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 13, inclusive, answered orally.

Cultural Programmes.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

14 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his views on offering departmental support in extending a scheme such as Dublin City Council’s passport for leisure scheme nationwide in view of the report, In the Frame or Out of the Picture, by the National Economic and Social Forum which shows that persons over 45 are more likely to attend no arts events at all; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10835/08]

I understand that the scheme referred to by the Deputy is a broad-based scheme aimed at encouraging the over 55's to avail of and participate in the various sports, art, culture and other facilities operated by or in conjunction with Dublin City Council. I commend Dublin City on this initiative and would hope to see other local authorities follow suit, particularly in the context of publicly funded and subsidised venues and facilities. There are no plans at present to introduce such a scheme within my Department's remit.

I should point out to the Deputy, however, that it is Government policy to provide free admission to the National Collections held by the National Cultural Institutions within my Department's remit, including the National Library of Ireland, National Museum of Ireland, National Gallery of Ireland, Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Chester Beatty Library, and the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork. I should also point out that outreach programmes are operated by some of these institutions in which those in the over 40s age bracket can participate. My Department is currently working on a plan for Culture Day in 2009 when access to cultural and arts events will be either free or reduced.

National Archives.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

15 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will report on progress towards constructing a new home for the National Archives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10926/08]

A capital provision of €20m is included in the National Development Plan 2007-2013 for the redevelopment of the National Archives headquarters. The Office of Public Works has carried out significant preliminary work on the accommodation brief and the likely cost of providing the National Archives with new storage and other accommodation.

My over-riding priority for the National Archives is the provision of new premises that are sufficiently large and meet internationally recognised standards. Its existing storage buildings at Bishop Street and the Four Courts must be replaced because the facilities there are either not large enough, have access difficulties or do not meet the international standards for archival storage. The new premises must accommodate the archives stored in those buildings and must enable the National Archives to accept transfers of Departmental records in accordance with the National Archives Act. The latter records include both the annual increments of 30-year old records due for transfer between now and the year 2030, and the larger quantities of older records overdue for transfer from some Departments and Offices.

The new premises must also accommodate the public and technical services of the National Archives, and its staff. Its public areas must include both improved provision for reader services and provision for public services that cannot be accommodated in the existing buildings, such as a lecture room, and specialised areas for exhibitions and education services. An "Outline Brief and Schedule of Requirements" for "A New Building for the National Archives" was commissioned by the OPW in 2003, and was prepared by Building Design Partnership in consultation with the National Archives. In the brief, the site area required was estimated to be 4,775 square meters, and the total floor area required was estimated to be just over 20,500 square meters.

My Department in conjunction with the OPW have been examining a number of options in relation to providing a new building for the Archives. I am advised that these have now resolved down to two options; the provision of a new bespoke building on the footprint of the Bishop Street site or a completely new building or adaptation of an existing building elsewhere. The logistics of developing on the Bishop Street site would be quite complex if, as seems likely, part of the current storage and office accommodation will have to be vacated for the duration of the development process at a temporary location. It is too early at the moment to say which of the options will be recommended by OPW and my Department as I understand that OPW are currently examining various issues in relation to cost.

For me the preferred option will be that which gives the Exchequer best value for money and delivers modern accommodation for the National Archives quickly. I would hope to have news of more progress on the matter later on in the year. The provision of €20 million in the National Development Plan for this project was based on its assumed viability as a PPP in its current location on the Bishop Street site.

Tourism Industry.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

16 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the way his Department has helped support and develop sustainable tourism here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10820/08]

The High Level Strategy of my Department in relation to Tourism includes a commitment to "support the sustainable growth of the tourism industry...". In line with the national Sustainable Development Strategy, the principles of Sustainable Development are increasingly permeating public policy including policy on Tourism which is one of our main economic sectors. Sustainable Development incorporates three principles — Social Cohesion, Economic Prosperity and Environment. These principles are incorporated in the current guiding Vision for Irish Tourism which is set out in the Report of the Tourism Policy Review Group, New Horizons for Irish Tourism: An Agenda for Action.

Geographically, Tourism is widely spread and, in some, otherwise undeveloped areas, is the main source of employment. The Government has a strong regional orientation which guides the activities of the Tourism Agencies in the promotion and development of tourism. Fáilte Ireland, works closely with the sector, to help improve the quality of training and also to encourage the industry to provide good conditions and career prospects to its employees. Tourism Ireland, in its international marketing role, promotes the island of Ireland along sustainable principles, with an emphasis on a wide geographical and seasonal spread of tourism business.

The physical environment is a core tourism resource and the tourism sector is becoming increasingly conscious of that. Under its Agreed Programme, the Government is committed to placing greater emphasis on the protection, conservation, interpretation and access to Ireland's natural and built heritage. The overarching challenge for the sector is to recognise that, in the long term, competitiveness depends on sustainability. Ultimately, of course, it is the industry itself that must meet the challenges and seize the opportunities generated by the sustainability agenda.

The introduction of more efficient use of resources such as energy, more recycling and better environmental management generally, provides an opportunity to significantly reduce the running costs of tourism businesses and, thus, enhance competitiveness. In conclusion, I would also note that my Department and the tourism Agencies take an active part in a wide range of groups and fora focusing on sustainability.

Departmental Programmes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

17 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will favourably consider and commit grant aid from the proceeds of the national lottery through the programmes administered by his Department to communities attempting to combat anti-social behaviour and social or economic deprivation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10998/08]

A number of capital programmes administered by my Department are targeted at disadvantaged areas and play a significant role in combating anti social behaviour. Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department, funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The 2008 programme was advertised on 13th and 14th of January and the deadline for receipt of applications was 29th February for paper-based applications and 7th March for on-line applications.

One of the stated aims and objectives of the sports capital programme is to prioritise the needs of disadvantaged areas in the provision of facilities. Since 2002, those areas that have been designated by Government for special support through the schemes administered by Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, i.e. RAPID, Local Drugs Task Force (LDTF) and CLÁR areas are treated as disadvantaged under the programme. Projects identified as being located in areas designated as disadvantaged are targeted and prioritised in a number of ways during the assessment of applications. They are permitted to have a lower level of minimum own funding available towards their project and extra marks are also awarded to such projects during the assessment process by the application of socioeconomic disadvantage criterion. Indeed under the 2008 Sports Capital Programme, I was happy to reduce the level of own funding required by applicants from RAPID and Local Drugs Task Force areas to 10% from 20%. This is in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government.

Successful projects under the Sports Capital Programme in CLÁR and RAPID areas may also qualify to receive top-up funding, payable by the Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, in addition to their sports capital allocation. In the case of projects located in CLÁR areas, this top-up funding can be up to 20% of the sports capital grant amount; in the case of projects located in RAPID areas which are also endorsed by their local Area Implementation Team, the top-up funding can be up to 30%. For the Deputy's information, under the 2007 programme grants totalling €38,679,550 were allocated to 455 projects in disadvantaged areas. To date, my colleague the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs has announced top-ups for qualifying grantees of €6,412,510.

Under the ACCESS scheme (arts and culture capital enhancement support scheme) my Department provides capital grants for the provision of arts and cultural infrastructure nationwide. One of the stated objectives of the Governments Arts Policy is to encourage and support the strategic development of the arts in local communities, both geographic and communities of interest, for the disadvantaged and for minority groups. In 2007 grants to the value of €32m were awarded to projects. Under the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme my Department provides capital grants to Local Authorities for the construction of new swimming pools or for the refurbishment of existing ones. A total of €27.8m was expended under this programme in 2007. I am satisfied that through these capital programmes opportunities exist for the provision of a range of arts and sporting facilities, with special emphasis on areas of disadvantage, which can have a major impact in combating anti-social behaviour.

Arts Funding.

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

18 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will clarify and develop his proposals for additional business sponsorship of the arts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10949/08]

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

32 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his views on the strategic policy development links that exist between his Department and statutory and informal bodies in the area of the arts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10839/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 and 32 together.

Government Policy on the Arts is set out in the Programme for Government and elaborated further in my Department's Statement of Strategy and my recently published Arts and Culture Plan, 2008. Since taking office I have met with and received submissions from a wide range of arts and culture organisations. This was done in the context of understanding the arts and culture sectors and to inform and enhance the policy framework. I am currently considering the relationships and opportunities of business, philanthropy and the Arts, with a view to producing a policy paper on the issue later this year.

Tourism Industry.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

19 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Central Statistics Office does not identify tourism as a sector for classification for economic activity; his views on whether this hinders Ireland’s ability to accurately assess the true value of tourism to the economy; if he will lobby the CSO to introduce a tourism satellite account classification; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10826/08]

Identifying and communicating the extent of the real contribution of Tourism to the national economy is a considerable policy challenge which many other jurisdictions share with Ireland. Tourism does not, as the Deputy has noted, fit into one tidy economic classification. Because of that, there can, unfortunately, be a tendency to undervalue or downplay its economic contribution. That is why our current policy approach seeks to include an advocacy role at Government and official level in terms of highlighting the importance of a sector that is estimated to contribute a total of €6.5 billion annually to the economy and to provide close to a quarter of a million jobs.

A Satellite Account is a term developed by the United Nations to measure the economic sectors that are not defined as industries in national accounts. Tourism, for example, is made up of a range of industries such as transportation, accommodation, food and beverage services, recreation and entertainment and travel agencies. A Tourism Satellite Account, or "TSA" as it is commonly known, is a subset of the National Accounts which seeks to give a comprehensive picture of the contribution of Tourism to the national economy. The TSA model is now well established having been adopted by organisations such as the OECD, UNWTO and Eurostat.

Under the aegis of the British Irish Council and with some financial assistance from the EU, an initial "First Steps" TSA was produced in 2004 by a UCC/UL consortium. I believe that we should build on that experience and seek to produce a more comprehensive TSA for Ireland. I have, in fact, already been in touch with the CSO about this. My Department will be working with the CSO, the Tourism Agencies and others to progress this project in the future.

Sports Capital Programme.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

20 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the thrust of changes in the guidelines for applications for the current round of sports capital grants and their intended effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10959/08]

Under the sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. For the 2008 Sports Capital Programme my Department has implemented a number of changes to improve the administration of the scheme and to implement key commitments contained in the Agreed Programme for Government. In this regard, I would point to a number of specific changes to this year's guidelines.

Firstly, in line with the commitment contained in the Agreed Programme for Government, the level of own funding required from applicants in urban disadvantaged areas has been reduced from 20% to 10%. This covers applicants from RAPID and Local Drugs Task Force areas. This change is in keeping with the Government's commitment to prioritise the needs of disadvantaged areas. Secondly, the Programme for Government also contains important commitments to promote greater sharing of sports facilities between schools and local sports clubs. Under the 2008 Sports Capital Programme, schools making joint applications with local sports clubs are required to provide evidence of formal agreements with local clubs that guarantees the clubs access to school facilities for at least 30 hours per week throughout the year.

Thirdly, in keeping with this Government's commitment to the electronic delivery of public services, this year a decision was made to extend by one week the closing date for receipt of on-line applications. This has resulted in a very significant increase in on-line applications. While final statistics are not yet available, initial indications point to an increase of the order of 500%. In addition, some minor changes have been made to the administration of the scheme this year. These changes were designed to improve customer service, implement efficiencies and to improve the operation of the scheme. These changes are implemented on the basis of suggestions from staff working in the area, feedback from customers, and input from key stakeholders such as the Office of Public Works, the Chief State Solicitors Office and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. My Department will of course continue to review the administration of the Programme on an ongoing basis.

Legal Fees.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

21 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the cost to the taxpayer of legal fees to date in respect of disputes regarding the National Aquatic Centre; the anticipated final cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10970/08]

Legal fees paid by the National Sports Campus Development Authority (formerly CSID) from 2003 to date total €1.241 million in respect of cases involving the previous operator of the National Aquatic Centre. Due to the fact that all legal proceedings have yet to be finally resolved, it is not possible to provide an indication of the anticipated final costs involved.

Arts Plan.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

22 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the initiatives he has undertaken to provide spaces and funding for ethnic minority communities to develop their cultural expressions and participation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10840/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

23 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his proposals for the development of the arts at local and community level, directly or through subsidiary agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10999/08]

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

34 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the funding available to support arts in disadvantaged and marginalised areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10833/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

121 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will take particular initiatives to promote interest and participation in the arts at community level notwithstanding the procedures and bodies already in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11166/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 22, 23, 34 and 121 together.

Government Policy on the Arts is set out in the Programme for Government and elaborated further in my Department's Statement of Strategy and in my recently published Arts and Culture Plan, 2008. Government Policy on Sports is also set out in the Programme for Government and elaborated on in our Statement of Strategy. In 2008, almost €245m is available from my Department for arts and culture activities, and €41m of that is earmarked for regional arts and culture infrastructure. In the area of sports, this year's allocation is over €311m, of which €77.5m is allocated for arts facilities at regional and local level.

One of the stated objectives of the Government's Arts policy is to encourage and support the strategic development of the arts in local communities, both geographic and communities of interest, for the disadvantaged and for minority groups. That policy also aims to promote and strengthen the arts in all its forms, increase access to and participation in the arts, and to make the arts an integral and valued part of our national life. Consequently, all funding allocated by my Department to the arts is aimed at, inter alia, addressing the issues of cultural participation, access and social inclusion. The Arts Council, which is the primary vehicle for the day to day funding of the arts, carries through that ethos.

The Irish Sports Council (ISC), which is funded by my Department, is the statutory body responsible for encouraging the promotion, development and co-ordination of competitive sport and for increasing participation in recreational sport. The ISC's basic philosophy is, therefore, one of inclusion and its Statement of Strategy recognises the potential of sport to be a driver for social change dealing with issues such as exclusion and social inequality. All sports organisations funded by the ISC, including National Governing Bodies (NGBs) and Local Sports Partnerships (LSPs), are encouraged to target all sections of society in seeking to increase participation in sport. Examples of LSP programmes which promote social and cultural inclusion are the Travteen Sports Programme in Donegal, the Increasing Traveller Participation in Sport initiative in Offaly and the Physical Activity For Women Of International Community in Kildare. In addition, the ISC is also involved, directly and indirectly, in a number of successful initiatives that seek to encourage cultural inclusion. Typically, these programmes are funded through the National Programme Against Racism (NPAR) administered by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

One of the six key programmes for the Year of Intercultural dialogue is focusing on interaction and participation in the arts in Ireland as a tool to help stimulate interaction and dialogue including music, theatre, poetry and participation of arts institutions. The role of the arts in promoting intercultural dialogue is widely acknowledged as a key mechanism for promoting interaction, understanding and collaboration. In particular, during the Year a national intercultural arts strategy will be developed including a specific action plan by the Arts Council for the arts in Ireland. This action plan will include a range of strategic initiatives, including development of an intercultural dimension to some key mainstream arts funding initiatives.

Heritage Fund.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

24 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if a decision has been taken on the desirability of creating a new heritage fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10973/08]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question number 17 on the 29th November, 2007, in which I outlined the background to the Heritage Fund. Following a very positive review of the governance and operation of the Heritage Fund, which is now virtually depleted, I am seeking new funding for the Fund for the next five years. As the existing legislation does not allow for the replenishment of the Fund, new primary legislation will be necessary to enable a new Fund to be established. Preparatory work in relation to this legislation is underway in my Department.

Arts Plan.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

25 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the steps he has taken to increase the usage of publicly funded arts centres; if he will ensure that these centres will be opened up to local groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10832/08]

Government Policy on Arts is set out in the Programme for Government and elaborated further in my Department's Statement of Strategy and my recently published Arts and Culture Plan, 2008. One of the stated objectives of this policy is to encourage and support the strategic development of the arts in local communities, both geographic and communities of interest, for the disadvantaged and for minority groups. My policy on the arts is to promote and strengthen the arts in all its forms, increase access to and participation in the arts, and to make the arts an integral and valued part of our national life. Consequently, all funding allocated by my Department to the arts is aimed at, inter alia, addressing the issues of cultural participation, access and social inclusion.

My Department provides capital funding for arts and cultural venues under the ACCESS (Arts and Culture Capital Enhancement Support Scheme). Many local and community groups have received funding under this scheme. While we ensure, by means of a lien on the property, that the buildings are used for the purposes intended under the grant i.e. arts and cultural activities, the programming and usage of arts and cultural facilities is a matter for the owners and promoters of these venues and not a matter for my Department.

Arts Funding.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

26 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when he plans to launch the arts capital grants scheme; if the terms of reference regarding the division of funding will be similar to the ACCESS II scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10829/08]

I hope to announce another round of Capital Arts funding shortly. At present I am considering the scope of the scheme and, therefore, the terms of reference and guidelines are not, as yet, finalised.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

27 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his Department will consider any request to fund a large scale high quality quantitative research in the area of arts behaviour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10836/08]

My Department has received no such request. However, all requests for funding are considered by my Department, as appropriate. I would refer the Deputy to the recently published statistical analysis of public involvement in the arts conducted by the National Economic and Social Forum.

Sport and Recreational Development.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

28 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to the findings of a report (details supplied) which show that rate of drop out from participation in sport is strongest when people leave full-time education and the rate of drop out is much higher for adults of low incomes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10850/08]

Joan Burton

Ceist:

29 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to the view of the reports on sport and art (details supplied) that have both come to the conclusion that public spending on sport and art are expected to be regressive, with the less well off subsidising the activities of the better off; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10845/08]

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

33 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the action taken to implement the recommendations of the report, Fair Play? Sport and Social Disadvantage, from the ESRI in 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10846/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28, 29 and 33 together.

The Irish Sports Council (ISC), which is funded by my Department, is the statutory body responsible for encouraging the promotion, development and co-ordination of competitive sport and for increasing participation in recreational sport. The ISC's basic philosophy is, therefore, one of inclusion and its Statement of Strategy recognises the potential of sport to be a driver for social change dealing with issues such as exclusion and social inequality. All sports organisations funded by the ISC, including National Governing Bodies (NGBs) and Local Sports Partnerships (LSPs), are encouraged to target all sections of society in seeking to increase participation in sport.

I am aware that the ISC, under its research remit, is striving to develop a profound understanding of sport in Ireland that can inform policy and investment over the coming years. The ISC has commissioned the Economic and Social Research Institute to undertake studies on its behalf. The fourth report in the series — "Fair Play? Sport and Social Disadvantage in Ireland" — set out to examine the impact of social disadvantage on various forms of participation in sport. The report concludes that the large majority of people who play sport in Ireland and who enjoy the health benefits arising from this physical activity are from higher income and better-educated social groups.

The report makes a clear case in support of substantial public expenditure to increase participation in sport, given the proven benefits of physical activity. This justifies the significant Government investment in sport in recent years. This increased investment has supported the promotion and development of Irish sport and the provision of a modern sporting infrastructure, with high quality facilities catering for the participation, coaching, training and competition needs of all levels and types of sport. The level of funding available for spending on sport in 2008 is €336 million, which will serve to further enhance and develop the sports sector. Furthermore the National Development Plan 2007-2013 includes a commitment to provide €991 million for sport infrastructure during the period up to 2013.

The increased funding provided to the ISC from €13 million in 2000 to more than €57 million this year has enabled a number of significant interventions for the benefit of disadvantaged areas. Examples include the Local Sports Partnerships (LSP) network and the Buntús programme for primary schools in LSP areas (involving children in sport from a very young age). In addition, with the support and cooperation of my Department and Pobal, additional funding has been allocated to the ISC to support various grant schemes including the funding programme "Sports for Disadvantaged Youth". This programme, with funding amounting to almost €2 million, is administered by the ISC and delivered through the existing LSP structures and local authorities where an LSP is not in place. Its aim is to increase participation in sport among 12-19 year olds in disadvantaged areas. This age period, particularly the latter part from 16-19, is particularly important in terms of influencing trends towards long-term participation.

One of the stated objectives of the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department, is to prioritise the needs of disadvantaged areas in the provision of sports facilities. Projects identified as being located in areas designated as disadvantaged are targeted and prioritised in a number of ways during the assessment of applications. Indeed, under the 2008 Sports Capital Programme, I reduced the level of own funding required by applicants from RAPID and Local Drugs Task Force areas to 10% from 20%. This is in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government. Successful projects under the Sports Capital Programme in CLÁR and RAPID areas may also qualify to receive top-up funding, payable by the Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. In the case of projects located in CLÁR areas, this top-up funding can be up to 20% of the sports capital grant amount; in the case of projects located in RAPID areas which are also endorsed by their local Area Implementation Team, the top-up funding can be up to 30%.

I welcomed and was very pleased to have been invited to launch " In the Frame or Out of the Picture?" a Statistical Analysis of Public Involvement in the Arts, on 25th February last. This study was undertaken by the Economic and Social Research Institute on behalf of the National Economic and Social Forum dealing with Public Involvement in the Arts. Government policy on the arts, as set out in the programme for Government and reflected in my recently published Arts and Culture Plan for 2008, is to promote and strengthen the arts in all its forms, increase access to and participation in the arts, and to make the arts an integral and valued part of our national life. The report cannot be treated in isolation. It has been informed primarily by, and adds to, two previous seminal reports in this area, completed in the past 18 months. The first of these reports was the nationwide survey of public attitudes to and behaviour in the arts carried out by the Arts Council in 2006 entitled "The Public and the Arts". The second report was the major research and analysis undertaken by the NSEF itself in its report "The Arts, Cultural Inclusion and Social Cohesion" published last year.

The recent report contains a great deal of information regarding reasons for and attitudes towards participation in the arts and the messages which are being given should not be commented on without serious consideration. Accordingly, I intend to ask the relevant agencies and institutions within the remit of my Department to study this report and to comment on its findings and to make recommendations to me on how they can respond to its findings.

Drugs in Sport.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

30 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the support his Department is giving to the national anti-doping agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10821/08]

Ireland's national anti-doping programme is administered by the Irish Sports Council (ISC), which is the statutory body responsible for the promotion and development of sport in Ireland. My Department funds the ISC on an annual basis and has allocated over €57 million to the Council in 2008. This includes funding to enable the ISC to meet its statutory function to combat doping in sport. In supporting sport the Government insists that it must be based on fair and ethical principles. The ISC has put in place a comprehensive and effective Anti-Doping Programme, one that the Government strongly endorses and which is recognised internationally as an outstanding model of its type.

Tax Code.

Andrew Doyle

Ceist:

31 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if there have been consultations with the Department of Finance to secure the inclusion of choreographers in the artists tax exemption scheme and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10943/08]

Taxation issues are a matter for the Minister for Finance, with whom I am in contact on taxation matters, as they apply to my brief, from time to time. There is no current proposal to have choreographers included in the scheme referred to by the Deputy. But I will keep the request under review.

Question No. 32 answered with Question No. 18.
Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 28.
Question No. 34 answered with Question No. 22.

National Cultural Institutions.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

35 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the supports his Department is providing to ensure that national cultural institutions here reach their target of 3 million guests in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10827/08]

Substantial increases in current funding, over 11% in some cases, have been secured for the national cultural institutions in 2008. This additional funding allows the institutions to enhance and develop their exhibition and event programmes, so as to attract the widest possible audience.

An element of this additional funding has been specifically targeted at extending the cultural institutions' opening hours, which is an essential innovation in developing access and attracting wider audiences. My Department has been in consultation with the National Cultural Institutions regarding this extended opening hours programme, which will be introduced on a gradual basis and will be the subject of a vigorous marketing campaign for which I am providing funding. In addition, Culture Night 2008 in September will see late opening of the National Cultural Institutions. Culture Night event has proven to be very successful in attracting new visitors to the national cultural institutions.

As the provision of good transport links to the institutions is key to developing access and increasing visitor numbers, I am discussing with the national cultural institutions the possibility of supporting a dedicated bus service this summer, on a pilot basis, linking the national cultural institutions in Dublin, during the extended opening-hours period, at weekends.

Sport and Recreational Development.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

36 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the linkages he has established with other Government Departments regarding arts and sporting initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10842/08]

My Department has established a number of linkages with other Government Departments in relation to the development of policy and implementation of initiatives in the areas of arts and sport. The nature of these linkages in the context of delivery of my Department's goals and objectives for the sectors in question is prescribed at Section 6 in my Department's Statement of Strategy 2008 to 2010 which is available on my Department's website and a copy of which has been placed in the Dáil Library.

Departmental Committees.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

37 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if the high-level, independently chaired strategy committee established to consider the recommendations of the National Economic and Social Forum’s report on the arts, cultural inclusion and social cohesion has reported back to him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10834/08]

Mary Upton

Ceist:

112 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his views on the report by the National Economic and Social Forum, entitled In the Frame or Out of the Picture; his further views on the principal finding that people with lower educational attainment, social class and income are many times less likely than fellow citizens to attend a range of arts events; the steps his Department has taken or proposes to take to tackle this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10990/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 37 and 112 together.

The National Economic and Social Forum (NESF), The Arts, Cultural Inclusion and Social Cohesion report outlines priorities in addressing the complex and multifaceted nature of the arts and culture sector and the need for an equitable and socially inclusive delivery of a high level service in a strategic, appropriate, coordinated and open manner. This report's findings have been further analysed in a recent study commissioned from the ESRI by the NESF namely "In the Frame or Out of the Picture?" a Statistical Analysis of Public Involvement in the Arts, undertaken by the Economic and Social Research Institute on behalf of the National Economic and Social Forum dealing with Public Involvement in the Arts. The study contains much detailed statistics, the implications of which require serious analysis and consideration.

Accordingly, I intend to ask the relevant agencies and institutions within the remit of my Department to study this report, to comment on its findings, and to make recommendations to me on how they can respond to its findings. The Government's decision to establish a high-level independently chaired Strategy Committee to consider its recommendations will be implemented soon. I am finalising at present, the formation of this committee, bearing in mind the complex recommendations contained in the NESF report, and the findings also of the report late last month from the NESF — "In the Frame or Out of the Picture — a Statistical Analysis of Public Involvement in the Arts", referred to earlier.

Cultural Events.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

38 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress on extending the culture night event to other cities for the event in September 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10823/08]

On Culture Night key artistic and cultural venues extend their opening hours until late in the evening, thus providing the public with increased access. In 2007, my Department provided €35,000 to Temple Bar Cultural Trust, the coordinators of the event in Dublin, for costs associated with the event. Arising from a request by my Department, the proposal by Temple Bar Culture Trust for the 2007 funding included an undertaking to investigate the possible extension of the culture night concept to areas outside Dublin.

Temple Bar Cultural Trust held preliminary discussions with local authorities in Cork, Galway and Limerick. The Trust also met representatives from the cultural community in Belfast with a view to launching a North-South Culture Night project for 2009. In view of the earlier contact with local authorities in Cork, Galway and Limerick, and as a key element for the success of a culture night event is the concentration of cultural organisations in an area and the ability to offer a range of cultural activities, my Department offered assistance to the City Managers of Cork, Limerick and Galway in the promotion of Culture Night in these cities. I am pleased to say that all three local authorities have indicated their interest in participating in Culture Night 2008 and work on organising the event is ongoing.

My Department has also written to the County and City Managers' Association highlighting the role of Culture Night. My Arts and Culture Plan 2008 highlights the possibility of a Culture Day in 2009 and work on that initiative has now commenced.

Tourism Promotion.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

39 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the steps he is taking to promote tourism in rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7474/08]

The policy framework for the promotion and development of Irish tourism is set out in the Agreed Programme for Government, and reflects the investment plans in the National Development Plan 2007-2013 and the strategic drivers set out in the 2003 Report of the Tourism Policy Review Group, "New Horizons for Irish Tourism — An Agenda for Action", as well as the subsequent reports of the Tourism Action Plan Implementation Group. These documents are available on my Department's website, www.dast.gov.ie, and that of the Department of the Taoiseach, www.taoiseach.gov.ie.

Under section 8(1) of the National Tourism Development Authority Act 2003, individual actions and measures relating to tourism promotion or development, including promotion of particular areas such as rural tourism, are functions of the State tourism agencies. I have no function in regard to such operational matters.

Arts Funding.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

40 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the amount that has been acquired via the per cent for art scheme since its inception in 1997 to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10844/08]

I refer the Deputy to my response to Priority question No 1 (10974/08) taken earlier today.

Sport and Recreational Development.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

41 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the action he proposes to take to ensure that publicly-funded centres and buildings are made available to voluntary arts and sports groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10851/08]

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department, funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. In this regard, under the Guidelines, Terms, Conditions of the Programme, all grantees have to confirm that the local community can use the facility. In addition, depending on the level of the grant allocated, grantees have to sign a declaration or enter in a deed of covenant and charge committing to keeping the facility in sporting use for fifteen years.

My Department provides capital funding for arts and cultural venues under the ACCESS (Arts and Culture Capital Enhancement Support Scheme). Many local and community groups have received funding under this scheme. While we ensure, by means of a lien on the property, that the buildings are used for the purposes intended under the grant, i.e. arts and cultural activities, the programming and usage of arts and cultural facilities is a matter for the owners and promoters of these venues and not a matter for my Department.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

42 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when he expects the national sports facility strategy report will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10825/08]

As I have previously informed the House, work on the National Sports Facility Strategy is currently underway in my Department. An inter-agency steering group was established to oversee the development of the strategy and consultants, involving both national and international experts in the area of sports facilities, were engaged to assist in the preparation of the strategy.

The consultants' report is being finalised at present and will then be appraised by the steering group. The consultants' remit included an audit of national and regional sports facilities which will feed into the national audit of sports facilities being undertaken by my Department. This audit is part of the wider exercise to put in place a more strategic approach to the provision of sports facilities in Ireland through the development of the National Sports Facility Strategy. The aim of the strategy is to provide high-level policy direction for future investment/grant assistance at national, regional and local level. It is intended to identify the facilities requirement for sport so that participation at reasonable cost is feasible for those who wish to engage in sport at either amateur or elite level.

National Cultural Institutions.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

43 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his Department has initiated or facilitated contact with world leading institutions on behalf of national cultural institutions here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10828/08]

In the context of bilateral cultural agreements, my Department has sought to initiate and facilitate contact with world leading institutions on behalf of the national cultural institutions. These cultural agreements allow, inter alia, for promoting and developing the relations and understanding between Ireland and the other country in the areas of art, culture, etc. For example, in the context of the Cultural Agreement between Ireland and Ukraine, an official from my Department visited a number of cultural institutions in the Ukraine including the Museum of Historical Treasures of Ukraine and the National Art Museum of Ukraine, both in Kiev. A key element of this contact was to determine the prospect of some of the world-renowned Ukrainian artefacts and artworks being exhibited in Ireland. As a result of this contact and the positive response it received by the Ukrainian museum authorities, my Department has facilitated contact between these institutions and a number of the national cultural institutions in this country with a view to promoting cooperation between them. My Department has also met the Smithsonian and the US National Archives with a view to future work and partnerships.

Contacts between international institutions and their counterparts in Ireland are also facilitated through the Council of National Cultural Institutions and, on occasion, diplomatic and cultural missions have briefed the Council members on the potential for creating linkages. As the members of the Council are also Directors and Chief Executive Officers of the national cultural institutions, contacts of this nature are facilitated in a very targeted fashion.

The institutions also develop their own links with colleagues in similar international institutions for a variety of purposes relating to their collections, exhibitions and events. For instance, the National Gallery of Ireland recently organised the "Paintings from Poland" exhibition in collaboration with the National Museum, Warsaw, the Irish Museum of Modern Art hosted the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition in 2007 in partnership with the Vancouver Art Gallery in Canada and the Chester Beatty Library has recently hosted a visit by the Director of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, and it is hoped to build on that contact in an exciting way in the coming years.

Sport and Recreational Development.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

44 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the role his Department plays in encouraging sport in the education cycle, in particular to ensure children who are considered socially disadvantaged are involved in sports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10849/08]

The Deputy will appreciate that I have no official responsibility to the Dáil in relation to the education cycle, the school curriculum or sport in schools, which are matters for the Minister for Education and Science. I would however point out that the Irish Sports Council (ISC), which is funded by my Department, is the statutory body responsible for encouraging the promotion, development and co-ordination of competitive sport and for increasing participation in recreational sport. In 2008, my Department has allocated over €57 million to the Council. This significant level of funding has enabled a number of important interventions for the benefit of people residing in disadvantaged areas. Examples include the Local Sports Partnerships (LSP) network and the Buntús programme for primary schools in LSP areas.

The Buntús Programme is continuing to be rolled out by the ISC through the LSP network to primary schools and child day care centres and feedback through the LSP network for the programme has been extremely positive. The Programme aims to support the primary Physical Education curriculum by providing equipment, resource cards and training to primary school teachers and allows teachers and introductory level coaches to introduce sport to children in a safe and fun way. I am aware that the Irish Sports Council has also worked with the FAI, IRFU, Badminton Ireland, Junior Golf Ireland and Basketball Ireland to deliver Buntús Sports Specific Programmes to Primary and Special Needs Schools in the Local Sports Partnership areas.

In addition, one of the stated aims and objectives of the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department, is to prioritise the needs of disadvantaged areas in the provision of facilities. Projects identified as being located in areas designated as disadvantaged are targeted and prioritised in a number of ways during the assessment of applications. Indeed, under the 2008 Sports Capital Programme, I reduced the level of own funding required by applicants from RAPID and Local Drugs Task Force areas to 10% from 20%. This is in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government.

Successful projects under the Sports Capital Programme in CLÁR and RAPID areas may also qualify to receive top-up funding, payable by the Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. In the case of projects located in CLÁR areas, this top-up funding can be up to 20% of the sports capital grant amount; in the case of projects located in RAPID areas which are also endorsed by their local Area Implementation Team, the top-up funding can be up to 30%. Under the Sports Capital Programme, schools are eligible to apply for funding for the development of sports facilities as part of a joint application with local sporting organisations. In this regard, these joint applications must include evidence of a formal agreement with a local sporting organisation that guarantees them access to school facilities for at least 30 hours per week throughout the year.

Furthermore, in 2007 funding of over almost €2 million was allocated from the dormant accounts funds through my Department for projects to increase participation in sports and recreation in disadvantaged areas. This funding was distributed through the LSPs and Local Authorities (where no LSP existed) whose knowledge and expertise were called upon in identifying worthy projects throughout the country. In the context of the development of a strategy for sports facilities a steering group, which is supporting my Department in its work, has a representative of the Department of Education and Science in its membership. Among the issues which will be considered by this group is how best to allocate public funds for sports facilities which serve the dual purpose of school and community usage.

National Cultural Institutions.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

45 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has received reports from the national cultural institutions regarding the status of their obligations under the national action plan for social inclusion 2007 to 2013 to put in place policies to actively invite and encourage individuals, groups and schools from disadvantaged communities to visit, participate and benefit from educational programmes and exhibitions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10838/08]

All of the National Cultural Institutions are aware of their obligations to promote access for disadvantaged groups to their educational programmes and exhibitions. These Institutions actively pursue Education and Outreach Programmes. These programmes form part of their day-to-day activities and are the responsibility of the individual boards of these institutions.

National Lottery.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

46 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the anticipated receipts from the proceeds of the national lottery in 2008; the way this compares with previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11164/08]

The anticipated receipts from the proceeds of the National Lottery in 2008 are expected to be broadly in line with receipts in recent years. The annual surplus generated by the National Lottery in the past five years was as follows:

2003 — €186.702 million

2004 — €191.125 million

2005 — €203.205 million

2006 — €217.526 million

2007 — €245.480 million

Decentralisation Programme.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

47 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position regarding decentralisation to Donegal town; if a site has been identified for the new offices; when it is expected that work will commence on the offices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11020/08]

The Office of Public Works have received a number of proposals offering potentially suitable sites for the Department of Social and Family Affairs in Donegal Town, County Donegal. These proposals are currently being technically assessed. When this process is completed, negotiations will commence with the owners of the preferred site options. When a site has been acquired, tenders to build the new offices will be invited from interested parties.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

48 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position regarding a permanent site for the decentralisation of personnel from the Revenue office to Athy, County Kildare; the amount of personnel located in Athy; the future plans for further decentralisation to Athy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11076/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the Commissioners of Public Works (OPW) have identified a number of potentially suitable options for permanent accommodation for the Revenue Commissioners in Athy. The viability of some of these options is, however, dependant on provision of infrastructure or re-zoning, and in this regard the OPW is awaiting developments.

In the meantime, temporary office space has been acquired in the town, capable of accommodating up to one hundred (100) staff, under a seven year lease with a break option at the end of five years. The lease commenced on 1 November 2007. To date forty-eight (48) staff have taken up duty in Athy. Further offers are being made through the Central Applications Facility (CAF) to make use of all the available accommodation.

National Monuments.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

49 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works has plans to install flood lighting at Ballinacarriga Castle, Dunmanway, County Cork, to light up the exterior of the castle which would greatly enhance the castle at night; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11079/08]

The Office of Public Works have no plans at present to floodlight Ballinacarriga Castle. A review of the impact of floodlighting on National Monuments in State care is being undertaken at present which will inform future policy in relation to this matter.

Computerisation Programme.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

50 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has plans to assist freight and forwarding agents who use the customs AEP 2 service to adapt to a computerised new system after July 2009 in terms of retraining and equipment grants; and his views on whether the proposed new system is necessary and inevitable. [11088/08]

I assume that the Deputy is referring to the electronic systems that are being introduced throughout the EU from 1 July 2009, under which pre-arrival and pre-departure information will, in certain circumstances, have to be sent electronically to Customs. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that these new systems, which are known as the Import Control System (in respect of pre-arrival information), and the Export Control System Phase 2 (in respect of pre-departure information), are legally required to be put in place in all 27 EU Member States by the July 2009 deadline. The legal instruments underpinning these systems are Council Regulation (EC) No 648/2005 and Commission Regulation (EC) No 1875/2006.

The primary purpose of these new systems is to enable goods to be risk analysed for safety and security purposes in advance of the arrival of those goods into the customs territory of the Community or their departure from it. These systems form part of the European Union's response to a worldwide move to enhance the security of the global supply chain and protect it from, inter alia, terrorist threats. The implementation of these systems is being co-ordinated at EU level and the European Commission, the Customs Authorities of the 27 Member States and Trade Representative Bodies all participate in regular meetings of the Electronic Customs Group, which is the main Working Group overseeing this process at EU level.

At national level, Revenue has already begun the process required for the implementation of these systems. A Communications Programme to explain the requirements to the trade is already underway and a series of seminars are scheduled for the latter half of April. These seminars aim to build upon the information that Revenue has already disseminated regarding the introduction of these systems. Revenue will of course continue to ensure that freight and forwarding agents and other relevant parties are kept fully informed in relation to these changes but it is not envisaged that retraining or equipment grants would be provided. In order to minimise costs for the trade it is Revenue's intention that the new systems will effectively be enhancements to the existing AEP 2 system.

Revenue is aware of the challenges that will be posed by the introduction of these new systems. It looks forward to working with the trade, including freight and forwarding agents, over the coming months to ensure that the necessary preparations are put in place to enable the changes to be successfully implemented in line with the timescale agreed at EU level.

Flood Relief.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

51 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 253 of 30 January 2008, if there has been progress on the issue. [11107/08]

The Office of Public Works have been in contact with Kildare County Council in relation to their request to assist in identifying the cause and possible solutions to the flooding in Johnstown, Co. Kildare. OPW has arranged a meeting with Kildare County Council for Friday the 11th of April and this matter will be discussed.

Pension Provisions.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

52 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the proposals he has to meet the concerns of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford regarding the tax on imputed withdrawals from approved retirement funds from 2007 onwards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11125/08]

The 2006 Budget and Finance Act introduced an imputed or notional distribution of 3% of the value of the assets of an Approved Retirement Fund (ARF) on 31 December each year, where the notional amount will be taxed at the ARF owner's marginal income tax rate. Funds actually drawn down by ARF owners will be credited against the imputed distribution in that year to arrive at a net imputed amount, if any, for the year.

As a transitional measure, the 3% rate is being phased-in over the period 2007 to 2009, with 1% applying in 2007, 2% in 2008 and the full 3% in 2009 and each subsequent year. The new regime applies to ARFs created on or after 6 April 2000 where the ARF holder is 60 years of age or over for the whole of a tax year. The new provisions do not impact on Approved Minimum Retirement Funds (AMRFs), although funds drawn from an individual's AMRF can also be credited against the individual's imputed ARF distribution. This measure was introduced because the internal review of tax relief for pensions provision undertaken by my Department and the Revenue Commissioners in 2005 (which was published in early 2006) found that the ARF option was largely not being used as intended to fund an income stream in retirement, but instead was being used to build up funds in a tax-free environment over the long-term.

The imputed distribution measure is designed to encourage the use of ARFs as intended. The level of the imputed distribution at 3% is not excessive, especially since ARFs are supposed to provide an income stream in retirement for their owners and that actual drawdowns can be credited against the imputed amount. Given the rationale for the introduction of the measure, I do not have any plans at this time to introduce a threshold on the value of an ARF below which the notional distribution arrangements would not apply.

Tax Code.

James Bannon

Ceist:

53 Deputy James Bannon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reason a nursing home (details supplied) in County Longford does not qualify for a tax rebate for those paying for an elderly relation, when others outside Ireland, including a number in Scotland, France and the US, along with numerous others listed on his Department’s website are approved and that assurances were given that the particular nursing home was approved and did qualify; the reason so few nursing homes are approved in County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11140/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the nursing home in question is not currently on the list of approved institutions for the purposes of Section 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 as no request has been received to have the institution added to the list. The list in question is maintained by the Revenue Commissioners and can be accessed at http://www.revenue.ie/ index.htm?/publications/lists/approved-hospitals.htm.Section 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 defines "hospital" as meaning:

(a) any institution which is provided and maintained by the Health Service Executive for the provision of services pursuant to the Health Acts, 1947 to 2004.

(b) any institution in which services are provided on behalf of the Health Service Executive pursuant to the Health Acts, 1947 to 2004

(c) any hospital, nursing home, maternity home or other institution approved of for the purposes of this section by the Minister for Finance after consultation with the Minister for Health and Children;

In order for a nursing home to qualify for tax relief under section 469, an individual acting on behalf of the nursing home or, indeed, a person who wishes to claim for health expenses incurred in the nursing home, should request that it be approved. This can be done by contacting the Income Tax Policy Section, Department of Finance, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2, who will consult with the Department of Health and Children as required under Section 469. These rules apply equally in relation to all Counties.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

54 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on a VAT exemption inquiry (details supplied). [11148/08]

The position is that the VAT rating of goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. In this regard, I would point out that the rate of VAT that applies to a particular good or service depends on the nature of the good or service and not on the status of the consumer. Accordingly, there is no provision in EU law that would permit the removal or reduction of VAT based on the social, medical or economic status of the consumer. In relation to the VAT rate that applies to wigs, the position is that under the EU VAT Directive Member States may retain the zero rates on goods and services that were in place on 1 January 1991, but cannot extend zero-rating to other goods and services. The zero VAT rate cannot therefore be applied to wigs in general. The supply of wigs for children under 11 years of age would qualify for zero rating as an item of children's clothing.

In addition, Member States may only apply a reduced VAT rate to those goods and services that are listed under Annex III of the VAT Directive. While Annex III does include the supply of medical equipment, aids and other appliances normally intended to alleviate or treat disability, for the exclusive personal use of a disabled person, it does not include wigs. Thus, the reduced rate cannot be applied to the supply of wigs. Therefore, apart from wigs for children under 11 years of age, the only rate of VAT that can apply to the supply of wigs is the standard VAT rate, which in Ireland is 21%.

However, I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, in the case of persons suffering from cancer, the full VAT-inclusive cost of a wig qualifies for income tax relief at the individual's marginal rate of tax under the heading of health expenses.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

55 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the tax free allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11168/08]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a certificate of tax credits and standard rate cut-off point issued to the taxpayer on 31 January 2008, which incorporated tax credits amounting to €5,490 per annum and standard rate band of €39,400 per annum. However, the taxpayer's income from the Department of Social and Family Affairs had not previously been declared to the Revenue Commissioners. Therefore, the taxpayer's tax credits and standard rate band will require to be adjusted accordingly. A revised certificate of tax credits and standard rate cut-off point will issue to the taxpayer in the coming days, which will reduce the taxpayer's tax credits to €2,742.32 per annum and the standard rate band to €25,661.60.

The taxpayer's employment income has not been subject to income tax in 2008, as her tax credits have been sufficient to offset any liability to tax. Based on her current level of employment income, the revised amounts of tax credits and standard rate band will not alter that position.

Tax Yield.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

56 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will provide a county breakdown of income tax, VAT, stamp duty and corporation profit tax for 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11186/08]

In response to previous similar Parliamentary Questions answered on 4 December 2007 estimated data for the years 2002-2006 was supplied by the Revenue Commissioners. The information furnished on tax returns does not generally require the yield relating to a county to be identified and as such certain assumptions had to be made in supplying the information. As regards data for 2007, I am further advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the necessary detailed information which would provide a basis for estimating the breakdown of yields in 2007 from Income Tax, VAT, and Corporation Tax is not as yet sufficiently complete or reliable to enable such an estimate to be provided at this time. Furthermore, it will be some time before Revenue will be able to supply information similar to that supplied for the previous years.

Public Transport.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

57 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he expects the Government to borrow to adequately fund the completion of Transport 21; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11193/08]

As I said at the time of the launch of Transport 21, the unprecedented levels of investment envisaged under that investment framework depend on our continued prudent management of the public finances and compliance with the Stability and Growth Pact. Therefore the level of borrowing that is appropriate will be determined by Government in light of the range of economic and budgetary circumstances that obtain each year. I remain strongly of the view that the provision of quality infrastructure is vital to our future competitiveness, and I consider the programme of investment set out under the Transport 21 plan will be a key feature in securing sustainable, long-term social and economic prosperity.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

58 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has had contact in 2008 with the Department of Transport regarding the cost of Transport 21; if there have been communications regarding concerns over public transport investment financing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11194/08]

As part of our normal duties of Government, I and my Cabinet colleagues regularly discuss and monitor Government expenditure across all of our key sectors, including transport. This is part of providing strong and prudent management of the public finances. Transport 21 is an unprecedented and ambitious programme for investing over €34 billion in projects that will transform our national transport infrastructure. My colleague, the Minister for Transport, together with his Department and the relevant transport agencies, is managing the delivery of his programme of transport projects within this framework.

Health Service Staff.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

59 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the long waiting list for speech and language assessment in north Clondalkin, Dublin 22 and the adverse effect this is having on pupils in national schools in the area with speech and language difficulties and the need to fill the vacancy for a full-time speech and language therapist at a centre (details supplied) as soon as possible; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11068/08]

The recruitment pause put in place in September 2007 was initiated as part of the HSE financial break-even plan to facilitate the delivery of services on budget in accordance with the provisions of the 2007 National Service Plan. This temporary pause in recruitment ended on 31st December 2007 and any posts falling vacant from 1st January 2008 can be filled subject to the provisions of a detailed employment control circular issued by the HSE on January 8th. During this recruitment pause, the HSE put in place a derogation process to deal with the filling of essential posts to protect front-line services and close to 900 posts were approved under this process.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of the Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter 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 to the Deputy. With regard to the Deputy's previous Parliamentary Question on this matter, I understand that the HSE has issued a reply to the Deputy.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

60 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on including a medical condition (details supplied) as a long-term illness under the drugs payment scheme. [11030/08]

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

Products which are necessary for the management of the specified illness are available to LTI patients. Other products are available according to the patient's eligibility. People who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. In the assessment process, the Health Service Executive can take into account medical costs incurred by an individual or a family. Those who are not eligible for a medical card may still be able to avail of a GP visit card, which covers the cost of general practice consultations.

Non-medical card holders and people whose illness is not covered by the LTI can use the Drug Payment Scheme, which protects against excessive medicines costs. Under this scheme, no individual or family unit pays more than €90 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. The scheme is easy to use and significantly reduces the cost burden for families and individuals incurring ongoing expenditure on medicines. In addition, non-reimbursed medical expenses above a set threshold may be offset against tax.

National Lottery Funding.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

61 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason it took from 23 February 2007 to 27 February 2008 for a decision on an application for grant assistance under national lottery funding to be issued (details supplied). [11033/08]

The application referred to by the Deputy was received in my Department on the 26th of February 2007. Following registration, the application was acknowledged to both the Deputy and the organisation in question. The application was then issued for assessment by the appropriate line division. As the Deputy will be aware lottery applications are generally awarded in two tranches, in July and in December. Any applications which are not successful in the first tranche are considered again in the context of the funds remaining for the second tranche. Unfortunately, the applications for funding in 2007 greatly exceeded the available resources and it was not possible to assist this organisation on this occasion. Officials, from my Department wrote to the applicant on 21st December advising them of this decision and suggesting that they consider re-applying in 2008. To date, no further application has been received.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

62 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding for home care packages allocated in the Health Service Executive budget for the Kildare-west Wicklow area of the HSE for 2008; the number of applications received for the home care package to date in 2008; if the number of applications is greater than the funds permit, if extra funding will be made available through her Department to meet the shortfall of funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11035/08]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

73 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if there have been changes in the amount of funding allocated to home care packages for 2008; if the amount paid to those that qualify under this scheme will remain the same as in previous years; if there have been changes in the amount of hours offered to those that qualify; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11077/08]

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

74 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of moneys allocated in the Health Service Executive budget for Kildare-west Wicklow for 2008; the number of applications received for home care packages for this area to date in 2008; if she is confident that a shortfall between the amount of money allocated and the number of applications received will be made available from her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11078/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 62, 73 and 74 together.

Home Care Packages are an additional support over and above existing mainstream community services and are used to maintain an older person at home via additional supports and therapy services. They are designed to be flexible and are particularly targeted at those at risk of admission to long-term care, inappropriate admission to acute hospital or requiring discharge home from acute hospital. The initiative formally commenced in 2006, following a pilot programme in 2005. Very significant funding of €110 million was provided over the years 2006 and 2007 to develop the new Home Care Package Initiative. In 2007, the Health Service Executive had put in place 4,350 packages, which benefitted in excess of 10,500 clients.

Budget 2008 provided an additional €10m for further expansion in the Home Care Package area. For 2008, the total amount allocated for Home Care Packages therefore will be €120m. This will result in a total of just over 4,700 packages, benefitting an estimated 11,500 people.

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. The allocation of resources is a matter for the Executive in accordance with the overall priorities for particular services as set out in its Service Plan. This includes the provision of Home Care Packages at local level. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular matters 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.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

63 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is an 18 month to two-year waiting time to have clients seeking wheelchairs or other medical aids to be assessed by an occupational therapist in the Health Service Executive west area, and that this is due to a lack of staff in the occupational therapy area; the steps she will take to alleviate this serious situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11044/08]

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

64 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (detail supplied) in County Mayo will receive their payment under the health repayment scheme. [11058/08]

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. 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.

Suicide Incidence.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

65 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of suicides recorded in the Cork and Kerry area in each of the past five years; the number of mental health resource officers dealing specifically with suicide prevention in the Cork and Kerry area; the amount of funding provided to the mental health resource officers in these areas in each of the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11061/08]

Data on mortality is compiled by the Central Statistics Office and published in the Annual and Quarterly Reports on Vital Statistics. The information in relation to suicides in 2007 is not yet available. The number of deaths by suicide in Cork and Kerry for the years 2002 to 2006 is shown below.

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Cork

62

80

60

53

73

Kerry

13

19

17

12

15

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 matter 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.

Hospital Services.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

66 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason all the women who had mammograms carried out at Midlands Regional Hospital, Portlaoise, have not been formally written to, informing them of the results, even if these results were negative; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11062/08]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

67 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Laois who had a mammogram carried out at Midlands Regional Hospital, Portlaoise, has not been formally written to informing them of the result; when they will be contacted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11063/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66 and 67 together.

The HSE has advised my Department that 3,037 mammograms of patients who attended the Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise were reviewed by Dr. Ann O'Doherty and her team in St. Vincent's University Hospital, Dublin. A number of these patients were called for further assessment in St. Vincent's. All patients who attended for assessment had their imaging reported during the clinic and patients with normal results were given these results orally prior to leaving the clinic. A small number were identified as requiring biopsy. These biopsies were carried out at the initial visit and arrangements were made with the patients to receive their biopsy results following discussion of these results by the consultant team at a multidisciplinary meeting. The issue of writing to patients who did not require any follow up following initial review of their mammogram was discussed between the HSE and my officials. Following this it was agreed by the HSE not to issue individual letters to those patients who did not require reassessment.

A number of press releases which issued during August and September 2007 also stated that patients affected would be contacted directly by the HSE or any patient requiring reassessment would be contacted. The same press releases issued to national, local, broadcast and print media carried the details of a helpline in operation at the hospital for people who needed further information.

The Deputy's specific question in relation to the named individual relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the HSE under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to respond directly to the Deputy in this regard.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

68 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if St. Martins ward, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Limerick, has been relocated to a ward in the main building as was planned for March 2007. [11070/08]

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 matter 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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

69 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if the high observation area 5B, Mid-Western Regional Hospital will commence construction in March 2008. [11071/08]

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.

Hospital Staff.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

70 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if a consultant psychiatry position is being filled to act as a clinical director of St. Martins ward, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Limerick. [11072/08]

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 matter 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.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

71 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 101 of 14 February 2008, the position regarding the issue of interest owing to long-stay patients and the recommendations and conclusion as a result of these meetings; the estimate of the value of interest which is owed to patients; when repayment will commence; the cost of the administration of this repayment programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11074/08]

The Department has been advised by the Health Service Executive (HSE) that it is progressing with the task of transferring past interest retained on invested Patient Private Property Accounts. A process to undertake this transfer, initially for the period 2005-2006, has been agreed and the HSE is now making final arrangements to commence repayments.

The HSE is currently in discussion with the Revenue Commissioners to seek agreement that any interest owed to clients will not have a tax implication for either individual clients or for the HSE. The Department has been advised by the HSE that it is working on proposals to refund interest retained on the investment of PPP funds prior to 2005. Until these proposals are agreed, the HSE has indicated that it will not be in a position to provide estimates of the cost of administering these refunds. The overall estimate for total refund of interest remains as previously advised, approximately €31m or approximately €48m when adjusted for inflation by reference to the Consumer Price Index.

Proposed Legislation.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

72 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the position of the new nursing home scheme, A Fair Deal; when she will introduce same; when she envisages the scheme becoming available to the public; if there are problems with its introduction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11075/08]

The Bill providing for the Fair Deal Scheme is being finalised by the Office of the Attorney General at present. The legislation is complex, demanding careful consideration in the course of drafting. My colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, intends to publish the Bill as soon as possible following finalisation by the Attorney General and Government approval, and to bring the legislation through the Houses of the Oireachtas thereafter. Finally, it is envisaged that the scheme will be made available to the public as soon as all the necessary legal and administrative arrangements are in place.

Questions Nos. 73 to 74 answered with Question No. 62.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

75 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a matter (details supplied). [11082/08]

The Government is committed to providing a high quality service to all people with a disability as illustrated by the substantial investment in the disability sector over the last number of years. An integral part of the National Disability Strategy is the Multi-Annual Investment Programme, published in December 2004, which contains details of specific commitments in relation to the provision of high priority disability services over the period 2006 to 2009. These commitments include the development of new residential, respite and day places for persons with intellectual disability and autism in each of the years covered by the programme. Additional funding was also provided to enhance the level and range of multi-disciplinary support services, available to adults and children with intellectual, physical and sensory disabilities and those with autism.

Prior to the establishment of the HSE, different approaches had emerged throughout the country in relation to service delivery for individuals with autism. Early intervention services exist in many parts of the country, some of which are run by the Health Service Executive and others are run by the non-statutory agencies, but there are inconsistencies in their approach and delivery. The HSE is committed to redesigning these services in line with its Transformation Programme and current best practice.

My Department is currently preparing legislation to clarify and update existing legislation on eligibility for health and personal social services (which would incorporate autism services). The Eligibility for Health and Personal Social Services Bill will define specific health and personal services more clearly; define who should be eligible for what services; set out clear criteria for eligibility; establish when and in what circumstances charges may be made and provide for an appeals framework. It is expected that proposals will be submitted to Government in the first half of 2008.

At present, representatives of the Department of Health and Children, Department of Education and Science, the Health Service Executive and the National Council for Special Education meet on a monthly basis to address issues arising in relation to the implementation of the Disability Act, 2005 for children under 5 years, which commenced on 1 June last. The group is also planning for the roll out of Part 2 of the Disability Act, 2005 and the Education for Persons with Special Needs Act, 2004 to children between 5 and 18 years and to adults. Issues in relation to the timely and appropriate provision of health and education supports to children with a range of disabilities including autism are being considered in the context of these discussions.

The recently-established Office for Disability and Mental Health will focus in particular on facilitating the delivery of integrated health and education support services for children with special needs, by further developing these existing mechanisms for co-operation and co-ordination between the health and education sectors.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

76 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will respond to a query (details supplied). [11083/08]

Throughout the country different approaches have emerged in relation to service delivery for individuals with autism. Early Intervention Services exist in many parts of the country. Some are run by the Health Service Executive and others are run by the non-statutory agencies. At present there are inconsistencies in approach and delivery of early services. The Health Service Executive is committed to redesigning these services in line with the transformation programme and best practice.

The Deputy's specific question in relation to the national review of autism services relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Ambulance Service.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

77 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange for five additional ambulances to be provided for Dublin Fire Brigade as an urgent priority. [11089/08]

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 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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

78 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients awaiting orthopaedic appointments at Beaumont Hospital; the consultant rheumatologist/patient ratio nationally; and the number of patients on waiting lists nationally for neurology/urology, ophthalmology and plastic surgery. [11090/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. The management of waiting lists for non-surgical procedures is an operational matter for the HSE and the hospitals involved. My Department has therefore requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange for a reply directly to the Deputy on the issues raised.

Statutory responsibility for the collation, management and publication of data on waiting times and numbers of persons waiting for surgical procedures rests with the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF). My Department has, therefore, asked the Chief Executive of the NTPF to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the information requested.

Health Services.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

79 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to the response received from the Health Service Executive in relation to Parliamentary Question No. 155 of 28 November 2007, if solutions to reduce the waiting times have been found following the review of service provision. [11102/08]

Child health examinations are provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to children under 6 years of age and all primary level pupils in accordance with Section 66 of the Health Act, 1970. Under Section 67 of that Act, such children are eligible for HSE ophthalmic services in respect of problems noted at child health examinations. As the Health Service Executive has the operational and funding responsibility for Primary Care services, it is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy. My Department requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter raised in his earlier questions (155 of 28 November 2007 and 486 of 30 January 2008) investigated and I understand that replies issued directly to the Deputy on 17th January and 29th January 2008 respectively.

My Department has again requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have an update issued directly to the Deputy on the outcome of the review of the provision of child optical services for the Maynooth and Naas areas.

Care of the Elderly.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

80 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that the provision of additional public nursing homes in County Kildare is included in the Health Service Executive draft capital plan for 2008 which is presently with her for approval. [11110/08]

As the Deputy will appreciate, 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. This includes prioritising projects at local level to be progressed each year, in line with its overall funding resources. A draft Capital Plan 2008 has recently been completed by the Executive. This is at present being considered in detail by my Department , in conjunction with the Department of Finance. It is my intention that this process should be completed as quickly as possible. The Plan will be published as a whole upon its approval. In the circumstances, it would not be appropriate to indicate at this stage what additional public nursing home provision will be approved for specific areas of the country.

Health Services.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

81 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children and adults awaiting assessment for occupational therapy in Kildare and west Wicklow; and the number of vacant posts filled since the announcement that they were 8.5 posts vacant in the service. [11113/08]

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

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

82 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children when a response will issue in relation to Parliamentary Question No. 490 of 30 January 2008. [11118/08]

My Department has been informed by the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive that a reply issued to the Deputy on the 18th February last.

Medical Cards.

John Curran

Ceist:

83 Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on making an amendment to the medical card scheme whereby people in receipt of a medical card or general practitioner visit card when reaching age 66 will be entitled to keep the card permanently without any further reviews. [11120/08]

The assessment of eligibility to medical cards and GP visit cards is statutorily a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) and, with the exception of persons aged over 70 who have an automatic entitlement to a medical card, is determined following an examination of the means of the applicant and his/her dependants. Under Section 45 of the Health Act 1970, medical cards are provided for persons who, in the opinion of the HSE, are unable without undue hardship to arrange general practitioner medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants.

Section 58 of the Health Act, 1970, as amended, provided for GP visit cards for adult persons with limited eligibility for whom, in the opinion of the HSE, and notwithstanding that they do not qualify for a medical card, it would be unduly burdensome to arrange GP medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants. The HSE assesses people's entitlement to these benefits on the basis of means. The assessment process also takes account of other factors which may impact on a person's ability to meet the cost of GP services. The HSE has informed me that it has detailed operational guidelines in place for the assessment and review of people's entitlement to a medical card or GP visit card. The purpose of these guidelines is to ensure that every person entitled to a medical card or GP visit card is given the opportunity to avail of their entitlement and that there is a consistency of approach to means-testing nationally.

I consider it appropriate that as a matter of prudent management and governance, the Executive carries out periodic reviews of medical card and GP visit card holders in order to establish whether they continue to be eligible for these benefits. The HSE has indicated that such reviews are conducted in a manner which takes due account of the personal circumstances of the card holder and that arrangements are in place to limit the need for frequent reviews where a review would normally result in the renewal of the medical card or GP visit card, as appropriate.

John Curran

Ceist:

84 Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make changes to the income guidelines governing the issue of medical cards and general practitioner visit cards, bearing in mind that increases in social welfare payments and general pay increases have resulted in people who previously met the criteria for a particular card now exceeding the income guidelines and not having their cards renewed. [11121/08]

The assessment of eligibility to medical cards is statutorily a matter for the HSE and is determined following an examination of the means of the applicant and his/her dependants. Under Section 45 of the Health Act 1970, medical cards are provided for persons who, in the opinion of the HSE, are unable without undue hardship to arrange general practitioner medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants. Section 58 of the Health Act 1970, as amended, provides for GP visit cards for adult persons with limited eligibility for whom, in the opinion of the HSE, and notwithstanding that they do not qualify for a medical card, it would be unduly burdensome to arrange GP medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants. Persons aged 70 and over are statutorily entitled to a medical card, regardless of income. In all other cases an assessment of means is undertaken.

In recent years there have been significant improvements to the way in which people's eligibility for medical cards and GP visit cards is assessed. Since the beginning of 2005, the qualifying guidelines have increased by a cumulative 29%. Assessment is now based on an applicant's and, where relevant, his/her spouse's income after tax and PRSI, and takes account of reasonable expenses incurred in respect of rent or mortgage payments, child care and travel to work. In June 2006, there was a further increase in the qualifying threshold for the GP visit card to 50% above that for a medical card. Furthermore, under the assessment guidelines, persons whose weekly incomes are derived solely from Social and Family Affairs payments or HSE payments, even if these exceed the stated thresholds, qualify for a medical card.

The Programme for Government commits to the following:

Indexing the income thresholds for medical cards to increases in the average industrial wage;

Doubling of the income limit eligibility of parents of children under 6 years of age, and trebling them for parents of children under 18 years of age with an intellectual disability.

My Department is currently reviewing all legislation relating to eligibility for health and personal social services with a view to making the system as fair and transparent as possible. As part of this exercise, a review of the eligibility criteria for medical cards in the context of financial, medical and social need is being undertaken and is expected to be completed by autumn 2008. When that review is completed, it is my intention to consider how best to progress the commitments in the Programme for Government in relation to medical card eligibility.

Hospital Staff.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

85 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children if the long promised suicide nurse will be appointed at Tallaght Hospital. [11124/08]

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 matter 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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

86 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if a hospital bed will be approved for a person (detail supplied) in County Cork. [11126/08]

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 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.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

87 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason occupational therapy is not available at a school for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11141/08]

The recruitment pause put in place in September 2007 was initiated as part of the HSE financial break-even plan to facilitate the delivery of services on budget in accordance with the provisions of the 2007 National Service Plan. This temporary pause in recruitment ended on 31st December 2007 and any posts falling vacant from 1st January 2008 can be filled subject to the provisions of a detailed employment control circular issued by the HSE on January 8th. During this recruitment pause, the HSE put in place a derogation process to deal with the filling of essential posts to protect front-line services and close to 900 posts were approved under this process.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of the Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. The Deputy's specific question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

88 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when orthodontic treatment will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11142/08]

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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

89 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim who is an inpatient in St. Patrick’s Hospital, Carrick-on-Shannon has not succeeded in getting transferred to a Health Service Executive home in Mohill despite the fact they are at the top of the waiting list since mid-2007. [11145/08]

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. 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.

National Health Strategy.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

90 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the actions which have been taken to date by her Department to implement the council on stroke of the Irish Heart Foundation recommendations in 2000 to address the lack of adequate supports to address stroke victims and those prone to a stroke; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11152/08]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

91 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the actions she will take to provide an overall national and regional policy on stroke within the Irish health service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11153/08]

David Stanton

Ceist:

95 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the availability of community based stroke services across the country; the services on offer and locations of same; her plans for the development of an integrated, community based, multidisciplinary stroke rehabilitation services network; the targets that have been set in relation to same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11196/08]

David Stanton

Ceist:

97 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number, with regard to the recommendations made in 2000 by the Irish Heart Foundation’s council on stroke, of these that have been adopted and implemented, in particular in relation to prevention and health promotion, acute treatment and rehabilitation, community rehabilitation and establishment of a stroke register; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11198/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 90, 91, 95 and 97 together.

In September last year Minister Harney established a Cardiovascular Health Policy Group to draw up a new policy framework for the development of all aspects of cardiovascular health, including stroke. The Group is scheduled to report in May 2008. The work of the Group will, inter alia, be informed by the report of the Irish Heart Foundation's Council on Stroke and a national audit of stroke services carried out by the Irish Heart Foundation with funding from my Department. The results of this audit will be published shortly.

Current service availability and plans for development of stroke services are matters which relate 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 these matters investigated and to have replies issued directly to the Deputies.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

92 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon will be called for a procedure; the reason for the delay in same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11154/08]

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 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.

Patients waiting more than three months on a surgical waiting list may qualify for treatment under the National Treatment Purchase Fund. It is open to the person in question or anyone acting on their behalf to contact the Fund directly in relation to their case.

Hospital Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

93 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when post mortem results will issue in the case of a person (details supplied); if a death certificate will issue in this case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11171/08]

The provision of post mortem examinations in public hospitals is a matter for the hospital concerned in the first instance. Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of public hospital services was assigned to 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. The Civil Registration Act 2004, which provides for the registration of deaths, is within the remit of my colleague the Minister for Social and Family Affairs.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

94 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. [11172/08]

Persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services qualify for a medical card, which entitles them to a range of health services free of charge. 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 did not qualify for a medical card, would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP. The assessment of eligibility for medical cards and GP visit cards is statutorily a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) and, with the exception of persons aged 70 and over, who have an automatic statutory entitlement to a medical card, is determined following an examination of the means of the applicant and his/her dependants (income and relevant outgoings). The GP visit card assessment threshold is 50% higher than the medical card threshold.

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.

Question No. 95 answered with Question No. 90.

Health Services.

David Stanton

Ceist:

96 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number, with regard to community based primary care services, of multidisciplinary teams established on a pilot basis in 2001; the locations of same; if this model of service delivery has been proven to be effective; if it has since been expanded; the targets set in relation to same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11197/08]

The Primary Care Strategy aims to develop services in the community to give people direct access to integrated mutli-disciplinary teams of general practitioners, nurses, home helps, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and others. It has been estimated that up to 95% of people's health and social services needs can be properly met within a primary care setting and the establishment of new Primary Care Teams can contribute greatly to enhancing community based health services.

In October 2002 my Department approved the establishment of ten primary care implementation projects — one in each of the former health board areas, with funding to enable existing staff resources within the public system to be augmented. These initial 10 fully-fledged Primary Care Teams were established from 2003 onwards and enabled the primary care model to be demonstrated in action. The teams were located at Arklow, Ballymun, Cashel, Erris, the Liberties, Lifford, Portarlington, Virginia, West Kerry and West Limerick. The Health Service Executive has indicated that a review of the ten implementation primary care projects was undertaken in the second quarter of 2006 and that significant points of learning have been taken from these teams and used to inform the process of primary care team development generally. The HSE received additional funding of €40m over the period 2006 to 2008 for the establishment of some 200 primary care teams involving 600 front line professionals.

The Government has committed under the Towards 2016 agreement to the establishment of 300 Primary Care teams by 2008; 400 by 2009 and 500 by 2011. A review of these targets is due to be undertaken in 2008. I have emphasised to the Health Service Executive the importance which I attach to the continued development and roll-out of primary care teams and my Department will monitor progress in this regard throughout the year.

Question No. 97. answered with Question No. 90

Rail Network.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

98 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Transport, further to Parliamentary Question No. 567 of 30 January 2008, if there has been a successful conclusion to the discussions between Iarnród Éireann and the local authorities regarding the removal of level crossings. [11108/08]

I am informed by Iarnród Éireann that the position on this project is unchanged from that set out in my reply to PQ No. 567 on 30th January 2008.

Vehicle Registration.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

99 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the number of vehicles registered for use on roads in Dublin, Wicklow, Meath and Kildare in 2007, distinguishing cars, motorcycles and goods vehicles and classifying them by broad engine capacity categories. [11119/08]

The tabular statements below sets out the details requested by the Deputy.

Table 1: Number of Private Cars by Engine Capacity in Counties Dublin, Wicklow, Meath and Kildare in 2007.

Number of Private Cars by Engine Capacity

Year

County

ENGINE CAPACITY (CUBIC CENTIMETRES)

Up to 900

901 – 1000

1001 – 1100

1101 – 1200

1201 – 1300

1301 – 1400

1401 – 1500

1501 – 1600

1601 – 1700

1701 – 1800

1801 – 1900

1901 – 2000

2001 – 2500

2501 and over

Total

2007

Kildare

311

7,231

393

6,454

6,561

21,981

2,698

12,896

314

5,505

5,852

9,286

3,376

2,785

85,643

Meath

214

5,663

303

5,272

5,275

18,987

2,662

10,966

293

4,615

6,379

8,722

3,033

2,327

74,711

Wicklow

406

5,312

314

3,914

5,197

14,897

1,948

8,553

181

3,889

3,827

6,857

2,520

2,341

60,156

Dublin

2,700

47,215

2,850

33,395

46,627

122,682

17,471

77,926

1,259

39,713

20,357

51,126

17,620

17,898

498,839

All Counties

7,811

164,667

9,402

121,563

158,318

506,102

62,901

286,834

8,192

117,465

132,152

198,687

61,020

47,787

1,882,901

Table 2: Number of Goods Vehicles by Unladen Weight in Counties Dublin, Wicklow, Meath and Kildare in 2007.

Number of Goods Vehicles by Unladen Weight in each Licensing Authority Area

Electric:

Unladen Weight Expressed in Kilograms

Year

County

Up to 1270

Exc. 1270

Up to 813

814 – 1016

1017 – 1270

1271 – 1524

1525 – 2032

2033 – 4064

4065 – 8128

8129 – 9144

9145 –10160

10161 – 11176

11177 – 12192

12193 and over

Total

2007

Kildare

1

0

83

160

2,734

1,738

6,240

2,512

525

107

121

198

266

576

15,261

Meath

0

0

58

208

2,812

1,840

6,366

2,286

585

112

115

243

261

596

15,482

Wicklow

0

0

63

137

1,520

1,369

4,042

2,071

290

60

55

105

110

263

10,085

Dublin

2

0

667

417

10,947

8,648

27,084

9,681

2,730

740

697

746

661

2,088

65,108

All Counties

5

0

2,362

5,115

65,447

46,164

141,488

46,846

12,058

2,771

2,755

3,872

4,931

12,060

345,874

Table 3: Number of Motor Cycles by Engine Capacity in Counties Dublin, Wicklow, Meath and Kildare in 2007.

Number of Motor Cycles by Engine Capacity in each Licensing Authority

Year

County

Up to 75 c.c.

76 c.c. up to 150 c.c.

151 c.c. up to 250 c.c.

Over 250 c.c.

Total

2007

Kildare

109

204

114

1,572

1,999

Meath

76

127

71

1,261

1,535

Wicklow

102

171

116

1,301

1,690

Dublin

2,261

2,696

925

7,655

13,537

All Counties

4,211

5,601

2,343

25,023

37,178

Public Transport.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

100 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the details of the Exchequer subvention towards the cost of transport services in each year 2000 to 2007 inclusive, distinguishing the subvention to Dublin Bus, DART, LUAS, other Dublin suburban rail, Irish Rail and to Bus Éireann, and indicating the passengers carried by each service in each year. [11187/08]

The information sought by the Deputy is set out below:

Year

Bus Éireann

Dublin Bus

Iarnród Éireann

Luas

Subvention

Pax Nos.

Subvention

Pax Nos.

Subvention

Pax Nos.

Subvention

Pax Nos.

€m.

€m.

€m.

€m.

2000

15,757

84.3

41,189

134.2

133,236

31.72

2001

23,808

87.3

52,377

142.9

146,020

34.21

2002

21,766

89.3

56,063

146.6

155,483

35.4

2003

22,856

91.9

53,867

149.8

168,257

35.56

2004

23,998

90.1

61,810

149.8

171,421

34.55

3,842*

6.6

2005

25,199

92.6

64,900

145.7

179,991

37.65

Nil

22.2

2006

26,459

90.0

69,845

146.3

188,716

43.4

Nil

25.8

2007

31,595

95.7

80,078

147.0

194,911

45.5

Nil

28.4

*€557,545 of this Subvention was paid in 2005.

A breakdown of the subvention across suburban, commuter and intercity rail services is not available to my Department.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

101 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the details of the investment in bus priority measures in Dublin in each of the past five years; and the length of route with bus priority at the end of each year. [11188/08]

My Department is funding the development of bus priority measures in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) through the Traffic Management Grants (TMG) scheme managed by the Dublin Transportation Office. The expenditure on developing the network of bus priority in the GDA in the past five years was as follows:
2003 — €18.5 million
2004 — €27.99 million
2005 — €29.52 million
2006 — €21.91 million
2007 — €32.58 million
The DTO undertook an audit at the end of 2007 of the bus priority network and established that the length of route with bus priority in the GDA is around 190km. At the start of 2003, the equivalent figure was 98kms. Figures for intervening years are not available from the DTO.

Traffic Management.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

102 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the details of the canal cordon counts of journeys by different travel modes in each year since 2000 to date in 2008. [11189/08]

I have been in contact with the Dublin Transportation Office (DTO), and I understand that all available data for the years 2000 to 2005 is published on their website (www.dto.ie) as part of the QBN Monitoring Reports. In the case of 2006, I understand that some data additional to that on the DTO website is available and I have asked the DTO to pass this directly to the Deputy. The data from the 2007 cordon count (conducted last November) is not yet available.`

Public Transport.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

103 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the nature of a recent meeting between himself, local authorities, business organisations, An Garda Síochána, CIÉ and the Railway Procurement Agency; if the outcome of this meeting was to postpone public transport investment projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11190/08]

A number of major Transport 21 projects are planned for the period up to 2015, which will have a major impact on Dublin city centre. These include Metro North, the rail Interconnector and the cross-city and Lucan Luas lines. There will also be other major construction activity during the same period, including the renewal of water and electricity services and a number of large private developments. I met the principal implementing agencies, An Garda Síochána and business representatives on 6 March to get an update on the major Transport 21 projects in Dublin, to identify the principal concerns of the business community and to review progress on traffic planning for the construction phase. I intend that this will be the first in a regular series of meetings to review progress.

It is clear from earlier consultations with Dublin City Council and the Railway Procurement Agency that construction of both Metro North and the cross-city Luas line at the same time would be too disruptive for traffic in Dublin City Centre. I am therefore minded to approve a revised strategy for the construction of the cross-city Luas line which, subject to an enforceable railway order, would involve carrying out works for this line at the same time as the Metro works where the sites for both overlap and the completion of the remaining on-street Luas works after the completion of the on-street Metro works. Off-street Luas works (such as on the old Broadstone railway line) should be able to proceed at the same time as Metro construction. I will make a final decision on this revised strategy when I have considered the views of the relevant agencies and business interests.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

104 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the proposed completion dates and starts dates for public transport investment projects as detailed in Transport 21; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11191/08]

The construction start dates of projects are determined by the outcome of public consultation, the planning approval process and contract negotiations. Indicative completion dates for major projects can be found on the Transport 21 website.

Rail Network.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

105 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the preparatory work and planning that has been done in advance of the massive excavation and construction work due to take place at St. Stephen’s Green; when he expects work on site to commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11192/08]

In October 2006 the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) announced the preferred route for Metro North which includes the St. Stephen's Green underground station. The planned station is to be situated predominantly beneath the North West corner of St. Stephen's Green park. This station will provide for interchange with the proposed Iarnród Éireann Interconnector station located to the east of the Metro station and at a deeper level. It will also provide for interchange with the existing and proposed Luas lines. An extensive combined concourse is planned to serve both the Interconnector and Metro stations and provide for convenient interchange between both Metro and suburban rail services.

Iarnród Éireann and the Railway Procurement Agency are working closely together in designing the station for both Metro North and the Interconnector at St. Stephen's Green and in planning works on the site. The RPA has agreed to undertake advance works for Iarnród Éireann to ensure a timely transition in the work programme for both Metro North and the Interconnector. In addition, Dublin City Council is developing a traffic management strategy to minimise the disruption caused to traffic from works at St. Stephen's Green. The design of the Metro and Interconnector stations was developed within constraints agreed with the Office of Public Works and in consultation with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dublin City Council, and other key stakeholders. RPA hopes to be in a position to lodge an application for a railway order to An Bord Pleanála later this year in respect of Metro North. Works on Metro North will commence following the grant of a railway order.

To facilitate the sensitive heritage and environmental aspects in this area, specialists including conservation architects, archeologists, and arboriculturists are currently being taken on board to advise on these significant matters. RPA has agreed with OPW to carry out advance works including the protection and temporary removal of some existing features which will be reinstated post construction. A detailed landscaping plan to reinstate the park will also be agreed with the OPW. Prior to any work being carried out detailed surveys, reports and photographic records will be commissioned and agreed with OPW.

Human Rights Issues.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

106 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will raise the case of a person (detail supplied) with the Chinese Government to seek their release on humanitarian grounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11199/08]

I am very concerned by the situation of the individual referred to. This case has been repeatedly raised with the Chinese authorities through the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, including at the most recent round held in Beijing in October 2007. This Dialogue is the agreed formal framework through which the EU raises human rights issues and concerns, as well as individual cases of concern. Cases raised during the Dialogue are then followed up in subsequent contacts with the Chinese authorities. My Department has also raised this case directly with the Chinese Embassy here. Human rights are a constant and important subject of dialogue with the Chinese authorities at a bilateral level, where we continually stress the importance the Government attaches to issues such as freedom of expression and freedom of religion.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

107 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will protest to the Egyptian Government about its refusal to allow citizens who have converted to Christianity to have this noted on their state identity papers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11200/08]

As is required in many countries, Egyptian citizens carry identity cards, which are particularly important for their interaction with the institutions of the State. Egyptian identity cards include an entry denoting the religion of the holder. The question of conversion from Islam to any other faith is a very sensitive one in almost all Islamic countries. In the case of Egypt, the general legal position regarding conversion is that citizens can have the entry on their identity card changed, on the provision of proof from the appropriate authorities. However, in practice this process often proves difficult and complex.

Most reported cases of difficulty appear to relate to Coptic Christians who convert to Islam, sometimes because there is no provision for divorce under their religion, and who subsequent to obtaining a divorce then reconvert to Christianity. An important judgment by a higher court in Egypt last month stated that converts from Christianity who decide to return to their original faith can have the entry on their identity cards changed back to reflect this. There is a possibility that this judgement will be appealed, but the general expectation at this stage is that it may represent a resolution of the problem for many people in this category. It is important also to note that the National Council for Human Rights, an official body appointed by the Egyptian Government, has proposed that the entry on religion be removed from identity cards.

We will continue to monitor developments on this issue and on the broader human rights situation through our Embassy in Cairo, and in consultation with a range of Egyptian NGOs. The Government and our EU partners will also continue to raise our concerns about human rights issues in the dialogue with the Egyptian Government, which was enhanced by the adoption last year of the Action Plan under the European Neighbourhood Policy. One of the priorities of the Action Plan is to "promote efforts, in Egypt and the EU, towards increasing tolerance, understanding and respect of all religions and cultures". I hope that the first meeting of a specific subcommittee on political dialogue and human rights, under the Action Plan, will be held in the near future. Human Rights issues will also be addressed at the forthcoming annual meeting of the EU-Egypt Association Council in Luxembourg next month.

Interdepartmental Committees.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

108 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if members have been appointed to the interdepartmental committee charged with the co-ordinated implementation of the national skills strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11069/08]

The interdepartmental Committee will be chaired by myself and will comprise senior officials from the Departments of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Education and Science and Finance.

Community Employment Schemes.

David Stanton

Ceist:

109 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the numbers of persons currently participating in the FÁS community employment scheme: if there is a cap on the number employed; if so, if the cap is applied in the same way in each region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11023/08]

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 open labour market 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. The overall Community Employment numbers have been maintained at a constant level of around 22,500 since 2002. Currently, there are approximately 22,600 individuals availing of CE nationally.

The aim of 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. However, it should be remembered that, in so far as participants remain on CE, they are precluding someone else from benefiting from the programme. FÁS makes every effort to ensure that differing levels of demand between neighbouring schemes are equalised. FÁS also operates the programme flexibly as far as possible to ensure the continuation of community projects.

In conclusion then, I would say that this Government will continue to support the positive role of CE in meeting the needs of long-term unemployed persons while at the same time providing essential services to communities. In this regard, we are keeping the operation of the Scheme under constant review.

Retail Sector.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

110 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the increase or decrease in the price of beer, wine and spirits at supermarkets or off-licences since the abolition of the Groceries (Minimum Prices) Order; and the increase or decrease in a corresponding period prior to the abolition of the order; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11167/08]

Since the abolition of the Groceries Order, the Consumer Price Index shows that the price of alcohol decreased initially by 4.1% during the period March 2006 to December 2006. During this period the price of spirits decreased by 8.1%, wine and cider by 3.3% and beer by 1.3%. Since December 2006, CSO price statistics use that month as a base. The previous base was December 2001. Between January 2007 and January 2008, the price of alcohol has increased by 0.5%, spirits by 1.1%, wine and cider by 0.6% and beer by 0.1%.

In the 12 months prior to the abolition of the Groceries Order, the price of alcohol decreased by 0.3%, spirits — no change, wine and cider by 0.1% and beer by 1.0%, while in the 12 months prior to March 2005, the price of alcohol overall increased by 0.4%, spirits by 0.1%, wine and cider decreased by 0.4% and beer increased by 1.8%. I would like to draw the Deputy's attention to statistics published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which indicate that, apart from a slight dip in 1983, alcohol consumption in Ireland, measured in litres per capita, increased from 4.83 to 11.23 between the period 1970 and 2001. Since 2002, consumption has decreased very slightly from 11.22 to 10.61 in 2005, the last year for which WHO figures are available.

CSO figures indicate increases in the price of alcohol during the period 1976 to 2006. Combined, this WHO and CSO data clearly shows year on year increases in alcohol consumption during a time when price control mechanisms were in place and during which the price of alcohol also increased.

Arts and Sports Funding.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

111 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will amend the relevant legislation regarding arts and sports organisations to ensure that these are required to allocate funding to programmes to promote social and cultural inclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10989/08]

Government Policy on the Arts is set out in the Programme for Government and elaborated further in my Department's Statement of Strategy and my recently published Arts and Culture Plan, 2008. One of the stated objectives of this policy is to encourage and support the strategic development of the arts in local communities, both geographic and communities of interest, for the disadvantaged and for minority groups.

My policy on the arts is to promote and strengthen the arts in all its forms, increase access to and participation in the arts, and to make the arts an integral and valued part of our national life. Consequently, all funding allocated by my Department to the arts is aimed at, inter alia, addressing the issues of cultural participation, access and social inclusion. The Irish Sports Council (ISC), which is funded by my Department, is the statutory body responsible for encouraging the promotion, development and co-ordination of competitive sport and for increasing participation in recreational sport. The ISC's basic philosophy is, therefore, one of inclusion and its Statement of Strategy recognises the potential of sport to be a driver for social change dealing with issues such as exclusion and social inequality.

All sports organisations funded by the ISC, including National Governing Bodies (NGBs) and Local Sports Partnerships (LSPs), are encouraged to target all sections of society in seeking to increase participation in sport. In addition, with the support and cooperation of my Department and Pobal, additional funding has been allocated to the ISC to support various grant schemes including the funding programme "Sports for Disadvantaged Youth". This programme, with funding amounting to almost €2 million, is administered by the ISC and delivered through the existing LSP structures and local authorities where an LSP is not in place. In addition, the ISC is also involved, directly and indirectly, in a number of successful initiatives that seek to encourage cultural inclusion. Typically, these programmes are funded through the National Programme Against Racism (NPAR) administered by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

With regard to the NGBs of sport, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has taken the lead with regard to cultural inclusion. In 2006, the FAI was the first NGB to appoint an Intercultural Programme Co-ordinator and, in 2007, launched its Intercultural Football Plan. In addition, in line with a commitment contained in An Agreed Programme for Government, the level of own funding required from applicants under the 2008 Sports Capital Programme in urban disadvantaged areas has been reduced from 20% to 10%. This covers applicants from RAPID and Local Drugs Task Force areas. It is the view of my Department that amending legislation governing the arts and sport is not the most appropriate way to promote social and cultural inclusion and there are no plans to amend legislation in this regard.

Question No. 112 answered with Question No. 37.

Sports Capital Programme.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

113 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will approve funding for a golf project (details supplied) in County Roscommon under the sports capital programme 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11029/08]

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department, funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The Programme is advertised on an annual basis. Applications for funding under the 2008 Programme were invited through advertisements in the Press on January 13th and 14th last. The closing date for receipt of applications was 29th February for paper-based applications and 7th March for on-line applications. Applications received before the deadline are currently being evaluated against the Programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the Programme. I intend to announce the allocations under this year's Programme after the assessment period is completed.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

114 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will offer a programme of enhanced grant aid for the provision of local and community based indoor sporting and recreational facilities to meet the ongoing and increasing requirements of youths with the objective of providing for recreational needs in competition with competing and sometimes not constructive demands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11157/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

117 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of sporting bodies to which his Department awarded grant aid from the proceeds of the national lottery in 2007; the extent to which funding is expected to be available in 2008 from such organisations for ongoing or other requirements or development works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11160/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

119 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the extent to which he proposes to assist community and youth organisations in 2008 having particular regard to their requirements as set out in the applications for grant aid already submitted to his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11162/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 114, 117 and 119 together.

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department, funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The 2008 programme was advertised on 13th and 14th of January and the deadline for receipt of applications was 29th February for paper-based applications and 7th March for on-line applications. All applications received before the deadline will be evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. Under the 2007 sports capital programme, 935 organisations were allocated funding to the value of €85m. No decision has yet been made regarding the level of allocations to be made under this year's programme.

Decentralisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

115 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the extent to which decentralisation proposals in respect of his Department are completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11158/08]

Following the announcement of the Government's decentralisation programme in the 2004 budget, my Department, which has a staff of 130, excluding the National Archives which is part of my Department, was designated an "early mover" by the Decentralisation Implementation Group. (DIG). To expedite the decentralisation process, temporary premises were secured by the OPW (Office of Public Works) in Fossa in 2006 from which the decentralised sections of my Department currently operate. To date, 70 staff have relocated to the temporary accommodation, in two tranches, 45 staff in September 2006 and 25 staff in July 2007.

I understand that the new permanent building is on target for completion, and it is expected to be furnished, equipped and ready for occupation by the end of the year. The objective is to complete the decentralisation process by the end of 2008 by which time the Department expects to be operating from the Department's new purpose built offices in Killarney.

Tourism Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

116 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his proposals to ensure the future and competitiveness of the tourism industry here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11159/08]

In considering the competitiveness of any industry, a key measure is the extent to which it can maintain and increase market share. We have been fortunate in recent years to enjoy record growth in numbers of overseas visitors and associated revenue. The Central Statistics Office, CSO, figures for 2007 show that we welcomed over 8 million overseas visitors to the Republic of Ireland, with associated foreign revenue earnings of almost €5 billion. While the international tourism market is becoming increasingly competitive, Ireland has consistently outperformed its key competitors in terms of growing the number of overseas visitors to our shores.

With regard to the future, I am pleased that the tourism agencies are forecasting that the Irish tourism industry will show further growth. At a tourism sectoral meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council last November, Minister Nigel Dodds and I approved Tourism Ireland's corporate plan for 2008-10. This plan contains ambitious and challenging targets for tourism for the island of Ireland over the next three years. It aims to increase overseas visitor numbers by between 4.2% and 5.1%, which, if achieved, would mean total overseas visitors to the island of Ireland of over 10.5 million in 2010.

The plan also sets tourism revenue growth targets of between 6.6% and 7.1%, which, if achieved, would mean that overseas tourism would generate up to €16 billion in tourism revenues for the island of Ireland in the three-year period. While the targets are ambitious, there is little doubt that global economic factors such as currency and oil prices are likely to impact on the number of outward travellers from some of our most important markets such as North America and Great Britain. Whereas we have little influence in relation to such global economic factors, our agencies monitor market performance during the year and adjust their marketing campaigns as appropriate.

Among Tourism Ireland's priorities for this year are an even greater focus on e-marketing, continued attention to the car touring market in Great Britain and targeted marketing activity around key access hubs in mainland Europe and North America. In terms of domestic tourism, Fáilte Ireland will continue to focus on key issues relating to product development, enterprise development, regional development, environment, education and training, and advocacy. In terms of targets, Fáilte Ireland has a target of achieving annual average growth of 3.7% in domestic holidays for the period to 2012.

Maintaining and enhancing competitiveness is a major issue for Irish tourism as it is for the economy as a whole. In addressing that issue, it is important to bear in mind that competitiveness is about more than price and costs. It is generally agreed that Ireland cannot and, indeed, should not attempt to compete on the basis of costs with mass tourism destinations. The tourism agencies continue to monitor Ireland's competitiveness as a tourism destination and I am encouraging them to assist the industry in responding to changing conditions through a variety of programmes in marketing, human resource development, quality enhancement, product development and productivity. By doing this I am confident that the ambitious targets I outlined for the island of Ireland can be met.

Question No. 117 answered with Question No. 114.

Arts Funding.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

118 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the extent to which he will fund the promotion of the arts in 2008 as compared with previous years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11161/08]

Funding for the Arts in 2008 is set out in the Revised Estimates for the Public Services 2008, and in particular, Vote 33 on pages 154 — 155 and Vote 35 on pages 164 — 167. I also refer the Deputy to the Arts and Culture Plan 2008, published by me some weeks ago, and available on my Department's website www.dast.gov.ie, and in particular Section 2 and Appendix II of that plan.

Question No. 119 answered with Question No. 114.

Stadium Projects.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

120 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position in regard to the National Stadium; when the project is expected to proceed to conclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11163/08]

The redevelopment of Croke Park has been completed and work on the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road is ongoing with a completion date of 2010. These facilities will meet the stadium needs of our three main field sports. The Government approved, in November 2005, the commencement of Phase One of the development of the National Sports Campus on the basis of a Development Control Plan prepared by Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Company Ltd (CSID) — the predecessor of the National Sports Campus Development Authority (NSCDA). These facilities will be designed to meet the indoor and outdoor training needs of Irish elite sportspersons who compete at national and international levels and will also provide for the needs of the local community.

The Government decision for this stage of development included agreement to move the HQ of the FAI to the former State Laboratory building at Abbotstown. Work on the building was completed and the FAI took possession of the building in December last year. It is also intended to provide a headquarters for the Institute for Sport by refurbishing an existing building on the site. The NSCDA expects to be in a position to finalise the appointment of the Design and Project Management teams for the project shortly. It is then the intention of the Authority to have detailed plans prepared, for the implementation of Phase One, and it is estimated that planning permission will be sought later this year.

The Abbotstown facilities, when completed will provide a much needed range of training and competitive facilities for our finest sportspersons. Through the National Aquatic Centre a top world class sports facility has already been provided. Now being progressed is the development of a state of the art complex of quality facilities to serve a wide spectrum of sport activities and disciplines which will benefit elite sports persons and the local community alike. The first phase of the project will comprise a National Field Sports Training Centre catering for rugby, soccer, Gaelic games and hockey; a National Indoor Training Centre which will provide world class training facilities for over 20 National Governing Bodies of Sport; accommodation for sports men and women; sports science and medical facilities, and all-weather synthetic pitches for community use.

Question No. 121 answered with Question No. 22.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

122 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs further to a previous parliamentary question reply (details supplied), the further evidence he requires from the person referred to in the reply. [11026/08]

Following receipt of further information from the person concerned on 7 March 2008 regarding his self-employment status, a Deciding Officer re-assessed his weekly means as nil from 28 January 2008. This assessment entitles him to a jobseeker's allowance payment at the maximum weekly rate, which in his case, is €425.10 from that date. A first payment, including arrears, will issue to him on 19 March 2008.

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

123 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason it takes on average six months to process applications in respect of family income supplement; his views on whether this time is appropriate, having regard to the circumstances of applicants for this payment; and if he will make a statement on the way he will speed up the process. [11040/08]

My Department has consistently publicised the FIS scheme in order to maximise uptake by qualified families. Significant improvements in the qualifying income limits and ongoing awareness campaigns have resulted in a strong upward trend in the level of new claims and, consequently, in claims for renewals. Entitlement to FIS is based on an applicant satisfying a means test and on certification of employment by the employer, which adds to the time taken to process claims.

There are currently some 23,400 people in receipt of a weekly FIS payment. In 2007, my Department received 36,900 new and renewal FIS claims compared to 33,000 in 2006 and 23,000 in 2005 — an increase of over 60% on 2005 and 11% on 2006. In the first 10 weeks of 2008 over 9,000 new and renewal claims were received compared to some 7,900 in the same period in 2007 — an increase of 14%. However almost all renewal claims are still in payment. The average time taken to award a FIS claim or renewal in 2007 was just under 12 weeks. The average time in 2006 was just under 8 weeks.

The Department introduced a number of measures to address the efficiency of claim processing for FIS as follows: a review of existing processes and procedures has been undertaken with the explicit objective of reducing delays in claim processing; priority is being given to claims where a claim is being renewed to ensure continuity of payment; the ongoing staffing requirement was recently reviewed in light of the increased volumes of claims; overtime working is being judiciously applied; and 5 extra temporary staff started this week in an effort to eliminate the backlog. These measures will, over time, lead to more efficient processing and reduce the number of claims on hand. The position is being closely monitored and kept under review by my Department.

Decentralisation Programme.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

124 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the progress to date in the proposed decentralisation of the 262 information and communications technology posts to Drogheda; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11053/08]

Under the current decentralisation programme, the Department's Information and Communications Technology Division (ICT) is designated to relocate to Drogheda. The Office of Public Works (OPW) is charged with securing accommodation in Drogheda for this Department. That Office have advised that they have purchased sites in Drogheda to accommodate the Department's Headquarters Staff, a new Social Welfare Local Office, the Social Welfare Appeals Office and the Citizens Information Board. At this time, there is no indicative timeframe from the OPW regarding the availability of accommodation for the ICT Division. The Department will ensure that plans are in place to facilitate the decentralisation at the appropriate time.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

125 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position in relation to an application by a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath for mortgage allowance under the supplementary welfare scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11138/08]

The Health Service Executive has advised that the person concerned made an application for a mortgage interest supplement in January 2008. Documentation indicating current employment status was requested from him but has not been provided to date. The person concerned should contact the community welfare officer dealing with the application in question and provide the relevant documentation so that entitlement to mortgage interest supplement can be determined.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

126 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if an exceptional needs payment will be made in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11174/08]

The Health Service Executive has advised that the persons concerned were refused a mortgage interest supplement on the grounds that their means were in excess of the limits prescribed having regard to their personal circumstances. It is open to them to appeal this decision to the Executive's Appeals Office. The Executive has further advised that it has not received an application from the persons concerned for an exceptional needs payment under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme to assist with mortgage arrears. The persons concerned should contact the community welfare office in their area so that any entitlement they may have can be determined.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

127 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of appeals made to the director of customer services information and appeals arising from a refusal in respect of supplementary welfare and rent in each of the past five years to date; the number granted, refused or pending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11178/08]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme (SWA), including rent supplement, is administered on my behalf by the Community Welfare division of the Health Service Executive (HSE). Under existing arrangements, an appeal against a decision for entitlement to SWA is made in the first instance to the designated appeals office in the HSE. A person may, if they so wish, make a subsequent appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office, if they are dissatisfied with the decision of the HSE appeals office. Details of the number of supplementary welfare allowance appeals to the HSE Appeals Office in 2006 are provided in Table 1 in the following tabular statement. The HSE has advised that complete records for the years 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007 are currently being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy in the near future.

Statistics on the number of supplementary welfare allowance decisions appealed to the Social Welfare Appeals Office are provided in Table 2 of the following tabular statement.

Table 1: Supplementary Welfare Allowance Appeals to Health Service Executive's Appeals Office — 2006

Year

Received

Granted

Refused

2006

6,214

1,640

3,469

Table 2: Supplementary Welfare Allowance Appeals to the Social Welfare Appeals Office: 2002 to 2006

Year

Received

Granted

Disallowed

Pending

2002

289

70

202

42

2003

433

80

334

38

2004

370

97

228

65

2005

327

92

214

54

2006

329

116

205

43

*Statistics for 2007 are unavailable at this time.

National Drugs Strategy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

128 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will take particular steps to address the needs of community based groups involved in the fight against drugs or other crime with particular reference to the use of grant aid from the proceeds of the national lottery to assist such groups in the provision of facilities at local level to meet community and youth needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11165/08]

The majority of capital expenditure allocated to community groups through my Department for drugs initiatives is channelled through the Local and Regional Drugs Task Forces and the Young People's Facilities and Services Fund (YPFSF). In this context, the Deputy should note that funding for these programmes is met from the Exchequer, not the National Lottery. Drugs Task Force projects normally originate at community level and are submitted to the National Drugs Strategy Team, who then make recommendations to me on funding. Under the YPFSF, projects are submitted for consideration to the Fund's National Assessment Committee, chaired by my Department and recommendations to me arise from there.

The combined capital expenditure on these in 2007 was €8.125m and I happy to advise the Deputy that the allocation of €9m in 2008 represents an increase of over 12.5% on the 2007 allocation. I recently announced an additional capital investment of €4m under the YPFSF this year. This is additional to the overall funding of €147m approved under the YPFSF since it was established in 1998. In addition, I have also announced the expansion of the Fund to four new towns — Athlone, Dundalk, Wexford and Arklow. I hope that the inclusion of these four towns is the first step on the way to further coverage under the Fund over the next few years.

Care of the Elderly.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

129 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if and when an alarm system for older people will be provided in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11176/08]

My Department operates the Scheme of Community Support for Older People. This Scheme encourages and assists the community's support for older people by means of community-based grants to improve the security of vulnerable older people in their own homes. The Scheme is open to people aged 65 and over who have a genuine need for assistance and is administered by local community and voluntary organisations throughout the country with support provided by my Department.

Maximum individual grants provided under the scheme are as follows: €300 in respect of the once-off installation cost of socially monitored alarms; €200 in respect of physical security equipment; €200 in respect of security lighting; €50 in respect of smoke alarms; and €150 in respect of interior emergency lighting for qualifying older people living on our offshore islands. My Department has received no application for funding for — or on behalf of — the named individual under this Scheme. To apply for assistance, individuals should contact a local community and voluntary group and request that they make an application on their behalf to the Department. Should the individual referred to by the Deputy need assistance in contacting a local group, officials in my Department can be contacted at 071-9186761/2/3 and further information in respect of the Scheme is available at my Department's websitewww.pobail.ie.

Departmental Programmes.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

130 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the geographical areas in County Westmeath that are designated for inclusion in the CLÁR areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11129/08]

The following table lists the District Electoral Divisions (DEDs) within CLÁR in County Westmeath:

DED ID

DED NAME

DED ID

DED NAME

DED ID

DED NAME

DED ID

DED NAME

13010

Kilcumreragh

13026

Boherquill

13044

Fore West

13078

Jamestown

13015

Muckanagh

13027

Coole

13045

Hilltown

13079

Kilbeggan

13017

Umma

13029

Finnea

13046

Kilcumny

13081

Killare

13019

Ballymore

13030

Glore

13048

Killulagh

13085

Lackan

13020

Doonis

13031

Knockarrow

13051

Riverdale

13086

Lauree

13021

Drumraney

13032

Rathowen

13053

Ardnaglew

13092

Multyfarnham

13022

Noughaval

13033

Street

13056

Ballymorin

13093

Newtown

13023

Piercetown

13034

Ballinlough

13067

Derrymore

13097

Rahugh

13024

Templepatrick

13036

Ballynaskeagh

13069

Emper

13100

Skeagh

13025

Winetown

13043

Fore East

13072

Glenlough

13103

Streamstown

Shaded areas within the table indicate areas included in CLÁR in 2006.

Information in relation to the areas covered by the CLÁR programme is available on my Department's websitewww.pobail.ie.

Departmental Reports.

David Stanton

Ceist:

131 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, further to Parliamentary Question No. 135 of 27 February 2008 and No. 188 of 4 March 2008, if his Department is responsible for the co-ordination of the enterprise audit to review the uses of existing and redundant agricultural buildings and manufacturing plants in rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11195/08]

Arrangements for an enterprise audit to review the use of existing and redundant agricultural buildings and manufacturing plants in rural areas are currently being made. My Department will coordinate with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food being the Departments with the lead functions in these areas.

Foreshore Development.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

132 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if decisions regarding the future development of the foreshore will be delayed pending review of the foreshore legislation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11054/08]

The Government decided on 2 October 2007 that responsibility for foreshore licensing functions under the Foreshore Act 1933 in respect of port companies and harbour authorities governed by the Harbours Acts 1946, 1996 and 2000 and any other harbour or harbour related developments intended for commercial trade, and for all energy developments (including oil, gas, wave, wind and tidal energy) and aggregate and mineral extraction developments on the foreshore would transfer to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

My Department is currently putting in place the necessary arrangements to ensure the efficient and effective transfer of the appropriate legislation and associated functions. In the interim, all foreshore functions under the Foreshore Acts 1933 to 2005 rest with my Department. My Department will carry forward responsibility for all other foreshore licensing functions under the Foreshore Act 1933, including in respect of all aquaculture developments and piers and harbours, other than in respect of port companies and harbour authorities governed by the Harbours Acts 1946, 1996 and 2000 and any other harbour or harbour related developments intended for commercial trade. It is not expected that there will be any undue delays in relation to decisions being taken in respect of the future development of the foreshore having regard to the wide ranging and complex nature of the issues involved.

Coastal Protection.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

133 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if Ireland is required to carry out a strategic environmental assessment of the Irish coast under European Union law; the steps she has taken in relation to carrying out such an assessment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11055/08]

Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA's) are not required to be carried out in respect of any particular area such as the Irish Coast. However, they can be required in relation to specific plans and/or programmes. Where this is the case it is the intention of my Department to meet its obligations under European legislation.

Food Safety.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

134 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the legal regulations with regard to the disposal of out of date food products; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11056/08]

Out of date food products of animal origin such as meat, meat products and eggs are classified as animal by-products (ABP) when they are no longer intended for human consumption. The control of the disposal of out-of-date food products of animal origin is important as they can pose a danger to public and animal health. The main Regulation in this area is Regulation (EC) No. 1774 of 2002, which is given legal effect by the European Communities (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies and Animal By-Products) Regulations, S.I. No. 612 of 2006. This Regulation sets out animal and public health rules for the collection, transport, storage, processing and use or disposal of ABP. Under the Regulation out-of-date food products of animal origin may be disposed of by a number of methods including rendering, composting, transformation in a biogas plant or a technical plant, use as raw material in a petfood plant or landfill when it is considered that the material concerned can be safely disposed of in this manner.

World Trade Negotiations.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

135 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food her views on the Mandelson proposals at the World Trade Organisation talks; her further views, in this context, on whether the said proposals, if implemented, would represent a serious attack upon the structure of agriculture here with particular adverse and devastating consequences for the beef industry in so far as there would be a trebling of tonnage of beef being imported into the EU; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11128/08]

I have already said to this House that I am not happy with the current direction of the negotiations, and that important aspects of the latest draft texts from the Chairs of the Agriculture and NAMA (non agricultural market access) committees have done nothing to allay my concerns. I presume these texts are the proposals to which the Deputy is referring. I am deeply concerned with suggestions that the EU should provide further concessions on a range of agricultural issues, including tariff reductions, treatment of sensitive products and related tariff quota expansion. I have a particular concern regarding the potential impact of some of these proposals on the beef sector and I have articulated this clearly at every opportunity. I am also concerned at threats to the Green Box and in turn to EU direct payments to farmers which are classified under the Green Box. At the same time, the text on industrial goods (NAMA) does not provide the foreseen additional market access for EU goods. In my view, this creates an even greater imbalance in the negotiations.

I believe it is time for realism to prevail as to what is attainable and acceptable in regard to agriculture in these negotiations. We must achieve genuine balance in any final agreement and it is critical that the European agri-food sector is not sacrificed for the sake of a deal. This is the position consistently taken by the Irish Government and which has been and will continue to be reflected strongly in a variety of EU and WTO meetings and in our bilateral contacts with the Commission and other EU Member States.

Grant Payments.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

136 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, further to Parliamentary Question No. 148 of 6 March 2008, if the person (detail supplied) in County Wexford will receive grant aid under the farm improvement scheme in 2008; when the person will receive confirmation of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11131/08]

The person named is an applicant under the Farm Improvement Scheme. Applications received under this Scheme prior to its suspension on 31 October 2007 are being processed by my Department up to the level of funding provided for the Scheme in the 2006 partnership agreement, Towards 2016. The application concerned is, therefore, eligible for consideration and will be processed subject to funding still being available at that time.

Direct Payment Schemes.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

137 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if her attention has been drawn to the fact that files and applications for the new farm modernisation scheme have been withdrawn from the local inspectors so that no further approvals can be made despite the fact that on many farms this scheme and the farm waste management scheme have close links and need to be carried out in tandem; if she will ensure that this system is changed back in order that progressive young farmers get the encouragement they deserve; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11135/08]

Applications received under the Farm Improvement Scheme prior to its suspension on 31 October 2007 are being processed by my Department up to the level of funding provided for the Scheme in the 2006 partnership agreement, Towards 2016. No decision has been taken to cease issuing approvals to farmers who submitted applications prior to the date of suspension of the Scheme.

Grant Payments.

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

138 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the progress to date on the application by a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny for grant aid under the farm improvement scheme. [11136/08]

The person named is an applicant under the Farm Improvement Scheme. Applications under this Scheme are being processed by my Department up to the level of funding provided for the Scheme in the 2006 partnership agreement, Towards 2016. The application concerned is, therefore, eligible for consideration and will be processed subject to funding still being available at that time.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

139 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if there is more funding available under the scheme of investment aid for the development of the commercial horticulture sector, especially for applicants who have already and will continue to invest heavily in their business and the industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11147/08]

My Department operates the Scheme of Investment Aid for the development of commercial horticulture. Under the new National Development Plan 2007-2013, circa €50m, has been earmarked for the Scheme. Under the first phase of this Scheme for 2008 a total of 208 applications were received. Approvals of grant aid of some €9m to support investments of some €22m were issued to 189 applicants in early February. It is anticipated that applications for the second phase of this Scheme in 2009 will be invited towards the end of 2008.

Under the previous National Development Plan 2000-2006 grant aid of some €20m was paid out to producers to support investments of €57m in the commercial horticulture industry. This Scheme has been a catalyst for investment and growth and has assisted producers to upgrade and develop new production facilities and improve quality.

Schools Building Projects.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

140 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science when approval will be given by the National Development Finance Agency to a school (details supplied) in County Offaly to proceed with this post-primary school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11132/08]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

141 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science when approval will be given by the National Development Finance Agency to a school (details supplied) in County Offaly to proceed with this post-primary school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11133/08]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

166 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science when consent will be given to a school (details supplied) in County Offaly to proceed to apply for full planning permission in order that it can proceed with this post-primary school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11122/08]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

167 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science when consent will be given to a school (details supplied) in County Offaly to proceed to apply for full planning permission in order that it can proceed with this post-primary school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11123/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 140, 141, 166 and 167 together.

My Department operates the Scheme of Investment Aid for the development of commercial horticulture. Under the new National Development Plan 2007-2013, circa €50m, has been earmarked for the Scheme. Under the first phase of this Scheme for 2008 a total of 208 applications were received. Approvals of grant aid of some €9m to support investments of some €22m were issued to 189 applicants in early February. It is anticipated that applications for the second phase of this Scheme in 2009 will be invited towards the end of 2008. Under the previous National Development Plan 2000-2006 grant aid of some €20m was paid out to producers to support investments of €57m in the commercial horticulture industry. This Scheme has been a catalyst for investment and growth and has assisted producers to upgrade and develop new production facilities and improve quality.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

142 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of the sites designated for new schools under the Fingal model agreement that have been handed over to her Department for the purposes of new school buildings; the number of planning applications that have been submitted to the local authority concerned in respect of the new school building programme under this agreement; her views on whether the commitment given in September 2007 in respect of new schools under this agreement to be up and running by September 2008 will be in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11018/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Programme for Government commits my Department to establishing a Developing Areas Unit to liaise with Local Authorities, to identify where new schools are needed and to ensure that these schools are delivered in the fastest possible timeframe. Initial work on establishing and assigning dedicated staff to the Unit began in the latter part of 2007 and it is now fully operational.

In terms of its work programme for 2008 in Fingal, the Developing Areas Unit is advancing the delivery of 9 new primary school projects which are planned to be in place for September 2008. Planning permission has been submitted in all cases. A notification of intention to grant has been received in all cases except Phoenix Park and Porterstown, where notifications are expected shortly. I announced the details of the individual projects on 1st February 2008 and the projects relating to the Fingal area specifically are: Skerries — Kelly's Bay — New 8 Classroom School; Swords — Applewood — New 8 Classroom School; Balbriggan — Castlelands — 2 New Schools — an 8 classroom & a 16 classroom; Phoenix Park — New Community Primary School — VEC, 8 classroom; Diswellstown — Porterstown — Relocation of Scoil Choilm — 16 classroom school; Lusk — Relocation of Rush/Lusk ET — 16 Classroom school; Tyrellstown — New 8 Classroom School; and Phibblestown — New Community Primary School — VEC, 8 classroom school.

A joint project steering group has been established with Fingal County Council to coordinate the acquisition of sites and to resolve any pre-planning issues. The focus at present is on finalising arrangements for sites needed for the 2008 school year. Due to commercial sensitivity I do not as a general rule provide specific details in advance of the conclusion of a purchase. Of course, once the sales have closed, this information can be released in the normal way.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

143 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to a school (detail supplied) in County Wicklow; the position in relation to the €800,000 allocated to the school; if an acknowledgment will be given from her Department that the work on this project was conducted within its guidelines and confirmation that the board of management and the pupils of the school will not be penalised as a result of the time involved in the planning process; if she will provide a firm commitment to proceed with funding for the new school within an agreed timetable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11027/08]

The project referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of architectural planning. The further progression of the project through to construction phase, will be considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

School Placement.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

144 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a person (details supplied) in County Wexford who resides in the catchment area of a school, has been unable to secure a placement for 2008 due to the fact that the number of applicants exceeds available places by 15; if she will take steps to ensure that this child can attend the school of their parents’ choice. [11034/08]

A review of post primary school provision in the Enniscorthy area is currently at an advanced stage and, when completed, decisions will be taken regarding the future development of post-primary education facilities in the area and officials will be in contact with the relevant schools, as appropriate. My Department is satisfied that, between them, the existing post-primary schools in the centre have adequate accommodation to cater for the demand for places next September.

Schools Refurbishment.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

145 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the level of funding provided to primary and secondary schools by means of the furniture grant, administered under the schools building programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11041/08]

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

146 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools that will be allocated a furniture grant under the 2008 schools building programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11042/08]

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

147 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools that received a furniture grant in the period 2000 to 2008; the level of funding that was provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11043/08]

I propose to take questions 145 to 147, inclusive, together.

My Departments School Building and Modernisation Programme provides for funding for schools in relation to new/replacement furniture and equipment. Details of applications for funding for 2008 will not be available until the end of the year. The following funding was approved in the years 2005 to 2007: 2005- 1180 applications- €10.7m; 2006- 1240 applications- €8.9m; and 2007- 1900 applications- €12.7m. Detailed information regarding previous years is not readily available in my Department.

Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

148 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has been paid the correct payment for the VTOS course they are attending; if there are arrears due to the student; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11049/08]

The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) provides full-time second chance education and training opportunities for unemployed adults in receipt of specified social welfare payments for at least six months. The scheme is funded by my Department and delivered and managed locally by Vocational Educational Committees (VECs). VTOS Students who received jobseekers' assistance/benefit payments prior to enrolling on VTOS are paid a training allowance in lieu by the local VEC. Students in receipt of other welfare payments continue to be paid directly by the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

In response to my Department's enquiries, the VEC in question has advised that the VTOS participant referred to in the question is currently in receipt of the correct rate of payment. The VEC is aware of the issues with this particular case and is addressing them. The participant should contact the VEC which will deal with the matter of arrears.

School Transport.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

149 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science when the present primary school transport scheme was established; when it was last reviewed; if she has plans to conduct a review of the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11060/08]

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

150 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the distance a person has to live from a school in order to be eligible for school transport under the primary school transport scheme; if she has plans to reduce this distance in an effort to fill buses and thus reduce congestion in towns and villages at school time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11065/08]

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

151 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science when the present catchment boundaries for the secondary school transport system were established; when they were last reviewed; if she has plans to conduct a review of the system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11066/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 149 to 151, inclusive, together.

The school transport scheme was established in the late 1960s. From the outset, the purpose of the scheme was to ensure access to primary and post-primary education for children who, because of where they live, might have difficulty in attending school regularly. At primary level, pupils who reside 3.2 kilometres or more from, and are attending, their nearest suitable school, as determined by my Department, are eligible for free school transport. At post-primary level, eligibility is based on both distance and residence in a particular catchment area. These areas have their origin in the establishment of free post-primary education in the late 1960s. The relevant minimum distance is 4.8 kilometres. Transport services for both primary and post-primary children are co-ordinated and transport routes are planned and shared in such a way as to provide the most efficient and cost-effective service. In addition to mainstream services, my Department endeavours to provide suitable transport for pupils with special needs attending special schools and special classes and those in integrated settings.

School transport, or aspects of the school transport service, have been the subject of a number of reviews, including a Report carried out by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Science in 1999. The Programme for Government includes a commitment to review the school transport system, including catchment boundaries. My Department is currently developing proposals for progressing this commitment and the intention is to make substantial progress during the current year.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

152 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the charge levied per term for secondary school transport for students in both the junior and senior cycles; if she has plans to reduce these charges; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11067/08]

The charges payable by post-primary pupils availing of school transport services are €33 per term at junior cycle and €51 per term at senior cycle. These charges have not been increased since 1998. In view of the significant increase in the cost of providing school transport in the interim, it has been decided that revised charges will be introduced with effect from the final term of the current school year, which begins after Easter 2008. The revised term charges at junior and senior cycle will be €46 and €71, respectively, which equate to about 83 cent and €1.28 per day. A maximum family contribution of €150 per term will apply. I should point out that the term charge may be waived in the case of eligible post-primary children where the family is in possession of a valid medical card.

Schools Building Projects.

David Stanton

Ceist:

153 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department has recently received letters from schools (details supplied) in County Cork regarding the need to provide an extension to both schools in the immediate term and to provide new buildings for both schools in the not too distant future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11073/08]

My Department has received correspondence from the schools to which the Deputy refers in regard to the need for additional accommodation. Progress on all applications for major capital works is being considered in the context of the Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Teachers’ Remuneration.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

154 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if the Teachers Conciliation Council has made a recommendation on the claim for improvements in the arrangements for the award of incremental credit as outlined in her reply to Parliamentary Question No. 561 of 3 April 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11098/08]

The criteria for the award of incremental credit at primary level are outlined in primary circular 10/01 — Amendments to the Scheme for the Award of Incremental Credit. These arrangements provide for a maximum of 2 years incremental credit for a permanent teacher appointed or reappointed after 1st September 1998, and who have given service as substitute teachers in primary schools within the Republic of Ireland since 1st September 1985. Only Substitute service given after the date of probation is considered. The matter was discussed at the Teachers Conciliation Council. There is no agreement to make any improvements to these arrangements.

Site Acquisitions.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

155 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if a site has been identified for a permanent school for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; if negotiations on the purchase of same are ongoing or have concluded; and if agreement has been reached on the purchase of the site. [11100/08]

I wish to advise the Deputy that a suitable site has been identified for school in question and negotiations are ongoing regarding its acquisition.

Schools Building Projects.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

156 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if, further to Parliamentary Question No. 1057 of 30 January 2008 and in view of the overcrowding in a school (details supplied) in County Kildare, she will sanction the appointment of a design team for the project. [11101/08]

The progression of all large-scale building projects into architectural planning, including that referred to by the Deputy, is considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

School Enrolments.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

157 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Parliamentary Question No. 235 of 28 November 2007, the county breakdown of the 71 pupils enrolled in the school for first year in September 2007; and the number of sixth class pupils who completed their education in the eight gaelscoileanna feeding into the school in July 2007 by county. [11105/08]

Actual enrolment figures have now been confirmed to the Department by the school to which the Deputy refers. The first year intake figure is 69 pupils plus 1 repeat first year student. The county breakdown is Meath 1, Waterford 1, Kildare 31 and Dublin 37. The approx number of sixth class pupils who completed their education in the eight gaelscoileanna feeding into the school in July 2007, by county, is Meath 5, Kildare 72 and Dublin 131.

Psychological Service.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

158 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Parliamentary Question No. 1062 of 30 January 2008, the schools to which the two additional educational psychologists have been assigned in County Kildare. [11106/08]

As the Deputy will be aware all primary and post-primary schools have access to psychological assessments either directly through the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA). Schools that do not currently have NEPS psychologists assigned to them may avail of the SCPA, whereby the school can have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the psychologist the fees for this assessment directly. I can inform the Deputy that the coverage by NEPS psychologists of primary and primary schools in Co. Kildare has increased from 54% in 2006/07 to 79% in the current academic year. This increase has taken place in the context, inter alia, of the appointment of two new psychologists to the NEPS Naas office. There follows for the Deputy's information a list of the schools so covered.

Since May 2007 the number of psychologists employed within the NEPS service nationally has increased from 128 to 138 and during 2008 this complement will increase to 169. In this regard, following a national recruitment process put in place in late 2007 by the Public Appointments Service, interviews in this regard have recently been completed and regional panels are currently being formed from which recruits will be drawn for appointment to priority regions. As I have previously stated, and in line with Government commitments under the T2016 Agreement, it is further my intention to increase NEPS psychologist personnel to 200 during 2009.

Name

Address 1

Additional To Coverage 07/08

Presentation Convent

Maynooth

Yes

Athy Model School

Dublin Road

Sallins N S

Sallins

Yes

St Davids Ns

Dublin Road

Monasterevan 2 N S

Monasterevan

Kildare Monastery N S

Kildare

S N Cianog Naofa

Tigh Mochua

Yes

Kilberry N S

Athy

St. Patrick’s N.S.

Newbridge

Scoil Bride

Athgarvan N S

Primrose Hill Ns

Hazelhatch Rd

Yes

Hewetsons N S

Clane

Yes

Mercy Convent Primary School

Naas

Ballyshannon N S

Ballyshannon

St Brigids Primary School

Kildare

Monasterevan Convent

Monasterevan

Scoil Chonnla Phadraig

Newbridge

Rathangan B N S

Rathangan

St Brigids N S

Ballysax

Scoil Brid

Main Street

Yes

Curragh Camp B N S

Curragh Camp

Curragh Camp G N S

Curragh Camp

Scoil Phadraig Naofa

Lana Eoin Naofa

St Josephs Bns

Kilcock

Yes

Scoil Naisiunta Naomh Pheadar

Monasterevan

S N Nmh Mhuire

Donadea

Yes

Allenwood B N S

Allenwood

Rathcoffey N S

Rathcoffey

Yes

Scoil Chorbain

Naas

Maynooth B N S

Maynooth

Yes

Almhaine N S

Kilmeague

Yes

S N Brighde

Kill

Yes

S N Aine Naofa

Ard Cloc

Yes

St Conleths And Marys N S

Newbridge

S N Connlaodh Naofa N

Newbridge

S N Brighde

Ticknevin

Yes

S N Oilibhear Plunglead

Killina

Yes

Scoil Bhride N S

Rathangan

S N Bride

Crochta Greine

S N Mhuire C

Allenwood

S N Baile Mhic Adaim

Baile Mhic Adaim

Yes

S N Cloch Rinnce

Cloch Rinnce

Yes

S N Coill Dubh

Naas

S N Padraig

Droichead Baile Sean

Yes

S N Na Maighdine Mhuire

Gearr Eiscir

Yes

Scoil Mhichil Naofa

Athy

S N Baile Roibeaird

Baile Roibeaird

S N Scoil Treasa

Kilshanroe

Yes

St Conleths N S

Derrinturn

Prosperous N S

Naas

Scoil Na Mainistreach

Oldtown Road,

Yes

Straffan N S

Straffan

Yes

Newtown Ns

Enfield

Yes

Caragh N S

Naas

Yes

S N Tir Mochain

Donadea

Yes

Scoil Bhride

Leixlip

Ballyroe Central N S

Athy

Scoil Mhuire

Newbridge,

Leixlip Girls Ns

Leixlip

Ballymany Junior Ns

Newbridge

An Linbh Iosa

Ballycane

San Carlo Junior Ns

Leixlip

St Brigids N S

Kilcullen

Scoil C.Ui Dhalaigh

Leim An Bhradain

Scoil Eoin Phoil

Green Lane,

Aghards N S

Celbridge

Yes

St Patricks Bns

Clane

Yes

Scoil Naisiunta Bhride

Prosperous Road

Yes

San Carlo Senior N S

Confey

Scoil Uí Riada

Cill Choca

Yes

North Kildare Educate Together Sch

Celbridge

Yes

Gaelscoil Chill Dara

Loiste Herbert

Creag Aran Special School

Athgarret

Scoil Ui Fhiaich

Achadh Aoibhinn

Yes

Killashee Multi-Denominational Ns

Kilcullen Road

Scoil Brid

Oldtown

Yes

Gaelscoil Nas Na Riogh

Nas

Yes

Newbridge Educate Together

C/O Old Kilcullen Rugby Club

Scoil Naomh Padraig

Hazelhatch Road

Ardscoil Na Trionoide

Athy

Salesian College

Celbridge

Patrician Secondary School

Newbridge

Holy Family Secondary School

Newbridge

Cross And Passion College

Kilcullen

Scoil Dara

Church St

St Joseph’s Acadamy

Kildare Town

Presentation Secondary School

Kildare Town

St Pauls Secondary School

Monasterevin

Meánscoil Iognáid Ris

Naas

Coláiste Naomh Mhuire

Convent Of Mercy

Athy Community College

Athy

Curragh Post-Primary School

McSwiney Road

Colaiste Lorcain

Castledermot

St Conleth’s Vocational School

Station Road

Vocational School

Kildare College Of Further Studies

Confey Community College

Confey

Maynooth Post Primary School

Moyglare Rd

St Patrick’s Community College

Limerick Road

St Farnan’s Post Primary School

Prosperous

Ardscoil Rath Iomgháin

Rathangan

Leixlip Community School

Celbridge Road

Scoil Mhuire Community School

Clane

St Wolstan’s Community School

Ballymakeely

Schools Building Projects.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

159 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has received the developed sketch scheme in relation to the new school for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare. [11109/08]

My Department is awaiting the return of the Stage 2 (i.e. Developed Sketch Scheme) submission from the school to which the Deputy refers.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

160 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if a design team has been appointed for the permanent school for a school (detail supplied) in County Kildare. [11111/08]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that a Design Team has now been appointed and the process of architectural planning has commenced.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

161 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has received the stage one documentation in respect of a new school for a school (detail supplied) in County Kildare. [11112/08]

The project to which the Deputy refers to is at early architectural planning. Officials from my Department have requested a Stage 2(a) submission; Developed Sketch Design, on receipt of a date for receipt of this submission a date for a review meeting will be arranged. The progression of all large scale building projects from initial design stage through to tender and construction, including this project, will be considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's Multi-Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

162 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will sanction the proposed extension to a school (detail supplied) in County Kildare. [11114/08]

The progression of all large scale building projects from initial design stage through to construction phase is considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's Multi-Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme in which the main focus is to deliver school places within rapidly developing areas. The progression of all school building projects will be considered in this context.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

163 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if the information sought in Parliamentary Question No. 240 of 28 November 2007 is available; and if not when it will be. [11115/08]

Class size data for primary schools for 2007/2008 is currently being compiled by my Department, and is not yet available. The source of this data is the Annual Census of Primary Schools. Data will become available when returns for all schools have been processed. As the Deputy will be aware, major improvements have been made in staffing at primary level in recent years. There are now 6,000 more primary teachers than there were in 2002. By the 2006/07 school year, we had reduced the average class size in our primary schools to 24, while the pupil teacher ratio was 16.4:1, including resource teachers etc. In that year, schools were staffed on the basis of a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 28 children. Given that the national average was 24, many schools benefited from much more favourable staffing ratios than this.

Extra teachers were provided by the Government for the 2007/08 school year to improve primary school staffing so that schools would generally get at least one classroom teacher for every 27 children. Posts allocated on the basis of this staffing schedule are specifically for mainstream classes and should be deployed accordingly. School authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum.

A further initiative in recent years that has been of direct benefit to primary schools has been the change in the criteria for developing schools. For the current school year the threshold for getting a developing school post was reduced specifically to help schools that are seeing large increases in enrolments each year. Over 350 such posts have been sanctioned in the 2007/08 school year compared to 280 in 2006/07. The improvements we have made in school staffing in recent years are absolutely unparalleled. The Government is committed to providing more teachers to our primary schools over the next five years. We will also continue our focus on measures to improve the quality of education in our primary schools to ensure that increased resources lead to better outcomes for our children.

Schools Building Projects.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

164 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if a design team has been appointed for the required extension to a school (detail supplied) in County Kildare. [11116/08]

The appointment of a design team for the project at the school referred to by the Deputy while at an advanced stage is not yet completed. The further progression of the project will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

165 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if the stage three submission has been received in regard to the required extension to a school (detail supplied) in County Kildare. [11117/08]

Officials from my Department are currently awaiting a date for receipt of the Stage 3 submission (i.e. Developed Sketch Scheme) from the school's Design Team. On receipt of this date a review meeting will be organised between the Board of Management, its Design Team and the Department to assess the submission.

Questions Nos. 166 and 167 answered with Question No. 140.

Higher Education Grants.

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

168 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Science if arrangements can be made for non-EU students, resident in Ireland, qualifying for higher education grants, whose applications for certificates of naturalisation are still pending, in view of the fact that such applications may take longer to process than the actual course to which the student has been admitted; and if in view of the hardship involved for non-EU families consideration might be given towards finding a solution to the problem in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Laois. [11146/08]

Under the terms of my Department's four maintenance Grants Schemes, grant assistance is awarded to eligible students who satisfy prescribed conditions including those relating to residence, means, age, nationality and previous academic attainment. 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. 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. Students must meet the nationality requirement at the time of entry or re-entry to an approved course. However the Grants Schemes contain a ‘change in circumstances' clause which provides that a candidate's eligibility may be assessed or re-assessed in the event of a change in circumstances in relation to, inter alia, reckonable income, the number of dependant children, normal residence and nationality, where the candidate becomes an Irish national or the national of another EU member State.

The ‘change in circumstances' provision allows candidates who acquire nationality through the naturalisation process, during the course of their studies, to apply to be assessed or re-assessed for grant assistance with effect from the academic term when the change occurs. The Deputy will appreciate that the terms of my Department's Schemes of Student Support must be applied impartially and it is not possible to make exceptions in individual cases, regardless of the circumstances.

Schools Building Projects.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

169 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will announce the next group of post-primary schools to proceed to design stage; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11151/08]

The progression of all large scale building projects from initial design stage through to construction phase is considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's Multi-Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme in which the main focus is to deliver school places within rapidly developing areas. The progression of all school building projects will be considered in this context. I announced recently a list of schools which are due to go to construction in 2008. The next announcement regarding projects to proceed to construction will occur after Easter. I intend to make further announcements regarding projects that will be advanced through the architectural planning process during the course of the year as the school building programme is rolled out.

In addition 27 new schools are to be provided under my Department's Public Private Partnership Programme (PPP) 2006 to 2010. I have already announced the first two bundles of school projects comprising 4 schools in bundle 1 and 6 schools in Bundle 2. The first bundle, which consists of four post-primary, two in Co. Laois and two in Co. Offaly, is in procurement and will go to construction this year. The second bundle consisting of six schools, 5 post-primary and 1 primary school in counties Cork, Limerick, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow is in pre-procurement and will be offered to the market shortly. The make up of further school bundles in my Department's PPP school building programme will be determined on such issues as geographic spread and site availability for each school. I intend announcing further PPP project bundles during the year.

Pension Provisions.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

170 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if consideration will be given to a teacher who retired in 2000 and who held a third class honours degree, to qualify them for the honours allowance in their pension. [11179/08]

A teacher who had obtained a third class honours degree may be paid an allowance in respect of that qualification as part of pay. Prior to 1 September 2001 the rate of payment in respect of this allowance was the same as the rate payable to the holder of a pass degree. On foot of an agreement at the Teachers Conciliation Council the rate of allowance payable in respect of a third class honours degree was changed to that which applies to a first or second class honours degree. The higher rate of payment only become effective in teachers' pay from 1 September 2001. In order to benefit in pension from the higher rate of the allowance, the teacher would have had to have received the higher rate in pay over the final three years of service. Since this teacher had retired prior to the effective date for payment, the higher rate of allowance would not apply in the calculation of his pension.

Schools Building Projects.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

171 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will provide a complete breakdown of the accommodation needs of a school (details supplied) in County Mayo; when this school applied for a new building; the stages this application has progressed through; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11180/08]

Michael Ring

Ceist:

172 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the stage of an application by a primary school (details supplied) in County Mayo. [11181/08]

Michael Ring

Ceist:

173 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will authorise the board of management of a school to proceed with advertising to tenders for a new school building (details supplied) in County Mayo. [11182/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 171 to 173, inclusive, together.

I can confirm to the Deputy that an application for new accommodation was first received from the school in question in 1999. The building project to provide three general classrooms and associated ancillary accommodation is at an advanced stage of the architectural planning process. The further progression of the project through to construction phase will be considered on an ongoing basis in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

School Enrolments.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

174 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has received a request from a school (details supplied) in Dublin 15 for resources to accept a second class of junior infants in 2008; the response she has given to the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11185/08]

My Department has no record of an application from the school in question to expand its pupil provision. If the intention is to expand the school from September 2008 the management should contact the Modernisation and Policy Unit of my Department on the matter at an early date.

Departmental Staff.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

175 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Defence the number of civil servants in his Department; the reason so many civil servants are needed in view of the fact that the Defence Forces are self-regulating; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11184/08]

The number of civil servants currently serving in my Department is 391 (in whole time equivalents). This is a significant reduction on the numbers serving in previous years; about 700 in 1981 and about 450 in 1990. My Department has civil and military elements and was established by the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924. The Defence Acts 1954 to 2007 provide the legislative basis for the Defence Forces. The Ministers and Secretaries Act 1924 assigned to the Department "the business of raising, training, organisation, maintenance, equipment, management, discipline, regulation and control according to law of the military defence forces". The Act provides that the Minister is head of the Department and is assisted in discharging his functions by the Secretary General who is the "principal officer" of the Department. The Secretary General is also the statutory Accounting Officer for all Defence expenditure.

The primary role of the civil element of the Department is the support of the Minister in his policy development and control functions. It discharges the audit and financial control tasks in connection with the Secretary General's role as Accounting Officer. It provides administrative support services to the Defence Forces including payroll, payment of accounts and administration of military pensions. Whilst routine procurement is delegated to the Defence Forces, the civil element of the Department has responsibility for major procurement such as aircraft, defensive equipment and Naval Service vessels.

Notwithstanding the overall reduction in numbers, the Department has, in recent years, taken on significant responsibilities in the context of the evolution of the European Security and Defence Policy. In addition, the Office of Emergency Planning was established as a joint civil/military office in 2001 to take the lead role in supporting and coordinating emergency planning.

Road Safety.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

176 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason section 17 of the Rules of the Road which states the obligations of cyclists towards pedestrians, particularly in Talbot Street and Mary Street where cyclists wind their way through pedestrians, is not enforced. [11025/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that all Garda members as part of their normal duties enforce breaches of the road traffic law by cyclists.

Garda Operations.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

177 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason gardaí were threatening protestors and protectors on the Rath Lugh, Lismullen site, County Meath with the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act with arrest despite the ownership of the land in question being questionable and the fact protestors were trying to prevent the law being broken by private developers working on behalf of the State in the attempted destruction of a national monument as per the National Monuments Act 1930; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11037/08]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

178 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the cost of Garda operations relating to the ongoing dispute regarding the M3 construction works at Lismullen, County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11038/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 177 and 178 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that a policing plan has been prepared in respect of the obligations of An Garda Síochána to prevent any breaches of the criminal law occurring during the construction of the M3 motorway. The policing measures in place are deemed necessary by local Garda management who are satisfied that sufficient Garda resources are available to prevent any such breaches. I am informed that the cost of Garda operations in this matter from 1 July, 2007 to 10 February, 2008 is approximately €160,600. The allocation of resources for this operation are closely monitored and kept under review. I am further informed that part of the area referred to, where the protestors are currently encamped, is owned by Coillte, and the remainder is owned by the National Roads Authority. This area is fenced off for construction purposes. In preventing breaches of the criminal law, An Garda Síochána enforce all relevant legislative provisions.

Córais Chomhuainigh Aistriúcháin.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

179 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Dlí agus Cirt, Comhionannais agus Athchóirithe Dlí cad iad na himpleachtaí atá ann don tSeirbhís Chúirteanna as cinneadh na mbreithiúna sa Chúirt Uachtarach i gcás duine (sonraí tugtha) i gcoinne an Stáit i dtaobh córais chomhuainigh aistriúcháin; agus an bhfuil gá le reachtaíocht úr, nó le buiséad úr, chun déileáil leis an gcinneadh. [11039/08]

Os rud é go bhfuil an cás dá dtagraíonn an Teachta os comhair na gcúirteanna i gcónaí, bheadh sé míchuí domsa aon ní a rá faoin ábhar.

Residency Permits.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

180 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for residency by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who is seeking to reside with her mother here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11047/08]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person concerned was recently granted permission to remain on student conditions. She should now attend at her local Immigration Office to have the appropriate permission to remain endorsed in her passport.

Garda Vetting Services.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

181 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will ensure that the processing of Garda clearances for prospective staff at a foundation (detail supplied) in County Cork will be expedited. [11048/08]

The Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) makes criminal history vetting disclosures to registered organisations in respect of prospective employees, volunteers and students on placement who would have substantive, unsupervised access to children and vulnerable adults. The GCVU's normal, prevailing processing time in respect of valid vetting applications is approximately four weeks, although this time frame is occasionally subject to variation according to demand. I can assure the Deputy that the GCVU processes all valid vetting applications it receives as quickly as possible, and the Deputy's question has been brought to the attention of the Garda authorities.

Asylum Applications.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

182 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position of an appeal by a person (detail supplied) in County Louth; and when a decision might be expected in this case. [11057/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 3 June 2002 and applied for asylum on 6 June 2002. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 5 April 2005, 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 leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of submitting written representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations were received on behalf of the person concerned.

On 1 June 2007 the person concerned made an application for residency in the State under the provisions of the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) (No.2) Regulation, 2006 on the basis that she was the spouse of an EU Citizen. However, following the consideration of this application, the application was refused on the basis that the person concerned had not produced evidence showing lawful residence in another EU State prior to her arrival in this State. The refusal decision was conveyed to the person concerned by letter dated 3 December 2007. The case file of the person 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 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned will be passed to me for decision.

Court Procedures.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

183 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of days before a court appearance a summons is meant to be delivered according to law; the person who is responsible for delivering that summons; and if there is quality control with regard to the delivery of same. [11081/08]

The rules relating to the service of summons depend on various factors such as the court involved (e.g., District Court etc) and the type of summons. The functions of the Courts Service, established under the Courts Service Act 1998, are to manage the courts and to provide information on the courts system to the public. Detailed information in relation to the service of all types of summons may be found on the websites of the Courts Service (www.courts.ie) and the Citizens Information Board (www.citizensinformation.ie).

Crime Levels.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

184 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number and location of successful closures obtained under section 4 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003 for each year from 2003 to 2008. [11091/08]

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

185 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of cash stolen during 2007; the amount recovered; and the number of persons prosecuted arising therefrom. [11092/08]

Following the submission in 2004 of a report and recommendations by an expert group on crime statistics, it was decided that the compilation and publication of crime statistics should be taken over by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, from the Garda Síochána. The Garda Síochána Act 2005 consequently makes provision for this and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose. Following the setting up of the necessary technical systems and auditing of the data from which the statistics are compiled, the CSO is now compiling and publishing criminal statistics and has published provisional headline crime statistics since the third quarter of 2006. I have requested the CSO to provide the statistics sought by the Deputy directly to him.

Residency Permits.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

186 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when decisions will be made on the residency application and family reunification application of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11097/08]

The person in question made an application for Family Reunification in March 2006. The application was forwarded to the Refugee Applications Commissioner for investigation as required under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. This investigation is completed and the Commissioner has forwarded a report to my Department. This application will be considered by my Department and a decision will issue in due course.

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

187 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 1280 of 30 January 2008, if he will answer the question fully; and if he will provide the breakdown of 2006 figures for each town. [11103/08]

In the time available it has not been possible for the Garda authorities to supply the details requested by the Deputy. I will be in contact with the Deputy when the information is to hand.

Residency Permits.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

188 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application for family reunification for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11155/08]

The wife of the person referred to by the Deputy was admitted to the State in November 2004 as a programme refugee. The person in question is the subject of a Family Reunification application made by his wife in April 2006. This application will be considered by my Department and a decision will issue in due course. At the present time Family Reunification applications are taking up to 24 months to process.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

189 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will clarify the residency status of a person (details supplied); if he will furnish a response to the correspondence concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11156/08]

Records held by the Immigration Division of my Department indicate that the person in question has been unlawfully resident in the State since 1988. Correspondence was received from the person in question's legal representatives in 2007 regarding their client's status in the State. The legal representatives were requested to furnish particular information and documentation in order to investigate their client's case. While a response was received from the legal representatives on the 4 March 2008, the supporting documentation was not furnished. A further request to the legal representatives will be made.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

190 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedure to be followed to ensure a successful application for stamp four, a short or long-term residency or citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11169/08]

The position in relation to long term residency is as follows: Persons who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit/work authorisation/work visa conditions may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. In that context they may also apply to be exempt from employment permit requirements.

In the context of long term residency, certain periods of residence in the State are excluded. These include: periods of residence in respect of which an applicant does not have permission to remain in the State; periods granted for the purposes of study.

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. These conditions are that the applicant must: be of full age, or by way of exception, be a minor in the State; be of good character; have a period of one year's continuous residency in the State immediately before the date of the application and, during the eight years immediately preceding that period, have a total residence in the State amounting to four years; intend in good faith to continue to reside in the State after naturalisation; have made, either before a Judge of the District Court in open court or in such a manner as the Minister, for special reasons allows, a declaration in the prescribed manner, of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State.

In the context of naturalisation, certain periods of residence in the State are excluded. These include: periods of residence in respect of which an applicant does not have permission to remain in the State; periods granted for the purposes of study; periods granted for the purposes of seeking recognition as a refugee within the meaning of the Refugee Act, 1996.

I understand that the person concerned has received permission to remain on work permit conditions until the 31st August 2008.

Fire Stations.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

191 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to improve fire services in the Ballyshannon/Bundoran areas; if it is his intention to have separate stations in Ballyshannon and Bundoran; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11019/08]

The provision of a fire service in a fire authority's functional area, including the establishment and maintenance of a fire brigade, the assessment of fire cover needs, the provision of premises and the making of such other provisions as it considers necessary or desirable, is a statutory function of the individual fire authority under section 10 of the Fire Services Act 1981. The Department's role is one of supporting and assisting local authorities in delivering fire services through the setting of general policy and the provision of funding under the fire service capital programme.

In March 2000, Donegal County Council proposed to the Department a building programme to replace all 15 fire stations in the county. Substantial progress has now been made and the Council, with Department funding, has completed 10 stations since 1998 at a combined cost of over €8.5 million: Milford (1998), Buncrana (2000), Letterkenny (HQ) and Falcarragh (both in 2003), Carndonagh and Donegal Town (both in 2004), Killybegs (2005), Dungloe, Glenties and Moville (all three in 2007). Stations at Gweedore and Stranorlar are currently in construction phase at a combined cost of approximately €1.75 million. As part of its original building programme, Donegal County Council proposed a new fire station in the Ballyshannon/Bundoran areas. In October 2006, the Department requested Donegal County Council to prepare and submit a capital appraisal in relation to this proposal, in accordance with the Department of Finance Guidelines for the Appraisal and Management of Capital Expenditure Proposals in the Public Sector.

In January 2007, Donegal County Council submitted an independent capital appraisal to the Department on the case for the redevelopment of the existing fire stations at Ballyshannon and Bundoran. The capital appraisal concluded that the most economically and operationally advantageous option would be the amalgamation of the existing fire stations at Ballyshannon and Bundoran into a combined unit at Finner. This conclusion was based both on the estimated construction cost and ongoing maintenance costs. The capital appraisal also concluded that the fire cover for both communities currently addressed by the two existing stations could be achieved by one fire station and this is currently being reviewed by the Council at the request of the Department. The Department has also requested the Council management to consult with the crews in both fire stations to explore this option and a response is expected shortly.

The Council has indicated that there is no suitable site in either town. The Deputy will be aware that the fire station in Bundoran is in a unsuitable location and that the Council is unable to identify an alternative site in Ballyshannon. I am reluctant to commit capital resource to the refurbishment of these two existing fire stations in their current locations and I understand that suitable alternative sites are not available. While it has not been possible to provide funding for a new fire station at Finner as part of the 2007 fire services capital programme, nevertheless, I believe that a robust case has been made for the improvement of facilities and fire cover in the Ballyshannon/Bundoran areas by the provision of a single station at Finner. The provision of exchequer funding for a fire station at Finner will be considered under the 2008 capital programme, which I hope to announce shortly.

Hunting Licences.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

192 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department has issued a decision regarding the issuing of a licence to a group (detail supplied); and the reason for that decision. [11021/08]

Section 26(2) of the Wildlife Act, 1976 provides that I, as Minister, may grant to the master or other person having charge for the time being of a pack of beagles or harriers a licence to hunt hares outside the open season for hares which runs from 26 September to 28 February. The Irish Masters of Foot Beagles applied to my Department in December, 2007 for a licence to hunt hares with a pack of beagles for the period 1 March to 31 March 2008.

My Department has had concerns for a number of years that the hunting of hares in the month of March could have an adverse effect on the breeding season for the species. Accordingly, in granting a licence in respect of March 2007, my Department advised the Association that for conservation reasons, licences to permit the hunting of hares with beagles beyond the general open season for the species may not, in future years, be granted, as this would impinge on the breeding season of the hares. It was also pointed out that in planning their calendar for future years the Association should work on the assumption that all beagling events would need to be scheduled within the standard open season for the hunting of hares, which runs to the end of February. It would appear the Association did not take account of my Department's position regarding holding such events outside the open season for hares in submitting their new application. A decision to refuse a licence to the Association for March this year was conveyed to the Association by letter of 21 February, 2008.

Environmental Policy.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

193 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is undertaking a fresh review of evidence surrounding the alleged negative environmental and health defects of aerials, particularly in sensitive residential areas; if this review is complete; if he has plans to publish the findings; and if he plans changes in either the planning or monitoring of such facilities. [11032/08]

In March 2007 the Government published an Expert Group Report entitled "Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields". Following the publication of the Report, responsibility for the health effects of electromagnetic fields was transferred by Government decision to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in the short-term. The long-term intention is for one single agency to be responsible for this area and the Department is currently considering expanding the functions of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland to take on that additional role.

This Report examined a wide range of issues in relation to the potential health effects of electromagnetic fields, including those produced by electric appliances in the home and from electricity pylons. It answers many of the health risk questions raised by the public in relation to the potential effects of electromagnetic fields, and is available for download on the Department's website (www.environ.ie). The views in the Report are based, inter alia, on World Health Organisation and other expert studies and are accepted by the Government and Department accordingly. The report of the expert group is entirely based on, and is an editorial review of, all the major scientific reviews available worldwide on this matter at that time.

The Expert Group concluded that there is limited scientific evidence of adverse health effects from electromagnetic fields. The Report has, however, recommended that precautionary measures be used, where appropriate, and that Ireland continue to adopt and enforce the international guidelines developed by the International Commission on Non-ionising Radiation Protection and endorsed by the World Health Organisation and the European Union. This recommendation has also been accepted by Government. In relation to planning, the Department will initiate a review of its existing Guidelines on Telecom infrastructure following the publication by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources of their new statement on broadband policy.

National Monuments.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

194 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to events on 6 March 2008 at Rath Lugh, Lismullen, County Meath, when protestors and construction workers clashed over the boundary of the Rath Lugh site and the threat of destruction by two diggers and a bulldozer against the protected esker structure, and the fact that some protestors felt the threat to the national monument was so real that they took to tunnels built throughout the complex to try to save the site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11036/08]

My statutory responsibilities relating to the national monument at Rath Lugh, Lismullin, County Meath are those provided for under the National Monuments Acts 1930 to 2004. On 28 September 2007 I placed a temporary preservation order on the national monument at Rath Lugh, which is located on an esker in the townland of Lismullin, Co. Meath, under Section 4 of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act 1954. On 7 March 2008, I made that temporary preservation order permanent under Section 8 of the National Monuments Act 1930 (as amended). Arrangements are being made to have the preservation order laid before the Houses and to notify relevant parties of the making of the order.

It should be noted that the area of the monument covered by the preservation order is adjacent to, but does not encroach into, the lands made available by the National Roads Authority to the company responsible for constructing the M3 motorway. The area of the monument is delineated by reference to National Grid co-ordinates in an Ordnance Survey map attached to the order. The order relates to the national monument itself and not to the entire esker on which the monument is located. To assess the stability of the esker on which the monument at Rath Lugh is located I commissioned a report from an independent firm of consultants with relevant expertise in this matter. The report from the Consultants recommended that a number of precautionary measures be put in place to ensure that the esker is not undermined during the nearby road construction works or in the longer term. My Department has asked the NRA to implement the measures outlined in the consultant's report.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

195 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the proposals he has to introduce a grant system for older house owners who would not have the means to bring their property up to EU energy rating regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11045/08]

My Department operates a number of grant schemes to assist older people in carrying out repairs and improvements which may assist in improving the energy efficiency of their homes. The Housing Aid for Older People scheme, which was introduced in November 2007, provides targeted support to improve conditions in the existing housing of older people. The types of works grant aided under the scheme may include structural repairs and improvements, repairs to / replacement of windows and doors and provision of central heating and associated insulation works. The effective maximum grant under the scheme is €10,500 which may cover up to 100% of the cost of works.

The Special Housing Aid for the Elderly Scheme was established to provide assistance, by way of emergency repairs, to improve conditions in the existing homes of older people living alone in unfit or unsanitary conditions. The Scheme is operated by a Task Force under the aegis of my Department with implementation at local level by the Health Service Executive. In line with a Government Decision this Scheme will be transferring from the Health Service Executive to the local authority sector in the context of the Housing Aid for Older People Scheme as soon as all relevant issues arising from the transfer are satisfactorily resolved. In addition, older people will benefit from the central heating programme introduced by my Department in July 2004. The programme assists local authorities in providing central heating facilities in their rented dwellings which lack them. The programme involves not just the provision of central heating, but, where necessary, measures to ensure the energy efficiency of the dwelling.

Furthermore, I am aware that Sustainable Energy Ireland funds and coordinates the Warmer Homes Scheme, which provides insulation and other energy efficient measures to low income homes across Ireland. I understand that the service is delivered principally through community based organisations that typically provide the labour from a FAS or Rural Social Scheme. Sustainable Energy Ireland provides funding towards overheads and material for the operation of the service, which is provided at little or no cost to the homeowner. The services provided under the Warmer Homes Scheme include draught proofing, attic insulation, lagging jacket, low energy light bulbs and cavity wall insulation.

Recycling Policy.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

196 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on a reverse vending machine approach to collecting certain recyclable materials; if his Department is considering the roll out of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11051/08]

Automated reverse vending machines can be a feature of deposit and refund schemes aimed at supporting recovery rates for certain types of packaging waste. Directive 94/62/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on packaging and packaging waste (the Packaging Directive) is based on the concept of producer responsibility, which effectively requires producers to contribute to the waste management costs of products which they have placed on the market at end-of-life. Under the Directive, Ireland was required to achieve a 25% recovery rate of packaging waste by 1 July 2001, increasing to a 50% recovery rate by 31 December 2005.

Practical implementation of the Directive in Ireland is organised mainly through a collective industry-based compliance scheme operated by Repak Limited which is working successfully. The National Waste Report 2006, published in January by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), states that packaging waste recovery increased to 57.3% in that year, indicating that Ireland continues to exceed the current target recovery rate of 50% set by the Packaging Directive.

I fully recognise that despite progress on recycling we need to continue to improve our performance. The Programme for Government commits us to a comprehensive review of waste management planning, which I have asked my Department to initiate. This review, the procurement for which is currently under way, will ensure that our waste management plans reflect best international practice and that we have the policies and infrastructure to meet ambitious environmental objectives. The review will also look at the desirability of other producer responsibility schemes, including deposit and refund.

Local Authority Housing.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

197 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount of funding allocated for housing starts, acquisition and maintenance to all of the town councils in the Cork East constituency including Mallow, Fermoy, Youghal, Cobh and Midleton; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11080/08]

My Department is currently meeting all housing authorities as part of the annual Housing Action Plan review process. Following this, allocations under the social housing investment programme will be made to all housing authorities. I expect to be in a position to announce the allocations for 2008 in April.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

198 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to eliminate long-standing social housing lists; his views on whether it is appropriate that families on low incomes should be left on housing lists for five to nine years and more; and if he will issue directives to Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council and other local authorities in this matter. [11085/08]

Good progress is being made on the delivery of social housing programmes with some 9,000 new social housing starts achieved in 2007. This is in line with the commitment in Towards 2016 to achieve 27,000 starts in the period 2007 to 2009. Record levels of funding for social and affordable housing are being provided in 2008 with over €2.5 billion available for housing programmes generally. The total Exchequer provision for housing in 2008 is over €1.7 billion — an increase of approximately 11% on the 2007 provision. The funding will allow for the commencement of a significant number of new social housing units, further progress under regeneration programmes, as well as bringing to completion a large number of units under both the local authority and voluntary housing programmes.

I expect to announce individual local authority allocations under the Social Housing Investment Programme for 2008 in April. Local authorities are currently undertaking the 2008 statutory assessment of housing need. Information on housing need will be available from this assessment later this year.

Fire Stations.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

199 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report to Dáil Éireann indicating the applications his Department has received from local authorities for the provision of new fire fighting equipment for each of the past six years. [11086/08]

The provision of a fire service, including the provision of fire fighting and emergency equipment, is a statutory function of the individual fire authorities. The Department supports the local fire authorities through the setting of general policy and the provision of capital funding, including the recoupment of costs incurred by local authorities in relation to the purchase of fire fighting and emergency equipment. The information requested is being compiled and I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Planning Issues.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

200 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has plans to abolish charges to the public for making submissions and observations on planning applications to the local authorities and An Bord Pleanála; and if in the view of the important democratic role of representation of councillors and TDs he will also abolish these charges for public representatives and especially in view of the short time frame allowed for planning applications. [11087/08]

The €20 fee for making a submission on a planning application was introduced in the context of the comprehensive review of planning legislation which culminated in the Planning and Development Act 2000 and the Planning and Development Regulations 2001. The fee was introduced in tandem with the increased rights for third parties in the planning process under the revised legislation. Since the enactment of the 2000 Act planning authorities are statutorily obliged to acknowledge submissions on planning applications and to consider those submissions before making decisions on planning applications. Persons who make submissions are also entitled to be notified of: any new information provided; the decision of the planning authority; an appeal against the decision of the planning authority.

Many submissions by elected representatives on planning applications are simply queries on the position of an application, requests that the processing of applications be speeded up, or general support for an application or for the comments made by another person. A fee does not have to be paid for these types of submissions, which add no substantive matter for consideration by the planning authority. However, where a public representative makes a formal submission, such as elaborating on the grounds of an application or an objection to an application, the submission cannot be considered by the planning authority unless it is accompanied by the appropriate fee.

My Department is currently examining the costs of the planning service with a view to reviewing the Regulations relating to planning application fees in the context of improving further service delivery. Any proposed changes to the current fees structure, including the fee for making a submission on an application, will require the endorsement of the Oireachtas.

Heritage Sites.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

201 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has received the report of the advisory committee on the future of the Viking site at Woodstown, County Waterford; the decisions taken on foot of the report; when the report will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11094/08]

My Department has received the Final Report of the Woodstown Working Group on the future preservation and archaeological investigation of the national monument site at Woodstown, Co. Waterford. This detailed report, which includes a number of recommendations made by the expert Working Group, is currently being considered. I will make a further statement on the matter in due course. It is also my intention to make the report publicly available as its contents will be of considerable public interest, especially to people locally in Waterford and the South Eastern Region, as well as to the wider archaeological community given the significance of the discoveries at Woodstown in 2003 and the subsequent archaeological investigations which shed further light on those discoveries.

Departmental Programmes.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

202 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when decisions will be announced on the €300 million gateway innovation fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11095/08]

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

203 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the assistance he will provide in regard to the Waterford City Council project to develop the National Viking Centre in Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11096/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 202 and 203 together.

I refer to the reply to Question Nos. 496 and 515 of 11 March 2008. The position is unchanged. The Waterford Gateway Innovation Fund (GIF) proposal includes a request for funding to develop the Viking Quarter, and this will be considered in the context of the overall assessment of the GIF proposals.

Local Elections.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

204 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if there will be elections to new town councils in June 2009. [11104/08]

In accordance with the Programme for Government, my Department will shortly be publishing the Green Paper on local government reform, which will examine a number of issues with the objective of making local government more transparent and responsive, and will set out options for reform in advance of a subsequent White Paper. Issues to be considered will include the establishment of town councils in those towns that have shown significant population growth in recent years. The White Paper will address the timing of any new reforms.

Rural Renewal Scheme.

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

205 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason an inspection has not been carried out for a grant under the rural renewal scheme on the home of a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11144/08]

An inspection with a view to issuing a Certificate of Reasonable Cost, if in order, will be carried out before Easter.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

206 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will give a full report on all available insulation grants for householders; the funding being provided for this in 2008; and the measures he is taking to provide householders with full information of all available assistance to access low carbon home heating systems and home insulation. [11084/08]

I expect to make an announcement later this month on the commencement of a Home Energy Saving Scheme. This scheme will be a pilot for the full national insulation scheme to be rolled out from next year. The pilot scheme will test a number of different energy efficiency technologies. It will also trial different options for best delivering on the Government's objectives for the scheme, which are to reduce energy use and lower CO2 emissions from existing housing stock, while promoting the development of a market for energy services. I have made some €5.5 million available to Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) in 2008 for this scheme. The Programme for Government commits to a €100m scheme over the lifetime of this Government.

I have also made some €2.5 million available in 2008 to SEI for the Low Income Housing Programme, which through its main component, the Warmer Homes Scheme, provides funding to some 18 community groups to upgrade the energy efficiency of low income homes, particularly through improved insulation.

My colleague, John Gormley T.D., Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, introduced a new Housing Aid for Older People Scheme on 1 November 2007, with the aim of providing targeted support to improve conditions in the existing housing of older people. The scheme may assist with works that can improve the energy efficiency of homes, such as insulation, provision of central heating and repair or replacement of windows and doors. Both SEI and my Department's Power of One campaign provide information on best practices in home insulation. This information can be accessed atwww.sei.ieor www.powerofone.ie.