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 9, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 10 to 18, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 19 to 28, inclusive, answered orally.

Maritime Surveillance and Security

Michael Noonan

Ceist:

29 Deputy Michael Noonan asked the Minister for Defence his role and that of the Naval Service on the inter-departmental maritime surveillance working group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46293/10]

An Inter-Departmental Maritime Surveillance Co-ordination Group (MarSur CG), chaired by the Department of Transport, was established in 2009 under the auspices of the Maritime Co-ordination Group of Assistant Secretaries.

The MarSur Co-ordination Group is working towards the creation of a common information-sharing environment to enhance safety and security within the Irish maritime domain. The Department of Defence and the Naval Service are represented on this Group along with other Government Departments and Agencies responsible for safety and security in the maritime environment.

The Naval Service as the primary seagoing agency of the State, and in its role as support to the Revenue Commissioners and the Garda Síochána, require the most complete knowledge that is possible of activity in Ireland's maritime environment. The development of a national Recognised Maritime Picture, (RMP) will service the needs of all the stakeholders of the Irish maritime domain.

There is also a European driven desire to improve maritime surveillance and security and to avoid the duplication of resources. The Department and Defence and the Naval Service are actively involved in the European Defence Agency's MarSur project. The EDA recognises the need to develop a RMP for ESDP maritime missions and tasks.

The MarSur Co-ordination Group has to date identified the core common elements of maritime information to be shared between the different user communities and has created a working group to develop the technical and data-sharing framework which will provide for the appropriate data exchanges between the various national agencies.

Internationally, the establishment in 2007 of the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre — Narcotics (MAOC-N) has led to a greater focus on intelligence exchange amongst countries to tackle large drug shipments by sea. The Centre was set up by seven European countries and is designed as an international co-ordination force with access to national tasking agencies and requires participation and resources from all active members. An Garda Síochána and the Customs Service have full-time officers based at the Centre in Lisbon. Irish Naval Service personnel travel to the Centre when requested by the Joint Task Force.

Commemorative Events

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

30 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence the reason he has not convened the all-party Oireachtas consultation group on the centenary of the 1916 Rising since 2 December 2009; if he will he do so now and include on the agenda for the day a presentation regarding the proposal to extend the national monument, 17 Moore Street, to include from 10-20 Moore Street, including the full footprint of the houses and gardens and laneways, as a national monument in view of the fact that the State now controls most of this property through the National Asset Management Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47284/10]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

51 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Defence if he is represented on the committee established to mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46966/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 30 and 51 together.

The All Party Oireachtas Consultation Group on the Centenary of the Rising, which I chair and represent the Government on, also comprises Deputy Jimmy Deenihan (Fine Gael), Deputy Joe Costello (Labour), Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Sinn Féin) and Deputy Michael Lowry (for independent members).

The Secretariat is provided by the Department of the Taoiseach.

I am aware of the interest of members to have a meeting of the Group and it will be convened as soon as progress on a sufficient range of projects has been achieved to justify renewed consultation with the Group.

It is the Government's intention that the centenary commemoration programme in the lead up to the event will include a wide range of commemorative, cultural and artistic initiatives at national, regional and local level. The Programme for Government 2007 — 2012 sets out the Government's intentions in this regard and includes plans to:

Establish the GPO as a museum of celebration of Irish progress and achievement across a broad spectrum as a landmark 1916 centenary project.

Support the creation of programmes of events in all cities and towns in Ireland.

Make available to historians and to the public, records of the Military Pensions Archive in the Department of Defence.

Advance the redevelopment of Glasnevin Cemetery.

Restore 16 Moore Street and establish therein an interpretative centre, linked to the GPO, to honour those who fought in the 1916 Rising.

Ensure a prominent cultural component to the 1916 Centenary commemoration.

Provide a fund to which community groups can apply for support for the refurbishment of existing monuments commemorating events during the period 1913-23.

Official consideration of several projects and possibilities will be concluded in the context of the preparation of the 2011 Estimates. I believe that this will create the opportunity for meaningful discussions of the scope and extent of an appropriate commemorative framework. I would be grateful to receive any proposals for presentations at the meeting that the Deputies wish to submit for consideration. I thank the Deputies for their continuing patience.

Defence Forces Strength

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

31 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Defence the number of officers and the number of enlisted personnel who have retired from the Permanent Defence Forces to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47273/10]

I am advised by the military authorities that the strength of the Permanent Defence Forces as at 30 November 2010, the latest date for which figures are currently available, was 9,502 comprising 7,704 Army, 769 Air Corps and 1,029 Naval Service Personnel.

The number of officers and the number of enlisted personnel who have left the Permanent Defence Forces to date in 2010 is 43 and 425 respectively.

Within the context of consolidating the public finances, the Government is focused firmly on maintaining the operational efficiency of the Permanent Defence Force. Government approval was secured in the context of Budget 2010 for a level of 10,000 all ranks. This reflects the reductions in personnel recommended in the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes. In 2011, the Permanent Defence Force, like all areas of the public service, will operate on a reduced budget.

Agreement has been reached with the Department of Finance and official confirmation received, on the Employment Control Framework (ECF) for the Defence Forces. The ECF is based on a figure of 10,000 all ranks Permanent Defence Force personnel, appropriately configured across the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps to enable them to meet the roles assigned by Government.

Targeted recruitment is being carried out in 2010 in order to maintain the operational capability of the Defence Forces. In this regard I have approved the recruitment of 40 recruits to the Naval Service, limited recruitment to the Army and the intake of 30 Cadets from the Cadetship Competition 2010. To date, 37 of the 40 recruits for the Naval Service were enlisted on 30 November 2010, along with 40 recruits to the Eastern Brigade and 37 recruits to the Southern Brigade on 3 and 6 December 2010 respectively. A further 3 recruits are due to be enlisted to each of the Naval Service and the Southern Brigade as soon as the final elements of their selection process have been completed. The 30 Cadets were inducted on 6 December 2010. The enlistment selection process to the Western Brigade and the Defence Forces Training Centre has commenced with enlistment of successful candidates scheduled to take place in January 2011.

While it is not possible to anticipate strength figures for 2011 and beyond, I can confirm that with the support of the Chief of Staff, and within the resources available, I intend to retain the capacity of the organisation to operate effectively across all roles while contributing to the necessary public service economies.

The priority in the coming year will be on maintaining the capability of the Defence Forces to deliver effective services across all of the roles assigned by Government.

I am advised that at this time the Defence Forces retain the capacity to undertake the tasks laid down by Government both at home and overseas.

Naval Service-Air Corps Operations

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

32 Deputy Pádraic McCormack asked the Minister for Defence if he is satisfied that the Air Corps resources are being effectively used in combating drug trafficking through joint task force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46280/10]

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

42 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Minister for Defence if he is satisfied that the Naval Service resources are being effectively used in combating drug trafficking through the joint task force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46287/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32 and 42 together.

Responsibility for the prevention of drug trafficking rests primarily with the Customs Service of the Revenue Commissioners. Responsibility for the prevention of crime rests primarily with An Garda Síochána. However, the White Paper on Defence provides for a security role for the Naval Service and the Air Corps to assist and support the civil authorities in this important work.

The Joint Task Force on Drug Interdiction was established in 1993 as a Government measure to improve law enforcement in relation to drugs and consists of members of An Garda Síochána, the Customs Service and the Naval Service.

Internationally, the establishment in 2007 of the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre — Narcotics (MAOC-N) has led to a greater focus on intelligence exchange amongst countries to tackle large drug shipments by sea. MAOC-N was set up by seven European countries and is designed as an international co-ordination force with access to national tasking agencies and requires participation and resources from all active members. An Garda Síochána and the Customs Service have full-time officers based at the Centre in Lisbon. Irish Naval Service personnel travel to the Centre when requested by the Joint Task Force.

Drug interdiction is carried out by Naval ships on receipt of intelligence from the Joint Task Force. The Air Corps provides air support and on occasion carries the Customs National Drugs Team in an observational capacity for the purposes of monitoring vessels suspected of drug trafficking.

The Naval Service operates 8 general purpose patrol ships, which are tasked with coastal and offshore patrolling and surveillance for the State in that part of the seas where State jurisdiction applies. The primary day to day tasking of the Naval Service is to provide a fishery protection service in accordance with the State's obligations as a member of the European Union. However, as the need arises, Naval Service vessels are deployed to other duties including drug interdiction operations.

The Naval Service is committed to having at least three vessels on patrol within the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone at any one time. All vessels are multi-tasked in the sense that they also undertake general surveillance, security and other duties while on fisheries patrol.

Naval Service patrols at sea undoubtedly act as a deterrent in the fight against drug trafficking. However, increasingly this role is governed by intelligence led operations and greater cooperation between both national and international agencies.

Naval Service patrols are complemented by assistance provided by the Air Corps. The Air Corps Maritime Squadron carries out aerial surveillance of our Exclusive Economic Zone using the two CASA maritime patrol aircraft.

Just one example of the effectiveness of the Naval Service role in the Joint Task Force is the 2009 conviction of three persons for the attempted importation by sea of a substantial quantity of cocaine with an estimated street value of €500 million. This conviction followed the international intelligence-led OPERATION SEA BIGHT involving the Joint Task Force, during which the Naval Service boarded a suspect vessel in November 2008. The Naval Service subsequently assisted in the preparation of evidence, and provided technical expertise and witness statements. The Air Corps CASA maritime patrol aircraft was also involved in providing aerial reconnaissance for this operation.

I am satisfied that Air Corps and Naval Service resources are being used effectively in combatting drug trafficking through the Joint Task Force.

Irish Red Cross

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

33 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Defence when the Irish Red Cross is to appoint a new secretary general; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47267/10]

The Minister for Defence has no role in relation to the appointment of a new Secretary General of the Irish Red Cross Society which is an independent charitable organisation with full powers to manage and administer its affairs. However, I understand that interviews for the post of Secretary General of the Irish Red Cross Society commenced earlier this week. In these circumstances, I would anticipate that an appointment will be made early in the new year.

Overseas Missions

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

34 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Defence the situation regarding the possibility of substantial numbers of Irish troops serving abroad again, particularly in the Lebanon, as suggested by the Chief of Staff in his address to the recent Permanent Defence Forces Other Ranks Representative Association conference; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38261/10]

Damien English

Ceist:

36 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Defence his plans in relation to future Defence Forces overseas missions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46260/10]

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

40 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Defence the progress made regarding a Defence Forces overseas mission in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47274/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

50 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which Irish troops are likely to participate in overseas peacekeeping missions in the next 12 months; if agreements or arrangements have been entered into with the EU or UN in respect of any such participation; if agreement has been reached in respect of actual numbers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47204/10]

Charles Flanagan

Ceist:

52 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Defence the number of Defence Forces personnel currently serving overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46266/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

240 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent of any discussions he has had at EU or UN level in connection with deployment of Irish troops overseas on peacekeeping, peace enforcing or stabilising missions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46603/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

244 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the total number of the Defence Forces at all ranks currently serving overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46607/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos 34, 36, 40, 50, 52, 240 and 244 together.

Ireland has offered, through the UN Standby Arrangements System (UNSAS), to provide up to 850 military personnel for overseas service at any one time. This figure equates to some 10% of Ireland's standing Army (excluding Reserves) and demonstrates Ireland's commitment to the cause of international peace. This is the maximum sustainable commitment that Ireland can make to overseas peacekeeping operations.

Ireland is currently contributing 137 Defence Forces personnel to 12 different missions throughout the world. Of the 137 personnel currently serving overseas, 81 are officers and 56 are drawn from other ranks. Full details of all personnel currently serving overseas are listed in the tabular statement below.

The main overseas missions, in which Defence Forces personnel are currently deployed, are the EU-led operation ALTHEA in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with 43 personnel, the NATO-led International Security presence (KFOR) in Kosovo with 12 personnel and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan with 7 personnel. Other personnel are serving as monitors and observers with the United Nations and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Staff are also deployed at the organisational headquarters of the EU, OSCE and NATO.

With regard to future deployments, Ireland receives requests, from time to time, in relation to participation in various missions and these are considered on a case-by-case basis. When considering any particular request, the existence of realistic objectives and a clear mandate, which has the potential to contribute to a political solution, consideration of how the mission relates to the priorities of Irish foreign policy and the degree of risk involved are amongst the factors considered. Apart from a recent UN request to despatch a contingent to the UN mission in Lebanon (UNIFIL), no other deployments are planned or envisaged at this time.

Despite the reduced budgetary resources that are available to the Department generally, Ireland remains open to participation in peacekeeping operations. In that regard, I am glad to be able to advise the House that the Government yesterday approved the deployment of a contingent of the Defence Forces, as part of a joint Finnish/Irish battalion to UNIFIL. Up to 440 personnel could be deployed in the second quarter of next year to this mission. Discussions will now commence with the UN and with Finland on finalising the composition of the contingent and the deployment schedule. Thereafter, I will proceed in the New Year to seek Dáil approval for the mission. This will complete the Triple Lock mechanism of UN, Government and Dáil approval before deploying members of the Defence Forces overseas.

Once we deploy to UNIFIL it is expected that our total overseas deployment at that stage will amount to just over 500. This is a very significant contribution in the context of the reduced resources available and reflects the Government's continued commitment to international peacekeeping and to the ongoing development of the Defence Forces.

Members of the Permanent Defence Force Serving Overseas as of 1st December 2010

Number

1

UN Missions

(i)

UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) HQ

9

(ii)

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

12

(iii)

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

3

(iv)

MONUSCO (United Nations Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo)*

3

(v)

UNOCI (United Nations Mission in Ivory Coast)

2

(vi)

MINURCAT (United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad) — HQ

9

TOTAL

38

UN Mandated Missions

(vii)

EUFOR (EU-led Operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina)

43

(viii)

EUTM Somalia (EU-led Training Mission in Uganda)

2

(ix)

KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo) — HQ

12

(x)

ISAF (International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan)

7

TOTAL NUMBER OF PERSONNEL SERVING WITH UN MISSIONS

102

2

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

(i)

OSCE Mission to Bosnia & Herzegovina

2

(ii)

OSCE Mission in Belgrade — Serbia

1

(iii)

Staff Officer, Higher Level Planning Group, Vienna

1

TOTAL NUMBER OF PERSONNEL SERVING OSCE

4

3

EU Military Staff

Brussels

7

4

Nordic Battlegroup HQ Staff — Sweden

13

5

Military Representatives/Advisers/Staff

(i)

Military Adviser, Permanent Mission to UN, New York

1

(ii)

Military Adviser, Irish Delegation to OSCE, Vienna

1

(iii)

Staff Appointments, Irish Delegation to OSCE, Vienna

2

(iv)

Military Representative to EU (Brussels)

4

(v)

Liaison Office of Ireland, NATO/PfP (Brussels)

2

(vi)

Military Representative to NATO/PfP Co-ordination Cell/Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), Mons, Belgium

1

TOTAL NUMBER OF DEFENCE FORCES PERSONNEL SERVING OVERSEAS

137

*Formerly MONUC, renamed 1 July 2010.

Irish Red Cross

Kathleen Lynch

Ceist:

35 Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Defence if he received the report of the internal investigation in the Irish Red Cross regarding the Tipperary bank account; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47268/10]

Last weekend the Irish Red Cross published the report of its internal investigation. I have examined the report and I note there was no misappropriation or mis-allocation of funds. However, there were serious administrative failures in the Society with regard to the management of some of the monies collected for the Tsunami Appeal in 2005. The report states that the Society did not have sufficient staff or management controls in place to deal with the huge response to the appeal. The Society collected over €32 million in this appeal. The most serious issue addressed in the report is the delay by the Tipperary Branch of the Society in forwarding €162,960 from the Branch account to HQ. The report stresses that the Tipperary Branch in no way attempted to hide or retain the monies.

The report shows serious deficiencies in accounting procedures. Since his appointment in September 2010 the new Chairman of the Society has put improved governance of the Society's affairs at the top of his agenda. The Society has already implemented procedures to avoid a recurrence of these events and is well advanced in strengthening new financial procedures. I understand from the Society that the recommendations in the report will also be implemented as a matter of urgency. Importantly, every cent of the monies donated for areas affected by the Tsunami has been and will go to relief projects in the affected areas.

Question No. 36 answered with Question No. 34.

Army Operations

James Reilly

Ceist:

37 Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Defence the number of times the army bomb disposal unit has been called out in 2009 and to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46304/10]

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

The details requested are set out in the following tabular statement.

Call outs of Army Bomb Disposal Units

Year

Callouts

2009

196

2010 to date

197

Question No. 38 answered with Question No. 26.
Question No. 39 answered with Question No. 27.
Question No. 40 answered with Question No. 34.

White Paper on Defence

Pat Breen

Ceist:

41 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Defence when he expects the new White Paper on defence to be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46231/10]

Seán Barrett

Ceist:

48 Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Defence if he has received Cabinet approval to progress the new White Paper on defence; the progress made in relation to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46229/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 41 and 48 together.

I circulated a draft memorandum to my cabinet colleagues, in October 2010, outlining the proposed approach to the development of the new White Paper on Defence. I have considered the comments received and these will be reflected in the final memorandum.

The National Recovery Plan 2011-2014, which was published recently, sets out the requirement for the Department of Defence to deliver cumulative savings of €106m over the next four (4) years. As a preliminary stage in the White Paper process, the Department has to develop a framework of options to achieve this target.

I have deferred bringing the final memorandum to cabinet to allow time for officials in the Department, in consultation with the military authorities, to prepare this framework.

I intend to continue the white paper process, at the end of the first quarter in 2011. Pending publication of the new white paper, the current White Paper on Defence will continue to provide the policy framework for the Defence Organisation.

Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 32.

Defence Forces Personnel

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

43 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Defence if prior to deployment each member of the Defence Forces has a consultation with a doctor where a prescription for the drug Lariam is issued and added to their medical file. [47283/10]

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

53 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Defence the reason the cases of seven military personnel referred to in his reply to questions recently who were exhibiting less dramatic symptoms which are being reviewed by the Defence Forces psychiatrist have not been reported to the Irish Medicines Board. [47281/10]

Arthur Morgan

Ceist:

56 Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Defence the number of suicides there have been each year since Larium was first used by the Defence Forces; the number of these victims who were either taking or had taken Larium in the past, and if in the past, when they had last taken Larium; and the number of these suicides where the victims had taken Larium that were reported to the Irish Medicines Board. [47282/10]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

63 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence if he will discuss with the military authorities the need to review the future dispensing of the Mefloquine Larium to soldiers on overseas missions in view of the fact that the drug has been linked with severe psychiatric or psychological and physical side effects, including a number of deaths. [47279/10]

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

70 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to any reference by the military authorities of the drug Larium to the Irish Medicines Board as required by the board when it states that all health care professionals are requested to report suspected adverse reactions observed in their practice, of particular importance, all suspected reactions to newly authorised products and serious reactions to established products; and the steps the military authorities took in response to the special guidelines issued by the Irish Medicines Board in its drug safety newsletter of May 1996 and again in its drug safety newsletter of July 2003 that any suspected cases of neuropsychiatric effects should be reported to the IMB in relation to the drug Larium, which is the drug administered to Irish soldiers serving overseas. [47280/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 43, 53, 56, 63 and 70 together.

I am satisfied that the screening system employed by the Defence Forces adheres to international best practice. This screening system automatically rules out personnel from overseas service with certain conditions e.g. depression, anxiety, neurodegenerative disorders etc. which, as has been indicated by the Irish Medicine Board (IMB), are more likely to precipitate serious adverse reactions to Lariam. Pregnant personnel are also excluded.

In the case of overseas missions to malarious areas, this screening system also involves an assessment of the individual's suitability to be prescribed the selected anti-malarial agent in line with current IMB guidelines. This typically involves review of the individual's previous experience, if any, with the medication. The individual's medical history is also screened for those conditions which have been identified as precipitating serious side effects in association with the medication.

In addition, blood tests are carried out to ensure that the liver is healthy as liver disease is an accepted contraindication to the use of Lariam. Lariam is only dispensed by the pharmacy upon production of a prescription for same. A record of this prescription is kept by the pharmacy and the aforementioned suitability assessment is documented in the person's medical file.

I wish to reiterate that the Defence Forces take all necessary precautions in assessing the suitability of personnel before prescribing Larium in accordance with the prescribing instructions and information provided by the IMB. Personnel are screened both before and after deployments and all necessary actions are taken to ensure that those with contraindications to Larium use are deemed unsuitable for overseas service and are not prescribed the medication.

I am advised by the Military authorities that three members of Defence Forces have recently been treated for a serious symptomatology which may have been caused or contributed to by Lariam, although there is nothing conclusive in this regard. I am advised that all these personnel have made a full recovery and that, in line with the special guidelines issued by the IMB in 1996 and again in 2003, these cases have been reported to the Board.

The seven cases previously referred to with less dramatic symptomatology have not been reported to the IMB as they are still under review by the Military authorities. As yet, a definite linkage with Lariam usage has not been established.

I am advised by the military authorities that the Defence Forces Personnel Management System does not capture data on the number of suicides there have been in the Defence Forces during a specific period of time. In this context the information requested in relation to the number of suicide victims who were either taking Lariam, or who had taken Lariam prior to committing suicide, is not available.

Medical Corps

Simon Coveney

Ceist:

44 Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Defence if a work plan has been designed by his Department or the military authorities to address the issues raised in the medical services review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46245/10]

Noel Coonan

Ceist:

47 Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Defence the progress made in implementing the recommendations of the medical services review for a future model of medical service provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46244/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 44 and 47 together.

The PA Report assessed the current arrangements for the provision of medical services and proposed a model for future delivery of those services. The Consultants recommended a programme of major change. As recommended by PA, Working Groups have been set up to progress the various projects identified. These continue to meet regularly and all have submitted reports.

PA did not identify structures, numbers and processes within the Centralised Command Structure in detail. Work on this is being undertaken by the Organisation and Establishment Working Group which will bring forward recommendations on an overall structure to include staff appointments for the Future Medical Service. Following consideration by the Steering Group of their initial report, the Working Group is now conducting some further analysis which it is now expected will be finalised by the end of December 2010. Final reports from two of the Working Groups, the Training & Education and the Financial Arrangements & Outsourcing Working Groups have been completed. The final report of the Future Medical Information System Working Group will also be completed by the end of this month, and it, along with the aforementioned final reports, will be considered by the Steering Group. The Clinical Review Working Group will not be submitting its final report until February 2011. However, monthly reports are being submitted in the interim and action on items is being taken as decisions are made.

Following completion of this phase of work by the Working Groups and the finalisation and approval of their reports by the Steering Group, the full implementation of the PA recommendations can then be progressed. The process for implementation also requires that consultation with the Representative Associations must take place regarding any change within the scope of representation.

The structure and systems recommended by PA have been designed to meet the demands and needs of the modern Defence Forces and I am committed to providing a sustainable medical service to meet the needs of the Defence Forces both at home and overseas.

Defence Forces Reserve

Ulick Burke

Ceist:

45 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for Defence his views on the progress of the Reserve Defence Forces value for money review to date; if it will be completed in the first quarter of 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46236/10]

The Reserve Defence Force was selected for review as part of the 2009 — 2011 phase of the Government's Value for Money and Policy Review initiative and this review commenced in February 2010. A Steering Committee comprising representatives from the Department of Defence, the Defence Forces and the Department of Finance is overseeing the Review. In accordance with revised guidelines for the conduct of Value for Money Reviews, an independent chair was appointed to the Steering Committee. The Steering Committee has met on six occasions since the review commenced and a further meeting is scheduled for later this week.

A Working Group has also been formed to assist the Steering Committee with the review, comprising both civil and military personnel. The working group has undertaken an extensive programme of work under the direction of the Steering Committee over this period.

As part of the review process, the Steering Committee have established an extensive consultation process with all key stakeholders. The representative associations have made written submissions and met with the Steering Committee. The Working Group has conducted focus group meetings with reservists and with Cadre personnel throughout the country. The results of these meetings are currently being evaluated and further meetings with military personnel who have responsibility for the Reserve are being scheduled.

Extensive analysis across the range of Reserve activities is also progressing and additional information requirements are being addressed as they arise.

The Steering Committee are working towards a target date of end March 2011 for the completion of the review. The stakeholder consultation process has proven particularly fruitful, however, it has, together with the related data gathering, taken longer than anticipated. The Steering Committee will review progress at their meeting this week.

This is an important review and I am satisfied that the time taken is necessary to ensure that we get a comprehensive review that significantly contributes to the formulation of future plans for the Reserve.

I have asked that the review proceed as quickly as possible and expect to receive the report shortly after the review is completed.

Naval Service Operations

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

46 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Defence the role of the Naval Service in the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre — Narcotics; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46299/10]

The Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre — Narcotics (MAOC-N) was established in 2007 by seven European countries, including Ireland to focus on intelligence exchange amongst countries to tackle large drug shipments by sea and by air. It is designed as an international co-ordination force with access to national tasking agencies and requires participation and resources from all active members. The Centre composes of an Executive Board, a Director, liaison officers and staff. An Garda Síochána and the Customs Service have full-time liaison officers based at the Centre in Lisbon. Irish Naval Service personnel travel to the Centre when requested by the Joint Task Force.

The establishment in 1993 of the Joint Task Force, (JTF) involving An Garda Síochána, the Customs Service and the Naval Service who work together to deal with intelligence — driven drugs interdiction operations. The JTF is brought together when An Garda Síochana and the Customs Service review intelligence received and consider that a joint operation should be mounted. Information received from the MAOC(N) Centre is one source of such intelligence.

Naval Service involvement in the JTF will be operationally-driven based on the intelligence received and will operate in the maritime environment only.

Question No. 47 answered with Question No. 44.
Question No. 48 answered with Question No. 41.

Departmental Expenditure

Joan Burton

Ceist:

49 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Defence if, arising from the budget 2011 announcement, he will outline the acquisition of replacement equipment and the building and maintenance projects that will be deferred or cancelled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47260/10]

The Department of Defence and the Defence Forces, like all areas of the public service, will operate on a reduced budget in 2011. The gross allocation in 2011 for Defence and Army Pensions combined is €933m, an overall reduction of 4% on the 2010 allocation.

Investment in new equipment and infrastructure for the Defence Forces is normally provided for under various Subheads of the Defence Vote relating to defensive equipment, mechanical transport, aircraft, Naval Service ships and stores, property, building and engineering, communications and Information Technology equipment. Each of these Subheads will operate with a reduced allocation in 2011. The exception is the Naval Service Subhead, the allocation for which in 2011 includes continuation of payment for the new ships contract.

The Department is engaged on an ongoing capital building programme designed to modernise and enhance the training, operational and accommodation facilities available to members of the Defence Forces. The programme provides for new starts and the continuation of capital building projects already underway. No projects will be cancelled as a result of the reduced capital allocation in 2011. However the capital programme will be revised to reflect available funding.

The specifics in relation to equipment acquisitions that will be deferred or postponed will be the subject of review with the military authorities in January 2011.

The steady investment since 2000 means that the Defence Forces are well placed in addressing the challenges for 2011 and the adjustments required under the National Recovery Plan.

The priority in the coming year will be on maintaining the capability of the Defence Forces to deliver effective services across all of the roles assigned by Government.

Question No. 50 answered with Question No. 34.
Question No. 51 answered with Question No. 30.
Question No. 52 answered with Question No. 34.
Question No. 53 answered with Question No. 43.

Irish Red Cross

Joe Costello

Ceist:

54 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which he intends to revise the proposals of the internal group of the Irish Red Cross in regard to the governance of that organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47263/10]

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

58 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Minister for Defence his proposals regarding the governance of the Irish Red Cross; if these new proposals have been approved by the International Red Cross at the recent meeting of the chairman and acting secretary general of the Irish Red Cross in Geneva; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47256/10]

Jim O'Keeffe

Ceist:

60 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Defence the proposals for the amendments to the Irish Red Cross Society Order 1939; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47361/10]

Joe Costello

Ceist:

72 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Defence his plans to introduce revised proposals regarding the length of time that persons may serve on the executive of the Irish Red Cross; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47264/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 54, 58, 60 and 72 together.

Proposals for reform of the governance of the Irish Red Cross Society arise from a resolution that was passed in November 2007 by the Council of Delegates of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) which urged all National Societies to examine and update their Statutes — the rules of the National Societies — and related legal texts by 2010, in accordance with the "Guidance for National Society Statutes" and relevant International Conference resolutions. This task is being undertaken by many Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world. The current proposals have the support of the IFRC.

A Working Group to propose changes in governance, including those recommended by the International Federation, was established by the Irish Red Cross Society in 2008. The Chairman of the Working Group presented the findings to the Central Council of the Irish Red Cross Society at a meeting held in November 2009. The Working Group's report was later submitted to the Department of Defence earlier this year.

In order to implement the recommendations made in the Working Group's report, significant amendments to the existing Red Cross legislation, including the Irish Red Cross Society Order 1939, will be required. Representatives of the Society and officials from the Department of Defence have had a number of meetings this year to discuss the specific changes required. A draft Irish Red Cross (Amendment) Order 2010, which would substantially amend the 1939 Order, has been drawn up and was recently referred to the Office of the Attorney General.

The proposed changes address issues relating to "higher level" areas of corporate governance such as, organisational structures, electoral arrangements and membership. The main areas for consideration are:

1. Appointment of Chair

2. Appointments to Central Council

3. Proposed changes to the terms of office, rotation and election of members to the Executive Committee

4. Clarification of the role of the President of the Society

5. The establishment of an external (independent) appeals mechanism as well as an Arbitration Committee

As recently as last week, further proposals were received by the Department of Defence from the Irish Red Cross Society. These further proposals are being examined and further discussions with the Society, and with the Office of the Attorney General on the draft Amendment Order, will take place shortly.

When the consultative process has been concluded, I propose to present the amendments to the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Women's Rights for its consideration prior to seeking Government approval to change the legislation.

Apart from the legislative changes that are being progressed, a new Chairman, Mr David J O'Callaghan, was recently appointed by the President. Mr. O'Callaghan is a former Secretary General of the Department of Defence and has vast experience of public administration at senior management level.

Since his appointment in September 2010 the new Chairman has put improved governance of the Society's affairs at the top of his agenda. The Society has already implemented procedures to avoid a recurrence of the events that led to the recently completed investigation into the delay by the Tipperary Branch of the Society in forwarding funds, raised during the Asian Tsunami appeal, from the Branch account to Headquarters. Furthermore, I understand that the Society is well advanced in introducing strengthened new financial procedures. I understand from the Society that the recommendations in the report will also be implemented as a matter of urgency. I am fully confident that the new Chairman will expedite the reform process that is underway in the Society which, I understand, also involves the drafting of a new Constitution.

As part of the ongoing process of change that is being advanced within the Irish Red Cross, I am aware that the new Chairman and the Acting Secretary General of the Society met with senior officials of the International Federation in Geneva last week to apprise them of the proposed legislative changes. I have been informed that the International Federation have indicated that they would welcome an opportunity to contribute to the final stages of the proposed legislative changes and I would be happy to facilitate them in this regard.

Defence Forces Recruitment

Joan Burton

Ceist:

55 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Defence the number of civilian posts that are likely to be shed as a result of the budget 2011 decision to reduce the number of such posts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47259/10]

Civilian employees are based at various military installations in every brigade area. The application of the moratorium on recruitment in the public service has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of civilian employees. It is anticipated that there will be a further reduction in the size of the civilian employee workforce of up to 40 in 2011. This reduction will occur primarily through natural wastage and will contribute to a significant decrease in the Department's payroll costs.

Question No. 56 answered with Question No. 43.
Question No. 57 answered with Question No. 25.
Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 54.

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

59 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Defence the expected level of recruitment to the Defence Forces during 2011 in view of the measures announced in budget 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47262/10]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

68 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the degree to which it is intended to maintain the strength of the Defence Forces at all levels over the next four years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47205/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 59 and 68 together.

Within the context of consolidating the public finances, the Government is focused firmly on maintaining the operational efficiency of the Permanent Defence Force. Government approval was secured in the context of Budget 2010 for a level of 10,000 all ranks. This reflects the reductions in personnel recommended in the Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes. However in 2011, the Permanent Defence Force, like all areas of the public service, will operate on a reduced budget.

I am advised by the Military Authorities that the strength of the Permanent Defence Force as of 30 November 2010 was 9,502 comprising 7,704 Army, 769 Air Corps and 1,029 Naval Service personnel.

Targeted recruitment is being carried out in 2010 in order to maintain the operational capability of the Defence Forces. In this regard I have approved the recruitment of 40 recruits to the Naval Service, limited recruitment to the Army and the intake of 30 Cadets from the Cadetship Competition 2010.

To date, 37 of the 40 recruits for the Naval Service were enlisted on 30 November 2010, along with 40 recruits to the Eastern Brigade and 37 recruits to the Southern Brigade on 3 and 6 December 2010 respectively. A further 3 recruits are due to be enlisted to each of the Naval Service and the Southern Brigade as soon as the final elements of their selection process have been completed. The 30 Cadets were inducted on 6 December 2010. The enlistment selection process to the Western Brigade and the Defence Forces Training Centre has commenced with enlistment of successful candidates scheduled to take place in January 2011.

Agreement has been reached with the Department of Finance and official confirmation received, on the Employment Control Framework (ECF) for the Defence Forces. The ECF is based on a figure of 10,000 all ranks Permanent Defence Force personnel, appropriately configured across the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps to enable them to meet the roles assigned by Government.

The official confirmation of the numbers, provided by the Employment Control Framework, along with the publishing of the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014 are being considered by the Military Authorities and officials of the Department for the purpose of outlining a structure capable of meeting the roles assigned by Government to the Defence Forces.

While it is not possible to anticipate strength figures over the next four years, I can confirm that with the support of the Chief of Staff, and within the resources available, I intend to retain the capacity of the organisation to operate effectively across all roles while contributing to the necessary public service economies.

While these are challenging times, my priority is to ensure that the Defence Forces are organised, equipped and staffed in a manner which will ensure that they can continue to deliver the services required of them by Government.

I am advised that at this time the Defence Forces retain the capacity to undertake the tasks laid down by Government both at home and overseas.

Question No. 60 answered with Question No. 54.
Question No. 61 answered with Question No. 24.

Severe Weather Events

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

62 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Defence the number of requests received by the Defence Forces for assistance from civil authorities during the current cold spell; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47276/10]

During the severe weather period, the Defence Forces conducted 708 operations and acceded to all requests for assistance from An Garda Síochána, the Health Service Executive, Local Authorities and other bodies such as the Blood Bank, St. Vincent de Paul, the Hospice Movement and Meals on Wheels. All operations in support of Aid to the Civil Authority ended on 13 December, 2010.

Question No. 63 answered with Question No. 43.

Irish Red Cross

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

64 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Defence if any part of the grant-in-aid paid to the Irish Red Cross has been used to fund the ongoing legal action being taken against a company (details supplied) or if any part of it will be used for the continuing action against the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47265/10]

The Irish Red Cross Society is an independent statute based charitable organisation with full power to manage its own affairs. The annual grant in aid paid to the Society (currently €951,000) includes the Government's annual contribution (€130,000) to the International Committee of the Red Cross. The balance of the grant in aid is used towards the administration and running costs of the Irish office. In 2009 the grant in aid paid to the Irish Red Cross from the Defence Vote represented approximately 13% of the Society's total income. The Minister for Defence does not get involved in the day-to-day running of its affairs. There is an obligation on Governments to protect the independence of National Red Cross Organisations.

Naval Service Vessels

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

65 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Defence the expected delivery date for the two new Naval Service vessels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47275/10]

Following a two-stage tender competition a contract has recently been awarded to the preferred bidder, Babcock Marine, for the provision of two new Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) for the Naval Service. Preparations for the construction of these new vessels have commenced and the first new vessel is scheduled for delivery in early 2014. The second vessel will follow one year later.

The acquisition of these modern new vessels, combined with a continuous process of refurbishment and repair, will ensure that the operational capability of the Naval Service is maintained at a satisfactory level.

Question No. 66 answered with Question No. 25.

Irish Red Cross

Liz McManus

Ceist:

67 Deputy Liz McManus asked the Minister for Defence the legal nature of his role in relation to the Irish Red Cross; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47269/10]

The Irish Red Cross Society was established by the Irish Red Cross Society Order 1939 (S.I. No. 206/1939). The Order sets out the basis on which the Society shall be governed. I am satisfied that it is not appropriate for the Minister for Defence to be involved in the day to day running of the Society which is a body corporate and, in accordance with the existing legislation, is responsible for the handling of its own internal affairs.

Question No. 68 answered with Question No. 59.
Question No. 69 answered with Question No. 28.
Question No. 70 answered with Question No. 43.
Question No. 71 answered with Question No. 28.
Question No. 72 answered with Question No. 54.

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

73 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Defence when he will respond to correspondence from the recently dismissed senior manager of the Irish Red Cross; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47266/10]

The position in relation to correspondence received by my Office on the 2nd of November 2010 is that a response issued on the 25th of November last. I understand that the person in question has confirmed receipt of this letter.

FÁS Training Programmes

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

74 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding apprentices at FÁS (details supplied). [47533/10]

FÁS is introducing a new Redundant Apprentice Placement Scheme in 2011 to enable eligible apprentices in all trades to undertake their on-the-job training and assessment at training phases 3, 5 and 7. The scheme, for which €7.3m in funding is being provided, will include placements with employers in both the private and the public sectors to ensure as many apprentices as possible are progressed through their apprenticeship and attain their necessary qualifications. The scheme aims to provide placement and training for up to 1,000 apprentices. For the first time, the State will be fully funding the allowance paid to on-the-job redundant apprentices with no wage contribution required of employers. Eligible redundant apprentices will be referred by FÁS to approved employers to participate in the scheme.

A number of additional labour market activation measures are also being introduced by FÁS in 2011 in conjunction with the higher educational sector to assist up to 700 redundant apprentices and craftspersons. These measures include:

Assisting referred apprentices who wish to progress in their apprenticeships;

Inclusion of verifiable work experience abroad in the portfolio of evidence towards completion of apprenticeship;

Further funding under the Leonardo da Vinci mobility programme for the placement of redundant apprentices to complete their Phase 5 on-the-job training overseas;

A post Phase 6 pilot programme for a certificate in craft transferable skills;

The development with the Dublin Institute of Technology of a special course in advanced skills for redundant plastering craftspersons;

A specially developed training programme for redundant craftspersons to obtain a certificate in entrepreneurship in the Institute of Technology Blanchardstown.

The Department of Education and Skills is providing a wide range of labour market activation measures to assist those who are unemployed improve their skill levels and maintain a close link with the labour market.

This year the Department of Education and Skills will be providing:

Over 160,000 training and employment places for the unemployed, delivered through FÁS, Skillnets and the Labour Market Activation Fund;

170,000 full time and part time Further Education places;

156,000 places in the Higher Education sector which can be accessed by the unemployed.

In addition, as part of Budget 2011 the Department will be expanding the Work Placement Programme from the 2,000 placements currently on offer to 7,500. 5,000 of the additional placements will be offered in the public sector. The Work Placement Programme provides up to 9 months work experience to unemployed individuals. The aim of the programme is to keep participants close to the labour market and to provide them with valuable work experience, which will assist them securing employment in the future.

Also announced in Budget 2011 was the new Skills Development and Internship Programme. Under this Programme, participants will receive a significant education and training component while being placed in a company for a period of 12 months. It is expected that this programme will be launched in early March 2011.

Schools Funding

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

75 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an application for funding for a new school (details supplied); when the contracts will be agreed with South Tipperary County Council; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47369/10]

The Contracts referred to by the Deputy are agreed, in principle, and my Department is awaiting same in duplicate for execution. Once this acquisition is concluded, the proposed building project will be considered in the context of the capital budget available to my Department for school buildings generally.

Special Educational Needs

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

76 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills when the EPSEN Act 2004 will be implemented in full; when the aspects dealing with rights to assessments, provision of services and of individual education plans, independent appeals process, decisions, role and duties of the Health Service Executive and schools will be implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47428/10]

A number of sections of the EPSEN Act have been commenced, principally those establishing the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and those promoting an inclusive approach to the education of children with special educational needs. However, full implementation of the Act has been deferred pending an upturn in economic conditions.

The renewed programme for Government re-stated the Government's commitment to the full implementation of EPSEN and committed to the development, in consultation with stakeholders, of a costed multi-annual plan, to plan for the implementation of EPSEN focussing on measurable, practical progress in education and health services for children with special needs.

Discussions have commenced between the Department of Education and Skills, the Health Service Executive and the Department of Health and Children to further the implementation of this commitment. Pending the outcome of these considerations, it is not possible to say when individual outstanding aspects of the act will be commenced.

Each non-commenced part of the EPSEN legislation is being considered. However, commencement of individual aspects of the EPSEN legislation in isolation is difficult, as many aspects of the act are interlinked and therefore interdependent.

In the meantime, children with special education needs will continue to receive an education appropriate to their needs and the National Council for Special Education will continue to support schools, parents and children and teachers and provide for resources to be deployed to schools, in line with my Department's policies.

Departmental Expenditure

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

77 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the amount spent by her on further education broken down according to current spending on pay and current non-pay spending; capital spending; the number of places being funded by her according to type of further education; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47441/10]

The 2010 provision for further education programmes is just over €426 million, made up of €197.3 million for pay costs, €228.9 million for non-pay costs. In addition, my Department provided just over €3.87 million for capital costs. This will enable over 170,000 learners to participate in a range of full-time and part-time further education programmes.

For the current academic year (2010/2011), there are just over 41,000 approved full-time places available in Post Leaving Certificate (PLC — 31,688), Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS — 5,000), Youthreach (3,692) and Senior Traveller Training Centres (STTCs — 684).

In relation to PLC, in 2009/2010 VECs and other PLC providers enrolled over 38,600 learners and it is hoped that they will be able to maintain this level of enrolment. I understand that the other full-time programmes are fully subscribed.

Part-time Further Education opportunities will be provided for an estimated 125,000 participants during 2010 under the Back to Education Initiative (BTEI), Adult Literacy and Community Education Schemes.

Special Educational Needs

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

78 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the impact of the 2011 budget on the number of special needs assistants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47472/10]

The Deputy will be aware that there has been unprecedented investment in providing supports for pupils with special educational needs in recent years and special education continues to be a key Government priority. Expenditure on the Special Needs Assistant (SNA) scheme has increased by 922% in the period 2001-2009. The total number of SNAs across the school system has also increased from 2988 in 2001, to 10,342 in 2009 during the same period.

The Government is continuing to prioritise special education. The National Recovery Plan 2011-14, while noting that there has been significant increases in the number of SNAs in recent years, and that while no reduction in SNA numbers is proposed over the period of the plan, stated that it is intended to cap SNA numbers at the 2011 level and to introduce a new system to facilitate the management of these finite SNA resources in a proactive manner.

This number of posts represents a substantial and significant level of support to schools which have enrolled students with special educational needs and who also have additional care needs.

Schools Building Projects

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

79 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a post-primary school building unit application by a school (details supplied) in County Leitrim; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47477/10]

I can confirm that the school to which the Deputy refers has made an application to my Department for large scale capital funding for an extension. In accordance with the published criteria for large scale building projects, the application was assessed and the project was assigned a Band 2.4 rating.

Information in respect of the current school building programme, along with all assessed applications for major capital works, including this project, is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie.

The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase will 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 progression of the project at this time.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

80 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a new primary school for a school (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47481/10]

I can confirm that the school to which the Deputy refers has made an application to my Department for large scale capital funding for a new school building. In accordance with the published criteria for large scale building projects, the application was assessed and the project was assigned a Band 2.2 rating.

Information in respect of the current school building programme, along with all assessed applications for major capital works, including this project, is available on my Department's website at www.education.ie.

The progression of all large scale building projects, including this project, from initial design stage through to construction phase will 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 progression of the project at this time.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

81 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding an extension to a primary school (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47482/10]

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department wrote to the school authority to which he refers in April 2010 approving an all-in devolved grant for the provision of an additional mainstream classroom.

Following receipt of submissions from the school authority appealing this decision and seeking additional funding, my Department increased the funding to allow the school to build a second mainstream classroom and to convert an existing classroom into two learning support rooms. The school authority has been told that no further funding is available at this time.

To date, the school has not drawn down any of the funding already approved.

School Transport

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

82 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the status of her review of school transport catchment boundaries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47483/10]

As the Deputy is aware, the School Transport scheme was approved by Government as a topic for inclusion as part of the 2009-2011 round of Value for Money Reviews.

This review looked 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 also looked at fundamental issues such as eligibility criteria and catchment boundaries, with a view to achieving efficiencies and value for money in the Scheme.

The report of the Value for Money Review of the School Transport Scheme, which will outline the recommendations of the Steering Committee on catchment boundaries, has recently been finalised and the findings and recommendations in the report were considered as part of the budget and estimates process. The report it is to be considered by Government in advance of publication in the near future.

The Deputy will also be aware that as part of the budget changes announced in relation to school transport, from the 2012/13 school year, the use of the catchment boundary system will cease for all new post-primary children. Eligibility for all new children entering post-primary transport will be on the basis of the nearest post-primary centre or school. Existing arrangements will remain in place for existing post primary pupils for the duration of their schooling.

School Accommodation

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

83 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she has received an application to establish a new school (details supplied) in County Kildare; the position regarding that application; if she will recognise that this area has a rapidly expanding school going population and that a large number of parents wish to send their children to a multi-denominational school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47494/10]

A review of the procedures for the establishment of new primary schools is currently being carried out under the Commission on School Accommodation. In the interim it is not proposed to recognise any new primary schools, except in areas where the increases in pupil numbers cannot be catered for in existing schools and which require the provision of new schools. The Commission is due to report to me shortly at which time I will have to consider the policy matters and necessary arrangements and revised procedures that will need to be put in place.

The establishment of new schools, including the one referred to by the Deputy, will be considered in this context.

Departmental Correspondence

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

84 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she has received correspondence (details supplied) relating to possible fraud at a special education centre; if she is acting to investigate these allegations; the person carrying out the investigation; if the investigations are being conducted externally or internally by her; when she expects the findings to be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47496/10]

Correspondence has been received in relation to a special education centre referred to by the Deputy. This centre receives funding from the Department of Education and Skills but it is not formally recognised as a school or Centre for Education under the Education Act 1998. The content of the correspondence is being considered by my Department.

School Closures

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

85 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the advice available from her to schools which have had to close for significant periods in recent times due to inclement weather; her plans to address further closures in the event of future adverse weather conditions; her views on how lost tuition time can be recovered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47517/10]

The position in relation to the recent weather conditions will vary from school to school. The actual impact on teaching and learning is something that can only be assessed at individual school level by school authorities.

My Department's approach during exceptional and widespread adverse weather conditions is that schools should make all reasonable efforts to make up for lost time due to unforeseen school closures.

FÁS Training Programmes

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

86 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will provide details of the 15,410 training places for the unemployed that will be cut as a result of the €43 million reduction to the allocation to FÁS; the programmes and courses, the number of places, locations and duration of courses that will be cut as a result of this decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47537/10]

Detailed discussions have commenced between officials from my Department and officials from FÁS to determine the specific implications for FÁS training programmes of the 2011 allocation for training the unemployed.

It should be noted that FÁS programmes are expected to deliver approximately 100,000 training and employment places for the unemployed in 2011. This is a significant increase on the provision of 66,000 places which were delivered by FÁS in 2008.

In addition, there are a range of other measures which my Department are still providing for the unemployed. These include the 170,000 Further Education and Training places and the 156,000 places that are available in the Higher Education Sector.

Yesterday we approved a new €20 million Higher Education Activation Fund, enhanced measures to support redundant apprentices, an expanded Work Placement Programme and the new Skills Development Internship Programme. These measures will expand the range of activation provision that will be available to the unemployed in 2011.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

87 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the reason she is reducing the training budget for the unemployed and the number of training places at a time when demand is growing and when the evidence suggests it makes sense to retain jobseekers in education and training and close to the labour market; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47538/10]

Detailed discussions have commenced between officials from my Department and officials from FÁS to determine the specific implications for FÁS training programmes of the 2011 allocation for training the unemployed, which due to the present fiscal situation and resources available is reduced next year.

FÁS programmes are still expected to deliver approximately 100,000 training and employment places for the unemployed in 2011, which is a significant increase on the provision of 66,000 places which were delivered by FÁS in 2008. I agree that it makes sense to keep unemployed people in education and training and close to the labour market. That is why my Department will provide 170,000 Further Education places and approximately 156,000 Higher Education places next year.

In addition, next year's provision for the unemployed includes a new €20 million Higher Education Activation Fund, enhanced measures to assist redundant apprentices, an expanded Work Placement Programme and the new Skills Development and Internship Programme. This represents a significant diverse range of provision that is available for the unemployed in 2011.

Departmental Bodies

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

88 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 55 of 9 March 2010, if she has received the report of the training and employment framework for young persons and early school leavers which was to be published before the end of the year; if she will confirm that consultations have taken place with youth organisations as promised; if she will confirm when the framework will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47539/10]

The broad elements of the framework have been drafted and will form the basis of discussion and consultation with other relevant Youth Agencies. Wider consultation, as referred to in my answer to Question No. 55 of 9 March 2010, has been deferred pending the integration of elements of FÁS with the Department of Social Protection and the establishment of a freshly mandated Skills Agency, which will impact on any proposed Youth Framework as FÁS's remit is subject to change going forward.

Community Employment Schemes

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

89 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the FÁS training and community employment rates that will apply in 2011. [47556/10]

The following are the details of the weekly pay rates for Community Employment participants for 2011:

CE Single Adult Rate: €208.00; Increase for Qualified Adult: €124.80; Full rate Child Dependant: €29.80; Half rate Child Dependant: €14.90.

Training and Work Experience Programmes

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

90 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 75 of 30 November 2010, when a reply will issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47557/10]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the tables below. Table 1 sets out the total non-pay funding allocated by FÁS in 2010 for the training of persons seeking employment broken down by programme. The table also provides total non-pay funding allocated to the training of persons in employment broken down by programme. The pay elements are currently being worked on by FÁS and will be provided to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Table 2 sets out the number of persons who have received training directly by FÁS broken down by headline measure. These figures relate to persons who have been trained by FÁS-employed instructors. They do not include those persons who have received training funded by FÁS but delivered under contract, including those undertaking training at Community Training Centres and those who have received training by private providers.

Finally, FÁS currently has 17 Training Centre facilities. These are located at:

Location

1.

Tallaght

2.

Ballyfermot

3.

Finglas

4.

Baldoyle

5.

Loughlinstown

6.

Cabra

7.

Dundalk

8.

Sligo

9.

Letterkenny

10.

Gweedore

11.

Galway

12.

Limerick

13.

Tralee

14.

Cork

15.

Waterford

16.

Wexford

17.

Athlone

Table 1

FÁS Estimated Costs for 2010 by programme

Total budgeted costs

(€ millions)

Bridging Foundation

14.975

Foundation Progression in CTC’s

49.720

Return to Work

1.374

Skills Training

75.286

Traineeship

33.313

Local Training Initiatives

40.948

Specialist Training Providers

55.598

On Line and Blended Learning

4.711

Training Scheme for workers on Short Time

0.115

Technical Employment Support

6.083

Evening Courses

5.019

European Globalisation Fund

5.000

Redundant Apprentice Initiative

3.874

Total Training for Employment

296.016

Apprenticeship

77.030

STB Training and Sectoral Initiatives

5.368

Basic Workplace Education Scheme

0.000

Film and Television Sector

0.568

Sponsored Training

0.894

Evening Courses

1.255

Life Long Learning/FÁS eCollege

0.243

Total Training in Employment

85.358

Table 2

Headline Measure

2009

2010 (as at September)

Mainline daytime training courses

16,200

11,700

Evening Courses

27,200

31,500

Online

12,300

13,700

Apprenticeship

4,600

2,100

Total

603,00

59,000

Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

91 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the number of persons who have availed of the vocational training opportunities scheme in each of the years 2007, 2008, 2009 and to date in 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47560/10]

The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme is a full-time further education programme open to people over 21 years of age who are at least six months unemployed. The information requested by the Deputy is set out below:

2007 — 5,377 learners;

2008 — 5,403 learners;

2009 — 5,568 learners;

2010 — 5,775 learners.

Higher Education Grants

David Stanton

Ceist:

92 Deputy David Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills when the change in non-adjacent rate of the third level maintenance grant as per B17 of budget measures 2011 will come into effect; if this change will affect current grant holders or only be applied to new third level students in September 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47564/10]

The Deputy is referring to the change in the qualifying distance criterion for entitlement to the higher non-adjacent rate of student grant from 24 kilometres to 45 Kilometres

This measure is being introduced from September 2011. It will apply to all students i.e. both new and existing grant holders.

Special Educational Needs

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

93 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the proposed staffing allocation for 2011 at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 11; if staffing levels in special schools have a smaller pupil teacher ratio and a higher complement of special needs assistants than mainstream schools, and if the situation at this school is reflective of same; if an assessment of staffing needs was carried out over the past few years; the factors taken into account in any such assessment; if it was purely an examination of pupil teacher numbers or did a more qualitative assessment take place that examined the particular special needs of pupils at this school and any decisions that were made on the basis of same; if any changes in staffing levels are possible in view of any assessment, and if the school will be in a position to appeal same; if the school can ask for an independent assessment of its needs to be carried out by a qualified party other than the local SENO coordinator; if the results of an independent assessment can be taken into account in the event of the school appealing any decisions made by her on the future staffing levels; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47571/10]

Special schools have significantly reduced pupil teacher ratios, special needs assistant support and increased levels of capitation. The staffing of special schools is determined by reference to the recommendations outlined in the Report of the Special Education Review Committee, 1993, also known as the SERC Report. These ratios range from 6:1 to 11:1 depending on the level of disability.

As the Deputy may 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 schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. I have arranged for the details supplied to be forwarded to the NCSE for their attention and direct reply.

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. Although there is not presently an independent appeal mechanism, schools may appeal a decision to the NCSE. Information regarding the NCSE appeals process is available on the NCSE's website at www.ncse.ie

Job Creation

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

94 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills the eligibility requirements for a person to access funding under the labour market activation fund; the length of time a person must be in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance or benefit before they can access funding under this programme; if a third level graduate who has been on jobseeker’s allowance or benefit for three months since graduating is eligible to participate in a course approved by this scheme, and if they are entitled to funding while completing same; if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15 is eligible for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47573/10]

Following a public request for tender, funding from the Labour Market Activation Fund, 2010 was made available to fifty-nine projects to provide education and training places for up to 12,000 unemployed people.

For the purposes of this Fund, prospective participants on programmes eligible for Fund support must be jobseekers who have been in receipt of an unemployment payment for a period of at least three consecutive months.

Course participants pursuing training courses may qualify for retention of Department of Social Protection (D/SP) welfare payments while on courses for so long as they are entitled to receive such payments under D/SP eligibility rules. Eligibility criteria for individual social welfare payments is a matter for the Minister for Social Protection.

Having regard to these criteria, and other programme-specific admission requirements, the project providing the programme is responsible for assessing and deciding upon the applicant's eligibility to participate.

A full list of projects and the courses they are providing is available on the National Learners' Database www.qualifax.ie.

Teaching Qualifications

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

95 Deputy Brian O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will review the Irish language requirement in the leaving certificate, an honour in the higher paper, for entry into national teaching (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47578/10]

My Department currently specifies the minimum academic requirements for entry to primary teacher training courses provided in the Colleges of Education. As part of these requirements, all candidates, including school leavers, mature students and university graduates, must have a minimum of a Grade C in Higher Level in Irish in the Leaving Certificate, or an approved equivalent.

It is essential that teachers in the primary sector have a high standard of Irish on entry to teacher education programmes in Ireland. It is a particular feature of Irish primary education that children, from the beginning of schooling, have an experience of language learning in two subjects, Irish and English. In addition the use of Irish is integrated throughout the primary curriculum where possible and Irish is used as a natural means of communication in the daily life of the class and the school. For these reasons, there are no plans to reduce the Irish language requirement for entry to teacher education programmes.

EU Directive 2005/36/EC governing the recognition of professional qualifications came into force on 20 October 2007. The Teaching Council is the designated authority for recognition of qualifications for the regulated profession of primary and secondary teachers. Where an applicant for registration as a primary teacher has completed a programme of teacher education outside of Ireland, an Irish Language Requirement condition will normally be applied to his/her registration. This can be addressed by either completing an Aptitude Test (SCG — An Scrúdú le hAghaidh Cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge) or an Adaptation Period (OCG — Oiriúnú le hAghaidh Cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge). Conditional registration is granted to those who are in the process of completing this requirement. A maximum period of three years is permitted to satisfy this condition.

The Teaching Council has statutory responsibility in relation to the standards of education and training appropriate to a person entering a programme of teacher education and training. The Council is currently drafting a policy paper on the continuum of teacher education spanning all stages of the teacher's career from initial teacher education through induction to continuing professional development. The policy paper will provide the framework within which the Council will implement its functions relating to teacher education, including initial teacher education and I look forward to the outcome of the Council's work in due course.

Procedures for the appointment of Special Needs Assistants (SNA) are set out in my Department Circulars 05/2001 and SNA 03/03. These Circulars specify that the minimum qualification necessary for appointment as an SNA is an award of Grade D (or pass) in Irish, English and Mathematics in the Intermediate Certificate/Junior Certificate or Day Vocational Certificate Examination or in an examination of equivalent standard.

In this context, a qualification of equivalent standard is any qualification at Level 3 or higher on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) established by the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI), provided that the qualification, or a combination of such qualifications, certifies to the achievement of a minimum of a pass in the subjects Irish, English and Mathematics.

With regard to the means by which a person may attain the necessary educational requirements, local education service providers (e.g. Vocational Education Committees) may be able to assist with access to an appropriate course or courses which will, on successful completion, lead to an award of the required standard.

The terms and conditions and appointment criteria pertaining to Special Needs Assistants have been agreed at national level with the various representative organisations and it would not be appropriate for the Minister to comment in individual cases.

School Accommodation

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

96 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she has made a decision regarding the location of a new national school in the Clane-Prosperous area of north Kildare, and if she supports an organisation (details supplied) in the setting up of the new national school. [47684/10]

A review of the procedures for the establishment of new primary schools is currently being carried out under the Commission on School Accommodation. In the interim it is not proposed to recognise any new primary schools, except in areas where the increases in pupil numbers cannot be catered for in existing schools and which require the provision of new schools. The Commission is due to report to me shortly at which time I will have to consider the policy matters and necessary arrangements and revised procedures that will need to be put in place.

The establishment of new schools, including the one referred to by the Deputy, will be considered in this context.

Tax Reliefs

John Deasy

Ceist:

97 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance the number of companies in Waterford city and county availing of the research and development tax credit in each of the past five years and to date in 2010; the number of jobs supported by this measure in each of those years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47543/10]

John Deasy

Ceist:

115 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance the number of companies in Waterford city and county availing of the research and development tax credit in each of the past five years and to date in 2010; the value of these tax credits in each of those years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47546/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 115 together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the information given in the table below provides figures of the numbers of companies in Waterford city and county that claimed a tax credit for research and development and the amount of such credits allowed for the years 2004 to 2008 inclusive, the latest year for which this information is available. However, because of the Revenue Commissioners' obligation to observe confidentiality in relation to the taxation affairs of individual taxpayers and small groups of taxpayers, the precise numbers of companies are expressed in the table as being "less than 10" for each year.

Research + Development Tax Credit

Tax Year

Number of Claimants

Value of Tax Credit

€m

2004

Less than 10

0.00

2005

Less than 10

0.05

2006

Less than 10

0.40

2007

Less than 10

0.06

2008

Less than 10

3.00

As the provision of employment support is not a condition of qualifying for the research and development tax credit, Revenue figures on claims for the credit do not provide a basis for compiling information on the number of jobs supported.

An estimated breakdown of the figures on a geographical basis is available on the basis of "bailiwick", meaning, in this case, the jurisdiction or boundaries within which Revenue Sheriffs, County Registrars or their officers operate for the purposes of enforcement of tax debt and which equates geographically with "county".

Companies are associated on the tax record with the county address of the head-office or branch with which contact is established for tax purposes, which may be different to the city or county addresses of other branches. The distribution of corporate tax between regions can also vary from year to year as companies relocate.

Credit Review Applications

John Deasy

Ceist:

98 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Finance the number of companies in Waterford city and county applying for credit review; the number of decisions by credit institutions that were reversed by these reviews; the amount of finance involved for companies in Waterford city and county applying for credit reviews; the number of jobs supported by companies in Waterford city and county applying for credit reviews; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47544/10]

The Credit Review Office does not collect details of the geographical distribution of requests to the banks for internal review. The banks provide information on the geographical distribution of SME lending and Mr Trethowan has reported that the geographic data show that there has been no appreciable movement in the percentage share of lending to the various geographic regions since the base month in January 2010.

The recently published second quarterly report from the Credit Review Office stated that the number of requests for review to the Credit Review Office received was 37. This small number means that divulging information on a county specific basis could reveal commercially sensitive information about specific businesses. I do not intend to do this particularly at a time when we are encouraging any businesses which are refused credit to make internal appeals within the bank and then to the Credit Review Office if necessary.

Tax Code

Niall Collins

Ceist:

99 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Finance if the new universal social charge will apply to the incomes of medical card holders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47327/10]

The position is that having an entitlement to a medical card will not exempt an individual from the Universal Social Charge. However, it should be noted that payments from the Department of Social Protection such as job seeker's benefit, job seeker's allowance and the contributory and non-contributory State pension will be exempt from the Universal Social Charge. Therefore, the Universal Social Charge will apply to the income or portion of the income of a medical card holder to the extent that it is not a payment from the Department of Social Protection.

Pension Provisions

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

100 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the present rules allowing a person to withdraw their contributions from an occupational pension scheme; his plans to change those rules; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47439/10]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the ability of a scheme member to withdraw their contributions from an occupational pension scheme is limited to circumstances where the scheme member leaves his or her employment with less than 2 years' qualifying service. Qualifying service normally means 2 years in the pension plan as a member for pension purposes. In such circumstances, and assuming Revenue practice and the scheme rules permit, a scheme member can get a refund of his or her contributions which may include interest at a reasonable rate. The benefit of any employer contributions are surrendered where this occurs.

In general, a refund of contributions is liable to tax at the standard rate of tax applying when the refund is made. Once a scheme member has at least 2 years qualifying service he or she is entitled under the Pensions Acts to preserved benefits and cannot get a contribution refund. Under the preserved benefit rules, a member leaving a scheme has several options including leaving the accumulated benefits in place with the former employer's scheme or transferring the benefits to a new employer's scheme, to a Personal Retirement Savings Account or to a buy out bond.

The limited circumstances in which employee contributions can be accessed under current arrangements reflects the fundamental nature of pension savings. The rationale for giving various tax reliefs to pension savings schemes in the first place is to encourage and promote savings over the long term in order that individuals will have an adequate replacement income in old age. Emerging demographic indicators point to increasing numbers of people living longer and healthier lives with more of their lives spent in retirement than previously. In these circumstances, and while I am conscious of the case being made for access to pension funds which can be further examined, it is also important to protect pension savings to ensure an adequate post-retirement income.

Banking Sector

Pat Rabbitte

Ceist:

101 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance if the €40 million paid in AIB as bonus payments was provided for in the financial statements of the bank as an accrual, a provision or a contingency; in the event that AIB failed to so provide, the steps he will take to refer the matter to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47440/10]

I am advised by AIB that all bonuses were fully provided for and charged against income in the financial year to which they relate. The Bank had originally scheduled the payment of bonuses in the following financial year. As the Deputy will be aware the bonuses to which he refers in his question are not now being paid.

National Lottery Funding

Mary Upton

Ceist:

102 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance the amount of national lottery funding available in 2011; the way this money will be allocated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47446/10]

The estimated amount of receipts to the Exchequer from the National Lottery in 2011, as published in the White Paper on Receipts and Expenditure, is €235m. Section 5 of the National Lottery Act 1986 provides that the surplus from the National Lottery may be used for the following purposes: sport and other recreation; national culture, including the Irish Language; the arts, within the meaning of the Arts Act 1951; the health of the community; and for such other purposes as the Government may determine. The following additional categories have been so determined: youth, welfare, national heritage and amenities.

In order to give effect to this statutory provision, the surplus from the National Lottery is transferred to the Exchequer on a regular basis and is applied each year to part-fund the Exchequer allocations to a specified range of expenditure subheads across various Votes. Each year, the amount transferred to the Exchequer from the National Lottery surplus, together with details of the total Exchequer allocations to the relevant subheads are set out in Appendix 1 of the annual "Revised Estimates for Public Services", which is typically published around February each year.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

103 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Finance the purpose for which the national lottery money was intended; if he is satisfied that the money has been allocated as prescribed in legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47447/10]

Section 5 of the National Lottery Act 1986 provides that the surplus from the National Lottery may be used for the following purposes: sport and other recreation; national culture, including the Irish Language; the arts, within the meaning of the Arts Act 1951; the health of the community; and for such other purposes as the Government may determine. The following additional categories have been so determined: youth, welfare, national heritage and amenities. In order to give effect to this statutory provision, the surplus from the National Lottery is transferred to the Exchequer on a regular basis and is applied each year to part-fund the Exchequer allocations to a specified range of expenditure subheads across various Votes. Each year, the amount transferred to the Exchequer from the National Lottery surplus, together with details of the total Exchequer allocations to the relevant subheads are set out in Appendix 1 of the annual "Revised Estimates for Public Services".

Pension Provisions

Joan Burton

Ceist:

104 Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Finance if, in the case of post-1995 public servants, the State pension will be taken into account for the purposes of the reductions to public service pensions as announced in the 2011 budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47448/10]

The Government decided not to make an adjustment to the state pension in the Budget. For that reason the public service pension reduction measure is only applied to the occupational element and does not take the State pension into account.

Tax Collection

John Browne

Ceist:

105 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Finance if he will arrange to have the Revenue Commissioners put a stay on a demand for payment to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford as their only income is now jobseeker’s allowance. [47453/10]

This is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. I am advised by Revenue that the tax debt in question arose from invalid repayment claims submitted by the person concerned. I am further advised that, due to the failure of the person concerned to respond to Revenue's written demand for payment, the debts have since been referred to the Revenue Sheriff for collection. It is incumbent on the person concerned to contact Revenue without delay to discuss his particular circumstances and any means of bringing matters to an agreed resolution.

John Browne

Ceist:

106 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Finance if he will arrange to have an attachment order placed by the Revenue Commissioners for the arrears due to them lifted in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford on the basis that they are prepared to make two payments by the end of December 2010. [47454/10]

This is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners and I do not consider it appropriate that I would intervene directly in this matter. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the initiation of enforcement action is not something undertaken lightly and that once it is underway it is only in very exceptional circumstances that there would be any cessation or deferral of such action. The person concerned is advised to immediately contact Revenue directly if a fresh proposal for payment of the debt is contemplated.

EU Directives

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

107 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Finance when he will enact the payment service directive into law; if it is intended to include provisions covering direct debit charges and penalties for consumers not using such a payment mechanism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47485/10]

The Payment Services Directive (Directive 2007/64/EC) was transposed into Irish law through the European Communities (Payment Services) Regulations 2009 (S.I. 383 of 2009), made on 25 September 2009. The Directive does not regulate charges for the use of direct debit or other payment instruments. Article 52(3) of the Directive prohibits payment service providers from preventing merchants applying a charge or offering a reduction for the use of a given payment instrument, in order to ensure that the costs of efficient and inefficient payment instruments are transparent.

Article 52(3) also included an option for Member States to forbid or limit the right to request such charges for the use of a particular payment instrument taking into account the need to encourage competition and promote the use of efficient payment instruments. However, a substantive case, consistent with the objectives of the Directive, was not made to me by stakeholders during the transposition of the Directive and the option was not therefore exercised. The Directive does not allow Member States to impose penalties for the use of a particular payment instrument.

In addition to charges to consumers, as I set out in answer to Question No. 59 of 7 December 2010, fees may also be imposed on merchants by banks for the use of debit or credit cards. These fees are a commercial matter between the given card scheme, the acquiring bank and their customers.

Civil Service Staff

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

108 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Finance if active civil servants who availed of the incentivised scheme for early retirement, ISER, as set out in Department of Finance Circular 12/09 and who signed a legal document not to re-enter the labour market and whose PPS numbers were noted in order that they could not breach the ISER contract, are now released from this contractual obligation in view of the unilateral decision by the Government to reduce the pensions income of civil servants by 4% in the recent budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47508/10]

Individuals who availed of the Incentivised Scheme of Early Retirement are not de-barred from re-entering the labour market generally; however, they are not eligible for re-employment in the same part of the public service from which they retired. They may take up employment in other areas of the public service, in which case their pension may be abated. I have no plans to change this position.

State Assets

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

109 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Finance when the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes is due to report on the possible disposal of State assets. [47516/10]

I presume that the Deputy is referring to the Review Group on State Assets and Liabilities which I established in July 2010 under the Chairmanship of Mr. Colm McCarthy. I understand that the Review Group will report in early 2011.

Tax Collection

Jack Wall

Ceist:

110 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Finance if he or the Revenue Commissioners have any outstanding issues that need to be addressed regarding the financial affairs or taxation payments in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [47519/10]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that this is a complex case which is on-going and they will contact the person concerned shortly in relation to his tax affairs.

Proposed Legislation

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

111 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding taxation and social welfare legislation (details supplied). [47524/10]

It is intended that the necessary changes to tax legislation arising from the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 will be included in the forthcoming Finance Bill. The provisions will provide for the same tax treatment for registered civil partners as for married couples and will have effect for the year of assessment 2011. It should be noted that Social Protection legislation is a matter for the Minister for Social Protection.

Tax Reliefs

Mary Wallace

Ceist:

112 Deputy Mary Wallace asked the Minister for Finance the way in which the new standard rate of tax relief on expenditure up to €10,000 on home energy savings works will operate; the works covered by the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47529/10]

Tax relief for Energy Efficiency Measures (REEM) was announced in the Budget and will be introduced in the forthcoming Finance Bill. It is intended that the relief will encourage individuals to invest in making their homes more energy efficient. The incentive will complement the grant aid that is available through various schemes currently operated by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. Standard rated tax relief will be available, on a subsequent year basis, on expenditure of up to €10,000 on a list of approved works. The total relief available in any one tax year will be €30 million which will allow for remedial works to be carried out on a minimum of 15,000 homes.

Full details of the new incentive will be provided in the forthcoming Finance Bill.

Tax Code

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

113 Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if changes in respect of civil unions affecting taxation matters have been included in the budget and the forthcoming finance Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47530/10]

It is intended that the forthcoming Finance Bill will provide for the same tax treatment for registered civil partners as for married couples and will have effect for the year of assessment 2011. These changes are as a result of the passing of the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010.

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

114 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if the new rates of stamp duty approved by Dáil Éireann following budget 2011 could also be applied to the purchase of a site by a person wishing to build and own their first home. [47535/10]

Budget 2011 provides for a major reform of the charge to Stamp Duty on transactions of residential property. The change involves a simplification of the system by lowering the rates of Stamp Duty and abolishing a number of exemptions and reliefs. The new Stamp Duty rates — 1% where the consideration does not exceed €1 million and 2% on the excess of the consideration over €1 million — apply to transfers of residential property and as such do not apply to the purchase of a site. The question of whether a property is residential or non-residential is determined by the use of the property at the time of the transaction, rather than its potential future use. Extending the residential rates to some non-residential transfers but not others could give rise to verification difficulties and potential evasion.

The Stamp Duty rates for non-residential property which have been in operation since 15 October 2008 remain unchanged. They are as set out in the following table:

Aggregate Consideration

Rate of Duty

Up to €10,000

Exempt

€10,001 to €20,000

1%

€20,001 to €30,000

2%

€30,001 to €40,000

3%

€40,001 to €70,000

4%

€70,001 to €80,000

5%

Over €80,000

6%

Question No. 115 answered with Question No. 97.

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

116 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding a couple over 66 years who are in receipt of contributory old age pension and social welfare pension when one of the persons also is in receipt of an occupational pension of approximately €100 a week; if he will list the taxation, levy, PRSI, health contribution levels before and after the recent budget including universal social charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47566/10]

It is assumed that the Deputy is referring to a couple aged over 66 but younger than 80 and that one of the individuals is in receipt of an occupational pension of approximately €5,200 per annum and in receipt of a contributory State pension of €22,703 which includes an increase for a qualified adult. On that basis, the indicative calculations for Income Tax, PRSI, Income Levy, Health Levy and the Universal Social Charge for 2010 and 2011 are set below:

2010

2011

State Pension

22,703

22,703

Occupational pension

5,200

5,200

Gross Income

27,903

27,903

Income Tax liability

0

0

PRSI liability

n/a

n/a

Income Levy liability

0

n/a

Health Levy liability

0

n/a

Universal Social Charge

n/a

104

Total tax liability

0

104

Net Income

27,903

27,799

Annual loss

-104

Weekly loss

-2

Services for People with Disabilities

John Deasy

Ceist:

117 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of persons in Waterford city and county in receipt of blind welfare allowance in each of the past five years and to date in 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47354/10]

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 to the Deputy.

Vaccination Programme

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

118 Deputy Tom Hayes asked the Minister for Health and Children the information and studies taken into account in deciding to use Gardasil as a vaccine for the prevention of cervical cancer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47367/10]

The Irish Medicines Board (IMB), together with its EU counterparts is responsible for monitoring national and international emerging evidence about the safety of medicines, including vaccine safety.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) was asked to establish the cost effectiveness of a combined national HPV vaccination and cervcial cancer screening programme. This assessment took account of the available evidence on the epidemiology of HPV and cervical cancer and included an assessment of the safety and efficacy of the HPV vaccines available. A copy of this report along with details of international evidence examined is available on the HIQA website at www.hiqa.ie.

The decision to proceed with a National HPV vaccination programme was also informed by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC). This is represented in the NIAC Immunisation Guidance which can be found on the website at www.rcpi.ie. International evidence as to the safety profile and side-effects of vaccines is considered by NIAC in formulating its advice and is kept under constant review.

The public procurement process which was engaged by the HSE assessed the relative costs and benefits of the two HPV vaccines on the market and made recommendations on this basis in favour of the use of Gardasil.

Gardasil has been authorised by the European Commission for use across the European Union (EU) since 2006 and has been in widespread use in a number of Member States since then. In addition to the European approval, it is currently registered and authorised for use in 131 countries worldwide, including approvals by both the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Therapeutic Good Administration in Australia (TGA). More than 65 million doses of this vaccine have been distributed world-wide. The basis for the European Commission decision to authorise the product is contained in the European Public Assessment Report which is available on the website of the European Medicines Agency www.ema.europa.eu. Gardasil was licensed for use in Ireland in September 2007.

The highest priority is attached to ensuring the safety of all vaccines administered as part of the public immunisation programme in Ireland.

Health Services

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

119 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children her plans to introduce a national foot screening programme as part of the treatment of diabetic foot disease; the estimated cost of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47419/10]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

120 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children if she has received the report from the expert advisory group on diabetes; her plans to implement the recommendations particularly regarding paediatric services in the Cork area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47420/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 and 120 together.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) Report of the Expert Advisory Group on Diabetes was published in 2008. The implementation of the recommendations in this Report with respect to service delivery is a matter for the HSE. Therefore, the issues raised by the Deputy have been referred to the HSE for direct reply.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

121 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the roll-out of the national diabetes programme in east Roscommon; the number of persons who have been treated in Roscommon for preventable diabetic foot complications in the past five years; the amount of money spent on treating preventable diabetic foot disease in Roscommon in the past five years; the current levels of spending on podiatry services in Roscommon; her plans for screening diabetics in Roscommon; if a diabetic foot disease screening programme will be implemented nationwide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47421/10]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

122 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the roll-out of the national diabetes programme in east Leitrim; the number of persons who have been treated in Leitrim for preventable diabetic foot complications in Leitrim in the past five years; the amount of money spent on treating preventable diabetic foot disease in Leitrim in the past five years; the current levels of spending on podiatry services in Leitrim; her plans for screening diabetics in Leitrim; if a diabetic foot disease screening programme will be implemented nationwide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47422/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 121 and 122 together.

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

Health Service Staff

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

123 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 181 of 9 July 2009, if staff referred to have been recruited; when the screening programme will commence in the west; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47423/10]

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

Services for People with Disabilities

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

124 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the implementation of the Disability Act 2005; when Part 2 will be fully implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47426/10]

Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005 was commenced on 1 June 2007 in respect of children aged under 5. In October 2008 the Government decided, in the light of financial circumstances, to defer further implementation of the Act. No alternative timescales for full implementation of Part 2 of the Act have been developed to date.

Hospital Services

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

125 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of specific stroke units within the health system; the incidence of stroke; the number of rehabilitative consultants employed here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47427/10]

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

Departmental Funding

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

126 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 158 of 20 October 2010, if she will provide the corresponding figures for 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47435/10]

The funding made available to disability organisations through Vote 39 from the National Lottery to date, in 2010, is set out in the table below. The table details the names of the organisation to whom the grant was paid and the amount of the grant.

National Lottery Funding 2010

Organisation

Amount Paid

Irish Supported Employment Week & Job Shadow Initiative

10,000

Soroptimist International of Dublin

3,000

Fleadh Committee Cavan County Council

10,000

Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind

35,000

Irish Wheelchair Association, Sligo.

15,000

Disabled People of Longford

20,000

Irish Wheelchair Association. Mayo.

3,500

Kerry Cheshire (Cheshire Ireland)

18,000

National Association for Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus Ireland

18,000

Irish Wheelchair Association, Tipperary

25,000

Irish Wheelchair Association, Donegal.

3,000

Irish Wheelchair Association, Donegal.

30,000

West Donegal Parents & Friends Association of the Mentally Handicapped

15,000

Portmarnock Intergrated Arch Club

4,000

The Jack & Jill Children’s Foundation

75,000

Limerick Friends of Lourdes

2,000

Lucan Disability Action Group 1

9,000

Lucan Disability Action Group 2

10,000

Lucan Disability Action Group 3

9,000

South West Donegal Communities Partnership Ltd

25,000

Cairde Le Cheile Committee Ltd, Donegal.

45,000

Irish Dogs for the Disabled

40,000

RehabCare Resource Centre, Co Meath.

35,000

St. Nicholas’ NS, Galway.

60,000

Total

519,500

The Deputy will be aware that the Health Service Executive funds a wide range of disability organisations through Vote 40. Therefore, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division on the Executve to provide details of the funding provided by the HSE and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards

John O'Donoghue

Ceist:

127 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive the result of their application for a full medical card. [47457/10]

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

John O'Donoghue

Ceist:

128 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive their medical card. [47462/10]

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

John O'Donoghue

Ceist:

129 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive the result of their application for a medical card. [47464/10]

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

Hospital Staff

Jimmy Devins

Ceist:

130 Deputy Jimmy Devins asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 221 of 1 June 2010, if she is now in a position to answer the question. [47468/10]

I understand that the HSE replied directly to the Deputy by letter on the 15 July in relation to this matter.

Vaccination Programme

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

131 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding to be provided in 2011 to establish a no fault compensation fund for vaccine damaged children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47470/10]

My Department is currently examining the recommendations of the Vaccine Damage Steering Group in detail. The report raises many complex issues that require further consideration and I expect to have my Department's assessment of these in the near future.

Child Care Services

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

132 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will approve additional funds for a child care project (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47474/10]

I have responsibility for implementation of the National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 (NCIP) which included a capital grant programme to develop childcare facilities. As the Deputy is aware, the company in question was approved capital grant funding under the NCIP of up to €520,000 and subsequently sought additional funding to complete the project. The request for additional capital funding is currently being examined by Pobal, who assist my Office in the day to day management of the NCIP. I understand that Pobal is awaiting a response from the company in relation to a number of issues. When these issues have been responded to and resolved, Pobal will make a report to my Office following which a decision on the request will be made and communicated to the company.

Health Services

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

133 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 175 of 10 November 2009, the steps she is taking to resolve this situation; the timetable for the opening of the facility to resolve this situation; the issues of concern raised by the union and the further steps she is taking to address these issues; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47475/10]

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

Services for People with Disabilities

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

134 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Health and Children the funding available in 2009 and 2010 to the disability sector; the budget for 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47486/10]

My Department collects disability expenditure information on a twice yearly basis. At the end of 2009, disability expenditure amounted to €1,581.88 million. By the end of 2010, disability expenditure is estimated to be €1,468.94 million. Special consideration has been given to disability and mental health in Budget 2011, through a maximum reduction of just 1.8% or €40 million overall in the allocation for the two sectors. The relatively lower reduction, compared to other areas of the health budget, recognises that these services are provided to vulnerable groups. Furthermore, an additional €10 million in funding is being provided to the HSE for disability in 2011, to meet anticipated extra demand in respect of emergency residential, respite and personal assistant/home support hours for people with disabilities, and day places for school leavers in September 2011. The HSE is in the final phase of completing work on its 2011 National Service Plan and the actual amount of disability funding allocated in 2011 will not be known until the Service Plan is approved by the Minister for Health & Children in early 2011.

Hospital Staff

Deirdre Clune

Ceist:

135 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children when she will appoint a replacement to the position of consultant in paediatric diabetic services in the Health Service Executive south area to fill a vacancy that has existed since April 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47518/10]

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

Health Services

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

136 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children if those who suffer from haemochromatosis and have to have blood removed regularly can be facilitated by allowing them to donate the extra blood to a blood clinic if they fulfil the criteria; if they will be facilitated at clinics in their local area and be exempted from the €75 outpatients fee each time they have to attend the hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47527/10]

The IBTS provides phlebotomy for people with haemochromatosis on a weekly basis in Dublin. Donors are referred from their consultant for initial screening for suitability for blood donation. The donors are reviewed once per year by the referring consultant, but are otherwise cared for by the IBTS clinical staff. The service was initially set up as a pilot in 2007, but has become an established service following the success of the pilot scheme. The clinic has the capacity at the present time to provide a service for up to 600 blood donors with haemochromatosis. Blood collected at this clinic is treated in the same way as all other blood collected by the IBTS.

The IBTS does not offer the service to people who would otherwise have to pay for phlebotomy, on the basis that it could be seen as offering a degree of financial incentive to donate blood. This would be contrary to good practice and to the requirements of European law on promoting unremunerated donations. The IBTS is considering the options and opportunities for an expansion of its service for haemochromatosis patients throughout the country, and is exploring this position with stakeholders at present. My officials have already written to the HSE requesting that it would apply a consistent system for management of venesection patients in all hospitals.

Tax Code

Michael Creed

Ceist:

137 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Health and Children if the universal social charge will be an allowable expense when calculating entitlement to a medical card, in view of the fact that medical card holders were exempt from the income levy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47531/10]

My colleague Mr Brian Lenihan, Minister for Finance has advised that there will be no exemption for medical card holders from the Universal Social Charge (USC). However, all Social Welfare Payments will be exempt from the Charge. The situation is that most medical card holders are in receipt of social welfare payments. Those payment will not be subject to the Universal Social Charge. However, where a medical card holder has other income, that will be subject to USC.

Hospital Waiting Lists

Charlie O'Connor

Ceist:

138 Deputy Charlie O’Connor asked the Minister for Health and Children the action being taken to deal with the waiting lists for scans at Tallaght Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47542/10]

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

Homeless Persons

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

139 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the progress she has made in implementing the youth homeless strategy (2001); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47558/10]

The Government has shown significant commitment to tackling youth homelessness. It has done this by targeting significant resources at the youth homeless service in the context of the development of the broader child welfare services. In 2001 the Youth Homelessness Strategy was launched providing a strategic framework for youth homelessness to be tackled on a national basis. The goal of the Strategy is "to reduce and if possible eliminate youth homelessness through preventative strategies and where child becomes homeless to ensure that he/she benefits from a comprehensive range of services aimed at reintegrating him/her into his/her community as quickly as possible."

Aftercare is a key element to achieving positive outcomes for young people leaving care. Aftercare services have been developed in Ireland to assist young people in care in bridging the transition from care to independent adult life in the community. Consideration was given to the legal position with regard to the provisions of aftercare services, having regard to the existing legislative provisions of the Childcare Act 1991. The legal advice is that the Act creates a statutory power and the HSE, as recipient of this power, must put itself in a position where it can exercise the power should the need arise.

In order to ensure that there was no doubt about the matter, and to emphasise the importance of aftercare services, I wrote to the HSE in June clarifying the issue and directing the HSE to formulate and implement aftercare policies. Officials from my Department recently met with the HSE to discuss their draft National Aftercare Policy which is currently in the process of being finalised. In line with the Government commitment as reflected in the Ryan Implementation Plan, funding of €1.0m was set aside by the HSE in its 2010 Service Plan, for the development of aftercare services in 2010.

My Officials have also engaged with the HSE to discuss the linkages between the provision of aftercare and the issue of homelessness for young people and the wider issues attaching to the implementation of the Youth Homeless Strategy for young people becoming homeless who were not formerly known to the childcare services. Work is ongoing to ensure the implementation of the Youth Homeless Strategy in a co-ordinated manner and my officials will be meeting with the HSE in January 2011 to continue the progress in this area.

Children in Care

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

140 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of children in voluntary care here; the number of children in care under emergency care orders; the number in care under care orders; the number in care under interim care orders; the number in care under supervision orders; the number in care under interim special care orders; the number in care under special care orders; the number of children in foster care, residential care, special care units and the number being cared for by relatives; the number of persons between the ages of 12 and 18 who have been in care and are receiving after care services; the number of children receiving out of hours care and the number of children receiving out of hours care who have been accommodated in Garda stations and bed and breakfasts in the past 12 months; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47562/10]

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

Medicinal Products

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

141 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the private importation of medicines (details supplied) which are normally supplied under prescription; if private importation for personal use is in order; the way this can be done when the normal approved alternative medicine is not suited to the individual; if it is normal for such importations to be confiscated by customs and passed to the Irish Medicines Board. [47567/10]

It is understood that the medicinal product referred to in the question is a prescription only product and is supplied from India through an internet site. The Medicinal Products (Prescription and Control of Supply) Regulations 2003(S.I. 540 of 2003) prohibited the supply by mail order of medicinal products. An amending regulation (S.I. 510 of 2005) relaxed this overall prohibition and it no longer applies to non-prescription only medicinal products. However, prescription only medicinal products may not be sold by mail order or by internet in, into or out of Ireland.

The Medicinal Products (Control of Placing on the Market) Regulations 2007 (SI 540 of 2007) permit the importation of a medicinal product, from a country that is not an EEA State, by a person for his own personal use, not being an importation resulting directly from a mail order advertisement directed at members of the public. Under the regulations (as amended), an Irish-registered practitioner may prescribe a medicinal product which is not available as an authorised product in Ireland. This type of product is defined as ‘exempt medicinal product'. The sale or supply of an exempt medicinal product is subject to certain conditions which include a requirement for the product to be supplied by an appropriately licensed manufacturer or wholesaler.

I am advised by the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) that if a patient presents a prescription for the product in question at a pharmacy in Ireland, the pharmacy may order the product from a wholesaler holding the appropriate licence to source exempt products and a licensed wholesaler may supply the product to the pharmacy. Where the Customs becomes aware that unauthorised medicinal products are being imported, the products are confiscated and passed to the IMB to ascertain the route of supply.

Hospital Accommodation

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

142 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of public hospital beds that were in place in 1997 and the number now available in December 2010; the number of private hospital beds in place in 1997 and the number now available; if she is satisfied that sufficient beds are now available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47687/10]

The national average number of acute hospital beds available in public hospitals for the year 1997 broken down by public, private and non-designated is set out in the following table. Acute bed numbers in public hospitals are counted as an average of beds available over each year, given that the number of beds available in each hospital can vary over any year for operational reasons. This data comprehends inpatient beds and day places.

The latest year in respect of which validated national data on average available acute hospital beds has been compiled by the HSE is 2008. However, the HSE has furnished data on public, private and non-designated acute hospital beds available in public hospitals in respect of June 2010. This data, broken down by public, private and non-designated is also contained in the table. While these figures do not represent full-year validated data they provide a useful benchmark for comparison with the 1997 data.

The emphasis for the HSE in 2011 will continue to be to make the most effective use of acute bed capacity through shorter length of stay, increased rates of day-of-surgery admission and more day surgery. In this way the acute hospital system can ensure that, within the level of resources available, it facilitates the maximum number of patients with safe, effective and efficient care.

Year

Public

Private

Non-Designated

Total

1997

8,442

2,414

871

11,727

2010*

9,586

2,383

1,066

13,035

*Data is in respect of June 2010 only.

Disabled Drivers

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

143 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport his plans to increase fines or other enforcement measures for persons who park illegally in places designated for disabled drivers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47424/10]

Last July I launched a report on the Disabled Parking Scheme which made a number of recommendations to improve the operation of the Scheme. This Report considered the question of whether fines for illegal parking in disabled parking spaces should be increased. The Report noted that the current fixed charge of €80 which applies to illegal parking in a designated disabled person's parking bay is double the amount of fixed charge that applies to any other illegal parking offence. This charge increases by 50% if paid after 28 days and within 56 days after issue of the fixed charge notice. If unpaid within the 56-day period, court proceedings are initiated and, on conviction, substantial fines, and/or a prison term is available to the court.

While the level of fine imposed on conviction in any individual case is at the discretion of the court, since 2006 the court can impose a fine up to a maximum of €1,000 for a first offence. For a second or subsequent such offence, a person is liable to a fine not exceeding €2,000 and if the offence is a third or subsequent such offence committed within 12 months the Court can impose a fine not exceeding €2,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months or both. In addition, in respect of any road traffic offence a judge has discretion to impose disqualification under section 27 of the Road Traffic Act 1961.

Given these strong penalties already in place, the Report did not recommend an increase in the penalties for illegal parking in a disabled parking space, and I agree with this conclusion.

Legislative Programme

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

144 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform when the Mental Capacity Bill will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47430/10]

As stated in my response to Question No. 213 of 10 November 2010, the Government Legislation Programme indicates that the Mental Capacity Bill is expected to be published in this Session. The Bill will reform the law on mental capacity taking into account the Law Reform Commission's Report on Vulnerable Adults and the Law. The Bill will replace the Wards of Court system with a modern statutory framework governing decision-making on behalf of adults who lack capacity.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

145 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he has brought the Legal Services Ombudsman Act 2009 into effect yet, and if not, when he plans to do so [47325/10]

The position of Legal Services Ombudsman will be filled early in the New Year through an open competition conducted by the Public Appointments Service. The competition was advertised on 19 November, 2010 and the closing date for applications was 9 December, 2010. The Legal Services Ombudsman Act 2009 will be commenced prior to the appointment.

Garda Equipment

Alan Shatter

Ceist:

146 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the reason a €20 million computerised finger-printing system acquired to detect immigrants illegally claiming social welfare is unused four years after its installation in the Garda Immigration Bureau; the nature of the difficulties that have occurred and the attempts made to-date to resolve them; if the system was intended to be linked to other European Union police forces and the difficulties which have resulted from the linkage not occurring; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47370/10]

The Automated Fingerprint Identification System is integrated with the Garda National Immigration Bureau Information System, and 48 units have been installed nationwide to record fingerprints as part of the process of registration of non-Irish nationals. Of these, 6 are currently not in use due to a refusal by CPSU members, who are civilian staff working in the Garda National Immigration Bureau, to operate them. It is most certainly not the case, therefore, that the system is unused. The matter is currently being dealt with within the Industrial Relations framework of An Garda Síochána.

The Garda Síochána continue to exchange information on an operational basis with other police forces on immigration-related matters.

Criminal Prosecutions

Alan Shatter

Ceist:

147 Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 148 of 17 November 2010 when the information he requested to be furnished by the Central Statistics Office to this Deputy will be received; and if he will contact the Central Statistics Office regarding this matter. [47372/10]

The Central Statistics Office, as the national statistical agency, is responsible for the compilation and publication of crime statistics.

I am informed by the Central Statistics Office that, in response to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 147 and 148 of 17 November, it provided to the Deputy on 7 December statistics in respect of 2007 and 2008 on the numbers of recorded prison offences which led to criminal proceedings and convictions. As was explained to the Deputy, statistics in respect of 2009 and 2010 are not available. I am also informed that more detailed statistics than those provided are not available.

Proposed Legislation

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

148 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the progress made on the drafting of the Legal Costs Bill and the Family Law Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47478/10]

The details of my proposals for a Legal Costs Bill are well advanced in my Department in line with a commitment in the Government Legislation Programme, the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014 and the Programme of Financial Support for Ireland.

The proposals for a Family Law Bill are being advanced in my Department as quickly as possible, subject to the disposal of other priorities.

Departmental Expenditure

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

149 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 95 of 24 November 2010, the number of internal competitions that have taken place in the past six years to fill posts in visa offices abroad; the date they were advertised; if these internal competitions were run in conformity with the terms and requirements of the code of practice of the Commission for Public Service Appointments; if his attention has been drawn to any allegations of a breach of the code; if any of these allegations were reviewed by the Commission for Public Service Appointments; if the commission upheld any complaints; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47489/10]

My Department's Human Resources Division has held some 75 competitions for promotion or other assignments over the past six years, including six external competitions under its recruitment licence. In all, some 3,800 applications have been processed through these competitions. Only six applicants sought a review in relation to alleged breaches of the Commission for Public Service Appointments' (CPSA) Code of Practice, four of which were ultimately reviewed by the CPSA and three of which related to one competition for assignment to Visa Officer posts at Executive Officer level held in 2008. While the CPSA partially upheld these allegations, on essentially technical grounds, none of their reviews concluded that the outcome of the selection process was affected. I would also add that the CPSA carried out a comprehensive audit of my Department's competitive selection processes in 2009 and found that it complied with the principles of its Code of Practice.

Specifically in relation to competitions for assignment to Visa Office posts, a total of 15 such competitions were held over the past six years, when assignments for all grade levels concerned are taken into account. Some competitions were for multiple locations, others for individual locations. Competitions for assignment to Higher Executive Officer or Administrative Officer level posts in Visa Offices were advertised on 27 May 2005, 24 January 2006, 20 September 2006, 29 May 2008, 19 November 2008 and 7 April 2010. Competitions for assignment to Executive Officer level posts were advertised on 27 May 2005, 20 September 2006 (for three separate locations), 15 February 2008, 29 May 2008 and 7 April 2010. Competitions for assignment to Clerical Officer level posts were advertised on 20 September 2006 and 18 November 2009. While such competitions are conducted in accordance with the principles set down in the CPSA's Code of Practice, the Commission advised earlier this year that the Code does not in fact apply to such assignments.

Finally, the Deputy will appreciate that not all applicants can be successful in competitions and some will understandably be disappointed. I think it is fair to say that this is more due to the nature of the competitive process, involving as it does relativity to other candidates, rather than any perceived weakness in the implementation of that process.

Public Service Recruitment

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

150 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to reports that legal advice has been provided by the Civil and Public Service Union that grades represented by that union are legally unable to perform duties of immigration officers; if he has sought legal advice on this matter and if it confirms the position of the CPSU; if he will ensure that the duties of immigration officers are only performed by staff who can properly perform such duties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47490/10]

Provision is made at section 3(1) of the Immigration Act 2004 for the Minister for Justice and Law Reform to appoint such and so many persons as he or she considers appropriate (referred to in the Act of 2004 as "immigration officers") to perform the functions conferred on immigration officers by the said Act . A person so appointed holds the office on such terms and conditions as are determined by the Minister at the time of the appointment.

Members of the grades represented by the CPSU are not immigration officers and while they assist immigration officers in the carrying out of their legal duties, they do not perform, nor are they asked to perform, any duties which are solely the function of immigration officers.

Garda Training

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

151 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of gardaí, in rank order, at present stationed in the Garda training centre in Templemore; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47500/10]

I have sought the information required from the Garda Authorities and I will revert to the Deputy as soon as it is received.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

152 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of student gardaí currently undergoing training in the Garda training centre in Templemore; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47501/10]

I have sought the information required from the Garda Authorities and I will revert to the Deputy as soon as it is received.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

153 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the number of civilian staff currently employed in the Garda training centre in Templemore; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47502/10]

I have sought the information required from the Garda Authorities and I will revert to the Deputy as soon as it is received.

Garda Recruitment

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

154 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform when recruitment will commence for gardaí; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47503/10]

The moratorium on recruitment and appointments continues to apply to An Garda Síochána with provisions for exceptions following agreement with the Minister for Finance. The purpose of organising a recruitment campaign earlier this year was to begin the process of establishing a panel of potential applicants who could go on to be recruited as members of An Garda Síochána.

Since that announcement was made, the National Recovery Plan 2011- 2014 was developed and published. The plan provides for a reduction in the number of members of An Garda Síochána to 13,000 by the end of 2014. This reduction, and the rate at which it is achieved through retirements, will be taken into account in determining when recruitment will commence.

Garda Training

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

155 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform his plans for the Garda training centre in Templemore; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47504/10]

The Garda College in Templemore continues to provide both in-service training for serving members and training for recruits and it will continue to fulfil this important function.

Visa Applications

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

156 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform in the context of refusing international student visa applications, which occupations are not considered relevant to learning the English language; the previous educational or employment backgrounds which are deemed to be at odds with studying English as an international student; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47512/10]

I can advise the Deputy that, in considering a visa application, the purpose of which is to study English, a visa officer would not generally consider the occupation of an applicant in isolation as a reason to refuse the granting of the visa sought. Each visa application is considered on its individual merits, the onus resting with the applicant to satisfy the Visa Officer as to why the visa should be granted. I would refer the Deputy to the comprehensive explanation of the decision making process set out in my reply to his Question 41988/10 of 10 November, 2010.

If the Deputy has a specific case in mind and he supplies full details, I will arrange for officials of my Department to examine the matter and revert to the Deputy with a more specific response.

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

157 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if a visa may be refused on the grounds that documentation supplied is out of date if the delay incurred is as a result of processing an application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47513/10]

In assessing a visa application a Visa Officer takes into consideration a number of factors before arriving at a decision. Each case is essentially considered on its individual merits, the onus resting with the applicant to satisfy the Visa Officer that the visa should be granted. It is possible that a visa may be refused where documentation supplied is out of date: however, this would be a relatively rare event and it is likely that other factors would also be in play in any such refusal.

It should be borne in mind that delays incurred in processing a visa often result from the applicant not having submitted all the required documentation in the first instance. A Visa Officer may, at their discretion and based on the particular circumstances of the case at hand, provide an applicant with the opportunity to submit further documents.

I would refer the Deputy to the comprehensive explanation of the decision making process set out in my reply to his Question 41988/10 of 10 November, 2010. If the Deputy has a specific case in mind and he supplies full details, I will arrange for officials of my Department to examine the matter and revert to the Deputy with a more specific response.

Asylum Support Services

Mary Wallace

Ceist:

158 Deputy Mary Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will confirm that neither he nor any agencies funded by him have any involvement in providing accommodation for clients at an address in an area (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47541/10]

I refer the Deputy to Question No. 177 of 07 December 2010 and the Written response to that Question. If the Deputy can provide more information I would be happy to investigate the matter further.

Prison Building Programme

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

159 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the position regarding the new prison at the Thornton Hall site in north County Dublin; the original site purchase cost of same; other costs spent to date; the cost of the recent contract for a perimeter wall and phase 1 and what was included in same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47572/10]

As the Deputy will be aware the development of the new prison campus at Thornton Hall, Kilsallaghan, County Dublin is now proceeding on a phased basis. Phase one, which is currently in progress, comprises essential preliminary works to facilitate the prison development including the construction of a dedicated access road, the installation of off-site services and the construction of the perimeter wall of the prison. The second phase of the project involves the provision of 400 cells along with related support facilities suitable to accommodate up to 700 prisoners. Subsequent phases of the project will see the provision of the balance of the 1,000 cells providing a total of 1,400 cells when completed with operational flexibility to accommodate up to 2,200 prisoners, thus future proofing the development.

Access Road

The contract for the construction of the access road to serve the prison development was awarded to SIAC Construction Limited in July 2010. Construction work is already well underway with the access road and underpass scheduled to be completed during February next year. Off-site Works

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the contract for the installation of the off-site services to serve the prison development was awarded to P.J. Hegarty and Sons recently. Construction work on the installation of the off-site services is scheduled to commence immediately and will take approximately eight months to complete.

Perimeter Security Wall

The procurement process for the design and construction of the perimeter security wall of the prison is already in progress. A pre-qualification competition for the design and construction of the perimeter security wall of the prison and related works issued on the E-tenders web site in August 2010. Twenty submissions were received and the evaluation of these submissions has been completed. Five companies have been short-listed and tender documents for the construction of the perimeter security wall and ancillary works issued to these contractors last month. Tenders are due to be returned next month. Construction of the perimeter wall is scheduled to commence in the first quarter of 2011 and will take just under a year to complete.

Prison Buildings

As I mentioned previously in the House, my priority is to provide good quality regime focussed prison accommodation at Thornton Hall prison campus as quickly as possible. A phased development of the prison campus is now being pursued. The next phase of the works will see the procurement of prison accommodation blocks and related support facilities commencing in the new year using traditional procurement methods. It makes sense to tender for the construction of these much needed prison facilities now in an environment where construction costs have fallen significantly.

In relation to expenditure on the project, the total expenditure to end November was €43.3 million. This sum includes the site cost of €29.9 million. The cost of the site was almost completely offset by the sale of surplus prison lands at Shanganagh, County Dublin, for €29 million. An additional 8.7 acres has also been acquired at a cost of €1.3 million to provide a dedicated access route to the main prison site. This was done following representations from the local community which reflected concern in relation to the potential effect of increased traffic generated by the prison development.

This sum also includes €7.4 million expended on professional fees, €2.9 million on site preparation and various surveys, €0.5 million on landscaping and €0.5 million on security. As is the case with all major infrastructure projects, a comprehensive set of geological, engineering, archaeological and environmental surveys have been undertaken at the site in order to advance the construction programme for the development. These surveys will enable the Irish Prison Service to accelerate the timeframe for the construction of the first phase of the prison buildings to a maximum of two years.

As at end of November 2010, €0.8m had been expended on the construction of the access road and no construction costs had been incurred on the off-site works contract. As the tender for the perimeter security wall and related works is in progress and has not been awarded yet, no construction costs have been incurred on this element of the phase one works to date.

Public Order Offences

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

160 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the legislation that covers the area of verbal abuse and harassment; if there are any penalties for persons responsible for the repeated verbal harassment of their neighbours; if any specific provision exists within this legislation for persons who make fun of persons with physical and or intellectual disabilities; the penalties for such behaviour; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47576/10]

Section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 provides for the offence of harassment. Subsections (1) and (2) states:

"10.—(1) Any person who, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, by any means including by use of the telephone, harasses another by persistently following, watching, pestering, besetting or communicating with him or her, shall be guilty of an offence.

(2) For the purposes of this section a person harasses another where—

(a) he or she, by his or her acts intentionally or recklessly, seriously interferes with the other's peace and privacy or causes alarm, distress or harm to the other, and

(b) his or her acts are such that a reasonable person would realise that the acts would seriously interfere with the other's peace and privacy or cause alarm, distress or harm to the other."

While there is no specific reference to neighbours or persons with disabilities, it is clear that the legislation addresses any person harassing another.

Summary conviction for the offence carries a penalty of a fine of up to £1,500 (€1905) and or 12 months imprisonment. A person convicted on indictment is liable to an unlimited fine an or seven years imprisonment.

A court may also order a person convicted of the offence not to communicate with or approach their victim. Even in circumstances where a person is not found guilty of the offence a court is empowered to may make such an order if it is in the interests of justice to do so.

The Criminal Justice Act 2006 provides another means by which harassment as a form of anti-social behaviour may be tackled. Part 11 deals with such behaviour by adults while Part 13 deals with the arrangements for children between 12 and 18 years. In both cases, the process begins with a warning to desist, issued by a Garda. That is followed by a number of steps before a court order (commonly called an anti-social behaviour order) is sought. Breach of the court order is a criminal offence punishable on conviction in the case of an adult, by a fine not exceeding €3,000 and/or a sentence of imprisonment not exceeding 6 months and, in the case of a child, by a fine not exceeding €800 and/or detention in a children detention school not exceeding 3 months.

Any such harassment as outlined by the Deputy in his question is reprehensible and should be reported to the Garda Síochána. A person suffering such harassment from neighbours could also seek advice as to the civil remedies in damages and injunctive relief which may be available in the circumstances.

Substance Misuse

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

161 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the reason for the delay in implementing the ban on the below cost selling of alcohol; his plans to implement the ban; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47680/10]

In March 2009, the Government agreed to include alcohol in the National Substance Misuse Strategy and a Steering Group was subsequently established under the aegis of the Departments of Health and Children and Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs to develop proposals for integrating alcohol misuse into that Strategy. I understand that the Steering Group has been examining a range of issues relating to alcohol policy, including pricing issues, and that it is due to submit its report, including policy recommendations, in early 2011.

Passport Applications

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

162 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the charges that will apply to pensioners in respect of passports in 2011. [47554/10]

The charge that will apply in future to passport applicants over sixty five will be that of a standard adult passport. The cost of such a passport at present is 80 euro.

Departmental Staff

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

163 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of civil servants that are employed in the Permanent Representation in Brussels; if he will provide a breakdown by grade for this staff; if these staff are paid any extra payment for the nature of the work involved; the way these staff are selected for these appointments; if the selection of these staff is conducted in conformity with the terms and requirements of the code of practice of the Commission for Public Service Appointments; if there has been any allegations of a breach of the code; if any of these allegations were reviewed by the Commission for Public Service Appointments; if the commission upheld any complaints; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47488/10]

A total of seventy-five civil servants are assigned from Ireland to the Permanent Representation in Brussels, of which 39 are officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and 36 are from other Government Departments and Offices. A full breakdown by grade is contained in the table below. Officers assigned to the Permanent Representation do not receive extra remuneration in connection with the nature of the work involved there. They do, however, receive foreign service allowances under a scheme approved by the Minister for Finance to defray certain additional expenses which officers incur as a result of serving abroad. The amount payable is determined by an independent agency on the basis of the cost of living differential between Dublin and Brussels. Allowance rates are regularly reviewed to take account of changes in this respect.

Grade

Department

Number of Posts

Assistant Secretary — Permanent Representative

Foreign Affairs

1

Assistant Secretary — Deputy Permanent Representative

Foreign Affairs

1

Counsellor

Foreign Affairs

3

Principal Officer

Other Departments

9

First Secretary/Assistant Principal

Foreign Affairs

10

Assistant Principal

Other Departments

22

Third Secretary/Higher Executive Officer

Foreign Affairs

4

Higher Executive Officer

Other Department

1

Executive Officer

Foreign Affairs

2

Executive Officer

Other Departments

2

Clerical Officer

Foreign Affairs

18

Clerical Officer

Other Departments

2

Total

75

Temporary service abroad is a normal feature of working life in the Department of Foreign Affairs. For most grades, decisions about temporary foreign assignments are made by the Department's Management Advisory Committee on the basis of lists of preferences submitted by staff members. Ambassadors, however, are appointed by the President, based on nominations by the Government which in turn is advised by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The average duration of foreign assignments is 4-5 years, following which the officer normally returns to Headquarters.

My Department has no role in the selection by other Government Departments or Offices of staff to fill their 36 posts in the Permanent Representation.

Temporary assignments to posts in Irish Missions abroad do not involve appointments to the civil service or promotions to higher grades. I am not, therefore, aware of any role in the matter for the Commission for Public Service Appointments. Nor have I been informed about any suggestion that its Code of Practice has been breached.

Social Insurance

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

164 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the basis on which the estimate for the yield of €145 million from the abolition of the PRSI ceiling was arrived at when all previous estimates and replies given to parliamentary questions put the figure at €119 million in a full year. [47550/10]

Estimates regarding potential yields and costs resulting from changes to the PRSI system are calculated by the Department of Social Protection, based on macro-economic projections produced by the Department of Finance.

The estimate of a yield of €119m from the abolition of the PRSI ceiling for ordinary employees was based on projections produced in 2009. Final economic projections for 2010 were furnished to this Department by the Department of Finance in late 2010 and the €145m estimate is based on these more up to date projections.

Social Welfare Benefits

John Deasy

Ceist:

165 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons in Waterford city and county in receipt of illness benefit in each of the past five years and to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47338/10]

John Deasy

Ceist:

166 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons in Waterford city and county in receipt of occupational injury benefit in each of the past five years and to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47339/10]

John Deasy

Ceist:

167 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons in Waterford city and county in receipt of injury benefit in each of the past five years and to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47340/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 165 to 167, inclusive, together.

The number of persons in receipt of illness benefit and the number of persons in receipt of injury benefit under the scheme of occupational injuries benefits, for the past five years and to date in 2010, are set out in the table below. The figures quoted refer to those in receipt of these benefits at the end of each year except for 2010 where the figure refers to week ending 12 December.

Recipients of Illness Benefit and Injury Benefit with a Given Address in County Waterford 2005-2010

Year

Illness Benefit

Injury Benefit

2010

2,289

24

2009

2,128

18

2008

1,950

46

2007

1,871

32

2006

1,692

49

2005

1,604

35

It should be noted that although claimants often refer to Occupational Injury Benefit and Injury Benefit as if there are two separate benefits, there is in fact only one benefit paid — injury benefit. This benefit is part of the occupational injuries scheme which also provides for other benefits (e.g. Medical expenses) in certain circumstances.

Pre-retirement Allowance

John Deasy

Ceist:

168 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons in Waterford city and county in receipt of pre-retirement allowance in each of the past five years and to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47349/10]

The information requested by the deputy is contained in the tabular statement below. The number of recipients of pre-retirement allowance has been in decline since 2007 as the scheme was ended for new claimants on 4th July 2007.

Table: Recipient of Pre-Retirement Allowance in Waterford, 2005 to 2010

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010 (November)

446

442

406

333

282

234

Social Welfare Benefits

John Deasy

Ceist:

169 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons in Waterford city and county in receipt of domiciliary carer’s allowance in each of the past five years and to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47353/10]

The domiciliary care allowance scheme (DCA) transferred from the Health Service Executive on foot of a Government decision to reassign certain functions between Departments and Agencies as part of the health service reform programme. This Department has been accepting new claims for DCA since the 1st of April 2009 and has responsibility for former HSE customers from September 2009. As a result statistics in relation to customers in payment are only held by the Department from these dates.

The number of DCA claimants with an address in Waterford City or County in payment as of 31 December 2009 was 579. The number in payment as of 30 November 2010 was 575. Statistics for the period before 2009 are the responsibility of the HSE.

John Deasy

Ceist:

170 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons in Waterford city and county in receipt of basic supplementary welfare allowance in each of the past five years and to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47356/10]

The supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme is the safety net within the overall social welfare system in that it provides a basic income support payment to eligible people in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their needs and those of their dependants. The main purpose of the basic supplementary welfare allowance scheme is to provide immediate and flexible assistance for those in need who do not qualify for payment under other State schemes.

The information the Deputy requested is shown in the following tabular statement.

Basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance Recipients in Waterford 2005 to 2010

Year

Recipients

2005

884

2006

689

2007

779

2008

881

2009

1,238

2010*

1,100

*12 December 2010.

John Deasy

Ceist:

171 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons in Waterford city and county in receipt of mortgage interest supplement in each of the past five years and to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47357/10]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme provides for a weekly or monthly supplement to be paid in respect mortgage interest to any person in the State whose means are insufficient to meet their needs. The purpose of mortgage interest supplement is to provide short-term income support to eligible people who are unable to meet their mortgage interest repayments in respect of a house which is their sole place of residence. The supplement assists with the interest portion of the mortgage repayments only.

The information the Deputy requested is shown in the following tabular statement.

Mortgage Interest Supplement Recipients in Waterford 2005 to 2010

Year

Recipients

2005

68

2006

76

2007

91

2008

229

2009

438

2010*

497

*12 December 2010.

Rural Social Scheme

John Deasy

Ceist:

172 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of persons in Waterford availing of the rural social scheme in each of the past five years and to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47358/10]

Nationally, there is provision for 2,600 Participant plus 130 Supervisor places on the Rural Social Scheme (RSS). The Scheme is delivered locally by Local Development Companies operating in rural areas and Údarás na Gaeltachta. All available places have been allocated to each of the Local Development Companies and Údarás na Gaeltachta. Waterford Leader Partnership Limited manages the RSS in County Waterford and have been allocated 12 positions. The number of participants has remained at 12 for the past five years.

Question No. 173 withdrawn.

National Carer’s Strategy

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

174 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection when the National Carer’s Strategy will be published; the plans to address the specific issues related to young carer’s; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47429/10]

During 2008, an interdepartmental group, chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach, with secretariat support provided by my Department, undertook work, including a public consultation process, to develop a National Carers' Strategy. However, because of the prevailing economic situation, it was not possible to set targets or time limits which could be achieved. In that context, rather than publishing a document which did not include any significant plans for the future, the Government decided not to publish a strategy. This position remains unchanged.

As regards young carers, in response to a commitment given in the Towards 2016 partnership agreement, the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in 2008 commissioned Dr Allyn Fives and colleagues from the Child and Family Research Centre, National University of Galway, to carry out a study on young carers. The research took place during 2009 and the report was launched by Minister of State, Barry Andrews, T.D. at the annual conference of the Carers Association on 7th May 2010.

The particular service areas identified in the report, and the welfare of young carers as children, are primarily the responsibility of the Department of Health and Children and the Health Services Executive, as well as the Department of Education and Skills and the National Educational Welfare Board.

The Department of Social Protection provides income supports for adult carers who are unable to work because of their full time caring responsibilities. It does this through the carer's allowance, carer's benefit and the respite care grant, as well as additional supports such as the household benefits package and free travel. These supports are generally available to full time carers over the age of 18. The respite care grant is available to full time carers over the age of 16.

While the work of a young carer is clearly important in many families, it would not be in the interests of a child attending school that they be treated as a full time carer in need of income support in their own right.

Social Welfare Appeals

Michael Ring

Ceist:

175 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Social Protection when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo may expect to have their appeal for a disability allowance dealt with. [47450/10]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 18 November 2010. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by the Social Welfare Services on the grounds of appeal be sought. When received, the appeal in question will be referred to an Appeals Officer for consideration. As part of this consideration, the Appeals Officer will decide if an oral hearing is appropriate in this case.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Benefits

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

176 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will review the situation whereby persons in receipt of the carer’s allowance who are providing care to a child are eligible for the free travel pass, however, the child is not; if he has evaluated the cost of extending this entitlement to such children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47476/10]

For a child requiring full-time care who is under age 16, a domiciliary care allowance of €309.50 per month may be paid to the parent or guardian. This payment is not means tested and is to provide for the additional costs involved in providing care and supervision that is substantially more than that normally needed by a child of the same age. This may include additional travel costs.

A child who is attending school may be eligible for assistance under the Department of Education and Skills school transport scheme. The Health Service Executive (HSE) may also assist with transport costs in certain circumstances.

I have no plans at present to review the qualifying criteria for the free travel scheme.

Social Welfare Code

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

177 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Social Protection if PRSI Class S cover will be extended to include other welfare schemes and benefits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47525/10]

In 2011, self-employed workers will be liable for PRSI at the Class S rate of 4% — the same personal rate as is paid by ordinary employees.

However, employers also make a PRSI contribution of 10.75% in respect of their employees, resulting in the payment of a combined 14.75% rate per employee under full-rate PRSI Class A. As a result, ordinary employees can build entitlement towards the full range of social welfare benefits. Class S contributions will continue to provide cover for long-term benefits such as State pension (contributory) and widow's/widower's pension (contributory) only.

PRSI coverage is related to the risks associated with employment or self-employment, the annualised system of contributions for self-employed people and the practicalities of administering and controlling access to short-term payment for self-employed people. A system of separate arrangements for employed and self-employed workers within a social insurance context is common in other European social protection systems.

It may also be noted that the 2005 Actuarial Review of the Social Insurance Fund found that the fund favours the self-employed over the employed when both employer and employee contributions are included in respect of the employed person. The analysis demonstrates that, despite the fact that they are eligible for a narrower range of benefits, self-employed persons gain relatively more from the fund than employees.

There are no plans to extend cover for short-term benefits to this group of insured workers. Any such measure would have significant financial implications and would have to be considered in the context of a much more significant rise in the rate of contribution payable.

Social Welfare Benefits

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

178 Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for Social Protection the changes, if any, to the length of time illness benefit is paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47526/10]

I understand that the Deputy is referring to changes to the Illness Benefit scheme introduced by the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2008.

Illness Benefit is an income support payment for people of working age who are unable to work due to illness and who satisfy certain social insurance conditions. The scheme is intended to provide income replacement for insured persons during short spells of incapacity or illness, while other payments are available to people who are unable to work long-term because of a disability or a medical condition.

Prior to the introduction of changes provided for in the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2008, there was no limit on the amount of time for which Illness Benefit could be paid to people who had more than 260 social insurance contributions. An OECD review entitled "Sickness, Disability and Work: breaking the Barriers" noted that paying illness or sickness benefit without a time limitation was very unusual across the OECD, and pointed to the risk that people in such circumstances will never return to the labour market.

Against that background, the 2008 Act provided for entitlement to Illness Benefit to be limited to two years (or 624 days) duration for new claims from the 5th January, 2009.

Social Welfare Code

Michael Creed

Ceist:

179 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection the changes he proposes regarding eligibility for payments for persons with physical disability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47532/10]

The Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 2010, which is currently before the Oireachtas, includes provisions which will facilitate the introduction in 2011 of a Partial Capacity Benefit scheme.

In essence, the intention behind the scheme is to provide an opportunity for people with disabilities, and assessed to have an employment capacity which is restricted when compared to the norm, to avail of employment opportunities while continuing to receive an income support payment. It recognises that the current structure of the welfare system, which categorises people as ‘fit to work' or ‘unfit to work', does not reflect the reality for many existing welfare customers who have some capacity to work.

The scheme will be open to people who are in receipt of Invalidity Pension (IP) or who have been in receipt of Illness Benefit (IB) for a minimum of six months. Participation in the scheme will be voluntary and the scheme is designed in particular to respond to the needs of people who currently seek to avail of ‘exemptions' in order to take up employment opportunities.

Under the terms of the legislation and the consequent regulations, it is envisaged that IP and IB customers who wish to avail of employment opportunities will be required to undertake a partial capacity assessment by a Medical Assessor. On the basis of this assessment of their employment capacity, their personal-rate payment may be adjusted. Any reduction in payment rates will be applied to the personal rate only and increases paid in respect of qualified adults and/or children will not be affected.

Departmental Expenditure

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

180 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the steps he is taking to ensure a €30 saving on the household benefit package in 2011. [47549/10]

My Department is currently reviewing the relevant schemes with a view to maximising the opportunities presented by greater competition in the energy and telecommunications sectors in terms of value for money.

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

181 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the way in which he intends to reform rent supplement to yield savings of €60m in 2011. [47551/10]

The purpose of rent supplement is to provide short-term 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. Since 2005 the number of individuals in receipt of a rent supplement payment has increased from 60,176 to over 97,000 today. During the same period expenditure on the scheme has increased from some €368 million in 2005 to an estimated €509 million in 2010.

In the coming months my Department will be initiating a number of reforms to the rent supplement schemes in order to generate savings of €60 million in the next year. These reforms include entering discussions with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government with a view to aligning more closely the minimum contribution with the local authority differential rent scheme; reviewing entitlement of people who refuse local authority housing; the reduction of payments made to landlords with a corresponding reduction in rent limits, where appropriate; and increased control activities.

The introduction of a €2 differential between the rate of basic supplementary welfare allowance and other schemes from January 2011 will generate over €10 million in savings in the rent and mortgage interest schemes. These will arise as entitlement to rent and mortgage interest supplement is based on the weekly rates of basic supplementary welfare allowance. Pensioners, carers and people on basic supplementary welfare allowance will not be affected by this change.

Social Welfare Benefits

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

182 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection the way the treatment benefit scheme will operate in 2011. [47552/10]

The Treatment Benefit Scheme will continue to operate in 2011 as it did in 2010, whereby an annual dental examination and bi-annual optical examination are avail able free of charge to qualified customers.

The Medical Appliance scheme remains unchanged. The Department will pay up to half the cost of purchase or repair of a hearing aid on behalf of qualified customers, subject to a fixed maximum contribution of €760 for 1 aid or €1520 for 2 aids.

Departmental Expenditure

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

183 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Social Protection if he will provide full details of the measures relating to control, eligibility and structural reform referred to in the Budget documentation and the way cumulatively these will yield €49m in 2011. [47553/10]

These savings will be made through enhanced controls including the introduction of the Public Service Card, electronics signing, implementation of the Social Welfare Miscellaneous Act (1) 2010 and other structural reforms largely based on the proposals in the three policy documents published by my department recently. These policy documents are as follows:

A Policy and Value for Money Review of Child Income Support and Associated Spending Programmes;

Report on the Desirability and Feasibility of introducing a Single Social Assistance Payment for People of Working Age;

Value for Money Review of the Disability Allowance Scheme.

National Lottery Funding

Mary Upton

Ceist:

184 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport the amount of national lottery money, if any, she expects to be allocated from the Department of Finance in 2011 for culture, sport and tourism projects, respectively; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [47445/10]

The elements of the Department's Vote which are part-funded by the proceeds of the National Lottery are as follows:

Subhead C.1: Grants for sporting bodies and the provision of sports and recreational facilities under the Sports Capital Programme;

Subhead C.3: Grant-in-Aid provided to the Irish Sports Council in respect of general assistance to sports organisations and expenditure in relation to sports activities; and

Subhead D.7: Grant-in-Aid provided to the Arts Council in respect of arts activities.

The financial allocations in respect of Subheads C.1, C.3 and D.7 for the year 2011 are €28 million, €46.877 million and €65.167 million, respectively. Moreover, in respect of Subhead C.1, an additional amount of €5 million in unspent capital funding in 2010 is being carried forward to 2011 and is available for spending on this subhead.

Sports Capital Programme

John O'Donoghue

Ceist:

185 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport when the sports capital grant will be paid to a club (details supplied) to enable them to pay the contractor now that the work is completed. [47465/10]

The club in question has received two allocations under the Sports Capital Programme, €130,000 in 2007 and €100,000 in 2008. €83,601 of the 2008 allocation has been drawn down in three payments between October 2009 and March 2010. The Department received a letter from the club on 16 September last stating that the contractor employed to carry out the grant assisted works had gone into voluntary liquidation and stating that the club proposed to engage another building contractor to complete the work. The Department wrote back to the grantee on the same date setting out in detail the items to be submitted to the Department to obtain formal approval for the new contractor. The Department is currently awaiting a response to that letter.

€70,794 of the 2007 allocation was paid to the club in July 2009. A further invoice in the amount of €95,998.30 was received by the Department on 4 October 2010. It is a long standing condition of the Programme that the Department pays grants by reimbursing grantees' costs when they submit original, valid, paid invoices or certificates of payment which have been certified by an architect or engineer. Allocations may be drawn down by way of a single payment or in stages as a project progresses. My Department has more recently sought copies of bank statements from grantees to verify that invoices have been paid before grants can be drawn down. The Department wrote to the club in on 12 November 2010 seeking copies of bank statements to verify that the invoice has been paid. A response has not been received.

Departmental Expenditure

Ulick Burke

Ceist:

186 Deputy Ulick Burke asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the grants or financial supports that have been given to Bird Watch Ireland in support of the work of this organisation by him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47363/10]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 370, of 5 October 2010. My Department has allocated €293,275 for grant aid to Birdwatch Ireland for 2010.

Waste Management

Joanna Tuffy

Ceist:

187 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps that have been taken to ensure the Haulbowline site is in compliance with European Union directives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48002/10]

David Stanton

Ceist:

196 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 26 of 25 November 2010, if he has finalised the reply to the European Commission’s letter of formal notice regarding a valid waste authorisation permit for the Irish Ispat site at Haulbowline following a 2005 European Court of Justice decision on case 494/01; when he expects to receive a response from the Commission to the reply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47514/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 187 and 196 together.

In June 2009, the Government decided that the Office of Public Works (OPW) would chair a working group to develop a structured and coherent approach to the further management and development of the former Irish Ispat site. The group is now established and has held a number of meetings.

The Terms of Reference of the OPW Working Group include looking at the regulatory requirements for the site and advising the Government on the most beneficial future use of the site. The future use will in itself determine the levels and extent of further works and/or remediation required, as well as helping to clarify the further regulatory requirements which may fall to be met.

The issue of an appropriate authorisation for the site was raised in a letter of formal notification issued to Ireland in respect of European Court of Justice case C-494/01. Ireland's response to the letter of formal notice has been the subject of engagement with the European Commission and I expect to finalise a formal reply shortly.

Local Authority Housing

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

188 Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding discussions between him and Dublin City Council in respect of land (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47324/10]

In June 2008 my Department issued approval to Dublin City Council to proceed to detailed design stage for a social housing project at the site in question. My Department is currently awaiting Dublin City Council's detailed proposal for this project. It is a matter for the Council, in the first instance, to prioritise and manage the advancement of projects within the programme, having regard to its available funding resources.

Local Authority Funding

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

189 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the funding provided to each local authority in 2009, 2010 and in the estimate for 2011 to fund housing adaptation grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47432/10]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

190 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the funding provided to each local authority in 2009, 2010 and in the estimate for 2011 to fund the mobility aids housing grant scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47433/10]

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

191 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the funding provided to each local authority in 2009, 2010 and in the estimate for 2011 to fund the housing aid for older people scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47434/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 189 to 191, inclusive, together.

My Department's involvement with the Housing Adaptation Grant Schemes for Older People and People with a Disability relates primarily to the recoupment of a proportion of local authority expenditure on the payment of individual grants. The grant schemes, introduced in November 2007, are funded by 80% recoupment available from my Department together with a 20% contribution from the resources of the local authority.

It is a matter for each local authority to decide on the specific level of funding to be directed to each of the various grant measures from within the allocations notified to them by my Department and to manage the operation of the schemes in their areas from within their allocation.

Details of the Exchequer allocations to each local authority in 2009 and 2010 are set out in the table below.

Local Authority Exchequer Allocations 2009 & 2010

Local Authority

2009

2010

Carlow County Council

1,494,500

1,494,500

Cavan County Council

1,130,000

1,500,000

Clare County Council

1,651,667

2,500,000

Cork County Council

5,496,334

6,490,067

Donegal County Council

3,679,333

3,680,000

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown Co Cl

1,808,000

1,708,000

Fingal County Council

1,967,000

2,100,000

Galway County Council

1,520,933

1,900,000

Kerry County Council

2,757,667

3,249,000

Kildare County Council

2,001,667

3,000,000

Kilkenny County Council

828,667

1,494,000

Laois County Council

1,589,850

1,464,000

Leitrim County Council

1,312,667

1,310,000

Limerick County Council

1,217,867

1,547,000

Longford County Council

969,467

1,000,000

Louth County Council

2,079,000

2,156,500

Mayo County Council

2,722,333

2,976,000

Meath County Council

800,000

1,171,277

Monaghan County Council

1,664,000

1,664,000

North Tipp County Council

1,481,333

1,341,000

Offaly County Council

1,552,117

1,800,000

Roscommon County Council

1,789,833

2,200,000

Sligo County Council

975,000

975,000

South Dublin County Council

3,650,667

3,800,000

South Tipp County Council

1,716,333

2,500,000

Waterford County Council

1,362,000

1,362,000

Westmeath County Council

1,316,000

1,483,970

Wexford County Council

2,360,333

2,621,500

Wicklow County Council

1,433,000

1,949,850

Cork City Council

2,166,333

2,166,333

Dublin City Council

10,797,667

11,300,000

Galway City Council

981,333

981,333

Limerick City Council

1,110,000

1,220,000

Waterford City Council

580,000

698,000

Sligo Borough Council

618,200

500,000

Total

70,581,101

79,303,330

The estimates provision for my Department's housing programme in 2011 is €520 million. I will announce details of capital allocations to local authorities in respect of the grant schemes as early as possible in the new year.

John Browne

Ceist:

192 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will consider making a payment to Donegal County Council towards the cost of incineration of whales beached on the strand at Rutland Island, County Donegal. [47455/10]

My Department does not have funding available to allocate to any local authority for such purposes.

Motor Taxation

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

193 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, further to Parliamentary Question No. 501 of 27 October 2010, his plans to reform the motor tax system to allow any motor tax office to issue a disc on behalf of an adjoining local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47473/10]

At present a local authority may only issue a licence for a vehicle which is in its own county area. The possibility of permitting a licensing authority to issue a licence without such restriction is one of the issues being examined in the context of proposals for a revision and consolidation of motor tax law being developed in my Department at present. It is the intention in this regard that Heads of a Bill will be brought to Government in 2011.

Water and Sewerage Schemes

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

194 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, in view of recent studies highlighting the problems with septic tanks, he will introduce a grant for their upgrade and revise the level of grant aid available for group sewerage schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47479/10]

While the Programme for Government included a commitment to introduce a scheme of support for the replacement and upgrade of septic tanks older than 15 years with newer systems, it is no longer feasible to introduce such a grant scheme in the light of budgetary constraints.

Under my Department's Rural Water Programme, grants are available to provide groups of households with the opportunity of connecting to public sewerage networks through communal sewage collection systems that are, in turn, connected to local authority sewers. Alternatively, the communal sewage collection system may be connected to sewage treatment facilities provided by the groups themselves. The rate of grant available for Group Sewerage Schemes is €2,031.58 per house or 75% of the cost of the scheme, whichever is the lesser. The level of grant aid available must be managed within current budgetary constraints and therefore I have no plans to increase this amount.

Traveller Accommodation

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

195 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of a housing project (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47480/10]

In February 2010 my Department approved the proposal by Roscommon County Council to proceed to tender with Phase 1 of this project. Approval was contingent on receiving further information from the Council on a number of issues. This information is awaited at present.

Question No. 196 answered with Question No. 187.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

197 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if funding for work (details supplied) is going to end; and if so, the date of same. [47523/10]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 1476 of 29 September 2010 which sets out the position in this matter.

Election Management System

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

198 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he has taken to date to deal with the issue of election posters on foot of his election poster consultation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47540/10]

Following the public consultation process on the control of postering for elections and referenda, I amended the Litter Pollution Act 1997 under the Electoral (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 2009, which was enacted in March 2009, to introduce a time limit, prior to an election taking place, during which election posters can be displayed. Previously, the legislation required that election posters must be taken down within 7 days of an election. However, there was no limit on the number of days prior to an election within which election posters could be displayed. It is now the position that election posters can only be displayed for a maximum of 30 days prior to an election.

In addition, following the analysis of submissions received during the public consultation, a pilot test of certain measures was carried out during the local and European elections in 2009 to evaluate their impact on the proliferation of posters and the litter arising during those election campaigns. There were four options examined in the pilot scheme:

The use of biodegradable plastic ties or colour coding of plastic ties;

The display of posters to be restricted to designated areas only;

The numbers of posters per candidate to be restricted; and

The numbers of posters to be restricted to 2 (back to back) per pole.

My Department is currently assessing feedback from participants in these schemes in order to inform future policy development. However, I have no plans to introduce further legislation in this area at this time.

Motor Taxation

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

199 Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the motor tax rates that will apply in 2011 and the way these compare to 2010. [47555/10]

Strategy on Homelessness

Lucinda Creighton

Ceist:

200 Deputy Lucinda Creighton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the costs associated with the report The Way Home 2008-2013; the progress made in eliminating long-term homelessness by the end of 2010; if that target will be achieved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47561/10]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 242 of 30 November 2010 which sets out the position on meeting the target for tackling long term homelessness. The costs associated with The Way Home 2008-2013 were €27,135.95.

Local Authority Housing

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

201 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the process used for evaluating the levels of rent paid by local authority tenants; the factors that are taken into account when making an upward or downward adjustment in the amount of rent a person has to pay; if changes to social welfare payments are taken into account in this process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47577/10]

Local authority rents are set in accordance with a rent scheme adopted by each local council. The making and amending of these rent schemes are an integral part of a housing authority's housing management functions, subject to broad principles laid down by my Department in Circular letter HRT 3/2002 of 6 March 2002.

Housing authorities set out in their rent schemes the income that they will take into account in determining a household's differential rent. Income from social welfare payments can be included as reckonable income for that purpose. Decisions on whether or not to disregard either a proportion of income or particular sources of income (including social welfare income) for the purposes of calculating rents are matters for each individual local authority to consider in accordance with their own rent scheme.

The rent payable by any tenant of a local authority is calculated in relation to that particular household's income. In other words, local authority differential rents are determined on the basis of ability to pay; therefore lower rents are paid by lower-income households. An increase or decrease in a household's income can, in accordance with the authority's rent scheme, result in an increase or decrease in their rent, as appropriate.

Departmental Funding

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

202 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 316 and 317 of 16 November 2010, the amount of money currently in reserve in the environment fund and the amount of this funding that is already committed towards expenditure on current or future projects. [47685/10]

The 2011 Estimates for Public Services and Summary Public Capital Programme tables published recently as part of the Budget process show a projected balance of €36.6m in the Fund at year end for 2010. Based on expenditure profiling for next year, the end 2011 balance is projected to be some €1.7m.

Telecommunications Services

Deirdre Clune

Ceist:

203 Deputy Deirdre Clune asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the funding provided to a company (details supplied) to provide fibre optic cable on a nationwide basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47373/10]

During 2000 and 2001 grants of almost €35 million were awarded to private sector companies for various broadband related initiatives. The largest of these projects was ESB Telecoms for installation of a new national fibre backbone network and rollout of DSL (digital subscriber line) services by eircom and BT Ireland. The amount paid to any of the companies is commercially sensitive and is subject to Grant Agreement confidentiality.

Energy Conservation

Mary Wallace

Ceist:

204 Deputy Mary Wallace asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the grant support available under the home energy savings scheme; the list of works covered by the scheme, the grant aid applicable to those works, the application process and timeframes for the scheme; the way the new standard rate tax relief available on expenditure up to €10,000 will complement the existing scheme; if the list of approved works is the same; if he will give examples of the way the scheme and the tax relief will work together; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47528/10]

The Home Energy Saving (HES) scheme is administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) on behalf on my Department. The scheme is available to householders who want to update the energy efficiency of their home, and offers grants of up to 40% of the typical cost of upgrade measures. The following table outlines the eligible measures under the scheme, and the grant aid available for each measure.

Measure

Fixed Grant Rate

Roof insulation

250

Cavity wall insulation

400

Internal wall insulation

2,500

External wall insulation

4,000

High efficiency boiler with heating controls upgrade

700

Heating controls upgrade only

500

BER assessment

100

Homeowners can apply online and receive same day grant approval, once key eligibility criteria are met. All payments are made by Electronic Funds Transfer and all notifications are by email (for online applicants) with the exception of Declarations of Work, which require the signatures of both homeowner and contractor to draw down approved funds.

A postal system operates in parallel with the online system for homeowners applying under HES without Internet access. The commitment that the SEAI gives is that postal applications will be processed within 21 days. I am advised by the SEAI that in practice the typical turnaround for such applications is one week. The average turnaround time for all requests for payment is four to five weeks. The details of the tax relief scheme announced by the Minister for Finance in the Budget speech are being finalised at present and will be published in the Finance Bill. It is intended that the tax relief scheme will complement the HES programme.

Grant Payments

Ned O'Keeffe

Ceist:

205 Deputy Edward O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a specific payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Waterford. [47319/10]

An application under 2010 Single Payment Scheme was received from the person named on 4 May 2010.The 50% advance payment, which issued on 18 October 2010, was on the basis of the land cleared at that stage, as a portion of the land declared required digitising.

Balancing payments under the scheme, would, in normal circumstances, be confined to those whose applications are fully processed, specifically, where all digitising is finalised. However, following recent consultation with the EU Commission, agreement was reached whereby, in addition to issuing balancing payments to those farmers whose applications are fully processed and whose maps are fully digitised, payments will also issue to those farmers where some or all of their maps are still to be digitised, with the payment being calculated on the basis of the digitised land confirmed otherwise eligible.

I am pleased to say that, because of this change, many farmers, including the person named, whose balancing payments would otherwise have been delayed until their digitising is complete, have now received an interim balancing payment; in the case of the person named, the interim balancing payment issued on 1 December. These farmers, including the person named, will receive the final instalment of their balancing payment when their maps are re-digitised and their applications are fully clear.

David Stanton

Ceist:

206 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a single farm payment will be paid in full to a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47323/10]

An application under 2010 Single Payment Scheme was received from the person named on 6 May 2010. The 50% advance payment, which issued on 18 October was on the basis of the land cleared at that stage, as a number of parcels declared required digitising.

Balancing payments under the scheme, would, in normal circumstances, be confined to those whose applications are fully processed, specifically, where all digitising is finalised. However, following recent consultation with the EU Commission, agreement was reached whereby, in addition to issuing balancing payments to those farmers whose applications are fully processed and whose maps are fully digitised, payments will also issue to those farmers where some, or all, of their maps are still to be digitised, with the payment being calculated on the basis of the digitised land confirmed otherwise eligible.

I am pleased to say that, because of this change, many farmers, including the person named, whose balancing payments would otherwise have been delayed until their digitising is complete, have now received an interim balancing payment; in the case of the person named, the interim balancing payment issued on 1 December.

These farmers, including the person named, will receive the final instalment of their balancing payment when their maps are re-digitised and their applications are fully clear.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

207 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the reason a person (details supplied) has received no advance or balancing payment under their application for the single farm payment 2010; if he will expedite full payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47332/10]

An application was received on 28 April 2010 requesting the transfer of 175.06 Single Payment entitlements to the entity named from another farmer by way of Milk Production Partnership.

The herd-number was only transferred into the sole name of the entity named on 6 July 2010. Prior to that it was registered in the multiple names of three persons. Payment for 2010 can only issue to the three persons who held the herd-number on 31 May 2010 and this is now being arranged following contact with the parties by an official from my Department. The transfer, by way of Milk Production Partnership, into the sole name of the entity named can be completed under the 2011 scheme year.

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

208 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the €30 per hectare payment of a grassland grant for sheep farmers will be paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47438/10]

The EU Commission has raised some technical questions regarding payments to sheep farmers under EU Pillar 1 and Pillar 11 Schemes, including the Grassland Sheep Scheme. My officials have responded in detail to the Commission and there are ongoing discussions between both parties. I am seeking an early conclusion to these discussions.

In addition, it is a fundamental requirement under the governing EU Regulations that all of the eligibility inspections be initiated before payments can commence under the EU Direct Payment Schemes (such as the Single Payment Scheme, the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, Grassland Sheep Scheme etc.) and, while the recent heavy snowfalls have restricted the level of inspections that could be undertaken, I am confident that, given the current change in the weather conditions, the remaining inspections can be completed in the near future.

Departmental Expenditure

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

209 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will provide a breakdown of all spending on the development of agriculture and food as per subheads A.4 and C.5 in the 2011 Estimates for Public Services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47442/10]

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

210 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will provide a breakdown of spending by his Department on direct income and market supports, according to programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47443/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 209 and 210 together.

My Department is involved in a pilot project which presented the 2011 Estimate in a new format with the focus on a small number of key strategic programmes. The proposed expenditure in 2011 includes estimates of the associated administration costs for each programme. The material for the Department which was published on Budget Day also contains a comparative statement of subheads using the previous nomenclature.

Under the new format, the estimate proposed under the heading of Development of Agriculture and Food is distributed over three of the strategic programmes and corresponds to the expenditure previously shown under Subhead H of the Vote. This relates to expenditure mainly on capital investment grant schemes, both on farm and at industry level. In 2011, provision is made for a range of schemes including the Targeted Agricultural Measures Scheme, the Farm Improvement Scheme, the Farm Waste Management Scheme, the Horticulture Grants Scheme and the Scheme of Marketing and Processing Grants for the food industry.

The Estimate for expenditure under the heading of direct income and market supports is shown in the strategic programme for Direct Payments was previously shown under Subhead D of the Vote. It provides for expenditure in respect of the operational cost for EU market support measures including intervention operations, EU Clearance of Accounts adjustments and costs associated with the Integrated Agricultural Controls System. In addition to Voted expenditure on these support measures, the Department is also responsible for the discharge of non v voted EU funds, mainly the Single Farm Payment, details of which are shown in the footnote to my Department's 2011 Estimates.

A detailed breakdown of Departmental Estimates as announced on each Budget Day is published in the Revised Estimates Volume, usually in February of the year to which the Estimates relate. Accordingly, I propose to make known individual scheme and activity budget details in the 2011 Revised Estimates Volume.

Ruairí Quinn

Ceist:

211 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will provide a breakdown of funding for Teagasc by his Department according to current pay-related spending; current non-pay spending; administrative spending; capital spending; spending according to Teagasc programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47444/10]

The total grant in aid allocation to Teagasc for 2010 was €126.165m in respect of pay, non-pay, superannuation and training expenses. In addition to grant in aid, Teagasc receives other state funding for research purposes etc. No allocation was made in respect of capital expenditure in 2010.

Grant Payments

Phil Hogan

Ceist:

212 Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when an application for single farm payment will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47452/10]

An application under the Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on the 7 May 2010.

This application was selected for and was the subject of a Ground Eligibility and Animal Identification Inspection. The inspection process is complete and the results are now being processed.

Under EU regulations governing the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme and the Single Payment Scheme all Ground Eligibility Inspections must be completed before any payment can issue to any applicant under either scheme, including those not selected for a Ground Eligibility Inspection.

In the vast majority of cases that were inspected amendments have had to be made to the maps in order that the Land Parcel Identification System that is used for making payments to farmers is kept up-to-date. Processing of these changes is continuing with priority being given to applications that were the subject of a Ground Eligibility Inspection.

John Browne

Ceist:

213 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when single farm payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford [47456/10]

An application under the Single Payment Scheme was received from the person named on the 20 April 2010. This application was selected for a Ground Eligibility and Full Cross Compliance inspection. During the course of the Ground Eligibility inspection, discrepancies were found with some of the parcels applied on, and deductions were made accordingly. The claimed area for the Single Payment Scheme of 357.25ha was reduced to 348.83ha. As the total area found is not sufficient to support the number of entitlements held penalties will be applied per the Terms and Conditions of the scheme. In this case the number entitlements held by the person named is 396.83. As the difference between the area declared and the area found is more than 3%, under EU Regulations, the difference between the area found and the area claimed is doubled and deducted from the area found. As a result the area put forward for payment under the Single Payment Scheme was 337.51ha.

A formal decision issued to the person named on 28 October 2010 that advised him of his right to seek a review of the decision within 21 days to the District Inspector and of his right to appeal the outcome of any such review to the Independent Agriculture Appeals Office.

The inspection process is complete and the application has now been fully processed. The advance payment under the Single Payment Scheme issued on 10/12/2010 and the balance issued on 14/12/2010.

John O'Donoghue

Ceist:

214 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive financial approval for their forestry grant application. [47458/10]

I understand that an application on behalf of the person in question for financial approval has been received by my Department. It should be noted that the funding for the 1,500 hectares, which the Government approved in October, has now been allocated and further financial approvals will not issue this year. Arrangements are currently in train in relation to issuing financial approvals for 2011. This application will be considered in this context, however, as of now, I cannot give any assurance regarding financial approval to the person in question.

John O'Donoghue

Ceist:

215 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will obtain their REP scheme 4 payment [47459/10]

Each year my Department is required to carry out controls on 5% of scheme participants under the EU Regulations governing the REPS 4. These controls involve a full check of the farm plan submitted by scheme applicants as well as an on-farm inspection. The person named was selected for this control procedure and the REPS 4 application cannot be processed for payment until these checks are completed.

John O'Donoghue

Ceist:

216 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive their single farm payment. [47460/10]

An application under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme was received from the person named on 14 May 2010. On processing the application over- claims and dual claims were identified on a number of the parcels declared by the applicant. The person named was written to in this regard on the 22 and 23 September 2010 respectively. This issues have now been resolved and payment due in respect of the Single Payment Scheme will issue shortly.

John O'Donoghue

Ceist:

217 Deputy John O’Donoghue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive their area based single payment for 2010 and headage for 2010. [47463/10]

An application under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 14 May 2010. A number of the land parcels listed on the application required re-digitisation, following which dual claims were identified on a number of parcels. This issue was resolved, following correspondence with the person named, which allowed payments under both Schemes to issue to the person named on 10 December.

Tom Sheahan

Ceist:

218 Deputy Tom Sheahan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will review an alleged overpayment under the disadvantaged area scheme to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47466/10]

I have arranged for an official of my Department to make direct contact with the person named regarding the matter of the alleged over-payment under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

219 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their REP scheme 4 payment [47492/10]

The person named submitted an application under REPS 3 and payment issued on 29th November 2010.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

220 Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when persons (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive their disadvantaged area scheme payments [47493/10]

One of the primary provisions of the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme is that applicants must maintain a minimum stocking density of their holding of 0.15 livestock units per forage hectare for at least three consecutive months. While an application under the 2010 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 16 April 2010, as it was established that the holding of the person named did not meet this minimum stocking density requirement, the person named was contacted directly by an official of my Department, who explained that payment could not be made before this requirement was met. I have arranged for an official of my Department to again make contact with the person named.

Pat Breen

Ceist:

221 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47506/10]

An application under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was received from the person named on 17 May 2010. Payments under the 2010 Single Payment Scheme and Disadvantaged Areas Scheme have commenced nationally on 18 October 2010 and 22 September 2010 respectively.

The person named submitted an application with 22 land parcels, seven of which required re-digitisation, which has been completed by my Department. Payments to the person named have been made under the Single Payment Scheme on 21 October 2010 and 1 December 2010. The advance payment under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme was issued to the applicant on 22 September 2010.

On further processing of this application dual-claim and over-claim errors were identified. The person named was written to in this regard on 9 September, 10 September and 13 December 2010. No reply to these queries has yet been received. On receipt of replies to the aforementioned queries, this application will be further processed with a view to final balancing payments issuing under both Schemes, provided no further errors are identified. An official from my Department will make contact with the person named to assist him in revolving the outstanding issues.

Forestry Sector

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

222 Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the legal status of the lands held by Coillte. [47536/10]

Coillte Teoranta was established as a private company under the Forestry Act, 1988 and came into operation on 1 January 1989. Section 39(1) of the Forestry Act 1988 provides that "On the vesting day all land (other than land designated by the Minister) which, immediately before that day, was vested in the Minister and was used or had been acquired for the purposes of functions assigned by this Act to the company and all rights, powers and privileges relating to or connected with such land shall, without any conveyance or assignment, but subject to subsection (2), stand vested in the company for all the estate or interest for which immediately before the vesting day it was vested in the Minister but subject to all trusts and equities affecting the lands subsisting and capable of being performed." This, in effect, means that the lands previously owned by the relevant Minister are now vested in Coillte.

Grant Payments

Michael Creed

Ceist:

223 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if a person (details supplied) has had their REPS 4 application approved for participation in the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47547/10]

The EU Regulations governing REPS 4 and other area-based schemes provide that payments issue in two instalments. The first instalment of 75% may be paid once all administrative checks on all applications, as well as cross-checks against areas declared on Single Payment Scheme applications, have been completed. These checks have now been completed and payment will issue to the person named within 10 working days. The balancing payment of 25% can issue once all on-the-spot inspections for the year have taken place and these will be completed shortly.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

224 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details provided) in County Cork will be paid their REPS 4 grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47563/10]

The EU Regulations governing REPS 4 and other area-based schemes provide that payments issue in two instalments. The first instalment of 75% may be paid once all administrative checks on all applications, as well as cross-checks against areas declared on Single Payment Scheme applications, have been completed. These checks have now been completed and payment will issue to the person named within 10 working days. The balancing payment of 25% can issue once all on-the-spot inspections for the year have taken place and these will be completed shortly.

Fishing Quotas

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

225 Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if proposals to include the boarfish/redfish species in the TAC mechanism are currently being discussed in the quota negotiations in Brussels between EU fisheries Ministers; his position on this proposal, given that if it is implemented it could take €15 million out of the Irish fisheries sector and threaten the viability of the pelagic sector and the creation of additional fish processing facilities in Killybegs and other important national and regional ports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47565/10]

Early this morning, the Council of fisheries Ministers in Brussels agreed the fishing opportunities for 2011. Included in this agreement was the adoption of an interim management plan for the boarfish fishery as proposed jointly by Ireland and Denmark. This follows a series of discussions and submissions between the Commission and concerned Member States over recent months and consultations with both the Irish and Danish industry.

Boarfish is a mid-water pelagic shoaling species which are small but are now found in large volume off the south west coast of Ireland. The Irish fishing fleet developed the fishery about 10 years ago and have increased catches in recent years.

Denmark has also been a key player in the development of the fishery. Both Irish and Danish fishermen invested in new techniques to successfully catch and land the stock which has unusual characteristics. Irish fishermen also invested in scientific research to increase our knowledge of the biology and dynamic of the resource.

We pooled our knowledge with Denmark and worked closely with industry representatives to develop the management plan which was eventually submitted to the EU Commission. At the Council, this management plan was accepted and will involve limiting catches through a TAC in order to ensure the sustainability of the stock.

Of critical importance to Ireland was ensuring that we received a fair share of the stock for 2011 and future years. Despite major efforts from certain other member states for a share-out based on equal shares between five or more member states I argued successfully that Ireland should be given the majority share to respect our major input and commitment to the development of the fishery. In the end I secured a share of 67.3% of this stock which I believe offers excellent fishing opportunities for our pelagic fleet into the future.

A precautionary TAC of 33,000 t was set for 2011 to allow for more definitive scientific data expected next year to better inform what level the TAC should be set at in future years. This is lower than recent landings but was based on the best scientific advice available at this time. Based on these figures Ireland will have a quota of 22,200 t in 2011.

Intervention Stocks

Noel Ahern

Ceist:

226 Deputy Noel Ahern asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, further to the recent announcement regarding the availability of free cheese for persons with financial difficulties, how the cheese is distributed, and the person responsible for the co-ordination of same; the groups and agencies involved in the Dublin area, such as State agencies, charities and community groups; if he will provide a cost analysis of this scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47570/10]

The supply of the cheese is funded by the European Commission under a scheme which was designed to release products that were available in Community intervention stocks to charitable organizations for free distribution to people in need. The Commission publishes an annual plan, including for each Member State applying the measure, and stating the quantity of each agricultural product to be withdrawn from intervention. The products available from intervention stocks were not in a suitable form for direct distribution and were exchanged for cheese following a public tender competition organized by the Intervention Unit of my Department. The successful tenderer arranged for the cheese to be delivered in four separate tranches during the year and charities applied through my Department for permits to collect the cheese from the designated stores. A number of charitable and community groups in the Dublin area participated. There was no cost to my Department for the purchase of the cheese. I consider the scheme to be an important means of contributing towards the well-being of the most deprived citizens of the Community.

Grant Payments

Seymour Crawford

Ceist:

227 Deputy Seymour Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan will be paid their suckler cow grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47686/10]

The person named registered fifteen animals under the 2008 Suckler Welfare Scheme, four of which were deleted as ineligible, while the remaining eleven have been processed for payment, which will issue shortly.

The person named had registered twenty animals under the 2009 Suckler Welfare Scheme. Under the Term and Conditions of the Scheme, the prescribed measures must be completed for all registered animals. As the person named did not carry out any of these measures, no payment is due under the 2009 Scheme. The person named has now advised my Department of his intention to withdraw from participation in the Suckler Welfare Scheme.

Industrial Development

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

228 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, further to Parliamentary Question No. 115 of 23 June 2009, the position regarding the issues raised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47484/10]

I understand from Enterprise Ireland that, at this point in time, no active enquiries are known to the agency regarding the facility concerned. The agency will continue to assist the company concerned in finding a replacement business for the facility.

Boyle Chamber of Commerce was approved funding for the construction of an Enterprise Centre. In 2009 the Chamber advised that work on their project had been delayed indefinitely. Boyle Chamber of Commerce reviewed their plans and a revised proposal for the purchase of an existing building in Boyle was received by EI. Approval has now been given for eligible expenditure towards the development of an Enterprise Centre in Boyle.

IDA Ireland has invested in the physical infrastructure required to attract today's FDI to Co. Roscommon, including €2.2m in a quality flagship Business Park in Roscommon Town. IDA has also undertaken a major upgrade and enhancement of its existing Industrial Estate at Racecourse Road/Gallowstown with regard to site services, broadband ducting and significant landscaping upgrades to bring the Park to top quality standards for marketing purposes. I would like to assure the Deputy that the State Development agencies under the aegis of my Department will continue to work together to attract and develop employment and investment opportunities for Boyle and County Roscommon generally.

Motor Fuels

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

229 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation his plans to monitor the price of petrol and diesel at the pumps following the increase in the recent Budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47505/10]

The Retail Price (Diesel and Petrol) Display Order, 1997 obliges retail outlets selling diesel and petrol products to display the price per litre being charged to the consumer. The Order requires that prices be displayed in a manner which is legible and visible from the side of the road nearest to the premises from which the commodities concerned are being sold. The National Consumer Agency is responsible for ensuring compliance with the provisions of the Order and any persons who have evidence of prices not being displayed by retail fuel outlets in the prescribed manner should bring such evidence to the attention of the Agency so that it may be investigated.

The Order enables consumers to inform themselves as to the prices being charged for petrol and diesel products in the various outlets in their localities. Accordingly I would encourage consumers to use the information which fuel outlets are required to display under the Order to acquaint themselves with the different prices in their areas so as to ensure that they can get the best value for money.

Redundancy Payments

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

230 Deputy Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation when the application for redundancy payment will be processed in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47509/10]

My Department administers the Social Insurance Fund (SIF) in relation to redundancy matters on behalf of the Department of Social Protection. There are two types of payment made from the SIF — rebates to those employers who have paid statutory redundancy to eligible employees, and statutory lump sums to employees whose employers are insolvent and/or in receivership/liquidation

I can confirm that my Department received a statutory redundancy lump sum claim in respect of the individual concerned on 24 November, 2010. This claim awaits processing.

In respect of lump sum payments paid directly to employees in instances where employers are unable to pay the statutory redundancy entitlements, in general, claims dating from May 2010 are currently being processed. Of course in some instances, where the necessary supporting documentation for lump sum claims is not provided to my Department, or where queries arise, processing of claims can be further delayed until the required documentation is provided and/or outstanding queries are resolved.

My Department continues to make every effort to reduce processing times. Measures already taken in the Department to alleviate the pressures on the Payments area include:

almost doubling the number of staff working solely on redundancy payment claims through reassignment to a current level of 52 full time equivalents;

prioritisation of the Department's overtime budget towards staff in the section to tackle the backlog outside normal hours;

establishment of a special call handling facility in NERA to deal with the huge volume of telephone calls from people and businesses concerned about their payments;

better quality information relating to current processing times on the Department's website;

engagement with the Revenue Commissioners to facilitate the offset of redundancy rebate payments by employers against existing outstanding tax liabilities which those employers owe to the Revenue Commissioners.

Whilst the backlog and waiting times remain at unacceptable levels, improvements are evident. In 2009, my Department processed 50,664 claims, up 70% on the previous year. Furthermore, the level of new claims processed in the first eleven months of 2010 was 70,247 up over 55% on the corresponding 11-month period in 2009 (45,201) and surpassing the total amount of claims processed for the full year 2009. The backlog of claims is decreasing — reducing from its highest level in November 2009 of 43,608 to a level of 25,950 at the end of November 2010 and is on target on have reduced to a level of 25,000 or less by year end.

Responsibility for the payment functions arising under the Redundancy and Insolvency payment schemes is due to be transferred to the Department of Social Protection with effect from 1 January 2011. In transferring the functions between Departments, it is the intention that this will operate seamlessly and without any adverse impact on the service levels being experienced by individuals or the business community awaiting payment of redundancy claims.

National Minimum Wage

Jack Wall

Ceist:

231 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation his views in relation to a submission (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47534/10]

A recent study entitled Review of Labour Force Competitiveness, undertaken by Forfás for my Department, concluded that while 4.9% of employees in Ireland (83,700) were earning €8.65 per hour or less in October 2007, it is likely that the national minimum wage actually influences the wage levels of another 26% of the labour force. On that basis it is estimated that the national minimum wage may affect the wages of all those within a range of 1.5 times the national minimum wage. The report is published on the Forfás website.

The Forfás report found that the national minimum wage impacts on sectors in different ways — sectors such as wholesale and retail, hotels and restaurants, and other services sectors tend to have significantly more workers engaged on or just above the national minimum wage than internationally trading sectors. While the sectors and occupations where the greatest job losses have occurred generally coincide with the sectors where the national minimum wage is most prevalent, these sectors have also experienced a major collapse in demand for their output.

An independent research report by academics David Neumark and William Wascher on the employment effects of minimum wages Neumark, D. and Wascher, W., Minimum Wages and Employment, Institute for the Study of Labor, Bonn. Germany, Discussion Paper Series IZA DP No. 2570, January 2007, cited by Forfás, found that a majority of international studies pointed towards the negative employment effects of minimum wages. Based on their review of those studies that consistently revealed a negative relationship between minimum wages and employment, Neumark and Wascher found that a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage typically reduces employment in the cohort studied by between zero to five percent. Forfás concluded in this context that a reduction in the national minimum wage would result in an increase in employment in the medium term rather than in the short term, although it is difficult to estimate how significant such an increase might be.

To this end, the Financial Emergency Measures In the Public Interest Bill 2010 provides for a number of amendments to the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 to give effect to the Government's decision to reduce the National Minimum Wage to €7.65 per hour. The Bill has passed all stages in the Dáil and is currently before Seanad Éireann.

Industrial Development

John Deasy

Ceist:

232 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the number of companies in Waterford city and county receiving funding from Science Foundation Ireland in each of the past five years and to date in 2010; the number of jobs supported by this funding in each of those years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47545/10]

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) was the agency established by Government in 2000 to support oriented basic research in strategic areas to support the needs of Irish enterprise. Specifically, SFI invests in academic researchers and research teams who are most likely to generate new knowledge, leading-edge technologies and competitive enterprises in the fields of science and engineering underpinning Biotechnology, Information and Communications Technology and Sustainable Energy/Energy Efficient Technologies.

All SFI awards are made to designated higher education institutions in Ireland and, while the outputs from this research are likely to have economic impact, SFI does not provide funding directly to industry. The SFI objective is to build the world-class human capital in scientific research and to work closely with other state agencies such as IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Forfás, the Higher Education Authority and the Health Research Board amongst others, in building new sources of competitive advantage for Irish enterprise. The SFI contribution greatly assists Ireland's efforts to become one of the world's most renowned locations for knowledge-based enterprise with a view to sustaining our competitiveness in the long-term.

Specifically in relation to the Waterford region, SFI has awarded over €12 million to Waterford Institute of Technology and this funding covers nine top-class research projects. It includes an award of almost €6 million for the Federated, Autonomic Management of End-to-end Communication Services (FAME) SRC led by Professor William Donnelly. The FAME SRC actively collaborates with a number of multinational companies such as Hewlett Packard, Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, IBM, Telefonica R&D and Cisco Systems who support significant employment numbers in Ireland.

Like other SFI funded research centres, the FAME SRC also acts as a selling point for IDA Ireland in maintaining, and attracting, multinational companies to the region, and to Ireland in general.

Industrial Relations

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

233 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the legislation or statute which allows the Labour Court to support the 11 unregistered joint industrial councils for the electrical contracting industry and the legislation or statute that allows these JICs to speak for an entire industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47581/10]

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

234 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the legislation or statute that allows the Labour Court to provide a chairman and secretary at the taxpayer’s expense to an unregistered joint industrial council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47582/10]

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

235 Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if agreements made at unregistered joint industrial councils are not legally binding for the entire industry but apply only to the parties represented by the JIC; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47584/10]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 to 235, inclusive, together.

A Joint Industrial Council (JIC) is a voluntary negotiating body for an industry or part of an industry and is representative of employers and workers. JICs are designed to facilitate collective bargaining at industry level in certain sectors. A JIC may apply to the Labour Court for registration if it fulfils the following conditions set out in Section 59 of the Industrial Relations Act, 1946:

(a) that it is substantially representative of workers of a particular class, type or group and their employers,

(b) that its object is the promotion of harmonious relations between such employers and such workers, and

(c) that its rules provide that, if a trade dispute arises between such workers and their employers a lock-out or strike will not be undertaken in support of the dispute until the dispute has been referred to the association and considered by it.

If satisfied that these conditions are met, the Court will place the JIC on the Register of Joint Industrial Councils

At present there are three Joint Industrial Councils on the Register and, as required by Section 23(3) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1946, details of these are included in the Court's Annual Reports, which are available at www.labourcourt.ie.

In addition, there are a number of other JICs, including the JIC for the electrical contracting industry, which have not applied for registration. In accordance with its role in the promotion of good industrial relations, the Labour Court facilitates the Councils — both registered and unregistered — by making available an officer of the Court to act as secretary at their meetings. Some JICs are chaired by Industrial Relations Officers of the Labour Relations Commission, in accordance with Section 25 (1) (i) of the Industrial Relations Act 1990.

Employment Agreements may be presented to the Labour Court for registration. An Employment Agreement is an agreement made either between a trade union and an employer or employers organisation or at a meeting of a registered Joint Industrial Council, which relates to the pay or conditions of employment of any class, type or group of workers. Where the Labour Court is satisfied that the agreement presented satisfies the statutory requirements set down in section 27 of the Industrial Relations Act, 1946, it registers the agreement. The effect of this is to make the provisions of the agreement legally enforceable in respect of every worker of the class, type or group to which it is expressed to apply and to his or her employer, even if such worker or employer is not a party to the agreement.

Disability Strategy

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

236 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs the position regarding the National Disability Strategy; the number of recommendations implemented to date; the plans for further implementation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47425/10]

The National Disability Strategy (NDS) was launched in September 2004 and, since then, having subsequently been endorsed by the Government and Social Partners in Towards 2016, its implementation has been the focus of Government policy on disability. The strategy builds on existing policy and legislation, including the policy of mainstreaming public services for people with disabilities. The key legislative elements of the NDS, providing the basis for progress in the sector, are: the Disability Act 2005; the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004; and the Citizens Information Act 2007.

Sectoral Plans, provided for in the Disability Act, are integral to the implementation of the NDS. They contain the service delivery and implementation arrangements of six Government Departments: Health and Children; Social Protection; Transport; Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Enterprise, Trade and Innovation; and Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. These Departments consult formally with stakeholder organisations on an ongoing basis on the development of the Sectoral Plans. The Plans, and reports of progress on their implementation, are available on the websites of the relevant Departments.

The progression of the NDS is being achieved in consultation and co-operation with the disability sector and its implementation is monitored rigorously by the NDS Stakeholder Monitoring Group (NDSSMG), which is chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach and consists of:

the Senior Officials Group on Disability (SOGD) — representing ten key Government Departments in terms of the provision of services, facilities and funding;

the Disability Stakeholder Group — the body representing the sector and its organisations;

the National Disability Authority — the leading State agency for the sector; and

social partners (SIPTU and IBEC).

The Renewed Programme for Government provides for an ‘NDS Recession Implementation Plan' to optimise the progression of the strategy within available resources. This plan is being advanced through the SOGD in consultation with the NDSSMG and will inform the future implementation of the NDS, to which the Government remains fully committed.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

237 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs her plans to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47431/10]

It is the Government's intention to ratify the Convention as quickly as possible, taking into account the need to ensure that all necessary legislative and administrative requirements under the Convention are being met. As the Deputy will be aware, Ireland does not tend to become party to treaties until it is first in a position to comply with the obligations imposed by the treaty in question, including by amending domestic law as necessary.

The ongoing implementation of our National Disability Strategy in many respects already comprehends many of the provisions of the Convention. In addition, the Inter-Departmental Committee on the UNCRPD monitors the remaining legislative and administrative actions required to enable the State to ratify the Convention. The Committee has developed a programme on which work is progressing to address the matters that need to be aligned with the UNCRPD. One of the key requirements in this regard is the enactment of mental capacity legislation, which is the responsibility of the Department of Justice and Law Reform. As indicated in the Government's Legislation Programme, it is intended that the Mental Capacity Bill will be published in the current parliamentary session.

Defence Forces Equipment

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

238 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which heavy lifting gear and equipment is available to the Defence Forces and the civil authorities in the course of inclement weather conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46601/10]

The Defence Forces hold a wide range of engineering and transport plant and equipment for military purposes. All such plant and equipment suitable for use in emergency and severe weather situations is made available as the need arises. The type of plant and equipment suitable for use includes a 40 tonne crane, heavy duty fork-lift, tracked and wheeled excavators, bulldozers, articulated dump trucks, integrated tool/transport carriers, materials handlers, water purification plants, and a variety of smaller plant excavators, generators, lighting sets, pumping equipment, water trailers and other items.

Severe Weather Events

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

239 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which the Defence Forces have been requested to assist in the current inclement weather conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46602/10]

During the severe weather period, the Defence Forces conducted 708 operations and acceded to all requests for assistance from An Garda Síochána, the Health Service Executive, Local Authorities and other bodies such as the Blood Bank, St. Vincent de Paul, the Hospice Movement and Meals on Wheels.

Question No. 240 answered with Question No. 34.

Defence Forces Personnel

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

241 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the number of female members promoted in the Defence Forces at all ranks in each of the past five years to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46604/10]

I am advised by the Military authorities that 142 female personnel have been promoted in the Defence Forces between 1 January 2006 and 30 November 2010. A breakdown of this figure is provided in the following tabular statement. The Government is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for men and women throughout the Defence Forces and to the full participation by women in all aspects of Defence Forces activities. Unlike many other national armed forces, the Defence Forces have no restrictions as regards the assignment of men or women to the full range of operational and administrative duties. All promotions and career courses are open to both genders on merit. The Defence Forces prides itself on providing a gender neutral working environment. Policies on equality are being constantly communicated to all ranks. The military authorities are alert and vigilant to this issue and are committed to addressing this matter in a continuing and proactive manner.

No. of Female Personnel Promoted 1 January 2006-30 November 2010

RANK

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

TOTAL

PTE TO CPL

14

9

23

3

49

CPL TO SGT

5

9

12

2

1

29

2/LT TO LT

8

9

10

4

31

LT TO CAPT

4

8

9

21

CAPT TO COMDT

5

5

1

11

COMDT TO LT COL

1

1

TOTAL

31

40

59

11

1

142

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

242 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding promotion in the Defence Forces; the number of promotions approved in principle or pending at all ranks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46605/10]

Resulting from the Government Decision regarding the reduction of public service numbers and the reduced budgetary provision available for 2009, recruitment, promotions and acting up appointments in the Permanent Defence Forces were suspended. However, in order to maintain the ongoing operational capability of the Defence Forces, a limited number of exceptions to the application of the measures to the Permanent Defence Force were sought in a submission to the Minister for Finance, in June 2009. As announced on the 24 November 2009 the Minister for Finance approved an allocation of 50 promotions for the Permanent Defence Force. Official confirmation and details relating to the Employment Control Framework (ECF) were received on 18 October 2010 from the Department of Finance. The ECF is based on a figure of 10,000 all ranks Permanent Defence Force personnel, appropriately configured across the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps to enable them meet the roles assigned by Government.

Officials from the Department together with the Military Authorities are in the process of reviewing the structures and posts required to meet the operational requirements of the Permanent Defence Force in accordance with the upper limits in ranks provided for in the ECF. The official confirmation of numbers, provided by the Employment Control Framework and the criteria of the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014 are now being considered by the Military Authorities and officials of the Department, for the purpose of outlining a structure capable of meeting the roles assigned by Government to the Defence Forces.

I have agreed that a considerable number of promotions within the Defence Forces can proceed immediately and further promotions are likely to follow in the New Year. Those already approved, approximately 150 are within the officer rank, this reflects both an operational and organisational requirement and is consistent with the action plan being developed under the National Pay Agreement. Those who have signed up to the Agreement and deliver thereon will receive the benefits accrued under the Agreement.

The Government considers that any party that chooses to remain outside the provisions of the agreement or that opposes its implementation cannot expect to benefit from the commitments it (the Government) gave as part of the agreement. I am advised that at this time the Defence Forces retain the capacity to undertake the tasks laid down by Government both at home and overseas.

Naval Service Operations

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

243 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he is satisfied regarding the adequacy of the aerial and naval coastal surveillance with particular reference to the availability of adequate seagoing vessels and aircraft; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46606/10]

The Naval Service provides the maritime element of the Defence Forces and has a general responsibility to meet contingent and actual maritime defence requirements. All eight Naval Service patrol vessels are involved in coastal and offshore patrolling and surveillance for the State in that part of the seas where State jurisdiction applies. The Naval Service is committed to having at least three vessels on patrol within the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone at any one time, and all vessels are multi-tasked in that they undertake general surveillance security and other duties while conducting their primary day-to-day tasking of providing a fishery protection service.

The primary day-to-day tasking of the Naval Service is to provide a fishery protection service in accordance with the State's obligations as a member of the European Union. However, as the need arises, Naval Service vessels are deployed to other duties such as aid to the civil power, search and rescue or recovery and drug interdiction operations.

The current Exclusive Fishery Limits extend to 200 miles offshore and cover an area of 132,000 nautical square miles. The Naval Service currently patrols the entire 200 mile limit and periodically patrols beyond these limits to protect specific fisheries. These patrols are carried out on a regular and frequent basis and are directed to all areas of Irish waters as necessary.

Naval Service patrols are complemented by assistance provided by the Air Corps. The Air Corps Maritime Squadron carries out aerial surveillance of our Exclusive Economic Zone using the two CASA maritime patrol aircraft. The Irish Coast Guard has overall responsibility for the provision of maritime Search and Rescue services within the Irish Search and Rescue region. In accordance with the roles assigned to them by Government in the White Paper on Defence, the Defence Forces are committed to providing support to the civil authorities including in relation to Search and Rescue. In this regard, the Naval Service and Air Corps provide support to the Coast Guard as the need arises and within their available capability.

Responsibility for the prevention of drug trafficking rests primarily with the Customs Service of the Revenue Commissioners. Responsibility for the prevention of crime, including people trafficking, rests primarily with An Garda Siochána. However, the White Paper on Defence provides for a security role for the Naval Service and the Air Corps to assist and support the civil authorities in this important work. The Naval Service provides assistance through its role as a partner in the Joint Task Force on Drug Interdiction which helps maximise the effective use of Naval Service resources in combating drug trafficking. The Air Corps provides air support and, on occasion, carries the Customs National Drugs Team in an observational capacity for the purpose of monitoring vessels suspected of drug trafficking and other illegal activities. I am satisfied that the Permanent Defence Force is fully resourced in terms of patrol vessels and aircraft to meet all its operational requirements.

Question No. 244 answered with Question No. 34.

Defence Forces Training

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

245 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he is satisfied that the Defence Forces have access to the highest quality training and logistic equipment on par with the accepted standards and requirements within the EU and UN; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46608/10]

I am advised that military training techniques are up to date in all respects. Defence Forces training plans are structured to provide the capabilities needed to execute the roles assigned to them by Government. The challenges of preparing military units for participation in international peace support operations constitute the major dimension of Defence Forces collective training. The primary focus of this training is the attainment of a capability for military interoperability in order to conduct peace support operations to international standards. Training standards in the Defence Forces are constantly benchmarked against best international practice and Defence Force's personnel have full access to the best international training standards available. Significant investment has taken place in recent years across all facets and elements of the Defence Forces. The level of investment has ensured that Defence Forces personnel have the most modern and effective range of equipment, including logistical equipment, to carry our their day-to-day roles at home and overseas. The Department of Defence and the Defence Forces, like all areas of the public service, will operate on a reduced budget allocation in 2011. The steady investment in recent years means that the Defence Forces are well placed in addressing the challenges for 2011 and the adjustments required under the National Recovery Plan. The priority in the coming year will be on maintaining the capability of the Defence Forces to deliver effective services across all of the roles assigned by Government.

National Emergency Plan

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

246 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the role he is expected to play and is likely to play in crisis management control or direction or situations of national emergency; the logistical resources available in such situations; the person or persons responsible for activation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46609/10]

Emergency planning is based on the ‘lead department' principle. This means that each department is responsible for activating and managing the coordination of the response to those emergencies that impact on its areas of responsibility. In December 2008, the Government approved the document entitled ‘Roles and Responsibilities in Emergency Planning'. This document, for the first time, identified the lead department and the supporting departments and agencies in over 40 emergency scenarios. My role as Chairman of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning is to support coordination in emergency planning across government departments and agencies. The Task Force is a forum for the sharing of information and best practice and for lesson learning. It meets regularly to discuss emergency planning issues and to hear expert advice and it met on six occasions during 2010.

The National Emergency Coordination Centre is activated in support of all emergencies which require a national-level response. Staff from the Office of Emergency Planning (civil and military) manage the Centre on an ongoing basis during such emergencies.

Defence Forces Training

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

247 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding training of apprentices for the Defence Forces; the number of such apprentices trained on an annual basis in the past 12 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46610/10]

Following the closure of the Army Apprentice School in 1998, and in order to ensure the availability of the requisite levels of technical skills in the Defence Forces, a Trainee Technician Scheme and an Apprentice Scheme were introduced. Personnel already serving in the Defence Forces enter the Trainee Technician Scheme while civilian personnel who join the Defence Forces to begin their technical training enter the Apprentice Scheme. Training under the Schemes consists of an integrated package of military training and technical training in the appropriate trade, the latter of which is provided in association with FÁS.

The duration of both Schemes is four years and, on successful completion, personnel graduate in line with the National Framework of Qualifications. Details of the number of individuals who completed training under the Trainee Technician and Apprentice Schemes in each of the years between 2000, the earliest date for which figures are available, and 30 November 2010 are provided in the following tabular statement.

Trainee Technician and Apprentice Schemes, 1 January 2000 — 30 November 2010

Year

Army

Air Corps

Naval Service

Total

2000

28

15

16

59

2001

61

15

24

100

2002

46

37

5

88

2003

53

0

6

59

2004

0

17

1

18

2005

22

0

3

25

2006

51

0

8

59

2007

66

19

3

88

2008

51

7

6

64

2009

36

7

8

51

2010

6

0

4

10

Total

420

117

84

621

National Emergency Plan

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

248 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the degree to which specific training is provided to assist in a rapid response in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack; the degree to which co-operation and co-ordination between Army, Navy and Air Corps and the appropriate Department with overall responsibility is likely; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46611/10]

The Department of Defence and the Defence Forces are members of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning. One of the ways in which the Defence Forces provide assistance in aid to the Civil Authority (ATCA) is by providing assistance under the Framework For Major Emergency Management. There is no specific specialist training undertaken to provide this assistance but the broad range and depth of military training can be utilised as a contingency to respond to requests for assistance.

In relation to the threat of terrorist attack, the Defence Forces will respond to any such threat in support of An Garda Síochána in an aid to the Civil Power (ATCP) role. A wide variety of military training activities are specifically designed to counter or respond to such a threat. The Defence Forces hold regular coordination and liaison meetings with An Garda Síochána in relation to ATCP issues.

Defence Forces (Joint Army, Navy and Air Corps) activities are closely coordinated at Defence Forces Headquarters (DFHQ) level with the appropriate command and control structures and regulatory provisions to ensure cohesion and effectiveness in support of the local authorities, An Garda Síochána and for national defence as required.

Defence Forces Property

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

249 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the number of army overholders; the discussions he has had regarding the provision of permanent housing in such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46612/10]

Defence Forces Married Quarters are provided to serving members until their retirement or resignation. The term overholder is used to describe former members of the Defence Forces and their families who have refused to leave the quarters within 15 days of leaving the service. There are currently 50 overholders living in military accommodation. I refer the Deputy to Question No. 150 of the 2nd June 2010 (Reference 23757/10) and Question No. 220 of the 21st October 2010 (Ref No. 38396/10) which stated — "The Department has had three meetings with Kildare County Council over the past two years to discuss, amongst other things, the issue of the continued occupation of married quarters by former members of the Defence Forces. Discussions have not taken place with any other local authority, as this is predominantly an issue arising in relation to the Curragh Camp. Kildare County Council has informed the Department that the overholders must be registered on their housing list before any consideration can be given to providing accommodation for them." The position remains unchanged.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

250 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which the projections arising from the closure and disposal of various military barracks throughout the Country over the past 12 years has been realised; the total receipts from such sales; the costs if any associated therewith; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46613/10]

Ten military barracks have been closed since 1998. The receipts accruing from the sale of the first five barracks were as follows: Murphy Barracks, Ballincollig €44.5m, Fitzgerald Camp, Fermoy €973,889, Devoy Barracks, Naas €9.3m, Castleblayney Barracks €761,843, and Clancy Barracks, Islandbridge €25.4m.The Government decided on 1st July 2003 that Magee Barracks, Kildare would be among the State lands released to Kildare County Council for inclusion in the Sustaining Progress Affordable Housing Initiative. However, this will not now occur and the Department has retained control of this property.

In relation to the Government decision of 14 October 2008 that approved the closure of the barracks at Monaghan, Longford, Rockhill and Lifford in Donegal the current position is as follows:

Monaghan Military Barracks has been disposed of for €3.1 million;

part of Connolly Barracks, Longford has been sold for €950,000 while some interest has been recorded in the remaining portion of the barracks;

Rockhill Military post is being prepared for public sale, although an agreement is in place with another Government agency for the purchase of part of the lands;

the sale of Lifford Military post remains under negotiation with another Government agency.

Minimal costs are incurred in relation to the sale of premises as the preferred method is by public tender.