Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 10, inclusive, answered orally.

Energy Efficiency.

Andrew Doyle

Ceist:

11 Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will introduce a grant support scheme in respect of the upgrading of windows in homes in line with the objectives of the greener homes scheme and the home energy saving scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24161/09]

The Home Energy Saving (HES) Scheme, which opened for applications on 25 March, provides grant assistance for a range of energy efficiency applications. These include roof insulation, as well as specific internal and external wall insulation, and boilers and heating controls. Grant assistance is also provided for the assessment of energy upgrade requirements, through a Building Energy Rating (BER) rating before and after the remedial works.

The measures were selected for inclusion in the scheme, with the expert advice of Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) and in light of the pilot phase of the scheme last year.

SEI recommended the measures to my Department as being the most optimum to deliver significant energy savings to homeowners at least cost and as representing best use of budgetary resources.

Replacement windows are not currently eligible for grant assistance under the scheme. My Department and SEI are keeping the scheme under constant review and will continue to give consideration to the scope for adding other measures to the scheme, subject to budgetary and technical considerations. Similar to the Greener Homes Scheme, the Home Energy Savings Scheme will evolve and adapt as it rolls out and as the market for these measures matures. This may give rise to changes to the measures eligible under the scheme over time.

To date, there has been very strong interest in taking up grant offers for the existing six measures. Since the scheme opened less than three months ago, grants worth €16 million, have been offered to 12,000 homeowners nationwide.

There are critical benefits accruing for the construction industry from the Scheme in terms of economic activity, retraining and job retention. To date, over 2,000 contractors have registered with SEI to install measures under the scheme, with a similar level of BER assessors also being deployed.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

12 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to ensure that the ministerial car fleet will use bio-fuels; when he expects same to happen; if he will ensure that the bio-fuels used in the State fleet are sustainable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24053/09]

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

17 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the bio-fuel targets to which he is operating; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24181/09]

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

46 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding his commitment to the bio-fuels directive; the outcome of the public consultation process here; when this will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24085/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

48 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the measures he has taken to incentivise import substitution by encouraging production of bio-fuels and bio-diesel through the manufacture of pure plant oil; the full extent of the production at present and expected on an annual basis in the future with particular reference to ensuring that all those currently capable of pure plant oil production are authorised to do so; the extent to which it estimated that oil importation can be reduced by such methods on an annual basis over the next five years; the consequent benefit to the Exchequer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24025/09]

I propose to take Question Nos. 12, 17, 46 and 48 together.

Biofuels have a central role to play in the delivery of reductions in Greenhouse Gas emissions, as one of the few available and effective means of reducing emissions from transport.

Ireland must meet a challenging 10% renewable energy in transport target by 2020, under the terms of the Renewable Energy Directive. In that context, the development of a sustainable and robust biofuels supply is critical.

To date, the most important measures taken to incentivise the use of biofuels in Ireland have been the Biofuels Mineral Oil Tax Relief Schemes, which were introduced in 2005 and 2006 on the basis of competitive calls for proposals. The schemes have resulted in 18 projects being awarded excise relief between 2005 and 2010. Of these projects, four are in the biodiesel category, five are in the pure plant oil category, four are in the bioethanol category and 5 are in the captive fleets category.

Individual amounts of biofuel produced by particular companies under the schemes is deemed to be commercially sensitive information. I can advise the Deputy that under the First Scheme, excise relief was awarded on 16m litres of biofuel with over 6.8m litres of biofuel being produced to date. Under the Second Scheme, excise relief was awarded on 665m litres of biofuel. Up to the end of December 2008 there has been over 100m litres of biofuel produced. My Department does not have details of the number of companies that did not receive excise relief under the schemes but which are nonetheless, currently producing biofuel. No specific licensing is required for biofuel production, and no authorisations are required from my Department in this regard.

Since the excise relief schemes were introduced there has been a steady increase in biofuels used in Ireland. Prior to the introduction of the schemes, in common with other Member States, market penetration of biofuels in Ireland was almost non existent. In 2007, penetration had risen to 0.6% and on the basis of the Mineral Oil Tax Relief (MOTR) figures alone, penetration had risen to at least 1.5% in 2008. On the basis of a 4% penetration rate, the imports of mineral fuels can be expected to fall by around 2.5%. However, given that biofuels are approximately the same price as mineral fuels, the impact on the Exchequer and the consumer will be minimal in direct financial terms. Increased indigenous biofuels production will have a positive impact on the Irish economy and security of energy supply and sustainability by displacing imported fossil fuels.

The schemes were designed as interim measures to accelerate the level of biofuels in the fuel mix, and were put in place in anticipation of the planned introduction of a Biofuels Obligation Scheme in 2010. A public consultation was undertaken in October 2008, on the parameters of the Biofuels Obligation. The proposal for a penetration rate of 4% by volume (equating to approximately 3.2% by energy), was generally welcomed in the submissions made. An increase in penetration rate to 6% in 2012, being dependent on the outcome of a review. My Department is currently finalising proposals for legislation, which I will be bringing to Government shortly, with a view to the introduction of the Obligation in 2010.

Ireland's Biofuels Obligation will integrate the EU Sustainability Criteria, which are currently being finalised. The objective is to ensure that all biofuels counted towards the national obligation are fully sustainable in line with EU requirements. While the Ministerial car fleet, including fuel provision, is the responsibility of the Department of Justice, the obligation will ensure that any biofuels used by the State fleets will meet the EU sustainability criteria.

Broadcasting Services.

P. J. Sheehan

Ceist:

13 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the progress regarding the negotiations between a consortium (details supplied) and the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland in respect of a contract to provide commercial digital terrestrial television here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24117/09]

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

21 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he is satisfied that RTÉ has the capacity to roll out a full digital terrestrial television infrastructure by the end of 2009 due to funding challenges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24124/09]

Liz McManus

Ceist:

49 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the digital terrestrial television contract with a company (details supplied) has been finalised; if not, the timeframe for the signing of the contract; if he is satisfied that the roll-out of DTT will happen in a timely manner; when he expects the completion of the DTT project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24050/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 13, 21 and 49 together.

The Broadcasting (Amendment) Act, 2007 provides for the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) to licence commercial DTT operators, as a matter of priority. The BCI is an independent body and I have no role in its licensing process.

The 2007 Act also provides for RTÉ to establish a free to air national DTT service to replace the existing analogue terrestrial services offered by RTÉ, TG4 and TV3, as a matter of priority. There is no requirement on RTÉ to complete this work in 2009.

In relation to funding, the Act provides that the establishment and operation of the RTÉ national DTT service can be funded from licence fee monies.

The rollout of DTT infrastructure is well advanced and RTÉNL has already built a network which includes the main transmitter sites in Ireland. This represents the central component of their build plan. The remaining build work will largely involve upgrading the country's minor transmitter sites to provide "infill" coverage and to ensure that outlying areas in the West, North, North West and South of the country, those areas most reliant on the analogue terrestrial service, are also served by DTT.

I am confident that the DTT network will be built in time for the switch off of the analogue television services in 2012.

Telecommunications Services.

David Stanton

Ceist:

14 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when the final policy paper on next generation broadband will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24031/09]

In July 2008 I published a draft paper on Next Generation Broadband, which considered the challenges for the Government in positioning Ireland as a leading country in the provision of broadband infrastructure and in the development of new digital applications.

There has been an extensive consultation process following the publication on the draft paper. This involved written submissions on the paper, a one-day Forum held on the 30th September 2008 and an online consultation forum. The consultation process yielded a wide range of submissions from the industry, policy makers and broadband users. I am pleased to say that the thrust of the proposals in the draft paper was widely supported.

The final paper will be published within days and will provide a strong policy framework for the roll out of Next Generation Networks (NGN) as well as outlining specific Government initiatives. The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) are also to publish a paper very shortly on the regulatory framework for NGNs. Therefore a robust framework will be in place for prospective investors.

I must stress that progress is being made on a number of the specific actions set out in the draft paper. This includes actions such as a one-stop-shop for State infrastructure to facilitate the rollout of fibre to the regions; mandating new fibre to new build where practicable; high speed connectivity to schools and innovative use of frequency spectrum.

In addition, on foot of the principle that Government will have a direct investment role to play in bridging digital divides, where the market cannot provide solutions, direct Government intervention in the communications sector have continued apace. These include the agreement and initial roll-out of the National Broadband Scheme, improvement in International Connectivity through Project Kelvin and the substantial completion of the Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs).

As I already stated ComReg will very shortly publish a paper that will deal with the regulatory framework to support rollout of NGN. In this context it is recognised that the current system needs to be adapted to support investment. Towards this end, there is a role for collaborative models of engagement in rolling out high speed broadband networks, providing that existing regulatory requirements such as open access and non-discrimination are respected and that the overall competitive dynamic remains.

Energy Regulation.

Shane McEntee

Ceist:

15 Deputy Shane McEntee asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the level of price reduction consumers can expect from regulated gas prices in September 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24187/09]

The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) reduced gas tariffs by 12% from May 1st, following completion of the review of regulated tariffs, which I requested in February last. The Commission's decision on gas tariffs reflects much lower gas costs than forecast, exchange rate developments, and increased sales during the particularly cold winter months.

This CER pricing decision brought forward price reductions, which would otherwise have to take place in October of this year. The CER is undertaking its usual annual review of domestic tariffs in the coming weeks informed by a tariff submission from BGE. The prospect of any further gas price reductions next October will be determined primarily by wholesale gas price trends and gas demand over the coming months.

The reduction last month in regulated gas prices was less than the overall fall in wholesale prices, because the CER took steps to ensure that when international gas prices increased exponentially in 2008, consumers were not overly exposed to intermittent gas spikes.

In taking this approach, the CER took account of the emerging difficult economic situation and the potential impact of high price increases on business and consumers, including vulnerable customers. This approach meant that when fossil fuels were rising very significantly in early and mid-2008 the CER decided to implement an increase of 20% in the cost of gas. When the CER made this decision, the wholesale gas price had more than doubled in the previous 12 months.

I would point out that the CER has exited from the regulation of tariffs for large energy users. In that sector around 88%, in volume terms, of business has switched to the independent gas suppliers.

For those commercial customers on variable tariffs the substantial reductions in wholesale gas prices are already being reflected in their tariffs.

It is the case that energy costs have been of concern to enterprise for a number of years. This concern has been exacerbated by the economic downturn and the overall serious challenges facing business. I have made it consistently clear that all possible action that can be taken must be taken to reduce energy costs for the enterprise sector. Energy policy actions are focussed on mitigating those costs where possible. My Department is actively engaged on the energy costs issue with all relevant players, including the CER, Bord Gáis Éireann, the independent suppliers and the enterprise sector itself.

I have no direct role in the setting of gas prices, whether in the regulated or non-regulated sector. My policy objective is to secure sustainable and diverse energy supply at least cost for Irish business and consumers. The Government's comprehensive range of energy policy actions are designed to deliver this objective. They include optimising all possible energy efficiency gains by industry and by householders.

Television Licence Fee.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

16 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount of revenue collected from television licences in 2008 and to date in 2009; the amount or revenue for uncollected TV licences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24058/09]

In relation to the first part of the question, an amount of just over €224 million was collected in 2008 in respect of television licences revenue. This was made up of just over €168 million in respect of direct sales by An Post, €53.7 million paid by the Department of Social and Family Affairs for the issuing of ‘Free Lifetime' television licences and an additional €1.9 million for payment from the Department of Social and Family Affairs in respect of an outstanding issue from 2004 when a new system for calculating monthly payments came into being.As of 31st May of this year, approximately €91 million has been received by my Department in respect of television licence fee revenue.

The Deputy has also asked for the amount of revenue associated with uncollected TV licences. By its very nature, monies uncollected are very difficult to estimate.

My Department monitors the level of sales achieved by An Post and the volumes of sales can indicate the compliance, or otherwise, in this area. To date in 2009, the level of sales is running more or less on a par with last year. In the meantime, An Post is endeavouring to reduce the TV licence fee evasion rate on an ongoing basis. I would also point out to the Deputy that my Department, in negotiating the annual target of sales to be reached by An Post, factors in a 1% increase in the overall licence base as a means of reducing the level of evasion.

Question No. 17 answered with Question No. 12.

Broadcasting Services.

Noel Coonan

Ceist:

18 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the process and decision making structures to deal with the allocation of spectrum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24148/09]

The Radio spectrum is managed by countries at the national level and through international coordination. The overarching allocation of Radio spectrum is undertaken in an international context and in accordance with international regulations.

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), is the statutory body responsible for spectrum management in Ireland and is statutorily obliged under the Communications Act 2002, to produce, publish and maintain the national Radio Frequency Plan, which is a national table of frequency allocations. This document details International and European frequency allocations as well as national usage and relevant national and European legislation. Copies of this document can be obtained from ComReg (www.comreg.ie).

As Minister with overall responsibility for spectrum policy, I am committed to ensuring that the spectrum resource is assigned and used effectively. This involves the efficient use of spectrum and also involves ensuring that spectrum policy is sufficiently flexible to accommodate technological development and that it supports and promotes innovation, and research and development, in new spectrum based technologies.

Telecommunications Services.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

19 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on recent figures from the OECD which showed that Ireland fell one place to 21st out of 30 OECD countries for broadband penetration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24074/09]

When referring to broadband and broadband take-up the most commonly used indicator is the OECD indicator. This is the number of broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants. The most up to date report includes data as at the end of December 2008. Ireland, at 20.6, subscribers per 100 inhabitants, is behind the OECD average of 22.6.

This indicator does not take into account mobile broadband subscriber data. Ireland had 308,909 mobile broadband subscribers at the end of December 2008. Year-on-year, mobile broadband subscriptions increased in Ireland by 142%.

The OECD reporting is lagging behind developments in the market. Given the capability of mobile broadband to deliver broadband services that compare well with other platforms, the inclusion of mobile broadband subscriber data in OECD reports has been requested by various countries including Ireland. The OECD is now proposing to publish two indicators, one for wired broadband and another for wireless broadband (to include mobile data). It is important that advances made in broadband uptake in Ireland are reflected in the international statistics to give the complete picture.

Counting mobile broadband subscriptions, which the OECD will do in future reports, Ireland's score rises significantly to 27.1, and should be well ahead of the OECD average for future reports.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

20 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount and percentage of wind power with access to the national grid; the number of applications awaiting access to the grid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24070/09]

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

26 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to meet the raised target of 40% renewables; the measures he has taken to address previous calls from EirGrid for more to be done to construct the 250MW per annum needed to reach the renewables targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24072/09]

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

29 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the arrangements for obtaining grid connections regarding proposed wind farm operations; if such grid connections are transferable once approved; the controls which are exercised in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24091/09]

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

44 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to a practice whereby grid connections for proposed wind farm operations are subsequently sold without reference to the original land owners; his views on this practice; and his proposals to deal with same. [24092/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

171 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of wind farms currently contributing to the national grid; the total electricity generated thereby; the number of such farms seeking access to the national grid and their capacity to produce electricity in the future; when it is expected that approval will be given to all such applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24328/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 20, 26, 29, 44 and 171 together.

There are currently in excess of 1,400 megawatts (MWS) of renewable powered electricity generating plants accessing the electricity grid. Wind powered technology is the dominant renewable technology. There are 92 windfarms connected with a combined capacity in excess of 1,000 MWs compared to hydro-power with 240 MWs approximately connected and a lesser volume of biomass powered plant connected. The amount of renewable-powered plant connected and accessing the electricity grid is increasing steadily from year to year. It is estimated the available plants contributed 12.2% of all electricity consumed in 2009 compared to 4.4% in 2003.

There are a further 1400 MWs, approximately, of capacity in additional projects which have received connection offers, which have been accepted into REFIT and are in the process of gaining grid access. It is estimated that less than 300 MWs of this additional capacity is required to deliver or exceed the Government target to increase the contribution from renewable energy sources to 15% of all electricity consumed by 2010. The excess beyond 300 MWs will contribute to the subsequent Government target to achieve a 40% contribution by 2020. In addition, in December 2008, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) issued a decision which requires Eirgrid and ESB Networks to provide connection offers for an additional 3,900 MWs of new capacity to ensure the 2020 target can be achieved.

The actual completion rate of new renewable-energy powered projects in any future period will be determined by a number of factors including connections completions. In the case of the Gate 3 connection offers, the forecast delivery dates for connections will be notified in detailed connection offers from Eirgrid and ESB Networks planned for delivery to individual applicants later this year. The subsequent build rate of generation plants in any year will be dependent, in part, on the date of completion of grid reinforcements and connections by Eirgrid and ESB Networks rather than any forecast averaged annualised target for any period.

Applications for grid connections to permit grid access are made to ESB Networks for projects at or less than 20 MWs. Larger project applications, above 20 MWs, are made to EirGrid. Supervision of the grid connection process and settlement of any disputes arising is vested in the CER. I have no statutory authority to intervene or to set conditions for connections. However I understand that the connection process does facilitate changes in details, including changes to the named applicant, on connection applications and offers providing the technical specification of the connection proposed is not materially changed. This flexibility permits changes to project proposals without delaying those projects. Excluding technical changes from the permitted changes protects the expectations of landowners along the planned connection route.

Question No. 21 answered with Question No. 13.
Question No. 22 answered with Question No. 7.

Energy Regulation.

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

23 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he will change the regulatory model for setting the price in respect of domestic household electricity in order to allow the ESB compete on price; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24154/09]

I welcome the fact that the benefits of competition in electricity supply, which have previously been confined to large industrial and commercial customers, are finally available to domestic consumers. The entry into the domestic electricity market of two new suppliers, Airtricity and Bord Gáis Energy, demonstrates that policy to encourage competition in electricity generation and supply is paying dividends for consumers.

The independent suppliers are offering discounts of between 10% and 14% on ESB tariffs. These discounts apply even after the recent 10% reduction to ESB prices implemented by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER).

The independent suppliers are also offering domestic consumers fresh choices, such as the proportion of renewable electricity they purchase, as well as alternative billing arrangements.

Domestic customers have been switching to the independent suppliers in unprecedented numbers. However, there are close to 2 million domestic electricity customers and that ESB still retains approximately 90% of the market share.

The regulation of ESB tariffs will only continue until competition has taken firm hold in the market. Energy price regulation is designed to ensure that a dominant player cannot engage in uncompetitive, short-term pricing practices, which could undermine or drive out emerging competition.

The CER will continue to review overall energy tariff structures over the coming months taking account of global fuel prices, the importance of regulatory and market certainty for the energy sector and the competitiveness challenges facing industry.

Telecommunications Services.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

24 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the costs and timeframe of the MANs project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24068/09]

27 Phase I MANs are complete and being managed by e|Net. 59 of the 60 Phase II MANs are complete. The 60th MAN, Kinsale, is due for completion in Q2 2010. Phase II of the MANs Programme was originally envisaged to include 94 towns. In December 2007 the Minister suspended the construction of 28 of the Phase II MANs pending the outcome of the Value for Money and Policy Review (VFMP&R) of Phase I of the MANs, which was published in July 2008.

Approximately €85 million has been spent to date on Phase l of the MANs Programme and almost €98 million on Phase ll, to date. These costs include all construction costs, design and associated programme management costs as well as the local authorities' contributions of approximately €17 million. All networks were constructed under a fixed price contract and are co-financed under the European Regional Development Fund. The cost net of ERDF funding to the State of both Phases of the MANs Programmes is approximately €98 million.

Future broadband investment decisions, including investment in any further phases of the MANs Programme, will be guided by (i) the policy paper on Next Generation Broadband, which is being finalised at present, (ii) the Value for Money and Policy Review undertaken on Phase I of the MANs Programme and published in July 2008 and (iii) the availability of resources.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

25 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on directing State agencies and Departments to use both a lo-call number and a local number for members of the public to phone in view of the fact that many people have free national calls which would be more cost efficient than calling the lo-call number; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24064/09]

I have no statutory function in relation to setting policy in this area across the public sector.

My Department uses both a lo-call number and standard local number to facilitate a choice for members of the public. These numbers are published on the Department's website and in telephone directories.

The use of both a lo-call number and local number by the State Agencies under the aegis of my Department is a day-to-day operational issue for these agencies and I have no function in that regard.

Question No. 26 answered with Question No. 20.

Electricity Generation.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

27 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the action he is taking to promote the building of new combined heat and power plants here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24178/09]

Combined Heat and Power (or CHP) is a set of technologies which allows for both the generation of electricity and the use of heat released from the same process, thereby dramatically increasing the efficiency of the system. As such, CHP can make a valuable contribution to reducing energy costs to industry, and to reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions, particularly if the fuel source used is renewable, as in the case of biomass or biogas released from anaerobic digestion.

My Department currently has a number of programmes aimed at supporting the use of CHP. Perhaps the single most important of these relates to the CHP Deployment Programme, currently operated by Sustainable Energy Ireland. This programme provides information and support to those investigating the use of CHP of all kinds, including financial support for feasibility studies. Capital support is available to those installing Biomass fired CHP plants, or CHP plants based on Anaerobic Digestion (or AD), or small scale fossil powered CHP plants. Anaerobic Digestion involves the processing of plant or animal by-products in digesters, allowing the material to breakdown and release methane, which can then be burned in a CHP plant.

Since the capital support element of the CHP Programme opened, 80 applications have been received, with 58 approved to a total commitment value of nearly €5m. Based on all approved projects the installed capacity of the Capital Investment projects will be 14,562 kW of electricity and 19,937 kW thermal — representing a potential saving of 25,254 tonnes of CO2 per year and annual displaced grid electricity of 77 GWh. The projects installed to date have a combined capacity of nearly 8MW electrical and almost 12MW of thermal energy, and have drawn down over €1.6m in funding. To date 4 grant applications have been made for Biomass CHP, of which 3 were received in the last couple of months. One application has also been received for an AD CHP plant. Of the 4 Biomass applications, 1 has been approved in Co. Cork (to a value of 1.3 million). This project is currently under construction.

My Department is also in regular contact with the CHP group that exists within IBEC, and directly with the industry, in order to ensure that policy in this regard reflects the needs of industry.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

28 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount of funding which will be made available in 2009 for ocean energy projects; the persons who can access that funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24170/09]

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

57 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount of the proposed budget of €7 million which has been spent to date on ocean energy projects; if he will provide an overview of these projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24055/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28 and 57 together.

The Government is giving high priority to supporting the development of Ireland's ocean energy potential. Not only will ocean energy contribute to Ireland's renewable energy targets, it has considerable potential for inward investment and enterprise activity in support of economic renewal. The ocean energy package launched last year is designed to ensure Ireland is fully positioned to harness the rich potential of the technology. Delivery will entail close cooperation between Departments, agencies and the industry to deliver on the roadmap, which will transform ocean energy into a commercially viable industry.

The dedicated Ocean Energy Development Unit (OEDU) was established within Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) last year. It has since commenced full implementation of the ocean energy programme. Expenditure in 2008 was €1 million. The budget for ocean energy developments for 2009, which is the Unit's first full year in operation, is €7m. It is anticipated that the budget will be fully spent in 2009.

Ocean energy technologies are still in the research and development phase globally. It is estimated that there are about 10 megawatts (MWs) of ocean energy test projects installed at this time. This reflects the early phase of development of the technology within international research programmes. The Government's target, following suitable technology development, is to install 500 MWs of ocean energy technologies by 2020. We have also sent a clear signal to the market in the announcement of a feed-in tariff of €220 per megawatt hour for wave and tidal technologies under the REFIT Scheme.

The ocean energy strategy has already made significant initial progress. The Unit is open for business and is working with all players in rolling out the key elements of the ocean energy strategy.

There are already significant expressions of interest by a range of commercial players who wish to conduct R & D into Ireland's ocean energy potential, at the earliest opportunity. Attracting and retaining world class renewable energy companies to Ireland is key to the successful development of the ocean energy resource. The economic potential is estimated to be significant by the IDA.

I am working closely with my colleagues the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, to ensure that both the short term and medium term offshore energy licensing and planning issues are satisfactorily addressed. Clarity and certainty about the licensing regime is critical for industry confidence and to secure their long term commitment to Ireland.

The Ocean Energy Unit launched the industry prototype development fund towards the end of 2008. To date, 20 Expressions of Interest leading to seven firm proposals have been submitted by developers. Of these seven firm proposals for funding, 3 projects are well advanced in the assessment process and the other four proposals are completing technical and business evaluation. Funding decisions will be made in light of these evaluations.

SEI, in partnership with the Marine Institute and ESBI, has undertaken a detailed assessment process since 2007 to identify the most suitable wave energy test site with a grid connection to the electricity network. The development partnership will now develop a grid connected site off Annagh, County Mayo. This facility will test operational pre-commercial wave energy devices directly connected to the electricity network.

The Project team is completing detailed technical consultation with prospective industrial users of the facility. It is also completing engineering specifications, onshore and offshore lease applications, network connection and necessary on-shore works. The project is scheduled to be complete by 2010 subject to external factors including offshore sea conditions during the development phase.

The Unit is also working with University College Cork (UCC) to upgrade the existing wave-basin located at the Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre (HMRC) at UCC. The facility provides research and testing facilities for a variety of offshore purposes. The upgrade of the existing facility includes new wave generating equipment, new experimental test rigs, improved workshop facilities and advanced computer solutions for numerical analysis and modelling. Expenditure in 2009 on the facility is estimated at €1 million.

In addition, proposals for a new National Ocean Test Facility (NOTF) will be developed by 2012 as part of a proposed Maritime and Energy Research Centre beside the National Maritime College at Ringaskiddy.

I am committed to ensuring that we maintain momentum on all fronts. The work now under way will reap rich dividends for Ireland if we succeed in building the critical mass of knowledge skills and capability to test and develop the technology and systematically address the short to medium term challenges.

Question No. 29 answered with Question No. 20.

Telecommunications Services.

Joe Carey

Ceist:

30 Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if a full audit has been completed of all State owned broadband infrastructure; when such information will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24141/09]

The Consultation Paper on Next Generation Broadband (NGB), which I launched in July 2008, proposed the establishment of a one-stop-shop to provide service providers with flexible and open-access to existing and future State owned infrastructure suitable for telecoms services.

Trade over digital networks is becoming increasingly important and access to high speed broadband networks will be necessary if indigenous and foreign owned enterprises in the regions are to prosper in the SMART economy.

Leveraging publicly owned ducting has the capacity to significantly reduce costs for private sector investors in rolling out fibre to the regions and thereby improve competition in the electronic communications market.

The one-stop-shop received a largely positive response in the Consultation process on the NGB Paper and contributors recognised the potential of utilising State assets to provide fibre networks, in the regions.

Following the Consultation process, my officials worked with the relevant State agencies in the energy and transport sectors to compile a data-base of the supply of publicly-owned-infrastructure, which currently or potentially can support high speed broadband networks.

Following this process, maps have been compiled, which provide an indicative depiction of the supply and gaps of relevant State infrastructure. The maps also include the Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs), an essential component of broadband connectivity in the regions. These maps will be published as part of the Next Generation Broadband policy paper, which will be launched shortly.

It is important to note that the readiness of this infrastructure varies greatly between the different agencies. For example, while some agencies are already involved in the telecom sector, other agencies have no involvement in the sector.

Another factor to consider is that some publicly-owned infrastructure may be subject to existing contractual arrangements and may not be currently available on an open-access basis.

The next step on developing the one-stop-shop is to decide on the best operational model and I expect to make a decision in this area over the summer.

Proposed Legislation.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

31 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the climate change and energy security committee producing a Bill to facilitate off shore energy projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24166/09]

Mary Upton

Ceist:

41 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the proposals in respect of offshore wind planning published by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24083/09]

I propose to take Question Nos. 31 and 41 together.

I very much welcome the work carried out by the Climate Change and Energy Security Committee in producing a draft Bill to modernise the planning regime for offshore energy projects. The Bill proposed by the Committee is providing useful input into an ongoing review of the offshore planning system. The Government has agreed that the majority of the foreshore functions are to be transferred from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, where they are to be integrated into the onshore planning processes. This will provide greater clarity and certainty for developers. While this is a somewhat different route than that proposed by the Committee, a ‘fit for purpose' regime for renewables is very much the stated outcome desired by the Committee in its own proposals.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, has signalled his intention to modernise the foreshore consent process, and the legislation underpinning it, aimed at providing an accelerated timeline for the grant of leases/licences in order, inter alia, to enable the Government's renewable energy target of 40% by 2020 to be achieved.

In that context, an overall Marine Spatial Strategy will be developed, which will be facilitated by the Strategic Environmental Assessment of Irish waters for energy development that the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources is currently initiating through the Ocean Energy Development Unit of Sustainable Energy Ireland, in conjunction with the Marine Institute.

Fuel Poverty.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

32 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on whether the 300,000 people estimated to be living in fuel poverty are not reached by the warmer homes scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24069/09]

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

58 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he is taking to combat the growing numbers of people in fuel poverty; when he will publish the findings of the fuel poverty action research project; when this was first due for publication; if he has ensured that adequate funding has been given to the Combat Poverty Agency to complete its report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24067/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32 and 58 together.

The Government is committed to protecting vulnerable households from the impact of energy costs through a combination of institutional supports and investment in improving the energy efficiency of the housing stock. I am working closely with the Minister for Social and Family Affairs to deliver a fully cohesive approach across Government.

I established, last year, an Inter Departmental/Agency Group led by my Department and the Department for Social and Family Affairs, and which also includes the Departments of Finance, Taoiseach, the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and Health and Children, the Commission for Energy Regulation, Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI), ESB and BGE and the Institute of Public Health. The Group is also liaising with relevant groups and agencies in Northern Ireland.

This intensive cooperation and coordinated working by all the relevant Departments, agencies and the utilities is ensuring the effective delivery of a comprehensive approach to addressing energy affordability.

The most recent research figures available on fuel poverty in Ireland are contained in a recent working paper by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). There are a variety of ways to measure fuel poverty including the proportion of household expenditure on fuel, the condition of the house and the subjective view of occupants about their energy needs.

The ESRI estimates that using the expenditure method, over 300,000 or 19.4% of Irish households may have experienced fuel poverty in 2008. Alternatively, using the subjective method, over 68,000 or 4.6% of households reported that they could not afford to heat their homes adequately. There are many alternative definitions and measurements of fuel poverty. The Government's own working definition is the inability to afford adequate warmth in a home or the inability to achieve adequate warmth because the home is not energy efficient. By assisting vulnerable homes through the Warmer Homes Scheme to become more energy efficient, my Department, through SEI, is tackling one of the root causes of fuel poverty.

The Warmer Homes Scheme is administered by SEI and delivered by community based organisations (CBOs), which work in partnership with their local network of poverty and community support organisations, including public health nurses, Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) and St Vincent De Paul, to identify and address the energy needs of vulnerable homes. The scheme provides structural energy efficiency improvements to private homes in, or at risk of, fuel poverty. These measures include insulation, boiler lagging jackets, energy efficient lighting and draft proofing measures.

To date, energy efficiency improvements in almost 24,000 homes have been made under the Warmer Homes Scheme. Some €20 million has been provided for the scheme in 2009, which includes €5 million being provided between ESB and BGE. This will enable structural improvements to be made to at least 15,000 homes this year. This represents a very significant up-scaling of the Scheme and is indicative of the Government's commitment to the problems of energy affordability.

The Warmer Homes Scheme is designed to assist non-local authority homes only. The Fitzpatrick Report published by SEI in 2003 estimated that of those in or at risk of fuel poverty, one third lived in local authority homes. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, together with Local Authorities, provides separate services to upgrade the energy efficiency of social housing. Over the past four years, that Department has provided some €125 million to support the installation of central heating, and associated thermal insulation measures, in 25,650 local authority dwellings. A further €14 million has been set aside in 2009 to complete the programme and is expected to deliver improvements in over 2,000 dwellings.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has also set aside some €25 million for 2 initiatives designed to address fuel poverty in local authority dwellings, as well as contributing to the overall improvement in the energy efficiency of local authority stock. Of this, €20 million has already been allocated to local authorities to improve the energy efficiency of vacant dwellings, or apartment complexes, to a Building Energy rating (BER) standard of C1. The other €5 million has been set aside to support a number of demonstration projects that will achieve a BER rating in excess of C1 and will inform the future improvement of the overall local authority stock.

The Fuel Poverty Action Research Project was established by Combat Poverty and SEI to inform the future directions of energy efficiency programmes for vulnerable households. The project involved a rigorous assessment of the energy, environmental, thermal comfort and health benefits of the Warmer Homes Scheme. I understand that completion of the report was delayed by the accidental loss of some key interview data. To ensure the integrity of the analysis, these interviews had to be repeated. Funding was not a factor in this delay. Combat Poverty is currently finalising the report and I am informed that it will be published for consultation towards the end of July.

Corrib Gas Pipeline.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

33 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the progress being made by the forum for discussion set up in response to concerns expressed relating to bringing gas ashore in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24145/09]

The North West Mayo Forum was established by the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and I last November. Its objectives are to offer a positive opportunity for furthering the socio-economic development of the North West Mayo Region and to provide an opportunity for dialogue between all parties with an interest in the Corrib Gas Project on all aspects of the project.

Membership of the Forum includes representatives of a wide range of local groups; elected public representatives; Government Departments, State bodies and Shell E&P Ireland Limited along with representatives of its local workforce. A number of local groups opposed to the current configuration of the gas project have declined to participate in the Forum. Together with the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, I have facilitated a number of meetings with such groups outside of the Forum.

The Forum has met on three occasions and has facilitated discussion and debate on a range of issues relevant to the project and the region. In particular the Forum has helped promote an understanding of how the Corrib Gas Project is regulated by enabling members of the Forum to participate in a coordinated presentation and discussion with Government Departments and State bodies that have a regulatory role. Discussion and debate have also taken place on development opportunities in North West Mayo, including potential renewable energy related projects. The next meeting of the Forum will take place on Monday, 22nd June.

Telecommunications Services.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

34 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he is taking to provide high speed broadband services in rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24034/09]

In order to provide broadband services to areas that are not currently served by broadband, my Department has entered into a contract with "3", a Hutchison Whampoa company, for the delivery of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS). 3 will be required to provide services to all residences and businesses that are within the NBS area and which seek a service.

3 is currently planning the construction and rollout of the infrastructure required for the provision of the service. Challenging roll out targets have been agreed with 3. Services were launched in a small number of rural areas at the end of April 2009 and the entire NBS area must be covered by September 2010.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

35 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the management contract is in place to manage phase II of the MANs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24110/09]

The procurement process for the engagement of a Management Services Entity (MSE) for Phase II Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) is in the final stages of negotiations with e|Net, the preferred bidder. Value for money is a key consideration for the Department in the negotiations. Government approval will be necessary for the contract and, subject to this, I anticipate that the MSE will be in place in the very near future.

Liz McManus

Ceist:

36 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he will bring forward legislation to move the regulation of premium rate services from RegTel to ComReg; his views on whether mobile phone consumers need improved protection in this sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24049/09]

A draft Bill entitled ‘Communications Regulation (Premium Rate Services) Bill 2009', which has the purpose of transferring the regulation of premium rate services to ComReg and providing for more effective regulation of the sector in the interest of consumer protection, has recently been circulated to all Government Departments for their observations. I expect to submit the draft Bill to Government for approval, to be published shortly and to have it enacted as soon as possible thereafter.

I believe that consumers need improved protection in relation to the provision of premium rate services particularly subscription services and the proposed Bill, when enacted, will provide improved protection for all users of such services and will enhance consumer confidence in the sector.

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

37 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the measures taken to tackle the growing digital divide across rural and urban areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24066/09]

While the provision of broadband is a matter for the service providers, there are still some parts of the country where the private sector will be unable to justify the commercial provision of broadband services. In this regard, my Department has undertaken a variety of initiatives to address the gaps in broadband coverage including the Group Broadband Scheme, the Metropolitan Area Networks Programme and the National Broadband Scheme (NBS). These initiatives have been designed to bridge the digital divide, create greater equality in terms of social and economic inclusion and remove the disadvantage caused by a lack of broadband services.

The most recent initiative aimed at tackling the digital divide is the NBS. My Department has entered into a contract with "3", a Hutchison Whampoa company, for the delivery of the NBS. 3 will be required to provide services to all residences and businesses that are within the NBS area and who seek a service.

3 is currently planning the construction and rollout of the infrastructure required for the provision of the service. Challenging roll out targets have been agreed with 3. Services were launched in a small number of rural areas at the end of April 2009 and the entire NBS area must be covered by September 2010.

Question No. 38 answered with Question No. 10.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

39 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his view on reports that he has ruled out State involvement in Eircom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24073/09]

I can confirm that State ownership of eircom is not on my agenda. I am aware that the company is conducting a sales process at present and while I have no direct involvement in this, my view is that eircom remains of strategic importance to the telecoms sector in Ireland.

I am also of the view that the development of the telecommunications industry, particularly the evolution to high bandwidth services, requires the owner of eircom to have a long term strategic plan for the company which recognises the requirement for significant investment in infrastructure.

I can also state that I am happy to engage in dialogue with any potential owners of eircom with particular reference to clarifying the Government's policy in relation to the development of the telecommunications sector.

Programme for Government.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

40 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his priorities for his Department in the proposed renegotiations of the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24084/09]

The process and timeline for the renegotiation referred to by the Deputy has not yet been announced. I anticipate that the policy priorities of my Department will be accorded importance in this process thereby ensuring that the ambitious policy agenda for the area as set out in the Programme for Government can be delivered and indeed enhanced.

Question No. 41 answered with Question No. 31.

Alternative Energy Projects.

John Deasy

Ceist:

42 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the targets he is setting regarding microgeneration in view of the tariffs agreed a number of months ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24158/09]

In February 2009 I announced a number of interim measures to encourage the use of microgeneration in Ireland. Among the measures is a guaranteed price of 19 cent per kilowatt hour of electricity produced. This competitive feed-in tariff will apply to the first 4,000 micro-generation installations countrywide over the next three years. Eligible installations include small scale wind, photovoltaic, hydro and combined heat and power. I also announced the Microgeneration Field Trials programme to be run by SEI, which will assess the potential offered by Microgeneration in Ireland, and will also assess any potential barriers to its development.

This tariff is provided as follows. The Public Electricity Supplier (ESB Customer Supply) will offer an export payment of 9 cents per kWh. This payment will be available to domestic customers of PES. The ESB will provide import/export metering free of charge to the first 4,000 domestic customers installing micro-generators in the next 3 years.

As an initiative to support micro-generation, ESB will provide an extra support payment of 10 cents per kWh for the first 3,000kWh exported annually. This payment will be made to the first 4,000 micro-generators connected in the next 3 years and will be paid over a 5 year period. As part of this package of measures, Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) will be running a Small and Micro-Scale Generation Pilot Field Trials Programme. The overall aim of this pilot programme is to assess the potential for small and micro-scale generators in Ireland and to identify possible barriers, risks and benefits concerned with the deployment of these technologies in Ireland. Up to 50 sites will be supported under the pilot trial, with an approximately equal mix between Solar Photovoltaic and Wind sites and a number of small and micro-scale hydro sites.

Importantly, this set of measures are only an initial step. The output of the Pilot Field Trials Programme, and the experience of ESB Customer Supply, will inform future policy decisions with regard to incentives, infrastructure and those types of Microgeneration units that are most suitable to Irish conditions.

Question No. 43 answered with Question No. 9.
Question No. 44 answered with Question No. 20.

Postal Services.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

45 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding his policy on postcodes; the cost of implementation; the cost of consultancy on this issue to date; if he has examined whether GPS will make postcodes redundant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24054/09]

The Programme for Government provides for the introduction of a postcode system. In this regard, the National Postcode Project Board (NPPB) presented its recommendation in July 2006 as to the most appropriate postcode system for Ireland, the costs and benefits arising from its introduction along with a detailed implementation, promotion and maintenance plan. The board was assisted by technical and economic consultants, recruited by ComReg, at a cost of approximately €450,000.

The proposal of the NPPB was to proceed with an alpha-numeric postal sector postcode model and that each postcode would have a geo-coordinate at its centre and consequently would be compatible with GPS and other Global Navigation Satellite Systems. Whilst there are areas of overlap between the two systems, in my view, because of the different uses to which they can be put, satellite technologies will not make postcodes redundant. Indeed with the launch of the Galileo navigation system in 2011, the demand for postcodes should increase. This is because applications based on such systems become much more readily accessible to the public through the use of a postcode.

The report of the board estimated that the cost to the Exchequer of implementing and promoting the postcode would be approximately €15 million.

The Government decided, in May 2007, that prior to the introduction of postcodes, further analysis to quantify the wider economic and societal benefits should be carried out. This analysis has incurred total consultancy fees of €54,450. The resultant report is currently being assessed by my officials with a view to progressing the project and when complete, I expect to bring a further proposal to Government in relation to the introduction of postcodes.

Question No. 46 answered with Question No. 12.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

47 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on a proposed project (details supplied); if he supports this project; if not the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24079/09]

The promoters of the Spirit of Ireland project have presented their proposal in recent meetings with my Department, with other Departments as well as with the ESB, EirGrid and the Commission for Energy Regulation. I have also personally met with the project promoters in the past few weeks.

These initial meetings have given me and my Department good preliminary insight into this highly ambitious and complex proposal to meet Ireland's energy needs. The promoters themselves acknowledge that there are very many elements to the project which need to be further explored and evaluated through appropriate evidence based engagement. That engagement with the promoters is continuing.

I welcome all private sector endeavours seeking to promote and deploy renewable energy to the benefit of the economy and consumers.

Question No. 48 answered with Question No. 12.
Question No. 49 answered with Question No. 13.

Remediation Works.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

50 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the timeframe for the completion of the remediation of Gortmore mines, County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24075/09]

Phase 1 of the remediation works at the Tailings Management Facility at Gortmore, Silvermines, County Tipperary, was completed in 2008, on time and within the budgeted cost.

The phase 2 works are scheduled to start in mid-July 2009 and are planned to be substantially completed by the end of 2009, with some minor elements being completed in early 2010. These works will complete the remediation of the Gortmore site. The site will, of course, be subject to long term monitoring and appropriate maintenance works will be undertaken as necessary.

Telecommunications Services.

David Stanton

Ceist:

51 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the rollout of broadband under the national broadband scheme is on target to be 50% completed by September 2009 and fully completed by the end of 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24032/09]

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

54 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the national broadband scheme; if this scheme is on target; the way broadband will be provided to the areas which are not covered by the NBS map but who do not have broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24071/09]

I propose to take Question Nos. 51 and 54 together.

My Department entered into a contract with "3", a Hutchison Whampoa company, for the delivery of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS) in late December 2008. 3 is required to provide services to all fixed residences and businesses that are located within the NBS Coverage Area and who seek a service.

To this end, challenging programme roll-out targets have been agreed with 3 and initial NBS services were launched in a small number of rural areas at the end of April this year. Broadband coverage in individual electoral divisions (EDs) will be made available incrementally during the coming months. The forthcoming availability of services to premises located within identified EDs will be announced progressively prior to their enablement on 3's coverage map which can be accessed on its website at www.three.ie/nbs.

48% of the EDs in the NBS Coverage Area are required to be enabled by the end of December 2009, while all of the EDs in the NBS Coverage Area are required to be enabled by the end of September 2010. My Department is informed by 3 that these targets will be achieved. My Department will be intensively monitoring the situation in this regard.

As regards the exclusion of certain unserved premises from the NBS, it is important to clarify that, in designing the NBS, which was approved by the EU Commission, a balance had to be struck between reaching as many unserved areas as possible and minimising the impact of the scheme on businesses already providing broadband services in rural areas.

EU state aid and competition rules govern how States can intervene in areas where there are existing service providers. The nature of broadband networks is such that they provide a coverage footprint over a certain area rather than an individual link to isolated premises. It was essential to guard against the NBS coverage footprint spilling over to an extent which would be unacceptable from a state aids perspective, onto surrounding areas already served by existing service providers.

Accordingly, to try to include individually unserved premises that are located within EDs deemed to be already served within the scope of the NBS would have given rise to an unacceptable level of market distortion and therefore, such areas had to be excluded.

It is expected that over time, as competition increases and technology develops, service providers will be attracted to offer service to any such premises located within currently served areas.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

52 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of schools which have high speed broadband; the number of schools in the broadband for schools initiative which have satellite internet, fibre, DSL and wireless; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24065/09]

The Schools Broadband Access Programme, administered by the Department of Education and Science, has three elements — local connectivity to schools, a national broadband network and a broadband support service desk. Schools' connectivity is being routed to the Internet through a national broadband network, which is supported by HEAnet and provides centrally managed services for schools such as security, anti-spam/ anti-virus and content filtering.

3,905 schools have been provided with broadband connectivity under the Schools Broadband Access Programme. Of these, 1,250 (32%) have fixed line services, 1,015 (26%) have wireless services and 1,640 (42%) have satellite services. A further 72 schools have had broadband access provided under the Hermes and Advanced Deployment Programmes and are not included in the 3,905 schools. The split of technology services across these 72 schools is: 43 fixed line services, 25 wireless technologies and 4 satellite services.

In addition, the Department has migrated schools to superior alternative technologies, where feasible. The Department is currently evaluating tenders received for the next phase of the programme.

The 100mbps to post-primary schools project will involve an initial pilot project in 2009 to guide its wider roll out. The procurement process for the pilot project will commence this month.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

53 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding his Department’s target as part of the programme for Government’s target of a 3% cut in carbon emissions per annum; the action he will take to meet that target; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24076/09]

The Programme for Government target refers to a 3% reduction per year on average in greenhouse gas emissions.

The energy sector for which I have policy responsibility will make a leading contribution towards reducing green house gas emissions through a range of measures designed to improve energy efficiency and increase the penetration of renewable energy across the electricity, heat and transport sectors.

Among the significant energy efficiency initiatives introduced already are the extension of the accelerated capital allowance scheme, which allows companies to write off for tax purposes the full capital cost of certain classes of energy efficient equipment in the year of purchase and the Home Energy Savings Scheme. The range of tax allowance qualifying energy efficient equipment has been widened in the 2009 Budget to include energy efficient data server systems and on site electricity generation equipment. I am allocating significant resources of €50 million to the Home Energy Saving Scheme, in order to provide grants of up to 40% of the cost of retro-fitting homes. This scheme will increase energy efficiency and lead to CO2 savings and complements the €20m Warmer Homes Scheme, which provides insulation and energy advice to low income households.

The National Energy Efficiency Action Plan, which I published last month, sets out the Government's comprehensive programme of action to be implemented across all sectors to deliver on our national and EU targets for energy efficiency, along with resulting reductions in green house gas emissions. The plan is designed to achieve 20% energy saving across all sectors with 33% savings in public sector, saving €1.6 billion per annum in 2020 in avoided energy costs.

Further programmes, as set out in the plan in the area of energy efficiency, will be rolled out in the coming years and I expect that these will significantly add to the savings already identified.

The Government has adopted a target of 40% by 2020 for renewable electricity. The target is underpinned by analysis conducted in the All Island Grid Study, which found that a 40% penetration is technically feasible, subject to upgrading our electricity grid and ensuring the development of flexible generating plant on the electricity system. The study concluded that achieving this higher level of renewable electricity would reduce our carbon emissions from electricity by 25% over the business-as-usual scenario, a saving of around 5 million tonnes.

We are also working in collaboration with SEI and ESB on moving to introduce electric vehicles in line with the Government's target of 10% by 2020. I recently announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government and ESB and Renault-Nissan, which will create favourable conditions for the introduction of electric vehicles here.

In the area of biofuels, I published a consultation paper in October 2008 on the introduction of an obligation scheme. This suggested a penetration rate of 4% by volume (equating to approximately 3.2% by energy) for the obligation, and was generally well received. This will be the initial rate for the obligation, with an increase to 6% in 2012 being dependent on the outcome of a review. My Department is currently finalising proposals for Heads of a Bill and I expect the Obligation to come into force in 2010.

Other energy initiatives funded by my Department and designed to move us towards lower carbon emissions include the major ocean energy research and development programme and Sustainable Energy Ireland's heating sector programmes.

Question No. 54 answered with Question No. 51.

Energy Regulation.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

55 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the high price of electricity for small and medium businesses; the way Ireland compares with other European countries on electricity rates for business; the action he will take to make Ireland more competitive in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24057/09]

The latest available comparative data from Eurostat, published by Sustainable Energy Ireland in their report "Understanding Electricity & Gas Prices in Ireland", which covers the first six months of 2008, shows that for the most common category of small and medium businesses, Irish electricity prices are slightly below the EU average. However, for larger energy users Irish electricity prices tend to be above the EU average.

Energy costs have been of concern to enterprise for a number of years. This concern has been exacerbated by the economic downturn and the overall serious challenges facing business. I have made it consistently clear that all possible action that can be taken must be taken to reduce energy costs for the enterprise sector. Energy policy actions are focussed on mitigating those costs where possible.

My Department is actively engaged on the energy costs issue with all relevant players, including the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), ESB, the independent suppliers and the enterprise sector itself.

Already, all electricity users are benefitting from a reduction in electricity tariffs of 10% from May 1st, following completion of the review of regulated tariffs, which I requested in February last. In addition, since January 1st all electricity users are benefitting from nearly €400 million in rebates from ESB which have further lowered electricity costs to business. Electricity prices for large energy users in the enterprise sector are not subject to regulation and benefit from competition in this area. Many of these enterprises have seen substantial reductions in electricity prices in recent months due to the fall in gas prices.

Energy support programmes, offered by Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI), are proving very successful in helping businesses reduce their energy usage and hence their costs. The activity is proving that quite significant savings are achievable, even among firms that have been active in energy efficiency for some time. Many firms are making significant gains and Irish industry is developing an international reputation for its efficiency activity.

Long run data from the Large Industry Energy Network shows that firms that have engaged with SEI over several years have on average made efficiency gains of 33% beyond what otherwise would have been achieved. This is a very significant saving, and each year the data is re-confirming that more cost savings can still be delivered.

There is also active competition between electricity suppliers in the SME market and companies can avail of discounts of up to 10% — 20% simply by switching suppliers. Already approximately 60% of SMEs have made this switch and are experiencing the benefits.

While I have no direct role in the setting of energy prices, whether in the regulated or non-regulated sector, my objective is to secure sustainable and diverse energy supply at least cost for Irish business and consumers. The Government's comprehensive range of energy policy actions are designed to deliver this objective.

These actions include but are not limited to delivering competition and consumer choice through continuing the market liberalisation process. In doing so we will ensure that the regulatory framework can meet the evolving energy policy challenges and focus, in particular, on creating jobs, growth and innovation in the energy sector. These actions are essential to delivering an energy sector that provides a reliable and competitively priced energy supply in support of economic renewal and competitiveness.

Semi-State Bodies.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

56 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his policy on the future of the ESB in regard to privatisation; if he will report on his policy to transfer assets from the ESB to EirGrid; the findings of the independent analysis carried out on this issue; when he expects to publish the findings from that independent analysis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24061/09]

The Government has no plans to privatise the ESB. The Government's policy in relation to the ownership of the electricity transmission and distributions networks is clearly set out in the Energy Policy White Paper and reaffirmed in the Programme for Government. It is the Government's explicit position that the transmission and distribution network assets will remain in State ownership in perpetuity as strategic national assets.

The decision to transfer the transmission assets to EirGrid, as the State-owned independent transmission system operator, is fully in line with that position and also reflects EU policy on transmission unbundling. Implementation of the transmission assets decision will be progressed in a way that ensures the strategic future of both EirGrid and ESB as strong viable Semi State entities, as well as reflecting the position of the State and the ESOT as shareholders and the interests of the energy sector and energy consumers.

The transfer of the transmission assets involves the resolution of complex technical, financial and operational issues as well as legislation. I have consistently underlined the need for transparent and inclusive engagement with all relevant stakeholders in the process of implementing Government policy in relation to the transfer of the electricity transmission assets. I have already announced the commissioning of an independent analysis of the transmission transfer, including costs, benefits and regulatory impact assessment, set in the context also of EU developments and the all island single electricity market.

Input to the process of independent analysis will accordingly be invited from the direct key stakeholders. These are the management and unions of ESB and EirGrid, the ESB Employee Share Ownership Trust, as well as the Commission for Energy Regulation and the Department of Finance. All the direct stakeholders have pivotal roles to play in the process of engagement and analysis and in achieving outcomes that are best for EirGrid and ESB, which are satisfactory for all parties concerned, and which are in the best interests of the economy and consumers.

I will announce the appointment of the senior independent chair of the process before the end of June with a view to getting the collective process of engagement and analysis under way. The timing and content of the legislation required to underpin the transfer of the transmission assets will be informed by the process, which it is intended to conclude early next year.

Question No. 57 answered with Question No. 28.
Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 32.

Telecommunications Services.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

59 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he is taking to provide broadband coverage to areas not serviced by the national broadband scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24033/09]

In designing the National Broadband Scheme (NBS), which was approved by the EU Commission, my Department needed to strike a balance between reaching as many unserved premises as possible and minimising the impact of the scheme on businesses already providing broadband services in rural areas, thereby minimising market distortion in accordance with EU State Aid rules.

The NBS will be rolled out on an electoral division (ED) basis, which are the smallest administrative areas used for statistical purposes in the country. In adopting the ED model my Department was faced with a further decision to determine which EDs should be addressed by the NBS. This decision was made based on levels of the existing combined broadband coverage in relevant EDs. Where an ED is completely unserved by any existing service provider it is included in the NBS. Where it is substantially covered by existing service providers it is excluded from the NBS. Where an ED is not substantially covered by existing service providers, it will be addressed by the Scheme. In this regard EU State Aid and competition rules govern how States can intervene in areas that are already substantially served by broadband. While recognising that some premises within substantially served areas may have difficulties for a variety of reasons in receiving a broadband service, the NBS cannot cater for such limited instances as to do so would give rise to an unacceptable level of market distortion.

It is expected that over time, as competition increases, service providers will be attracted to offer service to unserved premises in these areas. It is also expected that technology innovations e.g. improved satellite broadband services, will result in increased competition in these areas.

Regional Fisheries Boards.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

60 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the restructuring of the regional fisheries boards; the staffing requirements and redundancy schemes in respect of same; the situation regarding the position of the current chief executive officers of the fisheries boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24078/09]

Following on from the 2009 Budget Day announcement on 14th October 2008 on the rationalisation of State agencies, the Government has now formally approved proposals for the restructuring of the inland fisheries sector, which include the creation of a single strengthened national inland fisheries authority to be known as Inland Fisheries Ireland. This authority will replace the existing Central and seven Regional Fisheries Boards.

Given the nature of its work the new authority will of course continue to have a strong regional presence.

A restructuring implementation group, which includes representatives of the Central and Regional Fisheries Boards, has been established and will help develop the key features and structures of the model.

Primary legislation is required to bring about this restructuring and in this regard a draft Heads of Bill has recently been approved by Government. It is expected that the legislation will be published in late summer, be progressed through the Oireachtas later this year and that the new authority will be in place before the end of 2009.

The terms and conditions of employment of the staff of the Central and Regional Fisheries Boards, including the current Chief Executive Officers, will not be any less favourable than those currently obtaining and indeed staff will be afforded specific statutory protection in this case.

Independently of the restructuring exercise, the staff of the Central and Regional Fisheries Boards are eligible to participate in the Incentivised Scheme of Early Retirement; Special Incentive Career Break Scheme and Shorter Working Year Scheme each of which were introduced following the Supplementary Budget of 7 April 2009.

Telecommunications Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

61 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he is satisfied that the adequacy and durability of the telecommunications infrastructure with particular reference to the long-term availability of cable, wire dependent and wireless services; if the standard, quality and extent of the services currently available in competing EU and non-EU economies expected to become available here or to be provided in the near future; if all service providers are adequately solvent or capable of raising the necessary capital to provide the required level of investment and meet the ongoing customer requirements in terms of the modernisation of services including high speed broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24024/09]

The primary role of the Government in the development of the electronic communications market is to formulate regulatory and infrastructural policies to facilitate the provision of high quality services by competing private sector service providers. This policy approach has facilitated sustained take up of broadband across all platforms in recent years. With increased cable and mobile subscribers in particular, Ireland had over 1.2 million broadband subscribers at the end of last year. Over 62% of Irish households had a broadband connection and most of those are now using higher speed connections as increasing competition between the platforms continues to have a very positive effect. SMEs are also increasing their take up of broadband connections to the extent that the latest figures published by the Central Statistics Office in May 2009 shows that 83% of SMEs had a broadband connection.

Corrib Gas Pipeline.

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

62 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the possibility that there will be a gas shortage here in the winter of 2009 if there are further delays in the Corrib gas project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24060/09]

Currently, 96% of Ireland's natural gas requirements are met by imports from the British wholesale gas market via two interconnectors with Scotland. The remainder comes from storage and the Kinsale Field, which is in decline. The coming on stream of gas from the Corrib Gas Field will critically alleviate Ireland's dependence on imports for its period of production. The field has the potential to supply 60% of annual demand, and 40% of peak demand, for at least five years. Throughout, the capacity to import gas from the British market through the two interconnectors will remain.

The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) has statutory responsibility for monitoring and ensuring security of natural gas supply. The CER is also required to produce an annual Gas Capacity Statement. This Statement provides a seven year rolling forecast of customer demand, network capacity and gas flows, in light of which the adequacy of Ireland's gas transmission system is analysed.

The 2009 Gas Capacity Statement is currently being prepared and includes a range of possible scenarios regarding differing supply and demand levels. One such scenario is that of a post 2010 date for gas coming ashore from the Corrib field. The network modelling analysis indicates that the existing transmission systems have sufficient capacity to meet current demand and to cope with the Corrib project not coming on stream until 2011. In this low supply case it is also assumed that there are no other new supplies into the system so that, once the flows from Kinsale cease in 2013/14, the rest of the system demand has to be met by gas supplied from the UK at Moffat. The analysis shows that there will be sufficient capacity at Moffat to meet the demand up until 2014 but measures may be needed to increase capacity after that time if Corrib or other new supply sources are not available.

As regards the availability of gas commodity, it should be noted that Bord Gáis Energy Supply is obliged to purchase gas in advance so as to ensure that the demand of domestic and SME customers is met.

The ongoing difficulties between Russia and Ukraine, which has potential implications for European gas supply, underlines the strategic imperative to diversify Ireland's sources of gas supply and the crucial importance of bringing the Corrib Gas Field into production. It also underlines that for Ireland, as for all Member States, a coordinated EU approach to security of gas supply is essential.

Energy Efficiency.

Joe Costello

Ceist:

63 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the recommendations from the national energy efficiency action plan which will be implemented before end of 2009; if he will direct attention to the services area in particular; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there has been a significant growth in energy use in this sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24052/09]

I published "Maximising Ireland's Energy Efficiency — The National Energy Efficiency Action Plan 2009–2020" on 8 May 2009. The purpose of this Action Plan is to identify those policies and measures that have the potential to contribute towards the Government's national energy efficiency target of 20% energy savings across the economy by 2020. The Plan sets out details of 90 actions that Government is either taking now or is planning to implement in the next year or two to reach our target. These are concrete actions adopted by Government and not recommendations.

The Action Plan sets out in Chapter 12 a timetable for all 90 actions. This indicates that some 81 of the 90 actions in the Plan are either already being implemented or their implementation will commence no later than 2009.

According to Sustainable Energy Ireland's (SEI) recently published 2009 report "Energy Efficiency in Ireland", energy usage in the services sector has been growing in recent years, increasing by 53% between 1995 and 2007. This reflects the increasing importance of this sector in the Irish economy and the growth in enterprise in the area. By contrast, the energy intensity of the services sector decreased by 31% over the same period, a positive development indicating the increased added value in the sector. This improvement in the energy intensity of the services sector would have been even greater, but for the intensity of electricity use which increased over the period.

Electricity use per employee was 27% higher in 2007 than in 1995. By contrast, fuel consumption per employee decreased by 38% over the period. These figures suggest that growth in energy use in the services sector has in recent years been primarily led by growth in electricity usage. This is probably explained by increased use of office equipment, computers, servers and related equipment, as well as traditional high electricity usage functions such as lighting. This makes electricity usage in the services sector of increasing importance to Government in designing its energy efficiency programmes for business.

I have made available some €4 million to SEI in 2009 for energy advice and support services for the business and public sectors. A further €6.5 million is also available for grant aid to specific energy efficiency projects in the business and public sectors.

SEI has placed a particular emphasis on the services sector in the expansion of its advice and support programmes for business and in particular to SMEs. In the past year, SEI has provided direct advice and support to over 1,000 firms, the majority of these in the services sector.

SEI is also focusing on the key energy using technologies in the sector, for example ICT and lighting and has conducted nationwide road shows to showcase energy savings available to business from using lighting more efficiently and using more efficient lighting.

SEI will continue to expand its work with the services sector, both private and public, to drive efficiency gains and build on the successes to date.

Small Business Forum.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

64 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding the future of the small business forum; if further meetings and a work programme are planned; and her views on giving the forum a significant role in view of the importance of the small business sector in the economic climate. [24236/09]

The Small Business Forum published its Report on 16 May 2006. Subsequently, it reassembled as the Implementation Body on three occasions to review progress on the implementation of the recommendations. The need for any further meetings will be kept under review.

Official Engagements.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

65 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will be represented at the International Labour Organisation’s annual conference in Geneva from 15 to 17 June; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24308/09]

The Government was represented at the 98th International Labour Conference by Mr Dara Calleary.T.D., Minister for Labour Affairs who headed the Irish delegation to the Conference. A core aspect of this year's Conference concerned the Report of the Director General of the International Labour Office on Tackling the global jobs crisis: recovery through decent work policies.

The Minister in his address to the International Labour Conference welcomed the outcome of the ILO deliberations of the Director General's Report culminating in a Global Jobs Pact as reflected in the outcome document from the Conference entitled "Recovering from the crisis: a Global Jobs Pact". This outcome represents, according to the Minister, the coming together, in a time of crisis, of the ILO's constituents — governments, workers and employers — to seek solutions to and consensus on principles and policy options to guide the necessary recovery. It is a call for ILO action and forms the basis for a coherent international response to the crisis.

The Minister welcomed the fact that the Global Jobs Pact reflects the importance of placing employment, labour and social concerns at the centre of policies needed to achieve a fair and sustainable recovery.

FÁS Training Programmes.

Deirdre Clune

Ceist:

66 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount spent on the FÁS science challenge programme since 2000 to date in 2009; the breakdown of the expenditure per year since 2000; when the decision was taken to cease the programme; the financial oversight she provided for the programme during its existence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24388/09]

The table sets out year-on-year expenditure on the FÁS Science Challenge Initiative from its launch in 2003 to the latest available figures as at the end of April 2009.

In December 2008, I commissioned an internal review of Science Challenge. The review was completed in April 2009. On the basis of its findings I directed that Science Challenge be closed down once all its existing commitments for the academic year 2008/9 have been met.

The Science Challenge Programme was subject to the same oversight as all other FÁS programmes and was included in the annual audit of the FÁS accounts.

FÁS Science Challenge expenditure 2003-2009

Year

Amount

€000s

2003

1,173

2004

1,330

2005

1,915

2006

1,131

2007

1,319

2008 (unaudited)

1,145

2009 (as at 30 April 2009)

0,348

Deirdre Clune

Ceist:

67 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the advisory role Science Foundation Ireland has on science programmes operated by FÁS; the structures she has put in place to ensure co-ordination of the agencies under her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24389/09]

To ensure co-ordination across the agencies of my Department, Forfás was established in 1994 and is the national policy advisory body for enterprise and science. One of its functions is to ensure the coherence of policies across the development agencies supporting enterprise. The membership of the board of Forfás includes the CEOs of the development agencies of my Department including the Director General of FÁS.

There are currently no science focussed programmes being delivered by FÁS other than the residual elements of FÁS Science Challenge which is currently being wound down in an orderly fashion.

Deirdre Clune

Ceist:

68 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on the critical opinion expressed by the head of strategy at Science Foundation Ireland on the FÁS science challenge programme during the meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts on 11 June 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24390/09]

The opinion given at last week's Committee of Accounts Committee hearing by the Head of Strategy and Programme Implementation at Science Foundation Ireland reflects accurately one of the main conclusions contained in the internal review of the FÁS Science Challenge Initiative, commissioned by me in December 2008.

Tax Collection.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

69 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the amount of revenue generated through VAT on petrol and diesel in the past six months; the corresponding figures for 2006, 2007 and 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24221/09]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the data currently available on the amounts of VAT generated in 2009 on petrol and auto-diesel relate to the first five months of the year, i.e. January to May inclusive. The amounts of revenue generated through VAT on petrol and auto-diesel for the period 1 January to 31 May 2009, and for the corresponding periods in 2006, 2007 and 2008, are set out in the following table.

The decrease in yields to date in 2009 compared to 2008 arise mainly from the reduction in the prices of petrol and especially of auto-diesel this year to date compared to 2008, and weaker economic activity.

Estimated VAT Receipts from petrol and auto-diesel in the first five months of 2006 to 2009

Jan-May 2006

Jan-May 2007

Jan-May 2008

Jan-May 2009

€m

€m

€m

€m

Petrol

197.70

198.56

222.40

182.73

Auto-Diesel

23.14

24.06

28.84

20.65

Note: VAT returns do not require the yield from a particular sector or sub-sector of trade to be identified. The figures provided are estimates of the amount of VAT yield that would be generated by the volume of clearances of petrol and auto-diesel up to the end of May. VAT returns can be made monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, half yearly or annually depending on the nature of the registration status of a trader, and this will dictate the point in time when VAT on sales will actually be paid. It should also be noted that the VAT content of purchases of auto-diesel is a deductible credit for business in the Irish VAT system.

Departmental Schemes.

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

70 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Finance the number of applications received and the number approved to date in respect of the cycle to work scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24291/09]

The cycle to work scheme came into operation on 1 January 2009. With a view to keeping the scheme simple and reducing administration on the part of employers, and following the model of the related travel pass scheme, there is no notification procedure for employers to indicate to the Revenue Commissioners that they are operating the cycle to work scheme. In view of this, the Revenue Commissioners do not have statistics on the uptake of the scheme.

The scheme operates on a self-administration basis, with the employer having no obligation to obtain advance approval for a particular scheme, or in fact to notify Revenue that they are operating a scheme, and therefore relief is automatically available provided the employer is satisfied that the conditions of their particular scheme meet the requirements of the legislation.

The purchase of bicycles and associated safety equipment by employers for employees or directors is subject to the normal Revenue audit procedure with the normal obligations on employers to maintain records (e.g. delivery dockets, invoices, payments details, etc.). The employer is also obliged to keep all salary sacrifice agreements entered into between the employer and employees/directors, together with all signed statements from employees/directors regarding use of the bicycles and safety equipment.

A circular providing for the implementation of the cycle to work scheme in the Civil Service was issued on 27 May 2009. That circular will also provide a framework for the implementation of the scheme in the wider public service. The circular is available on my Department's website atwww.finance.gov.ie.

Tax Code.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

71 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the steps being taken to investigate claims regarding the validity of a charity (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24301/09]

A tax exemption for charities is available under section 207 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that to avail of this exemption a body must be established for charitable purposes and must also apply all of its income for charitable purposes only.

While, for reasons of taxpayer confidentiality, Revenue cannot comment on the tax affairs of individual charities, they have advised me that appropriate procedures are in place to ensure that the initial application for charitable tax exemption by each charitable body meets the necessary criteria for such exemption. Revenue has also confirmed that bodies that are granted charitable tax exemption are subject to periodic risk-focused review towards ensuring that the terms of the exemption continue to be fulfilled. All relevant matters are taken into consideration in the context of such reviews.

Child Care Services.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

72 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of preschool providers and the number of preschool places which have to date signed up to participate in the new Government sponsored early childhood scheme; the number in Dublin and the number outside of Dublin; if the proposed fee to be provided by the State has been analysed to establish the extent to which it covers the full cost of the provision of such services in Dublin with its higher rent, rates, insurance and living costs compared to rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the viability of a uniform charge with no facility for top up charges. [24194/09]

As the Deputy will be aware I have responsibility for the implementation of the new scheme to provide a free Pre-School year in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), which was announced recently by the Minister of Finance.

The Childcare Directorate of my Office recently wrote to almost 5,000 pre-school service providers in the State, inviting them to participate in the new scheme. These included pre-school service providers who are notified to the Health Service Executive (HSE) or registered with the Irish Montessori Education Board (IMEB) as a number of other persons who have expressed an interest in establishing a pre-school service and participating in the scheme. Application forms and other relevant information regarding the scheme were included with this correspondence and these are now being returned by services to their local city or county child care committees, with a closing date for response of 10 July 2009. The first tranche of application forms is expected to be processed by the child care committees and returned to the Childcare Directorate in my Office on 26 June 2009. As a result, it is not possible to advise the Deputy at this point in regard to the number of providers who have applied to date or the number of places which they will provide and whether these will be in Dublin or outside of the Dublin area.

An annual capitation fee of over €2,400 will be paid to participating services in return for the provision of a free pre-school year to each child. This is equivalent to approximately €276 per month where a service is participating for 38 weeks and approximately €207 per month where it participates for 50 weeks. The capitation fee and its application on a weekly basis are considered reasonable. Approximately 1,000 community child care services, most of which are expected to apply for entry into the new scheme, already participate in the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme (CCSS). The average fee charged for a sessional pre-school place in these services is €50 per week. The ECCE capitation fee also compares very favourably to that paid to private and voluntary pre-school services under the Pre-School Programme Expansion Scheme operated in Northern Ireland which amounts to approximately £30 per week.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

73 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied). [24202/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Cancer Screening Programme.

James Reilly

Ceist:

74 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the centralisation of cancer services to eight centres around the country; if she will confirm if the eight centres comply with the 48 recommendations for such centres to perform in an efficient and safe manner; if she will request a report and or audit to ensure that cancer services are being transferred in a safe and efficient manner to the proposed eight centres with the requisite resources, funding, consultants, staffing and beds to operate as a centre of excellence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24211/09]

Under the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP), there are four managed cancer control networks and eight cancer centres. These centres were designated by the HSE following a recommendation from the advisory group set up under the NCCP. The designation of cancer centres aims to ensure that patients receive the highest quality care while at the same time allowing local access to services, where appropriate.

The transfer of breast cancer diagnosis and surgery into eight designated cancer centres is almost complete with only three hospitals, Tallaght, Sligo and South Infirmary, still awaiting the transfer of these services to a designated centre. The NCCP has at all times stated that it only transfers services when it is satisfied that adequate resources are in place. Services will transfer from Tallaght and Sligo within the next few months. The NCCP has set aside funding of €5 million from its capital allocation in 2009 to further support and develop the Cork University Hospital Cancer Centre (CUHCC). Services from South Infirmary will transfer to CUH when the refurbishment project is completed. Discussions are ongoing with each hospital in regard to the transfer.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) initiated a quality review of symptomatic breast cancer services in 2008. The overall objective of the review was to assess the performance of the designated cancer centres against the National Quality Standards for Symptomatic Breast Disease Services and assist in devising an implementation plan for incremental progress to becoming specialist cancer centres by the end of 2009.

There are a number of phases in the process of meeting the entire range of standards involved. The first was a self-assessment completed and submitted by each individual hospital in Spring, 2008. The second phase involved an independent validation by HIQA, in October 2008, of the spring self-assessment process. In January 2009, HIQA issued individual interim reports to each of the designated centres. These were based on data from the self-assessments carried out in spring 2008 and were not an inspection of the status of the centres in October, 2008. The interim reports were copied to the CEO of the HSE, the Secretary General of my Department and to the Interim Director of the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) in January 2009.

The interim reports provide the centres with details of the standards that are being met and of where gaps exist. Significant progress has been made by all of the designated cancer centres in addressing the gaps in systems and services. There is ongoing liaison also between the NCCP and HIQA about compliance with the standards.

The individual hospitals have prepared implementation plans in conjunction with the NCCP, which are now being implemented and monitored by the NCCP. A further inspection and assessment by HIQA is planned for the end of 2009, and these reports will be published.

Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

75 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if same will be dealt with; the length of time they would have to wait for the health board orthodontist to carry out the necessary treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24215/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

76 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in respect of emergency beds in hospital for adolescents with psychiatric conditions; the number available in County Wicklow; the waiting time for admittance; the number of adolescents on the waiting list for hospital admittance in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24216/09]

There are currently 22 child and adolescent beds in the mental health service, ten in Galway and 12 in Dublin (six in St. Vincent's Fairview, six in Warrenstown). An additional eight interim beds have recently been completed in St. Stephen's Hospital, Cork, and it is anticipated that these beds will be commissioned shortly. Construction has commenced on two 20 bed units in Bessboro, Cork and Merlin Park, Galway. Construction is scheduled to be completed on both of these developments in late 2009 and the beds commissioned in 2010.

With regard to the questions raised by the Deputy in relation to the number of adolescents on the waiting list for hospital admittance in the Wicklow area and the waiting time for admittance, I have referred these questions to the HSE for direct reply.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

77 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position with regard to the waiting list for psychiatric assessment for adolescents in County Wicklow; the number of adolescents on the waiting list for assessment in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24217/09]

As this is a service matter the question has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Health Service Executive Property.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

78 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the funding from the sale of Grangegorman, Dublin which was to be ring-fenced for psychiatric services; the amount of same which will be spent in this area; the purpose for which the funding will be used; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24218/09]

The land at Grangegorman has not been sold and, therefore, the issue of reinvestment of the proceeds of the sale of the lands does not arise. Rather the Government decided the Grangegorman Development Agency should be charged with developing both educational and health facilities (including mental health facilities) on the site. While the Grangegorman Development Agency Act 2005 made provision for the future vesting of lands at Grangegorman with the agency, no transfer has taken place to date and ownership of the lands remains with the HSE. The HSE, which is represented on the Grangegorman Development Agency, has been working closely with the agency in planning the provision of health facilities in the context of an overall masterplan for the site.

Organ Retention.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

79 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the promised public inquiry into the stolen organs scandal. [24224/09]

Dr. Deirdre Madden's report on Post Mortem Practice and Procedures recommended that "an independent audit must be carried out of currently retained organs in all hospitals in the State". To implement this recommendation, the Health Service Executive (HSE) commissioned Ms Michaela Willis, former Member of the UK Human Tissue Authority and founder member and Chair of the UK National Committee relating to Organ Retention, to undertake an independent audit.

The HSE has advised that field work for Ms Willis's independent audit, which included site-visits to all hospitals that carry out post-mortem examinations in the State, has been completed. This data is being compiled and a report based on the audit is currently being prepared by the author. When this report of the independent audit is completed, the HSE will make preparations for the publication of the full and final report. I understand that this process will be completed later this year.

Inter-Country Adoptions.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

80 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the bilateral adoption agreement between Ireland and Vietnam; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24225/09]

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

82 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in respect of the bilateral agreement with Vietnam; the progress regarding the interim agreement following her Minister of State’s announcement on 22 May 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24241/09]

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

92 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to progress negotiations with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on bilateral inter-country adoption during the summer 2009 recess; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24286/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80, 82 and 92 together.

The process on this matter has been on-going for many months now and the dialogue with the Vietnamese Authorities is continuing. Many Deputies have sought guarantees and specific timeframes for the conclusion of a new agreement with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. I must reiterate my previous remarks on this point.

At this juncture, all options, including an interim inter-country adoption agreement, are actively being pursued by the Government to allow for the conclusion of discussions on a strengthened bilateral agreement and to facilitate continuity of the strong and positive relationship between both jurisdictions. It is not possible for me to either give a timetable or anticipate when discussions on the agreement will be finalised. Discussions on a new bilateral agreement remain live and the request regarding the negotiation of an interim arrangement has been made. It is now a matter for the Vietnamese authorities and, as such, it would be improper for the Government to seek to influence or interfere with this decision-making process. My officials are in constant contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs and with the Embassy on the ground in Hanoi. As late as last Friday, my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs was in direct contact with the Vietnamese authorities regarding the matter.

I was informed by the Department of Foreign Affairs on Friday last that Helping Hands Mediation Agency's mediation licence has been revoked. The Government had requested that the mediation licence for Helping Hands be suspended rather than revoked in light of ongoing discussions on a bilateral agreement. In the absence of an inter-country adoption agreement, the Vietnamese Government was not in a position to make any exception to the granting of a licence to Helping Hands. As a consequence, 20 applications, which are currently in Hanoi, will be returned to the applicants. These applicants were not given referrals before the 1 May deadline. This is obviously disappointing news for all concerned. I advised the representative groups on this development on Friday last. The families involved have also been contacted by the Helping Hands Mediation Agency. The reinstatement of the Helping Hands licence is necessary to facilitate adoptions from Vietnam. The Irish Government is actively trying to establish the status of the request for an interim agreement and the associated licensing requirements.

Despite this development, I must emphasise that all families who have already received a referral in respect of a child from Vietnam will continue to have their application processed to conclusion and will be supported by the Helping Hands Meditation Agency in that process.

I realise that the pending Dáil summer recess is causing concern with fears being expressed that Government business will be suspended until the Dáil reconvenes in late September. This is not the case. I have already advised all of the interested parties of my willingness to travel to Hanoi to support the successful conclusion of these discussions, if that is deemed appropriate. That remains the position. The uncertainty surrounding this process has caused stress and anxiety to applicants/prospective adoptive parents. This is something I am acutely aware of and any information that comes to hand continues to be shared without delay.

I remain completely committed to concluding discussions on the text of the bilateral inter-country adoption agreement with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. I have explained the reasons for the renegotiation of the existing agreement. My policy objective is the protection of children. I want to provide the best possible assurances around international adoption and to improve standards for children and the families who apply to adopt from abroad. This is in line with the Government's commitment to ratify the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

81 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [24238/09]

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Question No. 82 answered with Question No. 80.

Community Care.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

83 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 265 of 4 July 2006, regarding the status of the development project for a community hospital, day care unit and primary care centre, the breakdown of these costings to include the funding estimated for each of the facilities; the timetable for construction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24252/09]

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Infectious Disease Screening Service.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

84 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 411 of 27 January 2009, the measures that are in place to deal with a potential influenza pandemic including adequate availability of antiviral drugs and antibiotics, including penicillin, to treat secondary infection; the further steps which are to be taken to cater for such risks; the steps that are being taken to pre-purchase vaccine against the swine flu when available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24258/09]

A public health alert was received from the World Health Organisation on 24 April 2009 indicating that human cases of influenza type A(H1N1) had been identified in the USA and Mexico. At that time the WHO pandemic alert level was at phase 3. On 11 June the WHO raised this alert level to phase 6 which in effect declares an influenza pandemic. Pandemic means that an influenza virus, new to humans, has appeared, is spreading and is causing disease in many parts of the world. Level 6 means that there is increased and sustained transmission in human population. The WHO assessed the severity of the current pandemic as moderate.

My Department and the Health Service Executive have been preparing for some years for the possibility of a pandemic being declared. On receipt of the alert from WHO my Department activated the National Plan for pandemic influenza which was put in place in January 2007. The plan was accompanied by a Guidance Report developed by the Pandemic Influenza Expert Group which was further updated in April 2009 and this guidance is currently being followed. In line with the plan the following governance structures were put in place:

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), which manages the health system response to a public health emergency continues to meet as required.

The Pandemic Influenza Expert Group (PIEG) is continuing to provide public health and scientific advice on preparedness and control measures to the NPHET.

The Inter-Departmental Committee on Pandemic Planning which coordinates the intersectoral response to a potential pandemic meets as required.

HSE national and regional crisis management teams are meeting regularly to coordinate HSE preparedness and response measures.

My Department and the HSE participate in regular teleconference meetings with the European Centre for Disease Control, public health officials in other European Member States and the WHO.

The following measures have also been taken:

Enhanced surveillance in hospitals and in the community.

Regular updates for healthcare professionals and the public.

Provision of antiviral drugs to cover 47% of the population, some of which has been distributed through public health departments to facilitate treatment of initial cases.

The HSE, in association with the Department, has finalised advance purchase agreements to procure 7.7m doses of pandemic vaccine.

Frequently Asked Questions are updated daily on my Department's website and that of the HSE.

Travel advise is updated daily on the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Foreign Affairs websites.

A co-ordinated communications strategy is in place which includes regular press briefings.

The requirements for antiviral drugs and antibiotics are kept under regular review by the NPHET in conjunction with the PIEG and I am satisfied that the measures taken to date are sufficient based on current knowledge and guidance.

Patient Private Property Fund.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

85 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 343 of 22 April 2009, the position regarding the issues raised; the value of payments made to date; the number of clients or their representatives who have received payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24259/09]

The HSE is now in a position to calculate the first payments due to clients on interest retained on funds invested on client's behalf since 2005. All funds required to make these payments are retained in the Patient Private Property (PPP) Fund and are available to transfer. The HSE plan to make first payments to clients by 30 June 2009. Payment will be made on a phased basis, firstly to clients for whom the HSE retains PPP accounts and then to clients, or their estates, for whom PPP accounts were since closed.

The HSE has also commenced a project to facilitate the electronic receipt of Department of Social Family Affairs allowances on behalf of HSE clients. Such payments are due to commence in September 2009. This project is drawing on the same staff resources as those involved in the processing of retained interest payments and was not anticipated earlier in the year.

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

86 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to correspondence (details supplied), the progress to date on the issues raised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24260/09]

The company referred to in the question has been in contact with my Department on a number of occasions regarding the stockpiling of antibiotics for use in the event of an influenza pandemic. Decisions on the procurement and stockpiling of medicines and other requisites for use during an influenza pandemic are taken by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) usually based on advice from the Pandemic Influenza Expert Group. While there has been a number of discussions at NPHET on antibiotic requirements in the event of an influenza pandemic no decisions have yet been taken.

In the event that a decision is taken to purchase additional stocks of antibiotics it would be a matter for the Health Service Executive to put in train the usual procurement procedures.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

87 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support persons (details supplied) in Dublin 5. [24262/09]

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply

Health Service Allowances.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

88 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will examine the position regarding travel expenses in respect of public health nurses who are not covered for travel for call-out purposes (details supplied). [24269/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Hospital Charges.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

89 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Cork is liable for charges at a Health Service Executive community hospital; and if a refund will be made. [24270/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Health Services.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

90 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given in the matter of having a replacement wheelchair made available to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [24271/09]

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

91 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given in having specialised shoes released to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [24272/09]

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Question No. 92 answered with Question No. 80.

Adoption Services.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

93 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children her views on the Law Reform Commission’s report, Aspects of Inter-country Adoption Law, published in February 2008 regarding the strain placed on the resources of social workers and the lack of official statistics documenting the number of domestic adoption and inter-country adoption breakdowns or disruptions; if she has considered the section which indicates a need for a well resourced post-adoption service staffed by professionals including counsellors with full and up-to-date knowledge of all the pertinent issues in inter-country adoption to ensure the welfare of children and adoptive families who voluntarily come forward to access the service are protected and supported; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24287/09]

As the Deputy is aware, the Adoption Bill, 2009, was published in January of this year. Under the new Bill, there is no specific provision to provide post-adoption services for children and families who have additional needs. Adopted children and their families who have additional needs have, and will continue to have, the same eligibility and entitlements to health, personal social services and special education needs as any family in Ireland.

However, the Bill does make statutory provision for the notification by adoptive parents of the adoption on return to Ireland with a child. This notification must be made both to the Adoption Authority for the purposes of registering the child as well as to the HSE, so that the child receives all of the normal child health surveillance services available through the public health system.

Of course, the allocation of resources for services that may be required in such cases is a matter for the HSE.

I have asked the HSE to collate the data, such that are available, in relation to adoption breakdowns and I will revert to the Deputy directly as soon as the information becomes available.

Children in Care.

Michael D. Higgins

Ceist:

94 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 136 of 9 June 2009, the frequency of the regular monitoring reports from the Health Service Executive to her Department on the implementation of the service plan for child and family service provision referred to in Parliamentary Question No. 136 of 9 June 2009; if these reports are or will be made publicly available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24288/09]

The Department has a monitoring framework in place whereby the HSE submits detailed monthly reports on the delivery of the National Service Plan. The National Service Plan 2009 includes activity targets, key performance indicators and key deliverables in respect of Children and Families. The monthly performance reports are published on the HSE website once approved by the HSE Board.

Quarterly meetings are held between the Secretary General of the Department and the Chief Executive Officer of the HSE, and their respective management teams, to discuss issues arising in relation to implementation and progression of the National Service Plan. In addition, there is ongoing liaison and dialogue between various policy units within the Department and the corresponding directorates in the HSE. There are also triangular monthly meetings held between the Department of Health and Children, the Department of Finance and the HSE.

Following my appointment as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, I initiated and chair regular meetings with senior officials from the Health Service Executive so as to drive reform and modernisation of services for children and families.

Departmental Investigations.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

95 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has given further consideration to the request for an independent inquiry into abuse by a person (details supplied) in a hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24292/09]

The professional conduct of the consultant referred to has been the subject of a number of inquiries. In 1995 the Medical Council instigated a fitness to practice inquiry but this was delayed pending the outcome of separate legal proceedings, including criminal and judicial review proceedings. Following a Supreme Court judgement in July 2008 the Medical Council recommenced an Inquiry, and on 25 November 2008 the Medical Council formally notified me of its decision to remove the name of the consultant from the Medical Register. The Medical Council made its decision after considering the report of its Fitness to Practise Committee, which found the person concerned guilty of professional misconduct in respect to 3 out of 9 allegations made by male patients.

In 1995 a review of the Hospital's response to the allegations against the consultant was conducted by an Independent Review Group chaired by Dr. Miriam Hederman O'Brien. The Review Group recommended that common written protocols for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse by members of staff be introduced and applied in all health care institutions. The Trust in Care guidelines, which were published in 2005, deal with the recognition, prevention and management of cases of abuse.

Furthermore, in line with the Review Group's recommendations, a chaperone system and an intimate examination protocol and procedure has been put in place in the Hospital concerned. The Review Group emphasised the importance of having a complaints system in place to deal with allegations of sexual abuse. A Regional Complaints Policy and Procedure is in place for the former North Eastern Health Board. Statutory delegated complaints officers are also in place in the Hospital. In addition, a staff support service (Staff Care) is available to all staff in the Hospital on a confidential basis.

The Hederman O'Brien review has helped inform the development and updating of policy in this area. This learning has been given practical effect through, for example, the publication of the Children First Guidelines, the establishment of both the Office of the Ombudsman for Children and the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and the implementation of the Children's Act 2001.

It is clear, therefore, that the issues raised by this case have been the subject of extensive review and action by the Medical Council, the 1996 review and the initiatives taken since then in relation to protecting children. In these circumstances, I have indicated that I do not propose to establish a further inquiry.

Instead I believe that our focus should now be on supporting those affected and ensuring that every possible protection is given to vulnerable people in the future.

It is very important to ensure that appropriate counselling is available to all those who have been in contact with the HSE and/or the hospital following the recent Medical Council Inquiry. The HSE has made arrangements for counselling support for all those who have been in contact with them following the recent Medical Council Inquiry, using the National Counselling Service. Over 100 people have made contact with this service and the service will continue to be made available as required. The need for additional support will be monitored by the HSE.

The HSE and I are anxious that all former patients of the consultant are made aware of the free counselling support that is available. The HSE has assigned co-ordinating responsibility for these matters to the Area Manager for Consumer Affairs in the North East who will continue to liaise as required with former patients and support groups.

Proposed Legislation.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

96 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will introduce legislation in accordance with the recommendations of the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction, particularly to address issues of surrogacy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24294/09]

My Department is indeed developing an appropriate regulatory framework which would involve legislation for the area of Assisted Human Reproduction, encompassing the area of surrogacy. The work involves, inter alia, examining the approaches to regulation in other jurisdictions and considering the ethical and legal issues that arise. It will also take into account the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children on this area — when completed — and an expected judgment of the Supreme Court in the RvR (frozen embryos) case.

Suicide Prevention.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

97 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if dormant accounts funding has been released to Pobal in respect of suicide prevention programmes for 2009; if not, when it will be released; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that approximately 100 projects here have applied for this funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24295/09]

The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, through POBAL, invited applications for funding under the suicide prevention measure. Funding decisions are made by Government on the basis of recommendations made by the Economic and Social Disadvantage Interdepartmental Committee, which is chaired by my colleague, the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

My Department is considering the assessments made by POBAL of the applications received and, in light of the current national economic situation, is also considering the timeframe for the funding of this measure. Recommendations in this regard will be made to the Interdepartmental Committee shortly.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

98 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive an appointment with their consultant at Tallaght General Hospital, Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24296/09]

As this is a service issue, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Food Labelling.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

99 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to review food information labelling to introduce a use by label as the only one legally required; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24298/09]

At present EU food labelling legislation is harmonised by Council Directive 2000/13/EC, transposed in 2002, with several amendments since. In January 2008, the European Commission presented its proposal for a new regulation updating and harmonising this legislation. This proposal, which is still under discussion, will both consolidate existing legislation in the area of food labelling and introduce certain new provisions, including a mandatory nutrition declaration and mandatory allergen labelling. In November 2008, Ireland submitted its position paper on the proposal. This paper was informed by submissions made to the FSAI by many of the key stakeholders. Ireland's position will be further informed by the outcome of an FSAI Consumer Survey. This is expected to be completed in June 2009.

EU food labelling requirements look to provide consumers with the information needed to make informed choices and to make safe use of food. A key principle underlying the labelling of food is that the purchaser must not be misled. The information on the label must be clear and unambiguous and must not be such as could mislead the consumer to a material degree "as to the characteristics of the foodstuff and, in particular, as to its nature, identity, properties, composition, quantity, durability, origin or provenance, method of manufacture or production".

The current rules on date of minimum durability, as set out in Article 9 of 2000/13/EC, require one of two options. Foodstuffs, which from a microbiological point of view are highly perishable and are, therefore, likely after a short period to constitute an immediate danger to human health, must indicate a "use by date". However, other foodstuffs which can reasonably be expected to retain the specific properties that are normally associated with that foodstuff carry a "best before date".

These minimum durability requirements have been incorporated into the new EU proposal for the provision of food information to consumers.

Health Services.

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

100 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in the context of the recent publication of the report by the Joint Committee on Health and Children on Suicide in Irish Society, she will ensure that funding is made available to an organisation (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24304/09]

As this is a service matter the question has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

101 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [24311/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

102 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children when the fair deal for nursing homes will come into effect; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24313/09]

The Nursing Homes Support Scheme Bill has completed all stages in the Dáil and completed Second Stage in the Seanad last week. It is the Minister's intention to progress the legislation through the Houses of the Oireachtas with a view to implementing the scheme in the second half of 2009.

Health Service Staff.

John McGuinness

Ceist:

103 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny has not been reinstated in their full-time position; if she will review the matter; and if she will expedite an response. [24322/09]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for attention and direct reply to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

104 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 Dublin 12; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24345/09]

As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

105 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if alternative arrangements will be made for transport to and from hospital in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24373/09]

As this is a service matter, it has been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Health Repayment Scheme.

John Deasy

Ceist:

106 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children when the national repayment scheme will be completed; the number of outstanding claims; the estimated time to finalise this scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24384/09]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responsibility for administering the health repayment scheme in conjunction with the appointed scheme administrator KPMG/McCann Fitzgerald.

Some 35,000 completed application forms have been received by the Scheme Administrator. To date, 33,913 or 96.89% of applicants have now either received an offer or have been rejected. As a result, there is in the region of a further 1,000 claims to be processed.

The Scheme is progressing as speedily as possible and every effort is being made to settle claims as quickly as possible. However, there are a number of different factors which have affected the length of time it takes to process a claim:

A very high number of deficiencies have appeared on claim forms which must be rectified before they can be processed. It is estimated that approximately two thirds of all claim forms were submitted without some critical piece of information which meant that the claim could not be processed until the Scheme Administrator had written to the potential claimant and requested the information required. In addition, in excess of 75% of all Form of Entitlement forms submitted were deficient. The HSE and the Scheme Administrator have taken a proactive role in addressing this issue.

Over 13,500 estates who have lodged claims to date did not have a grant of representation, as required by law, and the Scheme Administrator has had to establish probate before the claim can be progressed. This is to ensure that the person entitled to claim on behalf of an estate is the person who ultimately receives the repayment. The probate process can typically be a lengthy one — however a special system established for the purposes of this scheme has significantly reduced the waiting period. The majority of certificates of entitlement have now been issued and this has facilitated people in proceeding with the application proper. The requirements of the Health (Repayment Scheme) Act 2006 rightly place a strong emphasis on detail and on ensuring that a person is entitled to make the application and would be the rightful recipient of any potential repayment. For example this would be particularly important in determining who would be eligible in the case of a deceased person where no grant of probate was made and where several family members might make an application for repayment.

All relevant HSE facilities around the country– over 330 in total — have had to be visited by the Scheme Administrator to review and retrieve their records of payment. In some cases, these records dated as far back as 1976. The format in which this information was stored varied widely between institutions and usually included a mixture of paper files, handwritten files and computer files. All of this information had to be scanned and uploaded onto a usable database and this process took over 6 months to complete.

Bearing in mind the various challenges that have arisen during the course of the scheme to date, the waiting time for each applicant has varied based upon the factors outlined above. The Scheme Administrator continues to work closely with the HSE to process claims as speedily and efficiently as possible.

It is anticipated that the vast majority of the 1,000 remaining claims will be processed in the next few weeks. However, it should be noted that the repayments offered cannot be paid until the statutory 28 day period for appeal has elapsed and a completed acceptance form has been returned to the Scheme Administrator. In addition, claimants who receive offers must be given the opportunity if they so wish, to appeal the Scheme Administrator's decision. There are currently over 2,000 appeals being worked on at present and this will impact on the timeframe for finalisation of the Health Repayment Scheme.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

107 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has not had the funding provided to have an ankle-foot orthosis replaced as requested; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24393/09]

As the Deputy's question relates to service matters I have arranged for the question to be referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply.

Air Services.

Kieran O'Donnell

Ceist:

108 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Transport his definition of a strategic interest in the context of the State’s 25% shareholding in Aer Lingus; if he has directed his nominees on the Aer Lingus board to regard the routes out of Shannon Airport as a strategic interest; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24209/09]

The State retained a 25% ownership in Aer Lingus to protect strategic interests. The primary concern in this context was to provide a basis to oppose a takeover of the company that may not have been in Ireland's strategic interests. The value of the State's stake in this context has already been demonstrated. As a 25% shareholder, the Government has no role in the day-to-day management of the company.

In addition to providing a basis to oppose takeovers, a stake of over 25% also allows a shareholder to block special resolutions. One notable example of where such a resolution is required is for the purpose of making changes in the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Company. This provides a protection for two specific interests of the State. It means that the relevant provisions of the Memorandum and Articles of Associations that (a) ensure that the State will have the right to appoint three directors and (b) provide for a safeguard against any disposal of Heathrow slots, cannot be changed without the approval of the State.

The duties of all directors on the Board of Aer Lingus derive from the Companies Acts and they are obliged to pursue the best interests of the company. Subject to that duty, the State-nominated directors on the Board were issued with a mandate on the date of their respective appointments requesting them to seek to ensure that all future decisions of the company that have significant implications for wider Government, aviation or regional development policies are considered at board level. In any such decisions they are directed to seek to reconcile commercial and public policy objectives.

On 11 June 2009 the Chairman of Aer Lingus briefed me on proposals for transatlantic services for the winter season 2009/10 and for the enhancement of the Shannon-Heathrow service. Following that meeting I immediately wrote to the three directors to remind them of their mandate and requested that they take account of this in the Board's consideration of the proposals.

Penalty Points System.

Seán Barrett

Ceist:

109 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether it is feasible to impose five point penalties on motorists in respect of national car tests when there is no valid notification system in place to afford them a reasonable opportunity to comply with the law; his further views on whether it is satisfactory that NCT centres here should have a three month backlog of NCT test applications that result in these applicants being in extended breaches of the law; the reason road worthy four year old cars are required to be tested; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24314/09]

Under the Road Safety Authority Act 2006 (Conferral of Functions) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 477 of 2006) this is a matter for the Road Safety Authority.

Proposed Legislation.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

110 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Small Claims Court (Protection of Small Businesses) Bill 2009 which he has accepted in principle will cover landlords wishing to recoup debts from their tenants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24283/09]

My Department is engaged in a review of the limits and the scope of the Small Claims District Court Procedure. Pending the outcome of that review I can say that the matter raised by the Deputy is one that already comes within the scope of the Residential Tenancies Board that comes under the aegis of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Citizenship Applications.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

111 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason he has decided to deny naturalisation to applicants who fulfil all the statutory criteria but have lost their employment and been forced to avail of social welfare, as a result of the economic downturn and through no fault of their own; if he will reconsider this policy at least in respect of those applicants whose work history demonstrates that they are likely to return to full-time employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24208/09]

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation. In accordance with the legislation I make decisions on naturalisation applications based on all of the information available to me. I have adopted a general policy that I will normally require an applicant for naturalisation, unless he/she is a refugee, programme refugee or Stateless person, to show that he/she has supported him or herself (and his or her family if appropriate) while residing in the State and, as far as can be determined, is in a position to continue that support into the future. I am, generally speaking, satisfied to accept that an applicant is self supporting if he or she has not availed of State support in the 3 year period prior to the date of application or subsequently has satisfied officials that they have supported themselves independently for that period.

Garda Investigations.

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

112 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the course he will pursue in the case of the murder of a person (details supplied): his views on establishing a commission of inquiry to examine the case; the courses which may be open to him to pursue the prosecution of the killers; the other possible action he may pursue in this case. [24219/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, the case to which he refers was one of those investigated as part of the Barron Inquiries of Investigation. The case is a very tragic one.

Senior Gardaí, including a dedicated liaison officer for the family, met recently with the family and their legal representative to discuss with them the conduct of the original investigation and any other questions that arose. Following a review of previous Garda investigations into this matter, a file was submitted to the DPP but no prosecution was directed. As to the courses open to pursue the case, the investigation will, like any other, remain open as long as no-one has been made amenable for the crime, however it is the case that in the absence of new evidence it is unlikely at this juncture that anyone will be successfully prosecuted for it. This is of course a matter of great regret.

Public Order Offences.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

113 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons arrested and charged with public order offences during the June 2009 bank holiday weekend; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24222/09]

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 makes provision for the compilation and publication of crime statistics by the Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, and the CSO has established a dedicated unit for this purpose.

I have requested the CSO to provide the statistics sought by the Deputy directly to him.

Garda Deployment.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

114 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí performing forensic investigations into road traffic accidents; the regions each member is covering; and his plans to provide additional personnel. [24223/09]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that, while all members of An Garda Síochána are tasked with enforcing the criminal law, including the investigation of road traffic collisions, there are currently 43 Gardaí trained or in the process of being trained, as Forensic Collision Investigators (FCIs).

Region

Sgt

Gda

TOTAL

DMR

5

5

Eastern

1

5

6

Northern

4

6

10

South Eastern

1

2

3

Southern

1

9

10

Western

3

5

8

Garda College

1

1

Total

11

32

43

A Senior Forensic Collision Investigator has been appointed and is based in the Garda College and has responsibility for quality control of investigation and the continuous professional development of FCIs, which will include nominating participants to a forensic collision course for up to 12 participants and which will commence early next year.

An Garda Síochána together with the National Roads Authority, the Local Authorities and the Road Safety Authority work together and participate in a Collision Prevention Programme to improve road safety to reduce the number of fatal and serious injury road traffic collisions.

Garda Investigations.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

115 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9. [24239/09]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that members of the relevant District Detective Unit spoke to the person referred to by the Deputy and he informed them that he did not wish to make a complaint. The members of the Detective Unit left contact details with him should he wish to pursue a complaint.

I am also informed that the person referred to has been provided with appropriate crime prevention and personal security advice.

Proposed Legislation.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

116 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will respond to a query (details supplied). [24310/09]

The position is that I intend to seek the approval of the Government for publication of the Civil Partnership Bill in the current session in line with the commitment in the Government Legislation Programme.

Deportation Orders.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

117 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position of an application by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24326/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum in the State on 26 May 2005. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, 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:

118 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to application for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24346/09]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in May 2008. The average processing time from application to decision is now at 23 months. More complicated cases can at times take more than the current average while an element of straight forward cases are now being dealt with in less than that time scale. There is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved as applications for naturalisation must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that the status of citizenship is not undervalued and is only given to persons who genuinely satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

However, I understand that the person concerned is a refugee. In accordance with the Government's obligations under the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, every effort is made to ensure that applications from persons with refugee status are dealt with as quickly as possible. Officials inform me that the application is at an advanced stage of processing and the file will be submitted to me for a decision in due course.

Refugee Status.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

119 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for his proposal to revoke refugee status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24347/09]

As investigations are ongoing in this matter, I am not in a position to comment on this case. However, the Deputy should be aware that the person in question was issued with a proposal to revoke letter on 28/11/2008, which set out the reasons for the proposal to revoke refugee status

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

120 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency or citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath who has been employed here on foot of a work permit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24348/09]

An application for long-term residency from the person referred to by the Deputy was made on 02 September 2008. Officials in the Long-Term Residency Section of my Department have advised me that applications from September 2007 are currently being dealt with. As soon as a decision is made on the case, the person concerned will be notified. Officials in the Citizenship section of my Department inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person concerned.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

121 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency or citizenship in the case of a persons (details supplied) in Dublin 12; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24349/09]

The first and second named persons concerned, a husband and wife, have been granted temporary permission to remain in the State for a three year period to 23 July 2011. This decision was conveyed to the persons concerned by separate letters dated 24 July 2008 to the last know address as notified by the persons concerned. The legal representative of the persons concerned was also notified of this decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

122 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency status or citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who has been in employment here for the past number of years on foot of a work permit and whose former employer is anxious to continue employment in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24350/09]

An application for long-term residency by the person referred to by the Deputy was made on 27 November 2007. Officials in the Long-Term Residency Section of my Department have advised me that applications from September 2007 are currently being dealt with. As soon as a decision is made on the case, the person concerned will be notified. Officials in the Citizenship section of my Department inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person concerned.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

123 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency or naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24351/09]

The person to whom the Deputy refers was granted permission to remain in 2001 under the procedures then in place for the non-EEA parents of Irish citizen children. I am informed that this permission to remain is currently valid until 4 January, 2013. An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in February 2007.

On examination of the application submitted by the person concerned it was determined that she had not submitted a copy of her passport/green book. A letter was issued to her on 24 May, 2007 informing her that copies of her current and previous passports/green books were required. This letter was re-issued again on 9 October, 2007. A 21 day letter was issued to the person in question on 19 January, 2008. To date the Citizenship Division of my Department have not received the requested documentation and the application has been deemed ineligible. It is open to the person in question to lodge a new application for a certificate of naturalisation if and when she is in a position to meet the statutory requirements.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

124 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency or naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24352/09]

The person concerned has been granted temporary permission to remain in the State for a one year period to 15 June 2010. This decision was conveyed to the person concerned by letter dated 16 June 2009.

Departmental Correspondence.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

125 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 146 of 21 May 2009 if correspondence will be reissued to a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24353/09]

The letter referred to in my Reply to Parliamentary Question No. 146 of Thursday, 21 May 2009, was issued to the person concerned to the address on file with my Department on the 16 June 2008. A copy of the letter was forwarded to his legal representative on that date. The legal representative of the person concerned has now been informed, by letter dated 17 June 2009, that if the person concerned still wishes to submit an application for Subsidiary Protection in the State that he should do so within ten working days of 17 June 2009.

It is noted that the address of the person concerned as supplied by the Deputy does not match the address currently on record for the person concerned. As it is incumbent on an applicant to notify my Department when they change address it would be in the best interest of the person concerned to inform my Department of his correct address without delay.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

126 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to citizenship or naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24354/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 12 September 2003. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 30 June 2005, that the Minister proposed to make a Deportation Order in respect of 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. The Deputy might wish to note that the person concerned is not entitled to apply for citizenship or naturalisation in the State at this time.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

127 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency or citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24355/09]

The person concerned has been granted temporary permission to remain in the State for a three year period until 8 May 2011. This decision was conveyed to the person concerned by letter dated 8 May 2008.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

128 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency or citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24356/09]

I refer the Deputy to my previous answers to his Parliamentary Questions. I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person concerned was the subject of a Family Reunification application which was approved in August 2005 and that her permission to remain was valid up to 10 June 2009. It is open to her to contact her local Immigration Office to seek to renew her permission to remain. I am further informed by INIS that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's question.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

129 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency and citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24357/09]

I wish to inform the Deputy that the permission to remain granted to the person in question under the IBC/05 Scheme has been renewed, and is currently valid until 20 September 2010. Officials in the Citizenship Division of my Department inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

130 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform regarding residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; if he will review the case in view of the circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24358/09]

The person concerned was born in the State on 5 August 2005. Her mother had applied for asylum in the State. An application for asylum in her own right was made on her behalf on 17 August 2006. 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 9 June 2009, 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 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 no response has been received in my Department to this letter. The 15 day period referred to in my Department's letter of 9 June 2009, expires on the 1 July 2009. It is open to the person concerned to make representations and/or apply for subsidiary protection within that period. In any event, a final decision on this case will not be made prior to the expiry date above.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

131 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24359/09]

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 7 September 2006. Officials in that Section inform me that processing of the application is ongoing and the file will be forwarded to me for a decision in the coming months.

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

132 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if extended residency will be granted in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 20; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24360/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 7 February 2006. 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 7 May 2009, 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 will be passed to me for decision.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

133 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency and naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24361/09]

I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Questions No. 174 of Tuesday, 7 April 2009, No.126 of Thursday, 12 February 2009, and No. 832 of Thursday, 10 July 2008 and the written Replies to those Questions. The person concerned applied for asylum on 22 January 2003. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, 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 these representations 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 wife of the person concerned applied for asylum on 20 May 2005. Her application was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the wife of the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 26 April 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 by the wife of the person concerned at that time.

The wife of 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 wife of 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 wife 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 wife of the person concerned will be passed to me for decision.

The child of the person concerned, born in the State on 21 October 2006, will be included in her parent's application for leave to remain in the State, in accordance with the instructions of their legal representative.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

134 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency and naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24362/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 2 October 2001. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended), the person concerned was informed, by letter dated 15 October 2002, 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.

On 2 November 2006 the person concerned 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:

135 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding residency and naturalisation in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24363/09]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 271 of 31 March 2009. The residency status of the person in question remains unchanged as the Deportation Order made remains in force. Officials in the Citizenship Division of my Department inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

136 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare can return to their homeland for family reasons without damage to their eligibility for citizenship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24364/09]

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. One of these conditions is that the applicant must have had a period of one year's continuous residence in the State immediately before the date of application and, during the eight years immediately preceding that period, have had a total residence in the State amounting to four years.

Applicants for a certificate of naturalisation are required to provide evidence that they have been resident and that they have had the permission of the Minister to remain in the State for the prescribed period. Permission to remain in the State as confirmed by the Garda National Immigration Bureau is a matter of vital importance to all applicants for Citizenship. Applicants must ensure that their registration with the Garda National Immigration Bureau is kept up to date during their residency in this country.

While it may not be deemed prejudicial to an application for naturalisation should an applicant wish to leave the State for short periods, each case is considered individually. In circumstances where the person in question wishes to leave the State while his-her application is being processed, he-she should notify the citizenship section of the dates of travel and the reasons for same. The legal provisions governing naturalisation require that a naturalised person continue to reside in the State after naturalisation, and any long-term absences will be assessed in that light. Officials in the Citizenship Division of my Department inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

137 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24365/09]

I refer the Deputy to my answers to his previous Parliamentary Questions. I am informed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that the person in question made a Family Reunification application in January 2006 and a decision was issued to the person in question on 9 July 2008. However, the letter containing that decision was subsequently returned undelivered to my Department. The decision letter was reissued on 11 March 2009 to the new address which the Deputy provided for the person in question. I am further informed that the Deputy was advised in my previous reply that if the person in question wishes to submit additional information to support his application for family reunification he can do so and this will be taken into consideration in reaching a decision.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

138 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for citizenship and residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24366/09]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Division of my Department in April 2008. On examination of the application submitted it was determined that the application form had not been fully completed. It was returned to the person in question for further attention on 18 April, 2008. The person in question returned the application form to the Citizenship Division but the application form was returned again to the applicant on 1 July, 2008 as the application form was still incomplete. The Citizenship Division of my Department wrote to the person in question on 16 October, 2008 requesting she return her completed application form and supporting documentation in order for her application to be processed further. A 21 day letter was issued on 22 January, 2009. To date the Citizenship Division of my Department have not received the requested documentation and the application has been deemed ineligible.

It is open to the person in question to lodge a new application for a certificate of naturalisation if and when she is in a position to meet the statutory requirements. Officials in the General Immigration Division of my Department inform me that Temporary permission to remain in the State was granted to the person concerned on 14 August, 2007 until 14 August, 2010.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

139 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if residency and citizenship status will be renewed in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cavan who has been in employment here on foot of work permits since 2001 and whose employer is anxious that they continue in their present employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24367/09]

An application for long-term residency by the person referred to by the Deputy was made on 14 April 2008. Officials in the Long-Term Residency Section of my Department have advised me that applications from September 2007 are currently being dealt with. As soon as a decision is made on the case, the person concerned will be notified. Officials in the Citizenship section of my Department inform me that there is no record of an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person concerned.

Proposed Legislation.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

140 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has put in place an instalment system, whereby fines imposed by a court can be discharged by way of weekly, fortnightly or monthly payments, rather than the current system, whereby it is demanded in one lump sum payment, after a period of time being allowed to accumulate same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24386/09]

The Fines Bill 2009, which is currently before the House and awaiting Committee Stage, makes provision for the payment of fines by instalments. Section 14 of the Bill allows a person on whom a fine has been imposed, to apply to the court to pay the fine by instalments. If the court is satisfied that to pay in full by the due date would cause undue financial hardship, it can direct that the fine be paid by instalments over a period not exceeding one year. An extension of not more that a further year may be given by the court where it is satisfied that the financial circumstances of the person have changed and the change is not due to that person's culpable neglect.

Citizenship Applications.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

141 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department has received an application from a person (details supplied) in County Longford for subsidiary protection under the European Communities Eligibility for Protection Regulations 2006 (S.I. 518/2006); when same will be considered; if an application for leave to remain has been submitted; if same will be dealt with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24387/09]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 5 December 2007. 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 7 April 2009, 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 will be passed to me for decision.

Passport Applications.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

142 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when a passport will be issued in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24226/09]

During peak business months, the time taken by the Passport Office to process applications submitted by standard post is between four to six weeks. The application in question was received by the Passport Office on 19 May 2009 and the passport was issued on 15 June 2009.

Miami Five Case.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

143 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will raise a matter (details supplied) with the US authorities. [24250/09]

I am not aware, nor has my Department been informed that a member of the Oireachtas has sought to visit the so-called ‘Miami 5' in U.S. prisons. Any request for a visit to one or more of these individuals of Cuban nationality, convicted in the United States, is a matter for the US authorities. The Government has no standing in the matter.

Community Development.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

144 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if funding for community development programmes outside RAPID areas in County Donegal will be cut; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24231/09]

I refer the deputy to my response to question 11 (23016/09) on 17 June 2009, which provided information on the Community Development Projects in Co. Donegal.

For the Deputy's information, there are no RAPID areas in County Donegal.

Earnáil Dheonach na Gaeilge.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

145 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil anailís costais tairbhe nó aon taighde eile déanta ag an Roinn maidir leis an moladh a rinne sé go mbeadh aon eagraíocht amháin Ghaeilge ann d’earnáil dheonach na Gaeilge agus chuige sin go gcuirfí deireadh leis na heagraíochtaí Gaeilge mar atá faoi láthair; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [24306/09]

Dírím aird an Teachta ar an bhfreagra a thug mé ar Cheist Uimh 139 (24138/09) den 17 Meitheamh 2009.

Straitéis don Ghaeilge.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

146 D’fhiafraigh Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil anailís costais tairbhe nó aon taighde eile déanta ag an Roinn maidir le costais agus éifeachtacht an struchtúir atá i gceist aige a bhunú chun feidhm a thabhairt don Straitéis 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge atá beartaithe ag an Rialtas; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [24307/09]

Tá dréacht de Straitéis 20 bliain don Ghaeilge faighte agam agus tá sé á mheas faoi láthair ag mo Roinn féin agus ag Ranna eile a mbeidh sé de fhreagracht orthu í a chur i bhfeidhm. Beidh an Straitéis le haontú ag an gCoiste Rialtais don Ghaeilge agus don Ghaeltacht sula gcuirfear os comhair an Rialtais é agus is ag an tráth sin a shocrófar ar aon struchtúr is gá chun í a chur i bhfeidhm.

Tig leis an Teachta glacadh leis gur ar mhaithe lena chinntiú go mbeadh iarrachtaí uile an Stáit ar son na Gaeilge comhtháite agus éifeachtach a chuirfí aon struchtúr nua ar bun.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

147 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if she will investigate the reinstatement of the maximum rate of rent subsidy in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [24273/09]

Rent supplement is administered on behalf of the Department by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive as part of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme.

The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term income support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation, whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source.

As part of Budget 2009, the minimum weekly contribution which a person is expected to contribute towards their rent was increased from €13 to €18 with effect from January 2009. The recent Supplementary Budget provided that the weekly minimum contribution be further increased from €18 to €24 with effect from 1 June 2009 and that payments currently being made to existing rent supplement tenants be reduced by 8% from the same date. These measures account for the reduction in the rent supplement payment of the person concerned this year.

Each existing recipient of rent supplement was advised in advance, by letter, of the particular reductions being made to their rent supplement payment from 1 June 2009. This letter also advised that if the recipient wanted to talk to their landlord to seek a reduction in rent, the Department's letter could be shown to a landlord as evidence of their reduced rent supplement payment.

The most recent data published by the CSO show that rents in the private sector have fallen by almost 11% since November 2008 and by almost 20% in the past year. It is essential that state support for tenants who form a substantial section of the rental market, does not give rise to inflated rental prices.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

148 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Cork has been refused rent allowance; the way this decision was reached; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24289/09]

Rent supplement is administered on behalf of the Department by the Health Service Executive as part of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme.

Rent supplement is normally calculated to ensure that a person, after the payment of rent, has an income equal to the rate of SWA appropriate to their family circumstances less a minimum contribution of €24, which recipients are required to pay from their own resources. Many recipients pay more than €24 because they are also required to contribute, towards their accommodation costs, any additional assessable means that they have over and above the appropriate basic supplementary welfare allowance rate.

The Executive has advised that the person concerned was refused rent supplement as her total income from one-parent family payment, occupational injuries benefit and maintenance is sufficient to meet her accommodation costs. This decision has been upheld by a HSE designated Appeals Officer. It is open to the person concerned to appeal against this decision to the Department's independent Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO). To date no such appeal has been received.

Decentralisation Programme.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

149 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the progress to date in relation to decentralisation to Drogheda, County Louth; the impact the 2009 budget decisions have had on the proposed relocations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24297/09]

The Government outlined in Budget 2009 that the decentralisation programme to Drogheda would proceed as planned.The OPW has purchased sites in Drogheda to accommodate the Department’s Headquarters and the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

It is intended that the accommodation will be procured by Public Private Partnership (PPP), the procurement process to be conducted by the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA). In that regard, the accommodation requirements are being assessed and the matter of bringing the project to the point of procurement is being progressed by the Office of Public Works in consultation with the Department.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

150 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if and when rent support will be restored in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24374/09]

The position remains as advised in Parliamentary Question 319 which I answered for the Deputy on 19 May 2009.

The Executive has advised that, while the person concerned had been in receipt of rent supplement, payment was discontinued on his return to work.

The Executive has further advised that there is no record of an appeal against the decision to discontinue payment of rent supplement to the person concerned. It remains open to this person to appeal against the decision to a HSE Appeals Officer.

Money Advice and Budgeting Service.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

151 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is only one Money Advice and Budgeting Service office serving Cork city, all of east County Cork and parts of west Cork with the average waiting period for an appointment now standing at five to six weeks; if she will allocate additional resources to provide a MABS service based in east Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24213/09]

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) is the main Government funded service which provides assistance to people who are over-indebted and need help and advice in coping with debt problems. In 2009, almost €18 million has been provided to assist the MABS in dealing with its workload. There are 53 independent MABS companies with voluntary boards of management operating the local MABS services from 65 locations throughout the country. In addition, the MABS National Telephone Helpline is available from 9 am to 8 pm Monday to Friday at lo-call number 1890 283 438 and budgeting and money management information can be accessed 24 hours a day at www.mabs.ie.

Cork MABS has 7 money advice staff and provides service to Cork city, in the main, as well as east Cork and other parts of the county. It is one of 4 MABS with a total of 17 money advice staff that provide services throughout County Cork. North Cork MABS has 4 money advice staff and is based in Mallow. West Cork MABS has 3 money advice staff and is located in Dunmanway and Charleville MABS has 3 money advice staff. Applications for funding for additional staff are kept under review should any further funding become available for extra posts.

All MABS companies, including Cork MABS, operate an appointment system for meeting clients. Clients with urgent difficulties are prioritised for attention and dealt with promptly. Less urgent cases are referred to the National Telephone Helpline and to the MABS website for immediate assistance with budgeting and money management issues. The Helpline can now handle less complex straight forward single debt cases such as threatened utility disconnections and deals directly with the ESB and An Bord Gáis in relation to these cases. Over 90% of callers to the Helpline find that their money management and budgeting issues can be resolved with the assistance of the helpline advisor. Some 10% of callers are referred to the local MABS for appointment.

In addition the Helpline provides assistance to local services to manage their appointment lists by providing an initial preliminary MABS service to clients and ongoing support while they await their appointment with their local money advisor.

The MABS advises that people coping with debt difficulties should take early action. An approach to MABS via any of the channels can be the first positive step in addressing debt difficulties. The MABS provides a high quality personal service that helps many people to cope with and overcome the burden of indebtedness that can have such an impact on their lives and that of their families.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

152 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved and awarded farm assist. [24214/09]

The person concerned has withdrawn his application for a farm assist payment.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

153 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when an oral hearing will be held for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo in view of the fact that they were told that an oral hearing would be held in December 2008. [24312/09]

The person concerned applied for Invalidity Pension on 8 July 2008. The application was disallowed by the Deciding Officer on 10 September 2008, following an examination by a Medical Assessor of the Department who expressed the opinion that the person concerned did not meet the medical requirements for Invalidity Pension.

The person appealed against this decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 22 September 2008 and in accordance with the statutory requirements in relation to appeals the relevant departmental papers and comments of the Department were sought.

The person concerned also lodged a separate appeal against a decision relating to Illness Benefit. A further medical examination was considered necessary and this was held on 13 November 2008. The person contacted the Department in early December 2008 to request an oral hearing but it was not possible at that stage to give any indication as to when this could be arranged. The relevant documentation has been passed to the Appeals Officer and the person concerned will be notified as soon as the arrangements for a hearing in place.

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

John McGuinness

Ceist:

154 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if rent allowance or financial support will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [24325/09]

The position remains as advised in Parliamentary Question 326 which I answered for the Deputy on 19 May 2009.

The Executive has advised that payment of rent supplement to the person concerned was stopped as she has refused three offers of accommodation by her local authority in a period of 18 months. She has appealed against this decision.

The Executive has further advised that the Appeals Officer will be in contact with the person concerned when a decision has been made on her appeal.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

155 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if and when payment will be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24377/09]

The person concerned applied for job seekers allowance from 6 November 2008 and her claim was refused by a Deciding Officer on the grounds that the person did not satisfy the habitual residence condition. I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an appeal from the person concerned was received by that Office on 3 March 2009. In accordance with the statutory requirements the relevant departmental papers and comments of the Social Welfare Services were sought and the case has been referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration.

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

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

156 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if the back to education allowance will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24382/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

157 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance or similar payment will be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24383/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 156 and 157 together.

An application form for the back to education allowance was received from the person concerned. However, while in the process of being transferred from one office to another, the form was mislaid. A Facilitator will arrange to meet with her at a suitable time next week to have a fresh application completed and a decision will be made on this case as soon as possible thereafter.

Payment of one parent family payment (OFP) to the person concerned ceased on 3 June 2009 as she no longer had a qualified child dependant. She works part-time and since March 2009 she has been in receipt of reduced rate jobseeker's benefit for the days on which she is unemployed.

As the OFP is no longer in payment she now has the option of transferring from jobseeker's benefit to jobseeker's allowance if it is more beneficial to her. An application form for jobseeker's allowance has issued to her. She should complete and return this form if she wishes to have her eligibility to jobseeker's allowance assessed.

Departmental Properties.

David Stanton

Ceist:

158 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Defence the plans being considered by him to sell properties in the ownership of his Department within the next 12 months; the details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24302/09]

As the Deputy will be aware, four military barracks in Lifford, Rockhill (Letterkenny), Monaghan and Longford closed at the end of January last. My Department has been in contact with all other Government Departments to establish if they, or any of their agencies, had any interest in acquiring any of the properties. A number of expressions of interest have been received in respect of each location and these are being discussed with the departments/agencies involved.

In addition to these four barracks a number of other properties, mainly former married quarters and former RDF facilities have been identified as surplus to military requirements and will be disposed of.

It is anticipated that the barracks and other properties will be disposed of, taking account of market conditions, so as to maximise the return to the Defence Forces and generate funding for reinvestment in Defence Forces equipment and infrastructure in accordance with Government policy.

Defence Forces Role.

John Deasy

Ceist:

159 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Defence the ceremonial functions and duties that members of the Defence Forces perform in conjunction with the Office of the President; and the amount these duties and functions cost the taxpayer each year. [24385/09]

The Defence Forces provide ceremonial support to the Office of the President. Such support is given for occasions such as presentation of credentials by ambassadors accredited to Ireland, on arrival and departure by Heads of State on state visits and on arrival and departure by Heads of Government. The President of Ireland receives ceremonial honours when departing on and returning from state visits and on her attendance at the St. Patrick's day parade.

The element of ceremonial support provided to the Office of President includes, guards of honour, escorts of honour and marshals. Army bands provide the musical element of events. Officers of the Defence Forces are appointed as Aides de Camp. There are also Non-Commissioned Officers of the Military Police based at Áras an Uachtarán.

Private Residential Tenancies Board.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

160 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on proposals to reform the workings of the Private Residential Tenancies Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24284/09]

Earlier this year I announced my intention to review the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 under which the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) operates. The purpose of this review is to consider whether the Act best supports the PRTB's key functions and whether legislative amendments would support either the achievement of additional operational efficiencies by the PRTB in the delivery of those functions or the broader good working of the private rented sector.

My Department has now commenced this review, which I hope will yield preliminary outcomes by Autumn 2009. As part of this process, my Department is consulting with relevant stakeholders, including with the PRTB itself and landlord and tenant representative organisations. Advertisements were also placed in the print media at the end of May 2009 seeking the views of the general public.

The Board, in fulfilment of its remit to advise on policy aspects and the general operation of the Residential Tenancies Act, has already submitted to my Department a number of suggestions for legislative improvements and it is hoped to address the most critical of these in the context of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2008, currently before the Oireachtas, with the remaining proposals being considered further in the context of the review.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

161 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if it is expected to meet European targets in respect of carbon emission reduction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24342/09]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

163 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will bring forward new proposals to meet Kyoto climate change targets here; the number of carbon credits and the estimated cost of buying same during the Kyoto timeframe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24253/09]

I propose to take Question Nos. 161 and 163 together.

All relevant Government Departments are working on the development of further measures to reduce Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions. This work is overseen by the Cabinet Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security, which is chaired by the Taoiseach. I have been reporting progress to the Oireachtas on an annual basis when I present the Carbon Budget to this House. While the measures are relevant to our Kyoto compliance over the 2008-2012 period, their longer-term impact is of even more importance. Significant structural change is required across all sectors of our economy if we are to meet the much more demanding targets to which we are now committing ourselves. Under the recent EU climate and energy package, Ireland has taken on a target of a 20% reduction in emissions between 2005 and 2020, and this target will increase further when a new global agreement on climate change is reached, hopefully in Copenhagen next December.

The EPA is responsible for emission projections. Its most recent analysis, which reflected the ESRI's then assessment of the changed economic situation, was published in March 2009. The updated figures indicated a Distance to Target for the Kyoto period 2008-2012 in the range of 1.3-1.8 million tonnes per annum, a reduction of around 3 million tonnes from the projections of Autumn 2008.

In the current economic climate, an unusually high degree of uncertainty attaches to all projections. It is now clear that the economic contraction will be deeper than assumed in the March projections. It is quite possible that Ireland will now meet its Kyoto target for the non-trading sector without using carbon credits.

The global economic downturn is also leading to a fall in the market price of carbon credits. While the Government's projections of the cost of the purchasing requirement had assumed an average unit price of €15, markets are currently operating at closer to €11. Overall, the cost to the Government will be much less than previously forecast due to the fall in both the volume and unit price of carbon credits.

The National Treasury Management Agency has, to date, purchased some 5.255 million credits at a cost of some €73.7 million. In addition, investments made by my Department in 2006 and 2007 in carbon funds operated by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank are expected to yield some 3 million credits at a projected cost of some €27.6 million during the five-year Kyoto Protocol commitment period 2008-2012.

Our purchasing requirements are being kept under review and will be revised as necessary in the light of future projections. The National Treasury Agency (NTMA) has been asked to put its purchasing programme on hold for the foreseeable future. If it transpires that the credits which have been secured are not needed in the Kyoto period they can be carried forward for use in the next commitment period.

It is important to emphasise that the effect of the recession on our emissions is a short-term one and it would be a serious mistake to ease off on our efforts to address the underlying trend. When economic growth resumes, so too will our emissions grow unless we have the measures in place to reduce business. The Government remains focused on this work through the Cabinet Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Deirdre Clune

Ceist:

162 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of a project to install a new water main in an area (details supplied) in County Cork; when work on the project will commence; the length of time the project will take; the amount it will cost; the funding provided by him in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24207/09]

The Rochestown Water Supply Scheme, which includes the provision of a new water main at the location mentioned, has been approved for funding under the Serviced Land Initiative measure of my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2007 — 2009 at an estimated cost of €2.7 million.

I understand that Cork County Council has already started work on this scheme. Accordingly, details on progress with its construction may be obtained from the Council.

Question No. 163 answered with Question No. 161.

Housing Grants.

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

164 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will allocate additional funding to local authorities who request same in order to respond to the large number of applicants for housing adaption grants in respect of people with disability and older persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24293/09]

Allocations totalling €79.562 million were notified to local authorities under the Housing Adaptation Grant Scheme for Older People and People with a Disability, the Mobility Aids Grant Scheme and the old Disabled Persons & Essential Repairs Grant Schemes on 7 May 2009. These allocations represent an 11.4% increase on the initial allocation for 2008.

At this stage I do not envisage making further allocations to local authorities in 2009. However, I intend to review the funding position later in the year, in the event of any under- spend by local authorities of their allocations for the grant schemes or other allocations under the wider social housing investment programme.

EU Regulations.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

165 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has issued a communication to local authorities outlining the fact that the Department of Agriculture and Food will be the sole body responsible for routine on-farm inspections, including nitrates inspections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24300/09]

Primary responsibility for the implementation of the Nitrates Regulations has rested with the local authorities since 2005. However, discussions are ongoing between my Department and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to ensure that the necessary inspection and related functions under the Nitrates Regulations are carried out in the most efficient and effective manner. In the meantime the existing arrangements continue to apply.

Planning Issues.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

166 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will support the case of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary. [24309/09]

My Department's 2005 Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Sustainable Rural Housing state that, in rural areas under strong urban pressure, planning applications for a single rural dwelling from persons who demonstrate ‘local need' in terms of strong links to the local community should be accommodated, subject to the normal planning criteria of siting, waste water disposal etc. The Guidelines give examples of such links, e.g. farmers, their sons and daughters or persons involved in full-time farming or forestry. It is a matter for each planning authority to adopt the local need criteria which will apply to its area as part of its development plan. The interpretation of policy and its application in individual cases is a matter for each planning authority and, upon appeal, for An Bord Pleanála.

I understand from North Tipperary County Council that, while the person in question has had pre-planning consultations with the Council, he has not proceeded with making a planning application. He has been informed that should he make a planning application and receive a decision which he is dissatisfied with, he would have the option to appeal the decision to An Bord Pleanála, who have the statutory remit independently to adjudicate on planning decisions.

Under section 30 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, I am specifically precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to any particular case with which a planning authority or An Bord Pleanála is or may be concerned.

Private Residential Tenancies Board.

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

167 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is satisfied with the situation whereby, as a result of the procedures required by the Private Residential Tenancy Board, a property owner may have to wait for upwards to two years to have a non-paying tenant excluded from their property; and his proposals for reform in this regard. [24321/09]

My Department has no function in the operational matters of the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB), which is an independent statutory body established under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004. In these circumstances, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on specific cases or classes of case.

The Residential Tenancies Act sets out dispute resolution services and procedures to be delivered by the PRTB and specifies notice periods, cooling-off periods and other related timeframes. However, it is acknowledged that, partly as a consequence of the Board's success in ensuring compliance with the registration requirements of the Act, and the resulting large workloads arising, the processing times for dispute resolution are not yet optimal. At the same time, it is important to note that less than 1% of all registered tenancies seek to avail of the PRTB's dispute resolution mechanisms. This indicates that a healthy and stable landlord-tenant relationship prevails in the vast majority of tenancies.

The PRTB is committed to delivering its services in as timely a manner as possible and it has set out a clear strategic approach to reducing its backlog of disputes cases. My Department supports the PRTB in this approach and, last year, in response to the large and ongoing volume of work involved, a request from the Board of the PRTB for the recruitment of an additional 14 permanent staff, to bring the permanent staffing complement from 26 to 40, was approved. This has been of significant benefit to the Board in dealing with the administrative work associated with the processing of dispute cases.

The PRTB has taken a number of other initiatives to optimise its throughput of dispute cases, including the introduction of a system of paper-based adjudications on a trial basis. Early indications are that these initiatives are helping to speed up the dispute resolution process. In the longer term, an automated document management system will also be introduced by the PRTB as part of their recently adopted ICT strategy, the roll-out of which has now commenced and which, I understand, the PRTB expect to have implemented by the end of 2010. This should also yield staffing and process efficiencies for the organisation in general and expedite the processing of dispute cases in particular.

Finally, I recently announced my intention to review the provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 under which the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) operates. The purpose of this review is to consider whether the Act best supports the PRTB's key functions and whether legislative amendments would support either the achievement of additional operational efficiencies by the PRTB in the delivery of those functions or the broader good working of the private rented sector. I hope that this review will yield preliminary outcomes by Autumn 2009.

Electric Motor Vehicles.

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

168 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the progress made on securing a further memorandum of understanding with car manufacturers and charging infrastructure providers following the agreements with a company (details supplied) and the ESB to promote the rapid rollout of electric cars; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24394/09]

The target of 10% of all vehicles to be powered by electricity by 2020 will equate to up to 250,000 cars on Irish roads. This scale of deployment of electric vehicles will have a significant impact in terms of reducing carbon emissions and imported oil consumption in the transport sector. The challenge now is to develop costed options for the establishment, operation and maintenance of electric vehicle infrastructure network in Ireland, together with possible measures to develop a market for the vehicles themselves.

The Memorandum of Understanding which I recently concluded with Renault-Nissan will greatly increase the level of knowledge available on the infrastructure requirements of electric vehicles and ensure that Ireland has the opportunity to be one of the first countries to be supplied with both Renault and Nissan electric cars. Under the existing Memorandum of Understanding ESB Networks are availing of data on developments in electric vehicles which are being used to inform consideration of optimum infrastructure, possible support mechanisms and the potential benefits accruing. This work will provide us with a solid basis for electric vehicle deployment policy and inform our dealings with other technology providers, including vehicle manufacturers and infrastructure developers.

The Memorandum of Understanding does not convey any exclusive rights in relation to the provision of electric cars. Ireland is open for business to all manufacturers in relation to electric vehicles. I believe we need to build relationships with all global players in the sector. More generally, work to progress the strategic framework for deployment of electric vehicles is under way. The inter-departmental/agency Taskforce is meeting regularly to progress the framework for deployment of electric vehicles in Ireland. It is chaired by my Department and comprises the Departments of Transport, Finance, Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and Enterprise, Trade and Employment, as well as Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI), ESB, the IDA and Enterprise Ireland.

The Taskforce is developing the options and timeframe for putting in place the necessary infrastructure and other arrangements for the national roll-out of electric vehicles. Full account will also be taken of global developments as the technologies mature. The Taskforce will shortly report its initial findings and advise on next steps. Three working groups have been set up under the aegis of the Taskforce. These are the Transport/Infrastructure Group, the Fiscal Group, and the Enterprise Group. The work of these groups will inform the Taskforce's main report. Employment opportunities, the costs involved in providing car charging infrastructure and all associated issues including funding options will be addressed in the report. The ESB and SEI have been working intensively as part of the Taskforce and visited Israel and Denmark last year to study their approaches to fast tracking the deployment of electric vehicles. The ambitions of other countries underline the importance of positioning Ireland at the forefront of deployment of electric vehicles.

Telecommunications Services.

Rory O'Hanlon

Ceist:

169 Deputy Rory O’Hanlon asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when it is intended to have broadband available at Camaghy, Magheracloone, Carrickmacross, County Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24227/09]

Broadband services can now be provided over various platforms including DSL (i.e. over telephone lines), fixed wireless, mobile, cable, satellite and fibre by the private sector service providers. I understand that Camaghy, Maheracloone, Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, already has broadband on offer from a number of service providers as detailed in the following table.

Camaghy

Platform

Service Provider

Website

Phone

Mobile

O2 Ireland

http://www.o2.ie/broadband

1800 226 086

Wireless

Net1 Limited

http://www.net1.ie

041 9844040

Satellite

Applied Solutions

http://www.ADSLnow.ie

1890 924 854

Avonline

http://www.avonlinebroadband.co.uk

0044 800 073 1102

Broadband Wherever

http://www.broadbandwherever.net

0044 800 068 3358

Cross Country Broadband Limited

http://www.crosscountrybroadband.com

053 92 55428

Digiweb Satellite

http://www.broadband.digiweb.ie

042 939 3300

e3 Broadband

http://www.e3broadband.ie

1850 303333

Ehotspot

http://www.ehotspot.ie

0044 1262 409109

Eircom Satellite

http://www.eircom.ie

1901

Fastnet Broadband Satellite

http://www.fastnetbroadband.com

01 2303746

Media Satellite Ireland Limited

http://www.mediasat.ie

1850 202 144

National Broadband Limited

http://www.nbb.ie

045 982130

Orbitlink

http://www.orbitlink.ie

01 8601995

Pure Telecom Satellite

http://www.puretelecom.ie

01 2895555

Satellite Broadband Ireland

http://www.satellitebroadbandireland.ie

044 9372514

Magheracloone

Platform

Service Provider

Website

Phone

Mobile

O2 Ireland

http://www.o2.ie/broadband

1800 226 086

Wireless

Net1 Limited

http://www.net1.ie

041 9844040

Satellite

Applied Solutions

http://www.ADSLnow.ie

1890 924 854

Avonline

http://www.avonlinebroadband.co.uk

0044 800 073 1102

Broadband Wherever

http://www.broadbandwherever.net

0044 800 068 3358

Cross Country Broadband Limited

http://www.crosscountrybroadband.com

053 92 55428

Digiweb Satellite

http://www.broadband.digiweb.ie

042 939 3300

e3 Broadband

http://www.e3broadband.ie

1850 303333

Ehotspot

http://www.ehotspot.ie

0044 1262 409109

Eircom Satellite

http://www.eircom.ie

1901

Fastnet Broadband Satellite

http://www.fastnetbroadband.com

01 2303746

Media Satellite Ireland Limited

http://www.mediasat.ie

1850 202 144

National Broadband Limited

http://www.nbb.ie

045 982130

Orbitlink

http://www.orbitlink.ie

01 8601995

Pure Telecom Satellite

http://www.puretelecom.ie

01 2895555

Satellite Broadband Ireland

http://www.satellitebroadbandireland.ie

044 9372514

Alternative Energy Projects.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

170 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he is taking to support renewable energy projects on farms here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24256/09]

The range of renewable energy support measures in place includes a number of measures that may prove particularly suitable to farmers or those living in rural areas.

In the first instance, there are measures in place to support the generation of electricity on a micro scale as I announced earlier in the year. These measures include a guaranteed price of 19 cent per kilowatt hour of electricity produced. This competitive feed-in tariff will apply to the first 4,000 micro-generation installations countrywide over the next three years. Access to the feed-in tariff will also include the provision of a smart-meter to facilitate exports to the grid and encourage those customers to examine their electricity use generally. Eligible installations include small scale wind, photovoltaic, hydro and micro combined heat and power. While there is an upper limit on the size of eligible units, this type of technology would still prove worthwhile for farmers, if only for their own residences.

The initiation of a pilot trial by Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) of micro and small-scale generation technologies is designed to investigate and test technical, market and regulatory issues associated with the deployment of micro-generation technologies including installation, network connection and operation, and generation. Grant aid for up to 50 pilot installations, will be provided as part of the programme. The experience gained in the performance of this programme will inform the roll-out of any subsequent wider micro-scale programme.

Traditionally, the electricity network was designed to accommodate the flow of electricity from large centralised plants to customers dispersed throughout the country. Micro-generation at local level now introduces two-way flows to the electricity system. Local generators will have the ability to be paid by the ESB for electricity that is surplus to their own requirements and export it back to the national grid.

Opportunities also exist in the areas of Biomass production and Anaerobic Digestion (AD). Leaving aside the market development effects of programmes like Greener Homes and the Renewable Heat Deployment Programme (Reheat), both of which have acted to stimulate the market for biomass, a number of other capital support programmes are also in place. SEI's Combined Heat and Power (CHP) grants programme launched in August 2006, assists the deployment of small-scale fossil-fired and biomass CHP systems in industrial, commercial, service and public sectors, and the new Biomass CHP Programme, launched in January 2008, provides grant aid for Biomass and Anaerobic Digestion CHP. Anerobic Digestion, in particular, offers a real opportunity for farmers to use animal waste to generate electricity, while also reducing the environmental impact of that waste when spread on the land. Refit tariffs have also been announced for biomass and AD CHP.

Question No. 171 answered with Question No. 20.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

172 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the degree to which funding is available for research and development in the alternative energy sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24329/09]

As published in the Revised Budget, the Energy Research allocation for 2009 is €16,676m, of which €642,000 is current and the remainder is capital. This allocation will allow a broad range of Programmes to continue, such as the Renewable Energy Research, Demonstration and Development (RD&D) programme, and the work of the Ocean Energy Development Unit. This suite of programmes reflect the strategic direction set out in the Irish Energy Research Council Report, and in the 2007 Energy White Paper entitled, ‘Delivering a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland — The Energy Policy Framework 2007-2020'.

In particular, the Government is giving high priority to supporting the development of Ireland's ocean energy potential. The multi-annual Ocean Energy Package, which I launched last year, encompasses the establishment of the Ocean Energy Development Unit based in Sustainable Energy Ireland; the creation of a state-of-the-art National Ocean Energy facility in University College Cork; the development of a grid-connected wave energy test site off the west coast; the establishment of an Ocean Energy Prototype Fund; and the introduction of a new feed-in-tariff under the REFIT scheme for wave and tidal technologies of €220 per Megawatt Hour. I am pleased to confirm that all components of the Package are under way and are being progressed as a priority, with the full involvement of stakeholders, by the Ocean Energy Development Unit.

Telecommunications Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

173 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which he expects broadband quality, speed and availability to become available here in line with the highest standards applicable and available throughout the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24330/09]

The role of the Government in the electronic communications market in Ireland is to formulate policy to facilitate the provision of high quality services by competing service providers.

The widespread provision of broadband services continues to be a priority for the Government. In that regard my Department has undertaken a variety of initiatives to address the gaps in broadband coverage. These initiatives have helped to facilitate the development of the market. According to the latest Central Statistics Office report ‘Information Society and Telecommunications 2008' published in May 2009, 62% of Irish households and 83% of SMEs now have a broadband connection. Ireland also has more residential and SME subscriptions in the higher speed category i.e. 2-10 Mbps than in the lower speed category of up to 2 Mbps.

The latest OECD report, which includes data up to December 2008, is also testament to the considerable improvement of recent years. It shows that Ireland is ranked 9th out of 30 countries in year on year broadband growth. With similar fast uptake of broadband noted in previous reports, Ireland has closed the gap on the OECD average with our improvement over the past 2 years. Additionally, it should be noted that mobile broadband, which is very popular with Irish broadband subscribers, is not yet published for the purposes of international statistical comparisons. However, mobile broadband statistics are expected to be published by the OECD in the future reports. The publication of mobile broadband statistics is expected to improve Ireland's ranking further.

There are still some parts of the country where the private sector cannot justify the commercial provision of broadband services. Accordingly, my Department has undertaken to implement the National Broadband Scheme (NBS) and has entered into a contract with "3", a Hutchison Whampoa company, for the delivery of the NBS. 3 will be required to provide services to all residences and businesses that are within the NBS area and who seek a service. Services were rolled out in some rural areas at the end of April 2009 and the entire NBS area will be served by September 2010.

Internationally, electronic communications markets are moving to provide next generation broadband in order to deliver greater quality, speed and service to consumers. This is happening where there is strong competition and incentives to innovate. The policy framework for future broadband development in Ireland is set out in the consultation paper on Next Generation Broadband, which I published last July. The consultation period on the paper has now concluded and I will publish the final policy paper shortly.

Television Licence Fee.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

174 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the full extent of funding available from television licence fees; the use to which such funding has been put in each of the past six years to date; the degree to which the private and public broadcasting sectors have benefited from such funds; his future proposals in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24331/09]

The following table sets out funding available from television licence fees and the breakdown of the allocation of this funding in the years 2003-2008.

Year

TV Licence Fee Net Proceeds

RTÉ

Broadcasting Fund

€ million

€ million

€ million

2003

166.8

158.5

8.3

2004

169.1

160.6

8.5

2005

181.5

172.4

9.1

2006

192.7

183.1

9.6

2007

205.1

194.8

10.3

2008

209.6

199.1

10.5

Funding to RTÉ is provided for the purpose of allowing RTÉ to meet its public service broadcasting remit. The purpose of the Broadcasting Fund is to encourage both private and public broadcasters to include additional programming of a particular character in their programme schedules. The fund is open to independent producers and all free to air broadcasters. This fund is administered by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland and I have no role in this regard, including in relation to the allocation of funding.

Fisheries Protection.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

175 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which Ireland’s compliance with the EU directive on eel fishery conservation compares with measures taken in other EU countries; if sufficient consideration was given to the number of families who have traditionally relied on eel fishing; if the scientific evidence exists that eel fishing here is a major contribution to the diminution of eel stocks worldwide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24333/09]

As required under EU Council Regulation No. 1100 of 2007, Ireland submitted a Government approved draft Eel Management Plan to the Commission for approval. I am not aware of the content of the eel plans submitted by other Member States. These, along with Ireland's draft plan are currently being evaluated by the European Commission. Clearly the status of stocks in other Member States will differ from that of Ireland's depending on local conditions and their plans may make different recommendations. All must, however, clearly demonstrate how they would achieve the targets necessary for recovery of the European eel stocks. The European Commission is scheduled to report back on this evaluation by the end of this month in accordance with the EC Regulation.

I am alert to the concerns and the impact the required conservation measures will have on commercial eel fishermen. In 2008 there were 296 licences, taken out by between 100-150 fishermen, not all of which were actively fished. Fishermen were permitted to catch brown eels from June to August and silver eels from September to December. Catches have been declining over recent years because of the status of stocks. Eel fishing is not a full time occupation and is restricted to certain months of the year. Experienced eel fishermen would be in a very strong position to tender competitively for the provision of the ‘trap and transport' operations recently advertised by ESB. I have encouraged eel fishermen to form the appropriate co-operatives or other ventures to best compete for these contracts. There will also be a limited amount of fishing associated with the research and monitoring to be carried out under the plan spread over 7 water bodies.

Eel stocks are a European wide shared stock with mature eels leaving European shores to spawn in the Saragossa Sea and the resulting glass eels returning to the European coastline. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) indicated that the European eel stock is at a historic low and continues to decline. The returning juvenile eels are at between 1-10% of the levels pre-1980. I am advised that the low recruitment of juvenile eels in 2009 appears to be the worst yet and gives rise to serious concern for the future of the eel. Eel fishing is one of the factors identified in the Eel Management Plan as impacting on eel mortality, the others being turbine mortality, poor recruitment, and environmental and water quality issues. The Eel Management Plan submitted to the EU Commission sets out measures designed to address all these causes in an effort to save this vulnerable species not only for its own sake but also to protect ecological biodiversity. To do otherwise would consign our remaining stock, challenged by so many pressures to possible extinction.

Postal Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

176 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his preferred policy option for the future development of An Post with particular reference to the retention of the full extent of service in both urban and rural areas and the modernisation and upgrading of technology with a view to facilitating competition with other bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24334/09]

It is Government policy that An Post remains a strong and viable company, in a position to compete in a liberalised market, provide a high quality, nationwide postal service and maintain a nationwide, customer-focused network of post offices. It is the responsibility of the board and management of the company to make strategic decisions regarding its future and how it will prepare itself for future competition, particularly in advance of the full liberalisation of the postal sector, set to happen in 2011. In preparation for competition, it is vital that the company restructures itself effectively and that management and trade unions in An Post work together to transform the company into an efficient, innovative and modern service provider by implementing the agreed restructuring programme and providing innovative new service arrangements for the public.

Energy Security.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

177 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position in regard to construction of the east-west interconnector; the degree to which the project has been advanced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24335/09]

The Government has recently announced that it has given approval to the development by EirGrid of the East-West Interconnector. The East-West Interconnector is a 500 Megawatt High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) interconnector, which will link the electricity grids of Ireland and Britain.The interconnector will, as a national strategic asset, remain in public ownership and will be owned and operated by EirGrid. State ownership of this strategic energy infrastructure will ensure that costs are minimised and benefits are passed on to consumers.

The benefits for the economy, the energy market and consumers include: Enhancing security of energy supply by delivering additional capacity to the all-island electricity market and linking it to the UK, which is in turn connected to mainland European markets; Underpinning delivery of Ireland's renewable generation targets by providing additional back-up at times of low wind and enabling the export of wind energy from Ireland at times of high wind generation; Supporting further competition in the electricity market and exerting downward pressure on prices; diversifying the national fuel mix and supply sources by reducing our dependence on electricity generated from imported natural gas; and providing EirGrid, as the system operator, with important back-up and reserve services. The Electricity Regulation (Amendment) (EirGrid) Act 2008 provides the necessary legal basis for EirGrid to construct, own and operate an interconnector.

In a strong endorsement by the European Union of the project, Ireland has secured €110 million for the East West interconnector under the European Economic Recovery Plan. The contract for the development of the East West interconnector has been recently awarded to ABB on foot of an open, tender process conducted by EirGrid under the regulatory oversight of the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER). Working closely with the CER and with the Department, EirGrid is progressing the project to schedule for completion and operational start up by 2012. The project is on track to meet the completion date subject to the outcome of the planning processes, which are currently under way.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

178 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his preferred options for non-fossil fuel generated electricity production in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24336/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

183 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if alternative energy targets previously set are expected to be achieved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24341/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

184 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has satisfied himself that national and European targets in relation to alternative energy are achievable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24343/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 178, 183 and 184 together.

The Government has set targets to increase the contribution from renewable energy sources to electricity consumed to 15% at least by 2010 and 40% at least by 2020. The 2010 target exceeds an EU target addressed to Ireland to increase the contribution from renewable sources to 13.2% of electricity consumed by 2010 and the 40% target is consistent with an EU target addressed to Ireland to increase the contribution from renewable sources to 16% of all energy consumed by 2020. The Government has also set a target to develop 500 MWs of ocean powered technologies. These technologies remain in the research phase. Target completion is dependent on the pace of development of this sector to deliver a commercially viable industry.

The current support programme for new renewable energy powered electricity generating plants, REFIT, accepts projects on a first come first served basis. The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) in its Gate 3 decision allocating connection offers for an additional 3900 MWs of capacity also adopted a first come first served policy to prioritise projects. There is therefore no declared preference for any proven technology over another.

There are now 1,400 megawatts (MWS) of renewable powered capacity approximately generating electricity. These plants contributed 12.2% of all electricity consumed in 2008. There are more than 1400 MWs of additional capacity accepted into the REFIT support programme. The REFIT projects have already secured planning permission and connection offers. Less than 300 MWs of this additional capacity will be sufficient to achieve and surpass the 2010 target. The excess above 300 MWs in REFIT and the additional 3900 MWs identified in the Gate 3 decision by the CER are capable of delivering and exceeding the 2020 target.

Natural Resources.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

179 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when it is expected that all commercial viable oil, gas or other mineral discoveries are likely to supply product; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24337/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

180 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of oil, gas or other mineral explorations currently under way on and off shore; the extent to which commercial viable product has been discovered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24338/09]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

181 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of oil or other mineral exploration licences granted in each of the past five years to date; the number granted under the pre 2007 regime; the number granted thereafter; the extent to which licences were activated in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24339/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 179, 180 and 181 together.

Currently the only discovery of oil and gas declared commercial is the Corrib Gas Field and, as the Deputy was advised in the reply to Question No. 517 on 10 February 2009, the developers Shell E&P Ireland Ltd have stated their expectation that first gas will be available in the last quarter of 2010. Completion of the development works by the developers is the principal factor that will ultimately determine the date for first gas.

With regard to non-petroleum minerals, exploration and development is undertaken by private enterprise and regulated under the Minerals Development Acts, 1940 to 1999. New exploration is continually undertaken as part of my requirements to holders of Prospecting Licences, of which there are currently 487. Details of these Licenses can be found in the six-monthly report to the Oireachtas, which I am obliged to lay before the House under the Minerals Development Acts, 1940 to 1999. The last such report was in respect of the six-month period ended 30 December 2008. I will lay the report for the six months to 31 June 2009 before the House as soon as possible after the end of that period.

No new economic deposits of non-petroleum minerals have been discovered in recent years. There have been some encouraging results, however. Details of the number of Mineral Prospecting Licences and Petroleum Exploration Licences granted in the period 2004 to 2009 are contained in the following table:

Licences Granted Years 2004-2009

Year

Prospecting Licences (Minerals)

Petroleum Exploration Licences (Oil and Gas)

2004

26

3

2005

51

7

2006

165

4

2007

143

5

2008

91

5

2009 to date (January to May)

30

0

Twenty-one of the Petroleum Exploration Licences issued between 2004 and 2008 are still active and as of 30 May 2009, there were a total of four hundred and eighty-seven active Prospecting Licences. Exploration activity related to the agreed work programmes for each licence is ongoing. The licensing terms for offshore oil and gas exploration were amended in 2007 and apply to the ten Petroleum Exploration Licences issued since 1 January 2007. The eleven Exploration Licences issued between 2004 and 2006 that are still active are subject to the 1992 licensing terms for offshore oil and gas exploration.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

182 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of companies currently involved in the production of bio-diesel or ethanol; the extent of production in each case in the past 12 months with particular reference to companies approved for excise exemption; the number of such companies that have not as yet produced any product; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24340/09]

The Biofuels Mineral Oil Tax Relief (MOTR) Schemes have resulted in 18 projects overall being awarded excise relief between 2005 and 2010. Of these projects, four are in the biodiesel category, four are in the bioethanol category, five are in the captive fleets category and five are in the pure plant oil category. My Department does not have details of companies outside of the MOTR Schemes who may be producing biofuel.

It would not be appropriate for me to comment on the position of individual companies within the schemes. I can advise the Deputy that under Scheme One over 6.8 m litres of biofuel has been produced while in 2008 over 82 million litres of biofuel was produced under the MOTR Scheme II.

Overall there have been at least five biofuels plants constructed or redeveloped on foot of excise relief granted under the schemes. A number of others are either at an advanced stage of planning, or have received planning permission. All but two of the projects are currently availing of the excise relief and my Department liaises with all project promoters on a regular basis.

Questions Nos. 183 and 184 answered with Question No. 178.

Grant Payments.

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

185 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a forestry premium will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24234/09]

I understand that there is no record of any application for an afforestation grant or premium in respect of the person concerned in the Forestry Division of my Department.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

186 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be awarded their installation aid grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24242/09]

The person concerned is an applicant under the Young Farmers' Installation Scheme. His application for payment is currently being examined and a decision will be made in regard to the application as soon as possible.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

187 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the position regarding applications under the early retirement scheme; if completed applications, which are with the State farm advisory service, Teagasc, for submission but were inadvertently delayed, will be considered under the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24243/09]

The Early Retirement Scheme was suspended for new applications on 14th October, 2008. I am, however, conscious that some potential applicants were at an advanced stage of preparing an application when entry to the scheme was suspended and had made, or were making, arrangements to meet the requirements of the Scheme.

I am acutely aware of the difficulties which a number of intending applicants had encountered. I am currently examining options for resolving these cases against the background of the competing demands for the limited resources which are at my disposal.

Pension Provisions.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

188 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if a person (details provided) in County Cork who worked in the State forest service is entitled to a lump sum in pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24244/09]

Any unestablished person who left the civil service prior to 1 January 1975 is not entitled to preserved superannuation benefits. I understand that the person named had broken service in an unestablished capacity in the Forest Service from 5 December 1966 to 7 November 1969. As the person named left the civil service in 1969 he is not entitled to any preserved benefits in respect of service with the Forest Service.

Proposed Legislation.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

189 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food further to Parliamentary Question No. 304 of 29 April 2008, the number of submissions received regarding the consultation paper; the position regarding the Bill; when he expects it to be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24251/09]

Following the consultation process initiated on the draft Animal Health and Welfare Bill, almost 400 submissions/comments were received from stakeholders, including organisations and individuals with an interest in animal health and welfare matters. On foot of receipt of these submissions my officials met with a number of the organisations and individuals to provide an opportunity for elaboration on the respective submissions. Work is now continuing on drafting the Bill taking account of the further comments received.

Grant Payments.

P. J. Sheehan

Ceist:

190 Deputy P. J. Sheehan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Cork lodged their application for inclusion in the REP scheme four programme; when they will be awarded their first payment; the amount of that payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24290/09]

Under EU Regulations, payment on individual REPS 4 applications for 2009 cannot be made until completion of administrative and area checks on all applications received up to the closing date of 15 May 2009. At that stage 75% of the payment to each individual participant can be released, with the balance being payable when the last of the on-farm inspections for the year has taken place.

Departmental Expenditure.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

191 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the funding paid to date under the farm waste management scheme on a county basis; the corresponding funds outstanding under the scheme; the number of farmers in each county who have been inspected but not awarded their first instalment; the corresponding figure for those not inspected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24299/09]

The information requested by the Deputy will be forwarded to him as soon as possible.

Special Educational Needs.

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

192 Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will accept the application for home tuition in respect of a child (details supplied) in County Kilkenny and accept the tuition provider proposed for home tuition. [24190/09]

The Deputy will be aware that the home tuition scheme provides a grant to parents to facilitate the provision of education at home for children who, for a number of reasons such as chronic illness, are unable to attend school. The scheme was extended in recent years to facilitate tuition for children awaiting an educational placement and to provide early intervention for pre-school children with autism.

The Deputy will appreciate that as the tuition takes place outside of school supervision there is a need to ensure that the tuition provider is a fully qualified teacher. However if it is not possible to recruit a tuition provider with a teaching qualification then alternative qualifications are acceptable as an interim measure until such time as a qualified teacher is recruited. A list of relevant qualifications may be sourced on my Department's website on www.education.ie.

It is in the interests of children to expect that home tutors funded under this scheme are appropriately qualified tuition providers. It is for this reason that tuition providers will be required to meet the minimum qualification standard. Twenty hours tuition per week has been sanctioned for the child in question. The proposed tuition providers do not appear to meet the qualification requirement and further information has been sought in this regard.

Special Educational Needs.

Joe Behan

Ceist:

193 Deputy Joe Behan asked the Minister for Education and Science when he expects to inform primary schools of the results of their appeals of his decision to suppress their special classes for children with mild general learning difficulties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24191/09]

Joe Behan

Ceist:

204 Deputy Joe Behan asked the Minister for Education and Science the outcome of his deliberations regarding the appeals of primary schools nationwide of his decision to suppress special classes for children with a mild general learning disability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24248/09]

Joe Behan

Ceist:

205 Deputy Joe Behan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he sought the advice of his inspectorate before deciding to suppress special classes for children with a mild general learning difficulty; if so, the advice he received; if he did not do so, the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24249/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 193, 204 and 205 together.

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department issued responses to all schools who appealed the decision to suppress classes for pupils with a Mild General Learning Disability (MGLD) on 11 June.

Correspondence was received from 49 schools in this regard. My Department has considered the correspondence and has determined that:

10 classes will be retained in 11 schools;

Further information has been requested from 3 schools and a decision will issue to the schools as soon as this has been considered;

The original decision to discontinue MGLD classes remains in the case of 35 schools.

It was noted in the material submitted by many of the schools that there are situations where a number of children enrolled in the MGLD classes fall within the low incidence disability category. In these cases, schools have been advised to liaise with their local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) in the context of their eligibility for resource teaching support. In one case discussions are ongoing between a school and SENO concerning the re-designation of a MGLD class.

My Department's decision to suppress a number of MGLD classes was on the basis that the enrolment numbers in these special classes did not have the minimum number of pupils required to retain the special class teacher. This was the sole criteria for the selection of schools and therefore not a matter for the Inspectorate.

I will arrange to have details of the individual schools forwarded to the Deputy.

Schools Building Projects.

Joe Behan

Ceist:

194 Deputy Joe Behan asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of a school building project in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24192/09]

The building project for the above school is at an advanced stage of architectural planning. I met with a deputation from the school last October when the school's situation was fully outlined.

The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase will continue to be considered in the context of my Department's multi-annual School Building and Modernisation Programme.

However, in light of current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department, it is not possible to give an indicative timeframe for the further progression of the project at this time.

In the meantime, however, the school authority has been informed that it is open to it to apply to the Planning and Building Unit of my Department for emergency works funding for capital works of an urgent nature. Grants from this fund are available for very urgent works, primarily of a major health and safety nature, to schools that require them.

My Department has not, as yet, received an application for emergency funding from the school to which the Deputy refers.

Irish Language.

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

195 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of school places in gaelscoileanna at primary and at secondary level; his estimate of the proportion of children in sixth class primary gaelscoileanna who go on to gaelscoil at second level; if he has surveyed the percentage of children who would prefer to continue learning through the medium of Irish; if he is satisfied that the system to facilitate the development of gaelscoileanna at second level is sufficiently flexible to meet the preferences of pupils and parents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24195/09]

In the 2007/08 school year there were 32,831 pupils attending schools that stated Irish as their medium of instruction in the Annual Census of Primary Schools. Of these, 3,584 pupils were in sixth class. I will arrange that the Deputy be contacted directly regarding the numbers receiving tuition through the medium of Irish at second level.

The Commission on School Accommodation published a report in 2004 on the criteria and procedures for establishing and maintaining provision through the medium of Irish in second level schools or clusters of schools. As part of its examination of the issues the Technical Working Group of the Commission conducted an analysis of the transfer rates of pupils educated through Irish from primary to post-primary levels. That analysis showed that the national average of transfer rate from gaeltacht schools to second level Irish medium schools was 47% at that time. The national average transfer rate from gaelscoileanna to second level Irish medium schools was 40% at the time. The report noted however that there was a very wide range in the transfer rates across different schools and areas. The report also noted that the wide range in transfer rates reflected, as well as location factors, a wide spectrum of attitudes, beliefs and aims of parents regarding education through Irish at second level.

My Department is currently considering a range of policy issues in relation to patronage at second level, including issues regarding commencement of new schools. The further development of second level provision through the medium of Irish will be fully considered in this context.

Child Abuse.

Joan Burton

Ceist:

196 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has summary information on the number of children transferred from industrial school reformatories and other such institutions to psychiatric institutions and mental hospitals; the number of such children; and the institutions and the number of children transferred. [24196/09]

Joan Burton

Ceist:

197 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science if the issue of children being transferred from industrial school reformatories and other such institutes to psychiatric institutions and mental hospitals has been examined by him; if he has requested this for examination under the redress Act; if not, the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24197/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 196 and 197 together.

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department would only hold records on those former residents who were placed in Industrial & Reformatory schools by way of a Court hearing. Many children would have been placed in Industrial & Reformatory schools by alternative means, e.g. Health Board referrals, voluntary placements, etc and, in such circumstances, my Department would not generally hold records for such persons.

In addition, my Department has already indicated that there are gaps in the archive of material held which in effect means that the numbers of transfers as are referred to by the Deputy cannot be compiled.

Under the terms of the Residential Institutions Redress Act, 2002, special provision is made relating to the "residence" requirement. One such provision states that abuse of a child "in an institution" includes any case in which the abuse took place, not in the institution itself, but while the child was residing or being cared for in the institution and the abuse was committed or aided by a person engaged in the management or supervision of the institution or a person otherwise employed in or associated with the institution. Our understanding is that this covers persons who were officially resident in a scheduled institution but who may have been temporarily placed outside the institution during the period of their residency.

Schools Recognition.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

198 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science when the existing temporary recognition status of a school (details supplied) in County Kildare will come to an end; the outcome of a recent meeting between himself and the school authorities in connection with the wishes of parents to have this project advanced; if negotiations with himself and third parties have begun regarding potential sites for a building project in respect of this school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24199/09]

My Department is guided by a Commission on School Accommodation (CSA) Report produced in 2004 on the "Criteria and Procedures for establishing and maintaining provision through the medium of Irish in second level schools". The report recommends that for an Irish Medium school to be recognised, it must have:

An initial first year projected enrolment of 30 pupils;

A projected average first year enrolment of 40 pupils over six years;

A projected total enrolment of 250-300, six years after opening;

Suitable accommodation; and

Compliance with Section 10 of the Education Act, 1998.

The school to which the Deputy refers has a current enrolment of 105 pupils which falls short of that needed for permanent recognition. In the circumstances, earlier this year, my Department extended the school's temporary recognition for a further three years to allow it the opportunity to develop further.

Schools with temporary recognition are not entitled to capital funding and accommodation for such schools remains the responsibility of a Patron until permanent recognition has been given and until the Department is in a position to make capital provision for them subject to competing demands for the funding available.

With regard to my recent meeting with the school, I have asked my officials to discuss the availability of a site, where the school wishes to re-locate and this will be done in due course. My officials will not be entering into any negotiations in relation to this site as this is the responsibility of the Patron. My Department's preferred option is for the school to remain in its existing accommodation and it has issued a letter supporting its appeal to An Bord Pleanála for retention of planning permission on these premises.

School Accommodation.

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

199 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of applications received for the additional school accommodation programme for 2009; the extent of the estimated costs involved in such applications; the amount of capital to be allocated under the additional school accommodation programme for 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24228/09]

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

200 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the criteria that he has exercised for approval under the additional school accommodation programme for 2009; the schools that have been selected; the reason for their selection; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24229/09]

Enda Kenny

Ceist:

201 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason it has not been possible for a school (details supplied) in County Mayo to receive funding under the additional school accommodation programme in 2009 for the removal and replacement of two prefabs; if the application complies with the criteria for the additional school accommodation programme 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24230/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 199 to 201, inclusive, together.

Some 217 schools have applied for additional/replacement temporary accommodation this year. 100 schools have been approved so far to either purchase temporary accommodation, to build a permanent structure with the funding available or to rent accommodation. Rentals have been approved where the duration of the need is likely to be short term. Purchase/build has been approved where the need will be long term.

The projects in question are currently out to tender. The value will be known when the tendering process has been completed.

The Deputy will appreciate that it is not possible to approve all applications received. Therefore, in assessing these applications, my Department prioritises schools that need additional accommodation to cater for increasing enrolments over the replacement of existing accommodation as any other approach could, potentially, leave pupils without school places. The application from the school to which the Deputy refers was unsuccessful for this reason.

The following list contains the details of the schools which were approved for funding.

Accommodation approved for rental

County

Roll No.

School

Carlow

17994T

SN Fhoirtcheirn agus Fhinin, Mishall

Cavan

70390L

Virginia College

Cork County

19415K

Scoil an Athar Tadhg

Cork County

20265B

GS Cionn tSáile, Kinsale

Dublin

20168D

Glasnevin ETNS

Dublin

20202A

Balbriggan ETNS

Dublin

20334R

GS Ros Eo, Rush

Kildare

16345A

Scoil Bhride

Laois

18150S

Fraoch Mor NS, Portlaoise

Leitrim

16474L

Carrigallen NS

Louth

19479N

Rathmullen NS

Mayo

13667H

Bonniconlon NS

Meath

20215J

St. Paul’s NS

Meath

17821L

Scoil Nais Mhuire Naofa, Enfield

Westmeath

18864L

Coosan NS

Special Educational Needs.

Seán Connick

Ceist:

202 Deputy Seán Connick asked the Minister for Education and Science when a decision will be made on the application by a group of schools (details supplied) in County Dublin to organise one mild general learning disability class between the schools in a cluster arrangement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24246/09]

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that my Department has permitted the retention of a mild general learning disability (MGLD) class in the schools in question for the 2009/2010 school year subject to the schools' acceptance of the administrative arrangements.

Teaching Qualifications.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

203 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will clarify the leaving certificate requirements for a person who currently holds a primary science degree and who wishes to pursue a course to qualify as either a primary or post primary teacher; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24247/09]

Applicants for the approved Graduate Diploma in Education (Primary Teaching) and the Higher Diploma in Arts in Primary Education must have the following academic qualifications:

(a) an honours Bachelor degree — level 8 on the National Framework of Qualifications or a qualification at level 9 or 10 on the National Framework of Qualifications, and

(b) one of the following sets of second level qualifications:

(i) in the Leaving Certificate Examination from 1969 onwards: a grade C3 or above in Higher Level Irish; a grade D3 or above in Mathematics (Ordinary or Higher level); and a grade C3 or above in English (Ordinary level) or grade D3 or above in English (Higher level);

(ii) in the Leaving Certificate Examination prior to 1969, Honours in Irish and passes in English and Mathematics;

or

(iii) in the Northern Ireland GCSE and GCE A Level Examinations: a Grade C at GCE A Level Irish; a Grade C at GCSE Level in both English and English Literature or Grade B at GCSE Level in either; and a Grade D at GCSE Level in Additional Mathematics or a Grade A at GCSE Level in Mathematics.

The following document gives further details including accepted alternatives to second level qualifications in Irish, English or Maths.

A post primary teacher in Ireland must hold a suitable degree and a suitable teacher education qualification. Details of the qualifications needed to be eligible for appointment to an incremental salaried teaching position in a voluntary secondary school, other than in a probationary capacity are available on the Teaching Council website www.teachingcouncil.ie.

The Deputy may be aware that the Teaching Council has begun work on the development of its strategy for the review and accreditation of initial teacher education programmes. Consultation fora have taken place and the Council hopes to commence reviews on a pilot basis in late 2009.

Graduate Diploma in Education (Primary Teaching)

Entry Requirements and Procedure for 2009

1. Admission to a teacher education course for primary teachers (2009-2010) for persons with third level degrees

A full-time course, commencing in early 2009 and concluding in mid-2010 will be held in the following Colleges of Education for primary teachers for the purpose of enabling third level graduates to qualify as primary teachers:

St. Patrick's College of Education, Drumcondra, Dublin 9 [called Graduate Diploma in Education (Primary Teaching)]

Mary Immaculate College, Sth. Circular Road Limerick [called Graduate Diploma in Education (Primary Teaching)]

Froebel College of Education, Sion Hill, Blackrock, Co. Dublin [called Higher Diploma in Education (Primary Teaching)]

Coláiste Mhuire, Marino Institute of Education, Griffith Avenue, Dublin 9 [called Higher Diploma in Education (Primary Teaching)]

A limited number of places will be available on this course and successful applicants will be selected by way of competition. Persons who successfully complete this course may be registered by the Teaching Council as qualified for service in the country's primary schools.

2. Application Procedure

Application forms for this course are available from each of the Colleges listed above. Applicants should note that there are two centres for applications, Dublin and Limerick. Applications should be made toone Centre only (i.e. Dublin or Limerick). Applicants should also note the selection procedure detailed at 4 below. The closing date for receipt of completed application forms is 5.00 p.m. on 13th November 2008.

3. Conditions of Eligibility

Applicants must have the following academic qualifications:

(a) an honours Bachelor degree — level 8 on the National Framework of Qualifications or a qualification at level 9 or 10 on the National Framework of Qualifications, and

(b) one of the following sets of second level qualifications:

(i) in the Leaving Certificate Examination from 1969 onwards: a grade C3 or above in Higher Level Irish; a grade D3 or above in Mathematics (Ordinary or Higher level); and a grade C3 or above in English (Ordinary level) or grade D3 or above in English (Higher level);

(ii) in the Leaving Certificate Examination prior to 1969, Honours in Irish and passes in English and Mathematics; or

(iii) in the Northern Ireland GCSE and GCE A Level Examinations: a Grade C at GCE A Level Irish; a Grade C at GCSE Level in both English and English Literature or Grade B at GCSE Level in either; and a Grade D at GCSE Level in Additional Mathematics or a Grade A at GCSE Level in Mathematics.

Applicants must provide evidence to the Colleges of Education that their honours Bachelor degree is placed at level 8 on the National Framework of Qualifications . Holders of level 9 or 10 qualifications must also provide evidence of their award's position on the NFQ. This should be included with the completed application form.

Alternatives to second level qualifications in Irish, English or Maths

A Pass in a UniversityFirst Arts Examination in Irish, English or Mathematics will be accepted in lieu of the Leaving Certificate Examination/GCE/GCSE requirement for the relevant subject.

In the case of Irish, a Grade C in the Matriculation Examination (which existed up to 1992) will also be accepted in lieu of the Leaving Certificate Examination/GCE/GCSE requirement. In addition, theDioplóma sa Ghaeilge from NUI Maynooth, the Diploma in Arts (Applied Irish) from University College Cork, the Dioplóma sa Ghaeilge Fheidhmeach from UCD, Dioplóma sa Ghaeilge, Level C1, NUIG and the Diploma in Irish at the University of Ulster, are accepted as satisfying the Leaving Certificate Examination/GCE/GCSE requirement.

In the case of Mathematics, a Pass in that subject in the Matriculation Examination will also be accepted in lieu of the Leaving Certificate Examination/GCSE requirement.

4. Selection Procedure

Eligible applicants will be required to undergo an Interview and an Oral Irish test. The results of these tests will be graded and allocated points as follows:

Interview

Oral Irish

A

100

A

40

A-

90

B

32

B

80

C

24

B-

70

D

16

C

60

E

Fail

C-

50

D

40

E

Fail

Applicants who get a "fail" grade in either the Interview or oral Irish test will be eliminated from the competition.Qualified applicants will be placed in order of merit as determined by the results of the Interview and Oral Irish test. Where two or more applicants obtain the same points total, their placement on the order of merit will be determined by random selection. There will be two separate order of merit lists: one common list for all of the Dublin Colleges and a separate list for Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. Each College will fill its places by reference to the relevant order of merit and the College preferences of successful applicants.

The purpose of theInterview is to ascertain the suitability of the applicant for participation in a primary teacher education course. Part of the Interview may be conducted through Irish.

TheOral Irish test will comprise:

conversation on everyday topics and on books read by the applicant;and

reading correctly and intelligently a suitable passage of prose or poetry and explaining the matter read.

Applicants should note that a high standard of fluency is required in the Oral Irish test and should prepare for the test accordingly. Applicants will be advised by the relevant Centre (Dublin or Limerick) of the date, time, venue, etc. of their Interview and Oral Irish test and must attend these tests at their own expense. The location will be either Dublin or Limerick.

5. General Information

Student grants: Grants will be available from Local Authorities to those who satisfy the conditions of the Higher Education Grants Scheme. Details will be available from the Local Authority of the area in which the applicant is ordinarily resident.

Medical requirements: The Department of Education and Science’s Rules for National Schools require that before a student is admitted to a College of Education, the medical officer of the college must certify that s/he is of sound and healthy constitution and free from any mental or physical defect likely to impair his/her usefulness as a teacher; the medical certificate shall include any such details as the Minister may require. The Colleges will advise students as to the procedure to be followed in this regard.

Proficiency in spoken Irish: All student teachers in Colleges of Education are required to attend a 3 week course in the Gaeltacht at the end of their first year. It should be noted that this is a compulsory part of the course.

During this full-time teacher education course, participants may not engage in business or in any other course of study without the prior permission of the College President.

Further information regarding the course is available from the applicant's College of choice.

October 2008

Questions Nos. 204 and 205 answered with Question No. 193.

Departmental Expenditure.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

206 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science his plans to address the discrepancy in the level of funding provided to voluntary second level schools and those in the community and comprehensive sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24254/09]

The funding arrangements made by my Department for second-level schools reflect the sectoral division of our second-level system. At the core of all arrangements is reliance upon capitation as the principal determinant of funding.

My Department provides funding to secondary schools by way of per capita grants, which affords schools considerable flexibility in the use of these resources to cater for the needs of their pupils.

There have been significant improvements in recent years in the level of funding for voluntary secondary schools. With effect from January 2009, the standard per capita grant was increased by €14 per pupil and now amounts to €345 per pupil. In addition, voluntary secondary schools have benefited by the increase of €8 per pupil in 2009 in the support services grant bringing that grant to €212 per pupil.

The cumulative increase of €22 per pupil in a voluntary secondary school brings the aggregate grant to €557 per pupil. These grants are in addition to the per capita funding of up to €40,000 per school that is also provided by my Department to secondary schools towards secretarial and caretaking services. For example, in the case of a secondary school with 500 pupils, this brings annual grants towards general expenses and support service to over €318,500. The corresponding figure in 2000 was approximately €147,300.

Budget allocations for schools in the Community and Comprehensive school sector, along with those in the VEC sector, are increased on a pro rata basis in line with increases in the per capita grant paid to voluntary secondary schools. All schools are eligible for recurrent per capita grants towards special classes and curricular support grants.

My Department has provided an estimated €18.4 million per annum to voluntary secondary schools in equalisation funding to date.

These significant increases in the funding of post-primary schools are a clear demonstration of my commitment to prioritise available resources to address the needs of schools. I will consider how best to complete the process of equalisation of funding at second level, as envisaged in the Programme for Government 2007-2012, having regard to available resources.

School Transport.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

207 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of his review of school transport catchment boundaries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24255/09]

In January 2009, I announced the establishment of the Steering Committee for the Value for Money Review of the School Transport Scheme, including catchment boundaries. The review is being carried out as part of the 2009-2011 round of Value for Money Reviews approved by Government.

The Steering Committee is looking at the original objectives of the scheme, whether these objectives remain valid today, the extent to which the objectives are being achieved and whether there are possibilities for economies or efficiencies that would improve the value for money of the scheme. In this context, the review will also look at fundamental issues such as catchment boundaries which is in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government.

The report is due to be completed by the end of 2009 and will then be published and sent to the Oireachtas Select Committee on Education and Science.

Special Educational Needs.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

208 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 547 and 664 of 29 October 2008, the steps he is taking to meet the educational requirements of autistic children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24257/09]

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that schools which have enrolled children with autism have access to a wide number of support measures. These include the allocation of teaching and/or care resources by the National Council for Special Education, reduced pupil-teacher ratios, enhanced capitation for special schools and special classes for pupils with autism; provision of funding for assisting technology and specialist equipment and specialist training for teachers in a range of autism specific interventions through the Special Education Support Service. Qualifying pupils may also benefit from special school transport arrangements.

Depending on each pupil's educational need and ability, pupils with autism may be enrolled in a mainstream class with additional teaching and/or care supports where needed; a special class for pupils with autism — this option may provide opportunities for partial integration in line with the pupil's abilities; or in special schools for pupils with autism or which have dedicated special classes for pupils with autism.

My Department also provides early educational intervention for younger pre-school children who have been assessed as having autism. This intervention may take place in one of a number of early intervention classes attached to a school or through the provision of a home tuition grant.

School Transport.

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

209 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will investigate the possibility of having a larger size bus put in place for persons (details supplied) in County Cork. [24264/09]

Under the terms of my Department's Primary School Transport Scheme, pupils who reside 3.2 kilometres or more from, and are attending, their nearest suitable national school as determined by my Department, are eligible for free school transport.

However, pupils not attending their nearest national school may avail of concessionary fare-paying transport to another school, provided:

(a) the written agreement of the board of management of the nearest school is secured;

(b) there are spare seats available on the bus; and

(c) no extra State cost is incurred by extending or re-routing the service.

In general, school transport is arranged for eligible pupils and spare seats on the bus may be allocated to concessionary pupils. In this case, Bus Éireann has advised that the increase in contributions from the additional pupils referred to by the Deputy, in the details supplied, would not meet the extra cost of providing a larger bus.

Parents should continue to liaise with their local Bus Éireann office regarding the availability of spare seats.

Home-School Liaison Scheme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

210 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a school (details supplied) will retain its home school liaison teacher which it has since 2000, from September 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24277/09]

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

211 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if it is proposed to reassign the rural co-ordinator teacher at a school (details supplied) to additional schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24278/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 210 and 211 together.

The school to which the Deputy refers is at present included in a rural cluster of primary schools. However, the school was also in receipt of a grant in lieu of Home School Community Liaison services under a previous disadvantage scheme. Under this arrangement the school combined resource hours with the unclusterable grant to provide a wholetime equivalent post in conflict the rule of the HSCL scheme which provide that coordinators should be deployed for full time HSCL duties only.

This school is included in the rural element of DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) the Action Plan for Educational Inclusion and as such is entitled to the services of a rural coordinator and not of a HSCL coordinator.

As a result of Budget 2009, rural coordinator services are being withdrawn from Non-DEIS schools with effect from 31 August 2009. Arising from this it was necessary to review the cluster arrangements for a number of rural DEIS schools. The rural coordinator service is now allocated to schools in line with their size and level of disadvantage. My Department is currently considering the most appropriate clustering arrangements for the school in question and five other rural DEIS schools in the area. All schools involved have been consulted and will be notified the decision on new clustering arrangements in due course.

Special Educational Needs.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

212 Deputy Jimmy Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if an autism unit will be provided at a school (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24279/09]

As you will be aware, the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), for allocating resource teachers and Special Needs Assistants to primary and post primary schools to support children with special needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.

All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's special educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

I have arranged for the information provided by the Deputy to be forwarded to the NCSE for their direct reply.

Home-School Liaison Scheme.

David Stanton

Ceist:

213 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will sanction home tuition hours in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24282/09]

The application referred to by the Deputy is currently being considered by my Department and a decision will issue to the family shortly.

Home Tuition Scheme.

David Stanton

Ceist:

214 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the changes made in the home tuition scheme in the past 12 months; the number of students availing of the home tuition scheme in 2009; the projected cost of the scheme in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24303/09]

The intent of the Home Tuition scheme has not changed in the past twelve months. The Deputy will be aware that the home tuition scheme provides a grant to parents to facilitate the provision of education at home for children who, for a number of reasons such as chronic illness, are unable to attend school. The scheme was extended in recent years to facilitate tuition for children awaiting an educational placement and to provide early intervention for pre-school children with autism.

Each year the application forms and guidelines are reviewed in light of experience and changes may be made. Some small changes were made to the forms for this school year and were intended to improve the efficiency of the application process and reduce delays.

In 2008 the scheme cost €8,910,150. Home Tuition has been sanctioned for 1034 children to date in the current school year. The 2009 budgetary allocation for the scheme is €11 million.

Child Abuse.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

215 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the person in his Department who is in charge of the full review of the file and report committed to by him (details supplied); the terms of reference for this report; when it will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24315/09]

I wish to advise the Deputy that I have already reviewed this matter myself on foot of a detailed report received from the Residential Institutions Redress Unit of my Department.

I sympathise very much with the position of the person referred to by the Deputy. I appreciate that in 1982 he approached the Department to advise it of the abuse he had suffered, and that the teacher who had abused him was still teaching in the school system. I acknowledge that the Department's handling of that complaint was grossly inappropriate and inadequate and I apologise to him for the manner in which that complaint was dealt with.

I can imagine that it must have taken considerable courage on his part to come forward in the manner he did. This makes the handling of his complaint all the more unacceptable. While I sympathise very much with his position, I must inform you that there is no basis for changing the State's position with regard to his legal proceedings.

The abuse in this case occurred in a primary school. My Department was not aware of the abuse at the time it occurred and therefore could not have done anything to prevent it happening. It would not be fair or reasonable to hold my Department liable for acts or events of which it had no knowledge at the time, and which it could not have prevented. For this reason my Department cannot accept liability in the matter.

As you are no doubt aware, the State cannot be held vicariously liable for the actions of a teacher given that the State is not the employer of teachers in schools. This position has been supported by the recent judgement delivered in the O'Keeffe case.

The fact that his subsequent complaint was not properly dealt with, while completely unacceptable in terms of proper handling of complaints, cannot make the State liable for abuse which (at the time it occurred) the State was not aware of and so could not have prevented it.

I have every sympathy for anybody who was the subject of child abuse. In the circumstances however I regret to say that the State cannot accept liability in these particular proceedings.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

216 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has or will conduct a full audit of all files in his Department relating to allegations of abuse, including those where no complaint was made to the Laffoy-Ryan commission; the number of complaints in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24316/09]

My Department's procedure for dealing with complaints of abuse are that all complaints are referred to the HSE which has statutory responsibility for dealing with such allegations. Similar procedures existed in the past. In the case of criminal investigations the Gardaí are the appropriate authority and my Department's policy is to provide the Gardaí with any papers or records they require.

As the Deputy may be aware the issue of exchange of information in the context of child protection was considered by the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children. Following the receipt of the Committee's interim report the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, in cooperation with Department Justice Equality and Law Reform colleagues, has commenced the process of preparing legislation in this area. Further consideration will be given to the historic complaint files in my Department in that context.

In relation to complaints made to the Commission as Minister for Education & Science, I would have no access to individual complaints made to that body as the Commission is completely independent in the performance of its functions and most of the people who participated in the process did so on an entirely confidential basis. I can tell you, however, that my Department co-operated fully with the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse in relation to the provision of documentation on foot of a number of Discovery Orders.

Olwyn Enright

Ceist:

217 Deputy Olwyn Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has requested the Attorney General to meet with a person (details supplied) in County Offaly and his legal representation. [24317/09]

I wish to advise the Deputy that, having had the file in this particular case reviewed, I do not feel that there is any benefit in requesting the Attorney General to become involved in this matter.

I sympathise very much with the position of the person referred to by the Deputy. I appreciate that in 1982 he approached the Department to advise it of the abuse he had suffered, and that the teacher who had abused him was still teaching in the school system. I acknowledge that the Department's handling of that complaint was grossly inappropriate and inadequate and I apologise to him for the manner in which that complaint was dealt with.

I can imagine that it must have taken considerable courage on his part to come forward in the manner he did. This makes the handling of his complaint all the more unacceptable. While I sympathise very much with his position, I must inform you that there is no basis for changing the State's position with regard to his legal proceedings.

The abuse in this case occurred in a primary school. My Department was not aware of the abuse at the time it occurred and therefore could not have done anything to prevent it happening. It would not be fair or reasonable to hold my Department liable for acts or events of which it had no knowledge at the time, and which it could not have prevented. For this reason my Department cannot accept liability in the matter.

As you are no doubt aware, the State cannot be held vicariously liable for the actions of a teacher given that the State is not the employer of teachers in schools. This position has been supported by the recent judgement delivered in the O'Keeffe case.

The fact that his subsequent complaint was not properly dealt with, while completely unacceptable in terms of proper handling of complaints, cannot make the State liable for abuse which (at the time it occurred) the State was not aware of and so could not have prevented it.

I have every sympathy for anybody who was the subject of child abuse. In the circumstances however I regret to say that the State cannot accept liability in these particular proceedings.