Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 10, inclusive, answered orally.
Question No. 11 answered with Question No. 7.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

12 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Defence if the working group established by the Defence Forces to investigate the possible provision of roll-over protection systems in troop carrying vehicles has presented its report to the Deputy Chief of Staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13546/08]

Peter Kelly

Ceist:

27 Deputy Peter Kelly asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on the recent road traffic accident on the M50 involving military vehicles carrying Army personnel; the plans he and the military authorities have for installing safety devices such as roll bars and safety belts; if he has received the report following the Granard accident; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13454/08]

Joe Costello

Ceist:

28 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Defence if he has received a preliminary report in regard to the accident involving Defence Forces personnel which recently occurred on the M50; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13548/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 12, 27 and 28 together.

On the morning of Tuesday 18th March, 2008, a nine vehicle convoy containing 75 Defence Forces personnel departed Cathal Brugha Barracks for an exercise in the Cooley Mountains in County Louth.

While on route, three of the military trucks were involved in a multi-vehicle road accident on the northbound carriageway of the M50 near the Ballymun exit. A total of 28 Defence Forces personnel, who had sustained injuries, were taken to five hospitals in Dublin following the accident. All 28 were discharged from the various hospitals by 7pm that evening.

An investigation by the Military Police into the accident is ongoing and interviews are continuing at present. I do not propose to make any comment on the incident until this investigation is completed and the findings are presented to the military authorities.

As the Deputies are aware the Defence Forces established a Study Group to examine the possible introduction of Roll Over Protection Systems in Troop Carrying Vehicles, following the accident in Granard last year.

The Study Group presented their report to the military authorities in February this year. The Group have recommended the fitting of a Roll Over Protection System incorporating roll bars and safety belts to military trucks. The Defence Forces have begun the process of setting up a programme for the purchase of this equipment. Funds have been allocated to commence this programme and potential suppliers are being sought. This programme will proceed as soon as possible in accordance with relevant public procurement procedures.

Overseas Missions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

13 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he has received communication from the EU or UN requesting further deployment of Irish troops on overseas missions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13576/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

158 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he has had recent discussions with his UN colleagues regarding possible future UN lead peacekeeping deployments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13773/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 and 158 together.

Currently, a total of 486 Defence Forces personnel are serving overseas, full details of which are listed in the following statement.

Ireland has offered, through the UN Standby Arrangements System (UNSAS), to provide up to 850 military personnel, configured as a light infantry mounted battalion, for overseas service at any one time. This figure equates to some 10% of Ireland's standing Army (excluding Reserves) and demonstrates Ireland's commitment to the cause of international peace. This is the maximum sustainable commitment that Ireland can make to overseas peacekeeping operations. There are no plans at this time to increase the level of our commitment to UNSAS.

Ireland receives requests, from time to time, in relation to participation in various missions and these are considered on a case-by-case basis. In response to an EU request in 2007, Ireland agreed to participate in the UN mandated EU-led mission to Chad and the Central African Republic, EUFOR TCHAD/RCA, When the deployment of the Irish contingent of some 450 personnel is completed at the end of next month, we will have reached the limit of our sustainable commitments. No further such requests have been received.

Members of the Permanent Defence Force Serving Overseas as of 07 April 2008

No.

1.UN Missions

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

7

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

12

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

3

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

4

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

3

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

2

TOTAL

31

UN Mandated Missions

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

45

(viii)EUFOR TCHAD/RCA (EU-led Operation in CHAD and the Central African Republic) OHQ — Paris

18

EUFORTCHAD/RCA (EU-led Operation in CHAD and the Central African Republic) FHQ — Chad

10

EUFOR TCHAD/RCA (EU-led Operation in CHAD and the Central African Republic) Initial Entry Force

53

EUFOR TCHAD/RCA (EU-led Operation in CHAD and the Central African Republic) — 97th Infantry Battalion (National Support Element)

2

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

57

KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo) HQ

11

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

217

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

7

Total number of personnel serving with UN missions

451

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

(i) OSCE Mission to Bosnia & Herzegovina

2

(ii) OSCE Mission in Tbilisi — Georgia

1

(iii) OSCE Mission in Belgrade — Serbia

1

(iv) OSCE Mission in Skopje — Macedonia

1

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

1

Total number of personnel serving OSCE

6

3.EU Military Staff

Brussels

7

New York

1

4.HQ EU Nordic Battlegroup

12

5.Military Representatives/Advisers/Staff

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

1

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

1

(iii) Military Representatives to EU (Brussels)

4

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

2

(v) Military Representative to NATO/PfP Co-ordination Cell/Supreme

1

Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), Mons, Belgium

Total Number Defence Forces Personnel Serving Overseas

486

Question No. 14 answered with Question No. 7.
Question No. 15 answered with Question No. 6.

Benchmarking Awards.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

16 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to the disappointment expressed by PDFORRA at the failure of the benchmarking body to recommend an increase in the level of pay for the members it represents within the Defence Forces; the steps being taken to address the concerns of members regarding rates of pay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13555/08]

As the Deputy is aware the Benchmarking Body is an independent body set up to carry out a detailed evaluation of the pay and jobs of certain grades in the public service in accordance with its terms of reference. The Body reported in January 2008.

As part of its work the Body invited submissions from directly interested parties and from the general public. The Associations representing Other Ranks (PDFORRA) and Officers (RACO) both made written and verbal submissions in this regard.

The Minister is aware of the general disappointment expressed by Public Service trade unions/associations in relation to findings of the Body. The Deputy will be aware that personnel represented by PDFORRA have benefited in full under national pay agreements including Towards 2016.

It is of course open to PDFORRA subject to the terms and conditions of Benchmarking, the partnership agreement Towards 2016 and the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme to avail of the mechanisms in place should the Association want to pursue any particular concerns in relation to the rates of pay of its members.

Random Drug Testing.

Barry Andrews

Ceist:

17 Deputy Barry Andrews asked the Minister for Defence if recent court decisions have had implications for the Defence Forces’ drug testing policy; if members are still being randomly tested for drugs abuse; the procedures involved; and if further changes need to be made. [13497/08]

The Defence Forces policy in relation to Drug Testing has not changed. This policy is based on the premise that unlawful possession, supply, or use of a controlled drug is incompatible with membership of the Defence Forces. Drug and Substance abuse, because of its insidious and addictive nature, and because of the possible residual effects on the abuser, is particularly dangerous in the military environment and is wholly unacceptable.

The primary objective of Compulsory Random Drug Testing is deterrence. In order to provide a credible level of deterrent, the testing programme has been devised to maximise the possibility of random selection for testing. Testing by a trained drugs testing team commenced on 14th November 2002 and the programme is now in its sixth year of operation.

The recent High Court case to which the Deputy refers raised a number of issues around the procedures that apply following a positive test result. We are currently awaiting the written High Court judgement on the case. In anticipation of this, the relevant procedures are being reviewed. It is expected that this review, and any consequent changes to procedures, will be completed in the near future.

In the meantime, the programme of Random Drug Testing has not been affected. Tests continue to be conducted in accordance with the planned schedule. The target consists of annual testing of 10% of the Permanent Defence Force and 10% of all Reserve Defence Force (RDF) personnel who report on annual camp. Any positive results will be processed under the revised procedures.

Overseas Missions.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

18 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on the situation of the 217 personnel that are deployed in KFOR. [13549/08]

Peter Kelly

Ceist:

33 Deputy Peter Kelly asked the Minister for Defence if he has been briefed on the security situation in Kosovo; if he is satisfied as to the safety of the Defence Forces personnel serving there; if he has plans to visit Kosovo in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13455/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 and 33 together.

KFOR was established on 10 June 1999 in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1244, for an initial period of twelve months, to continue thereafter unless the UN Security Council decides otherwise. KFOR's mandate is to establish a secure environment in Kosovo conducive to the implementation of refugee return and reconstruction.

KFOR has a current strength of approximately 15,700 troops drawn from 25 NATO countries and 10 non-NATO countries including Ireland, Austria, Finland and Sweden. KFOR operates under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, that is, it is entitled to use force to implement its mandate and to protect itself and the international civil presence.

Ireland has participated in KFOR since August 1999. The total number of Irish troops currently serving in Kosovo is 285. The figure is broken down as follows:

Infantry Group — 217

Headquarters Staff — 11

Framework Nation Staff — 57

The Irish Infantry Group, which is currently rotating, serves in the Multi-National Task Force (Centre) — MNTF (C) — with Ireland as current lead nation. In addition to Ireland, the Task Force also comprises troops from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland and Latvia. The Task Force's area of responsibility is generally the Pristina region, covering 7 municipalities with a population of approximately 1 million. The Irish commitment comprises a MOWAG mounted APC Company together with support and logistic elements and various HQ personnel.

In August 2007, Ireland assumed responsibility as Framework Nation for the Multinational Task Force Centre (MNTF (C)) in KFOR for a period of 12 months and additional Defence Forces personnel were deployed to KFOR, for the Framework Nation period. Brigadier General Gerry Hegarty from the Defence Forces assumed command of the MNTF (C) when Ireland took on the framework nation role commanding 1,200 troops from 6 nations. Currently 57 Irish Defence Forces personnel serve with the Framework Nation.

Minister O'Dea is satisfied that all appropriate security measures are in place to ensure the safety of all Defence Forces personnel serving in KFOR. They are equipped with the most modern and effective equipment. This equipment enables troops to carry out the mission assigned, as well as providing the required protection specific to the mission. Minister O'Dea would like me to assure the House that ongoing threat assessments are carried out in mission areas and we continually review both personal equipment and force assets, to ensure that Defence Forces personnel are appropriately equipped to fulfil their roles. No mission is without danger, but Minister O'Dea is satisfied that all appropriate security measures are in place to ensure the safety of all Defence Forces personnel serving in KFOR.

Minister O'Dea receives regular briefings from the Defence Forces on the security situation in Kosovo and other missions in which the Defence Forces are serving. The situation in the Irish Area of Responsibility continues to be described as calm and stable, though unpredictable. The threat of attacks on KFOR personnel is assessed as low. Minister O'Dea is planning to visit Kosovo later this month to meet with Brigadier General Hegarty and the Irish personnel serving in Kosovo.

Question No. 19 answered with Question No. 8.

Defence Forces Accommodation.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

20 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Defence the number of standard, substandard and emergency accommodation units and rooms for officers by post and barracks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13512/08]

In referring to "standards" as they apply to living in accommodation there are two separate aspects which must be addressed i.e. Building Standards and Accommodation Standards. In relation to Building Standards, all accommodation provided to Officers of the Defence Forces adhere to National Building Standards and the appropriate Health and Safety Standards. In relation to "Accommodation Standards", all accommodation provided is measured against standards established by the Defence Forces in 1992, in the absence of any other national standard. The main criteria used for setting and measuring standards is the floor area of the accommodation. The "standard" is currently set at 35sq metres for Senior Officers and 20sq metres for Junior Officers.

It was not possible to compile details of the accommodation by post and barracks within the time available. However overall numbers, as of late 2006, in the various categories of accommodation are shown in tabular format in the following table which I propose to circulate with the Official Report. This table indicates that 447 officers were availing of accommodation, 89 in "standard" 356 in "substandard" and 2 in emergency/transit. In addition 60 "standard" 95 "sub-standard" and 67 transit/emergency units were available and unoccupied. The Deputy should note that no charge is made for occupancy of accommodation other than standard accommodation. The charge for officer accommodation ranges from € 24.35 to € 40.20 per month for standard accommodation.

Until recently there were no recognised National Standards for any living in accommodation. In August 2007 the Health Information and Quality Authority published Draft National Quality Standards for Residential Care Settings, a consultation document proposing accommodation standards. This document outlines standards in relation to all aspects of accommodation including floor area, heating, ventilation, furniture, electrical sockets, laundry facilities and toilet and washing facilities. My Department is considering these new standards with a view to establishing a "desirable standard" to be applied across the Defence Forces which will ensure that all accommodation provided aspires to that similar to the civilian community generally.

A detailed survey of living in accommodation across the Defence Forces is currently under way and is expected to be completed by mid-May. The application of the new "desirable" standard will see a re-classification of a significant number of existing sub-standard units. In addition the new standard will set the benchmark for all refurbishment of existing and provision of new living in accommodation.

Living in Accommodation — Officers.

Single Living in (SLI) Accommodation

Standard

Sub Standard

Transit / Emergency

Total

Eastern Brigade

Occupied

15

121

0

136

Unoccupied

0

21

13

34

Southern Brigade

Occupied

0

52

0

52

Unoccupied

0

25

5

30

Western Brigade

Occupied

31

138

2

171

Unoccupied

30

16

12

58

DFTC

Occupied

5

5

0

10

Unoccupied

25

33

37

95

AIR CORPS

Occupied

16

33

49

Unoccupied

NAVAL BASE

Occupied

22

7

29

Unoccupied

5

5

Total

Occupied

89

356

2

447

Unoccupied

60

95

67

222

Note: There is no standard associated with transit/emergency accommodation.

EU Treaties.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

21 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Defence the impact the Lisbon treaty will have on the Defence Forces. [13550/08]

The Lisbon Treaty will have little or no impact on the Defence Forces as an organisation. The Treaty does make some amendments to existing provisions on security and defence. However, it does not alter their essential features. Firstly, national security will continue to remain the sole responsibility of each member state. Secondly, the Treaty will not have any impact on Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality. Any decision by Ireland to participate in EU-led military crisis management operations will be for sovereign decision on a case-by-case basis and in line with Irish constitutional and legislative arrangements.

The "triple lock" provisions requiring a Government decision, Dáil approval, and UN authorisation will continue to apply in relation to service abroad by contingents of the Irish Defence Forces. Finally, Ireland's position on the question of an EU common defence is also very clear. Under our Constitution we cannot and will not participate in a common defence without the prior consent of the people in a referendum.

Defence Forces Legal Costs.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

22 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Defence his views on the fact that the Defence Forces paid €15.3 million in compensation claims for injury and illness during the period 2003 to 2007 while the legal fees amounted to €10.5 million; if he will have a full audit carried out of these legal fees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13542/08]

Costs paid in any particular year do not necessarily relate to the cases for which compensation has been paid in that year. This is because there is a time lag in submitting and agreeing costs in any particular case.

Compensation claims are dealt with on behalf of the Department either by the Office of the Chief State Solicitor or by the State Claims Agency as appropriate. I am fully satisfied that there are systems in place in the Chief State Solicitor's Office and the State Claims Agency to address all related claims for legal costs before they are agreed between parties. In cases where agreement between the parties is not reached, costs are submitted to the Taxing Master for adjudication. I do not therefore intend to have an audit carried out on legal fees paid by my Department in relation to compensation claims.

Question No. 23 answered with Question No. 7.

Defence Forces Personnel.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

24 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Defence if a claim for an increase on overseas allowance submitted by PDFORRA has been agreed by his Department and the representatives association under the C and A schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13519/08]

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

Question No. 25 answered with Question No. 7.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

26 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Defence the number of occasions during 2006, 2007 and to date in 2008, on which the Army bomb squad has been called out to deal with suspected explosive devices; the number of instances in each year in which the devices were hoaxes and authentic explosive devices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13553/08]

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

42 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Defence the number of times the Army bomb disposal team has been called out in 2007 and to date in 2008; the procedures in place for deciding to call them out; the number of hoaxes they have had to deal with since January 2007; the estimated average costs involved each time they are deployed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13412/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 26 and 42 together.

The primary responsibility for the maintenance of law and order rests with An Garda Síochána. The Defence Forces, pursuant to their role of rendering aid to the civil power assist the Gardaí as required. Requests for aid to the civil power are normally made by a member of the Garda Síochána not below the rank of Inspector. The Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Team respond when a request is made by An Garda Síochána, to the relevant Brigade, for assistance in dealing with a suspect device or for the removal of old ordnance.

Information on the number of callouts in 2006, 2007 and 2008 (to date) are set out in the following table.

Year

Total Number of Callouts

Number of Hoaxes (included in total)

2006

101

8

2007

98

11

2008 (as of 4 April 2008)

42

11

An EOD team normally consists of the following configuration: one officer, one NCO and one driver. The cost of each individual callout is not recorded separately but costs would include: the salary and allowances of the team, fuel for the distance travelled by the vehicle to and from the location of the incident and any ordnance used to dispose of the device.

Questions Nos. 27 and 28 answered with Question No. 12.

Defence Forces Review.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

29 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Defence if he has received a report following the first meeting of the review group within the Defence Force in regard to the implementation of the recommendations of the original Doyle report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13544/08]

In accordance with the recommendations of the Independent Monitoring Group's report, "Response to the Challenge of a Workplace", a review group was established in February this year to review progress within the Defence Forces on the implementation of the recommendations of the original Doyle report. The group is working under the chairmanship of Dr. Doyle and includes representatives of military management, PDFORRA, RACO and my Department. Two meetings have been held to date. It is expected that the report of the group will be completed before the end of the year.

Departmental Expenditure.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

30 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Defence if he envisages cutbacks in services provided by or through his Department in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13561/08]

There are no proposals for cutbacks in the level of services provided by or through my Department in 2008. The gross total allocation for my Department in 2008 is €1,078m, comprising €888m in the Defence Vote and €190m in the Army Pensions Vote. This represents an increase of 7% on the 2007 allocation.

About 70% of the Defence Estimate is expended on pay and allowances for an average of 10,500 Permanent Defence Force personnel, some 880 civilian employees and about 380 civil service staff. The Defence Estimate includes additional funding of €37m for Defence Forces participation in the EUFOR mission to Chad, the bulk of which will be expended on transport costs. This additional funding will ensure that our troops in Chad will have the best possible equipment and facilities in what will be a very challenging environment.

The ongoing investment in modern equipment and facilities for the Defence Forces will continue in 2008, as will the major programme to provide modern accommodation for the Defence Forces which has been ongoing over recent years. Overall, the increased level of resources underlines the Government's commitment to ensuring that the modernisation process in Defence will continue to make solid progress.

Question No. 31 answered with Question No. 6.

Overseas Missions.

Alan Shatter

Ceist:

32 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Defence if it is inappropriate that a person (details supplied) play a role in briefing members of the Irish Army going to Chad; his views on whether such briefings could result in Army members being given a biased perspective on the situation there, place them at risk of being unfairly accused of partiality by other parties to conflict in the region and place in jeopardy their United Nations mission; if he has received expressions of concern in this regard; and the action proposed by him. [11519/08]

The person to whom the Deputy refers was not involved in the mission-specific briefing conducted by the Defence Forces for members of the Defence Forces about to deploy to the EU-led mission in the Republic of Chad and the Central African Republic, known as EUFOR TCHAD/RCA. This mission-specific briefing was conducted by the United Nations Training School Ireland (UNTSI), Curragh, from 10 to 14 March 2008.

The EU mission to Chad, which was established under the authority of UN Security Council Resolution 1778 (2007), is committed to the establishment of a force that is neutral and impartial and operates in full co-operation with the UN. A Defence Forces Centre of Excellence for Cultural Awareness has been established in UNTSI. It provides Defence Forces personnel with an understanding of the complex issues of cultural diversity affecting both the host nation and troops from other contributing nations.

The event at which this person spoke was a Cultural Awareness Course conducted by UNTSI from 12 to 14 February 2008. This course focused on the diverse cultural aspects of Central Africa and the Horn of Africa. A broad spectrum of speakers addressed the course including academics from UCD, UL, NUIM, a representative from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Irish Aid, an Irish missionary with experience in Central Africa and Irish officers who have previously served in the region.

The person referred to by the Deputy was invited to address the course on Wed 13 February 2008 on the recommendation of National University Ireland, Maynooth (NUIM). NUIM is the academic partner of the Military College and the speaker is head of a Department there. The theme of his address was Darfur Culture and this person was eminently qualified to discuss this area. The members of the course were informed in advance of his involvement in the Justice Equality Movement and so were aware of his political affiliations. The audience consisted of senior officers of the Permanent Defence Officer and foreign officers from other international Peace Support Training Schools, some of whom, at that point in time, were likely to be deployed to Chad.

Given the ever-evolving nature of Peacekeeping Operations, it is imperative UNTSI provides all members of the Defence Forces with a broad perspective and understanding of cultural, social, political, legal and humanitarian factors impacting on likely areas of deployment. Association with outside agencies, such as academic institutions, Government Departments and NGO's are essential in ensuring that Irish Peacekeepers are deployed with a comprehensive understanding of all of these issues, in accordance with best international standards and practice.

Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 18.

Public Information Campaigns.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

34 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Defence when it is proposed to run the public information campaign on emergency planning; the research, consultations and planning that have gone into preparing the campaign; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13413/08]

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

49 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Defence the progress made with regard to the distribution of a new handbook on emergency planning to every household here; when the distribution of the booklet will begin; when it will be completed; the anticipated cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13559/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 34 and 49 together.

The Public Information and Awareness Campaign on Emergency Planning will be formally launched by An Taoiseach Mr. Bertie Ahern T.D., on Monday next, the 14th of April, in the National Emergency Coordination Centre. The campaign follows the outcome of market research conducted in 2006 that showed that a majority of people were unaware of the State's plans to deal with major emergencies or what actions they themselves should take in the event of an emergency occurring.

On foot of this research, the Government approved a strategy for the implementation of the public information campaign that provides for:

the production and countrywide distribution of a handbook on emergency planning

a media advertisement campaign to let people know what the handbook is about and to provide reassurance that its publication is part of the continuing development of emergency planning and therefore not a cause for alarm

the use of structured exercises on an ongoing basis by the State's departments and agencies to deliver key messages on their emergency plans to the wider public.

The Office of Emergency Planning is coordinating the implementation of the campaign and a firm of public relations consultants was engaged to support the process. There has been significant consultation with a wide range of stakeholders in the preparation of the handbook. Extensive discussions were held with the key government departments and agencies. The National Council for the Blind and the National Disability Authority were consulted for advice on their member's requirements. Finally, the draft handbook was submitted to a focus group drawn from various backgrounds for their views and opinions.

A national advertisement campaign commenced this week. The handbook, which has been printed in Irish and English, will be distributed to each household commencing on the 14th April and its nationwide distribution will take approximately two weeks to complete. The handbook is also available in braille, large print, audio cd, and ‘easy to read' versions. It will be available on-line in Polish, Russian and Chinese on the emergencyplanning.ie website. The total cost of the campaign will be approximately €2.25 million.

Question No. 35 answered with Question No. 7.

Departmental Funding.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

36 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Defence if the discussions between his Department and ONET and IUNVA in regard to an annual grant being made to both of these voluntary organisations has been concluded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13545/08]

The Organisation of National Ex-Servicemen and Women, or Óglaigh Náisiúnta na hÉireann Teoranta (ONET) has enjoyed the long-standing official recognition of the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces. ONET is dedicated to looking after the welfare of all ex-service personnel of the Irish Defence Forces. A main objective of ONET is to ensure the welfare of ex-servicemen and women by way of providing accommodation to homeless members in need of such domestic accommodation and providing other assistance that may be required by way of advising referrals to the relevant agencies.

The Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA) was formed in 1990. Membership is available to those, both serving and retired, who have successfully completed a tour of duty with a UN Force or Organisation. Both associations are financed primarily through membership fees, voluntary contributions and fundraising.

The Agreed Programme for Government June 2007 commits to the provision of annual subventions to support ONET and IUNVA in their valuable work. The Minister has decided that this can best be achieved through the payment of an annual grant-in-aid to both of these voluntary organisations. The Minister expects to be in a position shortly to announce the agreed arrangements.

Commemorative Events.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

37 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence the regularity with which the all-party 1916 Rising Commemorative Committee has met since it was announced and the remit of the committee. [7561/08]

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

45 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Defence the progress made to date with regard to the proposed establishment of the All Party Oireachtas Consultation Group on the commemoration of the 1916 Rising; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13560/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 37 and 45 together.

During the lifetime of the 29th Dáil an All-Party Consultation Group on the commemoration of the 1916 Rising was established in relation to official preparations for the re-instatement of the traditional military parade at Easter and the commemorative programme to be put in place in coming years in relation to the centenary of the Easter Rising. The Group met in November 2006 and March 2007.

As a result of the last General Election, the Group had to be reconstituted to take account of the make-up of the current Oireachtas membership. On the 17th of January 2008, I wrote to the Party leaders asking them to nominate a representative for the re-constituted group. I have now received nominations from the Party Leaders and I intend to convene a meeting of the Group shortly.

Defence Forces Personnel.

Chris Andrews

Ceist:

38 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Defence the procedure in place for members of the Defence Forces who received approaches from persons linked to criminal activity; his views on recent media reports that a number of members have been so approached; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13571/08]

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

51 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to reports that members of criminal gangs have approached members of the Defence Forces offering them money in return for assistance in carrying out armed crimes; if he will confirm that such approaches have been made; the steps that are being taken to ensure that such approaches are spurned and reported to the appropriate authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13552/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 38 and 51 together.

All members of the Defence Forces are advised to report any inappropriate contacts or requests linked to criminality, to their Commanding Officers. Such incidents will be dealt with by the Military Authorities and where necessary will be passed to the Gardaí. The Defence Forces do not openly discuss specific incidents that may have a direct impact on the security of its personnel.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

39 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Defence the number of qualified dental hygienists serving in the Permanent Defence Force; the number who have been trained at public expense; the number currently working as dental hygienists within the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13509/08]

There are no Defence Forces personnel working as Dental Hygienists at present. Two persons are currently serving in the Defence Forces who had been trained as Dental Hygienists, at public expense. Both of these were subsequently re-assigned to other duties on promotion.

Defence Forces Recruitment.

John Curran

Ceist:

40 Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Defence if he will request the military authorities to review the regulations governing the recruitment of persons who have had laser eye treatment to bring in into line with prevailing regulations in other armies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13506/08]

The position is that there are a number of physical and medical standards laid down by the Military Authorities for entry to the Defence Forces. These requirements are based on the professional advice of the Medical Corps and having regard to the nature of the job, the duties of military service and the training exercises undertaken by members of the Defence Forces.

The Medical Corps regularly reviews the medical standards for entry to The Defence Forces. The question of the suitability for military service of persons who have had laser surgery to correct their visual acuity is complex, because it depends among other factors on the exact type of surgery and on the amount of visual correction effected.

The Minister has asked the Military Authorities to report to him specifically on the issues relating to laser eye treatments and he will review the vision requirement in light of that report. The Minister has been advised because of the complexity of the issues that it may take some time to complete this report.

Overseas Missions.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

41 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Defence if it is intended to deploy a Defence Forces dentist to Chad; his views on whether such a deployment is necessary in view of the fact that the dental standards aimed for by the medical corps is that all personnel should be dentally fit for a 12 month deployment and whether such a deployment is cost effective in view of the shortage of military dental officers and the increased costs of using civilian dentists here that would ensue from deploying a dentist to Chad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13513/08]

As part of the Defence Forces deployment to the UN mandated EU-led mission to Chad and the Central African Republic, EUFOR TCHAD/RCA, it is intended to deploy a Dental Officer and a Dental Surgery Attendant to CHAD.

Experience in Liberia has shown that even among personnel who are dentally fit, unforeseen dental health issues can arise which, if not taken care of as they arise, can lead to later dental morbidity which could have been avoided by timely treatment. Therefore, in the long-term interests of the Dental Health of the personnel of the Defence Forces, this deployment is necessary.

Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 26.

Departmental Correspondence.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

43 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Defence if he has received a reply to a letter he wrote to a political party (details supplied) requesting an illegal organisation to desist from misusing a title; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13554/08]

Minister O'Dea first wrote to the President of Sinn Féin, Mr Gerry Adams, M.P., M.L.A., on 3 November 2005 requesting the removal, from a website associated with that party, of a range of items bearing the title "Óglaigh na hÉireann" which were being offered for sale on the site. This letter was acknowledged on November 11th 2005, noting that Mr Adams was away on business. There was no subsequent substantive response.

The Minister wrote again on 21 December 2005 and on 24 February 2006. In his letter of 24 February 2006 he also raised the issue of the use of the title Óglaigh na hÉireann as a reference to the Provisional IRA in Mr Adams' speech to that year's Árd Fheis. While these letters were also acknowledged, Minister O'Dea still has not received a substantive response to the issue raised. Copies of these letters were also sent to Sinn Féin's Dáil leader.

Section 16 of the Defence Act 1954 to 1998 provides that "It shall be lawful for the Government to raise train, equip, arm and maintain Defence Forces to be called and known as Óglaigh na hÉireann or (in English) the Defence Forces." Accordingly, only the Defence Forces properly established are entitled to use the nomenclature "Óglaigh na hÉireann".

No permission for use of the title "Óglaigh na hÉireann" on the items featured on the website has been sought from the Department of Defence, nor could such permission be given.

National Monuments.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

44 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Defence the reason for the delay in the construction of the promised national monument to honour deceased members of the Defence Forces; if it is intended to proceed with the planned location in Merrion Square, Dublin 2; when it is expected to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13558/08]

The Memorial being designed by the artist, Mr. Brian King, is a complex art piece comprising many components, the four main components being, stone, steel, glass and bronze. Each individual component is crafted by specialists and the artist has worked closely with the various craftspeople to ensure precision in each component part to ensure minimum delay in constructing the piece.

The concept, though simple in theory, has proven more difficult in practice due to the intricacy of the design and the need to ensure precise compatibility of each component part. It is important that the extra time needed is spent at this stage to ensure the overall success of the project.

Construction work at the site in Merrion Square is due to commence later this month and the memorial is expected to be completed by the end of June 2008.

Question No. 45 answered with Question No. 37.
Question No. 46 answered with Question No. 7.
Question No. 47 answered with Question No. 6.

Official Engagements.

John Curran

Ceist:

48 Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on his recent visit to Bosnia Herzegovina; the meetings he had while there; the nature of duties being undertaken by Irish troops based there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13505/08]

During the period of the 4th — 6th March 2008, Minister Willie O'Dea visited troops serving with EUFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina and met the Senior Irish Officer (SIO) EUFOR and the Irish Contingent Commander. There are currently 29 countries contributing to EUFOR and the force now numbers some 2,500 troops. Ireland contributes 45 members of the Irish Defence Forces to EUFOR.

The Minister also had meetings with the High Representative EUSR Mr. Miraslav Lajcak, the Commander of EUFOR, Major General Ignacio Martín Villalaín and the Head of the European Police Mission (EUPM), Brigadier General Vincenzo Coppola. Within the Force, Ireland provides personnel for the headquarters, the Military Police Unit, Verification Teams and a National Support Element (which co-ordinates logistics support for the Irish contingent). All Irish personnel are located at Camp Butmir, Sarajevo.

The role of the Verification Teams, established under the Dayton Agreement, is to monitor arms caches and arms movements by the two forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The teams are advised as to weapons purchases and movements, inspect the arms holdings of the two forces and monitor movements, to ensure that both sides comply with their obligations under the Dayton accord.

Question No. 49 answered with Question No. 34.

Overseas Missions.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

50 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Defence if the UNIFIL investigation team lead by an Irish officer which is investigating the incident involving a roadside bomb on the main coastal road north of Sidon in Lebanon is complete; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13543/08]

Two members of the Permanent Defence Force, serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), were injured in an incident on 8 January 2008. The soldiers had superficial injuries and were taken to the local hospital in Sidon by Lebanese army personnel. The soldiers were treated for their injuries and kept in over-night for observation. Both were discharged from the hospital on the following day, 9th January, and they then returned to UNIFIL Headquarters in Naqoura.

An Irish officer serving with UNIFIL led the initial investigation into the incident. The incident is currently being investigated by a UNIFIL investigation team, which includes an Irish officer. This investigation is ongoing and will conclude in due course. However, this team cannot report until the concurrent investigation by the Lebanese Government into the incident is completed.

Question No. 51 answered with Question No. 38.

Child Care Services.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

52 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Defence if he has received the report from the Defence Forces partnership steering group sub committee on the feasibility of the provision of childcare facilities, particularly in the Curragh, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13518/08]

A request to provide crèche facilities for members of the Defence Forces has been made by the Defence Forces Representative Associations. The Defence Forces Partnership Steering Group, which was established following on from Partnership 2000, has tasked a Partnership Sub-Committee with examining the issue of the provision of childcare facilities under a number of headings, including demand for places, location and cost.

A review of progress on the report from the Sub-Committee on the feasibility of the project was received at a meeting of Defence Forces Partnership Steering Group, which was held yesterday, 9 April 2008. A survey will shortly commence in relation to the demand for crèche places in the vicinity of the Curragh and further work is being undertaken in relation to a possible site and estimates of costs for development of the facility. The Minister has been assured that a report will be available by the end of September 2008.

Drug Smuggling.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

53 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if an evaluation of coastal surveillance and air-sea rescue has been undertaken with particular reference to the need for enhanced activity arising from drug smuggling around the coast of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13770/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they constantly evaluate their maritime intelligence gathering and coastal surveillance activities. Revenue's Customs Service works proactively with an Garda Síochána and the Naval Service in the fight against drug trafficking by sea as part of the Joint Task Force on Drugs Interdiction.

In addition to national patrolling and surveillance activities, the Customs Service also participates in a number of international Joint Surveillance Operations each year. These operations have proved to be particularly successful in improving the sharing of intelligence within the law enforcement community and in the deployment of operational resources to prevent the trafficking of drugs into the EU. As part of the Customs Drugswatch programme, a confidential 24/7 freephone is also promoted and maintained as a communications channel for the maritime and coastal communities to report suspicious activity.

Drug trafficking has become increasingly globalised in its nature. On 30 September 2007 year in a combined response to this threat, Ireland and six other EU states established a Maritime Operations and Analysis Centre — Narcotics in Lisbon, Portugal. The Commissioners are currently arranging for the recruitment of a Customs Liaison Officer for assignment to Lisbon. This centre, which is supported by the US authorities, is already playing a leading role in the fight against the trafficking of drugs, particularly cocaine, into the EU from South America and also from West Africa, which is increasingly being used as a staging post. Earlier this year at the launch of the Commissioners' new Statement of Strategy, I was pleased to announce the decision to purchase a second Customs Cutter to complement the important work being done by the RCC Suirbhéir. It is expected that this new vessel will be commissioned next year. My Department does not have responsibility for air-sea rescue.

Outdoor Events.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

54 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the procedure of the Office of Public Works in making decisions on staging rock concerts or other events in the Phoenix Park; the number of such events proposed and approved for 2008; the duration and expected attendance of each of these events; the comparative figures for the years 2005, 2006 and 2007; if the OPW receives payments in respect of these events; if so, the amount of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13682/08]

In addition to concerts, the Office of Public Works processes hundreds of requests annually for use of the Phoenix Park to stage events there, primarily of a sporting or athletic nature. A new event last year was the Bloom Garden festival which was a great success and due to be held again in June this year.

The Policy Document drawn up in 1997 sets out the guidelines in relation to the staging of large scale concerts in the Phoenix Park. A number of large scale concerts — in excess of 100,000 attendees — have been staged in the Park in the past but in recent years, relatively small scale concerts have taken place. These have been confined to the Visitor Centre area, with the objectives of minimising any adverse impacts both on the Park environment and on local communities. Each application for a concert is considered on its' merits.

A list of the concerts, dating back to 2005, is as follows:

2008 — Approval in principle has been granted for a series of small scale concerts with a capacity of c.4,000 each, on the 30th July, 31st July and 1st August: Duration 7.00pm to 10.30pm

2007 — a series of small scale concerts were staged on 23rd October, 24th October, 28th October and on the 3rd, 4th and 5th November with a maximum capacity of 10,000 each. Duration 7.00pm to 11.00pmA further series of small scale concerts were staged on 30th November, 1st December, 5th and 6th December with a maximum capacity of 5,000 each. Duration 7.00pm to 10.30pm

2006 — two large scale day long concerts were approved; a commercial concert on 18th August (c.85,000) and a sponsored free concert (c. 50,000) on 26th August. Neither of these concerts actually went ahead.

2005 — a sponsored, free, day long concert was staged on 27th August with a capacity of c.50,000.

Fees are payable for use of the park for concerts. The total amount for 2005, 2006 & 2007 was €85,000 (no fees payable in 2006). The fee varies in each case depending on a number of factors, including for example the scale of a concert and whether it is a commercial or free event.

Tax Code.

John Deasy

Ceist:

55 Deputy John Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he is satisfied with the interpretation by the Revenue Commissioners that relevant contracts tax must be applied to all payments of a construction nature made by a principal contractor, irrespective of whether the payment is being made in the course of their business or not; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13700/08]

John Deasy

Ceist:

57 Deputy John Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that relevant contracts tax is being applied to principal contractors on payments being made in relation to work carried out on their jointly owned principal private residences; his views on whether such work does not involve business related payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13702/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 55 and 57 together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the legislation governing Relevant Contracts Tax (RCT) is set out in Sections 530 and 531 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. The general position is that the obligation to operate RCT is placed on a principal contractor as defined in the legislation. Thus, in making a payment to a sub-contractor a principal contractor must deduct and remit to Revenue RCT at 35% of the payment being made, except in circumstances where, inter alia, the sub-contractor has a certificate of authorisation, commonly known as a C 2 certificate. In the latter case, a principal may make the payment without deduction of RCT.

I am also advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the legal obligation on principal contractors to operate RCT is cast widely. Taking construction operations as an example, a principal contractor must operate RCT on payments to a sub-contractor not only where the construction work being carried out relates to a third party construction project but also in a situation where the construction work might be carried out on the principal contractor's private residence. It should be noted, however, that the exposure to RCT in respect of a private residence arises only because the contract payment is being made by a person who is a principal contractor. Payments made in respect of construction work on private residences by persons who are not principal contractors would not give rise to RCT.

John Deasy

Ceist:

56 Deputy John Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on reducing the rate of stamp duty on private educational establishments which are levied at the commercial rate of 9%; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this rate is a severe disincentive to investment in private education establishments, such as Montessori schools. [13701/08]

Stamp Duty on non-residential property is charged at various rates based on the consideration involved and, in this regard, it can be regarded as one of the constituent costs of purchasing a property. It also follows that the costs relating to the purchase of property, including stamp duty and other costs such as legal fees, etc., have to be taken into account when an individual is considering the merits of investing in particular activities, which may include private educational establishments. The Deputy will be aware that all taxes and duties are considered annually in the context of the Budget and Finance Bill.

Question No. 57 answered with Question No. 55.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

58 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on extending the provisions of the seafarers allowance in the tax code to the fishing community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13717/08]

The seafarers allowance, which is provided for under section 472B of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, applies to the shipping industry and under EU rules constitutes a State Aid. The allowance of €6,350 at the marginal rate applies to seafarers who are at sea on a voyage to or from a foreign port for at least 161 days in total in a tax year on a passenger or cargo ship which is registered in an EU Member State's shipping register. Other EU States have a similar concession. The EU has exempted the shipping industry from certain State Aid provisions and has published guidelines (OJ C 205 of July 1997) to this effect. There is no similar exemption for the fishing industry and the extension of the seafarers allowance to fishermen would breach the EU guidelines.

Leaving the State Aid issue to one side, I should point out that since the introduction of the seafarers allowance in 1998 a number of groups have sought the extension of the allowance or the introduction of a similar tax allowance. Such a concession for the fishing community as suggested would almost certainly lead to claims from other workers for similar treatment. The Deputy will appreciate that tax reliefs, no matter how worthwhile in themselves, reduce the tax base and make general reform of the tax system that much more difficult.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

59 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the reason a ten-year limit has been set on the look-back period for tax credits for research and development in view of the length of time it can take to research and develop certain technologies such as pharmaceuticals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13720/08]

The R&D tax credit scheme is specifically designed to reward increased expenditure on R&D by allowing companies a tax credit of 20% of the increase in qualifying R&D spend as compared with such expenditure in a base year. Following further improvements to the scheme in Finance Act 2008, which fixed the use of the base year 2003 for a further 4 years, qualifying R&D expenditure incurred by a company in any year to 2013 will qualify for a tax credit where it represents an increase over the amount incurred in the base year. This change provides an additional incentive for incremental expenditure on R&D in future years and offers more certainty to industry in relation to the tax credit scheme.

For the years after 2013, the base year will move forward by one year and there will be a 10 year gap on a "look back" basis between the year in which the tax credit is claimed and the base year expenditure used for calculating the credit. Thus, for claims made under the scheme in respect of 2014, the base year will be 2004 and for 2015 the base year will be 2005 and so on.

The planning period for R&D is likely to vary from industry to industry. I have been advised that the average R&D cycle for product research programmes can extend to 8 years and that a longer period can apply in certain industries such as in the pharmaceutical sector. I believe that the 10 year gap which now applies under the tax credit scheme between the year of claim and rolling base year expenditure will accommodate the planning of most R&D cycles and strikes a reasonable balance in this area.

Employment Rights.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

60 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the costs incurred to date by his Department and the taxpayer, including man hours, legal fees, compensation pay, travelling costs and other associated costs in pursuing cases against 92 members of IMPACT who have been seeking their entitlements under the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003 and the European directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13724/08]

The information requested by the Deputy is as follows.

Department

Legal Fees

Compensation Payments Paid

Travelling Costs

Other

Total

Agriculture and Food

Nil

Nil

1,158

Nil

1,158

Arts, Sport and Tourism

Nil

25,000

Nil

Nil

25,000

Communication, Marine and Natural Resources

Nil

22,000

Nil

Nil

22,000

Transport

Nil

60,000

Nil

Nil

60,000

Justice, Equality and Law Reform

Nil

3,000

Nil

Nil

3,000

Chief State Solicitors Office

96,824

Nil

3,294

Nil

100,118

Office of the Attorney General

Nil

Nil

571

Nil

571

Finance

Nil

Nil

1,208

Nil

1,208

Total

96,824

110,000

6,231

Nil

21,3055

The costs incurred to date by the Department of Finance and the tax payer as requested by the Deputy are set out in the preceding table. The figures for the staff costs involved are not available. The relevant staff dealt with these issues as part of their day to day work and Departments did not task a dedicated resource to address these matters.

The Protection of Employees (Fixed-term Work) Act 2003 (the Act) applies to fixed term workers employed in the Civil Service. In accordance with the Rights Commissioner's decision published on the 3rd of February 2005, the Department of Finance instructed the employing Departments to pay the compensation amounts, in cases where the findings were not being appealed. This compensation amounted to €110,000 and a breakdown by Department is included in the table of costs above.

The decision to appeal to the Labour Court aspects of the Rights Commissioner's determination was taken following legal advice. It was considered necessary to clarify matters regarding the jurisdiction of the Rights Commissioner over alleged breaches that took place prior to the implementation of the Act and also issues of the interpretation of European Law. The determination also had implications for the legislation governing recruitment and appointments to the Civil Service which needed to be clarified. It should be noted that IMPACT the trade union representing the claimants also appealed aspects of the Rights Commissioners decision.

The Labour Court decided to refer a number of questions relating to the interpretation of European Law to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for clarification before proceeding to a full hearing of the cases. I understand that it is expected that the ECJ will be publishing its ruling on the questions on 15th April 2008.

Unemployment Levels.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

61 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if, in view of the fact that unemployment is increasing at a much faster rate than the Government projected, he has revised his projections for the live register and the standardised unemployment rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13751/08]

I am aware of recent upwards pressures on this forecast. As is the norm, the unemployment forecast made at Budget time will be formally reviewed later this year in the Pre-Budget Outlook in the light of more complete data at that time. While I will continue to monitor the position closely over the coming months, I do not propose to re-cast the forecast at this stage.

House Prices.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

62 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his Department has made an estimate of the number of residential property owners in negative equity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13752/08]

My Department does not compile estimates of the nature requested by the Deputy. Negative equity, as the Deputy is aware, is where the nominal value of the mortgage exceeds the nominal value of the property to which the mortgage relates. A first-time residential property buyer who has obtained a ‘100% mortgage is the more likely type of mortgage holder to be affected by negative equity as s/he is likely to have the least amount of equity available to compensate for any drop in nominal house prices. However, 2007 figures show that first time buyers represent only about 20% of the residential mortgage market. Investment in property is usually seen as a long term investment.

It is also important to note that though ‘100% mortgages only became generally available in Ireland with effect from July 2005 onwards, most financial institutions do not now provide ‘100% mortgages to the average residential property loan applicant. It is, therefore, reasonable to assume that few residential property owners in Ireland should be exposed to negative equity.

In any event, the key issue for any prospective or existing residential property owner is the affordability of the mortgage and I have consistently highlighted the need for responsible behaviour by both borrowers and lenders and, in particular, the need to factor into their financial decision-making the effects of potential future changes in economic and financial conditions. Furthermore, I introduced a number of measures — most notably the reform of stamp duty and mortgage interest relief — in the December 2007 Budget — to assist in making housing more affordable for the residential property owner.

Tax Code.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

63 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the estimated cost of introducing a middle income tax rate of 35% to be applied to all those with an income in a band of €35,400 to €50,000 for a single person, €44,000 to €60,000 for a married couple with one income and €70,800 to €100,00 for a married couple with two incomes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13753/08]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

67 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the estimated cost of introducing a middle income tax rate of 30% to be applied to all income in a band of €35,400 to €50,000 for a single person, €44,400 to €60,000 for a married couple with one income and €70,800 to €100,000 for a married couple with two incomes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13802/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 63 and 67 together.

It is assumed that the thresholds for the proposed new tax bands mentioned by the Deputy would not alter the existing standard rate band structure applying to single and widowed persons, to lone parents and married couples. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the full year cost to the Exchequer, estimated by reference to 2008 incomes, of the introduction of each of these 35% and 30% rate bands could be of the order of €560 million and €1,020 million respectively, depending on how the bands were structured. Given the current band structures there would be major issues to be worked out as to how such a new rate could be integrated in practice into the current system and how this would affect the relative position of different types of income earners. These figures are provisional and subject to revision.

Tax Yield.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

64 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has revised his projections for tax receipts and budget deficit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13754/08]

At Budget time my Department forecast that during 2008 tax revenues would increase by approximately €1.6 billion or 3.5 per cent and that there would be an Exchequer deficit of €4,866 million. Since the early part of this year, some of the international risks identified at Budget time have materialised, specifically in relation to the weaker international economic environment, developments in oil prices and the movements in the dollar and sterling exchange rates.

My Department recently reported on the position as at end of March. In this context of the changed international environment, a good proportion of income tax — up 5% year on year in the first quarter, is a welcome indicator of the resilience of the Irish economy. However, overall tax receipts were €600 million, or 5.1% behind target in the first three months of 2008. Over half of this shortfall is due to the poor performance of Capital Gains Tax which reflects the more adverse conditions in equity and property markets. The next key payment date for CGT is at the end of October. At this stage it is not expected that this tax shortfall, particularly in CGT, will be recouped later in the year. It is important to point out that I believe that the current situation is manageable given the strong position of the public finances such as our low debt to GDP ratio. My Department will continue to closely monitor overall tax performance over the coming months as a clearer trend emerges.

Public Finances.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

65 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he is satisfied with his management of the public finances since his appointment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13755/08]

Yes, I am satisfied with the management of the public finances. As the Deputy is aware our record on the public finances stands for itself. The fundamentals of the Irish economy are strong. For example, General Government debt is estimated at 25 per cent of GDP at the end of 2007, which is one of the lowest levels of public debt in the euro area. When account is taken of the build-up of assets in the National Pensions Reserve Fund, the debt to GDP ratio net of those assets is estimated to be around 14 per cent at end-2007. The strong position of the public finances means that we are well placed to manage the challenges ahead.

Tax Code.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

66 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the estimated cost of honouring the Government’s commitment to reduce the higher rate of income tax to 40%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13801/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the full year cost to the Exchequer, estimated by reference to 2008 incomes, of reducing the higher rate of income tax from 41% to 40% would be of the order of €268 million. This figure is provisional and subject to revision.

Question No. 67 answered with Question No. 63.

Hospital Services.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

68 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in respect of the oncology service at Tallaght Hospital; her plans to upgrade this vital service in Tallaght; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13626/08]

The decisions of the Health Service Executive (HSE) to designate four managed cancer control networks and eight cancer centres, under the National Cancer Control Programme will be implemented on a managed and phased basis. The delivery of cancer services on a programmatic basis will serve to ensure equity of access to services and equality of patient outcome irrespective of geography. This will involve significant realignment of services to move from the present fragmented system of care to one which is consistent with international best practice in cancer control.

The HSE has advised that discussions are underway with the eight designated centres and with the non-designated hospitals currently providing cancer services, including Tallaght Hospital in order to manage the transition. A detailed transitional plan will be put in place to facilitate the progressive, gradual and carefully managed transfer of services over the next two years or so.

Where diagnosis and treatment planning is directed and managed by multidisciplinary teams based at the cancer centres, then much of the treatment (other than surgery) can be delivered in other hospitals, such as Tallaght Hospital. In this context, chemotherapy and support services will continue to be delivered locally. Cancer day care units will continue to have an important role in delivering services to patients as close to home as possible.

James McDaid

Ceist:

69 Deputy James McDaid asked the Minister for Health and Children when the last review of renal services took place here; and if her attention has been drawn to the situation regarding kidney dialysis patients in County Donegal. [13627/08]

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 issues raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the issues investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

My Department is aware that the HSE undertook a National Renal Review to inform the approach to the future development of renal services. The Report of the Review Group was completed over a year ago and developments in renal services have since been guided by the thinking in the report. The Renal Review Group identified the need for the early introduction of a follow-on implementation plan. The HSE has decided that such a plan needs to be aligned with its Transformation Programme. The HSE has further determined that the Report of the Review Group should be reviewed by an external expert/consultancy and arrangements are to be put in place to this effect.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

70 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be given a bed in a hospital in Dublin. [13629/08]

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.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

71 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has been refused transport to a hospital appointment in Dublin in view of the outstanding circumstances of their case. [13634/08]

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

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

72 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist in the case of a person (details supplied). [13641/08]

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

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

73 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will advise in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 17. [13648/08]

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

Hospital Services.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

74 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether it is acceptable that a person (details supplied) in County Cork who was referred by their general practitioner in February 2007 is still awaiting a specialist appointment; if she will examine this case in order to secure the earliest possible appointment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13653/08]

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.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

75 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children the new developments that have taken place for each of the past 12 years at the Mater Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13655/08]

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.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

76 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to open a new gastrointestinal unit at Beaumont Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13657/08]

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.

Question No. 77 withdrawn.

Asylum Support Services.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

78 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding options open to support groups, play-schools and other agencies to establish communal areas, family supports and child care to children of asylum seekers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13673/08]

In relation to the funding options open to support groups, play-schools and other agencies to establish communal areas, family supports and child care to children of asylum seekers, my colleague, Deputy Brian Lenihan, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, is the Minister with responsibility for these matters.

Hospital Services.

James Reilly

Ceist:

79 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she will take to ensure that a review is conducted of communication within hospitals, between hospitals and with the Health Service Executive to ensure effective communications, policies and procedures are in place to provide an efficient and coordinated response to the patient when a serious incident arises, as recommended by the Health Information and Quality Authority report into the misdiagnosis of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13685/08]

James Reilly

Ceist:

80 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps she will take to ensure that formal communications processes and procedures are put in place within hospitals in order that in the event of an incident there is an immediate and appropriate response to the patient; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13686/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 and 80 together.

On the 4th March, I asked the Board of the Health Services Executive to immediately adopt an interim serious incident management protocol which would incorporate key commitments to patients. I also asked the Board to engage closely with this issue through its Risk Management Committee until it is satisfied that serious incidents of this nature are being managed to the required standard and to designate one person at national level to ensure that any future reviews are conducted in accordance with the protocol.

At its meeting on the 13th of March the Board adopted an interim Policy and Procedures for Serious Incident Management which had been developed by their management in conjunction with their Risk Committee. The Chief Executive Officer of the HSE has appointed a senior official to take responsibility at national level for the immediate implementation of this Policy and Procedures for Serious Incident Management. He will be reporting directly to the Chief Executive Officer in relation to this matter and in respect of all existing reviews/investigations into serious incidents.

Health Service Expenditure.

James Reilly

Ceist:

81 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the pre-budget outlook for 2008 estimates the day-to-day cost in 2008 of maintaining health services at 2007 levels to be only €14,133 million, when the Health Services Executive estimated the cost to be €14,707 million; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13687/08]

James Reilly

Ceist:

82 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the locations where health service cutbacks are planned in 2008 in the context of the €370 million shortfall in the spending allocation provided to the Health Service Executive in Budget 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13688/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 81 and 82 together.

The Post Budget gross provision (both current and capital expenditure) for the Health Services Executive for 2008 is € 14,931 million. When the provision for the Health (Repayments Scheme) Act is excluded the increase in 2008 is over € 1.1 billion or almost 9%. The HSE has received very substantial additional resources from the Exchequer in the three years since its establishment. The revenue funding for the health services in 2004 was €9.8 billion. The revenue (non-capital) funding provided to the HSE for service delivery in 2007 was €13 billion — an increase of €3.2 billion in three years or 10% a year.

Each year, the Government decides what level of funding should be made available to the HSE following consideration by the Minister for Finance of the expenditure proposals submitted by all Ministers across the full range of expenditure areas. In the case of health, information and views provided by the HSE are taken into account, as well as my own priorities as the Minister for Health & Children in relation to service developments.

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) submits to the Minister for Health each year a National Service Plan (NSP), which represents the level of services which the HSE is committed to providing given the funding which the Dáil has made available to it as part of the Estimates process. The Health Service Executive submitted its 2008 NSP to me in November 2007 following which I approved it. The plan provides for the delivery of the existing level of service which the HSE will provide in 2008. The Pre-Budget Outlook (incorporating the Pre-Budget Estimates for Public Services) provided for a net amount (both current and capital) for the HSE of €12.04 billion to fund these services.

The HSE has also submitted an Addendum to the NSP which sets out the new developments and service priorities identified and agreed by Government and which were announced in Budget 2008. The Revised Estimates Volume for Public Services 2008, which incorporates the Budget 2008 changes, provides for a gross allocation (both current and capital ) for the HSE Vote as €14.93 billion. This amount includes an estimate for Appropriations -in-Aid of €2.6 billion giving a net provision to the HSE for 2008 of €12.33 billion.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

83 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 71 of 13 March 2008, the position regarding the issue of interest owing to long stay patients and the recommendations and conclusion as a result of these meetings; the estimate of the value of interest which is owed to patients; when repayment will commence; the cost of the administration of this repayment programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13689/08]

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

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

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

84 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if an appeal for a full medical card by a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be expedited and approved in view of the medical circumstances of the applicant. [13694/08]

Persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services qualify for a medical card, which entitles them to a range of health services free of charge. In 2005, the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on moderate and lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who did not qualify for a medical card, would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

The assessment of eligibility for medical cards and GP visit cards is statutorily a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) and, with the exception of persons aged 70 and over, who have an automatic statutory entitlement to a medical card, is determined following an examination of the means of the applicant and his/her dependants (income and relevant outgoings). The GP visit card assessment threshold is 50% higher than the medical card threshold.

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

John McGuinness

Ceist:

85 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if an application for a medical card by persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be expedited and approved in view of the circumstances of the case. [13695/08]

Persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services qualify for a medical card, which entitles them to a range of health services free of charge. In 2005, the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on moderate and lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who did not qualify for a medical card, would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

The assessment of eligibility for medical cards and GP visit cards is statutorily a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) and, with the exception of persons aged 70 and over, who have an automatic statutory entitlement to a medical card, is determined following an examination of the means of the applicant and his/her dependants (income and relevant outgoings). The GP visit card assessment threshold is 50% higher than the medical card threshold.

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

Mental Health Services.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

86 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children her Departments plans to address the issues of poverty and social exclusion experienced by people with mental health problems; her views on the National Economic and Social Forum report in this regard; and the way its findings can be implemented. [13718/08]

The Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, ‘A Vision for Change', which was launched in January 2006, acknowledges links between social inclusion and mental ill-health and the pervasive impact of stigma and discrimination on those experiencing mental ill-health. The report provides strong evidence linking poverty and mental ill-health and recognises the impact that the lack of housing and education can have on an individual's mental health and wellbeing. ‘A Vision for Change' makes a number of key recommendations designed to promote greater social inclusion for people with mental health problems. The National Economic and Social Forum's report on Mental Health and Social Inclusion is consistent with ‘A Vision for Change'.

A key recommendation of the NESF report was the establishment of cross-departmental structures to address mental health and social inclusion. In January 2008, the Government announced the establishment of the Office for Disability and Mental Health. The Office is a cross-departmental Government office with functions in four Departments: Health and Children, Education and Science, Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The Director of the Office is a member of the Senior Officials Group on Social Inclusion.

The Office's functions include driving the recommendations of ‘A Vision for Change', bringing a new impetus to the implementation of the Report through working in partnership with the HSE and other stakeholders to achieve implementation of agreed targets. The recommendations of the NESF report will inform the work of the Office in this regard.

Hospital Services.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

87 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will take steps to have a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath admitted for an orthopaedic appointment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13722/08]

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 asked the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Pharmacy Services.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

88 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a significant number of pharmacists have been in contact with the Health Service Executive indicating that if the HSE persists in altering the terms and conditions of their contract in regard to the reimbursable medicines dispensed by the pharmacies by 1 May 2008, that they would consider such a change to be a fundamental breach of contract and in such circumstances they would reserve the right to terminate their contracts with effect from 1 May 2008; the position in relation to trying to reach an amicable resolution of this impasse; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13723/08]

At this point, two individual community pharmacists have given formal notification to the HSE of their intention to cease dispensing to public patients under the terms of the Community Pharmacy Contractor Agreement. Separately, a significant number of community pharmacists have notified the HSE that they either intend to formally withdraw services under their contracts at a future date, or alternatively that they are considering their contractual position with the HSE. In none of these cases has formal notification of cessation of services been received.

The HSE does not accept that it is in breach of contract with community pharmacists and has written to all those pharmacists who have notified it of their intention to withdraw services at some future date pointing out that, under the terms of the Community Pharmacy Contractor Agreement, each pharmacy contractor is required to give three months notice in writing of termination of the agreement.

The HSE also points out that, in the circumstances where the health of participating patients in the GMS and related schemes is of paramount importance, the HSE has no option, in the interests of patient care and safety, but to require pharmacists to abide by the three-month notice period required under the contract and to continue to provide services until the end of that period. This is to ensure that the HSE is in a position to put alternative arrangements in place for public patients who may be affected by the actions of individual pharmacists. In the event of withdrawal, patients are also entitled to retrieve their repeat prescriptions and a copy of their dispensing records to enable them to access the services of another pharmacy.

In response to demands from community pharmacists to address the alleged impact of the new wholesale pricing arrangements on GMS dependent pharmacies, in particular, the HSE has offered a voluntary interim contract with a flat rate dispensing fee of not less than €5 for all dispensing under the GMS and community drugs schemes.

I have also established an Independent Body to assess an interim, fair community pharmacy dispensing fee to be paid for the medical card scheme, the DPS and other community drug schemes. This Body is being chaired by Mr Sean Dorgan, former Head of IDA Ireland. It has been asked to make its recommendations by the end of May 2008.

Health Services.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

89 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the Health Service Executive and the dental surgeons in the HSE western area where a number of dentists are not carrying out work for medical card patients since March 2007; the steps that have been taken to settle this dispute; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13730/08]

The Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) provides for a range of dental services for adult medical card holders from participating dentists holding contracts with the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The DTSS Review Group was established in May, 2006 to undertake a comprehensive review of Primary Care Oral Health Services provided under the DTSS. Represented on the Review Group are the HSE, the HSE — Employers Agency, the Department of Health and Children, the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the Department of Finance and the Irish Dental Association (IDA). The Group is chaired by Mr. Finbar Flood.

During the course of the review, based on legal advice made available to the HSE, an issue arose in relation to the Competition Act, 2002 and the collective negotiation of fees with the IDA. The HSE was advised that the coming together of the DTSS contractors under the auspices of the IDA to negotiate fees would constitute a breach of the Act. The IDA was advised of the legal situation and, in January, 2007, discussions on the fee aspects of the review were temporarily put on hold. Officials of my Department are working with the Attorney General's office to clarify the way forward.

Parliamentary Questions.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

90 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Question No. 191 of 20 February 2008. [13740/08]

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive to arrange to expedite the issuing of a reply to the Deputy on the matter.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

91 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children when replies will issue from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 85 to 87, 89 to 90 and 94 to 95 of 14 February 2008. [13741/08]

The Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive has advised my Department that replies to Questions 87 and 94 issued to the Deputy on the 6th March 2008 and that a reply to Question 86 will issue shortly.

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to expedite the issuing of replies to the Deputy on the other outstanding Questions.

Residential Care Homes.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

92 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the Health Service Executive’s policy with regard to locating residential care homes for troubled teenagers in residential areas; the facilities and local infrastructure they would normally expect in an area where such a facility is located; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13757/08]

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

94 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount it is costing the State for troubled teenagers in residential care; the number of troubled children in residential care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13759/08]

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

95 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children if any residential care homes for troubled teenagers were closed by the Health Service Executive or its agents during 2006 or 2007; if any were closed, were they privately operated and by whom; if those individuals or companies are still managing other properties on behalf of the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13760/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 92, 94 and 95 together.

Under the Health Act 2004, responsibility for the provision of health and personal social services, including residential care for troubled children, lies with the Health Service Executive. Therefore I have forwarded the Deputy's questions to the Executive and have requested them to reply to the Deputy directly.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

93 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children the safeguards in place for inspection and monitoring of residential care homes for troubled teenagers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13758/08]

The Social Services Inspectorate (SSI) was established in April 1999, initially on an administrative basis. The main function of the Inspectorate is to support the child care services by promoting and ensuring the development of quality standards. The Inspectorate play a crucial role in ensuring a quality assured system of care for children and young people who are in the care of the state. Legislation and standards have been developed in this area. The inspections against the standards and legislative provisions are essential to ensuring that the services are monitored and meet the requirements set down and that any deficiencies are identified and corrected.

The establishment of the SSI on a statutory basis was provided for in the Health Act, 2007 which is currently being commenced. Section 6 and Section 40 of the Health Act, 2007 which provide for the establishment of the Health Information and Quality Authority and the Office of the Chief Inspector of Social Services were commenced on 15th May 2007. The Office of the Chief Inspector of Social Services will register and inspect children's residential services, both statutory and non statutory operated centres. The Act will also extend the SSI functions to cover the registration and inspection of residential services for older people and people with disabilities.

Currently the SSI inspects HSE operated children's residential care and foster care services against the Child Care Regulations, 1995 and the following standards:

National Standards for Children's Residential Centres

National Standards for Special Care Units

Special Care Regulations made under Part 3 of the Children Act 2001

National Guidelines on the use of Single Separation in Special Care Units

National Standards for Foster Care

The SSI conduct both announced and unannounced inspections. Special Care residential centres are inspected at a minimum of once a year.

Residential centres operated by private or voluntary agencies are inspected and registered by the HSE at a minimum of every 3 years. This role will transfer to the Office of the Chief Inspector of Social Services when the relevant provisions of the Health Act, 2007 are commenced. Currently all HSE operated centres and private centres are monitored by a HSE monitoring officer between formal inspections. The SSI also receives HSE inspection reports of the voluntary residential children's centres. Regular meetings take place between the SSI Inspectors and the HSE Inspectors in order to work towards equity in the inspection process.

In addition to the inspection process all children in care are entitled to a statutory care plan and a designated social worker. These play an important role in safeguarding children and young people in care and in ensuring their needs are met through regular visits, care plan reviews involving the young people and their families, where appropriate, and meetings with key staff or foster carers.

Questions Nos. 94 and 95 answered with Question No. 92.

Parliamentary Questions.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

96 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Question No. 149 of 26 February 2008. [13761/08]

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive to arrange to expedite the issuing of a reply to the Deputy on the matter.

Community Care.

James Reilly

Ceist:

97 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost of the new community nursing home opened recently in Cherry Orchard Dublin; the time frame from the original decision to approve the unit by the HSE, to planning permission, to final construction and opening of the unit; the locations of any further units; the number of beds in those units and the target deadline for the opening of those units; if funding for the requisite staffing for those planned units is in place; if the recruitment embargo does not apply to these proposed community units; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13764/08]

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 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.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

98 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [13779/08]

Persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of General Practitioner (GP) services qualify for a medical card, which entitles them to a range of health services free of charge. In 2005, the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on moderate and lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who did not qualify for a medical card, would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP.

The assessment of eligibility for medical cards and GP visit cards is statutorily a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) and, with the exception of persons aged 70 and over, who have an automatic statutory entitlement to a medical card, is determined following an examination of the means of the applicant and his/her dependants (income and relevant outgoings). The GP visit card assessment threshold is 50% higher than the medical card threshold.

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

99 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the application by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who made the application under the national repayment scheme on 2 April 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13781/08]

The Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the Repayment Scheme and the information sought by the Deputy relates to matters within the area of responsibility of the Executive.

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Fees.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

100 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if further assistance can or will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in relation to nursing home fees; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13782/08]

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.

Health Service Allowances.

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

101 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 204 of 26 February 2008 regarding a person (details supplied) in County Kerry, when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive. [13834/08]

The Health Service Executive has advised that a reply issued to the Deputy on the 27th February 2008.

Shipping Services.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

102 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the number of ships on the Irish Shipping Register for the years 2002 to 2007 and to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13663/08]

I am informed by the Registrars of Ships that the following table reflects the number of commercial vessels, registered under the Mercantile Marine Act, 1955, for the dates stated.

Year

Date

No. of Vessels of 500GT and Over

2002

31/12/2002

40

2003

31/12/2003

50

2004

31/12/2004

51

2005

31/12/2005

46

2006

31/12/2006

41

2007

31/12/2007

41

2008

31/03/2008

42

State Airports.

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

103 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Transport the action he will take to proceed with plans to grant independence to Cork Airport, if the board does not accept the Cassells proposals. [13690/08]

Mr Cassells' recommendations provide an opportunity for a final decision to be made on the financial consideration to be paid by the Cork Airport Authority in respect of the transfer of net assets of €220m on its establishment as an independent airport. If agreement can be found based on Mr Cassells' proposals, there is then the opportunity for Cork Airport to move ahead and achieve autonomy.

As I have said previously I have asked Mr. Cassells to assist the two boards in finding agreement on the basis of his recommendations and I am hopeful that there will be a positive outcome to this process.

Road Safety.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

104 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether the Road Safety Authority are acting within their legislative remit in refusing to recognise or give exemptions to driving instructors with qualifications from the Driving Instructor Register or the Institute of Advanced Motoring; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13748/08]

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

105 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Transport his views on the decision of the Road Safety Authority to refuse to recognise or give exemptions to driving instructors with qualifications from the Driving Instructor Register or the Institute of Advanced Motoring; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13749/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 104 and 105 together.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) has given me comprehensive proposals for the registration and regulation of driving instructors, with the target date of 1 January 2009. These are under consideration, with a view to making the necessary Regulations. In the meantime, the RSA has arrangements in hand to permit existing driving instructors to demonstrate that they already meet the qualification requirements for registration as approved driving instructors.

Departmental Expenditure.

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

106 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Transport the level of subsidies paid to all transport bodies, that is, Iarnród Éireann, Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus and regional airports for 2006 and 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13794/08]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the tables below.

2006

2007

€m

€m

Iarnród Éireann

188.716

194.911

Bus Éireann

26.459

31.595

Dublin Bus

69.845

80.078

Subvention under the Core Airport Management Operational Expenditure Subvention Scheme

Airport

2006

2007

Donegal

64,600

44,000

Galway

677,848

859,000

Knock

Kerry

Sligo

231,200

9,000

Waterford

687,685

1,352,000

Total

1,661,333

2,264,000

Diplomatic Representation.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

107 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the countries with whom Ireland has diplomatic relations through a non-resident ambassador; if he has discouraged any of those countries from establishing relations on a resident basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13803/08]

Article 2 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, incorporated in the Diplomatic Relations and Immunities Act 1967, states that "The establishment of diplomatic relations between States, and of permanent diplomatic missions, takes place by mutual consent". Ireland currently has diplomatic relations with 62 countries that have accredited Ambassadors on a non-resident basis. These countries are listed in the following table.

In addition, in the context of the last Security Council Campaign in 2000, Ireland established diplomatic relations with over 30 countries via an exchange of letters between the respective Missions to the United Nations in New York. This type of diplomatic relations did not commit either country to the appointment of either a resident or non-resident Ambassador. A number of these countries have since upgraded their diplomatic relations with Ireland with the appointment of an Ambassador (usually on a non-resident basis). In some cases, Ireland has also appointed an Ambassador to their country.

The normal practice is to accede to the request to accredit an Ambassador where diplomatic relations exist. In that regard, the issue of my discouraging any of the countries in the attached list from establishing resident Missions has not arisen.

Embassies accredited to Ireland on a non-resident basis

1

Albania

2

Algeria

3

Andorra

4

Angola

5

Armenia

6

Azerbaijan

7

Bahrain

8

Bangladesh

9

Belarus

10

Bolivia

11

Bosnia and Herzegovina

12

Botswana

13

Brunei

14

Burkina Faso

15

Cambodia

16

Colombia

17

Eritrea

18

Fiji

19

Georgia

20

Ghana

21

Honduras

22

Iceland

23

Indonesia

24

Iraq

25

Jamaica

26

Jordan

27

Kazakhstan

28

Korea, Democratic Republic of

29

Kuwait

30

Lebanon

31

Libya

32

Luxembourg

33

Republic of Macedonia

34

Moldova

35

Mongolia

36

Namibia

37

Nepal

38

New Zealand

39

Nicaragua

40

Oman

41

Peru

42

Philippines

43

Qatar

44

Rwanda

45

San Marino

46

Saudi Arabia

47

Serbia

48

Sierra Leone

49

Singapore

50

Sri Lanka

51

Sudan

52

Syria

53

Tanzania

54

Thailand

55

Tunisia

56

Uganda

57

United Arab Emirates

58

Uruguay

59

Venezuela

60

Vietnam

61

Zambia

62

Zimbabwe

Work Permits.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

108 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a green card will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13652/08]

Pat Breen

Ceist:

110 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when an employment permit will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare. [13647/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 and 110 together.

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me they have requested some additional information from the employer in relation to this case. On receipt of that information a decision will be made on this application.

Job Creation.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

109 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the grants or funding available to a person who is wishing to start a hurley making factory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13796/08]

My Department does not provide direct funding or grants to businesses but provides funding to a number of State Agencies, including the County and City Enterprise Boards, Enterprise Ireland and FÁS, through whom assistance is delivered directly to businesses.

The 35 County and City Enterprise Boards provide a source of support to small businesses with 10 employees or fewer. Subject to certain eligibility criteria new and developing enterprises may qualify for financial support from the CEBs in the form of feasibility, employment and capital grants. All of the CEBs operate to the same criteria in relation to the assistance which they can offer i.e. they can support the establishment and/or the development of enterprises provided that the projects, which should generally be in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sector, have the capacity to achieve commercial viability and which over time may develop into strong exporting entities. In addition, the CEBs deliver a range of non-financial supports to improve management capability development within micro-enterprises designed to help new and existing enterprises to operate effectively and efficiently so as to last and grow.

I would suggest that the person concerned should, in the first instance, make direct contact with their local CEB and explore what level of assistance, if any, may be available tothem. Contact details for individual CEBs can be found by accessing the following website: www.enterpriseboards.ie.

Question No. 110 answered with Question No. 108.

John Curran

Ceist:

111 Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of new jobs created in the Clondalkin, Dublin 22 area with the aid of State support for the years 2000 to 2007. [13660/08]

Employment data in respect of companies supported by the Enterprise Agencies is collated by Forfás on a county-wide basis.

The following table outlines the full-time jobs created in enterprise agency supported firms (Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland) in County Dublin in the years 2000 to 2007 inclusive. Full time permanent employment in enterprise agency supported firms in Co. Dublin stood at 96,375 permanent jobs at end 2007.

In addition, during the period from 2000 to 2007, South Dublin County Enterprise Board, which includes the Clondalkin area, assisted in the creation of a net total of 241 jobs.

Full Time Jobs Created

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Total Jobs Created ’00-’07

Dublin

17,425

11,510

8,926

7,870

9,421

9,929

10,670

9,106

84,857

Small Business Forum.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

112 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the recommendations of the small business forum; the position regarding each recommendation stating the progress that has been made towards its implementation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13744/08]

The measures outlined in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 546 of 26 September 2007 clearly ensure that there continues to be a supportive environment for small business in Ireland and show the Government's commitment to the small business sector.

A copy of the Third Progress Report on the Implementation of the Recommendations is available on my Department's website (www.entemp.ie) under "latest publications" and sets out in detail the progress being made in respect of all of the Small Business Forum's recommendations.

Since the publication of this Progress Report, further new measures designed to help the small business sector were announced in Budget 2008 by the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance on 5 December 2007 and are confirmed in the Finance Bill 2008, as follows:

VAT Registration Turnover Thresholds are being further increased — for the second successive year — from 1 May 2008, to €37,500 for services and to €75,000 for goods respectively.

Small companies are now permitted to calculate their Preliminary Corporation Tax payments based on 100% of the prior-period tax liability if their tax liability for the prior period did not exceed a certain threshold. This threshold is being further increased to €200,000. This will be effective for preliminary tax payment dates arising after 5 December 2007.

New companies, which do not expect their tax liability for the first year to exceed €150,000, are no longer obliged to pay preliminary tax in that first year. This threshold is being further increased to €200,000. This will be effective for preliminary tax payment dates arising after 5 December 2007.

The implementation of the recommendations contained in the Small Business Forum Report, to the maximum extent possible, remains a priority for the Government. Work is ongoing on this important agenda.

Employment Rights.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

113 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a regulatory impact assessment was carried out with respect to the new regulatory provision in the Employment Law Compliance Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13745/08]

The Employment Law Compliance Bill is designed to secure better compliance with employment legislation in accordance with commitments in "Towards 2016", the national Social Partnership Agreement. Through that social partnership process, employer and employee representatives have been fully apprised at all stages of the issues to be legislated for and the likely impacts of the new legislation. In light of this, a screening Regulatory Impact Analysis was prepared, which in turn was summarised in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum published with the Bill.

In summary, the Bill is intended to benefit low-paid and other vulnerable employees in particular, by securing vindication of their employment-related rights. This will have clear benefits in terms of alleviating poverty and preventing exploitation and distortion of competition from non-compliance with employment legislation, and generally improving relations in the workplace.

It is not envisaged that the Bill will give rise to significant extra costs for responsible employers generally in terms of record-keeping, etc. requirements to be met. It is expected that only those employers who are non-compliant with employment legislation will have to incur additional expenditure to meet requirements, or face substantial interest and other penalties if they do not do so.

Departmental Programmes.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

114 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the timeframe over which the 25% regulation reduction target will be met; the mechanism by which this regulation reduction will be measured; if there are interim targets; if so, the interim targets in relation to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13746/08]

The target of 25% is intended to be achieved by 2012, consistent with the approach being adopted by the European Union in its burden reduction programme.

All Government Departments have been instructed to initially list the information obligations arising out of laws and regulations which impose an administrative burden on the business sector and put in place the necessary personnel and structures to that end. Each Department will then prioritise those obligations imposing the biggest burden and measure the burden involved with a view to achieving the Government target. At that point, my Department will further refine the process, taking into account the need for an efficient and value-for-money approach and the approaches being adopted in other countries.

There are no interim targets but I will be responsible for coordinating the cross-Government approach and reporting annually to the Government on progress.

Science and Technology Groups.

David Stanton

Ceist:

115 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the actions he has taken or will take to encourage female participation in science based careers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13766/08]

The overall investment in the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation 2006-2013 is predicated on the basis of equal access to opportunities arising for careers in Research and Development.

There are complex historical, cultural and social factors militating against proportionate take up by women of science-based careers. For example, re-establishing oneself following a period of absence from the research field is a significant structural barrier. For these reasons the agencies and bodies with a Science and Technology competence under the aegis of my Department support additional dedicated programmes or initiatives to enhance potential participation by women.

My Department has also developed a sustained and positive partnership with WITS (Women in Technology and Science), the independent organisation which fosters and supports increased participation by women in careers in science and technology.

Science Foundation Ireland

SFI encourages both men and women equally to participate in its research programmes on the criteria of scientific expertise, knowledge and potential. Three dedicated programmes were introduced in 2005 with the objective of increasing take up by women of careers as researchers:

(i)The SFI Principal Investigator Career Advancement Award

This award supported researchers returning to pursue their career subsequent to a period of time spent on childcare. The Award was a pilot measure and SFI is currently examining how elements of this programme could be merged into other award programmes.

(ii)The SFI Institute Planning Grant and Institute Development Awards

These awards constituted a linked two-stage programme. The Institution Planning Grant provided research institutions with support to conduct a self-assessment of women's participation in science and engineering research activity and management. The follow-on Institute Development Award provided support for institutions which had carried out the self-assessment to implement initiatives to support the enhancement of women's participation in science and engineering.

(iii)The SFI Young Women in Engineering Scholarship

This award, supported by Dell, aims to attract and encourage more young women into designated third-level education courses in engineering disciplines.

InterTradeIreland

My Department supports InterTradeIreland's Re-Enter Programme, an all-island structured return to work programme for women scientists, engineers and technologists. This programme integrates educational, mentoring and networking dimensions.

Discover Science and Engineering

DSE, Ireland's national science promotion programme, aims inter alia to increase take up of science and engineering at third level. All its programme literature seeks to feature both females and males equally so as to clearly communicate that careers in science and engineering are equally available to both sexes.

Work Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

116 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason a work permit has not issued in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13778/08]

The Employment Permits Section of my Department informs me that the last valid permit in respect of the above named expired on the 11/2/2008 and there is no record of any new application concerning this individual.

Arts Funding.

Áine Brady

Ceist:

117 Deputy Áine Brady asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when his Department will advertise for applications for grants under his Department’s Access programme fund; the guidelines his Department have in relation to grant application under the access programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13697/08]

I hope to announce a further round of capital funding for the arts shortly. The scheme will be renamed the Arts Capital Grants Scheme and will follow up on the highly successful ACCESS scheme. The application forms and guidelines for the scheme will be made available immediately after I announce the funding round.

Human Rights Issues.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

118 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason the Government has appealed the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13679/08]

The case referred to by the Deputy concerns the rights of a person who has undergone gender reassignment surgery to recognition of her acquired gender. On foot of a High Court judgement delivered on 19 October 2007, the judge made an order 14 February 2008 and the perfected order was issued on 10 March 2008. The order contains a declaration pursuant to Section 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003 that Sections 25, 63 and 64 of the Civil Registration Act 2004 are incompatible with the obligations of the State under the European Convention on Human Rights by reason of their failure to respect the private life of the Applicant as required by Article 8 of the Convention in that there are no provisions which would enable the acquired gender identity of the Applicant to be legally recognised in this jurisdiction.

This is the first time that the High Court has made a declaration of incompatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of a provision of Irish law. As such, the High Court judgement is very significant and raises complex and far-reaching issues, not merely for this case but for future cases under the European Convention on Human Rights Act. The judgment has implications for a wide range of legislative and policy areas including taxation, social welfare, pensions, family law, criminal law, equality, employment, sport, financial services, health, education and so on. In that context, an appeal has been lodged in the Supreme Court against the High Court decision in the interests of seeking clarity on all its implications.

As the judgment is the subject of an appeal, it is not considered appropriate for me to comment further at this time.

Parliamentary Questions.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

119 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Question No. 359 of 4 March 2008. [13763/08]

The matter that was the subject of the Deputy's question of 4 March was referred to the Chief Executive of the Health Service Executive for investigation of the substantive issue and for direct reply to the Deputy.

Enquiries have been made with the Chief Executive, and I have been informed that his investigation of this matter is nearing completion and that a reply will issue to the Deputy in the very near future.

Social Welfare Benefits.

James Bannon

Ceist:

120 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Longford has had a disability allowance withdrawn when under his Department’s guidelines such a person should be entitled to a disability allowance and an independent living allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13668/08]

Disability allowance is a weekly allowance paid to people with a disability who are aged between 16 and 66 years. The disability must be expected to last for at least one year and the allowance is subject to both a medical examination and a means test.

The weekly rate of Disability Allowance payment depends on the amount of weekly means assessed. The legislative provisions regarding Disability Allowance state that means will be assessed from all income which the claimant or claimant's spouse may reasonably expect to receive during the year following the date of their claim with certain exceptions. Income derived from earnings from employment is not included in these exceptions and is accordingly assessable in full as means for Disability Allowance.

The person concerned had his Disability Allowance reviewed in September 2007. Following this review he was assessed with weekly means of €389.89 derived from his spouse's employment. As the weekly means exceeded the statutory limit of €353.10, the person concerned had his Disability Allowance stopped on 20 September 2007. The person concerned was notified by letter of this decision and of his right to appeal this decision to the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office.

His weekly means were derived as follows:

Gross weekly earnings (per payslip)

795.24

Less

PRSI/Union/Superannuation

85.42

Insurable Employment Disregard

60.00

649.82

Weekly means @ €0.60 per €1

389.89

He subsequently appealed this decision on 3 October 2007.

On 28 November 2007, the Chief Appeals Officer decided that the weekly means of €389.89 derived from spouse's earnings are correct and in accordance with Social Welfare legislation. In the absence of new evidence, the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

121 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason one parent family allowance has been refused in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who has three dependant children; and if he will make a statement on the matter in view of the fact that they are a lone parent. [13828/08]

I refer to my reply to the Deputy on 6/3/08 in relation to the person concerned. I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that since that reply, an Appeals Officer again reviewed this case following the submission of further correspondence from the person concerned. However, the Appeals Officer considered that the correspondence contained no new facts or fresh evidence which would warrant a revision of his decision. The Social Welfare Appeals Office is an office of my Department that is independently responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

The person concerned came to Ireland, from Nigeria, in February 2003 and first applied for One Parent Family Payment in July 2005. Her circumstances were investigated by a Social Welfare Inspector who reported that, in her view, the person concerned had not established that she is a separated person within the meaning of the Social Welfare legislation and that there is evidence of an ongoing relationship with her husband. On the basis of the Inspector's report the Deciding Officer disallowed her application to One Parent Family Payment. The person concerned appealed the decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. Following an oral hearing on 20 September 2006 the Appeals Officer disallowed her appeal on the grounds that she had not shown that the marriage tie had been broken and he considered the separation to be geographic in nature.

On 17 April 2007 the person concerned again applied for One Parent Family Payment. Her application was investigated by a Social Welfare Inspector who reported that her circumstances were basically unchanged from the previous investigation. On the basis of a further Inspector's report the Deciding Officer disallowed her application to One Parent Family Payment. The person concerned appealed the decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. Following an oral hearing on 8 January 2008 the Appeals Officer, having considered all the appellant's evidence including that adduced at the oral hearing, concluded that he was not satisfied that the appellant had established that she is a separated person within the meaning of the legislation. The appeal was disallowed. An Appeal Officer's decision is final in the absence of new facts and fresh evidence.

Social Welfare Code.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

122 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if entitlements such as supplementary welfare allowance or back to education allowance are not available to non Irish nationals unless they have achieved residency status, can be made available while applications for status are awaiting determination. [13830/08]

The habitual residence condition was introduced in order to ensure that a person, who has had no attachment to the work force since arrival in Ireland and whose habitual residence is therefore elsewhere, would not be entitled to payment under certain exchequer-funded schemes on arrival in Ireland.

Applications for supplementary welfare allowance payments (e.g. a basic weekly payment or a rent supplement) are subject to the habitual residence condition. However, an EU migrant worker, who has been employed since arrival in Ireland, has lost that employment and does not qualify for an alternative social welfare payment, may have an entitlement to such a payment subject to the normal scheme conditions. This provision arises from the freedom of movement of workers legislation which applies within the EU but not to persons coming from non-EU countries.

Additionally, once-off payments of supplementary welfare allowance may be made where appropriate under the exceptional or urgent needs provisions which are not subject to the habitual residence condition. Asylum seekers who are awaiting a decision on their application for permission to remain have direct provision available to them. I believe the habitual residence condition is fulfilling its intended purpose and I do not intend amending its application to supplementary welfare allowance.

Back to education allowance is a scheme enabling persons who might otherwise be or become welfare-dependent to progress through education into employment. It is only available to persons who have been in receipt of certain social welfare payments for at least 6 months in the case of the second level education option or 12 months in the case of the third level option. I do not consider it appropriate to remove this condition in the case of non-Irish nationals.

Community Development.

Peter Power

Ceist:

123 Deputy Peter Power asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when his Department will next be seeking applications for a new round of applicants for the programme of grants for locally based community and voluntary organisations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13636/08]

The Programme of Grants for Locally-Based Community and Voluntary Organisations, funded by my Department, supports the activities of local voluntary and community groups addressing disadvantage in their community. The Programme offers grants to community groups in respect of refurbishment of premises, equipment and training. Preparations for the launch of the new Programme are at an advanced stage and I expect to be in a position to make an announcement in the coming weeks.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

124 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will provide funding to a charity (details supplied) in County Tipperary that supports citizens with disabilities, to support their scheme which provides accessible transport for their clients; the amount of funding his Department allocates each year for the provision of transport services for citizens with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13659/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, I do not have statutory responsibility for the provision of transport services for citizens with disabilities. In relation to the project that the Deputy refers to, some funding may be available for an element of the project under the Dormant Accounts Fund. Details in relation to the measures supported by the Fund are available on my Department's website www.pobail.ie.

Legislative Controls.

James Bannon

Ceist:

125 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason the introduction of an EU compliant commercial fertiliser is being processed at such a slow pace to the detriment of a business concern (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13667/08]

There have been ongoing discussions between my Department and the business concern involved in this matter. The business proposes to use meat and bone meal (MBM) in the manufacture of fertiliser. The use of MBM, which is an animal by-product, is strictly regulated under both EU and national legislation, in order to protect public and animal health.

The business proposes to get a third party to manufacture the fertiliser. This party has applied for approval of a technical plant to manufacture the product in accordance with the requirements of Article 18 of Regulation (EC) 1774/2002. It has not been possible as yet to issue approval for this plant as it does not meet the regulatory requirements at present. Discussions are ongoing between my officials and the third party in an attempt to resolve this matter.

The business operator has also applied for approval to conduct research trials using the MBM based fertiliser. My Department has sought additional information on these proposed trials. When this information is supplied the application will be processed as a matter of urgency.

World Trade Negotiations.

James Bannon

Ceist:

126 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food her plans to counteract the negative impact of the World Trade Organisation proposals which would see Irish beef and lamb prices cut by 70%; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13674/08]

James Bannon

Ceist:

127 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food her plans to counteract the negative impact of the proposals of the World Trade Organisation which are giving no recognition to farmers for the fact that the EU is a high cost region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13675/08]

James Bannon

Ceist:

128 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food her plans to counteract the negative impact of the proposals of the World Trade Organisation which are giving no recognition to farmers for the range of higher standards demanded from EU producers in relation to food safety and traceability, animal health and welfare and the protection of the environment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13676/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 126 to 128, inclusive, together.

As I have stated on many occasions the current round of WTO negotiations represent a significant challenge for EU and Irish agriculture. These negotiations are ongoing and given the significant number of unresolved issues it is not possible to draw conclusions regarding the overall impacts on the different agriculture sectors until the negotiations are completed in full.

The 2003 reform of the CAP was carried out with the WTO negotiations clearly in mind. The move to non-trade distorting decoupled payments allowed the EU to make significant commitments to reducing trade-distorting supports which are linked to production and prices. This is a very significant contribution to these negotiations. As Ireland has fully decoupled the 2003 CAP Reform provides certainty in relation to levels of income support for farmers up until 2013, while freeing them to increase their income from the market by responding to consumer demands and guaranteeing a supply of safe food, produced to high animal welfare and environmental standards, at reasonable cost. This is a crucial provision which offers farmers stability at a time when markets are changing rapidly.

The Agrivision 2015 Action Plan which I published in March 2006 sets out my vision for a competitive, consumer-focused and knowledge driven agri-food sector which will contribute to a vibrant rural economy, society and environment and which exploits opportunities in non-food areas. It was drawn up in the light of recent CAP reforms and the likelihood of a more liberalised trade policy under a new WTO agreement but also against the background of other changes which will impact on the sector such as lifestyle changes, the emergence of technology and Research and Development as market drivers and structural changes in the farming and the retail sector.

I believe the measures provided for in the Agri-Vision 2015 Action Plan in conjunction with the provisions of the 2003 CAP reforms will facilitate the continued growth of the Irish Agri-Food sector and will serve to address the challenges posed by the WTO.

In that context, it is clear, were there to be a WTO agreement, the outcome could have a significant influence on the future of Irish agriculture. The outcome will determine the levels of protection and support that the EU may provide for the duration of the next agreement. I am continuing to seek recognition in the negotiations of the additional costs incurred by EU producers in implementing non-trade measures such as environmental, animal welfare and animal health controls. I have consistently outlined my position on non-trade concerns in the Council of Agriculture Ministers, by emphasising that the Commission must pursue recognition of these issues in the ongoing negotiations.

My overriding objective in the ongoing agriculture negotiations is to ensure that the terms of the agreement can be accommodated within the framework of the reformed CAP. This represents the limit of the EU Commission's negotiating position in these negotiations and I will continue to insist that this position is respected.

Grant Payments.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

129 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the single farm payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13709/08]

As previously advised in reply to a question from the Deputy on 12 February 2008, after expiry of an existing lease and the reversion of entitlements from the person named to another farmer, no application to transfer entitlements was received under the 2007 Single Payment Scheme year. The person named was advised of this and subsequently submitted an application to transfer 17.88 entitlements by way of lease from another farmer for the 2007 scheme year.

This late application was received on 15 February 2008 and was accepted. As essential elements of the application form were incomplete it was necessary to return it to the person named for completion. The completed form was received on 29 February 2008 and the requested transfer was completed on the same day. A supplementary payment relating to these leased entitlements issued to the person named on 31 March 2008.

Fishing Industry Development.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

130 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food her plans to compensate crews on fishing boats that may be decommissioned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13715/08]

All fishermen are eligible to undertake Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) training programmes including those serving on vessels that are decommissioning. In this regard, BIM and FÁS have agreed to co-operate to provide training for fishing vessel crew members that find themselves without a job when their fishing vessel is decommissioned. Both agencies will work closely together to provide retraining, up-skilling or diversification opportunities in the seafood industry or elsewhere in the economy as required.

In addition, funding will be provided within BIM's overall programmes to support the sustainable development and improvement of the quality of life in fisheries areas as part of an overall strategy that will support the implementation of the objectives of the common fisheries policy, in particular taking account of its socio-economic effects.

The measures for sustainable development of fisheries areas shall seek to:

(a) maintain the economic and social prosperity of these areas and add value to fisheries and aquaculture products;

(b) maintain and develop jobs in fisheries areas through support for diversification or the economic and social restructuring of areas facing socio-economic difficulties as a result of changes in the fisheries sector;

(c) promote the quality of the coastal environment;

(d) promote national and transnational cooperation between fisheries areas.

It should also be noted that while the decommissioning scheme will remove some of the older and less economically viable vessels from the fleet right around the coast, the majority of the fleet will continue fishing and will continue to need crew. At present many skippers are experiencing great difficulty securing crew, as there is an overall shortage of crew for fishing vessels. In this situation there remains good opportunities for crew members whose current boats are leaving the fleet.

Grant Payments.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

131 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive payment of their installation aid. [13716/08]

The person concerned is an applicant for aid under the Young Farmers' Installation Scheme. His application for payment is currently being examined within my Department and the outcome will be notified to the person concerned as soon as possible.

Departmental Appointments.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

132 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, further to Parliamentary Question No. 226 of 1 February 2007, the number of positions that have been filled from members of the panel formed from a competition (details supplied); the number of applicants who have withdrawn from the panel; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13738/08]

28 positions have been filled from the Assistant Agricultural Inspector Panel. 14 applicants withdrew from the panel.

Physical Education Facilities.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

133 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in so far as provision of a sports hall is concerned for a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13677/08]

The project to which the Deputy refers is currently at a very advanced stage of architectural planning process. The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage 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.

Schools Refurbishment.

David Stanton

Ceist:

134 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the funding she is making available in 2008 to carry out remedial works and upgrading works in primary schools; the way in which such funding can be applied for; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13681/08]

Primary school authorities may use their annual minor works grant to deal with such works. In November 2006 I increased funding for the minor works grant by 44% on the previous year. Around €27m was paid out to primary schools throughout the country late last year to enable thousands of small scale works to be completed without the need to interact with my Department. Individual primary schools received a grant in the sum of €5,500 plus €18.50 per pupil. This is intended to be used by schools to address most of the type of works to which the Deputy refers.

In the case of larger scale works an extension to a school building is generally considered as a major capital application. The relevant application forms are available on the Department's website at www.education.ie. Where an extension project is required in conjunction with other renovation works, the approach generally taken would be to roll all the works together under one large scale project.

As the Deputy may be aware, the Summer Works Scheme was introduced in 2004 to fund necessary smaller scale works in schools. Since then, over 3,000 projects costing in excess of €300 million have been completed. With so many smaller projects having been completed over the past few years, I intend to focus on delivering as many large projects as possible in 2008. There is not, therefore, a new Summer Works Scheme as part of our building programme this year. There will be a Summer Works Scheme in 2009.

Special Educational Needs.

Andrew Doyle

Ceist:

135 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Education and Science the criteria for invitation to the one day conference, Education through the Spectrum, to be held in Croke Park on 15 April 2008; and if she will confirm whether members of boards of management of schools with autism classes will be invited to attend. [13691/08]

The Deputy will be aware that my Department works closely with the Education Partners including the various management bodies which represent school boards of management.

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that invitations have been issued to these management bodies for distribution by them to their members. The remaining invitations were issued to other education partners, educational professionals and various autism organisations representing parents of children with autism. The Department of Education, Northern Ireland also distributed invitations to interested parties in Northern Ireland.

This conference is being jointly hosted by my Department and the Department of Education, Northern Ireland and aims to provide parents and professionals, north and south, with an opportunity to hear internationally acclaimed speakers address aspects of autism education.

Site Acquisitions.

Ulick Burke

Ceist:

136 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Education and Science if a request has been received by her Department for the acquisition of lands beside a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13707/08]

There is no record in my Department of correspondence from the school in question regarding a site extension.

School Transport.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

137 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway is not entitled to school bus transport; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13711/08]

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

138 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway is not entitled to school bus transport; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13712/08]

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

139 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway is not entitled to school bus transport; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13713/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 137 to 139, inclusive, together.

Under the terms of my Department's Post Primary School Transport Scheme, a pupil is eligible for transport if s/he resides 4.8 kilometres or more from her/his local post primary education centre.

The scheme is not designed to facilitate parents who choose to send their children to a post-primary centre outside of the catchment area in which they reside. However, children who are fully eligible for transport to the post-primary centre in the catchment area in which they reside may apply for transport on a concessionary basis to a post-primary centre outside of their own catchment area — otherwise known as catchment boundary transport. These children can only be facilitated if spare seats are available on the bus after all other eligible children travelling to their local post-primary centre have been catered for. Such children have to make their own way to the nearest pick up point within that catchment area.

The Transport Liaison Officer for County Galway has advised that the pupils referred to by the Deputy, in the details supplied are eligible for catchment boundary transport. The pupils concerned should liaise with Bus Éireann regarding the availability of spare seats.

School Enrolments.

James Reilly

Ceist:

140 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will make a statement on the chronic under-provision for both primary and secondary school places in Lusk, Balbriggan, Balrothery, Donabate and Swords; her immediate plans to address this serious and stressful situation for parents and their children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13719/08]

As the Deputy will be aware the Programme for Government includes a commitment to establish a Developing Areas Unit in my Department, dedicated solely to progressing school planning in rapidly developing areas, building on improvements that have already been made in recent years.

This Developing Areas Unit, in conjunction with Fingal County Council has been working to identify and acquire sites, under the Fingal School Model, for rapidly growing areas, including the areas to which the Deputy refers.

The specific plans for each area to which the Deputy refers for September 2008 are as follows:

Provision of a new 16 classroom temporary school in Lusk to facilitate the relocation and expansion of an existing school. Phase I for occupation in September 2008 will include the provision of the sixteen mainstream classrooms with appropriate resource and ancillary space.

Provision of a new 16 classroom temporary school on the Naul Road in Balbriggan to facilitate the relocation and expansion of an existing school. Phase I for occupation in September 2008 will include the provision of the sixteen mainstream classrooms with appropriate resource and ancillary space. In addition the Department is acquiring a second site in Castlelands Balbriggan for the relocation and expansion of a further two existing schools in Balbriggan. Phase I for occupation in September 2008 will include the provision a sixteen classroom school with appropriate resource and ancillary space and an eight classroom school with appropriate resource and ancillary space.

Provision of a new temporary post primary school in Donabate under the patronage of Co. Dublin VEC which will be ready for occupation in September 2008. Provision of a new 16 classroom school in Swords with the provision of the first eight classrooms with appropriate resource and ancillary space being provided as phase I for occupation in September 2008.

With regard to Balrothery, the Department is cognisant of the site restrictions which would impede further expansion of the existing school. Greenfield provision for this school will be considered in the context of the Department's school building and modernisation programme.

It is envisaged that the additional primary school accommodation being provided in 2008, as outlined above, will dissipate the pressure on accommodation being experienced by existing schools in the areas outlined. The Developing Areas Unit will continue to monitor developments in these areas and will continue to work closely with Fingal County Council to meet the long term needs of the Fingal area.

School Transport.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

141 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Science the charges for the school transport scheme; the reasoning for the price difference between junior cycle and senior cycle post-primary pupils; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13721/08]

In framing the school transport charges in the early 1980s, my Department was anxious to positively discriminate in favour of pupils at the earlier stages of their education and accordingly eligible junior cycle pupils were allowed, as a concession, to avail of a lower rate of charge than senior cycle pupils.

The current charges per term for eligible pupils, applicable from the final term of the current school year are: Junior Cycle €46, Senior Cycle €71 with a maximum family contribution of €150 per term. The term charge may be waived in the case of eligible post-primary children where the family is in possession of a valid medical card. These revised charges at Junior and Senior Cycles equate to about 82 cent and €1.27 cent per day respectively.

In overall terms, receipts from school transport charges represent only about 5% of the school transport allocation.

Schools Building Projects.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

142 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will provide the money for building the long overdue extension to a school (details supplied). [13756/08]

The process of appointing a design team to the school building project referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage. The advancement 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.

Education Schemes.

David Stanton

Ceist:

143 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the measures she has taken or will take to encourage girls to opt for third level science courses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13765/08]

My Department is fully committed to strengthening the quality of science teaching and learning, promoting increased scientific literacy and encouraging more students, both girls and boys, to choose science subjects. Progress in these areas is a vitally important part of our national strategy to support competitiveness and employment.

Significant progress is being made in regard to curricular reform and inservice support for science at both primary and post-primary levels. Science was introduced as a key component in the revised Primary School Curriculum in 1999 and it has been implemented in all schools since September 2003. A revised syllabus in Junior Certificate Science was introduced in 2003 and it was examined for the first time in June 2006. I believe that this syllabus, with its hands-on investigative approach and its new emphasis on scientific process skills, will be instrumental in encouraging more students to continue their study of science in senior cycle. Advice from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment in regard to reform of science at senior cycle is expected shortly. Some €16m in equipment and resource grants was provided to schools in 2004, and laboratories continue to be refurbished as part of the ongoing school building programme.

The book, Irish Innovators in Science and Technology, produced with the assistance of Enterprise Ireland and the Royal Irish Academy was distributed to all Post-Primary Schools. The Irish Scientist is distributed every year. 20 copies of a CD-rom called Up2u, produced for the National Skills Awareness Campaign on behalf of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs and Forfás, were sent to each Post-Primary School, providing information and assistance to help students make choices about subjects, colleges and careers in the areas of science, technology and engineering. Both my Department and the Discover Science programme continue to engage with school guidance counsellors on the importance of science, technology and engineering careers, and Discover Science operates a comprehensive range of initiatives to promote the attractiveness of careers in this area.

The WITS initiative (Women in Science and Technology) was launched in 1990 to actively promote women in technology and science. It organises regional information and recruitment workshops, a Re-Enter programme which provides on line training, support and mentoring and an internship in industry for 20 women aiming to return to science careers, organises the provision of plaques to commemorate female role models in science and technology, and provides information generally on opportunities for women in the sector.

In the Leaving Certificate examinations in 2007, females participation rates in Physics and Chemistry at Higher level were 30% and 58% female respectively, and at Ordinary Level were 16% and 46% respectively.

Higher Education Grants.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

144 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason she continues to prevent the sons and daughters of stamp four asylum seekers from qualifying for higher education grants; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this causes hardship and forces such children out of the State even where their parents qualify for citizenship; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13777/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

150 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if entitlements such as higher education grants, not available to non-Irish nationals unless they have achieved residency status, can be made available while applications for status are awaiting determination. [13831/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 144 and 150 together.

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

The Higher Education Grant Scheme is administered by the Local Authorities. The other three schemes are administered by the Vocational Education Committees.

Under the terms of the maintenance grant schemes, grant assistance is awarded to students who meet the prescribed conditions of funding including those which relate to nationality, residency, means and previous academic attainment.

The Nationality requirement as set out in the 2007 Grant schemes states candidates must:

hold E.U. Nationality; or

have Official Refugee Status; or

have been granted Humanitarian Leave to Remain in the State (prior to the Immigration Act 1999); or

be a person in respect of whom the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has granted permission to remain following a determination not to make a deportation order under section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999; or

have permission to remain in the State by virtue of marriage to an Irish national residing in the State, or be the child of such person, not having EU nationality; or

have permission to remain in the State by virtue of marriage to a national of another EU Member State who is residing in the State and who is or has been employed, or self-employed, in the State, or be the child of such a person, not having EU nationality; or

be nationals of a member country of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.

The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform adjudicates on a person's entitlement to remain in the State and on the stamp that is awarded where permission to remain is sanctioned.

A Stamp Four does not automatically satisfy the residency requirement of the grant schemes. My Department understands a Stamp Four can be awarded to categories of applicants other than those specified in my Department's grant schemes.

Eligibility for the Back to Education Allowance is a matter for the Department of Social and Family Affairs. Supplementary Welfare Allowance is administered by the Health Service Executive through the Community Welfare Officers.

Schools Building Projects.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

145 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the position of an application for a school extension for a school (details supplied) in County Wexford; when this funding which was promised to them earlier will be granted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13795/08]

The building project to which the Deputy refers is at an advanced stage of architectural planning. The project includes extension and refurbishment works to create an eight classroom school.

The advancement 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.

Shane McEntee

Ceist:

146 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Education and Science when construction work will commence and a timeframe for the completion of the project at a school (details supplied) in County Meath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13797/08]

The process of appointing a design team to the school building project referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage. The advancement of all large scale building projects from initial design stage through to construction phase, including this project, will considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's Multi-Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Shane McEntee

Ceist:

147 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Education and Science when construction work will commence and a timeframe for the completion of the project at a school (details supplied) in County Meath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13798/08]

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. 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.

As in 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 multiannual School Building and Modernisation programme.

Shane McEntee

Ceist:

148 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Education and Science when construction work will commence and a timeframe for the completion of the project at a school (details supplied) in County Meath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13799/08]

The project to which the Deputy refers is at a very advanced stage of architectural planning. The project includes extension and refurbishment works to create a five classroom school.

The further progression of the project through the remaining stages of architectural planning will be considered on an ongoing basis in the context of my Department's multiannual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Shane McEntee

Ceist:

149 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Education and Science when construction work will commence and a timeframe for the completion of the project at a school (details supplied) in County Meath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13800/08]

The project to which the Deputy refers is at an advanced stage of the architectural planning process. The project is for the construction of a new 4 classroom school.

The further progression of the project through the remaining stages will be considered on an ongoing basis in the context of my Department's multiannual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Question No. 150 answered with Question No. 144.

Overseas Missions.

David Stanton

Ceist:

151 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Defence the progress that has been made in facilitating members of the Reserve Defence Force to serve overseas; the timescale for such development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13646/08]

The White Paper on Defence outlines the blueprint for a new Reserve Defence Force. An Implementation Plan has been developed that will ensure the realisation of the White Paper vision. The Implementation Plan is being rolled out over the period to end 2009. The new Reserve has a clearly defined role, an enhanced relationship with the PDF, better equipment and training and opportunities to serve on overseas peace support missions.

The Reserve has already seen significant improvements in terms of organisation, clothing, equipment, training and resourcing. It is now structured along similar lines to the PDF and the development of the integrated element of the Reserve is in its second year. All of these developments enhance the capabilities of the Reserve as well as improving interoperability with the PDF. These factors are significant enablers in facilitating participation by Reserve personnel in overseas missions.

While there are no plans for participation by members of the Reserve in overseas missions in the current year, policies to support the selection of suitably qualified personnel for overseas duties are being developed. It is hoped that a small number of Reservists may be available to serve overseas by the end of next year (2009). This is likely to be in specialised areas such as medical, transport, engineering and communications and information services. This will also be subject to personnel having suitable qualifications, their personal availability and appropriate training.

Pension Provisions.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

152 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Defence the reason for the reduction in the pension entitlements of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13650/08]

The person concerned retired on grounds of ill-health from his position as a civilian employee with the Defence Forces in April 1986. He was awarded a gratuity amounting to £4,709.33 and an annual pension amounting to £508.61 on retirement, under the terms of the non-contributory pension scheme for non-established State employees. The person in question received on his retirement all of his entitlements under that pension scheme. Over the years, the rate of occupational pension paid to the person concerned has been increased in line with pay awards, both general and special, for serving employees.

Under the terms of the non-contributory pension scheme for non-established State employees, the rate of occupational pension paid to a retired civilian employee must be re-calculated at age 65 years to take account of any increases in the level of social welfare benefits due at that stage so that there is no net financial gain from the two sources of income. As a result of the increase in the rate of social welfare benefits due to the person concerned from his 65th birthday, the rate of occupational pension paid to the person in question was reduced when he attained the age of 65 years in June 1997.

National Emergency Plan.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

153 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which he has upgraded and updated plans in the event of a national emergency, particularly those precipitated by acts of terrorism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13767/08]

The Minister for Defence as Chairman of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning has encouraged all departments and agencies to ensure that their plans are kept up to date and are exercised regularly.

Potential threats to the State arising from international terrorism are continuously monitored by those involved, principally the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces. They provide a security threat analysis at every meeting of Task Force. The current threat level is assessed as low.

Overseas Missions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

154 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the discussions that have taken place with his EU or UN colleagues with regard to the future formation of EU lead battlegroups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13768/08]

With regard to Ireland's participation in future Battlegroups we are committed in principle to participation in the Nordic Battle Group (NBG) in 2011. Other contributors to the (NBG) are Estonia, Finland, Norway and Sweden acting as framework nation. Potential participation from other EU member states in the battle group has at this moment not been announced but the possibility of additional force contribution cannot be excluded. This Battlegroup will be on stand-by the first six (6) months of 2011. As yet, the contribution that Ireland will be making to this Battlegroup has not been finalized.

Preliminary discussions have also taken place between staff in the Department of Defence and representatives from EU Member States regarding Ireland's possible participation in the proposed Austrian/German Battlegroup that will be on stand-by in the second six (6) months of 2012.

Defence Forces Strength.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

155 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the strength of the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps reserves; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13769/08]

The Reserve Defence Force (RDF) is comprised of the Army Reserve and the Naval Service Reserve. The current number serving in the Army Reserve is 8,018 and in the Naval Service Reserve is 311.

The White Paper on Defence outlines the blueprint for the RDF. An Implementation Plan has been developed to realise the White Paper vision and is being rolled out over the period to end 2009. The RDF has already seen significant improvements in terms of organisation, clothing, equipment, training and resourcing. It is now structured along similar lines to the PDF and the development of the integrated element of the Reserve is in its second year. All of these developments enhance the capabilities of the Reserve as well as improving interoperability with the PDF. These factors are also significant enablers in facilitating the planned participation by Reserve personnel in overseas missions.

The Implementation Plan envisaged a requirement to promote recruitment to the RDF following the period of re-organisation and restructuring set out in the Plan. I am pleased to say that planning for this is now underway and an advertising campaign to promote recruitment to the RDF will be launched later in the year.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

156 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence his views on whether the strength of the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps needs to be increased to compensate for deployments overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13771/08]

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

The agreed Programme for Government provides for an additional provision of up to 350 troops to be in training at any given time. However, due primarily to the requirement to prioritise funding for the Chad mission, it has not been possible to provide funding to activate this provision in 2008. This matter will be further considered in the context of the 2009 Estimates.

The White Paper on Defence provides for an allocation of up to 850 Permanent Defence Force personnel to be deployed overseas at any one time. While this may be exceeded for short periods, deployments above this level are not sustainable on an ongoing basis within existing resources. Any commitments to EU or UN missions will be met within this context.

Question No. 157 answered with Question No. 7.
Question No. 158 answered with Question No. 13.

Overseas Missions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

159 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he is satisfied that EU peacekeeping missions are adequately co-ordinated with a view to ensuring a complete understanding by all member states contributing with particular reference to the need to ensure the safety of all personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13774/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

160 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which he has had discussions with his EU colleagues with future EU lead peacekeeping deployments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13775/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 and 160 together.

Minister O'Dea is constantly in touch with his EU colleagues both in the context of European Defence and Security and other matters, which would include discussions on possible future EU lead peacekeeping deployments. Two (2) official meeting of EU Defence Ministers are held during each six (6) month EU Presidency. These present the opportunity to engage in bilateral meetings with his Defence colleagues. The most recent meeting was the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) meeting in Brussels on 19 November 2007. He attended this meeting where the discussions covered a wide range of European Defence and Security issues. The Minister for Defence is also kept abreast of issues arising from meetings which officials from his Department attend to discuss European Defence and Security.

The final decision to engage in a particular EU peacekeeping mission is decided on by the European Council. Such a decision must always be taken unanimously. Thereafter, each Member State has a sovereign right to determine whether and to what extent it should take part in the mission.

In Ireland's case, any decision to participate in EU peacekeeping mission will be for sovereign decision on a case-by-case basis and in line with Irish constitutional and legislative arrangements i.e. "triple lock" — Government, Dáil and UN approval.

Among the factors taken into account by Ireland when considering any particular request to participate in a mission is the degree of risk that may be involved, the extent to which the required skills or characteristics relate to Irish capabilities and whether the operation is adequately resourced.

Prior to the official deployment of military forces from the European Union, the EU Military Committee (EUMC) briefs the Political and Security Committee (PSC), on a regular basis, on all security aspects of the particular mission. The EUMC is officially made up of Chiefs of Defence Staff of member countries and is the Union's most senior military body and a forum for consultation and cooperation between member states. The PSC consists of Ambassadors of each member state meeting twice a week in Brussels and deals with all aspects of European Security and Defence Policy. In the event of a deployment of military forces from the Union, it assumes political control of the day-to-day direction of military operations.

From Ireland's perspective, the Government's decision to send troops to a mission is not taken lightly. The safety of Irish personnel serving overseas is always of paramount concern to the Minister for Defence. While no absolute guarantees can be given with regard to the safety of troops serving in missions, it is the policy and practice to ensure that Defence Forces personnel are appropriately trained and equipped to carry out their mission. All possible precautions are taken to ensure the safety of our troops. The detailed threat assessment and reconnaissance undertaken informs decisions regarding the configuration of the contingent and its armaments and protection. In addition, Standard Operating Procedures are kept under review in light of experience and best practice.

Prior to the official launch of any EU mission, EU Military staff attend regular Force Generation Conferences, the focus of which is to ensure that the necessary key enablers and protection are in place. Unless the Minister of Defence is satisfied that all safety measures and protection would be in place in advance of deployment of Irish troops to a mission he would not recommend Ireland's participation in that mission.

Question No. 161 answered with Question No. 7.

Employment Rights.

James Bannon

Ceist:

162 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the measures he will put in place to reform maternity leave for private sector employees to remove the inequity which sees such employees disadvantaged in comparison to those in the public sector. [13669/08]

The Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004 make provision for maternity leave and do not discriminate between employees in the private sector and those in the public sector. Employees and employers in either sector are free to agree terms more favourable to the employee than are set out in the Acts.

My Department is currently undertaking a review of maternity, paternity and parental leave. This review is in line with commitments given in Towards 2016 and the Programme for Government.

Citizenship Applications.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

163 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 applied for a certificate of naturalisation approximately one year ago; and the time-frame within which they can expect a decision on their application. [13628/08]

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 May 2007.

Officials in that section are currently processing applications received in August 2005 and have approximately 11,800 applications on hand to be dealt with before that of the person concerned. These are generally dealt with in chronological order as this is deemed to be the fairest to all applicants. It is likely, therefore, that further processing of the application will commence in late 2009. I will inform the Deputy and the person in question when I have reached a decision on the matter.

Asylum Support Services.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

164 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the level of payment made to a company (details supplied) in respect of accommodation provided for asylum seekers and refugees over each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

165 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the payments made under all headings to all companies involved in providing accommodation to asylum seekers and refugees for each of the past five years; the location of each premises involved; the cost of purchase of each such premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13632/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 164 and 165 together.

The information sought by the Deputy is not separately compiled, and could be compiled in the short time available to the relevant authorities between the tabling of these Questions and the due date for answer only by the re-allocation of additional scarce staff resources from other important work, which would not be warranted.

When the information is compiled, it will be forwarded promptly to the Deputy, except where any such information may be so commercially sensitive as to prejudice the authorities' ability to engage in such accommodation-provision ventures in the future.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

166 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent of accommodation purchased with the intent of providing accommodation for refugees and asylum seekers in each of the past five years which has not been used for the purpose for which it was intended; if such accommodation was in the ownership of his Department or an associated agency of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13633/08]

The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) of my Department is charged with responsibility for the provision of accommodation for asylum-seekers while their asylum applications are being processed.

The RIA advises me that, in the last five years, no premises have been purchased on its behalf for the purpose of accommodating asylum-seekers.

Departmental Correspondence.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

167 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will resolve an issue (details supplied). [13640/08]

I can inform the Deputy that the concerns referred to are currently under consideration and that there is ongoing communication with the Committee representing the families and their legal advisors on these matters.

Garda Strength.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

168 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of full-time and part-time gardaí attached to the drug squad in the Donegal division of An Garda Síochána and their rank. [13643/08]

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that there are one Sergeant and nine Gardaí, all of which are full-time, allocated to the Drugs Unit in the Donegal Division. Of course all Gardaí in the Donegal Division and elsewhere have a role to play in addressing drug issues as they arise.

The Deputy should appreciate that, as with any large organisation, on any given day, personnel strengths of individual stations may fluctuate due, for example, to promotions, retirements and transfers etc.

It is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner to allocate personnel throughout the Force taking everything into account. The situation will be kept under review and when additional personnel next become available the allocation of Gardaí to the Drug Squad will be fully considered by the Commissioner within the overall context of the needs of Garda stations throughout the country.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

169 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of community Gardaí based in Letterkenny town for each month since January 2007 to date in 2008. [13644/08]

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength of the Community Policing Unit attached to Letterkenny Garda Station for each month from 31 January 2007 to 31 March 2008 was 4.

Of course, community policing involves more than just a single unit within An Garda Síochána. All Gardaí have a role to play in addressing community policing issues.

The Deputy should appreciate that, as with any large organisation, on any given day, personnel strengths of individual stations may fluctuate due, for example, to promotions, retirements and transfers etc.

It is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner to allocate personnel throughout the Force taking everything into account. The situation will be kept under review and when additional personnel next become available the allocation of Community Gardaí will be fully considered by the Commissioner within the overall context of the needs of Garda stations throughout the country.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

170 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the enforcement success the gardaí are having in the way of prosecutions of boy racers and drivers who are using cars without insurance and who are not compliant with car test requirements in the most recent year for which statistics are available; if he is satisfied with the level of compliance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13645/08]

One of the high level strategic goals set in the Garda Síochána Corporate Strategy 2007-2009 is to significantly reduce the incidence of fatal and serious injuries and improve road safety. Collision data identifies young male drivers as vulnerable persons in terms of road safety. Consequently, one of the actions identified in the Garda Policing Plan 2008 in support of this goal is targeted intelligence-led operations against offending young drivers.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that a number of initiatives to target the activities of young male drivers are being undertaken, and specific areas identified as places where young drivers congregate are being targeted. As a result, uniform members of An Garda Síochána, supported by Divisional Traffic Corps personnel, establish checkpoints and enforce in a highly visible manner the provisions of the Road Traffic Acts, including national car test regulations.

These initiatives have resulted in detections being made for a wide range of road traffic offences, including offences relating to dangerous driving, careless driving, national car test regulations, no silencer fitted, L plates not displayed, identification plates not conforming with legislation, road tax offences, insurance and driving licence offences, speeding offences, dangerously defective vehicles and modified vehicles. Offences detected are dealt with by way of prosecution, fixed charge notice or, where appropriate, through the Juvenile Diversion Programme.

In addition to these intelligence-led operations, all uniform members of An Garda Síochána are tasked with enforcing the relevant legislative provisions. Regular mobile patrols take place and roving checkpoints are conducted in areas where young drivers tend to congregate.

In addition websites are monitored so as to establish where such anti-social activities are taking place, with a view to providing an appropriate response. Garda road safety awareness programmes are conducted in schools, third level institutions, factories, workplaces and other facilities, with the aim of educating road users on the obligations on all road users under the Road Traffic Acts and to promote road safety among the target group. An Garda Síochána cooperate closely with other agencies, particularly the Road Safety Authority, in this.

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

Crime Levels.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

171 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the crime statistics for Coolock, Blanchardstown, Clondalkin, Store Street, Pearse Street, Tallaght and Dun Laoghaire Garda Stations for the years 2006, 2007 and the first three months of 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13654/08]

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

Garda Strength.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

172 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the location and strength of each local Garda drugs unit in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13656/08]

The personnel strength of the Garda National Drugs Unit and each Divisional Drugs Unit, as at 31st December, 2004 -2007 inclusive is as set out in the following table. I have requested the information sought by the Deputy in respect of the strength for 2008 from the Garda Commissioner and I will write to the Deputy directly when this information is to hand.

The Deputy should be aware that the numbers in any unit will fluctuate from time to time due to transfers, retirements, resignations etc.

It is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner to allocate personnel throughout the Force taking everything into account. In that regard, the needs of all drug units will be fully considered by the Commissioner within the overall context of the allocation of Gardaí throughout the country.

Division

2004

2005

2006

2007

Garda National Drugs Unit

49

55

48

58

Carlow/ Kildare

11

9

9

8

Cavan/ Monaghan

9

10

10

9

Clare

4

4

4

5

Cork City

20

20

20

17

Cork North

6

6

6

8

Cork West

5

5

5

6

D.M.R. Eastern

17

17

17

17

D.M.R. North Central

15

14

16

16

D.M.R. North

24

25

22

29

D.M.R. South Central

19

19

22

24

D.M.R. South

23

22

21

23

D.M.R. West

24

22

28

34

Donegal

8

8

9

6

Galway West

8

7

7

7

Kerry

4

4

7

9

Laois/ Offaly

7

7

7

12

Limerick

11

10

10

14

Longford/ Westmeath

7

4

6

11

Louth/ Meath

12

13

20

13

Mayo

0

0

0

4

Roscommon/ Galway East

2

2

2

3

Sligo/ Leitrim

8

8

8

7

Tipperary

7

7

7

7

Waterford/ Kilkenny

9

8

10

13

Wexford/Wicklow

13

13

13

12

Totals

322

319

334

372

Asylum Applications.

James Bannon

Ceist:

173 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether it is equitable that his Department overrides a decision of the High Court as in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13666/08]

The person concerned submitted an application to my Department on 18th May, 2005 seeking permission to remain in the State under the revised arrangements for non national parents of Irish born children born prior to 1st January 2005, commonly referred to as the IBC/05 scheme. On 19th August, 2005 this application was refused as the applicant did not meet the continuous residency criterion of the scheme.

On 21st November, 2005 the person concerned was granted leave by the High Court to apply by way of Judicial Review for a number of declarations relating to the alleged invalidity of the refusal decision. The High Court found in favour of the applicant, quashing the refusal of the application under the IBC/05 scheme.

My Department appealed the decision of the High Court to the Supreme Court. On 20th December, 2007 the Supreme Court found in favour of my Department, upholding the IBC/05 scheme and the refusal of applications thereunder, and reversing the decision of the High Court in the case of the person concerned. My Department is currently considering the judgements delivered by the Supreme Court and the implications these judgements have on individual cases.

Asylum Support Services.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

174 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his policy on the provision of communal areas, other than kitchens, in self-catering accommodation provided to asylum seekers; the policy in relation to the provision of family supports for asylum seekers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13671/08]

The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers primarily through the Government policy of direct provision and dispersal. Under direct provision, asylum seekers are provided with full board accommodation and ancillary services.

In addition to direct provision accommodation, the Agency operates a very limited number of self-catering accommodation centres in certain parts of the country. I am informed that they currently accommodate over 6,800 residents of whom approximately 500 live in self-catering centres. There are 8 such self-catering centres which are, in effect, apartments where residents live independently. In these circumstances, the question of providing additional communal areas does not arise.

With regard to the provision of family supports for asylum seekers, I am informed that these are provided by the Health Service Executive to all on the same basis regardless of status in relation to asylum.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

175 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the funding options open to support groups, play-schools and other agencies to establish communal areas, family supports and childcare to children of asylum seekers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13672/08]

Funding is available from the Vote of the Office of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform through the ‘Asylum Seeker Supports Small Grant Scheme' details of which are available on the website of the Reception and Integration Agency (www.ria.gov.ie). This scheme provides funding to locally-based organisations which befriend, support and involve asylum seekers living in direct provision in the local community. The aim of the scheme is to promote interaction between asylum seekers and the local communities through providing supports for intercultural events and activities.

In a small number of Direct Provision centres, RIA has assisted in the provision of finance for preschool services, the continuation of which funding will be the subject of ongoing discussions involving, inter alia, the HSE.

Departmental Correspondence.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

176 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will respond to correspondence (details supplied); if he will allow the person referred to in the documents to remain here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13680/08]

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.

Citizenship Applications.

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

177 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when it is envisaged an Irish passport will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Roscommon who has applied for Irish citizenship. [13703/08]

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 March 2008. The application has not been examined in detail. Examination of the residency requirement will take place in the near future and the applicant will be informed at that time when her application will be further examined or of any shortfall in her residency.

Deportation Orders.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

178 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will suspend the deportation order to allow a person (details supplied) to complete their studies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13714/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 7 March 2004 and applied for asylum on 29 September 2004. Her asylum application was refused following the consideration of her application 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 17 August 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, she was later notified of her 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 and, following consideration of this application in accordance with these Regulations, the application was refused and the person concerned was notified in writing of this decision by letter dated 9 November 2007.

The case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, was then 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 following which a Deportation Order was made in respect of the person concerned. The person concerned was notified, by letter dated 12 March 2008, of the Minister's decision to issue a Deportation Order in respect of her. This communication also advised the person concerned of the requirement that she present herself at the Offices of the Garda National Immigration Bureau on 27 March 2008 to make arrangements for her removal from the State.

Subsequently, on 28 March 2008, an application pursuant to Section 3 (11) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) for revocation of the Deportation Order was received from the legal representative of the person concerned. This application is currently under consideration in my Department.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

179 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a deportation order has issued in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13783/08]

The person concerned entered the state on the 19 July 2003 and made an application for asylum on 21 July 2003. His application for asylum was refused and a Deportation Order was made in respect of the person concerned on 11 March 2005. The person concerned subsequently submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection pursuant to the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 S.I. No. 518 of 2006 ('The Regulations') on 19 February 2007. The applicant was informed on 22 February 2007 that the application was invalid as the Deportation Order had been made in respect of him prior to the coming into force of the Regulation on 10 October 2006. Judicial Review proceedings challenging this decision were instituted on 26 April 2007.

These Judicial Review proceedings were settled following the Judgment of Mr. Justice Feeney in the cases of H & D, where he determined that under Regulation 4(2) of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 S.I. No. 518 of 2006 I have discretion to accept and consider applications for Subsidiary Protection from persons who do not have an automatic right to apply but who have identified new facts or circumstance which demonstrate a change of position from that which pertained at the time the Deportation Order was made.

Subsequently the person concerned submitted an application pursuant to Regulation 4(2) of the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 S.I. No. 518 of 2006 on 7 December 2007, requesting that I exercise discretion to accept and consider an application for Subsidiary Protection. Following a consideration of the material submitted it was concluded that the applicant had established no new facts or circumstance which demonstrated a change of position from that which pertained at the time the Deportation Order was made which would enable me to exercise discretion under Regulation 4(2). The person concerned was notified of my decision on 13 March 2008. In light of my decision the Garda National Immigration Bureau was notified to proceed with the enforcement of the Deportation Order and it is now an operational matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

180 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13784/08]

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 2nd January 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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

181 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13785/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 6 January 2003 and applied for asylum. Her asylum application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 31 August 2004, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of 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 she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered before the file is passed to me for decision.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

182 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason it is proposed to deport in the case of a person (detail supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13786/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 24th February, 2003 and claimed asylum. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner.

The person concerned was informed by letter dated 8 April 2004 that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of her and afforded her three options in accordance with Section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act,1999, as amended, namely to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of a Deportation Order, or to submit, within 15 days, written representations as to why they should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State i.e why they should not be deported.

Her case was examined 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. On 3rd August, 2004 my predecessor refused the person concerned permission to remain in the State and instead signed a Deportation Order in respect of her. Notice of this order was served by registered post requiring the person concerned to present herself at the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 on 27th January, 2005 in order to make travel arrangements for her removal from the State. The person concerned failed to present as requested.

On 25th February, 2005, the person concerned claimed Asylum in the United Kingdom. Under Article 5.2 of the Refugee Act (Section 22) Order, 2003 and in accordance with Council Regulation (EC) 343 of 2003, the Minister agreed to the return of the person concerned to Ireland. On 6th October, 2006 the person concerned returned to Ireland. The person concerned was advised to present to GNIB, 13-14 Burgh Quay on 19th October, 2006 and presented as requested.

On 11th January, 2007, the child of the person concerned claimed asylum. The person was notified by letter dated 19th January, 2007 that an undertaking had been given not to enforce the Deportation Order signed in respect of her until the child's asylum application had been processed. The child's asylum claim was refused and the child's legal representatives initiated legal proceedings in relation to this refusal. The undertaking is still in place for the person concerned until the judicial proceedings have been finalised in relation to her child's claim for asylum.

The person concerned has continued to comply with the reporting requirements of the GNIB and is due to present with the GNIB, 13-14 Burgh Quay on the 28th April, 2008.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

183 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in the matter of residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13787/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 16 December 1997 and applied for asylum. His asylum application was refused following consideration of his case by the then Asylum Division of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and, on appeal, by the then Refugee Appeals Authority. He was notified of this decision by letter dated 2 August 2000. In addition, this letter notified him that, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the Minister was proposing 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. Representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully 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, before the file is passed to me for decision.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

184 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or intended residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13788/08]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications. As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted. A final decision on this application will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

185 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13789/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 12 March 2004 and applied for asylum. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 15 September 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered before the file is passed to me for decision.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

186 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13790/08]

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 January 2006. Officials in that section inform me that processing of the application is complete and the file will be forwarded to me for a decision in the very near future. I will inform the Deputy and the person concerned when I have reached a decision on the matter.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

187 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13791/08]

The first named person concerned arrived in the State on 16 July 2003 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 (first named) person concerned was informed, by letter dated 5 July 2005, 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. Representations have been received on behalf of the (first named) person concerned and will be fully 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, before the file is passed to me for decision.

The second named person concerned was the subject of an application for Family Reunification and notification issued to the applicant that she had been approved under the Family Reunification scheme in April 2004.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

188 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in the matter of residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 2; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13792/08]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Questions No. 697 of Tuesday 25 April 2006, No. 193 of Thursday 9 March 2006 and No. 141 of Thursday 23 February 2006 and the written Replies to those Questions.

The person concerned arrived in the State on 4 October 2003 and applied for asylum. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 23 March 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully 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, before the file is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

189 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position in regard to residency in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13793/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 13 June, 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), he was informed, by letter dated 13 February, 2006, 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. The person concerned subsequently submitted an application for residence based on his marriage to an EU citizen 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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

190 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in the matter of residency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13804/08]

I wish to inform the Deputy that the person in question was granted permission to remain in the State in November, 1999 on the basis of being the parent of an Irish born citizen child. This permission to remain in the State has been renewed until 2nd November, 2009.

Refugee Status.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

191 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will expedite the process in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13805/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted.

While it is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications, I would point out to the Deputy that delays in finalising cases can occur for a variety of reasons, including giving applicants and appellants the fullest opportunity possible to present their cases and the determination of Judicial Review proceedings, where appellants pursue such a course of action.

Where the latter is relevant, the time taken to discharge any proceedings is a matter for the Courts and is not something that I, as Minister, can comment on. It is, of course, open to the applicant or the appellant to withdraw any Judicial Review proceedings which they may have instigated and this would allow for their appeal to be processed in the normal manner. A final decision on this application will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Applications Commissioner.

Visa Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

192 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in the matter of future residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13806/08]

The person concerned was granted a C visit visa to enter the State for a period of three months. An examination of the papers in relation to the case indicates that the person concerned sought an extension of her C Visit Visa with the Immigration Division of my Department and was refused.

A wrap-around information sheet accompanies every visa application form. That sheet makes it clear to the applicant that, in general, persons granted visas for particular purposes are not permitted to remain in the State for any purpose other than that for which the visa was granted.

Every visa applicant is required to state on the application form the dates on which he or she proposes to enter and leave the State. He or she is also required to declare that the information supplied is correct and complete. A C Visa is granted for visits of less than 90 days. As a consequence it is not the general policy to extend permission to remain to persons who are admitted initially for a period of 90 days or less on a C visit visa, save in very exceptional and unforeseen circumstances.

The person concerned must leave and reapply from outside the State. Should she wish to return, she should include in her new visa application the purpose and duration of her intended stay.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

193 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress to date in the matter of residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13807/08]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 161 of Thursday 29 November 2007 and the written Reply to that Question.

The person concerned arrived in the State on 13 December 2001 and applied for asylum. The person concerned was requested to attend for interview at the Offices of the Refugee Applications Commissioner on two separate occasions but he failed to do so. Neither did he provide any reason for his non-attendance. As a result, the Refugee Applications Commissioner made a recommendation to the Minister that the person concerned should not be declared to be a refugee.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 5 June 2002, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him and he was made aware of the options open to him at that point in time namely; to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to deportation or to submit, within 15 working days, written representations setting out the reasons as to why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. No such representations were submitted by or on behalf of the person concerned at that time. Following consideration of the person's case file under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition on refoulement, a deportation order was signed in respect of the person concerned on 4 July 2003.

The person concerned subsequently sought to be re-admitted to the asylum process, in accordance with the provisions of Section 17 (7) of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) and this application was successful. Arising from this decision, the deportation order in respect of the person concerned was revoked.

The asylum application of the person concerned was refused following consideration of his case by 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 7 July 2005, 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 deportation or of submitting, within 15 working days, written representations setting out the reasons as to why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered before the file is passed to me for decision.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

194 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress to date in the determination of residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13808/08]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 168 of Thursday 27 September 2007 and the written Reply to that Question.

The person concerned arrived in the State on 16 May 2002 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 23 April 2003, 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. Representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully 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, before the file is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

195 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress in the matter of residency in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13809/08]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 180 of Thursday, 22 November 2007 and the written Reply to that Question.

The first named person concerned arrived in the State on 16 April 2003 and applied for asylum. His asylum 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 16 August 2005, 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. Representations have been received on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered before the file is passed to me for decision.

The second named person concerned was given permission to remain in the State, for an initial two year period, under the IBC/05 Scheme. She submitted an application for renewal of this permission on 24 October 2007. The Deputy will be pleased to learn that this permission to remain in the State has been renewed for a further three year period, to 2 November 2010. This position was conveyed to the second named person concerned by letter dated 14 November 2007.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

196 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress in the past 12 months of an application for naturalisation in the case of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13810/08]

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. Some of these conditions are that the applicant must have had a period of one years continuous residency in the State immediately before the date of the application and, during the four years immediately preceding that period, have had a total residence in the State amounting to two years (residency requirement for applicants with Refugee status); intend in good faith to continue to reside in the State after naturalisation.

In the context of naturalisation, certain periods of residence in the State are excluded. These include: Periods of residence in respect of which an applicant does not have permission to remain in the State; periods granted for the purposes of study; periods granted for the purposes of seeking recognition as a refugee within the meaning of the Refugee Act 1966.

Applications for certificates of naturalisation from the persons referred to in the Deputy's question were received in the Citizenship section of my Department in January 2005, April 2007, September 2007 and a further application from the first person mentioned was received in October 2007. On each occasion, the persons concerned did not meet the statutory requirements mentioned above. Letters informing them of this were issued for each application received. It is open to the persons in question to lodge new applications if and when they satisfy the statutory requirements applicable at that time.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

197 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current, expected or pending residency status in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13811/08]

The persons concerned submitted applications to my Department in March 2007 for renewal of their permissions to remain in the State under the revised arrangements for non national parents of Irish born children born prior to 1st January, 2005, commonly referred to as the IBC/05 scheme. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the permissions to remain have been renewed until 24th February, 2010 and the persons concerned were notified accordingly on 9th July, 2007.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

198 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath who has lived and worked here for several years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13812/08]

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.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

199 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status and progress to date in the matter of a residency application in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13813/08]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications. As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted. A final decision on this application will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

200 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13814/08]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that Judicial Review proceedings related to this person's residency application are currently before the High Court. Accordingly, as the matter issub judice, it would not be appropriate for me to make any further comment in relation to the matter at this time.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

201 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress in the subsidiary protection application in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin since 26 September 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13815/08]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 200 of Thursday, 28 February 2008 and Question No. 971 of Wednesday, 26 September 2007 and the written Replies to those Questions.

The person concerned arrived in the State on 26 June 2003 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 30 June 2005, 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 reasons as to why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations were received on behalf of the person concerned.

On 10 October 2006, Regulations known as the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006, S.I. No. 518 of 2006, came into force. The person concerned 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.

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 ofrefoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned will be passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

202 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position in the matter of residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13816/08]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 225 of Thursday, 3 April 2008 and the written reply to that question.

The person concerned arrived in the State on 12 September 2006 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), he was informed, by letter dated 14 February 2008, (and by amended letter dated 4 April, 2008) 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.

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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

203 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will review the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; if he can give an assurance that the procedures followed represent best practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13817/08]

I would refer the Deputy to the reply I gave to his Dáil Question No. 214 of Thursday 14th February 2008. The status of the person concerned remains as set out in that reply i.e. he is currently evading his deportation and should present himself to the Garda National Immigration Bureau without further delay. With regard to the issue of procedures followed representing ‘best practice', I am strongly of the view that the State has a comprehensive asylum system in place which is both fair and transparent and compares well with other EU States.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

204 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current position and expected procedure in the matter of residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 who has previously made an application for naturalisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13818/08]

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 July 2005. Officials in the Citizenship section inform me that processing of the application is complete and the file will be forwarded to me for a decision in the near future. I will inform the Deputy and the person concerned when I have reached a decision on the matter.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

205 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; and if he will make a statement on the matter having particular regard to their concern for their well-being. [13819/08]

The Refugee Applications Commissioner (RAC) determined on 12 July, 2006 that the United Kingdom is responsible, pursuant to the provisions of Article 16(1)(e) of Council Regulation (EC) No 343/2003, for examining the asylum application of the person concerned. The Dublin II Regulation, (Council Regulation (EC) No. 343/2003), is intended to prevent the phenomenon of ‘asylum shopping' across Europe and sets out criteria for determining which Regulation State is responsible for examining an asylum application where applications have been lodged in more than one Regulation State or whereby an asylum seeker has been granted a visa to enter another Regulation State and has entered that other State before entering Ireland and making an asylum application here. At the same time, it guarantees applicants that one State will process their application, thereby preventing the creation of ‘refugees in orbit', a situation which had previously pertained in Europe.

The person concerned was transferred to the United Kingdom under the terms of the Dublin II Regulations on 16th April, 2007. If the person has subsequently entered and is residing illegally in the State she should be advised to present herself to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service at 13/14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 without delay.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

206 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application for naturalisation will be concluded in the case of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13820/08]

Applications for certificates of naturalisation from the persons referred to in the Deputy's Question were received in the Citizenship section of my Department in February 2008. The applications have not been examined in detail. Examination of the residency requirement will take place in the near future and the applicants will be informed at that time when their applications will be further examined or, of any shortfall in their residency.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

207 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason the process of an application and approval for naturalisation is taking so long in the case of persons (details supplied) in Dublin 10; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13821/08]

Applications for certificates of naturalisation from the persons referred to in the Deputy's question were received in the Citizenship section of my Department in September 2004. The files were forwarded to my predecessor for a decision in February 2007 and it was decided to defer making the final decision until April 2008. A letter informing the persons concerned of this was issued, via their solicitor, on 13 April 2007. The letter also requested that certain documentation be forwarded to the Citizenship section in April 2008 before a decision can be made. To date, none of these documents have been received. The applications will be forwarded to me for a decision once all documentation requested has been received.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

208 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if and when residency will be determined in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13822/08]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications. As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted. A final decision on this application will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

209 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will allow extended residency on the basis of parentage of an Irish born child in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13824/08]

The person concerned submitted an application for renewal of permission to remain in the State, under the revised arrangements for non-EEA parents of children born in Ireland prior to 1st January, 2005, commonly referred to as the IBC/05 Scheme. This application was received in my Department on 28th February, 2008. A request for additional supporting documentation issued to the person in question on 4th April, 2008. The renewal application will be considered further upon receipt of the requested documentation. In the interim the person concerned is advised to contact the Garda National Immigration Bureau, at 13/14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 to seek short term registration while the renewal application is under consideration.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

210 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 County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13825/08]

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

Refugee Status.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

211 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 206 of 6 March 2008 and 210 of 21 February 2008, if it is intended to convey the impression that once the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal have made their respective decisions and that he has made or intends to make a deportation order, the person is then expected to be deported regardless of strong evidence that a serious threat to life and well-being exists in their homeland and if he will review the evidence in this case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13833/08]

An application for asylum is considered at first instance by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, in the event of an appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. The statutory brief of both of those bodies, as set out in the Refugee Act, 1996, as amended, is,inter alia, to make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, in each individual case, as to whether each applicant should, or should not, be declared to be a refugee. I, as Minister, decide whether to grant or refuse refugee status.

Similarly, following consideration of an application from a person who has been refused refugee status for consideration under Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, for temporary leave to remain in the State, I as Minister, decide whether to grant or refuse such leave to remain. Further, when temporary leave to remain in the State is refused by me pursuant to my statutory powers as Minister, this results in the signing of a deportation order by me.

The person concerned had his asylum claim examined by both the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, both of whom concluded that he did not meet the criteria for recognition as a refugee. His case was examined under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 as amended, and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 on the Prohibition of Refoulement. Consideration was given to representations received on his behalf from his legal representatives for temporary leave to remain in the State. On 10th December, 2004, my predecessor refused temporary leave to remain in the State and signed a deportation order in respect of him.

The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter outside the State. On 7th September, 2007, the legal representatives of the person concerned were invited to make representations on behalf of their client setting out any new facts or circumstances which had arisen since the original decision to deport was made, which relate to a possible entitlement to Subsidiary Protection under the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 — Statutory Instrument No. 518 of 2006. Subsidiary Protection is a form of international protection offered to those persons who claim a risk of serious harm in their country of origin. It is available to those persons who are ineligible for or have been refused refugee status. As I previously advised in my reply to Dáil Question No. 200 of 8th November, 2007, no representations were received from the legal representative of the person concerned and on 3 October 2007 my officials wrote to the legal representative to advise that the time to make representations had passed.

The person concerned is currently evading his deportation and should present himself to the Garda National Immigration Bureau without further delay. The enforcement of the Deportation Order remains an operational matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Planning Issues.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

212 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 507 of 11 March 2008, if he will provide a copy of the defence presented by his Department to the European Commission in respect of rural practice policies and practices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13624/08]

On the basis of legal advice available to me, I am precluded from publishing or disseminating either the correspondence from the European Commission in relation to enquiries or investigations into possible infringements or the State's responses as these documents are regarded as part of possible legal proceedings. For this reason, I cannot provide specific details of my Department's response of 28 September 2007 to the issues raised by the Commission in its letter of formal notice of 27 June, regarding the "local needs" test for the granting of planning permission for one-off dwellings in rural areas.

However, once matters have been concluded and there is no longer any likelihood that possible proceedings could be undermined by the release of such documents, it is of course open to the Commission and the Department to release the correspondence. My Department will be pleased to make its papers available once the Commission has concluded its consideration of the issue and closed the case.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

213 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the validity of residency clauses being applied in respect of planning permissions; the Government policy in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13637/08]

The Sustainable Rural Housing Guidelines for Planning Authorities, which were published in April 2005, are designed to strike a balance between establishing a good planning framework for rural housing and facilitating those who are part of or have links to local communities who want to build a house. The Guidelines consolidate the approach on rural housing in the National Spatial Strategy which aims at supporting rural communities and providing a framework within which they can develop economically and socially.

Section 39 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides that a condition attached to a grant of planning permission for a house may specify that the house must be occupied by persons of a particular class or description (i.e. an occupancy condition), with provision to that effect to be incorporated in an agreement under section 47 of the Act.

The Guidelines make it clear that occupancy conditions are only appropriate in certain cases, such as permissions being granted in areas close to the larger cities and towns which are under strong pressure for urban-generated development, and permissions being granted to a permanent resident in an area where there is an over-concentration of holiday or second-home development. The conditions also normally specify that planning authorities can give consent to the occupation of the dwelling by a different person with the same category of need as the applicant.

The approach set out in the Sustainable Rural Housing Guidelines in respect of the use of occupancy or residency clauses remains valid and I have no plans to alter them.

Special Areas of Conservation.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

214 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the name and area of each bog in County Mayo designated under the EU habitat directive; the number of bog-owners in each of the bogs listed who have received compensation for the sale of their bog; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13662/08]

The information requested in the question is given in the following tables.

Raised Bogs nominated cSACs in 1999

No#

Year

Site Code

Site Name

County

Hectares of SAC

% of Raised Bog Habitat

1

1997

000457

Derrynabrock Bog

Mayo/Ros

Subsumed into SAC 2298

2

1997

000497

Flughany Bog

Mayo/Sligo

231.09

47%

3

1997

000547

Tawnaghbeg Bog

Mayo

Subsumed into SAC 2298

4

1999

000297

Lough Corrib

Galway/Mayo

25,253.37

2%

Sub-totals

25,484.46

Raised Bogs nominated cSACs in 2002

No#

Year

Site Code

Site Name

County

Hectares of SAC

% of Raised Bog Habitat

1

2002

002298

River Moy

Mayo/Ros/Sli

15,415.62

4%

Sub-totals

15,415.62

4%

Total SAC Raised Bog

Totals

40,900.08

Blanket Bogs nominated cSACs in 1999

No#

Year

SAC

Site Name

County

Hectares of SAC

% of Blanket Bog Habitat

1

1997

000476

Carrowmore Lake Complex

Mayo

3,648.34

61%

2

1997

000500

Glenamoy Bog Complex

Mayo

12,901.80

59%

3

1997

000522

Louth Gall Bog

Mayo

362.74

72%

4

1997

000534

Owenduff/Nephin Complex

Mayo

27,063.61

50%

5

1997

000542

Slieve Fyagh Bog

Mayo

2,391.87

93%

6

1997

000633

Louth Hoe Bog

Mayo

3,215.41

38%

7

1997

001922

Bellacorick Bog Complex

Mayo

9,223.02

66%

8

1997

001932

Mweelrea/Sheeffry/Erriff Complex

Mayo

20,991.24

55%

Sub-totals

79,798.03

There have been 12 applications for sale of designated raised bog in County Mayo under the bog compensation scheme. There is relatively little raised bog habitat in Co. Mayo. My Department does not normally purchase blanket bog.

Departmental Bodies.

James Bannon

Ceist:

215 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if a review of An Bord Pleanála has taken place since its foundation in 1977; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13665/08]

In 1990, a Review Group was established by the then Minister for the Environment to undertake a review of the systems and procedures of An Bord Pleanála. The review was designed to identify any changes that might be made to support the most expeditious disposal of appeals while ensuring that the Board's procedures are adequate and fair for their purpose. The Review Group presented its report in January 1991.

The Planning and Development Act 2000 also provides for the independent review of the performance of the Board by the Oireachtas and by the Comptroller and Auditor General. Under Section 117 of the Act the Board must submit its accounts for audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General each year. Both the accounts and the Annual Report of An Bord Pleanála must be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas. As part of these processes, the Chairman of the Board is required to appear before the Committee of Public Accounts and the Joint Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to review the performance of the Board during the year in question.

In 2002 the Comptroller and Auditor General conducted a Value for Money examination of the planning appeals system. The Board also monitors and reviews its performance and its internal procedures on an ongoing basis.

Special Areas of Conservation.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

216 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason it is taking three years to complete the purchase of designated bogs; the steps which he is taking to expedite these purchases by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13704/08]

The purchase of designated bogland may be complicated by the different types of landownership interests involved, either of the owner or third parties, and therefore can be time consuming from initial application to final closure of contract. Full title to the land must be proven, together with any third party rights. The primary matters which may cause delay include difficulty in sourcing surveyors to carry out inspections, problems in the resolution of title, other legal queries and time involved in processing by the Chief State Solicitor's Office or the landowner's own legal advisers.

My Department has taken steps to speed up the processing of the hundreds of requests on hands, including through the deployment of staff on secondment from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, use of overtime and employment on contract of a number of additional surveyors. This has resulted in a significant increase in the rate of processing of applications within the Department; however delays in complex conveyancing procedures can sometimes be unavoidable.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

217 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the situation regarding Galway City Council which is unable to implement the housing grant scheme in particular the housing aid for the elderly scheme which was due to be administered through local authorities from 1 April 2008 but are unable to do so because of the lack of staff and resources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13729/08]

I understand that Galway City Council has been experiencing difficulties as regards the operation of the Housing Aid for Older People Scheme, due to staffing issues. However, I have been advised by the Council that arrangements are currently being put in place to ensure a sufficient level of staffing to administer the scheme in the Galway City area, pending the completion of ongoing discussions with the HSE on a number of issues, including the allocation of staffing.

I understand that there are no difficulties as regards the operation, by Galway City Council, of the Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability Scheme or the Mobility Aids Grant Scheme.

Local Government Elections.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

218 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason he decided not to increase the number of councillors in Fingal County Council in view of the unusually high ratio of councillors to population for a county council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13743/08]

The number of elected members in each local authority is set out in section 21 and schedule 7 of the Local Government Act 2001. The Programme for Government contains a commitment to publish a Green Paper on Local Government Reform, which will examine a number of issues in relation to the organisation of local government. The Green Paper will be published shortly; a White Paper on Local Government Reform will follow. As part of this reform process I will give consideration to those parts of the Local Government Act 2001 which have not yet been commenced, including section 22 which provides for the alteration of the number of members of a local authority.

I have established two Committees to review local electoral areas and to report to me not later than 20 June 2008. The Committees are to review the ratio of population to elected members in each local electoral area with a view to ensuring a reasonable relationship between the current population and representation within each local authority. For this purpose, and in keeping with the current legislative position, the Committees are to assume no change in the total membership of each local authority. I will consider the Committees' reports as the basis for a revision of the local electoral areas for use at the local elections to be held in 2009.

Fisheries Protection.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

219 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of holders of drift-net fishing licences in County Mayo who benefited from the scheme of compensation for drift-net fishing licence holders, who ceased availing of said licences in the years 2007 and to date in 2008; the amount of compensation paid under the scheme for compensation in respect of drift-net licence holders in 2007 and to date in 2008. [13731/08]

Michael Ring

Ceist:

220 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of holders of draft net-fishing licences in County Mayo who benefited from the scheme of compensation for draft-net fishing licence holders, who ceased availing of said licences in the years 2007 and to date in 2008; the amount of compensation paid under the scheme for compensation in respect of draft-net licence holders in 2007 and to date in 2008. [13732/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 219 and 220 together.

The Salmon Hardship Scheme to which the Deputy refers was administered by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) and the regional fisheries boards. The closing date for making claims under the scheme was 31 December 2007. In March 2008, BIM published a report on the performance of the scheme and a copy can be downloaded from BIM's and my Department's websites.

According to that report, the number of holders of drift and draft net fishing licences in County Mayo who benefited from the hardship scheme was 97. A breakdown between both categories is not available at this stage. A further four cases are currently under appeal.

No drift net licences, which indiscriminately exploit mixed salmon stocks, were made available in 2007 or will be available in 2008 in the three fishery districts of County Mayo. The number of draft net licences available for issue in the Bangor and Ballinakill fishery districts, as set down in the Control of Fishing for Salmon Order, SI No 129 of 2007, was 42 in 2007. I understand that 40 draft net licences were issued by the fisheries boards for the 2007 season in County Mayo. No licences were available in the Ballina fishery district in 2007 or will be in 2008. Those who took up the licences had not availed of the hardship scheme as claimants are required to give an undertaking not to apply for a licence in the future in accordance with the terms of the scheme. The closing date for applications for a similar number of draft net licences to fish the 2008 season is 18 April.

According to the BIM report, a total of €22,043,078 has been claimed under the scheme by former drift and draft net licence holders of which €10,505,387 was paid in 2007 and €8,814,332 is due to be paid in 2008. A breakdown for County Mayo will be made available to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Grant Payments.

Deirdre Clune

Ceist:

221 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the support available to owners of older houses in need of insulation or alternative heating systems to ensure these houses become more energy efficient; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13670/08]

Áine Brady

Ceist:

223 Deputy Áine Brady asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the grants available to retro-fit wall and attic insulation in domestic dwelling houses (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13698/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 221 and 223 together.

I have provided €2.5 million to Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) in 2008 to fund the Warmer Homes Scheme. This scheme provides insulation and other energy efficiency solutions to low income homes across Ireland. The service is coordinated by SEI and is delivered principally through community based organisations. The scheme is targeted at householders who are in receipt of the Fuel Allowance, Disability Benefit or Invalidity Benefit and is provided either free of charge or for a nominal fee (less than €100). One of the grant aided community based organisations (Clondalkin Home Improvement Project — contact 01-4670344) covers the greater Dublin area and may be able to assist in the specific case referred to in question number 223.

I have provided €26 million to SEI in 2008 for the Greener Homes Scheme. This scheme provides grants to homeowners investing in domestic renewable energy heating technologies, including solar panels, biomass boilers and stoves and heat pumps. The Scheme is administered by SEI.

My Department and SEI are finalising the details of a €5 million Pilot Home Energy Saving Scheme, which will be launched shortly. The pilot scheme, in 2008, will inform decisions in relation to the roll out of a national energy efficiency scheme for the residential sector in line with the Programme for Government commitment.

My colleague, John Gormley T.D., Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, introduced a new Housing Aid for Older People Scheme on 1 November 2007, with the aim of providing targeted support to improve conditions in the existing housing of older people. The scheme may assist with works that can improve the energy efficiency of homes, such as insulation, provision of central heating and repair or replacement of windows and doors. Application is through local authorities.

ESB Dividend Policy.

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

222 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the dividend policy agreed between the ESB, his Department and the Department of Finance; the freedom the ESB has in individual years; the proportions of profits to pay in dividends; if his Department or the Department of Finance can demand particular amounts in individual years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13692/08]

Decisions on annual dividend payments to shareholders are a matter in the first instance for the board of ESB.

The Electricity (Supply) (Amendment) Act 2001, while providing for the establishment of an Employee Share Ownership Plan, also repealed the company's break-even mandate which had existed since 1927. This, in essence, means that the ESB may declare and pay dividends in a manner akin to a commercial public limited company.

However, any decision by the Board regarding declaration of a dividend is made in the context of policy agreed jointly between my Department, the Department of Finance and the company. This agreement saw an increase in Dividends declared from 25% of profits in 2002 to 30% in more recent years.

Preliminary consideration is being given to the review of dividend policy for the ESB. The matter is to be more fully addressed in the broader context of ESB's commitments in light of the Programme for Government and the Government's Energy Policy Framework 2007–2020 and as reflected in the company's new corporate directions in support of sustainable energy and climate change goals.

As ESB is a commercial body operating in an increasingly competitive energy market, the outcome agreed with the shareholding Departments is commercially sensitive and will not be for public release. However, the amounts of dividends paid by ESB to the Exchequer are available in the company's published Annual Reports and Accounts.

Question No. 223 answered with Question No. 221.

Appointments to State Boards.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

224 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the people who sit on the board of the ESB; the members of the board who have been appointed by himself and their relevant qualifications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13742/08]

The Board of ESB comprises 12 members, eight of whom are appointed by Government and 4 of whom are elected employee members, appointed by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

The following table sets out the relevant details.

Board Members

Appointing Authority

Relevant Qualifications

Lochlann Quinn (Chairman with effect from 22/01/08)

Government

Chairman of AIB Bank (1997-2003)

Padraig McManus (Chief Executive)

Government

Chief Executive

Georgina Kenny

Government

Business Woman/Solicitor

Eoin Fahy

Government

Chief Economist

Brendan Byrne

Government

Chartered Accountant

Garry Keegan

Government

Businessman

Seán Conlan

Government

Businessman

Seamus Mallon

Government

Politician

Elected Employee Members

John Coleman

Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources

ESB Employee

Tony Merriman

Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources

ESB Employee

John Nugent

Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources

ESB Employee

Bob Yeates

Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources

ESB Employee