Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 13, inclusive, answered orally.

Situation in Kenya.

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

14 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the situation in Kenya at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16655/08]

The political and humanitarian situation in Kenya has continued to improve, following the peace deal signed between the government and opposition on 28 February 2008. Under the deal, a coalition government has been established and a new post of Prime Minister created, to which Mr. Raila Odinga, the leader of the Orange Democratic Movement, has been appointed. Agreement has also been reached between the two sides on the formation of a new cabinet, which was formally sworn in on 17 April 2008.

Minister Ahern visited Kenya from 23-24 April 2008 in order to demonstrate Ireland's support for the reconciliation and reconstruction efforts underway in Kenya. During his visit, which was the first by a senior EU figure since the new cabinet was sworn in, he met with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Local Government, the Foreign Minister, and the Minister for Tourism. The Minister also met with Irish and international NGOs working in Kenya, including GOAL, Concern and Trocaire, and visited a number of camps for internally displaced persons in the Rift Valley region, which suffered particularly during the post-election violence. The Minister's main message to all interlocutors was the need for all sides to work together to ensure that the ethnic violence and bloodshed that occurred in the aftermath of the disputed presidential elections does not re-occur.

The Minister also urged the need to address the more long-term issues, such as constitutional reform, land tenure, and corruption, which contributed to the recent crisis. In this regard, full implementation of the 28 February agreement will now be critical, including establishment of Commissions on Truth, Justice and Reconciliation, and Constitutional Reform, which are provided for under the agreement brokered by Kofi Annan. In response to a request from the UN, Ireland was pleased to provide €100,000 in financial support to the Annan mediation talks.

Since the post-election violence, which resulted in an estimated 1,500 deaths and upwards of 600,000 people being displaced, the humanitarian situation in Kenya has improved considerably, with many of those displaced returning to their homes. However, creating the conditions in which all remaining displaced persons will feel confident enough to return home will be a major challenge.

Ireland, for its part, remains a significant humanitarian donor to Kenya, and has committed a total of over €27 million to Kenya since 2006. None of this aid is channelled through the Kenyan Government. This Irish Aid funding includes over €7 million in humanitarian relief for Kenya in response to emergency appeals, and over €19 million for Irish, international and local NGOs, as well as missionaries, working in Kenya. Nationally, and through the EU, we will continue to do all we can to assist Kenya in its recovery efforts.

EU Treaty.

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

15 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if 12 June 2008 has been confirmed as the date for the EU reform treaty referendum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16946/08]

The Taoiseach has stated that the referendum will be held on 12 June. In accordance with Section 10(1) of the Referendum Act 1994, once the Twenty-Eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill has been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will make an Order setting the polling day for the referendum. The Order must fix the polling day for a date no less than 30 and no more than 90 days from the date of the making of the order.

The Government expects that the Twenty-Eighth Amendment of the Constitution Bill will pass both Houses of the Oireachtas next week which will allow the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to make the Order fixing the polling date in good time for the Referendum to be held on 12 June.

Hostage Releases.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

16 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the efforts he has most recently made at national, EU and international level to make such contacts as would facilitate the immediate release of Ingrid Betancourt. [16825/08]

The Government, together with our EU partners, has consistently condemned the practice of hostage-taking and kidnapping by the FARC guerrillas and other illegal armed groups in Colombia and continues to offer full support to the Colombian Government in its search for a negotiated solution to the internal armed conflict and the release of all hostages.

The Government remains very seriously concerned about the large number of hostages being held by FARC. Recent reports about the poor health of French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt are particularly worrying.

An all-party Seanad Éireann motion in December 2007 strongly supported the ongoing efforts to seek the release of Ingrid Betancourt. This motion was subsequently debated in the Seanad on 10 April 2008, when Minister of State Michael Ahern T.D. spoke on behalf of the Government. All parties to the debate expressed their extreme concern for the failing health of Ms. Betancourt and condemned the appalling conditions of her continued detention.

Ireland, together with our EU partners, welcomes recent initiatives to pursue negotiations with the FARC in order to secure the release of the hostages and bring an end to the internal armed conflict. Current proposals include the establishment of a demilitarised zone, with international observers, from which hostages could be safely released. The Catholic Church in Colombia has been requested to act as a mediator between the Government and the FARC in pursuing this proposal. Colombia has also endorsed a facilitation role by France, Spain and Switzerland, which has the full support of Ireland. Once again, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was this week in Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela to discuss the situation after an international medical mission to Colombia to treat Ingrid Betancourt was denied access by the FARC. The Minister very much hopes that these initiatives will be successful.

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

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

While, in discussions at EU level, we have not considered that current conditions call for UN involvement, Ireland would be supportive were the Colombian Government to request such intervention. The Department of Foreign Affairs continues to monitor the situation in Colombia through our Embassy in Mexico City, which is accredited to Colombia, as well as in cooperation with our EU partners with resident diplomatic missions in that country. Ireland is fully supportive of efforts to bring a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Colombia and to secure the release of all hostages, including Ms. Betancourt.

Human Rights Issues.

Leo Varadkar

Ceist:

17 Deputy Leo Varadkar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has sought a written assurance from the US Secretary of State to confirm that no human being has been transferred through an airport here by means of extraordinary rendition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15311/08]

The issue of extraordinary rendition has been raised on numerous occasions in this House. As has been made repeatedly clear, the Government are completely opposed to the practice. The Government has received specific assurances from the US authorities that prisoners have not been transferred through Irish territory, nor would they be, without our permission. These assurances have been confirmed at the highest level, including by Secretary of State Rice to myself and by President Bush to the Taoiseach. The assurances are of a clear and categoric nature, relating to facts and circumstances within the full control of the US Government. I am satisfied that it is appropriate for the Government to rely fully on these assurances and that it is not necessary, in the context of the normal conduct of international relations, to seek them in written form from Secretary Rice. I would stress that no evidence has ever been produced, nor any concrete allegation made, that any person has ever been subject to extraordinary rendition through Ireland.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

18 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the practical measures being made by the EU to intensify consultations with the ASEAN and Burma’s neighbours in the lead up to the constitutional referendum on 10 May 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16882/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

102 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress in the matter of the ongoing situation in Burma; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17065/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 and 102 together.

It is the Government's firm view that democratic reform and national reconciliation in Burma can only be effectively achieved through a fully transparent and inclusive process. The Government deeply regrets that the opposition and ethnic minorities have been excluded from the Constitution drafting process. In this context, neither the referendum nor future elections can realistically be regarded as reflecting the real wishes of the majority of the people of Burma, and will assuredly do nothing to assist the long-term stability and democratic development of Burma.

I am deeply concerned by limitations on campaigning and reports of intensified intimidation and violence in the run-up to the referendum. I am also concerned that the proposed draft constitution would allow the military to suspend the constitution at will, as well as at its failure to accommodate the country's ethnic diversity.

Through the strong Conclusions adopted by EU Foreign Ministers earlier this week, and the renewal of restrictive measures against the Burmese regime, the EU has again sent a clear message to the Burmese authorities that they must act meaningfully to ensure real democratisation and national reconciliation in that country.

I believe that the Burmese authorities must now begin to engage seriously with the UN, which reflects the will of the international community, in particular the mission of the UN Secretary General's Special Representative, Dr Ibrahim Gambari.

Burma's neighbours, including ASEAN members, continue to play an important role in encouraging the Burmese regime towards genuine dialogue and reform. I welcome the renewed mandate of the EU Special Envoy Piero Fassino in support of UN efforts and in co-ordinating with Asian partners. The EU will over the next few weeks intensify its close consultations with ASEAN members and other neighbours of Burma, including those currently on the UN Security Council.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

19 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the official engagements he attended in Northern Ireland; the party political leaders he met in Northern Ireland from 1 April 2008 to date in 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16635/08]

I travelled to Northern Ireland on 10 April for a series of official engagements in my capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs. I delivered a keynote address to the European Mediation Conference at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast, on the topic of "The Role of Government in Lesson Sharing and Conflict Resolution". The event, organised by Mediation Northern Ireland in conjunction with the Scottish Mediation Network, was the second annual conference of the European Mediation Network Initiative, and was timed to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

I later met with the leader of the Progressive Unionist Party, Ms. Dawn Purvis MLA, with whom I discussed a range of issues including the current political situation, cross border cooperation and efforts to combat sectarianism.

Finally, I met with a group of young people who are involved in the ‘Building Bridges' project. This cross-community project brings together young people from loyalist youth groups and nationalist youth centres from East and West Belfast, and aims to enable them to actively participate in the reconciliation and peace-building taking place within their own communities. This project is funded in part by a grant of €75,000 from my Department's Anti-Sectarianism Fund.

Foreign Conflicts.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

20 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the initiatives being taken by the EU in order to be of assistance in the restoration of civil society in Somalia. [16826/08]

I remain very concerned at the situation in Somalia. The country has been without an effective government since 1991, and despite an initial period of stability after Ethiopian troops and Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces defeated the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) in December 2006, the situation has worsened in recent months. Fighting in Mogadishu since October has prompted hundreds of thousands to flee the capital, adding to the humanitarian crisis. In total, approximately one million people have been displaced since the start of 2007, while up to two million need humanitarian aid.

Re-establishing security and the rule of law remains a major challenge. The first troops from an African Union-mandated peace support force (AMISOM) were deployed to Mogadishu in March 2007 but with less than a quarter of the planned 8,000 troops on the ground, AMISOM has not been able to bring any significant measure of stability. AMISOM's current mandate runs until next August and some consideration has taken place regarding a UN peace-keeping mission to succeed it. However, UN Secretary General Ban has made it clear to the Security Council that, due to the prevailing political and security situation, the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force to Somalia is not a realistic option for the time being.

The newly appointed Prime Minister in the TFG, Nur Hassan Hussein, has a background in humanitarian organisations, having previously worked for the Red Crescent, and has stated his willingness to engage in discussion with the Islamic opposition. Contacts have already been initiated with members of the opposition based in Asmara. The Prime Minister has had a series of meetings with EU officials, including Development Commissioner Michel and HR Solana. At these meetings he has re-iterated his desire to continue his work towards an inclusive reconciliation with the political opposition.

An EU local troika of Heads of Missions in Nairobi visited Mogadishu in March and met with members of the government, the opposition, and civil society groups. The troika also met with an umbrella organisation of all Somali Non-State actors (SOSCENSA) formed in Entebbe, Uganda in March 2008. The objective of these meetings was to express the EU's support for the reconciliation process between the TFG and all opposition groups, and underline the EU's commitment to this process.

Prime Minister Hussein has thanked the EU for their diplomatic engagement in Somalia and expressed his desire that this engagement continue. The EU will continue to extend whatever assistance it can to support the promotion of internal dialogue and national reconciliation within Somalia. The EU is currently the largest aid donor to Somalia, with over €60 million contributed in 2007 alone. Ireland, for its part, will continue its own significant humanitarian engagement in Somalia which since the start of 2006 has involved the provision of over €15 million in humanitarian assistance plus a further €2.6 million in support to civil society.

Diplomatic Representation.

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

21 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has congratulated Dr. Fernando Lugo on his recent election to the presidency of Paraguay. [16832/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, H.E. Fernando Lugo, the presidential candidate of the multi-party coalition Patriotic Alliance for Change, was elected in the Paraguayan presidential elections on 21 April. President-elect Lugo will be inaugurated on 15 August.

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2001, Ireland has enjoyed friendly relations with Paraguay. However, while I of course wish President-elect Lugo every success during his term in office, the accepted protocol in such circumstances is for congratulations to be issued to an incoming President by the Taoiseach, as Head of Government, and this will be taken forward closer to the inauguration of Dr Lugo.

Passport Applications.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

22 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of fraudulent passport applications made in 2007; the action taken in relation to the applicants who made the fraudulent applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16625/08]

The Department detected 127 cases of suspected fraudulent passport applications in 2007. Details of these applications have been recorded on the passport database to ensure that any subsequent application made using these details is identified automatically.

The Department liaises closely with An Garda Síochána in relation to suspected cases of passport fraud. The Passports Act 2008 introduces a wide range of offences relating to fraudulent applications and the misuse or abuse of passports, whether committed in Ireland or overseas. The maximum penalties for such offences range between five and ten years imprisonment and a heavy fine. This will greatly strengthen efforts to combat fraudulent applications.

Substantial investment in the passport system in recent years means that the Irish passport is now one of the most secure passport documents in the world.

The Department continually reviews its procedures to combat passport fraud and to protect the integrity of the Irish passport internationally.

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

23 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will set a date for the transfer to e-passports for existing passport holders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16879/08]

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is the international body responsible for the specification of standards for international travel documents. ICAO policy requires that all passports in circulation in April 2010 will be machine readable. Ireland commenced issuing machine readable passports in 1993. ICAO has defined the technical specification for the issue of e-passports but has not yet set the date by which all passports in circulation must be e-passports.

The United States required that countries, participating in its visa waiver program, commence issuing e-passports by 26 October 2006. Ireland began issuing e-passports on 16 October, 2006 in accordance with the ICAO standards and in advance of the US requirement date.

Irish passports issued prior to 16 October, 2006 remain valid. Over time, as these passports expire, they will all be replaced by e-passports.

Middle East Peace Process.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

24 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the situation in Gaza at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16656/08]

Mary Upton

Ceist:

42 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the recent talks initiated by former President of the United States, Mr. Jimmy Carter in relation to the achievement of peace in the Middle East; the way Ireland and the European Union can advance such progress as has been made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16831/08]

Ulick Burke

Ceist:

45 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the efforts being made to broker a ceasefire in Gaza; the measures being taken to avoid a humanitarian crisis in the region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16878/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

54 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress to date through the aegis of the EU or UN in the matter of the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli issue with particular reference to the urgent need for humanitarian intervention at Gaza; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16933/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

111 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which the EU and UN have attempted to exert a positive influence on the situation in the Middle East; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17074/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 24, 42, 45, 54 and 111 together.

I am extremely concerned about the dangerous humanitarian and security situation in Gaza. I am appalled that the civilian population continues to face the threat and the reality of violence, and I condemn in particular the killing of a woman and her four young children in an Israeli military operation in Bein Hanoun on Monday. There is an onus now on all parties to act decisively to restore momentum and credibility to the political process. It is important that the EU and the UN use the opportunity of the meeting of the international Quartet in London tomorrow to focus on the urgent need for political progress.

The EU has strongly supported the courageous move by the Prime Minister of Israel and the Palestinian President to enter into final status negotiations, with the objective of agreement by the end of 2008. However, Deputies will be aware that I have become increasingly concerned that events on the ground in Israel and the Occupied Territories will undermine the political process launched at Annapolis. The immediate priority must therefore be to end all violence in and from the Occupied Territories. This includes Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza on Israeli territory and Israeli military operations in the West Bank and Gaza. I have called very clearly for an end to the isolation of the people of Gaza and the urgent re-opening of crossing points for people and for goods and for the guaranteed delivery of fuel supplies for the power plant and for vehicles.

It is essential that restrictions are also lifted on the movement of Palestinians across the West Bank, and that the Israeli Government demonstrate a commitment to a genuine freeze on all settlement expansion. At the European Council in Brussels in March, the EU reiterated that settlement building anywhere in the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law, prejudges the outcome of final status negotiations and threatens the viability of an agreed two-State solution.

The Government and our EU partners strongly support the continuing efforts, being led by Egypt, to broker a ceasefire in Gaza, which could provide the basis for a wider agreement between the divided Palestinian groupings, and between Israel and the Palestinians. Any such agreement must involve an end to violence by Hamas and a commitment to the principles of the peace process. I welcome the recent efforts of former US President Jimmy Carter in this regard. It is also important that the Arab States develop their efforts further, on the basis of the historic Arab Peace Initiative which was reaffirmed clearly at the Arab Summit in Riyadh last year.

The European Union is the largest international donor in support of the Palestinian people, providing almost €1 billion in assistance last year alone. Ireland's assistance has risen by some 70% in the past two years, to €7.5 million in 2007. We will continue to respond to the needs of the Palestinian people. However, the Israeli — Palestinian conflict is essentially a political problem. The Government will continue to work directly with the parties, in co-operation with our EU partners and through the UN to promote a viable, negotiated two-State solution as the only sustainable solution to the dangerous situation now facing the Israeli and Palestinian people.

Diplomatic Representation.

John Perry

Ceist:

25 Deputy John Perry asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if discussions are taking place with a view to strengthening EU-Pakistan relations; if discussions are taking place to explore a joint approach to supporting and strengthening the democratic institutions, institution building, legislative reform and voter participation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16885/08]

There is a keen desire in the EU to strengthen and deepen its relations with Pakistan. Ireland is strongly supportive of these efforts. Pakistan is critical for regional stability and co-operation in South Asia, as well as in the global context. Pakistan is also important for ongoing stabilisation efforts in Afghanistan and in the fight against terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, proliferation, narcotics and illegal migration.

EU-Pakistan political dialogue takes place regularly at Ministerial and Senior Official level. Most recently, on 29 April the General Affairs and External Relations Council discussed the situation in Pakistan and adopted Conclusions welcoming the progress that has been made in the democratic process there. The Conclusions underline the EU's wish to strengthen the existing relationship with Pakistan and point to key areas such as economic development and trade, counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, migration, education, inter-cultural issues and regional cooperation. The Conclusions also emphasise the promotion of human rights — including women's and children's rights — and the need to explore ways to support strengthening of democratic institutions, institution building, legislative reform and voter participation. They state that the EU will approach the Pakistani authorities to explore jointly ways to support these areas. The importance of enhanced EU assistance to, and dialogue on, the rule of law is also underlined.

The Conclusions adopted on 29 April follow on from earlier Council discussions on Pakistan in January and Conclusions adopted in March which set out EU priorities for cooperation with the new Government in Pakistan.

The EU Election Observation Mission was the biggest and most comprehensive international presence observing the recent elections in Pakistan. The Mission's final report, issued on 16 April, makes a series of recommendations, including relating to the independence of the judiciary and the role of state media. I believe that the success of the Observation Mission provides an opportunity for further cooperation with Pakistan in these areas.

Departmental Funding.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

26 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his Department paid a person (details supplied); if any other such payments were made to persons since 2002, or are currently being made; if so, the person to whom they were or are being made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16639/08]

Ireland funded the position of Deputy to the EU Special Representative in Afghanistan from November 2005 to February 2008. This was done through payments to the budget of the Special Representative's office.

Funding covered salary and allowance costs, which included elements relating to accommodation and children's allowances, as well as covering some home travel. The individual in question was directly employed by the Special Representative's office.

Funding was provided from subhead J of vote 28 (expenditure in support of the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy), in the first year, and thereafter from the Stability Fund of Irish Aid. Since March of this year, costs relating to the individual in question are now directly borne by the office of the Special Representative.

The mandate of the Special Representative is to pursue a just and durable peace in Afghanistan and his role includes contributing to political stabilisation (including liaison and support for civil society groups in Afghanistan), practical promotion of human rights, and assistance with transitional justice schemes and post-conflict reconciliation.

Irish funding was provided at the direct request of EU Special Representative Francesc Vendrell. The decision related to a wish to support the significant work of the EU Special Representative in Afghanistan, to support an Irish national in a senior position, the individual's extensive relevant experience, and on the basis of the position's political, developmental, rule of law and human rights dimensions. I would note that the costs of the Special Representative's other professional support staff have been covered by the Member States from which the individuals come (Netherlands, UK and Finland). No other position of the above kind is currently being funded by the Department.

Overseas Development Aid.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

27 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to a humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia; if efforts are being made to persuade donor governments to adopt a money no object policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16887/08]

The current situation in Ethiopia is of concern to me and is constantly monitored by our Embassy in Addis Ababa. The situation in parts of Ethiopia appears to be deteriorating with escalating numbers of moderately and severely malnourished people presenting at nutrition centres. The fact that many adolescents are already severely malnourished indicates a critical situation already in the making. The failure of the so-called "small rains" is a major contributory factor to the emerging crisis.

We are in regular contact with humanitarian agencies on the ground to keep appraised of the latest developments. A member of our Rapid Response Corps has been deployed with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) as a humanitarian affairs officer, and my Department is in regular contact with him regarding the situation.

Ireland provided over €40 million in development and humanitarian assistance to Ethiopia in 2007. One of the key priorities is to prevent, as far as possible, people falling into absolute hunger and destitution through a targeted programme of social protection, entitled the Productive Safety Nets Programme.

We are now increasing our assistance to this programme to over €11 million in order to target the most food insecure in the current crisis. More than seven million vulnerable people will be covered by this aid. We are also making a further €3 million available for programmes to assist the rural poor, inter alia, to diversify their crops and purchase new farming assets. Further assistance will be made available as necessary.

We are also funding our NGO partners working in Ethiopia, particularly in the area of livelihoods. Additionally we have made over €22 million available to the UN Central Emergency Revolving Fund (CERF), which was established to react rapidly to emergencies of this nature. In 2008, the CERF has made emergency funding of US$9 million available for Ethiopia.

Ireland is working with other donors to ensure that humanitarian financing globally is increased. We also recognise the funding available may be less than identified needs and so we must ensure that the money that is available, is targeted on relieving the suffering of those most in need.

Food Security Issues.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

28 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the development implications in general, and the reduction in food security and production in particular, as is occasioned by the direction of countries in the south towards the production of bio-fuels which are directed at meeting the unsustainable transport practices of the north. [16851/08]

Rising oil prices have resulted in the diversion of food crops into bio-fuel production and there is now a recognised linkage between the recent increase in energy prices and the resultant increase in food prices. This has been one of the contributors to the recent rise in global food prices.

Other factors have also played a role in food price increases. The rapid growth in some Asian economies has generated an increased demand for dairy and meat products — largely supplied from grain fed animals. An additional factor has been climate change related droughts and poor harvests in major producing countries, most notably in Australia, US, Ukraine and India. These factors have combined to force food prices up, thereby putting them further beyond the reach of the world's poor.

The issue of food security is a priority for the Government. In its White Paper on Irish Aid, the Government recognised that much more needs to be done at a global level to tackle hunger. To that end a special Hunger Task Force was established. Their task is to identify the additional, appropriate and effective contributions that Ireland can make to international efforts to reduce hunger, and thus achieve the first Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty and hunger by 2015.

The recent global increase in food prices, and Ireland's response, will obviously be a key element for the consideration of the Hunger Task Force. I look forward to the final report of the Hunger Task Force which I understand should be ready around the middle of this year.

Question No. 29 answered with Question No. 7.

Offshore Exploration.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

30 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the position in relation to the legal regime for the exploration and exploitation of Ireland’s marine shelf in general, and Rockall in particular. [16846/08]

The regime governing the exploration and exploitation of the continental shelf in international law is set down by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Under that Convention a coastal state is entitled to a continental shelf 200 nautical miles (approx. 370 km) in breadth regardless of whether its continental shelf physically extends that far, subject only to the similar rights of its coastal neighbours. It may also claim a broader shelf where it can show that the natural prolongation of its land territory under water actually extends beyond that limit. A claim to extended shelf must be supported by scientific and technical data and be established to the satisfaction of the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, which was created by the Convention for this purpose.

Ireland's shelf naturally extends beyond 200 nautical miles both to the west and the south of the country. For the purposes of our claims we have divided our shelf into three sectors.

The first sector is to the south-west of the country on the edge of an area known as the Porcupine Abyssal Plain. This sector (which is approximately half the size of the State's land territory) is not disputed by any other state and was therefore the subject of Ireland's first submission to the Commission, made in May 2005. The Commission issued its recommendations in April 2007 concerning the limits of this claimed area. The Government has accepted these recommendations and work is now in hand to designate the additional seabed enclosed by these limits as areas to which the Continental Shelf Act 1968 will apply.

The second sector of claimed extended continental shelf is in the Celtic Sea and the Bay of Biscay where there are unresolved boundary issues with the UK, France and Spain. This sector was the subject of a joint submission by the four countries in May 2006. It covers an area of approximately 80,000 square kilometres, which is slightly larger than the State's land territory. The joint submission remains under consideration by the subcommission established to examine the evidence submitted in support of it. The four states most recently met with the subcommission in New York last month. It is hoped that the subcommission will be in a position to formulate its draft recommendations during 2008. These recommendations must in turn be approved by the full Commission. The question of division of the area between the four states concerned will be considered after the recommendations have been made.

Ireland also claims continental shelf in the part of the North-East Atlantic Ocean known as the Hatton-Rockall Area, which extends up to 500 nautical miles from the coast. Ireland and the UK agreed a maritime boundary on the continental shelf here in 1988 but this is not accepted by Iceland or Denmark (on behalf of the Færoe Islands), which also make extensive overlapping claims. The four countries have met regularly since 2001 in an effort to resolve the issues arising from overlapping claims but have recently concluded that they are unable to reach agreement at present. Nevertheless the four intend to keep the matter under regular review and, in the meantime, Ireland will proceed to make a national submission to the Commission in respect of the Hatton-Rockall Area by the deadline of May 2009.

EU Membership.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

31 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in relation to the possible acceptance of an application by Serbia to join the European Union. [16835/08]

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

34 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if progress has been made by the EU on signing a EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16884/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 31 and 34 together.

With regard to the possibility of Serbia joining the European Union at a future date, the December 2007 European Council reaffirmed that the future of the Western Balkans lies within the European Union. It considered that a stable and prosperous Serbia fully integrated into the family of European nations is important for the stability of the region. In this regard, it encouraged Serbia to meet the necessary conditions to allow for its Stabilisation and Association Agreement to be signed rapidly. Furthermore, in light of Serbia's considerable institutional capacity, the European Council reiterated its confidence that Serbia's progress on the road towards the EU, including candidate status, can be accelerated provided the required conditions are met.

The European Union's Stabilisation and Association Process for South-East Europe aims to strengthen political and economic stability in the region and to bring the countries of the region closer to EU standards and principles. The Process involves the negotiation and implementation of Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAAs) which focus mainly on trade-related issues, political dialogue, legal approximation, and cooperation in sectors such as industry, environment and energy.

On 29 April last, the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Serbia was signed. An Interim Agreement dealing with economic and trade matters was signed at the same time. The General Affairs and External Relations Council welcomed the signature of the SAA and Interim Agreement as an important step on Serbia's path towards the EU. The Council decided that the ratification process of the SAA by Member States and the implementation of the Interim Agreement will begin as soon as the Council decides unanimously that Serbia is co-operating fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Landing Rights.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

32 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the large number of permissions issued by the Department of Transport for aircraft carrying weapons and munitions to land here; and if he will make a statement on the implications of such a large volume of permissions for the Government’s official position on the war in Iraq. [16838/08]

The carriage of munitions of war and weapons is prohibited under the Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Order, 1973, unless an exemption has been obtained from the Minister for Transport. I am advised by my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Mr Noel Dempsey T.D., that applications for exemptions for the carriage of munitions of war, weapons and dangerous goods are considered on a case-by-case basis and factors such as air safety and policy considerations are taken into account in deciding on an application. The majority of exemptions granted in the recent past are in respect of the personal sidearms of the US military personnel travelling through Shannon Airport on chartered civilian aircraft. Overflight and landing arrangements for US forces at Shannon Airport in respect of the Iraq conflict were approved by Dáil Éireann on 20 March 2003 after a lengthy debate.

The US and other troops in the Multinational Force in Iraq are present in that country at the request of the elected Iraqi Government and under the specific mandate of the United Nations Security Council. Since October 2003, the presence of these forces in Iraq has been authorised by a series of UN Security Council Resolutions. Most recently, Security Council Resolution 1790, adopted unanimously in December 2007 on the request of the Iraqi Government, extends the mandate to the end of 2008.

Overseas Missions.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

33 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the Government’s position in relation to the announcement of the independence of Kosovo, including the future presence of the Defence Forces in the new circumstances that are created. [16823/08]

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

48 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the progress in the deployment of the EULEX ESDP to Kosovo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16883/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 33 and 48 together.

On 17 February 2008 the Kosovo Assembly adopted a resolution which declared Kosovo's independence. At the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 18 February, EU Foreign Ministers agreed a common response to Kosovo's declaration of independence, noting the uniqueness of Kosovo's situation, arising from the conflict of the 1990s and the eight years of UN administration which followed, and reaffirming the EU's willingness to play a leading role in strengthening stability in the region including by means of the planned ESDP rule of law mission, EULEX Kosovo. The Council also agreed that Member States will decide, in accordance with national practice and international law, on their relations with Kosovo.

Since then, 18 EU Member States, including Ireland, have recognised Kosovo's independence. At least 21 of the 27 EU Member States are expected to recognise Kosovo in the medium term.

The Government decided on 28 February that Ireland would recognise the Republic of Kosovo. On the same day, the Minister for Foreign Affairs wrote formally to the President of Kosovo. In that letter, the Minister welcomed the clear commitment of Kosovo to the full implementation of all obligations contained in the Comprehensive Proposal of the UN Special Envoy, Martti Ahtisaari, and informed President Sedjiu of the Government's decision to recognise the independence of the Republic of Kosovo and to establish non-resident diplomatic relations from our Embassy in Hungary.

There are currently two hundred and eighty-five Defence Forces personnel serving with KFOR. In August 2007, Ireland assumed the role of Framework Nation for the Multinational Task Force (Centre) (MNTF (C)) for one year under the command of Brigadier General Gerry Hegarty. Ireland is committed to maintaining our presence in KFOR as part of a concerted effort for the promotion of stability in the region. In advance of Kosovo's declaration of independence, the Attorney General advised that, in fulfilment of the requirement of the Defence Acts, KFOR would continue to be based on a UN mandate through the continuation in force of Security Council resolution 1244.

EULEX Kosovo aims to assist Kosovo institutions, judicial authorities and law enforcement agencies in developing and strengthening an independent and multi-ethnic justice system and police and customs service in line with recognised standards and best practice.

Deployment of the mission has already begun. There are now over 180 international staff present in Kosovo. Once it reaches full operational capability, the mission will have around 1,900 international police officers, judges, prosecutors and customs officials and approximately 1,100 local staff who will either be based in headquarters in Pristina or located throughout the judicial and police system in Kosovo. There remains some outstanding issues in regard to the deployment of EULEX Kosovo in northern Kosovo, and to its relationship with the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). These issues are under active consideration with the Council of Ministers and the UN.

My colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr Brian Lenihan T.D., has consented to the request of the Garda Commissioner for the secondment of up to eight members of An Garda Síochána to serve with EULEX Kosovo. My colleague, the Minister for Defence, Mr Willie O'Dea T.D., has also agreed to the assignment to the mission of one support staff from the Department of Defence. I very much welcome this involvement by the Garda and the Department of Defence in this civil ESDP mission which is in line with the Government's approach of enhancing Ireland's role in such missions.

Question No. 34 answered with Question No. 31.
Question No. 35 answered with Question No. 7.

Millennium Development Goals.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

36 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress made in the achievement of the millennium development goals; the shortfalls that exist in relation to commitments made; and the areas in which failure to achieve goals will have the greatest effect. [16840/08]

The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted in the year 2000 as part of the commitments undertaken by Heads of Government at the Millennium Summit, represent a framework for international economic and social development up to the year 2015. The most important element of the MDGs is that they give us a measurable set of targets, in order that we can determine if progress has been made in reducing global poverty.

The latest MDG progress report, issued in July 2007, gave us a snapshot of the progress achieved at the midpoint of the 2015 MDG target date, broken down by goal and by region. Overall, there has been good progress on some targets, with more intensive effort required on others.

On the positive side, the indications are that, if current trends continue, we are on target to reach the MDG on poverty reduction for the world as a whole. Progress has also been made globally in relation to reducing child mortality and increasing school enrolment rates.

However, there are still areas in which progress is slow or negligible. It is clear, for example, that if the target on maternal mortality is to be reached, a major international effort will be required. This is a matter of great concern to Ireland and our official aid programme, Irish Aid. We have increased our efforts in this area through support to the UN Maternal Health Trust Fund "No Woman should Die Giving Life", as well as supporting the work of UNFPA, the primary UN agency for maternal health. We remain conscious that more needs to be done in this and other areas.

Ireland is also responding to the geographical disparity in progress in the MDGs. Much of the progress to date is due to advances in China and in Asia generally. Africa is lagging behind on most indicators. This is attributed to a combination of institutional weakness, civil and international conflict, and funding shortfalls. Irish Aid continues to focus over 80% per cent of assistance on sub-Saharan Africa.

While it is true that a funding shortfall exists in the commitments made by donors to achieve the MDGs, Ireland is engaged fully in this respect. As set out in the White Paper on Irish Aid, the MDGs are the overarching framework for our official aid programme. By delivering on the commitment to reach the 0.7% UN target for development funding by 2012, Ireland is perceived as being at the forefront of their implementation internationally. We will continue to lead by example, and encourage other donors to live up to the commitments we have all made to the help the poorest of the poor in developing countries.

I believe that each and every one of the MDGs must be met to achieve the progress that the developing world both needs and deserves. These Goals were carefully chosen, with specific targets in mind, and are fully mutually reinforcing. Ireland will continue to closely monitor the progress against each of the Goals, and tailor our actions to ensure their achievement.

Foreign Conflicts.

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

37 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the measures the EU are taking to support reconstruction, good government and democracy in Iraq; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16881/08]

Peace and stability in Iraq are vital to the welfare of the Iraqi people, and to the prospects for the wider Middle East region. The European Union is firmly committed to supporting a secure, stable, democratic, prosperous and united Iraq, with the capacity to play a constructive regional role. Since the military intervention in 2003 and the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Union has acted consistently to support the Iraqi people as they rebuild their society and their economy following decades of brutal dictatorship and war. This priority was emphasised again when the situation in Iraq was discussed at the meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council in Luxembourg this week.

The EU has been one of the main contributors of non-military assistance to Iraq. Since 2003, total assistance has amounted to over €1 billion, including €830 million in Community aid.

On the political level, the EU strongly supported the early return of sovereignty to a democratic Iraqi Government. The Union offered extensive support to the electoral process, including advice, expertise and financial assistance to the Iraqi Electoral Commission, and to the major task of drafting a new Constitution and key legislation. The EU and the Member States have used their influence consistently to encourage Iraqi political parties, and their leaders, in the process of national reconciliation which is the essential key to the restoration of lasting peace and stability. The Union has been working closely with the UN assistance mission in Iraq, and has developed strong links on the ground with the UN, through the office of the Commission in Baghdad.

Significant progress has been made in the negotiation of a Trade and Cooperation Agreement with Iraq, which will establish a contractual relationship between the EU and Iraq for the first time. These negotiations have provided an early opportunity for Iraqis to witness their democratically-elected Government operating internationally on their behalf. The EU has underlined its readiness to conclude the negotiations as rapidly as possible. The EU has also supported the elaboration and implementation of the International Compact for Iraq, which was established last year to organise international assistance for Iraq in accordance with the priorities of the Iraqi Government, and under its general direction. I welcome the initiative of the Swedish Government to organise the first annual review of the Compact in Stockholm on 29 May.

In close consultation with the Iraqi Government, the Union has identified the need to address the administrative weakness and inexperience evident across the Iraqi public service. This is the inevitable result of the destruction and dislocation of war, after decades of dictatorship, conflict and mismanagement. The Union has placed a high priority on capacity building and the provision of training and advice and expertise. An EU Joint Action, EUJUST LEX, has focused specifically on assisting Iraqi professionals in the criminal justice sphere. The Government has contributed to the effort most recently through the organisation of a training course in Ireland last November for Iraqi prison governors.

Despite daily reports of violence across Iraq, it is clear that there has been progress, albeit slow, in the political and economic reconstruction of Iraq. Nonetheless, the humanitarian needs of the people continue to pose a huge challenge to the international community. We are particularly concerned by the large numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons, and by the burden being borne by neighbouring states, especially Jordan and Syria. The EU will continue to address the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people and the plight of refugees, and Ireland will continue to play its part. The Government provided over €5 million in humanitarian assistance for Iraq last year.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

38 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the inclusion of genetically modified grain in the food aid being sent by donor countries to a number of African countries; and if his attention has been drawn to the implications of same for the planting season, the structure of rural economy, and the devastation created when it is combined with the privatisation of the banking sector as a condition of aid. [16844/08]

Ireland does not provide food aid directly to any African country. Ireland does however provide financial support to emergency food aid programmes. Such financial support is provided both through the European Commission and through the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).

The European Commission does not provide food aid in kind. Rather, the European Commission provides financial support to food aid recipient countries which is used to purchase food, to the greatest degree possible, in local and regional markets. Such schemes are administered by the WFP. I fully support the purchase of food locally where at all possible.

I understand that the WFP's policy on GM food is that this is a matter for the Government of the recipient State, and that the WFP respects their decision. In relation to the privatisation of the banking sector, I should make it clear that Ireland does not make the privatisation of the banking sector a condition of any of its development assistance.

Departmental Staff.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

39 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of new staff, both within the public service and outside the public service, which have been recruited to his Department in each of the past five years; the number which have been indicated as necessary by the independent studies that have been commissioned; and the expected level and next date for the recruitment. [16842/08]

The number of posts filled in my Department in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 were 124, 66, 88, 125 and 218 respectively. These figures include staff recruited to fill existing vacancies as well as newly created posts at the Headquarters of the Department, including in Irish Aid, the Government's programme of assistance to developing countries and the Passport Offices in Dublin, Balbriggan and Cork.

All posts in my Department have been filled for the past five years either as a result of a competition advertised directly by the Department or on foot of competitions organised by the Public Appointments Service, which is the centralised provider of recruitment, assessment and selection services for the Civil Service.

The question of the adequate staffing levels required to carry out the work of the Department, including Irish Aid, is kept under active review. The recent White Paper on Irish Aid recommended a major Management Review of Irish Aid be undertaken in conjunction with the Department of Finance. This is currently underway and is examining, among other issues, staffing levels necessary to guide the programme as funding expands towards reaching the UN target of spending 0.7% of GNP on official aid by 2012 and to ensure the huge increases in aid allocations can be delivered optimally in terms of accountability and quality. Work is now well advanced on this review and it is expected that it will lead to proposals being put before Government this year.

A Third Secretary competition is likely to be held by the Public Appointments Service in the near future. Third Secretary is the entry level grade for the Irish diplomatic service.

Exploration Policy.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

40 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the fact that the operation of an Irish exploration company in the occupied territory of the Sahara Arab Democratic Republic is widely perceived by the Saharaoui as a contradiction of official Irish policy which does not recognise occupation. [16843/08]

The Government has been a consistently strong supporter of the right to self-determination of the people of the Western Sahara. I believe that Ireland's firm support for this principle is well-known and appreciated by the Saharawi people and their representatives.

The Western Sahara is at present a Non-Self-Governing Territory. Any exploration and exploitation activities that proceed in disregard of the interests and wishes of the indigenous people would be in violation of the principles of international law applicable to natural resource activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories.

I would hope that any Irish company operating abroad would have due regard to the principles of international law and the rights of indigenous peoples.

Foreign Conflicts.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

41 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the claims made by the former chief United Nations war crimes prosecutor, Ms Carla del Ponte, as to the murder and sale of organs of Serb and other civilians and the end of the 1998-1999 Kosovo War. [16827/08]

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was established by UN Security Council Resolution 827 on 25 May 1993. The aim of the ICTY was to respond effectively to the serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991. Since the inception of the ICTY, it has indicted 161 persons for serious violations of humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia. Trial and appeal proceedings have been completed against 111 of the accused. The 50 remaining cases are at various stages of completion.

Ms Carla del Ponte served as Chief Prosecutor for the ICTY from September 1999 to December 2007, and was succeeded by the current Chief Prosecutor, Mr Serge Brammertz. The allegations the Deputy refers to were made in a book by Ms Del Ponte which was published last month. I note that the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICTY has recently commented to the effect that ICTY investigators looked into this matter but were unable to substantiate the allegations.

Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 24.
Question No. 43 answered with Question No. 6.
Question No. 44 answered with Question No. 7.
Question No. 45 answered with Question No. 24.
Question No. 46 answered with Question No. 7.

Diplomatic Representation.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

47 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 161 of 23 April 2008, the details of his discussions with the chargé d’affaires of the Embassy of Brazil; and if an apology has been issued to the embassy or to the individuals involved. [16834/08]

As stated in my reply of 23 April 2008, the Secretary General of my Department met with the Chargé d'Affaires of the Embassy of Brazil on 28 March 2008, at the latter's request.

The meeting was conducted in an open and friendly atmosphere, reflecting the good relations between Ireland and Brazil. A useful and constructive discussion took place across a number of issues relating to immigration from Brazil to Ireland, which has seen a dramatic increase in recent years.

In the course of the discussion, the Brazilian side highlighted the case referred to by the Deputy where Brazilian nationals were denied entry to this country. They requested certain assurances in relation to procedures that would be followed in the event that Brazilian nationals were denied entry in the future. The Secretary General informed them that in relation to immigration, decisions in individual cases, the general requirements for entry and the subsequent arrangements for those denied entry to the State are a matter for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, rather than for my Department. However, the Secretary General noted their requests and, following the meeting, briefed the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on the discussions and the particular issues raised by the Brazilians.

Neither the individuals referred to by the Deputy, nor their families, have been in direct contact with my Department, nor did the question of an apology arise.

Question No. 48 answered with Question No. 33.
Questions Nos. 49 and 50 answered with Question No.6.
Question No. 51 answered with Question No. 7.

Proposed Legislation.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

52 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will publish the heads of legislation in advance of the international conference to be held soon, hosted by Ireland; and if, with the aim of achieving the best possible resolution, he will publish the heads of the Irish legislation in advance of the international conference to be held here in May 2008 with a view to providing a template for the best possible conclusion of the conference. [16824/08]

I am fully committed to the enactment of comprehensive legislation on cluster munitions as soon as possible following the outcome of the Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions, which is to be held later this month. The intention will be to allow for the earliest possible ratification by Ireland of the Convention which is to be finalised at the Conference, and which is expected to include not just a ban on cluster munitions causing unacceptable harm to civilians but also provisions regarding assistance to victims, clearance of areas contaminated by unexploded cluster munitions, and assistance in their destruction. In my view it would not make sense to prepare domestic legislation before the final terms of the Convention are known, and for that reason I do not intend to publish heads of legislation before the Conference.

To ensure that the legislation is of the highest possible quality, the Government has decided to establish a new national committee on humanitarian law, which will have as its first task the preparation of this comprehensive legislation on cluster munitions. I wish our legislation to provide a comprehensive model and template for other states as they proceed to implementation of the Convention. It is our intention to advance work on the Bill as quickly as possible following the Conference.

Departmental Staff.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

53 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the leaking of correspondence from staff in his Department in relation to preparations for the referendum on the Lisbon treaty. [16837/08]

There has been no leaking of correspondence from my Department in relation to preparations for the referendum on the Reform Treaty. The press reports concerning allegedly leaked correspondence appear to relate to communications between a resident Embassy in Ireland and its own Foreign Ministry. It would not be appropriate for the Government to comment on such matters.

Question No. 54 answered with Question No. 24.

Foreign Conflicts.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

55 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he is satisfied that efforts have been made that would enable persons displaced from their homes, villages and farms during the conflict in Kosovo to return; his views on the fact that international agencies are regarded as not having exercised sufficient efforts to achieve this aim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16836/08]

Ireland's position on the Kosovo final status issue, along with our partners in the EU, has been that a final settlement for Kosovo must provide for a multi-ethnic, secure and democratic Kosovo, consistent with EU values and standards and contributing to the stability of the region. The EU has consistently highlighted the protection of minorities, and the right to return of refugees and internally displaced persons, as key priorities in this context.

Ireland has been strongly supportive of the proposal by the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy on Kosovo, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, which provided for internationally supervised independence for Kosovo with strong guarantees for the rights of Serbs and other minorities. His proposal specifically included provisions on the rights to return of refugees and internally displaced persons and stated that they shall have the right to return and reclaim their property and personal possessions based upon a voluntary and informed decision. The Government, through Irish Aid, has been pleased to contribute to return projects in Kosovo in recent years.

As part of the gradual transfer of competences from the interim UN Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) to the Provisional Institutions of Self Government (PISG), provided for under UN Security Council Resolution 1244, most of the functional responsibilities for voluntary returns have now been assumed by the PISG, primarily the Ministry of Community and Return (MCR). However, UNMIK continues to provide assistance and guidance to the MCR as appropriate. In a report dated 28 March 2008, UNMIK noted that while slightly more internally displaced persons (IDPs) returned to Kosovo in 2007 than in 2006, the number of returns remain disappointingly low. The report notes that the UNHCR estimates that 1, 756 minority community members returned in 2007 as opposed to 1, 668 in 2006. In addition 19 Roma families returned to Abdullah Presheva/Abduallh Presevo (Gjilan/Gnjilane) on 26 February 2008 under a UNDP project financed by the Kosovo Consolidated Budget.

The report adds that the Ministry of Communities and Returns (MCR) budget for returns is €7.14 million for 2008, an increase from €5.2 million in 2007. The Ministry has proposed to allocate this amount for Community Development and Stabilization projects, construction of social housing for IDPs, organised return projects and individual returns.

The Report identified a number of challenges ahead including that, with UNHCR's support, the MCR has achieved progress towards the finalisation of the returnee database but progress is still needed in establishing the IDP database.

The Kosovo Assembly declared independence on 17 February and stated that it accepted fully the obligations for Kosovo contained in the Ahtisaari proposal and undertook to implement the obligations through priority adoption of legislation, particularly those that protect and promote the rights of communities and their members. In addition to this, the Constitution, adopted by the Kosovo Assembly on 9 April, states that the Republic of Kosovo shall promote and facilitate the safe and dignified return of refugees and internally displaced persons and assist them in recovering their property and possessions.

The Government strongly believes that a comprehensive policy on the right to return must form an integral part of the governance of Kosovo and be integrated into Kosovo's future legal framework. In my letter to President Sedjiu of Kosovo of 28 February informing him that the Government had decided to recognise Kosovo, I welcomed the clear commitment of Kosovo to the full implementation of all obligations contained in the Ahtisaari proposal. I welcome now that specific provisions for the rights of refugees and internally displaced persons have been incorporated into the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo and I urge the Kosovo authorities to pursue concrete and rapid progress on these important issues.

Overseas Missions.

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

56 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress of the EU mission in Chad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16945/08]

The EU military mission to Chad and the Central African Republic, EUFOR TCHAD/RCA, has faced a number of challenges including force generation and logistics, as well as the insecurity caused by rebel movements in Chad earlier this year. The mission suffered the tragic loss of a French soldier in March. However, very substantial progress has now been made in deploying the force and Initial Operational Capability (IOC) was declared on 15 March 2008 with Full Operational Capability (FOC) expected later this summer with the full deployment of the three multinational battalions. There are currently nearly 2000 troops from eighteen different EU Member States on the ground in Chad.

Lt. General Pat Nash, Operation Commander of EUFOR, who is based at the Operation Headquarters in Mont Valerien near Paris, visited Chad from 7-11 April. Following that visit he has reported to the EU Political and Security Committee that EUFOR is now making its presence felt throughout the Area of Operations and is establishing the basis to make a real difference prior to the rainy season. General Nash also reported on the development of EUFOR's security support to the UN policing mission MINURCAT.

I understand from my colleague the Minister for Defence, Mr. Willie O'Dea TD, that a total of 247 Defence Forces personnel are currently serving with EUFOR. When the balance of the Irish contingent deploys later this month this figure will increase to approximately 430, with the bulk of the personnel serving with the 97th Infantry Battalion in the field in eastern Chad, plus staff at Force HQ in Chad and Operational HQ in Paris. Construction of the Irish Camp at Goz Beida, where the main Irish force will be based, is advancing well. Army Ranger Wing (ARW) personnel deployed in Chad as part of the Initial Entry Force are also currently conducting patrols and route reconnaissance operations in the vicinity of Goz Beida.

I very much welcome the progress now being made in the deployment of EUFOR TCHAD/RCA, particularly given the crucial humanitarian role the mission is to play in relation to the protection of vulnerable refugees and internally displaced people and of the humanitarian convoys necessary to relieve their distress. We can be proud of the role being played by General Nash and his colleagues in the Defence Forces in this vital EU mission.

Overseas Development Aid.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

57 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the initiatives that have been taken to strengthen the research capacity of Irish Aid; the funding which is being allocated each year for the research advisory working group since 2003 to date in 2008; and the institutions which have received funding. [16841/08]

I believe that research is central to improving the quality of our aid programme at all levels — the global, regional and country levels. Implementing the findings of well targeted research means better and more effective aid programmes.

The Advisory Board for Irish Aid (ABIA) has a mandate to commission research of the highest international standards. The Board funds ongoing research in areas such as policy coherence, measuring the impact of aid and good governance.

The Research Advisory Working Group is a small internal body of the Advisory Board and consists of three Board members and Advisory Board secretariat staff. Separate steering committees oversee each research project. A representative from Irish Aid sits on these steering committees.

Specific pieces of research are commissioned through the normal tendering process. Funding is provided to a number of Irish and overseas institutions for this work — Trinity College Dublin, NUI Galway, Dublin City University, the Haughton Institute (St. James's Hospital Dublin), the Overseas Development Institute and Oxford Policy Management group. Each of these in turn links with one or more developing country institutions to undertake the research. In this way, research capacity in developing countries is improved. Since 2003 funding amounting to approximately €2.45 million has been provided for this work.

As well as this research undertaken by ABIA, Irish Aid has initiated two programmes to stimulate and enhance domestic research activity around international development. Funding has been provided through the Higher Education Authority (HEA) for a programme of strategic cooperation with higher education and research institutions. This links education and research institutions in Ireland with similar institutions in the developing countries that benefit from our support. Funding is also provided to the Health Research Board (HRB) for Irish researchers focusing on international health issues. The funding via the HEA is approximately €20.4 million over five years and the HRB is approximately €2.5 million over two years.

We also support the network of agricultural research institutions known as CGIAR (the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research). The aim of this work is to assist in practical and pro-poor agricultural research that can have a positive effect on the lives of the poor.

Irish Aid supports a range of operational research to evaluate the impact of global and country HIV initiatives it funds. An example is the Joint Learning Initiative on Children affected by HIV and AIDS (JLICA). This research partnership was established to identify and address the needs of children affected by HIV and AIDS. In October this year, Ireland will co-host with UNICEF, the 4th Global Partners' Forum (GPF) on children affected by HIV and AIDS. The GPF will base key commitments to children affected by HIV and AIDS on the findings of this research.

Research is very important to the aid programme. It is equally important that such research is practical and focused on the important issues we are dealing with on a day to day basis. Research has to provide decision makers with the information needed to make better and more informed judgements. I believe that the research funded by Irish Aid is very valuable in this regard.

EU Policies.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

58 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the twin objectives of the Lisbon Accord in relation to cohesion and competitiveness, on the growing inequalities in the European Union, and the relegation of cohesion as an aim; and his position in relation to this matter. [16849/08]

Ireland supports the competitiveness and cohesion policies, which are key priorities for the European Union. These priorities are reflected in the Union's Lisbon Strategy, which aims to make Europe a more competitive and knowledge-driven economy, and in the EU's budgetary framework, which provides significant financial resources for the implementation of competitiveness and cohesion policies.

Over the years, Ireland has benefited hugely from EU cohesion funding and continues to view economic and social cohesion as a pillar of EU integration. There has been no diminution in the Union's commitment to cohesion or to competitiveness. Indeed, the statement of the Union's basic aims contained in the Lisbon Reform Treaty highlights the commitment to ‘balanced economic growth' and ‘a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress.' The Treaty also commits the Union to promoting ‘economic, social and territorial cohesion, and solidarity among Member States.'

Foreign Conflicts.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

59 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the recent elections in Nepal. [16839/08]

I welcome the holding of Constituent Assembly elections in Nepal on 10 April 2008. It was an important landmark in the country's peace process, which began when the Government and the Maoists signed a peace accord in November 2006.

The EU mounted an Observation Mission to these elections, in which Ireland participated. Due to the complexities of the electoral process and the unique geography of Nepal, the mission will stay on the ground until mid-May. The Mission's preliminary statement has concluded that Election Day was largely successful, despite a tense campaign period. The EU Presidency, on 16 April, welcomed the fact that the elections were held in a largely peaceful and orderly manner and called on the political parties to respect the election results. I welcome the fact that the main political parties have indicated that they accept the results as a basis for forming the Constituent Assembly.

The Assembly will include a mix of members elected directly and by a system of proportional representation to ensure a greater share of women and marginalised castes and ethnic groups. It will be tasked with drafting a new constitution for Nepal. Although the election results have yet to be finalised, the Maoists have emerged as the largest party in the new Assembly, and are likely to lead the new government. It remains important that the Maoists take the necessary steps to totally eschew violence and follow solely constitutional means.

While Nepal has made remarkable progress towards peace, challenges remain including the continuing need to address the legitimate aspirations of ethnic groups. Ireland and the EU will continue to actively support the peace process and the development of Nepal.

Customs Service.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

60 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the customs and passport check arrangements for private jets and helicopters arriving at Dublin Airport, specifically at the area of the airport largely reserved for private aircraft; the number of private aircraft using such facilities for each of the years 2005, 2006, 2007 and to date in 2008; if this area is subject to the same checks as the rest of the airport terminal as used by the general public and carriers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16961/08]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the Customs Service has responsibility for implementing import controls at points of entry to the State, specifically at ports and airports, including licensed airfields, and on the land frontier. The control of licensed airfields in the State is carried out by enforcement teams that focus on the smuggling of prohibited drugs and fiscal products.

Best practice in customs administration worldwide shows that the development of information and intelligence is critical to the detection of drug and fiscal smuggling. In Ireland, this has been very important since the completion of the Single Market in 1993, based as it is on the free movement of goods and people within the Community. Because Intra-Community travellers have the right of free movement, Revenue has no power to stop them except on the basis of a suspicion, normally grounded in specific intelligence.

Private jets and helicopters arriving into the State at Dublin Airport are handled by a number of executive jet service operators. Revenue's Customs Service at Dublin Airport receives advance notification of all arrivals of light aircraft and helicopters from the executive jet service operators. Passenger manifests are submitted and all private flights are checked on the basis of risk analysis of the data supplied by the operators and available intelligence.

Passengers and crew arriving on intra-Community flights are ordinarily allowed to proceed, unless Customs determine, through risk profiling, that they require to be examined. In all such cases the aircraft is subject to search and the passengers and crew must present themselves, with their baggage, at the Customs Channels within the main Terminal for examination.

Passengers and crew on flights arriving from an airport outside the European Community must present themselves and their baggage at the Customs Channels in the main terminal for clearance.

Based on Dublin Airport Authority data, the numbers of private aircraft that arrived at Dublin Airport since 1 January 2005, including training flights and flights from other airports within the State, are 12,109 in 2005, 14,104 in 2006, 14,697 in 2007 and 3,603 in 2008 to date. Matters relating to passport check arrangements at Dublin Airport fall under the remit of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Departmental Staff.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

61 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of revenue officials in the Border, midlands and west region, giving counties covered by this region for the years 2003 to 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16985/08]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the number of Revenue officials working in the Border, Midlands and West Region, at 31 December on each of the specified years, was

2003 — 861

2004 — 891

2005 — 889

2006 — 945

2007 — 952

The counties covered by the Region are: Galway, Roscommon, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, Longford, Donegal, Westmeath, Offaly, Louth, Cavan and Monaghan.

Customs Service.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

62 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of officials engaged in customs and excise duties, since the amalgamation within the revenue and since the amalgamation for all years up to the end of 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16986/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that since the completion of their programme of integration of grading streams, in most instances, staff are no longer assigned exclusively to Customs and Excise duties. Therefore, figures are not maintained in a manner which would enable the question to be answered comprehensively.

By way of information, the Deputy may wish to know that some 150 staff in Customs Division and part of Indirect Taxes Division are responsible for the policy, interpretation and international aspects of Customs and Excise, excluding Vehicle Registration Tax.

There are over 5,400 staff in operational divisions engaged in day-to-day work including customer service, audit and compliance across all tax and duty heads. Included in this are staff involved, for example, in excise controls, frontier management, trade facilitation, customs valuation, excise and customs investigations and prosecutions etc. The work of central divisions including legal, HR and operational and strategic policies encompasses Customs and Excise matters as required.

Also included in this figure are some 240 dedicated enforcement posts. The work of these posts, some of which are located at ports and airports, includes the detection and investigation of suspected tax, excise and customs offences, operations aimed at tackling fraud and combating the Shadow Economy.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

63 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of additional customs and excise officials recruited since the date of introduction of vehicle registration tax up until the end of 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16987/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that all work relating to the management of vehicle registration tax has been carried out within the overall staffing limits agreed with the Department of Finance and no additional numbers have been recruited specifically for dealing with vehicle registration tax.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

64 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the number of revenue officials who have transferred from revenue offices to decentralised Departments since the date decentralisation first commenced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16988/08]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that three hundred and thirty seven (337) revenue officials have transferred from revenue offices to decentralised Departments since the date decentralisation first commenced.

Chief State Solicitor’s Office.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

65 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance the status of an application by a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17008/08]

I understand from the Chief State Solicitor's Office that it is in correspondence with the applicant's solicitor and that the matter will be dealt with as soon as possible.

Medical Cards.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

66 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children the eligibility of persons who are in receipt of carers allowance to a medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17032/08]

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

81 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if persons who are in receipt of carer’s allowance, and who are providing the necessary care, for people who are ill, are entitled to a medical card as a right; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17033/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66 and 81 together.

At present, medical cards are granted primarily on the basis of means and individual circumstances. Under the Health Act, 2004, determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. Persons aged seventy years and over are automatically entitled to a medical card, irrespective of means. The HSE has discretion, in cases of exceptional need, to provide assistance to individuals where undue hardship would otherwise be caused.

Medical cards are made available to persons and their dependants who would otherwise experience undue hardship in meeting the cost of general practitioner services. In 2005, the GP visit card was introduced as a graduated benefit so that people on lower incomes who do not qualify for a medical card would not be deterred on cost grounds from visiting their GP. In June 2006, I agreed with the HSE to raise the assessment guidelines for GP visit cards and these are now 50% higher than those in respect of medical cards. For medical card and GP visit card applications, the HSE now considers an applicant's income after tax and PRSI are deducted, rather than total income. Allowances are also made for expenses on child care, rent and mortgage costs and the cost of travel to work.

I have no plans to provide for the granting of medical cards to any particular group as a whole. However, 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 general review, a review of the eligibility criteria for medical cards in the context of economic/financial, medical and social need is being undertaken with a view to clarifying entitlement to a medical card, and is expected to be completed by Autumn, 2008.

Community Pharmacy Services.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

67 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps her Department has taken to ensure that the procurement of medicines in hospitals, including hospital pharmacies, delivers value for money; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16956/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) have been reviewing the pharmaceutical supply chain, from manufacturers and wholesalers through to community pharmacists, with a view to seeking value for money in the State's drugs bill, consistent with patient safety and continuity of supply. In the context of the above, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the issues raised by the Deputy. 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.

Medical Cards.

Damien English

Ceist:

68 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Meath will have a medical card application processed; when a decision will be made; when the person will be informed of this decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16964/08]

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.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

69 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of medical card holders, on a county basis, that will be affected by the crisis in the pharmacy sector. [16975/08]

Michael Ring

Ceist:

70 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of long term illness card holders, on a county basis, that will be affected by the crisis in the pharmacy sector. [16976/08]

Michael Ring

Ceist:

71 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of drug payment scheme card holders, on a county basis that will be effected by the crisis in the pharmacy sector. [16977/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 69 to 71, inclusive, together.

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

Health Services.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

72 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will publish clear guidelines in relation to the availability of home care packages and the thresholds of need that trigger certain provisions in order that families who are struggling to care at home would know the support they can receive; and if she is not in a position to publish such guidelines, if she will make a directive to the Health Service Executive requesting that such guidelines be published as is their obligation in respect of having a Freedom of Information manual for clients. [16982/08]

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

Nursing Homes Repayment Scheme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

73 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Health and Children the length of time private companies (details supplied) have been working for her Department pursuant to an act; and the estimated time-frame of the completion of their work. [17002/08]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for administering the health repayment scheme in conjunction with the appointed scheme administrator K.P.M.G. and McCann Fitzgerald. The HSE have informed my Department that the consortium of K.P.M.G and McCann Fitzgerald has been engaged under contract as Scheme Administrator since July 2006 in accordance with the Health (Repayments Scheme)Act 2006. The contract is due to expire on the 30th June 2008 but a provision exists in the contract for the completion of outstanding works and work in progress after that date.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

74 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive a dental appointment date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17005/08]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

75 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Wexford will receive an appointment date for surgery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17006/08]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

76 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a person (details supplied) in County Cork, who has been referred to the regional autistic spectrum disorder service for assessment and has been given a priority status on the waiting list due to a sibling of the student already having a diagnosis of autism, has been informed that though on a priority waiting list they will be waiting for over two years for an assessment; her views on whether this is an acceptable level of service; the steps she proposes to take to expedite an appointment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17015/08]

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 5's 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.

Disability Allowance.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

77 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a more detailed breakdown of the exact figures of payment outlined in Parliamentary Question No. 217 of 17 April 2008; the number of each payment amount that was made; the way it was decided the amount each person would receive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17019/08]

The Deputy's question concerns monthly payments made to Irish survivors of thalidomide. Of the thirty-one people in receipt of the payment

two people receive an annual payment of €5,977.80,

one person receives €7,151.65,

three people receive €9,555.16,

two people receive €10,666.88,

three people receive €11,745.49

and twenty people receive €12,888.21.

The thalidomide product sold in Ireland was of German origin. Irish children who were the victims of thalidomide received compensation in the form of a lump sum and a monthly payment from the German Authorities. The amount of compensation, lump sum and monthly payment, was determined by a clinical assessment of the child.

The Government decided in 1975 to provide victims of thalidomide with a lump sum payment which was four times the amount paid by the German Authorities. In addition, the Government also provided a tax free monthly payment for life equal to the monthly payment from the German Authorities.

The Irish monthly payment has been increased over the years and since the early nineties the payment has been increased in line with the increases afforded to allowances under the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

78 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children when the information sought in relation to capital projects will be available (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17020/08]

I wrote to the Deputy recently and provided details of all requests for advice in relation to policy and administrative matters which were commissioned by my Department in the twelve months prior to 19th December 2007. There were no commissions for advice by my Department in respect of capital expenditure projects per se during the period in question. However one of the contracts related to advice from the National Development Finance Agency in relation to financial aspects of co-location projects.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

79 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. [17024/08]

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.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

80 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will take steps to have a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath admitted to the orthopaedic unit in the Midlands Regional hospital Tullamore, or in the alternative, have this person considered for treatment under the National Treatment Purchase Fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17030/08]

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

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

Question No. 81 answered with Question No. 66.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

82 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will take steps to have a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath admitted to Tallaght Hospital for an appointment for surgery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17034/08]

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 Accommodation.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

83 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the facilities that will be transferred to the new Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore; the departments and staff that will be transferred; when the transfer will begin; when it will be completed; the departments, or part departments that will remain in the old hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17041/08]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

84 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children the amount of the fit out for the new Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore that is completed and what remains to be done; when the fit out will be completed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17042/08]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

85 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a schedule for the opening of the Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore; the order the transfer will take; if additional funding will be provided to facilitate the transfer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17043/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83 to 85, inclusive, together.

Operational responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services is a matter for the Health Service Executive and funding for all health services has been provided as part of its overall Vote. Therefore, the Executive is the appropriate body to consider the particular 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.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

86 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of her recent reiterated view that radiotherapy services for cancer patients are not deliverable within Letterkenny General Hospital as the population of the county will not suffice to service one of these units, the Health Service Executive will apply the same standards to any application by the private sector to provide these services in County Donegal. [17044/08]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

87 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if she is committed to significantly fast tracking the plans for a cross border radiotherapy unit for the population in the north west at Altnagelvin Hospital, Derry, in partnership with Minister Michael McGimpsey, from the envisaged timescale of 2015. [17045/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 86 and 87 together.

The Government decided in July 2005 that the best option for improving geographic access for patients in the North West to radiation oncology services is to (i) facilitate access to Belfast City Hospital (BCH) and (ii) progress consideration of a joint venture for the provision of oncology services in the medium term to patients in the North West from a satellite centre in the North West linked to BCH.

Cancer patients in the North West requiring radiation oncology treatment are referred to either St. Luke's Hospital Dublin or University College Hospital Galway. A Service Level Agreement is also in place for the referral of radiation oncology patients from Donegal to BCH.

I met with Minister Michael McGimpsey of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSS&PS), Northern Ireland on 28 November last. We discussed the potential for further cross-border collaboration in relation to cancer care, and specifically, provision of a satellite centre for radiation oncology in the North West, linked to Belfast City Hospital. I welcome Minister McGimpsey's announcement last month, of the provision of a satellite centre (linked to Belfast City Hospital) to be located in Altnagelvin. It will provide the additional radiotherapy capacity needed to meet an anticipated increase in cancer in Northern Ireland and recognises the potential for cross border co-operation in the development of this resource. Officials from my Department and the DHSS&PS will hold further discussions in this regard.

The specific question raised by the Deputy in relation to quality standards in the provision of radiotherapy services 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.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

88 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of patients in Letterkenny General Hospital who have been waiting over 12 months for an operation; and the number of patients in the State who have been waiting over 12 months for an operation. [17046/08]

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

Drug Treatment Services.

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

89 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Health and Children if budget cutbacks will result in the cancellation of proposed special treatment projects for cocaine users; the treatment services currently in place for cocaine users; if new treatment projects will be introduced in 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17051/08]

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.

Health Services.

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

90 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the intention of the Health Service Executive to withdraw the services of the occupational therapist from a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will liaise with the HSE to ensure such services are retained. [17057/08]

John McGuinness

Ceist:

93 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will request the Health Service Executive to restore full paediatric occupational therapy services at a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny without delay. [17062/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 90 and 93 together.

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.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

91 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children when a bed will be provided for a person (details supplied) at Rehab, Dun Laoghaire; and if their case will be expedited. [17058/08]

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.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

92 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress in the provision of a hospice for cancer patients in County Carlow; if the Health Service Executive have allocated funding for the project; if there is a time-frame for the project; and if she will expedite the matter. [17059/08]

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.

Question No. 93 answered with Question No. 90.

Public Transport.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

94 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the budget allocated for all Transport 21 public awareness projects; the final projected cost of the current campaign and any other proposed campaigns for Transport 21 awareness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16960/08]

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

97 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Transport the amount being spent on the current Transport 21 campaign; the duration of the campaign; the purpose of the campaign; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17054/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 and 97 together.

Transport 21 represents the largest capital investment commitment ever made by Government to the development of transport infrastructure in this country. The projects comprising Transport 21 will greatly improve our national roads and public transport system over the ten year period to 2015, involving a total investment of €34 billion.

Given the scale and reach of Transport 21 I consider it essential that the general public and all interested parties are made aware of the programme and of the many transport improvements that are already being delivered.

Therefore, as part of a wider information and communications strategy and following a public procurement process, my Department engaged the services of consultants to undertake a media advertising campaign to raise public awareness of Transport 21. The campaign involves television, radio, press and outdoor advertising and I envisage that it will be necessary to continue to provide information and awareness to the public and all interested parties for the duration of Transport 21. The budget allocated for 2008 for this campaign is €2.9 million and the project is progressing within this budget.

Departmental Staff.

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

95 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Transport if a person (details supplied) in County Galway, a warranted officer who continues to operate under the authority of his Department, will be classified as a civil servant not a public servant to enable them to fairly be entitled to movement within the Civil Service. [16973/08]

This matter is presently under consideration by this Department, and when a decision has been reached, a reply will be conveyed to the Deputy.

Taxi Regulations.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

96 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Transport the number of taxi plates that have been issued in each of the past ten years in each local authority here; if there are proposals to limit the number of taxi plates in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16997/08]

The licensing of small public service vehicles (i.e. taxis, wheelchair accessible taxis, hackneys and limousines) was a function of individual local licensing authorities at the time of liberalisation in November 2000. Taxi licence information from 1999 to 2005 available to my Department is based on statistical returns made by individual local authorities who had declared taximeter areas from time to time. The Commission for Taxi Regulation is now responsible for the licensing of small public service vehicles and, with effect from 25 September 2006, the Commission has replaced the individual local authority taximeter areas with one single national taximeter area. Since the establishment of a national taximeter area, taxi licence statistical data is available from the Commission for Taxi Regulation on the basis of the home address of taxi licence holders.

Having regard to the above position, the following tables reflect the statistical information available to my Department in relation to the number of licensed taxis/wheelchair accessible taxis at various dates between 1999 and 2005. The December 2007 and March 2008 licence statistics were received from the Commission for Taxi Regulation and are based on the home address of licence holders.

Insofar as limits on taxi licence numbers are concerned, 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.

Taxi/Wheelchair Accessible Taxis — Statistics for 31 March 2008

County

Taxis

Wheelchair Accessible Taxis

Co. Carlow

100

29

Co. Cavan

89

10

Co. Clare

193

12

Co. Cork

1,276

79

Co. Donegal

193

25

Co. Dublin

11,379

749

Co. Galway

675

86

Co. Kerry

197

17

Co. Kildare

695

83

Co. Kilkenny

158

25

Co. Laois

130

41

Co. Leitrim

20

9

Co. Limerick

582

41

Co. Longford

75

7

Co. Louth

451

46

Co. Mayo

167

12

Co. Meath

988

88

Co. Monaghan

6

5

Co. Offaly

67

20

Co. Roscommon

24

4

Co. Sligo

136

9

Co. Tipperary

39

5

Co. Waterford

217

27

Co. Westmeath

280

47

Co. Wexford

134

27

Co. Wicklow

284

34

Totals

18,555

1537

Source — Commission for Taxi Regulation.

Taxi/Wheelchair Accessible Taxis — Statistics At December 2007

County

Taxis

Wheelchair AccessibleTaxis

Co. Carlow

97

27

Co. Cavan

88

9

Co. Clare

196

12

Co. Cork

1,238

81

Co. Donegal

190

23

Co. Dublin

11,018

750

Co. Galway

670

69

Co. Kerry

200

17

Co. Kildare

662

81

Co. Kilkenny

158

26

Co. Laois

124

41

Co. Leitrim

18

5

Co. Limerick

569

38

Co. Longford

74

6

Co. Louth

436

46

Co. Mayo

166

14

Co. Meath

959

86

Co. Monaghan

5

5

Co. Offaly

64

20

Co. Roscommon

19

4

Co. Sligo

138

5

Co. Tipperary

35

4

Co. Waterford

205

27

Co. Westmeath

270

47

Co. Wexford

128

28

Co. Wicklow

265

33

Total

17,992

1,504

Source — Commission For Taxi Regulation.

Taxi/Wheelchair Accessible Taxi (WATS) Licence Statistics Based on Local Authority Returns to the Department

Licensing Authority

Total Taxis & WATS at end 1999

Total Taxis & WATS at 21 Nov. 2000

Total Taxis & WATS at end 2001

Total Taxis & WATS at 12 Nov. 2002

Total Taxis & WATS at 31 Dec. 2003

Total Taxis & WATS at 30 June 2004

Total Taxis & WATS at 31 Dec. 2005

Athlone Town Council

50

50

70

91

94

91

72

Ballina Town Council

0

42

51

51

48

50

56

Bray Town Council

0

0

26

31

49

45

55

Carlow Co. Co.

6

6

6

3

3

3

3

Carlow Town Council

15

15

38

43

58

61

76

Castlebar Town Co.

0

76

87

84

83

75

100

Cork Co Co.Charleville

0

0

7

8

8

8

11

Cobh Town Council

0

0

22

29

36

36

40

Cork City Council

211

216

518

590

719

770

978

Donegal Co.Co.

12

12

17

19

19

20

25

Drogheda Borough Co

51

51

120

143

152

167

Not available

Dublin City Council

2,656

2,722

7,140

8,609

9,320

9,828

10,761

Dundalk Town Council

20

20

68

78

83

96

116

Dungarvan Town Co.

14

18

20

20

22

22

18

Ennis Town Council

20

20

73

82

86

94

113

Galway City Council

148

148

325

386

469

491

525

Kilkenny Borough Co.

17

17

67

83

103

109

121

Killarney Town Council

25

25

64

74

78

80

80

Laois Co. Co.

15

15

38

46

50

53

68

Letterkenny Town Co.

0

0

71

107

106

115

132

Limerick City Council

206

206

393

434

513

535

491

Longford Town Co.

14

14

30

34

44

48

55

Longford Co. Co.

0

7

9

9

4

4

2

Mallow Town Council

0

15

25

26

35

37

40

Naas Town Council

17

17

43

51

71

81

97

Navan Town Council

50

50

101

116

141

152

180

Sligo Borough

25

25

72

80

89

93

Not available

Thurles Town Council

0

6

7

8

9

11

11

Tipperary Town Co.

3

3

3

3

3

4

5

Tralee Town Council

18

18

48

57

76

66

75

Tullamore Town Co.

27

Waterford City Council

41

41

121

147

154

163

194

Westmeath Co. Co. (incl. rural taxis)

52

79

87

88

100

101

94

Wexford Borough

14

17

38

Total

3,686

3,934

9,767

11,630

12,839

13,526

Question No. 97 answered with Question No. 94.
Question No. 98 answered with Question No. 6.
Question No. 99 answered with Question No. 13.

Córas Aistriúcháin.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

100 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Michael D. Higgins den Aire Gnóthaí Eachtracha cad tá á dhéanamh aige chun a dheimhniú go gcuirfí córas iomlán aistriúcháin agus ateangaireachta ar fáil do Chomhaltaí Éireannacha i bParlaimint na hEorpa de réir Rialachán 1/1958, Sa tslí is go mbeidh ar a gcumas a ngnó a dhéanamh trí mheán na Gaeilge ar bhonn comhionann agus gan idirdhealú; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [17040/08]

Bronnadh stádas mar theanga oifigiúil agus oibre an AE ar an nGaeilge ar 1 Eanáir 2007. Sainmhíníonn Rialachán 920/2005 na socraithe a bhaineann leis an nGaeilge mar theanga oifigiúil. Ciallaíonn an stádas a baineadh amach go gcaithfidh gach institiúid san AE, an Pharlaimint san áireamh, gach rialachán a ghlacfaidh an Chomhairle agus Parlaimint na hEorpa leo i gcompháirt a aistriú go Gaeilge.

Cuirtear seirbhís i nGaeilge ar fáil do Chomhaltaí Éireannacha i seisiún iomlánach i bParlaimint na hEorpa, i gCoiste Eacnamaíoch agus Sóisialta na hEorpa agus i gCoiste na Réigiún.

Táim sásta go bhfuil muid tar-éis lán-tacaíocht agus comhoibriú a fháil ó gach institiúid san AE i leith an cinneadh seo a chur i bhfeidhm. Labhraíonn Airí agus Comhaltaí Pharlaimint na hEorpa go rialta i nGaeilge ag a gcuid cruinnithe sa Chomhairle agus sa Pharlaimint. Aistreofar gach doiciméid bainteach leis an nós imeachta comhpháirteach go Gaeilge. Leanfaimid ag obair, i mBaile Átha Cliath agus sa Bhruiséal ionnas go dtabharfar gach tacaíocht d'Institiúid an AE seirbhísi trí Ghaeilge, seirbhísí do Chomhaltaí Pharlaimint na hEorpa san áireamh, a sholáthar taobh istigh de chóras Rialachán 920/2005.

Is ábhar don Pharlaimint féin, ar ndóigh, a seirbhís aistritheoireachta a reachtáil.

Bíonn mo Roinn-se i gcónaí ag obair go dlúth leis an Roinn Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta chun tacaíocht a thabhairt d'Institiúidí an AE. Mar shampla, thug an Roinn Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cabhair don Pharlaimint i leith cursaí oiliúna d'iarrthóirí ar phostanna mar aistritheoirí. Cabhraíodh le h-iarrthóirí éagsúla freastal ar chúrsa aistritheoireachta in Ollscoil Westminster. Bhain triúr díobh cailíocht amach an bhliain seo caite, agus cuireadh ag obair go neamh-rialta iad. Tá beirt eile ag dul ag déanamh staidéir sa bhFómhar i Westminster. Tá sé ar intinn againn teacht ar níos mó iarrthóirí sna blianta amach anseo agus obair a dhéanamh leis an bParlaimint chun na deiseanna seo a fhógairt.

EU Policies.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

101 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which the EU is establishing and improving contacts with the Ukraine, Russia and other former USSR countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17064/08]

In recent years and particularly since the 2004 enlargement, the EU has placed increased emphasis on building up relations with Russia and other eastern neighbours.

The EU-Russia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which came into force in December 1997 for an initial ten year period, has been "rolled over" pending a new agreement, negotiations on which are expected to begin shortly. The EU has a wide-ranging relationship with Russia. Trade is now five times its 2000 level, investment in both directions is growing rapidly, and Russia and the EU are mutually dependent in the energy sector. There have been some worrying trends in Russian domestic policies in recent years as well as a more challenging Russian approach in foreign policy. The agreement, in May 2005, on Roadmaps for the four ‘Common Spaces' (Common Economic Space; Common Space on Freedom, Security and Justice; Common Space on External Security; Common Space on Research and Education) encompassed all aspects of the relationship. Notable recent achievements include increased cooperation in the fight against terrorism, biannual human rights consultations, and agreements with Schengen countries on visa facilitation and readmission.

Since 2003, relations with Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan are being developed in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). The European Neighbourhood Policy is intended to support greater economic development, stability and better governance in the EU's neighbourhood. Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia have individual ENP Action Plans. Moldova and Ukraine have visa facilitation and readmission agreements with Schengen countries. Since December 2006 the policy has encompassed enhanced regional cooperation, expanded financial resources and other forms of cooperation. The EU is negotiating an ‘enhanced' agreement with Ukraine, which will include a deep Free Trade Agreement. The European Neighbourhood Policy remains entirely distinct from the issue of EU membership.

Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are covered by the first EU strategy for Central Asia, adopted in June 2007. The strategy is intended to intensify the EU's cooperation with Central Asian countries on an individual and regional basis. EU priorities papers have been drawn up in consultation with each of the five countries. Regional EU initiatives on education, rule of law and water management are being put into effect. A report on progress in implementing the strategy will be given to the June European Council.

Question No. 102 answered with Question No. 18.

Diplomatic Representation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

103 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he and his EU colleagues are engaging with the Iranian authorities with a view to establishing better and more peaceful relations between Iran, the US and the wider community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17066/08]

The Government shares the genuine and broadly held desire across the European Union for improved relations with Iran. The EU and Iran share an interest in a stable, prosperous and peaceful Middle East. I believe there are no unbridgeable divides between our interests and those of the Iranian people.

However, it has been clear for some years that there are a number of broad areas in which the policies being pursued by the Iranian authorities represent obstacles to the building of closer relations with the EU and the wider international community. These include the serious international concern about the nature of Iran's nuclear programme, the negative role being played in relation to efforts to resolve peacefully the interlinked political problems of the Middle East region, and growing concerns about the level of human rights abuses in Iran.

I regret that Iran has seemed unable to engage in serious dialogue on any of these issues in recent years. The EU has taken the lead in the search for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue, in cooperation with the US, Russia and China. The Taoiseach and I reviewed these efforts with President Bush during our meeting in the White House yesterday. The important comprehensive offer conveyed to Iran by the EU in 2006 included incentives for wide-ranging engagement between Iran and the international community in the context of agreement to address the concerns set out clearly by the UN Security Council on the nuclear issue. This major diplomatic offer remains on the table, and will be pursued further by the EU. I would reiterate our appeal to Iran to engage with it constructively, to the benefit of the people of Iran and its region and of Europe.

The Government maintains regular contact with the Iranian authorities through meetings at Ministerial and official level and through our Embassy in Tehran. We have made it clear that we are at all times ready to develop further our political dialogue with Iran on the basis of a genuine readiness to address all issues of concern to both sides.

Foreign Conflicts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

104 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the situation in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17067/08]

I remain deeply concerned about the situation in Afghanistan. There are very clear concerns regarding security, human rights, governance and rule of law issues, as well as narcotics.

The security situation remains a continuous cause of concern. While the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has enjoyed significant military successes over the past number of months, insurgency-related violence continues at a high level, particularly against the Afghan police. There are strong indications that suicide attacks and improvised explosive devices will remain the insurgency's main weapon against Afghan and international security forces. Last weekend's attack on President Karzai, which fortunately he survived, was further evidence of the fragility of the situation.

A decision on the timing of elections was announced on 9 April. The Presidential election will take place in autumn 2009 and parliamentary elections will be held in the summer of 2010. The elections and the preceding voter registration will be enormous logistical tasks and will require immediate consideration by the Afghan government and its partners.

We can see in many parts of Afghanistan the benefits that peace, the rule of law and stable government can bring, with economic growth, lower mortality rates and greater participation in formal schooling, especially among girls. The goal for the international community, in cooperation with the Afghan government, remains to extend stable and legitimate government and the rule of law to all parts of the country.

Better coordination and cooperation in the international community's assistance to Afghanistan is vital, and has been the key focus of recent reviews of policy by the UN, NATO and the EU. I very much welcome the recent appointment of the Mr Kai Eide, as Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Afghanistan. The UN continues to play the lead coordinating role in Afghanistan. The renewal and strengthening of the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) by the UN Security Council last month should strengthen its ability to lead international civilian efforts to provide political outreach, support reconciliation programmes and strengthen cooperation with ISAF. It also calls for additional efforts on rule of law, corruption, narcotics, human rights and economic development.

At the NATO Summit in Bucharest on 3 April 2008, the ISAF troop-contributing nations, including Ireland, reconfirmed their long-term commitment to Afghanistan and supported the need for an enhanced UN role in coordinating civil and military efforts by the international community.

International coordination efforts will also be a key issue for the planned international donor conference on Afghanistan to be held in Paris in June. The conference will focus on strengthening Government institutions, including by securing further pledges of support.

The EU remains fully engaged in Afghanistan. Afghanistan was discussed at the March European Council following the adoption of Conclusions on Afghanistan at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 10 March. These Conclusions reaffirmed the EU's commitment to long-term support for Afghanistan. The Conclusions also welcomed the progress of the EU Police Mission in Afghanistan, which is currently deploying to the regions. Afghanistan will again be on the agenda of the General Affairs and External Relations Council this month.

Ireland has provided over €14 million in relief, recovery and development assistance to Afghanistan since 2005. In addition, seven members of the Permanent Defence Forces serve with ISAF in Kabul.

Human Rights Issues.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

105 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which he and his EU colleagues are engaged in positive dialogue with African countries with a view to the elimination of human rights or other abuses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17068/08]

Ireland closely monitors developments in the human rights situation throughout the world and, where the situation warrants, we make known our concerns to the governments in question, bilaterally, through the EU, or through action at the UN General Assembly or the UN Human Rights Council. Ireland also supports the work of the International Criminal Court, which marks a real effort to end impunity for war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, and which is investigating four situations in Africa.

The risk of human rights violations is of course greater where political, economic and administrative systems are weak. Development is essential to allow people the full enjoyment of their human rights, and Africa lies at the heart of Ireland's development co-operation programme. Irish Aid supports specific actions designed to promote human rights, including by strengthening government systems and in-country human rights institutions, in particular through legal training. Irish Aid has a specific focus on governance in several programme countries.

The importance of the promotion and protection of human rights throughout the world is a cornerstone of the European Union's external action. In its political dialogue with individual African countries under Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement, the EU regularly raises issues which arise in the development of democracy and the need for protection and promotion of human rights.

The African Union has an important and growing role to play in the protection of human rights in Africa. The aims of the African Union include the promotion of peace, security, and democracy on the continent, as well as the promotion and protection of human rights, in accordance with the African Charter on Human and People's Rights. The emergence of African standards in this area is a very welcome development.

The EU-Africa Joint Strategy, which was adopted at the Lisbon Summit in December 2007, commits Europe and Africa to closer political dialogue, which will provide an opportunity to raise human rights issues as required. One of the initial Partnerships under the Joint Strategy will focus on democratic governance and human rights. Preliminary discussions have taken place between the EU and the African Union on establishing a regular dialogue between the two organisations on human rights issues. It is expected that the first formal dialogue meeting will take place at official level at the end of May 2008.

Crime Prevention.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

106 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Lisbon treaty has sufficient strength to prevent money laundering throughout Europe and between Europe and the wider community with particular reference to the need to tackle organised crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17069/08]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

107 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he is satisfied that the Lisbon Treaty adequately addresses the issues of justice and home affairs with particular reference to the need to prevent illegal financial transfers across Europe and beyond; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17070/08]

I propose to take Questions 106 and 107 together.

One of the key objectives of the EU is to offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers, in which the free movement of persons is ensured in conjunction with appropriate measures with respect to inter alia the prevention and combating of crime.

The provisions of the Reform Treaty with regard to the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice will serve to strengthen the ability of the EU to fight cross-border crime, including organised crime and money laundering, which are specifically referred to in the Treaty.

Undocumented Irish.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

108 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if progress is expected to be made in the matter of undocumented Irish in the US; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17071/08]

The Government continues to attach the highest importance to resolving the plight of our undocumented citizens in the United States. The Taoiseach emphasised this commitment during his address to the US Congress yesterday. I am also having a series of meetings on the issue with key Congressional figures and with the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform in Washington this week.

Following the failure of the US Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation last June, despite the strong endorsement and encouragement of President Bush, the Government immediately set about exploring with key US Administration and Congressional contacts possible alternative bilateral options. In particular, we have lobbied congressional figures on a specific reciprocal proposal that, if successful, would make thousands of visas available annually to Irish citizens, including the undocumented, and to US citizens interested in working in Ireland.

However, achieving progress on immigration reform at this time, in the middle of a Presidential campaign, is exceptionally difficult. The political reality in the United States is that immigration has become a divisive political issue. Our many friends in Congress have emphasised this, including the difficulty of passing legislation specifically for our citizens separate from the other 12 million undocumented.

Despite these considerable political challenges, the Government will continue to press for change and will work closely with our friends in Congress and with the many organisations who have worked hard on behalf of the undocumented in the Irish community, including the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR).

Human Rights Issues.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

109 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the top 10 locations worldwide currently suffering from starvation, strife and human rights abuses; the degree to which the EU and UN separately or together are succeeding to bring about a satisfactory resolution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17072/08]

It is not the practice of the Government to classify countries in the manner suggested by the Deputy. However, it is clear that hunger, conflict and human rights abuses are prevalent in too many parts of the world and that they are frequently linked.

We recognise the essential interconnections between collective security, development, and human rights and these areas are central to our foreign policy and to the work of the UN and EU. Active participation in the UN, EU, OSCE and Council of Europe provides an opportunity for Ireland to voice its concerns on these areas. Through these organisations, international pressure can be brought to bear on those responsible for violation of human rights in all their forms. The UN has primary responsibility for resolving threats to international peace and security, but the EU is also working to develop its capacity to promote stability and conflict resolution as indicated, for example, by the ESDP missions in Chad and Kosovo. In relation to alleviating hunger, the lead role is played by the World Food Programme of the United Nations, with support from many other actors, notably the EU's ECHO (European Community Humanitarian aid Office) programme. The recent sharp rise in food costs poses an additional threat.

Overall, while good progress has been registered in certain regions, many serious issues, whether related to hunger, human rights abuses or conflict, remain for the international community to address.

Foreign Conflicts.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

110 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in regard to the resolution of the outstanding issues in the Balkans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17073/08]

The December 2007 European Council reaffirmed that the future of the Western Balkans lies within the European Union and the countries of the region (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia) continue to feature on the agenda of the General Affairs and External Relations Council. On 18 February last, EU Foreign Ministers recalled the Union's longstanding commitment to strengthening stability in the region. Foreign Ministers also reaffirmed their commitment to support fully the European perspective for the Western Balkans and asked the Commission to use community instruments to promote economic and political developments in the region.

The European Union's Stabilisation and Association Process for South-East Europe aims to bring the countries of the region closer to EU standards and principles. The Process involves the negotiation of Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAAs) with each of the countries which focus mainly on trade liberalisation in goods and other trade-related issues, political dialogue, legal approximation, and cooperation in sectors such as industry, environment and energy.

SAAs have been signed with Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro. The SAA with Serbia was signed earlier this week, on 29 April 2008. An Interim Agreement dealing with economic and trade matters was signed at the same time. The Council welcomed the signature of the SAA and the Interim Agreement as an important step on Serbia's path towards the EU. The Council decided that the ratification process of the SAA by Member States and implementation of the Interim Agreement will begin as soon as the Council decides unanimously that Serbia is cooperating fully with the ICTY.

Negotiations on an SAA with Bosnia and Herzegovina were finalised late last year. The timing of the signature is linked to sufficient progress by Bosnia and Herzegovina in addressing key priorities, notably in police reform, cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), public broadcasting and public administration reform. At their meeting on 29 April, EU Foreign Ministers welcomed the conclusion of the first phase of police reform by the recent adoption of two laws on the subject. While the Council acknowledged that Bosnia and Herzegovina will need to undertake further efforts to address reforms, the Council expressed its readiness to sign the SAA as soon as possible.

In addition to the Stabilisation and Association Process, the European Union opened negotiations on accession with Croatia in 2005. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has obtained candidate status, although its negotiations on accession have not yet commenced.

Recent developments in the Western Balkans have largely focused on Kosovo and the decision of the Kosovo Assembly to declare independence on 17 February 2008. At the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 18 February, EU Foreign Ministers agreed a common response to Kosovo's declaration of independence, noting the uniqueness of Kosovo's situation, arising from the conflict of the 1990s and the eight years of UN administration which followed, and reaffirming the EU's willingness to play a leading role in strengthening stability in the region including by means of the planned ESDP rule of law mission.

The Council also agreed that Member States will decide, in accordance with national practice and international law, on their relations with Kosovo. Since then, 18 EU Member States, including Ireland, have recognised Kosovo's independence. At least 21 of the 27 EU Member States are expected to recognise Kosovo in the medium term.

Question No. 111 answered with Question No. 24.

AIDS Prevention.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

112 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress of the fight against AIDS in Africa; the extent to which the EU and UN are jointly involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17075/08]

Recent data released by the United Nations Joint Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) demonstrate that the global HIV prevalence — the number of people living with HIV — has levelled off and that the number of new infections has fallen. This is primarily due to much improved surveillance methodologies, along with some positive impacts of HIV programmes.

However, in 2007 over 33 million people were still living with HIV. Approximately 2.5 million became newly infected and over 2 million people died of AIDS related illnesses. Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the most severely affected region in the world and is home to over 22 million people living with HIV or 68% of the global total. AIDS remains the primary cause of death in Africa. In some of the worst affected countries, AIDS is the biggest cause of death among those under 5 and it is estimated that 15 million children under 18 years have lost one or both parents to AIDS, with the vast majority, 12 million, living in sub-Saharan Africa.

The United Nations and the European Union play a critical role in addressing the main diseases of poverty, including HIV and AIDS through setting global policy, guidance on best practice, providing specialist technical assistance and funding specific interventions aimed at tackling these diseases. Irish Aid supports a range of UN Funds and Programmes as well as the European Commission and Member States in advocating for a sustained and resourced global response to health and HIV and AIDS and strengthened leadership at all levels.

This year Ireland is playing a leadership role in steering UN reform. The theme ‘Delivering as One' provides the opportunity to build a more effective inter-UN agency response to HIV and AIDS. Membership of the Board of UNAIDS this year provides Ireland with the opportunity not only to advocate for increased effectiveness and efficiency within the UN system, but also to advance some of its key priorities including the need for a stronger focus on children and women, and ensuring that health and HIV and AIDS are addressed in the context of humanitarian and emergency situations.

In June of this year the United Nations General Assembly will debate progress being made to achieve Universal Access to comprehensive HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. Ireland has already submitted its report on how it is addressing this global pandemic and will send a high level delegation to advocate for increased political commitment, additional resources and consensus on addressing key obstacles to better health for those most vulnerable and marginalised.

Ireland has prioritised the needs of children in its work on HIV and AIDS. It is the only country to target 20% of its increased funding to interventions that will benefit children.

In recognition of Ireland's leadership in this area, we have been requested to host the fourth Global Partners Forum on Children affected by HIV and AIDS. Working in cooperation with UNICEF and scheduled for October, this forum will bring together high level decision makers from both developed and developing countries to debate the best approaches to ensuring the protection of children living in a world with HIV and AIDS.

Community Employment Schemes.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

113 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on reviewing the capping system for community employment schemes in rural areas, where supervisors are encountering difficulties in recruiting workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16990/08]

I am advised by FÁS that it is not currently aware of any Community Employment projects in rural areas where supervisors are encountering difficulties in recruiting workers.

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

To cater for older workers in particular, in November 2004 I revised the 3 year CE capping to allow those of 55 years of age and over to avail of a 6-year period on CE (based on participation since 3rd April, 2000). Subsequently, the participation limit for persons eligible for CE based on a Social Welfare disability linked payment was increased by 1 year. These measures were introduced in recognition of the fact that older participants and people with disabilities may find it more difficult to progress into the open labour market.

The aim of CE still remains as an active labour market programme with the emphasis on progression into employment. The programme is managed within this context, with consideration to the availability of resources and the needs of participants and the community. However, it should be remembered that, in so far as participants remain on CE, they are precluding someone else from benefiting from the programme. FÁS makes every effort to ensure that differing levels of demand between neighbouring schemes are equalised. FÁS also operates the programme flexibly as far as possible to ensure the continuation of community projects.

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

Departmental Investigations.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

114 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on recent reports of irregularities with respect to the short-selling of Irish banking stocks; the progress of the investigation into these reports; his views on whether the Financial Regulator has sufficient powers to bring such investigations to a successful conclusion; if he proposes to introduce tougher sanctions for malicious trading practices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17010/08]

I am aware that on the 20th March, the Financial Regulator issued a public statement drawing attention to false rumours circulating about certain share prices and reminding all those involved in the market of the need to be responsible in their handling of rumours. The Regulator also stated that it was examining the market activity for any signs of market abuse. I understand that work is ongoing and it would therefore not be appropriate for me to comment on the matter.

The Financial Regulator has similar powers to those of all securities regulators across Europe and, I understand, cooperates closely with other regulators to combat market abuse, which is often international in character. The current legislative position with strong powers of investigation and administrative sanctions provides a good framework for effective supervision.

Sports Funding.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

115 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will confirm having received an application from a community group (details supplied) in County Longford; if, in context of their plan to provide an important community and sports centre, and more particularly, in view of the significant efforts the group have made raising funds for the provision thereof, he will ensure that same is allocated a significant allocation from lottery funding to enable the project to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17028/08]

Under the Sports Capital Programme, which is administered by my Department, funding is allocated to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The 2008 programme was advertised on 13th and 14th of January and the deadline for receipt of applications was 29th February for paper-based applications and 7th March for online applications.

All applications received before the deadline, including the one in question, will be evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Live Register.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

116 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if the live register figures are broken down by postal code or geographical area; if they are not, the technological problems that prevent them from being presented as such; the action being taken to allow greater precision in accessing and analysing the live register figures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16998/08]

Live register data are collated by my Department by reference to the geographical area for which each local office is operationally responsible. That information is provided to the Central Statistics Office who break the information on a geographical basis by region, province, county and social welfare local office area and publish it on a monthly basis. A breakdown by postal code is not provided as post codes are not in use in most parts of the state.

The desirability and feasibility of further geographic analyses will be reviewed in the event of a national system of post codes, or some alternative system of geographic coding, being introduced.

Departmental Schemes.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

117 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the breakdown of the monetary allocation of €79 million under the farm improvement scheme in tabular form; the expenditure per item as per annex A and annex B, terms and conditions, farm improvement scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16957/08]

A sum of €79 million was provided under the 2006 Partnership agreement, Towards 2016, for the operation of the Farm Improvement Scheme. Of this amount, €15 million has been allocated to the Scheme in the 2008 Estimates. €14,425 was spent under the Scheme in 2007 whilst, to date, in 2008, €705,183 has been paid out in grants under the Scheme. It is not possible to provide a breakdown of these amounts between the items listed in Annexes A and B to the Scheme.

Grant Payments.

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

118 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when payment will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary in respect of forestry. [16958/08]

I understand that the forestry plantation has been inspected and that remedial works are required to bring the site up to the accepted standard. My officials have written to the applicant concerned in recent days to request that the improvements be made.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

119 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will introduce a €2000 top-up for hill sheep farmers in designated areas as a supplementary payment measure in REP scheme four in conjunction with the new mixed grazing measure; if meetings have taken place with the Irish Farmers Association and her Department in this regard; the details of those meetings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16965/08]

The special agri-environmental arrangements in the Owenduff/Nephin Beg Special Area of Conservation arise from a judgment of the European Court of Justice in 2002 and are a matter in the first instance for the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. In November 2006, that Department, in consultation with my Department and local landowners, introduced these measures which included a five-month off-wintering period. Farmers within this region who were in existing REPS 2 and 3 contracts were paid an extra €2,000 per annum in order to compensate them for additional restrictions imposed upon their farming activities, above and beyond those detailed in their existing REPS contracts.

As was noted at a meeting this week between the two Departments, the IFA and a representative group of local sheep farmers, the increased payment rates negotiated with the European Commission for REPS 4 were justified on the basis that they covered the full range of constraints on farming activity that might apply to participating farmers. There did not therefore appear to be any basis for an additional payment in REPS 4.

The mixed grazing supplementary measure in REPS 4 is not related to the special agri-environmental arrangements in this area. It is however available to the farmers in question if they join REPS 4, though it is payable on "green" land only and not on commonage.

Grant Payments.

James Bannon

Ceist:

120 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Longford has not received their forestry grant twelve months after application; if the person should be financially penalised for the staffing problems of her Department if this delay is due to the unavailability of an inspector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16984/08]

I understand that the application concerned was lodged with my Department in October last year.

I regret that this case has not so far been decided upon. I have instructed that it be considered as a matter of urgency and a response be issued as soon as possible.

Foreshore Licences.

Seán Connick

Ceist:

121 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the status of an application by a company (details supplied) in County Wexford to purchase a foreshore lease from her Department; and when a final decision on this application will be made. [17009/08]

The Company referred to by the Deputy is currently in possession of a 35 year lease which was granted in 1999 in respect of an area of reclaimed foreshore. The company has applied to purchase the freehold of the area currently held under lease. Such sales are usually made only in exceptional circumstances having regard to the public interest. The application is currently receiving detailed attention within my Department and a determination will be made as soon as possible.

Milk Quota.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

122 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will clarify the situation regarding the sale of land where milk quota is concerned; if such quota is inextricably attached to the lands; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17013/08]

I would refer the Deputy to the provisions of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1234/2007 of 22 October, 2007 (O.J. L299/1; 16.11.2007) with particular reference to Article 74 on "transfers of reference quantities (milk quotas) together with land". I would also refer him to the provisions of the European Communities (Milk Quota) Regulations, 2000 (S.I. No. 94 of 2000), as amended, with particular reference to Regulations 4 to 7, to Regulations 9 and 9A and to Regulations 18 to 22 (inclusive).

In general, milk quotas are deemed to attach to dairying lands but exceptions are or can be made in certain circumstances as laid down in the domestic regulations of 2000 either for an individual quota to be retained upon a transfer of the relevant lands or, alternatively, for the quota to be assigned simpliciter. I have had the regulations of 2000 under review in my Department and will replace them shortly with new and more flexible ones.

Departmental Investigations.

James Bannon

Ceist:

123 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason a company (details supplied) in County Longford has been forced to bear financial losses of approximately €30,000 in relation to animals on hand at the time of her Department officials’ investigation of an incident in which the manager of the company was charged with 39 charges with regard to the unlawful removal of ear tags from animals, switching ear tags and so on to the detriment of the company; the further reason her Department did not make every effort to ensure a satisfactory conviction of this person in view of the potential risk to health, the potential spread of disease, the eradication of customers trust and the bringing of the integrity of the livestock industry into disrepute caused by the actions of this person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17017/08]

James Bannon

Ceist:

124 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason her Department has not reimbursed a company (details supplied) in County Longford for the full costs of an investigation they inflicted on them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17018/08]

I propose to take Parliamentary Questions Nos. 123 and 124 together.

The criminal investigation referred to was carried out by the Gardaí in 2000 into certain actions of a former employee of the company. The criminal prosecution in this matter was brought by the DPP on indictment. In view of this, officials of my Department did not have responsibility for the prosecution and it would be inappropriate of me to comment on a criminal investigation within the remit of the Gardaí and DPP.

My Department does not consider that it has any obligation to reimburse any costs that may have been incurred by individuals or companies arising out of this criminal investigation.

Circus Animals.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

125 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the details of animals imported into Ireland for use in circuses here in 2007, including the species, the number, their countries of origin and the circuses to which they were attached; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17022/08]

The information sought by the Deputy is set out in the following table. The names of the circuses involved have been withheld due to the commercial nature of the information sought.

Circus Animals Imported in 2007

Date

Number and Species

Origin*

29/01/2007

3 African Elephants

Germany

06/03/2007

3 African Elephants

Germany

06/03/2007

1 Indian Elephant

Germany

07/03/2007

2 Elephants

Germany

31/10/2007

1 Lion

UK

*The only information available to DAFF is the country from which the animals were directly imported into Ireland.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

126 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the eligibility conditions for participation in the early retirement scheme from farming 2007 for farmers who wish to retire; if, in this context, such a person would have to be the registered owner of the lands for a particular or specified period, prior to such person transferring the lands for the purpose of participating in the ERS; if, where a husband and wife have worked on the farm for a number of years and the husband has transferred unreservedly the landholding to his wife, the wife would be eligible for participation in the said scheme when she reaches a particular age; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17031/08]

The Terms and Conditions of the Early Retirement Scheme (ERS 3) 2007 are available from my Department's offices in Johnstown Castle, Wexford or from any of the local AES Offices. They may also be accessed on the Department's website.

In a situation where a husband has transferred the landholding to his wife, she may apply for the Scheme provided she is between her 55th and 66th birthday and meets all of the other eligibility criteria, including the requirement to have farmed either solely or with a family member/partner for the ten years prior to the transfer/lease of the lands to the transferee.

While there is no requirement that she would have to be the owner of the lands for a specific period prior to transfer/lease of the lands to the transferee, it could affect how her application would be classified. To qualify as a Sole Applicant she would have to be the owner of the pension lands on 31 December in the calendar year prior to the transfer/lease of the lands to the transferee. The lands would have to be the subject of an SPS/Area Aid application by the applicant/family member/partner at the date of signing of the transfer/lease (with the transferee) or in the year prior to signing.

Any application must, of course, fully comply with all of the Scheme conditions and a decision cannot be made on eligibility under the Scheme until the Department has had an opportunity to examine an application fully.

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

127 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their REP scheme payment. [17053/08]

The person named completed his REPS 2 contract on 31 December 2007 and has received all the payments due to him. My Department has no record of an application from him to rejoin REPS.

Schools Building Projects.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

128 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will provide a county breakdown of the projects under the school building projects programme that have completed the tender process, and are not included in the most recent announcement in respect of the school construction stage for 2008; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16967/08]

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

129 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary and post-primary building projects at stage three within her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16968/08]

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

130 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary and post-primary building projects at stage four within her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16969/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 128 to 130, inclusive, together.

The main emphasis in 2008 is on providing sufficient school places in rapidly developing areas as well as delivering improvements in the quality of existing primary and post-primary school accommodation throughout the country. On the 1st February last I announced the first phase of projects that will commence construction during 2008 and 2009. My announcement included details of the 18 large scale building projects approved for construction and a further 30 primary school projects in rapidly developing areas. Details of the projects approved can be viewed under the Press Release section of my Department's website at www.education.ie.

It is my intention to make a further announcement shortly and to provide an update on progress for the new schools planned for September 2008 delivery in developing areas.

A list of projects, broken down by county, which have now completed the tender process but did not feature in my announcement of the 1st February last is given in the following statement.

As there is no requirement to report back to my Department on the completion of stage 4, the most reliable information available refers to projects that have stage 3 approval and that have approval to advance to Planning Permission, to prepare Bills of Quantity and to arrange preparation of Tender Documents. The number of primary and post-primary school projects in that category is 51.

Projects which have completed the tender process but did not feature on the 1st February announcement

County

Tenders

Cavan

1

Cork

1

Donegal

2

Dublin

3

Galway

1

Kerry

1

Kildare

4

Kilkenny

1

Laois

1

Longford

1

Mayo

1

Meath

3

Monaghan

1

Offaly

1

Roscommon

1

Tipperary

1

Westmeath

1

Wicklow

1

Total

26

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

131 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of classes in primary education where children of nine or under are in a class of 30 or more; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16970/08]

Class size data for the school year 2007/2008 are currently being processed and are not yet available. Class size data by pupil age are not available.

Schools have flexibility in the way in which they assign pupils and teachers to classes and the Department does not allocate teachers to specific classes or age groups. The mainstream staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30th September of the previous school year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule which is issued to all primary schools each year.

Posts allocated on the basis of this staffing schedule are specifically for mainstream classes and should be deployed accordingly. School authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum.

As the Deputy will be aware, major improvements have been made in staffing at primary level in recent years. There are now in the region of 6,000 more primary teachers than there were in 2002. By the 2006/07 school year, we had reduced the average class size in our primary schools to 24, while the pupil teacher ratio was 16.4:1, including resource teachers etc. In that year, schools were staffed on the basis of a general rule of at least one classroom teacher for every 28 children. Given that the national average was 24, many schools benefited from much more favourable staffing ratios than this.

Extra teachers were provided by the Government for the 2007/08 school year to improve primary school staffing so that schools would generally get at least one classroom teacher for every 27 children.

A further initiative in recent years that has been of direct benefit to primary schools has been the change in the criteria for developing schools. For the current school year the threshold for getting a developing school post was reduced specifically to help schools that are seeing large increases in enrolments each year. Over 330 such posts have been sanctioned in the 2007/08 school year compared to 280 in 2006/07.

The improvements we have made in school staffing in recent years are absolutely unparalleled. The Government is committed to providing more teachers to our primary schools over the next five years in order to reduce class sizes. We will also continue our focus on measures to improve the quality of education in our primary schools to ensure that increased resources lead to better outcomes for our children.

Schools Building Projects.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

132 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary schools and secondary schools that applied for the summer works scheme, before her decision to abolish the scheme for 2008; the names of all the schools in this category and the works they applied for; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16972/08]

Over 3,000 Summer Works projects were funded by my Department since the introduction of the Scheme in 2004. With so many smaller scale projects having been funded in the last few years, the Department's intention is to concentrate the investment in school buildings this year on delivering as many large projects as possible.

While there will be a focus on providing extra places in developing areas, the Department will also be delivering improvements in the quality of existing primary and post-primary school accommodation throughout the country. The emphasis, however, will be on new schools, extensions and major refurbishments, rather than on smaller projects.

In the circumstances, there will not be a new Summer Works Scheme as part of the Department's building programme in 2008. This being the case, details in relation to applications received, project details and cost have not been collated. However, I can inform the Deputy that more than 1,000 applications for funding were received.

I would also advise the Deputy that it is my intention to have a Summer Works Scheme in 2009.

Asbestos Remediation Programme.

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

133 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason funding has not been put in place by her Department for the asbestos management programme for 2008; when a decision on funding will be made; if a school (details supplied) in Dublin 6 will be able to benefit when her Department makes the decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17003/08]

The schools Asbestos Remediation Programme is carried out by the Office of Public Works with funding provided by my Department. The position of the College referred to by the Deputy is being examined in my Department at present and the authorities will be informed of the position as soon as possible.

Educational Disadvantage.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

134 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science if funding for facilities for disadvantaged schools is still available (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17007/08]

Among the priority funding measures approved for support in 2006/2007 under the Educational Disadvantage category of the Dormant Account Fund and the RAPID Leverage Fund, was a scheme addressing educational infrastructure in disadvantaged schools. Eligibility for the scheme was restricted to primary and post primary schools participating in my Department's DEIS programme, schools in, or serving, RAPID areas and special schools.

The scheme consists of four measures and a number of sub-measures. The four measures are: Outdoor Play Facilities; Libraries; Parent Rooms; and Dining Areas. Schools were allowed to submit prioritised proposals under each of the measures. To date, total of €24.5 million has been made available to fund the scheme.

Due to the volume of applications received, the assessment process has had to be carried out on a phased basis. Under previous funding rounds, 447 outdoor play facilities and 146 library enhancement projects have been approved for a total of €11.26 million in grant aid.

Proposals identified by schools as either their first or second priority under the Parent Room measure, including the proposal referred to by the Deputy, have now been assessed and the applications rated as meriting funding have been determined. Lower priorities have not been assessed because there is insufficient funding. Government approval will be sought during May for Parent Room projects valued at approximately €3.5 million in total. Following approval, my Department will write to the schools concerned to advise them of the outcome of their applications.

Schools Building Projects.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

135 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding a school (details supplied) in County Galway; the reason, as has been reported, it is not authorised that this school would progress for the next stage at this time; if, in view of the fact that the school has had stage three approved and, with the imminent closure of another school, an increased school going population, together with cramped and outdated working conditions and facilities, this school is included in her Department’s multi-annual school building and modernisation programme for 2008; if so, the date for the project to move on to next stage; and if not, when it is envisaged that the next stage of the project will recommence. [17011/08]

My Department recently approved the Stage 3 submission for this project. The further progression of the project will be considered on an on-going basis in the context of my Department's Multi-Annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

136 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of a school building project at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 8; when this school can expect works to begin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17012/08]

The architectural planning of the school building project referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage. The further progression of the project, as with all major building projects will be considered on an ongoing basis in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Special Educational Needs.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

137 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will arrange for a smooth transition from primary to secondary school for a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17014/08]

As the Deputy will be aware, the National Council for Special Education is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating resource teachers and special needs assistants to schools to support children with special needs.

It is open to parents to contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, including issues that arise in relation to transition from primary to second-level, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

Schools Building Projects.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

138 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will give approval to permit the construction of a new school (details supplied) in County Westmeath; if the go ahead for same will be announced without further delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17029/08]

The further progression of this building project, as with all major projects, will be considered on an ongoing basis in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

139 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will approve funding towards the cost of work needed at a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [17036/08]

An official from my Department has been in contact with the school recently and correspondence in the matter is expected shortly. My Department will respond to the school on receipt of the correspondence.

Driving Licences.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

140 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedure to be followed in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6 who has applied for a public service vehicle licence and who has a clean drivers licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17119/08]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that an application by the person referred to by the Deputy for a public service vehicle licence has been received by An Garda Síochána and is currently being processed. The applicant is being kept appraised of progress.

Work Permits.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

141 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork, who has received a two year work permit, has only received a one year Garda National Immigration Bureau certificate of registration; if they are entitled to a certificate for a longer period than one year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16959/08]

I have been informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that they have requested the information sought from the Garda Authorities. The Immigration Division will be in contact with the Deputy when this information is to hand.

Visa Applications.

Sean Fleming

Ceist:

142 Deputy Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application for visitors visas for persons (details supplied) to visit Ireland will be dealt with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16981/08]

The applications referred to by the Deputy were received in the Visa Office, Dublin on 9 April 2008 and are currently being examined by a Visa Officer.

I would expect decisions on these applications, well in advance of the proposed travel date.

Garda Operations.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

143 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will quantify breath tests carried out on drivers involved in collisions attended by Gardaí in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007; the number of breath tests carried out in injury collisions; the number of positive or failed breath tests; the number of breath tests in damage only collisions; the number of positive, refused or failed breath tests in damage only collisions; the figures for 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 on blood-urine alcohol tests carried out on drivers involved in collisions, either at the station or in hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16989/08]

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

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

144 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to an application for family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17023/08]

I refer the Deputy to my previous answer to Parliamentary Question No. 241 put down for answer on 24th April 2008

The person in question made a Family Reunification application in February 2006.

The application was forwarded to the Refugee Applications Commissioner for investigation as required under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. This investigation is completed and the Commissioner has forwarded a report to my Department.

This application will be considered by my Department and a decision will issue in due course.

Visa Applications.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

145 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on the request by a person (details supplied) for a stamp four visa to permit them to live and work here. [17027/08]

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

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

146 Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on the application for naturalisation by a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [17038/08]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department on 12 April 2005.

On examination of the application it was determined that the person concerned did not meet the statutory residency requirements as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. A letter informing the applicant of this was issued on 13 April 2005. The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended, does not provide for an appeal against my decision on an application for a certificate of naturalisation. However, the representatives of the person concerned contacted the Citizenship section of my Department on 10 May 2005 requesting that the application be reconsidered, notwithstanding the fact that the person in question did not satisfy the statutory conditions. My officials responded in a letter dated 22 September 2005 outlining the position once again.

A new application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Section of this Department on 21 February 2008.

Officials in that Section inform me that processing of the application has not been examined in detail. Examination of the residency requirement will take place in the near future and the applicant will be will be contacted at that time informing him when his application will be further examined or of any shortfall in his residency.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

147 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17076/08]

The first named person arrived in the State on 3 July 2003 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 16 May 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the file is passed to me for decision.

The second named person, the wife of the first named person, arrived in the State on 25 May 2005 and applied for asylum. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 29 November 2006, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, she was notified of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned will be passed to me for decision.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

148 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in the matter of naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17077/08]

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

Officials in that section inform me that processing of the application has commenced and the file will be forwarded to me for a decision in the near future.

I will inform the Deputy and the person concerned when I have reached a decision on the matter.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

149 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17078/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 15 December 2006 and applied for asylum. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 16 August 2007, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, she was notified of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned will be passed to me for decision.

Refugee Status.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

150 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17079/08]

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

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

A final decision on this application will be made upon receipt of the recommendation of the Refugee Applications Commissioner or the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, as appropriate.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

151 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17080/08]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications.

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

A final decision on this application will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

152 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17081/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 26 September 2005 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 17 January 2007, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned will be passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

153 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17082/08]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 82 of Thursday 26 October 2006 and the written Reply to that Question.

The person concerned arrived in the State on 29 May 2003 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 3 February 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State.

Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the file is passed to me for decision.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

154 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to residency status and family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17083/08]

The person in question made a Family Reunification application in September 2006.

The application was forwarded to the Refugee Applications Commissioner for investigation as required under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. This investigation is completed and the Commissioner has forwarded a report to my Department.

This application will be considered by my Department and a decision will issue in due course.

At the present time Family Reunification applications are taking up to 24 months to process.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

155 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the application for naturalisation in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17084/08]

Applications for certificates of naturalisation from the individuals referred to in the Deputy's Question were received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in April 2006.

Officials in that section inform me that processing of the applications has commenced and the files will be forwarded to me for a decision in the near future.

I will inform the Deputy and the persons concerned when I have reached a decision on the matter.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

156 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency position in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17085/08]

Long term residency is an administrative scheme that was introduced in May 2004 and is focused on persons who have been legally resident in the State for over five years on the basis of work permit / work authorisation / work visa conditions. Such persons may apply to the Immigration Division of my Department for a five year residency extension. In that context they may also apply to be exempt from employment permit requirements.

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

An application for long term residency from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in February 2008. I understand that applications received in August 2006 are currently being dealt with. As soon as a decision is made on the case, the person concerned will be notified.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

157 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17086/08]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications.

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

A final decision on this application will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

158 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17087/08]

The immigration case histories and up to date positions of the two persons concerned, a husband and wife, are almost identical. As a result, for the purposes of the Deputy's Question, I will deal with the two cases as one.

Both of the persons concerned arrived in the State on 10 October 2005 and applied for asylum. Their respective asylum applications were refused following the individual consideration of their cases by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), both of the persons concerned were informed, he by letter dated 30 June 2006 and she by letter dated 5 July 2006, that the Minister proposed to make deportation orders in respect of them. They were each given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of deportation orders or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why they should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations were submitted on behalf of both of the persons concerned and will be fully considered, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the files are passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

159 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17088/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 1 October 2002 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 30 September 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the file is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

160 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17089/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 1 September 1996 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the then Asylum Division of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The person concerned appealed this determination to the then Asylum Appeals Unit. This appeal was refused by the relevant Appeals Authority. The person concerned was notified of the refusal of his appeal by letter dated 25 February 1999.

By letter dated 19 January 2000, the person concerned was informed that the Minister was considering his deportation from the State and advised him of the options open to him at that point in time, to be exercised within a period of 15 working days, namely to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to deportation or to submit written representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations were submitted on behalf of the person concerned.

Following the consideration of the case of the person concerned under Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended), a Deportation Order was signed by the Minister in respect of the person concerned on 11 May 2000. On 28 August 2002, the person concerned applied for residency in the State on the basis of marriage to an Irish citizen. However, following consideration of this application, the application was refused. This decision was conveyed to the person concerned by letter dated 7 July 2004. This communication also advised the person concerned of his options at that point in time, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making fresh representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Further representations were submitted on behalf of the person concerned. The Deportation Order issued in respect of the person concerned was revoked on 16 May 2007.

Subsequently, the person concerned was invited to submit an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). The person concerned submitted an application in accordance with these regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned will be passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

161 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will use his discretion to positively review the circumstances in the case of residency issue in the name of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 having particular regard to their change of circumstances since 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17090/08]

I would refer the Deputy to the reply I gave to his Dáil Question No. 214 of Thursday 14th February 2008. The status of the person concerned remains as set out in that reply.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

162 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will use his discretionary powers to review his decision not to grant residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick in view of the fact that circumstances have changed considerably since the initial decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17091/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 16 September 2001 on a valid visa. His visa expired and he travelled to the United Kingdom. He was returned to Ireland on 25 March 2003 on the basis of a Dublin Convention transfer, and claimed asylum. His application was refused by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner, and on appeal by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

The person concerned was informed by letter dated 14 January, 2005 that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of him and afforded him three options in accordance with Section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, namely to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of a Deportation Order or to submit, within 15 days, written representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State i.e. why he should not be deported.

On 17 January 2006, my predecessor refused permission to remain in the State and instead signed a Deportation Order in respect of him. Notice of this order was served by registered post and he presented himself to the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 on 2nd February 2006 as requested.

On 14 November 2006 an application for Subsidiary Protection was received on behalf of the applicant from his legal representatives. This application was refused and the legal representatives of the person concerned were notified by post of the decision on 14 December 2006. On 6 February 2007 the legal representatives of the person concerned initiated judicial review proceedings in relation to the refusal of their client's Subsidiary Protection refusal. On 5 November 2007 the legal representatives of the person concerned were given the opportunity to invoke the Minister's discretion under Regulation 4(2). The person concerned and his legal representatives were notified by letter dated 3 April 2008 that I had decided not to exercised my discretion and accept and consider the Subsidiary Protection application. The person concerned was required to present at the Garda National Immigration Bureau, 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 on 10 April 2008 to make travel arrangements for his removal from the State. He presented in GNIB on 9 April 2008 and was given a new presentation date of 16 April 2008 to present in Henry Street Garda Station Limerick. He failed to present as requested on this date and is classified as evading his deportation.

The effect of the Deportation Order is that the person concerned must leave the State and remain thereafter out of the State.

The enforcement of the Deportation Order remains an operational matter for the Bureau.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

163 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects residency status to be determined in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17092/08]

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

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

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

A final decision on this application will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

164 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17093/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 26 September 2003 and applied for asylum. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 14 April 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the file is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

165 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17094/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 13 April 2003 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 9 December 2004, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the file is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

166 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17095/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 21 October 2003 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 3 August 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations were received from the person concerned.

The person concerned has also submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006) and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned will be passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

167 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position as regard to residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17096/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 30 May 2003 and applied for asylum. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 28 October 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations were received from the person concerned.

The person concerned has also submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006) and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned will be passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

168 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17097/08]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications.

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

A final decision on this application will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

169 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17098/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 23 February 2005 and applied for asylum. Her asylum application was refused following consideration of the case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 25 January 2006, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations were submitted on behalf of the person concerned.

Before a final decision is taken in her case, the case file of the person concerned will be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned will be passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

170 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17099/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 10 September 2004 and applied for asylum. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 6 December 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations were received from the person concerned.

The person concerned has also submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006) and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned will be passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

171 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17100/08]

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

A final decision on this application will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

172 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will arrange for the issue of temporary documentation in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 who is awaiting a decision on a naturalisation application but requires temporary travel documentation in the interim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17101/08]

The person in question was issued with a Travel Document which expired in January 2008. I understand that the person in question has reported the loss of this travel document to the gardaí. He subsequently made an application to my Department for a replacement Travel Document. I am informed that my Department is currently investigating the loss of this Travel Document and will only consider issuing a replacement when the investigations are completed by the end of May.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

173 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24 with particular reference to naturalisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17102/08]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department on 16 September 2002.

On examination of the application, my predecessor decided to refuse the application. The reason for his refusal was disclosed to the applicant in a letter dated 15 November 2004.

It is open to the person in question to lodge a new application if and when he is in a position to satisfy the statutory requirements applicable at that time.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

174 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17103/08]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department in September 2002 and my predecessor decided to refuse the application. The reason for his decision was disclosed to the applicant in a letter dated 11 March 2004.

It is open to the person in question to lodge a new application if and when she is in a position to satisfy the statutory requirements applicable at that time.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

175 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in the matter of residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17104/08]

The person concerned was granted permission to remain in the State, on 20th February 2002, on the basis of his being the parent of an Irish citizen child. This permission is currently valid until 6th April 2009.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

176 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current of expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17105/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 21 January 2004 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. The person concerned then lodged Judicial Review Proceedings in the High Court challenging the determination of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal that he should not be declared to be a refugee. These Proceedings were unsuccessful.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 31 March 2008, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, he was notified of his entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). To date the person concerned has not submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State. Neither has he submitted representations in support of an application for temporary leave to remain in the State.

Before a final decision is taken in his case, the case file of the person concerned will be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned will be passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

177 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17106/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 6 December 2002 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 29 November 2004, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations were received from the person concerned.

The person concerned has also submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006) and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned will be passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

178 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of residency and the progress to date in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dunlin 24; when it is intended to reissue their stamp four card; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17107/08]

I am informed by the Immigration Division of my Department that the person in question was granted permission to remain under the Family Reunification Scheme and did not renew her permission to remain status prior to its expiration.

The onus is on the person in question to ensure that her registration details are kept up to date at all times and maintained satisfactorily and in accordance with the instructions provided by my Department at the time of her initial registration.

However, in order to assist the person in question, the Immigration Division of my Department has informed me that they will contact that person shortly and provide her with details of how she may renew her permission to remain.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

179 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17108/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 11 August 2003 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 26 September 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the file is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

180 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15 whose family law dispute appears to militate against settlement of their residency status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17109/08]

The person referred to was granted permission to remain in the State on 26 April 2005 for an initial period of 12 months on the basis of his marriage to an Irish national. This permission was renewed until 24 April, 2008. The person in question should contact the Marriage to Irish National Section of the Irish National Immigration Service if there are any changes in the circumstances regarding his marital status.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

181 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17110/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 12 May 2004 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 24 July 2006, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned and will be fully considered, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, before the file is passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

182 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected position in the matter of residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17111/08]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 18 July 2004 and applied for asylum. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 19 September 2007, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her. She was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. In addition, she was notified of her entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). The person concerned submitted an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with these Regulations and this application is under consideration at present. When consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that the Subsidiary Protection application is refused, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file of the person concerned will be passed to me for decision.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

183 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to applications for naturalisation in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17112/08]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 224 of 3 April 2008. The position remains as stated.

Asylum Support Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

184 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will authorise a transfer to alternative accommodation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17113/08]

The Reception and Integration Agency is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers in accordance with the Government policy of direct provision. The RIA currently has a portfolio of 63 centres across 22 counties, accommodating over 6,850 persons representing 96 nationalities.

By way of background, the Deputy may wish to note that the person referred to in the details supplied applied for asylum on 6 June 2006 along with her spouse. The child referred to was born on 19 September 2006. Both mother and child are currently being accommodated at the Eyre Powell accommodation centre in Newbridge. This person's spouse is being accommodated at another centre.

Both mother and child were provided accommodation in Eyre Powell accommodation centre from 15 June 2007 and were facilitated with a room to themselves from 14 August 2007.

The correspondence referred to in the details supplied refers to the standard of accommodation being provided to this family at Eyre Powell accommodation centre, although it clearly indicates that the person writing the letter has not seen the accommodation in question. In relation to the standard of accommodation provided in direct provision generally, the Deputy may wish to note that all accommodation providers are required under contract to ensure that accommodation centres comply and operate in accordance with all statutory requirements of local authorities and State agencies in relation to bedroom capacity, food, food-hygiene, water supply, fire safety and general safety.

The Agency engages independent external assessors to conduct comprehensive inspections of all centres on at least an annual basis. These inspections are always unannounced and the inspectors look at all aspects of the accommodation centres in relation to the proprietors' obligations under the contract. These inspections cover such areas as reception, staff cover, menus, facilities being provided, maintenance of the property and fire and safety issues. In addition, the Agency has an internal Inspections Unit which conducts inspections of each of the properties used to accommodate asylum seekers on a twice yearly basis. Further unannounced visits are made to accommodation centres throughout the State on a regular basis by senior management to ensure that standards are being maintained. Staff from the Agency hold information clinics on a regular basis in accommodation centres which afford asylum seekers an opportunity to comment on accommodation and operating standards and to discuss other general issues.

Any diminution in standards which comes to the attention of the RIA is immediately followed up and proprietors are instructed to make any changes and improvements deemed necessary. Follow-up inspections are also arranged as appropriate. In cases where standards stipulated in the contract have not been met and the proprietor has not made sufficient efforts to remedy the situation, the contract may be terminated.

The RIA has made every effort to facilitate this family and is satisfied that the separate accommodation provided at Eyre Powell accommodation centre represents the best solution available within the RIA's portfolio of direct provision accommodation at this time. Furthermore, it should be noted that the RIA has received no formal application for a transfer from this person.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

185 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the current or expected residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17114/08]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 247 of Thursday 3 April 2008 and the written Reply to that Question.

The person concerned arrived in the State on 7 June 2002 and made an application for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 10 September 2003, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned.

The case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will be carefully considered, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement, in advance of the file being passed to me for decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

186 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress to date in the application to remain on humanitarian grounds or under subsidiary protection in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17116/08]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 216 of Thursday 6 March 2008 and the written Reply to that Question.

The person concerned arrived in the State on 11 April 2003 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 30 September 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of leaving the State voluntarily, of consenting to the making of a deportation order or of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State. Representations have been submitted on behalf of the person concerned.

Additionally, the legal representative of the person concerned was recently advised of his client's entitlement to apply for Subsidiary Protection in the State in accordance with the European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006). If an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State is submitted on behalf of the person concerned, this application will be considered by my Department and when consideration of this application has been completed, the person concerned will be notified in writing of the outcome.

In the event that an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State is submitted and refused or if the person concerned does not submit such an application, the case file of the person concerned, including all representations submitted, will then be considered, under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement. When this latter consideration has been completed, the case file will be passed to me for decision.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

187 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 522 of 17 April 2008 and noting the serious consequences and threat to life of the person (details supplied) in County Cork, if he will further review the circumstances in the case having particular regard to the fact that their case was the subject of judicial review which found in favour of the applicant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17120/08]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications.

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

A final decision on this application will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Visa Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

188 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason in view of the fact that her visiting visa heretofore allowed her to attend college it cannot be updated for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15 in order to allow her continued education notwithstanding his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 192 of 10 April 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17121/08]

I refer to my answer to Parliamentary Question No. 192 of 10 April 2008. The person referred to in the Deputy's question was granted a C visit visa to enter the State for a period of three months for the purpose of a visit only, not to attend college in the State.

An examination of the papers in relation to the case indicates that the person concerned sought an extension of her C Visit Visa with the Immigration Division of my Department and was refused.

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

Every visa applicant is required to state on the application form the dates on which he or she proposes to enter and leave the State. He or she is also required to declare that the information supplied is correct and complete.

A C Visa is granted for visits of less than 90 days. As a consequence it is not the general policy to extend permission to remain to persons who are admitted initially for a period of 90 days or less on a C visit visa, save in very exceptional and unforeseen circumstances.

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

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

189 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will introduce a €2,000 top-up for hill sheep farmers in designated areas as a supplementary payment measure for farmers who are in REP scheme four, similar to what applied to farmers in the REP schemes two and three; if meetings have taken place with the Irish Farmers Association and his Department in this regard; the details of those meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16966/08]

In November 2006, my Department and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, introduced, in consultation with local landowners in the Owenduff/Nephinbeg Special Area of Conservation in County Mayo a series of agri-environmental measures which were required to comply with a judgement of the European Court of Justice in 2002. These measures included a 5 month off-wintering period to address the damage caused by over-grazing. Farmers within this region who were in existing REPS 2 and 3 contracts receive an extra payment of €2,000 in order to compensate them for additional costs imposed upon their farming activities, above and beyond those detailed in their existing REPS contracts.

As was indicated at a meeting earlier this week between the two Departments, the IFA and a representative group of local sheep farmers, the increased payment rates negotiated for REPS 4 were justified to the European Commission by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on the basis that they covered the full range of agri-environmental measures and associated costs that might apply to participating farmers. There did not therefore appear to be any basis for an additional payment in REPS 4.

Planning Issues.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

190 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of times the board of An Bord Pleanála has decided to set aside the recommendations of its inspectors when making a decision as to whether to grant or refuse planning permission in the past eight years; if he will make this information available in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16994/08]

Since the establishment of An Bord Pleanála in 1977, planning legislation has clearly assigned final responsibility for decisions on planning appeals to the Board and not to inspectors making reports and recommendations to the Board.

The details sought in the Question are set out in the following table.

Formal Board Decisions -v- Inspectors' Recommendations

Year

Number of Formal Decisions with Inspectors’ Reports

Inspectors’ Recommendation not accepted generally

%

2000

3,754

406

11

2001

3,905

352

9

2002

4,457

483

11

2003

3,121

317

10

2004

3,459

411

12

2005

3,814

479

13

2006

4,062

554

14

2007

4,611

603

13

The figures refer only to cases where the Board reversed the recommendation of the Inspector. They do not include cases where the Board amended the Inspector's recommendation by attaching, deleting or amending conditions or reasons for decisions.

In considering an appeal, the Board must consider all submissions on the file, together with their own Inspector's report and recommendation, and reach their own conclusion on the matter in line with the proper planning and sustainable development of the area. If they do not follow the recommendations of the Inspector, the Board must be satisfied that the facts of the case support their decision. Under the Planning and Development Act 2000, the Board must also give the reasons for their decisions and must specify the various reasons for not accepting the Inspector's recommendations.

The Board operates these provisions with appropriate transparency, for example, through the publication of Inspectors' reports and Boards decisions on its website and the publication of well documented annual reports.

Grant Payments.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

191 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 506 of 11 March 2008, when payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16995/08]

I understand that payment issued in this case on 15 April 2008.

Building Regulations.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

192 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the proper technical board will be set up to vet new membership to the Royal Institute of Architects Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17025/08]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 480 of 29 April, 2008 which set out the procedures for the technical assessment process for registration under Part 3 of the Building Control Act 2007.

Section 14 of the Act provides that a person who is a fellow or member of the registration body (the RIAI) is automatically eligible for inclusion in the statutory register of architects. Section 14 also provides that membership of the registration body is not a prerequisite for registration or continuance of registration but that all registered professionals are eligible for membership of the registration body.

Hunting Licences.

Tony Gregory

Ceist:

193 Deputy Tony Gregory asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the full details of his out of court settlement with a group (details supplied); the conditions by which a licence may be granted for carted deer hunting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17026/08]

This settlement with the Ward Union Hunt Club provides that I, as Minister, am entitled, under the Wildlife Act 1976 (as amended), to grant or refuse any application to hunt, while confirming that certain conditions included in the licence issued in December 2007 will not be re-imposed.

I will supply a copy of the settlement to the Deputy and I am happy to brief him further if requested.

Planning Issues.

Seamus Kirk

Ceist:

194 Deputy Seamus Kirk asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will issue a directive to local authorities regarding the upcoming review of county development plans, having regard to the significant contraction to the amount of agricultural land here in the past 15 to 20 years with its implications for volume of food supply generally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17037/08]

Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Development Plans were issued by my Department in June 2007 under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, which requires planning authorities to have regard to them in the performance of their functions. As regards the quantum of land that should be zoned for development, the guidelines emphasise that "development plans must be based on objective, needs driven assessment of future development requirements including the amount of land that needs to be zoned for particular purposes". The guidelines also state that "zoning that is not responsive to or justifiable by reference to reasonable needs, or that substantially exceeds such needs, is not consistent with proper planning and sustainable development".

As indicated in the reply to Question No. 394 of 22 April 2008, work is under way in my Department with the aim, inter alia, of ensuring greater integration between the National Spatial Strategy, Regional Planning Guidelines, development plans and local area planning which is relevant in the context of determining the amount of land to be zoned for development purposes.

Under the Planning and Development Act 2000, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is a statutory consultee in relation to all draft development plans and, as such, would be invited to make comments or submissions at draft plan stage on any matter falling within the remit or concern of that Minister including the issue of food supply.

Waste Disposal.

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

195 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position the Government took on the reclassification of incineration as energy recovery at European Council level in decisions on the new proposed Waste Framework Directive. [17047/08]

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

196 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position the Government will take on the reclassification of incineration as energy recovery at Council level in decisions on the new proposed Waste Framework Directive when it returns to Council. [17048/08]

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

197 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will support the inclusion of a binding waste hierarchy in the proposed Waste Framework Directive. [17049/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 195 to 197, inclusive, together.

I consider that incineration must always be regarded as disposal. Its definition as recovery within the proposed revised Waste Framework Directive will, in my view, undermine efforts to promote a recycling society and the promotion of reduction and reuse within the waste hierarchy. At the June 2007 Environment Council, I made my views known to that effect by entering a statement in the Council minutes along with the Czech Republic, who shared my views on this matter. Given that there was almost unanimity towards a political agreement at the Council I did not oppose the adoption of a common position at that time.

I have noted that the European Parliament Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety voted 80 amendments to the common position at its meeting on 8 April 2008 and that incineration and the waste hierarchy are among the issues where amendments are proposed. Concerning the waste hierarchy the Parliament wants a general rule rather than a guiding principle to apply and this is something I do not favour.

Currently, the EU Presidency has a mandate to negotiate towards a second reading agreement with the European Parliament on the basis of particular textual suggestions and plans three Trialogues before the deadline of 16 June 2008, when the Parliament plenary vote is scheduled. It is therefore premature to take a definitive position on the issue.

Inland Fisheries.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

198 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount of money put aside to undertake essential habitat improvements and fish stock rehabilitation works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16991/08]

Under the Fisheries Acts, primary responsibility for the management, conservation, protection and development of the inland fisheries resource rests with the Central and Regional Fisheries Boards.

A considerable proportion of fisheries boards' resources and personnel time is devoted to the habitat improvement and fish stock rehabilitation works.

Funding of €35 million has been allocated in my Department's vote for 2008, for Inland Fisheries, including over €31 million for the operations and activities of the Fisheries Boards, including the habitat improvement and fish stock rehabilitation efforts of the Boards.

In 2007 €1.25m was made available to the Regional Fisheries Boards to enable them to undertake additional river habitat improvement and fish stock rehabilitation, when changes to the salmon management regime were introduced.

Furthermore a Ministerial Direction under the Fisheries Act 1980, requires the Central and Regional Fisheries Boards to prepare and implement a programme for rehabilitation of salmon stocks, funded by the proceeds of the salmon conservation component of the salmon licence fees.

I am advised that in 2007 a total of €342,004 was invested by the Regional Fisheries Boards and some €200,000 by the Central Fisheries Board in 2008 from the proceeds of the salmon licence fees for such projects. Further details of the salmon conservation component funding will be published in the 2007 Annual Report and accounts for the Fisheries Boards. The proceeds of the licence fees will be similarly allocated in 2008.

Proposed Legislation.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

199 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he will introduce secondary legislation to enable the Loughs Agency to undertake functions including the regulation and development of aquaculture; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16992/08]

The Commencement Order required under the Foyle and Carlingford Fisheries Act 2007, in respect of sections of the Act relating to the agency's current functions along with the additional function of the management of sea fisheries, will be made in the near future simultaneously with an equivalent Order to be introduced by the Northern Ireland Executive.

Commencement of the sections of the Act dealing with the regulation and development of aquaculture will proceed as soon as the preparatory work, which is substantial, currently being undertaken by the Loughs Agency, is completed.

Consultancy Contracts.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

200 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the breakdown of all consultants currently engaged by his Department; the purpose of their contract; the amount each contract costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16993/08]

In the time available, it has not been possible to identify and assemble the information requested.

My Department is compiling the relevant data sought by the Deputy in this regard, and I shall forward it to him as soon as possible.

EU Directives.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

201 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the purpose and effect of the European Communities (Internal Market in Natural Gas) (Compulsory Acquisition) Regulations (S.I. No. 517 of 2001); the provisions of Directive 98/30/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 June 1998, regarding common rules for the internal market in natural gas, given effect to by those regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16999/08]

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

202 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if Article 4 of Directive 980/30/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 June 1998, contain the giving of powers of compulsory acquisition. [17000/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 201 and 202 together.

The European Communities (Internal Market in Natural Gas) (Compulsory Acquisition) Regulations (S.I. No. 517 of 2001) provided that powers of compulsory acquisition under the Gas Acts would apply in the same way to private developers as they already applied to Bord Gáis Éireann. These powers are now provided for in the Strategic Infrastructure Act, 2006.Directive 98/30/EC has been replaced by Directive 2003/55/EC. Article 4 of Directive 98/30/EC which relates to authorisation procedures for the construction of natural gas facilities and does not provide for powers of compulsory acquisition, is restated by Article 4 of Directive 2003/55/EC.