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.
Questions Nos. 14 to 61, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 62 to 73, inclusive, answered orally.

Schools Amalgamation.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

74 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of applications seeking approval for the amalgamation of a boys national school with a girls national school in the same locality; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13195/08]

My Department has at present logged some 5 applications for amalgamation from boys and girls schools in the same locality.

There are various reasons why a school should seek an amalgamation. They can include demography, meaning either a decline or increase in enrolments, the desire for co-education, financial reasons, condition of school buildings, parental/teacher demand etc. However, a Patron must consent to such an application before it can be accepted by my Department.

To process an application, the Department must be satisfied that the Patron has consulted all of the relevant school stakeholders — Boards of Management, teachers and parents — and that they are in agreement with the proposal.

Assessment of an application then involves such matters as projected population growth or decline in an area, the impact on other schools in the area, implications for teachers, accommodation requirements etc.

Once an amalgamation is approved to proceed, an entirely new school is created with its own roll number, Principal teacher, Board of Management etc.

Any building project arising to accommodate the new school attracts a band one rating under the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects in recognition of the fact the fact that the State is no longer required to maintain a number of separate buildings in an area. However, the progression of such projects to construction will depend on the overall availability of finance for school building purposes in any given year.

Student Accommodation.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

75 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has agreed to the establishment of an inter-departmental committee to review and examine the provision of third level student accommodation, as requested by the Union of Students in Ireland, to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13189/08]

I am aware that USI have called for the establishment of a taskforce on student accommodation.

When USI first made this call last year, my Department explained to them that it would be primarily a matter for the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government which has responsibility for housing policy.

While I would obviously be concerned if accommodation difficulties are impacting on students' performance at college, my Department has no remit in relation to student accommodation.

The Department of Education does not provide financial assistance for the provision of student accommodation nor has it any funding available to do so. Capital funding under the NDP for higher education is targeted at delivering core educational facilities.

Neither does my Department have any expertise or knowledge in relation to housing supply or housing policy in general. Any analysis of student accommodation in a particular locality would have to take account of the availability of other rented accommodation in that area. Any proposals would have to be considered in the context of national housing policy as set by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

As the Deputy will be aware, a number of initiatives have been taken by the Government to improve the availability of student accommodation in recent years.

Section 50 of the Finance Act 1999 incentivised the provision of dedicated student residential accommodation, while the Rent a Room tax relief introduced in 2001 has encouraged private householders to rent out rooms to students. A review of the Section 50 tax exemption by Indecon consultants for the Department of Finance in 2006 concluded that it had served its purpose and that oversupply was potentially developing as an issue. As a result the scheme will be phased out in 2008 although the tax relief will apply for 10 years from the date that the property is first let to students.

The Deputy will also be aware that there have been record increases in the overall housing stock, with over 700,000 new housing units built over the past ten years.

Notwithstanding all of this, I am conscious that student representatives believe that there is a shortage of suitable rented accommodation in the Dublin area in particular.

My colleague, Minister Gormley, has recently suggested commissioning a study from the Centre for Housing Research on the availability of rented accommodation for students in the greater Dublin region. I am pleased to state I have signalled to him that my Department would be willing to consider co-funding such a study, subject to agreement on terms of reference and costs. Discussions are now due to take place at official level on this.

Schools Marketing Initiatives.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

76 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the disquiet expressed by the Irish Primary Principals Network and the Irish National Teachers Organisation regarding unregulated commercial marketing and advertising in primary schools; if she will develop an official code of standards related to the Code of Advertising to children on television and radio which would clearly distinguish between commercial marketing in schools and the promotion of genuine philanthropy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13177/08]

I would like to assure the Deputy that I am aware of the concerns raised by the IPPN and the INTO on commercial marketing in schools. I understand that such marketing can take a variety of forms — from educational materials made available to schools by newspapers to companies offering schemes whereby products are given to the school on the basis of tokens collected by parents.

I am of course concerned that such commercial activities do not result in schools or parents feeling pressurised to become involved in the marketing and promotion of commercial products.

The Department has provided guidance to schools, through circulars, on this issue.

As the Deputy will be aware, under Section 15 of the Education Act 1998, the Board of Management is the body charged with the direct governance of a school and is therefore responsible for making decisions as to the types of activities that the school becomes involved in.

Ultimately it is at the discretion of management in individual schools to decide what commercial initiatives they want their school to engage with. Clearly some initiatives can be of great benefit to schools. However, others might be seen as putting undue pressures on parents to shop in particular stores.

Private companies are free to promote their business in accordance with accepted marketing practices. I am familiar with the accepted marketing standards referred to by the Deputies, such as compliance with advertising regulations which guide, inform and control the relationship between the vendor and the potential customers. My Department recognises the sensitivities attached to the issue of promotion initiatives linking schools, pupils and parents to commercial activity. However, it would be inappropriate to have an across the board prohibition on marketing or sponsorship initiatives.

School authorities are required to ensure, as is outlined in the circulars to which I have already referred, that such schemes do not place undue pressure on parents in terms of requiring additional expenditure, that students are protected from engagement in inappropriate promotional activity and that the schemes are linked to desirable projects serving national educational initiatives.

In this context, Circular 38/91 specifically requests school authorities, following consultation with staff, to formulate agreed school policies in relation to commercial promotions. Such policies can assist school authorities to act prudently in taking steps to ensure that certain commercial products are not promoted and marketed through their schools.

I am satisfied that there is a good degree of due awareness and vigilance amongst schools on this matter. However, the Department intends to reinforce and support this work by issuing a new circular to schools shortly.

Telecommunications Services.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

77 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science if she is satisfied with the quality and provision of broadband for schools; the percentage of schools that have access to broadband; the percentage breakdown of the type of broadband available to schools here; if she is confident that this figure is an accurate picture of broadband provision in schools here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10575/08]

The Schools Broadband Access Programme involves the provision of broadband connectivity to recognised primary and post-primary schools. This project is being undertaken in partnership with industry in the context of a Government — IBEC/TIF (Telecommunications and Internet Federation) Agreement to provide local broadband connectivity to schools. The Agreement provides for the establishment of a three year €18m joint Government-IBEC/TIF fund, with industry contributing €5m per annum and the Government contributing €1m per annum.

The Programme comprises three elements — local connectivity to schools, a national broadband network and a broadband support service desk. Schools connectivity is being routed to the Internet through a national broadband network, which is supported by HEAnet and provides centrally managed services for schools such as security, anti-spam/anti-virus and content filtering. The broadband support service desk has been established to interface between the network, the local broadband service Access Providers and schools and is managed by the National Centre for Technology in Education. The total costs of the Programme for the first three years, including the initial set-up costs, are some €30m.

Following a competitive, technology neutral, central procurement process for the provision of local connectivity for schools in 2004, roll-out of broadband to schools commenced in June 2005. The total number of schools involved in the Programme has been adjusted in the meantime to reflect a number of school openings, closures and amalgamations and stands currently at 3,936. As of 10th March, 2008, 3,904 (99%) have had their local connectivity installed and of these 3,901 have had their router capability installed and tested. Of the 3,904 local connectivity installations, 27% have fixed line services, 26% have wireless services and 47% have satellite services.

A further 72 schools have had broadband access provided under the Hermes and Advanced Deployment programmes and are not included in the 3,904 figure. The split of technologies across these schools is 60% fixed line, 35% wireless and 5% satellite.

A new Request for Tenders for the next phase of the Schools Broadband Programme will be issued shortly and will be based on a minimum requirement that each individual school receives a service that is at least equivalent, in terms of speed and reliability, to that currently provided. Having regard to the general developments in broadband availability nationally, I expect that improved service offerings will be received under the new tender process.

Third Level Fees.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

78 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science the provision made in the 2008 Estimates for the targeted fund of €10 million to alleviate fees in public institutions for persons participating in third level study who are in employment and who have not previously pursued a third level qualification as outlined in Section 7.9 of Towards 2016; the administrative procedures of the scheme; when applications will be accepted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13213/08]

Paragraph 7.9 of Part VI of Towards 2016 contains a commitment to establish a targeted fund to alleviate fees in Higher Education Authority (HEA) supported public institutions for part-time courses at third level for those at work who have not previously pursued a third level qualification.

A €10m fund, drawn from the National Training Fund, is available with the aim of meeting the above commitment.

As an initial step towards meeting this commitment, a pilot Modular Accreditation Programme commenced in Tallaght Institute of Technology last October, and the HEA intends to develop other pilot programmes for launch this year. These pilot programmes will prove useful in testing the demand for the next phase in meeting the commitment.

The fund will also support a scheme to be developed in close cooperation with ICTU. In designing this scheme, the Government will have regard to the following objectives:

targeting people in work who have not had the opportunity to pursue third level education previously to level 8 on the National Qualifications Framework;

reducing the amount of fees that workers pay;

maintaining the current benefits in relation to employer support and tax relief available to workers in respect of third level fees; and

allowing for a part refund to be paid on successful completion of each academic year of the relevant course.

Officials from my Department will be in touch with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and ICTU shortly to advance the development of this scheme, and will liaise with education and other stakeholders, with a view to having any new arrangements in place in respect of courses commencing from September 2008. Given this timing the full annual cost will arise in the context of the 2009 estimates.

School Curriculum.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

79 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will continue to push ahead with the circular regarding early immersion education or if she will agree to requests from Gaelscoileanna to carry out research on the matter. [13257/08]

The fundamental public policy issue in this case concerns upholding the rights of all children to access the full curriculum from the earliest possible stage.

The revised primary curriculum was launched in 1999 after extensive consultation with the partners in education.

Page 27 in the Introduction to the Curriculum states "It is a particular feature of Irish primary education that children, from the beginning of schooling, have experience of language learning in two languages." It also sets out a suggested minimum weekly time framework for tuition. This provides that where a first language is being taught, there should be four hours instruction per week, and 3 hours per week where there is a shorter day for the infant classes. Where a second language is being taught, the suggested minimum timeframe is 3.5 hours per week, and 2.5 hours per week for infant classes with a shorter day.

I have determined as a public policy issue that the position as set out in the curriculum, and in previous Parliamentary Questions, should remain unchanged i.e. that the minimum recommended timeframe set out for a second language in the curriculum should be adhered to. Accordingly, Circular 0044/2007 requires that Irish medium schools should provide for a minimum provision in English of 3.5 hours per week, or 2.5 hours per week where there is a shorter day for infant classes, no later than the start of the second term in Junior infants.

The Circular is the subject of a legal challenge in the High Court, and the Department is not in a position to take action to ensure its implementation in advance of a decision on the matter. However, in a separate development, and in keeping with a commitments I made in April 2007 to provide for incremental development in putting regulations governing the operation of schools on a statutory footing, I have issued a draft Statutory Instrument and a Regulatory Impact Screening document to the partners in education, the Patron bodies and the main Irish language organisations for consultation, seeking feedback by 30 April 2008. The draft Statutory Instrument provides for prescribing the curriculum and the minimum weekly timeframe for subjects within it in accordance with that set out on page 70 of the published curriculum, and the provisions set out in Section 30 of the Education Act 1998. I have therefore begun the process to put a statutory underpinning in place for the primary curriculum.

The question of deferring a decision in relation to this matter pending a research project to ascertain the impact on student performance of various models of immersion education was considered. Such research is, in any event, likely to be inconclusive, given the many variables (socio economic status, school practice, variations in first language at home of students etc) that are at play here. In any event, research will, by its nature, focus on but one subset (learning impact) of what is a significantly wider public policy matter and for that reason I did not consider it appropriate to delay a decision pending any such research.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

80 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science the percentage of children n respect of primary school sizes in primary classes of 30 pupils or more for the years 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007; the percentage of children in primary classes of less than 20 pupils for the years 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 of the population of all primary pupils in those years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13203/08]

The percentage of children in primary school classes of 30 pupils or more is as follows:

2003/04: 24.78%

2004/05: 24.91%

2005/06: 25.14%

2006/07: 24.01%

The percentage of children in primary school classes of less than 20 pupils is as follows:

2003/04: 15.44%

2004/05: 15.14%

2005/06: 14.18%

2006/07: 13.73%

The statistics for the school year 2007/08 are not yet available.

There is evidence of a reduction in the range of class sizes with proportionately fewer pupils in very large and very small classes. However, the overall average class size remains constant at 24.1 in 2005/06 and 2006/07.

Schools have flexibility in the way in which they assign pupils and teachers to classes and the Department does not allocate teachers to specific classes or age groups. 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.

As the Deputy will be aware, major improvements have been made in staffing at primary level in recent years. There are now in the region of 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.

I would like to point out that the Government has made provision for approximately 1,200 extra primary and post-primary teachers to be appointed in the next school year.

The Deputy will be aware that Budget 2008 provided €4.6 billion or €380 million extra for teacher pay and pensions. This is a very substantial level of additional investment in the current economic environment and reflects the huge improvements that have been made in school staffing in recent years.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to provide 4,000 additional primary teachers between 2007 and 2012. With the extra teachers already put in place this year and those provided for in the Budget, we are ahead of target with about 2,000 extra primary teachers to be delivered within just two years.

As I have said on many occasions in the past, high quality teachers are by far the most important ingredient in our education system.

Over the lifetime of the Government, we are committed to providing more primary school teachers specifically to reduce class sizes. 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.

School Services Staff.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

81 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason her Department collapsed the process agreed under Towards 2016 to address payments of school secretaries and caretakers. [13254/08]

I am not aware of any collapse, as described by the Deputy, of a process agreed under Towards 2016 to address payments of school secretaries and caretakers.

In general the arrangements for supporting secretarial and caretaking services in schools mirror those for providing support funding to the schools concerned. Primary and secondary schools are funded through capitation grants and likewise secretarial and caretaking services are funded by grants that are related to the number of pupils in the school.

It is the case that a small number of primary and post-primary schools continue to have caretaker and secretary posts funded under a scheme that was put in place in 1978 but which is being phased out as it has been superseded by the grant scheme that I have mentioned. The original 1978 scheme covered a relatively small number of primary and secondary schools and the decision to phase it out was part of a policy decision to spread the support more widely and ultimately cover all primary and secondary schools with funding for such services.

The funding approach adopted for caretaking and secretarial provision in second level schools in the VEC and Community and Comprehensive sectors schools is line with the funding mechanisms that apply generally in those schools.

The amount of funding given to primary and secondary schools is not directly linked to any particular pay rates and furthermore schools have discretion how to apply this funding across their support service needs. My Department does not have any direct role in determining the pay and conditions under which they are engaged. These are matters to be agreed between the staff concerned and the school authorities. However, Boards of Management of individual schools are expected to comply with employment legislation and are advised accordingly in guidance from my Department.

In the context of discussions on the Social Partnership Agreement Towards 2016 an Informal Forum was established in the public sector to explore a number of staffing-related issues arising in companies/bodies operating in the voluntary/community sector that are largely funded from public funds.

As part of that informal process my Department has facilitated a number of meetings between the managerial bodies of schools employing secretaries and caretakers and the IMPACT and SIPTU trade unions representing the grades concerned. The most recent meeting took place on 11th March 2008 at which my officials undertook to continue to facilitate those discussions. In addition representatives of the management bodies of schools agreed to meet separately with the trade unions concerned on issues of concern to their members.

Special Educational Needs.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

82 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science her proposals to extend and improve facilities in mainstream education for children with autism; if she has evaluated precisely such needs at various schools throughout the country; the extent to which she has received representations from school authorities setting out their optimum requirements; when she expects to meet in full such needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13263/08]

The Deputy will be aware of my commitment to ensuring that all children including those with special needs can have access to an education appropriate to their needs preferably in school settings through the primary and post primary school network. This facilitates access to individualised education programmes, fully qualified professional teachers, special needs assistants and the appropriate school curriculum with the option where possible of full/partial integration and interaction with other pupils.

Parents of children with autism now have three distinct choices available to them; their child can either attend a mainstream class in their local school with additional supports as required, they can attend a special class in a mainstream school or they can attend a special school. While some children with autism can thrive in a mainstream class, special classes have been specifically designed to meet the needs of those who require more intensive support. Children in these classes benefit from having fully-qualified teachers who have access to training in a range of autism-specific interventions, including Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA), the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) and the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). Teachers, who are familiar with different interventions, can tailor these to the needs of the individual child. These students have the option, where appropriate, of full/partial integration and interaction with other pupils.

There are in the region of 2,100 children with autism who are receiving additional teaching and/or special needs assistant support in mainstream schools.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers, for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants (SNAs) to schools to support children with special needs. SNAs are sanctioned specifically to assist in the care of pupils and students with disabilities in an educational context. The SENOs operate within the policy outlined in my Department's circular for allocating such support. Additional special classes for children with autism will be sanctioned by the National Council for Special Education as required. School Authorities typically liaise directly with SENOs in relation to their needs for such classes.

Major improvements have been made in special education in recent years including provision for children with autism. We will continue to work to ensure that all children including those with autism have access to appropriate provision.

Departmental Properties.

P. J. Sheehan

Ceist:

83 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will sanction the request of a school board to sell the defunct old national school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13225/08]

The Board of Management of the school referred to by the Deputy has made a request to my Department for permission to dispose of an old school building by way of public sale.

The Deputy may wish to note that normally when a request is received to release my interest in a property, one of the first of several actions required is for my officials to request from the local school Inspector a report outlining the envisaged need for any future educational use for the property. This report has been received in the Planning and Building Unit of the Department. I can assure the Deputy that my Department will expedite the request as soon as possible.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

84 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will reduce the pupil/teacher ratio in 2009; and if so, the amount by which it will be reduced. [13261/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, major improvements have been made in staffing at primary level in recent years. There are now in the region of 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.

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 330 such posts have been sanctioned in the 2007/08 school year compared to 280 in 2006/07.

The extra teachers provided in the current school year and also the additional primary teachers planned for 2008/09 will mean this Government will be well ahead of target in relation to the Programme for Government commitment to hire 4,000 extra primary teachers between 2007 and 2012.

Over the lifetime of the Government, we are committed to providing more primary school teachers specifically to reduce class sizes. 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.

Physical Education Facilities.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

85 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will fulfil the commitment given to a school (details supplied) on 21 May 2007 when the board of management received official approval from her Department for a physical education hall, this letter stating that the project would be on site no later than eight months from the date of the letter; if her Department has stated in response to an adjournment debate (details supplied) that this project must again compete with other priorities on school buildings lists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13259/08]

I can confirm that an application for a PE Hall of 630m2 at the school referred to by the Deputy has reached the advanced stages of architectural planning. The project is being co-funded by my own Department and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

The progression of all large scale building projects from initial design stage through to construction phase, 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.

Schools Refurbishment.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

86 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science the situation regarding the essential roof and other major repairs to a school (details supplied) in County Cavan; her views on whether it is acceptable that pupils and teachers should have to work in such unacceptable conditions where pupils do not even have hot water and showers available after their time in the gym; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12261/08]

I can confirm to the Deputy that an application has been received from the school to which he refers for Emergency Works. The application is currently being considered and the school will be advised of the outcome shortly.

This school have also made an application for large scale capital funding. This application is in the early stages of architectural planning. The progression of all large scale building projects from initial design stage through to construction phase, 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.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

87 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount of money that was provided for the devolved building scheme in each of the past five years; the number of schools that benefited in each of those five years; the amount of funding provided in the budget for that scheme in 2008; her views on whether it was a very cost effective scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12262/08]

The two Devolved Schemes, the Small Schools Scheme and the Permanent Accommodation Scheme, were originally introduced on a pilot basis for 38 schools in 2003 and due to the positive feedback from schools were extended to cover 699 more schools between the years of 2004 and 2007.

The purpose of these devolved schemes is to devolve funding to individual school authorities to undertake building works which will address the school's long term accommodation needs. Under the terms of the Schemes, school authorities are empowered to manage these works with guidance from and minimal interaction with the Department. Devolving funding to school management authorities allows them to have control of their projects, assists in moving projects more quickly to tender and construction and can also deliver better value for money.

A table shows the amount of money provided in each of the past five years and the number of schools which have benefited in each of those years.The feedback from schools has in general been positive and the number of schools participating has increased year on year.

Year

Allocation

No. of Schools

€m

2003

10.0

38

2004

20.5

86

2005

52.0

150

2006

98.0

208

2007

99.4

255

Schools Building Projects.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

88 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will sanction €311,000 to a project (details supplied) in Dublin 7 in order that they can complete the three-year pilot phase as awarded under DJELR/Pobal Integration Initiative; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13181/08]

I have received a request from the project in question for further funding. I am examining the request in the context of the resources available and other competing demands.

School Accommodation.

David Stanton

Ceist:

89 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department has carried out an analysis into the projected number of students who will need to be accommodated in second level schools in east Cork over the next eight years; her plans to increase the number of places in second level schools in the short, medium and long term; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13391/08]

The Forward Planning Section of my Department is in the process of identifying the areas where significant additional accommodation will be required at primary and post-primary level for 2009 and onwards.

Factors under consideration include population growth, demographic trends, current and projected enrolments, recent and planned housing developments and the capacity of existing schools to meet demand for places. Having considered these factors decisions will be taken on the means by which emerging needs will be met within an area.

Post-primary accommodation requirements in the east Cork area will be considered in this context.

Schools Building Projects.

P. J. Sheehan

Ceist:

90 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will sanction the extension to a community college (details supplied) in County Cork that applied 15 years ago; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13226/08]

The development of the proposed building project for the school in question is at an early stage. The progression of all large scale building projects from initial design stage through to construction phase, including the application in question, will be considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

91 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools throughout the country in respect of which she has improved the pupil/teacher ratio in the classroom since the last General Election; the location of such schools; their respective average classroom sizes then and at present; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13262/08]

Information in relation to primary school pupil teacher ratios is provided in the annual census of primary schools. The details for the current school year (2007/2008) are currently being compiled by my Department and the information requested is not yet available. Pupil Teacher Ratios in respect of all schools is currently only available at national level and not disaggregated by county or any other variable. Significant improvements have been made in the pupil teacher ratio at post primary level in recent years. The ratio has fallen from 16:1 in the 1996/97 school year to 13.13 :1 in the 2006/07 school year.

As the Deputy will be aware, major improvements have been made in staffing at primary level in recent years. 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.

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 330 such posts have been sanctioned in the 2007/08 school year compared to 280 in 2006/07.

In the primary sector alone, there are now in the region of 6,000 more teachers on the Department's payroll than there were in 2002. Extra teachers have been provided in the 2006/07 and 2007/08 school years specifically to reduce class sizes. The Programme for Government contains a commitment to provide 4,000 additional primary teachers between 2007 and 2012. With the extra teachers already put in place this year and those provided for in the Budget, we are ahead of target with about 2,000 extra primary teachers to be delivered within just two years.

Over the lifetime of the Government, we are committed to providing more primary school teachers specifically to reduce class sizes. 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.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

92 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Science if the discontinuation of the school buildings list has removed transparency from the school buildings programme resulting in many schools being left in the dark without any information on the stage their project is at. [13258/08]

Following the introduction by the Department of Finance in 2004 of five year funding envelopes I decided that my Department's system of publishing the entire building programme in one single announcement was less than satisfactory. This was based on the experience in 2004, whereby a record number of projects were selected for proceeding to tender and construction at a single point in time. While ideal in the context of announcing the entire building programme in one annual announcement, this made it less easy to take account of emerging trends generally and specific issues arising on individual projects.

I was anxious to ensure that there was a continuous flow of projects moving to tender and construction. The approach I adopted means that there is a solid flow of projects moving forward through the various stages of architectural planning that can be sustained into the future and the previous stop/start approach to planning the building programme can be avoided. It also gives my Department some flexibility in addressing urgent accommodation issues arising in rapidly developing areas.

Accordingly the 2005 building programme provided for projects to be approved to go to tender and construction on a rolling basis during the year when the schools concerned and their design teams were in a position to confirm to my Department that the project had advanced to the point where tenders could be sought. This approach has been continued since then and I make regular announcements on the matter so that schools will be aware of the progression of their projects.

My latest announcement was on 1 February last when I announced a list of 48 large scale building projects, including 45 new school buildings, which are due to go to construction in 2008. It is also my intention to make further announcements of projects to be progressed as the 2008 school building programme is rolled out and to update progress on the new schools planned for September 2008 delivery in developing areas.

School Staffing.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

93 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science the practice that has been put in place to ensure that registered sex offenders are not used as substitute teachers in schools; and if the new proposed legislation will deal with this issue. [13260/08]

In the education sector, vetting is currently done in respect of newly appointed teachers via the registration process with the Teaching Council. It is also done for prospective employees for posts that involve working with children such as Special Needs assistants (SNAs), bus drivers, bus escorts to children with special needs, caretakers and other ancillary staff. As the expansion of service by the Garda Vetting Unit is rolled out my Department will be consulting the relevant stakeholders on how best to introduce vetting of existing teachers and other education staff working with children.

With regard to the appointment of substitute teachers, appointing staff is the responsibility of the board of management and it is for the Board to satisfy itself that a particular individual is considered suitable for appointment.

Where facts or information comes to a Board's attention calling into question a person's suitability to work with children it is obviously for the Board to satisfy itself that the person is suitable to work in that capacity. This will naturally have to be assessed on a case by case basis. The Board will have to consider all the circumstances of the case, give due weight to all relevant factors, and afford fair procedures to the individual concerned before making a decision.

Ensuring the protection, health and welfare of children is a key concern for the Government, for parents, for agencies that work with children and for society generally and I can assure the Deputy that the Government is determined to do all it can to keep our children and vulnerable adults safe.

To this end, the Programme for Government provides for a proposed amendment to the Constitution which will further strengthen our ability to protect our children by allowing the Oireachtas to legislate for the exchange of information about suspected child abusers. The Programme is committed to putting in place the necessary structures and systems to increase cooperation on vetting and the exchange of all relevant information about those who work or seek to work with children and vulnerable adults.

Furthermore, there is a commitment to provide extra resources to the Garda vetting service and also that we will develop an all-Ireland approach to child protection.

I can assure the Deputy that this Government is determined to do all it can to keep our children and vulnerable adults safe.

School Services Staff.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

94 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science how she can justify school secretaries who provide the same services being paid differing rates of pay, with some being paid less than the minimum wage; and the action she will take to rectify this. [13255/08]

In general the arrangements for supporting secretarial and caretaking services in schools mirror those for providing support funding to the schools concerned. Primary and secondary schools are funded through capitation grants and likewise secretarial and caretaking services are funded by grants that are related to the number of pupils in the school.

It is the case that a small number of primary and post-primary schools continue to have caretaker and secretary posts funded under a scheme that was put in place in 1978 but which is being phased out as it has been superseded by the grant scheme that I have mentioned. The original 1978 scheme covered a relatively small number of primary and secondary schools and the decision to phase it out was part of a policy decision to spread the support more widely and ultimately cover all primary and secondary schools with funding for such services.

The funding approach adopted for caretaking and secretarial provision in second level schools in the VEC and Community and Comprehensive sectors schools is line with the funding mechanisms that apply generally in those schools.

The amount of funding given to primary and secondary schools is not directly linked to any particular pay rates and furthermore schools have discretion on how to apply this funding across their support service needs. My Department does not have any direct role in determining the pay and conditions under which they are engaged. These are matters to be agreed between the staff concerned and the school authorities. However, Boards of Management of individual schools are expected to comply with employment legislation and are advised accordingly in guidance from my Department.

In the context of discussions on the Social Partnership Agreement Towards 2016 an Informal Forum was established in the public sector to explore a number of staffing-related issues arising in companies/bodies operating in the voluntary/community sector that are largely funded from public funds.

As part of that informal process my Department has facilitated a number of meetings between the managerial bodies of schools employing secretaries and caretakers and the IMPACT and SIPTU trade unions representing the grades concerned. The most recent meeting took place on 11th March 2008 at which my officials undertook to continue to facilitate those discussions. In addition representatives of the management bodies of schools agreed to meet separately with the trade unions concerned on issues of concern to their members.

School Accommodation.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

95 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will expedite the plans for new permanent accommodation at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24; if her attention has been drawn to the concerns of pupils, staff and the community that the building programme commence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11852/08]

As the Deputy may be aware a Developing Areas Unit was set up recently in my Department to focus on the school accommodation needs of rapidly developing areas including the area to which the Deputy refers. The main emphasis in 2008 is on providing sufficient school places in these developing areas, as well as delivering improvements in the quality of existing primary and post-primary school accommodation throughout the country.

The Stage 3 documentation for the project referred to by the Deputy is currently being examined by my Department's Technical Staff. As is the case of all large capital projects currently on hand within the Developing Areas Unit, progression of the project will be considered in the context of the multi-annual School Building and Modernisation programme.

Special Educational Needs.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

96 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a centre (detail supplied) is operational; the services it provides for persons with autism in the Republic and in Northern Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9307/08]

The Middletown Centre for Autism project is a joint initiative between the Department of Education in Northern Ireland and the Department of Education and Science aimed at supporting the promotion of excellence in the development and harmonisation of education and allied services to children and young people with autistic spectrum disorders.

It has been agreed that the following four key services will be provided by the centre: learning support service; an educational assessment service; training and advisory service and an autism research and information service.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that officials from my Department and the Department of Education in Northern Ireland continue to work closely together to progress the development of the Middletown Centre for Autism. Members were appointed to a Board of Directors in 2007 and a small number of key staff has taken up positions facilitating the phasing in of service provision. Work to date includes the provision of some training and also a public consultation process on the Centre. However the Centre will not be fully up and running until the proposed building project is completed, which is scheduled for 2009.

Schools Building Projects.

David Stanton

Ceist:

97 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 1079 of 30 January 2008 and 159 of 6 March 2008, the further progress that has been made in the matter of providing a new premises for a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13392/08]

As the Deputy may be aware a Developing Areas Unit was set up recently in my Department to focus on the school accommodation needs of rapidly developing areas including the area to which the Deputy refers. The main emphasis in 2008 is on providing sufficient school places in these developing areas, as well as delivering improvements in the quality of existing primary and post-primary school accommodation throughout the country.

In this context, the status of this project is currently being assessed. As is the case of all large capital projects currently on hand within the Developing Areas Unit, progression of the project will be considered in the context of the multi-annual School Building and Modernisation programme.

Student Accommodation.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

98 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will establish a task force to address the urgent accommodation needs of third level students; and if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this falls under her remit. [13256/08]

I am aware that USI have called for the establishment of a taskforce on student accommodation.

When USI first made this call last year, my Department explained to them that it would be primarily a matter for the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government which has responsibility for housing policy.

While I would obviously be concerned if accommodation difficulties are impacting on students' performance at college, my Department has no remit in relation to student accommodation.

The Department of Education does not provide financial assistance for the provision of student accommodation nor has it any funding available to do so. Capital funding under the NDP for higher education is targeted at delivering core educational facilities.

Neither does my Department have any expertise or knowledge in relation to housing supply or housing policy in general. Any analysis of student accommodation in a particular locality would have to take account of the availability of other rented accommodation in that area. Any proposals would have to be considered in the context of national housing policy as set by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

As the Deputy will be aware, a number of initiatives have been taken by the Government to improve the availability of student accommodation in recent years.

Section 50 of the Finance Act 1999 incentivised the provision of dedicated student residential accommodation, while the Rent a Room tax relief introduced in 2001 has encouraged private householders to rent out rooms to students.

A review of the Section 50 tax exemption by Indecon consultants for the Department of Finance in 2006 concluded that it had served its purpose and that oversupply was potentially developing as an issue. As a result the scheme will be phased out in 2008 although the tax relief will apply for 10 years from the date that the property is first let to students.

The Deputy will also be aware that there have been record increases in the overall housing stock, with over 700,000 new housing units built over the past ten years.

Notwithstanding all of this, I am conscious that student representatives believe that there is a shortage of suitable rented accommodation in the Dublin area in particular.

My colleague, Minister Gormley, has recently suggested commissioning a study from the Centre for Housing Research on the availability of rented accommodation for students in the greater Dublin region. I am pleased to state I have signalled to him that my Department would be willing to consider co-funding such a study, subject to agreement on terms of reference and costs. Discussions are now due to take place at official level on this.

Special Educational Needs.

Seán Barrett

Ceist:

99 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department will accord recognition to all Down’s syndrome children as having specific learning disabilities, thus providing an automatic entitlement for them to a minimum number of learning support hours; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10102/08]

My Department has put in place a range of teaching and care supports for pupils with special educational needs, including those with Down's syndrome.

Pupils with Down's syndrome may receive additional teaching support in school from either the additional supports provided to schools under general allocation system for children with high incidence special needs or through an allocation of further teaching supports where the child has been assessed as being within one of the low incidence categories of special educational need.

The general allocation system allocated resource teaching supports to schools in line with their enrolments. This has enabled schools to provide additional support for children with high incidence special needs such as mild general learning disability without the need for an individual assessment in each case. Each school determines the pupils with high incidence special education and learning support needs who will receive this support. Research shows that some pupils with special needs will respond better with one-to-one tuition. Others do better when taught in small groups.

Additional teaching supports are allocated to schools where they have enrolled a pupil with a low incidence special educational need. The number of additional teaching hours allocated ranges from three to five hours per week depending on the pupil's special educational needs including the level of general learning disability. Applications for such support are made through the local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) by the school. The NCSE operates within the policy parameters outlined in my Department's circulars in allocating these supports.

I have no plans to extend the current criteria for low incidence special educational needs to include all children with Down's syndrome.

Trade Statistics.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

100 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Taoiseach the balance of trade between Ireland and China, Burma, Pakistan, India, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Chad, Congo, Egypt, Saudi-Arabia and Iran for the years 2000 to 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13615/08]

The data requested by the Deputy is presented in the table for 2000 to 2007 incl. The table shows the merchandise trade balance for the countries requested i.e. exports minus imports over the period.

Balance of Trade (Merchandise Exports minus Imports)

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

€000

€000

€000

€000

€000

€000

€000

€000

Burma

-1,249

-584

161

-987

-442

3,150

37

862

Chad

82

186

145

793

153

-247

-411

-1,883

China

-733,810

-747,300

-956,401

-1,630,396

-2,137,379

-2,847,004

-3,557,895

-3,494,344

Congo (Dem Rep)

3,099

3,394

5,078

8,289

13,056

13,495

22,537

20,185

Egypt

229,328

90,755

71,308

30,963

59,382

31,015

37,734

42,257

India

-25,540

-46,321

-24,761

-39,666

-43,536

-102,243

-76,981

-112,247

Iran

-1,671

3,946

12,460

14,375

10,754

12,311

21,279

24,110

Pakistan

38,291

-15,553

-24,336

-19,779

14,034

-10,016

-13,270

-7,390

Saudi Arabia

355,349

385,052

338,971

267,012

247,335

287,457

328,136

317,011

Sudan

6,776

12,878

12,934

17,407

11,599

14,752

14,848

9,570

Zimbabwe

-2,376

-1,674

-154

949

1,170

1,339

1,134

331

Tax Code.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

101 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on amending the Valuation Act 2001 in view of the issues faced by a number of voluntary clubs such as a club (details supplied) to ensure that rates are changed only on licensed premises owned by a local sporting organisation and not on community hall, sport or recreational facilities provided by a registered club; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13469/08]

In regard to the Valuation Act, 2001, I should point out that the Commissioner of Valuation is independent in the exercise of his duties under the Act and that I, as Minister for Finance, have no function in decisions in this regard.

The Valuation Act, 2001 provides that community halls including clubhouses which are not licensed to sell alcohol and whose facilities are not used primarily for profit or gain, are not rateable.

However, the Act provides that where a club is licensed to sell alcohol under the Registration of Clubs Act 1904, the premises occupied by that club are registered and rateable in their entirety which includes all the buildings in the club, notwithstanding their various uses at different times.

The sale of alcohol is a commercial activity and these premises are competing with other commercial premises. The effect of removing any category of rateable property from the valuation base would be to increase the rates burden on other ratepayers.

Where a community hall or a sports club ceases to be licensed for the sale of alcohol it will no longer be rateable. I have no plans at present to amend the valuation legislation as it applies to voluntary and community sports clubs.

Garda Stations.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

102 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the cost of restructuring a private house in Dowra, County Cavan to provide a Garda Barracks; if he is satisfied that this money was well spent; the action he will take in relation to the former Garda barracks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13503/08]

The cost of restructuring the house to make it suitable for use as a Garda Station was €117,675 inclusive of VAT. The new accommodation provided for the Garda Síochana was in line with current standards and represented value for money.

The Office of Public Works are currently liaising with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Authorities for an indication as to their future requirements for the former Garda Barracks.

Subject to confirmation from An Garda Síochana that they have no future requirements for the building and that there is no other Government requirement for the premises, OPW will proceed to surrender the property to the landlord.

Departmental Facilities.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

103 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 191 of 2 April 2008, the number and the cost incurred, through rental or otherwise, of car park spaces for public buildings in Dublin provided by the Office of Public Works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13436/08]

Further to Parliamentary Question No. 191 of 2 April 2008, the table details the number and the cost incurred per annum of car park spaces for public buildings in Dublin provided by the Office of Public Works. In a small number of cases the cost of the car spaces is included in the overall annual rent. Where this is the case it is noted on the table.

Location

Lease Core

Property Name

Address

No. of Spaces

Cost P.A.

Balbriggan

LSE1035

Balbriggan Passport Office

Unit 1, Fingal Bay Business Park, Balbriggan

76

Included as part of Annual Rent

Blackrock

LSE0730

Blackrock Trident House

Trident House

20

35,000.00

Cabinteely

LSE0104

Cabinteely Garda Station

Bray Road

20

Included as part of Annual Rent

Dublin 01

LSE0001

Abbey Street Upper 26 – 30

Chapter House, 26 – 30 Upper Abbey Street

7

17,776.36

Dublin 01

LSE0002

Chapter House

26 – 30 Upper Abbey Street

14

35,552.72

Dublin 01

LSE0004

Abbey Street Upper 26 – 30

Chapter House, 26 – 30 Upper Abbey Street

12

30,473.76

Dublin 01

LSE0020

Arran Court

Arran Quay

7

13,332.27

Dublin 01

LSE0108

Capel Street 89 -94

89 -94 Capel Street

1

2,539.48

Dublin 01

LSE0317

Frederick St North, Frederick Cr

Frederick Court, North Frederick Street

25

80,000.00

Dublin 01

LSE0358

Gandon House

Amiens Street

19

54,283.00

Dublin 01

LSE0359

Gandon House

Amiens Street

8

3,500.00

Dublin 01

LSE0404

Irish Life Centre

Lower Abbey Street

60

72,000.00

Dublin 01

LSE0405

Irish Life Centre

Lower Abbey Street

8

25,393.00

Dublin 01

LSE0406

Irish Life Centre

Lower Abbey Street

17

54,400.00

Dublin 01

LSE0407

Irish Life Centre

Lower Abbey Street

30

95,220.00

Dublin 01

LSE0408

Irish Life Centre

Lower Abbey Street

12

38,088.00

Dublin 01

LSE0409

Irish Life Centre

Lower Abbey Street

35

111,090.00

Dublin 01

LSE0497

O’Connell St 29-32

Lyon/Findlater House, 29-32 O’Connell Street

30

68,565.85

Dublin 01

LSE0509

Marlborough St Car Park Education

Marlborough St – Sean McDermott

148

264,197.76

Dublin 01

LSE0596

Parnell St Parnell BusinesCntr

125 Parnell Street

4

3,047.36

Dublin 01

LSE0597

Parnell St Parnell Cntr Car Pk

Parnell Street

24

66,144.00

Dublin 01

LSE0598

Parnell House

13 – 15 Parnell Square

66

204,240.30

Dublin 01

LSE0961

Parnell Sq 16

16 Parnell Square

55

139,671.89

Dublin 01

LSE0970

Abbey Street Upper 26 – 30

Chapter House, 26 – 30 Upper Abbey Street

4

2,539.48

Dublin 01

LSE0974

Talbot Street 37 Car Pk

Ripley Court Hotel, 37 Talbot Street

20

60,500.00

Dublin 01

LSE1008

Jervis Shopping Centre Car Park

125 Upper Abbey Street

5

8,000.00

Dublin 01

LSE1024

Dublin Port Garda Car Park

Terminal Building, Alexandra Road

7

12,740.00

Dublin 01

LSE1140

Millennium House

52-56 Great Strand Street

7

22,225.00

Location

Lease Core

Property Name

Address

No. of Spaces

Cost P.A.

Dublin 01

LSE1431

Kings Inn House SWO

Parnell St

9

28,800.00

Dublin 02

LSE0008

Tara Street Apollo House

Tara Street

33

54,471.76

Dublin 02

LSE0010

Apollo House

Tara Street

10

28,570.00

Dublin 02

LSE0078

Bishops Square

Redmonds Hill

13

28,886.00

Dublin 02

LSE0080

Bishops Square

Redmonds Hill

13

28,886.00

Dublin 02

LSE0082

Bishops Square

Redmonds Hill

10

22,220.00

Dublin 02

LSE0121

Great Georges St Sth 73/83

73-83 South Great Georges Street

82

149,305.96

Dublin 02

LSE0153

Clanwilliam Court Block 1

Lower Mount Street

25

63,487.00

Dublin 02

LSE0154

Clare Street 12

12 Clare Street

4

12,696.00

Dublin 02

LSE0155

Clare Street 22-25

22-25 Clare Street

11

35,570.00

Dublin 02

LSE0176

Clonmel Street [Clonmel Place]

Clonmel Place, Clonmel Street

30

95,220.00

Dublin 02

LSE0182

Townsend St College Hse Car Pk

Townsend Street

26

97,500.00

Dublin 02

LSE0184

Kildare Street 43-44

Confederation House, 43-44 Kildare Street

35

111,102.25

Dublin 02

LSE0242

East Essex Street Dolphin Hous

East Essex Street

11

27,000.00

Dublin 02

LSE0264

Drury Street Car Park

Drury Street

6

8,685.00

Dublin 02

LSE0292

Adelaide Rd 65A (Davitt House)

65A Adelaide Road

25

87,500.00

Dublin 02

LSE0294

Earl Court Car Park

Adelaide Road

8

20,315.84

Dublin 02

LSE0295

Earlsfort Terrace Earl Ctr Blk

Earlsfort Centre Block C, Earlsfort Terrace

18

67,500.00

Dublin 02

LSE0300

Ely Place 7-8 Ely Court

7-8 Ely Place

28

88,881.80

Dublin 02

LSE0314

Fitzwilton House

Wilton Place

4

15,000.00

Dublin 02

LSE0318

Frederick House

South Frederick Street

6

19,050.00

Dublin 02

LSE0374

Grand Canal Street

1 Lower Grand Canal Street

86

240,234.00

Dublin 02

LSE0376

Grattan House

67-72 Lower Mount Street

10

31,728.80

Dublin 02

LSE0377

Grattan House

67-72 Lower Mount Street

10

31,743.50

Dublin 02

LSE0378

Grattan House

67-72 Lower Mount Street

10

31,743.50

Dublin 02

LSE0379

Grattan House

67-72 Lower Mount Street

10

31,751.00

Location

Lease Core

Property Name

Address

No. of Spaces

Cost P.A.

Dublin 02

LSE0386

Hainault House

67-71 St Stephen’s Green

19

36,187.54

Dublin 02

LSE0387

Harcourt Centre Block 2

Harcourt Street

5

17,500.00

Dublin 02

LSE0388

Harcourt Road 4-5

4-5 Harcourt Road

30

38,092.14

Dublin 02

LSE0389

Harcourt Sq Garda

Harcourt Street

39

124,800.00

Dublin 02

LSE0391

Harcourt Sq Garda

Harcourt Street

50

187,500.00

Dublin 02

LSE0392

Harcourt Sq Garda

Harcourt Street

54

207,900.00

Dublin 02

LSE0393

Harcourt Sq Garda

Harcourt Street

15

56,250.00

Dublin 02

LSE0395

Harcourt Street 75-78

76-78 Harcourt Street

24

91,200.00

Dublin 02

LSE0396

Hatch Street 13-15

13-15 Hatch Street

12

36,000.00

Dublin 02

LSE0399

Holbrook House

Holles Street

10

35,000.00

Dublin 02

LSE0411

Harcourt Road Dun Sceine

Iveagh Court Block A

14

49,000.00

Dublin 02

LSE0415

Lombard St East 8 – 11 Joyce H

8 – 11 Lombard Street

9

33,750.00

Dublin 02

LSE0496

Luke Street Car Park

21-21C Luke Street

17

19,426.99

Dublin 02

LSE0515

Merrion Square 24

24 Merrion Square

8

25,461.00

Dublin 02

LSE0516

Merrion Square 24

24 Merrion Square

5

12,697.38

Dublin 02

LSE0517

Fenian Street Car Park

Cumberland House, Fenian Street

10

32,750.00

Dublin 02

LSE0526

Mespil Road 43-49

43 – 49 Mespil Road

19

60,312.65

Dublin 02

LSE0529

Molesworth Building Setanta Cntre

Molesworth Street/South Frederic

4

10,160.00

Dublin 02

LSE0530

Molesworth Bldg Setanta Cntre

Molesworth Street/South Frederic

80

253,948.00

Dublin 02

LSE0532

Ballaugh House

73-79 Lower Mount Street

45

142,875.00

Dublin 02

LSE0533

Mount Street Lower 85 – 93

85-93 Lower Mount Street

25

79,358.63

Dublin 02

LSE0535

Mount St Upr 36

36 Upper Mount Street

10

3,750.00

Dublin 02

LSE0555

Nassau Building Setanta Centre

Nassau Street

16

50,789.52

Location

Lease Core

Property Name

Address

No. of Spaces

Cost P.A.

Dublin 02

LSE0556

Nassau Building Setanta Centre

Nassau Street

15

28,569.11

Dublin 02

LSE0557

Nassau Building Setanta Centre

Nassau Street

17

53,964.00

Dublin 02

LSE0558

Nassau Building Setanta Centre

Nassau Street

15

47,615.18

Dublin 02

LSE0559

Nassau Building Setanta Centre

Nassau Street

7

11,999.02

Dublin 02

LSE0560

Nassau Building Setanta Centre

Nassau Street

15

28,569.15

Dublin 02

LSE0585

Oisín House

212-213 Pearse Street

87

271,875.00

Dublin 02

LSE0590

Leeson Street Lower Ossory Hou

Earlsfort Centre, Lower Leeson Street

21

73,500.00

Dublin 02

LSE0607

Drury Street Car Park

Drury Street

57

115,413.22

Dublin 02

LSE0608

Drury Street Car Park

Drury Street

10

20,247.93

Dublin 02

LSE0613

Phoenix House

6 – 9 South Leinster Street

6

11,427.64

Dublin 02

LSE0645

Setanta Place 1

1 Setanta Place, Kildare Street

10

35,000.00

Dublin 02

LSE0646

Setanta Place 1

1 Setanta Place, Kildare Street

3

9,523.00

Dublin 02

LSE0676

Earlsfort Tce St Steph Gr Hse

Earlsfort Terrace

23

65,688.00

Dublin 02

LSE0679

St Stephen’s Green House

Earlsfort Terrace

10

32,240.00

Dublin 02

LSE0681

Government Publications Office

Molesworth Street

2

6,348.00

Dublin 02

LSE0707

Mount St Lr 79-83 Timberlay Hs

79-83 Lower Mount Street

28

88,900.00

Dublin 02

LSE0949

St Stephens Gr Car Park

College of Surgeons Car Park, St Stephens Green

31

68,882.00

Dublin 02

LSE0954

Ardilaun House

St Stephens Green

20

63,487.00

Location

Lease Core

Property Name

Address

No. of Spaces

Cost P.A.

Dublin 02

LSE0963

Merrion Row 2- 4

2/4 Merrion Row

5

15,875.00

Dublin 02

LSE0969

Earlsfort Centre Block J

Earlsfort Terrace

4

14,000.00

Dublin 02

LSE0971

Townsend St College Hse Car Pk

Townsend Street

17

53,963.95

Dublin 02

LSE1004

St Stephen’s Green House

Earlsfort Terrace

15

47,610.00

Dublin 02

LSE1014

St Stephens Gr 94

94 St Stephens Green

19

48,625.00

Dublin 02

LSE1044

Adelaide Road 29-31

29-31 Adelaide Road

87

252,800.00

Dublin 02

LSE1159

Drury Street Car Park

Drury Street

60

156,000.00

Dublin 02

LSE1169

Harcourt St Pinebrook House

Pinebrook House, 71 – 74 Harcourt Street

4

12,800.00

Dublin 02

LSE1170

Harcourt St 72-74

Pinebrook House, 72-74 Harcourt Street

54

172,800.00

Dublin 02

LSE1216

Molesworth Bldg Setanta Cntre

Molesworth Street/South Frederic

18

66,600.00

Dublin 02

LSE1263

Revenue Castleview Georges st

Block C, Georges St South Development

35

122,500.00

Dublin 04

LSE0156

Claremont Road Revenue Office

Claremont Road, Sandymount

20

25,394.76

Dublin 04

LSE0401

Ballsbridge (Hume House)

Ballsbridge

28

78,232.00

Dublin 04

LSE0652

Shelbourne Rd 21Shelbourne Hse

21 Shelbourne Road, Ballsbridge

30

95,250.00

Dublin 04

LSE0997

Waterloo Road St Martins House

Dublin 4

24

60,936.00

Dublin 06

LSE0107

Canal House

Canal Road

22

77,000.00

Dublin 06

LSE0620

Rathgar Driving Test Centre

95 Orwell Road, Rathgar

17

10,792.79

Dublin 06

LSE0621

Rathmines CSO Car Park

Leinster Cricket Club, Observatory Lane

20

32,000.00

Dublin 07

LSE0090

Bow Street 31-35

31-35 Bow Street

27

74,346.12

Dublin 07

LSE0506

Manor St Nursing Council

Units 6 & 7, Manor St Business Park

4

3,809.20

National Biodiversity Plan.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

104 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the steps he has taken to ensure that his Department, in accordance with the requirement under the National Biodiversity Plan, has drawn up a biodiversity action plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13479/08]

The Department of Finance is not a relevant Department under the National Biodiversity Plan and is not required to prepare biodiversity plan.

The only office or agency under my aegis with ongoing activities relevant to implementation of the National Biodiversity Plan is the Office of Public Works. While a formal Action Plan has not been prepared, the Office is aware of its responsibilities under the Biodiversity Plan and has in place a suite of detailed actions in various services which are in accordance with that plan. I have arranged for that Office to furnish the Deputy with lists of those actions.

Election Expenses.

Sean Fleming

Ceist:

105 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the amounts paid to each returning official in respect of their election expenses accounts for the 2007 general election; and the estimate, where the amounts have not been finalised, of the amount to be paid on a constituency basis. [13527/08]

Section 32 of the Electoral Act, 1992, as amended by Section 14 of the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 2001, sets out the statutory basis for the payment of expenses to Returning Officers in respect of Dáil elections.

I, as Minister for Finance, sanctioned a Schedule of Charges (Charges Order) which sets out the scale of maximum charges for Returning Officers' for the purpose of the General Election which was held on 24 May 2007.

€15,433,108.57 is the total amount of expenses incurred by Returning Officers to date. Details are set out below on a constituency/Returning Officer basis:

Constituency

Returning Officer

Total Expenses

Carlow — Kilkenny

Mary Enright

485,000.00

Clare

Patrick Wallace

350,000.00

Cork County

Michael O’Driscoll

817,058.86

Cork North & South

Martin Harvey

800,000.00

Dublin County

John Fitzpatrick

2,533,139.29

Dublin City

Brendan Walsh

1,600,940.00

Donegal

Geraldine O’Connor

600,000.00

Galway

Marian Chambers-Higgins

800,000.00

Kildare

Eithne Coughlan

487,406.83

Kerry

Padraig Burke

683,870.14

Laois — Offaly

Verona Lambe

500,000.00

Louth

Mairead Ahern

347,720.54

Longford — Westmeath

Imelda Brannigan

495,254.00

Limerick East & West

Patrick Meghen

650,000.00

Mayo

Fintan Murphy

550,000.00

Meath

Maire Teehan

300,000.00

Monaghan

Josie Duffy

476,885.70

Roscommon

William Lyster

312,036.00

Sligo — Leitrim

Kieran McDermott

300,000.00

Tipperary North & South

Mary Delahanty

850,000.00

Waterford

Niall Rooney

285,000.00

Wexford

Marie Garahy

428,797.21

Wicklow

Breda Allen

780,000.00

Total

15,433,108.57

The majority of claims for expenses received from Returning Officers in respect of the 2007 General Election have been processed and the remainder will be finalised in the coming weeks. While further claims cannot be ruled out it is unlikely that any more claims will be received. It is likely that any such claim would be for relatively small amounts.

Fiscal Policy.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

106 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the national reserve pension fund has funds invested in companies that manufacture cluster munitions or components for such munitions; if so, the figure for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13616/08]

It is Government policy to campaign for a complete ban on the use of cluster munitions and my colleague, Mr Dermot Ahern, TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs, is working to bring to completion negotiations on the first-ever instrument of international humanitarian law specifically directed against cluster munitions.

I have raised this issue with the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission and the Commission has agreed to exclude companies involved in the manufacture of cluster munitions from the Fund. It is currently in the process of implementing this decision.

Tax Collection.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

107 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the impact the shortfall in tax revenues will have for his spending plans in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13617/08]

The 2008 spending plans were set out in detail in the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2008 which were published on 21 February 2008. I have no proposals to amend these plans.

Total proposed gross expenditure for the year amounts to just under €62 billion made up of approximately €53 billion current expenditure and €9 billion capital expenditure. These are the totals set out for the year and these are the spending allocations with which all Government Departments and Agencies must comply.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

108 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied regarding the extent and frequency of school medical examinations; if she has received a report for changes or improvements in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13580/08]

The 2008 spending plans were set out in detail in the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2008 which were published on 21 February 2008. I have no proposals to amend these plans.

Total proposed gross expenditure for the year amounts to just under €62 billion made up of approximately €53 billion current expenditure and €9 billion capital expenditure. These are the totals set out for the year and these are the spending allocations with which all Government Departments and Agencies must comply.

Special Educational Needs.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

109 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of court actions regarding the provision of resources such as speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and psychological services relating to school students with special needs which her Department has been involved in, in each year over the past five years; the number of these actions which progressed to the hearing stage; the number of cases that resulted in the provision by her Department, of the resources sought by the plaintiff; the costs which were incurred by her Department in responding to this court action; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13420/08]

In the last five years, 56 cases have been entered against my Department in which applicants / plaintiffs are seeking access to education and health support services. In cases involving children with disabilities this also includes, on occasion, access to appropriate health related supports. These cases were broken down as follows:

2003: 19 cases ( 9 Judicial Review, 10 Plenary)

2004: 13 cases ( 6 Judicial Review, 7 Plenary)

2005: 11 cases ( 6 Judicial Review, 5 Plenary)

2006: 10 cases ( 9 Judicial Review, 1 Plenary)

2007: 3 cases (1 Judicial Review, 2 Plenary)

2008: No cases to date.

In that time, four cases have proceeded to full hearing, the first in 2003, the second during 2005 and the third during 2006. The court ruled in favour of the State on all occasions. The fourth case has yet to be finalised and determined. A number of other cases which commenced prior to 2003 are also being dealt with by my Department. The cost to my Department, excluding the costs of the State defence which is borne by the Office of the Chief State Solicitor, in each of the years since 2003 was as follows:

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Legal Costs (€)

2,484,579

1,375,056

2,741,436

1,030,435

362,861

Settlements (€)

305,106

230,987

283,487

275,739

227,190

Total (€)

2,789,685

1,606,043

3,024,923

1,306,174

590,051

Costs to date in 2008 amount to approximately €175,000. It should be noted that these figures do not include the cost of officials in my Department responding to these cases.

These cases are, in the main, taken against the Department of Education and Science and allege a failure on behalf of the State to provide for an appropriate education as provided for in the Constitution. While these cases are mainly taken by parents of children with autism, there are also a number of cases relating to ADHD and intellectual, physical and sensory disabilities. The Deputy should note that the Department of Health and Children is not specifically named as a defendant in all of these cases but is involved due to its role in the formulation and development of policy in respect of the provision of health care and support services. The Health Act 2004 provided for the creation of the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Pursuant to the Health Act, 2004, the HSE has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for all health related supports. As such, my Department does not have a function in relation to the provision of services to individuals. In a number of the cases the Health Service Executive is also named as a co-defendant.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

110 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on the situation where the Health Service Executive and Cork University Hospital have been forced to down-size their original plans for a multi-storey car park and helicopter landing facilities in Cork University Hospital for urgent cases as a result of the proposed co-located hospital on campus and that this proposal for a helipad was contained in the hospital strategy plan from the year 2000. [13423/08]

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 Staff.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

111 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on the status of the common contract document finalised by the Irish Hospital Consultants Association and the Irish Medical Organisation. [13424/08]

On 27 March 2008, the health service employers issued a comprehensive document to the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) detailing the proposed terms and conditions of a new contract for consultants employed in the public health service. A copy of the document was also furnished to the independent chairman of the negotiations Mr Mark Connaughton SC who indicated that the document appeared to encompass the various matters dealt with by him during the course of the talks process.

The document was recently considered by both the National Council of the IHCA and the IMO but a decision on putting it to a ballot of their respective memberships has been deferred for the time being pending clarification on a number of issues. Further meetings between health service employers and representatives of the medical organisations are taking place in an attempt to finalise matters.

Hospital Services.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

112 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she proposes to introduce restrictions over the practices of private cosmetic surgery clinics here and particularly the way cosmetic surgery procedures are advertised. [13425/08]

Under the Medical Practitioners Act 1978, the Medical Council is charged with responsibility for the registration of medical practitioners and the regulation of their activities. The Medical Practitioners Act 2007 provides for a clear compulsory requirement for registration of all medical practitioners, changes to the Fitness to Practise process and the introduction of a mandatory scheme for the maintenance of professional competence. Provision is also made for the Medical Council to have a function in relation to advertising by registered medical practitioners. These and other new provisions of the Act will afford greater protection to the public.

In January 2007, the Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance was established to develop proposals for a health service wide system of governance based on corporate accountability for the quality and safety of all health services. One of its terms of reference is to specifically examine and make recommendations in relation to a statutory system of licensing for public and private health care providers and services. I understand that the Irish Association of Plastic Surgeons made a submission to the Commission. The Commission is due to report by July this year.

Health Service Reform.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

113 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received a consultant’s report from management consultants (details supplied); and if there is a recommendation to regionalise the Health Service Executive. [13426/08]

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

117 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she proposes to introduce a more regional structure for the Health Service Executive with greater autonomy in managing budgets for four regional divisions. [13453/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 113 and 117 together.

I am aware that the Health Service Executive has commissioned the firm of management consultants referred to by the Deputy to undertake a review of the Executive's management structures and delivery systems. I understand that the review is still ongoing.

The Deputy will be aware that I recently received the report from Mr John Fitzgerald in relation to the decision to suspend breast radiology services in Portlaoise Hospital. This report has identified that the problems arose fundamentally from systemic weaknesses of governance, management and communications within the HSE in dealing with the situation which arose in Portlaoise. I have asked the Board to consider whether the lessons arising from the systemic weaknesses of governance and management which have been identified in relation to the events at Portlaoise have wider application across the HSE. To this end, the Chairman of the Board of the HSE and I have discussed the need to optimise the HSE's operational capability by addressing issues such as: robust governance and management structures, processes and procedures; clear reporting relationships and lines of accountability; having permanent top level managers in key posts; good systems of delegation; and a strong sense of corporate identity which permeates all levels of the organisation.

I have asked the Board to consider these wider aspects and to let me have its assessment of the overall situation as a matter of urgency, and its proposals to address matters, as soon as possible

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

114 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has not received payment under the home care package in respect of their mother; the further reason for the delay in dealing with same; and when payment will issue to them. [13434/08]

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.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

115 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will reconsider the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork whose nursing home subvention was reduced from €472.70 per week to €184.24 per week causing severe financial hardship for those who support them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13446/08]

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.

Disabled Drivers.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

116 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the minimum number of alterations and standard of vehicle required for adapting a vehicle under the motorised transport grant. [13449/08]

The Motorised Transport Grant is a HSE administered means tested scheme. It provides a grant towards the purchase of a vehicle and/or adaptions to a vehicle being purchased by a person with a severe disability, where a vehicle is essential for him/her to retain employment. The guidelines have been reviewed on a number of occasions since it was first introduced in 1968 with the most recent update taking effect from 23rd March, 2007.

The Department of Health and Children Guidelines on the Motorised Transport Grant do not prescribe any minimum number of alterations and standard of vehicle required under the scheme.

Question No. 117 answered with Question No. 113.

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

118 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate the way an oncology review appointment issued to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo for 23 September 2008 in view of the fact that the person passed away over 17 years ago; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13462/08]

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 question raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy in relation to the matter raised.

National Biodiversity Plan.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

119 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she has taken to ensure that her Department, in accordance with the requirement under the National Biodiversity Plan, has drawn up a biodiversity action plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13481/08]

The Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government is currently coordinating the preparation of a new National Biodiversity Plan for Ireland which will cover the period 2008-2012 and my Department is represented at the Inter-Departmental Steering Group. When the plan is agreed and published any actions appropriate to my Department and agencies under its aegis will be implemented.

I welcome the valuable and important work being undertaken in this field and support the preparation of the new National Biodiversity Plan.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

120 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork who applied for an increase in subvention in January 2008 and who has yet to receive a response; if she will take cognisance of the financial hardship resulting from a weekly increase of €95 since January 2008 forcing the applicant to borrow €800 to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13493/08]

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.

Hospital Charges.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

121 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that a person (details supplied) in Dublin 4 is excused from paying a bill; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13495/08]

Under the Health Acts, responsibility for service provision and any associated charges are a matter for the Chief Executive Officer of the Health Service Executive. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issue directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

122 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 has been denied re-entry to their employment after a career break in view of the fact that they applied to return on a date prior to the recruitment embargo applying; and if, in view of the fact that agency workers are being employed in the facility in question, she will make arrangements for this person to be reinstated without further delay. [13504/08]

As the Deputy will be aware the Health Service Executive (HSE) has a responsibility to deliver services in accordance with the provisions of the 2008 National Service Plan and within the financial allocation to the HSE and the Government approved employment ceiling. The HSE has advised that the replacement of staff is an issue for decision by local management having regard to service priorities and allocated budgets. The HSE has a policy of prioritising the filling of frontline posts to enable the delivery of services to patients and clients.

The Deputy may wish to note that it is a condition of the career break scheme that if a suitable vacancy does not exist at the date of the termination of the career break an employee is guaranteed re-employment within twelve months. In accordance with the provisions of HSE HR Circular 01/2008 ‘HSE Employment Control Framework — filling of vacancies and new service development posts from the start of 2008' staff returning from career break should be afforded priority in the filling of vacancies arising after 1st January 2008.

I wish to advise that 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 its 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 directly to the Deputy.

Fair Deal Scheme.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

123 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the position on the fair deal for nursing homes; when it will commence; the way it will operate; the criteria that will be used; the level of dependence that will qualify; the person who will determine the dependancy levels. [13520/08]

The Bill providing for the Fair Deal scheme is being finalised by the Office of the Attorney General at present. 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.

Under the Fair Deal, individuals will apply to the HSE for an assessment of care needs. There will be a common assessment process throughout the country and the assessment will be carried out by a multi-disciplinary team of healthcare professionals. The assessment will be flexible and will recognise that some people may require more assessment by a wider range of health care professionals than others.

Individuals who are assessed as needing long-term residential care, can apply to the HSE for financial support. The new scheme will ensure that the State continues to fund the largest part of care costs overall. Furthermore, a person's family will not have to contribute towards the cost of their care.

Individuals who require long-term residential care will contribute a maximum of 80% of their net assessable income whether for public or private nursing home care. In calculating an individual's net assessable income, it is proposed that account can be taken of specified items of expenditure.

Depending on the amount of a person's assessable income, there may also be a contribution of up to 5% of a person's assets. The State will meet the balance of cost thereafter in public or private nursing homes and an individual's family and/or friends will not have to contribute towards the cost of their care. An individual can choose any approved nursing home subject to a) its ability to meet their care needs and b) availability.

The payment of the portion of the contribution relating to assets can be paid at the time when care is received, or may be deferred until the settlement of the individual's estate if they so wish. If an individual opts to defer this portion of the contribution, the Revenue Commissioners will collect it upon settlement of their estate.

Where the contribution is based on the principal private residence, it will be capped at a maximum of 15%, or 7.5% in the case of one spouse going into long-term residential care while the other remains in the home. This means that after three years in care, an individual will not be liable for any further deferred contribution based on the principal residence.

Where a spouse or certain dependants are living in the principal residence, the contribution may be further deferred until after the death of that spouse or dependant, or until such time as a person previously qualifying as a dependant ceases to qualify as such.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

124 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if nursing home fees in respect of a two-weeks stay will be refunded to a person (details supplied). [13521/08]

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.

Hospital Services.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

125 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath receives an appointment at the orthopaedic clinic in Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore as soon as possible; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13529/08]

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.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

126 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath is admitted to Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore as soon as possible for a hip replacement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13530/08]

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.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

127 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that admission to the Eye and Ear Hospital, Dublin is brought forward for a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13531/08]

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.

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

128 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether it is appropriate, in the context of patient care; that the orthopaedic unit serving the midland counties of Laois, Offaly, Longford and Westmeath, based at the Regional Hospital, Tullamore, is operating at full capacity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13533/08]

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 respond to the Deputy on the operational issue raised.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

129 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children when an application will be processed for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13539/08]

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive (HSE) under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The HSE's responsibility includes the operation of the Housing Aid Scheme for the Elderly, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular case raised by the Deputy. The Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

130 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 will be assisted when they leave hospital. [13563/08]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

131 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath will be assisted. [13564/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75m in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities and to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on June 1st 2007 for children under five years old.

The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi-Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50m investment which was announced in the 2008 Budget.

As 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 my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

132 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to upgrade or increase the capacity of the children’s hospital at Tallaght; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13621/08]

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.

I am aware of the concerns previously raised regarding the level of service to be provided at Tallaght in the context of the development of the National Paediatric Hospital. It should be noted that currently the vast majority of children attending the National Children's Hospital Emergency Department do not require admission, and will continue to access their care at the new Ambulatory and Urgent Care Centre which is to be developed at Tallaght. It has been estimated that when the first Ambulatory and Urgent Care Centre is developed at Tallaght it will cater for approximately 48,000 emergency attendances, 9,000 day cases and 58,000 out-patient attendances. Clearly the projected level of activity would change depending on the number of such centres to be developed.

EU Directives.

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

133 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Transport the reason, with regard to the Torremolinos Agreement, he has not invoked option number three on behalf of the mussel fishermen of Castlemaine Harbour at Cromane. [13574/08]

Member States of the European Community are required to implement the requirements of the Torremolinos Protocol of 1993 relating to the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, 1977, as provided for in European Council Directive 97/70/EC, as amended. The directive was transposed into national law by the Fishing Vessels (Safety Provisions) Regulations 2002. (S.I. No. 418 of 2002).

In order to qualify for a certificate of compliance under the Directive a fishing vessel must comply with the requirements of the Directive, including the requirements of the Annexe to the Torremolinos Protocol, relevant to such vessel. While the latter requirements under the Annexe to the Protocol relate mainly to new fishing vessels, article 5 of the Directive requires that the standards for the design, construction and maintenance of hull, main and auxiliary machinery, electrical and automatic plants of any fishing vessel shall be the rules in force at the date of its construction, specified for classification by a recognised organisation or used by an administration. There is no provision in Directive 97/70/EC for exemption by a Member State from the provisions of article 5.

Existing fishing vessels which have been granted certificates of compliance to date pursuant to the Directive have met all of the requirements of the Directive, including article 5 and the limited requirements of the Annexe to the Torremolinos Protocol. Existing fishing vessels which have not to date met the standards of article 5 may not be granted a certificate of compliance unless they meet these standards, irrespective of whether they meet the limited requirements of the Annexe to the Torremolinos Protocol applicable to them. Ultimately the issue here is the safety of crews of fishing vessels and it is important to ensure that reasonable standards of safety and environmental protection are maintained.

Air Accident Investigations.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

134 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if he has investigated an immediate review of the emergency landing of a plane (details supplied) at Shannon Airport on 28 March 2008; the procedures in place in his Department for sanctioning flights into Irish airports that are carrying weapons, munitions, explosives or other dangerous cargo; if he will carry out a wider review of the landing of planes at Shannon or other Irish airports carrying such cargo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13443/08]

The Air Accident Investigation Unit of my Department was notified by the Duty Manager, Air Traffic Control Shannon at 00.45 hrs on the 29th Mar 2008 of an occurrence that had taken place at 22.20 hrs on the 28th of Mar 2008. The Air Accident Investigation Unit is currently investigating this incident and a report will be produced in due course.

The Chicago Convention permits non-scheduled flights to operate into, to transit through and to make stops for non-traffic purposes in the State without the requirement for prior authorization. However, if "munitions of war or implements of war" are being carried, the permission of the State is required — the Convention expressly prohibits the carriage of such cargo without permission from the State concerned. This is also provided for in national law — the carriage of munitions of war, weapons and dangerous goods is prohibited under the Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Orders 1973 and 1989, unless an exemption has been obtained from the Minister for Transport.

In considering whether to grant an exemption for a flight carrying dangerous goods or hazardous materials, the Department of Transport consults with the Irish Aviation Authority and the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Defence and Foreign Affairs.

Public Transport.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

135 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Transport the reason Dublin Bus was asked to withdraw route 25X departures from the south Lucan area; the reason his Department has refused an application from Dublin Bus which sought to provide additional departures in that area under the public service obligation mandate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13450/08]

The initiation or alteration of a bus service by Dublin Bus is subject to compliance with the requirement of giving advance notice to my Department and to compliance with the provisions of Section 25 of the Transport Act 1958 concerning competition with licensed private operators.

My Department has made no demand on Dublin Bus to cease any of its authorised Route 25X departures operating from the south Lucan area and has not refused any proposals from the Company for the provision of additional Route 25X departures.

National Biodiversity Plan.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

136 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Transport the steps he has taken to ensure his Department, in accordance with the requirement under the national biodiversity plan, has drawn up a biodiversity action plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13484/08]

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is currently co-ordinating the preparation of the new National Biodiversity Plan for Ireland, which will cover the period 2008-12, and my Department is represented on the Inter-Departmental Steering Group. When the plan is agreed and published any actions appropriate to my Department will be addressed.

Departmental Funding.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

137 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport the projects approved under the strategic infrastructure fund; the amount approved in each case; the details of these projects. [13528/08]

My Department does not administer a strategic infrastructure fund.

Taxi Regulations.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

138 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the non-inclusion of a licensed metered taxi service at Shannon Airport (details supplied). [13562/08]

The provision of small public service vehicles at Shannon Airport is currently governed by S.I. No 425/1994), AIRPORT BYE-LAWS 1994. Under the SI, only hackney operators are awarded permits there.

I understand that the DAA is currently reviewing this system in order to meet the changing operational requirements, to accommodate the growth in airport business and to ensure compliance with new and emerging taxi regulations. In this regard I understand that management at Shannon Airport is currently in communication with the Commission for Taxi Regulation in relation to the introduction of changes to the system. The changes being considered include the issuing of permits for both taxi and hackney operators.

Traffic Management.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

139 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Transport if he plans to introduce a traffic message channel, RDS, on FM radio, to alert drivers to congestion, accidents and so on, in view of the clear benefits shown from such a service in many European countries. [13612/08]

The availability of up-to-date travel and traffic information to drivers and passengers is critical to facilitating safer, more efficient and more sustainable transport. It helps save lives, time and money. While there are no specific plans to introduce RDS TMC in the GDA at this time, the Deputy may be aware that up-to-date travel and traffic information is provided by a number of broadcast media outlets, including a specific channel LiveDrive 103.2 FM, from Dublin City Council.

The National Roads Authority provides road users with estimated journey times to the next two primary destinations on the M1 based on traffic and driving conditions at the time of travel. Up-to-date information is also available from various local authorities via the Internet, SMS text alerts to mobile phones and various electronic message signs on the road network.

It is envisaged that the proposed Dublin Transport Authority will, on establishment, have powers to deliver a real time travel and traffic information service, encompassing the deployment of enabling technologies such as RDS TMC, in the Greater Dublin Area.

National Biodiversity Plan.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

140 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps he has taken to ensure his Department, in accordance with the requirement under the national biodiversity plan, has drawn up a biodiversity action plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13480/08]

My Department contributed material to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on the need to respect biodiversity in our overseas development programme, which was integrated into the National Biodiversity Plan 2002-2006. A separate Departmental Biodiversity Action Plan has not been produced. However, the Irish Aid Environmental Policy commits Ireland to addressing global environment problems through our engagement with bodies such as the United Nations and the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD. It also commits Ireland to supporting the efforts of partner governments and civil society at country level and to work closely with other donors in ensuring a coordinated response to environmental challenges in general.

Officials from my Department are in regular contact with their counterparts in the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, which is responsible for preparing a new National Biodiversity Plan for the period from 2008 to 2012. My Department is also represented on the Interdepartmental Steering Committee on Biodiversity.

Foreign Conflicts.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

141 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will encourage the Colombian Government to get involved in peace talks with all sides to their conflict and to use the Irish experience on this matter. [13566/08]

The Government of Colombia has repeatedly stated its commitment to bringing to an end all terrorism in Colombia within the framework of the Justice and Peace Law. This Law, passed in 2005, provides an overall legal framework for the demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration of illegal armed groups into Colombian society. The Justice and Peace Law, which was adopted through a lengthy democratic political process, strikes a difficult balance between peace and justice.

The process of peace negotiations between the Colombian Government and the right-wing paramilitary group, Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), began in 2003, with between 30,000 and 40,000 combatants having been demobilized on completion of the process in 2007. The Government of Colombia is currently engaging in dialogue with the left-wing guerrilla group known as the Ejército de Liberación Nacional de Colombia (ELN) in pursuit of a negotiated peace agreement. Negotiations between the major left-wing guerrilla group, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), and the Government have not yet commenced.

The General Affairs and External Relations Council of the European Union most recently adopted Conclusions on Colombia on 19 November 2007. Ireland was actively involved in the negotiation of these Conclusions, which expressed the EU's total solidarity with the Colombian people, its full support for the Colombian Government in its search for a negotiated solution to the internal armed conflict and underlined the importance the EU attaches to the ongoing implementation of the Justice and Peace Law.

The Council further expressed its hope that progress would be made in taking forward negotiations in order to reach a humanitarian agreement, to secure the release of all hostages, to end the armed conflict and to bring lasting peace to Colombia. In the same spirit, the Council welcomed all initiatives taken with the Colombian Government's support with the objective of promoting a successful peace process.

My Department continues to monitor the situation in Colombia through our Embassy in Mexico City, which is accredited to Colombia, as well as in cooperation with our EU partners with resident diplomatic missions in that country. A number of EU Member States, which have a history of involvement in the region, have been active in seeking to mediate between the Colombian Government and the left-wing guerrilla groups, efforts which are fully supported by Ireland and our EU partners. While all conflicts have their own specific character, Ireland is fully supportive of efforts to bring a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Colombia including, if requested, sharing our experiences and the lessons of the Northern Ireland Peace Process. Ireland will continue to support the Government of Colombia in its search for a negotiated solution to the internal armed conflict, including through direct engagement.

Departmental Funding.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

142 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in relation to a matter (details supplied). [13567/08]

The Department of Foreign Affairs has a limited amount of funding at its disposal through the Department's Reconciliation Fund, which is primarily targeted at voluntary organisations involved in community reconciliation work. The purpose of the Fund is to assist organisations involved in reconciliation work and to encourage and facilitate better relations within and between the two traditions in the North, between North and South, and between Ireland and Britain.

Decisions on funding from the Reconciliation Fund are a matter for the Minister on foot of the recommendations of an interdepartmental Advisory Committee comprised of officials from a number of Government Departments. Officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs have been in direct contact with the individual in question, and an application form and a set of guidelines for the Reconciliation Fund have been forwarded to him. If he considers that the project meets the objectives of the Fund, he may submit an application which will be considered in accordance with these arrangements.

Diplomatic Relations.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

143 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the diplomatic relations Ireland has with Burma; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13618/08]

It has been the Government's consistent position that no steps will be taken to develop diplomatic relations with Burma until Aung San Suu Kyi is released. While the issue was examined in 2004, on the basis of promised political and human rights progress by the Burmese authorities, including the release of Ms Suu Kyi, the lack of progress on these issues saw the process quickly stopped.

The Government subsequently made it clear to the Burmese authorities that diplomatic relations will not be advanced, including and in particular the accreditation of Ambassadors, until a number of developments in that country have taken place, in particular the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

144 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the diplomatic contact Ireland has had with Zimbabwe in 2008; if he will use his contacts in the Southern African development community to express concern regarding the situation in Zimbabwe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13619/08]

The presidential and parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe on 29 March passed off in a peaceful and orderly fashion. Despite serious concerns about the context in which the election was held, and despite the fact that neither the EU nor any of its Member States were invited to observe the election, the people of Zimbabwe showed great courage and determination in casting their votes on polling day.

Parliamentary results announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission show that President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party has lost control of the House of Assembly for the first time since taking power after independence in 1980. No official announcements have as yet been made on the outcome of the presidential election. I remain extremely concerned at the delays by the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission in issuing the results of the presidential election. This delay can only give rise to serious apprehension and fuel suspicions that the democratic will of the Zimbabwean people may not be respected. I fully supported the call made by the EU Presidency on 4 April for the results of the Presidential election to be issued without further delay, and in a statement yesterday I urged the member countries of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) to use their influence upon Zimbabwe to secure early release of the results.

If a second round of the Presidential election is required, Ireland and the EU will be anxious to see every effort made to improve electoral conditions so as to ensure a fully free, fair and transparent vote. Reports of raids on opposition offices on 3 April and arrests of international media covering the election give cause for concern and indicate the level of improvement required on the ground in Zimbabwe.

SADC and its members have a key role to play in the developing situation in Zimbabwe, including through their election monitoring activities. In the run-up to the recent elections, local EU Presidencies in many SADC countries made contact with their host governments to emphasise the importance of SADC monitoring of the election. A member of High Representative Solana's staff travelled to the region for talks with South Africa and with SADC in advance of the election. The Irish Ambassador in Zambia made contact with the Zambian Government, which is currently Chair of SADC, to express Ireland's concerns about the situation in Zimbabwe on a national basis in advance of the elections, and to convey our support for full adherence to the SADC election guidelines and principles.

As I stated in a statement issued on 28 March, SADC has issued important principles and guidelines concerning the conduct of democratic elections which all its members, including Zimbabwe, should uphold. These principles will be more important than ever if a second round of the Presidential election is required. We must continue to work closely with Zimbabwe's neighbours, in particular South Africa, since they are in the best position to influence the situation.

Diplomatic contact between Ireland and Zimbabwe has been limited for several years now. However, the Ambassador and officers from the Embassy in Pretoria regularly visit Zimbabwe and raise issues of concern with the Zimbabwean government at every available opportunity. An Irish official met with Zimbabwean officials in February this year to discuss the issue of election observation. The Irish Ambassador to Zimbabwe travelled to Harare for the election period, and the Embassy continues to monitor the situation closely.

Human Rights Issues.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

145 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the response of the Chinese Ambassador to his expression of concern regarding the situation in Tibet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13620/08]

On my instructions, senior officials of my Department have been, since 17 March, in regular touch with the Chinese Embassy in Dublin to seek information about developments in Tibet and to convey my deep concern at the situation there.

We have sought, including in my statement of 31 March, to address the following:

to urge all sides to exercise the maximum restraint, and to underline the importance Ireland attaches to the right of freedom of expression and peaceful protest;

to urge the Chinese authorities to allow greater access by the media and independent observers to Tibet in order to facilitate an assessment of what has been happening there;

to establish from the Chinese authorities what has happened to the protesters, both those who had surrendered themselves to the authorities and those who had not, as well as seeking assurances of their well-being and the release of imprisoned peaceful protesters ;

to encourage substantial dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama, which I believe remains the only sustainable way of ensuring the preservation of Tibetan religious and cultural identity, as well as addressing Chinese concerns regarding their territorial integrity.

The Chinese Ambassador has assured us of the seriousness with which he takes the Government's concerns and undertaken to relay faithfully these messages to his authorities in Beijing. The Chinese Embassy has kept the Department informed of the views of the Chinese authorities on the situation in Tibet.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

146 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when his attention was drawn to the health risks associated with asbestos in the workplace; when legislation was introduced to protect workers; his plans to review legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13428/08]

Regulations have been in place in Ireland since 1972 regarding the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos fibres while at work. The current Regulations are the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Exposure to Asbestos) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 386 of 2006). These Regulations reflect the rules in the EU Directives governing asbestos in the workplace, the most recent of which was Directive 2003/18/EC of 27 March 2003.

The Regulations require employers and employees to ensure that the risk of exposure is eliminated or reduced to a minimum and that any residual risk is adequately controlled in accordance with the legislation. There is also a requirement for adequate training, and a requirement that persons involved in demolition and asbestos removal activities be qualified to do this work in a safe way to ensure the protection of their employees. A single exposure limit value is introduced for all work activities where exposure to asbestos dust in the air at a place of work may arise.

While not strictly a worker protection measure, the marketing and use of all types of asbestos has been restricted in the EU since the 1980s, culminating in a total ban in 2000. This has undoubtedly had an indirect positive effect on the further protection of workers. The current Regulations in Ireland are the European Communities (Dangerous Substances and Preparations) (Marketing and Use) Regulations 2003 (S.I. No. 220 of 2003).

The Health and Safety Authority is obliged to keep under review legislation which it enforces in the context of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, and to make proposals to the Minister as appropriate. I will consider any such proposals as they may arise.

Work Permits.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

147 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will grant an employment permit to a person (details supplied). [13431/08]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me that an Appeal has been lodged in this case. A decision on this Appeal will be made in the near future.

Job Losses.

Andrew Doyle

Ceist:

148 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the measures being taken by his Department and its agencies, in particular the Industrial Development Authority and Enterprise Ireland, to set up a specific task force for employment and re-employment of redundant workers (details supplied); and the approximate date for this task force to be operational. [13444/08]

I was very disappointed at the announcement by Allergan to close its Arklow operations. On 19th March I visited Arklow and met with Allergan worker representatives, Arklow Town Council and Arklow Chamber of Commerce. The State development agencies under the auspices of my Department, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland (EI), the Wicklow County Enterprise Board (CEB) and Fás also attended these meetings. At the meeting with workers, Fás, EI and the CEB outlined the range of supports and services that would be put in place and available during the coming months to the workers being made redundant.

As regards a specific task force suggested by the Deputy, I would point out that the State development agencies have adopted a coordinated approach in response to job losses in recent times. This approach is directed at assisting any relevant employees affected and has two objectives:

To enhance and facilitate the future employment prospects of the workforce

To identify and support any individual who wishes to start their own business.

With regard to Arklow and County Wicklow in general, IDA continues to promote the area for new business and is currently in negotiation with investors seeking to relocate and expand at the IDA business park in Arklow. In addition, Servier has expanded from 100 jobs to over 300 in the past few years. Other companies in or adjacent to County Wicklow have expanded rapidly with IDA assistance, including Takeda in Bray, now employing 400 plus and Dell employing over 1,500 in Cherrywood. I would also point out that IDA Ireland promotes Wicklow as an integral part of the East Region, the largest region in the country, home to one third of the nation's population with 1.5 million people, and with half the FDI employment at 65,000 jobs, an increase of 15,000 in 10 years.

Enterprise Ireland has supported indigenous industry in Arklow and has given substantial financial support ( €782,000) to the Arklow Enterprise Centre. The centre boasts 23,000sq ft of industrial space and provides reasonably-priced workspace to small and expanding businesses. Particular emphasis has been placed on creating and developing employment and enterprise space for the unemployed. The centre is currently at 95% capacity, a not inconsiderable achievement for this facility and an expansion to the original centre was recently approved under the Community Enterprise Centre Programme 2007-2009. When completed, the centre will be capable of accommodating over 175 people. Similarly, Enterprise Ireland has supported the Wicklow Community Enterprise Centre currently accommodating over 60 companies who employ almost 400 people, and is at full capacity.

A significant number of Enterprise Ireland supported companies in Co. Wicklow are actively growing their businesses. In 2006 and 2007 EI approved financial funding of € 4.8m and €3.9m respectively to Wicklow-based firms that are committed to increasing their sales exports and employment. This investment involved support in areas such as R&D, Capability Building and Process Development.

I can assure the Deputy that Government and the State development agencies, under the auspices of my Department, are fully committed to assisting the workers being made redundant to find alternative employment, as well as continuing to attract industry to Arklow and County Wicklow.

National Biodiversity Plan.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

149 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to ensure his Department, in accordance with the requirement under the national biodiversity plan, has drawn up a biodiversity action plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13478/08]

The National Biodiversity Plan indicates that Biodiversity Action Plans are to be drawn up by each relevant Department. My Department is not a relevant Department for this purpose and accordingly it was not necessary to draw up an action plan.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

150 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the steps he has taken to ensure his Department, in accordance with the requirement under the national biodiversity plan, has drawn up a biodiversity action plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13474/08]

My Department did not draw up a biodiversity action plan under the previous National Biodiversity Plan, as it was not considered a "relevant" Department for the purpose of that Plan. The activities of my Department have little direct impact on biodiversity. However, Fáilte Ireland, a State Agency funded by my Department, is a partner in the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government Notice Nature campaign for the protection of biodiversity.

Guidelines for the protection of biodiversity for the tourism industry, which were developed by Fáilte Ireland and Notice Nature, were published in December 2007. These are practical guidelines on what the tourism industry can do to ensure the protection and conservation of biodiversity. In addition to this, Fáilte Ireland has also published its Tourism and the Environment Action Plan 2007 -2009 which contains objectives relating to the protection and conservation of biodiversity.

My Department is represented on the Inter-Departmental Steering Group, which was established to develop the 2nd National Biodiversity Plan for Ireland, which will cover the period 2008-12. When the Plan is agreed and published any actions appropriate to my Department will be implemented.

Sports Capital Programme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

151 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when lottery funding which was approved to an organisation (details supplied) in County Mayo will be issued. [13500/08]

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 club in question has received allocations in 2002, 2006 and 2007. The 2002 allocations has been drawn down in full. The position in relation to the 2006 allocation is that legal formalities have yet to be completed, and in that regard I understand that the Chief State Solicitor's Office (CSSO) is awaiting documentation from the club. The position in relation to the 2007 allocation is that the club has yet to reply to the letter of provisional allocation issued to the club contact on 24 April 2007. Obviously it is not possible to progress any further with that allocation until such reply, including all relevant documentation, is received.

Social Welfare Fraud.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

152 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the sanctions open to his Department where an employer falsely certifies a person as his or her employee for the purposes of allowing the employee claim child benefit; and the statutory basis of these sanctions. [13440/08]

The sanctions which are open to the Department in the situation outlined by the Deputy are set out in legislation as follows.

Section 251 (1) of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (the Act) provides that any person for the purpose of obtaining or establishing entitlement to payment of any benefit for himself or any other person, knowingly makes any statement which is to his knowledge false or misleading or conceals any material fact or who produces or furnishes any document or information which he knows to be false, is guilty of an offence.

Section 251 (2) of the Act makes it an offence for an employer or his agent to aid or abet or procure an employee to commit an offence under subsection (1) above. Section 257 of the Act provides for the penalties that can apply if a person is found guilty of an offence under the act. On summary conviction, a fine of up to €1500 and/or 6 months imprisonment; or on conviction on indictment, a fine of up to €13,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 3 years.

Departmental Staff.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

153 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, further to Parliamentary Question No. 95 of 2 April 2008, the issues that remain to be resolved in his Department’s discussions with trade unions regarding the transfer of staff from the Health Service Executive to his Department. [13441/08]

As stated in my reply on 2 April 2008, the transfer of functions from the HSE to my Department is a major programme and it does have implications for the staff who are due to transfer. In this regard discussions are taking place between management representatives from my Department, the Department of Health and Children and the HSE and the Unions representing staff in the Community Welfare Service. These discussions are being facilitated by an independent Chairman.

The discussions have focused on the future role of Community Welfare Officers and the terms and conditions of employment which will apply when they transfer to my Department. Progress has been made in the discussions on a number of issues. Further discussion is required on issues such as future career path and promotional opportunities and the pay assimilation arrangements for the staff concerned when they change their status from public to civil servant on transfer to my Department.

The transfer will also have an impact on the current organisational structure in my Department and discussions are also taking place with the Unions representing existing staff at Departmental Council on issues that are of concern to them. The intention is to reach a collective agreement with the Unions which deals with the concerns of the staff involved.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

154 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when an oral hearing will be heard for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [13461/08]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the appeal from the person concerned has been referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing. The person concerned will be informed when arrangements have been made.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of my Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Kennedy

Ceist:

155 Deputy Michael Kennedy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will allow persons to participate in the all-Ireland free travel scheme from the age of 65; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13463/08]

The free travel scheme is available to all people living in the State aged 66 years or over. All carers in receipt of carer's allowance and carers of people in receipt of constant attendance or prescribed relative's allowance, regardless of their age, also receive a free travel pass. It is also available to people under age 66 who are in receipt of certain disability type welfare payments, such as disability allowance, invalidity pension and blind person's pension. People resident in the State who are in receipt of a social security invalidity or disability payment from a country covered by EU Regulations, or from a country with which Ireland has a bilateral social security agreement, and who have been in receipt of this payment for at least 12 months, are also eligible for free travel.

The all Ireland free travel scheme is based on a reciprocal agreement between my Department and the Department for Regional Development in Northern Ireland, which operates the Northern Ireland concessionary fares scheme. Under the scheme, free travel pass holders aged 66 or over can travel free on services operating within Northern Ireland and senior smartpass holders from Northern Ireland can travel free on participating services here. Effectively, institutions in this State and in Northern Ireland recognise free travel arrangements for older people in each jurisdiction as equivalent arrangements.

All free travel pass holders can continue to benefit from cross-border free travel which enables passholders to travel free on point to point journeys from here to destinations in Northern Ireland as well as on the associated return journey. Any further extension of the all Ireland free travel scheme could only be considered in a budgetary context.

National Biodiversity Plan.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

156 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the steps he has taken to ensure his Department, in accordance with the requirement under the national biodiversity plan, has drawn up a biodiversity action plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13483/08]

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is currently coordinating the preparation of the new National Biodiversity Plan for Ireland, which will cover the period 2008-12 and my Department is represented on the Inter-Departmental Steering Group. When the Plan is agreed and published any actions appropriate to my Department will be implemented.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

157 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 17 will be assisted. [13565/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that it has not received an application for rent supplement from the person concerned. The HSE has further advised that the person concerned should contact the community welfare officer in his area so that any entitlement he may have, can be determined.

Community Development.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

158 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position with regard to the cohesion process concerning local and community development initiatives, and specifically in relation to a group (details supplied) in County Cork. [13459/08]

I refer the Deputy to my responses to Questions Nos. 10 and 11 of 3 April 2008 and my replies to previous questions on this issue, which outline the core objectives of the cohesion process.

As previously indicated to the House, following an extensive consultation phases, Government decided last year on revised areas of coverage for local development groups, a new mandate to reflect the broader remit of local and community development agencies and clarified the arrangements in relation to the membership of their boards. LEADER and Partnership groups across the country were provided with detailed guidelines to assist them in giving effect to the Government decision. At this stage, local development bodies have been incorporated in the vast majority of the 55 operational areas agreed by Government.

The group referred to by the Deputy has forwarded proposals to the Department to bring their company into alignment with the standards set out in the Guidelines. These proposals are currently under consideration by my Department.

National Biodiversity Plan.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

159 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the steps he has taken to ensure that his Department, in accordance with the requirement under the National Biodiversity Plan, has drawn up a biodiversity action plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13475/08]

The Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government is currently co-ordinating the preparation of the new National Biodiversity Plan for Ireland, which will cover the period 2008-12. My Department is represented on the Inter-Departmental Steering Group. When the Plan is agreed and published, any actions appropriate to my Department will be implemented.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

160 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps she has taken to ensure that her Department, in accordance with the requirement under the National Biodiversity Plan, has drawn up a biodiversity action plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13473/08]

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is currently co-ordinating the preparation of a new National Biodiversity Plan, which will cover the period 2008-2012. My Department is represented on the Inter-Departmental Steering Group dealing with the matter. When the Plan is agreed and published, any actions appropriate to my Department will be implemented.

Aquaculture Development.

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

161 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food her views on the cultivation and harvesting of mussels in Cromane Harbour to be taken under the auspices of aquaculture rather than sea fisheries where these fishermen do not go the sea; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13575/08]

The Licensing Authority for Sea Fishing Boats requires that a Sea-Fishing Boat requires a licence under EU and National law in respect of boats engaged in commercial fishing activities where such activities include, at any time; dredging for wild mussel seed/spat; having on board fishing gear as specified in Table 3 of Annex 1 of Commission Regulation (EC) No 26/2004 of 30 December 2003 as amended by Commission Regulation (EC) No 1799/2006 of 6 December 2006 on the Community fishing fleet register (dredges are included in this table); or engaging in commercial sea-fishing activities outside aquaculture areas. The entitlement to engage in any of the activities outlined depends on the segment of the fleet in which the boat is licensed and registered. Where a boat is licensed and registered within the Aquaculture Segment of the Irish fishing fleet, it is a condition of the licence that the boat shall be used solely for the management, development and servicing of aquaculture areas. There are a number of boats involved in the harvesting of mussels in Cromane Harbour that are licensed and registered in the aquaculture segment.

Special Educational Needs.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

162 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of court actions regarding the provision of school places, and resources, for students with special needs which her Department has been involved in during each year over the past five years; the number of these actions which progressed to the hearing stage; the number of actions that resulted in the provision of the school places or resources sought by the plaintiffs; the costs which were incurred by her Department in responding to these court actions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13421/08]

Some 73 cases involving children with special educational needs, in which my Department is a named party, are ongoing. Cases are taken on behalf of children with special educational needs for a variety of reasons including seeking an educational intervention which differs to that on offer in State schools. Since the introduction of the Education Act 1998 there is now a statutory mechanism whereby children who are seeking a school placement can appeal a decision of a school to refuse enrolment or expel a child. This statutory process is known as a section 29 appeal and in circumstances whereby this process exists, parents generally do not need to have recourse to the Courts to access a school placement. Furthermore the Education Welfare Act 2000 provides for Education Welfare Officers who can assist parents in identifying and sourcing a suitable school placement for their child. It is also worth noting that since the introduction of the Education of Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 there is also a mechanism whereby children with special educational needs can access the necessary supports to allow them benefit fully from an appropriate educational placement. The Special Educational Needs Organisers which have been employed on foot of this legislation further provide the necessary supports to schools to cater for the additional needs of pupils with special educational needs.

Four of the cases initiated against my Department have gone to a full hearing in the courts since 2003. In three of these actions, the Court ruled in favour of the State while judgment is awaited in the fourth. The Deputy will be aware of my position on the issues of litigation in special educational needs and can be assured that neither I nor my Department take lightly any decision to defend cases concerning children with special educational needs. I emphasise that my Department does not initiate any such proceedings and cases are generally only litigated where no potential settlement is acceptable to both sides and the Government's authority to decide issues of policy is in question. The State has an obligation under the Constitution to provide for primary education. In the context of children with special educational needs, that education must be appropriate to their requirements. The State decides on an appropriate form of provision, having regard to the advice available to it from relevant experts in the National Educational Psychological Service, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, the Inspectorate and independent experts. The Department is not complacent in dealing with these cases and attempts, wherever possible, to reduce the potential for litigation and the levels of legal costs where they arise. I emphasise that legal costs incurred by the State in defending those cases which are brought to court are not met directly by my Department. In accordance with financial procedures in cases involving damages or compensation against the State, costs are generally charged to the Chief State Solicitor's Office Vote as sanctioned by the Attorney General.

With reference to the costs incurred by my Department, payment of legal costs of solicitors acting on behalf of children with special educational needs for the last five years are as follows: 2003, €3,766,276.53; 2004, €5,160,555.16; 2005, €1,211,529.68; 2006, €620,880.43; 2007, €421,176.97; and 2008 €177,391.39 (to date). In addition,ex gratia payments made in the settlement of some cases, were as follows: 2003, €662,830.42; 2004, €421,692.11; 2005, €101,655.16; 2006, €152,333.34; 2007, €88,282.00; and 2008, €6,013.03 (to date).

School Staffing.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

163 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science when the extra resources will be provided for a resource teacher and a special needs assistant for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [13422/08]

I understand that a meeting with the family in question is due to take place shortly to discuss the person's special educational needs.

Question No. 164 withdrawn.

Schools Building Projects.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

165 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science if she is committed to providing a permanent education centre for Limerick and its environs (details supplied). [13432/08]

An application is with my Department for the provision of appropriate accommodation in a suitable location for the centre in question. The progression of all large scale building projects from initial design stage through to construction phase, including the project in question, will be considered on an ongoing basis in the context of my Department's Multi-Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Institutes of Technology.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

166 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question No. 805 of 2 April 2008, if a decision will be reached in regard to progressing the application of Waterford Institute of Technology for university status under section 9 of the University Act 1997 before 6 May 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13442/08]

To date applications have been received to invoke Section 9 of the Universities Act, 1997 from Waterford Institute of Technology, Dublin Institute of Technology and Cork Institute of Technology. Any such application requires a detailed examination in the context not only of the detailed statutory process to which they are subject but also of their wider implications for higher education policy generally. These applications raise significant issues regarding Government policy towards higher education, in particular the existing roles of the Universities and Institutes of Technology which have distinctive missions from each other, provide different levels and types of academic programmes, fulfil different roles in the community and have separate academic and governance structures. The Government wants to build on our strengths and to provide an environment where all our higher education institutions can develop in a way that best serves the country as a whole and the regions where they are based. These issues must be central to consideration of the appropriate next steps in relation to all applications, which I have been examining in conjunction with my Government colleagues.

Waterford IT is already making a significant contribution to the development of the South East region. It has an excellent track record of industry collaboration particularly in areas of applied research and curriculum design. I want to see Waterford IT further develop its strengths in these areas in line with the objectives of the Government's Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation. In this regard one of the key development and investment priorities for the Waterford Gateway in the current National Development Plan is the "investment in the R&D capacity of Waterford Institute of Technology to underline the importance of education to Waterford as a centre of excellence". While Dr Port's report is specifically on the Waterford application, it also provides a useful analysis of the wider context in which any application for designation as a university must be considered. The report provides an overview of the complex issues involved and will contribute to an informed debate, nationally and regionally on the issue and help inform final consideration of the matter. The options presented in the Port Report are being examined carefully by officials of my Department and the Higher Education Authority with a view to developing specific proposals on the appropriate next steps in the context of wider considerations. I intend to present proposals to Government in this regard very shortly.

Higher Education Grants.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

167 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a person (details supplied) in County Galway has recently been denied a higher education grant; and the reason for this decision, in view of the fact that the guidelines set out by her Department indicate their entitlement to this grant. [13457/08]

The decision on eligibility for third level grants is a matter for the relevant assessing authority — the Local Authority or VEC. 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. The Department has received no appeal from the candidate referred to by the Deputy.

Vocational Education Committees.

Michael Kennedy

Ceist:

168 Deputy Michael Kennedy asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the recent changes made to the enrolment policy of the Balbriggan vocational educational committee, which has resulted in numerous pupils from a school (details supplied) being denied places; the action she will take to remedy this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13466/08]

I understand, from enquiries made by officials of my Department, there has been no change to the enrolment policy operated by Balbriggan Community College, which operates under the control of County Dublin VEC. The Forward Planning Section of my Department is in the process of identifying the areas where significant additional accommodation will be required at primary and post-primary level for 2009 and onwards. Factors under consideration include population growth, demographic trends, current and projected enrolments, recent and planned housing developments and capacity of existing schools to meet demand for places. Having considered these factors decisions will be taken on the means by which emerging needs will be met within an area. Enrolment in individual schools is the responsibility of the managerial authority of those schools and my Department does not seek to intervene in decisions made by schools in such matters. My Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. This may result, however, in some pupils not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice.

It is the responsibility of the managerial authorities of schools that are not in a position to admit all pupils seeking entry to implement an enrolment policy in accordance with the Education Act. In this regard, a board of management may find it necessary to restrict enrolment to children from a particular area or a particular age group or, occasionally, on the basis of some other criterion. It is not unusual for some second level schools to prioritise named feeder schools in their admissions policies. This often reflects long standing connections between schools. However, in formulating an admissions policy a school must ensure it is lawful. In particular, it must act in accordance with Section 7 of the Equal Status Act 2000 which, subject to limited exceptions, prohibits schools from discriminating against people in relation to a number of matters including the admission of a pupil to the school.

Currently, under Section 29 of the Education Act 1998, the parents of a student who has been refused enrolment may appeal the decision. In the case of Schools or Colleges established or maintained by a Vocational Education Committee (VEC) the decision may be appealed to the VEC. If an appeal to the VEC has been concluded parents may go on to appeal the decision to the Secretary General of my Department. If an appeal is upheld, the Secretary General is empowered to direct the school to enrol the student. The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is the statutory agency which can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child. The Welfare Board has indicated that it will treat children for whom an appeal under Section 29 has been unsuccessful as priority cases in offering such assistance. The NEWB can be contacted at National Educational Welfare Board, National Headquarters, 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7 or by telephone at 01-8738700.

National Biodiversity Plan.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

169 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps she has taken to ensure that her Department in accordance with the requirement under the National Biodiversity Plan, has drawn up a biodiversity action plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13477/08]

The Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government is currently co-ordinating the preparation of the new National Biodiversity Plan for Ireland, which will cover the period 2008-2012. My Department is represented on the Inter-Departmental Steering Group for the new plan. Following agreement on the Plan, consideration will be given to implementing any recommendations relevant to my Department.

Student Support Schemes.

Ulick Burke

Ceist:

170 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans to support part time students at third level, particularly those who left formal education without a qualification; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13485/08]

Paragraph 7.9 of Part VI of Towards 2016 contains a commitment to establish a targeted fund to alleviate fees in Higher Education Authority (HEA) supported public institutions for part-time courses at third level for those at work who have not previously pursued a third level qualification. A €10 million fund, drawn from the National Training Fund, is available with the aim of meeting the above commitment. As an initial step towards meeting this commitment, a pilot Modular Accreditation Programme commenced in Tallaght Institute of Technology last October, and the HEA intends to develop other pilot programmes to be launched this year. These pilot programmes will prove useful in testing the demand for the next phase in meeting the commitment. The fund will also support a scheme to be developed in close co-operation with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. In designing this scheme, the Government will have regard to the following objectives: targeting people in work who have not had the opportunity to pursue third level education previously to level 8 on the National Qualifications Framework; reducing the amount of fees that workers pay; maintaining the current benefits in relation to employer support and tax relief available to workers in respect of third level fees; and allowing for a part refund to be paid on successful completion of each academic year of the relevant course. Officials from my Department will be in touch with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and ICTU shortly to advance the development of this scheme, and will liaise with education and other stakeholders, with a view to having any new arrangements in place in respect of courses commencing from September 2008. Given this timing the full annual cost will arise in the context of the 2009 estimates.

Schools Building Projects.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

171 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding an application for funding for a building project at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 8; when the latest round of funding will be announced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13486/08]

The architectural planning of the school building project referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage. The progression of all projects to tender and construction, including this project, will be considered on an ongoing basis in the context of my Department's Multi Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

172 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the position of the application for additional funding by a school (details supplied) in County Longford which is necessary in the context of providing the infrastructure required by the local authority pursuant to the planning approval granted in respect of the school; if in this context, she will ensure that this request which is being examined by her Department’s review group, is favourably considered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13494/08]

As part of the expansion of the Small Schools Scheme, a grant was sanctioned in March 2007 under the Permanent Accommodation Scheme to enable the management authority of the school in question to build 3 permanent classrooms. The initiative allows Boards of Management to address their accommodation and building priorities with a guaranteed amount of funding and gives Boards of Management control of the building project. The school authority has submitted an application for additional funding which will be examined by the Department's Review Group and the school will be informed of their decision in due course.

Adult Education.

Ulick Burke

Ceist:

173 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans, in view of the increasing unemployment rates among the unskilled, to increase learning opportunities for adults within the wider context of life long learning and to eliminate the strong inequities in terms of access and the provision of funding for those on part time courses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13498/08]

My Department has and will continue to put the resources and supports in place to ensure there are a wide range of course options available in the Further and Higher Education sectors for people who wish to continue their studies after second-level or return to education later in life. The priority target group of Further Education programmes generally is those who are educationally disadvantaged and who lack basic skills. For adults over 21 years old who are long-term unemployed, the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme introduced in late 1989, provides second chance education and training. Participants receive a training allowance in lieu of Social Welfare payments along with travel and meal allowances. A weekly bonus payment of €31.80 is payable to those who have been receiving a qualifying social welfare payment for 12 months before joining the programme. My Department provides funding for part-time learning opportunities for adults through The Back to Education Initiative, (BTEI) which was launched in 2002. It comprises two strands: the formal strand (Vocational Education Committees and Secondary, Special and Community and Comprehensive Schools) and the community strand (community groups and organisations). The BTEI aims to give adults who wish to return to education an opportunity to combine their return to learning with family, work and other responsibilities. Programmes are offered on a part-time basis in the mornings, afternoons, evenings or at weekends. Its priority group is adults with less than upper second level education. It plays a key role in addressing the needs of those with minimal or no education qualifications and providing a re-entry route for those who wish to upgrade their skills in line with emerging needs. These courses lead to accredited outcomes through the Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC) at levels 1-6.

Since its inception, funding for the BTEI has increased from just over €6 million in 2002 to €18 million in 2007. From 1 September 2007 fees for participants on BTEI programmes with less than upper second level education were eliminated. Originally only people with a social welfare entitlement or medical card were entitled to free fees. Some 9,000 BTEI places were provided throughout the country in 2007 and funding has been made available for a further 500 places this year. Under Towards 2016 the Government is committed to expanding the BTEI to 10,000 places by 2009. Towards 2016 also contains a commitment to put in place a targeted scheme to alleviate the fees in public institutions for part-time courses at third level, for those in employment or seeking to enter employment, who have not previously pursued a third level qualification. As a first step towards the implementation of this commitment, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) has developed a pilot Modular Accreditation Programme (MAP) to be delivered on a flexible part time basis through a number of third level institutions. Students participating in the programme will benefit from a substantial fee subsidy. The Programme for Government also includes a commitment to introduce a more extensive new system of means-tested free fees, with a view to enabling more people with work or family commitments to avail of opportunities at third level. The timescale for implementing this commitment will depend on the resources available in future Budgets.

State Examinations.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

174 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow who has applied for access to a reader for examination as they require this but have been refused; if same will be re-examined and allowed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13502/08]

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations including organising the holding of examinations and determining procedures in places where examinations are conducted including the supervision of examinations. I can inform the Deputy that the Commission operates a scheme of Reasonable Accommodations in the certificate Examinations. Applications for such accommodations are submitted by schools on behalf of their students. I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to the Deputy.

Languages Programme.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

175 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the criteria that must be met in order to establish a specific type of education facility business (details supplied) in County Cork. [13523/08]

The Advisory Council for English Language Schools (ACELS) operates under the aegis of my Department to control quality standards in English Language Schools, including English language summer schools, through an inspection/recognition scheme. ACELS administers the scheme which leads to school recognition by my Department. Recognition of schools arises from their satisfying certain minimum standards in relation to premises, learning and teaching provision and facilities, and the regulations governing this are set out on the ACELS website,www.acels.ie. The regulations also set out the requirements for student accommodation, including host family accommodation and residential accommodation. Accommodation is subject to inspection by ACELS at any reasonable time. The regulations are reviewed and amended by ACELS as necessary. It should be noted all Chinese nationals wishing to enter Ireland must be in possession of a valid Irish visa. Chinese nationals may apply for a visa through the Embassy of Ireland in Beijing or the Consulate General of Ireland in Shanghai. Contact details for these offices can be found on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs, www.dfa.ie.

Schools Building Projects.

Áine Brady

Ceist:

176 Deputy Áine Brady asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to the proposed expansion of facilities to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13532/08]

The School Planning and Building Unit of my Department is in receipt of an application from the school referred to by the Deputy. My Department has agreed, in principle, to the future expansion of this school to an 8-classroom facility. As part of the Programme for Government, a Developing Areas Unit was set up recently in my Department to focus on the school accommodation needs of rapidly developing areas, including Naas. The main emphasis in 2008 is on providing sufficient school places in these developing areas, as well as delivering improvements in the quality of existing primary and post-primary school accommodation throughout the country. In this context, the status of this project is being assessed as part of the overall delivery plan for Naas, which is currently being formulated within the Developing Areas Unit. As is the case with all major capital projects, progression of this project will be considered in the context of the multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Special Educational Needs.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

177 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the full extent of special needs, resource and remedial teaching requirements identified at all schools here; her intention to address deficiencies in early date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13587/08]

The Deputy will be aware of my commitment to ensuring that all pupils, including those with special educational needs, can have access to an education appropriate to their needs preferably in school settings through the primary and post-primary school network. There are now over 19,000 staff in our schools working solely with children with special needs. This includes almost 10,000 Special Needs Assistants — compared with just 300 in 1997. There are also over 7,800 resource and learning support teachers — compared with about 2,000 in 1998. More than 1,100 other teachers support children in our special schools, while hundreds more work in special classes. As well as this significant increase in the numbers of additional teachers and SNAs directly providing appropriate education and care supports for children with special educational needs, much investment has taken place in the provision of transport, specialist school accommodation, home tuition, assistive technology and equipment. Additional teaching supports are allocated as necessary by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) in line with my Department's policy to support children with special educational needs. As a result, there is no current shortfall in the number of teacher posts being allocated for children with special educational needs. I wish to assure the Deputy that the provision of appropriate educational intervention and supports for children with special educational needs continues to be a key Government priority.

Bullying in Schools.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

178 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of incidents of school bullying made known to her Department in the past 12 months; the action taken arising therefrom; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13578/08]

I assure the Deputy that supports are in place to enable schools to prevent bullying and to deal with cases that arise. However, the Deputy will be aware that there is no requirement for schools to report incidents of bullying to my Department, nor do I believe that this should be the case. Responsibility for tackling bullying falls to the level of the individual school as it is at local level that an effective anti-bullying climate must be established. I am, however, anxious to support schools in tackling bullying and it is for that reason that a number supports have been put in place in recent years. Each school is required to have a policy which includes specific measures to deal with bullying behaviour, within the framework of an overall school Code of Behaviour and Discipline. Such a code, developed through consultation with the whole school community and properly implemented, can be the most influential measure in countering bullying behaviour in schools. My Department has issued guidelines as an aid to schools in devising measures to prevent and deal with instances of bullying behaviour and to increase awareness among school management authorities of their responsibilities in this regard. These guidelines were drawn up following consultation with representatives of school management, teachers and parents, and are sufficiently flexible to allow each school authority to adapt them to suit the particular needs of their school.

In view of the increasing demands which have been placed on schools as a result of statutory obligations and the requirement for policies in a range of areas, my Department has been working to ensure greater availability of guidelines and template policies to assist schools. Last year, I announced the publication on my Department's website of policy templates for post-primary schools in five key areas, including anti-bullying, as part of our ongoing efforts in this regard. The template documents are not prescriptive, but rather highlight possible approaches and potential material for inclusion in school policies. The anti-bullying policy template is based primarily on the key document Guidelines on Countering Bullying Behaviour. However, it does take account of more recent legislative and regulatory changes, and reference is also made to issues of contemporary concern such as the need to tackle text bullying, cyber-bullying and homophobic bullying.

The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is at present developing further guidelines for schools on Codes of Behaviour, as provided for under section 23 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000. Work on the guidelines is at an advanced stage and will be informed by broad consultation. Once the NEWB Guidelines are in place, my Department will commence the process of revising and updating its "Guidelines on Countering Bullying Behaviour". This review will take into account issues such as legislative developments, the involvement of the support services available to schools, technological advancements such as use of the Internet, e-mail, mobile phones and camera phones and the latest developments in International best practice on dealing with bullying behaviour. My Department, through the National Centre for Technology in Education has developed Policy Guidelines and Advisory Notes for schools and parents which deal with the issues of internet and mobile phone bullying. I draw the Deputy's attention to the "think b4 u click" internet safety campaign. This campaign seeks to raise awareness and promote safe, responsible practice by young people when on-line. The campaign has a strong peer-to-peer perspective and centres on an interactive on-line service,www.watchyourspace.ie, developed by the National Centre Technology in Education (NCTE). This site offers practical tips and advice and supports teenagers who use the web. A key feature is the advice given from teenagers to teenagers on how to cope with the fall-out from abuses and misuse of social networking and picture-sharing websites. This new initiative perfectly complements the other NCTE safety activities that are up and running successfully such as Webwise, SAFT and the Once projects.

Dealing with bullying has also been incorporated in training for principals through the Leadership Development for Schools programme. I have stressed to the teacher unions the importance of not just having a written policy on bullying but also ensuring a climate in which it is not tolerated in any form and in which children know if they make a teacher aware of bullying that it will be dealt with. The education of students in primary and post-primary schools about anti-bullying behaviour is part of the SPHE curriculum. SPHE is a compulsory subject both at primary level and in the junior cycle of post-primary schools.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

179 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when she expects to address the issue of class sizes in all schools here in line with international best practice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13579/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, major improvements have been made in staffing at primary level in recent years. There are now in the region of 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 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. Significant improvements have been made in the pupil teacher ratio at post primary level in recent years. The ratio has fallen from 16:1 in the 1996/97 school year to13.13 :1 in the 2006/07 school year. The Government has made provision for approximately 1,200 extra primary and post-primary teachers to be appointed in the next school year. The Deputy will be aware that Budget 2008 provided €4.6 billion or €380 million extra for teacher pay and pensions. This is a substantial level of additional investment in the current economic environment and reflects the huge improvements that have been made in school staffing in recent years.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to provide 4,000 additional primary teachers between 2007 and 2012. With the extra teachers already put in place this year and those provided for in the Budget, we are ahead of target with about 2,000 extra primary teachers to be delivered within just two years. As I have said on many occasions in the past, high quality teachers are by far the most important ingredient in our education system. Over the lifetime of the Government, we are committed to providing more primary school teachers specifically to reduce class sizes. 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.

Special Educational Needs.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

180 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the extent to which an attempt has been made to identify in full speech and language training requirements at all schools here; when she expects to meet these requirements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13581/08]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to the availability of speech and language therapy services in schools. As the Deputy will be aware, the provision of therapy services, including speech therapy for people with disabilities, is a matter for the Health Services Executive (HSE) and funding is provided to the HSE for such purposes.

Languages Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

181 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science her proposals to meet in full the requirements of the various school authorities here arising from the multicultural society; when she expects to achieve best practice in terms of language teaching and catering for special needs arising therefrom; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13582/08]

In May 2007, Circular 53/2007 was issued to the Management Authorities in primary and post-primary schools outlining the resources available to meet the needs of pupils for whom English is a second language. The limit of two Language Support Teachers per school was removed and the provision of language support was extended beyond two years, where a specific request is made. In fact, it is now possible for some schools, with over 121 such pupils, to have 6 language support teachers. There are now almost 2,000 language support teacher posts allocated to primary and post-primary schools, compared with just 262 in 2001-02. These additional posts will assist schools in providing an inclusive school environment to meet the needs of pupils for whom English is a second language. Such an inclusive school environment reflects values and affirms linguistic, ethnic and cultural diversity.

In addition to the language resource teachers there is a significant amount of resources available including the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment's (NCCA) Guidelines — "Intercultural Education in the Primary School" and "Intercultural Education in the Post- Primary school". The NCCA has also published "English as an Additional Language in Irish Primary Schools". A number of key resources have also been developed by Integrate Ireland Language and Training for both Primary and Post Primary schools including a resource book "Up and Away" for English language support in primary schools. In addition, a language assessment kit will be provided to all primary schools shortly. The kit will allow for the accurate initial and ongoing assessment of the language proficiency of pupils for whom English is a second language.

Following on from my appointment, an Integration Unit was established in the Department of Education and Science to ensure that education policies take account of the need to integrate immigrants and their children into our education system. This Unit is assisted by the Department's Steering Committee on the Educational Needs of Newcomers which identifies emerging issues, proposes solutions and arranges for the implementation of agreed solutions and policies. A major education conference is being organised next June to look at the implications of societal diversity on the future organisation of our primary schools. The Inspectorate in the Department plans to conduct an evaluation of the provision of English as an Additional Language in a number of primary and post-primary schools in 2008 and 2009. This exercise will evaluate the quality of teaching and learning of English as an additional language that students experience in mainstream education and in support contexts in schools. Its findings will help to inform policy in the area of supports for students learning English as an additional language. It will provide advice on best practice in terms of language teaching and on catering for the particular needs arising from the new profile of students in our schools. It will draw up International Best Practice guidelines and define what is needed with regard to teaching English as a second language. An analysis of its findings, as a composite national report, will be published in 2009.

The Economic and Social Research Institute has been commissioned to undertake a large scale study into how an increasing diversity of students impacts upon resource requirements and day to day teaching and learning in both primary and post-primary schools. Its report is due this autumn. The latter two reports along with the advice of the Integration Unit and the Department's Steering Committee will provide me with evidence-based data on whether we are meeting the needs of pupils for whom English is a second language, particularly in the context of the significantly increased resources that have now been provided.

School Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

182 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will meet in full commitments made in the run up to the general election in 2007 in respect of school accommodation as identified by the various school authorities at primary and second level here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13583/08]

Commitments entered into with regard to school building projects are progressed as speedily as possible in my Department. Applications are assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects. Progress on projects will then be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation programme and available finance.

Special Educational Needs.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

183 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science her proposals to meet undertakings given prior to the general election in 2007 in respect of provisions for children with autism in mainstream education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13584/08]

The Deputy will be aware that the Government is determined to ensure that all children with special educational needs, including autism, have access to an education appropriate to their needs. Parents of children with autism now have three distinct choices available to them — their child can either attend a mainstream class in their local school with additional supports as required, they can attend a special class in a mainstream school or they can attend a special school. While some children with autism can thrive in a mainstream class, special classes have been specifically designed to meet the needs of those who require more intensive support.

There are in the region of 2,100 children with autism who are receiving additional teaching and/or special needs assistant support in mainstream schools. There are now in excess of 285 autism-specific classes around the country, an increase of 76 since the formation of the current Government. As part of the continuing expansion of services nationwide I recently gave recognition to the Rehab Group as the patron of a new special school for children with autism in Limerick. The National Council Special Education (NCSE) will continue to establish special classes for children with autism where the need is identified.

Psychological Service.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

184 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science her proposals to meet psychological needs and assessments as identified by the various school authorities here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13585/08]

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 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 and paid for by NEPS. In common with many other psychological services and best international practice, NEPS encourages a staged assessment process, whereby each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention, in consultation with their assigned NEPS psychologist. Only if there is a failure to make reasonable progress in spite of the school's best efforts will a child be referred for individual psychological assessment. This system allows the psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually. It also ensures that children are not referred unnecessarily for psychological intervention.

The recently published document, "Special Needs Education — A Continuum of Support", which has been circulated to all primary school teachers, outlines this process which moves from simple classroom based interventions to more specialised and individual interventions. These guidelines describe a graduated problem solving model of assessment and intervention in schools and comprise three distinct school based processes. Classroom Support is an intervention which is co-ordinated by the Class Teacher and carried out in the regular classroom. School Support is an assessment and intervention process which is usually co-ordinated by the learning support/resource teacher working alongside the class teacher. Interventions at this stage will be additional to those provided through classroom support. School Support Plus is generally characterised by the school requesting the involvement by the relevant external service in more detailed assessment and development of intervention programmes. This level of intervention is for children with complex and/or enduring needs and whose progress is considered inadequate, despite carefully planned interventions at previous levels.

During 2006/07 the Department of Education and Science through NEPS funded some 4,260 psychological assessments under the SCPA. In this period NEPS psychologists undertook referrals in respect of over 5,700 named pupil and almost 2,800 cases under the Reasonable Accommodation for Certificate Examinations (RACE) scheme on behalf of the State Examinations Commission. In addition it is estimated that NEPS psychologists gave consultations, advice and assistance to teachers and school authorities in respect of an additional 5,000 unnamed pupils. 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 have been from which recruits will be drawn for appointment to priority regions. As I have previously stated, and in line with Government commitments under the Towards 2016 Agreement, it is further my intention to increase NEPS psychologist personnel to 200 during 2009. It is envisaged that this expansion in NEPS numbers will enable all schools to be served directly by NEPS psychologists. My Department, and this Government, is committed to the maintenance of a robust psychological service based on best international practice.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

185 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has carried out an assessment of pupil-teacher ratios throughout the greater Dublin area, with particular reference to the immediate adjoining counties, with a view to identifying the highest pupil-teacher ratios; the locations in relation to same; her proposals to address the issue on an annual basis or once off, with particular reference to the commitments entered into prior to the general election in 2007; the improvements that have taken place at these locations in the interim; her proposals to address the outstanding issues; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13586/08]

Information in relation to primary school pupil teacher ratios is provided in the annual census of primary schools. The details for the current compiled by my Department and the information requested is not yet available. Pupil Teacher Ratios in respect of all schools is currently only available at national level and not disaggregated by county or any other variable.

Significant improvements have been made in the pupil teacher ratio at post primary level in recent years. The ratio has fallen from 16:1 in the 1996/97 school year to 13.13 :1 in the 2006/07 school year.

As the Deputy will be aware, major improvements have been made in staffing at primary level in recent years. 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.

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 330 such posts have been sanctioned in the 2007/08 school year compared to 280 in 2006/07.

In the primary sector alone, there are now in the region of 6,000 more teachers on the Department's payroll than there were in 2002. Extra teachers have been provided in the 2006/07 and 2007/08 school years specifically to reduce class sizes. The Programme for Government contains a commitment to provide 4,000 additional primary teachers between 2007 and 2012. With the extra teachers already put in place this year and those provided for in the Budget, we are ahead of target with about 2,000 extra primary teachers to be delivered within just two years.

Over the lifetime of the Government, we are committed to providing more primary school teachers specifically to reduce class sizes. 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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

186 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in regard to the provision of proposed new primary school facilities at Straffan County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13588/08]

An application for large scale capital funding at the school in question has been received. The commencement and progression of all large scale building projects from initial design stage through to construction phase, including this project, will be considered in the context of my Department's Multi-Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. It is not possible at this early stage to say when construction will commence.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

187 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the ongoing progress in regard to the provision of the proposed new national school at Ardclough, County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13589/08]

The project to which the Deputy refers to is at early architectural planning. Officials from my Department have requested the Developed Sketch Design. On receipt of this. my Department will be in contact with the school authorities.

The progression of all large scale building projects from initial design stage through to tender and construction, including this project, will be considered in the context of my Department's Multi-Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. It is not possible to say at this early stage when construction will commence.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

188 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress that has taken place in the provision of the proposed new school at Kill, County Kildare; when she expects all preparatory work to be completed; the full extent of the proposed accommodation; when site works are expected to start; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13590/08]

The project at the school referred to by the Deputy was given verbal approval for stage 1 at a Project Development Meeting held at the end of January. Written approval confirming this will be issued shortly.

Delivery of all building projects, including the school in question will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme. It is not possible at this early stage to say when construction will commence.

School Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

189 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the full extent of the primary and post-primary school requirements at Naas County Kildare; the need for accommodation and other facilities in accordance with the growing population; the extent to which she has identified optimum size or the need for growth in all such schools; her plans to meet these requirements in full in the near future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13591/08]

As part of the Programme for Government, a Developing Areas Unit was set up recently in my Department to focus on the school accommodation needs of rapidly developing areas, including Naas. The main emphasis in 2008 is on providing sufficient school places in these developing areas, as well as delivering improvements in the quality of existing primary and post-primary school accommodation throughout the country.

In this context, the status of all schools in Naas is being assessed as part of an overall delivery plan, which is currently being formulated within the Developing Areas Unit. As is the case with all large capital projects currently on hand within the Unit, their progression will be considered in the context of the multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

190 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the full extent of the primary and post-primary school requirements at Clane, County Kildare; the need for accommodation and other facilities in accordance with the growing population; the extent to which she has identified optimum size or the need for growth in all such schools; her plans to meet these requirements in full in the near future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13592/08]

The School Planning and Building Unit of my Department is in receipt of one application for major capital funding from one school in Clane. The School Board of Management is currently in the process of appointing a design team to the project.

As part of the Programme for Government, a Developing Areas Unit was set up recently in my Department to focus on the school accommodation needs of rapidly developing areas. The main emphasis in 2008 is on providing sufficient school places in these developing areas, as well as delivering improvements in the quality of existing primary and post-primary school accommodation throughout the country.

Delivery of all building projects will be considered in the context of my Departments multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

191 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the full extent of the primary and post-primary school requirements at Kilcock, County Kildare; the need for accommodation and other facilities in accordance with the growing population; the extent to which she has identified optimum size or the need for growth in all such schools; her plans to meet these requirements in full in the near future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13593/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

192 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the full extent of the primary and post-primary school requirements at Maynooth, County Kildare; the need for accommodation and other facilities in accordance with the growing population; the extent to which she has identified optimum size or the need for growth in all such schools; her plans to meet these requirements in full in the near future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13594/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

193 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the full extent of the primary and post-primary school requirements at Celbridge, County Kildare; the need for accommodation and other facilities in accordance with the growing population; the extent to which she has identified optimum size or the need for growth in all such schools; her plans to meet these requirements in full in the near future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13595/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 191 to 193, inclusive, together.

As part of the Programme for Government, a Developing Areas Unit was set up recently in my Department to focus on the school accommodation needs of rapidly developing areas, including Kilcock, Celbridge and Maynooth. The main emphasis in 2008 is on providing sufficient school places in these developing areas, as well as delivering improvements in the quality of existing primary and post-primary school accommodation throughout the country.

In this context, the status of all schools in these centres is being assessed as part of an overall delivery plan, which is currently being formulated within the Developing Areas Unit. As is the case with all large capital projects currently on hand within the Unit, their progression will be considered in the context of the multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

194 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the full extent of the primary and post-primary school requirements at Leixlip, County Kildare; the need for accommodation and other facilities in accordance with the growing population; the extent to which she has identified optimum size or the need for growth in all such schools; her plans to meet these requirements in full in the near future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13596/08]

The School Planning and Building Unit of my Department is in receipt of two applications for major capital funding from schools in Leixlip. These applications are being assessed by the Planning and Building Unit.

As part of the Programme for Government, a Developing Areas Unit was set up recently in my Department to focus on the school accommodation needs of rapidly developing areas. The main emphasis in 2008 is on providing sufficient school places in these developing areas, as well as delivering improvements in the quality of existing primary and post-primary school accommodation throughout the country.

Delivery of all building projects will be considered in the context of my Departments multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

195 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when she expects to meet in full the permanent classroom requirements at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13597/08]

The project at the school referred to by the Deputy is currently at stage 3 of the architectural planning process. The stage 3 submission is being reviewed by the Board of Management's design team before it is referred to my Department for approval.

As part of the Programme for Government, a Developing Areas Unit was set up recently in my Department to focus on the school accommodation needs of rapidly developing areas, including Maynooth. The main emphasis in 2008 is on providing sufficient school places in these developing areas, as well as delivering improvements in the quality of existing primary and post-primary school accommodation throughout the country.

Delivery of all building projects, including the school in question will be considered in the context of my Departments multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

196 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when she expects to meet in full the permanent classroom requirements at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13598/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

210 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to the provision of extra facilities at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13611/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 196 and 210 together.

The Department is currently awaiting receipt of the stage 3 submission from the school's design team in relation to the permanent extension project proposed for the school referred to by the Deputy.

Progress on this project will be considered on receipt and examination of this stage 3 report.

Schools Building Projects.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

197 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to an application for major capital funding in the case of a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; her plans for same in the next six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13599/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

198 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to an application for major capital funding in the case of a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; her plans for same in the next six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13600/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

199 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to an application for major capital funding in the case of a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; her plans for same in the next six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13601/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

201 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to an application for extra accommodation facilities at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; her plans to progress same in the next three to six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13603/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

202 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to the provision of classroom and accommodation facilities at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13604/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

203 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to an application for large scale capital funding to meet the long-term needs of a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; her plans to move same forward in early date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13605/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

209 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to an application for large scale capital funding for a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13610/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 197 to 199, inclusive, 201 to 203, inclusive, and 209 together.

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department is in receipt of applications for large scale capital funding from the schools to which he refers. The projects have been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects. Progress on the proposed works will be considered on an ongoing basis in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

200 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to an application for major capital funding in the case of a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; her plans for same in the next six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13602/08]

I can confirm to the Deputy that an application for large scale capital funding for the school to which he refers has been received. The commencement and progression of all large scale building projects from initial design stage through to construction phase, 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.

Questions Nos. 201 to 203, inclusive, answered with Question No. 197.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

204 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to an application for major capital funding in the case of a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; her plans for same in the next six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13606/08]

I can confirm to the Deputy that an application for large scale capital funding for the school to which he refers has been received. The commencement and progression of all large scale building projects from initial design stage through to construction phase, 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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

205 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when it is expected progress of a school (details supplied) in County Kildare to tender and construction stage will take place; her plans to progress same in the next six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13607/08]

The project at the school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage (Stage 2b — Detailed Design and Bill of Quantities) of the architectural planning process.

As part of the Programme for Government, a Developing Areas Unit was set up recently in my Department to focus on the school accommodation needs of rapidly developing areas. The main emphasis in 2008 is on providing sufficient school places in these developing areas, as well as delivering improvements in the quality of existing primary and post-primary school accommodation throughout the country.

Delivery of all building projects, including the school in question will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

206 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has received a tender report from a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; her plans to progress this matter in the next three to six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13614/08]

A tender report for the school referred to was received in my Department in January.

As part of the Programme for Government, a Developing Areas Unit was set up recently in my Department to focus on the school accommodation needs of rapidly developing areas, including Naas. The main emphasis in 2008 is on providing sufficient school places in these developing areas, as well as delivering improvements in the quality of existing primary and post-primary school accommodation throughout the country.

Delivery of all building projects, including the school in question will be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Third Level Institutions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

207 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Parliamentary Question No. 583 of 5 February 2008, if further developments have occurred to date in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13608/08]

The Lyons Estate is owned by University College Dublin and as such the day to day affairs of the estate are managed by the University's Governing Body.

As stated in response to Parliamentary Question No. 583, the Governing Body is conducting a full analysis of the University's requirements in relation to its overall campus development. This analysis includes an examination of the suitability and use of the Lyons Estate.

I have been advised by the Higher Education Authority that this analysis is still on-going.

Schools Building Projects.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

208 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to an application for permanent facilities at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; her plans to progress same in the next six months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13609/08]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that construction work began on this project on 31st March last.

Question No. 209 answered with Question No. 197.
Question No. 210 answered with Question No. 196.

School Accommodation.

Áine Brady

Ceist:

211 Deputy Áine Brady asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will advise in relation to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare regarding the expansion of their facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13613/08]

An application for capital funding has been received from the Board of Management of the school in question and is being assessed by the School Planning and Building Unit within my Department.

As part of the Programme for Government, a Developing Areas Unit was set up recently in my Department to focus on the school accommodation needs of rapidly developing areas, including Naas. The main emphasis in 2008 is on providing sufficient school places in these developing areas, as well as delivering improvements in the quality of existing primary and post-primary school accommodation throughout the country.

In this context, the status of all schools in Naas is being assessed as part of an overall delivery plan, which is currently being formulated within the Developing Areas Unit. The school referred to will be included in this assessment. As is the case with all large capital projects currently on hand within the Unit, their progression will be considered in the context of the multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Schools Building Projects.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

212 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science if the €800,000 committed to the construction of the new school at Lacken, County Wicklow is still available; if she will be clear in her response to same; if she will restrict the answer to yes or no; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13622/08]

The project referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage (stage 4/5) of architectural planning. There have been considerable unavoidable delays with the development of this project particularly in relation to site acquisition and Local Authority planning permission requirements. 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. It is not possible to be precise at this stage as to when the project will progress to construction or what the final cost will be.

National Biodiversity Plan.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

213 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Defence the steps he has taken to ensure that his Department, in accordance with the requirement under the National Biodiversity Plan, has drawn up a biodiversity action plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13476/08]

The Sectoral Biodiversity Action Plan for my Department is currently being drafted. It is anticipated that this Plan will be completed before the end of this year.

However, my Department, on an ongoing basis, takes into account its responsibilities concerning biodiversity and the environmental heritage of the lands within its property portfolio. In November 2007 I launched a book, which was a joint venture between UCD and my Department, to raise awareness of the Curragh and included detailed aspects of the flora and fauna to be found there.

Proposed Legislation.

Michael Kennedy

Ceist:

214 Deputy Michael Kennedy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the proposed legislation in relation to management companies; when he expects the bill to be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13464/08]

The position is that the Law Reform Commission published a Consultation Paper on Multi-Unit Developments in December 2006. It identified a broad range of regulatory and other issues arising in relation to such developments, including problems relating to the structure and governance of property management companies and the manner in which company law currently applies to them.

The Law Reform Commission has indicated that it will publish, as soon as possible, its Report on Multi-Unit Developments which, following an extensive consultation process, will contain definitive reform proposals concerning the regulation and governance of property management companies. The Government has already directed that early action be taken by the relevant Departments to address the Commission's recommendations; the types of action to be taken will, of course, be dependent on the form that the recommendations take.

A high-level interdepartmental committee, under the chairmanship of my Department, comprising representatives of relevant Departments and Offices has been established to assist in the development of a coherent and comprehensive response to the problems arising in relation to multi-unit developments. A key task of this committee will be to identify the legislative and administrative actions to be taken in response to the Commission's recommendations and to determine a timescale for their implementation. This committee is reporting to a Cabinet Committee whose membership comprises the Ministers for Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Attorney General.

Residency Permits.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

215 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the delay in processing an application for a person (details supplied) in County Dublin for long-term residency; the waiting time for each application; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the delay is blocking the approval of a mortgage for the person in question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13430/08]

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.

While applications for long term residency are under consideration, the person concerned should ensure that their permission to remain in the State is kept up to date.

An application for long term residency from the person referred to by the Deputy was received on the 18 May 2007. I understand that applications received in August 2006 are currently being dealt with. As soon as a decision is made on the case, the person concerned will be notified.

Garda Vetting Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

216 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that delays reportedly of three months in returning Garda vetting applications submitted by the Health Service Executive in Ballymun are preventing persons taking up new positions of employment for which the clearance is required resulting in a loss of earnings in view of the fact that the departure from prior employment normally involves working notice of just one month; the average and maximum vetting turnaround time between the submission by the HSE and others of an application for clearance and the return of such clearance by the Garda vetting unit; and the steps he will take to speed up the process in order to prevent unnecessary loss of earnings. [13447/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) office in Ballymun does not submit vetting application forms directly to the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) in Thurles, Co. Tipperary. Rather, the HSE's forms are processed centrally within the HSE's recruitment office in Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim, which deals directly with the GCVU.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that all vetting application forms received by the GCVU from the HSE are dealt with in the same manner as those received from all other organisations, that is, they are processed in sequential order from the date of receipt. The current, average turnaround time for the processing of correctly completed vetting application forms is approximately five weeks. Significant departures from the average processing time occur only when further, more detailed enquiries are required in specific instances.

In order to meet the increased demand arising since 2006 from the ongoing major expansion in the provision of its vetting service, the GCVU has been in receipt of very significant additional resources, with new personnel joining the Unit in all of the first three months of this year. When all these personnel have completed their induction and training, it is anticipated that processing times will be reduced accordingly.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

217 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) who recently moved jobs to take up a position requiring Garda clearance in the Cavan centre and in relation to whom the Health Service Executive in Ballymun submitted a request for clearance to the Garda vetting unit on 13 February 2008 which the vetting unit have as yet failed to return resulting in a loss of earnings because the person is unable to fully commence employment until the clearance is returned; the reason for the delay; and when the clearance will be returned to the HSE in Ballymun. [13448/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) office in Ballymun does not submit vetting application forms directly to the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) in Thurles, Co. Tipperary. Rather, the HSE's forms are processed centrally within the HSE's recruitment office in Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim, which deals directly with the GCVU.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that all vetting application forms received by the GCVU from the HSE are dealt with in the same manner as those received from all other organisations, that is, they are processed in sequential order from the date of receipt. With particular regard to the person in question, I am further informed that the relevant vetting application form was received by the GCVU on 20 February, 2008, and that the corresponding response was approved for return to the HSE on 4 April, 2008.

Residency Permits.

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

218 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application for residency by a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; when a decision is due; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13451/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 3 December 2005 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 22 November 2007, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

The Deputy might wish to note that the person concerned also made an application for permission to remain in the State in accordance with the revised arrangements applicable to non-Irish National parents of Irish born children born in the State before 1 January 2005. The revised arrangements in question were announced by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on 15 January 2005 and the Closing Date for receipt of applications was 31 March 2005. The application of the person concerned was received on 18 January 2006 and, as such, was received too late for consideration. The person concerned was made aware of the non-acceptance of his application by letter dated 25 January 2006.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then 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 latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned will be passed to me for decision.

Garda Strength.

Michael Kennedy

Ceist:

219 Deputy Michael Kennedy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of civilians employed by An Garda Síochána; the duties for which they are responsible; the number of Gardaí freed up for ordinary service in each of Swords, Balbriggan, Malahide and Skerries stations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13465/08]

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that the number of full and part time civilian staff assigned to An Garda Síochána as at 31 March 2008 was 2,461.

Civilian staff continue to be recruited to An Garda Síochána in a wide range of services in the administrative, professional, technical and industrial areas. These include, for example, administrators, crime analysts, photographers and ICT experts.

A dedicated Human Resource Directorate has been established to serve the needs of civilians in An Garda Síochána and to promote an extensive programme of civilianisation.

The Commissioner is committed to developing the civilian support function within the Garda Síochána to the level of best international practice and will continue to work to drive the civilianisation programme forward.

Within the Dublin Metropolitan Region, 77 Gardaí have been released, so far, to operational duty, as a direct result of additional recruitment of civilians in that region.

Residency Permits.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

220 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will give favourable consideration to the case made on behalf of a person (details supplied) who has been a member of an Irish language group for the past eight years and who wishes to remain in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13468/08]

I have been informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that they have recently been in contact with the person referred to by the Deputy in relation to his immigration status. Further documentation has been requested from the person concerned in order to facilitate the Immigration Division in examining his case.

National Biodiversity Plan.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

221 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he has taken to ensure that his Department, in accordance with the requirement under the National Biodiversity Plan, has drawn up a biodiversity action plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13482/08]

I wish to refer the Deputy to the response to Parliamentary Question No. 964 dated 2nd April 2008 from my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. As indicated therein, the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government is currently coordinating the preparation of a new National Biodiversity Plan for Ireland, which will cover the period 2008-12. My Department is represented on the Interdepartmental Biodiversity Steering Group, although having regard to my Department's role and activities, it is not anticipated that there will be many actions under the plan specific to it. I can confirm, however, that my Department will participate in any biodiversity initiatives appropriate to it under the plan.

Residency Permits.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

222 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an application for residency on behalf of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [13487/08]

The Immigration Division of my Department has informed me that no application for residency or permission to remain in the State has been received from the person referred to by the Deputy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

223 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to application for family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13489/08]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that an application for family reunification under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996 was made in May 2004.

The application was forwarded to the Refugee Applications Commissioner for investigation as required under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996 in August 2004. The investigation was completed and the Commissioner forwarded a report to my Department in March 2006.

In August 2006 while processing this application, questions arose in relation to the authenticity of certain documents submitted. Subsequent checks by document experts in the Garda Technical Bureau concluded that there were doubts concerning the authenticity of certain documents. The report was received in Family Reunification Section in September 2007. My Department has recently been in correspondence with the person in question seeking clarification of same.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

224 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to an application for naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13490/08]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship section of my Department in June 2006.

Officials in that section inform me that processing of the application has commenced and the file will be forwarded to me for a decision in the coming months. I will inform the Deputy and the person concerned when I have reached a decision on the application.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

225 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position of an application for naturalisation for a person (details supplied). [13499/08]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship section of my Department in June 2007.

Officials in that section are currently processing applications received in August 2005 and have approximately 12,300 applications on hand to be dealt with before that of the person in question. These are generally dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants.

However, I understand that the person concerned is a refugee. In accordance with the Government's obligations under the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, every effort is made to ensure that applications from persons with refugee status are dealt with as quickly as possible, having regard to the general volume of applications on hand. It is likely, therefore, that further processing of the application will commence in early 2009. I will inform the Deputy and the individual in question when I have reached a decision on the matter.

Garda Deployment.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

226 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide a report on the sequence of events surrounding the public disturbances in Finglas on 17 March 2008; when the public order unit was requested; when it arrived; and if he will seek an explanation from the Gardaí for the delay in view of the dangerous situation which developed. [13540/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that during the morning of St Patrick's Day a number of calls relating to the same incident in the Finglas area were received by the Garda authorities. Immediate action was taken by the Garda authorities and two persons were arrested.

In the course of the day, further calls relating to public disorder and anti-social behaviour by groups of youths were received and responded to as they occurred by local District and Divisional Units, assisted by members of the Garda Air Support Unit and the Garda Dog Unit. The situation was continually monitored by local Garda management.

Following an assessment of the situation by officers at the scene and in consultation with the Divisional Officer, a decision was made to assemble the Public Order Unit in order to have it available if necessary. The Unit was subsequently deployed in the area and remained on duty until the early hours of Tuesday morning, 18 March. A total of 27 persons were arrested for public order related offences, including criminal damage and offences contrary to the Road Traffic Acts.

A full investigation is being conducted by the Garda authorities into all incidents which occurred in the area concerned on St Patrick's Day.

I am further informed that, in preparation for the St Patrick's Day Festival, the Garda authorities liaised with the relevant local authorities, residents' groups and licensees' representatives in developing a coordinated approach to policing during the festival period. Operational policing arrangements and the allocation of Garda resources are a matter for the Garda Commissioner.

Victims Commission.

Alan Shatter

Ceist:

227 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime; if he has extended the operational life of the commission; and the arrangements he has made regarding membership of the commission to facilitate its continued work as and from 31 March 2008 being the original date up to which members of the commission were appointed. [13570/08]

My predecessor in Office appointed the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime (CSVC) for a three year period with effect from March 2005.

I wish to place on record my gratitude to them and that of the Government for the valuable public service that they have performed over this period. The CSVC is finalising work on proposing an appropriate support framework for victims of crime into the future. After meeting with the Commission late last year, I formed the view that this framework document will provide important insights into how support for victims of crime might be developed into the future. I propose, therefore, to await the outcome of the Commission's deliberations before deciding on what changes — if any — to present arrangements would be desirable. Pending finalisation of this process, I have decided to extend the term of Office of the Commission. I am happy to say that the members of the Commission have graciously indicated their willingness to remain in Office.

Departmental Staff.

Andrew Doyle

Ceist:

228 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of inspectors employed by his Department and its agencies for the certification of public buildings under the BER regulation since 2007; and the number that will be employed in 2008. [13458/08]

The EU Directive on the Energy Performance of Buildings, which was transposed into Irish law by the European Communities (Energy Performance of Buildings) Regulations 2006, introduced a requirement for a Building Energy Rating System, or BER as it is more commonly known.

The BER system is being implemented under the Regulations in 4 phases:

BER for new dwellings was introduced with effect from 1 January 2007, with a transitional exemption applying to new dwellings for which planning permission was applied for on or before 31 December 2006, and provided they are substantially completed by 30 June 2008;

BER for new non-domestic buildings will commence from 1 July 2008, with a transitional exemption applying for buildings for which planning permission was applied for on or before 30 June 2008 and provided they are substantially completed by 30 June, 2010;

BER for existing buildings of any class being offered for sale or letting will commence from 1 January, 2009; and

BER for all new public service buildings will come into effect from 1 July 2008, subject to the transitional arrangements applying to new non-domestic buildings, and will be applicable to existing large public service buildings from 1 January 2009.

For new public service buildings, it is proposed that the methodology for new non-domestic buildings, which I will be introducing in June of this year, will be applied and that the BER will be produced off the plans at design stage. In relation to existing public service buildings, the Regulations provide that a public body, in respect of a large building — defined as a building with a total useful floor area in excess of 1,000 m2 — occupied by it on or after 1 January, 2009, must secure and display a BER certificate. The BER certificate must be in a prescribed form and must be displayed in a prominent place clearly visible to the public; the prescribed form will be determined in sufficient time to meet the 1 January 2009 deadline.

It is likely that the BER certificate for display on large public service buildings will be based on operational ratings i.e. measured energy use. The purpose of the rating will be to provide information regarding the energy use of the building by the current occupant and it can also be used to show improvements over time.

The assessment for a BER for new large public buildings or such buildings offered for sale or rent, will be carried out by a specially trained BER Assessor operating within the private sector. While trained BER Assessors will be required for the certification of new public service buildings and such buildings offered for sale or rent, final decisions remain to be taken in respect of existing public service buildings.

Asbestos Remediation Programme.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

229 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when his attention was drawn to the health risks associated with asbestos; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13429/08]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 258 of 12 March 2008 which set out the position in regard to asbestos.

There is a general ban on the use of asbestos under Directive 76/769/EEC as amended, which was transposed in Ireland by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment through the European Communities (Dangerous Substances and Preparations) (Marketing and Use) Regulations 2003.

The prevention of exposure is the focus of occupational safety and health legislation concerning asbestos in the workplace. Specific worker protection Regulations regarding the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos fibres while at work have been in place since 1989. The most up-to-date Regulations are the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Exposure to Asbestos) Regulations 2006, which are enforced by the Health and Safety Authority. The Authority comes under the remit of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Insofar as the management of asbestos as a waste is concerned, the Waste Management Acts 1996-2007 prohibit any person from holding, transporting, recovering or disposing of waste in a manner which causes or is likely to cause environmental pollution, defined in Section 5 to include action which would to a significant extent endanger human health.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

230 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if plans have been approved for the sewerage scheme for Gweedore, County Donegal; the stage the project is at; when it is expected that work will commence on the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13437/08]

The Gweedore Sewerage Scheme is approved for funding under my Department's Water Services investment Programme 2007 — 2009 at an estimated cost of €26m.

Additional information is awaited from Donegal County Council to allow my Department to finalise its examination of the Council's Tender Documents for the scheme.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

231 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the proposed sewerage scheme at Falcarragh, County Donegal. [13438/08]

The Falcarragh Sewerage Scheme is approved for funding under my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007-2009 at an estimated cost of €3.6m. My Department is awaiting submission of Donegal County Council's Preliminary Report for the scheme.

Library Projects.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

232 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the provision of funding to develop a new county library in a town (details supplied) in County Cork. [13526/08]

The provision and improvement of library services in County Cork is a matter for the library authority, Cork County Council.

In September, 2005, Cork County Council submitted an application to my Department for approval in principle for Mitchelstown Library. The Council was advised that as this proposal was not included in the Public Library Capital Expenditure Programme 2005-2007 and that as all available funding under the programme was fully committed, it could not be advanced at that time.

However, it is my intention to initiate a new multi-annual programme covering the period 2008-12. I expect to make an announcement shortly in this regard following the launch of the new policy document, Branching Out — Future Directions. It will be open to Cork County Council to submit this project for consideration for priority funding under that new programme.

Grant Payments.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

233 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position of an application by persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13573/08]

The administration of the Disabled Persons Grant and the Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability Schemes, including the processing and approval of individual applications, is a matter for the local authority concerned and is one in which my Department has no direct function.

Telecommunications Services.

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

234 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he plans to publish the value for money and policy review on the metropolitan area networks programme. [13416/08]

A Value for Money and Policy Review (VFMPR) of Phase I of the MANs Programme is being finalised and is due to be published in the coming weeks.

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

235 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when his draft policy paper on next generation networks will be published. [13417/08]

I expect to publish the consultation paper on Next Generation Broadband very shortly.

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

236 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the breakdown of the cost to the Exchequer of the international advisory forum on next generation networks held in Dublin in February 2008. [13418/08]

The estimate of the cost of the International Advisory Forum on broadband is €50,000. A breakdown of costs is not yet available as some members of the Forum have yet to claim travel expenses.