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 7, inclusive, answered orally.

Rural Policing.

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

8 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the future of rural policing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14114/08]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

47 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he will take to improve rural policing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25234/07]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 and 47 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that engagement with the rural community and rural policing are key priorities of the Garda Síochána. Rural Policing is continually being reviewed and developed and the enhanced liaison structures between Garda Management and Local Authorities through Joint Policing Committees and Community Policing Fora will be of significant benefit to the policing of rural areas.

Detective Inspectors are now appointed in each Division with specific responsibility for the investigation of serious crime in rural areas. The quality of criminal intelligence is continually improving, and, in early 2007, for example, such intelligence resulted in the identification of a Cork-based gang targeting the elderly in rural areas of Cork and Limerick. A number of persons are currently before the Courts arising from this.

In order to enhance rural policing a number of initiatives have been implemented in Garda Divisions nationally. Checkpoints are held at strategic locations in rural areas to detect criminals travelling to commit crime outside the areas they reside in and to prevent the commission of crimes and offences.

Crime Prevention Officers are available to offer crime prevention and security advice to residential and business groups and regularly provide such advice through local media outlets, newspaper and radio broadcasts. In addition, residents in rural areas are encouraged to establish and rejuvenate Community Alert Schemes assisted by members of local Community Policing Units.

Staffing levels at Garda stations are monitored by local Garda management to ensure that adequate coverage is provided and where vacancies arise within the rural community they are filled as expeditiously as possible to ensure continuity in the service being provided by An Garda Síochána to the local community.

Initiatives under Operation ‘Anvil' have been implemented in every Garda District in the country incorporating special crime prevention and detection patrols in rural areas which have been identified as being particularly vulnerable to crime. Patrol times are varied in order to maximise coverage in such areas.

In conjunction with Muintir na Tire, I launched the Community Alert Strategy document for 2007-2011 on 26 October 2007. This new strategy document will be distributed nationwide to all Garda stations and Community Alert Groups and will provide advice on how the Community Alert programme can be implemented over the next five years.

It is of course the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner to decide on the prioritisation and allocation of resources within the Force. Against this background, he is currently reviewing arrangements within the Garda Síochána for urban and rural community policing. I very much welcome this, and I look forward to its outcome and to receiving the Commissioner's proposals for the future development of community policing in Ireland.

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

9 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will use the powers available to him under Section 22 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 to provide for the traceability of alcohol sold for consumption off premises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14068/08]

The position is that section 22 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 provides for the making of regulations specifying particulars to be affixed to containers in which intoxicating liquor is sold for consumption off licensed premises which are adequate to enable the licensee and the licensed premises concerned to be identified.

However, while the labelling of containers in which alcohol is sold with a view to combating under-age consumption is an attractive idea, significant challenges would need to be overcome in order to render it effective in practice. These challenges arise under two headings.

Firstly, practical difficulties will arise at retail level where several individual containers are packaged together for sale, e.g. an enclosed six-pack of bottles; a plastic-wrapped tray of cans; or a wooden box containing bottles of wine. This raises the important issue of whether the label could be attached earlier in the supply or distribution chains rather than at the point of sale. Attaching labels to containers at an earlier stage might be simpler but it would create logistical difficulties for importers and distributors and lead in turn to increased distribution costs. Moreover, in the case of imports from EU countries, such additional labelling requirements could be regarded as infringing internal market rules relating to free movement of goods.

Secondly, from an enforcement perspective it is clear that possession by an underage person of a labelled container will not in itself constitute proof that the alcohol in the container has been illegally supplied to that person by the licensee whose particulars appear on the container. It may have been taken from the family home or have been sold to a person over the age of 18 in good faith before being passed on to the underage person. Also, it would be naive to overlook the possibility of labels being removed, or rendered non-legible, after sale. The possible transfer of the alcohol from a labelled container to another unmarked container cannot be ruled out either.

Issues relating to the evidential value of being found in possession of a labelled container were raised during consultations on implementation of section 22 of the 2003 Act and the matter was subsequently raised with the Office of the Attorney General. That Office has expressed serious doubts about the evidential value of possession of a labelled container and doubt is, therefore, cast on the utility of any regulations that might be made under section 22 of the 2003 Act.

One option that could possibly be considered in the context of future legislation would be a presumption that any alcohol container found in the possession of an under-age person had been purchased by that person from the licensee identified on the container until the contrary was proved. However, the Attorney General's Office has also advised that such a proposal would raise serious constitutional issues and would run the significant risk of being found to be inconsistent with Article 38 of the Constitution.

For these reasons, I do not intend to make regulations under section 22 of the 2003 Act at this time. I will, however, give serious consideration in the context of future legislation to any reasonable and workable proposal that would deal with this matter without giving rise to the difficulties that I have outlined.

Proposed Legislation.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

10 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals for a judicial council to deal with complaints regarding judicial misbehaviour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14002/08]

As I indicated in my reply to an earlier question on the same topic on 31 January last (No. 224), work on the scheme of the Judicial Council Bill to build on the report of the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Ethics is at an advanced stage of development in my Department.

Consultations on the proposed Bill have, as is usual in the development of any legislative proposals, taken place with the Office of the Attorney General. It was also considered prudent, given the particular nature of the subject, to consult with the Chief Justice.

Following contacts with the Chief Justice a working group has now been established to advance the Bill. The Group comprises a nominee each of my Department and of the Chief Justice. I am confident that this approach will ensure that the details of the proposed Bill can be finalised in the reasonably near future.

Crime Levels.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

11 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of cases of murder in which firearms were used in respect of each year from 1998 to date in 2008; the number of such cases in which prosecutions for murder were initiated; the number of such cases where convictions were secured; if he is satisfied with the level of detection and conviction in such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14064/08]

The information requested by the Deputy concerning the numbers of cases of murder recorded in which firearms were used in each year from 1998 to date in 2008, the number of prosecutions initiated and the number of convictions secured is set out in the table below. Figures provided for 2008 are provisional, operational and liable to change.

The detection rate for murders by its nature increases overtime as Garda investigations progress. It is expected that in respect of each year the number of convictions obtained will increase as Garda investigations are concluded and the number of proceedings commenced are finalised by the courts. This applies particularly to murders committed in the most recent years. In addition, directions may be received from the Law Officers to charge persons arrested in connection with such incidents with offences other than murder. Furthermore such persons charged and brought before the courts may be convicted of offences other than murder.

The House will be aware that there can be considerable difficulties for the Garda in obtaining evidence in shootings which are the result of gangland activities. This arises not least because none of the associates of such victims will co-operate with the Garda investigation. Nevertheless, the Garda are determined to pursue rigorously all killings, whatever their background. In this context I would refer specifically to measures which the Commissioner has introduced to strengthen the investigation of crime.

The number of murders recorded in which a firearm was used, proceedings commenced and convictions for the years 1998 to 2007 and in 2008 up 11 April

Year

Recorded

Detected

Proceedings Commenced

Convictions

2008

9

3

3

0

2007

20

6

2

0

2006

26

7

5

2

2005

22

5

2

2

2004

8

7

4

3

2003

19

10

3

1

2002

10

5

3

1

2001

9

5

2

1

2000

12

7

3

1

1999

12

7

7

5

1998

4

3

2

1

Figures provided for 2008 are provisional, operational and liable to change.

Drugs in Prisons.

John Perry

Ceist:

12 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied that sufficient drug free landings are available in prisons here in view of the danger of prisoners developing drug addictions in prisons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14139/08]

I am committed to ensuring that all prisons are drug free in line with the commitments contained in the Irish Prison Service Drugs Policy and Strategy and I will continue to pursue strategies to achieve that objective. Drugs have a pernicious effect both on prisoners and on the prison system itself and they must be eradicated. However, this is not a problem that can be solved overnight.

One of the strategies adopted in progressing towards drug free prisons has been the introduction of drug free units. They are currently operating in the following prisons: Wheatfield Prison; St. Patrick's Institution; Castlerea Prison and Mountjoy Prison. There is also an intensive detox programme in operation in Mountjoy Prison. Allied to this the Training Unit, Arbour Hill Prison, Loughan House and Shelton Abbey are regarded as drug free institutions. The operation and consideration of the expansion of such facilities is a matter kept under constant review by the Irish Prison Service.

The Irish Prison Service Drugs Policy and Strategy, entitled Keeping Drugs out of Prison was launched in May 2006. For those prisoners who have given up drugs, and those who do not misuse drugs, the policy provides for the establishment of Voluntary Drug Testing Units within each closed prison. This allows prisoners to reside in an environment that has enhanced supports to maintain their drug free status. For many offenders, prison provides the first opportunity to escape from the terrible cycle of drug abuse. Drugs awareness courses and other interventions to highlight the detrimental effects of drug use and encourage prisoners to adopt or maintain a drug free lifestyle are also provided. The Irish Prison Service is also enhancing the range of treatment options for those who are addicted to drugs.

I am fully committed to supporting the provision of drug free units and to encouraging prisoners to develop a responsible attitude to drugs, both while in prison and following release as outlined in the Strategy.

The Prison Rules 2007, which took effect from 1 October 2007, include specific provision for mandatory drug testing. Mandatory drug testing provides information on trends in drug misuse, enables the identification and referral of drug abusers to treatment programmes, enables enhanced focusing of resources and acts as a deterrent to drug misuse. Mandatory drug testing will also serve to provide important information to prison management that will contribute significantly to decision-making in relation to the management of individual prisoners' sentences.

With regard to supply elimination, the implementation of the Policy and Strategy has seen an intensification of efforts to eliminate the availability of illicit drugs within prisons. In addition to the introduction of mandatory drug testing, other elements include enhancement of CCTV, utilisation of video scope camera cell search and enhanced security generally. Also, new visiting arrangements are in place in almost all closed prisons whereby only persons who have been nominated by the prisoner and pre-approved by the Governor are permitted to visit.

Facilities for screened visits have been installed in all closed prisons. In accordance with the Irish Prison Service Drugs Policy and Strategy, prisoners in respect of whom the Governor is satisfied that there is no risk of contraband being passed may be facilitated with open visits. Prisoners who are caught receiving drugs or who test positive for drugs will be facilitated with screened visits only.

As regards enhanced security, the Deputy will also be aware that in 2007 I secured sanction for an additional 155 staff to implement a range of security measures, coordinated nationally by a dedicated Governor, aimed at keeping contraband out of our prisons. These measures include:

the establishment of a drug detection dog service within the Irish Prison Service;

the establishment of Operational Support Units in each prison dedicated to, and developing expertise in, searching and gathering intelligence; and

the introduction of enhanced security screening and searching of all persons (visitors and staff) entering our prisons.

With regard to demand elimination and treatment for prisoners with drug problems, the policy and strategy provides for a comprehensive range of treatment options. Drug rehabilitation programmes for prisoners involve a significant multidimensional input by a diverse range of general and specialist services provided both by the Irish Prison Service and visiting statutory and non-statutory organisations. The programmes seek to reduce the demand for drugs within the prison system through education, treatment and rehabilitation services for drug-addicted prisoners. Particular initiatives include, inter alia, the provision of detoxification, methadone maintenance, education programmes, addiction counselling and drug therapy programmes.

The strategy mentioned above sees existing drug treatment programmes being expanded and enhanced with the further recruitment of nurses, psychologist and 24 dedicated addiction counsellors, as well as other staff including prison officers. The expansion of these services is being achieved in partnership with community based services and will see a significant improvement in the range, quality and availability of drug treatment service in the prisons.

I am committed to ensuring that all prisons are drug free in line with the commitments contained in the Irish Prison Service Drugs Policy and Strategy.

Organised Crime.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

13 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans he has in place to deal with the unwelcome development in the recent arrests of younger teens for serious crimes carried out on behalf of organised gangs. [14149/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that they believe criminal groups or individuals are using young people in Limerick City to facilitate the commission of serious criminal acts. I condemn the manipulation by criminal gangs of young people in this way. This issue is of particular concern in relation to gang related criminal activity in Limerick.

Addressing gang and feud related criminal activity has been central to policing Limerick City for some time. Particular areas of the city are intensively policed, with additional resources being deployed in particular areas at short notice by Garda management, on the basis of intelligence received. Additional resources are also being deployed on community policing.

Substantial Garda resources under Operation Anvil have been provided in Limerick in recent months. Garda initiatives are continually undertaken to target the activities of criminal elements in the city. These initiatives have had significant results, including the seizure of significant quantities of drugs.

Regardless of age, it is already an offence to incite another to commit a crime. The crime of incitement stands alone and does not depend on whether a substantive offence was committed. It is punishable by imprisonment and/or a fine with the duration and amount at the discretion of the court. Furthermore, the Criminal Law Act 1997 provides that any person who aids, abets, counsels or procures the commission of an indictable offence is liable to be tried as the principal offender.

My colleague the Minister for Children recently launched the National Youth Justice Strategy for 2008-2010. It is based on the principles of the Children Act 2001, as amended, and the Government's decision to reform the youth justice area.

The purpose of this Strategy is to develop a co-ordinated approach among agencies working in the youth justice system over the next three years. The Strategy acknowledges that the youth justice system is but one component in a broader community based approach for preventing youth offending that takes account of the wider family and social issues which need to be addressed by a number of agencies.

There is close liaison between an Garda Síochána and other Government and non-Government agencies in a multi-agency approach to address the wide range of social and economic problems experienced by people in certain areas of Limerick, including those relating to young people.

Jury Service.

Michael D'Arcy

Ceist:

14 Deputy Michael D’Arcy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if in view of the Government’s efforts to eradicate discrimination, he has plans to remove the age bar or to give persons aged over 70 the option to put themselves forward for selection for Jury service if called to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14153/08]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

607 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps that will be taken to address the perceived discrimination that allows people over the age of 70 to give expert testimony in courts, yet they can not serve on juries; and his views on bringing in amending legislation to allow for older people to serve on juries. [14507/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 14 and 607 together.

Under the law as it stands, the Juries Act 1976 provides that every citizen aged 18 years or upwards and under the age of 70 years is qualified and liable to serve as a juror. Persons excusable from jury service as of right include those aged 65 years or upwards and under the age of 70 years. Prior to the Act of 1976 the upper age was 65 years.

I am currently considering the removal of the upper age limit for jury service. The changes I am considering would allow for persons aged over seventy years to be called for jury service but would retain the right of excusal for persons over the age of sixty-five who wish to avail of it.

I will of course have to consult with my Cabinet colleagues on the matter. I cannot pre-empt the outcome of such consultations but if Government approval were to be given to proceed with the amendment, the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2006 could provide a mechanism by which to introduce it. That piece of legislation already makes a number of amendments to the Juries Act 1976 and is currently awaiting Committee Stage in Seanad Éireann.

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

15 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received the report of the Alcohol Advisory Group; the main recommendations of the report; when it is intended to publish the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14069/08]

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

555 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to a previous parliamentary question, if he has received the report from the Government Alcoholic Advisory Group; if so, when it will be published; when the relevant legislation will be put in place to activate its recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13974/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 15 and 555 together.

I intend to bring the contents of the Report of the Alcohol Advisory Group to the attention of Government in the very near future and, at the same time, seek Government approval of my proposals for the implementation of recommendations contained in the Report.

As the Deputy is aware, the Group was asked to examine the following areas of concern:

the increase in the number of supermarkets, convenience stores and petrol stations with off-licences and the manner and conditions of sale of alcohol products in such outlets, including below unit-cost selling and special promotions;

the increasing number of special exemption orders which permit longer opening hours which are being obtained by licensed premises around the country; and

the use, adequacy and effectiveness of existing sanctions and penalties, particularly those directed towards combating excessive and under-age alcohol consumption.

I also intend to publish the legislation during the current session and, with the assistance and cooperation of both Houses, to have it enacted before the Summer recess.

Prison Education Service.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

16 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will extend the linkage programme to all prisoners prior to their release from prison; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14137/08]

I can inform the Deputy that the Linkage Programme is a National training and employment initiative designed to create a link between employers and ex-offenders. It was established in February, 2000, and is funded by my Department, under the National Development Plan, as a joint project between Business in the Community Ireland (BITC) and the Probation Service. In the current year the Linkage Programme is being funded by my Department in the amount of €1,520,000. A further €185,614 has been approved by the Dormant Accounts Fund for the Programme to be expended during the period July 2007 to October, 2008.

The Linkage Programme in partnership with both the Probation Service and the Irish Prison Service makes a significant contribution towards preparing offenders for employment prior to and following release from prison. The ultimate objective of the Linkage Programme is to assist the ex-offender re-integrate into the working community by facilitating participants to make a range of informed choices from which a career path is agreed which is realistic, achievable and sustainable.

I can inform the Deputy that between February 2000 and December 2006 over 5,000 referrals were made to the Linkage Programme by Probation Officers which included 1,288 direct referrals from prisons and places of detention.

Furthermore, during 2006, the Irish Prison Service (IPS) secured Dormant Accounts Funding (DAF), under the economic and social disadvantage measure, for projects focused on the provision of employability supports for prisoners and ex-prisoners. A significant allocation from this funding measure has been utilised to engage Training and Employment Officers (TEOs), employed by the Linkage Programme, who are based on a full-time basis in the Mountjoy and Midlands' campuses for a 15 month pilot period. The effectiveness of this pilot will be independently evaluated during the course of this year. Consideration will then be given to whether the service, within the two campuses, will be funded on a long term basis and, indeed, whether the model of service delivery should be extended to other prisons throughout the country.

In addition to the foregoing, a network of 19 Training and Employment Officers employed by the Linkage Programme are based in Probation Service centres across the country. I can advise the Deputy that TEOs have always provided, an in-reach service to prisons in their respective areas of responsibility. Furthermore, some TEOs are designated to the prison-based Probation Service staff and one TEO is based 3 days per week in Wheatfield Prison. I am pleased to say that in the current year additional funding has been provided by my Department under the National Development Plan to increase the number of Training and Employment Officers by two, bringing the total to 21, to further enhance the important and valuable work being provided by the Linkage Programme.

The initiative will be kept under review and further expansion of the scheme will be considered having regard, inter alia, to the findings of the evaluation on the current pilot programme.

Departmental Inquiries.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

17 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he will publish the report of the Hartnett Inquiry into the death of a person (details supplied); the reason the report has not been published; if it is intended to publish the report in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14043/08]

I welcome Mr Hartnett's report which constitutes a detailed and independent examination by an eminent and experienced senior counsel of the circumstances surrounding the arrest and detention of Brian Rossiter. I accept the findings of the Inquiry.

I have been advised that publication of the report in full is not possible for legal reasons. Instead I published a comprehensive summary last Friday containing extensive extracts from it, which will I hope, facilitate a clear understanding of the events leading up to the tragic death. Copies of the summary have been placed in the Oireachtas library and it is also available on my Department's website (www.justice.ie).

The Coroner's Inquest is underway at present and I was advised that I could offer her a copy of the full report on a confidential basis. She accepted that offer. I have also given a copy of the full report to the family (within the context of ongoing civil litigation against the State), to the DPP and the Garda Commissioner. I am constrained in any further remarks which I might wish to make by the fact that the Inquest is ongoing and by the afore-mentioned civil litigation, but clearly the findings of the report will have to be carefully considered to see if there are any lessons to be learned in dealing with any such cases in the future.

Proposed Legislation.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

18 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects the Government’s promised legislation on same sex unions will be published; the reason the heads of the Bill have not been published, despite undertakings given in October 2007 that this would be done by the end of March 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14062/08]

My proposals for the Scheme of a Civil Partnership Bill were circulated to Government Departments on 14 March, 2008, and are at present the subject of consultations with the relevant Departments and the Attorney General. They will shortly be formally submitted to Government after which the Scheme of the Bill will be published.

I stated in the Dáil on 31 October, 2007, that I would bring forward proposals for a Scheme of a Bill at the end of March 2008 and I have met that deadline.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

19 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects to publish the promised Property Services Regulatory Authority Bill; if the Bill will include provisions to regulate the operation of management companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14055/08]

The Government Legislative Programme published on 1 April 2008 provides for publication of the Property Services Regulatory Authority Bill during the current Dail session.

The position regarding property management companies is that the Law Reform Commission published a Consultation Paper on Multi-Unit Developments in December 2006 which identified problems relating to the structure and governance of property management companies and the manner in which company law currently applies to them.

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

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

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

20 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will introduce legislation to enhance the rights of homeowners in respect of defending their homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14117/08]

The Deputy will be aware that the Government's Legislative Programme includes a proposed Criminal Law (Defence of Life and Property) Bill, the drafting of which the previous Government approved in March 2007. The Deputy may also be aware that this important issue is currently being examined by the Law Reform Commission as part of its consideration of the issue of defences generally, in the context of the criminal law. The Law Reform Commission published a Consultation Paper on the subject of Legitimate Defence in November 2006. This Paper formed the basis for discussion and further consideration of the issues and consultation with interested parties. I understand that this consultation process has been completed and work on the writing of a Report on the topic is underway. In its Consultation Paper, the Law Reform Commission gave considerable attention to the question of the application of legitimate defence in relation to attacks on property and on the person in the home dwelling and on the curtilage of the home.

It is my understanding that, following a detailed consultation process, the Law Reform Commission intends to publish a single Report dealing with three related areas of the criminal law namely: provocation, duress and necessity and legitimate defence. I am told that this Report is now expected to be published by the end of this year or early in 2009. It is my intention to await the Commission's findings and recommendations in relation to the issue of the application of legitimate defence in the context of defence of the home dwelling, and to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the matter at that time, before deciding on whether there is a need to proceed with legislation on the issue.

Garda Equipment.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

21 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the development of a secure digital radio system for An Garda Síochána; and the reason for the long delay in introducing this essential policing tool. [13993/08]

Ulick Burke

Ceist:

43 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made in respect of the national roll out of a digital radio facility for An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14126/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 21 and 43 together.

Following the completion of a pilot Digital Radio project by the Garda authorities, a decision was taken to procure a single nationwide digital radio service for use by the Garda authorities, other emergency services and non-commercial State bodies. This enables economies of scale as well as allowing for inter-agency communication in the event of major incidents or cross agency operations. Following completion of the tender processes by the Department of Finance a preferred bidder, TETRA Ireland Ltd, was selected. In order to ensure that the preferred bidder demonstrate its capability to deliver this key service for the emergency services, both from a technical and organisational perspective, a service performance evaluation covering a significant part of the Dublin Metropolitan Region and surrounds, including Dublin Port and the Airport, was carried out and completed satisfactorily late last year.

In parallel with the performance evaluation, detailed and intensive contract negotiations have been taking place between the Department of Finance and the preferred bidder. I understand these negotiations are virtually finalised and that the contract will be signed very shortly. I am also advised that preparation and planning by the Garda authorities is well advanced and implementation will closely follow the rollout of the infrastructure by the preferred bidder. The entire nationwide rollout is expected to be completed over a 2 year period.

I might add that the Garda authorities continue to maintain its existing radio infrastructure including the digital radio system servicing significant parts of the Dublin Metropolitan Region and its analogue systems throughout the country.

Criminal Prosecutions.

P. J. Sheehan

Ceist:

22 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of convictions that have taken place under Part 9, Section 46, of the Criminal Justice Act 2007, which concerns the possession of an article intended for use in connection with certain offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14157/08]

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 Operations.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

23 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the general approach to policing the situation in Limerick; and if he is satisfied that there are adequate numbers of gardaí on the ground in the estates suffering the worst levels of crime there. [13996/08]

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

89 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals to deal with the continuing problem of inter-gang violence, particularly in the Limerick area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14038/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 23 and 89 together.

The Garda will continue to police Limerick to meet the challenges posed by the activities of gangs and organised crime. The Commissioner is adopting a hard policing approach and has deployed a unit from the Emergency Response Unit on a 24 hour basis. The ERU team is under the supervision of local Garda management and is operating through patrolling and checkpoints. The ERU deployment is providing support for regular policing activities and at the same time provides reassurance to the law abiding communities of Limerick.

The areas most affected by criminal activity are intensively policed, with additional resources, both armed and uniform, being deployed at short notice depending on intelligence received or in response to incidents involving feuding factions. The operation of the gangs in these areas are kept under constant surveillance. Currently armed patrols exclusively cover the most affected areas of the city on a 24 hour basis.

Initiatives under Operation Anvil are also in place within the Division supported by the National Support Services, including the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Air Support Unit and the Criminal Assets Bureau.

Offenders and gang members are actively monitored on a daily basis, and a considerable volume of intelligence has been gathered. Targeted, intelligence-led operations are aimed at curbing their activities, seizing their property and removing illicit drugs from the street. The intensity of the Garda operation is reflected in the fact that 70 firearms of all types and calibres were recovered in Limerick Division in 2007 and 15 to date in 2008. In addition a number of significant drug seizures have been made.

Considerable resources will continue to be put into containing and pursuing this gang activity. An additional 70 officers have been deployed to Limerick in the last twelve months, bringing the total strength there to 602 — the highest number ever deployed in the Limerick Division. By comparison, at the end of 1997 there were 423 personnel — an increase of 42%.

At the same time, the Gardaí are committed to the community policing ethos. Almost 80 officers are dedicated exclusively to community policing patrols, particularly in the areas of highest concern. These patrols are undertaken on foot or mountain bike, an initiative which is regarded locally as being extremely successful.

Limerick City has a very active Joint Policing Committee, where there is very close co-operation between the Gardaí and local elected representatives.

The Government is also very aware of the broader considerations and the urgent need to tackle the concentrations of disadvantage and deprivation which exist in Limerick. Following the Fitzgerald Report on addressing issues of social exclusion, the Limerick Southside and Northside Regeneration Agencies launched ambitious vision statements for the regeneration of disadvantaged areas of Limerick, in particular, Moyross, Southill and O'Malley Park, earlier this year after a wide consultation process. Their plans provide a blueprint for action on an unparalleled scale which will lift the areas out of the cycle of despair and disadvantage which characterises them currently.

I have been assured by the Garda Commissioner of his personal commitment to providing in 2008 the Garda resources recommended in the Fitzgerald Report.

An Garda Síochána will continue to respond appropriately and forcefully to the developing situation in Limerick, and will have the full support of the Government in doing so. The Government is at the same time committed to tackling the roots of deprivation and exclusion, not only because it is the proper thing to do, but also because it will help remove some of the motivators of the kind of unacceptable behaviour we are seeing.

Garda Deployment.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

24 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of community police working in communities here in each county; his plans to expand the number of community police; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14152/08]

As of 31 March 2008, the latest date for which figures are readily available, there were 674 members of the Garda Síochána assigned to community policing. This represents 4.84% of the total strength of the Force of 13,900 on that date. These figures are broken down by Division in the following table.

The Deputy will appreciate that, as with any large organisation, on any given day the overall strength of the Force may fluctuate due, for example, to retirements, resignations etc.

While these are the numbers of Gardaí specifically assigned to community policing, it is of course the case that all Gardaí have a role to play in addressing community policing issues. In that sense, community policing involves far more than a single unit within the Garda Síochána, and I agree with the view of the Garda Inspectorate, expressed in its most recent report, that community policing is a fundamental policing philosophy and that there is a strong foundation for it in Ireland.

It is of course the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner to decide on the prioritisation and allocation of resources within the Force. Against this background, he is currently reviewing arrangements within the Garda Síochána for community policing. I very much welcome this, and I look forward to its outcome and to receiving the Commissioner's proposals for the future development of community policing in Ireland.

Divisions

Community Policing

Carlow/Kildare

4

Cavan/Monaghan

1

Clare

4

Cork City

28

Cork North

1

Cork West

5

D.M.R. East

54

D.M.R. North Central

69

D.M.R. North

70

D.M.R. South Central

80

D.M.R. South

50

D.M.R. West

88

Donegal

20

Galway West

19

Kerry

7

Laois/Offaly

6

Limerick

90

Longford/Westmeath

16

Louth/Meath

15

Mayo

8

Roscommon/Galway East

0

Sligo/Leitrim

5

Tipperary

9

Waterford/Kilkenny

20

Wexford/Wicklow

5

Total

674

Drugs in Prisons.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

25 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps being taken to end the flow of drugs to prisons, in view of the disclosure that inmates have tested positive for drugs 40,000 times over the past three years; the prisons or places of detention that are regarded as drug free; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14052/08]

A wide range of security measures are currently in place aimed at reducing the supply of contraband, including drugs, into our prisons. These measures include:

Tighter control and monitoring of prisoner visits in all closed prisons;

New visiting arrangements in most closed prisons, with visitors required to be pre-approved by the Governor and required to provide identification on each visit;

Greater use of screened visits;

Greater vigilance in examining mail by prison censors and searching of other items entering the prison;

Increased random searching of cells and their occupants;

Stricter searching of all persons committed to custody and prisoners returning from court, temporary release, after visits or on receipt of intelligence; Use of modern cameras and probe systems which assist in searching previously difficult areas such as hollow chair or bed legs, under floor boards and other cavities;

Installation of nets over exercise yards to prevent access to contraband items, including mobile phones and drugs; and

Use of phone detectors and phased installation of telephone blocking technology.

In addition, a number of new security initiatives are shortly being introduced in all closed prisons including:

The introduction of enhanced security screening for all persons (visitors and staff) entering our prisons;

The establishment of a drug detection dog service within the Irish Prison Service involving approximately 30 handling teams; and

The establishment of Operational Support Units dedicated to and developing expertise in searching and gathering intelligence on illicit material being hidden inside our prisons; they will be available in addition to the normal prison staff and can target specific security problem areas.

There are currently drug free units in the following prisons — Wheatfield Prison, St. Patrick's Institution, Castlerea Prison and Mountjoy Prison. There is also an intensive detox programme in operation in Mountjoy Prison. Allied to this the Training Unit, Arbour Hill Prison, Loughan House and Shelton Abbey are regarded as drug free institutions.

It is extremely difficult to quantify the numbers of prisoners who can be deemed to be drug free, particularly given the secretive and covert nature of illicit drug taking in a custodial setting. In this context, the Prison Rules 2007, effective from 1 October 2007, include specific provisions for mandatory drug testing. Mandatory drug testing provides information on trends in drug misuse, enables the identification and referral of drug abusers to treatment programmes, enables enhanced focusing of resources and acts as a deterrent to drug misuse. At present, mandatory drug testing takes place in the Training Unit, St. Patrick's Institution, Castlerea Prison, Loughan House and Shelton Abbey and the intention is to roll out a programme of testing to the remaining institutions during 2008.

Garda Operations.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

26 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the cost of the reportedly elaborate security operation mounted at Shannon Airport on 6 April 2008 in preparation for a possible refuelling stop by the US President, Mr. George Bush which did not happen. [10503/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the approximate total cost of Garda policing arrangements at Shannon Airport on 6 April, 2008, in respect of the planned possible stopover by the US President was €151,921, which includes salaries and overtime payments.

In this regard, the Garda Síochána is statutorily required to provide policing services for the State with the aim of preserving public order and protecting life and property. The policing arrangements instituted at Shannon Airport were considered necessary having regard to the particular circumstances.

Organised Crime.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

27 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which he will take action against criminal gang bosses living overseas and continuing to organise their criminal empires and enjoy their ill-gotten gains; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14089/08]

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that organised criminal gangs operating in this jurisdiction are being targeted on an ongoing basis. The profiles of those suspected of involvement in criminal gangs are continually updated. The membership of criminal gangs, their operating methods, criminal interests and financial assets are likewise proactively targeted. The Garda response to this problem comprises of intelligence-led operations which are primarily undertaken by specialised units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda National Drug Unit, the Organised Crime Unit and the Criminal Assets Bureau. In addition information relating to these groupings is disseminated on a regular basis to Europol at The Hague.

An Garda Síochána maintains liaison with other law enforcement agencies throughout Europe, and elsewhere, exchanging information and intelligence on Irish criminals living abroad. This ongoing liaison has led to a number of successful joint operations, targeting attempted importations of drugs and firearms, resulting in a number of significant arrests here and in other jurisdictions. Where intelligence, supported by evidence, is available, law enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions put operations in place, as appropriate, to prevent and detect such criminality. To facilitate cooperation with other law enforcement agencies, An Garda Síochána has posted Liaison Officers to a number of centres throughout Europe.

Where information exists that a person who is wanted in relation to a particular crime in this jurisdiction is living abroad, and where the particular legal requirements apply, extradition is sought or application is made for a European Arrest Warrant.

Where there is justification and a legal basis, those suspected of involvement in criminal activity are arrested, detained and questioned in relation to specific crimes. A member of An Garda Síochána must, at all times, have reasonable grounds to believe that an individual has been involved in criminal activity before they can arrest and question any person in relation to criminality.

Ireland is a party to various International Conventions which provide for assistance in criminal matters between jurisdictions. An Garda Síochána send and receive requests for assistance via the Central Authority for Mutual Assistance at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Requests for Assistance may also be dealt with on the basis of reciprocity where certain jurisdictions may not be a party to specific conventions

Crime Levels.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

28 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of murders since the beginning of 2008 in which firearms were used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14066/08]

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

550 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of cases of murder in which firearms were used in respect of each year from 1998 to date in 2008; the number of such cases in which prosecutions for murder were initiated; the number of such cases where convictions were secured; if he is satisfied with the level of detection and conviction in such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13924/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28 and 550 together.

I refer the Deputies to my answer to Question No. 11 of today's date.

Juvenile Offenders.

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

29 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of spaces in special residential units for underage juvenile offenders nationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14161/08]

In March 2007 responsibility for children detention schools was transferred from the aegis of the Department of Education and Science to my Department. Children Detention Schools accept children who have been ordered to be detained as part of criminal proceedings before the Courts. The Children Detention Schools provide rehabilitative programmes of care, education and training for children being so detained. The four children detention schools can accommodate 77 children who are to be detained on foot of remand or committal orders from the Courts.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

30 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans he has in place for the detention of 16 to 18 year olds in the interim of the opening of Thornton Hall and the establishment of a new juvenile offenders prison. [14148/08]

My colleague, the Minister for Children, Mr. Brendan Smith T.D., recently announced the Government's decision to develop new children detention facilities on a State owned site at Oberstown, Lusk, Co. Dublin, which currently houses 3 of the 4 existing children detention schools.

The new facilities, which are being developed by the Irish Youth Justice Service of my Department, will replace some older accommodation on the site, and create sufficient new detention school places to accommodate 16 and 17 year old boys, who are currently detained in St. Patrick's Institution. The development, which is a children detention school model and not a prison, will involve careful planning and consultation. The facilities will be secure and capable of supporting staff in delivering a safe, caring environment for welfare, education and rehabilitative programmes.

In the interim, 16 and 17 year old boys may continue to be detained in St. Patrick's Institution, a closed medium security place of detention for males aged 16 to 21 years of age. Much effort has gone into improving facilities at St. Patrick's in recent years for those who will continue to be held there pending the new development at Lusk, and a significant increase in staff has also been made.

The separation of children and young adults in St. Patrick's Institution has taken place in so far as is possible given the physical limitations of the St. Patrick's site. Should it be required when the Mountjoy complex is closed, interim accommodation for 16 and 17 year old boys, segregated from adults, will be provided on the Thornton Hall campus, pending the provision of children detention school facilities. On completion of the detention school development project in Lusk, all children under 18 years of age being detained will only be accommodated in dedicated children facilities.

When fully completed, the new facilities will meet the highest international standards and will be a centre of excellence in best practice for youth detention. This major development will play a key role in the suite of measures available in the Children Act 2001, as amended, in making children who offend accountable for their actions and promoting reintegration into their families and communities.

Criminal Assets Bureau.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

31 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress that has been made in establishing regional branches of the Criminal Assets Bureau as was indicated previously would be considered; the timeframe for establishing such branches; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14160/08]

The Deputy will be aware that the Criminal Assets Bureau has been at the forefront of the fight against organised crime, including drug trafficking, in this jurisdiction since its inception in 1996. The significant successes that the Bureau continues to achieve by its operations demonstrates the effectiveness of its approach in pursuing illegally gotten gains.

The manner in which the Bureau operates has, in the period of its existence, come to be viewed, both domestically and internationally, as a very successful model for targeting persons seeking to derive profits from criminal activities.

In relation to the issue of the Bureau's work at regional and local levels, I can inform the Deputy that in order to maximise the benefit that can be derived from local knowledge, officers from the Criminal Assets Bureau work closely with gardaí from specific regions and localities in order to ensure that the efforts of the Bureau are targeted in the most effective manner possible.

I have also already included in the Government's policing priorities for 2008 for An Garda Síochána a specific reference to enhanced liaison arrangements between Garda Divisions and the Criminal Assets Bureau in the pursuit of those engaged in drug dealing at all levels.

The Bureau will continue to utilise the services of Divisional Criminal Assets Profilers throughout the country. At present eighty one Garda divisional profilers have been appointed and are operational and the complement of Divisional profilers will continue to be monitored and reviewed on an on-going basis. In addition, eleven officials from the Revenue Commissioners have been trained as asset profilers.

The use of local Garda officers in this way ensures that preparatory groundwork can be carried out in advance of a full investigation by the Bureau. Asset profilers have at all times recourse to the expertise and advice of the Bureau.

Essentially a key function of these profilers is to ascertain and build up information at local levels and point out individuals at whom the Bureau's work can be targeted. Such information is then investigated and followed up further by the Criminal Assets Bureau.

Finally, I can assure the Deputy that any individuals in local communities who believe they can openly flaunt wealth or assets secured through illegal activities, including drug dealing, will be vigorously pursued by the Gardaí either through the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1994 or through the work of the Criminal Assets Bureau under its statutory remit.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

32 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if Section 72 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 has been commenced; the number of prosecutions that have taken place under this section; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14115/08]

Section 72 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 was commenced with effect from 1 August 2006. The relevant order is the Criminal Justice Act 2006 (Commencement) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 390 of 2006).

Section 72 creates the offence of contributing to, or participation in, an activity of a criminal organisation. The intention behind the contribution must be to enhance the ability of, or facilitate the organisation to commit a serious offence. It is not necessary to prove the commission of a specific offence. The offence is punishable by up to 5 years' imprisonment.

I am informed by the Garda Síochána that to date no proceedings have commenced under this section.

Victims Commission.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

33 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he will take to enhance the rights of victims, and in the case of murder, their families, within the criminal justice system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14120/08]

As the Deputy may already be aware against a background of a need to review the mechanisms and services put in place by specific agencies to assist victims of crime, my predecessor established the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime (CSVC) in March 2005. The CSVC was established with a three year remit to disburse funding for victim support measures and to develop a framework for victim services going forward. I have been advised that over the last three years the CSCV have made funding available to organisations who support victims of crime including Support After Homicide and Advic, which are respectively a support group and an advocacy group for families affected by homicide.

As the Deputy will be aware, as early as my first public engagement as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, I announced my intention of moving ahead with measures to enhance support for victims of crime, which would include families affected by homicide, consistent with the commitment contained in our Programme for Government.

I understand that the CSVC is now finalising its work in proposing an appropriate support framework for victims of crime into the future. After meeting with the Commission late last year, I formed the view that this framework document will provide important insights into how support for victims of crime might be developed into the future. I propose, therefore, to await the outcome of the Commission's deliberations before deciding on what changes — if any — to present arrangements would be desirable.

Pending finalisation of this process, I have decided to extend the term of Office of the Commission. I am happy to say that the members of the Commission have graciously indicated their willingness to remain in Office. I would, however, like to take this opportunity to place on record my gratitude and that of the Government to the members of the CSCV for the very valuable public service that they have performed over the last three years and for their willingness to continue in Office.

My Department is also currently reflecting on the question of Victim Impact Statements, taking account not only of issues raised by the public debate on the subject but also the recommendations contained in the 2007 report of the Balance in the Criminal Law Review Group which was chaired by Dr Gerard Hogan, SC.

The Review Group made a number of very helpful comments. In relation to the current arrangements under section 5 of the 1993 Act, the Review Group suggests the section may be too restrictive in so far as it permits a statement by or on behalf of the direct victim only. It suggests there is a case for expanding the definition of ‘victim' to include other persons intimately affected by the crime such as the family members of victims of homicide.

In a further recommendation, the Review Group addressed the possibility of inappropriate use of statements and raised the possibility of restrictions on publication in certain circumstances, at the direction of the court.

Any proposals for the improvement of the current system will need to ensure that the victim is allowed as much opportunity as is reasonably possible to have his or her experiences taken into account while also ensuring that, in the interests of all parties, the integrity of the criminal process is preserved and that due process continues to be observed.

The issues involved are complex and require careful consideration. It will therefore be necessary to take some time to ensure any proposals are appropriate and well grounded.

Garda Reserve.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

34 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the five most common reasons that applications to join the Garda Reserve are unsuccessful; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14135/08]

There are a range of reasons not all applicants secure a place as Reserve trainees. It must always be borne in mind that membership of the Reserve is a spare-time voluntary service and so applicants may not always be available to attend for interview or take up a place in training when it is first offered due to family, work or social commitments.

Applicants must first of all meet the basic entry criteria relating to age and residence and must also satisfy the criteria regarding occupations, for example, members of the Defence Forces are precluded from joining. It may not be clear when the initial application is made whether an applicant satisfies the criteria.

Many applicants for the Garda Reserve also apply to join as full-time members and leave aside their Reserve application to take up places as full-time trainee gardaí.

The recruitment process involves a number of stages at which applicants must succeed before proceeding to the next stage. The Public Appointments Service carries out the interview and written test stage. To date in 2008 182 applicants have attended the Public Appointments Service interview and written test. Success at both interview and written test is required to proceed to the next stages of the recruitment process. Of the 182 applicants interviewed and tested so far this year, 117 were successful.

If successful at the Public Appointments Service stage, applicants must then pass a Garda medical examination and must satisfy the requirements of a rigorous background security vetting.

Irish Prison Service.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

35 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he has taken following the most recent report of the EU Committee for the Prevention of Torture which documented high levels of violence in prisons here and the need for ongoing external reviews on the specific subject of prison violence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14145/08]

The Report of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), on its visit to Ireland was published on 10 October 2007, together with the response of the Government of Ireland to the issues raised by the CPT in that report.

In its response to the issues raised, the Government set out in considerable detail the efforts made to deal with the range of issues highlighted in the report.

In the Government's response to the CPT report on the question of inter-prisoner violence it was accepted that the CPT had correctly identified an emerging problem and that further measures are needed to deal with the issue. I am glad to advise the Deputy that a range of measures have been taken to address the prison related issues, including violence in prisons, that were highlighted in the report and I can assure the Deputy that the security and safety of our prisons is kept under constant review.

A wide range of security measures are currently in place aimed at reducing the supply of contraband, including drugs and weapons, into our prisons. These measures include:

Tighter control and monitoring of prisoner visits in all closed prisons;

New visiting arrangements in most closed prisons, with visitors required to be pre-approved by the Governor and required to provide identification on each visit;

Greater use of screened visits;

Greater vigilance in examining mail by prison censors and searching of other items entering the prison;

Increased random searching of cells and their occupants;

Stricter searching of all persons committed to custody and prisoners returning from court, temporary release, after visits or on receipt of intelligence;

Use of modern cameras and probe systems which assist in searching previously difficult areas such as hollow chair or bed legs, under floor boards and other cavities;

Installation of nets over exercise yards to prevent access to contraband items, including mobile phones and drugs; and

Use of phone detectors and phased installation of telephone blocking technology.

In addition, a number of new security initiatives are being introduced in all closed prisons including:

The introduction of enhanced security screening for all persons (visitors and staff) entering our prisons;

The establishment of a drug detection dog service within the Irish Prison Service involving approximately 30 handling teams;

The establishment of Operational Support Units dedicated to and developing expertise in searching and gathering intelligence; they will be available in addition to the normal prison staff and can target specific security problem areas.

A number of serious drug and criminal gang members are now segregated in a special area of Cloverhill Prison. This initiative, in conjunction with the other measures, will prevent them from exerting inappropriate influence over other prisoners.

As indicated in the CPT report , the Government recognises the necessity to modernise and expand the prison estate. That is why my Department has embarked on an ambitious prison building programme which, with the full support of the Government, will result in the replacement and/or refurbishment of nearly 40% of the entire prison estate and the ending of ‘slopping out'.

Garda Strength.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

36 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made with regard to the commitment given in the Programme for Government to increase Garda numbers to 15,000 by 2010 and 16,000 by 2012; if he is satisfied that these targets will be met; the strength of the Force as of 1 June 2007 and at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14071/08]

The accelerated intake of 1,100 Garda recruits per annum is on course to meet the Government's recruitment target.

The personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána on 31 May 2007 was 13,140 with a further 1,349 recruits in training making a combined strength of 14,489.

As of 31 March 2008, the latest date for which figures are readily available, there were 13,900 fully attested members of An Garda Síochána with a further 1,306 recruits in training. The combined strength of the Force, including recruits in training, on that date was 15,206.

Organised Crime.

Noel Coonan

Ceist:

37 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on recent reports that children are being groomed by criminal gangs in Limerick; if he plans to introduce legislation to tackle this development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14125/08]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Question No. 13 of today's date.

Garda Operations.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

38 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress with regard to the establishment of the Garda organised crime unit; the personnel and resources that will be made available to the unit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14050/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda authorities established an Organised Crime Unit on a temporary basis in November 2005 to target organised criminal gangs. The Garda Commissioner has now established the Unit on a permanent basis with a complement of seventy. A review of its activities and strength is ongoing.

Since its establishment, the Organised Crime Unit has pro-actively targeted criminal gangs engaged in diverse types of criminality, which transcend the organisational and divisional boundaries of An Garda Síochána.

The main forms of criminality being committed by these gangs include armed robberies, hi-jacking of valuable loads and commodities, warehouse robberies / burglaries, ‘tiger' kidnappings, cash-in-transit robberies, bank robberies involving firearms and the importation of large quantities of controlled drugs.

Through focused, intelligence-led operations, success has been achieved and the activities of many of the organised crime groups have been disrupted. A number of persons suspected of involvement in this type of criminality have been apprehended on serious charges with many before the courts facing lengthy sentences.

The Organised Crime Unit has taken the lead role in targeting organised criminal gangs in conjunction with the assistance of other national units. The unit's primary functions are as follows:

To identify organised crime groups that operate within the State through increased profiling, intelligence gathering, overt and covert surveillance and threat assessments.

To develop intelligence on highly organised and professional groups of criminals involved in serious crime and whose operations transcend district / divisional and regional boundaries.

To develop intelligence and information supplied by confidential sources on major targeted criminals.

To liaise with the National Criminal Intelligence Unit in developing intelligence and information from all sources in relation to serious and organised criminal groups.

The Unit will continue to work closely with the other specialist units, including the Garda National Drugs Unit, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Special Detective Unit and the Emergency Response Unit, in targeting those suspected of involvement in organised criminal activity.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

39 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when it is intended to increase the Garda search powers, promised in the Programme for Government, in relation to drug crime along the lines of the new random breath-testing model for drink driving to allow random searches at particular, places, times and events where senior Gardaí believe there is a risk of drugs being present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14079/08]

As I indicated in my reply to Parliamentary Question 9121/08 on 4th March 2008, any significant extension of Garda search powers beyond those already available in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 and the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act 1996 gives rise to consideration of highly sensitive issues, including ones of Constitutional importance. In this regard I have in mind, for example, Article 40.3 (personal rights) and 40.5 (inviolability of a dwelling). My aim is to ensure in so far as possible that any new powers will be capable of withstanding Constitutional scrutiny. Accordingly I am unable to say at this stage when proposals will be available.

Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

40 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied with the manner in which the Refugee Appeals Tribunal discharged its functions in the wake of a case (details supplied) and attendant publicity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14042/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal is a statutory independent body established under the Refugee Act, 1996 to deal with appeals against negative recommendations in respect of applications for refugee status issued by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC). The Tribunal has been in operation since November 2000 and comprises a full time Chairperson and 32 part-time members at present.

Since its establishment, the Tribunal has undertaken a significant job of work having completed some 30,000 appeals up to the end of March 2008. I would also point out that the cases before the Refugee Appeals Tribunal cover applicants from over 90 different countries with a large variety of grounds being put forward for refugee status. All cases have to be considered individually having regard to the definition of who is and who is not a refugee in the Refugee Act, 1996. In addition to the applicant's own case which is often considered in an oral appeals hearing, a large amount of documentation has to be considered including complex country of origin information, UNHCR guidelines and detailed case law from our courts. All of this must be weighed up by the individual members of the Tribunal in coming to a decision.

I would also point out that the UNHCR is heavily involved in training within the asylum process and within the Tribunal itself. I would also draw the Deputy's attention to comments made previously by a former UNHCR representative who is quoted as saying that Ireland is now a model for the new Member States of the European Union and that "we now have a system which, in many respects, is one of the best in Europe".

Given the Tribunal's statutory independence in the performance of its functions under the provisions of sections 15 and 16 of the 1996 Act, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on how it discharges its functions. Accordingly, I do not propose to comment on any individual case or group of cases handled by the Tribunal or any legal issues arising from such cases.

Asylum Applications.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

41 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications for asylum submitted in each of the past five years; the average time being taken to process applications for asylum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14076/08]

The information sought by the Deputy about the number of applications for asylum received in each of the last 5 years is set out in the table below.

Asylum Applications Received — 2003 to 2007

Year

No. of asylum applications received

2003

7,900

2004

4,766

2005

4,323

2006

4,314

2007

3,985

Total

25,288

Timescales for the processing of asylum applications

Asylum applications are considered under the provisions of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended), at first instance by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) and at appeal stage by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT).

The length of time taken to process asylum applications differs depending on whether an applicant is dealt with under prioritised arrangements or not. With effect from the 25 January 2005, new arrangements for the speedier processing of applications from certain countries were implemented. These arrangements apply in the main to nationals of Nigeria, Croatia and South Africa. They also applied to Romania and Bulgaria prior to their accession to the EU on 1 January 2007.

The Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner

In terms of time scales at first instance for Prioritised cases, an interview date is usually scheduled within 9 – 12 working days from the date of the initial application. These applications are normally finalised within a further 5 – 8 working days, giving an average processing time of 17 – 20 working days from the date of application.

In the case of Non-prioritised cases, an interview date is usually scheduled approximately 16 – 18 weeks from the date of the initial application. These applications are normally finalised within a further 4 – 5 weeks, giving a total processing time of approximately 22 – 23 weeks from the date of application.

Some cases will take significantly longer to complete due to, for example, medical reasons, non-availability of interpreters or because of judicial review proceedings. Some cases are also more complex than others with applicants coming from over 90 different countries.

ORAC continues to schedule applicants for interview on the date of application unless there are medical or other compelling reasons not to do so.

The Refugee Applications Commissioner continues to keep the procedure for processing applications for refugee status in that Office under ongoing review with a view to limiting the amount of time applicants have to wait for a recommendation to be made, without compromising on an applicant's rights to a fair and balanced examination of their case.

The Refugee Appeals Tribunal

The average length of time taken by the Tribunal to process and complete substantive appeals is 21 weeks.

The average length of time taken by the Tribunal to process and complete Accelerated appeals (appeals on papers only) is 8 weeks.

The average length of time taken by the Tribunal to process and complete appeals for Prioritised cases is 9 weeks.

While many appeals are completed in a shorter time span than above, many factors such as adjournments, postponements, judicial reviews and requests by legal representatives for access to previous Tribunal decisions can impede the Tribunal from completing cases earlier. High quality, consistent and fair decision-making in all cases continues to be a high priority in the Tribunal.

Improvements in Processing Timescales

The Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner has made significant progress in the processing of asylum applications since the creation of the office in November 2000.

In November 2000, when the ORAC was established, there were over 9,400 applications awaiting decision at first instance. As at the 31st March 2008, there were 1,218 outstanding applications awaiting a recommendation by ORAC. Of these, only 137 cases were on hands over 6 months.

The Refugee Appeals Tribunal has also made significant progress in the processing of asylum appeals since the creation of the office in November 2000. Prior to the establishment of the RAT, substantive appeals took on average 36 weeks to complete. As already indicated, the average processing timescale for substantive cases is 21 weeks and 9 weeks for prioritised cases.

As at the 31st March 2008, there were 3,369 appeals outstanding in the Tribunal. Of these 3,369 outstanding appeals, 2,136 were on hands over six months. A large volume of the appeals outstanding more than 6 months in the Refugee Appeals Tribunal is due to the delay in processing appeals pending the granting of access to Tribunal Decisions following the Supreme Court judgement (in the Atanasov case) on the matter. Following the judgement the RAT set up a comprehensive data bank of previous decisions of the Tribunal, suitably redacted, which is readily available for access by legal representatives of applicants. This data bank, along with other measures being applied by the RAT, will be of considerable assistance in clearing the current backlog of cases.

Sentencing Policy.

Andrew Doyle

Ceist:

42 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when integrated sentence management will be available to all prisoners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14144/08]

Pat Breen

Ceist:

56 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason integrated sentence management does not take place in all prisons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14143/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 42 and 56 together.

Sentence management processes have operated in the prison system for many years to the benefit of prisoners and the community. Over much of this time, the development of these processes to their full potential has, however, been constrained by a number of factors.

New regulatory, organisational and working arrangements together with the ongoing programme of modernisation of the prison estate and the addition of new programmes and services have transformed the situation in recent times. The Irish Prison Service is now in a position to develop and roll out a fully coordinated Integrated Sentence Management System (ISM) across all prisons and places of detention. The National Development Plan is providing significant new funding for this initiative and the roll out of ISM will be delivered progressively over the lifetime of the Plan.

ISM will involve a new orientation in the delivery of services to prisoners and a new emphasis on prisoners taking greater personal responsibility for their own development through active engagement with both specialist and non-specialist services in the prisons. The end result will be a prisoner-centred, multidisciplinary approach to working with prisoners with provision for initial assessment, goal setting and periodic review to measure progress.

During 2008, pilot sentence management projects will be progressed at Wheatfield and Arbour Hill prisons. Parallel work will take place on the selection of assessment tools and processes and the development of staff training programmes and an IT database to support the ISM system.

Question No. 43 answered with Question No. 21.

Proposed Legislation.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

44 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the anomaly in the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006 resulting in the Mental Health Review Board denying the release of certain patients who are eligible for discharge from the Central Mental Hospital was first discovered; and the number of patients affected. [13995/08]

The Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006 provides a mechanism by which persons detained in the Central Mental Hospital may be released conditionally or unconditionally by the Criminal Law (Mental Health) Review Board, depending on the circumstances.

It is my intention to introduce certain amendments to the Act in this area shortly which will augment the powers of the Board in the light of recent developments.

Civilianisation Programme.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

45 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made in terms of civilianising Garda tasks since the publication of the Garda Inspectorate report in August 2007. [13997/08]

The civilianisation programme proposed for An Garda Síochána is being implemented by the Garda Commissioner and significant progress has been made to date in the recruitment of civilian staff. The number of full and part-time civilian staff assigned to the Garda Síochána as at the 31 March 2008 was 2,461.

The number of full-time equivalent civilian staff of An Garda Síochána increased from 1,687 on 31 December 2007 to 1,838 on 31 March 2008, representing an increase of 151 (9%) in the number that have been appointed to the organisation in the first three months of this year. This follows on from a 32% increase in the number of civilian employees from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2007 — from 1,282 to 1,687.

Civilian staff of An Garda Síochána are involved in the provision of a wide range of professional support services in the administrative, professional, technical and industrial areas. This is best demonstrated by the range of recruitment of civilians that has taken place in the Garda organisation:

Over 300 Clerical Officers were recruited and assigned positions within An Garda Síochána in Dublin in 2007 on foot of the Government Decision of 19 December 2006. These Clerical Officers have been allocated to the Dublin Metropolitan Region, Garda Headquarters and Specialised Units.

The civilianisation of posts at senior levels of An Garda Síochána has also commenced. Appointments have been made to the positions of Chief Administrative Officer and Director of Communications. The positions of Executive Director of ICT, Director of Change Management and Head of Legal Services have been advertised with a closing date of 10 April, 2008. Recruitment for the position of Executive Director of Human Resources is due to commence shortly.

Significant progress is underway in recruiting Clerical Officers to Garda Stations outside Dublin, the Garda Central Vetting Unit, Thurles and the Garda Information Services Centre, Castlebar.

The recruitment of civilian staff to other senior and middle management positions in the Garda Síochána is also well under way and appointments have been made to a wide range of positions.

A dedicated Human Resource Directorate, reporting to the Assistant Commissioner in charge of HRM has been established in An Garda Síochána to serve the needs of the civilian, administrative, professional, technical and industrial staff in the Garda Síochána.

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

Garda Operations.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

46 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he plans to establish regional Garda support units with trained negotiators and non-lethal weaponry for hostage taking and other critical situations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14159/08]

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

48 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the concern expressed by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors regarding proposals from the Commissioner that certain uniformed Gardaí would be required to carry firearms in their Garda vehicles; his views on the concerns raised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14045/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 46 and 48 together.

The Garda Commissioner is establishing Regional Support Units (RSUs) in the Garda regions outside Dublin to act as a primary response to critical incidents, pending the arrival of the Emergency Response Unit. These RSUs will be drawn from the existing regional Garda resources and the Gardaí involved in these teams will receive training relevant to the role. It was an important recommendation in the Garda Inspectorate's report on barricade incidents that a second tier response capability should be established to allow rapid initial deployment to critical incidents in regional areas.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that RSU members will operate in regular Garda uniform and in marked Garda vehicles. Where appropriate, RSUs will have the capacity to respond with firearms and less lethal devices. However, it is intended that when operating in armed response mode RSU members will, for identification purposes, wear apparel similar to that currently used by armed, plain-clothes Gardaí when they are carrying out armed duties overtly.

Question No. 47 answered with Question No. 8.
Question No. 48 answered with Question No. 46.

Garda Equipment.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

49 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the PULSE system is capable of processing anti social behaviour orders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14133/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that an interim solution for the recording of Behaviour Warnings, Good Behaviour Contracts and Civil Orders issued under the Criminal Justice Act, 2006 on the PULSE system is currently being piloted.

I am also advised by the Garda authorities that the development of a full IT solution for capturing and processing such of information is under review.

Proposed Legislation.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

50 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made in the talks between his Department and representatives of the judiciary regarding the introduction of a judicial council; when he expects that the Judicial Council Bill will be published and enacted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14059/08]

Following contacts with the Chief Justice on the proposals for a Judicial Council Bill, a working group has now been established to advance the Bill. The Group comprises a nominee each of my Department and of the Chief Justice. I am confident that this approach will ensure that the details of the proposed Bill can be finalised in the reasonably near future.

Community Policing.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

51 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects to receive the results of the review being undertaken by the Garda Commissioner of arrangements within An Garda Síochána for community policing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14049/08]

I share the view of the Garda Inspectorate, expressed in its most recent report, that community policing is a fundamental policing philosophy and that there is a strong foundation for it in Ireland.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that a working group has developed proposals for a comprehensive model of rural and urban community policing. The group has completed its report, and it is currently being considered by the Garda Commissioner. I look forward to receiving the final views of the Commissioner.

Drug Seizures.

John Perry

Ceist:

52 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of sniffer dogs which are used to detect drugs in prisons here; if the use of sniffer dogs constitutes best practice in this context; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14142/08]

The Deputy will be aware that a drug detection dog service is operating on a pilot basis in the Irish Prison Service since May 2006. The service is currently provided on contract by a UK company and started in the Midlands Prison. It has since been extended and currently four dog/handler teams operate in the Midlands Complex, the Mountjoy Complex, Wheatfield/Cloverhill Prisons, and Cork/Limerick Prisons. The contract has been extended pending the establishment of a dedicated drug detection dog service (Canine Unit) within the Irish Prison Service.

The management of the Canine Unit is now in place and the selection process for the required staffing has recently commenced. Following training, the first of 30 dog handling teams will be active in approximately 3 months. Searching is concentrated on visitors but proactive searching of areas within the prison also take place. The evidence is that the teams have a significant interception and deterrent effect. The use of drug detection dogs is a common feature of prison systems in other jurisdictions and plays a vital role in preventing the smuggling of drugs into prisons.

Sex Offender Treatment Programme.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

53 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of places available for sex offenders seeking treatment in Arbour Hill Prison; the number of prisoners incarcerated resulting from sexual offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14138/08]

I can advise the Deputy that every effort is made to assist sex offenders in custody who are willing to participate at any level in rehabilitation and relapse prevention. There are three main forms of direct therapeutic intervention for sex offenders currently operating within the Irish prison system. These are as follows: an intensive sex offender programme which has been in operation since 1994 and is delivered currently in Arbour Hill Prison; individual counselling from the Irish Prison Service's Psychology Service and from the Probation Service; and one to one interventions by visiting psychiatrists who provide support to prisoners.

The intensive sex offender's programme is a group programme managed and delivered by the Irish Prison Service's Psychology Service in partnership with the Probation Service. It caters for eight offenders at a time, taking eleven months to complete. The programme is voluntary. Although delivered in Arbour Hill Prison, it is available to sex offenders in other prisons. The practice has been to invite all eligible sex offenders to apply for a place on the programme when a new group programme is being set up.

The programme is a structured, offence focused programme, employing a cognitive behavioural approach with a relapse prevention component. The programme places considerable emphasis on the therapeutic process within the group and on supporting each participant in gaining the knowledge, skills, attitudes and self confidence necessary to live life differently and more constructively in the future. The programme seeks to address the behaviour that leads to offending. A total of 128 sex offenders have completed the sex offender programme to date. A further eight men are currently undertaking the programme. There is no waiting list in operation in respect of participation on the programme.

The Programme is currently under review. Options under consideration include more flexible delivery of programmes based on individual offender's risks, needs and capacity. The likely outcome is a package of sex offender interventions comprising group and individual programmes for a significantly larger group of offenders.

Some individuals engage with the therapeutic services initially to seek assistance in adjusting to imprisonment or to address their mental health needs. Following such interventions, offenders are often more open to looking at their sexual offending and a concentrated period of motivational work is conducted to help them address their offending behaviour and related issues. In response to such counselling, many offenders who initially might deny responsibility for their crime or deny any need for treatment, are motivated towards some process of change. For some offenders this results in them undertaking the more intensive sex offender programme, for others it results in sustained individual therapy around their offending or engagement in some other programme available in the prison system.

Probation Officers working in a prison context provide individual counselling to sex offenders as part of their generic role in relation to offence focused work and as part of the Parole Board Process. This counselling can vary from one session addressing a particular problem to intensive ongoing counselling.

A number of offenders undergo one-to-one counselling in relation to their sexual offending. So far in 2008, the Irish Prison Service's Psychology Service has undertaken one-to-one offence-related interventions with 33 sex offenders. The Probation Service also engages with prisoners on a one-to-one basis.

As of 10 April, 2008, there were 269 persons serving sentences for sex offences.

Garda Deployment.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

54 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí stationed in the Limerick Garda districts, broken down by station and garda rank as at the current date, 31 December 2006 and 31 December 2005; the number of these gardaí deployed in the regeneration areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14168/08]

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that as of 31 March 2008, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the total strength in the Limerick Division was 601, broken down as follows:

Stations

C/Supt

Supt

Insp

Sergt

Gda

Total

Henry St

1

2

7

26

194

230

Mary St

1

13

14

Castleconnell

1

4

5

Ardnacrusha

1

3

4

Mayorstone Pk

13

72

85

Roxboro Rd

1

4

15

109

129

Patrickswell

1

2

3

Ballyneety

1

1

2

Caherconlish

2

2

Askeaton

1

3

17

21

Adare

1

2

3

Pallaskenry

2

2

Croom

1

3

4

Foynes

2

2

Glin

1

1

Shanagolden

1

1

Rathkeale

1

5

6

Bruff

1

2

22

25

Kilfinane

1

1

Ballylanders

1

1

Hospital

1

1

2

Bruree

1

1

Kilmallock

1

2

3

Pallas

1

2

3

Cappamore

1

2

3

Murroe

2

2

Drumcollogher

1

1

2

Newcastlewest

1

1

4

22

28

Abbeyfeale

1

10

11

Ballingarry

1

1

Tournafulla

1

1

Athea

1

1

Kilmeedy

1

1

Castletown

1

1

The information requested by the Deputy in relation to the 2005 and 2006 Garda numbers was previously issued to him in Parliamentary Question 2611/08, which he put down for answer on 31 January 2008.

The Deputy will appreciate that, as with any large organisation, on any given day the overall strength of the force may fluctuate due, for example, to retirements, resignations etc. It is, of course, the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner to allocate personnel throughout the Force taking everything into account. The strength of the Henry Street and Roxboro Road Districts has increased from 292 to 338 and 117 to 136 respectively in the period 31 March 2007 to 31 March 2008. The Commissioner has informed me that he will continue to allocate additional resources to these areas on a priority basis.

Anti-Social Behaviour.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

55 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons given anti-social behaviour warnings since the new system came into operation on 1 January 2007; the number of anti-social behaviour orders sought in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14074/08]

Ulick Burke

Ceist:

69 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if legislation in respect of anti social behaviour orders is working effectively in combating antisocial behaviour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14127/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 55 and 69 together.

Part 11 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which provides for civil proceedings in relation to anti-social behaviour by adults, was commenced on 1 January, 2007. Part 13 of the Act, relating to anti-social behaviour by children, was commenced on 1 March, 2007. These provisions set out an incremental procedure for addressing anti-social behaviour by adults and children. With regard to children, these range from a warning from a member of An Garda Síochána, to a good behaviour contract involving the child and his or her parents or guardian, to referral to the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme and to the making of a behaviour order by the Children's Court.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that up to 31 March, 2008, 557 behaviour warnings were issued to adults and 211 to children. There have been seven formal good behaviour contracts, which are used only in the case of children, agreed. In setting up the regime, the intention was that these warnings or good behaviour contracts would themselves address the problem behaviour. It is only if they fail that a court order will be applied for. In any case, it inevitably takes time to reach the stage where a court order itself might be sought. No significance therefore should be attached to the fact that the stage has not yet been reached in the process where a court order has been issued. Where warnings or good behaviour contracts do not succeed in altering a person's behaviour, however, they will culminate in a court order being sought by the Garda authorities from the courts.

Question No. 56 answered with Question No. 42.

Crime Levels.

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

57 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the measures he is taking to address the increase in violent crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14116/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

85 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he will take to combat the continued growth of violent crime, organised criminal gangs, intimidation of witnesses, extortion, protection, racketeering and money laundering; if it is intended to take particular initiatives to address these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14090/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 85 together.

The Government attaches the highest importance to ending gangland violence and bringing those involved to justice. Relentless activity by An Garda Síochána, under Operation Anvil in particular, is being deployed to deal with these gangs. The primary focus of Operation Anvil is the disruption of serious and organised crime. An allocation of €20 million has been ring-fenced from the Garda Budget 2008 to ensure that ongoing operations of Anvil, both locally and nationally, continue to be undertaken. The Operation is augmented by other Garda operations and initiatives. The Garda Commissioner will continue to allocate resources as appropriate from the significant resources being made available to him.

The Organised Crime Unit has the role of targeting organised criminal gangs in conjunction with other national units. Organised criminal gangs operating in this jurisdiction are targeted on an ongoing basis and information regarding the personnel of such groups is continually updated. Through focused, intelligence-led operations, the activities of many of the organised crime groups have been disrupted, and a number of persons suspected of involvement in this type of criminality are before the courts.

The intelligence gathering capabilities of the Garda Síochána will be further enhanced with the establishment of a DNA database for criminal investigation purposes. Work is ongoing on the Criminal Justice (Forensic Sampling and Evidence) Bill which will provide for this and related matters. I expect to publish the Bill later this year.

The criminal law has also been strengthened. It is more difficult to get bail in drug trafficking and firearms cases. The periods the Gardaí can question people suspected of involvement in serious crime have been extended, and the law on the right to silence has been updated. The reality is that it takes time for changes which are made in the law to have full effect in practice.

The Criminal Justice Act 2006 provides for offences relating to organised crime by creating new offences targeting the activities of those involved in criminal organisations and those who may commit offences for the benefit of criminal organisations, including the offence of conspiracy. It provides that a person who knowingly participates in or contributes to any activity of a criminal organisation for the purpose of enhancing the ability of the criminal organisation to commit a serious offence, whether in or outside the State, is guilty of an offence.

It also provides that a person (who is not a member of the criminal organisation) who commits an offence for the benefit of, at the direction of or in association with a criminal organisation is guilty of an offence. Statutory provisions are also in place to ensure the admissibility of witness statements in circumstances where a witness seeks to resile from a statement already provided to the Garda Síochána in the course of an investigation. The Criminal Justice Act 2006 provides that a statement relevant to court proceedings may be admitted as evidence even if the witness, although available for cross-examination, refuses to give evidence or denies making a statement. It is a matter for the court of trial to decide if such a statement is to be admitted as evidence.

We have strong legislation in place to tackle money laundering and the financing of terrorism in the Criminal Justice Act 1994 and the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005. In February, 2008 the Government approved my proposals for the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering) Bill which will update our current legislation in this area and strengthen Ireland's existing anti-money laundering and terrorist financing regime. This is an important piece of proposed legislation as it deals with implementation of the Third EU Money Laundering Directive and relevant recommendations arising from the Financial Action Task Force third mutual evaluation report.

In every criminal case where the possibility of intimidation of civilian witnesses may be an issue the case is closely monitored by An Garda Síochána throughout the investigation, up to and including any criminal proceedings. In circumstances when a witness is crucial to the case, the evidence to be proffered is not available elsewhere and there is a serious threat to the life of the witness or his/her family, an application can be made, with the consent of the witness, to have him/her included in the Witness Security Programme. When an investigation team is aware of such intimidatory incidents they may be raised with the trial judge, who may decide to revoke bail or impose another sanction on the suspect.

The offence of blackmail, extortion and demanding money with menaces is provided for in the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994 which makes it an offence for any person who, with a view to gain for himself or another or with intent to cause loss to another, makes any unwarranted demand with menaces.

I am determined that the Gardaí and other agencies of the criminal justice system will play their full part in dealing with this type of behaviour and that they are properly resourced, both legislatively and financially, to do so.

Crime Prevention.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

58 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the rationale for the establishment of Operation Encounter; the nature of the initiative; the original budget defined for its implementation; the expenditure on it to date; the goals set for the operation before its inception; the goals that have been met and the goals that remain to be met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14128/08]

An Garda Síochána proactively target public disorder and anti-social behaviour. Additional foot and mobile patrols are directed to areas subject to such behaviour during such times when these offences are more likely to occur. All such incidents detected by members on patrol or reported to An Garda Síochána are dealt with immediately and the suspected offenders are dealt with in accordance with the law.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Operation Encounter was commenced by the Garda Commissioner in February, 2002 to target public disorder and anti-social behaviour against the community and local businesses. The Operation specifically targets offences contrary to the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 and the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988, which include the sale to and consumption of alcohol by underage persons. Since the commencement of Operation Encounter almost 465,000 offences have been detected.

The detailed allocation of Garda resources is a matter for the Garda Commissioner to decide in accordance with his identified operational requirements and priorities. As Operation Encounter is an ongoing operation relating to general duties carried out by Garda members, there is no specific budget allocated for it.

Sale of Alcohol.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

59 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he has taken to ensure the more effective enforcement of the law in regard to the sale of alcohol and particularly the sale of alcohol to persons under age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14072/08]

Provisions for controlling supply to and consumption of intoxicating liquor by persons under the age of 18 years are contained in the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988, as amended. The national age card scheme by the Garda Síochána has facilitated the Force, in co-operation with the licensed trade, in addressing and combating the problem of underage drinking. The age card scheme allows any person who has attained 18 years of age to apply for an age card at his/her local Garda Station in order to confirm that they have attained the legal age for the purchase of intoxicating liquor.

The new age card introduced in 2006 has state of the art security features. Its design has been greatly enhanced and includes an image security feature that is supplied only to Government projects worldwide. Currently there is no matching technology or method by which this technology can be copied.

We have to accept that we have a problem with binge drinking and it is clear that this problem is adding to public disorder. The Government Alcohol Advisory Group, which I established at the beginning of the year, was tasked with examining key aspects of the law governing the sale and consumption of alcohol and the adequacy and effectiveness of existing sanctions and penalties, including those directed towards combating excessive and under-age alcohol consumption. The Group also considered issues of enforcement of legislation.

The Group presented their report to me on 31 March, 2008. I intend to bring the contents of the Report to the attention of Government in the very near future and, at the same time, to seek Government approval of proposals for the implementation of recommendations contained in the Report. My commitment is to publish the relevant legislation during the current session and, with the assistance and cooperation of both Houses, to have it enacted before the Summer recess. In parallel with this, work will continue on the drafting of a comprehensive Sale of Alcohol Bill, which is already included in the Government Legislation Programme for 2008 and which will modernise and streamline the law in this area. Under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 it is open to me to set policing priorities for An Garda Síochána. One of the priorities I have set for 2008 is to combat, particularly in cooperation with other agencies and the community generally, the problems of public disorder with particular emphasis on alcohol related behaviour (including under age drinking) and socially disadvantaged communities especially through utilisation of the legal mechanisms being made available, including behaviour warnings and closure orders

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Operation Encounter, was commenced by the Commissioner in February, 2002 to target public disorder and anti-social behaviour against the community and local businesses. The Operation specifically targeted offences contrary to the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1996 and the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988, which include the sale and consumption of alcohol by underage persons.

Anti-Social Behaviour.

Deirdre Clune

Ceist:

60 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps being taken to tackle anti-social behaviour in Carrigaline, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14167/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that local Garda management is aware of ongoing problems of public disorder and anti-social behaviour in the area concerned.

Community Gardaí are in constant contact with schools and youth groups in the area, and there have been a number of seminars with local community groups and the business community in an effort to evaluate the extent of the problem and to help target resources at identified problem areas.

I am further informed that local Garda management has noted a decrease in anti-social behaviour type offences recorded. The position is continuously reviewed, and the response modified accordingly.

Garda Deployment.

David Stanton

Ceist:

61 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to increase the visibility of An Garda Síochána in small rural towns and villages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14166/08]

Engagement with rural communities and rural policing is one of the priorities of An Garda Síochána. Senior Garda management continually monitor resources and policing initiatives to ensure that the service being provided to these communities by Garda personnel is continuously improving.

As of 31 March, 2008, the latest date for which figures are readily available, there were 13,900 fully attested members of An Garda Síochána with a further 1,306 recruits in training. The combined strength of the force including recruits in training on that date was 15,206.

Staffing levels at Garda stations are monitored by local Garda management to ensure adequate coverage is provided to the areas concerned. Where vacancies arise in rural areas they are filled as expeditiously as possible to ensure continuity in the service being provided by An Garda Síochána to the local community.

I am informed that in order to enhance rural policing a number of initiatives have been implemented in Garda Divisions nationally. Checkpoints are established at strategic locations in rural areas in order to detect criminals travelling to commit crime. Criminals travelling to commit crimes in rural areas have been targeted through intelligence led operations, as a result of which a number of arrests have been made and criminal groups disrupted. Initiatives under Operation Anvil have been implemented in every Garda District in the country, incorporating special crime prevention and detection patrols in rural areas which have been identified as vulnerable to crime. Such patrols include all available Garda resources including uniform and plain-clothes personnel, District Detective and Drug Units as well as Divisional Crime Task Forces and Traffic Corps personnel. Patrol times are also varied in order to maximise coverage in such areas.

Crime Prevention Officers are available to offer crime prevention and security advice to residential and business groups in rural areas and regularly provide such advice through local media outlets such as newspaper and radio broadcasts. The enhanced liaison structures between Garda management and local authorities being established through Joint Policing Committees are of significant benefit to the policing of rural areas, and this will increase as the Committees are rolled out to all local authorities in the near future. Important partnerships in which the Gardaí are involved are the Community Alert Programme and Neighbourhood Watch, national strategies for which for the period 2007-2011 were launched in Autumn 2007. The new strategies include a number of significant improvements. Training has been provided to the sergeants and inspectors most closely involved with the Programmes. In addition, the holding of information seminars is continuing for all liaison Gardaí and scheme coordinators for Garda Districts and Divisions.

My Department provides funding to Muintir na Tíre to operate Community Alert, and An Garda Síochána operate Neighbourhood Watch. In addition, members of local Community Policing Units assist residents in rural areas in establishing and strengthening Community Alert schemes.

Drug Seizures.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

62 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there has been a decision to roll-out the dial to stop drug dealing scheme that was successfully piloted in Blanchardstown to other locations. [13991/08]

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that following the success of this local initiative in Blanchardstown, the National Drugs Strategy Team is currently finalising proposals to begin a national roll out of this programme this year in conjunction with the fourteen local and ten regional drug task forces.

Prison Equipment.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

63 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the timeframe for the roll out of mobile phone signal blocking equipment to all prisons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14158/08]

I am committed to dealing with the problem of prisoners using mobile phones. On completion and evaluation of the pilot project to inhibit mobile phones in the Midlands and Portlaoise Prisons, the Irish Prison Service will proceed to install mobile phone inhibitors in all prisons.

The indication of the success of the pilot scheme in the Midlands continues to be positive, and if the early results from the pilot inhibition project are confirmed, inhibitors will be installed in all other closed prisons over an 18 to 24 month period.

Crime Levels.

Damien English

Ceist:

64 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of burglaries recorded at each Garda station in County Wexford for 2007; the number of detections which resulted from these burglaries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14163/08]

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 Vetting Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

65 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he is taking to speed up the turn around time of Garda vetting checks in view of the fact that delays are resulting in loss of earnings for individuals who are prohibited from officially taking up their full positions of employment until such time as the vetting application is completed. [13992/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that all vetting application forms received by the Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) are processed in sequential order from the date of receipt. The current, average turnaround time for the processing of correctly completed vetting application forms is approximately one month. Significant departures from the average processing time occur only when further, more detailed enquiries are required in specific instances.

In order to meet the increased demand arising since 2006 from the ongoing major expansion in the provision of its vetting service, the GCVU has been in receipt of very significant additional resources. In particular, the human resource allocation to the Unit has increased from 13 originally to its current level of more than 60, with new personnel joining the Unit in each of the first three months of this year. When all these personnel have completed their induction and training, it is anticipated that processing times will be further reduced.

Garda Management.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

66 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied with the rate of implementation of recommendations made by the Garda Inspectorate for Garda Reform, having regard to the fact that just one third of the reforms have been acted upon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14048/08]

I am satisfied that significant progress is being made in implementation of the Garda Inspectorate's Recommendations. The first three reports of the Garda Inspectorate were as follows: report on the Senior Management Structure; review of Practices and Procedures for Barricade Incidents; and policing in Ireland, Looking Forward.

The reports covered a wide range of issues from senior management to the technicalities of managing barricade incidents and the development of ICT systems. Over 130 recommendations have been made. Bearing in mind the major programme of reform and modernisation underway in the Garda Síochána as well as the major civilianisation programme, I believe that the Commissioner has made commendable progress in implementing the Inspectorate's recommendations.

I note that when publishing the Inspectorate's report on the implementation of its recommendations the Chief Inspector, Kathleen O'Toole said: "Overall, the Inspectorate is very pleased that nearly all of its recommendations to date have been accepted and that substantial progress has been made in giving effect to them. The Inspectorate confirms that over one third of the 134 recommendations have been implemented. This is set to increase to more than eighty percent by October of this year."

Road Safety.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

67 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the tender process for the provision of speed cameras; the proposed timetable for the installation of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14077/08]

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

84 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the rollout of 6000 hours of speed camera enforcement will be delivered; the amount it is estimated to cost; the reason the supposedly prohibitive estimated cost of the speed camera rollout was not taken into consideration before it was included in the Road Safety Strategy 2007 to 2012 in Autumn 2007; the further reason he did not allocate additional funding from his Department’s budget for 2008 to the rollout of the speed camera programme; if he has requested additional funding from the Department of Finance for the national speed camera rollout; the number of speed camera hours currently in operation across the road network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9611/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 67 and 84 together.

A tender process for procuring an outsourced safety camera network is under way. During this process issues arose because it emerged that costs involved would be substantially higher than had been estimated when the matter was considered by Government previously, which necessitated a further examination of the matter by Government. The Government has confirmed that it will be proceeding with the outsourcing of a countrywide safety camera network and the financial resources necessary to do so will be provided. The tender process is at an advanced stage, and it is expected that contract negotiations with the preferred bidder will commence shortly.

As the tender process is not complete I am not in a position to indicate at this time the cost of the project nor was it possible to allocate an amount in the 2008 Estimates. I am informed by the Garda authorities that they currently operate a range of mobile speed detection equipment, including six Gatso vans (mobile units with on-board cameras, radar and a computer system) throughout the State. There is also a number of fixed camera installation posts at various locations in the Dublin area and the Louth/Meath Division and cameras are rotated between these posts.

The financial resources allocated to traffic related duties increased from €3.7 million in 2007 to €11 million in this year's Estimates, in addition to the amount which will be allocated for the safety camera network. An Garda Síochána have been authorised to replace the GATSO systems currently operating with eight new state of the art mobile speed cameras. These will be operational not later than June. This will take place against the background of an increase in the Garda Traffic Corps of 170 this year and 225 last year, bringing the strength of the Corps to 1,200 by end of the year.

In addition, approval has also been given for the Gardaí to acquire an Automated Number Plate Recognition System for up to 100 Garda vehicles, which among many features, will have a speed detection capability. Gardaí will also continue to use over 400 hand held detection devices available to them.

Prisoner Escapes.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

68 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners who have escaped or absconded from prisons here in each of the past ten years; the number who were serving sentences for serious crimes; if he is satisfied with the effort made to locate them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14056/08]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to question 180 of 4 March, 2008. The position remains unchanged.

Question No. 69 answered with Question No. 55.

Prison Education Service.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

70 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason the CONNECT project was abolished; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14136/08]

I am informed by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that CONNECT was piloted with EU Integra Funding in the years prior to 2000 and was announced as part of the 2000 to 2006 National Development Plan. Expenditure under the programme consisted in the main, of staff salaries and materials for the work training area. CONNECT consisted of three strands: work training (including Special Projects); sentence management; and capital projects.

CONNECT's original focus was on vocational orientation and training for prisoners, combined with job placement at the time of release. CONNECT in its structure was intended to permit other needs of prisoners (which may impact on their employability) to be addressed through the services available within prison. An internal Irish Prison Service review of CONNECT was carried out in 2002. The result of which was a decision to refocus the project to concentrate on the Work Training area. It was decided that the sentence management elements needed to be aligned more centrally within the prison system rather than residing in the work training area. This change in focus was subsequently agreed by the Regional Monitoring Committees that monitor the NDP during the Mid-term Review Process.

The refocus towards the provision of enhanced prevocational and vocational training in Irish prisons involved dedicated new staffing and funding for the expansion of work training in the prison system. The Work Training Service now comprises an authorised complement of over 250 posts — a major increase on the numbers engaged prior to the Agreement for Organisational Change of 158, resulting in new activities and workshops, and over €5 million has been spent in the last two years alone, on the ongoing workshop refurbishment and equipment replacement programme. New workshops and activities are also continuing to be developed at various institutions. Furthermore, a Quality Assurance System (QAS) is being introduced to underpin FETAC certification of a range of vocational and employability programmes and courses.

Currently we have over 90 workshops operating across the prison estate. The new prison development at Thornton Hall will provide extensive work training facilities, providing vocational skills to upwards of 700 prisoners each day. The learning from CONNECT, in respect of such other aspects as individual programme planning, and indeed from new interventions piloted in other initiatives such as the EQUAL project, a European Social Fund (ESF) programme, is being taken into account in the development and rollout of Integrated Sentence Management (ISM). ISM, which is being funded under the new National Development Plan, will provide for initial risk and needs assessments, individualised plans and targeted service delivery to prisoners. ISM will be delivered progressively over the lifetime of the NDP.

Garda Deployment.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

71 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will take action to ensure a high visibility Garda presence on the streets of Tallaght, Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11855/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of Tallaght Garda Station as at 31 March, 2008, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 179.

An unprecedented increase in the strength of the Garda Síochána is continuing in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government, with an intake of approximately 1,100 recruits per annum. In addition, there is a significant expansion under way in the number of civilian staff being made available to the Commissioner.

Tallaght Garda District is patrolled by foot and mobile patrols from that Garda station, including uniform and detectives units, the Community Policing Unit, the District Drug Unit and the District Traffic Corps, with a view to ensuring a concentrated and visible Garda presence in the area. There are also four Juvenile Liaison Officers allocated to the area. The Garda District personnel are supplemented, as required, by resources from the Divisional Crime Task Force and the Divisional Traffic Corps.

A Mountain Bike Unit is also based in Tallaght District, consisting of six bikes, which are actively used by members of the regular Garda units and the Community Policing Units.

The Community Policing Unit consists of 2 Sergeants and 22 Gardaí. These Gardaí liaise closely with communities through schools, businesses, churches, community centres and other community groups in the area. Members of the Community Policing Unit operate Garda clinics for one hour per week, in conjunction with the Anti-social Behaviour Unit of South Dublin County Council.

When necessary, and to support more serious investigations being conducted in the District, expert assistance is also available from National Units, including the Garda National Drugs Unit, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Technical Bureau and the Operational Support Units, including the Garda Air Support, Mounted, Water and Dog Units.

I am informed that local Garda management constantly monitor criminal activity and crime levels within the District and Division and the allocation of personnel is kept under regular review to ensure the provision of a policing service in the area.

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

State Airports.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

72 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he discussed the extension of the US customs and border protection facility at Shannon Airport with the US President, Mr. George Bush in Washington recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11905/08]

I did not discuss this issue during my recent Ministerial engagements in the US.

However, my Department has been and continues to be involved in the ongoing negotiations with the US authorities on the possible extension of US customs and border protection facilities at Shannon Airport.

Public Order Offences.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

73 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the increase of almost 60% in the number of public order offences between 2003 and 2007; the steps he is taking to reduce the number of such offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14046/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

591 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he has taken to prevent anti-social behaviour; the number of cases reported to the Gardaí since the introduction of the legislation; the number of prosecutions arising therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14459/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 73 and 591 together.

It is the nature of many public order offences that they are only recorded and detected because of the presence of Gardaí. Accordingly, an increase in the number of such offences detected almost certainly signifies can signify increased Garda activity rather than any failure in Law enforcement.

Under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 it is open to me to set policing priorities for An Garda Síochána. One of the priorities I have set for 2008 is to combat, particularly in cooperation with other agencies and the community generally, the problems of public disorder. I specified that there should be particular emphasis on alcohol related behaviour (including under age drinking) and socially disadvantaged communities.

Strong provisions are already in place to combat anti-social behaviour. The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 modernised the law in this regard. Furthermore, the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 contains provisions to deal with alcohol abuse and its effect on public order. In addition, the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003 provides the Garda with powers to deal with late night street violence and anti-social conduct attributable to excessive drinking.

Operation Encounter was commenced by the Commissioner in February 2002 to target public order and anti-social behaviour against the community and local businesses. The operation specifically targets offences contrary to the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1996 and the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988 which include the sale and consumption of alcohol by underage persons.

All members of An Garda Síochána proactively target public disorder and anti-social behaviour. Areas subject to such behaviour have been identified as ‘hot-spots' by local Garda management and additional foot and mobile patrols are directed at these areas during times when these offences are more likely to occur. All such incidents detected by members on patrol or reported to An Garda Síochána are dealt with immediately and the suspected offenders are dealt with in accordance with the law. Almost 465,000 offences have been detected since the commencement of Operation Encounter.

The Government Alcohol Advisory Group, which I established at the beginning of the year, was tasked with examining key aspects of the law governing the sale and consumption of alcohol, including those directed towards combating excessive and under-age alcohol consumption. The Group presented their report to me on 31 March 2008. I intend to bring the contents of the report to the attention of Government in the very near future and, at the same time, to seek Government approval of proposals for the implementation of recommendations contained in the report. I intend to publish the relevant legislation during the current session and, with the assistance and cooperation of both Houses, to have it enacted before the Summer recess.

The Criminal Justice Act, 2006 enacted provisions to combat anti-social behaviour by adults and children. These provisions set out an incremental procedure for addressing anti-social behaviour by adults and children. A significant number of behaviour warnings have been issued under the legislation — 557 behaviour warnings to adults up to the end of March and 211 to children. There have also been seven formal good behaviour contracts, which are used only in the case of children, agreed.

In addition to the criminal law, there is a range of initiatives in place to get at the root causes of this type of behaviour. The Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme has proven to be highly successful in diverting young persons away from crime by offering guidance and support to juveniles and their families. Under the provisions of the Children Act, 2001 the Programme has a statutory basis.

Garda Youth Diversion Projects are community-based, multi-agency crime prevention initiatives which seek to divert young people from becoming involved, or further involved, in anti-social or criminal behaviour. There are currently 100 projects operating throughout the country, and it is intended to establish a further 68 projects in the lifetime of this Government, bringing the total number of projects to 168 nationwide.

More broadly, a number of reforms have taken place in recent years to bring about a more effective youth justice system and these have been enshrined in legislation in the Children Act 2001, as amended. The Act is based on the principles of diversion from crime and anti-social behaviour, restorative justice, the expanded use of community-based sanctions and measures by the courts.

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 provides for the establishment of a joint policing committee in each local authority administrative area. The purpose of these committees is to provide a forum where members of a local authority and senior Garda officers, with the participation of Oireachtas members and community interests, can consult, discuss and make recommendations on matters affecting the policing of the area. There are currently 29 Committees in operation in a pilot phase to gain experience rolling the Committees out to all local authority areas in the State. In general the outcome to date has been positive, and the Committees are meeting definite local needs. Issues of public disorder are high on the agenda of the committees.

Following on from a consultation seminar last November, work is underway on revising the guidelines under which the committees operate in the light of the experience gained to date. Following consultation with my Ministerial colleagues, I intend to issue revised guidelines to enable the roll out of the committees to take place as soon as possible, which I envisage will be in the middle of this year.

Garda Deployment.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

74 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí currently operating as juvenile liaison officers; if he has plans to increase the number having regard to the success of schemes operated by JLOs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14057/08]

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

91 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of juvenile liaison officers working here; his plans to expand the force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14151/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 74 and 91 together.

As of 31 March 2008, the number of Gardaí assigned to the Juvenile Liaison service (JLO) was 102. The Garda Commissioner has given a commitment to appoint an additional 21 JLOs by 2010.

The Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme has proven to be highly successful in diverting young persons away from crime by offering guidance and support to juveniles and their families. It also enables referral to the Garda Youth Diversion Projects which operate separately from the Programme and aim to divert young people away from crime and anti social behaviour. These Projects are community-based, multi-agency crime prevention initiatives which seek to divert young people from becoming involved, or further involved, in anti-social or criminal behaviour. There are currently 100 of these types of projects operating throughout the country and this number will be extended to 168 in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government.

Garda Operations.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

75 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action taken in regard to the report into the circumstances in which the Gardaí failed to act on information supplied through Interpol from the Austrian authorities in relation to the alleged involvement of people based here in a global child pornography ring; the reason the report will not be published; if he is satisfied that adequate procedures are in place to ensure that information supplied is dealt with in future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14067/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda Chief Superintendent appointed to conduct an investigation into the matter concerned has submitted his report, which is internal to An Garda Síochána and to the Garda Commissioner.

I am further informed that the report provides a comprehensive review of the actions taken by all parties in relation to the information supplied by the Austrian authorities through Interpol and makes a number of recommendations to ensure that such an occurrence does not happen in the future. These recommendations are being implemented by the Garda authorities.

Juvenile Offenders.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

76 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of juveniles who have been held in detention centres here for the years 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14150/08]

I am informed by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that the data below relate to those of 15 years and above but less than 18 years, the overwhelming majority of whom were detained in Saint Patrick's Institution, a closed medium security place of detention for males aged 16 to 21 years of age.

Year

Persons Committed

Total Committals

2004

350

509

2005

280

389

2006

297

473

2007

260

393

It should be noted that the total number of committals per year is greater than persons, as a person may have been committed more than once during the year.

A snapshot of committals for the 15 to 18 year age group in 2006 gives the following breakdown:

Age

Female

Male

Total

15

1

2

3

16

4

129

133

17

12

149

161

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

77 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will introduce emergency legislation closing the current loophole whereby the licence to sell alcohol appears to be transferred from the licence holder to the delivery person in dial and drink situations contributing to underage drinking problems. [14029/08]

The law already provides for the matter referred to by the Deputy.

Under section 17(3) of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003, it is an offence for a licensee, with intent to evade the conditions of the licence, to take intoxicating liquor from the premises to which the licence refers for the purpose of its being sold on the account or for the benefit or profit of the licensee, or to permit any other person to do so. Sales of intoxicating liquor for which payment is received on delivery do not comply with these statutory provisions. The penalty on conviction for such an offence is a fine of up to €1,500 for a first offence and up to €2,000 for a second or subsequent offence.

Section 31 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988 (as amended by the Intoxicating Liquor Acts of 2000 and 2003) makes provision for offences relating to the sale and delivery of intoxicating liquor to persons under the age of 18 years. It is an offence under section 31(2) for a licensee to sell or deliver, or to permit any other person to sell or deliver, intoxicating liquor for consumption by a person under the age of 18 years in any place except with the explicit consent of that person's parent or guardian in a private residence in which he or she is present either as of right or with permission. The penalty on conviction for such an offence is a fine of up to €1,270 for a first offence and up to €1,904 for a second or subsequent offence.

In addition, the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2000 provides for the mandatory temporary closure of licensed premises in cases where a licensee is convicted of an offence under section 31 of the 1988 Act (up to 7 days for a first offence, or at least 7 and not more than 30 days for a second or subsequent offence).

Garda Operations.

David Stanton

Ceist:

78 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his further plans to expand the Garda diversion programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14165/08]

Part 4 (Sections 17-51) of the Children Act 2001, as amended, provides the legislative framework for the Garda Diversion Programme. The Programme operates under the general superintendence and control of the Garda Commissioner. As the Deputy is aware, it is the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner to decide on the prioritisation and allocation of resources within the force. The Commissioner has indicated that, subject to operational demand, he will increase the resources available to the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme. As of 31 March 2008, the number of Juvenile Liaison Officer (JLO) positions was 102. The Garda Commissioner has given a commitment to appoint an additional 21 JLOs by 2010.

Operating separately to, but in tandem with the statutory Diversion Programme are the Garda Youth Diversion Projects, which are funded by my Department through the Irish Youth Justice Service. These projects are community-based, multi-agency crime prevention initiatives which seek to divert young people from becoming involved, or further involved, in anti-social or criminal behaviour. There are currently 100 of these type of projects operating throughout the country and this number will be extended over the next few years to 168, in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government. Additional resources have been allocated to fund the expansion of these projects with funding set at €11.909 million for 2008 out of a total of €120 million allocated under the National Development Plan 2007-2013.

Residency Permits.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

79 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on the application by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare for a stamp four or long term residency; the reason for the delay in this case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11857/08]

Long term residency was introduced by way of an administrative scheme in May 2004. The position in relation to granting 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.

Time spent in the State on student conditions cannot be counted towards long term residency.

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 23 July 2007. I understand that applications received in August 2006 are currently being dealt with.

I understand that following the redeployment of resources within the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, additional personnel have recently been assigned to deal with applications for long term residency. I am satisfied that these additional resources will make an impact in processing the backlog on hand and dealing with the ongoing increase in the number of applications being received.

Garda Divisions.

Damien English

Ceist:

80 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the implications the establishment of a Garda division for Wexford, separate from Wicklow, will have in terms of manpower and resources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14162/08]

In accordance with section 22 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, proposals in relation to changes to Garda Divisions are a matter in the first instance for the Garda Commissioner in the context of the Annual Policing Plans. The Garda Síochána has committed in its Annual Policing Plan for 2008 to institute separate Divisions of Wicklow and Wexford.

I am informed by the Garda Authorities that the key benefits of this initiative for both Divisions of Wicklow and Wexford include greater efficiencies and effectiveness in facilitating the establishment and working of Joint Policing Committees in accordance with the provision of Section 22(1) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005. This will lead to reduced duplication of effort for both Garda management and the local authorities as the requirement to sit on more than one Joint Policing Committee will be removed. In addition, it will facilitate improved consultation between the Garda Síochána and elected representatives concerning matters such as public disorder and other anti-social behaviour.

The personnel and resources requirements for the two Divisions are being fully considered by the Garda authorities as part of the planning and management of the project.

Prison Building Programme.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

81 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the proposed Thornton Hall prison plan; the latest estimate available to his Department of the expected cost, including the cost of the site, the provision of infrastructure and ancillary services; the cost of construction and fitting out of the prison; the costs incurred to date; the estimated date for the completion of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14054/08]

Negotiations are currently underway with a commercial consortium, which was selected following an E.U. tender procedure as the preferred tender for the design, construction, finance and maintenance of the proposed prison facilities at Thornton Hall, North County Dublin.

The project includes the construction of the prison facilities along with the ancillary infrastructure including services. The development consent procedure for the development is set out in Part 4 of the Prisons Act 2007. I am pleased to advise the House that the Notice of Development and Environmental Impact Assessment in respect of the project was published on Friday 29 February 2008. The closing date for receipt of observations or submissions in respect of the Environmental Impact Assessment was 11 April.

A copy of the Notice of Development has been lodged in the Oireachtas library. The publication of the Environmental Impact Assessment afforded all interested parties ample opportunity to make their views known and have them fully considered prior to a decision to proceed with the development.

It is intended, subject to the statutory planning phase and the successful conclusion of the contract negotiations, to commence construction later this year. It is envisaged that the development will take approximately three years to complete.

It is not, for commercial and procurement reasons, possible to provide details as to the likely costs of the construction and fit out costs. The disclosure of such information is, in any event, not allowed under Department of Finance PPP guidelines.

I can, however, confirm the following expenditure which has taken place to date on the project. The cost of the site acquisition was €29,900,000. An additional 8.7 acres has also been acquired to provide a dedicated access road to the main site. This was done following representations from the local community which reflected concern in relation to the effect of increased traffic generated by the prison project. In addition to allaying these concerns, the new roadway will provide significant additional benefits both during the construction and operational phases of the project. The cost of this additional land was €1,305,000.

A total of €5,863,895.00 has been expended to date on preliminary site works including surveys, landscaping, security and maintenance of the property, studies such as archaeological, topographical, etc., and professional fees including legal and specialist technical advice.

Expenditure to date on the project has amounted to a total of €37,068,895.00 including site acquisition costs.

Garda Equipment.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

82 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received a recommendation from the Garda Commissioner as to whether members of the Force should be supplied with pepper sprays to help fend off attacks; when he expects a decision will be made on this proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14047/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that a Working Group has been established to examine the use of incapacitant sprays. The Group is chaired by the Assistant Commissioner in charge of Crime and Security and is researching: the effectiveness of incapacitant spray; the medical implications involved; and the development of a policy for the use of such devices and its operational and training implications. The Working Group will report to the Commissioner on completion of this examination.

Garda Retirement Age.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

83 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has plans to raise the compulsory retirement age for senior Garda officers from its current level of 60; if he is satisfied that the compulsory retirement age is consistent with obligations under equality law and anti-discrimination measures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14080/08]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

608 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he will take to address the perceived discrimination that prevents members of An Garda Síochána from serving until the age of 65 as is the case for all other civil servants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14508/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83 and 608 together.

I believe that the current compulsory retirement age of 60, which is now applicable to all ranks in An Garda Síochána, is fully consistent with the law on equality and anti-discrimination. I have no proposals to raise this age limit. Any proposals for change in the retirement age would have to be considered in light of the extremely favourable retirement package available to Gardaí generally.

Question No. 84 answered with Question No. 67.
Question No. 85 answered with Question No. 57.

Regulation of Legal Profession.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

86 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals for the effective regulation of solicitors, having regard to the statement made to Dáil Éireann on 21 November 2007 that he was not satisfied with the system of self-regulation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14075/08]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 89 of 13 December 2007. I have nothing further to add to the details of that reply other than to say that the Legal Services Ombudsman Bill was published on 27 March 2008.

Garda Charter.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

87 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects to introduce the Garda Charter, promised in the Programme for Government, setting out targeted Garda response times and levels of service which the public can expect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14078/08]

The policing priorities for 2008 which I set for An Garda Síochána include, "To increase the level of high visibility patrols, including through greater use of marked vehicles, linked to the development during 2008 of a Garda Charter which will set out targeted response times and levels of service, including frequency of high visibility patrols."

This priority has been incorporated into the Annual Policing Plan for 2008 by the Garda Commissioner who has set a target for its development later this year.

Earlier this month I asked the Garda Inspectorate to examine the allocation of Garda resources and also to provide advice on the development of a Garda Charter as proposed in the Programme for Government and I look forward to receiving its advice.

An Garda Síochána has always been cognisant of its duty to provide a high quality service to the public. It has currently in place a Garda Customer Charter and a Declaration of Ethical and Professional Standards, and it is developing a Customer Relationship Model for all its customers.

I aim to build on the excellent record of An Garda Síochána in this regard through the development of a Charter which will ensure that Garda resources are targeted where they can have most effect and can respond rapidly and effectively to the needs of communities in all parts of the country.

Drug Seizures.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

88 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the quantity and value of seizures of heroin, cocaine, cannabis, and other drugs here during 2007; the proportion of the overall flow of drugs into Ireland that is believed to be represented by these seizures; the new initiatives he is planning to control the flow of illegal drugs into Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14053/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the following table provides details of the seizures made of the main categories of illegal drugs for 2007.

*Drug Seizures in 2007

Drug Type

Quantity

Street Value

Heroin

125.2 Kgs

24,920,000

Cannabis Resin

1.7 Tonne

12,416,000

Cannabis Herb

1.76 Tonne

3,676,000

Ecstasy Tablets

360,279 tablets

3,602,000

*Cocaine

1.7 tonne

119,480,000

Amphetamine

64 kgs

1,010,000

Total

164,604,000

* These figures are provisional only.

Obviously, given the clandestine nature of this illegal activity it is extremely difficult to quantify with any degree of certainty the proportion of drug seizures made in this jurisdiction by our law enforcement authorities in relation to the overall volumes of drugs being trafficked. Any estimate is, therefore, speculative.

According to the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the global illicit drug trade is reputed to exceed billions of US$ annually. That office estimated in 2005 that global seizures for that year accounted for 44% of cocaine production, 28% of cannabis resin, 25% of opium production, 7% of amphetamines and 4.7% of ecstasy.

As I am sure the Deputy appreciates, drug misuse remains one of the most complex social ills faced globally. Our drug law enforcement response is of course a vital feature of our overall response in addressing the issue but we cannot just look at the issue from a supply reduction perspective only.

Rather, we must examine the drugs problem in the wider context in which it takes place and take cognisance of the fact that the demand for and the use of illegal drugs is what fuels the drugs trade. The measures that we have in place to address the problem must take account of this.

The Government remains resolutely committed to tackling the problem through our current National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008.

The National Drugs Strategy addresses the problem under pillar headings of education and prevention, supply reduction, treatment and rehabilitation and research and is firmly founded on the principle that drug misuse needs to be addressed in an integrated manner across these headings through a co-operative approach involving the statutory, community and voluntary treatment sectors.

The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, under the stewardship of my colleague and Minister of State Mr. Pat Carey, T.D., is the lead Government Department in co-ordinating the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy and has recently begun the process of developing our new Strategy for the years 2009-2016.

This work will involve a wide-ranging consultative process, in which my Department will actively participate, which will fully inform the development of our new Strategy. This process will incorporate a comprehensive public consultation element which will include a series of 15 public meetings this year which will be held around the country between late April to early June.

My Department's remit in this area, while not exclusively, is primarily in the area of drug supply reduction, and drug law enforcement remains a key feature of the Government's drug policy framework.

An Garda Síochána invokes a number of broad strategic responses in addressing the issue. These include the following:

Identifying, targeting and dismantling national and international drug trafficking networks which supply and distribute illegal drugs within this state.

Conducting intelligence-driven operations focusing on all aspects of the illicit drugs trade including commodity, logistics, distribution and financing.

Working with other national and international law enforcement agencies on joint actions designed to reduce the availability of drugs and the proceeds derived from the drugs trade.

Working in partnership with statutory, community and voluntary groups to reduce both the supply and demand for drugs within society.

I am advised by the Garda authorities that in addition to the considerable volumes of drugs seized, a significant impact was made in 2007 by arresting and prosecuting a number of major players involved in drug trafficking through the importation, sale and distribution of drugs. A significant number of crime gangs involved in this type of criminal activity have been disrupted and dismantled.

This work is ongoing and An Garda Síochána will continue to pursue these strategies and continue to tackle organised crime and drug trafficking primarily through the use of specialist units and targeted intelligence led operations.

To further assist in our law enforcement efforts against drug trafficking, a number of new initiatives have been recently introduced.

Some examples of this includes the following:

The establishment in January 2008 of the Organised Crime Unit on a permanent footing with full time staff assigned to it. The Unit now has a personnel strength of seventy and in conjunction with the Garda National Drugs Unit and local Gardaí, will continue to implement initiatives such as Operations Anvil and Oak which target criminals involved in the trafficking of drugs.

The recently established Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre (Narcotics) MAOC(N) in Lisbon, of which Ireland is a founding member. The Centre has the specific objective of intercepting narcotic shipments, in particular cocaine, to the European Union from Latin America.

A number of provisions introduced in the Criminal Justice Acts 2006 and 2007 have provided for further measures which will enhance the powers of the Gardaí in the investigation and prosecution of drug offences.

I can assure the Deputy that I will continue to keep the measures and resources for tackling all forms of drug trafficking under review. The enforcement of the law relating to drugs continues to be a key element in the Government's policing priorities and this is reflected in An Garda Síochána's Policing Plan for 2008.

Question No. 89 answered with Question No. 23.

Broadcasting of Court Proceedings.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

90 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the proposal by the President of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors that television coverage of major criminal trials should be allowed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14044/08]

There are no statutory provisions dealing with the taking of photographs, television or video recordings in court. As pointed out by the Law Reform Commission in a Consultation Paper published in 1991 dealing with reform of the law in relation to contempt of court, in the absence of any such provisions, the matter appears to be one governed by the inherent jurisdiction of the court, that is, a matter for the presiding judge. In fact, in April 1995, RTE filmed the opening arguments in the Supreme Court hearing of Re the Regulation of Information (Services Outside the State for the Termination of Pregnancies) Bill 1995. I understand that this was the first time that a broadcasting company was permitted to film a court in this State in session.

For my part, while mindful of the issues raised by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, I have no proposals to introduce legislation in the matter.

Question No. 91 answered with Question No. 74.

Pre-Nuptial Agreements.

P. J. Sheehan

Ceist:

92 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he plans to give legal recognition to pre-nuptial agreements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14156/08]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 64 and 131 on 7 November 2007. The recommendations made in the Report of the Study Group on Pre-nuptial Agreements remain under review in my Department.

Sale of Alcohol.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

93 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he will implement the commitment given in the Programme for Government to increase penalties under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 particularly for alcohol related disorder and increase the fines for supplying alcohol to persons under 18 from €1,500 to €5,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14070/08]

The Deputy will be aware that as part of its remit, the Government Alcohol Advisory Group, chaired by Dr. Gordon Holmes, was asked to examine the use, adequacy and effectiveness of existing sanctions and penalties, particularly those directed towards combating excessive and under-age alcohol consumption. I am currently examining the Report of the Group and I hope to be in a position very shortly to make an announcement on the action to be taken on foot of its recommendations.

EU Directives.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

94 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the interest groups with which he has consulted with regard to the implementation of Directive 2006/24/EC of the European Parliament and the Council on the retention of data; when he expects these consultations to conclude; when he expects that his proposals will be finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14051/08]

I have finalised my proposals to transpose Directive 2006/24/EC of the European Parliament and Council on the retention of telephony and internet data. A copy of the draft Statutory Instrument which will transpose the Directive is available on my Department's website.

In the course of the preparation of the draft, officials from my Department consulted with the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland (ISPAI), the Alternative Operators in the Communications Market (ALTO) and the Telecommunications and Internet Federation (TIF). Between them, those Bodies represent almost all the telephony operators and internet service providers in Ireland. Further consultations with the ISPAI, ALTO and TIF to discuss the draft will now be arranged.

Proposed Legislation.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

95 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has proposals to reform the law on perjury; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14001/08]

The offence of perjury is an offence at common law committed by any person who in a judicial proceeding gives false evidence of a material nature. The maximum penalty is imprisonment for seven years. The offence also exists in particular statutes such as the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 relating to personal injury actions.

Although there are no current plans to reform the law on perjury, the Deputy will be aware that the Criminal Law Codification Advisory Committee was established last year under Part 14 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 to oversee the development of a programme for the codification of the criminal law.

While codification of the offence of perjury is not provided for in the Advisory Committee's First Programme of Work for 2008-2009, the offence will be examined by the Advisory Committee in due course.

EU Directives.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

96 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will expedite the implementation of the EU flood directive; the timetable for its implementation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14826/08]

The EU Floods Directive came into force in November 2007.

It requires member States to bring into force laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with it before 26th November 2009. The transposition of the Directive will be led by OPW.

The Directive requires that Preliminary Flood Risk Assessments be completed before 22nd December 2011, for each river basin or unit of management to provide an assessment of potential flood risks. The Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment is to be reviewed and if necessary updated by 22nd December 2018 and every six years thereafter.

It requires the preparation of Flood Hazard Maps and Flood Risk Maps by 22nd December 2013, in respect of those areas for which it is concluded in the Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment, that potential significant flood risks exist or might be considered likely to occur. The Flood Hazard and Flood Risk Maps are to be reviewed and if necessary updated by 22nd December 2019 and every six years thereafter.

The Directive further requires that Flood Risk Management Plans be prepared by 22nd December 2015 in respect of those areas for which it is concluded in the Preliminary Flood Risk Assessment, that potential significant flood risks exist or might be considered likely to occur. The Flood Risk Management Plans are to be reviewed and if necessary updated by 22nd December 2021 and every six years thereafter.

The Directive will be implemented by the OPW in cooperation with Local Authorities and other State bodies.

The requirements of the Directive align closely with the National Flood Risk Management strategy that was adopted in 2004. As part of this strategy, the OPW published on the internet in 2006 maps and records of actual flood events. Maps showing predicted flood extent areas will be produced as part of a programme of flood risk management studies initiated under the strategy. A pilot study that will produce a Flood Risk Management Plan for the Lee catchment is currently well advanced and similar studies are underway for the Suir and Dodder catchments.

Data necessary for the preliminary flood risk assessment required by the Directive is being acquired by OPW at present.

I am confident that these measures will be completed within the timescales set in the Directive.

Tax Code.

Andrew Doyle

Ceist:

97 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the action he is taking to ensure that defibrillators used by voluntary community groups for non-commercial purpose are exempt from VAT at 21%. [14585/08]

The position is that in matters relating to the VAT rating of goods and services, I am constrained by the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. In this regard, I would point out that the rate of VAT that applies to a particular good or service depends on the nature of the good or service and not on the status of the consumer. In this case, there is no provision in EU law that would permit the removal or reduction of VAT based on the social or economic status of the consumer.

In relation to the VAT rate that applies to defibrillators, the position is that under the VAT Directive, Member States may retain the zero rates on goods and services which were in place on 1 January 1991, but cannot extend the zero rate to new goods and services. The zero VAT rate cannot therefore be applied to defibrillators which are subject to the standard rate.

In addition, Member States may only apply the reduced VAT rate to those goods and services which are listed under Annex III of the VAT Directive. While Annex III does include the supply of medical equipment for the exclusive personal use of a disabled person, it does not include defibrillators for general use. The reduced rate cannot be applied to the supply of defibrillators.

Therefore the only rate of VAT that can apply to the supply of defibrillators is the standard VAT rate which in Ireland is 21%.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

98 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that students enrolled in the graduate medicine programme at various universities in the State are required to contribute up to €12,000 per year from their own resources towards the annual tuition fee; if it is equitable that tax relief on tuition fees for such students is limited to outlay of €5,000 per year; if he will take steps to amend this unfair anomaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14823/08]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the new graduate entry programme which has been introduced as part of the plan to increase the number of medical graduates overall and to expand opportunities for entry to medicine. The graduate entry programme provides undergraduate medical education of four years duration and it has been developed to produce medical graduates with the ability to successfully undertake an internship and thereafter to gain full registration with the Medical Council. The programme is supported by a combination of student fees, State funding and other income. Provision has been made for students from disadvantaged backgrounds participating in the programme through providing hardship funds and access to student loans.

While in this case the fees are high, in the majority of cases where third level tuition fees are payable they are at much lower levels. I would also point out that those participating in the programme must already have acquired an undergraduate degree, the fees for which would have been covered by the State in the vast majority of cases. Furthermore, the Government allocated €263 million towards student support for 2008, an increase of 9%. The largest component of this spending is maintenance grants. These provisions ensure that State support in this area is directed towards those who most need it. It should also be noted that in 2008 total current funding for third level education is almost €1.9 billion, while €190 million is being allocated towards third level capital funding.

As the Deputy may be aware, the level of tuition fees on which tax relief can be claimed was increased by 57%, from €3,175 to €5,000, as recently as Budget 2005. The question of any further increases would be a matter for consideration in the context of future Budgets.

Driving Tests.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

99 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the plans he has to facilitate the relocation of the driving test centre in Roscommon Town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14827/08]

There are no plans to relocate the existing driving test centre in Roscommon Town. The centre will continue to operate from the State owned site at Circular Road, Roscommon.

Flood Relief.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

100 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the status of the application for removal of silt from the Shannon Cut to the National Parks and Wildlife Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14828/08]

The National Parks and Wildlife Service has asked the Office of Public Works for additional information in relation to the proposed removal of silt.

The OPW are considering the request.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

101 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when the Office of Public Works will commence a catchment flood risk assessment and management study of the River Shannon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14829/08]

It is not possible to say at this point precisely when the Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Study will be commenced.

A preliminary flood risk assessment [PFRA] will be required to be completed by 22nd December 2011 to comply with the provisions of the EU Floods Directive.

Flood Hazard and Flood Risk Maps will be required to be completed by 22nd December 2013 in respect of areas in the River Shannon basin where the PFRA identifies that significant flood risks exist or might be considered likely to occur. Flood Risk Management Plans will be required to be completed by 22nd December 2015 in respect of these areas.

A pilot study that will produce a Flood Risk Management Plan for the Lee catchment is currently well advanced and similar studies are underway for the Suir and Dodder catchments. Experience gained in the completion of these studies, especially the Lee study, will influence the specification for the River Shannon and other studies.

OPW is preparing an implementation schedule for all of the studies required to implement the National Flood Risk Management Strategy and the EU Floods Directive. It is expected that this will be completed later this year.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

102 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance further to Parliamentary Question No. 168 of 12 February 2008, the position regarding the Office of Public Works application to the National Parks and Wildlife Service for consent to address flood risk at Clonlara; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14830/08]

The National Parks and Wildlife Service sought additional ecological data from the Office of Public Works in relation to the application for works at Clonlara. This data is currently being gathered and the OPW expect to respond to NPWS during May.

Tax Code.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

103 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of employers that still use tax deduction cards; the measures he has put in place to facilitate these employers from 1 January 2009 when it is proposed to discontinue the issuing of TDCs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14847/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that in January 2008 when they issued tax credit details incorporating the Budget changes, a total of 449,000 individual Tax Deduction Cards (TDCs) were issued to Employers. This figure represents 17.5% of the total employments of 2.56m on record at that time.

In an attempt to identify the number of Employers using TDCs for their intended purpose, in 2007 the Commissioners conducted a survey of Employers in receipt of TDCs. The result of this survey revealed that over ninety percent of the Employers surveyed no longer used TDCs to operate the PAYE cumulative system and calculate the net pay of their employees. Instead, they used computerized payroll systems. It is clear therefore, that the requirement by employers for the use of paper TDCs has been greatly reduced.

In the context of an on-going review by Revenue of service delivery channels to ensure their continued relevance and effectiveness, including cost effectiveness, it is now proposed to discontinue the issue of TDCs to all employers with effect from 1st January 2009. (It should be noted that the issue of TDCs to new employers was discontinued in January 2006).

The Commissioners have decided to introduce the following options for Employers to replace the issue of paper TDCs from 1st January 2009.

Continue to issue paper copies of employee Tax Credit Certificates (TCC) to Employers who are currently receiving TDCs. These certificates contain all the information required to enable an Employer to operate the PAYE system.

Provide an electronic version of the existing TDC on their website www.revenue.ie later this year. This will allow an Employer to enter Employee details and automatically calculate the weekly/fortnightly/monthly deductions as they were previously shown on the TDC. This web based TDC can then be printed and used in the same way as the existing TDC.

Employers can also opt to receive Tax Credit Certificates for their Employees through the Revenue On-Line Service (ROS). This is a fast, efficient and secure service through which in excess of 70% of Employee Tax credit Certificates are already delivered to Employers.

Revenue will continue to remind Employers that the issue of paper TDCs will be discontinued from 1st January 2009 and to inform them of the options they will have in relation to receiving pay and tax details for their Employees from that date. An Employer who is seeking further information or assistance on this matter should contact the Revenue Employers Helpline at 1890 25 45 65.

I am satisfied that the measures to be rolled out by Revenue to replace paper TDCs will ensure that no employer will be disadvantaged. I am further satisfied that the options being introduced represent an appropriate response to changing circumstances and will ensure that resources are deployed effectively while continuing to offer employers a choice of alternatives through a variety of different service channels.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

104 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the taxes a property owner is required to pay when leasing property the applicant in the first instance used as their own home; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14922/08]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

105 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the tax benefits a property owner can claim against income obtained from the leasing of property that was formerly the person’s home; the effects such leasing would have on a mortgage tax relief that the person obtained on their home; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14923/08]

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

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, where a property owner vacates his or her own home and leases the property, the rental income arising from such a letting is liable to income tax after allowing for the cost of maintenance, repairs, insurance and mortgage interest on borrowings to purchase, repair or improve the property. The property owner is also liable to PRSI and the Health Levy on the rental income. The letting of a property which was formerly a person's home will not result in a clawback of mortgage interest relief claimed once the property was the claimant's sole or main residence during the period of claim.

Where a property owner does not vacate a property and continues to occupy it as his or her sole or main residence but lets a room or rooms in the property for residential purposes he or she may be entitled to avail of a relief known as rent-a-room relief. This applies where the gross income received from the letting does not exceed €10,000 per annum (previously €7,620 prior to 31 December 2007). Gross income for the purposes of the relief includes any amount received for meals, cleaning, laundry or other similar goods and services that are incidentally provided in connection with the residential use. Where the gross income received does not exceed the limit, the income is exempt from Income Tax, PRSI & the health levy. No deduction is allowed for any expenses that have been incurred in generating that income. Where the gross income received exceeds the limit, it is treated as rental income and is subject to income tax, PRSI and health levy in the normal way. The receipt of rent under the rent a room relief scheme does not affect an individual's entitlement to mortgage interest relief on his or her principal private residence.

I am also informed by the Revenue Commissioners that certain provisions of the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999 provide for relief from stamp duty for first time purchasers of both newly built and second-hand houses and apartments and for other owner-occupiers who purchase newly built houses or apartments. However, this relief is subject to a clawback where a property is vacated by its owner and rental income received from its letting within a period of 2 years (previously 5 years prior to 5 December 2007) from the date of its purchase. However, a clawback of stamp duty relief would not occur where a property owner let a room or rooms in his or her property while at the same time remaining in occupation of the property himself or herself.

Finally, I am also informed by the Revenue Commissioners that tax relief can be claimed against rental income for capital expenditure incurred, on or after 6 April 2001 and before 31 July 2008, on the refurbishment of certain rented residential accommodation. However, as part of and in line with the phasing out of property incentive schemes generally, only 75% of expenditure incurred during 2007 and 50% of expenditure incurred in the period 1 January 2008 to 31 July 2008 qualifies for relief. The expenditure is allowed as a deduction over a 7-year period at the rate of 15% per annum for the first 6 years and 10% in year 7. To qualify, the premises must be used as a residential dwelling. From the date of completion of the refurbishment, the premises must be let in its entirety under a qualifying lease throughout a period of 10 years from the date of completion of the work or, if later, the date of the first letting. The lessor must comply with the regulations in relation to standards for rented houses, rent books and registration of rented houses. From 1 January 2006 entitlement to relief under this scheme is conditional on compliance with the registration requirements of Part 7 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004.

Garda Stations.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

106 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when Portlaoise Garda Station which is out-dated and in a state of disrepair will be upgraded to an adequate standard. [13994/08]

The Office of Public Works carries out works to Garda Stations at the behest of the Garda Authorities. At present there are no requests to undertake refurbishment works to Portlaoise Garda Station with the exception of remedial roof repairs which are due to take place this year.

In addition, negotiations are ongoing with the Health Service Executive with regard to the procurement by the Office of Public Works of a site of approximately 2 acres for the construction of a new Garda Station for Portlaoise. In the meantime, arrangements are being made for the provision of additional pre-fabricated accommodation units to the rear of the station.

Insurance Industry.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

107 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to a newspaper advertisement (details supplied); the circumstances in which there might be a legitimate market in the purchase of second-hand life assurance policies; his function in enforcing the laws governing life assurance policies and the sale of assurance policies to persons who have no insurable interest in the life assured; if the advertisement in question will be the subject of investigation by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14302/08]

I understand that the issue the Deputy is referring to relates to what is known as the secondary market for life insurance policies. I have been informed by the Financial Regulator that this market is minimal in Ireland, by comparison with the US and the UK, for example. The type of policy that is most likely to be sold on is a life assurance investment policy. This type of policy is intended to be held to maturity in order to maximise the value of the policy. However, some policyholders may, for a variety of reasons, wish to realise some level of value from their policies before maturity. In these cases, the policyholder may choose to sell the life policy, as the value might be greater than the surrender value at that time. As part of the sale process, the policy is typically assigned to the purchaser and the purchaser becomes the beneficiary. The purchaser can continue to pay any remaining premiums on the policy and hold the policy until maturity or earlier death of the policyholder and obtain the full value of the policy. The purchaser could also sell-on the policy at a profit.

The Financial Regulator has indicated that it does not consider the sale and advertisement of such policies to be inappropriate once the necessary authorisation is in place.

The Financial Regulator has advised that where relevant a purchasing company will be subject to either the Regulator's enforcement powers or the enforcement powers in the EU jurisdiction of authorisation. I have asked the Financial Regulator to look into the case referred to by the Deputy.

Tax Code.

John Deasy

Ceist:

108 Deputy John Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he has plans to remove the €10 charge which applies to debit cards for old age pensioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13865/08]

Stamp Duty on cheques has existed for many years and when electronic means of money transfers were subsequently introduced, Stamp Duty was gradually extended to these products to ensure that the Stamp Duty from cheques was not eroded.

In Budget 2008, I introduced a 50% cut in the Stamp Duty on Debit cards, reducing the charge for €10 to €5. A similar cut was introduced for combined Debit and ATM cards, which reduced the charge from €20 to €10.

Stamp Duty on financial cards is a significant contributor to the Exchequer and is in accordance with the overall taxation policy of widening the tax base in order to keep direct tax rates generally low. Any possible changes to the existing arrangement are considered as part of the annual Budget process.

Golf Club Licensing.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

109 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if, under the auspices of the Office of Public Works, a club (details supplied) in County Laois, has been granted permission to engage in the activities of depositing animal droppings, dumping trees and branches, planting trees and constructing greens and tee boxes on lands outside of its licensed area of 137 acres. [13927/08]

The Office of Public Works have not granted permission to The Heath Golf Club to engage in any activities outside of the area licensed to them for use as a golf course on the Great Heath of Maryborough.

Equal Opportunities Employment.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

110 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of women forced to retire from the Civil Service on marriage pre-1973 and who were reinstated in the Civil Service as widows between January 2004 and June 2006. [13942/08]

There are no cases of women forced to retire from the Civil Service on marriage pre-1973 and who were reinstated in the Civil Service as widows between January 2004 and June 2006.

Section 11 of the Civil Service Regulation Act, 1956, as amended by the Civil Service (Employment of Married Women) Act, 1973, provided for the reinstatement to their former positions of women who resigned from the Civil Service for marriage-related reasons and who fulfilled specific criteria.

The statutory provisions permitting such reinstatements were, however, challenged under the terms of the Employment Equality Act, 1977 by the Employment Equality Agency and were found by the Labour Court to be discriminatory and contrary to the principle of equal treatment. The Civil Service Regulation (Amendment) Act, 1996, repealed the statutory provisions and, consequently, the only avenue of re-entry to the Civil Service now open to former civil servants (regardless of gender or marital status) is to go through the normal recruitment route, i.e. they must be successful at a Public Appointments Service open competition, or such other competitions that may be run under licence by individual Civil Service Departments or Offices.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

111 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his views on reports that possibly 40% of large land deals are the subject of substantial tax avoidance measures and that these measures may cost the Exchequer upwards of €250 million on an annual basis; if he plans to reconsider activation of section 110 of the Finance Act 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13947/08]

Section 110 of the Finance Act 2007 made provision for a charge to stamp duty where license agreements and other such arrangements are used when land is purchased for development without conveyance or transfer. The provision ensured that these arrangements will incur a Stamp Duty charge where a landowner receives a payment amounting to 25% or more of the market value or consideration concerned. Section 110 is subject to a commencement order on the basis that it would be prudent that the state of the housing and property market be considered before commencing the provision.

For this reason, I commissioned an independent study of the potential effects that such a provision may have on the market. The Deputy was recently given a copy of the report and it is also available for download on my Department's website at http://www.finance.gov.ie/ documents/publications/reports/2008/S110Report.pdf.

The Report makes the point that there are no official data sources on the value of development land sales; therefore, it gives an indicative estimate of the total value of the development land market in 2006 at c. €7bn to €8bn. Based on an assumption that 40% of land transactions using these arrangements, the Report estimated a potential revenue gain in 2006 of c. €251m if the provisions had been in place at that time. However, this estimate is based on the historic levels of activity in 2006 and is not indicative of the revenue gain that would occur following commencement of the provisions. A more realistic figure for the revenue accruing from the provisions is in the order of €50m per annum.

Of particular importance is that the Report indicates that Section 110 would have led to a rise in land prices, with a knock-on increase in house prices, especially for first-time buyers, and possibly risked exacerbating the down-turn in the property market. In addition, the Report highlighted that Section 110 would also have raised the cost to the State of PPP projects because of increased land prices. The commencement of Section 110 of the Finance Act 2007 is kept under constant review and has to take into account circumstances in the housing and property markets.

Tax Yield.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

112 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if, in view of the most recent Exchequer returns for the first quarter and the shortfall of these returns as against Budget 2008 projections, he will provide a revised estimate for the end of year outturn. [13958/08]

At the end of March there was an Exchequer deficit of EUR354 million. For the year as a whole an exchequer deficit of EUR4,866 million was forecast in the budget. In looking at the performance of taxes, of particular note is the good performance of income tax, which is up 5 per cent compared to the same period last year. This is a good indication of the resilience of the Irish economy and reflects that the most important part of economic activity — employment — remains strong.

Overall tax receipts were EUR600 million, or 5.1 per cent 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 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.

Tax Code.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

113 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will confirm that the Revenue Commissioners have decided that from 18 March 2008 penalties will no longer be applied when calculating tax liabilities for deceased persons and their estates. [13961/08]

Michael Ring

Ceist:

114 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if, in view of the decision by the Revenue Commissioners not to charge penalties on the estates of deceased non-compliant tax payers from 18 March 2008, he will request the Revenue Commissioners to repay such penalties imposed on estates processed prior to that date. [13962/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 113 and 114 together.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have, with effect from 18 March 2008, implemented revised arrangements regarding the recovery of penalties in tax settlements involving deceased persons. Where the taxpayer dies before a settlement has been agreed with Revenue, Revenue will not seek recovery of any penalty element from the deceased's personal representatives (and will discontinue proceedings for recovery of such penalty if they have been initiated).

I am advised that settlements finalised before 18 March 2008 will not be reopened by Revenue. These negotiated settlements, made in good faith by both parties, will generally have involved unreserved letters of offer and acceptance and are considered to be binding.

I should point out that where a settlement that includes a penalty element has been agreed between Revenue and a deceased taxpayer prior to his/her death (or where a penalty has been awarded in proceedings finalised prior to the taxpayer's death), and that penalty remains unpaid or not fully paid as at the date of death, Revenue will continue to proceed against the personal representatives of the deceased for the recovery of that unpaid penalty. There is no change to existing Revenue practice in these particular circumstances.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

115 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when the accelerated capital allowances for certain energy efficient equipment set out in Section 46 of the Finance Act 2008 will take effect; and the person who will determine the list of eligible equipment. [14040/08]

In Finance Act 2008, I introduced a new tax initiative to encourage the use of energy efficient equipment by companies for their business. This accelerated capital allowance incentive will allow companies to claim the full cost of specified energy efficient equipment against their profits in the year of purchase. Expenditure must be above a certain minimum amount for each class of technology covered by the scheme. The incentive will be confined to new energy efficient equipment purchased by companies and it will not apply to equipment that is leased, let or hired.

The incentive will come into effect by order when EU State-aid approval is obtained. The process of applying for State-aid approval from the EU Commission is currently being progressed by my Department and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. While the approval issue is not entirely within our control, the aim is to expedite matters as soon as possible.

The energy efficiency criteria to be met by eligible equipment and the specified eligible products under the three classes of technology covered by the incentive (motors and drives, lighting and building energy management systems) will be published in a list established by order of the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (with the approval of the Minister for Finance). The list will be maintained by Sustainable Energy Ireland. Issues relating to the criteria and the publication of the list of equipment eligible for the incentive are matters for my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

Finally, I should make the point that the incentive will run for a period of 3 years from the date when the first order establishing the list of energy efficient equipment is made. Energy-efficient equipment purchased in the period between 31 January 2008 (including that date) and the date of the first order will qualify under the scheme, provided the equipment purchased in that period is on the list established by that first order.

Flood Relief.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

116 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the concerns regarding the operation of the sluice gates in the Ringabella embankment dam near Minane Bridge, County Cork which is the responsibility of the Office of Public Works; and if he will take steps to ensure that the infrastructure is upgraded at this stage. [14093/08]

Cork County Council recently approached the Office of Public Works regarding the sluice gates referred to by the Deputy. The OPW have no responsibility for the maintenance of these structures and do not propose to carry out any works to them.

Consultancy Contracts.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

117 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the consultants who carried out work for his Department or for any body under the auspices of his Department during 2007; if each consultant was an individual or a firm; the amount earned by each consultant in 2007; the basis of the calculation of same; the rate per hour, day, week, month or other period payable in each case; if in each case the consultant was engaged to prepare a report or to carry out work; if in the case of a report being prepared the report has been published; if not, when the report will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14106/08]

The following table sets out the information the Deputy is seeking in respect of payments made to consultants by my Department.

Name

Purpose

Firm or Individual

Paid in 2007

Basis

Rate (P/D etc.)

Report

Has it been published?

When will it be published?

Hay Group (Ireland) Ltd.

Public Service Benchmarking Body (PSBB) surveys of public service and private sector companies

Firm

206,956

Fixed Price

N/A

Yes (as input to the overall benchmarking report)

No

Not expected to be published.

Mercer Human Resource Consulting

PSBB surveys of public service and private sector companies

Firm

349,301

Fixed Price

N/A

Yes

No

Not expected to be published.

Hay Group (Ireland) Ltd.

Review of remuneration of CEO’s of Commercial State Bodies.

Firm

47,795

Fixed Price

N/A

Yes

No

Not expected to be published.

Jenny Smyth & Associates

PSBB surveys of public service and private sector companies

Firm

104,863

Fixed Price

N/A

No

N/A

N/A

Hay Group (Ireland) Ltd.

Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector. Evaluation of the jobs of senior posts in the Irish public service

Firm

190,249

Fixed Price

N/A

Yes (as input to the overall review report)

No

Not expected to be published.

Indecon International Economic Consultants

Review of Section 481 Film Relief

Firm

92,111

Fixed Price

N/A

Yes

Yes

N/A

Horwath Consulting Ireland Ltd.

Value for Money Review of Ordnance Survey Ireland.

Firm

19,150

Fixed Price

N/A

Yes

Yes

N/A

Goodbody Economic Consultants

Review of exemption from taxation of royalties or income derived from patents.

Firm

59,532

Fixed Price

N/A

Yes

Yes

N/A

PWC (Price Waterhouse Coopers)

Risk Evaluation PMG.

Firm

49,624

Fixed Price

N/A

Yes

No

Not expected to be published.

Goodbody Economic Consultants

Study on the potential effects of commencing Section 110 Finance Act 2007.

Firm

43,651

Fixed Price

N/A

Yes

Yes

N/A

Indecon International Economic Consultants

Update of review of scheme of tax relief for residential units associated with nursing homes.

Firm

42,592

Fixed Price

N/A

Yes

Yes

N/A

Nifast

Hazards and Risks Assessment.

Firm

22,750

Fixed Price

N/A

Yes

No

Not expected to be published.

Canavan and Byrne

Operational audits of Civil Service Crèches.

Firm

6,050

Fixed Price

N/A

Yes

No

Not expected to be published.

Safety Solutions

Health & Safety Audit.

Firm

2,420

Fixed Price

N/A

Yes

No

Not expected to be published.

Cornamona Health & Safety Consultants

Workstation Health and Safety Review in Tullamore.

Firm

7,800

Fixed Price

N/A

Yes

No

Not expected to be published.

Acuvest Investment Advisors Ltd

Internal Advisor on Pensions

Firm

48,400

Fixed Price

N/A

No

N/A

N/A

Life Strategies Limited

Pensions study for PSBB and Review Body

Firm

87,726

Fixed Price

N/A

Yes

Yes

N/A

Name

Purpose

Firm or Individual

Paid in 2007 €

Basis

Rate (P/D etc.)

Report

Has it been published?

When will it be published?

DLA Piper Rudnick

Internal Advisor role to the PSBB. Contract for the role as advisor during the deliberative phase of the work of the PSBB

Firm

190,114

Per Diem rates

Payment of €96,188 was made in 2007 in respect work carried out in 2006 at a rate of €1,975 per day. Payment of €93,926 was also made in 2007 in respect of work carried out in 2007 at a rate of €2,250 per day. The total payment in 2007 was €190,114.

No

N/A

N/A

Ernst & Young

Economics study of CSO National Employment Survey 2003

Firm

56,567

Fixed Price

N/A

Yes

Yes

N/A

The Reward Partnership

Parallel Partnership N/A Examination of pay of craft workers in the Health and Local Authority sectors

Firm

151,554

Fixed Price

N/A

Yes

No

Not expected to be published.

The following table sets out the information the Deputy is seeking in respect of payments made to consultants by the Office of the Revenue Commissioners.

Name

Purpose

Firm or Individual

Paid in 2007

Basis

Rate (P/D etc.)

Report

Has it been published?

When will it be published?

20:20 Vision Design Group

Design Work

Firm

998

Variable

€100 per hour

No

N/A

N/A

Achilles Procurement Services Ltd

Procurement advice in respect of the outsourcing of the New State Warehouse

Firm

5,731

Variable

€220 per hour

No

N/A

N/A

Actons Solicitors

Professional Fee

Firm

372

Fixed

N/A

No

N/A

N/A

Alchemy Films PTY LTD

Advice on Film Relief

Firm

5,808

Variable

N/A

No

N/A

N/A

Arthur Nowlan

Valuation of seized goods

Individual

3,199

Variable

N/A

No

N/A

N/A

Ballycotton Marine Services

Customs vessel

Individual

4,091

Annual Agreement

€726 per day

No

N/A

N/A

Bearing Point Ltd.

HRMS Managed Services

Firm

239,359

Fixed

N/A

No

N/A

N/A

Bennis Design

Design Service

Firm

7,611

Variable

N/A

No

N/A

N/A

Bull Info systems

Services in relation to the Revenue- Risk Evaluation Analysis and Profiling (REAP)- System

Firm

18,072

Fixed

€1,250 per day

No

n/a

n/a

C. Moore and Associates Ltd

Independent Quality Assessment of VFM Review

Individual

2,677

Fixed

€1,070 per day

Yes

Yes

N/A

Carisle Advisory Services

Research

Firm

2,420

Variable

N/A

Yes

No

Not expected to be published

Catalysto Ltd.

Design features re Employers Guide to PAYE.

Firm

3,896

Variable

N/A

No

N/A

N/A

Ciaran Feighery

Affidavits signed by solicitor

Firm

150

Fixed

N/A

No

N/A

N/A

Copper Reed Studio Ltd.

Form Design

Firm

483

Fixed

N/A

No

N/A

N/A

Costello Commercial

Report & Valuation of various properties

Firm

14,520

Variable

N/A

Yes

No

Not expected to be published

Costello Commercial

Valuation of properties

Firm

5,808

Fixed

N/A

No

N/A

N/A

Creative A.D.

Desk Top Publishing Design

Firm

2,305

Fixed

N/A

No

N/A

N/A

De Veres

Valuation of Heritage Objects

Firm

605

Variable

N/A

No

N/A

N/A

De Burca rare Books

Valuation of Heritage Objects

Firm

5,445

Variable

N/A

No

N/A

N/A

Name

Purpose

Firm or Individual

Paid in 2007

Basis

Rate (P/D etc.)

Report

Has it been published?

When will it be published?

Deloitte

VFM Review of IT External Resources Expenditure in 2006

Team of Deloitte Consultants

118,580

Fixed

N/A

To assist in the production of a report

Yes

N/A

Enterprise Ireland

To give advice/prepare reports relating to customs classification of certain products(IT/Electronic etc)

Firm

2,360

Variable

€78 per hour

Yes

No

Not expected to be published

Frontend.com

Review of Revenue’s website and advice re redesign strategy

Firm

23,450

Fixed

N/A

Yes

No

Not expected to be published

Gerard O’Leary

Valuation of motor vehicles

Individual

8,205

Fixed

N/A

No

N/A

N/A

Interactive Innovation

Advice on R&D credit

Firm

3,630

Variable

€1,000 per day

No

N/A

N/A

IQ Content Limited

Advice on ROS (Revenue on-Line Service)

Firm

14,641

Fixed

N/A

Yes

No

Not expected to be published

James Nash

Document analysis

Individual

847

Fixed

N/A

Yes

No

Not expected to be published

Mealys

Valuation of Heritage Objects

Firm

5,082

Variable

N/A

No

N/A

N/A

Mr. Gerry McMahon

Valuation of Heritage Objects

Individual

7,098

Hourly rate

€78 per hour

Yes

No

Not expected to be Published

Ms Niamh Brodie

Valuation of shares in private companies

Individual

16,500

Variable

€300 per hour

Yes

No

Not expected to be published

Ms. Marie Armah-Kwantreng t/a Devlin Editing

Typesetting and editing of non-statutory consolidation of Customs legislation

Individual

9,638

Variable

Variable, depending on typesetting editing output

No

N/A

N/A

PCS Consultancy

HR Advice

Firm

726

Fixed

N/A

Yes

No

Not expected to be published

Polaris HR

HR Consultation

Firm

13,315

Variable

€190 per hour and where relevant, €120 per day subsistence, plus travel expenses

Yes

No

Not expected to be published

UCD

Advice on R&D credit

Firm

7,260

Variable

€1,000 per day

No

N/A

N/A

Whyte & Son Auctioneers

Valuation of Heritage Objects

Firm

726

Variable

N/A

No

N/A

N/A

In relation to the Office of Public Works, the Valuation Office, the State Laboratory, the Public Appointments Service, the Commission for Public Service Appointments and the Office of the Ombudsman, my Department has asked those offices to communicate the required information to me and I will forward it to the Deputy shortly.

Departmental Properties.

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

118 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if he will provide this Deputy with more information as to the amount of rental default in relation to a centre (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14232/08]

Northside Civic Centre is mainly occupied by Community Groups and front-line delivery units of Government Departments. When the centre was being constructed, OPW gave an indication to the relevant prospective tenants of the level of rent which might be envisaged in respect of the accommodation to be occupied by them. Shortly after they took up occupation many of the tenants, who were previously unaware of the level of service charges which would be payable in addition to the rent indicated, made representations for a reduction to rent. In addition to the issue of service charges OPW is also cognisant that the determination of an appropriate rent may be also influenced by the fact that other branches of a number of the Bodies housed in the Centre occupy premises elsewhere on a peppercorn rent.

Unfortunately, because the transfer of the site from Dublin City Council to OPW has yet to be finalised it is not possible at this point to formalise occupancy details, including rent, with the tenants. Once the title issue has been finalised the question of rent levels can then be formally addressed. However, based on the indicative figure given to the tenants prior to occupancy the amount of rental default would be in the region of €500,000.

Tax Code.

Sean Fleming

Ceist:

119 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the situation regarding the new arrangements introduced in the Finance Act 2008 that allow senior citizens operate deposit interest retention tax free bank accounts; if this arrangement extends to joint accounts in the names of two elderly people both of whom are over 70 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14262/08]

The Finance Act 2007 introduced a new scheme that allows senior citizens to operate DIRT-free accounts. The scheme is available to individuals or their spouses who are aged 65 years of age, or over whose total annual income is no more than the relevant income tax exemption limit — for 2008 this is €20,000 for a single or widowed person and €40,000 for a married couple.

A joint account only qualifies under the scheme where the account holders are husband and wife. In this regard, the husband and wife must sign the declaration form in respect of that account. In the case of a joint account held by individuals who are not husband and wife, there is no provision that allows for the operation of a DIRT free account. In this situation, the previous provisions still apply in that each individual can claim a repayment of the relevant DIRT by submitting a claim form, with the appropriate certificates of interest received, to the Revenue Commissioners.

EU Directives.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

120 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance when he last received a review on the operation of the deposit protection account maintained by the Central Bank for the purposes of the European Communities (Deposit Guarantee Schemes) Regulations 1995, S.I. No. 168 of 1995; the recommendations made as to its operation; if he is satisfied that the amount in the account is sufficient to meet potential liabilities; if he is considering changes to the level of contribution required from each credit institution at 0.2 % of deposits, the maximum 90% compensation limit or the maximum €20,000 compensation limit or any of these; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14265/08]

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

121 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if the European Commission has discussed with his Department its view set out in a communication to the European Parliament (details supplied) that Directive 94/19/EC on deposit guarantee schemes requires that, if a member state decides that depositors should bear a certain percentage of losses themselves in the event their deposits become unavailable and therefore introduces a deposit protection scheme which imposes a limit on compensation equivalent to 90% of deposits, then the maximum compensation limit in that scheme must be set at €22,222; his views on the Commission’s interpretation of the directive; the implications for the European Communities (Deposit Guarantee Schemes) Regulations 1995, S.I. No. 168 of 1995, which impose both a 90% limit and a maximum compensation limit of €20,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14266/08]

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

122 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance his response to the views of the president of the European Central Bank that deposit protection schemes that only partially cover smaller deposits will increase the risk of future bank runs and should be phased out; if, as a result he proposes changes to the European Communities (Deposit Guarantee Schemes) Regulations 1995, S.I. No. 168 of 1995, which impose both a 90% limit and a maximum compensation limit of €20,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14267/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120 to 122, inclusive, together.

The issue of Deposit Guarantee Schemes (DGS) has received extensive consideration and examination over recent times at EU level. The Commission carried out a first review in 2006 of the Deposit Guarantee Schemes Directive (Directive 94/19/EC). The subsequent Commission Communication on that review acknowledged that Member States had different approaches to deposit guarantee schemes reflecting distinct national circumstances and concluded that there was no consensus about what an ideal scheme would look like. The Commission proposed to focus on non-legislative actions in the short term while more fundamental issues would be postponed, in particular the coverage level, the scope and the funding arrangements.

In the wake of dislocation in global financial markets from mid-2007 onwards, the Ecofin Council of 9 October 2007 requested the Commission and the EU Financial Services Committee (FSC) to consider possible enhancements of the EU deposit guarantee scheme and to report back to the Council by mid-2008. Since then, discussions on DGS have taken place in the FSC, the EU Economic and Finance Committee (EFC) and at Ecofin. These discussions are ongoing and acknowledge the crucial role that DGS can play in maintaining confidence in the banking system. They also recognise that DGS are but one of the elements of the financial safety net. Views expressed by the ECB will be taken into account in the EU review.

Ireland is participating in the EU review of DGS launched by EU Finance Ministers last October. On the basis of the outcome of the EU review, I will, of course, consider any specific changes required in the Irish DGS to ensure that savers in Ireland benefit from safeguards in line with EU best practice.

The Irish DGS is based on a mix ofex ante and ex post funding mechanisms. As the Deputy indicated in his question, under the Irish DGS there is a levy of 0.2% on deposits, which has so far yielded a fund of some €450 million.

I would remind the Deputy that, as I have mentioned in response to previous similar questions, the first and most robust line of defence for depositors must be a well-managed system of prudential regulation and supervision so as to try to minimise the risk that a DGS needs to be activated. Recent assessments by bodies such as the IMF have confirmed that the Irish regime for financial regulation complies with best international practice.

Ireland has implemented Article 7(4) of the Deposit Guarantee Directive, in the manner described in footnote 7 on page 5 of the European Commission's Communication cited by the Deputy. The Irish Deposit Protection Scheme guarantees 90% of deposits up to a limit of €22,222, which means the maximum possible payout is €20,000. The Irish DGS is maintained by the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland.

Customs Service.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

123 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of patrol boats available to the customs authorities for patrolling the Irish coastline; the reason for the withdrawal of the patrol boat from duties along the west coast; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14528/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, in addition to the assistance provided by the Naval Service, they have a 23 metre cutter, the RCC Suirbhéir, with full sea-going capability. This vessel is used to patrol the Irish coastline and is also used in targeted operations where it operates in conjunction with shore-based resources. The cutter has not been withdrawn from duties along the west coast. During 2007, it carried out 7 patrols on the West Coast of Ireland involving 28 patrol days. These included two operations that led to recoveries of cannabis from the seabed in an area west of Galway Bay.

Revenue has recently signed a contract for the purchase of a second cutter and expects to take delivery in September 2009.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

124 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of sniffer dogs available to the customs authorities at the western seaboard ports and Carrickfin, Sligo, Ireland West and Galway Airports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14529/08]

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

125 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of vessels boarded and searched with sniffer dogs at western seaboard ports for 2006 and 2007; the names of the ports in question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14530/08]

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

126 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number and value of drug seizures made at Carrickfin, Sligo, Ireland West and Galway Airports and ports along the western seaboard in 2006 and 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14531/08]

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

127 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of customs staff employed at the various ports along the western seaboard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14532/08]

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

128 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of hours and dates that the customs staff were on duty at the Carrickfin, Sligo, Ireland West and Galway Airports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14533/08]

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

129 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of customs staff employed at Carrickfin, Sligo, Ireland West and Galway Airports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14534/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 124 to 129, inclusive, together.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there is a full time dog detector unit based in Sligo which covers the areas mentioned. Dog detector units are also located in Shannon and Dublin which can be called upon if required. The Commissioners are satisfied that the dog detector unit located in Sligo is sufficient to meet current demands. During 2006 and 2007, a drug detector dog was used on a number of occasions to assist in the search of vessels for drugs. It is not the policy of the Revenue Commissioners to publish details of the usage of sniffer dogs as this could prejudice current or future operations.

In 2006, eight seizures (value €233) were made at Ireland West Airport Knock. In 2007, eight seizures were made at Ireland West Airport Knock (value €291) and one seizure at Galway (value €36). No seizures took place at Galway Airport in 2006 and none at Carrickfin or Sligo Airports in 2006 or 2007. No seizures took place in the ports along the Western seaboard during 2006 or 2007. During 2007, 362 kgs of Cannabis was recovered from the seaboard off the west coast by a number of fishing trawlers. The drugs were seized by the Revenue Customs Service and intensive enquiries were carried out nationally and internationally into the source of the cannabis.

One Officer is employed full time in Killybegs Port. Shipping duties in Galway and Sligo Ports are covered, as required, by local Officers based at Galway and Sligo. Other coverage of ports along the western seaboard is provided by mobile Revenue Customs Officers on a risk analysis basis. The Revenue Customs cutter patrols the Western seaboard from time to time and where there is a significant maritime threat, the Customs Service receives invaluable assistance from the Naval Service and the Air Corps. Assistance is also received from foreign Customs. Revenue is actively promoting the Customs Drugs Watch programme in the coastal area.

For the first three months of 2008, Customs Officers carried out a total of 34 visits to the airports at Carrickfin, Sligo, Ireland West and Galway. The total staff hours spent on these visits was 446 hours. It is not the policy of the Revenue Commissioners to publish details of the dates and times of enforcement activities as this could prejudice current or future operations. A number of new flights are due to start shortly and existing flights are due to increase under summer schedules. Enforcement visits will increase accordingly.

Customs Officers are not permanently based at Carrickfin, Sligo, Ireland West or Galway airports. Customs controls at such aerodromes are risk-based and are carried out by mobile Revenue Customs Officers. Attendance by these Officers is selective and targeted and is based on analysis and evaluation of national and international seizure trends, traffic frequency, routes and other risk indicators. Attendance can also be as a result of specific intelligence. Flights with origins and destinations with a high-risk rating attract particular interest. These attendances cover the full range of flight times and are kept under constant review in particular to take account of emerging smuggling trends and any traffic increases at these airfields.

In addition to drugs enforcement work, other duties are undertaken by officers in attending airfields/aerodromes, including controls against the smuggling of excise products, the clearance of aircraft and passengers arriving from third countries, spot checks on EU flights and checks on private aircraft to ensure compliance with import procedures.

It is important to note, by way of context, that the operating environment for Customs has been shaped to a significant degree by the introduction of the Internal Market and the related principles of freedom of movement within the EU. Of specific relevance are the abolition of routine and systematic Customs checks on goods and passengers moving within any part of the EU and the elimination of Customs controls on the baggage of intra-Community passengers other than for anti-smuggling checks. This is particularly relevant in the case of these aerodromes where passenger traffic is predominantly intra-Community. In this context, Revenue's approach has, of necessity, been to balance the freedom of movement principle in regard to people and goods with the need to control smuggling and enforce prohibitions and restrictions.

The Revenue Commissioners assure me that, having regard to the context set out above, they are satisfied that their risk based approach remains valid and their operations are on a par with, and may even exceed, those of many other EU Member States. The risk rating for all of the airports mentioned is due for review by 30 June 2008 and any change in the risks will be addressed. I am also assured by the Revenue Commissioners of their strong ongoing commitment to playing their part in combating smuggling and criminal activity, as reiterated in their recently published statement of strategy.

Garda Stations.

Andrew Doyle

Ceist:

130 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if a decision has been taken to rescind the offer of a site and buildings of the old Garda station in Ashford to the local community; the basis for this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14567/08]

The Office of Public Works has been advised by An Garda Síochána that Ashford Garda Station remains a requirement and therefore consideration cannot be given to the disposal of this State owned property.

Tax Code.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

131 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the position in regard to the case of a person (details supplied); if there are exceptions for people in this position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14577/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that for the purposes of both Gift and Inheritance Tax, the relationship between the person who provided the gift or inheritance (i.e. the disponer) and the person who received the gift or inheritance (i.e. the beneficiary), determines the maximum tax-free threshold — known as the "Group threshold". Three Group thresholds were introduced on 1 December 1999, based on the relationship of the beneficiary to the disponer, and these Group thresholds are indexed annually by reference to the Consumer Price Index. The indexed Group threshold applying to a gift or inheritance received by a person from their brother is the Group B threshold and this Group B threshold is €52,121 for 2008.

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

In the case in question, if the beneficiary did not receive any gifts and inheritances since 5 December 1991 from within Group B threshold (i.e. brothers, sisters etc.) then inheritance tax at the rate of 20% will apply on €97,879 on the market value of the home of €150,000 less the tax- free Group B threshold of €52,121 for 2008. If, however, the beneficiary did receive gifts/inheritances since 5 December 1991, their value will have to be taken into account and the tax free Group threshold will be reduced accordingly. The legislation provides for payment of any tax due on an inheritance/gift in 5 equal yearly instalments, it also provides for situations of hardship or illiquidity and such instances may be dealt with by postponement of payment in certain cases.

Apart from the tax-free Group threshold available to a beneficiary, the Capital Acquisitions Tax code (Gift and Inheritance Tax) exempts certain gifts and inheritances completely from tax and also contains relieving provisions. For example, a gift or inheritance of a dwelling-house is exempt from gift or inheritance tax in certain circumstances. If a beneficiary receives an inheritance of a dwelling-house, the inheritance of that house will be exempt from inheritance tax if the beneficiary has resided in the house for a minimum of 3 years prior to the inheritance and if the beneficiary has no interest in any other dwelling-house. This exemption ensures that what may be the family home for many people will not be the subject of any gift or inheritance tax when it is the subject of a gift or inheritance. Given that the overall position in relation to inheritances can be complicated, it would be advisable for the individual in this case to contact his local office of the Revenue Commissioners so that his position can be fully considered.

Departmental Staff.

James Bannon

Ceist:

132 Deputy James Bannon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if rules and regulations with regard to further study for staff in Civil Service positions, particularly in regard to payment of fees and study leave are common to all Departments, or if regulations that are applicable to an individual Department only, which would not allow for potential movement to a different section, or the future need for particular knowledge or skills, are permitted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14665/08]

The general instructions covering refund of fees, study leave and examination leave for civil servants are set out in Circular 23/07.

The circular sets out the arrangements to facilitate Departments/Offices in building appropriate skill and expertise levels and in supporting officers' efforts in the area of self-development and life-long learning. The support provided for further study is directed at enhancing workplace performance in the Civil Service and assisting officers to achieve improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of public service delivery.

Consistent with Civil Service strategic management objectives, the approach of the circular is to maximise the discretion available to Departments/Offices in addressing post-entry education matters in ways that are most relevant to their own areas of responsibility. In using this discretion, the overall goal of Departments/Offices should be to provide as much support as possible for relevant staff education and development, subject to the general conditions governing the refund of fees, study leave and examination leave set out in this circular.

A copy of the circular is available on www.personnelcode.gov.ie as is the Staff Information Booklet — Terms and Conditions of Employment in the Irish Civil Service.

National Monuments.

Damien English

Ceist:

133 Deputy Damien English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a monument commemorating 1798 has been removed from the Hill of Tara in County Meath; if this monument will be replaced by the Office of Public Works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14721/08]

The Office of Public Works has no knowledge of a monument commemorating 1798 being removed from lands managed by the Office of Public Works at the Hill of Tara, Co. Meath.

Research Funding.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

134 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received and studied the recent submission from an organisation (details supplied) with particular reference to the identification of the most urgently required provisions in term of facilities or funding; the extent to which she expects to meet such requirements in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14713/08]

I met with representatives of Muscular Dystrophy Ireland in October 2007 and discussed the issue raised by the Deputy. I subsequently wrote to Mr. Joe Mooney, Director of Muscular Dystrophy Ireland on 7 February 2008 outlining the position in relation to funding research trials into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy in the United Kingdom. There is no mechanism or budget for Government funding of U.K. health research.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

135 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if, arising from the recent submission submitted to her Department by an organisation (details supplied), she has examined the extent to which these deserving needs can be met in the short or medium term; her proposals to meet such requests in the near future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14714/08]

I met with representatives of Muscular Dystrophy Ireland in October 2007 and discussed the issue raised by the Deputy. I subsequently wrote to Mr. Joe Mooney, Director of Muscular Dystrophy Ireland on 7 February 2008 outlining the position in relation to funding research trials into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy in the United Kingdom. There is no mechanism or budget for Government funding of U.K. health research.

Community Pharmacy Services.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

136 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive’s decision to reduce the reimbursement rates paid to pharmacists from 1 March 2008 under the community drugs schemes represents a breach of the existing contract between the HSE and pharmacists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14813/08]

The Health Service Executive (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 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 interests of patient care and safety, it has no option but to require pharmacists 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 patients who may be affected by the actions of individual pharmacists.

Health Service Expenditure.

Damien English

Ceist:

137 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in regard to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 318 and 319 of 5 February 2008, she will instruct the Health Service Executive to issue a final reply to same; the reason for the prolonged delay in their response; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14818/08]

I have been informed that the information requested was sent to the Deputy on 10 April 2008.

Hospital Services.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

138 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children when the review of renal services in this State will be published; the number of dialysis patients there are in the State; the number of patients awaiting dialysis; the number of dialysis stations actively available in the public sector; the number of patients they are catering for; the number of public patients being catered for in private facilities which are paid for by Health Service Executive; the cost per patient for public patients referred to private facilities; the cost for dialysis per patient in public hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14825/08]

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.

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.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

139 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive has paid funding towards the medical costs of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14839/08]

Full eligibility for health services is granted to persons who, in the opinion of the Health Service Executive, are unable to provide general practitioner, medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants without undue hardship. Persons with full eligibility are entitled to general practitioner services, prescribed drugs, medicines and appliances, all in-patient public hospital services in public wards including consultant services, all out-patient public hospital services including consultant services, dental, ophthalmic and aural services and appliances, child health services, home nursing and a maternity and infant care service. Persons aged 70 and over are statutorily entitled to a medical card, regardless of income. In all other cases an assessment of means is undertaken.

As the determination of an individual's eligibility status is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive, 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.

Health Service Staff.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

140 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the staff-to-case ratios of social work personnel in child protection; her plans to improve these ratios; and the timeframe for same. [14840/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and social services which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Office 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.

Community Pharmacy Services.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

141 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the contingency plans in place for 1 May 2008 (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14850/08]

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

150 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Health and Children the details of the Health Service Executive’s contingency plans to ensure patients receive access to medicines, particularly in rural areas, in the event of the withdrawal of services by pharmacists as they have indicated; the steps being taken to resolve this long running dispute; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14877/08]

Dan Neville

Ceist:

152 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of pharmacies who have indicated to her that they will be suspending their contracts with the Health Service Executive. [14884/08]

Deirdre Clune

Ceist:

154 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that a significant number of pharmacists have terminated their contract with the Health Service Executive and that others have advised the HSE of their right to suspend their contract from 1 May 2008; her views on whether this will have a serious effect on the delivery of primary health care in communities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14887/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 141, 150, 152 and 154 together.

I have been informed by the HSE that it has, to date, received notification from 360 community pharmacy contractors indicating their intention to either cease providing services from 1st May 2008, or otherwise reserving their right to do so.

Community pharmacy contractors are required under the terms of their contract to give three months notice of their intention to withdraw. The HSE has written to each of the 360 contractors, seeking formal confirmation of their intentions and pointing out that 3 months notice of cessation of service is required. At this point in time, only two contractors have actually given formal notification of termination in accordance with the requirements in the contract.

The HSE has developed a national contingency planning framework which will inform and provide direction to local operational management for the development of local area — specific contingency plans. As service provision, geographical and demographic circumstances will vary from area to area, each local health area is developing its own area — specific contingency plan within the context of the overall national framework.

I believe that threats of withdrawal from the community pharmacy contract are unjustified and not in anyone's interest. There is no need to bring patients into a dispute between the pharmacists and the HSE. There can be no grounds for causing upset or anxiety about the supply of prescriptions to patients.

Qualifications Recognition.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

142 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made in relation to an application for registration by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14851/08]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the application by this individual for the recognition of professional qualifications.

The Academy of Medical Laboratory Science (AMLS) is the competent authority for the implementation of Directive 92/51/EEC in relation to the recognition of professional qualifications in medical laboratory science. This Directive is now consolidated, with other Directives on the recognition of professional qualifications, into Directive 2005/36/EC for which my colleague the Minister for Education and Science has overall national responsibility. As the Deputy was recently advised, the AMLS is in the process of reviewing the application and I am advised that it will be in touch with the Deputy very shortly.

Drug Reclassification.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

143 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Health and Children the number and names of countries in the EU which permit cannabis to be used for medical purposes; if she proposes to permit the use of cannabis for medical purposes here; if her attention has been drawn to a person (details supplied) in County Galway who can not live here because their medical prescription cannot be obtained here under law; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14854/08]

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 and regulations made thereunder regulate and control the import, export, production, supply and possession of a range of named narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. Substances are scheduled under the Act in accordance with Ireland's obligations under international conventions and/or where there is evidence that the substances are causing significant harm to public health in Ireland.

The current legal position in Ireland in relation to cannabis is that it is a scheduled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 and its sale, supply, distribution and possession is unlawful except for the purpose of research. My Department is aware that claims have been made in respect of cannabis and its possible benefits for patients suffering from certain conditions such as multiple sclerosis and glaucoma. As the law currently stands, however, cannabis is not licensed here for medicinal use. I am aware of the case referred to by the Deputy, however, I do not propose to change the law in this regard. My Department does not have details of the countries in the EU which permit cannabis to be used for medical purposes.

Health Service Allowances.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

144 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will review a decision to discontinue the payment of domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14858/08]

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

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

145 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if a service (details supplied) in County Dublin will be given maximum support in 2008. [14864/08]

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

146 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will advise on a query (details supplied). [14865/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 145 and 146 together.

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

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

147 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if arrangements will be made to continue to provide respite care for persons (details supplied) in St. Oliver Plunkett's Hospital, Dundalk, County Louth; the reason respite care is being refused; if the decision is a result of cutbacks in the health service locally; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14870/08]

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.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

148 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children the provisions in place to ensure adequate prostate screening for men; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14871/08]

The National Cancer Control Strategy does not recommend the introduction of a population based screening programme for prostate cancer as there is currently insufficient evidence available. This position is consistent with the Recommendations adopted by the European Union which advocate the introduction of cancer screening programmes which have demonstrated their efficacy having regard to professional expertise and priority setting for healthcare resources. The EU proposals do not provide for specific recommendations in respect of screening for prostate cancer. My Department and the National Cancer Screening Service will keep emerging international evidence under review including the results of randomised trials that are currently being conducted internationally.

Appropriate treatment for men diagnosed with prostate cancer is available at major hospitals throughout the country. Any man who has concerns in relation to prostate cancer should contact his GP who will, where appropriate, refer him to the appropriate services in his area.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

149 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of hospitals that use the National Treatment Purchase Fund scheme in relation to hip replacement operations; the location of such hospitals; the number of operations that have been carried out in each over the past three years that used the National Treatment Purchase Fund scheme; the name of the hospitals that have a waiting list for such operations; the number on such waiting lists; the number of hospitals that have extended the timescale of the scheme from the original waiting period of three months to one year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14872/08]

As the Deputy's question relates to the operation of the National Treatment Purchase Fund, my Department has asked the Chief Executive of the Fund to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the information requested.

Question No. 150 answered with Question No. 141.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

151 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a seating assessment will be carried out by occupational therapy services for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [14879/08]

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.

Question No. 152 answered with Question No. 141.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

153 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite the psychological assessment of a person (details supplied) in County Cork who was diagnosed with dyspraxia in October 2005 and is still awaiting assessment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14886/08]

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.

Question No. 154 answered with Question No. 141.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

155 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application to the Health Service Executive health repayment scheme by a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14889/08]

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.

Health Services.

John Cregan

Ceist:

156 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children when the full multi-disciplinary team will be put in place at a centre (details supplied) in County Limerick for children over six years of age; when a speech therapist will be appointed in view of the fact that there has been no speech therapy provided for the children for some time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14893/08]

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

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

157 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the provision of a communication device for a child (details supplied) in County Cork. [14902/08]

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

158 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the provision of speech therapy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy for a child (details supplied) in County Cork. [14903/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 157 and 158 together.

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

Hospital Services.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

159 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to plans to provide dedicated facilities, including a day unit and patient beds, at Cork University Hospital for adult cystic fibrosis patients; and the funding that has been committed for the provision of such facilities. [14910/08]

I have identified the enhancement of services to persons with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) as a key priority over recent years. Additional revenue refunding of €6.78m has been allocated to the Health Service Executive (HSE) since 2006 to facilitate the recruitment of specialist staff in this area. The detailed application of this funding across the various hospital networks is a matter for the Executive.

Over the past number of years there has been a significant investment in CF services at Cork University Hospital (CUH). In 2006, the HSE allocated over €700,000 revenue funding to CUH to enhance services for people with CF. Towards the end of 2007, the Southern Hospitals Group received an additional allocation of €293,000 in respect of CF. These additional funds have resulted in a 300% increase in staffing levels for the CF Unit in the CUH.

The HSE has informed me that, while CUH does not have a purpose built CF Unit, every effort is made by bed management staff to accommodate patients in appropriate settings on admission to the hospital. A Statement of Need for Adult Cystic Fibrosis Services is being prepared by the hospital. This will set out the requirements for both day- and in-patient facilities to accommodate the caseload of adult patients and enable CF services to be delivered by the multidisciplinary team in line with best practice. The management at CUH has indicated that it is fully committed to the further development of CF facilities at the hospital and has been in regular contact with the Cystic Fibrosis Association to keep it apprised of developments.

I understand that the CUH Management has also indicated its commitment to working with the Build4Life group in providing monetary support to the in the development of services for CF patients.

Medicinal Products.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

160 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the details of any cancer drug reaction studies being carried out in the Dublin north east Health Service Executive area; the reason for such a study; the persons who are carrying it out; if such studies are being carried out elsewhere in other HSE areas; the date this study commenced; the expected completion date; and when the results will be published. [14914/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health 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 Health Service Executive to consider the information requested by the Deputy and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy on the matter.

Hospital Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

161 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. 208 of 11 March 2008. [14918/08]

My Department has been informed by the Health Service Executive that a reply will issue to Deputy in the near future.

Community Care.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

162 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason, in view of the positive assessment report by the Health Service Executive into the hospital in the home service, based in Tallaght, Dublin 24, a decision has been made by the HSE to close down this vital service within the month; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14920/08]

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

Hospital Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

163 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an operation for a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14942/08]

Regulation (EC) 1408/71 sets out entitlements of insured persons of one member state who receive public health services in another member state. Article 22 (1) (c) of Regulation 1408/71 governs the referral of patients for public health services to another European country. In accordance with this article, a person eligible for health services in Ireland may be authorised by the HSE to go to another country for treatment in the public health system there, if certain criteria are met. When a person is authorised to receive treatment abroad under the above provisions, Form E112 is issued by the HSE and is confirmation that the HSE will bear the cost of the treatment.

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 have the issue examined and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

John Deasy

Ceist:

164 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied that treatment provided under the National Treatment Purchase Fund provides an equivalent level of specialisation to patients to that which would be provided in the public health system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14957/08]

John Deasy

Ceist:

165 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied that patients referred to private hospital treatment under the National Treatment Purchase Fund are provided with the level of specialisation required by the complexity of the condition being treated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14958/08]

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

Services delivered under the auspices of the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) are provided by hospital consultants who are required by the NTPF to be registered with the Fund and who are also approved by the NTPF's Chief Medical Advisor as being eligible for certification on the Medical Council's Specialist Register.

Patients are referred to consultants in the specialty which they require and to hospitals approved by the NTPF to undertake the necessary procedure. As is the case in the public hospital system, not all procedures can be carried out in all hospitals and, in the interests of optimal patient safety, patients are only referred to hospitals appropriate to their needs.

I am satisfied that patients who benefit from treatment sourced through NTPF are not at any disadvantage compared to those who receive similar treatment through the public health system.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

166 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if treatment has been prescribed in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14959/08]

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.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

167 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14960/08]

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:

168 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent of a refund due under the residential repayment scheme in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14961/08]

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.

Mental Health Services.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

169 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Health and Children when the senior officials group will put into action the recommendations of the National Economic and Social Forum report as per the national plan for social inclusion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13837/08]

The National Economic and Social Forum's report on Mental Health and Social Inclusion is consistent with ‘A Vision for Change' which was launched in January 2006. A key recommendation of the NESF report is 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.

Health Services.

Noel Grealish

Ceist:

170 Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Health and Children the outcome of a meeting held on 19 March 2008 (details supplied); when a decision will be made on this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13849/08]

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

Hospital Services.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

171 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children if alternative arrangements will be made for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare to allow them to obtain an operation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13851/08]

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.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

172 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 who was just released from hospital and to whom the Health Service Executive will not release the wheelchair assigned to them until they have a ramp installed at their flat; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that Dublin City Council will not install the ramp until they receive an occupational therapist report, the waiting time for which is excessively long; and if she will enquire into the matter and take steps to ensure an occupational therapist is assigned without further delay. [13852/08]

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

Nursing Home Accommodation.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

173 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Health and Children if the necessary funds will be provided to the Health Service Executive west for the reopening of seven closed beds at a nursing home (details supplied) in County Galway where the capacity is for 34 beds but only 27 are in use; if a review will be carried out of the funding of the nursing home given that the budget is based on 2001 figures and the number of dependent patients is currently greater; if there will be a review of the funding to this nursing home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13853/08]

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.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

174 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Health and Children the situation as regards the filling of the six vacant beds in a nursing home (details supplied) in County Galway; if the necessary staff have been allocated to the nursing home to allow for the filling of these six vacant beds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13854/08]

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.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

175 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of appeals heard under the health repayment scheme; the number that have been successful; the number that have been unsuccessful; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13860/08]

The Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office is an independent office established to provide an appeals service to those who wish to appeal the decision of the Scheme Administrator under the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006. The Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office has informed my Department that as of 4 April 2008, the Appeals Office has issued 903 appeal decisions. Of these appeal decisions 229 have disagreed with the decision of the Scheme Administrator and 674 have agreed with the decision of the Scheme Administrator.

Inter-Country Adoptions.

Seán Barrett

Ceist:

176 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Health and Children if additional resources, in the form of extra social worker staff, will be provided in the Dublin area to address and expedite processing of the Adoption Board’s lengthy backlog of inter-country adoption applications, where waiting periods are usually upwards of 24 months prior to assessment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13861/08]

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 (HSE) under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy. As the Deputy may be aware, requests for assessment for intercountry adoption are continuously increasing. The recent study on intercountry adoption, undertaken by the Children's Research Centre in Trinity College, revealed that Ireland has one of the highest rates for foreign adoption in Europe. In addition, as a result of the increased number of children coming from abroad, a new and increasing demand for post-adoption reports from sending countries has been created. Both assessments and post-placement reports are being undertaken by HSE social work staff. The HSE has been assessing the provision of services in the context of moving from the health board system to a single executive. It has acknowledged that there is a divergence in the provision of services and is committed to addressing those differences. In a number of areas, the HSE has improved waiting times by contracting assessments out to non-statutory agencies with appropriate expertise. The HSE has undertaken a review of the intercountry adoption service. This review examined staffing, business processes, resources, strengths and options within the service. The HSE has indicated that it will contact the Department shortly with a proposed strategy on the management of the service into the future based on this work and parallel discussions with professionals within the service. I would like to assure the Deputy of my attention to this issue and reiterate the importance of a rigorous and effective assessment system.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

177 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will take action in relation to a query (details supplied). [13876/08]

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

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

178 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support a proposal (details supplied). [13877/08]

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

Child Care Services.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

179 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if funding could be made available under the National Childcare Investment Programme for a new purpose built facility (details supplied) in County Mayo in order that it can open on completion. [13885/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-10, which will invest €575 million over 5 years, with €358 million of this in capital grant aid for child care services. I understand the Group in question has applied through its local County Childcare Committee for capital funding under the programme. However the committee requires further information before the application can progress. This includes obtaining a letter from the Group confirming the basis of the original funding for the project, to avoid duplication of funding, and confirmation that the group has access to community employment workers to ensure its financial sustainability. When the application is complete, it will be forwarded to Pobal, which is engaged to administer grants under the programme, for assessment. Following the assessment it will be forwarded to the child care directorate of my office for recommendation on funding. The Group will be notified of the decision in due course.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

180 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive will provide financial support to persons who undergo a specific treatment abroad (details supplied). [13896/08]

Entitlement to treatment abroad is provided for under Regulation (EC) 1408/71, which deals with the co-ordination of social security, including health care, between EU/EEA member states and Switzerland. Under its provisions, persons who are insured with or covered by the public health care system of one member state are entitled to receive health care in the public system of another member state under certain circumstances. In particular, Article 22(1)(c) of the regulation governs the referral of patients for public health services to another of these countries (E112 arrangements). Under this provision, a person who is eligible for health services in Ireland may be referred by the HSE for treatment in the public health system of another member state. In such cases, a Form E112 is issued by the HSE, which involves a commitment by the Executive to pay the cost of treatment. However, the Regulation provides that entitlement to have treatment abroad under this provision is contingent,inter alia, on the treatment in question being among the benefits provided for by Irish legislation. This means that there can be no entitlement to receive a particular treatment in another European country at the cost of the HSE unless the patient is eligible for the same or similar treatment within the Irish public health care system. As there is no eligibility for pre-implantation genetic diagnosis within the Irish public healthcare system, there is therefore no entitlement to have the costs of this treatment met under E112 arrangements.

Hospitals Building Programme.

James Reilly

Ceist:

181 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the cost of the location study carried out by The Health Partnership on the proposed location of a hospital in the north east; the expected completion date for the project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13900/08]

The study in question was commissioned by the Health Service Executive and accordingly 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.

Courts Service.

P. J. Sheehan

Ceist:

182 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will direct that every assistance possible, and all necessary information, is supplied to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13920/08]

As this question relates to a request for information arising from criminal court proceedings, it is more appropriate to my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Vaccination Programme.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

183 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the lengthy waiting time for the BCG vaccination in the Cork area; her proposals to reduce this waiting time in view of the recent tuberculosis health scare in the Cork area; the number of neonatal BCG clinics that have been introduced at Cork University Maternity Hospital; the number of outreach clinics that have been set up in the Cork area; the throughput of these clinics; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13926/08]

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

Health Services.

Chris Andrews

Ceist:

184 Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Health and Children the range of health services that will be available at a centre (details supplied); when it is scheduled to open; if there will be transfer of services from another centre; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13940/08]

The provision of the appropriate infrastructure to facilitate the delivery of primary care services is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters raised by the Deputy investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

185 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children when, in view of the approval by the Health Service Executive for the development of a dementia specific unit in Clarecastle, County Clare and the completion of its construction, the centre will be opened; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13955/08]

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.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

186 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist a person (details supplied) in County Dublin. [13970/08]

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

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

187 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the options and services available for people (details supplied). [13971/08]

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

Registration of Nurses.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

188 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the delays being experienced by nurses seeking their registration with An Bord Altranais; if additional resources will be made available to deal with this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13983/08]

An Bord Altranais has statutory responsibility for the regulation of nurses and midwives under the Nurses Act, 1985. I am sure that the Deputy will appreciate that An Bord Altranais must process each application thoroughly to ensure that all those entered on the Register of Nurses are deemed professionally qualified and competent for such registration. The protection of the public underpins this process. Once An Bord Altranais receives an application form, fee and fully completed documentation needed for the consideration of the application, a decision is reached and the applicant is informed in writing within six weeks.

I have been informed by An Bord Altranais that the most common reason for an increased length in time for processing the application for registration from the receipt of an application form and fee to the issuing of a decision letter is a delay in the receipt of supporting documents. These documents, including transcripts of training and the verification of registration and good standing (for applicants who trained outside Ireland), must come directly from source to An Bord Altranais. At times, An Bord Altranais has experienced a considerable delay in the receipt of these documents. An Bord Altranais endeavours to process applications in a timely manner but must have the documents necessary to support a decision to grant registration. I am satisfied that the Board discharges its functions in a professional manner and the necessity of additional resources is not an issue in this matter.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

189 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the delays being experienced by a person (details supplied) seeking registration with An Bord Altranais; if additional resources will be made available to deal with this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13984/08]

An Bord Altranais has statutory responsibility for the regulation of nurses and midwives under the Nurses Act, 1985. I am sure that the Deputy will appreciate that An Bord Altranais must process each application thoroughly to ensure that all those entered on the Register of Nurses are deemed professionally qualified and competent for such registration. The protection of the public underpins this process. I am satisfied that the Board discharges its functions in a professional manner and the necessity of additional resources is not an issue in this matter.

Given the statutory functions of the Board and its independence in this regard, it would not be appropriate for the Minister to intervene in individual applications for registration. I have been informed by An Bord Altranais that upon receipt of an application form, fee and all fully completed documentation needed for the consideration of the application, the file is reviewed and a decision is reached and the applicant is informed in writing within six weeks.

I have been informed by An Bord Altranais that the most common reason for an increased length in time for processing the application for registration from the receipt of an application form and fee to the issuing of a decision letter is a delay in the receipt of supporting documents. These documents, including transcripts of training and the verification of registration and good standing (for applicants who trained outside Ireland), must come directly from source to An Bord Altranais. At times, An Bord Altranais has experienced a considerable delay in the receipt of these documents. An Bord Altranais endeavours to process applications in a timely manner but must have the documents necessary to support a decision to grant registration.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

190 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she received an application for nursing home rebate from a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; when a reference number will be provided in order that the applicant can avail of the help desk; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13987/08]

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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

191 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be offered a bed in a specific unit in Dublin. [13989/08]

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

Hospital Staff.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

192 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Health and Children when the post of biochemist will be filled in a hospital (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14005/08]

Almost 130,000 people work full-time or part-time in our public health services. In recent years, the Government's ongoing high level of investment in health has achieved and maintained significant increases in the numbers of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals employed in the public health services. The Government has also invested heavily in the education and training of such personnel in order to secure a good supply of graduates to provide for the healthcare needs of the population into the future.

Subject to overall parameters set by Government, the Health Service Executive has the responsibility for determining the composition of its staffing complement. In that regard, it is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

193 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be provided with a long stay bed. [14008/08]

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

Hospital Accommodation.

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

194 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in respect of adapting an existing ward at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin to provide isolation units for cystic fibrosis inpatients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14013/08]

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

195 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of the 11 principal recommendations of a report (details supplied) that have been fully implemented to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14014/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 194 and 195 together.

I take it that the Deputy is referring to the report by Dr Ronnie Pollock which was commissioned by the Cystic Fibrosis Association of Ireland. Following publication of the Pollock Report in 2005, the Health Service Executive established a Working Group to undertake a detailed review of cystic fibrosis services. The Group, which was multi-disciplinary in its composition, was asked to review the current configuration and delivery of services to persons with cystic fibrosis in Ireland. The Group identified a range of service improvements required for persons with Cystic Fibrosis, including the need to increase the level of clinical, nursing and allied health professional staffing in Cystic Fibrosis units around the country.

Arising from the Pollock Report and the emerging recommendations of the Working Group, I identified the development of cystic fibrosis services as a policy priority in the Estimates process. In 2006 and 2007, additional revenue funding of €6.78 million was provided to the Health Service Executive (HSE) to develop services.

My Department is advised by the HSE that 44 additional staff dealing with cystic fibrosis were recruited on foot of this additional funding and that the necessary funding is available to facilitate the recruitment of a further 37 staff nationally.

The HSE was asked to place a particular focus on the development of services at the National Adult Tertiary Referral Centre at St. Vincent's Hospital. A number of capital projects have recently been completed at the hospital and have helped to improve facilities.

However, it is accepted that these developments do not fully address the immediate needs of patients. The HSE has been working intensively with the Hospital and with representatives of the Cystic Fibrosis Association of Ireland to progress options for further interim improvements. The HSE has advised that work has commenced on the refurbishment of St. Mark's Ward to provide eight single en-suite rooms. On completion of this refurbishment, additional development work will be undertaken at the hospital to provide a further six single rooms for patients with cystic fibrosis.

In the longer term, a new ward block is to be built and will include 120 replacement beds in single en-suite accommodation. The new facility will accommodate cystic fibrosis patients and will include appropriate isolation facilities.

Beaumont Hospital operates as a regional centre in providing services to adults with cystic fibrosis. In the 2008 Budget, a special allocation of €2.5m capital funding was provided to enable the hospital to develop out patient facilities for cystic fibrosis patients.

Health Services.

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

196 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 will have their respite care terminated as and from May 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14034/08]

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.

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

197 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason funding for respite care at Cherry Orchard Hospital has been cut and vital respite care services have been scaled down; if she will reverse this decision in view of the undue suffering it will cause for patients and their families; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14035/08]

Arising from Budget 2008, a full year package of €22m has been allocated for new services in the area of older people. This therefore gives a total of over €422m for new services for older people over the last three years. These measures have been designed to both enhance existing services that the Government had already put in place, and also to widen the range of services available to older people.

In this context, over €16m has been provided in the last three years for new Day/Respite Care services. The recent Budget will allow an additional 1,245 clients nationally to avail of new Respite places and brings the total projected Day Care provision by the Health Service Executive to around 21,300 places by the end of this year.

The HSE have committed through it's National Service Plan 2008 to deliver services within its Vote provided by the Oireachtas. It will manage the provision of respite care beds at Cherry Orchard within this context and also recognising the priority the Government and the Executive have given to services for older people.

There is no doubt that demand can at times exceed service resources and that this problem can manifest itself in particular at local level. I understand that there are particular pressures being experienced at Cherry Orchard, and that these are kept under constant review by the HSE.

It is a matter for the Executive to manage service delivery, both nationally and locally, within it's budget and in line with overall health policy priorities. 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 HSE to arrange to have the matter investigated in detail and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

198 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for a MRI scan. [14065/08]

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.

Hospital Services.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

199 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 198 of 8 April 2008, if the reply means that the radiation oncology capacity at the integrated satellite centre at Waterford Regional Hospital will be in place by 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14082/08]

The specific question raised by the Deputy in relation to progress under the National Plan for Radiation Oncology relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the HSE under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to respond directly to the Deputy in this regard.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

200 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14084/08]

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

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

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

Consultancy Contracts.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

201 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children the consultants who carried out work for her Department or for any body under the auspices of her Department during 2007; if each consultant was an individual or a firm; the amount earned by each consultant in 2007; the basis of the calculation of same; the rate per hour, day, week, month or other period payable in each case; if in each case the consultant was engaged to prepare a report or to carry out work; if in the case of a report being prepared the report has been published; if not, when the report will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14108/08]

My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to respond directly to the Deputy. The information regarding this Department and other agencies is currently being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Child Care Services.

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

202 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on whether the introduction of the new subvention scheme with regard to the provision of childcare is the best way forward for the children and parents of rural communities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14129/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP) under which the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS) was introduced in January of this year. The CCSS replaced the previous staffing support grant scheme which was implemented under the EU co-funded Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP) and which ended in December 2007.

In providing for the CCSS and the previous EOCP support scheme, Government childcare policy has recognised the need to target additional supports towards disadvantaged families in addition to the main supports which are made available to parents to assist them with their childcare costs, that is Child Benefit and the Early Childcare Supplement. The latter payment is the responsibility of my Office and, it alone is expected to amount to expenditure of over €500m in 2008. These payments are universal and benefit all parents, regardless of their income, labour market status or the type of childcare they choose.

The Community Childcare Subvention Scheme has an allocation of €154.2 million over 2008-2010 and will continue to support and ensure the sustainability of community-based childcare services which provide reduced childcare fees for disadvantaged parents. Data available from the Department of Social and Family Affairs would suggest that this is, proportionately, of greater potential benefit in rural areas, where incomes are lower and more families have entitlement to social welfare benefits. Community-based childcare services will qualify for grant aid on the basis of the level of service they provide and the profile of the parents benefiting from their service. The parent profile of each service, and the amount of subvention it will receive, are determined on the basis of completed parent declaration forms which they return as part of the application process. The subvention received by services is, in turn, reflected in a tiered fee system under which reduced fees are charged to parents who qualify as disadvantaged under the scheme. As the parent declaration forms are completed on an annual basis, the level of funding which is approved for each service is established on an annual basis.

Transitional arrangements have been put in place to facilitate services which were funded under the previous EOCP support scheme to adjust to the new arrangements. As a result, these services will receive not less than 95% of their previous level of funding in 2008. The CCSS also recognises that in some cases, particularly in rural areas or on the islands, community childcare services may operate with a small or fluctuating number of children, in which case a minimum annual grant level of €20,000 can be awarded.

The CCSS provides an effective framework for the continued targeting of additional resources towards disadvantaged parents and their children while continuing to support community-based childcare services generally and, I am satisfied that it will also be effective in delivering the NCIP objectives of supporting families to break the cycle of poverty and disadvantage. It will also provide a framework which can accommodate any future childcare related initiatives which may be introduced. The scheme is responsive to the level of service provided as well as the degree of parental disadvantage and the ceiling for funding which existed under the previous scheme has been removed. Account is also taken of all of the operational costs of the service rather than staffing costs alone. The changes which have been introduced will ensure that the most affordable childcare is available to families according to their means. Put simply, the tiered fee structure is the most effective way of ensuring that the considerable and ongoing Government support for the community childcare sector, will be targeted at those who need it most.

I am also pleased to advise the Deputy that the Childcare Directorate of my Office has begun notifying services of their individual grant levels for July-December 2008 and that the total amount of grant assistance under the new Scheme will be significantly higher than was the case under the previous scheme. I am confident that the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme is a fair and equitable way of supporting community childcare operators in the provision of an affordable and high quality service to parents.

Hospital Services.

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

203 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a dedicated cystic fibrosis treatment facility in Cork University Hospital to cater for the sufferers of cystic fibrosis in the Cork-Kerry region whereby an organisation (details supplied) have raised in excess of €1 million which they will give to develop these facilities. [14134/08]

I have identified the enhancement of services to persons with cystic fibrosis (CF) as a key priority over recent years. Additional revenue refunding of €6.78m has been allocated to the Health Service Executive (HSE) since 2006 to facilitate the recruitment of specialist staff in this area. The detailed application of this funding across the various hospital networks is a matter for the Executive.

Over the past number of years there has been a significant investment in Cystic Fibrosis (CF) services at Cork University Hospital (CUH). In 2006, the HSE allocated over €700,000 revenue funding to CUH to enhance services for people with CF. Towards the end of 2007, the Southern Hospitals Group received an additional allocation of €293,000 in respect of CF. These additional funds have resulted in a 300% increase in staffing levels for the CF Unit in the CUH.

The HSE has informed me that, while CUH does not have a purpose built CF Unit, every effort is made by bed management staff to accommodate patients in appropriate settings on admission to the hospital. A Statement of Need for Adult Cystic Fibrosis Services is being prepared by the hospital. This will set out the requirements for both day and in-patient facilities to accommodate the caseload of adult patients and enable CF services to be delivered by the multi-disciplinary team in line with best practice.

The management at CUH has indicated that it is fully committed to the further development of CF facilities at the hospital and has been in regular contact with the Cystic Fibrosis Association to keep it apprised of developments. I understand that the CUH Management has also indicated its commitment to working with the Build4Life group in providing monetary support to the in the development of services for CF patients.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

204 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will take steps to ensure that an application for repayment under the health repayment scheme is made to a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14173/08]

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.

Ambulance Service.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

205 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the National Ambulance Service have been recently advised by the chief fire officers in the relevant areas that they will be seeking payment for ambulance assist calls previously provided without charge and that the Fire and Rescue Services will be seeking full cost of call outs plus 33% for overhead costs; further, if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the National Ambulance Service is not funded for such charges and this could lead to a discontinuation of requests for such assistance, which could have serious implications in the respect of road traffics accidents; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14175/08]

My Department has made inquiries of the National Ambulance Office of the Health Service Executive regarding the matter raised by the Deputy.

I understand that, while the HSE National Ambulance Office is aware that this general matter has been raised from time to time at local level, it has not been raised by the fire services centrally with the National Ambulance Office.

Medical Cards.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

206 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the income guidelines for a full medical card have not increased in the past two years; if her attention has been drawn to the effect this is having on many people, particularly those aged between 60 and 70 years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14183/08]

The assessment of eligibility to medical cards is statutorily a matter for the HSE and is determined following an examination of the means of the applicant and his/her dependants. Under Section 45 of the Health Act 1970, medical cards are provided for persons who, in the opinion of the HSE, are unable without undue hardship to arrange general practitioner medical and surgical services for themselves and their dependants.

In 2005, the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on moderate and lower incomes, particularly parents of young children, who do not qualify for a medical card, would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP. Persons aged 70 and over are statutorily entitled to a medical card, regardless of income. In all other cases an assessment of means is undertaken.

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

The Programme for Government commits to the following: indexing the income thresholds for medical cards to increases in the average industrial wage; doubling of the income limit eligibility of parents of children under 6 years of age, and trebling them for parents of children under 18 years of age with an intellectual disability. My Department is currently reviewing all legislation relating to eligibility for health and personal social services with a view to making the system as fair and transparent as possible. As part of this exercise, a review of the eligibility criteria for medical cards in the context of financial, medical and social need is being undertaken and is expected to be completed by autumn 2008. When that review is completed, it is my intention to consider how best to progress the commitments in the Programme for Government in relation to medical card eligibility.

Research Funding.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

207 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on Ireland’s contribution to funding EU embryonic stem cell research; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14188/08]

My colleague Mr Micheál Martin, TD, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment has lead responsibility for Ireland for negotiation of the EU Seventh Research Framework Programme, under which EU funding of research of this kind arises.

Departmental Properties.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

208 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on Our Lady’s Hospital, Lee Road, Cork; and the plans she has in order to eliminate what is considered to be the biggest derelict site on the northside of Cork City, most of which has been unoccupied since 2003. [14190/08]

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

209 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on the recent arson attack on the unoccupied St. Kevin’s Unit on the vacant site of Our Lady’s Hospital, Lee Road, Cork and the damage that was done in that arson attack; and the cost of security services on an annual basis over the past six years for that site. [14191/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 208 and 209 together.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services was assigned to the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall vote. The Executive, therefore, is the appropriate body to consider the particular matter raised by the Deputy.

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

Health Services.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

210 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on a recent comment made by the director of stroke services in Tallaght Hospital that at least 400 lives could be saved every year by improving the delivery of stroke services; and the reason the proposals for a national rehabilitation centre to be located in Cork have been scrapped. [14192/08]

The Government believes that individuals at risk of stroke, or those who suffer from the consequences of stroke, should be provided with high quality preventative and treatment services. In September last year Minister Harney established a Cardiovascular Health Policy Group to advise on how to prevent the occurrence of cardiovascular disease and stroke and improve services for individuals affected by these conditions. The recently published Irish Heart Foundation National Audit of Stroke Care, which was conducted with the support of my Department, has highlighted a number of areas where clinical care and the organisation of stroke services can be enhanced. The Cardiovascular Health Policy Group has, in the course of its work, considered the Audit and is expected to make recommendations in the summer.

The availability of stroke services and plans for development of rehabilitation services are matters which relate to the funding, management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Food Safety Standards.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

211 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children the initiatives she proposes to take to deal with the problems of gastroenteritis in the community which is a preventable disease and which according to recent research by Trinity College Dublin, is costing Ireland more than €135 million each year. [14193/08]

The study — The Economic Impact of Gastroenteritis on the Island of Ireland — to which the Deputy refers was commissioned by the Food Safety Promotion Board (FSPB). The study showed that approximately 10% of the people on the island report suffering symptoms of gastroenteritis each year. This is in line with estimated rates from other studies in the EU.

The study has estimated the economic burden of gastroenteritis at €135 million, of which €101 million is borne in the South. These estimates include the costs of GP and hospital services where required and also costs borne by individuals, including estimates of the valuation of time off work.

In order to combat this disease a number of initiatives have been developed across Government Departments and agencies including the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, the Environmental Protection Agency and the FSPB. These initiatives include training and guidance documents for healthcare workers, industry and the hospitality sector. Other initiatives such as the slaughter-out policy for Irish poultry flocks have been effective in addressing this issue. There is evidence of the impact of these initiatives such as reduced numbers of salmonella cases in recent years who acquire the disease at home and a reduction in the average size of outbreaks.

A sample initiative is the FSPB's promotion of food safety in schools and educational settings in order to communicate and train young people in adequate food hygiene. It has developed a transition year programme called "safefood for life". This is an educational resource, produced in conjunction with the Environmental Health Officers Association, to train students on simple food hygiene messages and which certifies them to a basic hygiene standard so as to allow them to work in food premises. At primary school level educational drama resources have been developed and disseminated to emphasise hand hygiene.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

212 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on plans for a new hospital at the site of St. Mary’s Orthopaedic Hospital, Cork, to provide services for the elderly; and the other plans she has for that site. [14194/08]

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

Hospital Accommodation.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

213 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children when she expects the new 100 bed community nursing unit in Ballincollig to be opened for use. [14195/08]

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.

Mental Health Services.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

214 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on the recent report which stated that up to 90% of asylum seekers experienced depression and feelings of worthlessness within six months of arriving here. [14196/08]

I am not aware of a Report on research relating to the prevalence of depression among asylum seekers. The observation that "90% of asylum seekers experienced depression and feelings of worthlessness within six months of arriving here" was reported recently in a medical publication, but it did not refer to a representative research project conducted in a systematic way. Access to primary care and mental health services is available to all individuals experiencing depression, including asylum seekers.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

215 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on the situation where at least 60% of cervical smear tests carried out at Health Service Executive hospitals will be sent abroad once a tender process for cytology screening services is complete. [14201/08]

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

227 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on a situation where ten laboratories currently providing diagnostic gynaecological cytology services are disqualified for inclusion under the terms of the national cervical screening programme in view of the fact that they do not fulfil the necessary criteria, particularly the criteria to have full accreditation and that, as a result, tests will have to be sent abroad; and if she will confirm that 39,000 tests were sent to a US based laboratory in 2007 for processing due to excessive waiting times here. [14227/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 215 and 227 together.

The rollout of a national cervical screening programme is the most efficient population approach to preventing and controlling cervical cancer. The National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) is planning to roll out such a programme on a national basis around the middle of this year. Women aged 25 to 44 years old will be screened every 3 years; women aged 45 to 60 will be screened every 5 years. The service will be available free of charge to eligible women everywhere in the country. Approximately 230,000 women will be screened annually, assuming an 80% take up by eligible women. All elements of the programme — call/recall, smear taking, laboratories, colposcopy and treatment services will be quality assured, organised and managed to deliver a single integrated national service.

Additional revenue funding of €5.0m was allocated to the NCSS in 2007 for the roll-out of the programme and an additional €15.0m has been allocated in 2008. An additional 30 posts have been approved to facilitate integration and roll-out of the programme.

The Deputy's specific questions in relation to the tender process and criteria for same under the national cervical screening programme are the responsibility of the National Cancer Screening Service. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Chief Executive Officer of the Service to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the matters raised.

The Deputy's specific question in relation to the number of smear tests sent abroad in 2007 is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive (HSE). Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy in this regard.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

216 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on the new Health Service Executive report which suggests that the number of patients on hospital waiting lists has increased by nearly 10% owing to staff and bed shortages and that this report has come nearly four years after she declared overcrowding in hospital emergency departments a national crisis; and the action she will take regarding the situation. [14202/08]

I understand that the report to which the Deputy refers is an internal HSE document.

The provision of public hospital services and the management of waiting lists generally is a matter for the Health Service Executive (HSE) while the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) has statutory responsibility for the collation, management and publication of data on waiting times and numbers of persons waiting for surgical procedures.

Since the establishment of the NTPF, waiting times for surgical procedures have fallen dramatically. As of October 2007, an analysis of the Patient Treatment Register (PTR) operated by the NTPF indicated median waiting times as follows:-18 of Adult top 20 procedure wait times were 2 to 4 months;8 of Child top 10 procedure wait times were 2 to 5 months: andan overall median wait time for all specialties of 3.5 months.

The PTR showed a consistent pattern of reduced waiting times for those longest waiting. For example, as of October 2007, the numbers of adults waiting for more than 12 months had reduced by almost 22% when compared with the position at the end of December 2006.

With reference to hospital Emergency Departments, significant additional resources have been provided to address the problems which manifest in these Departments. Among the developments which have taken place are:

Additional public and private Long Stay Beds,

Additional Home Care Packages and Home Help Hours,

Major capital developments in emergency departments and the provision of Acute Medical Assessment Units,

Hospital-in-the-Home service in the greater Dublin area,

Community Intervention Teams in Cork, Limerick and Dublin,

Rapid assessment clinics to support the catchment population of the Mater Hospital, and

Expansion of the GP out of hours services in North Dublin.

However, there are a number of hospitals where waiting lists and waiting times for surgical procedures continue to be unacceptably long. The NTPF continues to seek the co-operation of these hospitals in making referrals to it.

As the management of waiting lists generally is a matter for the HSE, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Department of the Executive to arrange to have a reply issued direct to the Deputy in the matter.

Disability Allowance.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

217 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a breakdown of the payments made under subheading II F1 Payments in respect of disablement caused by thalidomide, to include the number of people paid, and the amount paid to each person, excluding their names; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14208/08]

There are a total of thirty-one people in receipt of the Thalidomide Allowance receiving tax free payments ranging from €5,977.80 to €12,888.21 per annum.

Hospital Services.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

218 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to a recent UK study presented recently at the Irish Medical Organisation conference which found a 1% increase in mortality with each 10 km increase in journey distances from hospitals; and the way she can reconcile the contents of that study with her proposals to close down local hospitals in favour of a centralised programme. [14211/08]

I am aware of the study to which the Deputy refers. It was carried out in the UK where a different system of health service delivery to our own is in operation. In addition, the data was also collected between 1997 and 2001. Therefore, changes in performance in recent years or new policies may have affected the suggested increase in the mortality rate.

The key issue in relation to distance from hospital and outcomes from acute events such as heart attacks is the quality and speed of delivery of pre-hospital emergency care. This is an area where there has been considerable investment and development in recent years. The Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council, a statutory agency charged with responsibility for standards, education and training in the field of pre-hospital emergency care in Ireland, plays a key role in the area of new developments, promotion of research, emerging technology and advances in clinical practice. Among the Council's initiatives at present are:-

A spatial analysis study for each HSE region, the results of which will inform decisions on the optimum location for ambulance bases and the deployment arrangements necessary to minimise response times;

On-going co-operation with the HSE to facilitate a partnership in addressing many of the recommendations of the Sudden Cardiac Death Task Force Report, especially with regard to best practice in First Responder and Co-Responder schemes; and

Continuation of the roll-out of the Advanced Paramedic training programme.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

219 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has not received their payment under the health repayment scheme. [14212/08]

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.

Research Funding.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

220 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will fulfil a commitment to an organisation (details supplied) to provide funding for Exon skipping trials in the UK; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14213/08]

I met with representatives of Muscular Dystrophy Ireland in October 2007 and discussed the issue raised by the Deputy. I subsequently wrote to Mr. Joe Mooney, Director of Muscular Dystrophy Ireland on 7th February 2008 outlining the position in relation to funding research trials into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy in the United Kingdom. There is no mechanism or budget for Government funding of U.K. health research.

Primary Care Strategy.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

221 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on the slow roll-out of the Health Service Executive’s primary care teams and the fact that meetings have been held between the Health Service Executive and general practitioners over a three year period with very little progress being made. [14218/08]

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

The HSE received additional funding of €40m in the period 2006 to 2008 for the establishment of some 200 primary care teams involving some 600 additional front line professionals. The Government has committed under the Towards 2016 agreement to the establishment of 300 Primary Care teams by 2008; 400 by 2009 and 500 by 2011. A review of these targets is due to be undertaken in 2008.

The provision of the appropriate infrastructure to facilitate the delivery of primary care services is being considered by the HSE, having regard to a number of factors. These include the type and configuration of the services involved, the mixed public/private nature of our health system, the suitability of existing infrastructure and the capital requirements of the health services generally over the coming years. I have emphasised to the Health Service Executive the importance which I attach to the continued development and roll-out of primary care teams and my Department will monitor progress in this regard throughout the year.

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

Cancer Treatment Services.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

222 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she proposes to commission a patient impact assessment by consulting with doctors and patients before changes are made in the delivery of cancer services at hospital level. [14219/08]

The aim of the National Cancer Control Strategy, which was published in June 2006, is to reduce our cancer incidence, morbidity and mortality rates relative to other Member States of the European Union. The Strategy was developed by the National Cancer Forum, a multi-disciplinary expert group, comprising of both professional medical bodies and patient advocacy groups. The Forum recommended that all cancer care should be provided through a national system of four managed cancer control networks.

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 decisions of the HSE in relation to four managed cancer control networks and eight cancer centres will be implemented on a managed and phased basis. Professor Tom Keane, Director of the HSE's National Cancer Control Programme, is currently consulting with a wide range of informants on how the Programme should be implemented. Prof Keane is also engaging in detailed planning to facilitate the orderly phased transfer of services between locations.

Health Services.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

223 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will direct the Health Service Executive to make its board meetings public and accountable in the interest of transparency in view of the fact that many major decisions affecting the lives of people are being made behind closed doors by a body which in the main is not accountable to Dáil Éireann. [14220/08]

Section 6 of the Health Act, 2004 states that the Health Service Executive is a corporate body. In view of this, arrangements in relation to its Board meetings are a matter for the HSE. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the matter raised.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

224 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on the situation whereby a new fully equipped accident and emergency unit at the Mercy Hospital, Cork, is lying idle whilst the present unit elsewhere on the campus of the Mercy University Hospital was deemed unfit for its purpose over two years ago, is tiny and does not have enough space for the demands on it. [14221/08]

The Deputy will be aware that the Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive (HSE) to have the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to have delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of services at the Mercy University Hospital, Cork.

Improving the delivery of Accident and Emergency services continues to be a top priority for the Government and the Health Service Executive. There are three Accident and Emergency Departments in Cork City. These are located at Cork University Hospital, the Mercy University Hospital, and the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital. These units are cross-covered by a team of Consultants in Emergency Medicine.

Funding of €4.7m for the provision of a new Accident and Emergency Department at the Mercy University Hospital was included in the HSE's Capital Plan 2006-2010. Building work on the new Accident and Emergency Department was completed on schedule in January 2007. The work of equipping and commissioning the new facility was completed at the end of October 2007.

The HSE has informed my Department that there are currently 46 staff assigned to the existing A&E Department at an annual cost of approximately €2.5m. The staff complement includes the equivalent of 18 full time nurses, 1 full time Consultant in Emergency Medicine, 2 Registrars and 7 Senior House Officers. The working of the existing Department is underpinned by close working relationships with physiotherapists, a social worker, an occupational therapist, radiographer, pharmacist, psychiatry and other support services, including chaplains, security and housekeeping staff.

The original approval for the project included an additional revenue allocation of €0.40m. I understand that in January 2007, the Mercy University Hospital submitted an application to the HSE's National Hospitals Office for an additional 24.5 full time staff for the new unit, at a cost of almost €1.5m. This would represent a very substantial increase in staffing over the current complement.

In December 2007, in an effort to advance the issue, both sides agreed to an evaluation of the staffing requirement for the new facility. I understand that this process will be concluded shortly. On Monday 14th April the Mercy University Hospital indicated that it proposed to bring the new Accident and Emergency Department in the Hospital into operation on a limited basis, beginning in June 2008. The HSE and Mercy University Hospital are engaged in on-going discussions regarding the opening of the A&E Department and related issues.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

225 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on the recent comments by an association (details supplied) that seven emergency departments nationwide have been identified as unfit for the purpose by the Emergency Department Task Force and are in that condition two years after she declared emergency departments overcrowding, a national emergency. [14222/08]

The Emergency Department Task Force Report was commissioned by the Health Service Executive and published in June 2007. Significant additional resources have been provided to address the problems which manifest in Emergency Departments. Among the developments which have taken place in line with the recommendations of the Task Force Report are:

additional public and private Long Stay Beds,

additional Home Care Packages and Home Help Hours,

major capital developments in emergency departments and the provision of Acute Medical Assessment Units, including Mercy Hospital, Cork, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda and Beaumont Hospital.

Hospital in the Home Service in the greater Dublin area.

Community Intervention Teams in Cork, Limerick and Dublin.

Rapid assessment clinics to support the catchment population of the Mater hospital.

Expansion of the GP out of hours services in North Dublin.

In drawing up its Capital Plan the Health Service Executive is required to prioritise the capital infrastructure projects to be progressed within its overall capital funding allocation under the National Development Plan 2007-2013, taking account of the NDP targets for division of capital investment between the Acute and Primary, Community & Continuing Care pillars. The HSE has submitted a draft Capital Plan to my Department, including provision for A & E developments, for consideration and approval in the normal way. The draft plan sets out the HSE's proposed short and longer term priorities and commitments. Consultation on the plan is ongoing between the HSE, the Department of Finance and my Department. The HSE has undertaken to provide additional clarification on its proposed capital developments and is currently engaged in this process.

Hospital Services.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

226 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department audits the level of private practice in all specialties in public hospitals; and if it is done on a consultant basis. [14226/08]

The provision of private care in public acute hospitals is a long standing feature of the Irish healthcare system. Over 2,500 beds in public hospitals are designated as private and semi-private. A ratio of 80:20 public/private applies on average across the entire acute system. The percentage of beds designated as private varies between individual hospitals; for example, there is a higher ratio of private beds in maternity and paediatric hospitals and a lower ratio in other hospitals.

I am concerned that there are instances where the ratio of private work has far exceeded the stated bed designation. This is a matter which is central to this Government's reform programme, in particular in relation to a new hospital consultants' contract. The day to day management and monitoring of the public/private mix in acute hospitals is a matter for the Health Service Executive.

Question No. 227 answered with Question No. 215.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

228 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she audits the National Treatment Purchase Fund referrals; and, if so, if she proposes to publish the outcomes of the patients it refers. [14228/08]

I am satisfied that adequate audit mechanisms exist in relation to the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF). Since its establishment, a pattern of regular meetings with my officials together with contacts, on an almost daily basis, have been the norm. The NTPF is required to present me with an annual report of its activities. This it has done every year. The report includes an account of its performance against the service plan which is agreed annually with my Department. As a matter of course, the operation of the NTPF is audited annually by the Comptroller and Auditor General and the results are published. Other reports on the various aspects of NTPF activity such as the Out-Patient initiative and the Patient Treatment Register are reported on and published at regular intervals throughout the year. The PTR report in particular, includes an amount of statistical analytical information. The NTPF also makes detailed information available on its two websites — NTPF.ie and PTR.ie.

Vaccination Programme.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

229 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on recent comments made in a publication (details supplied) that shortages of the BCG vaccine since October 2007 have left many children at risk of tuberculosis; and if she will direct the Health Service Executive to review the national TB services as a matter of urgency. [14229/08]

I understand from the Health Service Executive (HSE) that, owing to regulatory difficulties experienced by the manufacturer of the BCG vaccine, there was a shortage of the vaccine from late 2007. This was a Europe-wide problem as the manufacturer in question is the only company which supplies the vaccine to the European Market. Unfortunately, it is not possible to stockpile the vaccine as it has a very short shelf life. These difficulties have now been resolved and new stocks of licensed vaccine are now available.

I understand from the HSE that clinics have now resumed and that parents of any baby who has not received BCG vaccine will be contacted by their Local Health Office with an appointment to receive the vaccine. Current strategy in relation to the prevention and treatment of Tuberculosis is guided by the recommendations of the "Report of the Working Group on Tuberculosis" (1996). It covers a wide range of issues including epidemiology, surveillance, screening, preventative therapy, clinical management and laboratory diagnosis. A review of Tuberculosis Services has been instigated by the HSE and is ongoing.

Infectious Diseases.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

230 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of cases of tuberculosis reported here from 2002 to 2007 inclusive and to date in 2008. [14230/08]

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) monitors rates of TB in Ireland on an on-going basis. According to data provided by the HPSC, TB notifications in Ireland between 2002 and 2007 were as shown in the following table.

Year

Number of cases

2002

408

2003

407

2004

432

2005

450

2006 (Provisional)

458

2007(Provisional)

474

Information in respect of 2008 to date, is not available as yet.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

231 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is planning to deregulate general practitioner GMS lists before the end of 2008; and the rationale behind those plans. [14231/08]

Under the Health Act, 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for arrangements to ensure appropriate service delivery for General Medical Services (GMS) Scheme (medical card and GP visit card) patients.

Services under the GMS Scheme are provided by general practitioners (GPs) holding contracts with the HSE. The terms of these contracts were agreed on foot of negotiations with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO). Under the terms agreed, contracts are made available where the HSE decides, after consultation with the IMO, that there is a need for a service having regard to a range of factors, including whether the needs of the population in the area are met by the services already available. The agreement also provides that the number of persons on a GP's patient panel may not exceed 2,000, save in exceptional circumstances. Not all GPs hold GMS contracts, as they may not qualify or wish to provide services under the Scheme. The arrangements for the provision of publicly funded GP services, including those provided under the GMS Scheme, are under review. I regard the existing arrangements in relation to access by GPs to public contracts as unnecessarily restrictive and it is my wish that new contractual arrangements for the provision of publicly-funded GP services should ensure that HSE contracts are open to all suitably qualified and equipped doctors.

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

232 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will be issued on medical grounds to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [14249/08]

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.

Hospital Services.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

233 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the dentist in Baltinglass Hospital who was attending on two days per week but whose attendance has been reduced to one day a week; if two days a week will be reinstated as a matter of urgency in view of the large area using this service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14250/08]

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

Health Service Staff.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

234 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children the discussions that have taken place with the Irish Medical Organisation with regard to future initiatives on nurses prescribing. [14256/08]

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. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

235 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will assist in having a nursing home subvention application prioritised for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [14257/08]

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.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

236 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange to have a motorised wheelchair provided to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [14259/08]

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

Nursing Home Subventions.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

237 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive is taking the same action towards senior management salaries as they are doing towards subvention for the elderly that is freezing the allowance to 2007 costs; if she condones the HSE’s failure to support the most vulnerable people; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14260/08]

The Nursing Home Subvention Scheme was introduced in 1993 to assist with the cost of private nursing home fees. A subvention may be paid where a person has been assessed as needing nursing home care by the Health Service Executive and where the person has satisfied a means test. Since the 1st January 2007 there are no longer three separate rates for subvention. Persons who apply may receive any amount up to a maximum of €300 per week.

An enhanced subvention contribution, which is an additional discretionary contribution, may be paid by the HSE in addition to basic subvention. These discretionary contributions are subject to the limit of the resources available for the scheme.

There is no set amount of enhanced subvention contribution. The amount payable in each individual case will vary depending on the following criteria: the assessed means of the applicant; the cost of care in the individual case compared to the level of fees in the locality; the amount of basic subvention payable; the amount of resources available for the scheme; the need for the HSE to ensure that the available resources are distributed in a way that supports applicants as evenly as possible across the country. Guidelines on the operation of the nursing home subvention scheme are available on the HSE website at www.hse.ie.

The choice of private nursing home is a matter for the applicant and/or their representatives. The HSE pays the approved subvention to the nursing home of the applicant's choice and the payment of the balance of the nursing home fee is a matter between the applicant and the nursing home under the contract of care agreed between these parties.

As the Deputy is aware funding for health services has been provided as part of the Executive's overall vote for health and personal social services in 2008. The allocation of resources is a matter for the Executive in accordance with the overall priorities for particular services as set out in its Service Plan.

With regard to the payment of salaries within the HSE, under Section 22 of the Health Act 2004, the Executive determines the terms and conditions, including remuneration and allowances, of its employees, with the Minister's approval which is given with the consent of the Minister for Finance.

The rates of remuneration to the senior management posts within the Health Sector recently underwent a rigorous, independent evaluation by the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector, whose report (Report No. 42) was published by the Government on 25 October 2007. Pay increases, will be implemented in relation to the relevant Health Sector grades, in line with the recommendations of the Review Body.

Hospital Services.

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

238 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of hours per week the theatre in Monaghan General Hospital is in use; if she is satisfied that the theatre which cost so much and which is in such perfect repair should be under utilised while the Health Service Executive and the Government pay large sums of money to private hospitals in Mullingar and Galway to treat County Monaghan patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14261/08]

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.

Proposed Legislation.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

239 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children when the remaining sections of the Public Health Tobacco Act 2002 will be implemented and specifically legislation covering in store advertising. [14264/08]

I will be making an announcement shortly in relation to the commencement date.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

240 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a child (details supplied) in County Kildare, one of three autistic children enrolled in the same school at the same time, has yet to receive speech and language therapy; her views on whether it is acceptable that this child is failing to receive a service in view of their address; her further views on whether the creation of the Health Service Executive was intended to end such anomalies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14269/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75m in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on June 1st 2007 for the under 5s and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

The Government is also honouring its promise in relation to the Multi-Annual Investment Programme for people with disabilities, with a further €50m investment which was announced in the 2008 Budget. The Deputy's specific question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Child Care Services.

John Deasy

Ceist:

241 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children the capital and other funding available to Montessori schools from her Department; the way such funding is allocated and distributed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14274/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, I have responsibility for the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP), which will invest €575 million over 5 years, with €358 million of this in capital grant aid for child care services.

The NCIP came into effect in January 2006, and aims to provide a proactive response to the development of quality child care supports and services, which are grounded in an understanding of local needs. It is building on the success of the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006 (EOCP) and incorporates among its key objectives: increasing the supply and improving the quality of early childhood care and education services. Services eligible for support include those providing care for babies, full-day care, part-time, sessional playschool, Montessori and other pre-school places, school age child care including "wrap around" child care places, and childminding. Special consideration is given to supporting services which provide a range of these services.

Eligibility for capital grant funding under the NCIP is assessed under a number of criteria; chiefly the nature and extent of the need locally for the service proposed, the applicant's capacity to deliver the project proposed and value for money. To comply with the criteria, services, including playschool, Montessori and other pre-school services, are expected to operate for minimum periods per day. All proposals are expected to demonstrate how they will increase the supply of quality child care and community-based projects are expected to demonstrate a focus on disadvantage. The maximum capital grants available under the scheme for the building or expansion of child care facilities are €1.2 million per facility for community-based not for profit providers and €100,000 per facility for private providers (subject to a maximum of 75% of the total cost) and a maximum of €500,000 for multiple services in different catchment areas. In addition, a small grant scheme is available for Parent and Toddler Groups.

Applicants for capital funding under the NCIP first apply through their local City or County Childcare Committee (CCC), whose role it is to identify gaps in child care provision in their respective areas and to assist applicants to develop proposals to fill identified local needs. Capital funding under the NCIP is subject to the rules governing capital expenditure and the multi-annual investment framework, which are conditions of the sanction given by the Department of Finance each year for capital expenditure. To accord with these rules, the amount of capital available for allocation under the NCIP on the basis of portfolios submitted by CCCs in 2008, is expected to be in the region of €120 million. Each CCC has been allocated a portion of this figure, as an indicative budget for this year, which was calculated with reference to a number of factors, including the level of capital grant aid approved in the respective areas to date, the amount of capital grant aid remaining to be allocated under the NCIP and the child populations in the areas covered by the Committee in question. Where this resulted in a figure below €1.5 million, the figure was increased to this amount. In terms of projects being developed by each Committee, they are expected to prioritise these in the context of the funding available to their area.

Hospitals Building Programme.

John Deasy

Ceist:

242 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive has requested capital funding for the construction of a specialist cancer unit at Waterford Regional Hospital; when such funding will be made available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14275/08]

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

John Deasy

Ceist:

243 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive has requested capital funding for an extension to the accident and emergency unit at Waterford Regional Hospital; when such funding will be made available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14276/08]

The Government's sustained high level of investment in healthcare has enabled the completion and commissioning of numerous new facilities in both the acute and the non-acute sectors. This year, overall capital funding of approximately €594m has been provided to the Health Service Executive.

In drawing up its Capital Plan the Health Service Executive is required to prioritise the capital infrastructure projects to be progressed within its overall capital funding allocation under the National Development Plan 2007-2013, taking account of the NDP targets for division of capital investment between the Acute and Primary, Community & Continuing Care pillars. The HSE has submitted a draft Capital Plan to my Department for consideration and approval in the normal way which sets out the HSE's proposed short and longer term priorities and commitments. Consultation on this draft Capital Plan is ongoing between the HSE, the Department of Finance and my Department. The HSE has undertaken to provide additional clarification on its proposed capital developments and is currently engaged in this process.

Health Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

244 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if the primary care centre promised for Letterkenny will be purpose built on its own site, or if the Health Service Executive will enter a leasing arrangement with a local developer; if the latter is the case what the lease will entail; and the amount it will cost to the HSE per year. [14290/08]

The provision of the appropriate infrastructure to facilitate the delivery of primary care services is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. In December 2007 the HSE sought expressions of interest from the private sector for the provision of the Primary Care Team infrastructure, with the HSE proposing to enter into fixed term leases with such providers. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matters raised by the Deputy investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Christy O'Sullivan

Ceist:

245 Deputy Christy O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the position as regards bed availability for those people awaiting procedures in Cork University Hospital. [14306/08]

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.

Palliative Care Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

246 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if the terms of reference of Professor Tom Keane include the provision of palliative care across the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14403/08]

The ‘Strategy for Cancer Control, 2006' makes recommendations in relation to organisation, governance, quality assurance and accreditation across the continuum of cancer care from prevention and health promotion through to treatment services, palliative care and research. Prof Tom Keane was appointed on an interim basis for two years to lead and manage the HSE National Cancer Control Programme. Prof Keane's role is to establish the Programme and set out its priorities. This includes the establishment of four managed cancer control networks. Through these networks the integration of palliative care with other aspects of the programme will be ensured. Under the Programme for Government, the Government has committed to removing the regional disparities in the provision and funding of palliative care, and to ensuring that the needs of all those who require palliative care are met.

The HSE is continuing to work on implementing the Report of the National Advisory Committee on Palliative Care (2001) and is now developing a five year implementation framework, in consultation with the Irish Association for Palliative Care, the Irish Hospice Foundation and the Irish Cancer Society. Work is ongoing on the development of this plan and good progress has been made to-date. Since 2006 additional funding totalling €21m was provided by the Government. This allowed for enhanced service provision covering for example, multi-disciplinary teams; specialist palliative care beds; home care; day care; acute palliative care services, etc. Particular emphasis is being placed by the HSE on addressing parts of the country where services need most improvement.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Alan Shatter

Ceist:

247 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children when the Health Service Executive will publish its formal guidance document on residential facilities for adults with a disability; when quality and safety measures will be included in contractual arrangements between the HSE and agencies that provide a disability service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14412/08]

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

Hospital Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

248 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of outpatients and accident and emergency attendees for each acute hospital in the north east for each year since 2000 to date in 2008; the county of origin of each such patient; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14417/08]

The number of outpatients and accident and emergency attendances for the years 2000 to 2005, for each hospital in the Health Service Executive North East is set out in the attached table. My Department does not routinely hold data relating to the county of origin of patients. Figures for 2006 and subsequent years have been collected by the HSE. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this additional information collated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

249 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on the proposed new regional hospital for the Dublin north east Health Service Executive area. [14418/08]

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

250 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department received advanced draft copies, or advanced notice of the recent report into the proposed new regional hospital for the Dublin north east area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14419/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 249 and 250 together.

No decision has been taken by the Government or by the Health Service Executive on the location of a new Regional Hospital in the North East. The HSE has recently received the report of a consultancy firm, which it commissioned to carry out an independent study on a possible location for the new Regional Hospital. The study took account of various criteria including demographics, access, planning and development considerations and interdependencies. I have received a briefing from the HSE and the consultants who prepared the report on the key findings of the study. I understand that the report was considered by the Board of the HSE at its meeting last week and that the contents were noted.

Hospital Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

251 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is an eight year waiting list for the dermatology outpatients clinic in the Mid-West Regional Hospital with 2,300 people on the list and that the list is closed to new patients except those with very serious conditions; the action she will take to address this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14421/08]

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.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

252 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the action being taken to reduce the ENT waiting lists in the south east; when full clinical facilities will be provided in order that the recently appointed locum consultant can perform their functions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14422/08]

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.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

253 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo received payment under the health repayment scheme. [14424/08]

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.

Health Services.

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

254 Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Health and Children the measures being taken to ensure that the youth homelessness strategy is being implemented in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14426/08]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and social services which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Office 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.

Community Pharmacy Services.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

255 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children the contingency plans in place by her Department and the Health Service Executive to deal with the probability that pharmacists will withdraw from the community drug scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14472/08]

I have been informed by the HSE that it has, to date, received notification from 360 community pharmacy contractors indicating their intention to either cease providing services from 1st May 2008, or otherwise reserving their right to do so. Community pharmacy contractors are required under the terms of their contract to give three months notice of their intention to withdraw. The HSE has written to each of the 360 contractors, seeking formal confirmation of their intentions and pointing out that 3 months notice of cessation of service is required. At this point in time, only two contractors have actually given formal notification of termination in accordance with the requirements in the contract.

The HSE has developed a national contingency planning framework which will inform and provide direction to local operational management for the development of local area — specific contingency plans. As service provision, geographical and demographic circumstances will vary from area to area, each local health area is developing its own area - specific contingency plan within the context of the overall national framework. I believe that threats of withdrawal from the community pharmacy contract are unjustified and are not in anyone's interest. There is no need to bring patients into a dispute between the pharmacists and the HSE. There can be no grounds for causing upset or anxiety about the supply of prescriptions to patients.

Health Services.

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

256 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Health Service Executive operated drug treatment clinic at Portlaoise, County Laois is not fully operational despite the significant problem with heroin abuse in particular in the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14473/08]

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

Care of the Elderly.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

257 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of respite beds that have been or are about to be closed throughout the country arising from budget constraints; the number of patients who will be affected by these cuts; her plans to reopen this service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14476/08]

Arising from Budget 2008, a full year package of €22m has been allocated for new services in the area of older people. This therefore gives a total of over €422m for new services for older people over the last three years. These measures have been designed to both enhance existing services that the Government had already put in place, and also to widen the range of services available to older people.

In this context, over €16m has been provided in the last three years for new Day/Respite Care services. The recent Budget will allow an additional 1,245 clients nationally to avail of new Respite places and brings the total projected Day Care provision by the Health Service Executive to around 21,300 places by the end of this year.

The HSE has committed through its National Service Plan 2008 to deliver services within its Vote provided by the Oireachtas. It will manage the provision of respite care beds within this context and also recognising the priority the Government and the Executive have given to services for older people.

There is no doubt that demand can at times exceed service resources and that this problem can manifest itself in particular at local level. It is a matter for the Executive to manage service delivery, both nationally and locally, within its budget and in line with overall health policy priorities. 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 HSE to arrange to have the matter investigated in detail and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

258 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied with the fact that ophthalmology and dental services are not available to asylum seekers until they receive a medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14493/08]

The arrangements in place regarding eligibility for public health services are not subject to residency and means criteria as asylum seekers may avail of public health services on the same basis as medical card holders, while awaiting a decision on their application to remain in the State. Asylum seekers are given medical cards for the period during which their application for refugee status is being considered. If refugee status is subsequently granted, then they are regarded as ordinarily resident and come under the usual rules for entitlement to health services.

Medical Cards.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

259 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Health and Children the stage at which an asylum seeker becomes eligible for a medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14503/08]

The healthcare of asylum seekers is provided by the Health Service Executive in the context of general arrangements governing eligibility for public health services. The arrangements in place are not subject to residency and means criteria and such persons may avail of public health services on the same basis as medical card holders, while awaiting a decision on an application to remain in this country. Asylum seekers are given medical cards for the period during which their application for refugee status is being considered. If refugee status is granted, then they are regarded as ordinarily resident and come under the usual rules for entitlement to health services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

260 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 20 was refused a medical card; and if their application will be re-examined to allow a medical card to be issued. [14506/08]

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.

Cosmetic Surgery Clinics.

John Perry

Ceist:

261 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans in place to introduce legislation governing the regulation of private plastic surgery clinics here; the regulations that exist currently for persons who operate this profession here; the ISO standard requirements for cosmetic surgery facilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14509/08]

John Perry

Ceist:

262 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans in place to ensure patient welfare and safety with respect to new entrants into the private cosmetic surgery industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14510/08]

John Perry

Ceist:

263 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children the role the Health Information and Quality Authority will play in the assessment and regulation of private cosmetic surgery clinics; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14511/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 261 to 263, inclusive, together.

Under the Medical Practitioners Act 1978, the Medical Council is charged with responsibility for the registration of medical practitioners and the regulation of their activities. The Medical Practitioners Act 2007 provides for a clear compulsory requirement for registration of all medical practitioners, changes to the Fitness to Practise process and the introduction of a mandatory scheme for the maintenance of professional competence. These and other new provisions of the Act will afford greater protection to the public. There is, however, currently no regulatory framework governing the operation of private cosmetic surgery clinics beyond the registration and regulation of the medical practitioners concerned.

A core function of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) is to set standards on safety and quality of health services and to monitor enforcement of those standards in an open and transparent way. The Health Act 2007 currently gives HIQA strong powers in this area in relation to services provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and bodies funded by the HSE to provide services on their behalf. The process by which such a regulatory regime is introduced first in the public sector is a feature of similar developments in other jurisdictions. The extension of this type of monitoring and control to the private sector would involve further legislation of a complex nature.

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

Medicinal Products.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

264 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the present legalisation and licensing system governing the importation, processing retailing and distribution of St John’s Worth; if licences have been granted for same; and if so, to what companies and when; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14520/08]

St. John's Wort for oral use is subject to prescription control under the Medicinal Products (Prescription and Control of Supply) Regulations. There is an exemption for the topical formulation which permits such products to be sold in pharmacies without a prescription. The Irish Medicines Board (IMB) has received no licence applications for St John's Wort and there are no products authorized by the IMB.

Irish Medicines Board.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

265 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the terms of reference for the Irish Medicines Board; the way members are appointed; the persons who are the appointed members and when they were appointed; if there is a fixed period of service; if there is a payment or expense granted to board members; the way the board is funded; the extent of this funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14521/08]

The Members of the Irish Medicines Board are appointed by myself for a fixed period of five years, which may be renewed. I have sent details of members and their appointment dates to the Deputy. The functions of the Board are set out in the Irish Medicines Board Act 1995, as amended. Board members may be paid travelling and subsistence expenses in accordance with Department of Finance rules. The Chair of the Board receives a payment as sanctioned by that Department. The Board is funded partly by my Department, partly through the payment of fees in relation to the grant or renewal of licences and partly through the charging of fees in consideration of the performance by it of its functions. My Department provided funding of €4,924,000 for 2007.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Deirdre Clune

Ceist:

266 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to he fact that a new accident and emergency unit at the Mercy Hospital, Cork is not operational; when she expects it will be operational; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14527/08]

The Deputy will be aware that the Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive (HSE) to have the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to have delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of services at the Mercy University Hospital, Cork.

Improving the delivery of Accident and Emergency services continues to be a top priority for the Government and the Health Service Executive. There are three Accident and Emergency Departments in Cork City. These are located at Cork University Hospital, the Mercy University Hospital, and the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital. These units are cross-covered by a team of Consultants in Emergency Medicine.

Funding of €4.7m for the provision of a new Accident and Emergency Department at the Mercy University Hospital was included in the HSE's Capital Plan 2006-2010. Building work on the new Accident and Emergency Department was completed on schedule in January 2007. The work of equipping and commissioning the new facility was completed at the end of October 2007.

The HSE has informed my Department that there are currently 46 staff assigned to the existing A&E Department at an annual cost of approximately €2.5m. The staff complement includes the equivalent of 18 full time nurses, 1 full time Consultant in Emergency Medicine, 2 Registrars and 7 Senior House Officers. The working of the existing Department is underpinned by close working relationships with physiotherapists, a social worker, an occupational therapist, radiographer, pharmacist, psychiatry and other support services, including chaplains, security and housekeeping staff.

The original approval for the project included an additional revenue allocation of €0.40m. I understand that in January 2007, the Mercy University Hospital submitted an application to the HSE's National Hospitals Office for an additional 24.5 full time staff for the new unit, at a cost of almost €1.5m. This would represent a very substantial increase in staffing over the current complement.

In December 2007, in an effort to advance the issue, both sides agreed to an evaluation of the staffing requirement for the new facility. I understand that this process will be concluded shortly. On Monday 14th April the Mercy University Hospital indicated that it proposed to bring the new Accident and Emergency Department in the Hospital into operation on a limited basis, beginning in June 2008. The HSE and Mercy University Hospital are engaged in on-going discussions regarding the opening of the A&E Department and related issues.

Departmental Funding.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

267 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of funding given by her Department or the Health Service Executive for the years 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 to an institute (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14539/08]

The National Breast Cancer Research Institute (NBCRI) is a voluntary based charity located at the Clinical Science Institute, University College Hospital Galway. Funding for cancer research is provided by my Department to the Health Research Board (HRB). The statutory functions of the HRB are to promote, conduct, fund and commission medical, epidemiological and health services research in Ireland. The HRB has advised my Department that funding of over €2.6m has been provided to the National University of Ireland Galway (Department of Surgery) and University College Hospital Galway from 2004 to 2007. A significant proportion of this funding relates to breast cancer research and clinical trials for breast cancer.

HRB records of research grants do not include a specific grant to the NBCRI. However, a number of individuals associated with the NBCRI are in receipt of grants. The HRB has also informed my Department that the new Clinical Research Facility, which will be built as an annex to the existing University College Hospital Galway, will provide significant research benefits, including cancer research. The new facility will support a much greater volume of clinical studies in cancer, going well beyond the clinical trials already well established and bringing patient centred research to a new level. The funding associated with the new facility is €20m which is being funded by the HRB and the Health Service Executive. It is anticipated that the facility will be completed next year.

Community Pharmacy Services.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

268 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if her Department has considered the impact on rural pharmacies of the 8% cut in payment to pharmacists under the community drug schemes; her views on whether small rural pharmacies do not get 8% discounts from their wholesaler and the way she can guarantee continuity of supply to patients of their medicines under the community drug schemes in areas which may be left without a local community pharmacist arising from the changes imposed by the Health Service Executive and supported by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14548/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) have been reviewing the pharmaceutical supply chain, with a view to seeking value for money in the State's drugs bill, in order to better fund existing and innovative therapies without compromising patient safety or continuity of supply. Following the completion of a consultation process, and informed by the independent economic analysis carried out by Indecon Economic Consultants, new reimbursement arrangements for wholesale supply were announced by the HSE on 17th September 2007. The report by Indecon was published by the HSE on 13 November 2007. All aspects of the Indecon report were considered by the HSE in making its determination.

The existing wholesale mark-up in the range of 15% to 17.6% is neither reasonable nor sustainable. The Government supports the HSE's decision to pay an 8% mark-up from 1 March, and 7% from 1 January 2009 which will be applied by reducing the reimbursement price paid to community pharmacy contractors from those dates. In response to demands from community pharmacists to address the alleged impact of the new wholesale pricing arrangements, 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.

Both the HSE as the contracting body and the IPU as the representative organisation for community pharmacists, along with other stakeholders, will be entitled to make submissions to the Independent Body.

Based on its consideration of submissions received and its own independent evaluation, the body will recommend an appropriate dispensing fee that would, in its view, represent a fair and reasonable price to be paid for the pharmaceutical service currently being provided by community pharmacists to the HSE under the GMS and community drug schemes. If approved by Government, it will be backdated to the date from which any individual community pharmacist may choose to avail of the HSE's offer. Accordingly, each pharmacist will have three options: to avail of the interim contract as outlined by the HSE letter of 2 January 2008 immediately; to accept the interim contract upon the report of the Independent Body; or to stay with the existing retail fee structure until the agreement of a substantive new contract.

I believe that threats of withdrawal from the community pharmacy contract are unjustified and are not in anyone's interest. There is no need to bring patients into a dispute between the pharmacists and the HSE. There can be no grounds for causing upset or anxiety about the supply of prescriptions to patients.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

269 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the latest costing associated with the proposed new national paediatric hospital; the proposed costing for the four satellite units; and if funding for this entire infrastructural package for paediatric services in Dublin and for a new national service can now be drawn down; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14557/08]

The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board has responsibility for planning, designing, building, furnishing and equipping the new national paediatric hospital. The Health Service Executive is working closely with the Development Board in progressing the project. My Department has asked the HSE to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy on the specific issues raised.

Health Service Inquiry.

David Stanton

Ceist:

270 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health and Children when she expects the Health Service Executive inquiry which is being held into the circumstances surrounding the death of a person (details supplied) in County Cork in June 2006 to be finalised; when the report will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14564/08]

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

Hospital Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

271 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress made in providing extra kidney dialysis facilities for the mid-west region; if planning permission has been procured for the proposed new unit; the estimated timeframe for when it will be operational; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14584/08]

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

Palliative Care Services.

Andrew Doyle

Ceist:

272 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Health and Children the action being taken to ensure that a palliative care service exists in County Wicklow. [14586/08]

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.

Consultancy Contracts.

Andrew Doyle

Ceist:

273 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Health and Children the budget for consultancy services with a firm (details supplied) on integration of the health services; the brief given to the consultants; and when the report is due. [14587/08]

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

The cost for the consultancy service and the brief given to the consultants is a matter for the Health Service Executive and I have forwarded your question to the Executive for direct reply.

Health Services.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

274 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange to have respite care approved in respect of a child (details supplied) in County Cork; and if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Health Service Executive has refused the application despite the fact that the person is deserving and a single parent. [14593/08]

As part of the Multi-Annual Investment Programme 2006-2009 under the Disability Strategy, the Government provided the Health Service Executive with an additional €75m in both 2006 and 2007. This funding included monies to provide new and enhanced services for people with disabilities, to implement Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005, which came into effect on June 1st 2007 for the under 5s and also for the continuation of the implementation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

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

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

Hospital Accommodation.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

275 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of inpatient psychiatric hospital beds in each year from 2000 to date in 2008. [14607/08]

The number of in-patient psychiatric hospital beds for the years 2000 to 2006 is set out in the following table. The figures for 2007 and to date in 2008 are not yet available.

Year

No of Beds

2000

4,747

2001

4,947

2002

4,554

2003

4,334

2004

4,121

2005

3,975

2006

3,897

Source: 2000-2003, Health Research Board, Activities of Irish Psychiatric Services Reports 2000-2003.

Source: 2004-2006, Mental Health Commission Annual Reports 2004-2006.

In addition, there are over 3,000 residents living in community residential facilities.

Mental Health Services.

Dan Neville

Ceist:

276 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will extend the remit of the Health Information and Quality Authority which was established under the Health Act 2007 to cater for the mental health services. [14602/08]

The Mental Health Commission is an independent statutory body established under the Mental Health Act 2001. The role of the Commission is to promote high standards in the delivery of mental health services and ensure the interests of those involuntarily admitted to Approved Centres are protected. The Inspectorate of Mental Health Services is an integral part of the Commission. I am satisfied that the Commission is the proper competent authority to oversee our mental health services.

Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

277 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if the person will be seen as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14578/08]

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.

Child Care Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

278 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if a child care facility that has closed down can be held to account for lapses of care while it was operational; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14579/08]

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

279 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on strengthening regulations on child care to oblige a certificate of registration to be visibly displayed on the premises; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14580/08]

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

280 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if the regulations governing child care providers allow for action to be taken against a provider who does not register despite minding a number of children that should oblige them to be registered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14581/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 278 to 280, inclusive, together.

Under the Health Acts, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has statutory responsibility for the implementation of the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No. 2) Regulations 2006.

Where lapses of care have occurred while a pre-school service was operational but the service has subsequently closed, the response of the various regulatory and enforcement authorities will be determined by the nature of the lapse. For example in circumstances where a criminal matter is under investigation, it will be a matter for an Garda Síochána to determine. Where a breach of the Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No. 2) Regulations has occurred or been reported, it will be followed up on by the HSE Pre-School Inspectorate, depending upon the nature of the breach, if proceedings have already been initiated in the District Court.

Under Part VII of the Child Care Act 1991, which governs supervision of Pre School Services, the HSE has no powers of closure. In practice, therefore following an inspection of a child-care facility where there is grave and immediate danger to the health, safety and welfare of pre-school children, the service can be requested by the HSE to close voluntarily. This voluntary closure may be followed by legal action where deemed appropriate, in which case a fine of up to €1,000 on each proven offence may be imposed on the service provider. The presiding Judge may also, under Article 57 (2) of the Child Care Act, by order prohibit a service from operating for a period specified on the order. If the lapse concerns a child protection matter, it will be followed up on by the HSE child protection services.

The Child Care (Pre-School Services) (No. 2) Regulations, which were last updated in 2006 require that a person proposing to carry on a pre-school service gives notice in writing to the HSE at least 28 days before the commencement of the service. There is no requirement under the regulations to display this notification. A Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations Committee has been established by my Office to oversee their implementation and review where considered necessary or appropriate. The Committee will consider changes to the current Regulations in this context.

In instances where notification is not given to the HSE and the Executive becomes aware that a service is in operation, it is normal practice for the Pre-School Inspectorate to contact the service and request it to notify. Failure to do so would constitute a breach of the Regulations and the service provider may be prosecuted for operating a non-notified service.

Health Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

281 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if there is legislation currently in place governing laser eye treatment in public and private facilities; if not, her views on such legislation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14582/08]

At present there is no legislation in Ireland governing laser eye treatment. However, the involvement of medical practitioners in this practice is subject to the provisions of the Medical Practitioners Act and the Medical Council's guidelines.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

282 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if the cytology laboratories which will carry out testing for the roll-out of cervical cancer screening are all outside of Ireland; if laboratories here that are in the process of achieving accreditation will be included in the tendering process, subject to achieving accreditation, in order to protect competence, skills and jobs in this field here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14583/08]

The roll out of a national cervical screening programme is the most efficient population approach to preventing and controlling cervical cancer. The National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) is planning to roll out such a programme on a national basis around the middle of this year. Women aged 25 to 44 years old will be screened every 3 years; women aged 45 to 60 will be screened every 5 years. The service will be available free of charge to eligible women everywhere in the country. Approximately 230,000 women will be screened annually, assuming an 80% take up by eligible women. All elements of the programme — call/recall, smear taking, laboratories, colposcopy and treatment services will be quality assured, organised and managed to deliver a single integrated national service.

Additional revenue funding of €5.0m was allocated to the NCSS in 2007 for the roll-out of the programme and an additional €15.0m has been allocated in 2008. An additional 30 posts have been approved to facilitate integration and roll-out of the programme.

The Deputy's specific questions in relation to cytology laboratories are the responsibility of the National Cancer Screening Service. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Chief Executive Officer of the Service to respond directly to the Deputy in relation to the matters raised.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Dinny McGinley

Ceist:

283 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Donegal who is on a waiting list for a triple bypass and heart valve replacement will again be called to hospital. [14613/08]

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.

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

John Perry

Ceist:

284 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will intercede with Health Service Executive officials to ensure that long-term stay patient repayments are made as soon as possible on behalf of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14629/08]

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.

Health Service Staff.

John Deasy

Ceist:

285 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there has been a vacancy for a schools orthodontist in Dungarvan, County Waterford since January 2008 and that this situation is causing great concern to parents of pupils requiring orthodontic treatment; if she will convey this concern to the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14631/08]

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

EU Directives.

John Deasy

Ceist:

286 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children the way the food supplement Directive, 2002/46/EC, will be implemented; if she will prevent the sale of vitamins and supplements at dosages above the recommended daily allowance; her views on whether the RDA levels are guidelines only; and whether dosages above the RDA levels constitute a danger to a persons health; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14632/08]

The Food Supplements Directive, 2002/46/EC, has been transposed into Irish law by Statutory Instrument No. 506 of 2007. That legislation is implemented by the Health Service Executive, under a Service Contract Agreement with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI). This ensures that consumers in Ireland are protected by the harmonised EU rules on the sale of food supplements, in particular the labelling of food supplements and chemical form of vitamins and minerals they contain. Work is ongoing at European level on the development of a methodology under which maximum safe levels for vitamins and minerals in food supplements will be set.

I am advised by the FSAI that in general, healthy people obtain adequate levels of nutrients by eating a variety of foods in moderation rather than by taking added nutrients from supplements or in fortified foods. With the exception of vitamin A, it is almost impossible to over-consume vitamins and minerals from natural food sources. However, excessive intake of vitamins and minerals from supplements and fortified food sources can be a cause for concern if consumed in large quantities over a long period.

Examples of known adverse effects associated with over-consumption of some commonly taken vitamins and/or minerals include:

reduction in iron absorption as a result of ingesting calcium;

increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer as a result of excessive iron intake;

significant risk to unborn children of complications arising from vitamin A toxicity, where the mother ingests large doses of pre-formed vitamin A;

over-consumption of folic acid leading to masking of vitamin B12 deficiency-related anaemia in older people; and

a possibility of interactions between dietary supplements and prescription drugs and among several dietary supplements taken at the same time.

The FSAI has advised that the setting of recommended daily allowance (RDA) levels for vitamins and minerals based on the most recently available scientific evidence mean those international RDA levels represent optimal intake levels for up to 98% of the population. In addition to ensuring nutritional adequacy (and thereby preventing deficiency) such optimal levels are designed to protect against the development of chronic disease. While work on the further development of EU-wide standard RDA levels is awaited such international RDA levels can provide guidance for the setting of safe maximum levels for vitamins and minerals that are added to foods or available in supplements in the EU.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John Cregan

Ceist:

287 Deputy John Cregan asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to improve the present situation governing orthodontic treatment waiting lists in St. Camillus’ Hospital, Limerick, in view of the fact that a person (details supplied) in County Limerick has been on the waiting list since 2004 and has not received treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14634/08]

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

Hospital Staff.

James Bannon

Ceist:

288 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children if non-Irish national nurses working in public hospitals are paid on the official pay scale agreed by her Department for all nursing staff; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14657/08]

All nursing staff, both Irish and non-Irish national, working in public hospitals and employed by the Public Health Service are paid in accordance with the official salary scales. Where nurses are, however, working under contract for private nursing employment agencies the rate of remuneration would be a matter between those nurses and the agencies involved. However, I understand that the pay scales applied by the agencies would in many instances closely adhere to the official rates.

Community Pharmacy Services.

James Bannon

Ceist:

289 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason the right of pharmacists to representation by their union, the Irish Pharmacy Union is not recognised; the reason the Health Service Executive has, without negotiation, imposed a new payment structure on pharmacists, ignoring the main Indecon advice which was commissioned by the HSE; the reason there is a lack of analysis by the HSE of the effects of such a payment structure on the delivery of pharmacy services throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14667/08]

I would point out that the Government and the Health Service Executive (HSE) recognise the Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU) as the representative body for its members.

I have previously outlined in detail to the House the legal provisions under Competition Law which prevent the HSE from negotiating with the IPU on fees, prices or margins for their members. When it became clear that the HSE could not negotiate with pharmacists or wholesalers on fees or margins, a transparent consultation process, including independent economic analysis by Indecon Economic Consultants, was carried out to inform the final determination of the new reimbursement pricing arrangements for drugs and medicines under the medical card and community drugs schemes. These new arrangements were announced by the HSE on 17th September 2007. The report by Indecon was published by the HSE on 13 November 2007. All aspects of the Indecon report were considered by the HSE in making its determination.

A process of dialogue was established under Mr. Bill Shipsey SC to address concerns expressed by the IPU, on behalf of community pharmacists. At a meeting between the HSE and the IPU under Mr Shipsey SC on 5 December 2007, a proposal was outlined to the IPU to (i) address their immediate concerns regarding the alleged impact of the proposed revised wholesaler arrangements on GMS-dependent pharmacies and (ii) to provide a basis upon which discussions on a new substantive contract could commence. The IPU was not prepared to accept this proposal from the HSE and, accordingly, no further discussions have taken place under Mr Shipsey's aegis since then.

In response to demands from community pharmacists to address the alleged impact of the new wholesale pricing arrangements, 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 and 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.

Based on its consideration of submissions received and its own independent evaluation, the Body will recommend an appropriate dispensing fee that would, in its view, represent a fair and reasonable price to be paid for the pharmaceutical service currently being provided by community pharmacists to the HSE. If approved by Government, it will be backdated to the date from which any individual community pharmacist may choose to avail of the HSE's offer.

Accordingly, each community pharmacist will have three options: to avail of the interim contract as recently offered by the HSE; to accept the interim contract upon the report of the Independent Body; or to stay with the existing retail fee structure until the agreement of a substantive new contract.

I believe this provides all concerned with a reasonable way to make the transition to a fair and transparent method of payment for present services and, I hope, greatly developed pharmacy services in the near future.

Hospital Staff.

James Bannon

Ceist:

290 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason graduate nurses are unlikely to be offered pre-registration nursing experience in 2008 in the approximate four month period between qualification and registration, which will force many of them to take work in non-medical menial jobs to survive; the reason posts are not being filled despite staff shortages; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14669/08]

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. It is a matter for the Executive to manage and deploy its human resources to best meet the requirements of its Annual Service Plan for the delivery of health and personal social services to the public. The Executive is the appropriate body to consider the matter raised by the Deputy. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Infectious Diseases.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

291 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will meet a delegation of the four Houses of the Oireachtas Members from County Clare to discuss the recent findings of the Health Service Executive review of the increased presence of clostridium difficile at Ennis General Hospital and the urgent requirement to implement the recommendations of the report including funding for the construction of additional storage and cleaning facilities for both medical wards at the hospital and the funding for the hospital development project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14693/08]

I consider the findings of this review into an outbreak of Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) at the Midwestern Regional Hospital, Ennis to be a serious matter and I would like to express my sympathy to any patient and/or family who has been affected by the outbreak. I would like to assure the Deputy that tackling all Health Care Associated Infections (HCAIs), including C. difficile continues to be a priority for the Government and for the Health Service Executive (HSE). Arrangements have been made to meet with Oireachtas Members from Clare on this issue.

In March 2008, I instructed the HSE to make C. difficile a notifiable disease. From May 4th, all cases of C. difficile and the associated disease, Clostridium Difficile Associated Diarrhoea (CDAD) will have to be notified to the relevant Department of Public Heath. All new cases of CDAD will be entered onto the national Computerised Infectious Disease Reporting system so that incidences can be monitored and managed appropriately where they occur.

While accepting that not all HCAIs are preventable, I am satisfied that this outbreak has been dealt with and significant steps are being taken to reduce the rates of HCAIs generally and to treat them promptly when they occur. I have been informed by the HSE that most of the recommendations in the Ennis report have already been implemented and the HSE will continue to monitor their implementation so as to ensure that the incidence of HCAIs is reduced to the absolute minimum and, particularly, that significant outbreaks such as this do not occur again.

In drawing up its Capital Plan the Health Service Executive is required to prioritise the capital infrastructure projects to be progressed within its overall capital funding allocation under the National Development Plan 2007-2013, taking account of the NDP targets for division of capital investment between the Acute and Primary, Community & Continuing Care pillars. The HSE has submitted a draft Capital Plan to my Department for consideration and approval in the normal way which sets out the HSE's proposed short and longer term priorities and commitments. Consultation on this draft Capital Plan is ongoing between the HSE, the Department of Finance and my Department. The HSE has undertaken to provide additional clarification on its proposed capital developments and is currently engaged in this process.

Ambulance Service.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

292 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of an ambulance base at Shannon, County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14694/08]

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.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

293 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children the basis for payment of the different levels of nursing home subvention; the different rates of payment; when it is expected that the legislation providing for the new system will be circulated; and the proposals in this regard. [14697/08]

The Nursing Home Subvention Scheme was introduced in 1993. The aim of this scheme is to provide financial assistance to older people towards the cost of maintenance in a private nursing home. As of January 2007, there are no longer three separate rates for subvention. Persons who apply may receive any amount up to a maximum of €300 per week. Additional funding of €55 million was provided for this purpose in Budget 2007. A subvention may be paid where a person has been assessed as needing nursing home care by the Health Service Executive and where the person has satisfied a means test.

In addition to the increased rate of basic subvention, additional funding of €30 million was made available in 2007 for enhanced subvention. This is a supplementary subvention, which may be paid by the HSE, to a person in or entering private long-term care. The amount of enhanced subvention paid is at the discretion of the HSE and varies according to the cost of care and the circumstances of the applicant.

The Bill providing for the Fair Deal scheme is being finalised by the Office of the Attorney General at present. My colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, intends to publish the Bill as soon as possible following finalisation by the Attorney General and Government approval, and to bring the legislation through the Houses of the Oireachtas thereafter.

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

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

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

Depending on the amount of a person's assessable income, there may also be a contribution of up to 5% of a person's assets. The State will meet the balance of cost thereafter in public or private nursing homes. An individual can choose any approved nursing home subject to a) its ability to meet their care needs and b) availability.

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

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

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

Homeless Persons.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

294 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that voluntary homeless groups believe there to be over a thousand children homeless in the Dublin area alone; the breakdown of the exact figures of homeless children on a local authority area basis; and her plans to address the issue of child homelessness as the new revised Government strategy will only address adult homelessness. [14495/08]

I assume the Deputy is referring to those young people who have been identified as being homeless on an individual basis and not within their family unit. The most recent figures collated by the Health Service Executive indicate that in 2005 approximately 378 (This figure is a national figure but does not include figure from the south western area in Dublin region) children nationally were identified as being homeless. In relation to the breakdown of these figures on a HSE regional basis, I have requested the HSE to forward the latest available of this information directly to the Deputy.

The Government has shown significant commitment to tackling youth homelessness. It has done this by targeting significant resources at the youth homeless service in the context of the development of the broader child welfare services. In 2001 the Youth Homelessness Strategy was launched. The Strategy provides a strategic framework for youth homelessness to be tackled on a national basis. The goal of the Strategy is "to reduce and if possible eliminate youth homelessness through preventative strategies and where child becomes homeless to ensure that he/she benefits from a comprehensive range of services aimed at reintegrating him/her into his /her community as quickly as possible." In 2005, my office, the Office of the Minister for Children (OMC) requested that the HSE undertake a review of their action plan, to ascertain the extent of its implementation. My Office is continuing to work with the HSE with a view to identifying youth homeless service needs and in determining future policy in this area. My Office has also been liaising with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in the context of the review of their existing homeless strategy and the development of a new adult homeless strategy.

Marine Qualifications.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

295 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Transport the estimate of the number of deck hands, engineers, mates and qualified skippers who have qualifications in their respective fields; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14692/08]

The Department does not maintain records of the numbers of seafarers who are employed at any one time onboard Irish Registered vessels.

I am informed by the Marine Survey Office that a "snapshot" of the numbers of seafarers employed on Irish Registered vessels was taken during September 2007 in connection with a study being undertaken by the European Commission. The statistics in the following table relate to passenger and cargo vessels that were in service on a year round basis at that time.

Type of Vessel

Total Number of Officers Employed

Total Number of Ratings Employed

Cargo Ships

157

156

Passenger Ships of Class B

8

16

Passenger Ships of Class IIA

12

15

In addition to the numbers of seafarers accounted for above there are approximately 70 seasonal passenger vessels in operation throughout the summer period only. These vessels would each typically employ up to four seafarers.

The Department maintains a database to record all Certificates of Competency and Certificates of Equivalent Competency that have been issued to officers in accordance with the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) Convention 1978 as amended in 1995. A total of 2572 certificates have been issued under these arrangements since September 2001.

In comparison, the records for the number of Fishing Vessel Certificates of Competency issued since 2001 indicate that 365 of these types of certificate have been issued to officers in the Irish fishing vessel fleet, which numbers approximately 1800 vessels.

Road Network.

Damien English

Ceist:

296 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Transport the average cost to the State per kilometre of road resurfacing works on regional routes for each of the years 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14821/08]

Damien English

Ceist:

297 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Transport the average cost to the State per kilometre of road resurfacing works on county routes for each of the years 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14822/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 296 and 297 together.

Information available in my Department on the cost per kilometre of road resurfacing works on regional and local roads is in respect of the State funded road restoration programme. Resurfacing works funded under that programme fall into two categories, i.e. road pavement improvements and surface dressing.

The average cost per kilometre for resurfacing works under those two categories for each of the years 2004 to 2007 is set out in the following table.

Year

Average Cost per km of Surface Dressing

Average Cost per km of Restoration Improvement

2004

10,178

44,701

2005

14,619

56,899

2006

16,616

66,465

2007

18,689

65,472

State Airports.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

298 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport if aircraft companies are licensed to carry hazardous material using Shannon Airport; the procedures and facilities in place to deal with same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14846/08]

The carriage of munitions of war, weapons into or through Irish airspace or into Irish airports is prohibited under the Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Orders 1973 and 1989, unless an exemption has been issued by the Minister for Transport.

All applications under the above Orders by civilian aircraft are submitted to the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) by my Department for their observations in respect of hazardous or dangerous goods or materials. The IAA ensures that all such requests are compliant with current safety regulations for the safe transport including packing of these goods by air as approved by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

In considering whether to grant an exemption my Department also consults with the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Defence and Foreign Affairs.

Limited quantities of dangerous goods may be carried into and through Irish airspace without special exemption under the provision of Annex 18 to the Chicago Convention and provided that they meet the limitations of the ICAO "Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air".

Foreign military aircraft may only land in or overfly Irish territory with the permission of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Taxi Regulations.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

299 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Transport if he will respond to a query from a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 on taxi licences. [14863/08]

Decisions regarding the location and operation of taxi ranks on public roads are primarily matters for consideration by the relevant local authority. Under section 84 of the Road Traffic Act 1961, as amended, a local authority is empowered to make by-laws in respect of any specified area in its functional area appointing the places at which taxis may stand for hire. The making of such by-laws is a reserved function of a local authority.

Insofar as the management and control of the operation of the taxi rank at Dublin Airport is concerned, this is a matter for the Dublin Airport Authority.

With regard to taxi numbers, the October 2000 High Court judgement which led to taxi liberalisation created the legal position that limitation of taxi licences in the interests of existing licence holders could not be sustained. Regulations made in November 2000 responded to the new legal situation established by reference to the decision of the High Court. Subsequently, the Taxi Regulation Act 2003, which provides the legislative basis for the licensing and operation of small public service vehicles generally, does not provide a basis for the application of quantitative controls on the issue of licences for any such vehicles.

The Commission for Taxi Regulation is now the independent public body responsible for the development and maintenance of the regulatory framework for the control and operation, including licensing, of taxis, hackneys, limousines and their drivers. However, the Commission does not have any remit or statutory power under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 in relation to the control of the number of licences issued. The Commission is, however, progressing policy and supporting regulation in relation to such aspects within its statutory control as vehicle standards and driver skills and knowledge. This will contribute to enhancing the overall standards that a small public service vehicle operator must meet to obtain either a small public service vehicle driver or vehicle licence.

State Airports.

Deirdre Clune

Ceist:

300 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Transport the way the establishment of an independent airport authority at Cork Airport under the State Airport Acts 2004 will affect the employment rights of persons currently working at the airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14892/08]

The recent decision of the Cork Airport Authority (CAA) to accept the recommendations put forward by Peter Cassells with regard to the separation of the CAA from the DAA will allow the airports to proceed with the next steps for separation. A process of engagement will now commence with all the relevant parties on implementation and the technical and legal issues involved will be progressed by the airport authorities and my Department.

It is my intention to proceed without delay to effect the full separation of the three State airports as set out in the State Airports Act 2004. This process will involve the preparation of revised business plans taking account of the Cassells' recommendations. In due course the business plans would be submitted to the Minister for Finance and myself for approval.

Also as part of this process, there will be a need to engage in necessary consultation with stakeholders. In this regard the Minister recognises that there is an understanding with ICTU concerning the framework for consultation with trade unions on the airport business plans.

I wish to reassure all concerned that the legal commitments enshrined in the State Airports Act concerning the protection of terms and conditions of employment of State Airport employees, as well as the requirements for consultation on future collective bargaining structures, will be honoured in full.

Marine Accidents.

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

301 Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Transport when an investigation will be completed into a boating accident (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13938/08]

I wish to express my sympathy to the relatives affected by this tragedy. I understand that the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) is carrying out an investigation into the sinking of the "MFV Strath Marie".

The MCIB, in the exercise of its functions, is independent from me as Minister for Transport. Therefore, the Deputy should contact the MCIB directly (www.mcib.ie) in relation to the investigation of this tragedy.

Public Transport.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

302 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the number of buses currently in operation in the Dublin Bus fleet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13883/08]

I am informed by Dublin Bus that it currently has, on average, approximately 1,180 buses in its fleet.

Road Traffic Accidents.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

303 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the contact he has had with CIE in relation to the causes of the Wellington Quay bus crash of 2004; if he is in possession of a report into the causes of the crash; if not, when he expects to acquire such a report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13928/08]

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

304 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the reason in view of his role in ensuring safe public transport he has not published any report into the causes of the Wellington Quay bus crash of 2004; the assurances he can give to the travelling public that the causes of that crash have been addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13929/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 303 and 304 together.

The day to day operation of bus services is a matter for the bus companies concerned and the investigation of road traffic accidents and the prosecution of court cases arising therefrom, including in relation any breaches of the Road Traffic Acts, is a matter for the Garda Síochána. I understand that Dublin Bus has co-operated fully with the Gardaí in this regard.

I have not received any internal Dublin Bus report into the accident referred to.

Taxi Regulations.

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

305 Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Transport the options available when a taxi operator is not satisfied with a decision made by the taxi regulator; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13941/08]

Under the public service vehicle regulations, where the Commission for Taxi Regulation refuses to grant or renew a taxi, wheelchair accessible taxi, hackney or limousine licence, the applicant may appeal the decision to the District Court.

Similarly, where the Garda Commissioner or authorised officer refuses to grant a licence to drive a small public service vehicle or revokes a licence, the applicant/licence holder may appeal the decision to the District Court having jurisdiction where the person ordinarily resides.

In both circumstances, on hearing the appeal the Justice may either confirm the refusal or suspension or revocation or direct the relevant licensing authority to grant or renew the licence in question or remove the suspension or revocation. Notice of the Court decision is given to the relevant licensing authority who must comply with the decision. These provisions are set out in the Taxi Regulations Act 2003.

Departmental Advertising.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

306 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the cost of media advertising on Transport 21 to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13943/08]

Transport 21 represents the largest capital investment commitment ever made by Government to the development of transport infrastructure in this country. It comprises a programme of projects that will greatly improve our national roads and public transport systems over the ten year period to 2015, involving a total investment of €34 billion.

I consider it essential that the general public and all interested parties are made aware of the investments proposed in Transport 21 and are kept up-to-date on the progress being made. Recent market research, undertaken on behalf of my Department, has shown that awareness levels of Transport 21 among the general public is low.

Therefore, as part of a wider information and communications strategy, my Department is undertaking a media advertising campaign, which aims to raise public awareness of Transport 21. To date, the campaign has involved television, press and outdoor advertising. The total cost to date is €580,921, which includes media costs and design and advertising fees.

Noise Pollution.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

307 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport if he will clarify whether powers vested under Section 77 of the Roads Act 1993 are within his remit, or remain within the remit of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. [14010/08]

The issue of environmental noise, including that generated by road traffic, is dealt with under Statutory Instrument (S.I.) No. 140 of 2006: Environmental Noise Regulations 2006. The S.I. was signed into effect by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on 29th March 2006. These Regulations have superseded the provisions of Section 77 of the Roads Act, 1993.

Consultancy Contracts.

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

308 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the consultants who carried out work for his Department or for any body under the auspices of his Department during 2007; if each consultant was an individual or a firm; the amount earned by each consultant in 2007; the basis of the calculation of same; the rate per hour, day, week, month or other period payable in each case; if in each case the consultant was engaged to prepare a report or to carry out work; if in the case of a report being prepared the report has been published; if not, when the report will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14112/08]

The information requested by the Deputy is being compiled and will be forwarded to her as soon as possible.

Public Transport.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

309 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Transport the number of wheelchair accessible buses run by Bus Éireann that are attached to routes that service County Kildare; the number of proposed new buses to deal with such routes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14223/08]

The deployment of buses is a matter for Bus Éireann but I am informed by the company that it is their intention to have wheelchair accessible vehicles on all commuter routes within Co. Kildare by the end of next year, amounting to approximately 35 vehicles.

The approach being taken to the provision of wheelchair accessible coaches is outlined in ‘Transport Access for All', my Department's Sectoral Plan under the Disability Act 2005, a copy of which is in the Oireachtas Library.

State Airports.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

310 Deputy Paul Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport when he will make a decision on the independence of the Shannon Airport Authority under the State Airports Act 2004; his views on the business plan lodged by the SAA; if the SAA will be viable if granted its independence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14234/08]

The State Airports Act, 2004 provides the