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Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 21 Jun 2011

Vol. 736 No. 1

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 15, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 16 to 26 , inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 27 to 34, inclusive, answered orally.

Alternative Energy Projects

David Stanton

Ceist:

35 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the way he is interacting with the Maritime and Energy Research Campus and Commercial Cluster; his views on the work it is doing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15915/11]

David Stanton

Ceist:

37 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the interaction he has had with the Maritime and Energy Research Campus and Commercial Cluster; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15914/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 35 and 37 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, the marine renewable energy is an emerging industry worldwide which has considerable potential for economic growth and job creation. The acknowledged scale of Ireland's wave resource is such that the development and deployment of wave, tidal and offshore wind technologies is considered to have considerable potential for economic activity as well as contributing to our renewable energy targets in the longer term.

To that end my Department and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) have been working for several years to support a number of R&D developments under the Ocean Energy Strategy. These include funding support for ocean energy prototype devices and support for the development of the Maritime and Energy Research Campus and Commercial Cluster (MERC3) in Cork.

MERC3 is an established joint venture by University College Cork (UCC), Cork Institute of Technology and the Irish Naval Service, with the objective of becoming a maritime research and commercial cluster of global standing. The new Research Campus in Ringaskiddy, alongside the National Maritime College of Ireland, will feature UCC's new Beaufort Building, which will house one of the largest marine renewable energy research group in the world.

The SEAI operates a dedicated Ocean Energy Development Unit which is represented on the board of the MERC development. I look forward to meeting the key stakeholders in MERC at an early date for a detailed briefing on their plans.

As part of a Strategic environmental Analysis of Irish waters for renewable energy development, my Department and SEAI are currently finalising an Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP). EirGrid is also modelling different scenarios for possible offshore grid infrastructure as part of the European North Seas offshore Initiative comprising 10 countries including Ireland.

Ireland is already considered to have developed world-class ocean research and test facilities at the Galway Bay ¼ Scale Test Site, and the SmartBay Ireland project, which is led by the Marine Institute. The National Wave Test Facility at the Hydraulic and Marine Resources Centre in UCC also has a high international reputation and is scheduled to become part of the Maritime and Energy Research Campus and Commercial Cluster. The development of a full scale grid connected wave energy test site at Belmullet, County Mayo will also require decisions shortly.

In common with all other areas of Government expenditure, future investment support for ocean energy development is being kept under review on an ongoing basis having regard for overall budgetary constraints.

Energy Prices

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

36 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on whether international energy prices are set to inflate dramatically over the coming decade; if the information provided by the International Energy Agency is being factored into policy responses; the new responses that he believes are required to ensure energy security and affordability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15717/11]

In recent months wholesale oil and gas prices have been trending upwards. There are concerns in the markets that oil prices will continue to rise in the months ahead. As oil prices rise, European wholesale gas prices, which lag oil prices by about six months, are expected by the markets to rise during the last quarter of the year.

Prices are being driven by geopolitical events in the Middle East and North Africa coupled with high demand in the developing economies. Other factors include the knock on impact on gas prices of the need to replace nuclear energy in Japan and Germany. It is also of concern that the recent meeting of OPEC concluded without agreement to increase either production quotas or actual production.

Ireland is a founder member of the International Energy Agency (IEA). National energy policy directions are fully informed by the IEA's ongoing analysis and data. The IEA's report on gas published earlier this month examines the key factors that could result in a more prominent role for natural gas in the global energy mix and the implications for other fuels, energy security and climate change.

The IEA also concludes that natural gas can help improve energy security and when replacing other fossil fuels can lead to lower carbon emissions.

Ireland has a high dependence on natural gas for power generation and the market is vulnerable to price volatility.

The focus of Government policy is on delivery of strategies to ensure the provision of secure, sustainable and competitive energy supplies, framed against the continuing back drop of volatile fossil fuel prices. Among key strategies to mitigate gas dependence are facilitating investments in major infrastructure, increasing the contribution of renewables and enhancing energy efficiency. Bringing Corrib gas ashore is also a vital component.

As regards mitigating measures, energy efficiency and consumer engagement remains the most cost-effective means of consumers reducing exposure to energy price rises. The most immediate step that electricity and gas customers can, and should, take to keep downward pressure on prices is to engage actively with suppliers in the market. In so doing, they may secure better value offers and/or lower prices from their existing or alternative suppliers. Improving the efficiency of their energy usage will deliver demonstrable savings and make their energy costs more affordable in the longer term. The Government has put in place a range of energy efficiency incentives to assist in this regard.

Question No. 37 answered with Question No. 35.
Question No. 38 answered with Question No. 34.

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

39 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he will take to reduce the costs of utilities for struggling businesses in order to help restore economic competitiveness. [14238/11]

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

50 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he has taken to ensure that the energy market here is competitive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15945/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 50 together.

I have no statutory function in the setting of energy prices, whether in the regulated or non-regulated market. Responsibility for the regulation of the electricity and gas markets is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent statutory body.

The electricity retail market is now fully deregulated and CER has announced that the small to medium business segment of the gas market will be de-regulated from 1 October next. Business and domestic customers can increasingly avail of the competitive offerings from a number of electricity and gas supply companies. The first step that business customers should take to reduce their energy costs is to work actively in securing better value offers in the market and in switching to suppliers delivering lower prices.

I acknowledge the action taken over the last two years to bring Ireland's energy prices into line with, or below, European averages. This is resulting in positive outcomes as is evidenced by improved competitiveness in the gas and electricity sectors when compared with other European countries.

Eurostat data for the first half of 2010 showed such convergence to the EU average for many categories of business and residential consumer in both the electricity and gas sectors. Analysis by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) shows that average residential gas prices for the majority of Irish gas consumers went from being 4% above the EU average at the end of 2009 to being 5% below the average in the first half of 2010.

SEAI analysis of Eurostat data for the electricity sector show that in the 12 months to June 2010, Ireland experienced the largest fall in business electricity prices in the EU for medium to large consumers. Prices fell by 20% to 36%, depending on consumption levels.

Electricity prices for business in Ireland were below the EU average for medium to large customers for the first half of 2010. For the group of businesses consuming the largest amount of electricity and for which we have data, Ireland was 27% below the Eurozone average. For business customers consuming smaller amounts of electricity Ireland was ranked between 5th and 12th in Europe out of 27 countries for the same period.

Competition helps to put downward pressure on energy prices. But the focus must be kept on all possible additional actions to mitigate costs where possible for business and for domestic customers. This is essential for competitiveness, for employment and for economic recovery.

This convergence to the EU average has been an important factor in supporting greater competitiveness for Irish enterprise and foreign direct investment. Global gas and oil prices have risen sharply since the start of the year driven by events in North Africa and Japan and high demand from the emerging economies of China and India.

Markets and analysts are forecasting that international oil and gas prices will rise further over the coming months. The Energy Regulator, Bórd Gais Eireann, ESB and other energy suppliers consider that such increases will have an impact on domestic gas and electricity prices. Ireland is a price taker in the global fossil fuel market and the economy is therefore vulnerable to energy price fluctuations and price rises. Competitor countries are in many instances facing the same prospect and the objective in the context of higher global prices must be that we retain or improve our competitive position.

Ireland's concerns about high oil and gas prices are shared at EU level and fellow Member Countries of the International Energy Agency (IEA). The EU and IEA agree that high fossil fuels prices which pose a threat to economic recovery underline the need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels by radically enhanced energy efficiency measures and the development of renewable energy.

I am committed to working with enterprise and with the energy sector to ensure that the costs of energy for business are as competitive as possible through those measures at our disposal including notably a sustained focus on energy efficiency.

In the latter context I would urge all businesses of whatever size to place a relentless focus on energy efficiency. SEAI is available to provide advice and, subject to available resources, financial assistance in this respect. In addition there is now extensive tax relief available to businesses under the accelerated capital allowances (ACA) scheme for energy efficient technologies.

Electricity Transmission Network

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

40 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he will publish the Cahill report. [15719/11]

The Report by Frontier Economics was undertaken under a process overseen by Mr. Fergus Cahill as independent chair. The Report contains an assessment of costs, benefits and regulatory impact of the options for unbundling the electricity transmission assets set in the context of EU Third Package and the all island single electricity market.

The process involved input from the direct stakeholders and other stakeholders. The direct stakeholders were the management and the unions of ESB and EirGrid and the ESB Employee Share Ownership Trust. The direct stakeholders were provided with a copy of the draft conclusions of the Frontier Report and the opportunity to comment on those conclusions.

Both EirGrid and ESB have vital roles to play in delivering our national electricity infrastructure. The unbundling of the transmission assets involves the resolution of complex technical, financial and operational issues as well as the possible development of legislation. Both companies were given a copy of the final Report on a confidential basis and have submitted observations on it.

I will be bringing proposals to Government shortly with a recommendation on the next steps with regard to the electricity transmission assets. The Frontier Report contains significant and detailed commercially sensitive information. I expect to be in a position to publish the Report, taking account of the commercially sensitive information, which it contains, after conclusion of Government consideration of the transmission assets issue.

Energy Resources

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

41 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when it is expected that the gas from the Corrib gas field will become available here; if all necessary planning requirements have been complied with to the satisfaction of the various monitoring statutory or regulatory bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15884/11]

Completion of the development works by the developer is the principal factor that will determine the date for first gas. Pending such completion, it is not possible to state a date for when gas from the Corrib gas field will become available.

The Corrib Project requires a number of statutory permissions in order for the developer to construct, operate and maintain the development.

In February of this year, the then Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources granted consent to the Corrib Partners pursuant to Section 40 of the Gas Act, 1976 and Section 13 of the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development Act, 1960 to construct, but not commission, the Corrib Gas Pipeline, subject to 47 conditions. No works have yet been undertaken by the Corrib Partners pursuant to these consents.

The Deputy might also note that other licences and permissions beyond my statutory remit, including planning permission, Foreshore Licence and an Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Licence are also required with respect to the construction and operation of the Corrib Gas Pipeline.

Fisheries Conservation

Nicky McFadden

Ceist:

42 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the rationale for the ban on eel fishing in 2010; and if the current ban might be removed, in view of its potential to contribute to the local economy. [16276/11]

Following scientific research conducted by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), indicating that the European eel stocks are in a critical state, the EU introduced Council Regulation 1100/2007, the objective of which is to achieve recovery of the stocks to previous high levels. The Regulation required Member States to prepare a national Eel Management Plan for implementation from 1 July 2009 or from the earliest possible time before that date. Ireland's Eel Management Plan was approved by the Commission on 30 July 2009.

The EU target is clearly defined in the Regulation where it states that the objective of each Member State's Eel Management Plan shall be to reduce mortalities so as to permit with high probability the escape to sea of at least 40% of silver eel relative to the best estimate of escape that would have existed if no mortality had impacted the stock.

Ireland's level of escapement was estimated at only 24%. Given the critical status of the eel stock, as demonstrated in the assessment contained in the National Eel Management Plan a number of management measures were identified as necessary to reach the target set in the EC Regulation, including closure of the commercial and recreational eel fishery from 2009. It is also necessary to mitigate the impact of hydropower on escapement, to ensure upstream migration of juvenile eel at barriers and to improve water quality.

The decision to cease the eel fishery was taken, based on the best scientific advice available, as a conservation measure to support a recovery of the stock in the shortest time possible. Under the Regulation, all aspects of the plan must be reviewed in 2012 and reported on to the Commission. This review will consider, inter alia, whether the eel fishery and market could be reopened in any river basin district in light of the data gathered in the interim and the performance of the stocks.

Telecommunications Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

43 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the degree to which high speed or state-of-the-art broadband is likely to become available in all regions here without exception with particular reference to the need to ensure the availability of such modern telecommunications in the highly competitive economic climate; if and when he expects such facilities to become readily available to the field of business, education, medicine and high tech modern industry; if he has identified any particular or potential obstacles to achieving such targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15885/11]

The provision of electronic communications services, including broadband, is, in the first instance, a matter for private sector service providers, regulated by the independent regulator, the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).

The two key broadband issues for Government are (i) broadband availability and (ii) broadband quality. While these matters are primarily for the private sector operators, Government may intervene if the private sector market fails to address the issues satisfactorily.

Targeted interventions, such as the National Broadband Scheme (NBS) and the Rural Broadband Scheme are aimed at addressing rural areas where broadband services are not otherwise available due to reluctance on the part of commercial operators to invest because of inadequate financial returns.

The NBS network provides a widely accessible broadband service in all of the 1028 Electoral Divisions that were identified as needing intervention.

More recently, I announced a Rural Broadband Scheme, which aims to provide a basic broadband service to a relatively small number of remaining individual un-served rural premises.

This approach, which has prioritised Government intervention to provide widespread customer access to a basic broadband service in the first instance, is consistent with EU targets published last year, which prioritises such widespread access by 2013.

As regards broadband quality, significant improvements have been made in the delivery of broadband speeds in recent years. For example, broadband speeds of up to 100 megabits per second are already available to 500,000 or so premises using coaxial cable. This will increase to over 700,000 premises by the end of next year. Telephone lines now provide digital subscriber line quality (DSL) offering speeds of up to 24 mbps, depending on distance from exchanges. In addition to these improvements in fixed line services, developments in wireless technologies are also delivering higher speeds. WiMax products, which are increasingly available, offer speeds of up to 10 mbps, while mobile broadband speeds are also being increased.

Under the NewERA proposals in the Programme for Government to deliver higher broadband speeds, there is a commitment to co-invest with the private sector and commercial Semi State sector to provide Next Generation Broadband to every home and business in the State. Consideration of how best to progress these proposals is being advanced by my Department.

Specifically the Next Generation Broadband Taskforce (NGBT), which I chair, is now considering how best to roll out Next Generation Broadband network access. The NGBT, which includes representatives of large network owners and smaller telecommunications services providers, held its first meeting on 13 June 2011. I expect that the NGBT, which will conclude its deliberations by the end of the year, will be helpful in terms of identifying the optimal policy position to deliver wider customer access to high-speed broadband.

Alternative Energy Projects

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

44 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to encourage the development of community based renewable co-operatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15946/11]

The Programme for Government commits to facilitate the development of energy cooperatives to make it easier for small scale renewable energy providers to contribute to our renewable targets. The involvement of local community participants in renewable energy projects has been advocated as a means to progress the uptake of renewable energy and promote local community acceptance of large scale renewable energy projects. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has carried out work to assess the scope for community involvement.

A study funded by SEAI and by the Western Development Commission investigated the potential for communities to benefit from the establishment of wind farms in their region.

This report concluded that communities are likely to encounter significant resource difficulties if they attempt to develop 100% community owned wind energy projects, given the considerable technical and financial challenges facing developers. The levels of risk and uncertainty appear to be too high for a community group to enter a development on their own.

A key finding of the Report however was that the most promising investment option for community based groups would be to participate in commercial projects once such projects have secured the requisite consents and contracts for scale of electricity.

The SEAI is working closely with the International Energy Agency to develop best practice guidelines for social acceptance of wind farms including in that context guidelines for facilitating investment by communities in local wind farms.

Broadcasting Services

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

45 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has spoken to the chairman or chief executive of RTÉ regarding the need to ensure that RTÉ breaks even at least each year on its operations; if he has, the steps they have outlined to him to ensure that this will happen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15941/11]

RTÉ is an independent national public service broadcaster whose remit and obligations are set out in the Broadcasting Act 2009.

With regard to the duties of the corporation in respect of its revenue, these are set out in section 105 of the Broadcasting Act 2009.

In brief, this provision requires RTÉ to hold sufficient revenue to pay its current debts and to provide for capital expenditure.

Section 98 provides that the company shall be independent in the pursuance of these objects, subject to the requirements of the Act, and as such I, as Minister, have no function in the management of RTÉ's day to day affairs, including matters relating to its budget.

That said, I have met recently with RTÉ management and I have made my view clear that a continuing deficit position is not tenable for any State company, including RTÉ.

I am confident that the Board and management of RTÉ are taking the necessary action to ensure that the company is placed on a sustainable financial footing as soon as possible and that it continues to meet its legal obligations.

Finally, RTÉ has invested significantly in respect of the upgrading of infrastructure to facilitate the successful transition to Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT). In this context, Deputies should be aware that Capital Expenditure of up to €70 million will be incurred by RTÉ. It is important that the costs of DTT rollout do not place an undue burden on the company.

Alternative Energy Projects

Liam Twomey

Ceist:

46 Deputy Liam Twomey asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to streamline the process for renewable energy projects, that is, solar, wind and sea to connect to the grid, in order to reach our target of 10% for renewable electricity sources by 2020 as in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15713/11]

Ireland generated an estimated 13.4% of electricity from renewable sources in 2010. This compares with 4.4% in 2003.

The Gate 3 programme which is overseen by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) was designed specifically to support delivery of Ireland's national renewable target of 40% of electricity supplied from renewable sources by 2020. EirGrid is responsible for the issuing of connection offers to developers under Gate 3. The programme represents the largest connection offer ever undertaken on the island of Ireland.

In order to ensure that Gate 3 offers are rolled out to projects in the most efficient and cost effective manner, the CER required the System Operators (EirGrid for the transmission system and ESB Networks for the distribution system) to develop a detailed project plan for the issuance of connection offers.

A project plan is in place which involves the roll-out of connection offers over an 18-month period running up to the end of this year. Gate 3 offers have been issuing according to schedule. From April 2011, 2,519 MW of offers in Gate 3 were issued by EirGrid and ESB Networks.

There is acknowledged scope for streamlining, and making more cohesive, all the permitting processes inherent in developing renewable energy projects. This was noted in Ireland's National Renewable Energy Action Plan submitted to the EU Commission last year. These include planning permissions, environmental authorisations as well as grid connections. The EU Commission itself has recognised that streamlining of permitting processes is required generally across Europe if renewable energy targets are to be met.

Having regard also to EU developments, my Department is working with the Commission for Energy Regulation, EirGrid and the renewable energy sector, as well as all other key stakeholders, to progress the scope for a more streamlined approach for both onshore and offshore renewable energy development in future.

Telecommunications Services

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

47 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he is taking to address contention on the broadband infrastructure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15715/11]

The provision of broadband services is, in the first instance, a matter for private sector service providers operating in Ireland's fully liberalised telecommunications market, regulated by the independent regulator, the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). Investment in broadband infrastructure and associated upgrades in marketed services is primarily a matter for the private sector, facilitated, where appropriate and possible by Government.

Under the NewERA proposals in the Programme for Government, which is the responsibility of my colleague Minister of State O'Dowd, there is a commitment to co-invest with the private sector and commercial Semi State sector to provide Next Generation Broadband to every home and business in the State. Consideration of how best to advance these proposals is being advanced by my Department with other stakeholders across Government and with industry who are continuing to invest considerably in this area.

On 13th June, I convened a meeting of the Next Generation Broadband Taskforce (NGBT), which I chair. The Task Force comprises the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies currently operating in the Irish market and CEOs of some Internet Service Provider companies. Its purpose is to discuss how best to deliver the optimal policy environment and to identify a roadmap for the speedy delivery of high speed broadband across Ireland. The Taskforce will consider issues such as appropriate targets, investment plans, and the role of Government policy and actions in driving and facilitating investment.

I expect that the NGBT, which will conclude its deliberations by December this year, will be helpful in terms of identifying the optimal policy position to deliver wider customer access to high-speed broadband.

It is a fact that some broadband services are constrained by contention. I expect that the output from the NGBT, as well as newer technologies that are emerging, will address contention and other bandwidth quality issues. Additionally, the Programme for Government commits to ensuring that broadband providers publish average speeds for each package and ComReg is actively engaging with industry to develop a mechanism that allows for more transparent reporting of actual speeds experienced by those using the broadband services.

Inland Fisheries

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

48 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will extend the salmon and trout fishing season to the end of October; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12440/11]

The 2009 Wild Salmon and Sea Trout Fisheries Statistics Report outlined that salmon catches were less than a tenth of what they were in 2001. The close season for fishing for salmon and sea trout is based on scientific and management advices aimed at conserving and protecting wild stocks. The present position, underpinned by legislation, is that nationally all salmon angling finishes on September 30th. With the exception of six rivers, angling for sea trout in the Kerry District finishes on the 12th October. In the six rivers the season closes on September 30th.

Section 137 of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959 Act states ‘‘that the annual close season for angling for salmon shall for the purposes of the Act , be the period commencing on the 13th October in each year'', this protects stocks during the spawning season. A decision to extend any fishing for salmon until the end of October would require changes to the Primary Legislation.

Extensions for the fishing of salmon and/or sea trout until the 12th October would have to be considered on a river by river basis. Recently I requested Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), to review the temporal management of the wild salmon and sea trout fishery and to report to me with recommendations for permissible adjustments to apply in the 2012 season that will enable the most economically advantageous exploitation of the total allowable catch by the commercial and recreational fisheries while ensuring that stocks are not put at risk.

Craoltóireacht Sheirbhís Phoiblí

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

49 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Cumarsáide, Fuinnimh agus Acmhainní Nádúrtha céard iad na céimeanna atá sé ag glacadh lena chinntiú go gcomhlíonfaidh RTÉ a dhualgais dhlíthiúla i leith na Gaeilge; agus an bhfuil i gceist aige an reachtaíocht a láidriú sa chomhthéacs seo; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [15939/11]

Is craoltóir náisiúnta neamhspleách seirbhíse poiblí í RTÉ ar a bhfuil an sainchúram agus na dualgais a léirítear san Acht Craolacháin 2009.

Léiríonn Alt 114 den Acht na príomh cuspóirí ag RTÉ, ina measc an ceanglas go soláthraí sí réimse cuimsitheach clár san dá theanga, Gaeilge agus Béarla, a léiríonn éagsúlacht chultúrtha oileán na hÉireann ina iomláine.

Leagtar ar RTÉ ag Alt 102 den Acht go bhfoilsí sí Ráiteas Bliantúil i dtaobh Gealltanas Feidhmíochta ar aon dul lena cuid cuspóirí agus na gníomhaíochtaí a bheadh i gceist ag RTÉ gealltanas a thabhairt ina dtaobh san mbliain airgeadais úd san áireamh ann. Leagtar ar RTÉ sa bhreis ar sin ag an Acht go ndéana Údarás Craolacháin na hÉireann athbhreithniú ar RTÉ ar bhonn an Ráitis i dtaobh an Ghealltanais Feidhmíochta arna fhoilsiú aici. Le déanaí fuair mé an Ráiteas i dtaobh Gealltanas Feidhmíochta de chuid RTÉ don mbliain 2011 agus ní hamháin go léiríonn RTÉ ann a tiomantas do chlársceidealú na Gaeilge ach go seasann sí lena tiomantas ann freisin.

Leagann Alt 120 ar RTÉ mar dhualgas cothrom uair an chloig de chláir in aghaidh an lae a sholáthair i ngach bliain féilire ar amanna arna n-aontú agus ar oiread arna aontú a oireann don dhá chraoltóir. Tuairiscíonn RTÉ faoin leibhéal tacaíochta a chuireann sí ar fáil do TG4 ina Tuarascáil Bhliantúil agus sna Ráitis Airgeadais Bhliantúla don Ghrúpa.

Foráiltear faoi Alt 98 go mbeidh RTÉ neamhspleách agus í i mbun a cuid cuspóirí a chur i bhfeidhm, faoi réir ceanglas an Achta, agus uaidh sin níl aon ghnó agamsa, i gcáil dom mar Aire, i mbainistíocht ar chúrsaí RTÉ ó lá go lá, agus cúrsaí a bhaineann lena cuid craolacháin i leith na Gaeilge san áireamh. I gcáil dom mar Aire, áfach, táim go hiomlán sásta go bhfuil RTÉ ag comhlíonadh a cuid dualgas i leith na Gaeilge, mura bhfuil sí ag dul thairis sin. Rud eile dhe, creidim go bhfuil an reachtaíocht láidir go leor chun féachaint chuige go leanann RTÉ d'athláithriú agus de chur chun cinn na Gaeilge.

Question No. 50 answered with Question No. 39.

Offshore Exploration

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

51 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of applications received under the recent oil and gas exploration round; the terms offered to the bidders in the request for applications; when a decision will be made on this application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15944/11]

The 2011 Atlantic Margin Licensing Round closed on the 31st of May and fifteen applications for Licensing Options were received. This is the largest number of applications ever received in a single licensing round in Ireland.

My Department has commenced its assessment of the applications received and has invited all fifteen applicants for interview.

It is anticipated that the evaluation process will conclude by the end of July, following which offers of Licensing Options will be made.

The number of applications received under the licensing round is encouraging. I understand that the applications received include applications from companies not currently active in the Irish offshore and this is a further positive feature of the outcome of the round.

In relation to the specific terms of the licensing round, the authorisations on offer are two year Licensing Options and will be subject to agreed work programmes. The work programmes will include procurement of all available and relevant technical data, along with new data acquisition projects as considered necessary.

I am confident that the 2011 Licensing Round will help bring much needed new momentum to the level of exploration activity offshore Ireland.

Alternative Energy Projects

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

52 Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has considered the possible contribution of microbes to the production of sustainable biofuels rather than more conventional plant production; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15942/11]

The EU Renewable Energy Directive of 2009 sets a binding 2020 target of 10% renewable energy in Transport for each Member State. In common with other Member States, Ireland is committed to ensuring that approximately 10% of road transport fuel in Ireland is biofuel by 2020.

To date the majority of biofuels brought to market have been first generation. These biofuels are produced from numerous sources, the most common of which are sugar cane, maize and wheat. There are growing and profound uncertainties over the extent to which first generation biofuel on a very large scale can be brought to market globally without causing severe effects in the food commodities markets. There are also concerns about the sustainability of such production.

Second generation biofuels come from wastes, residues or non-food material. These generally have little impact on land use or sustainability. International research shows that algae have the potential to produce around 60 times more biodiesel per hectare that oil seed rape. They generally offer higher Greenhouse Gas savings and have no effect on food prices. At present, these technologies are at a pre commercial stage, but are believed to show promise.

To encourage the development and use of second generation biofuels, Ireland's Biofuel Obligation Scheme, in line with the EU Renewable Energy Directive, awards double certificates for each litre of second generation biofuel placed on the market.

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has reviewed the potential of Marine Algae as a Source of Biofuel in Ireland. This work is serving as a good basis to inform further research and development work on the potential use of marine algae for biofuel production.

In a joint Inter-reg funded project with Scotland and Northern Ireland Irish researchers are working to demonstrate the feasibility and viability of producing biofuels from marine biomass, including seaweeds. The project was launched in 2009. Initial indicators are positive, but the outcome is as yet unclear in terms of the scope for actual production in Ireland. My Department will continue to monitor national and international developments in all second generation biofuels.

Offshore Exploration

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

53 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the promised review on licensing arrangements for oil and gas exploration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15887/11]

Ireland competes with other countries, both in Europe and much further afield, to attract mobile international exploration investment to Ireland. To that end, it is important that Ireland maintains a licensing regime that appropriately reflects both the risks and rewards of investing in petroleum exploration in the Irish offshore, relative to investing in exploration in other jurisdictions.

A comprehensive review of Ireland fiscal terms was carried out in 2007. This review, which was underpinned by independent economic analysis, considered the appropriateness of Ireland's licensing terms in comparison to other European countries that Ireland competes with for exploration investment. The outcome of that review was the introduction of a profit resource rent tax of between 5% and 15% that will apply in the case of more profitable fields.

While I will keep the licensing terms, both fiscal and non-fiscal, under review in light of relevant future developments, at this point in time I believe that the focus should be on attracting a larger share of mobile international exploration investment to Ireland, to increase the chances of new commercial discoveries being made.

Energy Conservation

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

54 Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views that the reduction in grants available under the better homes scheme will stimulate employment and further encourage persons to avail of these grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15943/11]

I announced the launch of Better Energy: The National Upgrade Programme in early May in the context of the Government’s Jobs Initiative. Better Energy is replacing the three existing energy efficiency and renewable energy programmes: the Home Energy Savings Scheme, the Warmer Homes Scheme and the Greener Homes Scheme.

The Better Energy grant levels have been set to ensure that the level of Exchequer support is in line with market prices. The grant levels represent approximately 30% of the cost of each efficiency measure supported under the Programme. Since the Home Energy Saving scheme was launched in 2009, there have been considerable reductions in the market prices being charged for most of the efficiency measures covered by the scheme. The exception at this stage is external insulation which is a relatively new technology in the Irish Market. It is self evident that the level of Exchequer support should reflect actual market prices.

Measures being supported under the Better Energy programme are those designed to deliver the greatest energy savings, thus maximising the value achieved from the Exchequer allocation. The additional €30 million provided to the Programme for 2011 under the Jobs Initiative will be matched by a further €30 million in private sector investment. It will therefore help to generate further economic activity of at least €60 million this year.

One of the key objectives of the Better Energy programme is to support the construction sector and the delivery by the sector of quality installations in line with best practice. The level of take-up and activity under the domestic retrofitting schemes to date is demonstrably supporting jobs, given the labour intensive nature of energy efficiency upgrades. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) advises that over 5,800 full time jobs are projected to be supported in 2011. This represents an increase of some 2000 jobs this year over the 3,800 jobs already being supported under the Schemes.

SEAI also advises that the number of applicants has remained steady since the launch of the Better Energy Programme last month. This underlines the continued strong interest of householders in the home energy savings scheme.

My Department is also working to transform the way in which upgrades are funded with the aim of making participation even more affordable for householders. The first step will be by offering the grants as upfront discounts, followed by a move to a pay-as-you-save model.

Pay-as-you-save is a financial model which would allow energy consumers to finance energy efficiency upgrades through the energy savings generated. The Programme for Government commits to the roll out of a pay-as-you-save scheme after 2013. This will enable the home energy efficiency programme to continue without recourse to public funding. It is also in line with developments at EU level.

There are considerable complexities involved in the development of an effective pay-as-you-save model. My Department is working with the utilities, the energy sector, as a whole, and financial institutions to develop an appropriate model. I expect to bring proposals to Government to underpin the scheme towards the end of the year.

Teilifís na Gaeilge

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

55 D’fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív den Aire Cumarsáide, Fuinnimh agus Acmhainní Nádúrtha an bhfuil i gceist aige athrú a dhéanamh ar an bpolasaí atá ann go bhfaigheann TG4 an chuid is mó dá maoiniú díreach ón Státchiste; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [15940/11]

Níl athrú ar intinn agam ar staid an lae faoina fhaigheann TG4 formhór a cuid maoine i bhfoirm deontais i gcabhair ón Státchiste ionas chun ligint don eagras a sainordú seirbhíse poiblí a chomhlíonadh agus a cuid spriocanna a bhaint amach de réir mar a léirítear in Alt 118 den Acht Craolacháin 2009.

Energy Resources

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

56 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he is taking to address gate access to the national grid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15716/11]

The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) decision on the ‘Gate 3' round provides for connection offers for 4,000 MWs of renewable electricity capacity. Approximately 90% of these offers are wind powered capacity including around 800 MW of offshore wind. The Gate 3 decisions, combined with the existing renewable capacity and projects currently being built and connected, point to the 40% target being met and even exceeded by 2020.

Ireland's National Renewable Energy Action Plan, which was submitted to the EU Commission in June 2010, sets out the detailed projections and strategies to achieve the national target. The plan was developed in consultation with the renewable sector and all stakeholders.

EirGrid published its GRID25 strategy, which outlines how they intend to deliver an upgraded electricity infrastructure network to 2025. It shows how EirGrid intends to increase network capacity between now and 2025 by reinforcing existing lines, deploying new grid management technology and building new transmission lines.

The projects in Gate 3 were selected by the CER on a "first come first served" criterion. Grid connection offers for projects within the Gate 3 process began to issue in December last year. They will continue to be issued on a phased basis until mid 2011. The Gate 3 process was extensively consulted on by the CER. Through public consultation and dedicated industry workshops, all industry stakeholders were given the opportunity of responding in advance to the proposed connection process.

Departmental Staff

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

57 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach the current numbers and grades of staff employed in North-South co-operation units in every Department as established under the Good Friday Agreement; the numbers in each unit when first established; and the year on year change for each Department. [16365/11]

The Department of the Taoiseach does not have a North South Cooperation Unit as such. The Northern Ireland Division has been in existence in the Department for many years and pre-dates the Good Friday Agreement. The Division continues to support the Taoiseach on all matters relevant to Northern Ireland and plays an important role in co-ordinating matters relating to North South Co-operation across government departments. The work of the Division is overseen by an Assistant Secretary and is staffed by one Principal Officer; 1.9 Assistant Principals (whole time equivalent); one Higher Executive Officer; one Executive Officer and two Clerical Officers.

Departmental Expenditure

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

58 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the details of the expenses incurred for recent travel and subsistence for all the ambassadors that were recalled to Dublin for the meetings on 1 and 2 June with him and the Taoiseach; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16240/11]

As envisaged in the Programme for Government, I convened a conference of Ireland's Head of Mission abroad in Iveagh House on 1/2 June. The purpose was to ensure that our Mission network is fully briefed on the Government's new approach to promoting and marketing Ireland as a country to do business in, and strengthen their capacity to continue their ongoing work in support of the effort to repair Ireland's international reputation. The programme included a session with the State economic promotional agencies on how best to address the challenges we face and dialogue with senior representatives of the business sector on the support provided by Missions to our companies abroad and how this might be further strengthened. Every effort was made to minimise the costs associated with the conference. Specific travel and subsistence arrangements were put in place for the event. These mandated economy-class travel for all participants, including those travelling long-distance and requested Heads of Mission to make private arrangements for accommodation. Where this was not possible vouched expenses to a maximum of €75 per night were payable.

As of 17 June, claims for travel and subsistence have been received from 17 Heads of Mission totalling €3,567. It is expected that further claims will be received in the coming weeks.

In addition 45 airfares, all of which were for economy-class travel, have been paid totalling €31,433.

Proposed Legislation

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

59 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will ensure that the Prohibition of Depleted Uranium Weapons Bill will be brought before Dáil Éireann as soon as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16358/11]

Ireland does not possess, and has never possessed, any weapons, armaments or ammunition containing depleted uranium. It is the firm policy of the Government that depleted uranium munitions will never be used by the Defence Forces. To date, the research carried out by recognised relevant international organisations, including by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has concluded that depleted uranium does not pose a significant radiological risk. These reports are readily available. Other research has consistently returned inconclusive results.

Ireland has voted in favour of resolutions on depleted uranium at the United Nations since 2007. These resolutions requested the UN Secretary-General to seek the views of member states and relevant international organisations on the effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium.

In consultation with the Department of Defence, Ireland provided a national report to the UN Secretary-General in 2009. This confirmed that while there is no practical method of testing people that may have been exposed to depleted uranium, thorough medical examinations are carried out on all Defence Forces personnel returning from deployment overseas. These include tests intended to detect signs of those disease processes most likely to arise in cases of contamination with depleted uranium. To date, no evidence of an unusual incidence of disease has been found.

There is at present no international framework or treaty concerning depleted uranium munitions (and therefore no internationally agreed definition or prohibition). To achieve political traction worldwide, and the momentum required for an international ban, a necessary first step would be to conclusively establish the negative impact of depleted uranium on human health and on the environment.

The Government is supportive of further study and research by relevant international organisations and the scientific community and does not believe that it would be appropriate to introduce legislation on depleted uranium weapons at this time. A number of like-minded partners, including Austria, Canada, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan and Spain, have adopted a similar approach.

Human Rights Issues

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

60 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the National University of Ireland’s participation in awarding degrees in countries with atrocious human rights records, in view of what is happening in Bahrain now with NUI medical graduates on trial, accused of attempting to topple the government while in fact they were performing duties of care to the injured; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16582/11]

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

71 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, in view of his recent reply showing concern for the 48 surgeons, doctors, paramedics and nurses on trial in Bahrain, the reason his ambassador (details supplied) attended a graduation ceremony alongside the Prime Minister of Bahrain, Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, at RCSI Bahrain in view of the fact that those on trial were performing their duties of care to the injured and now stand accused of attempting to topple the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16580/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 60 and 71 together.

I think that it is important to distinguish between the involvement of the Royal College of Surgeons in the training of Bahraini medical personnel, which I would regard as entirely positive, and the detention of medical personnel by the Bahraini authorities, about which I have made clear the Government's concerns.

The Irish Ambassador to Saudi Arabia attended the RCSI graduation ceremony in Bahrain on 13 June, in response to an invitation from the RCSI. He did so however in a private capacity as he is not yet formally accredited to Bahrain, pending the finalisation of bilateral accreditation procedures.

As he is not yet able to make formal representations directly to the authorities in Bahrain, Ambassador Holohan met yesterday with the Bahraini Ambassador in Riyadh to inform him of my own deep concerns, already expressed in this House on a number of occasions, and those of the Irish Government and people in relation to recent events. The Ambassador also used the occasion to urge the Bahraini Ambassador to convey immediately to his authorities that all those who are charged with nothing more than peaceful protest should be released without further delay.

The Government's clear stance on current developments in Bahrain will continue to be conveyed in the fullest terms to the Bahraini authorities on all appropriate occasions, through our Embassy in Riyadh and all other appropriate channels.

In relation to the RCSI, whose graduates receive degrees awarded by the NUI, I have already made clear previously that the Royal College of Surgeons' provision of educational services in Bahrain and elsewhere is primarily an operational issue for the RCSI.

The RCSI is a private third-level institution which has its own relationships in Bahrain and which decides for itself the extent to which it wishes to comment on developments there. However, it also has to be acknowledged that the RCSI has been involved on a commercial basis in Bahrain for some years now and that the medical campus and facilities which it operates represent a very substantial investment which is of direct economic relevance to this country.

I would further like to say that I regard the activities of the RCSI in assisting with the training of foreign medical personnel overseas as a highly worthwhile activity through which the College makes a significant contribution to the quality of life of millions of people around the world.

Foreign Conflicts

John Lyons

Ceist:

61 Deputy John Lyons asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide assistance to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 who had a significant amount of money confiscated by the Tunisian Government upon leaving the country during their recent conflict; if his attention has been drawn to this happening to other Irish citizens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16100/11]

Following the information received from the Deputy, the Honorary Consulate in Tunis has written to the Tunisian Customs authorities requesting clarification as to the circumstances surrounding the confiscation of the sum and what, if any, options are available to retrieve it. When a reply is received from the Tunisian authorities, I will write to the Deputy about the matter.

My Department is not aware of any previous cases which involved the confiscation of monies from Irish citizens on departure from Tunisia.

Passport Applications

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

62 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the position regarding passport application forms (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16109/11]

Passport Fees for those aged 65 and over were announced in the December 2010 budget and were re-introduced on 11 April 2011. Since that time the new fees have been publicised on the Passport Office website www.passport.ie and on the Passport Office telephone information line. Information regarding the new fees was also issued to An Garda and to An Post, who operate the Passport Express Service used by over 60% of passport applicants. Public notices were published in national newspapers at the time of their introduction to inform the public of the new fees. In terms of printing new application forms and information notes, there is a significant cost to destroying existing forms and printing new forms. It was considered disproportionate to recall and destroy all existing stock at that time. Revised information notes and new application forms are currently being printed and will be distributed to Post Offices, Garda Stations and Libraries and Passport Offices in the coming weeks. A separate information sheet setting out passport fees will also be provided to all offices where passport application forms are available.

Trade Missions

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

63 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the work he has done regarding trade missions and identifying opportunities for inwards investment. [14507/11]

Trade and business events are included in my programme of meetings overseas wherever possible. I take every opportunity to advance Ireland's economic interests, particularly given the importance of export-led growth to our economic recovery. I have done so at meetings with my counterparts from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Norway, Australia and New Zealand in recent weeks and I will be doing so this week in Vienna. Trade missions constitute a valuable support to Irish business, in terms of establishing credibility with and gaining access to target markets. The Taoiseach will lead a trade mission to China later this year and I hope to visit Russia, Japan and Korea in the autumn myself. During the visit to Russia a meeting of the Ireland-Russia Joint Economic Commission is planned. My colleague, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, led a trade mission to India and Saudi Arabia in April.

The Export Trade Council, which will be established shortly, and which I will chair, will consider the overall programme of trade missions and seek to integrate trade, tourism and investment promotion activities. My Department, Enterprise Ireland and the Department for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, in particular, will work closely together in the planning for these trade missions.

As the Deputy will be aware, the promotion of inward investment in the manufacturing and internationally-traded services industries is a function of IDA Ireland under the aegis of the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. IDA is implementing its strategy Horizon 2020 which has ambitious targets for the period 2010 to 2014

My Department and our Embassy Network will continue to work closely with the IDA in its role of securing inward investment for Ireland, including in the emerging BRIC markets which have been identified as an important element of the Horizon 2020 strategy.

Work Permits

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

64 Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of Irish persons who took up working holiday visas in 2010 under the agreements with Argentina, Australia, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, South Korea and the USA by country; the allocation of visas here for each of the countries in 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16258/11]

Working Holiday agreements are concluded between Ireland and other Governments on a reciprocal basis. For Irish citizens the application is administered directly with the Embassy of the country to be visited or through a sponsoring organisation. The table beneath sets out the visa allocations for 2011 and the available information on the number of visas approved in 2010 In the case of Australia the programme runs from 1st July to 30th June and the figures provided reflect the period 2009/2010. The Working Holiday agreement concluded between Ireland and the United States allows those enrolled in or recently graduated from post-secondary education to apply for a visa to work and live in the United States for a period of one year.

Allocations under the Working Holiday agreements for each of the countries concerned are reviewed on a regular basis. Allocations have, however, remained unchanged over recent years with the exception of Canada, which increased an initial allocation of 2,500 to 4,000 in 2010 with a further 227 places reallocated to Ireland from other unused programmes, giving an overall figure of 4,227.

Working Holiday Agreement

No. of Visa Approvals in 2010

Allocation in 2011

Argentina

21

100

Australia

14,833

Not capped

Canada

4,227

4,000

Japan

50

400

Hong Kong

21

100

New Zealand

2,363

Not capped

South Korea

3

400

U.S.A

321

Not capped

EU Treaties

Clare Daly

Ceist:

65 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to hold a referendum on the changes to the Lisbon treaty that have been agreed at the European Council; his plans to introduce legislation in Dáil Éireann; and the timeframe envisaged for same. [16395/11]

The 24-25 March European Council adopted the Decision amending Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union in connection with the proposed new European Stability Mechanism. This Decision shall enter into force on 1 January 2013 provided that all Member States have notified the completion of the procedures for the approval of the Decision in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. Having considered the matter carefully, including the legal advice of the Attorney General, the Government is satisfied that the amendment to the Treaty is compatible with the Constitution. As no amendment of the Constitution arises, a referendum will not be required in order for Ireland to approve the amendment to Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Foreign Conflicts

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

66 Deputy Olivia Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the ambassador or any representative of the Israeli embassy has made contact with him or his Department as part of their international diplomatic offensive seeking rejection of the Palestinian attempt at the UN to receive recognition of a Palestinian State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16402/11]

Both the Israeli and Palestinian authorities have made known their views on the possibility of Palestinian action at the UN in September related to recognition of a Palestinian state. This has taken the form of copies of statements or arguments on the issues, political or technical, and transmitted via their Missions here in Dublin or our own Missions in Tel Aviv and Ramallah. I would characterise such contacts however as entirely normal and not out of the ordinary. As I have stated in answer to previous Questions, i f the issue of recognition arises at the United Nations in the autumn, the Government will consider Ireland's response very carefully. We will take into account factors such as Ireland's long-standing support for the achievement of a Palestinian State, the exact terms and nature of what may be proposed, the positions of EU partners and other friends, the progress on the wider peace process, and our assessment of the practical impact of any such decision.

It is certainly my view that there should be a State of Palestine, and very soon.

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

67 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will reiterate Ireland’s call for an independent investigation into human rights abuses, primarily committed by the Sri Lankan military in the final weeks of the Sri Lankan civil war, following the airing of a documentary (details supplied) on Tuesday, 14 June 2011. [16403/11]

Ireland fully supports the UN Panel of Experts recommendation for the establishment of an independent international mechanism to investigate the allegations of human rights violations by both the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the closing stages of the war. The content of the documentary referred to by the Deputy underlines, once again, the importance of addressing the crimes of the past as part of a process of national dialogue and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. At European Union level, a statement by High Representative Ashton on the 10 May also called for an inquiry into the allegations of misconduct by both sides to the conflict. As we know from past experience, such an investigation could make an important contribution to building lasting peace and stability in Sri Lanka. Officials from my Department have conveyed this point to the Sri Lankan authorities and as recently as last week re-iterated this at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The promotion of human rights is a key element of the Government's foreign policy towards Sri Lanka. Ireland played an active part in the European Union decision to suspend duty free access which was granted to Sri Lankan exports under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP plus) after the Sri Lankan Government failed to deliver written undertakings on human rights conventions dealing with torture, children's rights and political rights.

The international community can play an important role in facilitating dialogue and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. I would again urge the government in Colombo to co-operate fully with the UN and address the recommendations made by the Panel of Experts.

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

68 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the fact that 36 innocent Iranian citizens were killed and 350 were wounded, of whom eight were women, by Iraqi forces on 8 April 2011 at the camp Ashraf enclave in Iraq because of the withdrawal of US military protection; if he will raise the possibility at the next EU Council meeting of a United Nations presence at the camp in order to avoid further bloodshed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16458/11]

I have made clear in answer to previous questions my deep concern at recent reports of the use of force against Camp Ashraf residents in Iraq and the resulting loss of life. I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that Ireland and the EU are determined to seek a long-term and peaceful solution to the predicament of the residents of Camp Ashraf. The EU Foreign Affairs Council discussed the situation at Camp Ashraf on 23 May, emphasising the need to respect human rights. I fully support the view widely held within the Council that we must work with the UN (including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees) and US in particular, to seek a lasting resolution to this situation. However, I note that there is also no agreement as yet with the US or the UN on the future of the camp, nor any agreement as yet on the idea of the UN assuming responsibility for its protection. HR Ashton made clear at the FAC last month that more consideration was needed on what is a complex issue and a further discussion may take place at a forthcoming Foreign Affairs Council, which we would obviously welcome.

HR Ashton has clearly set out the EU position, including a strong condemnation of the recent violence in Camp Ashraf, and has conveyed this position in writing and by telephone to Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari. I particularly endorse HR Ashton's renewal of the EU's repeated call on the Iraqi government to refrain from the use of violence and to show full respect for the human rights of Camp Ashraf's residents. I also strongly support her call for a thorough and independent inquiry into the events of 8 April.

Along with our EU partners, Ireland will continue to support clear messages to the Iraqi authorities that while there are no easy remedies to the situation in Camp Ashraf, force is not the answer. Iran's sovereignty should be respected over the entire territory of Iraq, including in Camp Ashraf, but the human rights of residents of Camp Ashraf must be respected also. The Iraqi government must accept full responsibility for ensuring the protection of all those persons resident on its territory.

In actively seeking a solution, Ireland and its EU partners will continue to work with international institutions and partners, while calling upon the Iraqi government to grant access to independent international observers, to show restraint, and to seek a peaceful and sustainable solution.

Passport Applications

Jack Wall

Ceist:

69 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the reason a person (details supplied) was only issued a two year passport; if they can receive a longer validated passport in order to enable them to apply for a working and holiday visa for Canada; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16497/11]

As part of the policy to protect the integrity, security and international reputation of Irish passports, all passports which are reported lost or stolen are immediately cancelled. This cancellation notice is circulated to worldwide border control agencies through Interpol on a daily basis. The Passport Service treats the loss of a passport as a serious issue. Passport Service policy has been developed in accordance with EU regulations and our international obligations to other States in relation to lost and stolen passports. In relation to this specific case, the passport holder lost his two most recent passports. Where a citizen has a poor passport record, such as in any case where two or more passports have been lost, restrictions will apply to the validity period of the next passport obtained. In this specific case, a restricted passport with two years' validity was issued in February 2010. Should the Passport holder now require a passport with at least twelve months validity, he is entitled to apply for a new passport at any time and to return his current passport for cancellation. A decision on whether to restrict the validity of any subsequent passport will be made at the time of his application. In any event, the minimum validity period of any new passport would be two years which would enable the person to apply for a Canadian visa. The general advice to citizens remains that passports are valuable documents and should be kept it in a safe place while at home and looked after carefully when travelling.

Nicky McFadden

Ceist:

70 Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the delays currently being experienced by passport applicants (details supplied), particularly those who have paid extra money for passport express in order that their passports may be allocated on time. [16573/11]

Passport demand is currently running at a level 12% above other comparable years and this has resulted in a temporary backlog of approximately 4 days in the processing of Passport Express applications. The Passport Service regrets the delay and any difficulties caused in this regard. Notice of the current extended turnaround time and its likely duration has been published on the Passport Service website www.passport.ie since 18 April 2011. It is regularly updated. The Passport Service has also informed An Post so that customers can be advised of the situation at the point of application

The exceptional peak season demand on all passport services is being tackled by the recruitment of 85 additional temporary staff and the use of overtime. The ongoing efforts in this regard will see the Passport Service bring processing times back to normal levels in the coming weeks.

In terms of the application in question, a parent of the applicant was in direct contact with the Passport Service's Customer Care Unit to arrange the collection of the applicant's passport, which was issued on 16 June.

Question No. 71 answered with Question No.60.

Human Rights Issues

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

72 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the action he will take to ensure that the EU’s 2013 country strategy for Colombia supports the return of peasant farmers, Afro-Colombians and indigenous peoples, to their land under the new victims’ law of 25 May 2011. [16581/11]

I welcome the adoption of the Victims Law and Land Restitution Law. The Deputy can rest assured that Ireland will support the Government of Colombia in its implementation of this important and far-reaching legislation, including within the framework of the next EU Country Strategy for Colombia. The 2007-2013 EU Country Strategy paper for Colombia recognises that the "situation as regards human rights and democracy in Colombia is still critical" and that "the most vulnerable groups include indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombians, as well as, inter alia, social leaders, trade-union leaders, journalists and human rights defenders".

The approach of Ireland, and indeed of the European Union, in the drafting of the next Country Strategy for Colombia, will continue to be one of support for the implementation by the Colombian Government of concrete steps that address the consequences of decades of terrorism. The Victims Law is one such step.

Pension Provisions

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

73 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Finance if office holders who own approved retirement funds, ARFs, are obliged to declare these to him and to the Standards in Public Office Commission in view of the fact that these were not subject to the recent pension levy introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16156/11]

All members of the Oireachtas including office holders are required under the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995 to disclose annually their registerable interests to the Standards in Public Office Commission. If at any time in a registration period (i.e. a calendar year to 31 December) an Oireachtas member including an office holder has a holding of shares, bonds, debentures or other like investments , with an aggregate nominal or market value in excess of €13,000, in respect of any one company or enterprise or undertaking, the Oireachtas member including an office holder is required to disclose the holding in his or her annual statement of registerable interests to the Standards Commission.

A holding does not include money in a current, deposit or other similar account, but does include a holding in unit trusts, managed funds or equity based accounts. An approved retirement fund would be a like investment and would require disclosure where in excess of the €13,000 threshold.

An office holder would also be required to disclose the holding regardless of value to the Taoiseach and the Standards Commission if it were to represent a material interest in an official function which fell to be performed by him or her. The Taoiseach would disclose an interest in those circumstances to the Chairman of the Standards Commission.

Economic and Monetary Union

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

74 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance if the establishment of the European stabilisation mechanism will lead to further centralised EU control over national budgetary and economic policies; the level of contribution that will be required from Ireland to the fund; if the establishment of the permanent ESM requires amendments to the EU treaties and will the establishment of the permanent ESM requires ratification by referendum in Ireland. [16217/11]

The European Stability Mechanism will replace the temporary mechanisms of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism (EFSM). The purpose of the ESM will be to arrange funding and provide financial assistance, under strict economic policy conditionality, to the benefit of such ESM Members as may be either experiencing, or threatened by, severe financing problems, if seen as indispensable to safeguarding the financial stability of the euro area as a whole. The establishment of the ESM does not of itself change the role of the EU in relation to national economic and budgetary policies. Access to ESM financial assistance will be provided on the basis of strict fiscal and economic policy conditionality for the duration of the support programme. This will be accompanied by a rigorous analysis of public-debt sustainability, which will be conducted by the EU Commission together with the IMF and in liaison with the ECB. The objective of such support programmes is to return the country involved to the financial markets as soon as possible. Strict budgetary and economic policy conditionality is already a condition of the funding provided to any Member State under the EFSM, EFSF and indeed funding from the International Monetary Fund.

Under the proposed ESM Treaty, the capital structure of the ESM will have a total subscribed capital of €700 billion. Of this amount, €80 billion will be in the form of paid-in capital by the Euro Area Member States, paid in five equal annual instalments from July 2013. The balance of €620bn will be callable capital. The contribution key for each Member State is based on the ECB capital contribution key. For Ireland the key is 1.592% of the total paid and committed capital. Thus, Ireland's share of €80 billion will be just above €1.27 billion, to be paid in five equal instalments starting in July 2013. Ireland's share of the €620bn callable capital will amount to €9.87 billion.

On 25 March 2011, the European Council adopted Decision 2011/199/EU amending Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union with regard to a stability mechanism for Member States whose currency is the euro adding the following paragraph to Article 136: "The Member States whose currency is the euro may establish a stability mechanism to be activated if indispensable to safeguard the stability of the euro area as a whole. The granting of any required financial assistance under the mechanism will be made subject to strict conditionality".

Primary legislation will be required to enable Ireland to ratify the ESM Treaty and implement its decisions. Based on the existing text, the Attorney General's Office has confirmed a referendum will not be required for the adoption of the ESM Treaty.

Pension Provisions

Derek Keating

Ceist:

75 Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Finance the percentage of judges who have voluntarily agreed to a contribution equivalent to the pension levy in accordance with the provisions of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16263/11]

This is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. Section 161 of the Finance Act 2010 provides for a voluntary scheme that enables members of the Judiciary to make a gift to the State of an equivalent amount to the pension related deduction imposed on State employees under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009. Subsection (8) of that Section provides that, inter alia, the Revenue Commissioners shall publish for each year of assessment details of the number of donors who avail of this scheme in the year. I understand that the Revenue Commissioners published information in their Annual Report for 2010, in accordance with Subsection (8), which shows that 126 Judges participated in the Scheme in 2010.

Tax Code

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

76 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will review a matter (details supplied) in respect of a person in Dublin 9. [16186/11]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that this is a complex case with a considerable tax debt. They have been in contact with the person concerned and his tax advisor regarding arrears outstanding. Following a review of this case, and pending receipt of a signed statement from the person, the Revenue Commissioners would hope to quickly resolve the issue.

Disabled Drivers

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

77 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider the awarding of a primary medical certificate under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994 to persons or family members of persons with autism. [16194/11]

The Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme provides relief from VAT and Vehicle Registration Tax (up to a certain limit), and exemption from motor tax, on the purchase of an adapted car for transport of a person with specific severe and permanent physical disabilities. The disability criteria for these concessions are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. To get a Primary Medical Certificate, an applicant must be permanently and severely disabled within the terms of these Regulations. Some 13,500 people have benefited under the scheme in 2010 at an overall estimated cost of €55 million. I have no plans to widen the exemption qualification criteria.

Tax Reliefs

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

78 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding mortgage interest relief; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16200/11]

There is a commitment in the Programme for Government to help homeowners in distress. The Government will examine a number of proposals in relation to this commitment. One of these proposals relates to increasing mortgage interest relief to 30% for First Time Buyers who bought between 2004 and 2008 and to finance this in part by abolishing mortgage interest relief for new buyers. When this proposal has been thoroughly examined, I will decide on the appropriate action to be taken. However, any measures will not be introduced before Budget 2012.

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

79 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding tax reliefs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16201/11]

Section 248 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 provided unrestricted relief for individuals in respect of interest on monies borrowed to purchase directly or indirectly (such as through a holding company) an interest in, or make a loan to, a trading company. This relief was abolished in Budget 2011. In recognition of the impact that immediate withdrawal of the relief would have, it was decided to gradually phase out the relief by reducing the amount of relief available on current loans to 75% of the interest payable in 2011, 50% in 2012, 25% in 2013 and 0% in 2014. Furthermore, any loans taken out after 7 December 2010 will not qualify for relief at all. I would be happy to respond directly to the Deputy if there are any specific cases about the impact of these changes he wishes to bring to my attention.

Financial Services Regulation

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Ceist:

80 Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance when he will publish the Strategic Review of the Credit Union Sector carried out by Grant Thornton on behalf of the Financial Regulator. [16203/11]

I have no plans to publish the Grant Thornton report Strategic Review of the Credit Union Sector, at this time. The report provides a detailed factual overview and expert assessment of the risk profile of the credit union sector as a whole, including specific proposals to strengthen the prudential soundness of credit unions. Due to the commercially sensitive and prudential nature of the information contained throughout the report, it is not suitable for release at this time.

The findings of the report will now feed into the work of the Commission on Credit Unions which was established by Government on 31 May 2011 and met for the first time on 20 June 2011. The Commission will review the future of the credit union movement and make recommendations in relation to the most effective regulatory structure for the sector. In carrying out its work, the Commission will take into account credit unions' not-for-profit mandate, their volunteer ethos and community focus, while paying due regard to the need to fully protect depositors' savings and financial stability.

Credit Availability

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

81 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Finance when the partial loan guarantee scheme will be up and running; when he will be setting up a bank dedicated to helping the small and medium enterprise sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16204/11]

As part of the Jobs Initiative announced in this House on 10th May, both the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and I confirmed the Government commitment to initiating a tendering process for the development of a temporary partial credit guarantee scheme. A call for competition for the design of a scheme was published on e-tenders on 15th June on behalf of the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. The design of the scheme will draw from international experience to support new lending that would not otherwise have been extended by the banks. In this way, the scheme will be limited in its scope and will complement, rather than be a substitute for, existing lending activities by the main financial institutions. It will be designed to encourage banks to lend to these new or expanding commercially viable SMEs so that they can grow their company, develop new products or expand into new markets.

The Government's commitment will be for an initial period of one year. Specific performance criteria will be set down that allow for review and revision of the scheme at the end of that initial period before committing to a roll-over of the scheme for subsequent years.

It is intended that the scheme will be in place in the autumn. Ensuring that a strategic investment bank is operating in the domestic banking market, providing finance to large capital projects and acting as a conduit for venture capital as well as a lender to SMEs, is an objective in the Programme for Government. As the Deputy will be aware a comprehensive programme of bank recapitalisation and restructuring is currently underway following my statement on the future banking landscape in Ireland at the end of March last. The essential detailed assessment and planning work to meet this objective will be accelerated once the Government's key immediate objectives for the repair of the banking system have been completed.

In the interim, it is important to make the point that important steps have already been taken to ensure that there is sufficient credit availability to meet the needs of the SME sector. These include the capacity being available under the pillar banks' deleveraging and restructuring plans to provide new lending which is estimated to be more than sufficient to meet the needs of the economy including the SME sector.

Fiscal Policy

Joe Costello

Ceist:

82 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Finance his plans to extend the car scrappage scheme past 30 June 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16227/11]

I have no plans to extend the car scrappage scheme beyond 30 June 2011.

Public Sector Staff

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

83 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a detailed breakdown of each of the public service sectors employment control frameworks up to and including 2014. [16261/11]

The details of each of the public service sectors employment control frameworks up to and including 2014 are set out in the table below. A revised table will be published following the completion of Transfers of Functions and the Comprehensive Spending Review.

2011

2012

2013

2014

Numbers ceilings *

301,000

298,800

296,500

294,700

of which:

Civil Service

36,200

35,800

35,250

34,600

Health Sector

105,300

103,800

102,300

100,800

Education

93,300

94,100

95,050

95,750

Justice

13,750

13,600

13,400

13,250

of which Gardaí:

13,500

13,350

13,150

13,000

Defence

10,500

10,400

10,300

10,300

Local Authorities

30,750

30,400

30,000

30,000

NCSAs**

11,200

10,700

10,200

10,000

*Number rounded to the nearest 50 whole-time equivalents

**Non-Commercial State Agencies.

Vehicle Registration

Patrick O'Donovan

Ceist:

84 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider amending vehicle registration forms to include PPS numbers. [16271/11]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the PPS number is required at the time of registration when private individuals are registering the vehicle at an NCTS Centre. In the case of a vehicle being registered by a car dealer, the PPS number or the VAT number of the dealer is required. In cases where new vehicles registered by Authorised Traders via the Revenue on-line System, a PPS number is not requested as the Revenue Commissioners do not ask members of the public to give their PPS numbers to a garage. However in all instances where relief is sought from Vehicle Registration Tax the PPS number is required. It should be noted that there is no Vehicle Registration Tax form as the registration process is an electronic process.

Financial Institutions Support Scheme

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

85 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a month by month breakdown of bonds due to mature in Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society detailing their value, date of maturity and category; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16273/11]

The information requested by the Deputy is being collated by my Department and will be provided directly to him as soon as possible.

Freedom of Information

Kevin Humphreys

Ceist:

86 Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Finance his plans to make the Data Protection Commission subject to the Office of the Ombudsman or the Freedom of Information Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16274/11]

The Programme for Government proposes to extend the Freedom of Information Acts and the remit of the Ombudsman. The Freedom of Information Acts are currently being reviewed in light of the Programme for Government commitment to inform the preparation of appropriate legislative amendments for consideration by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in the first instance and the Government in due course.

The Ombudsman (Amendment) Bill 2008 completed all stages in the Dáil in June 2010 and is currently awaiting second stage in the Seanad. The Bill has significantly extended the remit of the Ombudsman to a much wider range of public bodies. The inclusion of additional bodies will be reviewed in line with the Government Reform Agenda over the coming months.

Economic Growth

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

87 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the economic growth rates for the years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010; his forecast growth rates for the same periods; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16304/11]

The table shows the Department of Finance's GDP forecasts for the period 2005 to 2010 as well as the outturns, as currently estimated by the CSO. The Department's forecasts are those presented at the time of the annual Budget. Also included in the table are the relevant projections made by other domestic and international institutions. For consistency, all forecast figures are taken from the Budget documentation published each December (or October in one case).

Actual GDP

Department of Finance

Central Bank

European Commission

IMF

2005

6.0

5.1

4.8

5.0

2006

5.3

4.8

4.8

4.9

2007

5.6

5.3

5.3

5.4

2008

-3.5

3.0

3.5

3.0

2009

-7.6

-0.8

-0.9

-0.9

-0.6

2010

-1.0

-1.3

-2.3

-1.4

-2.5

In the supplementary Budget for 2009, published in April 2009, my Department projected that GDP would contract by -7.7 per cent; the actual outturn was -7.6 per cent. As for 2010, notwithstanding continued high uncertainty, the accuracy of the Department of Finance's forecast was considerably better than those of some other institutions.

The Deputy will note that even in normal circumstances short-term economic forecasting is not an exact science, given the many dynamic components which constitute an economy.

While the Deputy asked for material from 2005, I would also point out that an analysis of my Departments macro-economic forecasts, contained in Budget 2006, showed that the Department of Finance's forecasts over the period 1997-2004 were amongst the most accurate of those produced by the major domestic and international economic forecasters.

Banks Recapitalisation

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

88 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance his views on the €30.5 billion that has been designated to banks participating in the National Asset Management Agency; the amount of this money that has been returned by those banks to the European Central Bank; the instruments in place for ensuring that this money is available for lending to Irish citizens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16323/11]

I presume the Deputy's question refers to the value of the bonds issued by NAMA to the institutions participating in the Scheme. These bonds are available to be used by these institutions to obtain liquidity from the normal monetary operations of the Eurosystem. This funding plays an important role in supporting the domestic banking system and in facilitating their lending into the economy. The Deputy will be aware that the banking system restructuring plan creates capacity for the two Pillar Banks, Bank of Ireland and AIB, to provide lending in excess of €30 billion in the next three years. SME and new mortgage lending for these banks is expected to be in the range of €16-20bn over this period. In each bank, a team of senior managers will be dedicated to the task of ensuring lending continues to grow to support economic growth. This lending capacity is incorporated into the banks' deleveraging plans which allow for repayment of Central Bank funding through asset run-off and disposals over the period to 2013.

Both pillar banks provide my Department with monthly figures on balance sheet volumes, sanctioned facilities and geographic and industrial breakdowns of their SME lending. The Deputy may also be aware that under the terms of the government recapitalisation, both banks also produce a quarterly report which incorporates figures for sanctions and drawdowns by SMEs. The data contained in these reports will continue to be reviewed and analysed by my Department and the Credit Review Office to ensure that the banks are compliant with the terms of the Government recapitalisation as it relates to the provision of credit for SMEs.

As I have said before the Credit Review Office will, on application from the borrower, carry out an independent and impartial review of a bank's decision to refuse or reduce credit. This is another means of ensuring that the money is lent to the productive sector. I would strongly advise anyone who has unsuccessfully appealed through the bank's own internal appeals process to seek a review by the Credit Review Office.

Flood Relief

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

89 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Finance if urgent remedial works will be carried out at a location (details supplied) in County Kerry as a matter of urgency. [16324/11]

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

90 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Finance if urgent remedial works will be carried out at a location (details supplied) in County Kerry as a matter of urgency. [16325/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 90 together.

The Office of Public Works received a number of funding applications from Kerry County Council on 31 May, 2011, under the Minor Flood Works & Coastal Protection Scheme. These applications include requests for funding to undertake embankment strengthening works at Cromane (north end) and Incherea. No application has been submitted by the Council specifically in respect of works at the Glosha Embankment, which is located at the south- east end of Cromane spit. The proposals received are currently being assessed in accordance with the scheme criteria, and having regard to the overall availability of resources for flood risk management.

Departmental Expenditure

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

91 Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Finance if the comprehensive spending review will be completed by the end of July 2011 for use in the preparation of the Estimates process and if he will publish the review as soon as it is completed in July. [16327/11]

All Ministers are currently engaged with their Departments in completing Reviews of all expenditure under their auspices, including in public service agencies. Arising from this exercise, Expenditure Reports will prepared by each Department, and be evaluated by the official level Steering Committee by end July. The final reports will be presented to the Government Economic Management Committee in September. The results of the Comprehensive Review process will then be brought before Government for consideration and decision in the annual Budget and Estimates process. The question of publication of the outcome of the Comprehensive Review in respect of each Department will arise for consideration in that overall context.

National Asset Management Agency

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

92 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Finance with reference to citizens whose businesses and or personal finances are affected by the National Asset Management Agency and in the context of section 221 of the National Asset Management Agency Act 2009, the way such persons may secure information and fair process; if reforms are being considered in this context; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16328/11]

Section 221 of the National Asset Management Agency Act 2009 provides that, subject to exceptions covered in subsections 3 and 4, a person who communicates on behalf of another person with, amongst others, NAMA and a NAMA group entity, with the intention of influencing the making of a decision in relation to the performance of the functions of NAMA or the NAMA group entity, commits an offence. Section 221(3) and (4) provides for circumstances where communication with NAMA is not an offence. These circumstances are: where the communication is published; is made without an intention to benefit, or confer an advantage on, any specific person; is made in the public interest; or where the person who makes the communication concerned is acting in his or her professional capacity or in the course of his or her employment and does so in that capacity. These provisions allow citizens who believe that their business or personal finances are affected by NAMA to make enquiries about these issues by direct contact with NAMA as long as the contact is consistent with the requirements of subsections 3 and 4.

I am in discussion with NAMA about making improvements in the availability of information within the confines of the legislation.

Tax Collection

John Browne

Ceist:

93 Deputy John Browne asked the Minister for Finance when a tax clearance certificate will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford. [16333/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the person concerned will receive a Tax Clearance Certificate within ten days.

Public Private Partnership

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

94 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a breakdown of the moneys due to be paid out of Exchequer funds under public private partnerships, including the annual amount to be paid under each individual contract; the number of years remaining on each individual contract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16337/11]

I would refer the Deputy to Chapter Five of the Report of the Comptroller & Auditor General 2009 (Volume 1) which was published in September 2010. This chapter, entitled "Financial Commitments under Public Private Partnerships," provides information about the financial commitments entered into by central Government departments and agencies under PPP contracts. Figures for 2010 will appear in the Comptroller and Auditor General's Report for 2010 which will be published later this year. The Deputy will be aware that my Department has put in place the overall PPP investment framework, including the framework for the appraisal, assessment, procurement and evaluation of projects. Individual Departments are responsible for the projects and programmes in their areas, within that overall framework. Further details about individual projects can be obtained directly from the relevant Department.

Insurance Industry

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

95 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Finance the arrangements being put in place to ensure that a person (details supplied) in County Galway will be able to get flood insurance for their house in the event that the Department of Social Protection decides that they are not eligible for re-location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16340/11]

The question of providing cover to new policyholders or renewing it for existing ones is a matter for each insurance company to decide on a case by case basis. This allows a company to assess properly the risk it is considering accepting. Consequently, I am not in a position to comment on particular cases as neither the Central Bank nor I, as Minister for Finance, have any influence over such matters. However, it should be noted that the industry has informed my Department that it is reluctant to discontinue flood cover for existing policyholders, and would generally only do where there have been repeated claims. The best option open to a person who is unable to get cover or to renew it is to contact the Irish Insurance Federation which operates a free Information Service in order to discuss the matter. Their service can be contacted at (01) 6761914 or by email at iis@iif.ie.

Tax Code

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

96 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the introduction of a carbon tax on coal fuel. [16381/11]

The section in the Finance Act 2010 that provides for the application of the carbon tax to solid fuels (coal and commercial peat) is subject to a Ministerial Commencement Order. This approach was primarily adopted by the previous Government in order to allow time for a robust mechanism to be put in place to improve the control of high sulphur coal being sourced from Northern Ireland suppliers. As the Deputy may be aware, in that context the Department of the Environment in conjunction with the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) proposed new regulations for coal which would effectively extend the existing voluntary agreement for low sulphur coal to the entire State on a regulatory basis. A stakeholder committee was established to provide an input into the proposed regulations. Under EU law dealing with technical barriers to trade, Member States are required to notify the European Commission of all draft technical regulations concerning products before they are adopted in national law. Formal notification of the proposed new standard for coal issued from NSAI to the EU Commission in November 2010.

Following acceptance of the proposal by the EU Commission, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has recently introduced a new specification for the sulphur content of coal placed on the market for residential use in Ireland. This has been given legal effect through the Air Pollution Act, 1987 (Marketing, Sale and Distribution of Fuels) (Amendment) Regulations 2011.

In light of these developments, the issue of coal with a high sulphur content potentially being sourced from Northern Ireland has been addressed. In those circumstances the timing of the application of the carbon tax to solid fuels, as had been planned, will be considered.

National Asset Management Agency

Clare Daly

Ceist:

97 Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Finance the amount paid to solicitors employed by the National Asset Management Agency; the fee structure; the number of solicitors retained by NAMA and their rate of remuneration. [16393/11]

There are 16 solicitors or para-legal staff working in the Legal & Tax division of NAMA. The National Asset Management Agency Act 2009 (Section 42) provides that all officers of NAMA are National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) employees. The remuneration packages of all NTMA staff are negotiated on an individual contract basis and are confidential.

NAMA has also established panels for the provision of some legal services. A total of 42 Solicitor firms were appointed to an Enforcement and Re-financing Panel for both Ireland and the UK on 29 October 2010. To date 29 firms have been assigned work from this Panel. A total of 64 Solicitor firms were appointed to a Legal Due Diligence Panel on 28 November 2009. To date 18 firms have been assigned work from this Panel. A number of these firms have been appointed to more than one Panel.

As regards fees and remuneration, NAMA informs me that the contractual details of all contracts between the Agency and individual service providers are negotiated on a case by case basis, are commercially sensitive and are confidential. However, the NAMA Quarterly Report for the 4th Quarter of 2010 shows an unaudited aggregate figure of €3.099 million for legal and tax fees in 2010. I also am advised by NAMA that all major contracts awarded by it since its inception have been awarded through www.etenders.gov.ie, the website for Irish public tenders and have been fully compliant with standard public procurement procedures, which require that the most economically advantageous bid be accepted. The names of all successful service providers to NAMA are published on the NAMA website at www.nama.ie/TendersIntro.php .

Tax Code

Dara Murphy

Ceist:

98 Deputy Dara Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider a risk equalisation within the alcohol retail industry by way of a reduction in excise paid by public houses which would be offset by an increase in excise paid by off-licences to narrow the pricing gap that currently exists between the two sectors. [16409/11]

It is assumed that the Deputy is referring to the annual alcohol excise licence fees payable by the on- and off-trade respectively. In that context it has to be recognized that the main Exchequer receipts for the sale of alcohol arises from excise on alcohol products, which for example yielded €968m in 2009, compared to a yield of around €13.6m in respect of all alcohol excise licence fees. Off-licence owners require a licence for each type of alcohol they sell, for each premises. Excise duty on off-licences is currently set at €500 each per licence for a beer, wine or spirits off-licence, having been increased in recent years. This means that a typical off-licence premises, including a supermarket, offering the full range of alcoholic beverages for sale will have three off-licences and will be paying €1,500 per annum in duty.

Pubs have a graduated licence duty fee structure based on turnover ranging from €250 to €3,805 (total of 6 bands). However, over 70% of pubs fall within the two lowest bands and pay excise duty of €505 or less. Some 85% of pubs pay annual licence fees of €1,140 or less — i.e. well below the usual full off-licence trader at €1,500 per annum. Indeed only around 10% of pubs pay licence fees that are clearly above those of off-licence traders, but the amounts involved are minor compared to the overall tax take otherwise from alcohol. The average licence fee paid by the on-trade is around €778.

It is difficult, therefore, to accept that there is a great deal of inequity in the present arrangements, and I have no plans to change them.

Museum Projects

Eric J. Byrne

Ceist:

99 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the Irish children’s museum, which is planned for a site adjacent to Heuston Station, Dublin; his plans regarding this project; when building work will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16423/11]

Advancing the proposed Children's Museum project at a site at Heuston Gate, Kilmainham, Dublin, is entirely dependent on the availability of State capital funding. In the current economic environment, I cannot state when building work will commence.

Financial Sector Restructuring

Michael McCarthy

Ceist:

100 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Finance when he expects the promised two universal full service domestic banks to be fully operational; when the re-structuring process of Irish Life & Permanent is expected to be complete; if he will publish a progress report on the planned re-organisation of the banking sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16426/11]

The Deputy will be aware from my Statement on Banking on 31 March 2011 that the future of Ireland's banking landscape will be built around the two Pillar Banks, Bank of Ireland and AIB. Each of these banks has already begun to reorganize their operations into core and non-core functions and to implement a carefully managed programme of deleveraging. Both Bank of Ireland and AIB have submitted revised deleveraging plans for consideration by the Central Bank of Ireland. It is important to note that both banks are fully operational and continue to provide an important service to their customers. In my Statement on Banking, I said that the Irish banking system needs to be reduced to a size appropriate to our economy. Our banks will become smaller, more focused on core operations, better funded and better capitalised. In that context I announced that the operations of AIB and EBS would be combined to build a second Pillar bank from the strengths of both institutions. I expect this merger to be completed in early July 2011. The Deputy will be aware that the Memorandum of Understanding between the Irish Government and the EU/IMF requires that the legal merger procedure be completed not later than end September 2011.

Irish Life and Permanent are required to submit their Restructuring Plan to the European Commission for approval by 31 July 2011 and the process to effect the sale of ILP's life insurance subsidiary, Irish Life Assurance has begun and it is expected it will be offered for sale by the end of October 2011. A fundamental element of Government Strategy has been to restore a functioning banking system and the Government has made particular commitments to recapitalising the banks and restructuring the banking sector as part of its Programme for Government. This radical restructuring of the banking system is designed to put our banking system on a firm footing which is essential to Ireland's economic recovery.

Credit Unions

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

101 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the options available to the credit union movement in relation to the ratio of loan losses and the risk to the viability of some credit unions; the solutions he is considering; the details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16466/11]

The Deputy will be aware that under the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland, stress tests and loan book reviews on credit unions have been completed by the Central Bank of Ireland. The purpose of this work was to provide the Central Bank of Ireland with the necessary regulatory information to concentrate its supervisory focus and, where necessary, to take pre-emptive remedial action to maintain member confidence and protect the financial stability of the credit union sector. The Registrar of Credit Unions at the Central Bank is working closely with those credit unions that require particular attention at this time. More broadly, and also as part of the EU/IMF Programme, I have prepared a strategy to enhance the viability of credit unions. I intend to bring this strategy to Government shortly after which time it may be published.

The Commission on Credit Unions was established by Government on 31 May 2011 and met for the first time on 20 June 2011. The Commission will review the future of the credit union movement and make recommendations in relation to the most effective regulatory structure for credit unions. In carrying out its work, the Commission will take into account credit unions' not-for-profit mandate, their volunteer ethos and community focus, while paying due regard to the need to fully protect depositors' savings and financial stability. I have also asked the Commission on Credit Unions to examine the Strategy and make recommendations to me as Minister for Finance regarding any relevant proposals.

Tax Collection

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

102 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance , further to Parliamentary Question No. 245 of 12 January 2011, if contact was made with an employer (details supplied), who has failed to obtain a refund of income tax paid, notwithstanding that the taxable income in respect of the relevant year was in respect of income earned in the year previous to that asserted by the Revenue Commissioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16516/11]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, as advised in our letter of 6 January 2011, contact was made with the employer in January 2011. However, the details necessary to carry out reviews have not yet been made available to Revenue. Contact has again been made, today, with the employer to obtain these details.

Disabled Drivers

Noel Coonan

Ceist:

103 Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Finance if there is finance available to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary who was refused on appeal a primary medical certificate and is seeking to purchase a specially adapted vehicle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16559/11]

The initial application for a Primary Medical Certificate under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994, is made to the Senior Medical Officer of the relevant local Health Service Executive (HSE) administrative area. If the Primary Medical Certificate is refused, the person may appeal the refusal to the Medical Board of Appeal, National Rehabilitation Hospital, Rochestown Avenue, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin.

I understand the person appealed the decision of the Senior Medical Officer not to grant a Primary Medical Certificate and the appeal was subsequently refused by the Medical Board of Appeal. If the person wishes to apply again for a Primary Medical Certificate, the application to the Senior Medical Officer must be accompanied by a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner indicating that the practitioner has formed the opinion that the medical condition of the person concerned has materially disimproved since the previous application. I would point out that the Medical Board of Appeal is independent in the exercise of its functions.

I understand that the HSE administers both the Mobility Allowance and Motorised Transport Grant Schemes, which the person may be eligible for.

Data Protection

Michael Creed

Ceist:

104 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Finance if he will clarify the situation regarding the Revenue Commissioners and their engagement with public representatives on behalf of clients who have clearly authorised the Revenue to discuss details of their personal finances and tax matters with public representatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16572/11]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that all processing of personal taxpayer information by Revenue is carried out in accordance with the Data (Protection) Acts. A general principle of Irish data protection law is that the data controller needs the consent of the data subject in order to disclose personal tax information to a third party. Revenue has a duty to protect the confidentiality of taxpayer information, both personal and commercial, which is now formalised by s.77 Finance Act 2011. Revenue staff are expected to take great care to protect taxpayers' information and accordingly, where enquiries of a general nature are made, for example, by telephone to Revenue it is not unreasonable that staff should request the appropriate evidence of consent in advance of passing on or discussing personal taxpayer information.

However, Revenue fully recognise the role of public representatives in relation to their constituents. When Deputies make representations on behalf of individual taxpayers, these representations normally contain personal information such as individual's PPS Number or other personal tax identifiers. In these circumstances there is generally sufficient evidence to reasonably support Revenue in a presumption of consent on the part of the taxpayer to third party representation on their behalf.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that this approach is working well; for example, in the year 2010 more than three hundred and seventy representations were directed to the Chairman of the Revenue Commissioners by public representatives in relation to individual taxpayer issues.

The Revenue Commissioners advise me that they have a dedicated enquiry line for members of the Houses of the Oireachtas, which can be reached on (01) 6795852.

FÁS Training Programmes

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

105 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding a national craft certificate in respect of a person (details supplied). [16512/11]

My Department has been in touch with FÁS and it has set out the position below in regard to this case. The requirements for the Award of the National Craft Certificate are as follows. Those who completed an apprenticeship from 1st September 1986 must provide proof that they have: documentary evidence of registration with AnCO/FÁS; acceptable documentary evidence of having completed the appropriate period of apprenticeship; proof of having been awarded the Department of Education Senior Trade Certificate.

FÁS can facilitate those who do not meet the educational requirements above to validate their competence through the Standards Based Apprenticeship Programme. Applicants must undertake the Phase 6 examinations in lieu of the Junior/Senior Trades Examinations.

Applicants who do not fulfil the above requirements and wish to have their competence validated are required to sit and pass the final off-the-job Phase examination of the Standard Based Apprenticeship Programme. FÁS Apprenticeship Services has not received an application from the person in question for either of these facilities.

Vocational Education Committees

Emmet Stagg

Ceist:

106 Deputy Emmet Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will direct Offaly Vocational Education Committee to honour its commitments to an organisation (details supplied) for funding in 2011. [16604/11]

I understand from County Offaly Vocational Education Committee (VEC) that in January 2009 it notified the project referred to by the Deputy that funding would be phased out over the three years to end-2011.

By way of background, my Department funds adult and community education through annual grants to VECs which deliver these courses locally. The disbursement of funds is a matter for each VEC, which, subject to its budget, decides the nature and extent of the adult and community education courses to be provided in its area. The organisation and location of courses are also matters for decision by the VECs.

School Staffing

Patrick O'Donovan

Ceist:

107 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will examine the proposed staffing levels for September 2011 at a school (details supplied) in County Limerick, with a view to sustaining the current teacher numbers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16706/11]

Dan Neville

Ceist:

111 Deputy Dan Neville asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will ensure that a school (details supplied) in County Limerick will be retained as a four-teacher school. [16114/11]

Niall Collins

Ceist:

128 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will grant a fourth teacher to a school (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16404/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 107, 111 and 128 together.

The criteria used for the allocation of teachers to schools is published annually on my Department's website. The key factor for determining the level of staffing resources provided at individual school level is the staffing schedule for the relevant school year and pupil enrolments on the previous 30 September. The staffing schedule for the 2011-2012 school year was published on my Department's website in March 2011.

The staffing schedule also includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeal Board. It is open to any Board of Management to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent Appeal Board. Details of the criteria for appeal are contained in the staffing schedule, Circular 0019/2011. The final staffing position for all schools will ultimately not be known until the Autumn. At that stage the allocation process will be fully completed for mainstream classroom teachers and any appeals to the Staffing Appeals Boards will have been considered.

State Examinations

David Stanton

Ceist:

108 Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties with the leaving certificate higher level maths paper 1; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16846/11]

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

117 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the leaving certificate higher level mathematics paper 1 that was issued to students on Friday, 10 June 2011, with reference to the construction and phraseology of questions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16238/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 and 117 together.

The State Examinations Commission has operational responsibility for the certificate examinations. I have been advised that the State Examinations Commission (SEC) is satisfied that the questions asked on the Mathematics paper are within the parameters of the syllabus. In respect of specific queries which have been raised the SEC has confirmed that Question 7(b) as presented is correct and that the material examined in Question 8(c) is within the syllabus.

Comments and observations regarding test instruments are an intrinsic part of the feedback that SEC would expect to receive in any year. The well-tried methodology in place to deal with issues that arise in the course of the examination process is the development of the marking scheme by the Chief Examiner and his college of examiners in light of the circumstances of that year's examinations. All observations received in relation to a subject are reviewed by the Chief Examiner in the context of preparing the marking scheme for that subject. I am satisfied that the SEC has well-established procedures in place to ensure that assessment procedures operate in accordance with the principles of fairness, equity and quality assurance.

Schools Building Projects

Paschal Donohoe

Ceist:

109 Deputy Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the poor physical conditions of a school (details supplied); if he will consider the use of a site (details further supplied) for a relocation of the school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16105/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that in recent months my Department has approved emergency funding for works to the water main, for roof repairs and for sewerage works at the school to which he refers. My Department is committed to providing a permanent building for this school and in this regard, officials in my Department have conducted technical inspections of two properties at the request of the school authority. The site referred to by the Deputy is the preferred option identified and a proposal has been forwarded to the land owner for consideration. My Department is currently awaiting a response to this proposal.

Higher Education Grants

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

110 Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will amend the higher education grant circular of 3 May 2011 to limit the changes in criteria to only the new students who are starting their academic career in September-October 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16110/11]

The Deputy is referring to the changes to the student grant schemes introduced under Budget 2011 by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government. I regret that the economic circumstances of the country are such that I am not in a position to reverse any of the changes or to limit them to new students.

Question No. 111 answered with Question No. 107.

Schools Building Projects

Michael Creed

Ceist:

112 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Skills if, in view of projected enrolment and the requirement for additional classroom accommodation in the near future, he will review the financial allocation made to a school (details supplied) in County Cork which has been sanctioned for the purpose of the provision of a single additional classroom; if he will provide a further additional allocation in order that a school may proceed with proposals to provide two additional classrooms for which it has secured planning permission and consequently avail of economies of scale rather than reverting to him in 12 months' time seeking a further allocation similar to that provided for the purposes of a second additional classroom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16180/11]

I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department has received correspondence from the school authority relating to the matter to which he refers. The correspondence is currently being considered and a response will be conveyed to the school authority as soon as this process has been completed.

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

113 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review a matter (details supplied) regarding the allocation of funds to a school (details further supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16181/11]

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

122 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if €50,000 will be provided to a school (details supplied) in County Kerry for necessary accommodation works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16357/11]

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

133 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will co-operate with the board of management of a school (details supplied) in County Kerry. [16482/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 113, 122 and 133 together.

My Department approved a devolved grant to the school referred to by the Deputy to construct a resource teaching room. The school subsequently sought additional funding and permission to increase the scope of the works beyond that approved. My Department sought additional information from the school authorities and this has now been submitted. My Department is currently liaising with the school authorities relating to the matter.

Special Educational Needs

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

114 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on the recently published circular on learning support and resource hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16212/11]

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

115 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to review the circular on learning support and resource teaching hours that will now prevent principals from proceeding to attempt to organise hours for pupils; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16213/11]

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

116 Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will lift the clause in the allocation of resource hours recently published in the circular on learning support and resource teaching hours and allow principals the time necessary to sort out staff for the next academic year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16214/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 114, 115 and 116 together.

I wish to advise the Deputy that Circular 37/2011 provides information to schools regarding the arrangements which are being put in place for the 2011/12 school year for the allocation of Resource Teaching hours for children with assessed special educational needs.

The main elements of the arrangements outlined in the Circular are that for the coming 2011/12 school year, an allocation of 90% of valid identified resource teaching allocations will be made to schools, in the first instance, to provide schools with the majority of their allocation, while also preserving enough capacity to deal with late applications and ensure that the Department of Education and Skills can remain within Employment Control Framework obligations.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) have now notified schools of their allocations for the coming school year, which allows schools to manage and organise staffing arrangements. Schools have also been asked to forward as soon as possible any outstanding applications, or additional outstanding materials to support incomplete applications, to the NCSE for consideration, but in any event by no later than 16th September 2011. Following consideration of all of the applications received, if the level of demand permits, the initial 90% allocation may be revisited and increased.

Question No. 117 answered with Question No. 108.

European Globalisation Fund

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

118 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the European Globalisation Fund (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16246/11]

The Irish authorities submitted the application for EGF co-financing support for redundant workers at the SR Technics aircraft maintenance facility at Dublin Airport on 9 October 2009. The European Commission subsequently sought further information on the application in January 2010 and this information was supplied by the Irish authorities in April 2010.

Under the European Commission decision of 8 December 2010 approving the Irish application submitted on 9 October 2009, measures provided in conformity with the application can be co-financed from 25 March 2009, the date when EGF supports commenced nationally in support of redundant SR Technics workers, and must cease on 9 October 2011.

As I have previously stated in the House on a number of occasions in recent weeks on this issue, the end date of EGF co-financing of relevant supports for these redundant workers must cease on 9 October 2011 in accordance with the European Commission decision. This end-date has always been made clear to both the providers of supports to the redundant workers including in written correspondence and to the redundant workers wishing to avail of those supports including at public meetings and at meetings with worker representatives.

In this context, it was always made clear to the former SR Technics workers and their representatives including at public meetings and at requested meetings with officials, that the full duration of the specific education course in question would not be funded through the EGF programme and that funding would end before accreditation is achieved. It was on this precise basis that what was originally a part-time course, was under the EGF programme offered by the relevant private college on a full-time basis in order to accelerate students' progress on a modular basis and maximise the scope for them to benefit from the EU funding available. Under the EGF Regulation governing the Fund, EU co-financing under the EGF programme is available for a maximum of 24 months from the date of submission of an application by a Member State. It is therefore not possible for a student to complete a four year course under any EGF programme.

As stated previously, no additional Exchequer funding is available to fund continued study on this course in this private college after 9 October 2011. It is open to the relevant students to engage with the private college to seek a reduced course fee for continuance of the course full-time but at their own expense. Alternatively, the relevant students could potentially transfer to other full-time courses in the public system which are part of the Free Fees Scheme without losing their Back to Education Allowance. In this context, in the case of a student with a higher certificate or an ordinary bachelor degree wishing to transfer onto a degree programme, procedures are not standardised between individual colleges. Students are advised in each case to make detailed enquiries at the college they are interested in entering regarding the specific transfer mechanisms. In many instances, applications are assessed individually and an interview may be required. Students are advised that the attainment of any of the qualifications outlined does not oblige a college to accept applications for entry. As the number of places is limited in many cases, intending applicants should consider applying to more than one institution. A full list of courses in higher education is available on www.qualifax.ie.

Schools Amalgamation

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

119 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Education and Skills if small rural schools (details supplied) in County Louth will be supported in the vital work in which they are engaged, educating children. [16266/11]

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

127 Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a school (details supplied) in County Westmeath will remain open during the 2011-12 academic year. [16401/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 and 127 together.

I take it that the Deputies' questions relate to these schools in the context of the value for money review on small schools which is under way at present. The value for money review on small schools is part of the normal review processes undertaken by all Departments on an annual basis on selected areas of expenditure and is being conducted in line with the standard procedure for value for money reviews. These procedures require that the views of stakeholders be obtained and the public consultations were designed to achieve this aim. This was done by issuing a direct invitation to relevant interest groups to provide a submission. The interest groups included the school patron bodies, management bodies, teacher unions, national parents' council, Irish language groups and other groups who operate in the area of social inclusion.

The review will attempt to explore the general policy options for re-organisation of small schools including the sharing of resources and clustering arrangements towards small schools. I think it is important to clarify that this study is part of an overall requirement across all Government Departments to have a rolling programme of such studies. This review was initiated last October by the previous Fianna Fáil — Green Party Government and is not driven by any ideology. The study is simply about ascertaining the facts to inform future policy. It does not mean that any policy decision has been taken at this point or that any particular outcome is sought. Given that the Government has recently announced a Comprehensive Review of Expenditure, all Government expenditure and programmes will come under similar scrutiny.

The terms of reference acknowledge the important role primary schools play in their local communities. In considering any policy change in relation to small schools, the Department of Education and Skills is conscious that there is a wider dimension to be considered in addition to the cost of maintaining small schools. Among the issues that will need to be taken into account are questions such as availability of diversity of provision, ethos of schools, parental choice, language of instruction, travel distances, transport costs and the impact of schools on dispersed rural communities. The review will examine the locations of small schools relative to each other and to other schools of a similar type. It will also examine the costs of running small schools and the educational outcomes associated with small schools.

Educational quality for the students must be one of the main criteria in any consideration of primary school size. We must also consider the needs of local communities and wider social and cultural factors. Decisions on school provision and reorganisation must be widely perceived to be cost-effective, equitable and reasonable. These decisions need to be based on a rigorous evaluation of requirements and needs, not just at a local level but also at both regional and national levels. With regard to the specific schools referred to by the Deputies the existing rules and current sustainability limits will continue to apply and there are no plans at this time to close either of these schools.

Schools Building Projects

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

120 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position regarding the building of new extensions for schools (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16305/11]

As the Deputy will be aware, building projects to provide improved accommodation for the two schools in question were included on the list of projects announced on 24th January 2011 to commence architectural planning. In the context of progressing these projects, officials from my Department's Planning and Building Unit recently carried out technical assessments of both schools. The next step is to finalise the Schedules of Accommodation and this process is currently under way. My Department will continue to liaise with the school authorities in the context of progressing the projects to the next stage of the architectural planning process.

Higher Education Grants

Gerald Nash

Ceist:

121 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Education and Skills the mechanism used to calculate distance from a qualifying third level institution for the purposes of the third level maintenance grant scheme. [16326/11]

The measurement of the distances in question is a matter for grant awarding bodies. I understand that a range of mechanisms can be used, for example online mapping such as AA Route Planner or Google Maps. In each case the shortest, most direct route to college is measured. If there is a dispute it may be necessary to carry out a physical measurement.

Question No. 122 answered with Question No. 113.

State Examinations

Michael McCarthy

Ceist:

123 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of errors on each leaving certificate paper that have come to light during the exam and were notified to students for each of the past three years; the procedures he is putting in place to ensure that exam papers are error-free; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16359/11]

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations including organising the holding of examinations, determining procedures in places where examinations are conducted including the supervision of examinations and making arrangements for the marking of work presented for examination.

In view of this I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you. My Department has published on its website (www.education.ie) the reports from the State Examinations Commission relating to the preparation and productions issues which arose in the examinations in 2010, and the report in 2009 on the security breach which led to a re-scheduling of English Paper 2.

Schools Refurbishment

Patrick O'Donovan

Ceist:

124 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will reconsider a decision to turn down an application for funding under the summer works scheme in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Limerick. [16363/11]

I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy applied for funding under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme. A list of 453 successful schools was announced on 30 March 2011. Applications from schools for gas, mechanical and electrical works were prioritised under the Summer Works Scheme funding this year and I regret that the application made by the school in question was not selected. A letter to this effect has issued to the school.

In light of further funding being made available under the Government's Jobs Initiative, projects submitted under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme were considered further. Unfortunately, due to the scale of demand for funding, it was necessary to further prioritise categories of works in respect of access for all, toilets, roofs and post primary school windows projects. I regret that the application referred to above was also unsuccessful under the Initiative.

Details of all successful schools under both initiatives may be viewed on the Department's website, www.education.ie.

Primary Education

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

125 Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the average cost per annum to educate a child at primary level; if he will provide a breakdown of the calculation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16390/11]

The estimated average cost per annum of a student in first-level education based on the 2010 Provisional Outturn is €6,419. The calculations are as follows:

€m

Department Staff & Administration

43

Teachers’ Pay

2,007

Teacher Education

10

Teacher Superannuation

449

Special Needs Assistants

291

School Transport

120

Capitation & Ancillary Grants

193

Miscellaneous Grants & Services

135

TOTAL

3,248

Number of Students

505,998

Estimated Average cost

€6,419

Redundancy Payments

Michael Creed

Ceist:

126 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Skills, further to Parliamentary Question No. 70 of 4 May 2011, if a person (details supplied) in County Cork has received their redundancy payment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16397/11]

The redundancy payment for the person referred to by the Deputy will be paid to her on the 7 July 2011.

Question No. 127 answered with Question No. 119.
Question No. 128 answered with Question No. 107.

Higher Education Grants

Michael Creed

Ceist:

129 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Education and Skills when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will receive a decision on an appeal in respect of an application for a higher education grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16410/11]

The appeal in question was received in my Department on 24/02/2011. On foot of the information contained in the appeal papers, my Department asked the grant awarding body to re-assess the grant application. My Department informed the student of this outcome on 7/3/11. The grant awarding body subsequently re-assessed the grant application and a decision issued to the student, in writing, on 30 March 2011.

School Curriculum

Paudie Coffey

Ceist:

130 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he intends to make information and communication technology a compulsory subject for the junior and leaving certificate examinations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16416/11]

The curriculum in schools is devised on the basis that ICT is not a curriculum area or syllabus but rather a tool to be integrated into the teaching and learning of all subjects. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) has developed an ICT framework which sets out a structured approach to ICT in curriculum and assessment. The Framework provides a guide to teachers for embedding ICT in curriculum and assessment across curriculum subjects. It is supported by exemplars on the NCCA Action website, and by the ongoing work of the National Centre for Technology in Education. The Scoilnet website includes a comprehensive range of digital content for use across the curriculum in schools.

Under the ICT in Schools Programme, which addresses the integration of ICT into teaching in learning in first and second level schools, the Department spent €35.172m in 2009 and €81.253m in 2010. The investment is targeted at provision of ICT infrastructure, training of teachers, the provision of curriculum-relevant digital content and a national broadband service for schools. One of the objectives of junior cycle reform is to promote increased creativity and innovation, to create space for active learning, and to better embed key skills such as ICT, teamwork and communications. I expect the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to advise me later this year on the direction of reform.

Schools Refurbishment

Patrick Deering

Ceist:

131 Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to make a secondary school classroom in County Carlow (details supplied) safe. [16463/11]

I can confirm that the school to which the Deputy refers applied to my Department for funding under the Summer Works Scheme 2011. Unfortunately, due to the scale of demand for funding under the scheme, it was not possible to grant aid all applications. As outlined in the Circular governing the operation of the scheme, applications for works in the higher categories of eligible works were prioritised and it was not possible to include the school referred to by the Deputy in the list of 453 successful schools that was announced on 30 March 2011 and in the further list of 374 schools that were successful under the Jobs Initiative. The school has been advised accordingly.

For works that are of a very urgent nature, it is open to the school authorities to consider if the works in question, or part thereof, qualify for funding under my Department's Emergency Works Scheme. An emergency is deemed to be a situation which poses an immediate risk to health, life, property or the environment which is sudden, unforeseen and requires immediate action and, in the case of a school, if not corrected would prevent the school or part thereof from opening. Details of the Scheme, together with an application form for grant assistance, can be accessed on my Department's website at www.education.ie.

Schools Building Projects

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

132 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review his plans for a school (details supplied) in County Kerry. [16481/11]

A new 12 classroom school is currently under construction for the school referred to by the Deputy.

The school has recently made a further application for additional accommodation to cater for a future increase in enrolments and for the provision of a special class for autistic pupils. This application is currently being assessed and officials in my Department will convey a decision on the application to the school authority shortly.

Question No. 133 answered with Question No. 113.

School Transport

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

134 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if free school transport will be provided in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16509/11]

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

It is open to pupils who reside less than 3.2 kilometres from their nearest school to apply for concessionary fare-paying transport to the school which they are attending. Concessionary transport is offered subject to a number of terms and conditions, including the availability of spare seating on an existing service.

The parents of the pupil referred to by the Deputy should liaise with their local Bus Éireann office regarding the availability of concessionary transport.

Schools Refurbishment

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

135 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review an application for funding in respect of a school (details supplied) in Dublin 10 under the summer works scheme 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16519/11]

I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy applied for funding under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme. A list of 453 successful schools was announced on 30 March 2011. Applications from schools for gas, mechanical and electrical works were prioritised under the Summer Works Scheme funding this year and I regret that the application made by the school in question was not selected. A letter to this effect has issued to the school.

In light of further funding being made available under the Government's Jobs Initiative, projects submitted under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme were considered further. Unfortunately, due to the scale of demand for funding, it was necessary to further prioritise categories of works in respect of access for all, toilets, roofs and post primary school windows projects. I regret that the application referred to above was also unsuccessful under the initiative. Details of all successful schools under both initiatives may be viewed on the Department's website, www.education.ie.

Catherine Byrne

Ceist:

136 Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review an application for funding for a school (details supplied) in Dublin 6W under the summer works scheme 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16520/11]

I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy applied for funding under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme. A list of 453 successful schools was announced on 30 March 2011. Applications from schools for gas, mechanical and electrical works were prioritised under the Summer Works Scheme funding this year and I regret that the application made by the school in question was not selected. A letter to this effect has issued to the school.

In light of further funding being made available under the Government's Jobs Initiative, projects submitted under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme were considered further. Unfortunately, due to the scale of demand for funding, it was necessary to further prioritise categories of works in respect of access for all, toilets, roofs and post primary school windows projects. I regret that the application referred to above was also unsuccessful under the Initiative.

Details of all successful schools under both initiatives may be viewed on the Department's website, www.education.ie.

School Transport

Seán Kenny

Ceist:

137 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of primary and post-primary school students who have availed of the school transport scheme from 2008 to date in 2011, inclusive; the charges for the school transport scheme in each of the years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16522/11]

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

Table 1: Number of Pupils availing of school transport

School Year

Primary

Post Primary

Total

2007/2008

59,599

75,526

135,125

2008/2009

60,146

75,100

135,246

2009/2010

58,922

66,021

124,943

2010/2011

59,802

65,000

124,802

Table 2: Charges

Category of pupil

Rates effective from September, 1998 (term charge)

3rd term 2007/08 school year (term charge)

1st term 2008/09 school year (term charge)

Annual charge 2009/10 school year

Annual charge 2010/11 school year

Eligible Junior Cycle pupil

€33-€99 — annual

€46-€138 — annual

€56-€168 — annual

€300 — annual

€300 — annual

Eligible Senior Cycle pupil

€51-€153 — annual

€71-€213 — annual

€78-€234 — annual

€300 — annual

€300 — annual

Concessionary primary pupil

€26-€78 — annual

€36-€108 — annual

€40-€120 — annual

€200 — annual

€200 — annual

Concessionary post-primary pupil

€51-€153 — annual

€71-€213 — annual

€78-€234 — annual

€300 — annual

€300 — annual

Maximum family contribution

€107-€321 — annual

€150-€450 — annual

€165-€495 — annual

€650 — annual

€650 — annual

FÁS Training Programmes

Seán Kenny

Ceist:

138 Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of courses provided by FÁS in Baldoyle, Dublin 13; the courses provided within the centre; the courses which are outsourced; the number of participants availing of these courses; if he will provide the same information for each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16523/11]

The information sought has been provided by FÁS to my Department and is contained in the following table.

Table -FÁS Baldoyle Training Centre

In Centre / Contracted

Year

Courses

Take Up

Year

Courses

Take Up

Year

Courses

Take Up

Contracted Training

2009

78

1,326

2010

96

1,632

2011

86

1,462

In Centre

2009

244

3,117

2010

273

4,001

2011

280

4,612

Total

322

4,443

369

5,633

366

6,074

Schools Building Projects

Ray Butler

Ceist:

139 Deputy Ray Butler asked the Minister for Education and Skills following his recent visit to a school (details supplied) in County Meath, if any further update is available on the provision of a new post-primary school building; when he expects a design team to be appointed; when construction work will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16546/11]

I can confirm that my Department has completed the purchase of a site required for a new post-primary school in the area to which the Deputy refers.

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 with due regard to the prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects and the level of additional school provision which will be required at both primary and post primary level to meet demographic increases. 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.

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

Straitéis 20 Bliain 2010

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

140 D’fhiafraigh Pearse Doherty den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna an bhfuil sé i gceist aige an grúpa ardleibhéil atá luaite i Straitéis 20 Bliain 2010 a bhunú go luath; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [16551/11]

Tá mo Roinnse gafa faoi láthair le pléanna leis an Roinn Pobail, Comhionannais agus Gaeltachta faoi fheidhmiú céimnithe na Straitéise 20 Bliain don Ghaeilge.

Nuair a bheidh an chreatlach ama d'fheidhmiú foriomlán na Straitéise comhaontaithe, tionólfar an grúpa ardleibhéil atá luaite sa Straitéis. Is ceart a thabhairt faoi deara go gcomhthadhlaíonn mo Roinnse ar bhonn leanúnach leis na páirtithe uile lena mbaineann.

School Staffing

Jim Daly

Ceist:

141 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills the current allocation of resource teachers to a school (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16558/11]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the school in question currently has the support of 1 full time Resource Teaching post and 1 shared Learning Support/Resource Teacher (LSRT) as well as access to support from a LSRT post based in another school.

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) is responsible, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs) for allocating resource teaching support to schools to support children with special educational needs. The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support. Circular 37/2011 provides information to schools regarding the arrangements which are being put in place for the 2011/12 school year for the allocation of Resource Teaching hours for children with assessed special educational needs.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has now notified schools of their allocations for the coming school year. Schools have also been asked to forward as soon as possible any outstanding applications, or additional outstanding materials to support incomplete applications, to the NCSE for consideration, but in any event by no later than 16th September 2011.

Schools Building Projects

Jim Daly

Ceist:

142 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he is in receipt of an appeal of the summer works programme decision in respect of a school (details supplied) in County Cork; if his attention has been drawn to the health and safety report attached that states certain rooms in the school will have to be closed off from the students if repair works are not carried out immediately; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16564/11]

The Deputy will be aware that a major capital project for the school to which he refers was included on a list of projects, which were announced on 24 January 2011, for which briefs will be formulated in 2011.

In the context of progressing the project, my officials will be in contact with the school authority shortly to arrange a site visit to the school, which is the next step required to formulate the accommodation brief. When this process has been finalised, the process of appointing a Design Team can commence.

I can confirm that the school applied to my Department for funding under the Summer Works Scheme 2011. Unfortunately, due to the scale of demand for funding under the scheme, it was not possible to grant aid all applications. As outlined in the Circular governing the operation of the scheme, applications for works in the higher categories of eligible works were prioritised and it was not possible to include the school referred to by the Deputy in the list of 453 successful schools that was announced on 30 March 2011 and in the further list of 374 schools that were successful under the Jobs Initiative. The school has been advised accordingly.

My Department's priority is to advance the capital project at the school and it is intended that the works which were the subject of the Summer Works application will be dealt with in the context of this project. For works that are of a very urgent nature that cannot await the completion of the major project, it is open to the school authorities to consider if the works qualify for funding under my Department's Emergency Works Scheme. An emergency is deemed to be a situation which poses an immediate risk to health, life, property or the environment which is sudden, unforeseen and requires immediate action and, in the case of a school, if not corrected would prevent the school or part thereof from opening. Details of the Scheme, together with an application form for grant assistance, can be accessed on my Department's website at www.education.ie.

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

143 Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will reconsider his decision not to include a school (details supplied) in the summer works scheme. [16567/11]

I can confirm that the school referred to by the Deputy applied for funding under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme. A list of 453 successful schools was announced on 30 March 2011. Applications from schools for gas, mechanical and electrical works were prioritised under the Summer Works Scheme funding this year and I regret that the application made by the school in question was not selected. A letter to this effect has issued to the school.

In light of further funding being made available under the Government's Jobs Initiative, projects submitted under the 2011 Summer Works Scheme were considered further. Unfortunately, due to the scale of demand for funding, it was necessary to further prioritise categories of works in respect of access for all, toilets, roofs and post primary school windows projects. I regret that the application referred to above was also unsuccessful under the Initiative.

Details of all successful schools under both initiatives may be viewed on the Department's website, www.education.ie.

Damien English

Ceist:

144 Deputy Damien English asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans for the provision of a permanent site and building for a school (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16574/11]

On foot of a request from my Department the Office of Public Works identified a suitable site for the school referred to by the Deputy. However given the sensitivities associated with land acquisitions generally, I am not in a position to comment further at this point in time. The acquisition of the site and the delivery of the school building project will be considered in the context of the capital budget available to my Department for school buildings generally.

School Transport

Patrick O'Donovan

Ceist:

145 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the issue of school transport in respect of persons (details supplied) in County Limerick. [16577/11]

Under the terms of the Primary School Transport scheme pupils are eligible for free transport if they reside 3.2 kilometres or more from, and are attending, their nearest national school or school of amalgamation.

Bus Éireann, which operates the school transport scheme on behalf of my Department, has advised that the pupils referred to by the Deputy are not attending their school of amalgamation and are therefore not eligible for school transport under the Closed School Rule (CSR).

The Deputy may be aware that the cessation of the Closed School Rule (CSR) as it relates to primary school transport eligibility was announced in the 2011 Budget by the previous Fianna Fáil — Green Party Government and derives from a recommendation in the published Value for Money Review of the scheme.

This change is scheduled to take effect in September 2012 and will apply only in the case of pupils commencing their primary education from that date.

Third Level Fees

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

146 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the amount that has been paid in student fees to the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland for those from non-EU countries. [16583/11]

Under the terms of my Department's Free Fee Scheme the Exchequer meets the cost of tuition fees in respect of eligible students who are pursuing full-time undergraduate courses of study which are a minimum of two years duration in an approved higher education institution. The main conditions of the scheme are that students must be first-time undergraduates, hold inter alia EU/EEA/Swiss nationality in their own right, and have been ordinarily resident in an EU/EEA/Swiss state for at least three of the five years preceding their entry to an approved third level course.

Where undergraduate students, such as non-EU students, do not meet the eligibility criteria of the free fees schemes, it is the higher education institution concerned that determines, in accordance with its criteria, the appropriate tuition fee payable by such students. Funding has not been allocated to the Royal College of Surgeons in respect of fees for students from non-EU countries.

Credit Guarantee Scheme

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

147 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the date on which the partial credit guarantee scheme will start; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16470/11]

As part of the Jobs Initiative announced in this House on, 10th May, both the Minister for Finance and I confirmed the Government commitment to initiating a tendering process for the development of a temporary partial credit guarantee scheme. A call for competition for the design of a scheme was published on e-tenders on 15 June.

The design of the scheme will draw from international experience to support new lending that would not otherwise have been extended by the banks. In this way, the scheme will be limited in its scope and will complement, rather than be a substitute for, existing lending activities by the main financial institutions. It will be designed to encourage banks to lend to these new or expanding commercially viable SMEs so that they can grow their company, develop new products or expand into new markets.

The Government's commitment will be for an initial period of one year. Specific performance criteria will be set down that allow for review and revision of the scheme at the end of that initial period before committing to a roll-over of the scheme for subsequent years. It is intended that the Scheme will be in place in the autumn.

Work Permits

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

148 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding a work permit application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [16230/11]

My Department processes applications in respect of the different types of employment permits — Green Cards Permits, Work Permits, Spousal/Dependant Permits and Intra-company Transfer Permits. All applications are processed in line with the Employment Permits Act 2006.

I wish to advise the Deputy that this specific Work Permit application was received in the Employment Permits Section on the 8th June 2011.

All applications are processed strictly in date of receipt order by permit type and the Employment Permits Section is currently processing Work Permit applications received in the week beginning the 30th May 2011. Therefore, a decision is due on this application in the next two weeks.

Departmental Reports

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

149 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding the work of the sales law review group which was established in November 2008; if it has completed its work reviewing the 1893 and 1980 Sales Acts; if not, when he expects to receive a final report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16495/11]

The Sales Law Review Group was established in November 2008 to review the legislation governing the sale of goods and supply of services. It was asked also to assess the implications for Irish consumer rights and Irish consumer law of the EU Commission proposal for a Directive on Consumer Rights published in October 2008. An interim report on the proposed Directive prepared by the Review Group was issued in June 2009.

The time frame set for the Review Group originally envisaged that its work would be completed by mid-2010. In September 2010, the Group's Chairman, Professor Robert Clark, wrote to the then Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation advising him that, while the Group's conclusions and recommendations were substantially complete, it proposed to defer finalising and submitting its report pending clarification of the final contents of the proposed Directive on Consumer Rights. The then Minister agreed to accept this deferral given the extensive overlap between Irish and EU law in this area.

Agreement has now been reached on the Consumer Rights Directive by the European Parliament and Council, and the proposal is set to be formally adopted in the near future. The Sales Law Review Group held a meeting yesterday to finalise its recommendations and I expect to receive its final report shortly.

EU Directives

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

150 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding the draft EU consumer rights directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16496/11]

Discussions on the proposed Directive have been taking place in recent months between the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council under the co-determination procedure. The commencement of the trilogue talks followed the adoption of the Directive by Member States in Council on 24 January 2011, and a plenary session of the European Parliament on 24 March at which MEPs decided to postpone a final decision on the proposal with a view to reaching agreement with the Council.

Agreement has now been reached on a compromise text of the proposed Directive. This text was endorsed by Deputy Permanent Representatives in Brussels at COREPER on 15 June 2011, and was approved by the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee on 16 June with 28 votes in favour, none against, and three abstentions. The compromise proposal is scheduled to be put to a plenary vote of the European Parliament on 23 June. If accepted by parliament, the proposed Directive will then have to be formally approved by the Council of Ministers, following which Member States will have two years in which to implement it.

Enterprise Support Schemes

Jim Daly

Ceist:

151 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if there are any grants available to a small business in the construction sector that has increased its staffing levels from four to 17 in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16541/11]

Enterprise Ireland works with client companies that fall into three main categories as follows:

Manufacturing and internationally traded services companies employing ten or more people (and with a focus on exporting) including those in the construction sector;

Innovation led start-ups with the potential to grow on international markets (and entrepreneurs with the ability to initiate projects that can compete in international markets) including those in the construction sector;

Irish food companies, both those home-grown in Ireland, and those that are overseas-owned or controlled.

Enterprise Ireland support is targeted primarily at exporting companies. However, the agency can assist domestically trading companies, wishing to explore new opportunities in overseas markets, with its range of funding supports and programmes for Irish companies in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors including the following:

Sustained Research, Development and Innovation;

International Sales;

Building Leadership and Management Capabilities;

Embedding Competitiveness Improvements through a tailored programme of Lean Initiatives;

Financial supports — including grant aid to support business development activities in established companies. In the case of innovative start-ups, the agency takes equity positions to support the start-up business plan;

The Going Global Fund was launched in 2009 and helps domestically focused service companies investigate the possibility of internationalising their business. This fund is specifically aimed at locally traded companies that have successfully established businesses in Ireland and wish to explore opportunities to sell abroad.

Enterprise Ireland can also help companies retain the services of a Business Accelerator — an industry expert within a specific sector and market — with the experience, knowledge and contacts to support the company's expansion and development into an export market.

Employment Support Services

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

152 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding employment support or placements. [16137/11]

A fully integrated nationwide range of services and supports is available to Employers and Jobseekers through FÁS Employment Services, responsibility for which has been transferred to the Department. Jobseekers and Job Changers can register at one of the 63 local FÁS Employment Service Offices nationwide for on-site career guidance and job placement services.

FÁS also contracts with partnership companies and community organisations for the delivery of the Local Employment Service (LES) which provides career guidance/support in a further 25 locations throughout the country. In addition, FÁS Employment Services and the LES are the ‘ Gateway’ to all FÁS training and employment programmes for Jobseekers and Job Changers. Further information for Jobseekers and Job Changers is available online at www.fas.ie., or from any one of the local FÁS Employment Service Offices nationwide.

In relation to receiving work experience, unemployed individuals will shortly be able to access the National Internship Scheme, which was announced as part of last month's Jobs Initiative. The National Internship Scheme aims to provide those seeking employment, who have been on the Live Register for at least 3 months with an internship opportunity of 6 or 9 months in an organization in the private, public or community & voluntary sectors. The internships provided under this scheme will provide individuals with valuable work experience, which will enhance their skills and improve their prospects of securing employment in the future. The National Internship Scheme is due to be operational from the 1st July.

Another similar scheme, which may be of interest to those seeking employment is the FÁS Work Placement Programme. Under this scheme individuals can avail of a work placement of up to 9 months in duration. Participation on this scheme is not restricted to those on the Live Register. Details of how to avail of this scheme are available from the local FÁS Employment Service office or the FÁS websites www.fas.ie.

In addition to these programmes and services, my Department also operates a range of employment support measures designed to encourage and support social welfare recipients of working age to reduce their dependency on welfare payments. Supports available include the back to education programme and back to work schemes.

Gerald Nash

Ceist:

153 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Social Protection if she intends to lift the embargo on recruitment which is in place in regard to the FÁS-operated jobs initiative scheme. [16451/11]

Gerald Nash

Ceist:

154 Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Social Protection her plans for the future of the FÁS-operated jobs initiative scheme. [16452/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 153 and 154 together.

The Job Initiative is a FÁS programme providing full-time employment for people who are 35 years of age or over, unemployed for 5 years or more, and in receipt of social welfare payments over that period. The main purpose of the programme is to assist long-term unemployed people to prepare for work opportunities. The programme achieves this by providing participants with work experience, training and development opportunities. The programme is sponsored by groups wishing to benefit the local community, namely voluntary organisations, public bodies and those involved in not-for-profit activities.

Following changes introduced to the Job Initiative scheme by the then Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment in 2004, there is currently no recruitment onto the scheme while existing participants will have their contracts renewed. There are no plans currently under consideration to lift the embargo on recruitment or to introduce changes to the programme.

Pension Provisions

Jim Daly

Ceist:

155 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection, further to Parliamentary Question No. 95 of 9 May 2011, the options available to a person (details supplied) after the Pensions Ombudsman has already made a determination order in their favour to force the company to pay the sum of pension due; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16561/11]

Where the party to a dispute or complaint fails or refuses to comply with a Determination of the Pensions Ombudsman, an application can be made to the Circuit Court to make an order directing that party to carry out the determination in accordance with its terms. Enforcement proceedings may be initiated either by one of the parties to the complaint or by the Pensions Ombudsman. In the first instance, the onus is on the party concerned to seek to have the Determination enforced through the courts. The Pensions Ombudsman may apply to the Circuit Court for an order requiring that his Determination be implemented if he is of the opinion that it is appropriate to do so having regard to all the circumstances. A case will have to involve special or unusual circumstances for him to become involved in the enforcement process.

Social Welfare Benefits

Jack Wall

Ceist:

156 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare is entitled to supplementary welfare allowance in view of the fact that the appeals officer has determined that the person is habitually resident here since 8 February 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16101/11]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme is administered on behalf of the Department by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive (HSE). Although the person concerned has been deemed habitually resident, a number of other criteria must be also be fulfilled in order to qualify for a weekly payment of supplementary welfare allowance. The person concerned has been asked to provide further information by the community welfare office in the HSE in order that his claim for entitlements can be examined. When the information has been provided a decision will then be made on his claim.

Social Welfare Appeals

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

157 Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a disability allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [16120/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case. There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hand, the Department has made a further 9 additional appointments to the office in recent weeks.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but she/he will be informed when arrangements have been made. 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.

Employment Support Services

Michael Creed

Ceist:

158 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Social Protection his views on the predicament of law graduates in the context of the graduate placement scheme, details of which are to be announced shortly; if private law firms will be eligible to take on law graduates under this scheme, thereby facilitating their access to legal apprenticeships; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16135/11]

The National Internship Scheme will provide eligible participants with an internship opportunity of either 6 or 9 months in an organisation in the private, public or community and voluntary sectors. It should be noted that only individuals who are in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance/Benefit or signing onto the Live Register for at least 3 months will be eligible to participate in the National Internship Scheme. Private law firms can avail of the scheme provided that they meet the eligibility criteria for organisations and that they offer individuals a quality internship opportunity. However, it is not intended that the National Internship Scheme will provide individuals access to a legal apprenticeship. That is a matter for private law firms and the Law Society of Ireland.

Social Welfare Appeals

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

159 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Social Protection if a claim for jobseeker’s allowance now under appeal will be approved and payment expedited in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16141/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 30 May 2011. 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. 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

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

160 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will ensure that part-time fire-fighters are entitled to receive social welfare payments in view of the fact that otherwise the result will be a serious diminution in the quality and the availability of firefighters working on a part-time basis. [16143/11]

Part-time fire-fighters are entitled to the full range of social welfare benefits and allowances once they satisfy the statutory conditions of the scheme concerned. e.g. age, means PRSI contributions etc. Part-time fire-fighters are entitled to a jobseeker's payment in respect of days that they are engaged in fire-fighting or training. They are, however, required to satisfy the statutory conditions for the receipt of a jobseeker's payment of being available for and genuinely seeking work.

Community Employment Schemes

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

161 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason supervisors on a community employment scheme in Tallaght, Dublin 24, have not been paid since 18 March; if the transfer of undertakings legislation applies in their case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16163/11]

The Deputy will be aware that, as Minister for Social Protection, I do not have a role in the administration of individual cases in regard to the operation of the Community Employment (CE) programme. The administration of individual cases under CE is a day-to-day matter for FÁS as part of its responsibility under the Labour Services Act, 1987, as amended by Part 3 of the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2010.

The persons referred to are supervisors with Action Tallaght Limited, a company limited by guarantee, that are the sponsors of both a community employment (CE) and job initiative (JI) scheme under a contract with FÁS. Action Tallaght Limited refused to abide by its contractual arrangements with FÁS to carry out the project in accordance with the terms and conditions. FÁS is not in a position to continue to support Action Tallaght Limited in the circumstances. As a result of this situation, FÁS, as a matter of urgency, arranged alternative work with another sponsor for the CE and JI participants. Action Tallaght Limited has responsibility as the employer to pay the supervisors concerned, to make arrangements for redundancy, or redeployment to other activities. I have been advised by FÁS that it understands that the transfer of undertakings legislation does not apply in this case and has advised Action Tallaght Limited of its legal obligations to inform and consult with its employees regarding possible redundancy, or alternative employment within Action Tallaght Limited.

Question No. 162 withdrawn.

Employment Support Services

Terence Flanagan

Ceist:

163 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection the way the national internship scheme (details supplied) will work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16179/11]

The National Internship Scheme is a key part of the Government's Jobs Initiative. It will provide up to 5,000 places for those seeking employment with an internship opportunity of 6 to 9 months in an organisation in the private, public or community and voluntary sectors. During this time participants will receive an allowance, which will consist of a €50 per week top up on their existing social welfare entitlements.

The Internship scheme will assist in breaking that cycle whereby unemployed people cannot get a job without experience, either as new entrants to the labour market after education or training or as unemployed workers whose existing skills will not be appropriate to the types of jobs that will emerge in post- recession Ireland. The scheme will give young people a real opportunity to gain valuable experience to bridge the gap between study and the beginning of their working lives.

Work is being finalised on the development of the National Internship Scheme so that it will be ready for launch by the beginning of July. The National Internship Scheme will have its own website which will facilitate organisations applying online when they have internships to offer. However, in the interim further information is available through the following web link: www.fas.ie/en/internship. On this website, individuals and companies can register their interest in participating in the National Internship Scheme.

Social Welfare Benefits

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

164 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Social Protection if she 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 she has evaluated the cost of extending this entitlement to such children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16185/11]

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

193 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she would consider allowing discretion on applications for free travel similar to the medical card applications to those who have serious health problems and who have to travel long distances to hospitals for treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy. [16498/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 164 and 193 together.

The free travel scheme is available to people aged 66 years or over, carers in receipt of carer's allowance and carers of people in receipt of constant attendance or prescribed relative's allowance, regardless of their age, receive a free travel pass. It is also available to people under age 66 who are in receipt of certain disability type welfare payments, such as disability allowance, invalidity pension and blind person's pension. In the majority of cases, persons who are being cared for will be in receipt of a payment in their own right (for example a State pension or disability allowance) and will be entitled to have a free travel pass. This includes anyone aged over 16 who qualifies for disability allowance.

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. The Health Service Executive (HSE) may also assist with transport costs in certain circumstances.

With the exception of those over 66 years of age, free travel passes are only provided when the person is in receipt of a qualifying payment from the Department. All of the Department's disability and invalidity payments carry an entitlement to a free travel pass with the exception of illness benefit which is regarded as a short-term scheme. I have no plans to extend the scheme further to provide travel passes to those who are not in receipt of a qualifying payment.

Paul Connaughton

Ceist:

165 Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason, after a four-year delay, that she is pursuing a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16190/11]

A review of the circumstances which gave rise to this overpayment is being undertaken. The Department will contact the person concerned shortly in this regard.

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

166 Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [16228/11]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer having fully considered all the evidence, including that adduced at oral hearing, has allowed the appeal of the person concerned. The person concerned has been notified of the decision.

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.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

167 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding re-assessment of rent supplement in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16229/11]

The Health Service Executive has advised that a rent supplement has been awarded to the person concerned from 14 April 2011. Full payment, including arrears will issue shortly.

Jack Wall

Ceist:

168 Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for rent supplement in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16232/11]

The Health Service Executive has advised that it is awaiting outstanding documentation from the person concerned. When this information is received a decision in relation to the person's entitlement to rent supplement will then be made.

Employment Support Services

Liam Twomey

Ceist:

169 Deputy Liam Twomey asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason persons who have been trying to get full-time employment but can only get occasional work, are excluded from the Tús scheme in preference to persons who have not worked in any capacity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16233/11]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

178 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection if she intends changing the eligibility to go on the new Tús scheme either as a participant or a supervisor to include those who are fully unemployed and signing for credits but are not in receipt of a payment due to a spouse’s or partner’s income; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16338/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 169 and 178 together.

The purpose of Tús is to focus on those people who are long-term unemployed. For this reason, eligibility is at present confined to those on the Live Register for 12 months and in receipt of jobseeker's allowance. Participants will, in the first instance, be identified by the Department of Social Protection by applying the following conditions. A person must be unemployed and in receipt of a jobseeker's payment for at least 12 months, currently be in receipt of jobseeker's allowance, and be fully unemployed.

These provisions are to ensure a targeted approach to those currently affected by long-term unemployment. I have no plans to amend the criteria at this time. The operation of Tús, including the eligibility criteria, will be kept under review and will inform the evaluation process in due course.

Local Authority Housing

Patrick O'Donovan

Ceist:

170 Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection if in the interest of local authorities ability to collect overdue rent payments, an arrangement could be established whereby arrears would be deducted from social welfare payments. [16243/11]

An arrangement allowing the deduction of local authority differential rents directly from social welfare payments is already provided for under the household budgeting facility operated by An Post. However, this facility is voluntary and allows the tenant to terminate the deductions with two weeks' notice.

The Department accepts that mandatory deductions of local authority differential rents from social welfare payments warrants careful consideration. However, the introduction of such a system would require significant IT development by, and incur significant costs on, both this Department and local authorities. In this regard I have asked officials from both Departments to examine any other options that might be available to address the difficulties faced by local authorities.

Social Welfare Benefits

Anne Ferris

Ceist:

171 Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Social Protection when an application for domiciliary care allowance will be finalised in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if the matter will be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16256/11]

An application for domiciliary care allowance was received on 12 April 2011. This application was referred to one of the Department's medical assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for the allowance. A letter issued on 17 June 2011 advising of the decision.

Question No. 172 withdrawn.

Finian McGrath

Ceist:

173 Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding assistance in respect of a person (details supplied). [16296/11]

Department records show that the spouse of the person concerned has applied for jobseeker's allowance on 17 May 2011. The Department's Deciding Officer will make a decision on entitlement to jobseeker's allowance in due course.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that it has awarded a basic supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) payment to the person in question while the decision on entitlement to jobseeker's allowance is under consideration.

The persons concerned should contact the community welfare officer at the local health centre should they wish to be considered for any other entitlements under the SWA scheme.

Social Welfare Offices

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

174 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Social Protection if her attention has been drawn to the fact that persons residing within areas of Crumlin, Dublin 12, have to travel to Terenure, which has no direct bus service, to see a community welfare officer; if her further attention has been drawn to the problems this causes for persons accessing their entitlements; her plans to rectify this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16297/11]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme is administered by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive (HSE) on behalf of the Department. Late last year agreement was reached between the HSE and unions representing the Community Welfare Officers that the staff of the Community Welfare Service (CWS) would transfer to the Department of Social Protection with effect from 1st January 2011 on a secondment basis initially. The period of secondment is to last for 9 months until the end of September 2011. From 1 October 2011 it is intended that the staff of the CWS will be transferred fully to the Department as civil servants.

In the context of the transfer of functions from the HSE to the Department a number of Transition Managers were appointed from within the CWS, to work with the Department to oversee the transfer of the service. These managers have responsibility for the day to day delivery of services.

The CWS has advised that the catchment areas for Community Welfare Officer (CWO) clinics in Crumlin and Terenure were re-configured approximately 15 years ago and that the current arrangements for the delivery of services have been in place since then.

The Department is committed to working closely with the CWS to ensure the efficient and effective delivery of services.

Social Welfare Appeals

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

175 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will expedite an appeal for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16308/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case.

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hand, the Department has made a further 9 additional appointments to the office in recent weeks.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but s/he will be informed when arrangements have been made.

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

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

176 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will grant an application for domiciliary care allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16310/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case.

There has been a very significant increase in the number of appeals received by the Social Welfare Appeals Office since 2007 when the intake was 14,070 to 2010 when the intake rose to 32,432. This has significantly impacted on the processing time for appeals which require oral hearings and, in order to be fair to all appellants, they are dealt with in strict chronological order. In the context of dealing with the considerable number of appeals now on hand, the Department has made a further 9 additional appointments to the office in recent weeks.

While every effort is being made to deal with the large numbers awaiting oral hearing as quickly as possible, it is not possible to give a date when the person's oral hearing will be heard, but she/he will be informed when arrangements have been made.

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 Code

Eric J. Byrne

Ceist:

177 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will confirm that while cohabiting couples are deemed to be on a par with married couples for taxation purposes, if the male partner of this common-law relationship dies, that his partner would be entitled to a widow’s pension and if not, why not; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16313/11]

I wish to inform the Deputy that taxation matters are primarily a matter for my colleague the Minister for Finance.

In relation to entitlement to a Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's Contributory Pension, to qualify for this payment, which is based on social insurance contributions, you must be a widow, widower or ( since 1 January 2011) a surviving civil partner .

Cohabitees do not qualify for this payment because cohabitees are not, or have not been married in the first instance and therefore do not satisfy the criteria of being a widow(er) / surviving civil partner.

While the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 creates a cohabitant's redress scheme for same-sex and opposite-sex couples giving protection to an economically dependent party at the end of a long-term cohabiting relationship, this does not extend to the provision of survivor's benefits which are payable only to those who were married or in a civil partnership.

Question No. 178 answered with Question No. 169.

Flood Relief

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

179 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Social Protection if a person (details supplied) will be re-located under the flooding re-location scheme set up by the previous Government to help those affected by the floods in 2009 and who cannot get flood insurance on their houses as a result; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16339/11]

The Government has provided various types of support to people affected by the November 2009 flooding. Humanitarian Aid payments were made, both in the immediate aftermath of the flooding and subsequently to enable eligible households to resume living at their home. Flood relief works were also undertaken in some of the affected areas and other works are at an advanced state of preparation. Discussions took place with representatives of the insurance industry regarding giving households access to appropriate house insurance at a reasonable cost.

The Government is aware that for various reasons, a small number of people have been unable to resume living at their home and others, while they have resumed living at their home, are still faced with significant problems arising from the flooding. The Government is also aware that some householders who are continuing to experience significant housing problems as a result of the November 2009 flooding are considering the possibility of relocating rather than resuming living at their original home.

In light of this, the Government has decided that support may be available in such cases where:

1. Serious and permanent damage has been caused to the family home by the November 2009 flooding;

2. There is a high probability of a recurrence of serious flooding because of flood depth, duration or frequency on a scale that could further damage the family home;

3. The house cannot be protected from flooding at an economically feasible cost;

4. The household is unable to secure insurance against flooding as a result of the November 2009 floods.

Support will only be considered for relocation in cases where the cost of remedial works would exceed the cost of relocation, as determined by the Office of Public Works (OPW). The following considerations will also apply:

1. The gross cost of relocation underpinning the level of support provided will not exceed the cost of providing a reasonable home in the area in question, as determined by the local authority;

2. The existing house must be demolished and the site must be rehabilitated , which may require planning permission from the local authority;

3. If the household has settled a claim with their insurance company, the funds provided in settlement of that claim will be taken into account in determining the amount of funding, if any, provided for relocation. Beneficiaries will be required to instruct their insurance company to provide information in that regard;

The households in question have been visited by officials from the Department and a report of their individual circumstances has now been completed. The OPW were requested to provide a detailed report for each household outlining the problems in the areas in question, what works if any have been completed in the area or are planned for the area and to provide an assessment of the likelihood of future flooding having regard to the works that have already taken place or are scheduled to take place. Following a recent meeting between representatives from my Department and the OPW reports on further households have now been received from the OPW. These reports are being considered in my Department at present and any outstanding matters relating to the reports are being pursued with the OPW. When all of this information is received my Department will be in a position to make decisions on the affected households.

Social Welfare Appeals

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

180 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on an appeal will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16350/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 19 February 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 23 March 2011 and the appeal will be referred to an Appeals Officer, in due course, who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for an oral hearing.

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.

Question No. 181 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Benefits

Noel Harrington

Ceist:

182 Deputy Noel Harrington asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will increase the mortgage interest relief being paid in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16374/11]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has advised that the person concerned is receiving the maximum entitlement to mortgage interest supplement appropriate to her circumstances.

Questions Nos. 183 and 184 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Appeals

James Bannon

Ceist:

185 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason an appeal over the refusal of an application for a carer’s allowance has been delayed for more than nine months in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16405/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that the appeal from the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing in this case. The person concerned will be informed when arrangements have been made.

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

James Bannon

Ceist:

186 Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason an application for a jobseeker’s allowance is being refused on the grounds that the person is not an Irish citizen (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16406/11]

The person concerned submitted an application for jobseekers allowance on 4 April 2011. A condition for receipt of jobseeker's allowance is that a person must be habitually resident in the State. However, he was found not to satisfy this condition. Accordingly, the application was disallowed and he was informed of this decision on 27th May 2011 and of his right of appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Michael McCarthy

Ceist:

187 Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) has had their supplementary welfare payment withdrawn; if she will reinstate the payment in view of the fact that they have been in receipt of it for three years and their circumstances have not changed since then; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16414/11]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme is administered on behalf of the Department by the Community Welfare Services division of the Health Service Executive (HSE). The HSE has advised that a payment of a supplementary welfare allowance was given to the person concerned from November 2009 pending the outcome of her claim for a Widow's Non Contributory Pension.

The HSE has further advised that it terminated payment of supplementary welfare allowance in this case from 17th June 2011, following the decision of the Chief Appeals Office to refuse payment of a Widows Non Contributory Pension on the grounds that the person concerned was not considered to be habitually resident in the State.

Question No. 188 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Appeals

Ciaran Lynch

Ceist:

189 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision will issue on an appeal for an invalidity pension in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16432/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 26th May 2011. 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.

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

Gerry Adams

Ceist:

190 Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Social Protection if supports are being considered to alleviate the plight of former self-employed citizens; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16457/11]

Self-employed workers are not insured for short-term benefits such as illness and jobseeker's payments — these are only available to persons covered by PRSI Classes A, E, H and P. This reflects the need for coverage for various contingencies, the rate of contributions that self-employed persons pay, the practicalities of administering and controlling access to short-term payments and the annualised system of contributions applicable to self-employed contributors. A system of separate arrangements for employed and self-employed workers within a social insurance context is common in other European social protection systems.

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 within a budgetary context. Consideration would also have to be given to an appropriate increase in the rate of the PRSI Class S contribution.

Self-employed workers who do not qualify for an insurance-based benefit may establish entitlement to assistance-based payments such as Jobseeker's Allowance. They can apply for the means-tested Jobseeker's Allowance if their business ceases or if they are on low income as a result of a downturn in demand for their services. In general their means will take account of the level of earnings in the last twelve months in determining their expected income for the following year. In the current climate account is taken of the downward trend in the economy. It is accepted that future earnings may be lower than those of previous years and this is factored in projecting future earnings, with account being taken of the potential for significant upward or downward variations in income from one year to the next.

Social Welfare Appeals

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Ceist:

191 Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding a domiciliary care allowance claim in respect of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 13; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16465/11]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, including that adduced at oral hearing, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned. Notification of the Appeals Officers decision was issued on 11 April 2011. Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts.

Following the submission of additional evidence the Appeals Officer agreed to review the case. The person concerned will be contacted when the review of her appeal has been finalised.

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.

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

192 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will explain and review the reason it was determined that a person (details supplied) in County Cork had been unable to prove to her Department that their centre of interest is Ireland. [16479/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that a child benefit appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 7 December 2010 and a domiciliary care allowance appeal was registered on 26 January 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 2 and 3 June 2011 respectively.

A disability allowance appeal was registered on 2 February 2011 and the Social Welfare Appeals Office are currently awaiting the relevant papers and the comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal. When received, the relevant appeals will be considered concurrently by an Appeals Officer who will decide whether the cases can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list them or oral hearing.

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.

Question No. 193 answered with Question No. 164.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

194 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection if and when payments for disability allowance and invalidity pension will be paid in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16513/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that a disability allowance appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 12 January 2011. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 30 May 2011 and the appeal will be referred to an Appeals Officer, in due course, who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing. There is no record of an application for invalidity pension for the person concerned.

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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

195 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 206 of 7 June 2011, the way it was determined that a person (details supplied) in County Kildare was eligible for invalidity pension in 2008 but after two years was deemed ineligible despite having had no improvement in their health in the meantime and is awaiting further surgery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16517/11]

Invalidity pension is a payment made to people who satisfy the social insurance contribution conditions and who are permanently incapable of work. The claimant was awarded an invalidity pension from 24th January 2008.

Following a review of the customer's medical eligibility, it was decided in 2009 that she no longer satisfied the medical criteria for invalidity pension. Accordingly, the invalidity pension payment was terminated from the 5th November 2009. The claimant appealed this decision and was referred for a second examination, which was carried out by a different medical assessor. The opinion of the second medical assessor also was that the claimant did not satisfy the medical criteria. Following this medical examination and having considered all the evidence, the appeals officer disallowed the appeal for the person concerned. The customer was notified of this decision and the reason for it, in writing on the 26th October 2010. The decision of an appeals officer is final and conclusive in the absence of fresh facts or evidence.

Departmental Expenditure

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Ceist:

196 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection the cost of providing the current social welfare offices in Portlaoise, County Laois, including the CWS; the cost of establishing and maintaining the new control office in Portlaoise; if any consideration has been given to integrating these offices to provide a more efficient and effective service to the persons of County Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16532/11]

The annual costs incurred in providing the current social welfare office services in Portlaoise are €848,404. While staff of the CWS are currently on secondment to the Department, the costs of their accommodation are met in the first instance by the HSE, and reimbursed by the Department as part of the overall funding arrangement between the two bodies. It was not possible to disaggregate the costs of community welfare service accommodation in Portlaoise in the time available.

My Department is working closely with the Office of Public Works (OPW) to acquire new local office and control office accommodation in a number of locations throughout the country including Portlaoise. It is intended where possible and within tight budgetary constraints that these new offices would be capable of providing fully integrated service to the public, comprising all employment and benefit support services in line with the Programme for Government.

Social Welfare Appeals

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Ceist:

197 Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Social Protection when a decision on an appeal will issue in respect of a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16533/11]

I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence, disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of an oral hearing. The person concerned has been notified of the decision.

Under Social Welfare legislation, the decision of the Appeals Officer is final and conclusive and may only be reviewed by the Appeals Officer in the light of new evidence or new facts. If there is any new evidence or new facts pertinent to this case that was not brought to the attention of the Appeals Officer during the determination of this appeal, they may be submitted to the Social Welfare Appeals Office for further consideration.

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.

Money Advice and Budgeting Service

Ray Butler

Ceist:

198 Deputy Ray Butler asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 299 of 15 June 2011, if she will advise the timescale involved in the review being carried out by the Citizens Information Board regarding the processes being used by Money Advice and Budgeting Service companies with a view to reducing waiting times; the staffing issues for individual MABS companies; the financial resources available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16535/11]

Responsibility for the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) transferred to the Citizen Information Board (CIB) in July 2009. As part of the ongoing review of its services the Board have put a new organisational structure in place, since April 2011, which enables CIB regional managers to get a greater insight into the nature of supports required by MABS companies on the ground to deliver an effective service.

The focus is in ensuring clients get the level of support they need and as such client assessments and effective case management are important components of the overall approach. During any waiting period, clients are assessed and those in need of immediate assistance are given a priority appointment, others are provided with assisted self-help to ensure that they have taken steps to assess their situation and if appropriate they are supported to take holding action with their creditors.

In 2010, the Citizens Information Board (CIB) allocated a total budget of some €18.2m for the delivery of money advice and budgeting services and this figure was increased to €18.3m in 2011. The Board monitors funding allocations across all its companies, MABS and CIS, and any company experiencing difficulties will be supported from within the current overall allocation to CIB to deliver on its commitments.

The waiting times of MABS clients for a face-to-face meeting with a money advisor and the staffing issues for individual MABS companies are monitored on an on-going basis by the Board. The review referred to in my last response is looking at the processes being used by MABS companies with a view to a consistent approach being taken to managing waiting times, taking account of service capacity across the network of companies, and in the context of the overall existing budget allocation. It is expected that this review will be concluded by the end of July 2011 and any efficiencies will be initiated before the end of the year.

I am satisfied that the CIB will continue to closely monitor the position in relation to the resources available to individual MABS companies to ensure that effective services are delivered to customers requiring assistance.

Social Welfare Benefits

John McGuinness

Ceist:

199 Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Social Protection if domiciliary care allowance will be approved in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will expedite a response. [16553/11]

An application for domiciliary care allowance was received on 15 March 2011. This application was referred to one of the Department's Medical Assessors who found that the child was not medically eligible for the allowance. A letter issued on 24 May 2011 advising of the decision.

Social Welfare Appeals

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

200 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for carer’s allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16555/11]

The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that a carer's allowance appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 23 August 2010. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant Departmental papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought. Following further investigations by a Social Welfare Inspector, these papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 20 May 2011 and the appeal will be referred to an Appeals Officer, in due course, who will decide whether the case can be decided on a summary basis or whether to list it for oral hearing.

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 Code

Jim Daly

Ceist:

201 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Social Protection the reason the standard application form for carer’s allowance does not allow for deductions such as mortgage payments, tax, PRSI and other compulsory deductions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16560/11]

Carer's allowance is a means tested social assistance scheme operated by my Department. For means test purposes, account is taken of the income and assets of both the claimant and his or her spouse/partner.

Where a spouse/partner has earnings from employment, earnings less PRSI contributions, pension contributions and trade union subscriptions are assessed as means.

The applicant is not required to identify these deductions on the application form as they are available from supporting documentation such as pay-slips.

Mortgage payments and income tax are not deducted from earnings for means assessment purposes.

There are no plans to alter these arrangements.

Social Welfare Benefits

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

202 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection the position regarding an application for rent support in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16620/11]

The Health Service Executive has advised that the person concerned is in receipt of a rent supplement at a rate of €771 per month.

Heritage Sites

Joe Costello

Ceist:

203 Deputy Joe Costello asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht his plans for the development of the 14-17 Moore Street national monument, Dublin 1; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16154/11]

The position is that, in January 2007, the then Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government placed a preservation order on Nos. 14 to 17 Moore St under the National Monuments Acts. The order was made on the grounds that No. 16 Moore Street is a monument, the preservation of which is of national importance by reason of its historical significance as the site of the final council of war and final headquarters of the Provisional Government, which included five of the Proclamation signatories — Pearse, Connolly, Plunkett, Clarke and McDermott.

The purpose of the preservation order is to ensure the preservation of No. 16 Moore Street in the context of wider redevelopment proposals centred on the former Carlton Cinema site. To achieve this objective, the order also covers Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street and includes the yards to the rear of Nos. 15 and 16 Moore Street, extending to Nos. 8 and 9 Moore Lane. The effect of the order is that works affecting these properties, including any excavation or ground disturbance within, around or in proximity to them, will require my prior written consent.

In relation to the question of my plans for development work at Nos 14—17, I must point out that the buildings are in private ownership. The preservation Order does not confer on the Minister the power to carry out works to such a privately owned National Monument. The purpose of the Order is to protect the monument from any danger of being destroyed, injured or removed. In that regard any works affecting the monument will require my prior written consent under the National Monuments Acts.

The proposed development of the Carlton Cinema site, in accordance with the permission granted by An Bord Pleanála, envisages the retention of Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street and, subject to ministerial consent under the National Monuments Acts, the development of a commemorative centre at the site. Detailed proposals in this regard were submitted to my Department last Friday. The proposals will now be carefully considered by me and by officials of my Department and my written consent will be required prior to the commencement of any works.

Departmental Funding

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

204 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the total funding provided by him to Waterways Ireland for 2011; the breakdown between capital and current; the mechanisms with which he monitors the spending of such funds; if Waterways Ireland has been included in the Government’s current and capital review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16222/11]

Waterways Ireland is the largest of the six North-South Implementation Bodies, established in 1999 under the British-Irish Agreement of December 1999. It is responsible for the management, maintenance, development and restoration of the inland navigable waterway system throughout the island, principally for recreational purposes. Waterways Ireland has responsibility for approximately 1,000 km of navigable waterways, comprising the Shannon-Erne Waterway, the Shannon Navigation, the Barrow Navigation, the Grand and Royal Canals, the Erne System and the Lower Bann Navigation. In 2007, Waterways Ireland's remit was extended by the North South Ministerial Council to include responsibility for the restoration of the Ulster Canal between Clones and Upper Lough Erne.

The 2011 budget for Waterways Ireland is the subject of ongoing discussions with the co-sponsoring Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in Northern Ireland and will require formal approval by the North South Ministerial Council. My Department has an estimated funding provision of €30.3m for Waterways Ireland for 2011, made up of €6m capital and €24.3m in current funding. Funding in future years will also require formal approval by the Council.

In accordance with procedures in place, Waterways Ireland reports regularly to Ministers from this jurisdiction and Northern Ireland in the Inland Waterways Sectoral meetings of the North South Ministerial Council. Such a meeting is scheduled to take place on 7 July next.

Waterways Ireland is also subject to regular monitoring by a monitoring committee comprising officials of my Department and the co-sponsoring Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in Northern Ireland. This committee monitors expenditure and progress against the Waterways Ireland annual business plan. The body also complies with the provisions of the Financial Memorandum agreed for it by the two sponsor Departments and the Finance Departments, which prescribes detailed financial arrangements for the body.

Natural Heritage Areas

John O'Mahony

Ceist:

205 Deputy John O’Mahony asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the names and areas of designated bogs in County Mayo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16309/11]

There are a large number of peat bogs in County Mayo. Of these, a small number have been designated for protection as National Heritage Areas (NHAs) under the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000 or as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) under the European Communities (Natural Habitats) Regulation, 1997. These have been included in the following table.

County

Bog

Area

Carrowmore Lake Complex

Mayo

Blanket Bog

SAC

Glenamoy Bog Complex

Mayo

Blanket Bog

SAC

Lough Gall Bog

Mayo

Blanket Bog

SAC

Owenduff/Nephin Complex

Mayo

Blanket Bog

SAC

Slieve Fyagh Bog

Mayo

Blanket Bog

SAC

Lough Hoe Bog

Mayo & Sligo

Blanket Bog

SAC

Bellacorick Bog Complex

Mayo

Blanket Bog

SAC

Mweelrea/Sheeffry/Erriff Complex

Mayo

Blanket Bog

SAC

Ox Mountains Bogs

Mayo & Sligo

Blanket Bog

SAC

Bangor Erris Bog

Mayo

Blanket Bog

NHA

Ummerantarry Bog

Mayo

Blanket Bog

NHA

Croaghmoyle Mountain

Mayo

Blanket Bog

NHA

Cunnagher More Bog

Mayo

Blanket Bog

NHA

Doogort East Bog

Mayo

Blanket Bog

NHA

Ederglen Bog

Mayo

Blanket Bog

NHA

Forrew Bog

Mayo

Blanket Bog

NHA

Glenturk More Bog

Mayo

Blanket Bog

NHA

Inagh Bog

Mayo

Blanket Bog

NHA

Lough Greney Bog

Mayo

Blanket Bog

NHA

Pollatomish Bog

Mayo

Blanket Bog

NHA

Sraheens Bog

Mayo

Blanket Bog

NHA

Tawnymackan Bog

Mayo

Blanket Bog

NHA

Tristia Bog

Mayo

Blanket Bog

NHA

Lough Corrib

Galway and Mayo

Raised Bog

SAC

Tullaghan Bay And Bog

Mayo

Blanket Bog

NHA

Derrynabrock Bog

Mayo and Roscommon

Raised Bog

NHA

Flughany Bog

Mayo and Sligo

Raised Bog

NHA

Tawnaghbeg Bog

Mayo

Raised Bog

NHA

River Moy

Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo

Raised Bog

SAC

Departmental Schemes

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

206 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the position regarding an application for sale of bogland in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim. [16320/11]

In May 2010, the voluntary bog purchase scheme was closed to new applicants. Processing of applications on hand has been slower than anticipated due to capacity constraints in undertaking the conveyancing work involved.

The Government recently announced a number of decisions regarding the future management of peatlands in Ireland and, in particular, the protection of bogs designated as Special Areas of Conservation and Natural Heritage Areas. In addition to the establishment of an independent Peatlands Council, the Government has announced a compensation package for turf-cutters in sites where continued turf cutting is no longer possible for reasons of environmental protection. My Department will be writing to all remaining applicants under the voluntary purchase scheme in the coming weeks to outline their options in light of the availability of alternative compensation arrangements.

Hare Coursing

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

207 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will consider refusing this year’s application from a club (details supplied) for a licence to net hares for the 2011 to 2012 season of enclosed hare coursing or to at least add a number of new conditions to the licence that will eliminate much of the unnecessary suffering to which hares are subjected during the netting phase of the coursing process. [16193/11]

My Department has received an application under the Wildlife Acts from the organisation in question on behalf of its affiliated clubs to facilitate the tagging and the capture of hares in relation to the holding of coursing meetings for the coming 2011/2012 season. The application is under consideration and a decision will be made as soon as possible.

Departmental Bodies

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

208 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the agencies or bodies to which he provides funding or in respect of which it is administratively responsible; the bodies and agencies for which he is responsible in respect of his policy; the amount of funding provided in each of the years 2007 to 2011 in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16501/11]

Details of funding allocations for the years in question to the relevant statutory bodies and national cultural institutions funded from my Department's Vote Group are listed as follows. As the Deputy will be aware, details of annual funding allocations are published in the Revised Estimates Volume.

Agency

Funding 2007 €000’s

Funding 2008 €000’s

Funding 2009 €000’s

Funding 2010 €000’s

Funding 2011 €000’s

Arts Council

83,000

81,620

73,350

68,649

65,167

Irish FilmBoard

22,159

23,189

21,840

19,272

18,431

Crawford Art Gallery

1,980

2,016

1,753

1,579

1,350

Chester Beatty Library

3,208

3,488

3,083

2,714

2,579

National Gallery of Ireland*

11,735

12,455

10,640

9,826

9,847

National Library ofIreland

12,701

11,875

10,742

9,251

8,084

National Concert Hall

4,090

3,894

3,478

3,105

2,874

Irish Museum of Modern Art

8,272

8,341

7,317

6,671

6,093

National Museum of Ireland

18,332

19,017

15,415

15,125

14,240

Heritage Council

728**

817**

525 **

518*

400**

749***

1,000 ***

400***

6***

Waterways Ireland

36,218

38,140

34,504

32,919

30,300

Údarás na Gaeltachta

39,369

44,054

37,635

32,915

19,600

An Foras Teanga — comprising:

16,181

18,655

16,420

16,432

8,117

Foras na Gaeilge

15,149

17,592

15,482

15,459

7,743

Ulster Scots Agency

1,032

1,063

938

973

374

An Coimisinéir Teanga

694

831

831

743

670

*Vote 33: Figures are net of appropriations in aid deductions (made up of primarily pension related deductions and a small amount of miscellaneous deductions).

**Funding provided to Heritage Council relating to operation of the National Biodiversity Data Centre.

***Funding provided to Heritage Council relating to Biodiversity Fund Grants & Local Biodiversity Action Plans scheme administered through the Heritage Council. From 2010 this scheme was administered directly by the Department. The Heritage Council itself received a grant of €6,000 under the scheme in 2010.

Departmental Funding

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

209 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the amount of unspent money returned by him to the Department of Finance each year since 2007; the Departmental budget for each year since 2007; the projects for which this money was originally earmarked in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16502/11]

The Deputy will be aware that my Department was established as the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht on 2 June 2011.

In relation to the former Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport, the surplus amounts surrendered to the Department of Finance and the departmental budgets for each year 2007 to 2010 are outlined in the table below. A detailed breakdown of the figures for 2007 to 2009 is published in the Comptroller and Auditor General's Audit of Appropriation Accounts for each year.

In relation to the projects for which the surrendered funds were originally earmarked, the capital grant schemes in the Department are demand-led and depend on projects progressing to a satisfactory level to allow payment of funding. Accordingly, the funds allocated are not earmarked for payment to a specific project in a given year and depend on the progress of the project.

In relation to other capital projects, the Deputy will be aware that, in accordance with Section 91 of the Finance Act 2004, capital monies unspent in a particular year can be carried forward to be spent in the following year, subject to Department of Finance approval and certain limits. This deferred expenditure was applied to some unspent capital monies in 2007, 2008 and 2010. The amounts of deferred expenditure are shown in the table and are also outlined in detail in the Appropriation Accounts and the Revised Estimates Volume for my Department's Vote for each year.

Year

Net Estimate Provision1

Surplus surrendered

2007

€670.118m

Surplus: €26.819m

Less deferred surrender: €25.181m

Surplus surrendered: €1.638m

2008

€725.343m

Surplus: €8.103m

Less deferred surrender: €1.500m

Surplus surrendered: €6.603m

2009

€525.576m

Surplus surrendered: €3.531m

2010

€464.909m

Estimated Surplus2: €19.050m

Less deferred surrender: €5m

Estimated surplus for surrender: €14.050m

1Includes deferred surrender of capital expenditure from previous year, where relevant.

2Estimated pending completion of C&AG annual Audit of Appropriation Accounts.

Departmental Websites

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

210 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the number of Government websites operated by him including agencies under his Department; the cost of maintenance of these websites; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16505/11]

The information requested by the Deputy in respect of websites operated by my Department and associated agencies is set out in the following tables.

TABLE: Department Websites

Website Address

Maintenance Cost for 2010

Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

www.ahg.gov.ie

€8,164

www.irishgenealogy.ie

€5,364

www.ballycroynationalpark.ie

€1,349

www.burrennationalpark.ie

€1,349

www.connemaranationalpark.ie

€1,349

www.coolepark.ie

€ 266

www.glengariffnaturereserve.ie

€1,349

www.glenveaghnationalpark.ie

€1,349

www.killarneynationalpark.ie

€1,349

www.northmidlandseducationcentre.ie

€ 50

www.noticenature.ie

€1,905

www.npws.ie

€9,345*

www.wexfordwildfowlreserve.ie

€1,349

www.wicklowmountainsnationalpark.ie

€1,349

www.archaeology.ie

€8,319

www.buildingsofireland.ie

€16,068

www.worldheritageireland.ie

€7,615

The National Archives

www.nationalarchives.ie

€11,491

www.census.nationalarchives.ie

€38,300

Culture Ireland

www.cultureireland.gov.ie

€10,159

* includes costs relating to website review

TABLE: Agencies funded from the Department's Vote Group

Website Address

Cost

The Arts Council

www.artscouncil.ie

€5,400

The Irish Film Board

www.irishfilmboard.ie

€13,517

National Museum of Ireland

www.museum.ie

€10,285

National Library of Ireland

www.nli.ie

€11,000

National Gallery of Ireland

www.nationalgallery.ie

€6,081

Irish Museum of Modern Art

www.imma.ie

€5,700

National Concert Hall*

www.nch.ie

0

Chester Beatty Library

www.cbl.ie

€5,210

Crawford Gallery

www.crawfordartgallery.ie

€6,000

Irish Manuscripts Commission

www.irishmanuscripts.ie

€2,145

Heritage Council

www.heritagecouncil.ie

€25,000

www.heritageweek.ie

€25,000

www.heritageinschools.ie

€25,000

Údarás na Gaeltachta

www.udaras.ie

€3,832

www. gaelsaoire.ie

€4,356

www.teangafein.ie

€50.00

An Foras Teanga

www.forasnagaeilge.ie

€1,888

www.ulsterscotsagency.com

€2,416

An Coimisinéir Teanga

www.coimisinéir.ie

€1,319

*Site maintained by NCH staff

Special Areas of Conservation

Sandra McLellan

Ceist:

211 Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the phased basis for more than 130 raised bogs conservation sites; when the phases will be imposed; and the names and locations of same. [16508/11]

Under the EU Habitats Directive, Ireland is obliged to protect various natural habitats which are of international importance, including through designating areas as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). Once designated, Ireland is obliged to monitor, protect and where necessary, restore those habitats which are under threat. In addition, Ireland, under national law, has also designated Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs) for protection under the Wildlife Acts. A total of 130 sites have been designated as SACs and NHAs for the conservation of raised bog habitat.

The effective cessation of turf-cutting on 31 SAC sites was confirmed by a decision of the previous Government in May 2010 and had immediate effect. This year was also the last season of turf-cutting on the remaining 24 raised bog SACs. On the 5th April this year the Government made a number of decisions in relation to turf cutting in Ireland, including the putting in place of a compensation package for those who are required to cease cutting, the establishment of a Peatlands Council and the drawing up of a national strategy on peatlands conservation and management. In the context of the national strategy, the position regarding raised bog NHAs, which are protected under national legislation, and the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive will be examined in advance of the 2014 cutting season.

The following tables set out the names of the bogs affected by these decisions.

TABLE 1: Bogs affected from 2010 (SAC Sites)

No.

Site Code

Site Name

County

1

000006

Killyconny Bog (Cloghbally)

Cavan and Meath

2

000231

Barroughter Bog

Galway

3

000248

Cloonmoylan Bog

Galway

4

000285

Kilsallagh Bog

Galway

5

000296

Lisnageeragh Bog and Ballinstack Turlough

Galway

6

000297

Lough Corrib

Galway and Mayo

7

000301

Lough Lurgeen Bog/Glenamaddy Turlough

Galway

8

000326

Shankill West Bog

Galway

9

000382

Sheheree (Ardagh) Bog

Kerry

10

000391

Ballynafagh Bog

Kildare

11

000497

Flughany Bog

Mayo and Sligo

12

000566

All Saints Bog and Esker

Offaly

13

000572

Clara Bog

Offaly

14

000575

Ferbane Bog

Offaly

15

000580

Mongan Bog

Offaly

16

000581

Moyclare Bog

Offaly

17

000582

Raheenmore Bog

Offaly

18

000585

Sharavogue Bog

Offaly

19

000592

Bellanagare Bog

Roscommon

20

000597

Carrowbehy/Caher Bog

Roscommon

21

000600

Cloonchambers Bog

Roscommon

22

000604

Derrinea Bog

Roscommon

23

000614

Cloonshanville Bog

Roscommon

24

000641

Ballyduff/Clonfinane Bog

Tipperary

25

000647

Kilcarren-Firville Bog

Tipperary

26

000679

Garriskil Bog

Westmeath

27

001242

Carrownagappul Bog

Galway

28

001818

Lough Forbes Complex

Longford and Roscommon

29

002110

Corliskea/Trien/Cloonfelliv Bog

Galway and Roscommon

30

000457

Derrynabrock Bog*

Mayo and Roscommon

31

002298

River Moy (Tawnaghbeg Bog)

Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo

*This site has now been subsumed into the River Moy SAC (002298)

TABLE 2: Bogs affected from end-2011 (SAC Sites)

No.

Site Code

Site Name

County

1

000595

Callow Bog

Roscommon

2

002298

River Moy

Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo

3

002331

Mouds Bog

Kildare

4

002332

Coolrain Bog

Laois

5

002333

Knockacoller Bog

Laois

6

002336

Carn Park Bog

Westmeath

7

002337

Crosswood Bog

Westmeath

8

002338

Drumalough Bog

Roscommon

9

002339

Ballynamona Bog and Corkip Lough

Roscommon

10

002340

Moneybeg and Clareisland Bogs

Meath and Westmeath

11

002341

Ardagullion Bog

Longford

12

002342

Mount Hevey Bog

Meath and Westmeath

13

002343

Tullaher Lough and Bog

Clare

14

002346

Brown Bog

Longford

15

002347

Camderry Bog

Galway

16

002348

Clooneen Bog

Longford

17

002349

Corbo Bog

Roscommon

18

002350

Curraghlehanagh Bog

Galway

19

002351

Moanveanlagh Bog

Kerry

20

002352

Monivea Bog

Galway

21

002353

Redwood Bog

Tipperary

22

002354

Tullaghanrock Bog

Roscommon

23

002356

Ardgraigue Bog

Galway

24

000440

Lough Ree

Ros/LD/WM

TABLE 3: NHA Raised Bog sites — to be examined before 2014

No.

Site Code

Site Name

County

1

000220

Lough Namucka Bog NHA

Galway and Roscommon

2

000221

Moorfield Bog/Farm Cottage NHA

Galway and Roscommon

3

000222

Suck River Callows NHA

Galway and Roscommon

4

000229

Ballygar Bog NHA

Galway

5

000235

Bracklagh Bog NHA

Galway

6

000245

Clooncullaun Bog NHA

Galway

7

000247

Slieve Bog NHA

Galway

8

000249

Cloonoolish Bog NHA

Galway

9

000254

Crit Island West NHA

Galway

10

000267

Funshin Bog NHA

Galway

11

000280

Castle Ffrench West Bog NHA

Galway

12

000281

Keeloges Bog NHA

Galway

13

000283

Kilmore Bog NHA

Galway

14

000284

Kilnaborris Bog NHA

Galway

15

000292

Leaha Bog NHA

Galway

16

000307

Lough Tee Bog NHA

Galway

17

000310

Meneen Bog NHA

Galway

18

000321

Raford River Bog NHA

Galway

19

000333

Anna More Bog NHA

Kerry

20

000337

Doon Lough NHA

Clare

21

000422

Aghnamona Bog NHA

Leitrim and Longford

22

000564

River Little Brosna Callows NHA

Offaly and Tipperary

23

000565

Clonydonnin Bog NHA

Offaly and Westmeath

24

000570

Black Castle Bog NHA

Offaly

25

000591

Bella Bridge Bog NHA

Roscommon

26

000603

Cornaveagh Bog NHA

Roscommon

27

000605

Derrycanan Bog NHA

Roscommon

28

000640

Arragh More Bog NHA

Tipperary

29

000642

Ballymacegan Bog NHA

Tipperary

30

000648

Killeen Bog NHA

Tipperary

31

000652

Monaincha Bog/Ballaghmore Bog NHA

Laois

32

000674

Ballynagrenia and Ballinderry Bog NHA

Westmeath

33

000677

Cloncrow Bog (New Forest) NHA

Westmeath

34

000684

Lough Derravaragh NHA

Westmeath

35

000691

Rinn River NHA

Leitrim and Longford

36

000694

Wooddown Bog NHA

Westmeath

37

000890

Cangort Bog NHA

Offaly and Tipperary

38

000921

Screggan Bog NHA

Offaly

39

000937

Scohaboy Bog NHA

Tipperary

40

000985

Lough Kinale and Derragh Lough NHA

Cavan, Longford and Westmeath

41

000993

Ayle Lower Bog NHA

Clare

42

001020

Loughanilloon Bog NHA

Clare

43

001227

Aughrim Bog NHA

Galway

44

001240

Capira/Derrew Bog NHA

Galway

45

001244

Castle Ffrench East Bog NHA

Galway

46

001254

Derrinlough Bog NHA

Galway

47

001255

Derrynagran Bog and Esker NHA

Galway

48

001264

Eskerboy Bog NHA

Galway

49

001280

Killaclogher Bog NHA

Galway

50

001283

Killure Bog NHA

Galway

51

001303

Moorfield Bog NHA

Galway

52

001324

Jamestown Bog NHA

Meath

53

001352

Bunnaruddee Bog NHA

Kerry

54

001388

Carbury Bog NHA

Kildare

55

001393

Hodgestown Bog NHA

Kildare

56

001405

Cashel Bog (Leitrim) NHA

Leitrim

57

001420

Corracramph Bog NHA

Leitrim

58

001423

Cloonageeher Bog NHA

Leitrim and Longford

59

001448

Forthill Bog NHA

Longford

60

001450

Mount Jessop Bog NHA

Longford

61

001580

Girley Bog NHA

Meath

62

001582

Molerick Bog NHA

Meath

63

001623

Carrickynaghtan Bog NHA

Roscommon

64

001652

Tullaghan Bog (Roscommon) NHA

Roscommon

65

001684

Lorrha Bog NHA

Tipperary

66

001725

Nure Bog NHA

Westmeath

67

001812

Lough Garr NHA

Westmeath

68

001853

Nore Valley Bogs NHA

Tipperary

69

002033

Daingean Bog NHA

Offaly

70

002072

Lisnanarriagh Bog NHA

Roscommon

71

002307

Cloonloum More Bog NHA

Clare

72

002323

Milltownpass Bog NHA

Westmeath

73

002344

Annaghbeg Bog NHA

Galway

74

002355

Hawkswood Bog NHA

Offaly

75

002357

Clonreher Bog NHA

Laois

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

212 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht further to Parliamentary Question No. 95 of 2 June 2011, if alternative areas can be offered for conservation which would not impact to the same extent on traditional turf cutters; if his attention has been drawn to other countries that have sought derogation from EU directives when national tradition came into conflict with EU policy; if he will pursue such options; if he will arrange for a comprehensive review of all aspects of the way certain conservation measures conflict with tradition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16511/11]

Raised bogs in Ireland contain rare and threatened natural habitats that are protected under National and European law. A small number of raised bogs are on sites that are designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) or National Heritage Areas (NHAs). Raised bogs have almost vanished due to land reclamation, drainage and turf extraction and these designated sites are among the best examples of the small proportion of such habitats left in Europe.

There are over 1,500 raised bogs in Ireland and 139 of these have been designated for nature protection within 130 sites. In area, they comprise less than 5% of the peatlands in the State where turf-cutting is feasible. My Department estimates that there are up to 2,600 active turf cutters on these bogs.

Almost all raised bogs outside these sites would not now meet the criteria for designation or restoration due to drainage, exploitation and land-use change. However, many of these bogs are suitable for turf-extraction and relocation of turf-cutters to such areas is likely to be feasible in many cases. As such, the measures announced recently announced are not incompatible with the continuation of traditional activities, but will necessitate a relocation of such activities to non-designated bogs.

Traditional activities in Ireland and across the EU, encompassing a range of activities such as agriculture, fishing, hunting, forestry, land use and industry, have all had to adapt to the requirements of EU Directives, including those aimed at environmental protection. Turf-cutting is no different in this regard.

My attention has not been drawn to other countries that have sought derogation from EU Directives when national tradition came into conflict with EU policy. Once adopted, Directives are binding on all Member States in accordance with the provisions of the individual Directives.

Energy Prices

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

213 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he has taken to ensure the energy market is competitive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16617/11]

I have no statutory function in the setting of energy prices, whether in the regulated or non-regulated market. Responsibility for the regulation of the electricity and gas markets is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent statutory body.

The electricity retail market is now fully deregulated. CER has announced that the small to medium business segment of the gas market will be de-regulated from 1 October next.

Business and domestic customers can increasingly avail of the competitive offerings from a number of electricity and gas supply companies. The first step that business customers should take to reduce their energy costs is to work actively in securing better value offers in the market and in switching to suppliers delivering lower prices.

I acknowledge the actions taken over the last two years to bring Ireland's energy prices into line with, or below, European averages. This is resulting in positive outcomes as is evidenced by improved competitiveness in the gas and electricity sectors when compared with other European countries.

Eurostat data for the first half of 2010 showed convergence to the EU average for many categories of Irish business and residential consumer, in both electricity and gas. The data showed that in the year to June 2010, Ireland experienced the largest fall in business electricity prices in the EU for medium to large consumers. Prices fell by 20% to 36%, depending on consumption levels.

Electricity prices in Ireland were below the EU average for medium to large business customers for the first half of 2010.

Competition helps to put downward pressure on energy prices. But the focus must be kept on all possible additional actions to mitigate costs where possible for business and for domestic customers. This is essential for competitiveness, for employment and for economic recovery.

I am committed to working with enterprise and with the energy sector to ensure that the costs of energy for business are as competitive as possible through those measures at our disposal including a sustained focus on energy efficiency.

Broadcasting Services

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

214 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the way he proposes to assist low-income households with the cost of digital set up boxes and when necessary new aerials at the digital switchover; the number of households identified to date by the digital switchover steering group as requiring these boxes and aerials and who are of low-income means; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16618/11]

Ireland's national digital switchover strategy provides for the closure of the RTÉNL analogue TV network at the end of 2012 and, through the resulting ‘digital dividend', paves the way for the delivery of new jobs, new mobile and broadband services and new national economic growth.

I am keenly aware of the challenges this initiative brings, in particular for Irish households which are reliant on the analogue TV network also known as the aerial TV network.

I recently published a Report on TV Viewing Methods in Ireland, which was commissioned by my Department to assist with planning for Analogue Switch-Off (ASO).

This report focuses on TV viewers who rely on the analogue terrestrial TV network and also provides useful information on the economic profile of TV households, their media preferences and preferences for receiving information about analogue switch off. This report will usefully inform the digital switchover programme.

This report is also useful in helping to estimate the number of TV households reliant on the aerial TV network backed up by other research such as the TAM establishment survey.

From the research, we can estimate that there are at least a quarter of a million households in Ireland reliant on the aerial network solely for television reception and an estimated 100,000 of these are classified as DE homes from a socio-economic perspective. That is, the Head of Household or Chief Wage Earner in 100,000 Analogue homes is either unemployed, working as an unskilled manual worker, or wholly dependent on state benefits for income.

All households reliant on the aerial TV network will need to upgrade to digital TV by the end of 2012 or they will lose access to television.

TV households can choose to upgrade to digital TV by moving to a pay TV service or by upgrading to Saorview, Ireland's national digital TV aerial network. This network was built by RTE and launched on 26th May 2011.

To upgrade to Saorview, TV households will need to purchase either a set top box to connect to their existing TV or a new Saorview digital TV. In some cases, depending on the type of aerial and the orientation and age of the aerial, TV households may also need a new aerial. The number of TV households who may need a new aerial or aerial adjustment is difficult to estimate and is expected to be at least 20,000 TV households.

Experience from other European countries indicates that the cost of set top boxes and other digital receivers reduces as the date for digital switchover approaches, and there is increased competition in the market. I look forward to RTÉ and RTÉNL working intensively with manufacturers and retailers to ensure that there is a plentiful supply of simple to use, accessible and affordable set top boxes available on the market as well as a wide range of digital televisions and digital video recorders.

To overcome the challenges that digital switchover brings, we must also assist people with information and practical assistance to ensure that no one is left behind as Ireland goes digital.

For my part, as Minister, I have promised to deliver a substantial information campaign providing households with information on the digital switchover and on their options for going digital. This information campaign will start later this year.

In conjunction with this, my Department is currently developing plans to ensure that a range of practical assistance is made available, in particular, to address the particular needs of vulnerable households as they prepare to go digital. In this context, the expertise and local knowledge of the many voluntary and charity organisations around the country will be of critical importance to ensuring the success of the switchover process. I have asked my Department to ensure that, to the greatest possible extent, these organisations play a major part in our information and assistance campaign.

Telecommunications Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

215 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which the requirement in terms of investment in communications technology such as broadband is sufficient to meet current and future requirements; if a particular strategy is required in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16144/11]

The provision of electronic communications services, including broadband, is, in the first instance, a matter for private sector service providers, regulated by the independent regulator, the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).

Government may intervene in the fully liberalised telecommunications market only in areas where the competitive market fails to provide service. Targeted interventions, such as the National Broadband Scheme (NBS), were introduced by my Department to deliver broadband services in areas not otherwise served due to reluctance on the part of commercial operators to invest because of inadequate financial returns. The NBS network provides a widely accessible broadband service in all of the 1028 Electoral Divisions that were identified as needing intervention. The Rural Broadband Scheme (RBS), which I announced recently, aims to provide a broadband service to a relatively small number of remaining individual unserved rural premises. Completion of the RBS will provide widespread access to broadband services across the country.

The NewERA proposals in the Programme for Government aim to deliver higher broadband speeds. There is a commitment to co-invest with the private sector and commercial Semi State sector to provide Next Generation Broadband to every home and business in the State. Specifically the Next Generation Broadband Taskforce (NGBT), which I chair, is now considering how best to roll out Next Generation Broadband network access. The NGBT, which includes representatives of large network owners and smaller telecommunications services providers, held its first meeting on 13 June 2011. I expect that the NGBT, which will conclude its deliberations by the end of the year, will be helpful in terms of identifying the optimal policy position to deliver wider customer access to high-speed broadband.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

216 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason the quality and extent of mobile telephone coverage in this country is not comparable with that available in other EU member states; if a particular strategy needs to be developed to address such issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16145/11]

The provision of mobile phone networks and services is undertaken by telecommunications service providers who operate in a fully liberalised market.

The regulation of telecommunications service providers, including regulatory issues surrounding mobile phone network coverage and quality is the responsibility of the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), in accordance with its functions under the Communications Regulation Act 2002, as amended, and the EU Regulatory Framework for Electronic Communications.

ComReg is responsible for issuing licences to mobile phone operators and for monitoring compliance with the conditions attached to such licences. I am informed by ComReg that all of the operators have met their licence requirements in this regard.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

217 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will outline any issues likely to present as obstacles to the development of modern high speed broadband provision in all areas throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16146/11]

The provision of electronic communications services, including broadband, is, in the first instance, a matter for private sector service providers, regulated by the independent regulator, the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).

The NewERA proposals in the Programme for Government aim to deliver higher broadband speeds. There is a commitment to co-invest with the private sector and commercial Semi State sector to provide Next Generation Broadband (NGB) to every home and business in the State. Specifically, the Next Generation Broadband Taskforce (NGBT), which I chair, is now considering how best to roll out Next Generation Broadband network access. The NGBT, which includes representatives of large network owners and smaller telecommunications services providers, held its first meeting on 13 June 2011. The identification of obstacles or barriers to the widespread deployment of NGB access is among the work programmes to be pursued. I expect that the NGBT, which will conclude its deliberations by the end of the year, will be helpful in terms of identifying the optimal policy position to deliver wider customer access to high-speed broadband.

Postal Services

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

218 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent, if any, to which he has had discussions with An Post in the aftermath of deregulation in the context of the extent and scale of delivery and counter services throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16147/11]

It is Government policy that An Post remains a strong and viable company, in a position to provide a high quality, nationwide postal service and maintain a nationwide, customer focussed network of post offices.

I have no function with respect to the provision of counter services by An Post. Section 12 of the Postal and Telecommunications Services Act, 1983 requires the company to provide counter services for its own and Government business and other uses that the company sees fit.

My officials and I meet regularly with An Post management to discuss issues of importance to An Post, including issues relating to market opening. The universal service obligation, enshrined in European and Irish law, provides that each Member State is obliged to provide a postal service whereby the minimum level of service that must be provided is a clearance and delivery every working day to the home or premises of every person. Under Irish regulations, An Post is designated as the Universal Service provider. The Communications Regulation (Postal Services) Bill which will put the regulatory framework in place for a liberalised sector provides for the continued designation of An Post.

Energy Prices

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

219 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the action, if any, he can take to persuade the gas and electricity suppliers to keep prices at the lowest possible level in order to assist economic recovery and alleviate the burden on the domestic market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16148/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

220 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will intercede with Bord Gáis and the ESB with a view to ensuring that gas and electricity prices here, both to industry and the domestic market, are comparable to other EU States; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16149/11]

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

I have no statutory function in the setting of energy prices, whether in the regulated or non-regulated market. Responsibility for the regulation of the electricity and gas markets is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent statutory body.

The electricity retail market is now fully deregulated and CER has announced that the small to medium business segment of the gas market will be deregulated from 1 October next. Business and domestic customers can increasingly avail of the competitive offerings from a number of electricity and gas supply companies. The first step that customers should take to reduce their energy costs is to work actively in securing better value offers in the market and in switching to suppliers delivering lower prices.

I acknowledge the action taken over the last two years to bring Ireland's energy prices into line with, or below, European averages. This is resulting in positive outcomes as is evidenced by improved competitiveness in the gas and electricity sectors when compared with other European countries.

Eurostat data for the first half of 2010 showed such convergence to the EU average for many categories of business and residential consumer in both the electricity and gas sectors. Analysis by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) shows that average residential gas prices for the majority of Irish gas consumers went from being 4% above the EU average at the end of 2009 to being 5% below the average in the first half of 2010.

SEAI analysis of Eurostat data for the electricity sector show that in the 12 months to June 2010, Ireland experienced the largest fall in business electricity prices in the EU for medium to large consumers. Prices for these consumers fell by 20% to 36%, depending on consumption levels.

Electricity prices for business in Ireland were below the EU average for medium to large customers for the first half of 2010. For the group of businesses consuming the largest amount of electricity and for which we have data, Ireland was 27% below the Eurozone average. For business customers consuming smaller amounts of electricity Ireland was ranked between 5th and 12th in Europe out of 27 countries for the same period.

Competition helps to put downward pressure on energy prices. But the focus must be kept on all possible additional actions to mitigate costs where possible for business and for domestic customers. This is essential for competitiveness, for employment and for economic recovery.

This convergence to the EU average has been an important factor in supporting greater competitiveness for Irish enterprise and foreign direct investment. Global gas and oil prices have risen sharply since the start of the year driven by events in North Africa and Japan and high demand from the emerging economies of China and India.

Markets and analysts are forecasting that international oil and gas prices will rise further over the coming months. The Energy Regulator, Bórd Gais Eireann, ESB and other energy suppliers consider that such increases will have an impact on domestic gas and electricity prices. Ireland is a price taker in the global fossil fuel market and the economy is therefore vulnerable to energy price fluctuations and price rises. Competitor countries are in many instances facing the same prospect and the objective in the context of higher global prices must be that we retain or improve our competitive position.

Ireland's concerns about high oil and gas prices are shared at EU level and fellow Member Countries of the International Energy Agency (IEA). The EU and IEA agree that high fossil fuels prices which pose a threat to economic recovery underline the need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels by radically enhanced energy efficiency measures and the development of renewable energy.

I am committed to working with the energy sector to ensure that the costs of energy for are as competitive as possible through those measures at our disposal including notably a sustained focus on energy efficiency.

North-South Interconnector

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

221 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the provision of gas and electricity interconnectors north, south, east and west; if it is anticipated that such facilities will contribute to a reduction in costs here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16150/11]

The enhancement of regional co-operation, including improved interconnectivity between Member States, is a key objective of both the EU Energy Third Package and the EU Regulation on Security of Gas Supply.

The vast bulk of Ireland's gas demand is supplied from Great Britain through two interconnector pipelines between Ireland and Scotland. The Scotland Northern Ireland Gas Pipeline (SNIP) brings gas from Scotland to Northern Ireland. In addition, the South-North interconnector, running from Gormanstown in County Meath to Ballyclare in County Antrim, provides security of gas supply to Northern Ireland customers in the event of a gas supply disruption.

My Department and the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) are currently working with their counterparts in Northern Ireland to put in place an all-island gas market by October 2012. The primary objective is to ensure that all stakeholders on the island can buy, sell and transport natural gas and that the market can be operated effectively on an all-island basis for the benefit of consumers.

At the Government's request, EirGrid the State owned transmission system operator, is building the East West Interconnector between the electricity grids of Ireland and Britain. The construction and operation of the East West Interconnector is the responsibility of EirGrid. This national strategic project is on schedule and on budget for delivery by 2012. The full cost of the Interconnector is underwritten by all electricity customers under the regulatory model implemented by the CER.

Electricity interconnection between Northern Ireland and Scotland is provided by the Moyle Interconnector which has a capacity of 500MW.

The European Commission is giving particular strategic priority to strengthening electricity interconnection across Europe. The strategic importance of the East West Interconnector project was recognised by the Commission with the granting of aid of €110 million for the project in 2009 as part of the economy recovery support package for European interconnection and energy infrastructure. The East West Interconnector will enable the import and export of electricity between Ireland and Britain. It will underpin the progressive integration of the two electricity markets and will support the further integration of wind onto the Irish energy system. It will also bring improved security of supply and increased competition in the single electricity market.

My Department and the CER will continue to work with counterparts in Northern Ireland and Great Britain to foster greater physical connectivity in electricity, improved security of supply and increased competition in the electricity and gas markets on the two islands for the benefit of consumers. Greater competition should help to keep downward pressure on generation costs and prices. Interconnection in the appropriate market and regulatory framework may also assist in this process, depending on how the relative prices in both jurisdictions compare over time and on how they incentivise trading in either direction.

Energy Resources

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

222 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent of commercially viable oil gas or other discoveries arising from exploration on or off-shore in each of the past five years to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16151/11]

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

223 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if ongoing oil, gas or other mineral exploration work has indicated commercially viable discoveries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16152/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 222 and 223 together.

There have been a number of discoveries of oil and gas in the Irish Offshore in recent years, however none of these has been declared commercial to date. The only petroleum discovery that has been declared commercial but has yet to be developed is the Corrib Gas Field.

With regard to non-Petroleum minerals, while no new commercially viable deposits of minerals have been discovered in recent years, there have been some encouraging results.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

224 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which supply from the Corrib gas field is likely to meet domestic or industrial requirements on an annual basis for the future; when it is expected that supply will become available; the potential economic impact; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16153/11]

It is estimated that the Corrib gas field will be capable of supplying up to 60% of Ireland's gas requirements for a period of at least five years at full production, declining thereafter.

Completion of the development works by the developer is the principal factor that will determine the date for first gas. Pending such completion, it is not possible to state a date for when gas from the Corrib gas field will become available.

In terms of the potential economic impact, there will be a substantial yield of corporation tax payable to the State at the rate of 25% over the lifetime of the project once production goes into profit.

It should also be noted that the Corrib Gas development is a critical driver of investment, job creation and economic growth. In the immediate vicinity of the development and in the region generally, it is estimated that some 120 to 140 direct jobs will be created during the onshore construction phase of the pipeline with an approximate additional 200 support jobs. There will also be 130 high quality permanent jobs ultimately created in Erris once the development comes into operation. Indirect employment opportunities such as building suppliers, general caterers and accommodation are not accounted for in this estimate.

Departmental Funding

Robert Troy

Ceist:

225 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the various grants currently available from Sustainable Energy Ireland; and the grants that were available at the 31 December 2010. [16206/11]

The following table outlines the Exchequer funded programmes for renewable energy and energy efficiency in place at 31st December 2010 and those in place in 2011. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) manages these programmes on behalf of my Department. Details of the individual grants available to householders and organisations under the various programmes are available on the SEAI website.

The largest of the 2011 programmes is ’Better Energy: The National Upgrade Programme’, which I launched on Wednesday, 11 May 2011, on foot of the Jobs Initiative. The Better Energy Programme encompasses a number of the energy efficiency and renewable energy programmes operating as of 31st December 2010, including the Home Energy Savings Scheme (HES), the Warmer Homes Scheme (WHS) and the Greener Homes Scheme (GHS).

The SEAI has recently launched the ‘Better Energy Workplaces' grant scheme for sustainable energy upgrades of non-domestic buildings, facilities and services. The scheme is open for applications for projects from public sector, private sector and community organisations.

Some of the other programmes listed have been running for a number of years and having provided the impetus to develop a sustainable market are now either in their wind down phase or have been closed to new applicants.

Programme/Project

2010Total (€m)

2011Total (€m)

Better Energy: The National Upgrade Programme

0.000

99.869

Warmer Homes Scheme

13.051

0.00

Home Energy Savings Scheme/National Energy Retrofit Programme

74.768

0.00

Greener Homes Scheme

6.000

0.00

Industry in Business

2.722

0.00

Public Sector Energy Efficiency

0.887

0.00

Reheat Deployment

2.238

0.550

CHP Deployment

3.678

2.447

Electric Vehicles

0.00

5.000

House of Tomorrow

0.549

0.00

Renewable Energy RD&D

2.182

2.000

Micro Generation

0.481

0.700

Ocean Energy Development

7.740

7.100

RE Transport and Fuel

0.623

0.150

Smart Metering

0.650

0.450

Public Service Obligation

Robert Dowds

Ceist:

226 Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will cap the public service obligation levy on energy bills for voluntary organisations in order that the levy, inclusive of VAT, cannot exceed the cost of the energy used for the billing period. [16250/11]

The Public Obligation Service (PSO) levy has been in place since 2001 and is the support mechanism for peat generation and the development of renewable electricity. The PSO also supports the output of two gas fuelled power plants built in 2005 to secure much needed generation capacity at the time. The levy is designed to compensate electricity suppliers for the additional costs they incur by purchasing electricity generated by the three peat stations and renewable energy sources. The levy has supported the connection of more than 1,400 MW of renewable energy, mostly wind, to the electricity grid over the last decade. The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) determines the PSO levy which is a charge on all electricity customers without exception. Its legal basis and method of calculation are set out in the regulations made under the Electricity Regulation Act 1999. The scheme sets outs that it applies to all electricity customers. Each year the PSO Levy is calculated by CER according to the method set out in the regulations and this process is currently underway for the next PSO year starting on 1st October 2011.

The PSO levy for the current year (exclusive of VAT of 13.5%), is €32.76 for residential customers and €99.03 for small to medium sized business customers. On a VAT exclusive basis, this roughly equates to €2.73 per month or €5.46 every two months for residential customers and €8.25 per month or €16.50 every two months for small to medium sized business customers.

In general terms, the cost of the PSO levy to the consumer tends to be low or zero when gas and oil prices are high, as in these cases the market adequately rewards renewable and conventional generation including the peat stations. However, when fossil fuel prices are low, peat and renewable generators become less competitive and suppliers need to be compensated for purchasing their output. The fall in gas prices in recent years gave rise to the re-emergence of the PSO levy on all customers' bills from October 2010.

Global gas and oil prices have risen sharply since the start of the year driven by events in North Africa and Japan and high demand from the emerging economies of China and India. Markets and analysts are forecasting that international oil and gas prices will rise further over the coming months. The Energy Regulator, Bord Gáis Éireann, ESB and other energy suppliers consider that such increases will have an impact on domestic gas and electricity prices. Ireland is a price taker in the global fossil fuel market and electricity consumers are therefore vulnerable to such energy price fluctuations and price rises.

Radio Broadcasting

Dominic Hannigan

Ceist:

227 Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding plans for the auctioning of 4G licences here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16306/11]

The management of the radio spectrum is a statutory function of ComReg under the Communications Regulations Act 2002. In accordance with this function and with its obligations under EU law, ComReg designs and manages the spectrum assignment process bearing in mind its objectives of ensuring the effective and efficient use of radio frequencies, promoting the harmonisation of use of frequencies across the EU, encouraging investment and promoting competition, in the interests of consumers. ComReg is independent in the exercise of this spectrum management function.

ComReg has recently engaged in consultations on the proposed assignment of spectrum in the 800 MHz, 900 MHz and 1800 MHz frequency bands by means of a competitive auction. I am informed that in the coming weeks ComReg will publish a consultation paper which will set out, amongst other things, a draft decision of its proposed method for awarding rights of use of spectrum in these bands.

While this proposal is still under consultation and no final decision has yet been made, ComReg envisages that it will complete its consultation, issue its final decision, and commence its auction by end 2011, with new licences awarded thereafter.

Alternative Energy Projects

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

228 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he intends setting a national renewable target in public buildings through the introduction of a biomass public procurement policy as an alternative to burning imported fossil fuels which cost at present €600 million per annum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16341/11]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

229 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he intends introducing a renewable heat incentive scheme similar to that introduced in the United Kingdom in March 2010 to stimulate the renewable heat market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16342/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 228 and 229 together.

The national targets for penetration of renewable energy in the electricity, heat and transport sector by 2020 are 40% renewable electricity, 12% renewable heat and 10% renewable energy in transport. These targets are commensurate with the overall mandatory target set for Ireland under Renewable Energy Directive of 16% penetration of renewable energy across the three sectors by 2020.

Schemes to date administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) including the Greener Homes Scheme, Renewable Heat Deployment Programme (ReHeat) and the Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Deployment Programme, have contributed to increasing the level of renewable heat deployment. Attainment of the national target is acknowledged to pose considerable challenges.

My Department together with the Department of Agriculture, Marine and Food is progressing a national Bioenergy Strategy, which will include proposals on how best to encourage the use of renewable heating technologies in the public and private sector in the most cost effective way possible.

In that context my Department together with SEAI, will assess the cost and benefits of a scheme similar to the proposed UK Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) Scheme.

Electricity Transmission Network

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

230 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he intends directing EirGrid to halt any further work on the Meath-Tyrone interconnector until an independent analysis is carried out by qualified experts on the alternative of putting the cable underground; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16343/11]

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

231 Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he intends appointing independent international experts to examine and report on the case for and the extra costs associated with putting part or all of the Meath-Tyrone 440 kVA power line underground; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16344/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 230 and 231 together.

The planning, development and routing of transmission line infrastructure is a matter for EirGrid, which is the State owned body responsible for the electricity transmission system. I have no statutory function regarding the planning and construction of energy networks.

The Government fully endorses the strategic national importance of investing in Ireland's electricity transmission infrastructure. In that context the Meath-Tyrone 400KV Interconnector is a key strategic project for the economies and consumers both North and South. It is also critical to ensuring energy supply adequacy on the island of Ireland.

The Programme for Government commits to the establishment of an independent international expert commission to review within six months the case for, and cost of, undergrounding all or part of the Meath-Tyrone line. The review will not consider whether the Meath-Tyrone Interconnector should be built. It will consider the case for and cost of undergrounding and will take account of the significant corpus of analysis already commissioned into the undergrounding option.

EirGrid has begun a new round of non statutory public consultation in relation to the Meath-Tyrone Interconnector preparatory to a formal new application to An Bord Pleanála. This preparatory work by EirGrid does not in anyway pre-empt or undermine the Programme for Government commitment. There is no requirement in the Programme for Government that EirGrid should halt all preparatory work and EirGrid has publicly stated that it will fully cooperate with the review and have due regard to its findings.

As soon as I am satisfied with arrangements for the proposed expert commission I will be announcing its establishment. I have asked my Department to expedite those arrangements with a view to an announcement shortly.

Legislative Programme

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

232 Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to review the Consolidated Fisheries Act 1959; and if consideration will be given to provide for nominees on licences in special tidal waters. [16382/11]

My Department, in consultation with Inland Fisheries Ireland, is in the course of reviewing the existing provisions of the Fisheries Acts dating back to 1959 with a view to producing one consolidated and modernised piece of legislation for the inland fisheries sector. The structure of the existing licensing regime, including the provision of nominees on licences, is one of the aspects being reviewed by Inland Fisheries Ireland. Once they have completed their review Inland Fisheries Ireland will make recommendations to me on future management regimes in the context of any proposed legislation.

Telecommunications Services

Frank Feighan

Ceist:

233 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to provide adequate broadband service for the Leitrim village area of County Leitrim; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16415/11]

The provision of broadband services is, in the first instance, a matter for private sector service providers operating in Ireland's fully liberalised telecommunications market. Broadband services are provided by private service providers over various platforms including DSL (i.e. over telephone lines), fixed wireless, mobile, cable, fibre and satellite.

Details of broadband services available in each county can be found on ComReg's website at www.callcosts.ie .

In cases of market failure the Government will intervene, where it is appropriate and possible to do so. The National Broadband Scheme (NBS) and the recently-launched Rural Broadband Scheme (RBS) represent such interventions.

EU State Aid and competition rules govern how states can intervene in areas where there are existing service providers operating. Accordingly, Government sponsored interventions are prohibited from providing a service in served areas where to do so would give rise to an unacceptable level of market distortion.

It continues to be a priority of the Government that there will be broadband coverage across the entire country. I am aware that there continues to be a small percentage of premises throughout the country that are not currently capable of receiving broadband services. This is primarily due to technical and other reasons (suitability of a telephone line, distance from an enabled exchange, no line of sight etc.).

The European Commission has set aside a portion of the European Economic Recovery Programme (EERP) funding for rural broadband initiatives. Using this funding, which will be augmented by an Exchequer contribution, I have recently launched a Rural Broadband Scheme. This scheme aims to identify the remaining individual premises in rural Ireland, outside of the NBS areas that are unable to obtain a broadband service and to provide a basic broadband service to those premises, where requested.

Information in relation to acceptance of applications and the process of qualification under the scheme is available on my Department's website (www.dcenr.ie ) or through contacting my Department on lo-call 1850 678100.

In addition, under the NewERA proposals in the Programme for Government, there is a commitment to co-invest with the private sector and commercial Semi State sector to provide Next Generation Broadband to every home and business in the State.

On 13th June, I convened a meeting of the Next Generation Broadband Taskforce (NGBT), which I chair. The Task Force comprises the CEOs of all of the major telecommunications companies currently operating in the Irish market and CEOs of some Internet Service Provider companies. Its purpose is to discuss how best to deliver the optimal policy environment and to identify a roadmap for the speedy delivery of high speed broadband across Ireland. The Taskforce will consider issues such as appropriate targets, investment plans, and the role of Government policy and actions in driving and facilitating investment.

I expect that the NGBT, which will conclude its deliberations before the end of March 2012 will be helpful in terms of identifying the optimal policy position to deliver wider customer access to high-speed broadband.

Warmer Homes Scheme

Joe McHugh

Ceist:

234 Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will address a ten to 12-month waiting list for an installation service relevant to his Department (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16596/11]

The allocation of funds and resources towards the Community Employment Scheme is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation and not one in which I have any function.

The Warmer Homes Scheme, now an integral element of the Better Energy programme is managed by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). The scheme provides energy efficiency improvements to homes in, or at risk of, energy poverty. The scheme is delivered through a combination of community based organisations (CBOs) and a panel of private contractors. It was successfully delivered to over 24,000 homes across the country in 2010. The scheme has addressed over 64,000 fuel poor homes since 2000 and the extra funding allocated under the recent jobs initiative will deliver up to an additional 20,000 homes in 2011.

The success of the scheme in 2010 and the roll out on a national basis has led to increased awareness and demand. It is the case therefore that there has been an increase in waiting times. The SEAI are working to establish a national waiting list, which will assist in prioritising those homes which have been waiting for the longest periods of time. Within the existing mixed model, Donegal is currently serviced by three CBOs augmented with delivery through private contractors.

Telecommunications Services

Seán Kyne

Ceist:

235 Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if consideration can be given to extending the remit of the newly announced rural broadband scheme to rural areas of Galway, for example, Connemara, owing to the insufficient service provided to these locations which were covered by the national broadband scheme in view of the fact that such deficiencies in broadband access are having a detrimental effect on some Connemara based businesses with the result of jobs being under threat. [16601/11]

The recently-launched Rural Broadband Scheme (RBS) is specifically aimed at making a basic broadband service available to the small number of premises in rural Ireland that for a number of mainly technical reasons are unable to avail of a service from a commercial operator.

The EU Commission approved this State intervention on the basis that the premises in question had to be located in a rural non-National Broadband Scheme (NBS) area and could not currently avail of a commercial service. In those circumstances, it is not possible to extend the reach of the RBS to include NBS areas.

Under the terms of the NBS, all residents within that area are entitled to a service from the NBS service provider "3" at contractually set minimum speeds. Where customers are not receiving the contractually agreed terms and conditions they should, in the first instance, raise the matter with "3" through the company's customer service channel. If this fails to satisfactorily resolve the matter, they can contact my Department's NBS section who will provide assistance in having the matter settled (details of relevant contact points are available on my Department's website www.dcenr.ie).

It is a fundamental part of the NBS contract that all of the contractual obligations are fully met by the NBS service provider. Where my Department receives a formal complaint from a customer it is immediately taken up with "3" with a view to resolving the matter as quickly as possible.

I would therefore urge NBS customers who are not happy with the quality of the service they are receiving to pursue the matter with "3" and, if necessary, my Departmental officials.

International Agreements

Jim Daly

Ceist:

236 Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the amount of money that is being paid by the State to Europe per annum in relation to the Kyoto agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16556/11]

Ireland, as a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, makes annual contributions towards the core budgets of both the Convention and the Protocol. In addition, Ireland makes an annual contribution to the cost of the International Transaction Log, which verifies transactions by National Registries in order to ensure consistency with the rules of the Kyoto Protocol. The amount of these contributions is based on a biennial programme budget adopted by Conferences of the Parties. Ireland's contributions in the current biennium (2010-2011) to the Convention, Protocol and Transaction Log are €126,651, €94,443 and €45,656, respectively. They are paid directly to the Convention secretariat rather than through the European Union.

Departmental Expenditure

Eric J. Byrne

Ceist:

237 Deputy Eric Byrne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will confirm that he will be in a position to forward funding to the community workers co-operative under the funding scheme to support national organisations in the community and voluntary sector. [16754/11]

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

247 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide a detailed explanation for the decision by him not to award funding to the community workers co-operative under the scheme to support national organisations in the community and voluntary sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16174/11]

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

248 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the assessment criteria used in assessing applications for funding under the scheme to support national organisations in the community and voluntary sector; if the assessment criteria has changed from 2010 to 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16175/11]

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

249 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the detail and operation of the marking system used in allocating funding under the scheme to support national organisations in the community and voluntary sector; if the marking system has changed from 2010 to 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16176/11]

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

250 Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the total available funding from him for the scheme to support national organisations in the community and voluntary sector in 2011; the organisations which he has, since March 2011, decided to fund; the amounts awarded to each group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16177/11]

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Ceist:

259 Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the very negative impact of the decision not to fund the community workers co-operative office in County Galway under the new scheme to support national organisations in the community and voluntary sector and if he will ask for an immediate review of the impact of this decision at a time when demands on community and voluntary supports have increased dramatically due to the economic crisis. [16364/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 237, 247 to 250, inclusive, and 259 together.

The Scheme to Support National Organisations in the Community and Voluntary Sector commenced in 2008. In total, €16 million was allocated to 64 organisations over the three year period 2008-2010. The three-year funding contracts concluded at end 2010. The total available in 2011 is €4m.

A comprehensive review of the scheme was carried out by the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs in 2010. A new Funding Scheme was advertised in December 2010 which set down amended assessment criteria for applications received under the Scheme. These criteria did not change in 2011. 149 applications were received and 63 organisations were approved for funding under the Scheme, of which 46 had been funded under the previous Scheme.

The criteria used to assess applications and the markings under the Scheme were as follows:

Criteria

Marks

Extent to which proposal focuses on disadvantage;

20

Deliverables and impact of the Funding;

25

Level of added value within sector;

20

Viability, value for money and governance

20

Level of co-operation/integration/consolidation with similar/allied organisations.

15

In order to be awarded funding successful applicants had to achieve a qualifying score of at least 60. The total mark achieved by the Community Workers Cooperative did not meet the qualifying score.

The table gives details of the 63 successful applicants. Allocations under the scheme are indicative, as final allocations are subject to approval of business plans. Funding for the scheme beyond 2011 is subject to annual estimates and to the outcome of the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure as well as the ongoing monitoring of the scheme.

Organisation

Annual Amount Allocated

Children in Hospital Ireland

€100,000.00

The Irish Traveller Movement

€100,000.00

Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC)

€100,000.00

INOU

€100,000.00

Children’s Rights Alliance

€100,000.00

The Wheel

€100,000.00

OPEN

€100,000.00

One Family

€95,000.00

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI)

€90,000.00

Irish Autism Action

€90,000.00

Safe Ireland

€90,000.00

New Communities Partnership

€90,000.00

IASE (Irish Association for Supported Employment)

€90,000.00

Simon Communities of Ireland

€90,000.00

Muintir na Tire

€85,000.00

Active Retirement Network Ireland

€80,000.00

Irish Deaf Society

€75,000.00

The Carers Association

€75,000.00

Alzheimer Society of Ireland

€75,000.00

Brí — The Acquired Brain Injury Advocacy Association

€75,000.00

Caring for Carers Ireland Ltd

€75,000.00

Dyslexia Association of Ireland (DAI)

€75,000.00

Breaking Through

€70,000.00

Irish Mountain Rescue

€70,000.00

Carmichael Centre for Vol Groups

€70,000.00

Arthritis Ireland

€65,000.00

European Anti-Poverty Network

€60,000.00

Barnardos

€60,000.00

Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ireland

€60,000.00

Neurological Alliance of Ireland

€60,000.00

Disability Federation of Ireland

€55,000.00

Irish National Community & Voluntary Forum (NCVF)

€55,000.00

Aspire

€50,000.00

The Asthma Society of Ireland

€50,000.00

Age Action Ireland

€50,000.00

National Youth Council of Ireland

€50,000.00

Acquired Brain Injury Ireland(Trading as the Peter Bradley Foundation)

€50,000.00

Irish Heart Foundation

€50,000.00

Business in the Community Ireland

€50,000.00

MOVE Ireland

€50,000.00

Centre for Independent Living

€50,000.00

Care Alliance Ireland

€45,000.00

Muscular Dystrophy Ireland

€45,000.00

Football Association of Ireland

€45,000.00

Chronic Pain Ireland

€45,000.00

National Association for Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus Irl

€45,000.00

Open Heart House

€45,000.00

INCADDS Irish National Council of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder Support Groups

€40,000.00

National Traveller Womens’ Forum

€40,000.00

Inclusion Ireland -

€40,000.00

National Association of Building Co-operatives (Nabco)

€40,000.00

Foróige (NFTE)

€40,000.00

National Collective of Community-based Womens Networks

€40,000.00

Show Racism the Red Card

€35,000.00

Migraine Association of Ireland

€35,000.00

National Association for Youth Drama

€35,000.00

Irish Motor Neurone Disease Assoc (IMNDA)

€30,000.00

Irish Stammering Association

€30,000.00

Post Polio Support Group

€30,000.00

Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH)

€25,000.00

Huntington’s Disease Association of Ireland Ltd

€23,000.00

Genetic and Rare Disorders Organisation

€20,000.00

GROW in Ireland

€20,000.00

Radon Gas

Paudie Coffey

Ceist:

238 Deputy Paudie Coffey asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government due to the fact that parts of Ireland has high levels of radon gas and that radon is considered a public health problem, his plans to make it mandatory to have each dwelling here tested for radon when they are being sold or rented, thus making it a condition of sale when buying or renting a dwelling; the changes in legislation required to ensure radon testing is carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16662/11]

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

239 Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to implement a national radon testing programme with a subsequent radon remedial action grant scheme for buildings with high radon readings, in areas such as Castleisland, County Kerry, where consistently high readings are found in buildings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16669/11]

Arthur Spring

Ceist:

240 Deputy Arthur Spring asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if, in the wake of the recent report by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland which indicates high levels of radon gas in houses in County Kerry, if there are or there will be grants available to assist low income families test for and treat high radon levels in the home. [16675/11]

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

241 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding radon. [16771/11]

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

270 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding grant aid towards the cost of remediation works to homes in which there are high levels of radon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16593/11]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 238 to 241, inclusive, and 270 together.

The extent of the radon problem in Ireland has been assessed by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) over a number of years. Between 1992 and 1999, the RPII carried out a comprehensive National Radon Survey to measure radon concentrations in Irish homes. The principal objective was to assess the scale of the radon problem and, in particular, identify areas at higher risk of radon contamination above the National Reference Level of 200 becquerels per metre cubed (Bq/m3).

Through the RPII's radon advice and awareness work, my Department supports efforts to raise public awareness of the risks posed by radon in the home. Householders, particularly those in known high radon areas, have been strongly encouraged by the RPII to have their homes tested for radon and to undertake remediation works where necessary. However, I have no plans to make it mandatory to have dwellings here tested for radon as a condition of sale when buying or renting a dwelling. If a dwelling is found to have a high radon level, remediation work may be recommended. Technical guidance on radon remediation techniques is available in a booklet issued by my Department, Radon in Buildings — Corrective Options, which is available on my Department's website at www.environ.ie. The RPII has also issued guidance, Understanding Radon Remediation — A Householders Guide, which is available on the Institute’s website at www.rpii.ie, together with a a list of companies who can provide a radon remediation service and offer specific advice and recommendations. In addition, the RPII can be contacted for radon advice on freephone 1800 300 600.

There is no grant scheme available through my Department for household radon testing or remediation. The cost of a household radon test is typically around €55.

Unfinished Housing Estates

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

242 Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the level of funding awarded to each county council for working on unfinished housing estates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16104/11]