.

Any complaints in relation to the provision of such services should, in the first instance, be brought to the attention of the Executive, particularly in relation to any cases where abuse of any nature may be suspected. However, I am not aware at present, either from the HSE or elsewhere, of large scale complaints from the public in regard to private home care provision. If the Deputy can supply further information on this I would be prepared to follow up any specific issue he raises.

I am conscious of the need to ensure high standards in the area of private home care. I understand that the HSE is at present developing national guidelines for enhancing the delivery of home care services. My Department will continue to liaise with the Executive to determine how improvements in this area might best be achieved.

Child Care Services.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

88 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will respond urgently to a complaint by a parish adult education and training resource group (details supplied) that the proposed community child care subvention scheme will lead to the closure of the group’s community child care facility and a resulting cutback in activities and services. [27920/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP) and the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), which are being implemented by the Office of the Minister for Children. Correspondence has been received by my Office from this Group which will be responded to shortly.

Under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP), which is co-funded under the EU Social Fund (ESF), targeted support was provided through the staffing support grant scheme whereby community based not-for-profit child care providers with a strong focus on disadvantage were awarded grant aid towards their staffing costs to allow them to operate reduced fees to disadvantaged parents. Funding under this scheme was originally awarded for a limited period during which services were expected to move towards sustainability. This funding was subsequently continued to the end of 2007, where it was considered necessary to enable services to continue to make their services accessible to disadvantaged parents. This continuation funding was subject to the condition that tiered fee structures were implemented by the services in question.

With the closure of the EOCP in December 2007, to continue to support community childcare services to provide affordable childcare to disadvantaged parents, the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) is being introduced from January 2008 under the Exchequer funded National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), the successor programme to the EOCP. The CCSS has been allocated €153 million over the next 3 years, representing a 16% increase in funding over the EOCP staffing scheme, and will continue to support community childcare services to provide reduced childcare fees for disadvantaged parents, complementing the universal supports in place for all parents.

Under the new scheme, it will be possible to ensure that the level of grant aid which individual services qualify for will reflect the actual level of service they provide and the profile of the parents benefiting from their service. As part of their application for funding under the new scheme, services are required to ask parents using their services to complete a simple declaration form which will be included in a return to my Office and on which basis the level of subvention for each service will be determined. The subvention received by services will, in turn, be reflected in the reduced fees for parents who qualify as disadvantaged under the scheme.

In practice, this will mean that parents with children in such services and in receipt of most social welfare payments (or participating in a scheme such as Community Employment which demonstrates an underlying entitlement to same) will see a €80 weekly subvention in respect of full daycare (with pro-rata reductions in respect of shorter hour services). Parents in receipt of Family Income Supplement (FIS), will see a €30 weekly subvention in respect of full daycare (with pro-rata reductions). A further subvention of €30 per week will be paid where the subvented child is a baby, in recognition of the higher costs associated with the care of children aged under 1 year.

Parents who do not qualify under either of these categories will be charged the cost price for their childcare service, however, as community not-for-profit services will, generally, have availed of capital grant aid under the EOCP or NCIP removing the requirement to cover rent or a mortgage, and as the services are run on a not-for-profit basis, this should still be significantly below the market price.

It is considered that the new scheme will provide an effective framework for the continued targeting of additional resources towards disadvantaged parents and their children while continuing to support community childcare services generally. The scheme has been informed by and takes account of a number of enhancements recommended by the report of the Value for Money Review of the EOCP. These include the fact that the subvention to services will be more responsive to the level of service provided as well as the degree of parental disadvantage supported and the ceiling for funding, which existed under the previous scheme, is being removed. Account will also be taken of all of the operational costs of the service rather than staffing costs alone. Services, including full-time, part-time and sessional ones, which at present are, in some cases, inaccessibly priced for disadvantaged parents, will be available to them at more appropriate rates under the new scheme.

The new scheme has clear advantages over its predecessor. There is an increase in the level of funding available under it, and a majority of services will benefit from the changes it introduces. Existing EOCP staffing grant recipients who enter the new scheme will continue to be funded at their current levels until July 2008. My Office has engaged in a series of meetings with existing grant recipients to outline to them the details of the new scheme and to gather feedback from the services themselves. A meeting with representatives of the City and County Childcare Committees has also taken place.

Transitional arrangements have been made under which existing grant recipients will continue to be funded at their current levels until 1 July 2008. This is to ensure that existing childcare services are facilitated to adjust to the new scheme, including making any adjustments necessary to their fee structures. As signalled when I announced the new scheme in July this year, the transitional period between now and 1 July 2008 will also be used to monitor and review the impact it will have on individual groups, on the basis of the more detailed and comprehensive data which is due to be received from applicants in November. If appropriate, any adjustments necessary to the scheme to secure the best outcomes for childcare services and for disadvantaged parents and their children will be considered on the basis of this data and well in advance of the commencement of the new funding levels in July 2008.

Health Service Reform.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

89 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Hanly report forms part of Government health policy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27926/07]

The National Task Force on Medical Staffing, chaired by Mr. David Hanly, was set up to:—

devise a strategy for reducing the average working hours of non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) so as to achieve the requirements of the European Working Time Directive (EWTD);

address the consequent medical staffing needs of Irish hospitals ;

analyse the practical implications of moving to a consultant-provided hospital system;

and consider the requirements for medical education and training arising from any changes to the current model of delivering services.

The Report of the Task Force made a series of important recommendations. These covered issues such as:

the changes needed in NCHD work patterns;

the need for a significant increase in the number of consultants;

the need for a revised contract for medical consultants;

reform of medical education and training;

and the reorganisation of acute hospital services.

Work is proceeding in relation to each of the main recommendations made in the Report. The Report is helping to inform the Health Service Reform Programme.

National Drugs Strategy.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

90 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the research her Department has carried out in relation to the drug or substance known as cocaethylene; if this drug or substance creates problems in relation to persons’ senses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27929/07]

While my Department has not conducted specific research on cocaethylene, I am aware that international research has established a link between the combined use of alcohol and cocaine and morbidity. When cocaine is taken with alcohol its combines in the system to form the drug cocaethylene which is more toxic than using either drug alone. The combined use of alcohol and cocaine has, I understand, been linked to violence which is particularly prevalent due to the increased aggressiveness associated with cocaine use and the dis-inhibition associated with alcohol use.

I am aware that in Ireland some people who take cocaine also use alcohol at the same time. The Health Research Board in its recent report Health Related Consequences of Problem Alcohol Use, noted an increase between 2004 and 2005 of 45% in the number of people being treated for both alcohol and cocaine use among those whose cases which were reported to the National Drug Treatment Reporting System.

Some work of general relevance to the issue of combined use of cocaine and alcohol in Ireland is that being carried out in the context of the National Drug Related Deaths Index (NDRDI). To comply with Action 67 of Building on Experience: National Drug Strategy 2001-2008, the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform jointly asked the Health Research Board to establish a National Drug-Related Deaths Index. The index is a census of drug and alcohol-related deaths and deaths among substance users in Ireland. The data for the Index is drawn from a number of sources including the General Mortality Register; the Coroner's Service; the Hospital In-patient Enquiry (HIPE); and the Central Treatment List.

The National Drug Related Death Index (NDRDI) is collecting information on all alcohol related deaths since 2004, in addition to all drug related deaths (including cocaine). From this, the number of deaths in which both alcohol and cocaine are implicated may be calculated. The first report from the NDRDI will be available in late 2008.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

91 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if persons (details supplied) in County Kildare will be furnished with all the details pertaining to a member of their family; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27938/07]

The information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Health Service Executive. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

92 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if analysis has been carried out on the effect the provision of medical cards to all over 70s has had on hospital attendances, accident and emergency visits, general practitioner visits, increased medication, investigations and so on; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27958/07]

Since July 2001, all persons aged 70 and over have a statutory entitlement to a medical card. Information provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to my Department indicates that as of 1 October 2007, 343,975 persons aged 70 or over held a medical card. General Practitioners who hold a General Medical Services (GMS) contract with the HSE to provide services to medical card patients receive an annual capitation fee for each client according to a client's age, sex and the distance of their residence from the GP's centre of practice, regardless of the number of patient visits in the year.

Data is collected by the Health Service Executive in relation to costs in the General Medical Services Scheme and in relation to medical card holders' usage of hospital services, including in-patient and accident & emergency services. However, as this data does not capture information in relation to the basis on which a person qualified for a medical card, it would not enable an analysis of what effect the provision of medical cards to all persons over 70 may have had on usage of health services.

National Lottery Funding.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

93 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of money her Department has provided for the Asthma Society in 2007; the amount that will be allocated in 2008 to the Asthma Society; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27959/07]

To date, my Department has not provided funding to the Asthma Society in 2007. Applications for funding from the Health and Children National Lottery allocation are received from individuals, groups, and organisations with an involvement in the provision of health services to specific client groups and national groups providing information and support regarding disability and illness and groups with a specific interest. No application for National Lottery funding has been received by my Department from the Asthma Society in 2007.

The funding generally of voluntary organisations in the health area is a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) under the Health Act 2004. As the Executive is the appropriate body to consider this aspect, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

General Register Office.

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

94 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health and Children if the General Register Office decided to withdraw the marriage registration from the local area registrars throughout County Roscommon and centralise same, much to the inconvenience of the community; and the position regarding same in view of the unworkable nature of the arrangement. [27962/07]

An tArd Chláraitheoir, the Registrar General, is the person with the statutory responsibility for the administration of the civil registration system in Ireland. I have made enquiries with an tArd Chláraitheoir and the position is as set out below.

The provisions of the Civil Registration Act, 2004 concerning marriages were commenced on 5 November 2007. From this date, there is a requirement that both parties to an intended marriage must give notification of intention to marry, in person, to a registrar (unless resident outside of the State or unable to attend in person by reason of ill health). The purpose of the delivery of the notification in person is to allow the registrar to be satisfied as to the identity of the parties, the witnesses and the solemniser, as to their capacity to marry each other (ensuring that no impediments exist) and as to their freedom to marry (checking that any divorce or annulment granted to either party from a previous marriage is legally valid).

Once the registrar is satisfied that the marriage may proceed, a Marriage Registration Form (MRF) is generated electronically from the computerised Civil Registration System (CRS) and given to the parties. The MRF is essentially a licence to marry and is the basis of the registration of an entry in the register of marriages following the ceremony. From 5 November 2007, no marriage is valid unless an MRF has been issued and is signed by the parties, the solemniser and the witnesses following the ceremony.

When couples intend to give notice of intention to marry, they will contact the registrar's office and make an appointment to meet the registrar. At the initial contact stage, the procedures and documentary requirements will be explained to the couple. This will ensure that when they visit the registrar's office, they will have all necessary documentation with them and the notification can be made and the MRF issued at the same time. This procedure gives the highest possible degree of assurance to the couple and the registrar that everything is in order and that the marriage can proceed as intended.

The new procedures for notification of intended marriage and registration of marriage are completely computerised, using the most up to date technology available, and is the central component in administering the new marriage provisions. The database also contains a register of solemnisers and locations for marriage, access to which is essential to completion of the marriage notification process. The database is available to all registrars who are employed in this capacity by the HSE.

However, within Co. Roscommon and in a number of other areas throughout the country, there are a small number of private registrars who are either not directly employed by the HSE or who perform registration duties outside of their whole-time duties with the HSE. These registrars do not have access to the computerised system, for reasons of security and data protection. In many cases they operate from a private residence and the safety and integrity of the system, (which contains almost all births, deaths and marriage records) would be exposed to unacceptable risks at these locations.

The registrars in question continue to operate a paper-based registration system for births and deaths registrations and these entries are taken on to the computerised system when forwarded to the Superintendent Registrar for the area. The practical and logistical difficulties in administering similar arrangements in the case of marriage notifications and the MRF were considered by the Registrar General and found to be impractical and unworkable.

Unlike birth and death events, the MRF details are dynamic and subject to change between the time of notification and the date of the marriage. Almost all details (such as the venue, the solemniser, the witnesses, etc.) may change and any and all changes must be reflected on the MRF. Any delay in this process, between the time the registrar is notified of a change and the time that the amended MRF is issued, could potentially jeopardise the validity of a marriage and it was felt that the potential risks involved significantly outweigh any convenience in involving such registrars in the marriage process.

Prior to the commencement of the new provisions, one or both of the parties to a marriage had to be resident in the district in which the marriage took place and notice of intention to marry had to be served to the registrar for that district. The new provisions abolished these requirements and notification of intention to marry may be delivered in person to any registrar's office, irrespective of residence and the location of the venue for the proposed marriage. These changes, far from centralising the service, mean that persons living in Co. Roscommon may deliver notification of intention to marry to a number of registrar's offices in the region, including Roscommon town, Longford, Carrick-On-Shannon, Sligo, Galway and Castlebar, or to any registrar's office in the State.

Having consulted the Registrar General, I am satisfied that the new arrangements will not result in any significant inconvenience to local communities in Roscommon and are the most practical means of ensuring that the new provisions will operate effectively.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

95 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason dental treatment has not been offered under the GMS in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28014/07]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Services 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.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

96 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a renewal of a medical card has not been issued in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28018/07]

Medical cards are made available to persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services. In 2005 the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on moderate and lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

Since the beginning of 2005 substantial changes have been made to the way in which people's eligibility for a medical card is assessed and these apply equally to the assessment process for a GP visit card. The income guidelines have been increased by a cumulative 29% and in addition allowance is now made for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of mortgage/rent, childcare and travel to work costs. In June 2006 I agreed a further adjustment to the income guidelines for GP visit cards. These are now 50% higher than those in respect of medical cards.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for these benefits, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

97 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28019/07]

Medical cards are made available to persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services. In 2005 the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on moderate and lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

Since the beginning of 2005 substantial changes have been made to the way in which people's eligibility for a medical card is assessed and these apply equally to the assessment process for a GP visit card. The income guidelines have been increased by a cumulative 29% and in addition allowance is now made for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of mortgage/rent, childcare and travel to work costs. In June 2006 I agreed a further adjustment to the income guidelines for GP visit cards. These are now 50% higher than those in respect of medical cards.

As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for these benefits, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to address this matter and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Marine Safety Staff.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

98 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Transport the number of jobs that will be affected with reference to the decision to relocate the Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre at Malin Head; and the number that will remain in Malin Head and Valentia. [27839/07]

At present there are 17 posts in each of the centres at Malin Head and Valentia. Staff have yet to be canvassed on who will relocate voluntarily and until figures are known for this, it is not possible to make out a migration plan. Discussions with staff on this matter are expected to commence shortly.

Infrastructural Projects.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

99 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the delivery time slippage in relation to the key elements of Transport 21; the planned timetable for the key elements; and the projected completion dates for each based on current progress. [27921/07]

At the launch of Transport 21, the Government identified the projects and programmes in the national roads, public transport and regional airports sectors that it wishes to see prioritised for development in the ten-year period from 2006 to 2015 and estimated the cost of implementing these at €34 billion, in current cost terms.

The huge scale of the Transport 21 programme is such that adjustments to the timescale for individual projects is inevitable. The value of the ten-year financial framework is that it gives us the flexibility to deal with this in an effective way. However, the aim continues to be to complete the Transport 21 programme by the end of 2015.

Most national road projects are now being completed on or ahead of schedule. All of the seven projects opened to date this year have been on or ahead of time. These included the Newry-Dundalk motorway which was three months ahead of schedule, the Tyrellstown to Kilbeggan project which was six months ahead of schedule and Phase 1 of the Arklow-Gorey Bypass which opened four months early. The five major inter-urban motorways are on schedule for completion by end 2010. The new Docklands station opened in March this year, well ahead of its 2009 indicative target date. Delivery of the 183 new Intercity railcars began earlier this year, on schedule, and the first of them will enter service in the coming weeks.

Notwithstanding this excellent progress it has been necessary to revise the indicative completion dates for some projects because of circumstances arising before construction, details of which are listed below. These necessary revisions have arisen for a range of reasons including changes to the scope of the projects arising from public consultation, planning issues, procurement issues and archaeological difficulties.

The revisions are set out below for individual projects:

Portlaoise Train depot will be completed in the first quarter of 2008, rather than at the end of 2007; this change arose because the planning approval process took longer than anticipated.

Cork Commuter Rail Service to Midleton: The construction timetable is yet to be finalised with the contractors, but Iarnród Éireann is optimistic that passenger services will start in early 2009, rather than in 2008.

Linking of the existing Luas lines: Dublin Bus expressed serious concerns about the impact the preferred Luas alignment would have on its services. Dublin City Council is currently undertaking traffic modelling work as part of its examination of revised traffic management arrangements in the city centre, which will be required for the delivery of the Luas city centre link (line BX) and the further extension to Liffey Junction (line D). Following completion of further detailed design work and subject to a satisfactory outcome to the city centre traffic management modelling work, the RPA plans to submit a Railway Order application for Luas Line BX to An Bord Pleanála next year.

The Tallaght to Citywest Luas timescale has been revised from 2008 to 2010 to accommodate a longer alignment than originally planned.

The revised completion date for the Connolly to Docklands Luas is 2009, rather than late 2008 as originally scheduled mainly because the RPA devoted a substantial period to addressing and resolving the concerns of businesses in the IFSC about the impact of construction on their operations.

Metro West: The projected completion date for the entire project remains 2014.

There were tendering issues on Limerick Southern Ring Road project which meant that the contract award process did not progress as quickly as was originally hoped. Completion is now scheduled for 2010. Construction starts on both the M3 and the N25 Waterford City Bypass were later than planned because of archaeological issues at Tara and Woodstown respectively.

Dublin City Centre rail resignalling project was expanded to include the Maynooth line, resulting in a longer construction period and a 2011 completion date.

Due to a slightly later than planned submission of the Railway Order application, Phase 1 of the Navan Line will now be completed in 2010.

Metro North: The scheduled completion date is now 2013 to take account of scope changes made which arise from public consultation.

In short it can be said an indicative timetable is just that — an indication of the timeline in which a project will be delivered some projects have been and will continue to be delivered ahead of the times indicated and some will be later than indicated, but the overall target is to ensure all are completed within the Transport 21 timeframe.

Departmental Reports.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

100 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport if drafts were made of the report by the Secretary General of his Department in relation to the recent report produced by her regarding the Aer Lingus Shannon-Heathrow issues; the nature of the changes made by her; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27932/07]

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

101 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport if officials in his Department or outside were shown or asked to comment on drafts made of the report by the Secretary General in relation to the recent report produced by her regarding the Aer Lingus Shannon-Heathrow issues; the nature of the changes made; the names of the officials concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27933/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 and 101 together.

I understand that, before submitting her report to me on Thursday, 25 October, the Secretary General showed drafts of her report to:

those officials specifically referred to in it (viz. the relevant Assistant Secretary, Principal Officer and Assistant Principal and the Secretary General to the Government);

the independent Chairman of the Department's Internal Audit Committee to enable him to prepare his statement which is at Appendix 2 of the Report; and

the Secretary General (Public Service Management and Development Division) at the Department of Finance, to get feedback from an official who was not directly involved in matter.

I understand that, while a number of textual changes were made to her working draft, no change was made to the substance of the report. She also sent extracts of the report specifically referring to conversations with the Chairman of Aer Lingus to him shortly before submitting it to the Minister. The Chairman confirmed that the extracts accurately reflected his recollection of events.

Human Rights Issues.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

102 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will condemn the decision of President Musharraf to impose martial law in Pakistan; if he will issue a demarche to the Ambassador; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27966/07]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

103 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will ask for a meeting of the European Foreign Affairs Council to establish a common EU position on the recent events in Pakistan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27967/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 and 103 together.

On 5 November, I issued a statement expressing deep concern about the declaration of a State of Emergency in Pakistan by President Musharraf, the suspension of Pakistan's Constitution and the imposition of wide-ranging restrictions on the media and the Supreme Court. I also stated that it was essential that every effort be made to reinstate the Constitution, to lift restrictions on the media and the judiciary, and to return to the democratic process and early elections, in order to pave the way for a peaceful transition to democratic government in Pakistan. Likewise, the widespread arrests and detentions of opposition members, human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers are also deeply disturbing.

As was stated during the Adjournment Debate in Dáil Éireann on 6 November, the Government's position is clear. While recognising that Pakistan faces threats to its peace and security, we are firmly of the view that stability and development can only be achieved through democracy and the rule of law.

Along with our EU colleagues, we call on the Government of Pakistan

first, to take urgent action to restore the Constitution;

second, to ensure that the commitments which have been made — and restated on 5 November — that free and fair elections will be held on schedule in January are respected in full, and the necessary conditions to ensure this put in place;

third, to release all political prisoners, including members of the judiciary, lawyers, journalists and human rights defenders. In particular, I appeal for the immediate release of the distinguished human rights defender, and UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir, whose detention is totally unacceptable;

fourth, to honour the President's commitment to step down as Chief of Army Staff by 15 November

fifth, to pursue energetically reconciliation with the political opposition; and

finally, to relax restrictions on the media.

I have conveyed these views and my deep concerns about recent developments to the Ambassador of Pakistan in Dublin, making clear my active and ongoing personal interest in the situation. I and my EU colleagues will keep the situation under active review and I will seek to ensure that we have a detailed discussion on developments at the forthcoming General Affairs and External Relations Council on 19 November.

EU Directives.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

104 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when he proposes to transpose the EU Directive on the Rights of Agency Workers into Irish domestic law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27835/07]

The draft EU Directive on Temporary Agency Work has not yet been adopted and, as such, the transposition of its terms into Irish law does not arise. It is currently, however, under consideration having been placed on the table for discussion by the Portuguese Presidency.

Ireland continues to adopt a constructive role in these discussions. Some key outstanding issues include the review of restrictions and prohibitions that apply regarding the use of temporary agency workers and the duration of the "grace period" or qualifying period with regard to the principle of equal treatment. Ireland and several other EU Member States have argued that a qualifying period of six weeks is far too short and that pay parity should only apply after a longer waiting period to be agreed in negotiation between the Member States.

In this regard Ireland is seeking to obtain a balance between promoting more flexible forms of work organisation, thus allowing more opportunities for agency workers, while not undermining the employment rights of such workers. Our aim is to better reconcile flexibility and job security and create more and better jobs which is a fundamental goal of the Lisbon Strategy.

Community Employment Schemes.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

105 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason community employment places supporting the delivery of health services will continue to be ring-fenced; the reason such schemes will not be mainstreamed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27876/07]

Community Employment (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a fixed term basis. CE helps unemployed people to re-enter the active workforce by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to a work routine and to assist them to enhance/develop both their technical and personal skills.

In order to support the delivery of essential services, the ring fencing of health related, Drugs Task Force and child care places was introduced in 2002/2003. As a result of this service provision levels continue to be maintained at a constant level. In November 2004, following a review of FÁS employment schemes (Community Employment, Job Initiative and Social Economy Programmes), I announced that Community Employment places supporting the delivery of health services will continue to be ring-fenced. However, in line with Government policy, there are currently no plans to mainstream these Community Employment places.

CE still remains as an active labour market programme with the emphasis on progression into employment. The programme is managed within this context, with consideration to the availability of resources and the needs of participants and the community.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

106 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if there are measures being put in place to assist in the filling of current vacancies on the midlands community employment scheme, regarding the provision of care to people with a disability; his views on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27877/07]

I understand that FÁS funded Community Employment projects in the Midlands Region, which are providing a service to persons with disabilities in the local area, have been approved to recruit current vacancies up to the approved level. FÁS Employment Services is assisting CE projects in this recruitment process.

Community Initiative Projects.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

107 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will provide funding to the Equal Ireland Development Partnership to continue the community initiative beyond 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27923/07]

The EQUAL Community Initiative Programme is funded by the European Social Fund and seeks to identify and address fundamental forms of discrimination and inequality in the labour market through the development of new and innovative policies and practices initiated by EQUAL Development Partnerships. The Programme started in 2000 and ends in 2007. EQUAL has been delivered in two Rounds. In total up to 75% of the costs of 21 projects were funded under Round 1 of the Programme and 22 projects under Round 2.

EQUAL Ireland Development Partnership has received funding of €872,932 under Round 1 and EQUAL Ireland Life Long Learning (Workplace and Community) Project has been allocated funding of €1,075,140 and additional funding of €241,908 under Round 2 of the EQUAL Community Initiative. While EQUAL projects are continuing to operate until the end of 2007, there is no further funding available from the European Social Fund for new projects or activity beyond 2007. Commitments must have been entered into by the end of 2006 to be admissible for funding under the rules covering EQUAL.

I would therefore suggest that the promoters of EQUAL Ireland engage with the relevant State Agencies, including those which have to date contributed to the costs of this project directly, to ascertain whether funds are available to continue with this project.

IDA Properties.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

108 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the percentage of IDA properties that have been vacant for each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27941/07]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

109 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will provide a list of IDA properties; if they are vacant or in use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27942/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 and 109 together.

The Management of the IDA property portfolio is a day to day operational matter for the Agency and is not one in which I have a function. I have been informed by IDA Ireland that, at present, there are 67 IDA owned buildings of which 27 are unoccupied. In addition, the Agency leases 83 units from private investors and 35 of these units are also vacant. Details of the locations of these buildings are set out in the tabular statement below.

In the ten-year period from 1998 to 2007, the percentage of IDA properties (both owned and leased by the Agency) that were vacant varied from year to year, while the total number of such properties fell from 613 in 1998 to 150 in 2007. The actual number of properties vacant together with the percentage figure in respect of each of the years from 1998 to 2007 is shown in the tabular statement that follows.

A policy decision to move away from involvement in buildings was implemented by the Agency in the late 1990s. In divesting of buildings the Agency was conscious of the need to maximise the financial returns and to balance the disposal programme against the need to have buildings available in key locations for marketing to IDA and Enterprise Ireland clients.

An Expenditure Review of IDA Ireland's Property Programme which was led by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and was concluded in 2004 recommended that the Agency should continue with its policy of disengagement from buildings, taking into account the need for value for money. Copies of the Expenditure Review, which have been placed in the Library of the Houses of the Oireachtas are available on the Department's website.

(i) Table showing the number of occupied and vacant IDA owned and leased buildings.

Private Finance

IDA Owned

County

Town

Occupied

Vacant

Total

Occupied

Vacant

Total

Cork

Ballygallan

0

0

0

0

3

3

Cork

Bantry

4

0

4

0

0

0

Cork

Bandon

0

0

0

3

0

3

Cork

Charleville

0

1

1

1

0

1

Cork

Little Island

1

0

1

0

0

0

Cork

Kilbarry

5

3

8

0

0

0

Cork

Mallow

1

0

1

0

0

0

Cork

Wilton

1

1

2

0

0

0

Cork

Skibbereen

3

0

3

0

0

0

Donegal

Lurganboy

0

0

0

8

0

8

Donegal

Ballyshannon

0

3

3

0

0

0

Donegal

Letterkenny

4

0

4

0

0

0

Dublin

Ballyfermot

0

0

0

0

1

1

Dublin

Ballymount

0

0

0

1

0

1

Dublin

Clonshaugh

0

0

0

1

4

5

Dublin

Gardiner St

0

0

0

5

13

18

Dublin

Tallaght

1

0

1

1

0

1

Dublin

Airways

5

7

12

0

0

0

Dublin

Poppintree

1

1

2

0

0

0

Galway

Loughrea

0

0

0

1

0

1

Galway

Mervue

0

0

0

2

0

2

Galway

Roundstone

0

0

0

1

2

3

Galway

Ballinasloe

0

1

1

0

0

0

Galway

Ballybrit

1

0

1

0

0

0

Galway

Parkmore

1

0

1

0

0

0

Galway

Gort

1

0

1

0

0

0

Galway

Tuam

1

4

5

0

0

0

Kerry

Killarney

0

0

0

4

1

5

Kildare

Newbridge

1

5

6

0

0

0

Kilkenny

Fieldcrest

0

0

0

1

0

1

Leitrim

0

0

0

0

0

0

Longford

0

0

0

0

0

0

Louth

0

0

0

1

0

1

Mayo

Ballina

1

0

1

1

0

1

Mayo

Charlestown

0

0

0

0

1

1

Monaghan

Ballybay

0

0

0

1

0

1

Offaly

Tullamore

0

0

0

1

0

1

Roscommon

Castlerea

0

0

0

1

0

1

Roscommon

Monksland Athlone

2

1

3

0

0

0

Roscommon

Gallowstown

1

0

1

1

0

1

Sligo

Finisklin

0

0

0

1

1

2

Tipperary

0

0

0

0

0

0

Waterford

Johnstown

1

6

7

0

0

0

Waterford

Waterford

0

0

0

3

1

4

Westmeath

Athlone

2

1

3

0

0

0

Westmeath

Mullingar

1

0

1

0

0

0

Wexford

Enniscorthy

2

1

3

0

0

0

Wexford

Whitemills

1

0

1

0

0

0

Wicklow

Arklow

6

0

6

1

0

1

48

35

83

40

27

67

(ii) Table showing number and percentage of vacant IDA properties in each year 1998 to 2007

Year

Total Number of Building

Total Number Vacant

% of Properties Vacant

1998

613

113

18%

1999

331

49

15%

2000

305

23

8%

2001

274

59

22%

2002

251

64

25%

2003

238

81

34%

2004

222

93

42%

2005

189

87

46%

2006

155

67

43%

2007

150

62

41%

Employment Appeals Tribunal.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

110 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a member of the Employment Appeals Tribunal may hear a case in which they are related to one of the witnesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27956/07]

The Employment Appeals Tribunal is an independent body which is bound to act judicially. It was set up to provide individuals with a forum to seek remedies for infringements of their statutory employment rights. I understand that the practice is that Tribunal members do not hear cases where a relationship exists between them and a party or witness to a case.

If a member becomes aware that s/he is related or connected to a party or witness before the day of the hearing s/he asks to be replaced. If, on the other hand, a member only becomes aware of such a relationship during a hearing then the member either discharges him/herself immediately from the hearing or, where that relationship is not close, discloses the nature of that relationship to the parties and is guided by their attitude as to whether or not s/he should continue to hear the case or discharge him/herself.

In a case currently before the Tribunal some evidence was taken over two days in June 2007. At that time a member of the Tribunal was not aware that s/he was related to a witness whom the respondent intended to call to give evidence later in the proceedings. During the 2007 summer vacation that member became aware that a relationship through marriage existed between the member and the proposed witness. For this reason and prior to the resumed hearing, which was scheduled to take place for two days in late October 2007, the Tribunal called the parties before it to inform them of the relationship and that the Division of the Tribunal was discharging itself from hearing that case.

A new Tribunal Division is scheduled to hear this case beginning in January 2008.

National Archives.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

111 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding the provision of a new purpose built repository for the National Archives which is many years over due; and his views on whether a public private partnership route is the best way forward particularly in view of the announcement in August 2007 by the Northern Ireland Culture Minister, Mr. Edwin Poots, MLA, that his Department is to spend over £30 million providing a new home for the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland which is to be open by August 2010. [27863/07]

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

112 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the measures he proposes in order to supply the National Archives with adequate staff across all grades (details supplied). [27864/07]

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

113 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the reason the National Archives does not open its reading room outside of the hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. [27865/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 111 to 113, inclusive, together.

The current position in relation to this project is that my Department is consulting with the Office of Public Works and the Department of Finance with a view to having an economic assessment study carried out in relation to the provision of new storage and other accommodation for the National Archives.

I am advised that the current staff complement of the National Archives is 47. The administrative team has been strengthened recently with the assignment of two additional posts. As a result the National Archives now has a new Head of Administration post at Assistant Principal level and a new Assistant to the Director post at Executive Officer level. I understand that some vacancies in professional grades are currently in the process of being filled. My officials have recently met with the Senior Management of the National Archives and have asked for additional information on the staffing structures in the organisation to allow them to explore options in relation to staff resources in the context of Government policy on staffing numbers in the public sector.

The Reading Room of the National Archives in Bishop Street is open from 10.00 until 17.00 Monday to Friday and receives an average of 64 visits by members of the public each day. The Management of the National Archives is keen to extend its opening hours but space and staffing levels temper the feasibility of doing this. When additional space becomes available on the Ground Floor of the Bishop Street building management in the National Archives will review the feasibility of a limited extension of opening hours.

Pension Provisions.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

114 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on allowing a time limited amnesty whereby retrospective pension contributions could be made by farmers; if short periods of employment could be excluded when applying the average rule; his views on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27878/07]

In order to qualify for a contributory pension a person must satisfy a range of conditions which include commencing payment of contributions 10 years before pension age, payment of a minimum of 260 contributions at an appropriate rate and reaching a minimum average annual contribution rate of at least 10 contributions paid or credited. An average of 48 contributions is needed for a full pension.

The average contribution test is a key qualifying condition and aims to ensure that those receiving a pension have demonstrated an adequate and ongoing attachment to the social insurance system over their working lives. Accordingly, the period from when a person first becomes insured until the end of the last contribution year before they reach pension age is used to assess the average contribution rate. A concession in this regard was made to self-employed persons who became compulsorily insured on the 6 th April 1988 in that any previous PRSI record they may have can be disregarded, if that is to their advantage, when eligibility for pension is being assessed.

The issue of gaps in a person's insurance record impacts on a number of different groups, not just the self-employed, and any changes being proposed would therefore have to be looked at in the context of the system as a whole. These issues are discussed in the Green Paper on Pensions, which I published on the 17 th October, and changes to the system will be considered in the context of the framework for long-term pensions policy, which will be developed after the consultation process is completed.

Eligibility to contribute to the system of social insurance is based on a person's income and employment status. There is no legislative basis, and none is planned, under which retrospective contributions, which were not due in the first place, can be accepted. It is, of course, open to those who fail to qualify for a contributory pension, or who qualify for a reduced payment, to apply for the means tested state pension (non-contributory).

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

115 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the action his Department is taking to inform and assist the high number of people now in their late 50s and early 60s who may find themselves disqualified from a State pension from 2012 on the basis of the new contribution qualifying thresholds that will apply from then; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27827/07]

In line with the recommendations of the Final Report of the National Pensions Board, Section 12 of The Social Welfare Act 1997 (now incorporated in the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005) provides for amendments to the contribution conditions for the purposes of State contributory pensions. In accordance with the legislation, from April 2002 the paid contributions requirement was standardised at 260 contributions, and this will increase to 520 contributions with effect from April 2012. The planned contribution requirement has, for a number of years, been included in the Department's standard information material on pensions.

The Department is at present assessing the likely impact of the change on those who will reach pension age in 2012. The need for promotional work and other measures related to the planned change will be considered when this examination is complete.

Social Insurance.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

116 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if there are provisions in place to protect low income workers in construction, who are finding it increasingly difficult to pay contributions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27887/07]

An employed contributor is broadly defined as a person over the age of 16 years and under pensionable age who is in insurable employment. Insurable employment means employment in the State under any contract of service or apprenticeship, written or oral, whether expressed or implied.

Employment contributions are calculated on employees reckonable earnings. For the purposes of collecting employment contributions under the PAYE/PRSI system reckonable earnings means anything assessable to income tax under Schedule E of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. This means that where an employee pays or is assessed for income tax they are simultaneously assessed for PRSI liability, and the appropriate deduction is made from their salary.

Insured workers are required to pay PRSI contributions based on their level of income. The vast majority of workers pay social insurance contributions at the PRSI Class A rate and accrue entitlement to the full range of social insurance benefits. Class A0 applies to all employees — including medical card holders and certain social welfare recipients who are normally employed under Class A but whose reckonable earnings are between €38 and €339 per week. On this basis an employee working about 4.5 hours per week at the minimum wage is gaining a PRSI credit and subsequent entitlement to social insurance benefits.

The recently published Actuarial Review of the Social Insurance Fund, 2005, found that, in almost all circumstances, working people receive very good value-for-money from the Social Insurance Fund, based on current benefit and contribution rates. For this reason it is very much in the interests of the individual worker to ensure that their social insurance contribution records are maintained.

Pension Provisions.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

117 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on the extension of eligibility for the special 50% state contributory old age pension to be extended to those aged between 60 and 65 years in April 1988; his views on the special pension rate to the group aged between 56 and 60 years in April 1988 being increased from 50 per cent to 75 per cent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27888/07]

It is a fundamental principle of our social insurance system that those qualifying for benefits must satisfy a range of contribution and other conditions. In the case of contributory pensions this involves commencing payment of contributions 10 years before pension age, payment of a minimum number of contributions at an appropriate rate and reaching a minimum average annual contribution rate. The State pension (contributory) is a valuable benefit and the conditions are designed to ensure that those qualifying have had a sufficient and ongoing attachment to the social insurance system.

A special pension for the self-employed was introduced in 1999 to enable people who were over age 56 at the time of the introduction of PRSI for the self-employed in 1988, and who could not therefore meet the standard qualifying conditions, to receive a contributory pension. This special pension covers some of the group aged between 60 and 65 referred to by the Deputy. To qualify, a person must have been age 56 or over on 6 April 1988, started paying social insurance contributions as a self-employed person on or after this date and have at least 260 full-rate social insurance contributions paid on a compulsory basis since first starting to pay social insurance contributions as a self-employed person. The personal rate and increases for a qualified adult and a qualified child are paid at 50% of the standard maximum rate.

The pension element of PRSI paid may be refunded in the case of contributors who entered insurable employment after they had attained the age of 56 and who have no entitlement to any State Pension.

The arrangements introduced in 1999 are designed to give some recognition under the social welfare pensions system to a group of people who would not otherwise qualify for any payment, contributory or means tested. The pension was considered a reasonable response to the position this particular group of people found themselves in, and it represents very good value for the level of contributions paid. In my view, this remains the position.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

118 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on the State non contributory pension permitting the earning of an equivalent amount of farm income to that applied to employment income; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27889/07]

A new pension scheme, known as State Pension (Non-Contributory) was introduced in September 2006 and incorporated all means-tested schemes for people aged 66 or over. As part of this reform, the basic income disregard for the purposes of the means test for non-contributory pensions was increased to €20 per week and a new disregard on earnings from employment of €100 per week was introduced to encourage pensioners who wished to continue in employment or to return to employment. Budget 2007 increased the basic means disregard to €30 per week in addition to increasing the earnings disregard to €200 per week.

The earnings disregard of €200 per week does not apply to income from any other source such as self-employment including farming or rents from leasing property. Income from sources other than employment, including pensions and capital, is covered by the enhanced general means disregard of €30 per week.

However, it should be noted that in contrast to persons in employment, expenses necessarily incurred in carrying out any form of self-employment have always been disregarded when calculating means from self-employment. This means that such earnings are assessed net of expenses incurred by the person in the course of their work e.g. on petrol/diesel, purchase of equipment and raw materials, etc. There are also special arrangements for farmers participating in the REPS and SACS schemes. The first €2,540 of all income from these schemes is not assessable for means test purposes and 50% of any balance is assessed. Expenses necessarily incurred in order to participate in these schemes are also disregarded.

The effectiveness of means testing arrangements are kept under review and, where appropriate, changes are considered in a Budgetary context.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

119 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on a restructuring of the existing carer’s allowance payment into two elements, a flat rate non means tested standard payment based on the needs of the person being cared for and a supplementary means tested payment, where the means are above a certain threshold; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27890/07]

Supporting and recognising carers in our society is, and has been, a priority of the Government since 1997. Over that period, weekly payment rates to carers have greatly increased, qualifying conditions for carer's allowance have significantly eased, coverage of the scheme has been extended and new schemes such as carer's benefit and the respite care grant have been introduced and extended.

The primary objective of the carer's allowance is to provide income support to low income carers. Carer's allowance, in line with other social assistance schemes, is means tested. This ensures scarce resources are directed at those in greatest need.

The carer's allowance means test is one of the more flexible tests in terms of the assessment of household incomes. The means test has been significantly eased over the years most notably with regard to spouse's earnings. Budget 2007 provided for an income disregard for a couple of €640 per week. This ensures a couple can earn in the region of €36,000 per annum and still receive the maximum rate of carer's allowance and the associated free travel and household benefits. This measure surpasses the Towards 2016 commitment to ensure those on average industrial earnings continue to qualify for a full carer's allowance.

In addition, the rates of carer's allowance have been increased to €200 per week for those aged under 66 and to €218 per week for those aged over 66.

The introduction of a universal payment, albeit with a means tested supplement, would have substantial cost implications. The view of some support and health organisations is that it would be much more beneficial to carers if additional resources were invested in the type of community care services which would support them in their caring role, such as additional respite care facilities, more home helps, public health nurses and other such services.

I will keep the supports for carers from my Department under review in order to continue to improve the schemes and ensure commitments on income support are delivered.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

120 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when arrears of rent support for the period 20 September 2007 to 20 October 2007 will be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28024/07]

There are no arrears of rent supplement due in this case. All rent supplement due up to the end of October has been paid.

The Health Service Executive has advised that the person concerned was awarded a rent supplement from 20th September 2007 at a rate of €543.70 per month. It has further advised that the payment of €743.10 which issued to the person concerned on 26th October 2007 consisted of the rent supplement due for the eleven days from 20th September 2007 to 30th September 2007 and for the month of October 2007.

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

121 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he plans to increase the living alone allowance; when this allowance was last increased; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28025/07]

The living alone allowance is an additional payment of €7.70 per week made to people aged 66 years or over who are in receipt of certain social welfare payments and who are living alone. It is also available to people who are under 66 years of age who are living alone and who receive payments under one of a n umber of invalidity type schemes. The increase is intended as a contribution towards the additional costs people face when they live alone. The payment was last increased in 1996.

The policy in relation to support for pensioners has been, for many years, to give priority to increasing the personal rates of pension rather than supplements like the living alone increase. The objective is to use resources to improve the position of all pensioners to the fullest extent possible rather than focusing on particular groups. This approach was continue d in Budget 2007 with increases of up to €16 and €18 per week granted on personal rates.

Community Development.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

122 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will urgently review and amend the final guidelines on the governance of integrated local development companies and urban based partnership in view of the concerns expressed by many citizens active in the community sector regarding the reduction of representation of the social partners on partnership boards, restrictions on the terms of chairpersons and directors, the barring of Oireachtas Members from board membership and other issues of concern. [27916/07]

Arising from the joint Ministerial initiative on the review of local and community development structures the Government agreed a series of measures in January 2004 to improve arrangements under which community and local development initiatives are delivered and to improve cohesion and focus across various measures. This process is informed by the following guiding principles:

improving on the ground services

streamlining structures so as to avoid overlaps, duplication and undue administrative overheads

bringing transparency, co-ordination and improved control to the funding and operation of local and community development measures;

strengthening the democratic accountability of agencies and providers in this area.

The core objective of the process is to simplify and improve local delivery of programmes operated by my Department through the integration and alignment of local delivery structures. The intention is that for the future there will be one local development company in any given area and fewer local development companies overall. This will provide full county coverage and eliminate overlaps and previous fragmented arrangements.

Following exhaustive consultations with and between the local agencies to develop the most suitable configurations of groups, Government decided on revised areas of coverage for local development companies in March of this year. Subsequent consultations with stakeholders culminated in a meeting with the representative networks of local development companies (Comhar Leader na hÉireann, the Community Partnership Network and PLANET) on the 31st July. At this meeting, the networks agreed to the revised membership requirements for which I had secured Government approval. These new arrangements most notably included the provision of three additional seats for representatives of community and voluntary organisations on local development boards.

Given the importance of local development companies in their area of operation and the amount of public funds that they disperse, the Government is keen to ensure that they operate to the highest standards of corporate governance. In addition there are concerns about the size of boards and the transparency of board election/selection procedures leading, in turn, to concerns relating to the democratic legitimacy of such organisations and public accountability generally. While the number of reserved spaces on boards is reduced, this is in the context of smaller boards where the influence of particular directors cannot be diminished by boards of unlimited size. Boards will continue to have a mix of representation from local government, national social partners, statutory agencies and community and voluntary organisations. In addition further avenues of participation will be available through advisory councils.

In regard to the participation of elected representatives, the Government has decided that representation by elected members from local authorities including town councils is more appropriate to local development bodies in view of their specific local focus and area based perspective. In relation to T.D. (and Senators) I am considering ways in which they can be routinely kept informed of the work of the companies in their constituencies.

Governance guidelines have been drawn up by my Department in response to requests from the local development companies following extensive in consultation with stakeholders and their representative bodies. These reflect the Government decision and provide a template that enables the companies to operate to the highest standards of governance. The Guidelines provide a model of rotation in regard to the tenure of chairpersons and directors that aims to strike a balance between the need to refresh the board and to achieve reasonable continuity. For example, a Director may serve up to three terms as Director (i.e. may be appointed once and re-appointed twice) but can serve for only two consecutive terms.

Apart from some mandatory provisions relating to the size of boards and the selection and distribution of board members, companies are not required to follow the guidelines exactly once they can demonstrate to my Department that the highest standards of corporate governance will be observed.

Official Languages Act 2003.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

123 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs will he carry out an evaluation of the implementation of the Official Languages Act 2003 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27945/07]

Firstly, I would like once more to reiterate that, notwithstanding the perception in the media and elsewhere, the Official Languages Act does not require that all official documents have to be translated into Irish. On the contrary, only a very limited number of key documents produced by public bodies currently require translation into Irish under the Act. These comprise official Annual Reports and Accounts of public bodies and major policy statements such as White Papers, Green Papers, Statements of Strategy, etc. Translation does not apply across the board to consultative documents and other reports in general.

The documents that require translation are all key documents by which public bodies are accountable to the general public, to their specific customers and to the Oireachtas in relation to how they have discharged their public functions in the previous year, or propose to do so in the future. There are two official languages spoken in this State and it seems to me — as it did to all parties in this House when we debated this Act as a Bill — right and proper that documents of this nature should be available to the citizen in both languages. Indeed, I would make the point that when we debated the Bill in the House I was requested, but declined, to accept amendments that would have widened quite considerably the range of documents subject to the automatic simultaneous publication obligation.

Clearly, the cost of translation is only a proportion of the total cost of producing such documents and, more importantly, in the context of the overall administrative budgets available to the vast majority of public bodies, represents a fairly insignificant cost element. However, translation costs tend to be particularly visible as many public bodies do not appear to have translation capacity in-house and external expertise has to be bought in.

The Deputy will be aware that my Department, in association with Foras na Gaeilge, has brought forward a number of initiatives — including the accreditation system for translators and the provision of on-line resources — to assist public bodies in dealing with the translation requirements under the Act in the most effective manner possible. This work will continue.

In general terms, as I have outlined on a number of occasions in this House, I am satisfied that considerable progress has been made to date in the implementation, on a phased basis, of the provisions of the Official Languages Act 2003. The work of implementing the Act is being kept under continuing review by my Department but I would stress once again the long-term and phased nature of the project.

Beef Imports.

James Bannon

Ceist:

124 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the rationale behind her apparent disregard for the threat posed to the farming industry here by the importation of Brazilian beef. [27846/07]

I reject the Deputy's allegation that I would disregard any threat to the farming industry in Ireland. Conditions for trade in animal products with third countries follow the principles established under agreements of World Trade Organisation and the International Organisation for Animal Health. The European Commission is mandated to negotiate these on behalf of the European Community and, through its Food and Veterinary Office (FVO), to monitor their compliance in third countries it has approved for trade with the EU. This approval is on the basis that the Commission adjudges the third country's controls offer an equivalent level of guarantee for the protection of animal and human health to those being operated in the Community. Where there are risks to the public or animal health in the Community from disease outbreaks occurring in approved third countries Safeguard Measures are invoked restricting or banning imports from the affected country or region until the risk has been eliminated.

I have consistently pointed out at EU level that produce imported from third countries must meet standards equivalent to those required of Community producers. As you know Irish farmers are required to ensure that their production systems and farm practices fully comply with a wide range of EU Directives on such matters as traceability, animal health and welfare and consumer protection. I am firmly of the view that our farmers who respect and produce to the highest standards deserve fair play in the market place. In this context I have been in regular contact EU Commissioner for Health Mr. Markos Kyprianou. The Commissioner has assured me that the Commission will not hesitate to take the appropriate protection measures if a product, imported from a third country or produced in the domestic market represents a risk for the health of EC consumers, livestock or plants. I am continuing to pursue this matter with the Commission particularly in the light of the outcome of the most recent and of the forthcoming EU Food and Veterinary Office mission to Brazil.

Animal Feedstuffs.

James Bannon

Ceist:

125 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the grounds on which she considers it logical to approve of the importation of meat, reared on genetically modified maize and yet to refuse to sanction the acceleration of GM maize approval in the EU, making an unequal market for Irish meat. [27847/07]

The process used for the authorisation of genetically modified animal feeds, including maize, is governed by EU legislation which is binding on all Member States. I support that authorization process.

As I have already informed the House, I welcome the signing of an agreement recently between EFSA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to assess food safety risks. I hope that the difficulties associated with the lack of synchronization in the GM authorization processes between the EU and the US will be addressed as part of this agreement.

Food Labelling.

James Bannon

Ceist:

126 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the quantities of meat per annum imported into Ireland of an origin unknown to consumers, packaged here and labelled Irish, for example beef from Brazil. [27848/07]

The source of all legally imported meat is known at the point of import. On direct import into the EU all consignments of animal products including beef from Brazil, must undergo documentary, identity and physical checks in accordance with EU rules at a EU approved Border Inspection Post. These checks confirm that the products have been sourced from a third country approved to export these products to the EU and from an approved establishment in that country, that they are appropriately labelled, packaged and that have been health certified in accordance with EU requirements by the competent authorities of the exporting country. On release from a BIP each consignment must travel under a Common Veterinary Entry Document (CVED), including information on the identity and origin of the consignment, to a Food Business Operator who, under EU Hygiene of Food and Feed Regulations, is authorized to place the animal products on to the market for human consumption. These Regulations also provide that the identity of the Food Business Operator placing the products on the market appear on a label in order to guarantee food safety as well as for the purpose of traceability in the protection of animal and public health.

Approval of countries to trade with the EU is a matter for the EU Commission and the EU Commissioner for Health has assured me that the Commission will not hesitate to take the appropriate protection measures if a product, imported from a third country represents a risk for the health of EC consumers, livestock or plants. In this context the EU Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) is to carry out a further mission to Brazil in November to assess progress in the implementation and operation of controls by the competent authorities in that country.

Consumers are entitled to information on the country of origin of beef. For this reason I collaborated with the Minister for Health & Children to ensure the introduction of legislation providing that beef sold or served in the retail or catering sector must also carry an indication of the country of origin. Responsibility for enforcement of this legislation rests with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI).

The concept of substantial transformation is the basis used throughout the EU and elsewhere to define the origin of goods as being from the country where the last substantial economic change was made to them. In my view it should not be used to disguise the origin of certain products or to mislead the consumer as to the origin of raw materials. Last year the Health and Consumer Protection Directorate of the European Commission undertook a consultative process with a view to reviewing food labelling legislation. In its submission to the Commission Ireland recommended that the term "substantial transformation" should be strictly interpreted. It is essential that this process should not be used to hide the true origin of products and that labelling systems be adapted to ensure that consumers are not misled as regards the true provenance of a food. The status of the EU review of the general labelling Directive is that an interservice consultation has taken place in the Commission and the Commission is expected to present a proposal in December 2007. I will continue to press for a satisfactory outcome in this review of the food labelling legislation in the EU.

Animal Diseases.

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

127 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if pig producers will be permitted to ship their animals for slaughter to Northern Ireland from 1 January 2008 at which time Northern Ireland will be officially classified as aujeszky’s disease free; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27854/07]

Northern Ireland will not be officially classified as aujeszky's disease free from 1 January 2008 and there will be no change in trade requirements from that date.

Ireland both North and South has aujeszky's disease control and eradication programmes in place and it is intended to advance these programmes on an all island basis.

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

128 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their disadvantaged area scheme payment and 50% single farm payment scheme. [27936/07]

An application under the 2007 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 4 May 2007. The application was the subject of a ground eligibility inspection, which has been completed. Accordingly, payments will issue shortly.

Pharmacy Graduates.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

129 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of persons trained in pharmacy each year; and if the high points requirement to enter this profession indicates the need for additional training places. [27818/07]

In November 1999, the HEA published a study on the demand and need for graduates in Pharmacy. The study was undertaken on behalf of the HEA by Peter Bacon and Associates, Economic Consultants. At that time, the only course was in Trinity College Dublin and provided 70 graduates per annum.

The Bacon report recommended that at least 50 extra graduates per annum would be required to fill the positions that will exist in the medium term. A forum on the Need for Pharmacy Graduates was held in 2000 which allowed for a response to Dr. Bacon's report and a report of the forum was submitted to the then Minister for Education and Science for consideration. The Minister asked the HEA to seek proposals from the 3rd level sector to provide for an increase of 50 pharmacy graduates a year. The call was issued in August 2000.

University College Cork and the Royal College of Surgeons were successful in the bidding process. It was then agreed that a total of 80 new places should be allocated. The RCSI course commenced in 2002/03 with an intake of 50 students. This intake went back to 30 in 2003/04 when the UCC pharmacy course commenced with an intake of 50 students.

There are now 150 places in undergraduate pharmacy for Irish/ EU students. In August 2005, FAS published a ‘Healthcare Skills Monitoring Report' which reviewed the demand for healthcare professionals. In relation to pharmacy, the report stated that the current number of university places, along with re-entry to the market of registered but non-practicing pharmacists, and immigration, will ensure a reasonable balance between demand and supply.

High points requirements are not necessarily an indicator of a need for extra places, but rather an indication that the number of places is below the demand for places.

Immigrant Support Services.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

130 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science the access available to English language learning for all immigrant families; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27947/07]

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

152 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science her proposals to ensure English language learning for all immigrant families is co-ordinated through schools where possible; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27951/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 130 and 152 together.

In May 2007, my Department issued a circular to the managerial authorities of all schools to assist them in providing an inclusive school environment to meet the needs of pupils for whom English is a second language. The circular (53/2007) outlines the resources that are available to assist schools in this task. I am satisfied that the allocation of language teacher support posts to schools, as outlined in the circular, represents the most efficient use of resources in catering for the significant numbers of children for whom English is their second language.

Over 12,000 places are available for adults in English language classes to improve their English language skills. The English language classes are provided by the Vocational Education Committees throughout the country.

A review into the development of a national English language training policy and framework for legally resident adult immigrants has been undertaken by the Office for Integration in conjunction with my Department. An international group of consultants have been commissioned to undertake an independent review of existing provision of language training for adults in Ireland. The review will run for approximately six months which will result in a report which is anticipated at this stage to be completed early in 2008. My Department will consider the findings and recommendations of the review in due course.

My Department fully recognises the vital role of parents and other family members in children's literacy development. In this regard, a new family literacy project will be initiated in 2008 under the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) educational inclusion action plan. A working group of parties involved in family literacy has been established to oversee the project including the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA), the Irish Vocational Education Committee (IVEA), the Office of the Minister for Children, An Comhairle Leabharlanna and officials of my Department. The project will build on previous experience in the area of family literacy and will be implemented on a phased basis.

School Transport.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

131 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason, following receipt of correspondence (details supplied) to her Department, that no formal response has been given to the person concerned in relation to this matter in which children with specific learning disabilities are being refused school transport from her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27814/07]

School transport for children with specific learning disabilities who meet the Department's criteria is generally provided to the school nearest to the pupil's residence in which resources can be, or may already have been, allocated to support the child's educational needs.

My Department is examining the background to the enrolment of four children, referred to in the letter from the person named in the details supplied. When this examination is completed, a decision will be made on the eligibility of the pupils for school transport and a letter will then be issued to the person in question.

Third Level Fees.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

132 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding proposals being considered by her Department for a scheme to alleviate tuition fees for people in paid work who study part-time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27815/07]

The Towards 2016 agreement contains a commitment to put in place a targeted scheme to alleviate the fees in public institutions for part-time courses at third level for those at work who have not previously pursued a third level qualification. The Higher Education Authority, in consultation with my Department, is currently developing a scheme in response to this commitment. As part of this scheme a pilot programme in Pharmaceutical Technology has commenced in IT Tallaght. It is expected that a number of other pilot programmes will commence in 2008.

The Programme for Government also includes a commitment to introduce a more extensive new system of means-tested free fees with a view to enabling more people with work or family commitments to avail of opportunities at third level, which will further extend the opportunities available for upskilling. I will, over the coming months, look at how to develop this Programme commitment against the backdrop of the 2016 initiative.

Special Educational Needs.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

133 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science if there are plans for additional outreach places for primary school children with autism who live in Lucan, County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27816/07]

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Council for Special Education is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers, for the establishment of special classes for autism and for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support children with special needs. In excess of 270 autism-specific classes at primary and post primary level have now been approved around the country.

The NCSE will continue to establish additional autism classes where the need arises in both special schools and mainstream post-primary schools.

All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

Schools Building Projects.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

134 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the need for a new second level school to provide school places for second level students from the area known as Lucan south; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27817/07]

The Department monitors enrolments in the Lucan area on an on-going basis to ensure adequate capacity and will provide extra accommodation if needed.

At post primary level, recent building projects have increased capacity to 3,000 pupil places which will cater for not only the current enrolments of 2,476 pupils but provide additional capacity of over 500 places. In addition, a building project for Lucan Community college will further increase capacity by 200 pupil places. A building project for St Joseph's College is also being assessed with a view to providing additional capacity at post-primary level in Lucan.

The situation will continue to be monitored to ensure that there are sufficient places to meet demand into the future.

Special Educational Needs.

Chris Andrews

Ceist:

135 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Education and Science the way, when and by whom the decision was made to refuse to allow private junior schools to have special needs assistants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27825/07]

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department provides resources to State recognised schools to ensure that children have access to an appropriate education with additional supports as necessary. These resources are provided through the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and the local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs).

The State recognises the rights of parents and guardians as primary educators and respects their right to send their child to a school of their choice. Should parents choose not to avail of State recognised schooling and select a private school, this is of course entirely a matter for them. My Department does not however provide special educational needs supports including special needs assistant supports to private primary schools or fund teaching resources in these schools.

Schools Refurbishment.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

136 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Science if a list of successful applicants has been finalised for the summer works scheme 2008; if so, if a school (details supplied) in County Cork has been successful in its application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27829/07]

The school referred to by the Deputy has applied for funding for these works under the Summer Works Scheme 2008. The closing date for the Summer Works Scheme 2008 was 28th September 2007. Decisions on the Scheme will be made later in the year.

School Curriculum.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

137 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on whether the excerpt from the junior certificate book Take the Plunge entitled Poisoning Pigeons in the Park is appropriate material for a school book; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27836/07]

The Junior Certificate syllabus in English does not prescribe specific texts. Teachers are free to choose their own texts and materials to achieve the overall objectives of the programme, and are expected to choose from a wide range of literary genre and other print and media material. Lists appropriate to each year are set out in the Teacher Guidelines for English, but these are intended to be neither prescriptive nor exhaustive. Students are required to read, listen and respond to a range of literary genre including poetry, drama, prose, film, radio, etc. They are also expected to be able to understand and encounter concepts such as plot, comedy, tragedy, satire, pathos, melodrama, theatre, lyrical and narrative, tone and irony, and symbolism.

In that context, while my Department does not prescribe texts for the syllabus, and does not approve textbooks, it is considered that Poisoning Pigeons in the Park presents a useful illustration of the different genre and concepts which students could be expected to encounter during the programme.

Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

138 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science her proposals in relation to making changes to the meal and travel allowance in respect of VTOS students; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that VTOS students currently receive €4.00 per week meal allowance which is 80 cent per day; when she proposes to increase changes in respect of these allowances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27870/07]

The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) is a second chance education initiative for unemployed persons, who are at least 21 years of age and in receipt of certain social welfare payments for at least six months, which is funded by my Department. It is operated through the Vocational Education Committees.

The aims of the Scheme are to give unemployed people education and training opportunities which will develop and prepare them to go into paid employment or on to further education opportunities leading to paid employment.

A training allowance is paid by the VECs to students who previously drew unemployment benefit or assistance. The student ceases to receive an unemployment payment and, instead, receives a VTOS training allowance at a rate equivalent to the maximum rate of unemployment benefit, plus a payment for an adult or child dependant, if appropriate. VTOS students also retain their social welfare secondary benefits.

The allowances for VTOS students, for meal and travel, referred to in the questions are equivalent to these paid to participants on FÁS training courses. VTOS students may be entitled to a travel allowance if they reside more than 3 miles from a centre. These allowances are increased periodically in line with increases in FÁS rates. The current rates are in operation since 2002. There are no plans to increase them in the near future.

School Staffing.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

139 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the extent of persons on the teaching panel for appointment for primary schools in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27871/07]

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

140 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science if there are difficulties in regard to the filling of appointments to permanent positions in primary schools in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27872/07]

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

141 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on whether the learning environment in primary schools in County Mayo, where teachers have not been appointed, is unduly affected; if she will make arrangements to have this position rectified; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27873/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 139 to 141, inclusive, together.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that I am given to understand that the Tuam Diocesan Panel is now clear and all schools in the Diocese are free to fill their permanent vacancies.

Higher Education Grants.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

142 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Education and Science if, having regard to the higher education grant scheme, she has satisfied herself that all local authorities and VECs process these applications expeditiously and that there are no undue delays occurring in any area; if she will review the residency requirement as it applies to mature students, that is, mature students who have travelled or worked abroad, even for a period of years where they are deemed to be dependent mature students where their last place of Irish residence was the parental home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27892/07]

My Department funds four maintenance grant schemes for third level and further education students. These are the Higher Education Grants Scheme, the Vocational Education Committees' Scholarships Scheme, the Third Level Maintenance Grants Scheme for Trainees and the Maintenance Grants Scheme for Students attending Post Leaving Certificate Courses. The Higher Education Grants Scheme is administered by the Local Authorities. The other three schemes are administered by the Vocational Education Committees.

The process of assessing eligibility for third level or further education grants is a matter for the relevant local authority or VEC. Among the factors which give rise to delays in processing applications is where the administering body is awaiting further information/documentation from applicants, or applicants have failed to submit complete application forms.

The Deputy will already be aware that I plan to introduce a single unified scheme of maintenance grants for students and to consolidate the administration of this unified grants scheme in the VEC sector. This will, I believe, provide for a more coherent administrative system. The scheme will be underpinned by a new Student Support Bill which facilitates greater consistency of application, improved client accessibility and timely delivery of grants to those who need them most. This is part of my overall strategy to introduce service improvements in the administration of the student grant schemes. These will include guaranteed timeframes for the earlier payment of grants.

Mature students may be categorised as either independent mature students or mature students dependent on parents. An independent mature student is defined to mean a mature student who was not ordinarily resident at home with his/her parents from the October preceding their entry to an approved course. Independent mature students are assessed without reference to either their parents' income or address.

The residency clause of the scheme requires, in the case of a candidate under 23, that the candidate's parents or guardians to have been resident in the administrative area of a Local Authority from 1st October of the previous year. In the case of an independent mature candidate the candidate himself/herself must have been resident in the administrative area of a Local Authority from 1st October of the previous year. The Local Authority has discretion to waive this requirement in exceptional circumstances. I would, however, point out that the type of situation where residency is waived is, for example, where an independent mature candidate him/herself has missed the residency requirement by a relatively short period of time.

In cases where a candidate returns to the State following a period abroad and where the awarding body decides, at its discretion, to waive the residency requirement the candidate may be assessed for the grant without meeting the prescribed residency requirement from 1st October of the previous year.

One of the main considerations in this type of case is the period of time a candidate has resided outside of the State. The Department suggests that in such cases, the residency requirement may be waived at the discretion of the awarding body only where the period of time abroad does not exceed one year.

On this basis, and on condition that the students submits satisfactory evidence of independent residence prior to going abroad and for the period after their return, the Department has no objection to a candidate being assessed as an independent mature candidate for the purpose of the grant application.

In cases where a candidate has been out of the country for a period of time of more than one year before commencing his/her course, irrespective of whether or not he/she can produce evidence of independent living prior to going abroad, she/he would not be eligible to be considered under the residency clause of the scheme.

Data Protection.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

143 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science if there is an investigation being carried out in relation to an alleged breach of data protection legislation by a body (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27900/07]

Michael Ring

Ceist:

144 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science if there have been breaches of the data protection legislation by a body (details supplied) in County Mayo; if so, if she will initiate an investigation in to this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27901/07]

Michael Ring

Ceist:

145 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science if disciplinary action has been taken against any person in relation to alleged breaches of the data protection legislation by a body (details supplied) in County Mayo. [27902/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 143 to 145, inclusive, together.

An official of my Department contacted the Chief Executive Officer of the body referred to by the Deputy. My Department is satisfied, based on this contact, that a breach of the Data Protection Acts has not occurred. However, if the Deputy has any specific information or concerns in this regard I would urge him to make direct contact with the CEO.

Schools Building Projects.

Niall Blaney

Ceist:

146 Deputy Niall Blaney asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will expedite an application by a school (details supplied) in County Donegal for a new eight classroom school. [27907/07]

The tender report for the school referred to by the Deputy is under examination in my Department at present. The school's Board of Management will be kept advised of developments when the examination is complete.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

147 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 807 of 26 September 2007, if she will expedite the project concerned in view of the traffic hazard at the present school site; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27922/07]

The building project for the school in question will be considered in the context of the multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Capitation Grants.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

148 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools that have applied for funding under the debt relief scheme operated by her Department in each year over the past six years. [27927/07]

Funding to schools to cover their day-to-day running costs has increased substantially in recent years. Indeed, this year schools benefited from the largest ever increase in the capitation grant.

With increases in capitation and ancillary services funding, primary schools are now getting €95 more per pupil per year than they were in 2002. The capitation grant has been increased to €163.58 per child, and the ancillary services grant has risen to €145.50 per child, bringing the total value of both grants to nearly €310 per pupil. This amounts to €93,000 a year for a 300-pupil school.

At second level, the capitation grant has increased by €50 per student since 2002 from €266 to €316. The school support services grant which we introduced in 2000, has been increased significantly to €189 per student for voluntary secondary schools with effect from January 2007. Voluntary secondary schools are now getting €505 per student in capitation and support services grants.

This amounts to €293,000 a year for a 500-student voluntary school. Schools have, therefore, benefited from major increases in funding in recent years. A small number of schools have, however, sought assistance from my Department as an exceptional matter to deal with serious financial difficulties.

Between 2002 to 2006, my Department provided additional financial assistance for this purpose to a total of 97 schools, mainly serving disadvantaged areas.

In 2002, 26 schools received approximately €341,000;

In 2003, 25 schools were allocated a total of €519,000;

In 2004, €108,000 was given to 10 schools;

In 2005, 32 schools shared a total of €784,000; and

Last year, just over €112,000 was paid to 4 schools.

During the same period, the following numbers of schools have sought assistance:

2002 — 27 schools

2003 — 27 schools

2004 — 33 schools

2005 — 43 schools

2006 — 52 schools

It should be noted that the responsibility for sound financial management of schools' affairs rests with school authorities and these were exceptional payments.

The majority of these were schools serving disadvantaged areas. The Deputy will be aware that as well as general increases in capitation funding, extra financial supports are being provided to schools under the DEIS action plan for educational inclusion. In the last school year, DEIS related grants totalling more than €17 million were paid to schools to meet the needs of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. This represented a substantial increase on the 05/06 level of almost €12 million.

The Government will continue to prioritise the needs of schools serving disadvantaged communities going forward. The emphasis on tackling educational disadvantage in recent years is absolutely unprecedented. In 2007, we are investing nearly €730 million in measures aimed at tackling disadvantage at all levels. This represents an increase of nearly €95 million on the 2006 figure and an almost 60% increase on the €460 million provided in 2003.

As well as continuing to prioritise disadvantaged schools, we are also determined to ensure that both primary and post-primary schools benefit from increased funding over the next five years. The Programme for Government contains a specific commitment to double the standard capitation grant for primary schools. Grants to schools for the employment of secretaries and caretakers will also be increased significantly.

In summary, therefore, we have substantially increased funding for schools and will prioritise further improvements in the years head.

School Transport.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

149 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 208 of 18 October 2007, the position of the application for a bus pass; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27928/07]

The Transport Liaison Officer (TLO) for County Kildare has advised that an application for school transport received on behalf of the pupil referred to by the Deputy was received after the closing date for receipt of such applications.

The service is currently operating to capacity. The person in question should continue to liaise with the TLO regarding the provision of a seat for the second school term.

Languages Programme.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

150 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science if she is satisfied that the English language support for newcomer children in schools here is anywhere near adequate to meet her proposals in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27949/07]

My Department estimates that there are in the region of 28,000 students in our schools whose first language is not English or Irish. In order to meet their language needs, my Department in May 2007 issued a circular, reference 0053/2007, to the managerial authorities of all schools — both primary and post primary — to assist them in providing an inclusive school environment to meet the needs of pupils for whom English is a second language. The circular outlines the resources that are available to assist schools in this task. The circular is accessible on the website of my Department.

Language support teachers are appointed to assist schools in providing additional language support teaching for pupils. In collaboration with parents and class teachers, language support teachers identify pupils requiring additional support, administer the assessment materials developed by Integrate Ireland Language and Training, devise appropriate language programmes, deliver the programmes and record and monitor pupils' progress. It is important that expertise is shared and good practice is communicated and disseminated in order to optimise the opportunities pupils have for developing their proficiency in English.

The level of additional teacher support allocated to primary and post primary schools will continue to be determined by the number of enrolled pupils for whom English is a second language and the associated assessed levels of pupils' language proficiency. The circular sets out the resources that can be accessed by schools to cater for such pupils where the number of pupils in the school is 14 or more. Some schools currently have up to 6 language support teacher posts.

In addition, schools with between 3 and 13 eligible pupils receive grant assistance towards the cost of employing part-time teachers. Schools with 3 to 8 such pupils receive a grant of over €6,300, while schools with between 10 and 13 such pupils receive over €9,500. Over €4 million is being provided for such grants in 2007.

My Department will continue to respond to requests by schools for additional language support teachers in accordance with the terms of the relevant regulations and will ensure that the investment in this area is underpinned by the right support and training for the teachers.

Departmental Policies.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

151 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science her proposals to ensure that all schools have a comprehensive policy on racism, anti-racism and intercultural education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27950/07]

The Department has been active for a number of years in promoting anti-racism and interculturalism in schools. A range of actions are in place to promote anti-racism and support the participation of newcomer students and Travellers in education. These include

information for schools on the integration of newcomer students and Travellers

extra resources for schools to support the needs of students for whom English is not the mother tongue, including the employment of additional teachers in primary and post primary schools in this area

provision of detailed guidelines for primary and post primary teachers, developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, on how the existing curriculum can be mediated and adapted to reflect the emergence of an expanding multi-cultural society.

supports provided by the Reception and Integration Agency to assist in the integration of refugees and asylum seekers into schools.

resource packs for schools prepared by organisations such as the National Consultative Committee on Anti- Racism and Interculturalism

a video for second level schools highlighting excerpts from the Mono TV programme

materials and training for teachers through funding the work of Integrate Ireland Language Training and other bodies

expanding provision for language and literacy tuition for adults for whom English is not the mother tongue through the VEC literacy services.

The revised curricula at primary and post primary levels provide ample opportunity to extend students' awareness of the wider world and to learn about the lives and histories of people in other countries, and of their contributions to art and science. In particular, the Social Personal and Health Education programmes at primary and post primary levels, are designed to prepare students for participatory citizenship and to develop the skills of critical appraisal and decision-making based on human rights and social responsibilities. They also promote respect for human dignity, tolerance for the values and beliefs of others, and a celebration of diversity.

Question No. 152 answered with QuestionNo. 130.

Intercultural Education.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

153 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans to establish a forum to examine education and equality legislation in the matter of intercultural education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27952/07]

The majority of new primary schools that have opened in recent years have been multi-denominational in ethos. My Department has received 38 notices of intention to open new schools next year — of which only 7 are for schools with a Catholic ethos. All of these schools are being assessed through a process that involves public consultation.

A new model of primary school patronage is also being developed which will cater for the diversity of religious faiths represented in growing urban areas. This new model of community primary school will be piloted next year in West Dublin under the patronage of Co. Dublin VEC.

In relation to a forum on the future of primary education, the new model of community national school is being discussed with all the education partners and there is plenty of opportunity within existing structures for consultation and debate.

Languages Programme.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

154 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the fact that an organisation (details supplied) has no training seminars for language support teachers scheduled for 2007, notwithstanding the fact that they were contracted by her Department for this purpose and that the only teaching English as an additional language course available is an on-line course organised by teachers themselves for a fee of €165; if in view of this and of the urgent necessity for trained language support teachers, her Department will provide funding for teachers to take the on-line course; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27963/07]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

156 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science if she is satisfied that the training for teachers teaching English as an additional language provided by an organisation (details supplied) complies with international best practice; if her attention has been drawn to criticism of the methods used in this course, particularly the lack of hands-on professional development; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27965/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 154 and 156 together.

Integrate Ireland Language and Training, (IILT) was established in 2001. It's remit includes responsibility for the provision of support to teachers of ESL in primary and second-level schools.

The main areas of work of IILT are:

The preparation and provision of scaled curricula

The preparation and provision of teaching and learning materials

The organisation and delivery of seminars for language support teachers

Language assessment kits, based on best international practice are to be provided to all primary schools during the 2007/08 school year. The kits will enable accurate initial and on-going assessment of language proficiency of newcomer children with a particular focus upon assessing whether language support needs to be provided beyond the current two year limit.

My Department has also distributed a resource book ("Up and Away") to all primary schools which will assist teachers of ESL. In addition, my Department will shortly distribute a set of resource materials prepared by IILT to all second level schools to support the teaching and learning of ESL.

In addition IILT has provided a number of seminars for teachers in 2007.

I am aware also that teachers of ESL have recently established a professional network, English Language Support Teachers Association, (ELSTA) under the Teacher Professional Network Scheme which is funded through Teacher Education Section in my Department. This network will assist teachers of ESL in the provision of peer professional development.

It is in the context of these various initiatives that the ongoing professional development of language support teachers is being considered by my Department.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

155 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to concerns that the system of hiring teachers to teach English as additional language on only a temporary basis, or putting permanent teachers into these positions for two years or less, results in a wasting of all the expertise attained by the teacher during this period; if she will make the positions permanent or offer ongoing and continuous training for EAL teachers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27964/07]

In order to ensure that children whose first language is not English can succeed at school, my Department allocates additional teaching support or portions of teacher posts to schools.

The level of extra teaching support provided to any school is determined by the numbers of eligible non-English speaking students enrolled and the associated assessed levels of pupils' language proficiency.

Each school management can decide on the structure of the support to be provided in its own school.

The recruitment and appointment of teachers to fill teaching posts is a matter for the individual school authority subject to agreed procedures. It is a matter for the school authority to deploy the teacher allocation having regard to the proficiency levels of individual pupils involved and in line with their evolving needs.

The resource allocated for language support in respect of individual pupils is given for a temporary period and accordingly the posts provided for this purpose may only be approved on a temporary basis.

There has been a significant increase in the number of language support teachers in recent years. Ongoing training is being provided to these teachers with eleven seminars arranged in 2007.

Teachers of English as a second language (ESL) have recently established a professional network, English Language Support Teachers Association, (ELSTA) under the Teacher Professional Network Scheme which is funded by my Department. This network will assist teachers of ESL in the provision of peer professional development.

In view of the significant increase in the number of language support teachers my Department is currently investigating the establishment of an integrated support structure for teachers of English as a second language at primary and post primary level.

Question No. 156 answered with QuestionNo. 154.

Higher Education Grants.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

157 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a third level education grant has been refused in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15 in view of the fact that their previous third level qualification does not seem to equate with standards applicable here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28009/07]

The decision on eligibility for third level grants is a matter for the relevant assessing authority — i.e. the 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 required.

Under the prescribed terms and conditions of my Department's student maintenance grant schemes, grant assistance may not generally be awarded in respect of a repeat period of study at the same level, irrespective of whether or not funding was previously awarded. However, the awarding body may waive this provision in exceptional circumstances such as cases of certified serious illness. It should be emphasised, however, that this discretion would generally only be exercised where a candidate is repeating a period of study on the same course.

If an individual applicant considers that she/he has been unjustly refused a maintenance grant, or that the rate of grant awarded is not the correct one, she/he may appeal, in the first instance, 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/her case, an appeal form outlining the position may be submitted by the applicant to my Department.

Question No. 158 answered with QuestionNo. 40.
Question No. 159 answered with QuestionNo. 50.

Overseas Missions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

160 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the number of military personnel expected to be deployed overseas for the foreseeable future throughout the various ranks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27981/07]

Ireland is currently contributing 460 Defence Forces personnel to 17 different missions throughout the world. Full details of all personnel currently serving overseas on UN mandated operations, observer missions or undertaking representative or staff postings are listed in the tabular statement attached. Of the 460 personnel currently serving overseas, 142 are officers and 318 are other ranks.

The main overseas missions, in which Defence Forces personnel are deployed, are the NATO-led International Security presence (KFOR) in Kosovo with 272 personnel and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) with 57 personnel. In addition, 41 personnel are serving in EUFOR, the EU-led operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Other personnel are serving as monitors and observers with the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Staff are also deployed at the organisational headquarters of the UN, EU, OSCE and NATO.

KFOR was established in June, 1999 to support the maintenance of civil law and order within Kosovo, so as to develop a climate of safety and security, which will enable the transfer of increased responsibility to the civil authorities. Ireland has participated in KFOR since August 1999. The Irish (37th) Infantry Group currently serves in the Multi-National Task Force (Centre). In addition to Ireland, the Task Force also comprises troops from the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Sweden, Finland and Latvia. The Task Force's area of responsibility is generally the Pristina region, covering 7 municipalities with a population of approximately 1 million.

The Irish contingent currently comprises an APC Mounted Infantry Group of some 215 personnel, including a number of personnel in staff posts at various KFOR Headquarters. Last August, Ireland assumed the role of Framework Nation for the Multinational Task Force (Centre) in Kosovo for a period of 12 months. An additional 57 Irish personnel are serving with KFOR in support of the Framework Nation role, bringing Ireland's current total deployment to the force to 272.

Following the cessation of hostilities in Lebanon in July/August 2006, an Irish Infantry Group deployed to South Lebanon on 31 October, 2006 as part of the integrated Finnish/Irish Battalion within UNIFIL, to carry out tasks in support of UNIFIL, including dealing with unexploded ordnance clearance and reconstruction. Ireland provided the security detail for the Engineering contingent from Finland. The Finnish/Irish Battalion completed its deployment at the end of last month and the withdrawal process is currently underway. 109 Irish personnel returned to Ireland on 1 November, 2007 and the remaining members of the Battalion will return to Ireland later this month. A small number of Defence Forces personnel will continue to serve at UNIFIL HQ.

Ireland has participated in EUFOR since December 2004, the successor mission to the Stabilisation force (SFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina with which Ireland had previously been serving since 1997. The Irish contingent with EUFOR currently comprises 41 personnel. The role of the Defence Forces personnel currently serving in EUFOR is to provide personnel for the headquarters, the Military Police Unit, Verification Teams and the National Support Element. All Irish personnel are located at Camp Butmir, Sarajevo.

Ireland has participated in International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan since 5 July 2002, following the Government Decision of 2 July 2002, authorising the provision of seven members of the Permanent Defence Force for service with the force. Since then, the Government have reviewed and approved, on an annual basis, the continued participation by seven members of the Permanent Defence Force in ISAF.

Following Government approval in October 2007, eleven Irish personnel are currently serving at the Headquarters of EUFOR TCHAD/RCA — the new EU mission to the Republic of Chad and the Central African Republic. Ireland's commitment under the United Nations Stand-by Arrangements System (UNSAS) is 850, which represents 10% of the total Army strength. This is the figure set out in the White Paper on Defence and is the maximum sustainable commitment that Ireland can make to overseas operations. There are no plans at this time to increase the level of our commitment to UNSAS and any contribution to EU or UN Missions will be met within the context of the 850 ceiling.

Ireland receives requests from time to time in relation to participation in various missions and these are considered on a case-by-case basis. A proposal to deploy a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force for service with the EU mission to CHAD and the Central African Republic is currently under consideration. A report on the proposed operation, following a detailed reconnaissance of the mission area and tasking, together with a threat assessment, is currently being completed by the military authorities. This will inform the final decision on the nature of our participation should the Government decide to deploy troops on the ground in Chad. Subject to a satisfactory assessment, the Irish Defence Force contribution is expected to be in the region of 350 to 400 personnel. The Minister expects to bring proposals to Government shortly and, subject to the approval of the Government, to put the matter before Dáil Éireann before the end of November. Obviously, any decision to participate will be subject to the approval of Dáil Éireann in accordance with the Defence Acts.

Members of the Permanent Defence Force Serving Overseas as of 05 November 2007

Number

1. UN Missions

(i) UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) HQ

7

UNIFIL 36th Inf Group

50

(ii) UNTSO (United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation) — Israel, Syria and Lebanon

14

(iii) MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara)

3

(iv) UNMIK (United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo)

4

(v) MONUC (United Nations Mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo)

3

(vi) UNOCI (United Nations Mission in Ivory Coast)

2

(vii) UNMIL (United Nations Mission in Liberia) FHQ

2

TOTAL

85

UN Mandated Missions

(viii) EUFOR (EU-led Operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina)

41

(ix) EUFOR TCHAD/RCA (EU-led Operation in CHAD and the Central African Republic) HQ

11

(x) KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo) Framework Nation

57

KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo) HQ

11

KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo) 37th Inf Group

204

(xi) ISAF (International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan)

7

(xii) AMIS (EU support to UN authorised African Union Mission in Sudan)

3

Total number of personnel serving with UN missions

419

2. EU Missions

(i) European Union Monitor Mission (EUMM) to the former Yugoslavia

5

TOTAL NUMBER OF PERSONNEL SERVING WITH EU MISSIONS

5

3. Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

(i) OSCE Mission to Bosnia & Herzegovina

1

(ii) OSCE Mission in Montenegro

1

(iii) OSCE Presence in Albania

2

(iv) OSCE Mission in FRY

2

(v) Staff Officer, Higher Level Planning Group, Vienna

1

Total number of personnel serving OSCE

7

4. EU Military Staff

Brussels

7

New York

1

5. EU Nordic Battlegroup HQ

12

6. Military Representatives/Advisers/Staff

(i) Military Adviser, Permanent Mission to UN, New York

1

(ii) Military Adviser, Irish Delegation to OSCE, Vienna

1

(iii) Military Representatives to EU (Brussels)

4

(iv) Liaison Office of Ireland, NATO/PfP (Brussels)

2

(v) Military Representative to NATO/PfP Co-ordination Cell/Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), Mons, Belgium

1

TOTAL NUMBER DEFENCE FORCES PERSONNEL SERVING OVERSEAS

460

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

161 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if Irish troops serving abroad in future are to receive training through the UN, EU or NATO in preparation for participation in peace enforcement or peace-keeping missions inspired by the UN or EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27982/07]

Troops selected for overseas service undergo a rigorous programme of training designed to help them carry out their peacekeeping mission and to provide for their protection. Pre-deployment training is provided to members of the Permanent Defence Force and is updated in the light of any change in the threat assessment.

Defence Forces personnel have for many years attended workshops, training courses, desktop exercises, seminars and other events overseas as part of their military training and will continue to do this. Ireland also participates in the Partnership for Peace, Planning and Review Process (known as PARP). In common with the other EU neutrals, Ireland is using the PARP process in connection with planning for humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping and crisis management, collectively known as the Petersberg tasks. The scope of our involvement in PARP is focused on enhancing interoperability and familiarity with operating procedures in a multi-national environment. PfP activities are entirely voluntary and are based on the principle of self-differentiation, that is, a State selects for itself the nature and scope of its participation.

The challenges of preparing military units for participation in international peace support operations constitute the major dimension of Defence Forces collective training. The primary focus of this training is the attainment of a capability for military interoperability in order to conduct peace support operations to international standards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

162 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which there has been discussions or negotiations in relation to the formation of peacekeeping forces under the PFP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27983/07]

Members of the Irish Defence Forces serve on peacekeeping missions under Chapter VI and Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Ireland is currently contributing 460 Defence Forces personnel to 17 different missions throughout the world.

The main overseas missions, in which Defence Forces personnel are deployed, are the NATO-led UN Mandated International Security presence (KFOR) in Kosovo with 272 personnel and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) with 57 personnel. In addition, 41 personnel are serving in EUFOR, the UN mandated EU-led operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Other personnel are serving as monitors and observers with the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Staff are also deployed at the organisational headquarters of the UN, EU, OSCE and NATO. With regard to Ireland's participation in PfP, I can confirm there has been no discussions or negotiations in relation to the formation of standby peacekeeping forces under the PFP.

Questions Nos. 163 and 164 answered with Question No. 23.

Defence Forces Reserve.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

165 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which the Reserve Defence Forces have increased in numbers in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27986/07]

A breakdown of the numbers in the Reserve Defence Force over the last 5 years will be circulated in the form of the following tabular statement.

In 2006 there were 1,124 recruits and in 2007 to date, there have been 847.

The RDF is going through a process of change with the implementation of the recommendations of the White Paper on Defence and the RDF Implementation Board Report. The Implementation Plan is being rolled-out on a phased basis up to 2009. There has been significant progress to date in implementing the detailed recommendations of the Plan e.g. a new organisation structure implemented with effect from October 2005, major improvements in clothing, equipment, training and resourcing. In addition, the RDF is now structured along similar lines to the Permanent Defence Force (3 Brigades and the RDF Training Centre). The integrated reserve is being piloted across the 3 Brigades this year.

Now that the new organization structures, training syllabus etc. are in place it is appropriate that more focus be placed on recruitment. I am pleased to be able to inform the House that the Minister has approved a publicity and awareness campaign to promote recruitment to the RDF in line with the commitment in ‘An Agreed Programme for Government'. This is scheduled to commence early in 2008. Concurrent with the national campaign, units will conduct local campaigns to capture the benefits of the national campaign.

I am pleased that the Implementation Plan is progressing well. The Department will continue to monitor progress in the remaining period of the Plan.

Strength of the Reserve Defence Force 2003 — 30 September, 2007

Year

Officers

NCO’s

Privates

Total

2007 (Sept. 07)

669

2,418

5,559

8,646

2006

682

2,553

5,899

9,134

2005

688

2,740

7,405

10,833

2004

719

2,987

9,063

12,769

2003

733

2,946

9,853

13,532

Naval Service Vessels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

166 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he will increase the strength of personnel dealing with coastal surveillance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27987/07]

The White Paper on Defence of February 2000 sets out a figure of 10,500 personnel for the Permanent Defence Force, comprising 930 for the Air Corps, 1,144 for the Naval Service and 8,426 for the Army.

The strength of the Permanent Defence Force on 30 September 2007, as advised by the military authorities, was 10,361. This comprises 8,444 in the Army, 849 in the Air Corps and 1,068 in the Naval Service.

It is intended to maintain the established Government policy of ongoing recruitment to the Defence Forces. Recruitment into the Permanent Defence Force will continue to maintain the strength at a level required to meet military needs and as set out in the White Paper i.e. 10,500 Permanent Defence Force all ranks. The Government remains fully committed to the policy of ongoing recruitment to ensure that an overall PDF strength of 10,500 is maintained.

The Naval Service provides the maritime element of the Defence Forces and has a general responsibility to meet contingent and actual maritime defence requirements. The Naval Service operates eight general purpose patrol ships. All eight ships are involved in coastal and offshore patrolling and surveillance for the State in that part of the seas where State jurisdiction applies.

The Naval Service provides a fishery protection service in accordance with the State's obligations as a member of the European Union. The Service is tasked with patrolling all Irish waters from the shoreline to the outer limits of the Exclusive Fishery Limits. At present, fishery protection activity accounts for roughly 90% of all Naval Service patrol time. However, as the need arises, Naval Service vessels may be deployed to other duties such as aid to the civil power, search and rescue, drug interdiction operations and assistance with pollution control.

The current Exclusive Fishery Limits extend to 200 miles offshore and cover an area of 132,000 nautical square miles. The Naval Service currently patrols the entire 200 mile limit and periodically patrols beyond these limits to protect specific fisheries. These patrols are carried out on a regular and frequent basis and are directed to all areas of Irish waters as necessary. The number of Patrol Vessels on patrol in Irish waters at any one time varies between three and seven. The Naval Service is committed to having at least three vessels on patrol within the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone at any one time. In 2006, the Naval Service achieved an output of 1,658 patrol days, which represents an average of 207 patrol days achieved per vessel.

Naval Service patrols are complemented by assistance provided by the Air Corps. The Air Corps Maritime Squadron carries out aerial surveillance of territorial waters using the two CASA maritime patrol aircraft. In 2006, a total of 251 maritime patrols were flown by the CASA over 229 days, representing over 1,400 flying hours. These hours are expected to increase on completion in 2008 of the major mid life upgrade on the two CASA aircraft, which is currently underway.

I am satisfied that the Permanent Defence Force is fully resourced, to meet all its operational requirements.

Search and Rescue Service.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

167 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he is satisfied himself regarding the strength of the air/sea rescue services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28015/07]

This is a matter for the Department of Transport.

Immigration and Integration Issues.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

168 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals to produce a green paper on immigration and integration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27946/07]

I can inform the Deputy that I have no plans at this time to produce a green paper on immigration and integration.

As the Deputy will be aware, in April 2005 my predecessor as Minister launched a public consultation process on the subject of immigration. The vehicle for this consultation process was a policy document outlining policy proposals for an Immigration and Residence Bill. The document was entitled "Immigration and Residence in Ireland". More than 120 organisations and individuals made submissions as part of this process reflecting a very wide range of concerns and interests in the migration system.

Following on from that process the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2007 was published and initiated in the Seanad on 25 April 2007. The current Government, as part of its agreed Programme for Government, committed itself to reviewing the Bill and accordingly the Bill was not restored to the Order Paper of the Seanad. However, it is my intention to bring forward a proposal to Government seeking approval for the publication of a new Bill, incorporating the substance of the published Bill, during this Session.

With regard to integration, the Deputy will be aware that Mr. Conor Lenihan, T.D, was appointed Minister of State at the Departments of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Education and Science and Justice, Equality and Law Reform (with special responsibility for Integration Policy). Minister of State Lenihan will be involved in the development of a long-term national policy on integration which will be informed by widespread consultation at a national level, properly structured objective research and international experience and best practice.

Minister of State Lenihan has announced that he will be setting up a task force early next year that will consult widely to identify key issues affecting immigrant communities and report back to him with specific recommendations.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

169 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals in regard to proactive planning, continuous data accumulation and analysis in relation to immigration and integration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27948/07]

Under the provisions of the Public Service Management Act, 1997 my Department is required to put in place a Statement of Strategy setting out its key goals and objectives having regard to the commitments contained in the Agreed Programme for Government and other Government priorities and initiatives which may be in place. My Department is at present engaged in that process and a Strategy Statement for period 2008-2010 will be available in due course. Having regard to the agreed goals and objectives identified in that Strategy Statement appropriate work plans will be put in place in order to progress those goals and objectives.

Data accumulation and analysis in relation to asylum and immigration matters forms a regular part of strategic planning in these areas. Data on a wide range of asylum and immigration areas is compiled and maintained on an ongoing basis, and used for the purpose of management reporting. Data maintained is regularly analysed in the context of both reviewing the effectiveness of administrative and operational arrangements and in policy development.

I should also mention that my Department is investing significant resources in new information technology systems in the immigration area to assist in the processing of applications from non-EEA nationals. This investment will also have benefits in terms of management information.

With regard to integration, the Deputy will be aware that Mr. Conor Lenihan, T.D, was appointed Minister of State at the Departments of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Education and Science and Justice, Equality and Law Reform (with special responsibility for Integration Policy). Minister of State Lenihan has established the Office of the Minister for Integration and has a cross Departmental mandate to develop, drive and coordinate integration policy across Government departments, agencies and services. In this context, the Minister of State will have a close relationship with Ministers and policy makers in other Departments.

Minister of State Lenihan will be involved in the development of a long-term national policy on integration which will be informed by widespread consultation at a national level, properly structured objective research and international experience and best practice.

Minister of State Lenihan has announced that he will be setting up a task force early next year that will consult widely to identify key issues affecting immigrant communities and report back to him with specific recommendations.

Crime Prevention.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

170 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if residents (details supplied) in Dublin 9 will be assisted with a safety and security plan. [27831/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the area referred to is in Clontarf Garda sub-District.

I am also informed that the open space referred to is private property. The area is not secure, and An Garda Síochána are in contact with the owners in order to have it secured. A number of incidents relating to anti-social behaviour, concerning groups of youths congregating in this area, have been reported to An Garda Síochána, particularly over the recent bank holiday weekend. As a result a number of persons have been arrested and are being dealt with under the Juvenile Diversion Scheme.

Members of the local Community Policing Unit are allocated to this area and liaise with the local community. Additional Garda foot and mobile patrols, including patrols by District Detective and Drug Units, the Community Policing Unit and the Mountain Bike Units, supplemented by the Divisional Crime Task Force and Traffic Corps Unit, have been directed to pay particular attention to this area.

Current policing policy in the area is predicated on the prevention of crime including crimes of violence against persons and property, the prevention of public order offences and the maintenance of an environment conducive to the improvement of the quality of life of the residents. This strategy is, and will continue to be, central to the delivery of the policing service in this area.

Criminal Assets Bureau.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

171 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 182 of 1 November 2007, if he will examine the recommendation made to reduce the seven year period to three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27837/07]

The Criminal Assets Bureau operates under the Proceeds of Crime Acts, 1996/2005 (as amended). Under this legislation, monies or property frozen pursuant to Sections 2 or 3 of the Act remain frozen for a period of at least seven years. The only exception to this minimum seven year waiting period is whereby all relevant parties agree to the application of a section 4a order which allows for a disposal order to be made by the High Court within the seven year period with the consent of all parties. These consent provisions were introduced in 2005 under the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act of that year. The issue of this standard minimum seven year waiting period being reduced to a minimum three year period was considered by the Oireachtas during its examination of and discussion on that Amendment Act. Taking account of the introduction of the new consent provisions, the approach taken in the legislation was to retain the standard minimum seven year waiting period primarily on the basis that a reduction of the period between the interlocutory order and the disposal order to three years might render the legislation more open to challenge in terms of due process. While I will keep the matter under review, I currently have no plans to introduce further change in respect of this matter.

Residency Permits.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

172 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position of an application for residency by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27841/07]

The Immigration Division of my Department has been in touch with the person concerned requesting further documentation. On receipt of these documents the application will be further processed.

Garda Communications.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

173 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the situation regarding Gardaí supplying information to journalists on crime scenes and the impact these statements have on the victims families; if these families have ways of redress; and if he will clarify the phrase Gardaí sources. [27851/07]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that it is the policy of An Garda Síochána that the overall responsibility for releasing information to the media rests with the Garda Press and Public Relations Office and members of An Garda Síochána are prohibited, except in specified circumstances, and without the authority of the Commissioner, from communicating either directly or indirectly with the media or furnishing to the media any matter or thing whatsoever in connection with the investigation of crime, the administration of the service, or any matter which may have come to the member's knowledge in the course of official duties.

Section 62 of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005 makes it a criminal offence for members of An Garda Síochána and other specified individuals to disclose certain information obtained in the course of their duties, except as provided for in the Act. This provision is in addition to, and not in substitution for, the provisions of the Official Secrets Act, 1963.

If a member of the public feels that they have not been dealt with appropriately by members of An Garda Síochána, they may make a complaint to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission in accordance with the terms of the Garda Síochána Act 2005. The phrase "Gardaí sources" does not originate from me or my Department.

Citizenship Applications.

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

174 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made with regard to an application for a certificate of naturalisation by a person (details supplied) in County Donegal. [27852/07]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that I have approved the application of the person in question and a certificate of naturalisation will issue once documents requested from the Citizenship Section of my Department have been received.

Residency Permits.

Michael D'Arcy

Ceist:

175 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an application for residency or a stamp four in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and the expected period of time it will take to complete the processing of same. [27874/07]

I understand from the Immigration Division of my Department that a decision to grant long term residency to the person concerned issued on 3rd November 2006. However, it would appear that the person referred to by the Deputy did not receive this correspondence. The Immigration Division has recently been in touch with the person in question advising them that the correspondence will now issue to the address provided by the Deputy.

P. J. Sheehan

Ceist:

176 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications received in each month in relation to applications by non-EEA nationals for the long-term residence scheme in every month since May 2004 to date in 2007; the number rejected as invalid applications at initial application stage each month; the number of applications granted in each month; the number of applications refused in each month; the number of applications waiting to be processed at the end of each month; the month or months that the applications that were processed made their application; the number of staff by grade for each month working in this section processing these applications; if he will reduce the waiting time for these applications; his plans to reduce the waiting time for these applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27913/07]

The statistics requested by the Deputy are not readily available and would require an inordinate amount of time to obtain and an inappropriate expenditure of limited resources. I can, however, provide the Deputy with the following statistics:

Year

Refused

Granted

2006

917

1,239

2007

136

517

The number of applications currently on hand for long term residency is 5915.

The General Immigration Division of my Department deals with a variety of applications for permission to remain in the State, including long term residency. Applications for long term residency are processed having regard to the overall workload of the Division. I understand that applications received in July 2006 are currently being dealt with.

Citizenship Applications.

P. J. Sheehan

Ceist:

177 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications received in each month in relation to applications for naturalisation in every month since May 1997 to date in 2007; the number rejected as invalid applications at initial application stage each month; the number of applications granted in each month; the number of applications refused in each month; the number of applications waiting to be processed at the end of each month; the month or months that the applications that were processed made their application; the number of staff by grade for each month working in this section processing these applications; if he will reduce the waiting time for these applications; his plans to reduce the waiting time for these applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27914/07]

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available and could only be obtained through the disproportionate use of resources. The table below shows the number of applications received and approved in the years 2000 to date and the number of applications refused in the years 2004 to date. These figures illustrate a significant upward trend in the number of applications received. This upward trend appears set to continue in 2007.

Year

Applications for naturalisation received

Applications for naturalisation granted

Applications for naturalisation refused

2000

1,004

125

2001

1,431

1,048

2002

3,574

1,332

2003

3,580

1,664

2004

4,074

1,335

746

2005

4,523

1,451

1,867

2006

7,030

1,390

509

2007

6,608 (as at 6 Nov 2007 )

1,234 (as at 21 Oct 2007 )

276 (as at 21 Oct 2007 )

The following table shows the number of applications which have found to be invalid at the initial application stage.

Year

Number of applications rejected as invalid applications at initial application stage

2003

704

2004

999

2005

1,376

2006

3,056

2007 (as at 21 October, 2007)

2,593

There are 47 staff presently assigned to the Citizenship Section of whom 31 work full time while the remainder work various work sharing patterns. The Deputy will appreciate that staffing levels fluctuate due to transfers, retirements, promotions, etc. and are also subject to review in the context of the overall workload facing the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service at any given time. The Section presently comprises of 1 Principal Officer, 1 Assistant Principal, 3.7 Higher Executive Officers, 9.8 Executive Officers and 25.78 Clerical Officers — all figures represent whole-time equivalents. The Principal Officer is also charged with responsibilities other than for Citizenship Section.

Officials are currently processing applications received in the first quarter of 2005 which means that the existing waiting time is approximately thirty months. I have instructed my officials to undertake a review of the various processes in order that these might be streamlined durther where possible. The Deputy will understand that many of these processes have been developed over a number of years and I am satisfied that they are necessary to maintain the integrity of the naturalisation.

P. J. Sheehan

Ceist:

178 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 466 of 31 October 2007, the methods or criteria by which a resident of more than five years residency who has applied for a certificate of naturalisation which will take two and half years to process by his Department and has also applied for the long term residency scheme which will take a year and a half to process by his Department, can be granted a stamp four in order to complete the purchase of a family home for which they have loan approval; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27915/07]

Applications for a certificate of naturalisation and applications for long term residency are dealt with in chronological order. Long term residency applications received in July 2006 and applications for a certificate of naturalisation received at the beginning of 2005 are currently being processed.

While applications for a certificate of naturalisation and applications for long term residency are under consideration the person concerned must keep their permission to remain in the State up to date. While mindful of the particular circumstances involved, I regret I cannot be more helpful to the Deputy, on this occasion.

Interception of Postal Packets.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

179 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, submissions under section 6 of the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act 1993, in relation to applications for authorisations for the interception of postal packets and telecommunications messages, when made to him by an officer of the Minister nominated for the purpose under that Act, are always considered and decided upon by himself personally; if not, the basis on which the decision is delegated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27937/07]

In accordance with Section 2 of the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act 1993, as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, I consider every application to intercept. I also grant, where appropriate, all the relevant authorisations. Accordingly, the issue of delegation does not arise.

Visa Applications.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

180 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 509 of 31 October 2007, the insufficient detail not included in support of an application for a study visa; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27939/07]

In the case referred to by the Deputy, there was insufficient documentation submitted in support of the application. The applicant gave details of a reference in Ireland but included no letter of invitation with the application. Furthermore, the applicant did not meet the requirements with regard to supporting educational documentation. The documentation required when making a student visa application is listed on the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service at www.inis.gov.ie.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

181 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an application for a study visa can be made direct to the visa office in Dublin or must the application be made to the country of residency of the student; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27940/07]

If there is an Irish Embassy, Consulate, Honorary Consul or Visa Office in the applicant's country of permanent residence, she/he must apply there. A departure from this procedure would only be considered in exceptional circumstances.

Deportation Orders.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

182 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons who have initiated legal challenges to their deportation orders in each of the past five years and to date in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27953/07]

The number of persons who have initiated legal challenges to their deportation orders in each of the past five years and to date in 2007 are as follows:

Year

Persons

Legal challenges

2002

157

90

2003

293

143

2004

501

302

2005

462

327

2006

616

384

Up to 04 / 11 / 07

210

154

Totals

2,239

1,400

Notes:

1.Legal challenges refer to both the High Court and the Supreme Court.

2.Persons exceed challenges as a person may have more than one legal challenge.

3.Legal challenges to the deportation process may challenge: Deportation Orders,Injunctions/Transfer Orders/Article 40's etc.

Residency Permits.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

183 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications for family reunification received in his Department in each of the past five years and to date in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27954/07]

The number of applications for Family Reunification received by my Department in each of the past five years and to date in 2007 is set out in the table below.

Year

New Applications Received

2002

907

2003

991

2004

1,480

2005

1,362

2006

1,357

2007

734

Deportation Orders.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

184 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of foreign nationals who have been the subject of deportation orders and whose whereabouts are unknown; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27955/07]

I presume the Deputy is referring to those persons who are currently evading their deportation orders and whose whereabouts are unknown to the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB). The current figure for persons evading their deportations, according to statistics provided by the Bureau, is circa 5,600. It is not known how many of these are still in the State but it is believed by the GNIB that a very large number of these persons have already left the State of their own accord. Persons evading their deportation orders and who remain in the State are liable to arrest and detention pursuant to Section 5 of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, for the purposes of removal.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

185 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if and when residency status will be determined in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 2; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27972/07]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Questions No. 240 of Thursday, 25 May, 2006, No. 440 of Wednesday, 27 September, 2006, No. 93 of Thursday, 9 November, 2006, No. 200 of Wednesday, 22 November, 2006 and No. 99 of Thursday, 26 April, 2007, and the written replies to those questions. The position remains unchanged.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

186 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a citizenship application will be considered in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27973/07]

Officials in the Citizenship Section of my Department inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question.

Visa Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

187 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if and when a new application will be accepted in respect of a join a spouse visa in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27988/07]

Two applications for a visa have been made by the person concerned — one in March 2007 and the second in July, 2007. Both were refused in the Visa Office in Cairo. The principal reason was that the Visa Officer had concerns around the relationship history of the couple and the bona fides of their marriage. On both occasions, the decision was upheld by an Appeals Officer in the Irish Immigration and Naturalisation Service.

It is open to the applicant to make a fresh application at any point. If doing so, he should be in a position to address above-mentioned concerns of the Visa Officer.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

188 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the delay in the renewal of the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in view of the fact that they provided all information as requested; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27989/07]

The person in question was granted permission to remain in the State on 5th September, 2005 under the revised arrangements for parents of Irish children born before 1st January, 2005, commonly referred to as the IBC/05 scheme.

An application for renewal of this permission to remain in the State was received by my Department on 25th September, 2007. A request for additional documentation in respect of this application issued to the person in question on 4th October, 2007. A further request issued on 23rd October, 2007. The renewal application will be considered further upon receipt of the requested documentation.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

189 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will arrange for a review of the refugee and asylum application in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27990/07]

The Deputy will be aware of the history of this case from previous Dáil replies. The person concerned has been evading deportation since 31 October 2003.

Under Section 17(7) of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) a person can apply for Ministerial consent for re-admission to the asylum process where new information becomes available and which was not previously presented during the initial processing of an asylum application. Each application for Ministerial consent for re-admission to the asylum process is considered on its merits.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

190 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the expected residency status, permanent or temporary in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin who has lived here for eleven years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27991/07]

The person concerned was originally granted Temporary Leave to Remain in the State on 17 June, 1997. Which has been renewed on a yearly basis since. As the person concerned has been legally resident in the State for more then five consecutive years the option to apply for naturalisation is now open to her. Alternatively, she can continue to apply to have her leave to remain in the state renewed.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

191 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27992/07]

My Department has no record of this person ever having entered the country nor has she or her guardian been in contact with my Department with regard to the child's status in the State. The child is currently illegal in the State and I would urge your constituent to contact the relevant office of the Garda National Immigration Bureau in order to regularise the child's position.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

192 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if having regard to the very compelling evidence submitted, he will grant residency under the Subsidiary Protection Regulation 2006 in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27993/07]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 06 July, 2005 and applied for asylum the following day. She was accompanied to the State by her four children, who were included on her file. Their applications were refused following consideration of their cases by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

She was informed by letter dated 25 November, 2005, that the Minister proposed to make deportation orders in respect of her and her four children. They were given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why they should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State; leaving the State before orders are made or consenting to the making of deportation orders. Representations have been received on behalf of the persons concerned.

On 10 October, 2006, regulations known as the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006, S.I. No. 518 of 2006, came into force. The person concerned was notified of these new regulations and invited to apply for Subsidiary Protection and to update her representations to remain temporarily in the State by letter dated 24 July, 2007. The person concerned submitted an application for subsidiary protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations.

The subsidiary protection application was refused and the persons concerned were notified of this by letter dated 23 October, 2007. The case file of the persons concerned, including all representations submitted, will now be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (Prohibition of Refoulement). I expect the file to be passed to me for decision in due course.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

193 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in the matter of residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath in view of the serious threat to their life and well-being in the event of deportation to the DRC; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27994/07]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 139 of Thursday, 28 September, 2006, Parliamentary Question No. 70 of Thursday, 15 June, 2006, Parliamentary Question No 248 of Thursday, 16 February, 2006 and to Parliamentary Question No. 956 of Wednesday, 26th September, 2007 and the written replies to those questions. The position remains unchanged.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

194 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the correct procedure to be followed to regularise the residency status in the case of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27995/07]

I understand from the Immigration Division of my Department that one of the persons referred to by the Deputy has been granted refugee status in the State and has current permission to remain on that basis.

It is therefore, open to the person in question to make a Family Reunification application in respect of his spouse to the Immigration Division of my Department, 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

195 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedure that exists whereby a review of an order for deportation can be undertaken in the event of an ongoing and serious threat to life and well-being of the applicant, if deported, in view of the existing situation in their home country as verified by the Department of Foreign Affairs in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27996/07]

I would refer the Deputy to the Reply I gave to his Dáil Question No. 253 of Thursday 5 July 2007. The status of the person concerned remains as set out in that Reply.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Deputy may wish to note that any person the subject of a deportation order may apply to have his/her deportation order revoked pursuant to Section 3 (11) of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended. However, any such application would require substantial grounds to be successful.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

196 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision on an application for naturalisation will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27997/07]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in October 2005.

Officials in that Section are currently processing applications received at the beginning of 2005 and have approximately 2,800 applications on hand to be dealt with before that of the person concerned. These are generally dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. It is likely, therefore, that further processing of the application will commence in the first half of 2008.

I will inform the Deputy and the person in question when I have reached a decision on the application.

Refugee Status.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

197 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27998/07]

The person concerned claimed asylum in the State on 25/11/1996 and had his claim examined by the then Asylum Division and the Appeals Authority, following which it was decided that he should be recognised as a refugee. He was subsequently recognised as a naturalised Irish citizen. The person is question is entitled to the same rights as an Irish citizen and has to abide with the laws of this State.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

198 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in the matter of an application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27999/07]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in February 2006.

Officials in that Section inform me that processing of the application has commenced and the file will be forwarded to me for a decision in the coming months.

I will inform the Deputy and the person concerned when I have reached a decision on the matter.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

199 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in view of the current political situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as acknowledged by the Department of Foreign Affairs, he is fully satisfied that no harm can befall a person (details supplied) in County Longford in the event of their deportation to France for investigation of their refugee or asylum status in view of the fact that their case was previously refused in that country and that they will automatically be deported to their homeland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28000/07]

This person's case falls under the Dublin II Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No. 343/2003). This regulation is intended to prevent the phenomenon of "asylum shopping" across Europe and sets out criteria for determining which Regulation State is responsible for examining an asylum application where applications have been lodged in more than one Regulation State or whereby an asylum seeker has been granted a visa to enter another Regulation State and has entered that other State before entering Ireland and making an asylum application here. At the same time, it guarantees applicants that one State will process their application, thereby preventing the creation of "refugees in orbit", a situation which had previously pertained in Europe.

The current political situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.) is a matter for the French authorities to consider in deciding whether or not to repatriate him to his home country. France is a party to and thus bound by international human rights instruments which prohibit refoulement. The current development of a common EU asylum policy is predicated on the full and inclusive application of the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees and its 1967 New York Protocol, thus maintaining its principle of non-refoulement. Council Regulation (EC) No 343/2003 is based on this common policy and Regulation States, all respecting the principle of non-refoulement, are considered safe for third country nationals.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

200 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28001/07]

I would refer the Deputy to the Reply given to his Dáil Question No. 363 of Wednesday 27 September 2006. The status of the person concerned remains as set out in that Reply.

Since the earlier Reply, the legal representative of the person concerned, by correspondence dated 28 August 2007, wrote to my Department lodging,inter alia, an application for Subsidiary Protection. My officials, by letter dated 7 September 2007, advised that while the person concerned did not have an automatic entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection, pursuant to the decision in Hila and Djolo judgement handed down in the High Court on 27 July 2007 by Mr. Justice Feeney, he was invited to make representations to me setting out any new facts or circumstances which had arisen since the original decision to deport was made and requesting that I exercise my discretion under Regulation 4 (2) of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 — Statutory Instrument No. 518 of 2006 to accept and consider an application for Subsidiary Protection.

As my Department did not receive any documentation requesting the exercise of my discretion under Regulation 4 (2) of the aforesaid Regulations within the 15 working days allotted, my officials wrote to the legal representative of the person concerned by letter dated 3 October 2007 to advise that the time to make representations had passed.

The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter outside the State. The enforcement of the Deportation Order remains an operational matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

201 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when green card status will be updated in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28002/07]

The person in question submitted an application on 14th February, 2005 for permission to remain in the State under the revised arrangements for parents of Irish children born prior to 1st January, 2005, commonly referred to as the IBC/05 scheme. The application was refused as the individual concerned did not meet the continuous residency criteria. Judicial review proceedings have been initiated in respect of this refusal.

My Department is currently appealing a number of matters related to the IBC/05 scheme, including the issue of continuous residency, to the Supreme Court. The application in question, including the residency status of the individual concerned, may be considered further in the light of the findings of the Court.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

202 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; if they can apply for naturalisation, green stamp update or other status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28003/07]

The person concerned arrived in the State in August, 1999 with her family and applied for asylum. She was refused refugee status. Her application seeking permission to remain in the State, which was based on her being a part of her parents' family unit, was refused.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, she was informed by letter dated 21 April, 2004, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State, leaving the State before an order was made or consenting to the making of a deportation order. On 3 June, 2004 the person concerned was granted permission to remain in the State on humanitarian grounds for a period of one year. This permission to remain has been renewed on a yearly basis, the current renewal being valid until 7 September, 2007. The current application for renewal of the permission to remain in the State of the person is currently under consideration by my Department. I expect a decision to issue in due course.

The position regarding naturalisation is that an application from the person concerned to my Department must clearly indicate that the applicant has been legally resident in the State for five consecutive years.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

203 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if and when a naturalisation application will be finalised in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28004/07]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 148 of 11 October 2007. The position remains as stated.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

204 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedure to be followed in order to regularise the position of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who has spent two years here on a visiting/student visa in the care of a sibling who has residency status, both of whom wish to remain here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28005/07]

I understand the Immigration Division of my Department has recently been in contact with the person concerned requesting documentation. On receipt of the requested documentation, the application will be further considered.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

205 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if absence from this jurisdiction for a short period to visit family is likely to in any way impede an application for citizenship in the name of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28006/07]

Officials in the Citizenship Section inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question.

Section 15 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, requires that the applicant must have had a period of one year's continuous residency in the State immediately before the date of application and, during the eight years immediately preceding that period, have had a total residence in the State amounting to four years.

Residency is calculated by reference to the stamps issued by the Garda National Immigration Bureau. Once an applicant has the necessary number of months stamped in their passport, a short term absence from the State will not affect their application for a certificate of naturalisation.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

206 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected family reunification and residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28007/07]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that on 27th July, 2007 the permission to remain in the State for the person in question was renewed until 22nd August, 2010.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

207 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made in regard to the residency status of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24 whose parents and other family members all have Irish passports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28008/07]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 468 of Tuesday, 31st January, 2006; 147 of Thursday, 27th April, 2006; 427 of Tuesday, 16th May, 2006, 630 of Thursday, 6th July, 2006, and 78 of Thursday, 26th October, 2006 and the written replies to those Questions. The position remains unchanged.

Turbary Rights.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

208 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if bog-holders (details supplied) in County Galway will be allowed to cut their domestic turf supply in 2008 in view of the fact that the derogation given ten years earlier expires in 2008; if he has reviewed the situation and domestic turf cutting can be cut on those raised bogs without damaging such bogs; if his attention has been drawn to the anxiety that turf cutters have regarding the cessation of their fuel supplies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27833/07]

I assume that the Question refers to Carrownagappul Bog, of which Gunnode is also a part. This bog is a candidate Special Area of Conservation. The derogation permitting a continuation of turf cutting for domestic purposes in SACs is due to expire in 2008.

A recent review of the state of our bogs has revealed continuing damage due to domestic turf cutting. As a consequence, no extension to the derogation, which was intended to allow domestic turf cutters a transitional 10 year period to move from turf cutting to an alternative fuel source, can be permitted. My Department operates a generous purchase scheme for bog or turbary owners who are affected by the restrictions.

Planning Issues.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

209 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if planning authorities are obliged to use the moneys paid to them by developers in lieu of an insufficiency of parking spaces on particular developments, to provide additional parking places in the immediate vicinity of the development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27860/07]

Under Section 48 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, planning authorities may levy development contributions in respect of public infrastructure and facilities provided by, or on behalf of the local authority that benefit development in the area, based on a scheme of contributions adopted by the elected members of the authority. Subject to this, the types of public infrastructure that can be funded by a development contribution scheme are further specified as the acquisition of land, the provision of open spaces, recreational and community facilities and amenities and landscaping works, the provision of roads, car parks, car parking places, sewers, waste water and water treatment facilities, drains and watermains, the provision of bus corridors and lanes, bus interchanges facilities (car parks for those facilities), infrastructure to facilitate public transport, cycle and pedestrian facilities, and traffic calming measures, the refurbishment, upgrading, enlargement or replacement of roads, car parks, car parking places, sewers, waste water and water facilities, drains or water mains, and ancillary matters.

Under the Act, income from development levies must be applied to pay for facilities servicing new development. The legislation also requires planning authorities to base the contributions on the actual cost of providing the infrastructure in question. However, there is no legislative requirement, nor would it be practical, for planning authorities to direct contributions received from a specific development exclusively towards a particular service or facility.

In May 2007 my Department published a report arising from the deliberations of an Inter-Departmental Committee on Development Contribution Schemes. This report was also accompanied by a guidance circular to all planning authorities which focused on a number of key issues identified by the Committee, including the importance of transparency in relation to the extent to which linkages between the development levies paid and the infrastructure projects funded from those revenues are demonstrated. Planning authorities were advised that developers should reasonably expect to be able to identify the infrastructural gain to which their contribution has been put.

More generally, it is a matter for planning authorities to determine their own policy requirements in relation to the provision of off-street car-parking, for instance, through the inclusion of specific objectives in their Development Plans. In drafting the Development Plan, planning authorities are statutorily required to elicit the views and comments of any interested parties through a public consultation process at draft and material amendment stages. These views and comments are presented to the elected members by the Manager for their consideration.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

210 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding provision of an upgraded sewerage scheme for Adare, County Limerick. [27866/07]

The combined Adare and Patrickswell Sewerage Scheme is included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009 to begin construction next year.

Last month, my Department approved Limerick County Council's proposals to proceed separately with the Patrickswell element of the Scheme because of potential delays with land acquisition in Adare. I understand the Council is currently proceeding with arrangements for land acquisition for the Adare element and revising its contract documents for both elements of the scheme.

Planning Issues.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

211 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the section of the Planning and Development Act, 2000 under which a person can appeal a decision to ensure the protection of the residential water source of their home (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27911/07]

The Planning Code provides for extensive public notification of proposed development. It is a general requirement that a valid application for planning permission must be advertised by site notice and newspaper notice. The site notice must state, inter alia, that the planning application may be inspected or purchased at the offices of the planning authority, and that submissions or observations in relation to the application may be made to the authority in writing on payment of the prescribed fee within the 5 week period beginning on the date of the receipt by the planning authority of the application. A notice of the proposed development must also be published in an approved local or national newspaper. This must also set out details in relation to the inspection of planning applications and the making of submissions and observations.

Ordinarily an appeal on a decision of a planning authority decision can be made only by the applicant, or an individual or group who made submissions or observations in writing to the planning authority in relation to the planning application in accordance with permission regulations. However, an exception is provided for persons with an interest in land adjoining the site which is the subject of the application. Section 37(6)(a) of the 2000 Act provides that a landowner/occupier on the site adjoining the application site may apply to the Board for leave to appeal the decision of the planning authority, within four weeks of the decision, even without having made submissions or observations to the planning authority in the first instance.

It is also possible for an individual to apply to the High Court for leave to seek a judicial review of a planning decision. Leave must usually be sought within eight weeks of the decision, and the High Court may only grant leave where it is satisfied that there are substantial grounds for contending that the decision is invalid or should be quashed. The person seeking leave must also have a substantial interest in the decision and have participated in the decision making process or had good and sufficient reasons for not doing so.

Local Authority Housing.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

212 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is satisfied with the roll out of the rental accommodation scheme; if the scheme is operational in all local authority areas; if targets have been set for delivery in each housing authority area; if these targets are cost or unit based; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27912/07]

The Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) is designed to cater for the accommodation needs of persons in receipt of rent supplement who have a long-term housing need. It is a collaborative project between my Department, local authorities, the Department of Social and Family Affairs and the Health Service Executive.

I am satisfied at this stage that RAS is meeting the objectives set for it by Government and that all housing authorities are implementing RAS and have transferred cases to RAS accommodation. Individual housing authorities include targets for transfer of households to RAS in their multi-annual Social and Affordable Housing Action Plans which are submitted to my Department.

Building Regulations.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

213 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will take steps to ensure the enforcement of the building regulations in relation to pyrite infill problems at an estate (details supplied) and specifically with regard to houses built by a company which is not a member of the Construction Industry Federation or the Irish Home Builders Association. [27917/07]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 238 of 18 October, 2007.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

214 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will increase the grant aid available for group sewerage schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27924/07]

My Department is funding a pilot programme, proposed by the National Rural Water Monitoring Committee, to test a range of new, small-scale waste water collection and treatment systems under Irish conditions. The objective of the pilot programme is to evaluate new approaches to meeting the waste water collection and treatment needs of rural communities and to examine the potential role for group sewerage schemes in extending collection systems to households outside the catchment of new or existing sewerage networks.

The pilot projects are now complete and undergoing commissioning. Monitoring of the performance of the new infrastructure by the National Rural Water Monitoring Committee has commenced and the Committee has been asked to report to me on results as they become available. I intend to review the grants for group sewerage schemes in light of the outcome of the pilot programme.

Departmental Certificates.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

215 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason for the delay in issuing a certificate of reasonable cost which was requested in September 2006 by persons (details supplied) in County Roscommon; when the certificate will be issued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27925/07]

An inspection has been carried out in this case and a Certificate of Reasonable Cost will issue very shortly.

Waste Management.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

216 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if retailers who deliver items such as furniture to a private house or business are obliged to take back the packaging waste; the recourse the purchaser has in the event that the vendor refuses to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27943/07]

Retailers who deliver items such as furniture to a private house or business are not obliged to take away the packaging waste. Producers and retailers who place substantial amounts of packaging on the market do, however, have a range of responsibilities under the relevant legislation. If they join a packaging waste compliance scheme, they contribute to the overall cost of the collection and recycling of packaging waste. If they opt not to join such a scheme, they must accept back at their own premises, free of charge, any packaging waste of the type which they supply.

Turbary Rights.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

217 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the contract will be approved in respect of the purchase by his Department of turbary rights (details supplied); if moneys will be furnished to the vendor without further delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27974/07]

Contracts were received from the vendor's solicitor on September 14 and have since been executed by my Department. Payment will be made as soon as possible.

Urban Renewal Schemes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

218 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when it is expected that the urban renewal or town centre restoration scheme for Kilcock, County Kildare will be implemented; if it is intended to address the acute lack of parking in the area in the course thereof; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28016/07]

My Department approved urban renewal works in the Square, Kilcock, for grant assistance under the Urban and Village Renewal Programme. It is understood that this project will commence before the end of November and will take approximately 3 to 4 weeks to complete. It is not expected to have a significant impact on the availability of parking in the Square. A Traffic Management Plan and Car Parking Study for Kilcock is being undertaken by Kildare County Council at present. Further information regarding the foregoing matters may more appropriately be sought directly from the Council.

Salmon Management Fund.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

219 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when the review of the €30 million hardship fund for commercial fishermen and others affected by the ban on commercial salmon fishing will be concluded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27961/07]

As previously stated, most recently in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 530 on 9 October 2007, the approach to determining the hardship payments is fair and reasonable and there are no plans to revise the scheme.

The €25m Salmon Hardship Scheme adopted by Government is intended to provide a measure of relief to individiuals in line with the level of hardship likely to be experienced on foot of the cessation of mixed stock fishing for wild salmon. The overall sum takes account of the levels of payment recommended by the Independent Group and the recorded catch history of the eligible licensees. An additional €5 million is being provided under a Community Support Scheme, the focus of which primarily will be those communities where commercial salmon fishing has been a well-established activity and where its withdrawal demonstrably impacts on the economic and social fabric of the area.